Archive for the ‘Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)’ Category

  • 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

     

  • A Call to Action

    Date: 2015.02.13 | Category: Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Today Jasmine looked at me with big tears in her eyes and asked me if her hands will one day stop working too.   I asked her why she was asking me and she said because she felt like her hands couldn’t do as much.  I explained to her that she’s been flat on her back for weeks.  She hasn’t eaten much by mouth in as many days.  She’s on many medications for pain and all of these things can cause weakness and hand shaking.  There are many reasons for her hands to feel weaker.

    But because I have always promised to tell her the truth, I also had to say I don’t know if she will one day lose the ability to move her hands.  Yes, it’s a possibility and a pretty big possibility.  I just don’t know how long it will take to get to that point.  She is stage 2 SMA, but there is a wide range of how fast the disease will take her muscle.  Her surgery let us know that she has already lost a great deal of muscle but we are hoping we have hit a static point.  Maybe, hopefully, she will keep the amount of movement she has for years.

    She told me that every year  her weakness has gotten worse.  She’s never been able to walk and she’s slowly lost the ability to move her legs and raise her arms over her head.  Her hands moving in her lap and wiggling her toes is all that she has left.  She wonders what that will mean for her future.  She has heard the word worthless her whole life.  She said it to me again today.  What good will I be?

    I remind her that nothing will change.  We will always be there for her.  We will never leave her alone.  We will never abandon her.  She will always be in our home.  She can still make a difference.  She still has a purpose.  Her life will still have meaning.

    When Jasmine is upset, I like to do a visualization exercise with her.  I ask her to picture when she gets to heaven.  I have her picture God showing her two giant walls.  On those walls are hundreds of pictures.  On one wall is the pictures of all the children who are adopted because she chose to share her story.  The other wall is covered with the pictures of people who were encouraged by her smile and life story.

    She asks me if this can really happen and I tell her that God is able to do anything.  I don’t know for sure what God will do when we stand before Him.  The verses talk about one day standing in front of our judge.  You can research and decide for yourself what you believe that means.  But in my heart, I believe what I tell her to be true that one day God will let Jasmine see the purpose her life had.

    I believe we often treat our salvation as a free pass.  We accept God’s grace and we get into heaven.  Not much more thought is put into it.  We show up to church and try to be kind to others, but being kind and not judging others isn’t all there is to being Christ-like.   We are called to action.  God doesn’t want us to be comfortable.  He wants us to be His hands and feet.  He wants us to give generously.

    One day I will stand before God and He will show me what my life meant and who my life touched.  So what will my walls contain?  What will my life show?  What will be my impact?  Will those walls show kindness or will there be post-it note after post-it note of things I should have done but didn’t.  That picture scares me the most, a wall full of post-its with missed opportunities.

    post it note wall 1

    I remind her that we can’t possibly know all the people who we affect both good and bad.  I’ve thought about this a lot today.  How we get caught up in our day to day lives and lose track of all those people around us who could use a little help.  So today I present you with a call to action.  Today I want you to really think about what your wall will one day contain.

    Will it show pictures of people you encouraged?

    Will it show girls that you saved from the sex trade?

    Will it show men, women and children who were fed?

    Will it show widows who were helped?

    Will it show communities who have clean water?

    Will it show children who were adopted?

    Will it show families that are intact because you lent a helping hand?

    Will it show surgeries that were completed?

    Will it show souls that were saved?

    What will it show?  I want my wall to be covered in pictures.  I want to do as much as I can.

    Today a little boy lost his life and his mother asked others to support another child who touched her heart and needs a family.   She realizes the same thing I realize with our children.  They may not live a long life but they will live a life full of the love of family and they will not die alone.   She didn’t get to have Xavier with her as long as she hoped.  Her post today said, “He’s gone.”  My heart was broken for a little boy that I had only met on Facebook.   Today in Xavier’s honor she asked others to donate to this other little boy, Brayden, so that he too may have the love of a family.

    Brayden

    or maybe you’d like to help a family get their son home so they can ease his pain.

    Nathaniel

    or help a little girl who had a stroke because of hydrocephalus but there is a family trying to get her home.

    Hope

    There are so many children who wait.  My news feed is filled every day with people advocating for children waiting for families.  You might not be able to adopt but you can help other families afford to.  Think about that on a wall.  Picture after picture after picture of children, who had the love of a forever family, because you gave up a few dollars every month.

    Show Hope has many ways to help and so does Love Without Boundaries.

    Reece’s Rainbow actually has a 5/5/5 Fund where you can help five families adopt by spending $5 a month.

    Or if you would rather help a family stay together by helping a child get the surgery they need.   LWB Unity Fund

    The list of ways to help is unending and it can seem overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you.   Help one person at a time.  We can’t fix everything but we can fix something.

    Open your eyes.  Take a stand.  Pick a cause.  Open your heart.  Share your money.  Share your time.  Use your words wisely.  Encourage someone.

    Don’t wait – answer that call to action today.

    “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)

     

  • I Never Knew…

    Date: 2015.02.03 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    THAT JASMINE WOULD HAVE COMPLICATIONS FROM SURGERY

    Many of you may know that Jasmine ended up back in the hospital.  I hadn’t really considered that she would have complications.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a big surgery.  They always inform you of the complications, but still I was so sure she would fly through this and be just fine. I was so sure of it that I really didn’t let my head go there.  Instead she ended up with a wound infection and a blood infection.   She was a pretty sick little girl.  They had to take her back to surgery and reopen her wound.  They took out the previous bone grafts, irrigated her wound with 12 liters, reapplied the bone graft, and closed her back up.

    Jasmine had a second set back and needed a lumbar drain put in.  She had a tear in her dura and lost a lot of cerebral spinal fluid.  They took her to surgery and put in the drain.  She now has to lie flat on her back for the next five days.  If it heals over, we are done and can go home.   If it is not healed over, she will need another surgery to reopen her wound, find the leak, and repair it and then five more days flat in bed.

    She will go home with a PICC line and IV antibiotics for a total of six weeks at least.  Worst case scenario is that they will not be able to clear the infection and they will have to remove all the hardware (screws and rods).   We are all praying that this is not the case.

    THAT JASMINE WAS CONSTANTLY HUNGRY IN THE ORPHANAGE

    When we adopted Jasmine she was 14 and weighed 85 pounds.  She wasn’t a very big girl but she wasn’t skin and bones either.  I hadn’t really considered her being hungry all the time.  When she shares these facts with me, she says them so matter of fact.  It’s like it’s nothing, just another random fact she is sharing.   These facts always break my heart.

    Here is my post about this talk from Facebook:

    Today I was talking to Cassie about Elyse not wanting to eat what Cassie was preparing and Jasmine overheard our conversation.
    Jasmine – Mama, take away her food for the day and then tomorrow she will be really hungry and eat.
    Me – Jasmine, did they do that in the orphanage?
    Jasmine – Oh yes mama. If they take your food for a day or two, you are really hungry and you will eat whatever they make.
    Big pause…..
    Wait, no don’t do that mama. It’s really not nice to do mama.
    Me – Jazz, did they really take your food from you?
    Jasmine – Yes mama and I could only have half the food everyone else got because I would get too heavy for them to carry. It’s hard to be hungry all the time. Don’t take Elyse’s food mama. Ok?

    THAT MY LITTLE GIRL WOULD CARE SO MUCH ABOUT OTHER ORPHANS

    Here is another excerpt that I posted on Facebook:

    They took Jasmine to surgery at 5……They allowed me to go back with her until she was asleep. The anesthesiologist told her that sometimes the medicines let you have wonderful dreams. I told her she could dream about Cassie‘s wedding or summer vacation. The doctor asked her what she was going to dream about and Jasmine responded, “I’m gonna dream about no more orphans in China mama.” That, in a nutshell, is the heart of my girl.

    THAT WOULD TAKE SO LONG TO GET PAST THE ORPHANAGE ISSUES

    With Jasmine there haven’t been many orphanage behaviors.  She doesn’t yell.  She doesn’t hit.  She doesn’t hoard food.  She doesn’t cuss.  She is respectful. She is loving.  She is caring.  She is sweet.  But what she isn’t able to get past are the abuse issues.  She can be in horrible pain and she won’t say a word.   Here in the hospital, people comment time and time again about how good she is.   I tell them over and over again (outside the door of course) that she isn’t being good.  She is absolutely terrified to complain because she was punished for complaining.  She was punished for speaking up.  She was punished for asking to go the bathroom.  She was punished for asking for more food.  The list goes on and on and even though it’s been almost two years she doesn’t believe she can say anything to anyone else.  She will tell Dan and I as soon as people leave the room, but she will not make a sound when other adults are in the room.  I can not even begin to adequately explain to you how heartbreaking this is.

    THAT MY HEART WOULD HURT BECAUSE I COULDN’T PROTECT HER

    While we were in the ER, Jasmine had an accident, the first one she has had at home.  The fear in her eyes as she was anxiously scream-whispering, “Don’t let them hit me mama.   Don’t.  Please don’t.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to.”  Spoke volumes and I had to leave the room and bawl in the bathroom.

    THAT I WOULD BE HORRIBLY SAD THAT IT TOOK SO LONG TO FIND HER

    Whenever anyone asks us how long Jasmine has been with us and I say it will be two years in May, I want to just scream about the fact that we didn’t see her picture sooner.

    THAT I WOULD BE EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED THAT I CAN’T DO MORE

    After our last adoption (for a total of 9 adopted), I thought I would feel like we did our part.  I thought that I could just move on, but there are so many children who wait.  I don’t understand the evil of this world.  I don’t understand not caring.  I don’t understand causing others pain.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t want to ever understand it.  There are children all over the world who are in pain right now.  Children who are hungry.  Children who need families.  Families who need help keeping their families intact.  Children who need surgery.  People who need food and clean water and medical supplies and we have so much.

    THAT ORPHANAGES WOULD BE QUIET PLACES

    The thing that always amazes me about orphanages is how quiet they are.  I’ve been in four different orphanages.  Each orphanage was quiet, even in the baby rooms.   In one place that we visited there was a new baby, in an isolation room that had recently arrived, screaming his head off, but there were 20+ babies in the regular room and not one of them was making any noise.  It’s an eerie, eerie thing.   What happens that make children not make noise, especially babies?

    THAT OTHERS WOULD THINK IT WAS WRONG FOR US TO ADOPT SO MANY CHILDREN

    See in my little world, I thought it was a good thing to adopt children.  I honestly didn’t think anyone would have anything negative to say.  I didn’t want or expect people to compliment us or commend us BUT I certainly never considered that people would think it was wrong.

    I keep trying to find just the right comment that would make people see it from my viewpoint.  Here’s what I have come up with….

    They say…..What were you doing adopting four at one time?  You can’t bond with four children at a time.  You can’t care for four children at a time.  It’s just too much and you shouldn’t have done it.

    What they are really saying…..It would have been much better to let Jasmine die in an institution.  It would have been better for Evie to die in the orphanage.

    You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say it was wrong for us to adopt those four children without admitting it was okay for the rest to play out.  See no one else was showing up.  Jasmine had two weeks before she aged out.  She wasn’t going to be lovingly cared for in a home.  Evie had a couple more months.  No one was there.  She would have been just another child who died without a family, in an orphanage.

    THAT ANYONE BESIDE A FEW CLOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY WOULD READ THIS BLOG

    Sometimes I forget that others read it.  I look at the numbers and am honestly just blown away.  I don’t know why people continue to read my ramblings, but I am always, always, always, beyond thankful that our children have this wonderful group of people who care about them and pray for them.

    THANK YOU!

    THAT I WOULD BE FOREVER BLESSED BY FOLLOWING GOD’S LEAD AND THAT ADOPTION WOULD CHANGE MY LIFE IN WAYS I COULDN’T EVEN IMAGINE!

    We are so blessed!  Not by material things, although we have them.  No, what I am considering my blessings are those sweet faces that greet me every morning.  I am blessed to watch our children thrive.  I am blessed to hear them laugh and sing and watch them learn new things.  I am blessed to be able to be their mother.   I wish I could take away their pain.  I wish I could take away the reasons that they ended up in an orphanage to begin with, but since I can not I will help them find their way in this world and consider myself blessed that I am allowed to be a part of their lives.

    Adoption has changed everything.  My life is no longer about me.  My perspective on almost everything has changed.  These children have opened and continue to open my eyes to so many things.

  • A Day in the Life of Jasmine

    Date: 2015.01.18 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Muscular Dystrophy

    Jasmine and I have often talked about her sharing her story and she has decided that she wants to share her story.  She has been working diligently on her blog and has now written quite a few posts.  Flower That Blooms  I love that she is sharing what her life was like.  She is helping others see what being an orphan truly means.  She hopes she will be able to help other orphans who may be afraid to come to America.  She prays that more children will be adopted.

    While she writes hoping she is helping others, she is healing.  I see a glimpse of belief in her eyes that her life has meaning.  She understands that all things may not be good but all things can work together for good.  She may not understand the whys.  The truth is none of us will on this side but she sees a purpose and wants to live her life for that purpose.

    Last Tuesday Jasmine had a spinal fusion done on her back.  This procedure will make it so she can sit up straight because the truth is as Jasmine’s muscles deteriorate, her spine can no longer be held up, which in turn affects her breathing and eating.

    Here are here before and after x-rays.

    Before xray After xray

    During the surgery they took a couple muscle biopsies so we can get an accurate diagnosis for her.  We know she has a neuromuscular disorder, presumably muscular dystrophy, but this will give us a correct diagnosis or at least that is the plan.

    Jasmine’s life has not been easy.   She says she can remember being clumsy at about the age of two, she was unable to walk very well by the time she was four, which made her father very angry, this was when she went to live with her grandmother.  When she was almost eight years old, her grandmother, after deciding Jasmine was too heavy to move, took Jasmine to the orphanage and dropped her off, vowing to one day return.  Her grandmother visited a couple times and then stopped showing up.   Jasmine has been through more than any of us should ever have to go through and all of this with a body that slowly fails her.

    This is what I want to talk about today, what a day in the life of Jasmine is like. I realized after messaging a few people during our stay here in the hospital, that not many really understand what Jasmine has or what a day in her life looks like.

    For Jasmine every single thing is an effort.  She is unable to sit up on her own.  When she wakes up in the morning, she must lie there until someone comes to sit her up.   Her body has been in one position for a long time and she is often in pain.

    It takes two of us to move her.  We have to help her to the toilet.  She needs us to move her to the shower.  I have to wash her hair because she can not lift her arms high enough to reach her hair.  Put your elbows into your side, hold them tight there, add ten pound weights to your forearms, and then try to move your hands around.  That is as much movement as she has.   Something as simple as itching your ear requires her holding her arm up by the elbow with her other hand.

    To move her legs, she tries hard to lift them by pulling on her pant leg.  She is unable to move them very far.  It can take her ten minutes to move her foot a mere inch.  It frustrates her so.

    She is unable to dress herself.  She can not do something as simple as putting on a sock.  I sometimes forget as I’m placing her arms in her sleeves and let go.  Her arms falls heavily to her side.

    We place her in her wheelchair where she insists on buckling her buckle herself.  She can not reach down to pick up the buckles.  You have to place them in her lap and then she takes minutes to try and put them together.  Just lining up the two sides takes great effort and pushing them together takes great force that she just doesn’t have.

    Then its time to brush her teeth.  She leans forward and picks up her toothbrush.  She has to lean forward, place one elbow on the armrest of her wheelchair, and hold up her other arm to get it high enough to brush her teeth.

    She loves her power wheelchair and the freedom it gives her to move where she wants.  She heads out of her bathroom and comes to the bedroom door.  If this door is shut, she can not open it.  Even if she could turn the knob, she does not have enough strength to pull the door towards her as she slowly moves her chair backwards.  We have tried the pull down handles and even those take too much effort.  She can easily be trapped inside her own room.  If she does get stuck and tries to call for help, finding enough air in her lungs to make the sound necessary to be heard across the house is impossible.

    She wants to get her school books herself.  It will take her a good 15-30 minutes to pull the books out of the cubby, drop them one and a time onto the foot pedals on her wheelchair, all while she is leaning as far forward as she can, and then comes the hard part – getting the books on the table.  She does it all in reverse.  She slowly takes one book at a time from her foot pedals and struggles to get it on the table.  It would be so easy for me to walk over and get her books.  It would take mere seconds to throw them on the table.  Every day I watch her struggle.  I watch her refuse to give up her independence.  She wants to do it for herself and I have to let her do what she can while she can.

    Oh the things we take for granted.  Bending over and picking up a pencil off the floor is so easy for us.  For Jasmine it means taking her chair to go get her claw that she uses to pick up stuff off the floor, she leans forward and slowly lines it up.   It takes both hands to squeeze the handle and pick up her pencil.  She then sits the pencil on her foot pedal of her wheelchair.  She leans as far forward as she can and picks it up, and then has to slowly pull herself back up.  She can still get herself up if she has something to push against with her arms.  If she falls backwards in her chair, she can not get back up.  She just doesn’t have the strength to pull herself up.

    She wants so badly to have chores and do what the other children are doing.  It is hard to assign chores to someone that does not even have the strength to pull a plate out of a dishwasher.   We have had to get creative with our chore list.  Her main chore consists of picking the things up off the floor in the living room.  She takes her claw and picks up the items she can reach on the floor.  This is a never ending job with toddlers but she never complains.

    The other chore Jasmine helps with is feeding Lainey.  Lainey is unable to feed herself.  She eats every three hours starting at 6 a.m.   Jasmine gets as close as she can to the high chair, leans forward, and puts her elbows on the tray.  Lainey has learned to lean forward and eat off the spoon.  Jasmine loves little kids and is so good with Lainey.  It’s very sweet to watch her care for Lainey.  It must have been so hard for her to sit at the orphanage and not be able to care for the other children. Although, we do know she liked to read to the other children. She really is a great big sister and has such a compassionate heart.

    Her fun for the day is going out into the backyard and going around the 900 foot cement path we put in.  She drives around and around at the highest speed she can safely go.  I asked her why she likes to just go in circles and she told me that for years she had to sit in the corner at the orphanage.  She couldn’t move herself.  She just sat there.  She wasn’t allowed to go to school.   She was told she was worthless and lazy.  The freedom of going anywhere, even if it is just a circle of cement in our backyard, is a blessing.  One of her favorite things to do is have us buckle in Evie with her on the chair.  She loves to give Evie rides on her chair.

    Jasmine & eve

    Jasmine spends all day in her wheelchair.  She is no longer able to be moved to the couch because she falls over.  There isn’t enough support in the cushions.  At the end of the day, we do it in reverse.  She brushes her teeth, we place her on the toilet, and we carry her to bed.  She slowly lowers herself to the bed.  I can not even watch this.  It scares me so.  She more or less lets herself drop to the side and slowly and painfully tries to squirm her way into a position where she can breath on her side.  I ask her over and over again to just let me help her but she wants to continue to do what she can.

    Can you imagine what that feels like as a person?  You don’t have a choice without help you can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t get into bed, you can not get out of your wheelchair.  If she tried to move out of her chair, she would fall on her face.  She can sit unassisted if you get her positioned just perfectly.  It’s like a baby who is just learning to sit.  If you adjust them just right, they can hold themselves up, but one little bump knocks them over.  But unlike a baby, Jasmine can not roll over and move herself.

    I think about her alone in China.  She was at their mercy and she has shared some horrible stories.  Stories of being taken to the doctor who told them that she should be able to walk so they left her food just out of reach.  They informed her that when she was hungry enough she would quit being lazy and get up and walk to her food.  She went all day without food and finally tried to move forward.  She fell out of her chair and they told her to get up.  She says she slept on the floor.  This went on for quite a while.

    She has told us that when she would have an accident, because there was no one to take her to the bathroom, they would allow the little and big children to hit and kick her as punishment.

    Whenever you think that it’s okay for these children to be in an orphanage, please think about what Jasmine has shared.  Whenever you think that you just can’t adopt a special needs child because it would complicate your life too much, think about what your not adopting them means for their little lives.  We have been told that Jasmine would have gone to an institution where it was survival of the fittest.  I asked specifically about this because I didn’t want to not be telling the truth.  Jasmine was two weeks away from this truth.  The nannies told her what her future held.  They let her know that she would be hit, there would be no one to feed her and that she would probably be left in a corner.  And yet Jasmine is joyful.

    I spend my days caring for others.  I spend pretty much every waking moment doing something for someone else.  I can do this without feeling sorry for myself.  I can do this and still feel joyful every day because I have learned to take my eyes off myself.  If I start thinking I could be getting a pedicure right now….I think about where Jasmine would be.  If I start thinking a vacation would be nice, I picture how sad Lainey was and where she is now.  If I dream about having a house that stays clean, I remember where Ben, Eli and Evie, who were considered inoperable and terminal in China, would be now.   Jasmine’s life has brought me greater perspective.

    Jasmine’s biggest fear heading into this surgery wasn’t the surgery itself. Jasmine’s biggest fear was that she would wake up and we wouldn’t be there.  Jasmine’s biggest fear was that we would decide we no longer want her.  Why does she have these fears?  Because it has happened to her before.  She has been through hospital stays by herself.  She has been abandoned and left alone.  She has been told that she is unworthy of love and a family.

    I often wonder how such a sweet soul survived in an orphanage for so long.  How did she go through years of hearing how worthless she was and keep her joy?  How did she endure more than any child should have to and still keep her beautiful smile?

    I am sharing these truths about Jasmine because I want you to understand just what she goes through every day and what it truly means for her to choose joy.  Every day she chooses to be joyful.  Every day she refuses to give up.  Every day she does all that she can to the best of her abilities.  Every single day without fail.

    So if Jasmine has touched your life in any way, please remember the lessons her life has taught us:

    1.) Don’t be afraid to do the hard things, sometimes they are the biggest blessings.

    2.) You can choose to be joyful.

    3.) Adoption isn’t about you.

    4.) God has a plan for you no matter how much or how little you can do.

    5.) If you are still alive, God’s plan is in place and He still has a use for you.’

    Jasmine endured her hospital stay with great grace.  She was polite and kind to others.   Her life is a beautiful testimony!  Please continue to keep her in your prayers as she has six weeks of lying back at a 60 degree angle in her wheelchair and six months of not being able to be moved with any ease.

     

     

     

     

  • Hurting Hearts

    Date: 2015.01.04 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Faith, Family Life, Grace, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    It all started with tears over the fact that she didn’t want to have a tea party with Elyse and Gracie.  Somehow I knew it wasn’t about the tea party.  Jasmine is usually easy going.   It was unusual for her to balk about something so trivial.  I asked her if Elyse had said anything to upset her and she screamed, “This is boring.  I don’t want to do it.”

    I let her know she didn’t have to play with the other girls.  I let her know that she could just sit in the room and watch them then but it would be more fun for her to participate.  She still didn’t budge on her position and I left them alone in their bedroom.

    About five minutes later Gracie came out saying Jasmine was sobbing.  I tried to get Jasmine to talk.  Cassie tried.  Gracie tried.  None of us had any luck.  I told her I knew that there was something else going on.  I asked her to e-mail me when she felt ready to talk.  She told me there was nothing wrong and I gave her some more time to calm down.

    The sobbing continued.  We continued to try and talk to her.  Jasmine yelled, “There is nothing wrong.  I am NOT sad!  I am NOT mad!” as the tears continued to roll down her face.

    This lasted three hours.

    Three hours folks and she kept insisting it was because she didn’t want to have a boring tea party.

    We’ve had one other huge battle like this one and that battle was over her saying she was stupid.  This was admittedly the dumbest fight ever in the history of fights.  She refused to back down about saying she was stupid.  I told her she knows three languages.  She is doing amazing in school.  She is one very bright, insightful girl and I would not let her call herself stupid.  The fight continued.  She yelled.  She threw her pencil.  She cried and cried and cried all over the fact that I refused to let her call herself stupid.

    I informed her that she could either say, “I am NOT stupid or I was going to make her write it 50 times.”  She still refused.  I got out the paper and the pencil.  She wrote her sentences but she refused to write the NOT.   This part of the disagreement went on for a couple hours.  I tried to let her calm down.  I had Cassie talk to her.  I had Dan talk to her.  I had Hope talk to her.  She refused to say, “I am not stupid.” and the tears continued to fall.

    See we’ve been here before.  I knew the fight wasn’t about the tea party just as much as the other fight wasn’t about her admitting she isn’t stupid.   It was about fear.  It was about having so many emotions over so many confusing thoughts that the simplest thing set her off.  It was safe to be mad about a tea party.  It was not safe to admit your fears.

    I told her that she had to stop and calm down.  I wasn’t going to argue with her.  She needed a shower so I gave her time alone in the shower so she could think.  She refused to talk.  I had already told her she had two choices.

    1.) To let me know what was really wrong.

    2.) To go to bed.

    She chose to go to bed.  I couldn’t believe it.  I gave her the options and now I had to follow through.  It was 6:30 p.m. and she chose to go to bed. I gave her ten chances to change her mind.   I gave her her I-pad in case she changed her mind.  I told her she could let me know just a little bit at anytime and we would talk but that she wasn’t allowed to not tell me the truth.  She couldn’t keep saying “I’m not mad.  I’m not sad. She could ask to talk about it later but she could not keep lying to me about there being nothing wrong.”

    Three hours later I get this e-mail.

    “Are you sad adoption me?”

    Am I sad that I adopted her?  Oh my heart.

    “I do wrong. Do you think I’m stupid?”

    Followed by….

    “If one day you do not want me, I really do not want lose the family.”

    “Because I know what will become of my foture.”

    And then she asked me to come to her room to talk.

    It wasn’t about the tea party.  It was about Elyse mentioning that the nannies told her that she could come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told Jasmine the same thing.  We were about six months in when Jasmine had enough English under her belt to ask us when she would get the surgery that would let her walk.  We had the horrible task of letting her know that there was nothing that could be done.  You can’t fix muscular dystrophy.  We had to break her heart and now we were going to have to break Elyse’s.  I told Jasmine not to say anything to Elyse because we haven’t seen a doctor yet.  Jasmine doesn’t need to be the bearer of bad news that could wait for another day.

    But all of her discussions with Elyse brought up the fears that she had before.

    Jasmine told me that she was worried that she would get too heavy and I would take her back to the orphanage.

    Because it has happened to her before.

    Jasmine let me know that she was afraid about having her surgery on the 13th because she didn’t want to wake up in the hospital alone.

    Because it has happened to her before.

    Jasmine was worried that I would decide that she was no longer worth caring for.

    Because it has happened before.

    It wasn’t about a tea party.  It was about her wanting a family.  It was about her wanting to walk.  It was about her wishing she could dream about one day growing up, falling in love, and having a family of her own.

    I’m sharing this story today because I want other parents who have adopted or are choosing to adopt an older child to remember not to take it personally and to remember the trivial fights usually are about something much more.  It’s not about wanting to eat late at night.  It’s about them testing you to see if you will feed them and love them.  It’s not so much about control as it is about fear.  Fear that you don’t love them enough.  Fear that they won’t get food.  Fear that this whole family thing isn’t going to work out.

    I can understand this.  For years when Dan and I met, I would test him.  I would push him.  I would bait him.  I would argue with him.  Why?  Because I didn’t believe someone could truly love me.  My dad and my mom divorced when I was 10 and then shortly after that I was sexually abused, for a whole summer, by an older trusted friend.  It played with my head and my self worth.  It made me believe that men would just hurt and that I had no worth.  This took place over about six months.  Now imagine if your whole life had been one of not feeling loved or worthy.  What if they made you believe that you are so bad that if you ever let anyone know the real you, they would return you to the orphanage? How much would you test?  How much time would you need to heal?

    Dan finally made me see that I could trust him and live each day happy or I could spend my whole life assuming he would leave and be miserable.  I had to make the choice.  These kids are in the same boat.  They have to make that choice but the first couple of years are just trying to figure it out.  They don’t have the language or the maturity to make that choice.  It’s all about survival.  If they learned to survive with manipulation, then they will manipulate.  If they learned to survive by withdrawing, then they will withdraw.  It takes time to let go of the fear and the anger.

    So it’s up to us, the supposed grownups, to remember it has nothing to do with us.  It has to do with fear and we have to remember who the author of fear is.  It isn’t God.  God is all about hope and redemption.  Satan whispers and people doubt.  Please remember that the next time you are in the heat of the moment.  Take a step back.  It’s not about the tea party or them loving you.  It’s about fear that they will one day lose this thing that they can’t even admit that they want.

    FAMILY!

     

  • The Flower That Blooms

    Date: 2014.10.05 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    I just wanted to let everyone know that our daughter, Jasmine, has decided to start a blog too.   She wants to share what it was like to be in an orphanage for six years, almost age out, join a family, and come to America.  She hopes to help other older children who may be afraid by letting them know family is a wonderful thing.

    http://www.flowerthatblooms.com/

    Her first blog is entitled Adoption Day.

    She was such a brave girl. She knew very little English.  She couldn’t run away from us if she had wanted to because of her muscular dystrophy.  Yet, she put a smile on her face and chose to be brave and happy about all that her life could be.  It is truly a blessing to be her mother and I am honored to share her words with you.

     

     

     

  • It’s That Time of the Year Again!

    Date: 2014.08.20 | Category: Family Life, Homeschooling, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    The time of year when the stores are full of all the wonderful things to get students ready for school, backpacks, pencils, sharpeners, binders, and paper galore. It has been so much fun this year getting Jasmine ready.  She picked out her own tablets and pencils.  She helped pick out some of her curriculum books.  She did everything with such enthusiasm.  It’s all new and exciting to her.  Jasmine has given me a new appreciation for learning.   I have always been appreciative of our education system and the possibilities that lay before our children, but Jasmine has given me new eyes to see just what a blessing the gift of learning is.  I wish I had the words to properly express the joy that learning brings to her.

    Jazz School

    Jasmine doesn’t take learning for granted.  Many of our children tolerate education, they sometimes love it, but I do not believe they truly appreciate it like a child who has been denied it for years.  Jasmine had a year of school before she was abandoned at 8 years of age. She had some schooling during the first year in the orphanage, but was then excluded from school because of her disability. She was in a wheelchair, and the schoolroom had been moved to the second floor of the orphanage. They had no easy way to get her to the second floor, so she was left out.  Why they didn’t they just bring her some books or worksheets? For years, Jasmine longed to go to school.  For years she dreamed of being able to learn more.   For years she sat in a room in her wheelchair, knowing that just one flight of stairs away was everything she longed for.

    It wasn’t until years later that Love Without Boundaries was able to get her a tutor as part of a new educational program started in her school – an LWB “Believe in Me School”.  Right before we traveled to meet Jasmine, she was given the opportunity to learn English.  It was such a gift and she had such joy about the opportunity. Her tutor was very kind to her and the English she learned made her initial transition much easier for her and for us.

    It is such a joy watching this sweet child learn. Her brain is a sponge, and she is eagerly absorbing every bit of information we can throw at her. She is learning a new language, a new culture, and years of basic knowledge at a rapid pace – all while smiling her dazzling smile and asking for more.

    With the vast amounts of trivial information we are bombarded with 24/7 – news, tweets, YouTube, Facebook, etc – we forget what a privilege it is to simply learn. We are rarely denied access to our information sources – but when the WiFi goes down, the power goes out, or you lose your cell phone – panic ensues.

    Perhaps, like Jasmine, you should exercise your freedom and privilege by picking up a book and engaging in the sweet joy and privilege of learning.

    Min & Tutor

    As we were getting our school room ready, Jasmine asked me how long I have been homeschooling.  I had to stop and think about it for a while.   I first started homeschooling when Zach was in 4th grade and Cassie had just started kindergarten, which makes the grand total 17 years.

    We were about half-way through Cassie’s kindergarten year when I realized that maybe my children would be better suited for schooling at their own speed at home.  Zach came home talking about how bored he was and Cassie was constantly frustrated that they wouldn’t let her read chapter books and they kept making her read the little kid books.  I started to question why we were paying for a Christian education only to have my kids come home and want to do more.

    It wasn’t that the school was bad or lacking in what they were teaching.  My children just needed something different than they were getting in school.  The school just wasn’t prepared for a kindergartner that read at the eight grade level.  There were no talented and gifted programs in the elementary school we started Zach in or the Christian school we transferred him to.  The Christian school was a year ahead of the public school in the level they were teaching, but Zach still wanted more.

    My father-in-law had been telling me for years that I could do this, but I believed all the things others were saying.  My kids wouldn’t be social.  Kids want to go to school.  They need to be around other kids their own age.  You can’t provide the same type of education that a school can.  They will fall behind.  They won’t be able to get into college.  They will miss out on opportunities that only a school can provide.  They won’t be able to play sports.  The list went on and on.  This list put fear in my heart and kept me from doing what I should have done for Zach in first grade.

    What they don’t tell you is that schools allow dual enrollment.  You can take the classes you need there.  You can play sports at the school.  You can take art and music.  You can do your yearly testing.  In our school district, you can even ask for a homeschool adviser.   We have had the same homeschool adviser for over 10 years now.  We love Ms. Deb, as the kids call her, she is like family.   If I get stuck trying to figure out how to help my child learn a certain task, she is there to help me out.  It’s much like our o.t. and p.t. and speech person.  I don’t need someone to do my work, but I would be the first to admit that there are others who know more than I do.  Just teach me how to do it and I will apply it.   Sometimes we all need a new eye on the area we need help with.

    I am so happy that we started homeschooling.  It has allowed me to be flexible with our hours and the days that they attend.  Every one of the children under Cassie’s age have a health issue.  Homeschooling allows us to go to doctor’s appointments without missing school. It allows for surgeries.  It allows for long hospital stays.  It allows for no school on each child’s birthday.  It allows me to be able to go slower in the areas where they need a little more work and faster in the areas where they excel.  It allows me to have lots of time with each child in our unique, large family.

    There is nothing like being able to call a “mommy needs to snuggle with her littles” day and just hang out and watch a movie.   As long as I get the allotted number of days in and they get their work done, we are allowed to take a free day here and there.

    This year we decided to do something a little different with the way the children learn.   Cassie and Zach were easy to teach because they could read anything and remember it.  They were the type of students that every homeschooling mom should be blessed enough to start with.  Both Cassie and Zach always tested at the top of their groups and did exceedingly well on their ACTs.  They had no trouble getting into college.

    But the middles all learn differently.    They do better with visual aids.  They do better with repetition.   They like to learn by songs and videos and pictures so instead of workbooks and lots and lots of reading, which Jasmine and Gracie have trouble with, we decided to go back to the old days of the one room classroom and work on some subjects together.  I put together a wall in my kitchen with two boards each holding four different subjects.

    chalk

    On the back of each of those cards are three easy questions, for Grace and Jasmine, and three hard questions for Hope.   I have a large white board that I write out the question for all three of them.  They copy the question in a large binder with nine different subject dividers in it. Eight for each of the cards and graph paper for practicing writing Mandarin.  It helps their penmanship.  It helps them with sentence structure and the larger words that Jasmine hasn’t picked up yet.  Since Hope writes quicker then the other two, Hope does an easy and a hard question.  Jasmine and Grace do an easy question each day.  On Thursday, they have to research a fact that we haven’t learned to share with me and then we review everything on Friday.

    Dan and I decided to do things this way after sitting down and deciding what it was we wanted the children to learn.  We wanted them to memorize Bible verses so they could recall God’s promises in times of need.  We wanted them to be able to recall a couple of basic facts about the subjects that we felt they needed to learn.   There is no way everyone remembers everything they read unless they are like Zach and Dan.  (We won’t even go into that subject.)    We wanted them to be proficient in Mandarin (both written and spoken) and American Sign Language.   The children should be trilingual by the time they graduate.   Elijah, who is two, already signs well over 100 words.   The littles sit at the table and listen too.  They have already started learning.

    I found these chalkboards at Hobby Lobby for 90% off.  It cost me only a few dollars to put it together.  I had been printing off questions and figuring out my own, but we found these games called Professor Noggins.  There are unlimited subjects in which to study. On the back it has three easy and three hard questions.  I have added more or different questions when necessary.  We found stick on chalkboards at Target that are little signs like the faith and love ones below the question boards to the larger ones that show the rules of the house.

    Chalk 3

    This House Rules sign is one of my favorites.   About 30 seconds after reading all the rules to the littles, Ben turned to Eli, who was whining about not being able to play with Ben’s truck, and Ben said, “It says no whining and wait your turn.”  I was so happy.  Maybe I won’t have to repeat the rules 100 times a day any more. 🙂

    We even have the school day listed.  Last year I had it on a piece of paper but Jasmine had a hard time reading it.  Jasmine likes routine and order.  She likes to know what is expected of her.   I stuck this stick on chalkboard to the side of my computer desk.  I wrote on it in silver permanent marker.  Jasmine already has it memorized and I no longer have to say, “This is what you should be doing now.”

    Chalk 1

    We even have a sign for daily chores and the prayer order.   Everyone knows their chores, like taking out the garbage and recycling, so this chore list is for the extra things each of them need to do each day.   The prayer order list is because the littles actually fight over who gets to say the prayer.  They all want to be the one to give thanks for the meal and I could never seem to remember whose turn it was.  This list has saved mommy lots of headaches.

    Chalk 2

    Jasmine has added new energy into our homeschooling.  I like the new way of doing school.  Instead of running from child to child doing workbooks all day long, half of our time is spent talking about different subjects and learning together.   Jasmine’s excitement has rubbed off on all of us.  She has given us all new eyes on the gift that learning is.   It truly is a blessing!

    Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  – Chinese Proverb

     

  • The Hard Part of Adoption

    Date: 2014.06.28 | Category: Adoption, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    There are many wonderful things about adoption.  It is beautiful and a blessing to watch little lives grow and thrive.  I believe in adoption with my whole heart which is why when God called again we proceeded. But the truth is adoption is hard.  These children come from a very hard place.  Adoption will test you and build you and strengthen you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

    There are many things that you encounter on the road to adoption.  The paperwork is crazy.  The first few weeks in China are trying.  The jet lag is a kick in the butt.  It’s not easy.  I knew that going in, but I wasn’t afraid because parenthood itself is hard.  Loving little people can be hard.  They will try your patience.  They will push your buttons.  It’s just hard.  Now take all of that and add to it hurt, abandonment, malnourishment.  The list could go on and on.  There are bound to be some issues.

    Even if you adopt them from birth, they can have issues as to why they were left.  They will question why they were given up.  They will wonder why they have certain characteristics.  Are they like someone else in their family?  From whom do they get their artistic ability?  Why is their hair straight?  Why is their toe crooked?  The unknowns are the hardest part.

    I remember people questioning us at the beginning as to why we told Hope the truth about her birth story.  They wondered why did we let her know that her pre-adoptive parents backed out and her mother left her in the hospital?  Why?  Was it because we wanted to cement her love for us by letting her know that we were the only ones who cared?  Was it because we enjoyed being mean and hurting her?  No!  It was because at any point in Hope’s life she could send for her medical records and it is all there in black and white.  We wanted our relationship based on trust.  We wanted her to know that we would never lie to her.

    Hope learned about her story in increments.  It’s not like you throw all of that information at a two year old, but Hope has always known her story.  She has heard over and over again how daddy fell in love with her right when he saw her.  She knows that we fought for her.  First, to be able to bring her home and let her die with family and then by trying the surgeries that could and would save her life.   We told her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault.  We let her know there was nothing she did or could have done.  We let her know there are many, many facts leading up to her birth that we just don’t know. Her birthmother might have been scared.  She might have had no support.   We didn’t know all the answers but what we did know was Hope has always been loved by us and we considered her a wonderful gift.

    We have never held any animosity towards Hope’s birthmother.  We have always told Hope to pray for her.  We don’t know the pain or the anguish she went through or might still be going through.  We just don’t know so the best course of action is to pray for her and while Hope is praying for her, Hope’s heart is healed a little more with each and every prayer said.

    Hope is very quiet. She doesn’t say a lot.  She has always been that way.  I worry that she is holding too much in.  I worry about what she thinks about her heart defect, whether she will live a long life, whether we love her, how she was abandoned, etc.   She says she doesn’t, but I always wondered.  Then one day she said, “I get it now.  Ben didn’t do anything to deserve to be abandoned and neither did Maisey.   I get it.”.

    These things are hard for a child to process.  Jasmine is trying to heal right now.  As her English gets better and her trust grows, she has been sharing more and more. She has a lot of pain and hurt and many years of abuse to contend  with.  But Jasmine’s light bulb moment was when we she was holding Evie.  Jasmine asked me where Evie was abandoned.  I told her and I showed her the picture.  Jasmine said, “Why?  Evie is such a sweet, pretty girl.”  And then you could see Jasmine slowly get it.  Jasmine then said, “Mama, Evie didn’t do anything.”

    evie abandonment

    Which is exactly right.  I remember when they took us to Evie’s finding place.  I wondered why would they put this down as a child’s finding place?  Why would they even take us there?  What must have been going through her parent’s minds?

    There have been a couple recent articles about the people abandoning children in China in the hatches that have been set up outside of orphanages.  There are many heartbreaking pictures of parents dropping off children.  Heartbreaking Goodbyes.

    It’s easy for us a half a world away to stand in judgment of these parents, but we don’t know what it is like in China.  There is no health insurance.  There is a soaring number of birth defects.  Nothing is handicapped accessible there.  The old ways consider birth defects a curse on the family.  I can not possible know why my children were abandoned but I can’t imagine that it happened without pain.

    I know that Ben was abandoned at nine months which leads me to believe that his parents wanted him.   I also know that I have children that were left in places that I don’t understand.  I want to believe they were all loved and cherished and abandoned for medical reasons but I know that isn’t true.  I know it isn’t true because I have a fifteen year old who is sharing her truth with me.  Her heartbreaking, mind boggling, truth.

    I want her to know she can talk to me about anything and that anything she shares will not change how I feel about her.  I want her to know that her life had worth and that those years had meaning.  We are dealing with some pretty heavy things.  Things my heart would rather not hear.  I don’t want to know that she was beaten because she could no longer move her legs the way she was supposed to.  I don’t want to know that at the age of four her father told her he hated her.  I don’t want to know that he drank bad stuff and hurt her often.  I don’t want to know that her paternal grandmother tried to care for her but one day when Jasmine was “just too heavy” she decided to just leave Jasmine at the orphanage.  The list of what I don’t want to know goes on and on.  But even if Jasmine didn’t tell me I would still know.  She has burns and scars that tell a story of their own.

    Jasmine has started to journal about her feelings. She recently shared these words with us…

    “Hello everyone my name is Jasmine.    When I was 8 years old when I was my grandmother fell to the orphanage.  I fell into the orphanage.  I am very, very sad I weep and weep……   I know my grandmother did not want me.  But I really really want my grandmother to go home?  I said why why why do not I have a grandmother.  Later, my grandmother came to see me a few times just would not come.  Then I lived in the orphanage makes me feel very scared very scared very scared:  But then when I was about 14 years old when I’m scared scared scared scared.  Because when I was 14 years old when I could not be adopted.   I vow that I want a family.  I beg you.  But one day someone told me that Americans want to adopt me, then I really so happy so happy so happy!  I said I have a mom and dad.

    I know that the biggest lessons I have learned have come out of my pain.  I know that healing comes with sharing and talking and most of all forgiving.  I know that I can help her because I once was that lost, hurting child.  I have written about forgiveness in a past blog. (How to Forgive)  I believe that one day Jasmine will help others heal.  I believe that by sharing her story other older children might be adopted, which is exactly what she has been praying for.

    I consider it an honor to be able to parent these children.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to be able to help their hearts heal.  I don’t take this lightly and although it is hard and heartbreaking and unbelievably sad at moments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I wouldn’t!  It’s the truth.  It is a blessing to bring God into their lives.  It is a blessing to be able share how I healed from my hurt and learned to forgive.  I know what a gift that is.  I know what lies before them….HOPE!

    Hope for healing.  Hope for family.  Hope for an eternity without pain.  What a beautiful blessing it is to be able to share that with them.  Just because something is hard doesn’t me we shouldn’t step up and do it.

    I don’t have more strength than anyone else.

    Truth be told, my strength comes from the Lord.

    I don’t have more faith than anyone else.

    I don’t have more answers than anyone else.

    I don’t have more patience than anyone else.

    But what I do have is perspective.  Perspective for what is important.  Perspective for what truly matters.  Things of this world do not matter.  Cars and houses and vacations and trim bodies and beautiful faces will all fade.  They will all pass away.  The only thing of worth is how we treat others.  How we love.  If we don’t have love, all is in vain.   This song is says it better than I ever could.

     

  • HaPpY BirThdAy Jasmine

    Date: 2014.06.01 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Photos

    Jazz 1

    It’s hard to believe it’s been a year.

    A year of so many firsts….

    She had her first big birthday party and had no clue what to do with her presents,

    June 1 2013 024

    but she was beyond thrilled about having her very own cake.

    June 1 2013 027

    She attended VBS at our church and sang her little heart out, even though she knew very little English.

    vbs box

    She got her very first flowers.

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    And took her very first shopping trip.

    shopping

    She went to the Iowa State Fair.

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    and her first concert – a Casting Crown’s concert!!!

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    She couldn’t see the stage from her wheelchair so big sister helped her out.

    Jasmine 13

    She discovered she really loves holding babies.

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    She found her freedom with a hot pink, powered wheelchair on the path in our backyard.

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    She learned you don’t have to be able to swim to enjoy the pool.

    pool

    She went to her first Renaissance Fair.

    Jasmine 8

    And ate her first turkey leg.

    Jasmine 10

    She dressed up as Jasmine for Halloween.

    Jasmine 5

    And learned what “trick or treating” was all about.

    Jasmine 7

    She went to Disneyland Paris with friends from Spain.  (Well, her picture did anyway.)

    This family sponsored Jasmine for years and wanted to adopt her.

    Disney

    She received a really wonderful gift in the mail that touched her heart, from the sweetest little girls.

    min 9

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    And learned that people all around the world love her, care about her and pray for her.

    This was from a blog post on Love Without Boundaries.

    (If you don’t know what this organization does, please check them out.  They are the reason we found Jasmine.  They were advocating for her on their Facebook page and in their blog.)

    photo

    She got to lead the way on the ice at the engagement party for Zach and Stephanie.

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    And then be a junior bridesmaid in their wedding.

    She was especially excited about the pretty, sparkly dress and having her hair done.

    Jasmine 17 Jazz 7

    She had her first cake fight.

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    And learned that she loved baking.

    Jasmine 15

    She learned that she was a superhero.

    (These capes are made by and adoptive mama, who is funding her adoption.  You can get the capes at Justice Gifts on Facebook.)

    Jasmine 23

    She learned English like a pro

    and finished kindergarten, first and second grade.

    She found out just how beautiful she really is.

    (She has told us numerous times that she was often told she was ugly and she believed those words until her daddy sent her a letter and told her that he loved her and that she was beautiful and she chose to believe him.)

    Jasmine 6

    She learned how much fun having a big sister is.

    Big sisters do your hair and make-up.

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    And how much fun it is to be a big sister.

    The littles adore Jasmine, especially Evie.

    photo(2)

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    She met Steven Curtis Chapman at his Glorious Unfolding Tour at Harmony Bible Church.

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    And Mikeschair at a concert at Rising Sun Church.

    Jazz 5

    And Jonny Diaz was there too!

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    She even got to meet her favorite you-tube channel make-up artist, Lex, from MadeULook by Lex.

    Jazz 1

    She has learned about God and His love for her.  She knows God has a plan for her life.  She knows her life has purpose and worth.  She knows that she is saved by His grace.  She understands that we love and remember Kyle even though he died.  She understands through hearing about Kyle’s life that there is a forever future and that brings her great peace.  She understands that no matter what happens in her life we will never leave her side.  She knows that she has a family forever and she will never be forgotten.

    family

    Jasmine attended a Women of Faith conference with my mom before she passed away.

    Jasmine 12

    And learned about giving to others who have less.

    She helped pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

    Jasmine 4

    And she had the idea to raise money for a little girl named Emma who sat in an orphanage for months with a broken leg.

    Emma

    And learned that life isn’t always fair when Emma passed away.  Jasmine cried many, many tears over little Emma.

    She found her very best friend in her little sister Gracie.

    image

    And together these two will change the world.

    Jasmine talks to Gracie in the middle of the night and shares many secrets with her.  One of those secrets was how hungry her and her friends were.  Gracie and Jasmine put their little heads together and decided to do something about it.  They raised $3,000 towards the nutrition fund at Jasmine’s orphanage.  Jasmine learned that you can make a difference.

    They dream of the bus they will drive and the children they will adopt.  20 was the last number being thrown around.

    She has learned about family and what that really means.

    Family

    She was in her first Christmas card picture.

    Jasmine 18

    And had a picture with the Easter bunny although she had no clue why the person was in an bunny costume.

    Jasmine 22

    She went to the local amusement park and got to play dress-up.

    Jasmine 20

    She has changed our lives, brightened our days, moved our hearts, and challenged us to do more.

    These two little girl’s will get a chance at family because Jasmine wanted to do more.

    Jasmine prayed and our hearts were moved.

    Jasmine knew instantly that Kelly and Elyse were her sisters.

    photo(8) photo(7)

    She says she learned how to be silly when she joined our family.

    June 1 2013 068

    She says she loves having a big family and lots of people to love.

    Jasmine 21

    When I asked her about her favorite moment of the year, she said, “Dancing with Daddy!”   I don’t have a video of the time he picked her up and danced around the living room floor with her, but the look on her face brought tears to my eyes.  Every little girl wants a daddy who loves her.

    Jasmine has learned so much this past year about trust, love, and family; but we have learned just as much about what those words really mean.  We have learned to trust God and His plan even when we don’t have all the answers.  We see even more clearly how His plan is perfect and how He can use lives to change others.  Jasmine is such a blessing and a beautiful addition to our family.

    Happy birthday sweet girl!

  • Jasmine Flower

    Date: 2014.04.28 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    “The Flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Mulan

    I always said I would never adopt an older child.  I always said it wouldn’t be a good fit with the family and that was the truth.  It is harder to bring an older child into your home and have them accept the ways of your home.  Our house can be loud.  Our house can be kind of crazy sometimes. Our house is full of love and fun and singing, but life with Codey isn’t the usual.  Not many 26 year olds scoot on the floor and growl when they are upset. It was just easier to have a child grow up around him.  I worried an older child wouldn’t accept and love him.

    I’ve read the stories posted to Facebook of frustrated parents. I read the blogs and other articles.  Older children are more set in their ways.  They have a belief system in place.  They are hardened by all the hard knocks they’ve taken in their lives and it will take lots of work to reach them. They are angry and mad at the world. They have learned institutional behavior. They can steal, lie, and more. They have walls that they have built very high to protect themselves. I wasn’t sure I was up to any of that.

    Plus, an older child can call you out on things.  An older child can tell you that you are wrong.  An older child can say they don’t like you and articulate all the reasons why.  They might never accept you. They might resent you.  They might never truly accept you as their mother.  I knew my heart couldn’t handle that.

    Then I saw her face.

    jasmine 3

    And in an instant all those doubts didn’t matter.  OUR daughter was half way around the world and we needed to go get her.  We couldn’t let her age out in another country.  She was no longer an orphan, she was a loved child of this family.  In an instant everything changed.

    God works that way sometimes.  We can be adamant about not doing something and then He shows us how wrong we have been.  Jasmine has been through many hard times.  She should be a hardened, angry teenager, but she is not. She is a sweet, beautiful soul with a smile that lights up the room.

    From the moment we first saw her, she has been smiling.  You might not know it by looking at her sitting in her wheelchair, but Jasmine can do very little for herself.  If you knock her over, there is nothing she can do about it.  We have to move her from place to place.  We have to sit her up.  We have to dress her.  And yet…..she smiled when we had to take her to the bathroom that very first time.  She smiled when we had to strip her down and hold her in place on a footstool in the shower.  She smiled when I changed her clothes and it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped.  We were strangers and she just trusted me and gave me that very sweet smile.

    Recently she admitted that she had been afraid, but in China they had told her she would go to a place where she would be hurt and not fed.  She said, at that point, trusting her new mama and daddy didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Can you imagine?  You can’t run away.  You can’t call someone on the phone for help.  You don’t have many, if any choices, so you are just going to trust these two Americans you have never met because it seems like a much better option than what will happen if you stay.  What amazing bravery, hope and courage Jasmine had.

    Jasmine can be very silly.  She likes to take your phone and take silly selfies.  You never know what you will find.

    Jasmine also shared with me that she wasn’t silly in China.  She said she was silly when she met me because I am silly.   I will admit that I am pretty silly in life.  I love to laugh.  I like to make up songs about the most ridiculous things.  I like to hear my children laugh.  It’s the best sound in the world and I will be as silly as I have to be to get them to laugh.  So when I was in China, carrying my new daughter under her arms while Cassie had her knees, trying to get through the smallest bathroom door you’ve ever seen and then strip her down and stand there so she doesn’t fall off….well, what else was there to do but sing a show tune?  And Jasmine smiled and then the most beautiful thing happened….she laughed.   That very first day she laughed.

    But things can steal Jasmine’s smile away and that is really hard on this mama’s heart.  When she wakes up shaking because she had a nightmare and starts to tell me the dream and I say, “It’s okay sweetheart.  You’re awake now.  It’s not real.” and she says, “Yes, it is mommy.  It really happened.”  and it’s beyond anything you can even imagine.  Your heart hurts.  It hurts for all the pain she’s had to endure.  It hurts because there is nothing you can do about the past.  It hurts because her sweet soul didn’t deserve any of it.  It hurts because ITS.JUST.NOT.FAIR!!!!  It hurts because she was alone for way too long.

    I’m thankful that we can be there for her now.   Yesterday was another one of those days when she just trusts.  They had to put in an i.v. and sedate her for her MRI.  Her body is just too contractured for her to lie still in the MRI machine.  She tried really hard to do it when we last tried, but she just couldn’t lie still enough.  She trusted me when I said it was going to be okay.  She trusted me when they put the needle in her hand. She trusted me as they hooked her up to all the monitors.  She trusted me as they put the mask on her face and she drifted off to sleep. She fell asleep to my murmured “I love yous” and she trusted that I would be there when she woke up.

    For a child who has been abandoned, that is huge.   She has told us how they dropped her off with just a picture of her mama.  How she sat there waiting for someone to help her.  She doesn’t say much more except to say she was very scared.  She shares mostly with Gracie after they are tucked in at night.  She shares with Gracie because it is Grace who climbs in bed with her when she is afraid.  It is Gracie who holds her hand and tells her it is going to be okay before she comes to get us.  It is Gracie who she calls best friend.  Jasmine has a hard time sharing a lot of the bad things that happened to her.  She will tell Gracie but she doesn’t want us to know.

    But every once in a while, when we are alone in the car or like last night when everyone else had fallen asleep, she decides to share some things with me.  Jasmine told me that it’s good that I’m going to be a mama to 14.  I laughed and said, “It is? Why?”  She then told me that I make her happy.  She said, Mama you are good with kids and you love orphans and that is a very, very good thing.  She told me how much she loves me and how happy I make her.  She thanked me for saving her and for loving her and for saving and loving Kelly and Elyse before I even got to China. That was the best compliment I have ever received.

    She told me how much she loves the other kids, especially Evie, and Gracie is her best friend.  She told me she likes when they all tell her good night and they all say “I love you” in the morning.  I asked her if she understood Hope’s story?  I told her Hopey’s story in the simplest terms that I could.  I told her sometimes things happen to us that have nothing to do with us. I asked her if she understood that and she said no.  So I asked her if she thought Evie had done anything to be an orphan.  She said, “Oh no mama, Evie is wonderful.”   I then asked her about Eli, Ben, Maisey, Lainey and even Hope.  Jasmine told me that she never understood it before but she does now.  She loves America.  She loves her big family.  She loves her mama and she adores her daddy.

    I love her daddy too because he understands that daughters want to be loved by their daddies.  He is the kind of daddy who does things like this.

    I almost missed out on one of the biggest blessings in my life.  I am not overlooking how hard it can be and how much work there is and how horribly it is going to end.  I’m not.  Life can be and most often is messy.  But the blessings of being Jasmine’s mama far outweigh any of those things.

    There are many things wrong with international adoptions.  There is fraud,  the paperwork is neverending, it costs too much and takes too long. The lists you can use for excuses are long. You can spend days thinking of all the reasons why you shouldn’t adopt, but I’m telling you that the blessings you will receive are beyond compare.  Don’t let a scary story stop you from following God’s lead.  Sometimes jumping in when you are most afraid leads to the biggest blessings of all.

    Jazz 1

    Sometimes the most beautiful flowers, which have bloomed in adversity, make your garden more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.

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