Tuesday, March 29, 2016

14. it's awfully young to...

forever lose the chance to have a loving family.

14. that's the age when a CHILD goes from waiting and hoping to be "chosen" to waiting to be told they have to leave their orphanage/foster home and find their own way.

it's an incredibly young and fragile age still to come to that destiny.
i don't want to be doom and gloom, but the prospects for these children is not good if they age out. they often "survive" by stealing, dealing drugs, and you can take a sordid and educated guess how the girls survive :(  it's something nobody wants to talk about or read, but it's the truth.

there is a young boy who will turn 14 in 5 short months, and the family that desperately wants him as their son is RACING to him.  in the beginning the officials did not even prepare his file to make him eligible for adoption, they believed nobody would chose a son like him-but they were wrong.  his file has been readied and a family is raising funds to cover the cost of all things involved in adoption: a home study, agency fees, travel fees, etc. i've run down the expenses in our adoption while we were fundraising, so you can peruse back through them if you are interested in why adoptions are so expensive.

there will be an auction beginning in the next few days to help the family raise these funds, they've set up a Facebook page to share about the plight of the aging out orphan in China and their journey to their son.

life in china is not as here for the unfortunate and those without families: there is no government health coverage like MediCare or state sponsored insurance, no free-community clinics, there are no Pell Grants for higher education, there are no food subsidy programs, there are not homeless missions in cities. life after aging out of the orphanage is dismal, scary, and uncertain. but you can be part of hope, and part of a chance at new life for this one sweet soul.

follow along with their journey and when the auction begins, grab yourself something and help bring him home!

here is the YouCaring page set up if you'd like to contribute to bringing this sweet boy home: 

and here's the Facebook page to follow for updates and check up their upcoming auction

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the silent months

there have been fairly signifcant gaps in these past updates--you'll notice posts have been few and far between since coming home.
at first it was because life was crazy, busy, hectic, and a whirlwind: between becoming a family of 4 with an adolescent and preteen, packing up a house and moving within days of arriving home, setting up in a new house in a new city, in a new state, and bonding as a new family all within 2 weeks!

and then the updates became more scarce because life got HARD.

when you adopt, especially the older child, you aren't just becoming a parent and you aren't just adding a daughter/son (or both!) into your family, no. you are picking up the cross of trauma, pain, loss, hurt, anger and sadness children far too young have been appointed to carry, and carrying it WITH them, and sometimes FOR them until they can develop the necessary tools to work through their grief, which could be years, or even decades.

 you are saying:
"i will give up my 'norman rockwell' visions of family dinners, picturesque christmas mornings and evenings, board games at the kitchen table", and saying: "i will accept that the rest of our lives may very well be lived in the trenches"  "i will continue to pour into a vessel that has holes poked all in the bottom" and instead switch your thinking to: even though this seems like a special event, a happy occasion, or a fun family idea, it will most likely trigger feelings of grief and loss in our children and cause pain and result in a melt-down.
you sacrifice happy-family traditions you've been planning and dreaming of, and instead plan ahead to do battle with your child as memories and trauma are purged to the surface.

going into adoption, you prepare yourself for "worst case scenario" and you do far more than "due diligence" when researching everything your new child's referral speaks of.  you feel like you are a long-lost best friend of Karyn Purvis, and in the heat of melt-downs you think "what would Mark V.  do" (can i get "a'men" from my fellow 'Parenting with Connection' folks!), Amazon recommendations start to look that of a fully-stocked child therapists office, and you are convinced in 3 years time you would have damn well earned an honorary Ph.D in child psychology degree from some prestigious university.

we thought we were prepared, we thought our children had been in a great place. we prayed and thanked God for his providence of where they were all these years before we came for them. after all it was a "christian" based, american foundation backed, foster village.

we were wrong.

while we were thanking God, we should have been pleading for him to exercise come sort of vengeance, turn these adults into pillars of salt, have rabid dogs consume them. i can't even describe the amount of pure anger and wrath i feel toward the individuals entrusted to care for our children, and instead inflicted trauma beyond imagination upon them. i feel sick at the thought that i left as a gift for these people a locket with the L's picture in it.

we fight battles WITH our children several days a week.

no, i'm not as honorable as this sounds. i'm not a mother teresa or mother goose even for that matter. it's hard. it's hard on me (and them of course). hence the silence. i've been silently mourning. mourning their past. mourning their grief. mourning the death of the patient, slow-to-frustrate, and happy-go-lucky momma i THOUGHT i'd be.

a good read, as to why you should NOT say "all kids to that" to adoptive parents of children with trauma backgrounds. 

being on the verge of tears has become a nightly occurrence after we finally close our door to go to bed. one of my mantras HAD been "it's not about me", until i was presented with a lifestyle that FORCED me to walk it out 24/7, and i realized just how much i do think it's about me. i realized my sacrificial love isn't as full of complete Agape as i thought it was. i'm reminded of my flesh and still broken human nature.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ --Philippians 1:6

people smile and compliment families like ours; and we smile and pretend they are right. we pretend it's glorious, we pretend we are patient and knowledgable, and we pretend our lives our full of laughter and joy. because we have to protect our children, and we have to protect their story, and we have to protect their lives now and their lives in the past for their lives in the future. so we smile and we nod and we say the response everyone expects "oh, it's been all so wonderful, we couldn't ask for any better of a beginning!" you become an expert at fooling people. so much so that profilers with the FBI couldn't pick the pain out of your soul.
we do this because we have to be wise. we have to be wise about who we share the most intimate knowledge of our children and our own family with. it's not appropriate to openly share the darkest and most painful memories of your children's past with strangers, well-wishers, and anyone that can read a fb status update, or even blog post.
the details remain the children's and the family's, which also means the pain remains the family's.

despite all the pain, this truth remains:
God sees the pain in our souls though.
God sees the pain in our son and daughter's soul, and He is faithful.

we read post like this and weep. utterly weep into a sobbing mess on the floor because the only people who "get it" are people who we will mostly likely never meet, never hug, never share coffee with as we spill our hearts. 

And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transferred into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. --2 Corinthians 3:18

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

a long overdue update

Wow! I can't can believe it's been 3 months since I've updated.  Life is busy. You parents who update daily or even weekly amaze me. I can't even get my brain to function before noon, and by then it's time to pick the kids back up (almost).  I'll try to be coherent and make sense. :)

this is a laugh--a laugh during prayer. it's okay, we allow it, it's biblical even "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 corinthians 3:17) 

 This photo progressed like this, with a surprise from behind attack-turned-peace sign with brother:

We now live outside Atlanta, and the kiddos loved being a part of the move. They were able to set up their new bedrooms, pick out their bed sets and show us how they wanted their furniture arranged.

School started super early down here: August 3rd!  These awesome kiddos had been in the states barely a month when they began attending school. The teachers at their school are amazing, and it happens that Lucy is in a "super class" (it's like a class and a half with 2 teachers), and in her "super class" there are two sisters who speak Mandarin! This has been so helpful for her adjustment of course, but also for her teachers, who when in a bind, have these other sweet girls who are so happy to help and translate.

Their English language acquisition has absolutely boomed! We are home a little over 3 months, and for the most part, communication is good. We only use the translation app if there is a new concept/words we are using, or if we are trying to explain something that requires more than piecing together basic words they have.

Their personalities continue to shine, and they become more confident in who they are and their identity strengthens each week.

They continue to trust us more and more, and they continue to attach and bond as sons and daughters more and more. We had a huge break through last night when they both shared some really heavy things. It was one of those occurrences where their vulnerability, trust, and sharing led us well past their bedtime without notice--when your children are pouring their hearts out and baring themselves and that level of vulnerability, you let it flow as long as it needs to.

The dude is enrolled in Taekwondo classes and the lovely does an extra-curricular art class after school each week.

They each love to take the dogs for walks with me, and the dude loves putting them up in their crates each night (which is quiet the comical site since each dog is bigger than he is!).

It seems as if we have settled into our little family routine, and it couldn't be sweeter.

We eagerly await the coming holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finishing out birthdays (we just celebrated the dude's at Chuck E Cheese).

And two pictures that pretty perfectly capture our family.  :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

the dude

i'm going to be super honest: he hated me the first 4-5 days in china, as in:
*he would pull away from me and choose to walk in front of a moving car rather than walk next to me
*he would be thirsty and parched instead of just taking the bottle of water or soda from my hand
*he would rather be bored than take his kindle fire from me when i was offering it
it happens. pick up trips aren't always filled with unicorns sliding down rainbows into gumdrop seas. but it gets better!

one day in guangzhou (the final leg of the journey) i was walking through one of the rooms in our hotel suite (and he had hidden himself on the other side of the door) and he jumped into my arms. just like that. and ever since then, he's been my cuddle bug, my right-hand man. my dude.

most of the pictures we had of him he seemed somber and quiet. ha!
even our main guide in guangzhou said "wow, he was so quiet when we met him a few months ago". ahhhhh, we still laugh about that....

he is the most energetic, wild, and personable dude.
gosh, this kid, y'all, he really does have so much personality.  i just wish all you you could meet and enjoy it with us!

he loves electronica music--the kids has some mad dancing skills. i set the t.v. to my pandora "moby" station, and he will dance his little heart out.

and his high and roundhouse kicks--chuck norris would be jealous of them.

here is a photo documentary of his personality:

the dude loves technology too. 

he's a blessing to us. he really is. 
i know others are well intentioned when they tell us we are a blessing to the kids, but honestly, we are the blessed ones. 
my heart and soul are full--and house loud now :) 

Monday, July 20, 2015

the sweet girl

the moment we met was quiet honestly, awkward, as meeting your ("older") child for the first time throughout the process of adoption is for most i would assume. she smiled sweetly in the doorway--eyes hidden behind her novelty sunglasses. she wore a fancy dress with a ribbon tie and sheer overlay, a floral pattern underneath. her hair pulled into a the familiar ponytail we have seen in all her pictures. 

she greeted us with a smile and gently came into our embrace. she is 85% gentle and silly spirit and 15% put brother in his place serious.  

we feel she's picked up an impressive amount of receptive english language--that or she infers what we are trying to tell her and brother and she then, with great "confidence and conviction" tells him in mandarin. 

the hotel we stayed at while in hefei had a nice heated indoor pool and hot tub.  the little dude was weary of the pool but LOVED the hot tub. xinhua was quiet the opposite--she didn't care for the hot tub at all, but loved the pool. she even held onto her daddy's back and let him walk her around the pool. this seemed like the most frightening thing in the world to the dude, so he hung on the sidelines. 

the second night together, we split the kiddos and xinhua and i stayed in one room and the dude and daddy stayed in the other (momma HAD to sleep). (the first night was full of excited, noisy, and active chaos as described in the previous post).
a storm came through--lightening and thunder, bangs and crashes, downpours and waterfall like rain washing over our hotel room window. sweet girl became afraid and got up to turn on the light. after she got back in bed she whimpered "momma" and held my hand and feel back asleep. 

the next day was uneventful aside from walking around the small shopping area near our hotel. xinhua was more quiet this day and we allowed her to be and to have her space--we were just happy to be in the same room as her while she played on her kindle. that night as we laid in bed my sweet girl started to cry. she sat straight up and began wailing. i thought at first she had an earache from swimming in the pool for 3 days, as she had grabbed her ear and cried and screamed. we walked next door and got baba (daddy) and the dude to come back over and called our in-province guide to ask her to talk to xinhua and find out what was upsetting her. sweet girl told her that she missed her foster mother; so we helped her call her. the foster mother reassured her she was loved madly by both herself and me, and we relayed through our guide that xinhua could call and write her foster mother whenever she needed. 
to me, it's not a competition for love. i cannot deny the incredible role her foster mother played in her life for 8 years. i cannot and will not demand she forget the bond and trust she had with this woman and exchange it for instant and unwavering allegiance to me. that will come with time. trust, love, and belonging comes with time and cannot be forced, or faked. 

since that night she's had her quiet moments (i'd be more worried if she didn't) and her moments of frustration with little brother (but honestly, he's a feisty dude), but honestly, she's been more than resilient. i believe she is strong because she has to be:
when we had returned to the states, we were to move a week later, so life was still not going to "settle". two days before the moving company was to arrive, the hubs had to drive down to atlanta to close on our new house--the kiddos and i stayed "home".  we went to the pool, had junk food, and lots of fun. the next day, i had to drive down to atlanta due to a snafu with the schedule for our power, water, cable, internet, everything! to be turned on. (this put me driving down to atlanta and back up on the same day, the day before we moved!). the hubs stayed "home" with the kiddos.  i ended up not having a quick turn around trip, and on my way back the hubs called and said luke had been upset for a while and wanted to know when i was going to be home. oh, trust me, i had wanted to be home HOURS ago! i asked about sweet lucy, and he said she was doing great and even trying to calm him down. 

when i finally arrived back, they were in bed, so i went up stairs to kiss them goodnight and show them i was indeed back home. luke was good and gave me a big hug and kiss. lucy, who had been great all day, and even helping "baba" (daddy) with luke, immediately said "mama", and the tears came. she cupped her hands in front of her face and sobbed as she hugged me. i don't have to state the obvious, but i will: my heart sank. my sweet girl, strong for everyone, until she didn't have to be.

she was known as the "helper" in her orphanage. her nanny/foster mother's right hand girlie. she is here too. she folds laundry with me, better than i do, she helps wash dishes, she helps serve food, she-helps. she has such a servant heart. 

we are homeschooling as much as we can for now--lots of ground to cover. she has made incredible strides, and continues to impress us with her desire to learn. on her own, one day last week, she brought us a piece of paper where she had written out the englsih alphabet in upper AND lower case letters. she's become very fond of math lately, and every little milestone is a great celebration. no progress is too slight to escape notice and jubilee. 

we received the greatest treasure ANY adoptive parent could when we met them in china---HUNDREDS of photos of her (and also of her brother, but his post is next...) from her time with her orphanage/foster group.  y'all, Half the Sky really is all about the children. i cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of joy that i have hundreds of pictures of her from her young toddler years to current. most families have only pictures that came with updates--we have developmental milestone, memories, activities, etc. recorded--in photos! 

until i can scan some of those and share them, here's a few of our sweet lucy-girl: 

feeding koi :)

meeting birdie for the first time! :)

she loves gnarls barkley too (the dog, hasn't heard the rapper yet!)

childhood complete: merry-go-round! 

call her dr. doo-lucy! 

everyone loves stello!

first time on a trampoline!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

and now there are 4

we landed in beijing late around mid day on friday the 12th and spent the next day and a half doing what you do in beijing: touring the forbidden city, tianamen square (which is apparently a big deal aside from it being where the young man stopped the tank), and the great wall. it our last weekend together sans our children and was spent with us exhausted, hot (but at least not rainy!), and ready to get this show on the road!

the incline/toboggan down)

walking the Great Wall (you would be disgustingly surprised how many people have vandalized it and written their names on the stones/bricks :( ) 

sunday we flew into hefei (in anhui province) and TRIED to sleep before meeting our children on monday.

you have no idea how you are going to feel, how you will react to each other: will you cry (tears of happiness), will they cry (tears of fear), will you hug them, will they let you hug them? will they pull away from you, will they gladly accept the affection they've spent their lives without...
so many questions

we were in hefei with another family from our agency (they are adopting two young girls), and we all met downstairs in our hotel lobby to ride to the civil affairs office (this is where you meet your children). they had adopted several times before and were a great wealth of experience and insight into what to practically prepare for.

the civil affairs office/building is nondescript and very unceremonious for what you consider one of the biggest events of your family's life.  sterile tile floors and white walls, offices that perform civil duties such as marriage liscences, fee payments, etc. and then the room for adoptions. you are seated at a long table with other families and sort out piles of paperwork. then--with no announcement, ceremony, or even interruption, you look up (i did out of nervousness and happenstance) and saw in the doorway, the profile of my sweet and silly girl, and beside her--our goofy and larger than life boy. that was how we met--no cloud parting moment, no soft whipser introduction...they were brought to the office, just like us: in a van and walked up to the room. except they had backpacks full of candy and snacks, that was a total win for them.

first 30 seconds of meeting, loads of awkward. nothing prepares anyone involved for this. 

i was frantically trying to pull up pictures on the iPad..pictures are a universal language

seeing their doggies and cats, grandparents, and new home

she brought the first panda we sent her in a care package  :) 

trying on daddy's hat and sunglasses. he found them very silly! 

i showed them pictures of the family on our iPad: nana, aunt sherri and the cousins (her children), momo (ryan's mom), and poppie (ryan's dad), and of course the fur siblings. ryan left the room a short time later to pay the civil affairs fees, orphanage donation, and notary fees (it's best to do that to avoid the appearance that you are "buying" them as a commodity.). the orphanage donation pays nannies salaries, medical bills for the children, upkeep of buildings and supplies.

and just like that, they were ours. they were our children. in the flesh, with us.

walking out of the building, our xinhua (lucy) immediately reached out for baba's hand (baba is chinese for daddy) and i held jiacheng's (luke). that evening she called me mama. this seems exciting and sweet and wonderful, and it is, it shows she was somewhat prepared. despite her seeming prepared, we continue to let her have some control in her comfort level--we want to limit false sense of comfort.

i bathed her that night--washed her back, her shoulders, her hair, and i gently showed her how to wash her other parts.  afterward i helped her out of the shower to dry off and dry her hair. she smiled the whole time and had learned "thank you" at this point. such a sweet and "silly" thing, a child--your child, thanking you for helping them bathe. oh the precious one.

there was a snafu with our rooms booked, so we ended up with two adjoining rooms at this hotel. xinhua (lucy), jiacheng (luke), and i stayed in one room and the hubs stayed in the other. that was the second night in 4 days i went without sleep (the first night i went without sleep was our last night in the states (of course!). they laughed and jabbered, they jumped and rolled on the bed, they enjoyed their freedom.

the next day we had to go back to the civil affairs office to finalize the adoption. because xinhua is over 10, she had to sign documents stating she wanted to be adopted. luke is only 8 so they used a paint pad to color his hand red and have him put a hand-stamp down. and that was it: how it becomes "official".

we are now a family of 4. it still doesn't feel real.

i still don't feel like the mother of 2 children. (except for i do--like in the hefei airport when two older women were being rude to my sweet girl (i didn't understand a word they were saying except for mama and baba to her and i saw her frustration growing...). i walked over to them, gave them the evil eye and guided her back to us. a family traveling with us brought their oldest adopted daughter who could translate for us and told xinhua momma didn't want her talking to strangers because sometimes strangers are rude and will hurt her feelings. and then momma would have to end up in a chinese jail (except we didn't really relay that last part...)).

xinhua began asking about when we leave for america so we made this handy-dandy countdown sheet :)

upcoming posts:
all about xinhua (lucy)
all about jiacheng (luke)
the final days in guangzhou and heading home

we have prayed for over a year for these days, and we have had worship music playing in their rooms non-stop since we began the process to bring them home. we believe where His praise is, so His Spirit will too be, and we want nothing more and nothing other than for His presence to be where they are. we can commit them to Him, we can commit our house to Him, but above all, we must remain committed to Him in all we do: in front them, behind closed doors, and everywhere we go. His service begins with us, and the journey is just now beginning. challenges await, trails will come, frustrations will manifest, and there will be times everyone questions if they are strong enough. we aren't. nobody is. but we can persevere and come out stronger in all we are and do. eyes upward and hearts open and moldable.