Monday, November 25, 2013

2013 Adoption Blogger Interview Project

Being a new-ish blogger in the adoption community, I decided to put myself out there and participate in the 2013 Adoption Blogger Interview Project.  I was matched with a pretty cool adoptive bloggy Mama that I was already a fan of through her stellar photography work through Red Thread Sessions AND of course her contributions to No Hands But Ours

Nicole's Blog rocks by the way, and you can check it out here:  Living Out His Love.  Her amazing photos, beautiful family, and brutal honesty will draw you in.  Enjoy!

I love that you are a founder of Red Thread Sessions.  We have already contacted our local photographer and are looking forward to getting some photos done once I get back from China.  How did you connect with other photographers that have a passion for adoption and get that off the ground?

Thanks for asking about Red Thread Sessions!  It is a ministry that is close to my heart, and I have been so blessed to watch it grow and blossom over the last few years!  I met the other founding photographer, Nicki, through an old yahoo group for photographers at the end of 2010.  My family was in the process of adopting our daughter at the time, and Nicki had already completed her daughter's adoption.  Being photographers and adoptive moms, charitable adoption photography was on both of our hearts.  We started chatting after Nicki had posted an adoption photography-related thread, and the ideas started flying!  I remember excitedly tapping out emails back and forth to her on my iPhone during a 2-day drive home from visiting family.  I was so excited about working on the organization with her, that I could barely contain my energy.  We came up with a name for the organization, and started working on how it would be structured soon after.  Once we went live a year later, we used social media to spread the word.  We were amazed at how much support we received from the adoption world and from photographers wanting to offer their services to families.  We now have over 400 participating photographers across the U.S.!

Why did you end up adopting through the Chinese Waiting Child Program?  I know that the earthquake in Haiti weighed heavily on you even if you were unable to adopt from there. Were both of you on the same page about adoption initially? Did you consider other countries as well?  When you adopt in the future (wink wink) will you consider China again or another country? 

When we started thinking about adoption because of the Haitian earthquake, adoption actually closed in Haiti temporarily.  There was no indication of when, or if, the program would open again.  We both were fully committed to adopting our third child and absolutely on the same page.  But, my husband wanted to wait for Haiti to open again, I did not.  We had such a burning passion to adopt, I wanted to move forward immediately.  I knew there were many children that needed families all over the world, so I started researching.  I fell on China because the process is clear cut, relatively guaranteed, and only requires one in-country visit.  I talked over the possibility of a Chinese adoption with my husband and after several weeks of prayer, he was on board too.  We never looked back!  If, in the future, we are blessed with another child through adoption, yes we would go back to China.  We have fallen in love with the country and its culture, and also think it would be nice if my daughter had someone in our family who looked like her.

Your homeschool room is pretty darn amazing.  I know it is early on in your homeschooling career, but do you anticipate homeschooling through the teenage years? 

Thanks for your kind words!  I had a lot of fun designing our homeschool room and it has served us very well!  Although I only have a year and a half of homeschooling under my belt, my husband and I both feel strongly that we'd like our children to attend a more "typical" high school.  It's not that we dislike homeschooling for the higher grades, but we both had such positive experiences in high school, we want to share that with our children too.  Of course when the time comes for this decision, we'll bring our children into the discussion and decide what is best for them with their input.  It's difficult to make a decision about something like that so early on.  But as of now, the plan is for them to attend a private high school that has a similar classical education model to what we use at home.

I am traveling to Jiangxi next month.  Any travel tips, especially with a 1 year old?

How exciting that you will be in Jiangxi!  I remember much of it like it was yesterday.  We stayed in a beautiful, new hotel called the Galactic Peace Hotel.  The hotel itself was wonderful and the staff even let us borrow a stroller! It also was within walking distance to the Civil Affairs Office, but unfortunately not close to anything else.  So although the hotel was amazing, we were in an industrial part of the city and were a bit far from many things.  It was difficult to get out and take a walk because of our location in the city.  I know some other adoptive families stayed in another popular hotel that was near everything (except the Civil Affairs Office), but was not as nice.  So if you have any choice about hotels, weigh this information into your decision.  Also, Jiangxi is known for porcelain - you have to stop at a porcelain store and bring some treasures home with you!  Another nice thing about Jiangxi (you may know this already), is that the children are brought to your hotel, you don't go to the Civil Affairs Office ... this was much less chaotic than some of the Gotcha Day videos I've seen because we were the only family meeting for the first time.  

I also had 2 biological children prior to adopting my 3rd as well. I know they are young, but do your children ever talk about adopting? Do you know other local people that have also adopted?

What a great question.  Yes, my children know many families who have adopted.  We have quite an adoptive family network in our area, and also at our church!  There are actually three adoptive families in the small group Bible study we host on Friday evenings, and the children are in constant contact with other adopted children at church too.  I can't tell you how supportive it is to be surrounded by so many families built in a similar way!  Although my son has never said anything about adopting in the future, my older daughter (8) has on many occasions.  She even said to me once, "I think one of the plans for my life is to adopt when I'm older."  That melted my heart. It has been truly amazing to watch their little hearts change and grow because of adoption!

Obviously your faith has played a huge role in all that you do in your life.  Has that always been the case?

I was raised in a Christian home but I didn't really starting owning my faith until I was a married adult, with children.  So the answer to your question is yes and no, I suppose.  I've always known Jesus as my Savior, but I wasn't always living my life for Him consistently.  He was always there, but not necessarily in the forefront of my mind regularly.  Things started to change once my children were born.  Also, my daughter's adoption really strengthened my faith and taught me more about who God is and what He's done for me.  I try to live more intentional now and really strive to live His will for my life.  Part of that is teaching my children about His never-ending love and grace.  It's not easy at all and I am a work in progress, but I'm thankful that I have a forgiving God who loves me no matter how many mistakes I make!

I always look forward to reading the new posts on No Hands But Ours.  How did you start your collaboration with such an awesome group of adoptive moms and dads?

It's hard to believe that it's been two years since I've been blogging at No Hands But Ours! Stefanie asked me if I would become a contributing blogger to share about our experiences with adoption and cleft lip/cleft palate.  I was honored for the privilege to share a bit of our life, and of course said yes!  I don't know how much I've been able to help other adoptive families, but I pray that even just one of my posts has spoken to someone!

Want to know more about this project and perhaps contribute in the future?  Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Updates..and the truth

New stats:


18 months old
26.45 pounds (CHUNK!)
Sits, crawls, and stands while holding on to furniture
Says Mama and Baba
Ready to laugh

He looks so handsome--like a little prince.

Julia Mei

16 months old
44.09 pounds (hmmm looks like a translation error there)
Sits, pulls up to stand, walks while pushing a cart, and tries to run
Laughs often
Says Mama, Baba, Jie Jie, and I want when she sees food
She shares her food with her foster mother first
She likes to clap, greet people, and wave goodbye 
She likes to eat.  A lot.

Well, they shaved her head--but she has a beautiful smile!

I've been getting a lot of questions about what their disabilities are since it's not a secret that we have chosen the special needs program in China.  When I tell people they appear quite uncomfortable and not quite sure what to say. Let me start by saying that these two kids will be able in every way--I have no doubt.

When I adopted Christian, I wasn't sure how to explain to people that I don't see often about his limb difference.  And so, this is the Christmas card picture that we used:

It's a straight, to the point--look at me picture with my siblings! Oh, and by the way--don't act strange when you see me because this limb difference?  

See? It's no big deal.

Our new children also have limb differences.  I'm relieved because it's a need that I know that I can handle, even if it will be challenging at times.  We were open to many special needs--some more severe than others.  You might consider a limb difference a deal breaker--and that's OK.  It's not for everybody.  But please consider...if your biological child was born with a limb difference...would you love that child any less?  Of course not.

Since these differences will be clearly obvious, here ya go!

Jacob is missing a hand, just like Christian.  His arm is a little longer.  He is also missing part of his leg.  We were thrilled to see on his update that he has a knee joint, as we did not think this was the case.  We will be heading to Shriner's as soon as we get home to get him fitted for his first prosthetic leg. We also found out on his update that he has a few cute tiny toes.

Julia Mei appears to have Amniotic Banding Syndrome on her leg.  This likely means that she will need a leg amputation below the knee and also a prosthetic leg.  We won't know for sure until she is evaluated by her new doctors about how to proceed, but we are expecting an amputation.  If that is not the case--great!  She also has some finger differences that does not impact her hand use and likely will not in the future.

Please don't be shocked or think we are amazing people or feel bad for our kids.  We are honored to be able to do this.  After all, their greatest disability is their need for a family.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Perfectly Made

Five and a half years ago, there was an absolutely perfect little baby boy that was born.  On that day, he was dressed in a little white suit and wrapped in a red towel.  A note was written, indicating the date and time of birth. He was found in a public location and promptly brought to the social welfare institute.

It is hard to imagine the position a birth mother is put in, especially in China. If she had no prenatal care or ultrasounds, she might not be aware of the condition of the baby.  In China, she would not be allowed to know the sex of the baby even if an ultrasound was done. If this is not her first child, she and her family could be heavily fined.

Having given birth to three children, I know what an emotional day it is on the day of your child's birth. I imagine how difficult it must be to not give birth to the 'perfect' child.  Did she plan on keeping him before she saw him?  Did she proudly show off her baby bump or did she conceal her pregnancy in fear? I wonder if his birth mother lovingly dressed him up crying, knowing that she would never see him again.  Perhaps she thought she could not financially provide for his needs.  Perhaps another member of the family decided to take her newborn to a public location, and watched from a distance to make sure he was found safely.

I will probably never have the answers to those difficult questions, and I know that I will struggle with the words when he asks me about things that I just don't know.

And so, his story began. And here we are.

"Mommy, can you get me a new hand and a new ear so the other kids won't tease me?"

Oh, now THAT is a question that brings tears to MY eyes.  I immediately showed him pictures of prosthetic hands that he could get, but he dismissed them immediately saying that the children would tease him even more.  So, no new hand unless he changes his mind.

This week, we went to Shriner's in Boston for a consult to reconstruct his ear.  This is our 3rd consult for the rib graft surgery.  The 2 local doctors could do the procedures, but neither one exclusively practices the reconstruction.  One even jokingly told us that he is NOT our guy and he would not recommend himself since he has only done it a handful of times in South America.  Thanks, but no thanks.  He recommended a doctor in NYC that is supposedly fabulous, but he does not take insurance.  We would have to pay around $30,000 out of pocket.  Ouch.

The doctor in Boston seems great, but recommends that we wait until Christian is at least eight years old for the procedure.  Other options include a prosthetic ear, the Medpor, or nothing.

Only a handful of doctors in the U.S. are considered true artists when it comes to the rib graft procedure.  Let's be honest--when it comes to something as important as an ear, you want to find the doctor that is a perfectionist. You would want a doctor that has done this exclusively and can proudly show off his work.

And so we wait.  We have another doctor in mind that we are planning on meeting with, but I don't have this urgent need to fix his ear because I happen to think his little ear is pretty darn cute.  Perfectly made. If he decides to keep it just the way it is, that would be fine with me.  If he wants to move forward with a new ear, I will support him all the way.  But it will be a difficult series of procedures.

It's hard to explain to my son that it is BECAUSE of his differences that we found him.  We were not afraid of his listed disabilities, and were honored to fly half way around the world to find our son.  After all, we were seeking a special needs child and he has absolutely blown us away since day 1 with his ABILITIES.

I know that more hard questions are coming my way, and that he will look at me to guide him through his questions.  I want him to feel secure in himself and not feel the need to hide his physical differences. T-ball.  Swimming.  Soccer.  Karate.  Anything that he wants to try, we will support him all the way.  We will work through the hard questions and I hope at some point he will feel at peace with himself and his story.

Even if he was not born perfectly by Chinese standards, he was born perfectly for me.