31
Jul

Friends and Fears

We made our visit to New Day Foster Home today.  We wanted Samuel to build a few memories of the place he had called home before meeting us.  We are forever indebted to the staff and volunteers there.  He received therapy and encouragement that definitely helped prepare him well for his future.  We were so thrilled that some of Samuel’s special friends came to visit us and while he was a bundle of nerves, his response once he got back to the hotel with us really showed us the value in the visit.  The real Samuel returned and spoke about his “friends” and “when I was little”.  The pictures will be priceless to him in the years to come and the visit with friends was priceless to us.  Such a treat to visit a place so close to our hearts!

We finished the day with our travel group at the Goodbye China party our agency always throws for the families.  It’s always a nice way to end off the adoption trip.  This year Samuel was so pleased to receive an Opera mask like the performer of the changing faces mask.  He told us he needs to go home to practice his magic!  My folks, Stephen, and Isaiah received beautiful scrolls.  Long Life, Happy Family and Isaiah’s Characters. So lovely. We are truly spoiled by our agency and appreciate them so very much!

Off to Canada tomorrow on that incredibly long flight!  The best and most motivating factor is seeing our kids the next few days – first Faith, Grace and Garnet, followed by James on Friday.  It will feel so amazing to have the Super 8 together at last!

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24
Jul

Loudi

We had the privilege of driving out to Isaiah’s home area, Loudi, Hunan.

We drove south out of Changsha, over the river Chairman Mao tried to swim across in his youth. I say tried, because apparently he would swim as far as a large inhabited island to rest before setting off for the far bank once again. A number of years ago, the inhabitants were removed from the island and it was closed to the public.  I recent years, a 100 metre high bust of the Chairman, himself, was erected there and orange groves and parkland were revitalized there.   It is now referred to as the “Orange Island” and viewing it form the bridge as we crossed the river, it indeed seemed like a lush Mt. Rushmore.

Heading southwest we again came across the tall farmer’s homes, and the rural fields backed up against reddish-orange earthen hillsides.  But this time, the hills became rolling mountains covered with thick forests.  Logging trucks passed us on the freeway and in the distance long used rice paddy terraces covered the mountain sides.  And the crazy horn honking, long distance city to city bus drivers.  Whooooeeee!  Hang onto your hats boys and girls!

Our driver knows we don’t mind detours by now, but today, a wrong turn led us along some deeply pot hole ridden roads.  Bang!  Thud!  There went the suspension.  Or so we thought.  Nope.  On we went.

Suddenly, we drove into the city of Lou Di.  Four and a half million people and an obviously large investment into constructing a beautiful new government headquarters.  If our hotel is palatial in an aging, yet charming way, the new government headquarters are leaning towards the palaces of Europe.  Quite spectacular.

We pulled off a side road to the new orphanage building and were greeted by the staff we’d met earlier at the adoption proceedings.  We paused for photos under a scrolling billboard sign, welcoming Isaiah home.  Ironically, he’d only stayed in that building for a few short nights before we met him.

After the requisite official refreshment and Q&A time in the meeting room, we toured the upstairs wing where the roughly twenty children lived.  Now, at first that may sound a small number, but we were told that there were another 80-100 in foster care, and a number at boarding school for high school.

I have so much on my heart regarding our visit with the children.  It was very difficult.  I just want to leave you with a thought.

We were graciously given access to those precious little souls for only a few minutes of their lives.  Around the world many, many people waited days outdoors just for the moment that the new royal prince would be born.  What do those two things have in common?  Well, the prince lives locked up because of media scrutiny and by the protection of his parents.  One day he will step into the royal limelight and move into his earthly role as heir to the throne.  Those children I met today?  They also live literally behind lock and key.  But not by a doting public or a watchful parent.  They are hidden from the public now, but they will not see the light of freedom.  Not unless they are pursued, relentlessly, like a parent for their child.

We pursued our Isaiah.  Will you consider pursuing your own precious son or daughter?

After our time with the children, we were invited to a lunch with the staff and officials.  It was a beautiful lunch in an interesting restaurant with a giant drum and a fountain of water that flowed next to the staircase that led to our private room.  Many Hunanese delicacies were served including local eel, cow stomach and frogs legs, alongside sweet potato greens, custard and desert balls, among many, many other dishes.  I ended up holding a very upset Isaiah and they kindly packed up a box of watermelon and buns for me to take with me.  I wasn’t sad to miss out, this time, but I appreciated their kind hospitality!

We followed our lunch with a quick photo op at his finding location, before heading back onto the expressway and driving the 2.5 hours back into Changsha.

Isaiah woke with a temperature and a nasty diaper.  He has continued to fight the fever and tummy bug all day.  It was a rough day heading back to Lou Di compounded with not feeling well.  Stephen and I took turns trying to comfort him and he’s moaning a lot in his sleep.  We felt terrible for dragging him to the SWI today, but we’ve learned that sometimes we have to do hard things with our kids for the long range goal of their grow and development.  Having these photos from today will help him hang one more piece of his past in the correct sequence.  Such an important thing as kids ask the deeper identity questions about themselves.  I just wish I could explain that to his sad little self!

 

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18
Jul

Returning Home, part 2

DSC_6507 DSC_6508 DSC_6584 DSC_6618 DSC_6623When we arrived in at the Yueyang County SWI, we were let into the gate and pulled up in front of a shiny, new, several stories high building.  The old orphanage had been only used for offices for some time, as the children had all been fostered in the neighbouring area.  The new building was designed to house the offices and the children.  We were told that the children’s home was still being furnished and completed, but that the children would be returning soon.  They had begun building it shortly after we’d visited in February 2011 and had only moved in recently.

We took the elevator upstairs and were warmly welcomed by the staff, one of whom we had spent time with during our initial visit, as she’d come to process Samuel’s adoption.  We were ushered down the hall into a meeting room.  Samuel was much fawned over and we shared stories of his progress, as well as the photo book we had brought.  There were many framed photos waiting to be hung on the walls of the new meeting room.  They each featured returning families on homeland tour visits.  It was fun to see all those photos of tweens and teens returning to visit their roots.

Samuel’s file was brought out without us asking and we were able to see original photos of him as an infant.  The youngest photos we have of him to date.  (He has hardly changed!)  We appreciated the information we were offered and took photos of everything.

There was much laughter and smiling over Samuel’s attempts at showing off his new walking skills. There were also many gasps as he tried many stunts near the glass topped coffee table.  We all were trying to protect his noggin’ from the tile floor and table! But, I think he got his point across.  It had been a good idea to send him to Beijing and to have his paperwork processed for international adoption.  We were happy to have them see him so full of little boy spunk and strength!

All of a sudden his foster grandmother came in holding a small boy’s hand.  She was exclaiming in excitement to see us all again and we her!  Big smiles, handshakes, hugs and happiness to see each other!  The little boy (in split pants, much to Samuel’s amazement) was her grandson (25 months old).  The last time we had visited, her son had just been married and this was his son.

Much laughter, showing off, snacking, and kisses ensued.  Samuel was less than impressed with the kissing, but he was rescued by his Dad and all was well in the end.

We then headed off around the corner for a relaxed lunch.  Samuel and his “cousin” faced off across the turntable at the table and had that food spinning.  By the end of the meal, the little guy was fast asleep and Samuel was in a trance like state in the stroller.  Both had full tummies and were surrounded by happy chatter and smiling faces.

Joining us at lunch was another staff member and her two “nephews” (according to our guide, “Stacy”), which were in actual fact nieces.  The nieces had studied English in school and while they could understand much of what we said, much like myself with Chinese, they were too shy to use much of their English on us.  I did manage to get the one girl to tell me that her English name in school was “Vivienne”.  She blushed mightily and laughed behind her hand when I told her that Vivienne is considered a name for beautiful girls.  She took the teasing well.

After a few photos at the orphanage gate, we headed to the foster grandparents home.  Samuel enjoyed handing out his hand drawn pictures for them, as well as the photos and other gifts we had brought.  He warmed up to his foster grandpa and shared the fact that his tooth is wiggly (he is convinced that it is a sign that he is growing up).  He sat on his knee for a bit.  They served us the best watermelon I have had in my entire life.  It grows here in the south prolifically and really, as with all food, is best eaten close to its source!  Samuel and his “cousin” played with the boy’s plasma car and other ride on toys.  The family’s daughter came home and we found that she has also been married and is expecting.  The son and daughter live at their parent’s home with their families.  The little guy really warmed up to us by the end.

Samuel did not want to leave.  I was so pleased that he enjoyed his time there.  I did say to him as we left, “Can you believe you lived in this house when you were a baby?”

“No”, he said.

I understand.  It’s a bit much for me to take in, let alone a 5 year old.  After all, sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a time without him.  And I suppose that is why these trips back to visit our kid’s homeland areas are so very valuable.  It’s so important to not forget what is so integral to who they are.  Not Chinese.  Not Canadian.  Not even, Chinese-Canadian.  Rather, they are Chinese + Canadian.

Samuel’s foster grandma and cousin joined us for a quick photo op at the finding spot.  And then off we went back to the city, exhausted and emotionally spent.

Was it too early for a return visit for Samuel?  It all depends on what the goal was.  Did he gain value and meaning of his past?  Yes, but not at the same level as if he had been older.  Will it provide continuity for his next few years as the questions get wider in scope and deeper in meaning?  Absolutely.  As I posted on Facebook, he has a deeper sense that this is his wider, global extended family.  Because really, that is what they are.  They are no less related than we are.  The legacy of love they gave him from his infancy lives on in the way he has opened his heart to us.

 

28
Sep

Been thinking about…. being a Truth Teller

This girl surprised me tonight.  Actually she’s been surprising me a lot lately.

I had to leave for the evening and I left her elder siblings in charge of the herd.  Birthday season is on a roll in our family and I needed to do a little shopping without the kids.  When I got back and checked in on each of them, I was truly surprised to find a tear stained little girl waiting for me.  She had convinced herself that I was taking a really long time.  So long, in fact, that I must have been in a car accident or suffered some other terrible end.  So long that she had gone through half a box of kleenex and made herself get the hiccoughs.

She poured out her heart to me.  Told me all about how she had begged God to bring me home.  Asked me (not for the first time) about what would happen to her if I went to Heaven first.

I am choked up just writing all this.

It’s tough stuff.

Stephen and I have always tried to tell our kids the truth (Okay, except for that one subject involving a jolly old elf in a red suit… but that’s another story for another time.).  It’s something that we’ve taken a lot of flack for over the years from family and friends.  But that’s just us.  We aren’t very skilled at finessing a fine story when our kids ask us a pointed question.  And early on it just became the most logical thing to tell them the truth when they have questioned us on things.

Why do I have to eat my veggies?

Why does that man use a white cane?

Why does the neighbour lady stumble funny when she comes home late at night?

Why did the policeman take away that man?

Where do babies come from?

Will you ever die?

{What will happen to me if you die?}

Now there’s a show stopper.

Each of our kids has wondered this allowed during their preschool years.  I don’t honestly know if this is age appropriate thought material or not.  Perhaps we breed morbidly focused children?  Regardless, when it has come out of their mouths, we have told the truth.

“Only Jesus knows, but here’s what the plan is no matter what and you can trust us to take care of you.  You can trust Him.”

And off they would go.  Sure it would come up again if a friend or aquaintance that we knew passed on, but honestly, it seemed to be enough.

For Grace?  Not so much.

It seems as though a lifetime has passed for us with our girl.

I chose the photo for this post on purpose.  I really love the camping dirt.  The chubby toes.  The relaxed grin.  The lounging girl in the hammock.  Such a picture of carefree innocence.

Such an antonym to the churning worry that lies beneath her surface.

I could go on about how trust takes time.  How she’s been let down before by those who should’ve been able to protect her from the leaving abandonment.  There I said it.

But what really hits home is the contrast.

She goes about her days happy as a clam.  Flitting from fairy to pixie.  And underneath lie the questions.

Am I safe?

Am I worthy?

Am I loved?

I don’t have the magic truth that will be the balm to her soul.

And so we dance the dance.  Parry the questions.  Again and again and again.

And maybe the best I have to offer is in my willingness to waltz when she asks.  Meeting her toe to toe.  Looking deep in her eyes.  Letting her read my very soul.

Being a truth teller.

And again and again and again.

I love this girl.

She is my heart.

And she is so very, very worth it.

 

19
Sep

Something left to give

 

I stayed away for oh so long from my blog.  Recharging?  Regrouping?  Hiding?  Not sure exactly.

There was a time after we adopted Grace that we were online A LOT.  Keeping connections alive.  Those invisible life lines were so necessary.  And it was draining on me.

Those days were followed by the whirlwind adoption of Samuel.  More online obsessing.

And suddenly my life felt dry and tired.  So much of the joy of interacting with friends online, jotting down family anecdotes and my heart that desired so much to do more for the orphan and widow, was just sucked dry.

I was dry.

I needed a fresh new start.  And so did the blog.

As for me, I bought myself a new Bible.  Rejigged our whole homeschool.  Dejunked my home base. And decided to freshen up the blog.  Make it more functional.

It’s not all there yet.  The Bible, the homeschool, the minimizing of the house – they each deserve their own post.  The blog is still under construction (my fault not my wonderful designer’s, who I’ll introduce very soon), but I felt the need to get on here tonight and get the ball rolling.  I’ve got something left to give.  And here I go!

21
Jun

Stephen Opens Up

Well it looks like it’s three posts about Stephen in 1 week.  Definitely a new record for me.

Anthony over at No Greater Joy Dad, husband to the lovely and talented writer, Adeye of No Greater Joy Mom fame, has posted a testimony from my own dear “Reluctant Husband”.

When Anthony began publishing his “Daddy Blogger” blog, I followed and then sent his link to Stephen.  He’s been hooked ever since.  If you read Stephen’s post, it’s worth it to scroll back and read through the other earlier posts (there aren’t too many yet, as it’s a fairly new blog).  He’s been doing a whole Q & A series on reluctant dads.  Very interesting stuff, especially for this wife.

Click here to read his post.

Oh and comments would be good.  He was more than a little nervous to be sharing his thoughts.  :)

10
Jun

And We Have a Winner!

The winner of my little contest from yesterday was Cydil

I used Random.org to choose our first winner.

First?

Why yes!

Once I chose, I happened to be going through my photos and realized that Kristi was more correct in her guess than I had even realized!   So she wins one too!

Here’s the first photo:

Notice Samuel pointing and Stephen behind him with the girls?

Here’s what happened just prior to that:

Turns out I had forgotten that Samuel wasn’t just chattering and being adorable. 

Nope.

He was tattling. 

And the pair of girls? 

They were sent inside for baths.

But, yes, in answer to your many comments, we do go through an obnoxious amount of {pants}.

God Bless my sister-in-law, Carmen, who has been perusing Value Village in order to keep us well stocked.

Cydil and Kristi, I’ll be e-mailing you both for your addresses.

9
Jun

Another {Pair} Bites the Dust

Let’s play a little game, and win a little prize!

Can anyone spot the one thing in this photo of Samuel, Stephen, Faith & Grace that prompted my post title? 

I’ll hold a little draw for one of the “Picking Them Up With Both Hands” books that I blogged about in this post.  Remember, the book whose proceeds will go towards helping the Rippee family complete their adoption? 

It’s a great little book.  I have one for myself, tucked one away for Samuel to show his kids one day and of course, the grandparents received one too. 

So give a little guess and comment below!

8
Jun

Hear Our Prayer, O Lord

Tonight one of my children prayed a prayer no child should have to pray.  Ever.

Dear Jesus,

Please be with my first Mom.

Please let her not be dead.

Please help her to know You.

And please be with all my Chinese people.

Help them to know You too.

In Jesus Name,

Amen.

Amen, my child.  Amen.

23
May

Facing Reality with a Capital “R”

That’s me.

Facing Reality.

We received a surprise recently which has us off to Portland, Oregon tomorrow.

When we returned from our visit to Children’s Hospital last month, we were so thrilled with what God had done in putting all the pieces together for Samuel.  I mean, we were over the moon, couldn’t stop talking about it, absolutely in awe.  I mean, we still are.  And then, to top it off, I received a letter in the mail. 

Months and months ago (like, in the early days of our paper chase for Samuel’s adoption), a fellow Mom of a New Day alumni contacted me.  Her daughter had undergone surgery and been fitted with a prosthetic through Shriner’s hospital and she had great news for us.  Low and behold, she had arranged for her daughter’s Shriner’s prosthetist (Brock) to see Samuel in Beijing when Brock was there on a medical service trip.  New Day had arranged for Samuel to be brought to Brock and as a result of this fellow New Day Mom connecting us, I was able to speak with Brock over the phone and even receive the X-rays that he had taken of Samuel when he examined him in China.  What a treat! 

Well, that got us thinking.  We decided to pursue an application for Samuel to be treated by Shriner’s once home.  Forms were filled out.  I developed a phone relationship with the provincial rep.  And then we waited.  I heard rumors that cut backs had made it harder to receive acceptance into treatment for Canadians and I was hopeful, but I kind of let it go. 

So, here we were less than a week home from our mountaintop high and I received the letter we had been hoping for.  Samuel was accepted into treatment.  I keep equating it to winning a lottery, but essentially it will allow for his treatment and prosthetics to be covered for his entire childhood.  In addition, we can even ride their “Care Cruiser” bus to appointments (many hours each way) and receive accommodations and food vouchers for our time away.  I literally bawled when I heard.  Like many families in the adoption world, our kids (& in our case, both adopted and bio) have needed a wide variety of therapies and tutors and extras to help them grow and learn and heal and blossom.  And each of those come with a price tag.  For once it felt so good to be told again and again in response to my tentative questioning, “No, don’t worry about anything, it’s covered.”

So off we go.  And I should be singing and dancing with glee.

Instead I have a lump in my throat and Reality has hit the past few days.  I would be lying if I said otherwise. 

We need to once again have the conversation.  And the “A” word will be used. 

Amputation.

And yes, to all of you thinking it, I did know it was coming.

I did do my research before we committed to bringing him home to be our forever son.

And we do want the best for him.  We want to give him every chance at a full, healthy, active life. 

Yes, we do.

But it still stings.

We see him as perfect and active and healthy and as living a pretty full life right now.

And every time someone else asks us what the next step is we tell them.

We talk surgeries and aids and prosthetics.

We smile and nod and talk about his bright future.

But underneath there is a part of me that wants to run to him and pick him up and race away as fast as I can. 

Can’t you hear him giggle and can’t you hear him tease?  Don’t you see him climb and and dance and chase his sisters until they run giggling too? 

But I guess that is the difference of perspective.  And of parenting.

Parents have to love a child as they are and yet do the thing that is hardest for their child in order to help them sprout wings and not just crawl, but fly.

I have to fight down that urge to pick up my kids and run away at different times with each of them.  And this week it’s Samuel. 

So I pack the suitcases.  Call my sister-in-law to borrow the play pen.  Make sure the many bits and pieces we need to load into the van are ready.  And I pray.

Will you pray for us too? 

(Photos taken Mother’s Day 2011.)