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.



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!


Aaaaat Laaaaaaast….

I have had Etta James’ song in my head a lot this week.  It isn’t because the songstress legend passed on recently.  It isn’t because I’ve been feeling a little romantic around the edges with Valentine’s Day just around the corner.  Nope.  It’s because of Samuel.

When we were on our adoption trip to bring Samuel home last year this time, his first string of words to us that made us truly chuckle were, “Happy Birthday to Yewwwwww!”

He said that sasme string of words again and again throughout the past year.  In doctor’s offices.  To confused relatives.  Every S.I.N.G.L.E. time one of his siblings, cousins, uncles, great grandparents (you get the picture) had a birthday.

Finally – AT LAST! – today is his big day!

I hear him giggling upstairs waiting not so patiently with his Dad while I make breakfast (okay, type this post, but the bacon is still in the oven, people).  The balloons are ready.  The presents are stacked on the sideboard.  A whole host of his favourite things are on the agenda for today.

And then I remember Hannah’s Facebook post this morning.  Her little Pumpkin has a birthday today too.  And a lump forms in my throat and I stop and pray.  I’m so thankful that my little Xiao Ba is here with us.  But Pumpkin?  She still waits for her own special first birthday home with her very own family.  And I pray some more.

She is every bit deserving.  Every bit as loved as her “big brother” Samuel.  Because it wasn’t too long ago that folks said the same thing about him.  So cute.  So sweet.  Oh I wish someone would step out in faith and make him their own son.  I should know – I was once the one saying those words.

And now?  I am so very blessed.  He is a delight beyond measure.  A delight to His Father too.

Just like Pumpkin.

Click here to read all about Miss Pumpkin and to wish her a Happy Birthday too.


Wanna peek at my Christmas card?


or maybe this…



or maybe this one right here…


Pretty good looking family, eh?

Well, they are a good looking family, and one of these cards is going to be ending up in your mailbox (real, virtual or bloggy) in a couple weeks.

When I read that my one of my dear e-friends was going to be designing these one of kind Christmas Photo Card Designs I was excited.  I love it when I can find a way to simplify life around the holidays.  This was too easy!

Then when I realized that it was a way for her to raise funds to bring home their newest blesssing from China I was even more excited!  Their newest daughter is beautiful, bright eyed and was born with life threatening heart disease.  Her new family is no stranger to parenting bright eyed, beautiful children.  And neither are they strangers to parenting kids with life altering medical needs.

Honestly, I am not going to push you there, but I think you just may enjoy a trip over to her fundraising blog.  She’s got some other great items too (anyone have a Barbie lover out there?).

Just click the title below…

Journey to Li’l Bit

You won’t be disappointed, especially once you catch sight of Li’l Bit herself.  Such a sweetheart!




Some may call me naive

But I have been incredibly humbled again and again to see what God is doing.

Do you have times like that?  You know, times when nothing can explain what you have witnessed except that once again something had changed, been altered and you were left shaking your head that with your own eyes you were actually witnessing it?

Click over here and see what He’s been up to.  Linny has just shared an incredible miracle over at A Place Called Simplicity.

The thing is, I had just come from New Day’s website where I was reading about Miss Ella.  Here’s what Hannah had written (click here to view it in it’s original format with photos on the New Day site):

Hope for Ella


Unadoptable?The bleak news of Ella’s situation struck a chord of sadness in our hearts. Her orphanage is afraid that no one will want to adopt a little girl who is struggling with seizures.
It’s been months since Ella started seizing. We rushed her to the hospital that first evening when the seizures began. The doctors, in desperation for the seizures to stop, put Ella in an induced coma. This procedure was routine, but Ella’s situation went from serious to grim when an EEG scan showed little brain activity. The doctors told us that the chances she would ever wake up were slim.
Ella’s eyes opened the next morning. Already she was a miracle and had proven herself to be a fighter.With medication, Ella’s seizures began to decrease, though they have yet to cease. Since the first seizure, we’ve been to many hospitals and specialists who have said that Ella’s condition is non-reversible. She is continuing to suffer from seizures, but we are hopeful that a solution will be found and that they can be brought under control.
Her current situation is not optimistic. At best, she will live a normal but limited life. At worst… we shudder to think of what will happen. If Ella is not adopted, she has almost no chance.Ella is a sweet and beautiful little girl. She’s six months old with a gentle and patient temperament. She soaks up love, loving to be held tight and close. Sometimes her eyes stare into space, but sometimes they are responsive and deep. When she sees familiar faces and hears familiar voices, a surprisingly joyful smile lights up her face.
Ella is on a long road to healing, but we believe that she is on it and we desire that she will continue on it with a family by her side. She desperately needs the love and care of a mother and father. If there was a family, one prepared to deal with Ella’s very challenging special needs, the orphanage would jump at the chance to do her adoption paperwork and give Ella a chance.Are you that family? Do you know a family who could care for this beautiful and loved little girl?

E-mail [email protected] for more information.

So if you asked me in the midst of my busy, almost harried life?  I’d probably shake my head and say how tragic her story is.
But now that you are catching me as I just turn from reading Linny’s account of her own daughter’s miracle, I have a different take on Ella’s future.
Whether I acknowledge Him or no.  Whether I claim to see Him working or no.  He is.
And Ella’s hope?  Well, He’s alive and well too.

Followed by My 2 Cents

I decided to post Stephen’s post from No Greater Joy Dad right here, along with a response I made to someone who questioned how I have responded to Stephen’s “Reluctant Husband” status.

I will follow his post with my comments in purple and then finish off with more from Stephen in response to my words.

Just a little bit of what has gone on behind the scenes in the growing of our family.


I’m a recovering, yet stubborn reluctant husband and father. I’ve told my wife that we have had enough kids from before we even had kids to today – five kids later. Two bio and 3 Chinese adoptions later, I’m still a reluctant father! For all those men out there that don’t think they can do it, I’m a great example of getting it done, and still maintaining my fantastic reluctant husband status.


Adopting three “special needs” kids in 3.5 years is not what everyone should do, but it HAS changed my life, my heart, and my perspective about God’s provision and strength in significant and fundamental ways.

I used to be the busy-at-church husband: doing, doing, doing until everyone thought I was a super-Christian with a few vices! Little did I know that playing the part of a christian man, and living the part (REALLY living the part) of a Christian Man look very different. If men had feelings, the two roles would have FELT different too!

These days, I don’t sit on the deck dreaming of what I’ll do with my life, my pastor doesn’t see much of me, I’m not on this board, or that committee. In fact, I’m extremely surprised if I arrive to church before the greeters have left to enjoy the service! My “Christian walk” is more of a hunched over waddle with a few dives to the ground for cover and a split-second recharge on bended knee before the next event.

But I’ll tell you what… I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t change the fact that I’m in another country to receive medical treatment for newest Child 5 and that he walked upright for the first time today! I wouldn’t change the fact that Child 2 told me this afternoon, that seeing people without all their bits was uncomfortable until Child 5 came along without his legs and now she thinks / feels that this is normal! They both get it: just do what you can with what God gave you and move on – no stigma, no regrets, just a life worth living… an adventure worth enjoying!

If I had to change anything at all, it would be that I didn’t enjoy more of the drama along the way. I’d change my attitude about trying to do everything perfectly, instead of appropriately for each of my kids. I’d change how clean the car was for the first 10 years of parenting. I’d change the look I give my wife every time she mentions another child. I’d change the power that fear has in my life and how I still allow myself to be a slave to it called on to act dangerously

– to make messes and take chances!

Yet, I’m still a reluctant husband! I still hold on to my fear (terror really) of being a poor father, or failing to provide for my family, or failing to be there emotionally or physically when child 1 through 5 may need me. I still worry and worry some more about some things in my life that I can’t change and should give over to God.

I still argue with my wife about Child 6 through ???? whenever it’s brought up. I still worry about being the best parent / husband in the world, and know that I can’t be because of all the mistakes I’ve made along the way…

…Then I have a moment where someone asks for my testimony and I think – what is REALLY going on in my life? I take a moment to pause the game of life and realize that I’ve never been more challenged, yet rewarded. I’ve never been so busy, yet effective. I’ve never had so many hugs when I return from a business trip, or just doing errands in town.

I am beginning to realize that life is not about being the best father in the world, it’s about shutting up and doing what God asks of you and knowing that He made you to be enough to fulfill his plans for your life. I’m not perfect,but I’m not MEANT to be, or even created to be. I’m the person God needed; to Do what God needed; When God needed; and How God needed. I am the best father I can be; and I’m the best father for each of my kids (1 through ???) and husband to my wife (just 1).

I hope that I’ve made at least one man out there 2 cents richer for their trouble. Enjoy the adventure!


I’m glad you asked for my input!

We have been very much of like mind in most major areas of our life (not to say  that we don’t disagree sometimes) and so when we found that we didn’t agree at all about whether or not we should add a child (by birth or adoption), I really was quite dumbfounded! I remember thinking that it couldn’t possibly be real! Perhaps he was making a bad joke? Seriously. I was that shocked.

Really I hadn’t come to the conclusion to adopt (or add our 2nd bio child) on my own. It felt like a strong push from the Holy Spirit to get moving. When Stephen let me know that he would not even consider my request, I prayed. And I tried to be quiet about it. If there was an opportunity to bring up the new family member I took it, but I tried hard not to rub it in or act “holier than thou” either. Really tough when on the other hand God seemed to be increasing my desire, not decreasing it!

Finally in each case, there was a moment or a day when I knew without a doubt that I needed to lay it down before Stephen and tell him that it truly was something of God and that I needed Him to treat it as such. I needed Stephen to go before God on His own and ask God what he thought. I let him know that I would wait to hear from him and that I wouldn’t say anything else about it.

I hope that helps to clarify it a bit.


I agree with what she has said and agree that in 99% of our marriage we have agreed on the bigger picture for our family. Sure, we disagree on which way to put the toilet paper up in the bathroom and other equally serious issues, but the size of our family was a big issue that took a long time to resolve (for each kid!). It finally came down to her letting me know that she respected me as her spouse and would provide me with the freedom to decide on my own without interference or “nagging.” I am very good at resisting nagging, but when my best friend, life partner, and the person I love more than anything on this earth gives me the freedom to love her in my own way, when I’m ready – I know it is serious and I need to pay attention.

In this environment, I didn’t have to ignore her voice, I only had my own conscience and my sensitivity to God’s calling to listen to. These are voices that I keep hearing when I’m at work, commuting, sleeping, or trying to relax with the kids. It is this voice that I can’t ignore when I’ve worked through all the excuses and make the “fatal mistake” ;o) of actually listening to God. Then the questions really come on strong – no longer am I asking WHY?, I start to ask WHY NOT?. When I ask WHY NOT? The answers appear pathetic and weak. The truth of the situation becomes more clear, and I can’t ignore that I have a decision to make. A decision that every man has to make at some point… Do I want to be perfect at doing very little, or am I ready to take on more and allow God to show me what is good enough – what perfection in His eye really looks like.

I don’t believe that adopting children into their home is the right decision for every family, but I do believe that God wants the first and best of our fruits, our gifts. He doesn’t want the left overs. This manifests itself in tithing on the gross income we bring in, not what’s left over. This means that worshiping Him comes before the football game, the camping trip, the parties in Vegas, etc. (Fill in your private time passions here…) It means that the 10 scrapbooks we did for our first child turns into a digital picture frame on the kitchen counter of all our kids and our adventures.

As a man, I would be challenged most from my wife if she left it in my hands after asking two key questions:

1. WHY NOT Adoption?

2. If not Adoption, how are we going to practically express our Faith in this world? (Missions, food for homeless, support of people adopting, etc)

I wish you all the best in your adventure and would love to hear how it turns out in the years to come.




And We Have a Winner!

The winner of my little contest from yesterday was Cydil

I used Random.org to choose our first winner.


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. 


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.


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!


Challenging Day

We ended up travelling with all 9 of us to and from Yinchuan.  Samuel works better with everyone at his disposal and it was great to have everyone there to support Garnet.  Unfortunately, this morning, both girls woke up with bad colds.  Grandma is still recovering from one she caught last week (all three were sharing a room this past week).  Samuel refused food and slept through breakfast.  After his impromtu nap, he rose to the challenge and downed 4 sausages though.  We rearranged some of our plans and had a slower morning, a Hot Pot luncheon including an interview with a local journalist (“Surprise!” our guide sprung on us as we drove into the restaurant parking lot with sick and tired and rumpled kiddos – Oh well!) and a tour of the Wetsern Xia Tomb site and museum in the afternoon. 

This evening, we arrived at the airport and attempted to check in only to find that some of our tickets had odd comments attached and so we almost missed out on our flight, but for the diligence of our facilitator and our guide.  Yay!  Then we cleared security (they let Samuel be carried through this time and thankfully didn’t confiscate our liquid cold medicine or “Grandma Soap”/hand sanitizer) only to find that our flight had been delayed two hours.  Many odd gift shop food iems later, Samuel took a long crawling tour of the departures area and we finally made it onto the plane intact.  Half the kids slept or dozed.  The other half caught a meal on the flight. 

After sending four of us in the first taxi at the Beijing airport and almost being charged highway robbery for a van-taxi, we found a regular cab driver who would take the remaining 5 of us in one cab (the cabs are only supposed to take 4 passengers).

Arriving at the hotel we found out that our gear was still in our rooms, but our key cards no longer worked.  The front desk quickly made new ones up and after picking up some gifts left for us at the Concierge desk courtesy of our dear facilitator and friend, we made our way upstairs.

Soft snoring is calling to me from the other side of the room. 

Off to Guangdong tomorrow afternoon. 

Good Night!


Please pray for health and rest for our bunch.

We received some information that we hope to persue for Grace, just this evening.  Pray that God would move clearly one way or the other on her behalf.

Pray for Jia Yi who I referenced in the other posts (Yinchuan).  She is a very special little girl who very much deserves a forever family.

Pray for my brother and his family who are holding down many forts with us all gone.  They are all very ill with strep and eye infections.  Healing, rest and encouragement for all of them. Love you guys.  Thank you for everything.  It had meant so much to all of us. 



Spread the word

Take a look at this family’s generosity this Christmas. 

 If you are in the midst of an adoption (domestic or international) or know someone who is, well then you know how wonderful it is when folks in the adoption community support one another – like a double blessing!  

 They are not only creating a list of fundraising families for folks to puruse, they are also gifting a donation to one particular family who’s name shall be drawn Christmas Eve. 

Although I can’t get their button to open, if you head to their blog, Treasured Pearls, you can read all about it!

Happy Tuesday?

Or in our home, Happy Day 30 on our wait for LOA…