of the unsung…a compilation of images

Here’s to the husband, who realized a life shift when he heard the sniff, saw the screen glow turned his way, heard the question…..babe, look at this. Can we? Should we? Did you know? How can we not?

And you looked.

Here’s to you, your logical glance preceded by an illogical yearn. No. It’s too much. It can’t be. This isn’t our job…..our plan for our family, my life, our life. I’m too old, we’ve raised our kids, we haven’t had a child yet….

Here’s to the man who struggled deeply, battling the yes, knowing where it came from. Here’s to the husband who tried to want it, but had doubts. Huge doubts. Lingering fears. Here’s to the deep breath and lifted prayers.

Here’s to the hand on the furrowed brow, staring at budgets, crunching numbers. Here’s to the man staring at frightening diagnosis lists.

Here’s to wondering if you could love a stranger’s child like you love your own. Would you? Could you?

Here’s to you, and your brave, blind, faithful yes.

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Here’s to the Daddies, the Babas, the Yeyes, the Fathers, the unsung ones that make up the tribe of men who stand in the gap for the calling. The calling to adopt, to foster, to be a father to the fatherless…..a privilege not for the faint of heart, because it takes a real man to do it.

The job is for the strongest of men, who forgo the gym, the game, the golf course for endless therapies, counseling, hospital visits.

The most challenging road where the best is yet to come, where the end game isn’t an earthly crown.

This is for you.

Here’s to the daddies who don’t count chromosomes.

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Here’s to the babas who strive for attachment, who celebrate the hard fought battle from fear to trust. (the reward is a jet lagged nap)

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Here’s to the fathers who risked it all and won the crown, who have already heard the “well done, good and faithful…” Here’s to your legacy of fatherhood. Here’s to the children you comforted with your last breath. You’ll meet again.

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Here’s to you, when you’re not quite sure where to go from here or what’s coming next.

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Here’s to the dads who breaks down racial divides. Here’s to the dads who wait for years for adoptions to go through…longing to give their child a permanent name and home. Here’s to the fathers who set the bar high in their communities, who inspire others to follow and meet the need.

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Here’s to the oh-so-tired daddies, who work second jobs to pay for home studies, who come home exhausted, pushing through evening medical routines….here’s to the men who can literally sleep anywhere. This is your legacy.

IMG_3252IMG_3272IMG_3241IMG_3285IMG_3245Here’s to the fathers who scarf down leftover hospital food, understand medical jargon, know the ins and outs of wheelchairs, braces, and feeding tubes. We see you. We thank you.

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Here’s to the dads who hold up a family at the resting place of a fragile little one. The bravest of the brave. Here’s to the dad who knew the potential loss and chose it, relished it, embraced every moment of sweet life…..only to let it fly away.

Here’s to your silent, streaming tears, your wife on one arm, a tiny casket on the other.

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Here’s to Gotcha Day jitters, the flight, the strange land, the questioning officials, the deep breath, the pounding heart. Here’s to the lengths you will go for that first smile. Here’s to taking a small person’s terror on your shoulders, here’s to the first eye contact, the first touch, the first hug….

Here’s to the moment when you realized that your compassion was light years greater than your no.

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Here’s to you, father of many yeses…who did it once and went back again, who saw it all and kept offering life.

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Here’s to the dads who are wrapped around their little fingers!

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Here’s to the daddies who do the fun things, who are goofy, who teach, who love….here’s to the laughter and all the things that memories are made of. Here’s where adventure happens. It’s with you.

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Here’s to the songs you sing, the swings you swing, the piggy back rides, and final goodbyes. Here’s to holding on and letting go.

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Here’s what you have learned and shouted to the world. That ordinary men, with God, can do mighty things. Your gentleness is your strength. Your compassion is the most faithful of companions. You do brave, difficult, gut wrenching things.

Because of that….

You are our heroes.

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Here’s to you.

 

*** An enormous thank you to the families who contributed their beautiful photos to this blog! The heart and stories behind each one brought me to tears while I wrote this. I pray that God brings more and more men along the way who will be willing to be a father to the fatherless, who would step up to protect and lead precious little ones Him.

And to my amazing husband, for saying yes twice to our two who are rocking the extra chromosome. God is good and I love you so very much.***

Love,

Cady

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5 quick and easy reasons to not adopt

Adoption isn’t for everyone. This is such an oft repeated statement that we should, really, get t-shirts made of it. I mean, seriously. They would sell like hot cakes. You know how crazy adoption peeps are about the t-shirts!

For everyone’s convenience, here is a conveniently compiled list of the top 5 reasons that adoption is not for everyone. This is a great list to have handy when challenged by those crazy people who adopt, making one feel all squirmy with those shocking photos, inconvenient statistics, and, for Pete’s sake, stop with the t-shirts sales, people!

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5. FROM ANY ANGLE, ADOPTION IS A CHALLENGE

If you’re a person who strives for a life paved with smooth, sparkly stones and peaceful vistas, adoption is probably something best to be avoided at all costs. For most, the challenge of running a 5K or working out in the gym should definitely be satisfying enough. Why put yourself through the equivalent of a lifelong marathon when a weekend marathon can satisfy the challenge itch? Plus, with adoption, there’s no visible finish line, no cheering crowds, and not one single shiny trophy in sight as far as the eye can see.

What attraction is there in the thankless, broken, lifelong marathon of adoption?

Although, I HAVE heard rumors that the adoption marathon could bring enormous, yet quietly celebrated victories that cannot be measured by earthly standards….but those are just rumors and who can trust those?

4. ADOPTION WILL BREAK ONE

Adoption will break the hardest of hearts in all the most tender places. This is definitely NOT good for your physical health, mental state, and definitely puts the blood pressure into digits only recommended for elephants. For example, once you’ve walked through that room, lined with silent cribs occupied by glassy eyed children, your heart will feel like it has been through a shredder and it’s a much larger shredder than the cheese one.

No longer can you enjoy a simple sunset or a cozy Christmas without being gouged by the double edged sword of happiness laced with remembrances of those who aren’t experiencing your current blessings. There is an undeniable shattering of the heart when you weep as your adopted child weeps, as they mourn their loss, as they rage against the life change, clawing through the trauma of a brief but scarred life.

A broken heart is something to avoid at all costs in life.

Although rumor has it that a tenderized heart expands in capacity and endurance, and didn’t Jesus Himself weep over the lost?….. but I could be wrong on that one.

3. ADOPTION WILL GREATLY AGGRAVATE ONE’S FLAWS

If you are like me and you work on an orderly existence with possessions that haven’t been repaired with duck tape and spit, then adoption definitely isn’t for you. If testing the absolute limits of your patience and tolerance isn’t a goal in life, definitely don’t attempt this.

In cautiously avoiding any and all situations that will challenge the assorted fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, self-control, etc…), you can be sure to never embarrass your Christian testimony in front of others, your faith quota will always be a lavish overflowing waterfall, and you can rest assure that your spotless reputation will stay  solidly intact.

Also, another benefit is that one will not ever have to rely or lean upon your church, friends, family, village, town, tribe, or even perfect strangers, and one’s fierce independence will stay firmly in place.

On second thought, I DO recall that a muscle that is exercised becomes stronger with use,  and the whole “not needing anyone” could possibly be a pride issue……but exercising is hard work, and sweating through these problems might ruin the hairdo or chip the nails….and independence is SO American…so let’s just go with that.

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2. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE ONE’S MARRIAGE

Long walks on the beach? Dinner and a movie? Gazing at each other minus the eye bags of extreme exhaustion…. If you just ADORE these romantic things, and they are what make your marriage tick, then I’d recommend continuing on with the comfortable journey you are currently traversing. You don’t need those pesky late night migraines of trying to figure out where the next adoption payment is coming from or which kidney you need to sell to make it happen. Not to mention that the therapies and sleeping at the hospital will DEFINITELY put you out of the loving mood and who wants that?

That sweaty hand in his as you ride that elevator up to meet your child for the first time, the mascara running down your face, those whispered prayers for sleep to come in the traumatized dark hours, the bleary mornings….definitely not.

Besides, who wants to get all sorts of creative with what a date night constitutes? A 15 minute ride in the car with the child who finally fell asleep and you can miraculously finish a sentence….it’s a hot date! Grocery shopping together, catching each other’s gaze over the mushrooms and diapers (hopefully not in the same section)

DATE!

Sitting through a church service for the first time in a year because your child will FINALLY stay in the nursery without exhibiting trauma-related behavior. It’s a DATE…and if you’re lucky, you may EVEN attend a church where you can hold hands or he can slip his arm around you. * helpful hint* Sit in the back. (Not sure if making out will be overlooked, though, unless it’s one of those super progressive churches where you have to feel your way to your seat in the dark.)

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Nah, long walks on the beach are DEFINITELY preferred….

the moment your eyes lock over the photo of that child, and both of your hearts leap with united Divine intent…

…that’s definitely not as glam. Stick with the beach thing.

And the number ONE REASON to NOT adopt is:

1. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE  EVERY SINGLE AREA OF ONE’S FAITH

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If you have a huge interest in questioning the goodness of God or why bad things happen to tiny, helpless humans, definitely adopt…..if you really don’t want to challenge your faith with these head scratching conundrums, then absolutely avoid adoption.

Is God good? Will He really, truly provide this Mt. Everest of cost? What is true worship? What does the Bible really say about laying down your life? Why are we commanded to do certain things? What is a soul for eternity worth?

Man, lots of questions like these can almost shove you out of the Christian kayak of belief and then where would you be? Floundering in the water? Getting eaten by a giant whale?

Yep.

Though, there IS some ancient text where a certain person (starting with “P” and ending with “TUR”) was commanded to step out of a boat willingly and if he kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. I could be mistaken though.

Who wants to step out of a satisfyingly safe kayak for a water stroll? Not everyone.

Let’s not get crazy here, folks. Safety is our top priority, right?

Although, I have heard whispers of if a believer wishes to save one’s life, one must lose it.

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These pesky, Bibically-laced whispers….always so inconvenient and they make one just want to turn up the Netflix binge and block things out.

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“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:33

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:16

fear is an anchor…

What if I told you I was afraid….yes, I’m afraid.

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Ignorance really is bliss during your first adoption. There’s SO much you just didn’t know and you looked at SO many smily, family photos, watched SO many tear inducing YouTube Gotcha day videos. Everything is new and amazing, sweet and lovely. You step forwards in “faith”, but a lot of it is stepping forward blindly because you really have zero idea what it is you’re getting in to.

Similar to being a new parent, there are all of these pre-conceived notions of what your birth, delivery, and basically what parenthood will be like and most of those fantasies are really shiny and pretty.

The reality of it is that when you’re staring at the pregnancy test of your second or third child, there is joy, but it’s laced with a bit of anxiety and fear, and just plain exhaustion…Am I enough? Can I love this child the same as the first? Will there enough of me to go around?

Am I right? It’s different the second time.

I’m feeling the same way with moving forward with this next adoption. I look at Lian, I look back over the last 2 years, and yes, it has been AMAZING, and we’ve learned so much, and have been so blessed, but there’s a weariness and a caution laced with fear that I feel dragging us down, holding us back, anchoring us to this earth.

There’s no shiny happily-ever-after view, it’s now all reality…..in all of its hard and wonderful, broken and healed hallelujahs.

And I’m afraid. The “what ifs” press down upon me like stormy waves. The “Was Lian an anomaly? Was he too easy or was he hard?” “What if Ella is hard, like seriously hard…..harder than Lian?”

And fear whispers in my ear because I allow it to be heard.

BUT……

Nowhere is God involved in fear. 1 John 1:18 talks about how “perfect love casts out fear…” and while the correct context of the verse instructs us to not fear eternal judgement because we have accepted Christ’s perfect love, I believe that the Holy Spirit can also give us a perfect love for others, a love that can ascend past the anchor that is fear.

And so, my prayer for this journey isn’t that we would have a blinded, rosy view again…. it’s that God would give us perfect love for this next little one who needs a home….the one who waits.

God, give me perfect love through the long, exhausting, international trip. Give me perfect love through Ella’s grieving process, through her health issues, the specialists and doctor’s visits. Give us all perfect love to, once again, step forward, accepting the hard with the glorious.

Give me perfect love to climb this mountain again. Cast aside fear because You have no part in that.

Recently, this song by Matt Kearney popped up one day in the car…and the words…struck me….and I listened to it with tears streaming down my face, because every word of it is TRUE.

NEVER BE READY

We got our feet on the wire
Talking ’bout flying
Maybe we’re diving in over our heads
Scared of what I’m feeling
Staring at the ceiling
Here tonight
Come on and lay down these arms
All our best defenses
We’re taking our chances here on the run
The fear is an anchor
Time is a stranger
Love isn’t borrowed
We aren’t promised tomorrow
We’ll never be ready if we keep waiting
For the perfect time to come
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
When we don’t know, though we can’t see
Just walk on down this road with me
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
You’re OK here with me
Here in the silence
With all of the violence crashing around
Saying we can’t go
Saying we don’t know
This road that is narrow is the one we should follow
We’ll never be ready if we keep waiting
For the perfect time to come
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
When we don’t know, though we can’t see
Just walk on down this road with me
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
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Basically, friends, we’ll never be ready. But God doesn’t call us to be emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially ready, He just calls us to  be willing. The simplicity of being willing is something to rest in, at least it is for me. Because we’ll never be fully prepared for the twists and turns of another broken heart that God calls us to love.
If fear is an anchor, I don’t want it. I don’t want to be held back from the perfect will of God.
Perfect love has no fear.
“And we’ll never be ready if we keep waiting for the perfect time to come.”
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The perfect time is now.

the heart part…

“Wow”, he whispers in his husky, little boy way as I open the locket for the 9th time that Christmas day.

“Who is that in there?” I whisper back. He smells like juice and crackers and boy.

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His dark eyes meet mine. “Mama.” and he solemnly points to himself.  Leaning down he plants a wet kiss on the locket. I brush off the goldfish crumbs and close it.

Stay close to Mama’s heart. Here you are.  And I’m suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that isn’t this every child’s desire? That connection…that love…to be held close to their parents’ hearts? It’s such a basic desire….so easily given to our biological children….and yet, there are so many who never feel that love.

Lian just revels in this closeness….being this sweet center of the family. Not in a  spoiled way…well, sometimes…yes…

but in the undeniable way that he is something that he never was before.

A part of a cohesive group of people who just adore him.

Have you ever been in a large group of people, sometimes for many years, and yet you’ve never felt like you were ever truly a part of them? As if there’s this whole whirling universe of connection out there and you see it, but you’ve never experienced it?

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You don’t know what it feels like to be a part of the group, but you see that some people have it, they are IN, they are a welcomed, beloved part.

Take that feeling, because we’ve all been there, and magnify it by about 1000….because being a part of a family, feeling that closeness is something that children absolutely long for, dream of, cry out for.

The least we can do is hear their cries, make them a part.

I’ve always kind of been a loner in my life. I’ve longed for deep relationships, longed to be included, but I’ve always struggled. Being left out is my normal. I don’t say that for sympathy at all. I say it merely because I understand it thoroughly.

I cannot even imagine what it is like for some of these children who see their friends, their bunk mates, their buddies in the cribs next to them, be taken away to be with family. And many of these older children fully comprehend what is going on….that the more beautiful or the less medically challenged children get chosen first….they get to go away to be the heart of a family….and she is left alone for a myriad of reasons.

This just kills me.

You know what else kills me? Yesterday I was scrolling down the adoption list for children 3 and under….the number 1 age group to adopt from, the most requested age group…..

And this list went on and on…and every other child was Down syndrome, Down syndrome, no other health issues but Down syndrome….quiet, healthy, has Down syndrome, extroverted, healthy, Down syndrome, VSD Down syndrome, repaired heart with Down syndrome.

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Why? LOOK at the videos of our son! He is a happy, wonderful, sweet PERSON who simply has ONE EXTRA CHROMOSOME.

And yet the world says that because of that chromosome, most children don’t even deserve to LIVE and if they DO live, they don’t deserve families. They will sit, day after day, in a crib in an orphanage….

This KILLS me.

And it’s one thing to look at Lian, to look at us and say, “Oh, it’s so amazing what they’ve done, but I COULD NEVER DO THAT.”

Yes, yes you could do this! This is doable for you, for many people. These children deserve you, a family, to LIVE and thrive in.

They deserve to be put in a locket and worn close to their mama’s heart every day. They deserve to be sung to at night and to choose between whether they want blueberries or blackberries for snack.

THEY DO NOT DESERVE TO BE CONFINED AND TREATED WORSE THAN CRIMINALS in broken systems that churn out damaged human beings.

 

They deserve to know that God loves them, that they are valued more than they could ever imagine.

Church, Christians, we need to EXAMINE ourselves and our priorities….examine why we elevate comfort over sacrifice.

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We are not called to live this way.

We are called to be leading the way to rescue these small souls.

If you are feeling called to adopt, please consider a child who has Down syndrome. They are the least of these. Trust me, their extra chromosome will fill up your family with so much love and life, excitement and wonder.  You won’t know what hit you.

Let’s live life this way. Without fear. Let’s say “yes” to hard things.

What you think it the hard part will definitely be the heart part.

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what if?

#whatif

What if mama’s stomachs were never supposed to be flat and hard…what if our softness was simply a continual visual wonder for the life that quietly grew within?

What if God designed us to be soft, because our arms and stomachs and laps so often cradle a little one for sleep, for comfort, for teaching….

What if the strength of our arms comes not from push ups and lifting weights, but from lifting littles high, catching them when they fall, carrying them through the rough places of life….

What if our hands aren’t meant to be soft and photo-finish smooth, but worn and calloused….each mark representing a dish washed, a child cleaned, a household fed, a tear wiped, a garden planted…

What if our faces were never meant to be flawless, but every worry and laugh line was a reflection of shared compassion, shouldered burdens, unexpected laughter….

What if we were never meant to be mannequins, endless slaves to the ever changing, demanding whims of fashion…but we are seen for the love we hold in our hearts…. the ideas and passions that change this world for the better.

What if our hair was never meant to be continuously coiffed but as silver streaks our temples, we welcome this gradual crowning of wisdom that only time can gift.

What if our feet were never meant to be tortured in shoes designed to draw the stares of men to our legs, but instead, they were shod with shoes that only helped us run faster to the weary, the waiting, the downtrodden…

What if we have it all wrong and we strive for things that will never bring us closer to God?

What if how we, as women, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives….what if how we are made is simply the best thing as we are……untouched, un-refined…that we don’t need the wearisome race of the unnatural……and we can joyfully rest in the undeniable gift of being a woman.

What if?

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grant me this one request….

It’s October 1st and October is Down syndrome awareness month!
 
Let me share a bit of my past with you. When I was a teenager, I was very involved in the pro-life ministry at our church. We would go to the local abortion clinic in Bridgeport, CT and do sidewalk counseling with the women who were entering the clinic. We would offer to pray with them about their decision, we offered practical help, options for them and their baby, diapers, clothes, classes, anything they needed….ongoing care and support through their pregnancies and after the birth of their child.
 
We offered options for them other than abortion. We truly cared for the mother and the child and we cared what happened to them.
 
Being on the front lines like that at a young age, I knew a tremendous amount of information about the bitter reality of abortion. Every Saturday, we would stand out there, rain or shine, freezing cold or bitter heat…and we’d pray…and sing…and counsel. Sometimes, as we sang, we could see the women peeking through the blinds to watch us. Sometimes our singing would draw them back down, back outside, back to us….back to life for their child. The ministry saved hundreds of babies’ lives, and helped SO many women throughout the years.
The front lines…that’s what it was. We were the last stand between life and death for those children.
We were passionate about LIFE for these children.

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In high school, I was a cheerleader…yes, hard for ya’ll to imagine…haha…but our principal’s daughter had Down syndrome and she was a part of the cheerleading team. We all just adored her and she was the brightest, happiest girl. The basketball fans roared their approval when she’d do the end cheer with us lifting her up or she’d slide her way to the front of the orchestrated cheer. Everyone adored her. She was a beloved and accepted part of the school.
We didn’t think anything differently of her. We just loved her.
 
Because of my pro-life involvement, I decided to write a research paper about abortion for one of my high school projects. In my research, I discovered that a very high number of unborn children who have Down syndrome are aborted….just because they have Down syndrome. I was stunned. I knew people who had Down syndrome and I loved them. They were happy, loved, attending school, living their lives in their own sweet way.
The day I read those statistics….I had a request…. with tears in my eyes, I prayed a sincere prayer. “God, when I grow up and get married, please let me become pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome, because it’ll mean one fewer child that will be killed.” And I meant it with my whole pie-in-the-sky teenage heart.
Now, God didn’t answer that prayer. Not in the way I asked it. Does He ever?
None of my biological children have Down syndrome and it wasn’t even anything I was thinking much about when we started the adoption process.
But God….
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And so here we are.
And here he is, a miraculous part of our family. Lian’s name means “God has answered”.
It still gives me goosebumps because this was the name the orphanage gave him.
How?
How does this happen? How does God take a prayer from decades ago and answer it in this glorious way?
He takes our desires and transforms them as His own…He takes our dreams and consecrates them into His holy plan.
Who knew that He was preparing the way in my heart for the moment when this child’s life would be forever entwined with ours.
I still shake my head in wonder. I still pinch myself. I still look at him and marvel that he’s here….this package of wonderful, extra, mischievous chromosomes.
Let’s celebrate the fact that these beautiful people are in our lives, making us see God more clearly through their sweet spirits and amazing journeys.
Two years ago, on October 30th, Lian was placed in our arms. I am grateful and humbled beyond words to be a part of his story.
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Micah 6:8
“He has told you…what is good…and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Let’s just do this.
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And so it is.

a downsy?

How we label people matters simply because our society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

“Oh, he’s a Downsy? He’s a Downs kid…a down syndrome baby.  Is he a Down syndrome boy? That cute little downs kid! That Down syndrome girl…she just had a Downs baby! Was he abandoned because he’s a downs?”

I know that any parent of a child who’s rocking the extra chromosome is cringing right now.

 

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Seriously, I’ve heard all of these and more! Before we had Lian, I really didn’t give much thought to these phrases and I probably used them a time or two, unthinking, unknowingly. I mean, what’s the big deal, right?

Are we, as parents of children who just happen to be blessed with that minuscule extra chromosome, are we being overly sensitive? Too demanding? Too picky?

Hmmmm….. Let’s just do a little experiment here. Let’s switch Down syndrome with something else.

“Oh, that palsy boy? What a cute, little, palsy baby! Oh, she’s a bifida kiddo. Did you know that Amy has a cancer brother, too? Yeah, she’s a cleft girl.”

No. We would respectfully say, “a little boy who HAS cerebral palsy, a little girl who HAS spinal bifida, Sally has a brother who HAS cancer, she HAS a cleft palate”.  None of these things degrade the value of the person at all.

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For example, above is a photo of Lian, who has Down syndrome, with his grandfather, who has cerebral palsy. Neither of these two men allow their condition to limit whom God has made them to be.

It’s called “people first” language or terminology. And, to be honest with you, I learned this AFTER we adopted Lian, but it makes SO much sense and I’m very grateful I learned it.

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As parents of children who just happen to have special needs, it’s so incredibly important to us that you aren’t counting chromosomes and handing out labels before you first see our child as a person. He’s a person first. A person of value who isn’t defined by a diagnosis, and, in fact, has struggled to overcome, to fight for, and accomplish more in his short life than most of us will in a lifetime.

How we label people matters simply because society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

Their lives are demeaned to the point that these tiny persons are routinely aborted, never given the chance to brighten the world with their sweet spirits and sunshine smiles. These children are routinely abandoned in many countries solely because of their chromosome count.

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“For God sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

So, the next time you see a parent of a child who is obviously blessing all around him with his cute wave, his husky boy hello…Just smile and allow his sweet spirit to lift your day.

I don’t want this defining question, “Is he a Downs kid?” to be the first thing Lian hears every time he meets someone new.

I want him to hear, “Wow, great signing, Lian! I hear that new word you’ve been working on for months! I love your smile! What a strong boy you are! Thank you for helping!”

And if you feel like you can’t possibly say anything nice, just move on. Please!

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Because who he is isn’t defined by a chromosome. If you could just look past the label, you’d see a child with an enormous heart, sensitive to those who are hurting, ready to dole out hugs and light up the room with his smile. You’d see a little boy who reminds us to pray when we forget, who raises his hands to God in worship service when I’m too self-conscious to, who insists on praying for someone who is injured or sick. You’d see a little person who speaks to God as if they are best friends, who commands the rain to stop with all the audacity of being a beloved son of the King, who makes us laugh all day long.

He, and all of our beautiful children who just happen to have Down Syndrome…they are infinitely more than the label.

So don’t introduce them with the label first.

 

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a hundred thousand Hannahs and counting, I see you…

“Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Dear Mamas who are praying, longing, yearning to adopt,

I see you. I was you. I am you again. I was the Biblical Hannah, pouring my broken heart out in my desire to adopt, my face pressed against the cold, stone, temple pillar, nails catching in the cracks as I held myself up.  Lips moving silently, tears streaming… I seemed crazy to those who saw me, knew me. One observer wonders, why do you pray that way? Why do you yearn so strongly that your heartstrings are pulled tightly, stretching, reaching, longing for something you cannot have on the other side of that steep adoption cavern?

I see you wipe your tears and walk away, only to repeat the cry through the months, years, over and over again…. silently, aloud, in the whispers of the night, or at the red light when A Thousand Years plays. (yeah, me)

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I see you hinting to your spouse, I see the sadness welling in your eyes when “that” family walks into church. You know what lovely family I’m referring to…the one with the bus of kiddos in various stages of special needs from sundry continents. I see you late at night pouring over photos of children who need you….need a mama, a family. I see the longing in your eyes because I was you, for more years than I care to count or remember. Your phone is full of screen shots, you read bios, juggling a dozen adoption listing access passwords…Red Thread, Reece’s Rainbow, Morning Star, Little Flowers…you know them all by heart. I see you. I know you like the back of my hand, the inside of my coffee cup.

In 1 Samuel, we see Hannah. A woman who had no children, who longed, with every fiber of her being, to be Divinely granted the gift of motherhood. I think we can all knowingly concur, sympathizing with that wail, whether our arms are currently too full or too empty.

That longing is uncommonly hale, compelling us onward into an unforeseeable future. A holy yearning, cherishing an innocent as greater than oneself……to sacrifice, nourish, to love with all your might, a person who cannot survive well otherwise.

And Hannah’s husband asks of her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

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Ah, husbands….we do love you so, and we were certainly made to be by your sides! God knew that you shouldn’t be alone and He sent along us…and we do so adore that you need us, working so diligently to bestow happiness on us, but you alone are not enough, for our hearts were made for so much more than complacency and a life of single-minded love.

Our hearts are so much more capacious than that.

Hannah saw that her aching, childless arms were an affliction….an affliction! “O, Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” There is a wellspring of endless tears for those who are denied their true calling of motherhood.

The grand story is that Samuel was born to Hannah, one joyous year after the sun dried her tears on the temple steps.

What is the absolute favorite verse of adoptive Mamas? Stop and listen, hear it… it is Hannah’s voice softly declaring these words,

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.”

The Lord has granted me…please grant it to us, God. Hear our cries, wipe our tears, listen to our hearts.

You, sweet one, I see you…. praying, seeking, petitioning,  looking at little faces in the glow of your screen. I feel your heart squeeze during scrolling…. he’s too thin, she looks peaked, those blue lips, that rash, that bruised forehead, those shadowed eyes……your two simple hands can’t care for them all, but you want just one more…you wish it, sigh it…just give me one more, God, please. I’ll be so tender, I’ll do my best, I’ll guide through the hard spots and trudge though the valleys.

You scatter your prayers to the wind like cherry blossom petals, hoping, wishing, dreaming that your child would follow the petal path back to your arms.

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If you have a pack of bios and you’re praying to adopt, I hear you. I was there. God hears, answers.  If you have one or two heart babes and you’re praying again…I’ll pray with you because I’m kneeling right next to you on those temple steps, my forehead scraping the stone, in petition to the God who sets the solitary in families. He hears us and cares that we care. Our prayers don’t fall to the ground.

I can’t save them all, but one more? If it’s in Your will….

And so….

Happy Mother’s Day…to the praying Mamas-to-be, to the Mamas who have loved, lost and loved again, to the wishing ones, yearning ones, exhausted ones, adopting ones. To the birth Mamas, the foster Mamas, the tummy Moms, the heart Moms. To the Ayis in China, to Lian’s foster mom, Lian’s birth mom….

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Happy Mother’s day through the tears, prayers, and wishes….the longings of our hearts that whisper…just one more.

For this child, I have prayed.

 

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of toddler and teens…

Who’d have thought I’d be the lucky mom of a simultaneous toddler stage AND teen stage? I’ve definitely hit the occasional insanity jackpot, not that I was aiming for it, but it somehow seems to find me no matter how carefully I hide. (was that a mixed metaphor? Jackpots searching for me…oh well)

I know that ya’ll just look at our happy pictures and think, “oooohhh, Cady has it all together!”, but let me just fill you in on what a sometimes typical day looks like in the always strange and exciting opposing spectrums that encircle the lives of toddlers and teens.

It’s a typical day. I’m chasing Lian around, redoing the things he’s undoing, picking up the things he’s pulling out, cleaning, laundry….you know the game. It’s like one giant, happy game of “let’s see how insane mom can get”.

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“Mom”, says Chloe as I’m laying on the floor fishing the balls out from under the TV cabinet….again. Lian is laying on the floor with me, pointing and directing where mom should put the aforesaid balls so that he can pick them up and roll them under the cabinet again. It’s a fun game, you see. Fun.

“Mom!” louder now, “MOM! I applied to the Royal Ballet School and I can’t get the application to go through.”

“Ok,” I grunt as I heft my aching body off of the hard wood floor. I sit down at the table, scratching my head. Is my hair thinning? Yes. Yes, it is.

CRASH! Lian dumps all of the tupperware out of the cabinet. I sigh, but leave it. It’ll keep him occupied while I figure this out.

“Mom! I need the computer!” my youngest demands. “There’s no ink in the printer and I HAVE to print this!”

I glance over.

“Lian, please don’t put that toy in the dog water!” I say in my best I’m-trying-to-build-attachment, cheerful mom voice…dragging him away and distracting him with a cracker.

“TT, I’ll get dad to order ink, don’t worry” I make a mental note to text Chris. (I forget, as usual)

I shoot an email off to the Royal Ballet Academy stating our issue. The dog starts insanely barking and Lian demands to be picked up.

“Jake turn that thing down, please!” My phone rings. Lian on one hip, Tirzah hovering worriedly over my shoulder with a look on her face says that her entire future will be ruined unless she can print this paper out for class. NOW.

“Good Day! May I please speak with a Mrs. Driver? This is the Royal Ballet School calling”….a very proper British lady is speaking. I suddenly get the urge for a cup of tea and I stand up straighter. British accents have this affect on me.

“Yes!” I pant in what I hope is a proper voice, as I balance the phone on my neck and start kicking the growling dog out the backdoor. Let her eat the mailman, I don’t care.

I’m wildly gesticulating at who knows what, but I feel that more proper behavior is in order from my children and various stinky pets when someone from England is on the phone.

“It’s the Royal Ballet Academy”. I mouth to Chloe. Chloe’s eye widen as if the Queen of England herself is gracing us with a visit.”It’s the Royal Ballet School!” She corrects me. I attempt to roll my eyes at her but I’m afraid it’ll throw me off balance and I’ll drop the baby.

Lian happily reaches over, stuffing the rest of his cracker down my shirt. I set him down and wildly gesture to Jacob to turn that game down or so help me, all of his descendants will feel my wrath. A cat slithers past my leg and yowls at the door I just shut from letting the dog out. Why, again, do we have pets????

“It seems you’re having a problem with the website. You must enter the state code.” She states in her proper British way.

I shake the crumbs from my bra. State code…state code. Lian is babbling. “MA”, he yells at the top of his lungs. State code…..State motto? I think…..ummm….something about fried chicken or pulled pork…a cardinal? I can’t remember what the state motto/code is. Live free or die? No, that’s Patrick Henry. Was he from here? What does the state code mean? I’m failing this quiz from the proper British person. Silly American, not even knowing her own state code! I stammer that question like a slightly distracted idiot.

“What’s the state code?”

“Oh, no”, even her bell-like laugh sounds properly British….”the state code…what is the code for North Carolina? The, what do you call it? Abbreviation?”

Oh, duh, NC. I sigh. Lian is dipping his ball in the dog bowl and licking it. Sydney is outside eating who knows whom…I think I hear the mailman faintly screaming in the background. The mail truck is now honking frantically. I ignore it. He’ll be ok.

“Yes, we shall fix that state code immediately. Thank you so much.” I brightly state as if my side of the phone call is very much in control of the situation.

I hang up, suddenly exhausted and feeling frumpy. I feel that if I possessed a British accent, my world would be calm, orderly,  and I would stand up straighter, my clothes would fit better, my upper arms would not dangle and swing when I wave……or something.

Would my house be cleaner if I had that crisp accent?

Lian is now rolling the wet, dog slobber balls back underneath the cabinet. There’s tupperware scattered everywhere and my son is shooting aliens, but more quietly now.

Motherhood? Who knew, right? I’m thankful that Lian’s cracker as at least dry before he decided to stash it in my clothing. Thankful for small blessings.

Please don’t let the mailman sue me for his heart failure from my dog.

“MOM!”

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10 terrific tips for China adoption

He had no idea how to manage his fear or his emotions. He managed his fear by spitting, hitting, slapping, pinching and even threw a few solid bites in there to really make sure his opinion was respected.

If you’re currently climbing the papery mountain of adoption and diving into the humbling waters of fundraising, you probably have a lot of questions about the looming adoption experience.

Let’s face it, China is sorta, kinda far away….there are numerically, a billion unknowns, plus a myriad of questions running through your brain during the cricket filled hours of moonlight.

Don’t be afraid, my friend! We have experienced all of the above and I would just be so honored if you gained some insight with this post.

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1. He’s petrified, just like you…learn useful mandarin.

When we picked up Lian, he was kind of like a tiny, scared, slightly smarter than us wild animal. He had no idea how to manage his fear or his emotions. He managed his fear by spitting, hitting, slapping, pinching and even threw a few solid bites in there to really make sure his opinion was respected.

I remember one initial bath time, he just hauled off and slapped Chris across the face in an admirable “hallmark-movie-spurned-lover” kind of way. If people he didn’t know spoke to him, he’d spit at them. I  understood this behavior as his way of saying “stay away”. New people, new situation, he was in all out self-preservation mode. He had no words and no other way to communicate. How terrifying to be so small and feel so alone.

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So, we ignored the spitting and within about a week, it lessened and finally faded out as he became more secure. If people were offended, I’d just raise my eyebrows and shrug. Don’t get in his face…. Every time he would pinch or hit us, we would say, “no” firmly and take his hand and show him how to stroke our arm or face gently….and then we’d stroke his face gently and say “gentle”. After many repetitions of this, he learned to respond to us when we just said “gentle” to him…..and, of course, he would test us, but overall, he desired to learn, which was encouraging. Eventually the aggression faded away until we got home, and then we had the unparalleled joy of regression to help perfect us in tossing quick, heavenward prayers.

Good thing God is a great catcher.

Before we left for China, we also had a friend of ours translate some useful mandarin phrases in pin-yin for us, such as, “Are you hungry? Are you tired? More? Don’t be afraid. I love you” and so on.

Think of some useful phrases to help in your communication and memorize them before you leave. Life. Saver.

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2. Your little person may not know how to “play”

Lian had no idea how to play with a toy. He had no idea what a book was or how to turn the pages.

Lian’s one and only idea of play was to grab an object with mind-defying speed and throw it as hard as he could.  As you can imagine, this made eating out an adrenaline filled experience when chopsticks were expertly thrown like ninja stars across crowded restaurants. Miraculously, nobody lost an eye. Also, waitresses in China seemed to have no concept of child safety and would routinely place piping hot dishes, hot tea, knives and other injury inducing objects right in from of the aforesaid tiny ninja.

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This soon honed our reflexes and observational skills. It also trained us as anticipatory prophets of future injurious related events….all invaluable parenting skills that we exponentially grew in.

Also, napkins. Why do the Chinese not use napkins? Every restaurant we went to acted like we were personally strangling adorable panda cubs when we asked for napkins….and with Lian, we NEEDED napkins….so, I recommend taking napkins, wet wipes, or entire rolls of paper towels  with you every time you eat out.

3. Magic and more

Before we went, I had viewed this “go to sleep right now pretty please, Tiny Energy Sucker” YouTube video, which I thought was amazing! A parent took a soft little blanket  and repetitively drew it down the baby’s face until sleep magically came.

Before you injure yourself by rolling your eyeballs too hard, it totally works, or at least, it did for Lian, so don’t get mad if it doesn’t work for you…(please, no angry digital epistles) I just used my fingers to lightly stroke down Lian’s face, over his eyes, nose and mouth. It makes him very drowsy.

I cannot emphasize this enough: TRY YOUR HARDEST TO KEEP A SLEEPING AND EATING SCHEDULE. Yes, I know it’s difficult with all of the running around, but nap time and bedtime routines really help with regulating your little’s already topsy turvy world.

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Here was our bedtime routine. Bath every night, followed by stories (if he tolerated it), then we darkened the room and put on soft piano music on iTunes (Relaxing Piano with Ocean Waves was a favorite).  Chris and I would lay on either side of Lian, stroking his face, sometimes singing, and he’d drift off. After about 30 minutes of Chris and me frantically catching up with family on social media on our phones while we lay as still as possible,  he’d be in a solid sleep and we’d transfer him to the crib. Anytime during the night, if he cried, we’d bring him back to bed with us and repeat the above. Overall, he did pretty well sleeping, which I chalk up to the one of the many blessing of Down Syndrome….they are GREAT sleepers.

I kind of view adopting a little one who is blessed with Down Syndrome like this…God said, “Oh, you’re taking this step of faith? Well, I will bless you with *Ta-Da* SLEEP.”

And I’ve heard this from a myriad of parents, not just us.

We always made sure to be back at the hotel in the afternoon for nap time between 1-3:00, if possible.

4. Mourning and night terrors

Your little one might have a period of mourning. About 4 days after we got Lian, he woke up one morning just sobbing his little heart out. We instantly recognized this as mourning for his familiar life and, I’m sure, he was grieving the loss of his foster mother. He spent the day very dis-regulated, crying and being sad intermittently. We simply held him, sang to him, and let him mourn. I remember crying right along with him as I sang “Jesus Loves Me”, it just broke my heart to hear him cry so.

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After that one day of solid mourning, he seemed to consistently improve and commenced attaching to Chris and me in a healthier way.

A few times, when we got home, he did have some teary days where he seemed distant with memories, and he did have a few night terrors where he woke up screaming, but if you answer every cry with compassion, those things eventually fade.

5. Don’t panic if you’re the rejected parent

It was simply the Lord that I “accidentally” stumbled across an article about being the rejected parent.

75% of adopted children initially reject the mother, according to statistics.

Maybe the dad is an anomaly since most of their orphan care is done by female workers, or maybe they are angry with their foster mother for “disappearing”, I’m not sure. I was so glad I read this because it helped me mentally prepare to be the rejected parent, and guess what?  I was the rejected parent.

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Woo-hoo.

All the years I begged, bargained, and pleaded with God to adopt and all Lian wants is Chris.

I suspect it would have been much harder for me if I hadn’t known this beforehand.  The rejected parent needs to then do the majority of the nurturing/bonding acts such as hand feeding all food, rocking, soothing, and playing.  The non-rejected parent can do the diaper changes and not-so-fun things (there were perks to being the unpopular one!)

On a side note, it’s way easier to feed the baby bird noodles with chopsticks than with a fork. The Chinese were on to something here, but rice…yeah, not so much.

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At first, Lian would only tolerate me, avoiding any eye contact. I understood that he had had a foster mother with whom he was close AND he was an only child in the foster home. I was replacing his foster mother and Lian wouldn’t allow himself to love me. It was really challenging, but I was determined to break through to him.

The first time Lian locked eyes with me was, I’m not kidding, over a Starbucks coffee. We had stopped for a rest and a drink. I started scooping whipped cream off of the coffee and letting him taste it from my finger and after the second lick, he locked eyes with me and I smiled. He kind of half smiled, opening his little mouth for more, and there was no going back. We were both smitten with each other.

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6. You don’t have to do everything

It might be tempting to do every single event that is on the tourism schedule in China, but if you don’t want your time there to be super stressful and exhausting, opt out of a few things.  It’s ok. Give yourself down time in your room to recoup and rest. You and your new little one need time to play together quietly, go for a walk on the hotel grounds, connect, and just be.

You’ll see and do plenty even if you don’t do everything.

7. The Walmart stroller

When I tell you that the $20 Walmart umbrella stroller is literally a God-send, it is. Best $20 you’ll ever spend, especially if carrying your child constantly isn’t a good fit for your back (like mine) or if your child is too heavy for the carrier.

When we’d go out to dinner and have to walk through the city or if we just took a late afternoon walk through the park, Lian would just ride along or cat nap. It was perfect.

Plus, you’ll have it for the subsequent airport runs and it makes life so much easier.

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8. Sores, crusty eyes, straw hair, and spots

The wonderful, terrifying, sorely anticipated day when Lian was placed in our arms was filled with questions and concerns.

The first time I stroked Lian’s hair, it wasn’t baby soft as it should have been. It was coarse, dry and pieces fell off in my hand. I was actually alarmed when I stroked his head because I knew that damaged hair was indicative of some pretty severe malnutrition issues. Come to find out, it’s a protein deficiency. These kids aren’t fed meat or protein, hence the “orange” colored, straw-like, thinning hair and flaking fingernails.

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Even as I write this, looking back at pictures, I can see how pallid he looks as compared to the sun-kissed, strong body he has now.

The first night we went to give Lian a bath, we were horrified to see large, deep blue marks on his lower back and buttocks. He also had a quarter size raised boil on his neck and some rashes, along with horribly runny, crusty eyes.

My first panicked thought was that he had been hit on the back several times. After sending a photo to our pediatrician, we were relieved to find that the spots were Mongolian spots, which is very common in Asian children. The raised boil was a really bad case of eczema and the crusty eyes were blocked tear ducts.

I’m going to let you in on a secret….eczema is a milk allergy, but you will NEVER find a doctor that will tell you that. I also knew that the constant congestion, eye bags, and crusty eyes were from a milk allergy. Lian was fed mainly yogurt and rice congee in China. Some mornings, he would wake up and he literally couldn’t open his eyes, they were that crusted shut. We’d have to carefully clean them with warm water (which he hated).

As soon as we got him home and I cleaned up his diet (i.e. NO dairy) within a few weeks, his eczema cleared up completely and within about 2 months, his blocked tear ducts also healed themselves.

The majority of children cannot digest milk and it causes an excess of phlegm in their systems. Children do not actually need to drink milk. Their bodies cannot process the calcium in milk. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend some naturopathic research on the subject.

9. The dreaded plane ride and being yelled at

Oh yes, the dreaded million hour plane ride. A few tricks held us through: children’s chewable melatonin, a book of 1,000 stickers to distress the flight attendants with, some tiny packs of play-doh, favorite snacks, and emergency lollipops for when things might go south. We were fortunate to get a flight at 7:30 at night, so he was about ready to go to bed at that point and ended up sleeping a large chunk of the night, which was a blessing.

If you can manage to get an evening straight flight, it seriously helps. We also didn’t fly straight home. We had a straight flight to JFK, then we spent the night there and got a quick flight out in the morning to Raleigh. It made a huge difference in our energy levels to do that and we didn’t arrive home completely spent.

Also, be mentally prepared in China to endure glares, be yelled at occasionally, and be adulated, not necessarily in that order. On several separate occasions, I was yelled at by women who seemed angry with me for reasons I still know not of, since I don’t speak Mandarin. I think one woman thought I hadn’t dressed Lian warmly enough for the 74 degree day (they like to WAY over layer their kiddos there and strangely allow their over-layered kids’ cute little bottoms to hang out in the air for the occasional sidewalk poo-poo squat)

Go figure.

A few people were positive to us, giving us smiles and enthusiastic “thumbs up”. Those were always encouraging.

10. Fear of strange things

Like grass. Also leaves, sticks, being dirty at all, touching things, any sort of loud noises, being outside in a park, and anyone resembling another person besides us.

Lian was petrified of walking on grass and being outdoors. One of the great joys of motherhood is playing outside, picking up leaves and sticks, exploring. Nope. You couldn’t show him a flower or a leaf, but he’d motion no or look distressed. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him to walk on grass and when he finally did, there was great rejoicing in the land.

I’m not entirely sure he’d ever seen grass, flowers or tree leaves before.

Now?

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Yes, he’s eating a dandelion. You saw that correctly.

BONUS – Things you don’t think about

Claustrophobia. I felt so claustrophobic in the cities where it was just endless people, endless miles of tall buildings, no green unless you travelled to a park, and no rest for the eyes or ears.

People are too close! Yipes! As an introvert, it was a stretch for me to have people standing constantly close enough that they are literally breathing down your neck. Literally.

It totally just shivered typing that.

Also, being pushed and shoved. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.

Longing to hear English. After a few days, you suddenly long to hear your own language. It’s a very un-settling feeling. It’s almost as if your brain gets weary of not understanding anything and your ears strain to hear something familiar. It helped me have patience and sympathy for Lian, for the language switch for him.

All in all, just do what you can to survive the trip, enjoy it as much as you can, remember to rest when you can and know that we are all rooting and praying for you!

Also, keep your sense of humor!

Love ya!

Cady

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