An Update on “L”!

Eight months ago we shared a story about a family reuniting with their host kiddo to bring her home forever. It was a reunion that they had been anxiously awaiting from the moment they had to say their goodbyes at the end of the hosting program. Although the family was certainly sad to see their daughter, “L,” return to China after the hosting program, they knew that they would be seeing her again soon as they had already begun submitting their paperwork to adopt her.

Throughout the month that L spent in the United States with the hosting program, she was able to see life outside of her orphanage and experience the love of a family. These experiences ultimately helped to ease their transition transition upon returning home as a family of three. Now, eight months later, L is thriving in her new family! Read our blog below to learn more about L’s transition and the many firsts she’s experienced in the eight months that she’s been home.

Click here to read about L’s journey home!

October

L loves to drive by and point to the EIU castle.  She begged and pleaded to go there and finally got her chance during EIU’s Homecoming.  She got to meet Billy the Panther and go to her first parade.  We visited Tent City and she cheered on the Panthers at her first football game.

We had a special afternoon with Papa Swing and Grandma Barb at Aikman’s Wildlife Adventure in Arcola.  The highlight was the Wagon Tour where we got up close and personal with the animals and even got to feed them.  The zoo is going to seem boring after this special trip.

This was her first Halloween and she enjoyed carving her first pumpkin.  Mommy also visited her school for her classroom Halloween party.

November

By this time, we have gotten our rhythm and routine down.  L is loving going to school and making new friends.  We enjoyed a visit from special friends and L loved all the extra attention. It’s always so great to catch up with good friends!

We visited Santa Claus at the Festival of Trees and enjoyed face painting with Kinsley and Charlie.  We also had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.

December

L started the month with the Trojet Dance Clinic.  She loves to cheer and dance so it was no surprise that she loved it.  Even now months later, she randomly starts doing dance moves from the routine she learned.

L had been asking to go on a train ride so we obliged by having lunch with Santa on the Polar Express in Monticello.  She asked Santa for a dress because what girl doesn’t want a dress?!  It was a snowy afternoon and really set the mood for the trip.  She was just excited because she got to eat chips in her sack lunch.
L was the star of the Broadway Christian Church Christmas Program.  She sang her heart out and was very enthusiastic about her performance.  She kept up with the hand motions and was also one of the loudest.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know most of the words even after weeks of practicing.  She could sing Jesus very clearly, but that was about it.  Everyone still seemed to enjoy watching it.
Santa Claus found our house for Christmas.  She was very excited about him going up and down our chimney.  He left L a new bicycle.  She was awfully concerned because her bike was too big and she needed a little bike like her best friend’s.  A great ending to our 2016 and fun to see how much she has changed in one year.

January

We started the year by taking L to her first movie at the theater.  She did really well.

Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, we were able to visit the St. Louis Zoo in January.  She loved visiting all the animals and can’t wait to plan another visit.

L celebrated the 100th day of school and enjoyed dressing up as a “grandma” with all her classmates.

This was our first year celebrating the Chinese New Year.  The holiday fell on Saturday, January 28th.  This was the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar.  CNY 2017 was the year of the Rooster.  We celebrated by making decorations and re-decorating our Christmas Tree, enjoying traditional Chinese food from the Asian market, and reading a few books about the holiday.  We also went to a special event at the Urbana Free Library.
We ended the month with L’s 10th birthday party.  We enjoyed a small party with close family at home.  She enjoyed the special cake [Peppa Pig] that Grandma Barb made for her, unwrapping gifts, and having everyone sing to her.  This girl isn’t shy about being the center of attention.

February

L and Baba enjoyed their first daddy-daughter dance at Broadway Christian Church.  They were a beautiful couple and had a great evening. L’s favorite part was going out to eat for “china food” beforehand.

L loves all things dancing, cheerleading, and gymnastics.  So when we have events that she can participate in, we try to take full advantage.  She is so limber and flexible, we have no doubt that with practice, she will probably excel.  This month she did an EIU cheer clinic and did a beginner gymnastics class through the Recreation Department.

April

As the weather has warmed up, we have spent more and more time outside.  She loves to play bubbles and use sidewalk chalk.  She is working on riding her bicycle but after a couple of falls, she is understandably apprehensive.  She has gotten so much stronger!  We did a fun science experiment where we inflated a balloon by the reaction of vinegar and baking soda.  She has also learned how to play baseball with a wiffle ball and bat.  Her hand-eye coordination has improved so much she learned immediately and gets tons of hits.

We had special visitors came over to play.  She was excited about eating pizza, doing puzzles, playing Barbies, and playing Go Fish. We were so amazed at how far she has come in interacting with other kids, playing, and communicating.  It was an eye-opener for us.  Especially since it had been several months since she had seen them.

We celebrated our first Easter.  She talked about wearing her special dress to church for weeks.  She enjoyed coloring Easter eggs and seeing which colors could be combined to make new colors.  The Easter Bunny found our house and left her a basket with some special treats.  Since she does not like sweets at all, the eggs that she found contained coins and she was very excited about taking them to the bank.  We compromised and she added them to her bank at home.

She also got to attend a birthday party for one of her classmates.  It was held at the Flip Zone.  She was very uneasy around the trampoline, but by the end, she loved it.  She practiced walking on the balance beam and can’t wait to go back.  She has made some great friends in her class and it was fun to watch them play together.

Overall, it is amazing to see how far L has come.  She has lost three baby teeth and has new permanent teeth coming in.  She has gained some weight and is now up to 38 pounds.  She has grown in height, advanced a shoe size, and started to gain muscle strength and fill out.  Her hair is growing and thickening up.  She begs to have long hair.  She loves to put together puzzles, build with Legos, and play Barbies.  Food is still her love language.  She out eats us most days.  She is always open to trying new foods and is such a good eater.  She loves to snuggle with Mommy and Baba.  She is absolutely in love with her “sister” Bessie.  Bessie is our dog and if you remember when she visited last winter, she was absolutely terrified of the dog and screamed bloody murder.  If you have had a recent conversation with her, she probably asked you if you had a dog, what its name is, if it is big or little, and whether it is inside or outside.  If you asked her dog’s name, you likely got the response “B-E-S-S-I-E.”  She really likes to spell the words that she knows.  She is doing great in school and above average in her recognition/reading of sight words.  It makes my heart-swell to hear her read the leveled readers that she brings home.  This girl loves math.  Her vocabulary improves everyday and her spoken English continues to get stronger.  Her handwriting is beautiful and she concentrates so hard to make every letter or number “pretty.”  Astounding progress for a girl who had never been to school, had never used a pencil, put together a puzzle, and whose coloring consisted of scribbling.  She loves to sing along to the radio.  One of her favorites is Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will Be Done.”  She loves to belt out songs in the car and exclaims, “I know this song.”  Still working on the concept that songs are made up of words:)  This girls loves to sleep.  Every Friday night she says “sleep long time” aka let me sleep in.

I’m not sure how we got so lucky for God to choose us to be her parents, but our lives are blessed by her presence every minute of every day.   She fills our lives with joy with her smile, orneriness, and sassy personality.

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My Heroes in Disguise – GWCA’s First Adoptee Shares Her Story

Shortly after GWCA first opened its doors in 1996, Samantha was one of three adoptees to come home with from China with GWCA’s very first travel group. Now, nearly twenty one years later, she’s studying in college and looking at all of the exciting options her future could hold. We asked Samantha to share her perspective on life as an adoptee, her connection to China, and the impact that her incredible family has had on helping her become the person she is today:

They say the best gifts are the ones money can’t buy, and I’m learning each day how much truth is in that statement. Appreciate the people who are genuine, kind, supportive, and who will love you no matter what. Twenty one years ago, I was granted God’s greatest miracle – a family.

Hello to anyone who is reading this! My name is Samantha. I turned twenty one years old this past February, and was born in Lishui, China. In 1996, Snow Wu established what you know as Great Wall China Adoption. Who knew one woman was about to change the lives of many orphaned children like mine? I was the first child to be adopted at ten months old from the Great Wall of China Adoption Agency along with two other girls, Meghan and Rachel, back in 1996. Life in the United States has truly been a blessing, and I owe it all to God and the people he’s put into my life.

I was adopted by a family that has been able to provide beyond a child’s basic needs. My parents, Scott and Angela, weren’t able to have children of their own. They prayed that one day they would have a family. God answered their prayers, and led them to adoption. Never in a million years did they think that adoption would be the route they would take. Of course they were scared, but there wasn’t anything more they wanted than to have a family. With a strong faith and the help of Snow Wu, their dreams finally came true. They flew across the world to find me. Four years later, they went back to China, and adopted my brother, Alexander.

Ever since I was little, my parents have always encouraged my brother and I to try new things and put ourselves out there; I don’t remember a time where we weren’t involved in some type of physical activities. My greatest accomplishment related to sports was when I decided to join competitive gymnastics at four years old. At eleven years old, I ranked twelfth in Texas for my division. I endured many long hours, days, weeks, months, and years of hard work to accomplish the success that I did at such a young age (4 ½ + hrs. a day).  I was not even in middle school at the time and learned to balance my academics, social life, and my extracurricular activities. After I ranked in the state I decided to leave competitive gymnastics and try other sports. I was able to play competitive volleyball, basketball, softball, pole-vault, tennis, track and field, and dance. I was honored to be named one the Silver Dancers in high school, whose team has ranked five consecutive years at the annual Nationals Competition. I’m so blessed for all of the people I’ve met along the way and the memories I’ve made so far. Through everything, my parents have made it a priority to be involved in me and my brother’s lives. Since day one, they have always been our biggest cheerleaders out there.

We were privileged to attend private school for the majority of our lives, where we grew in our spiritual faith and met people who would serve as a positive influence in our lives. Each year we are committed to going on a family trip. I’ve been extremely lucky to explore different cities, states, countries, and continents all around the world. I love travelling, hiking, going to concerts, shopping, interior design (DIY projects), hanging out with friends, blogging, and fitness. I’m currently in college where I am double majoring in Business Marketing and Public Relations, and have made the Dean’s List two years in a row. I plan on either becoming a wedding planner who focuses on destination weddings or being heavily involved in corporate event planning/sports entertainment.

We live in America, where dreams come true. If you’re scared of adoption, don’t be. I wouldn’t be the person who I am today, if it weren’t for the greatness of God, my family, and Great Wall China Adoption. Family doesn’t necessarily mean you’re related by blood. The people who will love you on your best days and even more on your worst days are considered family to me. My parents have hearts of gold, and will forever be my heroes. I know that whatever obstacles life throws my way that my parents will be there to support my brother and I, and they’ll have our backs like no one else. I’ll forever be grateful for my parents pushing us to be the best we can be, and teaching us to live a Christ like life every day. They truly inspire me like no one else I have ever met, and have taught me to stay true to who I am no matter what. I’m a strong believer that even though life can seem scary and unpredictable, everything happens for a reason. God has a journey for each and every one of us, so trust that he will guide you to the path you’re meant to be on. For my parents, their paths sent them across the globe, to find what they were yearning for, which was a family.

People ask me all of the time if I would want to meet my biological parents, and my response is always the same. The people who’ve raised me since I was ten months old are my parents, they’re all I’ve ever known, and having them in my life is all I really need. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and will forever appreciate everything they’ve done for our family. Thank you to God, Snow Wu, my parents, mentors, and my lifelong friendships I’ve established in America. I hope someday I can leave an imprint on somebody else’s life like they have all made on mine.

If you’re interested in learning how you can begin your journey with GWCA’s China adoption program, contact our matching specialists or visit our Waiting Child photo listing today!

Resources

– Visit the Waiting Child Photo Listing
– Contact a China Matching Specialist
– Learn more about China adoption

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special Needs

Michelle, an adoptive mom and Orphan Warrior who has worked with GWCA to help advocate for countless children in need, recently wrote a post for Beautiful in His Time, sharing her advice for parents who are considering adopting children with special needs. Read the post below to see what Michelle wishes she could have known when she began her first adoption journey:

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special NeedsThree and a half years ago, my husband and I fell in love with an 18-month-old boy from China.

He was precious. He was perfect. And he had medical special needs.

Having two biological children of our own at the time, we had no prior experience with caring for children with medical needs. And although my sweet hubby was a physician assistant very eager to love on a child he could provide for in our home, both of us, at times, wondered if we were really equipped to care for a child who would require multiple surgeries and daily assistance of some sort, especially when we had two other children in our home already.

Distant friends told us this would too drastically change our lives. Acquaintances told us our biological children would be ruined. People who heard our story asked why we would choose to disrupt our comfortable life — the life with two children in a comfortable home and no health issues to worry about. Especially when we had no idea what we were doing.

There were seconds, moments, throughout the adopting process when, even as we LONGED to hurry the process and hold the sweet man we had nicknamed Superman in our arms, we wondered if these people were right. If God really knew what He was doing. If we were really the Kents for the job.

It turns out, we didn’t know what we were doing. And God did. And those people with their sweet protective hearts and their very good intentions — their opinions, combined with our fear, could have robbed us of one of the greatest blessings of our lives.

THIS is what adoptive parent Michelle knows now that she wishes paper pregnant Michelle would have known then. Because the world was very good at preparing us for the HARD parts of adopting a child with special needs … and very silent on the topic of the BLESSINGS.

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Adopting a Child with Special Needs

1. Special needs aren’t scary.

Not when you fall in love with the face and the personality and the little spirit of the soul behind them.

The second I held that sweet 2 ½-year-old hand, Superman moved from a photo of a child “with medical special needs” to MY SON. And when the child is your SON, not a file or a case number or a medical record, there is nothing you wouldn’t do for him.

God replaced my fear with fierceness and my concern with courage, and suddenly, almost overnight, the scariest thing about our situation of caring for a child with medical needs was that WE ALMOST LET FEAR ROB US OF THE PRIVILEGE OF DOING IT.

Because perfect love casts out fear. God’s perfect love poured into our imperfect hearts for HIS perfectly wonderful son drove out our fear. When Superman became a FACE and not a FILE, special needs became not scary. Because we quickly discovered that what the world called “special” needs were actually some of Superman’s greatest superpowers —and what MADE him the spirited overcomer that he is.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t scary times — when Superman was waking up from anesthesia for the second time under our care and he asked with his eyes because he had a tube down his throat, “Am I going to be okay?”

When he was lying in a hospital bed on Day 6 of NPO — without any food or water for nearly a week — and all I wanted to do was sneak him a cherry tomato and a sushi roll, because I knew his favorite foods of all time would instantly cure the grumpies I’d been facing for days.

When he was in the operating room a little longer than I had imagined, and I sat twitching, waiting with other kid-less parents in the waiting room for someone to call my name.

But when the child is a FACE and not a FILE, a son or daughter and not a photo, fear goes out the window. And the only thing scary is the thought that you might have missed out on the most beautiful blessing of your life had you let some Latin words on paper define your future.

2. If God calls you, He will equip you.

We’ve seen it in our own lives. God doesn’t call equipped people; He equips the called (Hebrews 13:21). Because frankly, NONE of us are prepared and mentally, emotionally and physically equipped to parent children who require care we’ve never performed. Not biological parents who deliver children with needs they had never imagined; not adoptive parents who God calls to bring home children with needs they had to Google.

But just like God equips parents who DELIVER children with special needs — parents who research and study and devote hours upon hours to learning how to provide the very best care for the children God has given them — God equips parents who BRING HOME children with those same needs.

In His goodness and by His grace, God turns parents from WORRIERS into WARRIORS.

Biological parents.

Adoptive parents.

Parents who worry that they’re not enough. That they don’t know enough. That their patience and their skills and their temperaments and their knowledge are all not enough.

He equips. And in OUR WEAKNESS, He shows up STRONG.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

3. Hospital stays make great bonding opportunities.

In his lifetime, Superman has had 14 casts and 10 surgeries, most of them inside our home. He’s spent several overnight visits at children’s hospitals across the country, and two years ago, he spent an entire week in a hospital without food or water following an intense surgery that made me quiver.

Before his last hand surgery, I asked Superman, who is missing a radius in his right arm, if he knew what we would be doing the next day. His reply:

“Yes. Doctor turn my finger, cut off my thumb and then Mommy and me watch Frozen and eat popsicles. Ready?”

This then 4-year-old boy wasn’t concerned about IVs, anesthesia or amputations; after numerous surgeries, he was concerned that he would get his Mama time. The time that I have learned is more precious than almost any other time we have in our chaotic, busy worlds. Because when we’re in the hospital together, we get to turn off our loud and noisy lives. We get to turn off our responsibilities and our phones and eat mediocre hospital food while we watch Frozen marathons (I can sing “Let It Go” in my sleep) and play checkers and read piles of books and snuggle day in and day out.

And even though I dread the pain and the tears that follow each surgery, I now treasure that special bonding time that the two of us get together.

4. Special needs are not a burden for our biological children; they are a BLESSING.

Perhaps more than any other concern our friends had when we shared we were bringing home a child with special medical needs was the concern that our biological children would be negatively affected.

That they would have to sacrifice too much.

That this would become a burden for them.

That they would get the “short end of the stick.”

The truth is, they do sacrifice. And it’s good for them.

They do give up occasional outings and fun things for doctor’s visits and medical appointments. And it’s good for them.

They do hear “we can’t eat that” or “we can’t do that” because of the medical needs or attachment needs of their little brother. And they’re fine with it.

In a culture that is raising children to believe life is all about them, that life is all about tailoring every schedule and every minute to their every need, our biological children are learning that life is NOT all about them. That sometimes the needs of others, like their brother, requires some sacrifice on their behalf. That loving others sometimes means giving up that school festival or that extra sport for the good of the team that still wants to maintain nightly family dinners and margin for important family conversations between doctor’s visits and guitar lessons. That their little brother gives up his time (and his sanity) to sit in copy rooms and class parties in order to serve THEIR needs. And that ALL of us in this thing called “family” do give and take in this life to make this family unit work.

And frankly, we haven’t heard once why it’s unfair that they’ve had to alter their lives after bringing their little brother home.

They adore this boy. They treasure this boy. They tackle this boy like he’s been part of their team their entire lives, and they are the first to dote on him and run to him and make him get well cards before and after every surgery.

They adore him. And loving a little brother with physical deformities and medical needs has taught them not to run FROM those who look different or spend more days in hospitals that the average person — but to run TO them.

So that this summer, when we hosted a 10-year-old orphan from China who had no fingers on his right hand, our children never even noticed. They never even asked. They tackled him with hugs and smiles and immediately invited him into their world to play for a month.

Compassion is worth far more than a few more extra-curriculars on our calendar.

5. Although we, in our selfish human nature, thought WE would be the ones blessing a child with medical needs, it turns out that HE was the one who blessed US.

I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture. There are definitely hard days. When my husband was deployed, Superman was on cast No. 14 and driving back and forth to our ortho specialist an hour and 20 minutes each way with three kiddos crammed into the back of a Prius was not the joy of my life.

When our calendars are dominated by doctor’s appointments and occupational therapy assignments and we have to say no to birthday parties and playdates because we’re driving back and forth to children’s hospitals.

When we still deal today with some of the very same medical issues we faced the day we brought this precious man home, even after surgeries to correct them.

The difference is our attitudes. The difference is our perspective. The difference is that, ON THIS side of adopting, we know that it’s all worth it. So very, very worth it.

Superman was worth it.

The 132 million orphans still waiting for forever families to call their own — adopting them is WORTH IT.

If your family is open to adopting a child with special needs and you’d like to learn more about GWCA and CAN’s Waiting Child adoption programs, visit our website or contact us today!

Resources:

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From Found to Forever: A Life Changing Trip to China

“On my way from the hotel to meet DJ at his hotel!!…”  This proud mom wrote only moments before meeting the first of her two boys in China. “…A whole range of emotions right now. I can’t imagine what he is going through since he will be leaving everything he knows to come to America as our son. Praying that his precious heart is protected during this time of excitement, but also grief. It’s crazy that after all these months of paperwork and prayers, that I am finally picking up our son!!”

After participating in our Orphan hosting program and saying a difficult goodbye to one of her soon-to-be sons (“SC”), this amazing mom and her family have been hard at work to complete their adoption process and bring him home forever. During their adoption process, they fell in love with another amazing boy who was hosted by an advocate family, and their family grew by one more! Now, they’ve finally reached the part of their journey that they’ve been longing for – the trip to China to bring their boys home.

Below are the stories from both of the boys’ Gotcha Days, as well as an emotional visit to SC’s finding place. Check back soon for an update on this incredible family’s journey!

DJ’s Gotcha Day

God is so good and has answered so many specific prayer requests. The transition has been amazing so far with DJ. When we arrived at the hotel, both of us were a little unsure of what was going on. The orphanage staff told me that he had been asking every few minutes when I was arriving because he was ready to go. So much for less luggage, he came home with 2 backpacks and another bag full of toys! I need to buy another suitcase already. He had a whole backpack of just snacks for me. He told the staff all morning that no one else could eat the snacks but his mom! When we first started talking between us and the translators, he started to cry. He quickly told my guide that they were happy tears because he was so glad to finally have a family. He said that he has wanted a mom and dad of his own, forever. He has totally won my heart and already has me wrapped around his finger.

Showing me a book full of pictures from his childhood. What a HUGE blessing this is. They also gave me the outfit he came to the orphanage in as a baby. Both of these are invaluable gifts!!

After leaving the hotel meeting where we signed paperwork for guardianship for the night (our adoption will be official tomorrow), we headed to get our family photo. As we walked, I held DJ’s hand. At one point I had to let go, he quickly grabbed my hand again as we started walking. When we got back to the hotel, I gave him his Lego set and that kept him busy for over an hour. He is very inquisitive and asks a lot of questions, which has been difficult with the language barrier. We are slowly figuring things out though as we go. He is already working on English words and I’m learning more Chinese.

SC’s Gotcha Day

After months of work and prayers, I was reunited today with SC. before SC went back to China, Wayne and I told him that every time he saw the moon, he was to remember that we were in America praying for him. We were not able to tell DJ that (as we were not his host family), but we were praying for him as well. God has continually been gracious and merciful to us throughout this entire process. Today was no exception. I was blown away once again by God’s grace and compassion. He truly loves these children.

I had so much trouble sleeping last night. I was so excited for today that I felt like a kid going to Disneyland. Even DJ woke up and the first thing he asked was, “SC?” We ate an amazing breakfast and then piled into the van to drive to SC’s orphanage. Originally we were going to have the family day at the Civil Affairs Office, but it got moved to the orphanage. What a blessing that was! It was amazing to see where SC has lived the last 10 years. The orphanage was beautiful and colorful. You could tell that the workers genuinely love the children.

We were ushered into an office after meeting one of the chaperones from the summer hosting. DJ loved seeing her again. We did some paperwork for temporary guardianship (adoption is finalized tomorrow). I was blessed with another photo album book with baby pictures and pictures of SC’s childhood. We even have a note from his birth parents that they left with him and he was abandoned! After a few minutes, SC finally arrived.

It was so wonderful to see his sweet smile and to hug him again. We were able to catch up and talk a little with all the workers. We then all proceeded to walk through the orphanage to SC’s foster parents’ home, which was on the same property.

SC got to show me his bedroom, his awards from school, introduced me to his foster parents, and even played the piano for us. It was such an amazing opportunity. I feel so blessed to have seen and experienced this part of his life. At one point his foster mom started crying. She has cared for SC for 6 years and helped him when he had surgery on his foot. She also just said goodbye to another foster daughter last week. She was adopted as well. I was able to hug his foster mom and tell her how much we appreciate all that she has done for SC. It was beautiful, heart breaking, and surreal all at the same time. So many emotions in the room.

SC has been non-stop smiles. DJ and him are getting along as though they are long lost brothers and best friends. We spent the afternoon playing Legos, transformers, and we also took a little walk. One cannot forget food. Both of these boys can eat!! SC shared his snacks from his foster parents with DJ in the car. It was so sweet. He also brought out a bag of cookies and said it was for Baba and his sisters. He is so thoughtful!!

This evening we went to a Chengdu Opera where they have the famous mask changing show. Both of the boys had a blast.

SC’s Finding Place

Seeing SC’s finding place was special, but it also stirred up a ton of emotions. I happened to see a mom feeding her small baby and I wondered what went through SC’s parent’s minds when they sat him in an area they knew he would be found and could receive help. They had cared for their sweet baby boy for three months. They left a note on him. I still have to have someone translate it for me all the way, but they explained that he needed help with his foot. I cannot imagine the anguish they experienced leaving behind this baby they loved in order for him to get the medical help he needed.

Visiting this spot not only stirred up emotions for me, but it must have stirred up emotions for SC as well. It is one thing to read about and take training on trauma and loss, it is another thing to experience it first hand. About five minutes after we got into the van, I looked back to talk to the boys and I saw that SC didn’t look well. He looked distressed. When I asked him what was wrong via the guide, he told her that he was experiencing car sickness. This surprised me because he never once was car sick over the last two days or over the month he was with us this summer. Emily (our guide) quickly surmised the situation and said that he was probably experiencing a lot of emotions that were making him sick, and he didn’t want to admit it but say it was just car sickness. SC told me he felt nauseous and very dizzy. I looked it up and emotional distress can make people feel physically ill, including feeling nauseous and dizziness. It broke my heart to see my son hurting so deeply that he felt sick. I encouraged him to always feel free to express his feelings to us and I also told him how much we all love him. I told him that we would always be there for him and he can tell us anything and we will listen. It took him about 20 minutes to feel better.

It breaks my heart to know that our boys will probably always have questions, experience hurt and pain from their past, and feel lost at times. This is one reason I have tried to hard to document everything I can about this trip through pictures, saving memorabilia like newspapers, taking pictures of foster family members, and even taking pictures of finding places. All of these pieces will help me answer future questions, to the best of my ability, to help them through their struggle. This is why I also feel so blessed to have important things like DJ’s outfit when he was found, a copy of SC’s finding letter, baby pictures of the boys, etc.

We are now in Guangzhou, where we will finish the last of the paperwork for the US side. In the end, we will have the boys’ visas so that we can travel to the United States. When the plane lands, they will be US citizens. We have really enjoyed being adventurous this trip. Our guide told us where McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut was located. I avoid those places in the states and I don’t plan on eating Western food while in CHINA!! We ventured out tonight and found a Japanese restaurant that had amazing ramen. SC took charge and placed the order for us in Chinese. He ordered the noodle dishes and coke for me, DJ and himself. I had to fake liking the coke because I really don’t like it. SC caught me making a face when I drank it. Oops! The boys LOVE their noodles and are so fun to watch. While we were waiting for the bill, the boys entertained themselves – SC found creative ways to use his wipe and DJ figured out if he put coke in his soup spoon, he could drink it backwards.

Some pictures from the journey:

Resources:

– Learn more about the China adoption process
– Learn about Orphan Hosting
– Contact GWCA’s China matching specialists to learn how you can be matched

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Lena Yi Yi’s Journey – An ‘Older Child Adoption’ Story

We LOVE receiving updates from families that have come home. Not only is it incredible to see how far a child can come in a short amount of time with the love and support of a family, but it’s a great reminder that adoption is so much more than the process we help families through each and every day.

Lena Yi Yi was adopted at the age of 12, and welcomed into a loving family. Now, six years later, she is absolutely thriving, living out her dreams and exploring her passion for dance! Here is an update that we received from Lena Yi Yi’s proud mom:

unnamed (4)Lena Yi Yi will be 19 on March 28th. It goes fast when you adopt them at an older age. Overall we have had a smooth ‘older child’ adoption. Knowing that she bonded with her Chinese adopted family from very early infancy I know helped. She’s very much fit into our family. She is actually so much like her dad in so many ways that except for her appearance one would not know she’s not our biological child. She is still home-schooled and will graduate either in late May or early August depending on how fast she completes her work.

She speaks English well but still struggles with reading and writing English although it’s improving slowly but surely. She is also still 100% fluent in Chinese. I had her take one semester with a native Chinese teacher, who immigrated to the US from China and settled in Nevada. This woman is a certified teacher and the super advanced Chinese lessons were via Skype. The teacher said Lena was very intelligent and read quite well and grasped new concepts in advanced Chinese very quickly.

Lena Yi Yi’s goals after graduation range from continuing to improve in English so she can work as a translator, to being a missionary and work in orphanages all over the world, and to continue training in dance and work in a Christian ballet company.  She is applying to be a part of Wichita State University’s International Intensive English program. Although she’s a US citizen and this program is normally for international students, they do occasionally work with US citizen’s where English isn’t their first language. Regardless of all of her other goals, Brad and I agree this would give her a huge boost in anything she tries to do in life.

Speaking of dance, this has been Lena Yi Yi’s passion her entire time here. Ballet is her favorite although she has also trained in jazz, tap, contemporary, and has been a part of a studio ‘funk team’ and was selected to be a part of a competitive dance team in Wichita. This year she was chosen to be a part of the Nutcracker in Wichita. I am sending an article that ran in our small town newspaper about that.  I am also sending some pictures and Facebook stories.

I feel her story is a good one to share as I know many with older child adoption have had struggles. We are thankful for all the help we had at Great Wall as well as that things really have gone pretty smoothly for us.

If your family is interested in learning how you can adopt an older child through China’s Waiting Child adoption program, visit GWCA’s Waiting Child photo listing or contact our matching specialists today!

Share YOUR Story with GWCA today by sending it to ana@gwca.org!

Resources:

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Eight Months Home – Learning Our Dance

YourdonFamily-2016.10.27-NealDieker-278It was eight months ago today that we brought our daughter home and began our life as a family of nine. I will never forget the day we met that little girl in the pink dress. The look on Naomi’s face during those first moments together is etched in my memory. She was so brave and clearly intrigued by us. At the same time, she had the “blank look” I have come to recognize as a sign that she is overwhelmed and nervous.

You see, 8 months ago, we were total strangers. I was already in love with her or at least the idea of her. She had seen our photographs but could not be fully prepared for what was to come. We were instantly mommy and daughter, all the while still strangers to one another. The dance of attachment was beginning for us but we were nearly four years late to the party. I didn’t know her cries, her looks or her needs. When you bring home a new baby from the hospital, you study them. You ask yourself countless times a day, what does she need? I found that the same was true for our little Naomi. I needed to become a student of her, study her sounds and her actions. I would love to tell you that I did this perfectly but I did not. There were times we were both in tears from sheer frustration. There were times I was not as patient as I should have been and lost sight of what was really important. I have had to apologize and ask her for forgiveness more times than I like to think about.

The beautiful thing about a family is that we just keep loving and moving forward. There have been countless victories in these eight months, reasons to celebrate and solidify the bond that we have created. We parent our seven children in a way that gives us the great gift of time. We home school so there is no need to rush off in separate directions each morning. Granted, Daddy has to go to work but we are all excited when he walks back through that door! Learning the rhythm of our family has been accelerated for Naomi as she watches the way I interact with all her siblings on a minute by minute basis. Giving her a solid foundation of what family means is our priority. We know that her little heart still has plenty of healing to do. A child who was abandoned at the approximate age of two certainly needs time to feel safe and secure. She asks me often, “Momma, gonna go bye bye?” I rarely leave the house without my children but the thought of being separated from Momma is still unnerving for our little girl. On the rare occasion that I leave the kids with Daddy or Grandparents, I remind Naomi, “Momma comes back. Momma always comes back.” We have a little song we sing with these words. It is an important ritual for us.

YourdonFamily-2016.10.27-NealDieker-178Naomi’s big sister, Izabella, is just a few months older than her. Izabella was our only girl for four years. We had no idea how their bonding would go but we prayed fervently that they would be a gift to one another. Their relationship has exceeded our wildest hopes. I will never forget one of their first nights together, Izabella hugged Naomi tight, looked at me and said, “Mom, thank you so much for my sister!” They take great joy in spending time together. They are little mommas to their baby dolls. They love to color and make crafts together. They sit next to each other for every meal. They are taking a weekly ballet class together. The sight of them in their little tutus is more than this momma’s heart can stand. They attend the same art class and story time class at our home school co-op. They are precious little shopping buddies and love it when we have girl dates. They often say, “girl power!” when they accomplish a difficult task. I am grateful to have a front row seat to watch their relationship develop. A sister is truly a gift.

YourdonFamily-2016.10.27-NealDieker-260We have been amazed by Naomi’s patience and kindness with all her siblings. She has learned to stick up for herself when she needs to. We think this a terrific sign of how comfortable she has become in her family. Her adoption was our first experience with adopting out of birth order. Naomi is older than our two youngest sons. They were two years old when she arrived home and she was weeks away from turning four. We felt that Izabella would keep her identity as our oldest daughter and the little boys would keep their identity as our babies. We were right. The transition has been seamless.

Every night when I tuck Naomi in bed she says, “Momma, sing Jesus!” She snuggles her teddy bear and baby doll and settles in for this comforting nightly routine. I rub her back and sing this song, “Jesus loves Naomi this I know for the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus love Naomi. Yes, Jesus loves Naomi. Yes, Jesus loves Naomi. The bible tells me so.” Then I lay my hand still on her back and whisper a prayer in her ear to the King of Kings. I thank him for her life. I praise him for the restoration he has done and will continue to do. I ask him to continue to bind our hearts together. I pray for her best friend from the orphanage who is happily home with her family. If I forget this part, I am quickly reminded. I ask God to draw her heart to his. I pray that she will grow up to boldly walk in the calling he lays on her heart. I have no doubt his plans for her are great. When I say amen, I kiss her little face and tell both my girls, “Goodnight my princesses.”

In the past eight months, there have been challenges to overcome, memories to make and milestones to celebrate. We are no longer strangers. We are well on our way to forever. Not only do we know the steps to our dance, we are tearing up the dance floor.

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Lillian’s Matching Story

Our China Waiting Child adoption program gives families the chance to play a role in their own matching process, meaning every family’s experience is unique. While some may look at many files before they find their kiddo, other families may move forward with the very first child whose file they review. Either way it seems that more often than not when a family finds their child on our Waiting Child photo listing, they have a moment of realization and know that their search is over.

Below is a post from one of the families in our China adoption program about the importance of photo listings and how they came to find their daughter:

HendersonI am a big believer in photo listings. I know from personal and professional experience that getting children’s faces seen is the key to getting them families. My husband and I did not set out to adopt a child that was paralyzed or that had spina bifida and hydrocephalus. But when we saw our little Lillian, we just knew that she was ours.

When we first submitted a request to learn more about Lillian, our China matching specialist, Heidi, did a great job of providing us information on the child and on the process (if we decided to move forward). She was supportive and informative without being pushy. We took some time to pray about our daughter and get some advice from medical professionals and from other parents who had adopted children with the same special needs. Once we were ready to commit to our daughter and start the process to bring her home, Heidi seemed genuinely excited and happy for us and helped us get the ball rolling.

I can say too that we originally inquired about a different child, and after reviewing her file we just new that she was not the right child for us. It was very difficult to say no to a child and ask to see a different child’s file, but Heidi never made us feel guilty or bad in any way. She was very understanding and supportive.

We had not decided that we were going to pursue another adoption or that we were going to adopt from China specifically, but seeing the children waiting and finding our daughter was the push we needed to commit and move forward.  There are so many children waiting for families and we are so grateful to GWCA for helping us find out daughter.

If you’re interested in learning how you can be matched through our china adoption program, visit GWCA’s Waiting Child photo listing or contact our matching specialists today!

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Welcome Home, Caroline!

Mullis2comp-209x300One year ago we announced that Caroline, an adorable little girl who rocks her extra chromosome, had been matched with a Forever Family. Her family had fallen in love with her the first time they’d seen her photo, and from that moment on they knew she was theirs.

Since then, we’ve continued to follow their journey and shared in their joy with each surprise along the way. Throughout their adoption process they’ve shared several stories with us, including Finding Caroline the story of how they came to be matched with their daughter, and First Father’s Day. Along the way we’ve been so impressed by their diligence in completing their dossier paperwork and wrapping up the final steps of their adoption. Now, we’re so happy to share with you the moment when all of the pieces came together as they welcomed the newest member of their family, Caroline.

One month ago, Caroline’s dad traveled to China to finalize her adoption and bring her home. The video below shows the moment when the two of them arrived home and Caroline got to meet her mom for the very first time.

A word from our China matching specialist about working with Caroline’s family:

There are few things as incredible as getting the chance to be involved with a family’s adoption process from start to finish. With the “M” family, I had the unbelievable chance to get to work with them from the time they began the adoption process until they left to pick up their darling girl. They were one of my first families to match, and will always be in my heart as one of the first times that I felt as though I was truly making a difference for the kiddos that we advocate for. I have loved looking at their little girl’s photos since the time we received her file, so to now see her home and in her parent’s arms feels like such a blessing. Throughout all of the emotional ups and downs of the adoption process, it is moments like these that make it worth every minute. 

Caroline and her dad arrive

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You Belong

Some people know at a very young age that they want to grow their family through adoption; others may not realize it until a specific child touches their heart. However the feeling comes, it’s one that will change your life forever.

Here is a story that one of our adoptive moms shared with us about when she first realized that she wanted to adopt. This family participated in GWCA’s Orphan Hosting program this past summer, and they are currently working their way through the adoption process. We are eager to continue following their journey as they work towards bringing sweet Jett into their family forever.

whitten-photoI want to tell you how God introduced us to our youngest son. It started when I was a child. You see, I had asked for a pair of Asian dolls for my collection. My mother was surprised by my choice, but gave me the pair. They were my adopted children every time I played ‘house.’ I still have those dolls. My mother kept them safe until I became a mother myself. Adoption has always been on my heart, but I have three beautiful, wonderful children. I don’t have a need to adopt. As a teacher, there are often kids that I wish I could bring home, so I discussed fostering with my husband. He had reasonable concerns.

God connected me with Amanda via the internet and a mutual love of dog rescue. Well, Amanda’s family hosted a precious little boy from China last Christmas. I followed as she helped him get medical evaluations and gave him a loving break from his orphanage. God spoke directly to my heart through that precious little boy. I talked to my wonderful hubby again. A short term host program seemed more manageable for us. We would advocate for an orphan from China.

The first child mentioned to me by the agency was our sweet Jett. He was described as painfully shy. He had mobility issues. I worried that my boisterous family and playful dogs would terrify him. I said “no” to Jett and kept looking. God brought my heart back to Jett over and over again. Finally, we committed to hosting Jett. There is so much more to this story, but in the process of advocating, God showed each of us very clearly that this little boy belongs in our family. It is hard to explain the feeling when you look into the face of a child, not born from your body, but know without a doubt that God has made him your son. God loves you so much, Sweet Jett. He began preparing me for you when I was a young girl. He knew you then, even when you were not yet here on earth. He knew you would be our son. I can’t wait to bring you home! Your Baba, Brian Whitten, and I are working hard to make that happen as soon as possible.

Contact our international matching specialists today to learn how you can begin your adoption journey!

 

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One Month Home

One month ago, we followed one of our families’ journeys as they traveled to China to bring their host child home forever. It was a reunion that they had been anxiously awaiting, and it was every bit as incredible as they hoped it would be. Now that they’ve had some time to get settled in with their daughter back at home, they’ve provided us with an update on how their transition is going. Click here to look back at their trip to China!

swing31It seems crazy to think that our sweet daughter has been in her forever home for just over a month. We are constantly amazed at how well she is doing under the circumstances and the trauma she experienced in being removed from the only home (the orphanage) she has ever known and placed in a strange place, with unusual food and weird smells. She has adjusted extremely well and is picking up new English words and phrases on a daily basis. She understands so much English, much more than she can speak at this point, and her communication by hand motions is getting less and less. Some of her words sound similar and it can be a challenge to understand her pronunciation.

She knows her ABCs, her colors, and numbers to 10. When she arrived home, it was obvious that she had never done a puzzle before. She now wants to do puzzles on a daily basis and is getting faster at matching the pieces together. Most of them are 25 pieces but there is one that is 63. She is gaining strength in her legs and is getting much better at maneuvering the stairs. When she arrived home, she had difficultly with pedaling a tricycle. She has improved so much and now drives my pedal tractor on a daily basis. She loves to pedal as fast as she can. If you ask her her name, she can recite first, middle, and last names. She loves our dog, Bessie. She prefers when she is laying beside her or giving her kisses. She talks to her constantly about going outside to potty.

swing4She spent a few days at our church preschool to ease her into transition to all day school and has been attending Kindergarten for a few weeks. She loves going to school and and knows her teacher’s name is Mrs. V. She asks for “more school” all the time. Her writing continues to improve, and I’m sure with extra services, like ELL (English Language Learners) and Title I, we will continue to see great progress.

We have kept pretty busy over the last month spending time with close friends and family. We have done fun things like visiting Curtis Orchard and the Great Pumpkin Patch. We have gone “swimming” and enjoyed play dates. We celebrated “C’s” birthday and she had fun making the cake, singing Happy Birthday, and helping to blow out the candles. She regularly tells us “no airplane, ‘L’ home.” It is obvious she is looking for reassurance that we are not sending her back to China.

We met our friend, Joy, for dinner recently so that she could hear and communicate in Mandarin. You could see the little wheels turning in her head as she concentrated and focused. It was apparent that she could interpret and understand her native language and she answered many questions by shaking her head yes or no. For some questions that Joy asked her in Mandarin, she would turn to me and respond in English.

If you have had the privilege to spend any time with ‘L’, you know she is always happy and smiling. She has brought so much joy to our lives in such a short-time and it is hard to imagine life before her presence graced our lives. I would also describe her as brave, resilient, cheerful, polite, sassy, ornery, loving, and smart. We fall more in love with her everyday.

We may not update the blog as frequently but will try to post when we hit special milestones. Thanks for continuing to follow our journey. Enjoy some pics from the last month.

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