A birthday to remember

I am one of those moms. You know the type. The sappy (let a few tears drip into the frosting as I make cupcakes for my babies who seem to grow a year older behind my back) momma. But this birthday celebration – a few tears did not do it justice. Every time I looked at our new son on his birthday, tears sprang to my eyes.

We have missed 13 birthdays with this boy. 13. Adding emotion to that fact, we have been counting down the days to this 14th birthday. It was the deadline. If we did not have all of his adoption paperwork completed by his birthday, it was a no go. By Chinese law children are unadoptable at their 14th birthday.

We adopted him 10 days before his birthday.

Can I just type that sentence one more time so that you can feel the force of its drama? 10 days before his birthday he got a family. His miracle (and ours) happened 10 days before it was too late. That is worthy of many grateful tears from this momma. Amen?! Call me sappy if you want.

We enjoyed celebrating our new son on his 14th birthday which happened to fall on Chinese New Year’s Eve due to the lunar calendar. We made cupcakes and had gifts, but added making dumplings (traditional Chinese New Year food), staying up till midnight and setting off fireworks. It is a birthday, for many reasons, that we won’t forget.

A few more photos of our dumplings and Chinese New Year celebration….

and a few more words about how our transition is going.

We were preparing for a rough road with a teenager who hasn’t lived with a family. Instead, we are experiencing grace filled days with a delightful young man who is embracing his new life….and our family. We feel incredibly blessed. Maybe it is the honeymoon phase – but we are taking every moment and storing up these sweet memories that will be treasured and will help if harder days come. We would appreciate your continued prayers as we get to know each other and find a new normal for our family. We are starting the Chinese New Year with thankful hearts for all that God has done to make our family and with great hope of all that will come to pass in this year of the dog!

Not Earth Shattering, but Huge

We confirmed every stereo type of fat Americans as we pushed a cart to the check out line of the grocery store filled with 30 bags of snickers, 30 bags of peanuts, watermelon seeds, sweet rice cakes, and instant coffee.  You should have heard the comments!  And they didn’t even see how many oranges hubby bought at the market!


We confused and mystified the other shoppers and we also confused the nannies and workers at the orphanage who weren’t sure just what to make of us when we arrived gift bags in hand.    As we passed out the treat bags today, the comments were of a vastly different nature.  We often had to repeat ourselves explaining that we were giving them a gift….just to wish them a happy new year…just to make working today feel a bit better….just to give us a chance to love them and share with them a greater love.  (OK granted, I might have had to repeat myself a few times due to faulty Chinese.  Full disclosure!)


I would love nothing more then to have an earth shattering story to share with you as a result of today.

Not earth shattering, but as the nannies looked me in the eyes smiled and asked me to make sure I didn’t miss giving a bag to the worker at the end of the hall.  That felt huge.

When I walked into the kitchen and our kids gave bags to the cooks and they made a big deal over meeting my family – that felt huge.

When we were invited into the room of one of my students to share snacks and tea with his roommates, it was a moment that took me beyond being a teacher – that felt huge.

I wave at the gate guard every time I come and go from the orphanage.  After giving him his bag today, he waved back.  Huge.

I am not sure how to explain the door that has been flung open.  For reasons beyond myself, I have been given permission not only to teach art classes, but also to have full access to the orphanage (well, except for the infant room.  More on that in a different post.)  Full access just doesn’t happen.  I am able to come and go, play with the children, pop into different rooms, and  give attention to whatever child I feel led to love on that day.  I then help feed dinner to the older disabled children to finish off my time.  It is weird to have a foreigner walking around helping and loving kids.  The other workers don’t know what to do with me.  Today I hope they can understand me a bit more.

A smile from a nanny, a question about my family, and a wave from the guard….they all feel like huge steps toward the goal of deeper relationships and built trust.

One step at a time.

I love knowing it will make a difference  – in me and hopefully to those around me.


On a family note:

I didn’t take one picture today.  Can you believe that?  Little Man handed out bags that were almost the size of him….it was adorable, but you will have to just pretend you can picture it!  I am sure the memories we made today as a family will stick with us with or without photos.

Had a friend question me last week about taking all four of our kids to help.  Surely taking two adopted children back to an orphanage would be painful and might cause some meltdowns.  We considered that and in the end decided to pr@y hard and take the risk.

Loving others and reaching out isn’t always safe, easy and without pain.  If my time at the orphanage hasn’t taught me anything else, it has taught me that.  To be honest, I could say that about adoption too.

All four kids did great.

Actually the introvert of our crew, Soccer Dude, was the one I thought would have a “moment” when a child latched on to him.  He turned and wrapped the child in a big bear hug and smiled.  Serving today took him out of his comfort zone, but I would say that loving the kids at the orphanage will make a difference in Soccer Dude’s life and then in turn make a difference in the lives of others as well.

So maybe not earth shattering, but today was huge…in many ways.


Chinese New Year Gifts -过年的礼物

IMG_7312The only way for me to describe Chinese New Year (CNY) is to equate it with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.  Everyone travels and visits family….every night for at least a week thus the country comes to a grinding halt for one big party.  Gifts of fruit, new clothes, and money in red envelopes are given.  Special foods are made like dumplings and long life noodles.  Kinda sounds like Christmas and Thanksgiving on steroids, right?

The Fourth of July part….well, that’s the fireworks.  Lots of them.  Every night.  It is amazing the first night….one of my most vivid memories from our first CNY was our neighbors hanging a broom handle from their 6th floor apartment window with lit firecrackers dangling from it.  Unbelievable.  Bryan was amazed at the people standing in their living rooms and shooting Roman Candles out the window.    Seriously, for a week it sounds like we live in the middle of a war zone.

On a side note, I also had to do some creative shopping this week to make sure we were stocked for food and other essentials. Restaurants, the market and most stores close for about the next week.

So how are we celebrating?

We are ready with oranges, red envelopes and the fixings for dumplings, but we decided to take our celebration up a notch this year.

As you can imagine having to work on Chinese New Year would be a huge bummer.  But for the staff at the orphanage, there are still children who need to be fed and taken care of.  You can’t close down a children’s home for a week of celebrations.

We have been given permission to bless the 30 nannies who have to work CNY by passing out gift bags.  Nothing has been done like this before and we are thrilled to have the opportunity.  We have prepared bags with favorite Chinese snacks, some American candy, instant coffee, oranges, and hand lotion.   Our family is going to go from room to room handing out the bags during the children’s nap time.  We are hoping it brings a bit of joy to the workers and lets them know they are appreciated for their hard work.

But more than that…..

Would you think about us on Friday?  Well, actually it will be Thursday evening in the States!  We are trusting that our gifts will be understood from the heart from which they are being given (gift giving in China is actually a tricky business).  We want trust and relationships to be built through this gesture, but more importantly we would be seen as his hands and feet.

We will let you know how it turns out!

Till then, Happy New Year .  过年快乐!