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Monday, October 2, 2017

An update


In 2007 I started blogging. That was over a decade and 1,438 posts ago. 

In 2008 I stepped foot in my first orphanage, and I was blessed to enter many more orphanages via adoption, photography and service in the years to come. Now we find ourselves a decade alter in 2017, and the number of children our family has doubled. So many many things have changed. I though a little update might be in order. 
Our parenting journey started way back in 1993 with the birth of our first child, Sunny... complete with big 90's hair and matching chambray shirts. I had wanted to be a mama for as long as I could remember ,and I had wanted to adopt children for as long as I could remember too. 

We didn't start our adoption journey in 2006, when Sunny, was just 13 years old and already had 3 siblings. Sunny is a woman now, on her own and living independently in New Mexico, going to school full time and working saving lives and all. Actually we have 3 bonafide adult children now. 7 of our 8 kiddos (all except Sunny) still live at home. Livy, now 21, is following in Sunny's footsteps in nursing school, a job she was born to do, and The Man Child is 18 year old, graduated from high school last spring and is attending community college. He really seems to be doing so well there. As the kiddos get older you do see less of them on the blog. Their privacy becomes paramount, because after all this blog was never their idea. I gotta say, this season when your children turn from child to adult, both legally and more importantly the gradual change that happens in their souls, is amazing. And frustrating too. And heart breaking. And the most rewarding thing ever. Even as kids grow older, some things in parenting never change. The stakes just get higher. I've loved the celebrations that we shared with our big kids even more because of the challenges we've gone through. Life is sweet that way, the flowers from the ashes. 
Boo, the youngest of our bio kids, just turned 15 year old and really isn't a big kid quite yet but certainly not a little one either. He was just a baby when we started our adoption journey, and he started high school this year. He's the consummate middle child. I often wonder what he would have been like had we never adopted, and he had remain the youngest child. I know he's seen a lot over the last decade. He is definitely a product of his environment, and I know it has molded him into the man he's growing in to. He's quiet. He doesn't like to rock the boat, and he's rockin' life. He's a great student and couldn't wait to turn 15 so he could get his first job. Needless to say, I kinda like him a little big bit. On a side note, when Ru found out about this, he quickly decided he was getting a job to to earn his own money. He was a little shocked he needed to be older to do so. 

One thing I can say for sure is that in addition to Boo, adoption has affected us all including our bio kiddos who were 14, 11, 9 and 5 when our first adopted kiddos came home. I naively wondered if adoption would change the our bio kids. And it did, in very big ways. For the better! Yes there's more chaos and problems to solve. Many more challenges all the way around. But I really think our kids are just more compassionate and more able to see the big picture compared to their peers. Some of our kids want to adopt when they have their own families, and some definitely do not. However they do it, I know they will all make their own impact on the world in the ways they are led, and I can't help but think that adoption is a part of the reason for this. 
Did you know we started our adoption journey via foster care? In 2006 a friend of a friend of a relative (whose hair dresser's, dermatologist, met a guy at her high school reunion, whose sister-in-law's, best friend...) needed some help, a place for her son to stay while she tried to get on her feet, all the while trying to avoid Child Protective Services. We prayed and decide God was calling us to do more than parent our already-busy brood of 4 children. We started down the foster road path in 2006, but sadly the taste the episode left us bitter and frankly jaded. Enter international adoption. 
The first photo we saw of Jude and Tess together
Tess and Jude, who have been home 9 years now, came to us in 2008 from Saigon and were the reason for starting this crazy blog. They were crib mates in Vietnam, and back in the day where there was no special needs adoption program from Vietnam, both were special need's adoptions, Jude with bilateral club foot and Tess a preemie, low-birth-weight baby. I was the queen of research and eyes wide open, but in hindsight I was far from prepared for what happened. They came to us at 12 and 13 months old and so did the surprises. And the trauma. 
But they were babies! How can that be? They were so young!
But no. 
Still. 
The trauma. It's real. Even for babies.
Counselors. Mine and theirs. 
Grief. 
It took about 3 years and almost incessant conversations, prayers and negotiations between me and God for me to find a way out of a very dark place. Eventually we did find our new normal, and I realized that I had been changed in the process and molded into a new and a very different me. My view of the world changed. My priorities changed. My friends changed. I could see my faults, wounds and shortcomings more clearly. I learned how to forgive myself and others more easily. I counted my blessings more often. I let of a lot stuff go that I used to think was important. I feel like I've learned what's really important in this last decade, and maybe even more importantly what's not. I feel like my priorities shifted from vacations, home remodels and new cars to date nights with my husband, reading a book with my children, holding a little hand in my own, passing it all on our children, and learning how to do it better, to be a better me and help those I love and the world around me. Sometimes I morn the loss of old me, the one that had free time to gossip and agonized over 10 un-lost pounds and which vacation to go on next. And yet I am so ridiculously grateful to not be her anymore. Tess and Jude, the precipitous for the change, just turned 10 years old, and I'm still flabbergasted (not really) how God knitted them together into our not-twins and then grafted them to us. They are exact opposites and simultaneously each other's best friend. 

I had a the mother of all temper tantrums in 2011. It wasn't pretty. Papa and I laugh (kinda) about it now. I was certain God was calling us to adopt again, and Papa... well... not so much. The turn in the economy wasn't kind to us. That's an understatement. What if I could find a way to fund the adoption myself? And Ordinary Miracles Photography was born. If you took a photography class from me anytime prior to May 2017, you helped pay almost fully for our last 2 adoptions, and for that I thank you so so very much! This forever family couldn't have paid for these children to come home to us without you! 
The first photo we saw of Mimi
Mimi the epilogue. Mimi, who we all thought would be a boy, came home in 2012 right before her 2nd birthday. Mimi is currently in 2nd grade and is a beautiful, girly, joyous, piggie-tail-wearing, sparkly and twirly ray of sunshine that was just what we had been missing even though we didn't know it. Mimi's special need was labeled "physical developmental delay" by China which isn't a diagnosis at all, but rather a symptom of something bigger. We knowingly jumped into the unknown with Mimi's adoption, and in accordance with the doctor's that reviewed her file we prepared for cerebral palsy and/or brain damage among other things. 5 years later Mimi is 100% healthy and a "typical" child. She always has been. We're not sure why her file was obviously mislabeled, and I've called out a couple key people about it, (like the orphanage director and our agency) who never gave us a straight answer. We have our own theories. I think the answers to this will matter to Mimi someday. And maybe not. All that to say that Mimi's adoption was very unusual in regards to special needs. It does happen very rarely that a child is adopted via the special need's program and found to not have any special needs at all, but it is incredibly rare and not something that potential adoptive parents in the special need's adoption program should aim for. 
Around 2014 we all started to talk about a boy missing from our crazy family, an older boy. We jumped back into foster care, and despite how it ended, part of my heart still remains with the broken foster care system and the children in its care. I still can't fully accept how we couldn't make adoption through foster care work for our family. We told anyone and everyone in the system that we were looking for our next child, a boy, and not a baby. We had several amazing children come and go through our doors, and I cried the big huge ugly cry as each one of them left. Ultimately we gave it 2 years and unhappily closed our foster license, again bitter due to the complete ineptness and dysfunction of the system. I commend and weep for the wonderful families that give their all to be foster parents, especially in Arizona. I wish I had it in me. I don't. We looked all over Arizona for our son for so so long, but he just wasn't there. 

So in 2016 our hearts went back to China, knowing full well that there were so so many older boys that desperately needed a family to give them their forever. And we needed him even more! 
The first photo we saw of Ru
We first saw Ru's photo in the fall of 2016, and last April he finally came home to his very own forever with us. Again this was a special need's adoption, (Ru has a life-long vascular disorder) and again it wasn't easy. I say now with a better understanding, that older child adoption really ain't for sissies! Until you're in the throws of tantrums and unwrapping 7 years of institutionalization, you don't know what you're missing! With 6 months behind us, I think l can say now that we totally lucked out with beloved Ru. He is simply amazing. He wants this family, and he wants to be obedient and fit it. He works so hard for it all, and his resiliency, the same resiliency that helped him get through surgery after surgery in China until his forever family could come for him, is strong and abundant! And not all older-child adoptions are like this. We're currently working with a team of doctor's to figure out a plan for Ru's medical needs. In hind sight I wish I could tell 10-year-ago me how little the medical needs of all our children (both our bio and adopted kiddos, because the bio kiddos have have thrown some doozies at us too!) affect us so little, especially when compared to the needs and stress of trauma and attachment. 
For the most part, if you've been reading about what goes on here, you know I'm a pretty open book. I believe that honesty and truth make both of us better. But I will tell you that there were failed adoptions in the in-between times that I was (am still) just too devastated to tell you about. There were times that I was certain that I broke my family, and we'd never recover. There were times (are times) that I was positive I had completely failed as a parent, and my child would never reach their potential because of it. All of us are far from perfect and have made both small and big mistakes, sometimes really big mistakes. Marriage and parenting is hard under "normal" circumstances, and recently I've personally learned what a panic attack feels like. It's easy to put the good and happy stuff on a Christmas card, or Facebook... or a blog. But the hard stuff is hard, and not everything can or should be shared with on the www. For that I'm sorry, that you get an incomplete picture of the crazy, wonderful mess that I have shared with you over the years, the one that's slanted to the good and the beautiful. Thankfully we've also had more than our fair share of good and beautiful moments too, and funny joyous, successful and the oh-dear-God-we-finally-made-it-though-that moments too! Those are the cherished times that I remember and savor when the rubber meets the road. 

And then I blinked, and 10 years flew by. 
New family photo that includes Ru coming next month!
Getting things done promptly is evidently one of the many things I've let go. 
I'm getting wrinkles and more grey hair than I want. My children are growing and several have already grown up. Our blog, which started with the Crazy 8, morphed into the the Crazy 9 and ultimately Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 10. More children have been grafted into our family in the last decade, yet it all seems like yesterday. We've tied up the score with 4 girls and 4 boys so we're pretty sure that we're done growing our family. For all of you that have read over the years, I want to be very intentional with thanking you for being my online family and friends. I honest to goodness mean that. I've been honored to meet many of you in person, and even if I haven't, I've made so many friends from all over the world in those 1,438 posts... and counting. Thank you to those of you that reached out and commiserated with me when times were tough, and there have been many of those times. Thank you to the people that said You're not alone. Thank you for telling me that maybe I inspired you to try something new and amazing. Thank you to those that donated on my service trips to Chinese and Viet orphanages. Thank you to those of you that supported us financially by taking a photography class, or 2, or more. Thank you for your advice when I've asked for it on everything from slow cookers, to deodorant to surviving teenage drivers. Thank you for your prayers through it all. We needed them. There's still so much more to come, and at least for now I have no intention of stopping this crazy blog. I'm not sure where we'll be a decade from now in 2027, but I know He has some amazing things in store for us, likely with quite a few more bumps in the road along the way. 

PS - This post was written in conjunction with No Hands But Ours. Here are a few of my favorite NHBO posts that remind me of how far we've come in the last 10 years!
A tiny bit about me and my own battle with loss
When we took Mimi back to a visit at her orphanage
Another letter of reflection
What adoption feels like from a child's perspective
A note I wish I could give the strangers.


6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. And thank you for your big heart.

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    1. You're quite welcome. It has helped me process (and keep sane!) over the years. And thank you for following along and being a part of it!

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  2. Thank you Nancy for sharing your heart and soul. It is so good to read about the real and hard parts of life. You have truly touched me with your words. Thank you!

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  3. I have only been following you for a short time & now I have to go back & read the earlier posts. Thanks for sharing:)

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    1. You're very welcome. It has been a blessing to me too. Holler if you have any questions!

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  4. Nancy, I have enjoyed following along with your family and watching it grow ever since I first "met" you on RQ as we waited to travel for our kiddos (you for Mimi and me for Gabe) in 2012. It is always refreshing to know that we all travel a very different yet very similar road as parents in this crazy world. Thank you for always being honest about the difficult things and for sharing the joy in all things! Keep sharing and I will keep following...

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