Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meet Lawrence!!

Let me tell you about a little boy I met in China.  His name is Lawrence! (Okay his real name is a Chinese name, but due to privacy issues we have given him an American advocacy name to protect his privacy ;)

How cute is this boy????  Our first sighting of him was in the classroom working on his Chinese writing and his numbers.

It turned out that he was participating in the advocacy camp and would be spending the day with us!  This boy is adorable!!  He is diagnosed with development delay, but he seems to be making great progress.  He followed all the music teacher's directions.  He sang songs and did motions and he was the only one out of all the kids there who was willing to stand up and show off for the visitors!! ;)

I noticed that he is quite small for his age.  He honestly seemed a little developmentally delayed, but it didn't strike me personally as anything more than institutional delays which from my experience have been overcome quite quickly. 

  He was such a happy guy!!  Eager to play and blow bubbles and just be a silly kid!!

Our advocates played games with him and even observed him putting together a lego set by himself.

He is just such a special little boy!!!!  His biggest need is a family!!  A family that will love him, support him, make him laugh, and help him reach his full potential. 

Are you that family?  He is currently listed with Gladney.  Additional information can be found at the link below.

UPDATE- Lawrence's file has been returned to the shared list.  Interested families can still contact Gladney for more details!
Thanks for stopping by to learn about these awesome kids!!

Changsha Advocacy Camp Day Two

Oh what an amazing day our final day in Changsha was!! We were told we'd be playing and getting to know the younger kiddos on this day and sure enough we did!!!

Before I even left the states for China I had two mama friends approach me in hopes that I might be able to see and love on their sweeties while I was in Changsha.  Because those children were already matched and did not need advocacy, I didn't expect to meet them but I hoped and prayed for the chance because I've been in their shoes!! I know what a joy it is to know that someone has loved on your baby while you are still waiting to get to them.  One sweet friend's daughter played playdoh with me on our first day in Changsha!! What a joy it was to see her and get to love on her a bit!

So when we walked into the baby room, the very first child I laid my eyes on was my other friend's daughter!!!

What are the odds???  I just couldn't believe it!!

And after her shock and disgust for Americans (we seem very weird looking and scary to her)  wore off a couple hours later, she even let me take a picture with her!!! ;)

And this little guy!!  When I first walked in and they started bringing children that were on our list into the room, Mr. Wu told me that he was sorry but the little guy with thalassemia I was looking forward to meeting was at the hospital getting his transfusion.  But it turned out that information was wrong, and he strolled right into the room a few minutes later.  The director knew I wanted to meet him, so she had him brought over for the day, even though he still had to be monitored for a reaction a day or two longer.  Isn't he adorable??

Look at all these babies!!!  And there were sooooo many we got to play with and get to know!!

And here's what gets me... These babies- all of them- need families.  And I don't just mean the babies we played with on our final day.  I mean all of the children we met and all of the children we didn't meet.  The orphanages in China and India and Columbia and Ukraine and Uganda and in so many countries around the world are filled with babies just like them.  Because whether they are 8 months old or 15 years old, they are all babies.  Babies in need of a mom and dad.

And after a fun morning of play, these particular babies were due for a nap!  So they sent us to lunch so the babies could nap!!

After lunch we were presented with a couple options for the afternoon.  We could play with the babies some more, go meet a few older boys to answer their questions about adoption, or 2 lucky people would have the opportunity to meet the staff and children at Butterfly Children's Home.  Knowing the work that Butterfly does and the precious kids they serve, I jumped at the opportunity to go meet the staff and children there, even though it meant no more play time with these precious little sweeties!!

Butterfly is a children's palliative & hospice care home right on the grounds of the orphanage.  They take in the sickest children, those who are unlikely to make it, and risk it all for those children!  They try to find resources to get these children miracle, life-saving surgeries at leading hospitals like those in Shanghai.  They care for dying children, sitting right by their side in their final days.  Their goal is to love on these children and bring joy to these children everyday, for as long as each child has.  They are truly Jesus hands and feet right here on earth.

I met their amazing director Naomi and she shared all about Butterfly, showed us around, and shared the babies' stories.  I still don't have words for everything she shared with us that day.  With brokenness all around, these special nurses and volunteers choose hope.  And they choose it everyday.

I'm attaching their blog for two reasons.  One- because you guys should be praying for their staff and children.  And two- because they need financial supporters to continue to do the work they are doing!!  Their staff dreams of growing and taking this level of care to other orphanages.  No child should have to die alone, but that is the sad reality without centers like Butterfly.  Please prayerfully consider supporting their work, whether in prayer or financially.  They are making miracles happen!!

After visiting Butterfly, I walked back to our hotel and began to get ready for the flight back to Shanghai the next day.  This trip was a dream come true.  An opportunity to truly make a difference, bringing you all the stories of so many children who are waiting for their forever families to come.  It also became an opportunity to begin a new level of advocacy for the many, many children who wait with thalassemia and I will share more about that in coming days.

Our time with the kids had come to a close, but my work had only just begun.  Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Changsha Advocacy Camp Day One!!

After a day of travel (where I lost my cell phone on the plane :( ) and a little exploration we got up bright and early to visit the children in Changsha.  Our hotel was very close to the orphanage, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy journey!  They are building out the subway more and some of that construction has taken up the sidewalk that used to be there.  We walked in the bike/moped lane, carefully dodging bikes, mopeds, & a few wayward cars.  China never gets old and always keeps me on my toes!!  In fact, I may have had a run-in with a moped on the way back to the hotel!  We decided to term it a “gentle caress”. J

We got to the orphanage and were introduced to the new international adoption director and the director of the orphanage.  The director is pretty new and is making a lot of improvements she was eager to show us.  She took us over to the rehabilitation center and gave us a tour of the facility, explaining some of the rooms they have and what they are used for.  She talked about the importance of getting her staff trained to use some of the high tech equipment they have recently received and explained some staff will travel to Shanghai to be trained soon.  Gladney’s representative talked to her about the potential of sending over a few to the states for more training or to send a training team to them.  This is the beauty of agency partnerships with orphanages.  It allows the agency to truly partner with the orphanage to help better serve the children in their care.  I know some people have gotten frustrated over orphanage partnerships and how difficult it can make adopting a specific child, so it was great to see the other side and see how these partnerships are making a difference for children in the orphanages.  I know as an adoptive parent who has had to switch agencies because Laila was a partnership orphanage child, it softened me a little to the sometimes hard line adoptive families are given by agencies.  We met some beautiful children and learned about the strides they have made since beginning rehabilitation.


We also got to see a new initiative Changsha has started to meet the needs of not just orphans with autism, but also children in the community with autism.  They have a facility where the children are taught and cared for.  This is huge because it gives a family who is afraid they can’t care for their child an avenue for helping their child while keeping their child in the family, reducing their likelihood of abandonment.

Next we headed over to play with the kids!  This group was older kids, age 4-10.  It started off with a few boys and their music teacher.  They sang songs and taught us the motions.  Then it was time for some one on one play!  First a few kids came in, then a few more, then some more and before we knew it we had a room full of chaos and fun!


This boy is just plain awesome!!  His name is Lawrence and I think he will be on Gladney’s list very soon.  He’s a little small for his age, but so funny and smart! 
We had a blast with him!!  And he is available for adoption with Gladney right now!

And sweet Lance started off painfully shy, but I made it my goal to bring him out of his shell!  Judging by that cute smile with the bubbles, I’d say mission accomplished!


The boy on the left is Luke.  I think everyone on the advocacy team loved him!! He was so much fun!!  He also played a song by ear after one of our advocates played it a few times for him.  Such an awesome kid!!

After lunch we played with a smaller group that included some of the boys from the morning out on the playground.  It was nice to move into a different environment to see how they were outside vs inside with a ton of kids to compete with for attention.  The afternoon brought a few new faces as well!

And that silly little cutie in the blue shirt?? He's so much fun!!  He will be available for adoption with Gladney very soon!

This little cutie girl had me working overtime!  Zoe was VERY attached to her ayis and not at all interested in being my friend at first.  Candy helped break down the wall, but when she started talking to me in Chinese and realized I couldn’t understand her- she gave up on me! Haha!!  She went over to an older couple sitting at a picnic table and chatted with them instead while they gave her chips! ;)  Isn't she beautiful???


What an awesome day!!  This trip has been busy, busy, busy.  We go from a full day of play to dinner (which in Hunan province means spicy and sooooo delicious) to a team meeting to share about the kids personalities with the superkids team who will try to find them families.  There’s been a few that our advocates have fallen for as well!  Can’t wait to see these kids get families.
As this day came to a close, I couldn’t believe that the trip was already rapidly coming to a close.  We only had one day left and then we would be heading home.  I pray that as we learn about these precious children we can break down some of the walls people have toward older child adoption, including myself honestly.  These are just regular kids.  Sure, they come from a different background and they’ve experienced trauma but that is not what defines them.  After spending this time with these older kids, I can see more than ever that they are just regular kids in need of a family.  In China, a child ages out of adoption eligibility on their 14th birthday.  At that point they will never be adopted, never have the support of a family, never get the opportunity to be an aunt or an uncle, and unfortunately they will walk out into life completely unprepared for what awaits.  The fate of children who age out is sad and scary and I just can’t imagine one of these awesome boys having to fight that fight all alone.  I will readily admit that while I loved the idea of older child adoption, I also found it downright scary but now I see how amazing it is too.  These kids are great kids.  They are great kids who need someone to tell them "Yes, I will be your mom and love you forever." 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Shanghai Advocacy Camp Day Two!

Oh what a day the second day with the kids from Shanghai was!!!  Words cannot do today justice.  We were supposed to be going strawberry picking with the ten or so kids that were the official advocacy camp group, but we were rained out.  Instead we took a bus to an indoor children’s recreation area called “10” or “Perfect”.  On the way there I played with Jack & Helen, broke up fights between them (they are like a brother & sister in every since of the word!) and just sat there smiling as I saw their sweet times of interaction.

Once we got there it was all smiles and excitement!!  The older kids who’d been pretty conservative during day one and hadn’t seem all that happy just lit up when we walked into this place.  THIS was something they were definitely into!!  We started off in an indoor playground area, the kind you really only see in China, with ball pits and water obstacles and toy cars to ride around on and little soft spinning carnival type rides. 

Then we headed over to an area where each kid got to make their own cotton candy stick, spinning it around in the floss.  Like most kids I know, this was a hit with them all and the only thing they like more than making it themselves is eating it themselves and going back for seconds!!!  After this they sugared them up even more as they got to “make” their own ice cream.

So, making no sense to me at all, we then took the fully sugared up kids and asked them to sit down and do some art projects!! LOL

During this time I was working with my buddy Jack, the little guy with low vision.  I don’t know if it was his silly personality, the fact that he spoke English, or both, but I just loved this kid!!!  These projects were particularly difficult for him because of his low vision.  He has one spot on his eye that he can see out of, so he has to pick things up and put them right in that line of sight to be able to see them.  It was amazing to watch him lift things up where he could see them and then work on the project.  Being the silly kid he is, he kept telling me how hungry he was and since I didn’t have his lunch to feed him he kept threatening he was going to eat me.  This went on and on for about an hour, Jack telling me he was hungry and “I’m going to eat YOU!!!” and me telling him “No, no!! Don’t eat ME!  I’m not FOOD!!” and him pretending to eat me and all that.  As I saw he was starting to get a little bored with the project I pulled out a chocolate chip granola bar and asked him if he’d ever had one.  He said yes, so I offered him the bar.  The look on his face as he took the first bite was so cute.  It was like he’d just tasted the most delicious thing he’d ever had.  He completely focused in on eating this granola bar and finally looked up for a second and told me, “I don’t want to eat you anymore.  I want to eat this!  I won’t eat you, I like you.” LOL!!! This kid is so awesome!!! I’ve GOT to help him find his family!!!

After the projects came the main event for most of the kids… Baking with the Chef!!

We all put on our aprons and the kids got fully dressed and ready to bake some cookies and cakes.  The chef was just amazing with the kids.  He even brought the eggs closer to Jack so he could be sure Jack saw them too.  This is the part where the older ones just really reminded us that they were typical 9-11 year olds through and through.  This was right up their alley.  They LOVED it.  Even Hunter, who had been so careful not to let people see his hand deformity, became absolutely unapologetic as he used his hand to push down the cookie cutter and make those cookies!

After the baking was done the older kids just surrounded the chef to ask him questions and play with him.  It was a great thing to see how well-adjusted these older kids actually are when placed in an environment that they are excited about with someone who speaks their language.  I think it provided us all with a little more understanding of how these children will do with a family in America once they adjust.

We thought it was time to go at this point as we headed down the stairs, but this is actually where our #becausechina moment started to unfold.  As we walked into the parking lot they had us make a right instead of a left and we found ourselves at a goldfish pond.  I assumed we were there to feed or see the pretty goldfish. 

I was wrong.  They handed the kids little carriers and small nets and told them to catch some goldfish.  What???? I looked over at the international director for the orphanage and asked her if this was okay and she assured me it would be fine.  But as a mom, I could see that this was going to be a terrible idea.  We had an hour-long bus ride to get back to the orphanage & foster families.  There was a walkway you needed to go out on to catch a fish and my buddy was way too vision impaired to be out on that walkway by himself!!! This was just the craziest, funniest, most chaotic thing I may have ever done!!!  Kids catching fish and leaves and more fish and more leaves.  Goldfish being dropped on the ground before being picked up and put into their new tiny home.  At one point one of the older girls picked out a larger almost belly-up fish and stuffed him by hand to make her too big fish fit into her carrier!!!!  (Thankfully some ladies stepped in and gave her some guidance that the too-big fish needed to go back into the pond J)  Then one sweetie FELL INTO THE POND face first next to me!!! So I’m holding onto my little almost blind buddy whose leaning over the side on one side of me and I’m trying to help another child as two ladies try to get her out of the 5 inches of water!!! Somehow she was fully wet on both sides from head to toe in dirty, fishy water!! Poor thing!!  Once all the kids had caught, with our help, 4 fish each we headed to the bus.  As they walked, fishy water splashed out of the carriers onto them, but they didn’t care!!! They were ALL grinning from ear to ear SO proud of their newest little friends!!!  And as you might expect… Two kids dropped their fish carriers onto the floor of the bus with fish and water going everywhere.  Our team members scooped up the fish, put them back in the carrier, and they were refloated with bottled water ;) !!

What a funny, memorable day this was!! The kids all had a blast, the advocates all had a blast, and as we pow-wowed with the Superkids team that night there were shrieks of laughter as we retold the tales of the day!!  What a wonderful day that I will never forget!!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Shanghai Advocacy Camp Day One!

What a day the first day of our trip to Shanghai was!!

I honestly didn't know what to expect.  All we knew was we'd be spending the day getting to know around ten children and of these, two have thalassemia and have been listed with Gladney.  I'd asked for the opportunity to meet all the children with thalassemia since I have such a heart for these kids and desire to see them find families.  Of course, no promises could be made on this and I had no idea if I'd get to meet only those two or the others....

I was in shock when I was handed the list.  He told me they had agreed to send ALL the kids with thalassemia over to spend the day with us.  I was so excited I hugged Mr. Wu and told him I promised I would find a family for all of them!!! (Sure it was dramatic, but I was crazy excited and I did mean it!  These are amazing kids!!)  We met and spent the day with over 16 kids on this day.

 This little girl caught my eye the second we walked in the room.  She was sitting in a chair so quietly and patiently.  I immediately thought she was one of "my" thal babies and sure enough she was!!

And then there were more thal sweeties!!!  This little boy in blue is so funny and played for hours.  The little girl in red was quiet at first, but came out of her shell quickly.  She excitedly picked out a hairbow with the other girls and wore it around proudly.  She also was very excited to get a set of Lego Friends to play with.  Once she set it up, she pulled it apart so that it could go into the box.  I noticed it became her little treasure, she was determined that it was hers and she'd be taking it with her.  When her bow kept falling out, into the "treasure box" it went so she could make sure it went with her too!

This awesome girl is currently on Gladney's Designated list and her name is Hope.  She is such a special girl.  She loved drawing pictures and singing with our little Frozen songs music player.  She also pulled out some crazy good dance moves and followed every bit of the moves in some dances we did!
This girl... She has thalassemia and is just SO AWESOME!!!  She's 8 years old and we are hoping she will have paperwork ready to go soon so that she can be adopted.  I adored her!!  She was just so smart and funny.  She always had a smile.

I actually recognized this boy from prior advocacy.  This is a dinosaur drawing that he did with us and then he showed it off to everyone.  He and I played balloon toss (and kick) for a while!!  He's just a typical boy!!

These two boys had so much fun.  The boy in the brown is Hunter and he is on Gladney's Designated List.  He is eligible for adoption and waiting for a family!  The boy on the right has been advocated for many years as "Emery".  It seems he may have a family ready to commit to him which is so awesome!  He also has thalassemia!!

 I enjoyed EVERY SECOND of this time!!  This is when I was doing art with the girls!!  The girl on the right is also on Gladney's designated list now listed as Haley.  She seemed very smart and had so much fun with us.

And this boy is Jack!  Is it okay to say he's my favorite??? He speaks fluent English!!!  And because I could understand him, I could also understand just how funny he is!!  At one point he was playing with another advocate and pretended he was going to drop water into his nose.  Then he told her "I'm just kidding!  I'm not an elephant!!"  He has low vision but he can see well enough to navigate the world on his own and he can see when he puts things up close to him in just the right spot.  He was so fun and I am determined to find him a family!!  He has a video on Gladney's facebook page.  Oh, such an awesome boy!!

There were so many more, but I've learned that readers will only read so much!!  So I'll share more soon about the other kids we met.

This day was a dream coming to life for me.  God has placed such a burden on my heart for the orphan.  Jesus spent his ministry loving on the last and the least.  This is his heart guys!!  I hear so many people say they've considered adopting.  Just go for it!!!  I know it can seem overwhelming but it's not.  You just take one step at a time until one day your child comes home for you to show the love of a family.  These kids need families!!  No orphanage, no matter how nice or loving, can replace the most basic need of these children.  They NEED families!!!

So much more to share soon.  If you are a Christian can I just encourage you to pick one of the kids I meet over this week and start praying for them?  Every child should have someone interceding for them daily.  We all pray for our kids, but these kids have no one praying for them and we know that prayer does make a difference.

Thanks for following along on the trip!  More stories from China soon!!! :)