Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Uncle Adam

It started with hiring a new nanny last spring. During the interview process, the woman happened to mention her husband's situation. “Adam” was 40 years old and used to be a driver and work in construction. But then he was in a serious car accident and suffered horrible burns over his face and the upper half of his body. He lived, but healing burns left behind terrible scar tissue, and he was marked for life.

After he recovered, he tried to go back to his normal life. At first he looked for work, but no one would hire him because his disfigured face would "scare their customers away." He eventually gave up looking for a job, and for two years was left to stay at home while his wife worked hard to support their family, his sense of uselessness daily increasing. He would go out into the village or the city occasionally, running errands and looking for odd jobs, but he became increasingly broken by the stares. Then one day he was on an elevator with his wife in the city, and two women got on. One of them looked at him, and she started screaming.

He couldn't get off the elevator.

He had to stay there while she stared at him in horror, screaming in fear and revolt.

It was the last day he ever left his house.

After hearing the story from his wife during her interview, we suggested that she have her husband come in for an interview for an open gardener's position. The woman looked up with surprise, shocked that after hearing the story, someone would actually want to face her husband. He came a few hours later. During the first interview, he never made eye contact and kept his head lowered. Clearly very nervous, he wore a large hat to shield his face. When he was called back for a second interview, he couldn't hide his surprise. When he was offered the job, he nearly broke down with thankfulness and shock.

He started immediately... turning our sometimes overgrown backyard into a place of beauty and peace. The garden is the perfect place for Adam; he is mostly by himself, so he doesn't have to face the unwelcome stares of strangers. His task all day long is to prune, plant, and create beauty – a job given to a man who many treat as though he takes away beauty. All of the staff at our organization where instructed never to stare or treat him any differently than anyone else; those who did so would face consequences.

While the backyard is lovely, the restoration in his life is what is most beautiful. Adam says that it didn’t take him long to notice people at New Day treat him differently than most, and it has helped him gain confidence and hope for a bright future. He enjoys his work here, and feels comfortable around the staff and children. He’s become a great uncle for our little boys. Right now, Brett and Liam are both particularly taken with him. When the children are in the backyard, it is common to find these little guys trailing their Uncle Adam, “helping” him with things like feeding the goats and watering the lawn.

To see him today, confidently joking with our staff and tossing our kids up in the air, we’re reminded of how much has changed since he came to work here. We don't believe it was pure chance that brought this man to a job where generally the only people he sees are little children – little children who think it is completely normal to have only one leg or to have a twisted arm or to have a large birthmark in a visible place. Children who point and wonder where your scar for your heart surgery is... They aren't terrified of him, because they don't notice anything wrong.

Whether it is for the orphans in our care or our staff, this is what it is all about. Restoring the broken; bringing hope to the hopeless; lifting up the downtrodden.

Monday, March 30, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T








"What you want
Baby, I got
What you need
Do you know I got it?
All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect..."



Addison may be a tiny little girl, but she is packed with personality! She is always doing adorable little things that capture our hearts, and she also LOVES having an audience. So it seemed only natural that when this particular wig came out of the dress up box, that we should try it on our little Addison (or is it Aretha?).

If any child in our foster home has the "girl power" of Aretha Franklin, it would be Addison. She's got a very serious heart condition but has already overcome so much in her life. We know she's a fighter, and we're confident she's got a bright future!

"I will survive
For as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live and I've got all my love to give
And I'll survive, I will survive, hey, hey..."

Everyday Miracles

Love changes everything.

The transformation we've watched Forest undergo has been simply astonishing. He came to us as a hopeless little boy who nearly died from malnourishment and failure to thrive syndrome, but now he is a child with a ready smile, a sparkle in his eyes, and cheeks that have started to become downright chubby!

Miracles do happen. And we're blessed to see them every day.

Forest with his foster mother, Anna.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emily, Part II

We've been overwhelmed with loving responses to Caroline's post about Emily. We are so thankful to have such an incredible community of people who love our children. Even though it may be from afar, we can sense the power of your love in their lives. It gives them hope and joy and happiness.

Several have asked about Emily's papers. We do know they are in process, but we do not know when they will be submitted to the CCAA so that she can be matched. The adoption paperwork is processed by each child's home orphanage, and each province's office moves at a different pace. So, for those who have asked about how to find Emily's papers... at this point, we don't think they are finalized and ready to be matched.

We have no doubt that Emily's family will come in due time. It might be a family who is diligently looking for her file, or she might be matched with a family who falls in love with her without knowing her whole story. Whatever happens, we trust that she will not always be an orphan.

Our hope is that all of our blog friends will see the story about Emily as representative of what happens in the hearts of all children as they wait for a family. Yes, it is Emily's story. But it is really the story of all of our children and all of the orphans around the world who wait.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Emily

Last week was filled with such joy.

There is nothing like watching our kids meeting their forever families. There's an energy and excitement that is impossible to contain. But in the midst of all the celebration, we hurt when we see the vulnerable hearts of the kids who have not yet been matched.

And so, Friday was a bit of a tough day for our Emily.

At 5 years old, she's now one of our oldest children. She's bright and energetic - full of bubbling laughter and just a little mischief. She's a little tougher than most of our kids, not always letting herself be cuddled for long. We are so excited for the day when she'll be matched with a family - that day just hasn't come yet.

On Friday afternoon, our foster home was filled with anticipation as Abigail met her family for the first time. The children, nannies, and other staff were all excitedly sharing this unforgettable moment with them.

I was a little late walking into the playroom when Emily met me at the door.

She was on the verge of tears and held her arms up to me. I carried her over to the far end of the room, where we settled in on the sofa. Almost immediately she asked me, "Am I pretty?" I told her that she was BEAUTIFUL. She then told me that she could speak English - and started speaking every English sentence that came to her mind.

"Happy Birthday!"

"I love you!"

And then she began counting in English. "One, two..." When she got to "three," she attempted the word over and over again, trying to get the pronunciation just right.

"Tree...free..."

After several tries, she buried her face in my neck and started to cry.

Moments like these are so hard. Emily is such a precious girl, and all she wants to know is that she's worthy of being loved. She wants to believe that somewhere out there is a family that sees her as beautiful and smart and everything they hope for in a daughter. She wants to know that someday our playroom will be filled with laughter and joyful tears and lots of hugs - all for HER.

We know that day will come for Emily, as it will for all our kids. And part of the privilege of being here is getting to hold them tight, kiss away their tears, and tell them their parents are coming soon.

New Families

Late last week was full of new beginnings. Three of our children -- Joseph, Leah Hope, and Abigail -- met their forever families for the first time. Each of them has now joined their new family, and they've each started a new journey in life. Though each child looks forward to the day she joins her new family with great anticipation, it still isn't easy when the day actually comes. All of the kids were a bit fearful and nervous -- uncertain of what the future holds. But we know it is bright.

Joseph (now named Aaron) getting to know his new parents in the sandbox.

Joseph has a big brother; this is sure to be great fun!

A proud Leah Hope shows her big sister and big brother around the foster home.

On her last day at the foster home, we had a going away party for Leah. At seven years old, much of her formative years have been spent at the foster home, and we wanted to ensure she knew we were sending her off with lots of love.

Since Abigail was also leaving, we made it her party too! She and Leah passed out all the snacks and gave lots of hugs.

Abigail meeting her mom for the first time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rock On!

Brett just knows he's cool.

Put Brett in a pair of sunglasses, and instantly he becomes a rockstar. He absolutely loves trying on people's sunglasses and is hesitant to give them back to the original owner. He wears them a variety of ways - rightside up, upside down, and set on top of his head.

Wearing a pair of shades, Brett is no longer a giggly little 3 year old boy. He's cool. He's got a little attitude. He belongs in a leather jacket, signing autographs.

Having a lot of volunteers and visitors from America, our kids often learn funny phrases and songs that you wouldn't hear often in China. One of our volunteers, Lauren, taught Brett a phrase that he'll only say when he's wearing sunglasses. And when he says it, you can tell he believes it with his entire heart. Check out the link below to see for yourself!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes

If you're an adoptive parent, you're familiar with the snapshots of children taken with a red background. It's often the first glimpse a mom has of her child. What you don't see is what goes on behind the scenes of those photographs...


Ganlu got this fun shot as she was trying to capture Ethan's glowing smile for his adoption paperwork. Our star curtain holders from left to right are Sara (Assistant to Foster Home Manager), James (Carpenter), and Cindy (Cleaning Lady).

Going to the Market




Now that spring is here and we can spend more time outdoors, our children are coming up with all sorts of fun games. Yesterday afternoon, they noticed one of our tricycles sitting next to the storage room. They all crawled in and asked Grace, our Vice-Director, to peddle them around the yard. As the "Cart of Giggles" made its way around the yard, someone asked the children where they were going. Although they knew they were only going to go in circles, their creativity kicked in and they announced, "Women chu mai dongxi!" ("We're going to buy stuff!") We then asked what they would buy on their trip.

"Tomatoes!" they shouted.

"And watermelon!" someone suggested.

Pretty soon their minds wandered in the direction that all children's minds go.

"I want to buy candy," announced Emily.

"And ice cream! Let's get ice cream!" added Brett.

Each of the children added ideas, and they giggled with imagined anticipation. I think they could almost taste all the wonderful treats.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's Go To The Zoo!

On Tuesday the older kids from pre-school went on a big adventure to the Beijing zoo. On the way into the city, the kids chattered excitedly about which animals they were most excited to see. It was a gorgeous spring day – the pear trees were just beginning to blossom in Beijing, and the kids were thrilled to spend a morning outdoors.

As soon as we arrived, Brett was determined to lead the way! First, we went to the hippo and rhino house and he was the first in the door. But as soon as he got his first look at the hippo, he started screaming. He’d get so excited to see each animal, and he would tell everybody to hurry up as we were walking. But as soon as we got there, he’d burst into tears – all the while not being able to tear his eyes away from the animal that frightened him. We wonder if he’ll have the same penchant for scary movies in the future... The one animal that didn't scare Brett at all was the giant panda - Brett was fascinated!

But by far, the most popular place at the zoo for our kids was the monkey house. As we got close, the kids all started yelling in their adorable combination of English and Chinese, “Monkey de jia! Monkey de jia!” (“The monkey house! The monkey house!”) We saw monkeys of all sizes, swinging from the trees and even coming right up to the window to us.

After the zoo, we had lunch at Asian Star Restaurant. This restaurant serves amazing food and very generously serves us a free meal when we bring the kids into Beijing for a field trip. Our children LOVE to eat, and this day was no different. The food is served family style on a large round lazy susan. Every time a new dish was placed on the table, Emily would announce, “Wo yao zhe ge!” (“I want that!”) Pretty soon, her little plate was piled high. In record time, she’d cleaned her plate and was asking for more.

Across the table, Philip declared “Hao chi!” (“Good food!”) after each bite. When he finished eating, he asked everybody around him if they were full too. He took his plate, cup, bowl, and spoon and neatly stacked them on top of each other and then wiped off his tray with his napkin. Then he turned around and told the waitresses that the food was really good. It’s easy to tell his foster parents taught him table manners.

It was a fun day, filled with lots of happy kids and fully tummies!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Meet Sophie!

Cheryl has been matched with a family! We're so thrilled... each one of our kids longs for this day, so when it finally arrives for one of them, it is an all-out celebration. Cheryl has been proudly announcing to everyone today that her name is no longer Cheryl, it is Sophie. Sophie Sha Yue, to be precise. She's beaming today... her joy shows on her face!

A new name; a new beginning...

Looking at pictures of her Mama, Baba, and two Geges for the first time.




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Surgery


Today little Owen is having his anal atresia surgery. He's in surgery right now. Yesterday during the surgical consultation, the doctors told us that he has a very serious case and they don't anticipate that he'll ever have bowel control. We're hoping for a miracle, and we've seen enough of those in the past to know that nothing is impossible! We'll keep you informed about the latest.
UPDATE: His surgery was very successful! The doctor was pleased with the results, though we do now know at this point whether or not he will have bowel control.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unbridled Joy

The other day, some visitors came to the foster home and really connected with Julia. They asked her what she would like for a gift. Julia politely declined answering the question, but the visitors persisted:

"What would you like?"
Silence.
"I will count to three. If you don't tell me by three, I won't be able to get you anything."
Silence.
"One..."
"A DRESS!"
"Really, a dress? What color?"
"Purple!"
The very next day, they brought Julia a purple dress.
We were able to take these pictures as Julia saw the dress for the first time. The unbridled joy on her face is absolutely priceless. All it took was a little dress... It's as simple as a dress, yet it is so much more. Their kind act made Julia feel incredibly loved, valued, and beautiful. Our sponsors -- whether they ever meet their sponsored child or not -- play such an important role in making our children feel special.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Merry-Go-Round


Late last week, I was upstairs in the foster home for a few minutes. For some reason, the office chairs from a nearby office had been pulled into the upstairs playroom. Forest and Nathan climbed up on one of the chairs, and I started twirling them around and around. They loved it! About part way through the game, Forest got the bright idea to wave "hello" and "bye bye" as the chair turned around. He definitely thought he was quite clever. It was really cute.

Nathan was also so sweet. He was the first one in the chair, and at first, he didn't want to share with Forest. But, we managed to get them both sitting in the chair, and since Forest was a bit closer to the edge, we told Nathan to hold on to him. Nathan wrapped his little arms around Forest's waist and held on tight! They are such cute little guys... like brothers in every way.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Forest Goes to School

When he came, this was his constant expression. Blank and empty. Hopeless. Severely malnourished and unable to walk, we didn't know what his future held. But little Forest made remarkable progress, and now he's well enough to go to preschool.

It's hard to tell he's the same boy! Sitting on the front row of music class, on the edge of his seat, squirming with anticipation. Forest eagerly waits for each song to start so that he can leap up and begin dancing. (Which for him involves mostly bouncing up and down accompanied by non-stop giggles.) He's such a happy little guy, and we're thrilled to see the progress that he's made.
Please join us in hoping the perfect family finds him... since one agency already failed to match him, we don't know how many more adoption chances little Forest will get. (Nicknamed Evan by the placing agency.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love's Unlimited Potential

For our new website, we asked some of our foster parents to write some thoughts about their experience as a foster family. Since some of you might not find it on the website, I wanted to share it here... it is such a touching story.

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Foster Mom with Philip and Aaron

We became a foster family in 2007. The experience has changed our entire family. The first time I visited NDFH on July 26, 2007, I didn’t expect to see so many orphans with special needs. Though it was a surprise, the children’s eager eyes quickly captured my heart. I remember the moment I met Philip, the one I was to foster. I was shocked. His special needs were severe, but when he looked at me with his timid eyes, it was as if he were telling me that he was a precious child worthy of love. After over 40 days of training to learn how to care for Philip’s unique needs, he joined our family on September 6. Aaron came just 4 months later.

When they entered our lives, these two precious boys brought a lot of fun and happiness with them to our home. Our whole family has learned what love really is and how to love each other better because of them. I can’t express how much joy and gratification fills my heart when I watch them learn to roll over, work hard to take their first steps, and gain weight and height each month. In addition to the joy they bring to our lives, fostering children has been financially helpful for our family. It has improved our lives in many ways, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

My precious boys used to be left behind, forgotten, and hurt. But, by giving them love, I believe I can help them grow in confidence and hope for the future. There is no boundary to what love can accomplish. Some may wonder how we can love these boys who are not biologically related to us with such a deep love – but circumstances and relationships don’t have to limit love. We live together as a family and love each other as a family, and through this experience, we grow closer and closer together. Through building them up with our love, we also teach them how to love others and treat others with kindness. We hope that the love that we give our boys now prepares them for the rest of their lives.

Missing Birthday Girl

Addison and Elise


Someone asked in a comment about little Elise and her absence from her first birthday party. She was sick last week and couldn't attend the party. So sad. But she's feeling a lot better now, and we think she won't mind if we just give her an extra slice of cake at the party next month!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On a Roll


Little Philip is such a cute guy. He had severe hydrocephalus and spina bifida, but his is a story of overcoming the odds. He has made more progress than any doctor thought possible. He can't walk -- (yet) -- but that doesn't slow him down. We recently obtained a child-sized wheelchair for him to use.

He LOVES it. He rolls all over the preschool classroom. His favorite activity is to "chase" you into a corner and then try to bump into you with the big wheels of his chair. He breaks out in the cutest laugh when he manages to corner someone.

His wheelchair has given him a new degree of independence, and it makes him so happy. He's getting really good at maneuvering it, too! We really don't think there's anything Philip can't do.

One more thing -- isn't his wheelchair amazing? It is made from a small lawn chair, and it was donated by Living Tree. The guy that designed them uses cheap, locally available ingredientslike bicycle tires and plastic seats. Ingenious, isn't it?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday!








So last Friday we had the birthday party for all the kids born in February. The little ones don't care too much. But for Julia, who turned 5, this was a really big deal.

First of all you should know that the party was supposed to be on Thursday. But, at the last minute it was pushed to Friday because Julia had to go to Beijing for a medical checkup on Thursday. What's a party without the birthday girl, after all? But she was so upset. She cried and cried that she wasn't getting to have the party on Thursday, even though everyone told her she just needed to wait one more day.

So when Friday finally arrived, I ran over to preschool to see what time the party would start. No sooner had I walked into the preschool than Julia started shouting my name.

"Carrie! Carrie!" she yelled. I walked over to see what she wanted. When I was by her side, she started rapidly pointing at her chest with her cute, chubby little finger. She repeated -- over and over again, lest I fail to understand -- "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!" She was saying it in English, and her little Chinese/English accent is unbelievably adorable.

I wish I could fully explain how cute it was. I wish I'd had a video to record the moment. Her excitement was electric. It was her birthday -- she was already wearing the crown to prove it -- and she wanted everyone to know. One of my favorite things to see in our children are the moments when they really understand how special they are. For Julia, her birthday party was definitely one of those moments.