Monday, March 31, 2014

Asher's Excellent Taste

Who knew that Asher had such excellent taste in shampoo? The fantastic German company, Little Flowers of China e.V., recently organized the delivery of some very useful items, clothing, diapers and shampoo! Asher was around and in need of a good scrubbing, like most boys are, and so we tested the soap out on him.

He's never going back. German shampoo is the way to go! Thanks, Little Flowers of China e.V.!

The New Day Song

In some ways it feels like we've never left.  The same squawking geese gather behind the foster home's back wall.  The same laughter wafts out the doors and windows.  The same cacophony of horns beeping, engines chugging and birds singing on the road rises right outside the back yard's wall, sometimes drowning out everything else.

I close my eyes and listen, and it feels like we've never left.

Just over three years ago, my husband and I packed up our home, dog, and newborn daughter to return to America after nearly 4 years living, working, and loving in this place.  I asked Jacob how it felt to be back, and he said, 'It feels like we're just returning from a long visit home.'  I couldn't agree more. 

But what makes me realize just how much time has passed is looking at the faces of the children... the little ones we knew and loved are almost all at home with their families now.  My heart swells to think of the sheer number of little ones who waited and longed for a mama and baba of their own who now wake up in their own beds with their family down the hall and hear the birds singing outside their own bedroom's window.

And I see the little ones here now... faces I only knew from the blog, Facebook, and the website.  Children I hadn't met in person until this week. New faces, but it seems their histories and challenges are more dire than the ones who came before.  Their stories break my heart – it seems the cacophony of tragedy and trauma faced by these children when they were not yet strong enough to hold up their own heads would be loud enough to drown out any song of hope.

But it isn't. 

I watch a nanny cuddle her little charge as she gives her a breathing treatment... playing with her ten little fingers and toes and teaching her that she has worth and value, and I hear a song rising.

I watch a speech therapist, who was once 'just' a nanny from the village but received training from short-term therapy volunteers, coach hard-to-form sounds from the mouths of little ones who some said would never speak, and I hear a song rising.

I watch the foster home manager come home from taking a child to meet her adoptive family.  She knew just what to say to help prepare the little girl's heart – as well as anyone could - for an unimaginably big transition, and I hear a song rising.

I watch a pre-school teacher working on her curriculum and teaching children with joy; celebrating their abilities and expecting their success, and I hear a song rising.

I cuddle a tiny 6-month-old baby girl who was so small when she came, it doesn't seem possible that she could have survived.  I hold her on my lap and she coos and gurgles and I hear a song rising.

Each time I come back to this place, the faces of the children are new – but the song is the same. It's a song of hope and redemption and restoration.  A song that says while the past may be full of bitterness, brokenness, and tragedy, today is a New Day and it is worth singing about.  A song that says though the world might see these children as beyond hope, worthless, even discarded, they have value and unimaginable worth.  

It's a song I know well.  My heart sings along, and it feels like home to me.

This post was written by former long-term volunteer, Carrie McKean
Sunday, March 30, 2014

NDNorth: A Knitting Circle

Read the first part of our "Family Day" at the orphanage here!

After some English lessons and lunch, we broke into groups and some of us girls worked with the older girls at the orphanage to knit. We brought the yarn and needles, which was super-exciting for them! Many of them had learned to knit in the past, but never had an opportunity to keep working on projects because they didn't have access to materials. Well, of course we left everything with them! Hopefully the girls won't be too busy in school to be able to knit. Some of them were rather proficient.

For some of the younger girls, we brought some rubber-band bracelet making... they loved it!

...and of course there was cookie decorating. We baked all of the cookies and brought them and icing and sprinkles to the orphanage. It was a mess, but a lot of fun.

Coming next.... kickball! 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

NDSouth: Snack Time for Leila

Leila loves to eat. And for a girl who used to be on a strict diet when she was in the hospital all those months, we don't blame her! She is quite often the last one to finish her snack (either her or her good friend, Kate). Leila sure loves her apples. She loves them so much that she thinks "apple" is the English word for several different objects.

 "Okay everyone, I'm done now! It's time to play!"

"Where did they all go? I didn't take that long did I?"

"Hello? Is there anybody out there to get me out of my high chair?"

"Hello? Anybody?"

"Okay guys, this isn't funny anymore... or maybe it is."

Here we are Leila, it's time to play!

Leila has come so far in the 17 months she has been in our care. She is often making us smile with her silliness and as you can see, she loves to ham it up for the camera. Sweet Leila, you are such a blessing!
Friday, March 28, 2014

Wayne's Adventure (co-starring Violet and Tessa Joy)

Once upon a time Wayne's foster mama told him that they were going to go play outside. Wayne was pretty excited, and managed to wait patiently as his mama put his socks and shoes on.

His patience didn't last long, though, and by the time he was dressed and ready to go he was ready to go outside now and couldn't understand why he needed to wait for his mama to get ready herself. "Come on, mom, let's go!"

Finally, it was time to go outside. The apartment complex that Wayne and his foster family live in is rather large, with a lot of nice places to run around outside... and some sets of stairs to climb up.

They started out by playing ball, which was a lot of fun. Wayne has gotten pretty good at the game of "fetch," just nobody tell him that it's usually a game that humans play with dogs. 

Balls are fun, but do you know what's even more fun? Bubbles! You know that you've found a smart foster mama when they bring bubbles on outdoor adventures. Wayne was so excited!

"You try to blow" his foster mama encouraged. But Wayne was too excited, too busy smiling, to blow hard enough.

Well? So, what's next? What should we do now, mama?

Hooray, we're going to visit my good buddy, Violet! Violet's foster family also lives in the same apartment complex, and all of our foster mamas are good friends with one another.

Want to play bubbles, Violet?

 But Violet was in a bit of a crabby mood... and it wasn't until Tessa Joy (who also lives in the same complex!) came by, that she cheered up.

All it took was a cuddle or two and Violet was as right as rain. What a good friend you are, Tessa!

Come on, girls, let's play!

But what happened next? Tessa Joy's dog, Zhuangzhuang, came out to play! Wayne was very excited and immediately hid behind his mama's legs so that he could enjoy the dog in safety. 

Eventually, the three toddlers figured out a safe way to enjoy the friendly dog. They didn't share their toys, of course. (what toddler does??)

Goodbye, lovely ladies! I'm sure that Wayne will give you a ring the next time he's heading out to play. Maybe he'll even share his bubbles?

A Friend Like Melinda

If you could take a look through our (huge) album of pictures of the children here at New Day Foster Home, you would be struck by something about the photographs of Melinda.  Yes, her amazing face-lighting-up smile, but something else as well.  In so many of the pictures she is with another child, showing affection to them.  You'll see her helping a toddler.  Hugging a friend.  Showing love.

There are a lot of little ones in the downstairs playrooms these days, like Gabriel, Adia, Lena and Talley, and Melinda is such a wonderful big sister to them.

Melinda turns six this summer and she's now one of the older children here.  Just as she has learnt compassion and affection from her nannies, teachers and volunteers, she now demonstrates those same qualities to the younger children.

Melinda embodies the famous 'Children Learn What They Live' quote by Dorothy Law Nolte;
"...If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love...."

Being a carer can be exhausting though, and every girl needs some best friend/big sister time.

Everyone needs a friend like Melinda.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NDSouth: Anna, Our Newest Arrival

On March 19th, sweet little Anna joined our family here at New Day South. Many of us have not met her yet as she was brought directly to the hospital where she was immediately admitted.

Just six days later, on March 25th, sweet Anna had her much needed heart surgery. She is now in CICU and is stable. These next few days are critical for her as she is the most prone to infection and complications. Please keep her in your thoughts as she recovers and gains strength.

Anna makes fourteen children at New Day South which is the most we have had at one time! We are so thankful for this little treasure and eagerly anticipate the day she is released and can come home. 

Welcome to the family, Anna!