two months ago today

January 21st was the day we saw his precious face for the first time.

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And today is March 21st.  So today marks two months together as a family of five!

Yesterday I took Josiah out for a bit to enjoy our spring snowfall.  And while I imagine it was his first encounter with snow, he was unimpressed.  What he DID enjoy, however, was showing off his newly acquired walking skills.  He obviously thinks he’s awesome.

And he is 🙂

Some of you may remember that I called him “chunky monkey” from the start, after eyeing his quite substantial thighs in those referral pics.  And here in these photos, I can’t help but notice his adorable chubby / chunky cheeks, together with the monkey hat.  Chunky monkey, indeed!

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an odd and jarring encounter

“If you show me that again, I’ll throw up! It’s so weird!” she shouted, while her hands grasped her neck and she made exaggerated puking gestures.

It was Saturday morning at the McDonalds playground, and this little 7-year old girl didn’t seem to know how to cope with my 1-year-old son’s missing left hand.

After a few more puking gestures and shouts announcing Josiah’s difference and proclaiming its “weirdness,” the girls and I made our exit.  Josiah, blissfully unaware, remained happy in my arms.

The encounter had started as a really positive one.  The little girl was initially enthralled with 小弟弟 xiao didi (little brother) and made a big deal of how cute he was.  Because his sweatshirt was covering the end of his arm, his difference wasn’t obvious at the start.  But when she grabbed for his hand to help him up the stairs to the slide, she realized something was up.

“Grace mama!”

“小弟弟的手指怎么了 Xiao didi de shouzhi zenme le?”

“What’s wrong with little brother’s fingers?

Many of the children in our circles refer to me as “Grace mama” or “Rose mama.” (Cute, huh?)  This particular little girl knows me as Grace’s mom, as she and Grace were preschool classmates a number of years ago.  She was also part of an enrichment class where I taught English and has been to our home with her mother a couple of times for holiday events.

In response to her question about Josiah’s fingers, I gave her what is now becoming my standard explanation for children:

“He was born missing his left hand; it just didn’t grow in his birth mom’s tummy. But he’s ok – he’s healthy and smart, and he can do the things other one-year olds can do.”

I’ve had the opportunity to have this discussion with curious little ones a few times now.  At this point they are usually satisfied, unphased, and ready to get back to playing.  But this little gal considered my words, and then for whatever reason began to shout repeatedly:

“小弟弟没有手 xiao didi mei you shou! 太奇怪了 tai qi guai le!”

“Little brother doesn’t have a hand!  It’s so weird!”

After a few such shouts, and when it was clear she had no intention of calming down, I pulled her aside and said: “Yes, little brother was made a little differently, but shouting is not polite.”  And then in a rather serious tone, I told her firmly, “That’s enough.”

I really thought that would be it.  But around this time, one of my girls pulled up Josiah’s left sleeve so that the girl could see for herself that all this was really no big deal.

That’s what brought about the puking gestures and the rather over-the-top behavior I described at the start of this post.

As I reflect on this experience, I have a lot of compassion for this little girl.  I imagine that she has her share of social struggles, and it seemed clear that her mother (who I spoke with later) didn’t know how to handle her.  Thankfully, as the girls and I began to pack up to go, the little girl became more subdued.  She seemed to realize that her behavior had chased her playmates away.  Her demeanor allowed me to have a more positive goodbye, and I had a chance to talk with her about not needing to be uncomfortable around those who are different.

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the boy in the red sleeper (thoughts on adoption)

I can’t get this image out of my mind . . . the little boy, nearly two years old, in a red sleeper.  His face is turned away from me, and he is rocking on all fours, rhythmically, soothing himself somehow with the sensation of his head hitting the floor, again, and again, and again.

I want to go to him, but there is a glass window in between us which separates his room from mine.  And my arms are full as it is, with another little boy dressed in his own flannel sleeper.   He cries each time I try to set him down.

So I won’t set him down anymore . . . at least not until volunteer hours are over at 11:00.

This orphanage is better than most.  The kids are warmly dressed.  They are well fed.  There are clean toys to play with, a comfortable mat to play on, and a neat row of cribs with quilts for each child.  There are volunteers who visit regularly to hold and play with the children.  The older children have the chance to go to school in orderly classrooms with kind teachers.  Special visitors come to bring treats, and sometimes the kids go on outings to McDonalds or for pizza.

But it’s an institution.  The room I visited that day had fifteen children around the age of one year old.   Some are healthy, but some have coughs and colds, and others have more serious medical concerns.  There are two caregivers this day, and two volunteers, so I’m sure the ratio of a caregiver to child is far better than many places around the world.  But it’s still not nearly enough, especially when it’s time for all fifteen to have their bottle, be changed, and put down for a nap.   To be held or rocked while being fed is a luxury these babies seldom experience.  Children lay alone on their backs, and stuffed toys serve to prop up bottles until each child gets their fill.  On a previous visit a friend made the comment: “How it must affect their minds and hearts as they grow, to be just one of so many.”

Yes.  Indeed.

I look through the glass again . . . the little boy in the red sleeper continues to rock, and another little one stands facing me, face scrunched up, crying . . . crying . . . crying.  He persists in his cry, a sign he has not yet given up hope that there is comfort to be found.  I’m glad for that.  Two others his size toddle over to bring comfort.  One pats his back, the other pats his head.  I smile at the sweet scene of little caregivers hardly old enough to pat a back without losing balance themselves.  And were it all taking place in a MOPS group, moms would laugh while grabbing for cameras, all the while praising their little ones for being such good friends.  But here, such precious moments feel different.  The boy stops crying, but whether he is comforted or just distracted, I am not sure.

I ride my bike home, taking in the scenes of the city, stopping for a moment by the canal to try to process it all.  But today, as is true for every other day, there are no simple conclusions.  I think of my daughters’ origins and their lives now,  so vastly different from what I’ve just seen.  I think of our Josiah, miles away in another of China’s many orphanages, and hope that someone held him while he drank his morning bottle.   I look around at the energy and noise of the city and think of the complexity of the socio-economic and cultural forces which have led to what I saw this morning.  The sheer magnitude of the orphan crisis is staggering.  The problem is great.  The numbers are huge.  Solutions are only partial.

It is the wait for Josiah, I know, which causes me to feel and experience all of this so deeply.  I have tried to insulate my heart from the pain and agony of the wait.  I try to set safe and realistic estimates for when we can expect to hold that little chubby wonder in our arms and welcome him home.  I try not to think too much about his life in an institution, for although I have been told and trust that he is under good care, I also know that an institution is no place to grow up.   It’s these bi-weekly visits to the orphanage that so definitively cut through my resolve, intensifying the longing I feel to care for my own son. But though the visits bring heartache, they also expand my heart to love more deeply and effectively.  It is a gift to have the opportunity to be a part of these children’s lives, and has been one of the greatest blessings of these recent months.

I read an article today, written by an adult adoptee, expressing some disdain with what she sees as a trendy modern adoption movement.  And though I agree with many of her points, it’s hard to know what to do with such criticism.  There are certainly realities in the adoption ‘industry’ which are nauseating.  But at the same time, adoption is my hope and prayer for these little lives I see each week.  There are a handful of kids in this orphanage who I know have families who are waiting to bring them home, longing to embrace them and celebrate their lives.  When I see these sweet kids each week, I am beyond thankful to know that this is true.  A few weeks ago when I learned that one little gal with CP has a family coming for her, my heart smiled all day long.  This is good.  A glimpse of His redemption.

And yet, the image of that little one in the red sleeper, rocking alone with no comfort, is the stark reality of many orphans around the world.   It’s a sickening reality.  And there are – literally – millions like him.  Certainly, the current adoption scene is flawed and is not a perfect cure to the orphan crisis worldwide.  Another blog post I read recently really hit the nail on the head:

 “Is adoption the answer? Not in the long term. Adoption is chemotherapy to the cancer of the orphan crisis. And like chemo, it is painful and sickening and makes your hair fall out and sometimes it doesn’t even work. In a perfect world, there would be no adoption. There would be no need.

But our world is far from perfect. 
And this imperfect world is full of orphanages full of children.”

I don’t really have romanticized views of the adoption process, as far as the way that it practically plays out in the midst of economic, cultural, and sinful complexities of our broken world. And yet . . .

I find adoption itself profoundly beautiful.  I rejoice that the Lord has given this provision for his children and marvel that this is but an earthly reflection of our own adoptions, as sons and daughters of the King.  As John Piper says, because adoption at the horizontal level is rooted in adoption in the vertical level of God adopting us, “adoption is greater than the universe.”

Yes.  Indeed.

an acceptable time . . . Ps 69:13

Last weekend one of our awesome photographer friends treated us to a photoshoot!  The photos, taken just a few days before Josiah’s 1st birthday, are intended to capture this period of waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . .

I found these yellow Adidas sneakers at the market just a few minutes before we started taking pictures.  I wasn’t sure about the yellow, but went ahead and got them because they sort of matched Mark’s.  But the more we worked with those little yellow shoes in the photos, and the more I look at them in Josiah’s stash of things, the more I love them!  And it goes without saying . . . I can’t wait to put them on chubby little boy feet!

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The umbrella is not just a prop . . . it really was raining!  But it wasn’t the downpour we thought we might get, much to our adventurous photographer’s dismay!  Thankfully the area under a nearby overpass provided great cover from the rain, and we took the rest of the photos there.

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ImageThankful for fun projects while we prepare and wait.  Thankful for friends who bless with their artistic skills.  Thankful for the season of anticipation which grows our love for our son and little brother more and more with each passing day.  And most of all, thankful that we can trust Him, knowing that all of the waiting is not in vain.  He is bringing Josiah to us in His perfect time.

” . . . my prayer is to you, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Psalm 69:13

just when you think you’ve heard it all . . .

Recently I saw a humorous video on facebook highlighting ridiculous comments made to adoptive families.  It made me laugh, but I didn’t add it to my page.  (though if you’re interested, you can check it out here) I was afraid it might give the impression that people have to be careful with what they say around me regarding adoption.  But let’s face it, we all say stupid things sometimes.   Sometimes when we want to show interest or find common ground with others, we don’t know what comments to make.  Sometimes we want to understand something, but we just don’t know what questions to ask.

Since our family is living and working in a culture that is not our own, the questions and comments we receive seem to multiply.  That makes sense, and I can accept it.  People are so kind to us, and because I know the intentions are good, I usually don’t mind the comments we receive on the street.  Almost each and every time I go out of the house with the girls, we have an exchange with someone regarding their adoption.

“She looks like a Chinese girl” 

“Are those girls yours?”

“But they have black hair.” 

“They don’t look like you.”

Or to the girls,

“Why are you speaking English?”

“Is that your mom?”

Once when Rose was riding her bike ahead of me, a passer-by called out:

“Ni you waiguo de mama ma?” (You have a foreign mom?)

“Shi de!” (Yep!) Rose called out happily, while racing by.

That girl doesn’t miss a beat!

It’s these questions that are the most common.  We hear them enough that the girls can pretty much navigate these conversations on their own.

We also get questions on language acquisition:

“What do you use to teach them English?  Can they speak Chinese, too?”

And on multiple occasions I’ve been asked whether I plan to tell the girls one day that they are adopted.

“Don’t tell them” I have been advised.  Oh my.

When I’m out with the girls, seldom do I get a comment or question I haven’t heard before.  But I know that when Josiah arrives, this will be different.  I’ve imagined what some of the new comments and questions might be, and have begun to formulate responses in my mind, both in English and in Chinese.  Words are powerful, and I think it’s important to get it right . . . not only for the one who posed the question, but for my daughters, and for Josiah, listening in.

But such things are hard to predict.  And even in these months as we wait for him to join our family, some comments and questions have been different from what I imagined.

“Do you think he’ll be able to get a job when he grows up?” asks a very sweet and concerned Chinese friend.  She was so relieved when I said ‘yes’ and was so thankful when I explained that he would be covered on our insurance.  This question reminded me that some of the people posing the questions live in a very different social, cultural, and economic reality.

I also never could have predicted this strangely thoughtless comment from my own culture:

“He’ll need a prosthesis when he’s older, or else he’ll just be walking around without a hand.” says the receptionist at a well-respected medical center in the US.  (In all fairness, I imagine she might have hung up from that phone call thinking, “What on earth did I just say?”)

Then today, at the local orphanage, I received two more comments I wasn’t prepared for:

“Ta shi zhengchang de ma?”

“Is he normal?” she wants to know.

Since my thoughts and emotions on that question go beyond the scope of this post, let’s just move on.

After sharing more about the girls and explaining that Josiah will be joining our family soon, I also mentioned that he is missing his left hand.

“Ah . . . zhe yang de hai zi congming”

“That kind of kid is smart.”  she says.

Let me just say that this is NOT one of the comments I had imagined, so I hadn’t given any thought to the comment at all, much less how to “get it right” in my response.

So I just laughed.

“Really?” I said, while laughing, with what I’m sure was a questioning, raised-eyebrow kind of face.

“Yes, really.”  she says.

So as soon as I got home, I shot Mark an email to let him know.  I couldn’t help but laugh even more when it occurred to me that Mark and Josiah will have this in common.  You see, here is another conversation we have now and then:

“You look Chinese” someone will say to Mark.

“My mom is Japanese, so I’m half Asian. I’m bi-racial”

“Bi-racial people are smart.”

Ha! And so, father and son will have this in common – this quirky and randomly ascribed inherent intelligence.

Like I said, “Just when you think you’ve heard it all . . .”

our LOA is HERE!

Woke up this morning to this sweet document in our inbox!  This is our Letter of Acceptance from the CCCWA . . . and it’s a HUGE milestone in our adoption process.  This means it’s likely that we’ll be able to pick up little Josiah sometime in January!  

I am content to celebrate this good news, as this document arrived more than a week earlier than our agency estimated.  But, I think you’ll still find me hoping and praying for a Christmas trip to Henan!  Wouldn’t that be grand!  

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