Friday, May 20, 2016

A family to care for him...

When people look at Jacob I hope they see him for who he is - a handsome, adorable, brilliant little boy.  Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, including China, people find it hard to look past a person's disability.  Surely, it was because of Jacob's special needs that he was orphaned to begin with.

Jacob has arthrogyposis.  Because of this he has limited use of his arms and legs.  We know he was loved by his caretakers in China, but his future there would be very limited.

Here in the United States, with a loving family to care for him, Jacob will have access to the very best medical treatment.  We will travel all the way across the country if necessary to get him the care he needs.
See Jacob's legs.  I know his caretakers loved him, but it's the Chinese government and not his caretakers that has the authority over orphans and what medical care they do or don't receive.  We have no idea what surgeries were done on Jacob, when they were done, who did them, etc.  We do know he was sent last summer from his home near Beijing to his original province of Henan for surgery.  It breaks our heart that he had to endure that surgery, leave a home where he was loved, and travel to a much poorer province for surgery.  Even the guides in Henan thought it odd he had to come there for surgery.  It's not a place one would purposefully choose to go for medical care!  An American physician that was traveling with the adoption group was shocked over his scars.

We don't know much about the medical care Jacob received in China.  We know he was loved by his caretakers, but caretakers don't get to choose medical care for ophans.  Orphans need parents who can choose their medical care.  Thankfully, now Jacob has parents who will do whatever necessary to get him excellent medical care.

Everything we've read and heard makes it sound like Shriner's Hospitals are the very best for kids with arthrogryposis.  We have an appointment set up for Jacob at the Shriner's in South Carolina just a few days after he gets home.

We've heard good things about that Shriner's but we've also heard the very best doctors for arthrogryposis are at the Shriner's in Philidelphia.  The good thing is the doctor from Philidelphia who works on upper limbs goes to the Shriner's in South Carolina every 3 months, so when we are there next week we will get Jacob set up to see that doctor the next time he goes to South Carolina.

Unfortunately, the doctor at the Philidelphia Shriner's who works on lower limbs has a waiting list that is now approaching 2 years.  We're not willing to wait that long to get medical treatment for Jacob.  He's already waited 5 years, and those 5 years he's waited have likely already limited his treatment options.

So we're looking into the Shriner's all the way across the country (and other hospitals also, but it seems like Shriner's really does provide the best treatment options).  Once we see the doctors at Shriner's in South Carolina they can consult with the doctors at other Shriner's facilities (including the reknowned one in Philidelphia) and help us figure out our next steps.

Though we don't know exactly what the future holds regarding medical care for Jacob, we know he now has parents to ensure he gets the very best care possible.  No longer an orphan, now our beloved son!

Click here to help get Jacob home!


On Mother's Day of 2016 one little boy walked into the arms of his daddy and became one less orphan, one more beloved son.  Our son.  Our precious little Jacob.
Pondering this new daddy...
The hat says it all!  We know we was well loved by his caregivers.  They put this hat on him to meet daddy.  It says "LUCK."  Luck is an important concept in Chinese culture.  To be orphaned means you are unlucky.  To be disabled means you are unlucky.  Jacob was both.  Now he has a family, and that family will do everything possible to help him overcome his disablity.  Now Jacob is lucky!
Saying goodbye is never easy.  Jacob was well prepared for his new family.  He remembers his sister Hannah and keeps asking for her.  He wants to see his Mommy and the rest of his family.  He was happy to see his Daddy and his Grandpa.  Nonetheless, it's a huge and traumatic change when your world completely turns upside down.  When the reality (and finality) of what was happening hit him he fought and grieved with everything he had in him.  
Time to head back to the hotel.  So sad...
Safe in Daddy's arms.
Watching cartoons has been the great time occupier for him.
He's addicted to cartoons.  I guess it's to be expected for a little boy with limited use of his arms and legs.  I can't wait to open his world up to lots of new experiences beyond a tv screen (especially since we don't even have a tv!).
Okay, I'm ready to start my new life!  Are we going home now???  Caleb loved that he was wearing a Captain America shirt upon arrival to his Daddy.  Captain America and Superman are Caleb's favorite superheros.
You mean it's going to be almost TWO WEEKS before I get to go home???
This is the spot where Jacob was abandoned.  Right in front of the orphanage.  It truly breaks my heart to think of him laying there as a baby alone, cold, hungry, and wet.  Disabled.  Unwanted.  Abandoned. An orphan.  Now he is our beloved son.  He will be loved and cared for to the greatest of our ability.  We will travel all the way across the country if necessary to get him whatever medical care he needs.  He will be surrounded by love.  Adopting Jacob didn't change the world, but it sure did change HIS world for the better!
It's always a moving experience to visit an orphanage, to see so many babies and children with no family, many needing medical care.  The little boy in Grandpa's lap literally climbed out of the crib and into his lap to be held.  Children don't just need Mommies and Daddies.  They also need the love of grandparents, of extended family, of a church family, of friends, etc.  No matter how you help an orphan to have a family, whether it be adopting yourself or helping another family to adopt, you really are making a difference in the world.
While playing around in the hotel Jacob fell and got hurt a little.  He climbed up into Grandpa's arms for some comfort.  Is there any better way to show how adoption changes lives?  
There's still time to help get Jacob home.  You can make a tax-deductible donation here to help with the remaining travel expenses, all the more important with all the difficulty they are having getting home!  Please pray for flights to open up and for them to not cost a fortune!  

Travel Problems

My husband was supposed to arrive home today, but due to flight problems is still stuck in China.  He's had a hard time accessing internet, but he did manage to post an update on Facebook a few hours ago:

We tried to see about getting another flight tomorrow morning but they were all booked. We leave for Beijing at 9 PM. We have been in the airport since 9 AM. Fei Fei also had his first big poop so I was doing a mr. Mom right in front of everyone. The Chinese were giggling. All is well and we are hanging in there. For my dad and I it just reminds us of our days in the Air Force : "hurry up and wait".

This picture was taken when I dropped them off at the airport early on the morning of their departure to China.  They are ready to get back home!
The past couple of adoption trips Ernie traveled by himself to save money.  This time his dad went along.  I am so glad his dad was willing to take the time and money (he paid his own expenses) necessary to go along on this trip.  I think it was a great bonding experience for them, and what a great experience for Grandpa to be a part of Jacob's special journey home!  I know with the difficulty they are having getting home Ernie is sure glad to have his dad with him!

There have already been additional costs due to the travel changes, and they have yet to get new flights out of China (they have been trapped at the Guangzhou airport, have to first get to Beijing then try to get new flights out of China).  If you want to help get them home please click here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Immeasurably more...

Over the last couple of weeks we were asked quite a few times what our “fully funded” amount would be.  Each time I estimated it to be around $12,000.  The lowest number I gave was $10,500 while admitting "it might be a bit higher.”  (The actual overall cost of the adoption is over $30,000 - our FSP represents the donations given by others to help cover the enormous overall cost and does NOT represent the actual cost of the adoption.)

Just a couple of days ago, when it looked like our FSP on Reece’s Rainbow would never see any movement, I revised our “fully funded” amount to just $7,000.  Honestly, I knew we needed more than that, but I couldn’t bear to watch us struggle for help from others any more than that.  It was bad enough to ask for help at all!  While we have never been against fundraising for adoption and have always enjoyed helping others, we completed most of our 8 adoptions on our own without help.

The unfortunate part about funding so many adoptions on our own without help is that we still carry A LOT of debt from those adoptions.  Getting another adoption loan just wouldn’t be an option this time.  The only way we could bring Jacob home to be our son, to reunite him with Hannah to be siblings forever, would be to ask others for help.  We prayed people would see Hannah and Jacob’s story and want to be a part of it.

We were so thankful to those that helped us, but as of a few days ago we were pretty sure those who wanted to help had already done so.  While I knew this put us in a more difficult position financially than we had hoped for with this adoption, this biggest disappointment was not financial but rather emotional.

We have been an active part of the adoption community for over a decade.  We have rallied around others needing help with their adoptions, even while we struggled to pay for our own.  We have donated, we have advocated, and we have prayed for other adopting families and orphans.  In fact, in January when we got our tax statement for our donations to Reece’s Rainbow last year it was a bit surprising to see just how much we donated in a year in which we were adopting ourselves.  We have also been very strong advocates for the Reece’s Rainbow 5/5/5 program, literally begging people every month to sign up for this great program, and I know we have helped that program grow substantially, a program that helps 60 families each year.

We have helped a lot of people in a lot of ways, and while doing so we have seen the adoption community come together countless times to help people get their children home.  While we found it hard to humble ourselves enough to ask for help, at the same time we knew we would need it to get Jacob home.  We knew we could give Jacob the love and care he needed if we could get him home, but with his adoption being our 8th special needs adoption it would take a village not to raise him but just to get him home!

Almost 2 weeks ago the “Anonymous Angels” group blessed us with a $300 matching grant.  If we could get others to donate $300, they would then match it with another $300.  We struggled for nearly 2 weeks to finally get just $300 in our account.  I felt like giving up, which is why I revised our “fully funded” amount to $7,000.  I was depressed.  I didn’t understand why the community we had long supported didn’t want to be a part of Jacob and Hannah’s story.  I also struggled with the idea of pulling away from the community for awhile after our adoption.  We’d still donate to others, but I wasn’t sure I could be as heavily involved as before.  My spirit was broken.

Then yesterday.

Yesterday our internet was out.  

I didn’t have high hopes for our FSP.  I had given up.

Then late in the evening a text from a friend came through on my phone that barely works, sometimes, only barely.  The community had finally come together to support us!  

I. Could. Not. Believe. It.

I had given up, but it was not over yet.  I was in shock once I finally got to look at our FSP account today.  We reached that $7,000 and kept going!!!  

God knew our need was over $7,000.  I gave up, but He didn’t!  And neither did the adoption community.  And neither have our friends and family.  

If you are one of those who have helped to get Jacob home, whether it be donating to our FSP, supporting one of our fundraisers, sharing our fundraising links, and/or praying for us THANK YOU!!!!!

My spirit has been revived.  I am no longer depressed - I am in awe!!!!

My desire to help others has only grown greater as the help we have been given has grown greater than I dared to hope.

I am determined to see the 5/5/5 program grow to over $10,000 a month, and my ultimate goal for it is $50,000 a month!  That probably sounds crazy and seems impossible, but friends, NOTHING is impossible with God!!!

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 4:19

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throuhgout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.  -Ephesians 3:20-21

For some reason, I can't get the blog to upload any pictures.  All my computer problems would happen while my husband is out of the country!  If I can ever get it to work I will revise this post with pictures.  Jacob is now in his Daddy's arms, and we can't wait for them to arrive home! Click here to see our FSP.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Birthday wishes

Our first child is now 12 years old!  He may not be the oldest due to Christina and Joshua having been so much older when we adopted them, but he will always be the first, the one that made me a mommy.  Happy birthday, Caleb!

People often talk about the effects of adoption on biological children.  As the only biological child out of all our kids Caleb's life has certainly been affected by all our adoptions.  We always focus on the positives - the companionship his siblings bring him, the skills he learns in caring for them, the compassion he gains in learning about people with special needs, the greater worldview he has by learning about not only the culture of the countries they come from but also about the issues that contribute to the orphan crisis worldwide, etc.  

There are negatives too though.  First, and most significantly, kids with difficult backgrounds are difficult to parent.  That makes them hard on siblings too, something Caleb has dealt with since he was a baby.  As hard as it is to have a sibling with a difficult background (especially multiple ones!), that's not the only way adoptions can negatively affect biological children.  

The average adoption costs around $30,000.  Most of our adoptions we paid for entirely on our own.  Needless to say our adoptions have seriously affected our finances!  The "luxuries" that are standard in many families (e.g. birthday parties and presents, tooth fairy money, extracurricular activities, special outings, etc.) just haven't been possible in ours with so much of our money going towards adoption expenses, especially with the added cost of the medical expenses that result from their special needs.  Caleb has no memories of ever taking a family vacation.  There have been many local attractions he has wanted to go to which we never could afford.  When we drove all the way to New York City to adopt Elianna we didn't get to do any sightseeing, not even the basics like Times Square or the Statue of Liberty.  We even moved to a smaller, older home because of our adoptions!

Were it not for our adoptions Caleb's life would be really different, but he has never complained.  In fact, he has always welcomed his new siblings with great love and joy.  We'd love to be able to do something special for Caleb to celebrate his 12th birthday, but once again we simply can't afford it.  However, as always, he doesn't complain.  Instead he talks excitedly about the upcoming arrival of his new little brother.

This sweet boy deserves more than we can give him, but all he wants is for his new little brother to come home.  Would you be willing to help make that happen?  Would you give just $12 in honor of Caleb's 12th birthday to help Jacob come home?  Caleb has been through so much lately with his health issues, with us knowing something is wrong with him but not knowing what it is.  It would mean so much to him to have people donate in his honor to help get Jacob home!  

To make a tax-deductible donation please click here.  
Caleb with his younger siblings (his older ones weren't with us) on a hike in the Smoky Mountains.
Caleb always stays with Jonah when we are hiking.  Jonah is super slow and sometimes just refuses to walk, but Caleb is always patient and gentle with him.  
Yes, there is a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains that runs along the "road to nowhere" complete with a real tunnel.  The kids loved it!  For those who don't know, entrance into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is completely FREE for everyone!  We are eligible for free entrance to all national parks through both a military pass and a disability pass, but in the Smoky Mountains no pass is needed.  This is because when Tennessee turned over land to the federal government for the creation of the national park they imposed a restriction that no entrance fees ever be charged.  My husband was shocked the first time we drove into the Smokies that there was no entrance fee.  I was shocked to learn that there actually was an entrance fee to other national parks.  Obviously I'm the one who grew up here in eastern Tennessee.  :)
Another day of hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
Caleb is such a wonderful big brother to Jonah.  He told us that when he gets married one day his wife will have to accept Jonah because he plans to take care of him once we are no longer able to care for him ourselves.  He is adamant that he will not marry a woman who has a problem with him caring for Jonah!
This was a snowy hike in the Smoky Mountains.  Caleb had to work hard at keeping Jonah safe because he kept wanting to run in the snow, and Caleb was making sure he didn't slip or fall off the trail (it wasn't a dangerous trail, but there were a couple of places he could have fallen into water if he had slipped and started rolling).
Normally the 3 little ones don't get to play in the creek, but one day towards the end of last summer when the water was low Caleb really wanted to let them play.  He was so excited to let them experience the fun of playing in a creek and was happy to watch over them to ensure their safety.
Malachi and Micaelyn wanted to play, but Caleb wouldn't move out of arm's reach of the little ones!
Elianna was the first one to get in the water.  She was really excited!
Caleb keeping a close hand on Jonah
Even in the snow Caleb watches over his younger siblings.  
Taking Elianna for a ride on the sled
My sweet, sweet little boy.  No matter how big he gets he will always be my baby!  Happy birthday, dear son!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Needing answers...

Last December Caleb was hospitalized with tachycardia and a very mild case of pneumonia (the pneumonia was extremely mild, barely even visible on the x-ray, so he was hospitalized more because of the tachycardia).

We had hoped the tachycardia would resolve.  Unfortunately, he's still having problems with it.  Here are some recent examples of the problems he is having.  The following images are screenshots from where I used a heart rate app on my phone to check his heart rate (I used these while he was hospitalized to compare them to the hospital's heart rate monitor, and they compared very closely.)
This is an example of a resting heart rate for Caleb.  He had been sitting/laying for a long while doing nothing except watching things on his laptop.
This heart rate test was taken immediately after the one above.  The only difference is that I had him stand up.  Just standing up (not even taking a step) caused an increase of over 40 beats per minute from a resting heart rate that was already too high.
This is another resting heart rate.  I was actually really excited to see his heart rate at a normal level - this rarely happens anymore.
This measurement was taken immediately after the one above.  Once again, I had him stand up to see how that affected his heart rate.  His heart rate literally doubled just by standing up, not even taking a step.
This was a measurement I took after Caleb got out of bed yesterday morning.
  Because he is homeschooled he was able to sleep as late as he wanted and gradually wake up (note the time stamp of 9:46am).  There was no hurry to get out of bed.  He stayed in bed until he felt ready to get up, and I just happened to be there in his room and managed to get his heart rate as soon as he got up.  This is way above normal!
Caleb did receive a full evaluation from a pediatric cardiologist, including an echocardiogram of his heart performed by the cardiologist himself.  There does not appear to be anything structurally wrong with his heart.  It could either be a problem with the SA node of the heart (this is the heart's natural "pacemaker") which wouldn't show on the echo, or more likely it's a problem elsewhere in his body.

He is getting all kinds of blood work done to check the most obvious things like thyroid and adrenal gland issues.  He has been put on salt tablets to see if that will help any.  There has been talk of other medications to slow his heart rate, but first we want to figure out why his heart rate is so high.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is one possibility that is being considered (particularly considering the fact his heart rate increases so much upon standing), but the doctor wants to rule out other problems before focusing on POTS for several reasons, including the fact that even his resting heart rate is usually higher than it should be.

So we are just in a waiting mode, wondering what on earth is wrong with our son to cause his heart rate to be so elevated.  He has been very inactive lately, basically just sits or lays on the floor with his laptop all day long, and I don't even feel comfortable pushing him to do anything more because of his heart rate.  He is not terribly symptomatic, though he does say he feels dizzy and his head hurts when he gets up (he pointed to the center of his forehead to indicate to me where it hurt).  He also looks shaky to me whenever he gets up, but he denies feeling that way.  However, while he is generally inactive, and he has no desire be active (e.g. he doesn't want to walk anywhere with us, even to the nearby coffee shop to get one of the smoothies he loves), when we had friends visiting he was able to play along with their kids, even running along the greenway with them.  However, because of the number of little kids between our 2 families the bigger kids never ran too fast or too far, and Caleb did tell me when he got home he could really feel his heart pounding hard.

Overall, I just really don't think Caleb looks healthy.  As his mom, I sense something not right about him.  He is paler with dark circles under his eyes, despite getting plenty of sleep.  He is not involved in any extracurricular activities at the moment (in the past he was really active, having played baseball, soccer, and doing gymnastics) and is homeschooled so he doesn't have any stress in his life to cause problems.  He eats a very healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and little to no preservatives, dyes, or other chemicals.  He drinks water all day long and never drinks soda.

The summer is approaching, and I know the heat will be unbearable to him.  I hope we get some answers soon.

Travel Approval!

Earlier this week we received great news - we have travel approval to bring home Jacob!!!

We also received word from China that last week a boy from Jacob's orphanage left to be adopted, and Jacob said, "I'm the next one.  My Daddy will be here soon to take me home!"

We are so excited and can't wait to have Jacob finally home!!!

If you would like to be a part of something special and help reunite Jacob and Hannah as brother and sister forever you can make a tax deductible donation here.  The first $5,500 raised will be given to Jacob's orphanage as a donation to help the children left behind, most of whom have special needs themselves.
We received this new picture of Jacob last night.  Hannah saw it and said, "Oh wow, Fei Fei!"  My Fei Fei!!!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What would you do???

What would you do if you adopted a child and found out that child had a sibling that was left behind?

What if no one else would adopt this sibling because of his special needs?

What if your child asked you constantly when this sibling would come home?

Would you leave him waiting forever for a family?

...or would you run to him?

Hannah's adoption came as a bit of a surprise to us.  We had planned to adopt from China again, but then we found out about a baby in New York City in need of a family because of her special needs, a baby that fit ever so perfectly in our family, our little Elianna.

We were elated to have such a special blessing and felt no hurry to adopt again anytime soon.  However, because we had filled out a form to view waiting children with a Chinese adoption agency it wasn't long after we adopted Elianna that we received an email about a baby girl they felt would fit perfectly in our family!

We hesitated...

...and then we prayed.

We prayed that God would give us an answer about HIS will for our lives and for this child waiting in China...

...and then He answered.  Clear as day I was given this answer.

Christians like to talk about what they have done "for the least of these."  The thing is, God's word doesn't just talk about what we have done for the least of these, it also talks about what we did NOT do for them.

Sure, we had already adopted 4 waiting children, and we had plans to adopt more in the future.  We were doing our part to help the least of these.  We were certainly doing more than most people!

But this child needed a family NOW, not in the future, and she had been presented to us.  There were only 2 choices.  We could choose to adopt her, or we could say no.

We prayed for God to give us a clear answer, and He answered with this verse:  "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:45)

If we said no to that precious child, a child that had been presented to us completely unexpectedly, we weren't just saying no to her, we were saying no to HIM.

And so began the process to bring home our little Hannah.

What we didn't know when we said yes to Hannah is that she was not alone in the world.  She had been moved from her orphanage as a tiny baby to a new foster care group home for medically fragile babies that was far away from her original orphanage.  There she bonded with another little boy who was from the same province as Hannah.  Before they could even sit on their own they were constantly together.

Whether they were indoors...

or outdoors...

at meal times...

and at play times...

...they were always together.

It was a small facility where the kids were cared for in an environment that resembled more of a family than an orphanage, but there were other children there.  Nonetheless, it was clear these two had a special bond for each other, a bond that was greater than between the other kids.

 It was clear who Hannah's favorite was...

Obviously the feeling was mutual...

They were even known to have the same facial expressions...

They were always near each other.  In pictures of Hannah, there he was in the background...

In pictures of him, there Hannah was in the background...

Though they were young, Hannah understood that he couldn't walk or make much use of his arms, and so she became his little helper.  Whether it was bringing him toys to hold or caring for him when he was sick, she was always there for him.  

Thus it's no surprise that when we brought Hannah home she never stopped talking about "Fei Fei."  When we gave her a picture of him and her together she started carrying it everywhere with her, even sleeping with it (and kissing it before she went to sleep!).  She asked us daily, multiple times each day, when Fei Fei was coming home.

To Hannah, Fei Fei was her brother.  No, they are not biological siblings, but neither are any of the 8 children here in our home.  Those of us in the world of adoption know it is not our genes that make us family, it is our love for one another.  Hannah and Fei Fei loved one another as brother and sister from the time they were babies.  In their life without parents they became family to each other.  When we adopted her we took her away from the strongest attachment she had in the world.  No wonder she longed for us to bring him home.  

In the same week we adopted Hannah Fei Fei was moved to a new facility in an entirely different part of China.  I can only imagine how traumatic it must have been to have Hannah pulled away from him and then be moved to a new place.  Over the 2 years since we have brought Hannah home he has seen many more friends go away to be adopted while he continues to wait.  He is now 5 years old.  He understands he can't use his arms and legs like the other kids, and few people are willing to adopt children who can't use their arms and their legs.

Still, like any other child, Fei Fei longs for a family of his own, and he remembers his "sister" Hannah.  Because of their bond, it was only natural for him to see her family as his own. When first shown a picture of our family he said, "She is AnNa (AnNa was Hannah's name in China).  This is my mommy.  This is my daddy."  There has never been any question in Fei Fei's mind, or in Hannah's mind, that we are his family.

Adopting Hannah was an unplanned journey.  Adopting Jacob (Fei Fei) is another very unexpected part of that unplanned journey.

But how could we leave him behind?

If you would like to be a part of the wonderful journey of reuniting Hannah and Jonah as siblings forever you can make a donation by clicking here.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."  -John 14:18

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." - Mark 9:37