3.27.2016

Easter: Passion Into Action 2016 Results


I am so excited to share the results of our Easter 2016 Passion Into Action Campaign! This is the third campaign we have launched as part of the greater Forget the Frock movement. This year's theme was Follow Me. Although there are multiple occurrences of Jesus saying "Follow Me," I love the account found in John 21:15-19...

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”



This year we chose 5 different nonprofit organizations who are following Jesus: Amazima Ministries, Back2Back Ministries, Center for Global Impact, Central India Christian Mission, and Morning Star Foundation. For every shirt purchased, buyers could vote for which organization they wanted to receive the proceeds. We received 140 orders this year, and families purchased a total of 443 shirts, a record for the Passion Into Action campaign!

Are you ready to find out which organization received the proceeds this year? I am so excited to share that with 151votes (34%)...


Morning Star Foundation received $4,146.59 through thanks to your participation in the 2016 Passion Into Action campaign, as well as a $50 donation from friends!

As a reminder, The Morning Star Foundation exists to help children with severe heart disease in China and Uganda. When impoverished families around the world have a child born with congenital heart disease, they are often forced to make an impossible decision. These families have to either abandon their child in hopes that someone will save him/her or take their child home and watch him/her die. Life saving surgery is so expensive, and families rarely have medical insurance. The Love Project aims to reach out to parents whose children are born with heart disease. Morning Star stands up for the orphan by preventing them from ever becoming one. The Love Project's goal is to provide these life saving surgeries while also preserving the family unit. Not only does Morning Star financially care for the families, the Love Project also invests in each family by caring for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs until the child recovers. The relationship between Morning Star and the family continues throughout the child's life. 

I am always blown away how foregoing dress clothes and purchasing a simple t-shirt can have such a tremendous impact! Here is a copy of the email I received from Morning Star with our donation (remember, a separate $50 donation was made by friends as part of our campaign, making the total $4,146.59). 



I apologize for the delay in posting these results. I have been waiting to hear from Morning Star Foundation to see if there is a certain family in China or Uganda for whom this money will designated so I can let all of you know. The past two weeks have been particularly difficult for those working at Morning Star, as Lilah Lu (the little girl pictured above) is very, very sick at this time. She is fighting for her life in the hospital, and everyone is praying for a miracle. I know they would appreciate all who read this post to lift Lilah Lu up in prayer for total healing and restoration! Hopefully in the coming weeks, I will learn more information about how Morning Star will use the proceeds from this campaign.

The purchase of 443 shirts brought in $8,696.00. Overhead costs for this fundraiser were $4,599.41. The breakdown of those overhead costs is below:



Additional voting results for the other AMAZING organizations are as follows. Please click their links to learn how you can support their efforts!

Amazima Ministries - 103 votes (23%)
Back2Back Ministries - 56 votes (13%)
Center for Global Impact - 85 votes (19%)

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's campaign! I hope that each time you wear your shirt this year, you will be encouraged to follow Jesus by feeding his lambs and taking care of his sheep. Oftentimes, following Jesus can mean leaving our comfort zone and walking toward something that will challenge, stretch, and grow us. Even though challenges may arise, the rewards will be plentiful! Our faith can grow deeper, and our character can become more like His. Until next year!

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24



2.07.2016

Easter 2016: Passion Into Action

My Family - Easter 2015: Passion Into Action

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Passion Into Action campaign!! For those of you who are new to our campaign, allow me a moment to explain. The decision to start a fundraiser alongside the Forget the Frock movement was born from the desire to inspire others to put their passion into action. As you can quickly see, our hearts bleed for the fatherless, and we will spend the rest of our lives encouraging, empowering, and enlisting others to answer God's command to defend vulnerable children in the world. At the same time, we know that while many of you share our hearts for the fatherless, others are passionate about human trafficking, clean water, homelessness, the hungry, etc. The list goes on and on. As the body of Christ, we are gifted in different ways in order to bring the Kingdom into the chaos. Together, we can shine the light of Christ so brightly to glorify His great name!

For those of you hearing about the Forget the Frock movement for the first time, instead of spending money on new dresses and suits for Easter, we will all dress with a purpose, putting our passion into action! We will buy t-shirts that benefit others and wear them to church Easter weekend. 

When I first began working on this year's Passion Into Action campaign, I struggled to find just the right theme. I opened my Bible and began reading from the gospels. Over and over again, I noticed Jesus saying, "Follow me," to various people. Then I remembered an except from an incredible book I read called, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman where he wrote, "If you read through the four Gospels that tell of Christ's life, you'll find that Jesus says, 'Believe in me' about five times. But care to guess how many times Jesus said 'Follow me'? About twenty times." Idleman goes on to say, "To truly believe is to follow." This is the core of my heart, and I hope you find it at the foundation of yours.

Just as I finished designing this year's Passion Into Action t-shirt, I noticed a short clip of one of my favorite Christian leaders, Francis Chan. The caption under that video stated: "What does it mean to follow Jesus?" I clicked the link and was able to download his entire 15 minute video called Follow Me for free (click the link to watch it yourself!). His message is so closely tied to my heart behind making this shirt. Toward the end of the video, Francis Chan says:

"There's a reason why Jesus says 'Follow me.' It's not because he needs me. It's not because he needs anything that I have to offer, but he's telling me 'Follow me' because this is the way that I'm going to lead you to a life that goes way beyond anything you could have ever come up with by yourself."

So, without further ado, here is 2016 Passion Into Action shirt:



Jesus is represented in pure white - the spotless lamb - who gave his life for every one of us. After placing our faith in him, we become followers of Christ. As we follow Jesus and live out his teachings, we draw closer and closer to him, shining his light and glorifying God. Although there are multiple occurrences of Jesus saying "Follow Me," I love the account found in John 21:15-19:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Our hearts are closely tied to our actions. We spend our money, our time, and our effort on that which we hold close to our hearts. Jesus asked Simon Peter three times if he loved him. After saying "Yes" each time, Jesus told Simon Peter, "Feed my lambs," "Take care of my sheep," and "Feed my sheep." When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), we are moved to take action and follow Jesus. 

As we live out our lives, we have so many opportunities to show our love for Christ. By purchasing a shirt to wear on Easter, you have the chance to put your passion into action. You can dress with a purpose and wear something that benefits others. For every shirt purchased, you will cast a vote for one of the following organizations that is tending to God's sheep, His beautiful lambs. Please let me introduce you to this year's incredible non-profit organizations. Whichever one receives the most votes will receive 100% of this year's proceeds!


Amazima Ministries International 

After spending some time in Uganda during her senior year, Katie Davis returned to the country that captivated her heart the following summer in 2008. God laid it on her heart to start an Education Sponsorship Outreach program to provide clothing, 3 meals a day, spiritual discipleship, and medical care to children in the area. Although she intended to only have a handful of children in the program, Amazima now sponsors over 700 children. Soon after beginning her sponsorship program, Katie was introduced to the Karimojong people living in Masese. They were living in severe poverty, losing their children to starvation and malnutrition. She began an initiative called the Masese Feeding Outreach where her organization provides meals for 1,200 children Monday through Friday. Bible Study, general health training, and medical care are also provided through this outreach. Additional initiatives include the Farming Outreach, the Medical Care Outreach, the Masese Nursery Outreach, the Masese Women's Beading Circle, and the Amazima School. To find out ways you can get involved, visit this link


Back2Back Ministries

After graduating from Indiana University, Beth and Todd Guckenberger moved to Monterrey, Mexico and lived there for 15 years. They founded this organization and serve as co-executive directors at Back2Back Ministries. This international Christian non-profit organization is dedicated to being a voice for orphans. They exist to love and care for orphans and vulnerable children by meeting their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs with the hope that they might overcome their life circumstances and break free from the cycle of generational poverty. You can get involved with Back2Back through their Child Sponsorship Program, Hope Program (higher education), and Mission Trips. Back2Back has ministry sites in Mexico, Nigeria, India, and Haiti.


Center for Global Impact

The Center for Global Impact (CGI) seeks to bring the Good News of Jesus to those experiencing poverty and bondage through education, vocational training, and business development. CGI primarily works in Cambodia, and many of the people they serve are victims of (or are vulnerable to) human trafficking. They provide hope by empowering the poor, protecting the vulnerable, and sharing the Gospel. CGI has three major projects. The first one, byTavi, was created to empower a woman named Tavi who was HIV positive and was struggling to provide for her family. CGI provided Tavi with a sewing machine and seamstress training, and she inspired 30 women from her village to join her sewing team. Learn more about hosting a trunk show here. The Imprint Project is an 18 month, intensive life skills training that focuses on spiritual formation, education, and seamstress training. The Culinary Training Center is an 18 month program that teaches kitchen and restaurant management skills to at-risk girls. Learn how to get involved here. Visit the cgiKids webpage to help your children get involved in mission work today!


Central India Christian Mission

Central India Christian Mission (CICM) was founded by Ajah and Indu Lall in 1982. Since the inception of this ministry, CICM has focused its mission on ministering to the people of India. CICM has planted over 1400 churches throughout India and takes an extremely active role in training the leaders of those churches through Bible academies and a Bible training center. CICM equips students and church planters with textbooks, commentaries, preacher's manuals, and VBS curriculum in languages understood by church planters. CICM also has an orphanage and children's ministry that serves more than 600 orphans and at-risk children. Over 200 children also receive food through a weekly distribution program. To find ways to get involved, click here. CICM has established a medical ministry that provides treatment for 4,000-5,000 people each year. At the CICM technical training centers, people can learn how to sew, complete electrical work, drive automobiles and tractors, and craft small furniture. When disaster strikes in the surrounding area, CICM provides emergency relief support to affected persons, including those being persecuted for their religion. Click here to find out how you can get involved with CICM. 


Morning Star Foundation - Love Project

The Morning Star Foundation exists to help children with severe heart disease in China and Uganda. When impoverished families around the world have a child born with congenital heart disease, they are often forced to make an impossible decision. These families have to either abandon their child in hopes that someone will save him/her or take their child home and watch him/her die. Life saving surgery is so expensive, and families rarely have medical insurance. The Love Project aims to reach out to parents whose children are born with heart disease. Morning Star stands up for the orphan by preventing them from ever becoming one. The Love Project's goal is to provide these life saving surgeries while also preserving the family unit. Not only does Morning Star financially care for the families, the Love Project also invests in each family by caring for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs until the child recovers. The relationship between Morning Star and the family continues throughout the child's life. In addition to the Love Project, Morning Star also has its own foster home in China, and they also work in Uganda. Visit the Morning Star Foundation website to find out how you can get involved. 

Ready to join the 2016 Passion Into Action campaign?

Adult (top row), Youth (middle row), and Toddler (bottom row) sizes available


1. Add t-shirts to your shopping cart.

2. Choose USA for country. This will add the $5 shipping charge. 

3. If you are local and plan to pick up your order, use discount code PICKUP. This will remove the $5 shipping charge. Update cart then checkout.

4. You will be taken to PayPal to pay for your order. MAKE SURE YOU ADD A NOTE IN PAYPAL TO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE ORGANIZATION(S). You get one vote for each shirt purchased.

5. I will place the shirt order at midnight on February 28th. ALL SHIRTS will ship to me 7-9 days later.

6. Our team will sort, pack, and ship everything to you to be received well before Easter weekend.

If you have questions or your church would like to get involved, email me at passionintoaction2016@gmail.com 

DO NOT FORGET TO VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION(S) BY ADDING A NOTE  
IN PAYPAL WHEN YOU CHECK OUT!!!

11.18.2015

A New Smile for TyTy


Four years ago, I wrote the following words in a blog post the night before Liam's cleft lip surgery:

I've wondered so many times why God decided to give you this special smile. Years before I had you and your brother, I always was drawn to the pictures of children from other countries who have cleft lips/palates. I think it was God's way of preparing my heart for your arrival. I know someday we will understand why, and I am excited to see where this journey leads us together as a family.... Your birth was a catalyst for something, possibly many things, and I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

How I look back at that night with such a smile on my face! I had no idea the plans God had for our family. As one of my dear friends said, I love that chapter of our family's story. I love how everything has come full circle. God has truly worked all things together for good. The Lord used Liam's smile to guide us to China, to Tucker, and ultimately to Tyson. Exactly four years later, I am once again sitting at my computer, writing about my son's surgery. God is in the details of our story. 

And now, tomorrow morning, we will rise from our beds before the sun comes up, get Tyson out of his crib, and drive downtown for his second major surgery. When he had his palate surgery, Tyson had only been in our arms for 7 1/2 weeks. Now we have almost 6 months under our belt, and we have worked hard to build a foundation of trust and security with him. I am hoping that Ty will feel even more comforted in our arms as he recovers from this procedure. After Ty's palate surgery, we had some issues with pain management, but today we received incredible news that was a HUGE answer to prayer. Tyson will be able to recover in a unit where nurses are very skilled at pain management. What a weight off our shoulders, as I'm hopeful that he will receive optimal care! We should only have to stay one night and come home Friday morning or early afternoon. 


After Liam's surgery, he was bruised and swollen, and to be honest, he looked so completely different to us. We are expecting the same to be true with Tyson. This procedure will repair his lip and nose, and we are hopeful that Dr. Tholpady is as skilled at lip and nose repairs as he is at palate repairs. Ty will also receive tubes in his ears - the first of our four kids. I've been sitting with Tyson in front of our living room mirror, running his finger across my lip and then doing the same to his. I use simple language like "open" on his lip and "closed" on mine in hopes of helping him gain some awareness. He is definitely curious about what I'm showing him. 


I think we've made it abundantly clear, but just in case, we truly love Tyson's smile just the way it is. I find him absolutely beautiful! At the same time, I know that in order to make progress with his speech and language, this surgery needs to take place. Do you know how many words have B, P, and M in them? Most people have been very kind Tyson's appearance, and only a few children have said anything hurtful. One day at the chiropractor, Noah came up to me, and his face was bright red. He said that a child called Tyson ugly, and Noah was super upset about it. It was a good teachable moment for all our boys. I talked with them about how God has gifted them to each other for many reasons, one of which is to protect each other. We did a role play in front of that boy and his brother and practiced using our big voices to tell people they need to be kind and asking them to apologize. We've seen those children many times since and have never had another issue. I love how much these boys love each other and hope that they only grow closer as time passes.


As I think about tomorrow, I keep having the same thought over and over again.

We could have missed this.

What a privilege it is to be Tyson's mommy, daddy, and brothers. What a privilege it is to show him that we will always be with him; we will always fight for him; and we will always love him. We will help him recover through as many surgeries as he needs. We will find the best speech therapists for him and celebrate all of his success with communicating. 

Tyson is one of the best gifts of my life. As much as I am happy to have him home, my heart breaks for his birth parents who cannot be part of his life right now. It is very likely that Tyson's cleft lip and palate are the reason that he was relinquished, as it's quite possible that they could not afford his medical care. So beyond sad. To be at a point in Tyson's life where his cleft lip and palate will be repaired is heartbreaking. Family preservation is such an important piece of orphan prevention, and I am so grateful for organizations like Love Without Boundaries and their Unity Initiative to help families afford medical treatment to decrease the likelihood of abandonment. Right now three precious girls, who were abandoned need cleft-related surgeries: Violet, Susan, and Katey. And in reality, there are thousands of children just like them in need of these cleft-related procedures and a family. 

If you are someone who loves children and wants to be a parent or would like to have more children, I really encourage you to step into the life of one of the millions of children waiting for a family. We could have missed this. These precious ones are so worth it.


Photo credit for all pictures: Lemongrass Photography

10.20.2015

Happy 2nd Birthday, Tyson!!

We recently celebrated a very special day for our family, Tyson's 2nd birthday! Before I share about the festivities...

This kid, you guys. God knew all along what He was doing (of course He did!) when He chose our family for Tyson and Tyson for our family. That exact thought has come to mind every single day since we met this precious little guy. What I can't figure out is how we ever lived without him. I mean, just look at that smile!



Ryan's parents wanted to make sure that Ty had the chance to enjoy his birthday gift before the weather became too cold, so he received ride on front loader a couple weeks early. He really loves it! To be honest, Tyson loves toys! He probably loves them more than any other child in our family has ever loved toys. This precious little guy plays and plays and never grows tired of the toys in our house. The same is true for this front loader! TyTy will scoop up his toys and then toss them around, all the while marveling and laughing at his little game.



When I was trying to decide what type of birthday party to throw him, Noah suggested a construction truck theme since Tyson loves his front loader so much! It was such a brilliant idea, and I began finding all kinds of ideas for the party. One of my favorites was making dirt pudding for his dessert rather than typical birthday cake.

A month before the party, the kids ate dinner really well, and we passed our Oreo cookies. Tyson began signing more, eat, and please as fast as possible while shaking his entire high chair. I dipped an Oreo in my milk to make it softer (I still worry about crunchy foods since his surgery), and after one bite, Tyson was in love. He gobbled that Oreo cookie down in record time and began begging and signing again. He started yelling, "Oy-o! Oy-o! Oy-o!"  We were DYING laughing because at that point, Ty had very little spontaneous spoken language. He could say, "Dada, Nah-nah (mama), No-nah (Noah), Y-um (Liam), Tu-kah (Tucker), Ka-ka (Kya), dog, duck, oo-oo-ah-ah (Curious George), and No (of course!). Oh but don't you worry because he learned OREO and used it appropriately not just that night but also a week later when we got them back out. As soon as I brought that glorious blue package out of the pantry, we began hearing "Oy-o! Oy-o! Oy-o!" His highchair was shaking, Ty was signing as fast as he could. Oh TyTy!



So when Noah recommended a Construction Theme, the many uses of Oreo cookies flooded me and made me laugh out loud! We had make-you-own dirt pudding with lots of boulders (Whoppers), rocks (black Sixlets), stones (silver jelly beans), gummy worms, construction cones (candy corn), pebbles (Reese Pieces), and lumber (vanilla wafer cookies). I also made and decorated Oreo balls, which are insanely rich and delicious. We had pulled pork sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips, potato/macaroni salad, and chips to eat, and people could put them in brown paper sacks if they wanted. We had a fuel station with homemade lemonade and iced tea. I found the cutest construction themed shirt on Etsy, and he still squeals every time he sees it!



As much as I wanted to invite all our friends and family to celebrate Tyson's first birthday home, we knew how overwhelming that would have been for him. His grandparents (minus Ryan's mom who unfortunately was sick - we missed you Gloria!), great grandfather, Gale, Aunt Kelli, and cousins Mady, Micah, and Mikayla all came to our home to celebrate Ty's special day. It meant so much to have all of them there and thank them for all of their love and support in bringing Tyson into our family. They have all fallen for our newest son - it would be impossible to feel otherwise, right?!



After enjoying lunch, we all gathered together to watch Tyson open his birthday gifts. One very special gift he received was from his Grandma Till, who made him a book with pictures from the previous year. She makes all of our boys a book for their birthday, and they love to look at them! I know we will treasure them, especially as they grow older. He received several great gift! For those of you with two year old boys, here are some of the gifts he received as you make your lists for Christmas:



VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Carry-All Cargo Train







Stuffed Teddy Bear and Spiderman

Money for College Account


Needless to say, he was completely spoiled with gifts! He truly plays all day long with them. I love watching him play. There is just something about watching (what will likely be) my last baby doing baby kinds of things. I have the hindsight to know how quickly these days go by, and sometimes I'm afraid if I blink, I will miss it all. I have already missed 19 months of this precious baby's life, and it pains me to think about it. So, when you see me kissing him a thousand times a day or thinking that every single little thing he does is adorable and amazing, give me some grace. I'm soaking in these last baby days with my all my heart.


Opening gifts allowed us enough time to make room for dessert. It was the moment I had been waiting for - singing Happy Birthday to Tyson with our family! We stripped him down to his diaper because naked babies are the cutest we didn't want to ruin his new shirt. 



And with so much joy, I lit the candles, and we began singing to the world's cutest baby!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Tyson.
Happy birthday to you!


I am so thankful this moment was captured in a photo. A child celebrating his first birthday home with his family, watching with wonder at his candles burning, holding his forever momma's finger. 


He began with a spoon...


...and then we upgraded to bare hands. He wasn't too sure about getting messy like that, so we went back to the spoon.




I am sorry, but I have never seen a cuter baby than this little guy! He holds my whole heart in the palm of his hands. When I look at him and fall in love over and over again, I can't help but think about all of the children just like him who sit in orphanages, foster homes, and on the streets, just waiting for someone to invite them home. This baby, this child I never even knew existed, has filled my heart in ways I cannot describe. By God's amazing grace, he accepted me from the moment I first held him. Our prayers for supernatural recognition were answered, and he has loved me from the start. My gratitude for that completely unexpected, undeserved gift is never-ending.


Tyson AnTao, your whole family loves you so much! From mommy and daddy, to brothers and cousins, to aunts and uncles, to grandmas and (great) grandpas, to friends near and far, you are LOVED! I sent pictures of your special celebration back to your sweet nanny who loves you so much. I hope it brought her joy to see you happy and loved. You are a gift to my life! I can't imagine our family without you. You have completed us in so many ways. Thank you for loving us and trusting us. We will love you forever and ever! Happy birthday, baby boy.

8.26.2015

Three Months Later


I have wanted to write in my blog for weeks now, but my mind seems to always get distracted, or I just don't make time to write. Who can blame me? Ryan and I have stayed busy binge watching all six Star Wars movies and episodes of House Hunters at night, and during the day, I have 1-3 children hanging off my body at all times. So today, I finally feel ready to write. And when I looked down at the date, I realized that today is our 3 month anniversary of Tyson officially being adopted into our family.

The thought brings tears to my eyes. My precious son, born to a woman across the world, has been in my arms for three whole months. A quarter of a year. Praise God for calling us back to China last summer! What would I do without this baby? Seriously. How did I ever live one single second without him? He is a joy and a gift to our lives!

Every night, I hold Ty in my arms, wrap his weighted blanket around him, and sing sweet songs to him. I nearly cry every single time as I think about the woman who gave birth to him. I feel such deep sorrow for her that she cannot put this precious boy to bed each night. All of his slobbery kisses and tight squeezes that should have been hers are now gifts to me. She gave him life, and now we get to live with him.

Ok, have you had enough of the gushy love stuff? Well, I can't any promises, but let's see what else I can share with you.

Brothers for Life

Let's talk about how Tyson's presence has impacted our other three boys. I know this is a huge question for parents when they consider adoption. They wonder, "How will a new child impact my other children?" This is our experience with Tyson. Every single day when he wakes up, I carry him downstairs. Noah, Liam, and Tucker stop whatever they are doing, and with the goofiest grins you can imagine, they begin waving both of their hands as fast as possible and saying, "TyTy!! Good morning, TyTy!!" in high pitch voices to which Tyson replies with squeals, a huge wide smile, and intense waving. Liam kisses Tyson about 45 times a day. He honestly has a compulsive kissing problem, but fortunately, Tyson and I are the primary recipients at this time. Noah is like me - he thinks that everything Tyson does is the smartest, most adorable thing any child has ever done on the face of the planet. We used to wonder if a relationship between Noah and Tyson would be difficult given their age difference of 5 1/2 years. Believe me when I say, they have such a beautiful connection. Last night, Tyson was sitting on my lap (of course), and Noah came and sat beside me. Tyson, who often sticks to me like glue, got up, walked to the other side of Noah, and plopped down next to him. The smile they shared when their eyes met was priceless. Adorable! Tucker continues to be so patient with his baby brother who is always curious about Tucker's toys, books, and projects. He has this sweet compassion for Ty, and his prayers deeply reflect his heart. When it is his turn to pray, Tucker will often say something to the effect of, "Dear Jesus, thank you Tyson's home. Please heal inside his mouth and help him feel better. I just love him so much. Amen." Needless to say, all four boys are all head over heels for each other.



Surgery

Tyson had surgery on July 16th to repair his cleft palate. Had Tyson been born in the US, he would have had his lip and nose repaired first as a baby and then his palate repaired after that. However, since he is nearly 2 years old now, our surgeon recommended repairing Tyson's palate first so that he could begin making progress with speech and expressive language. I wholeheartedly agreed! The morning of the surgery, I was very concerned with the trauma that Tyson would experience. Having not been in our arms since birth, we were still (and are still) working to gain his trust and build security with him. As our attachment grew stronger, I noticed that his anxiety actually grew stronger, as well. I spoke with some other adoptive mommas, and we all agreed that this was possibly due to his fear of losing our family as he was growing to love us. I shared my concerns with our surgeon, Dr. Tholpady, and he invited me to put on a white suit and bring Tyson back to the OR myself. This was such an unexpected gift, and having the ability to hold my son, place him on the table, and stay with him until he was asleep was more than I ever could have hoped for that day!

Photo Credit
The procedure, called a Double Furlow Z-Plasty, lasted approximately 3 1/2 - 4 hours. Dr. Tholpady met with us and let us know that everything went very, very well. We are forever grateful to this man who could have chosen any profession in the world and decided to help children have the best quality of life possible! When we were allowed back to the recovery area,  we opened the door and immediately heard Tyson screaming. The inside of his mouth was fire red, and he was clearly scared and in pain. It was hard on this momma's heart, but this was what we had expected. He received medication to help ease his pain, and after some time had passed, we were taken up to his room where we were to stay the rest of the night. As for this next part, I honestly don't want to share all of the details. I will just say that despite being very clear with his nurse about the fact that he was newly adopted and that he would not exhibit pain like typical children born into families (as the needs of orphans are not addressed in the same manner that they are in healthy families)...that we needed to stay ahead of his pain to prevent significant trauma. Unfortunately, Tyson did not receive appropriate pain management during those critical hours after surgery. He ended up requiring morphine every hour for several hours, as they had gotten so behind on keeping it at a manageable level. We had two additional nurses during our stay, and they worked very, very hard to help Tyson stay comfortable and calm. He was extremely panicky anytime anyone came into the room besides Ryan and me. It was absolutely awful to see him so scared and in so much pain. We have since reported the issue through patient advocacy, and I had a long conversation with the manager of that hospital floor. We were assured that this is not the type of care children typically receive. The floor manager shared that they are taking steps to prevent this situation from happening to another child after palate surgery, and for that we are grateful. All humans make mistakes, and while we wish that Tyson would have received the best care post-op, we are still thankful for all of the nurses who work to provide the best care for their patients.


Post-Surgery

Unfortunately, Tyson's trauma post-surgery was much more significant than he appeared to experience post-adoption. His stress and anxiety levels were off the charts. Ty would panic if I stepped one toe away from him. He needed prescription pain medication every 4 hours for the first 7 days, and I believe he had completely moved to Tylenol and Motrin by Day 10. For the first three weeks post-op, Tyson clung to me for dear life. He was resistant to Ryan and the boys, and by Day 21, I finally cracked. I realized how completely depleted I felt and told Ryan that I didn't have anything left to give. I had been with all four boys, cocooning, playing at parks, riding bikes/scooters outside, swimming, playing video games, making meals, cleaning up, etc. every single day that summer. I had poured my heart and soul into our family and our home for 9 weeks, and I had finally reached my max. By the grace of God, two days later, Tyson began reaching for Ryan, seeking him out for comfort, and playing with him. It honestly felt like he had reached a certain level of security with me and was finally ready to let Ryan into his heart again. I was elated to finally have a break, and Ryan was so happy that his new son was willing to spend time with him again. We started using a weighted blanket and some new essential oils, as well, and both seem to have made a big difference in his emotional state.

We have had two post-op appointments so far and have the last one next Monday. Dr. Tholpady has been extremely pleased with how Tyson's palate is healing so far. I cannot believe that this man has created such a functional, normal looking palate after having a moderate-to-severe cleft there previously all the way from his hard palate to his soft palate. I fully expected it to always look different, but it honestly looks like he never had an issue to begin with. What a miracle! Tyson has had to wear arm restraints for 6 weeks in order to prevent him from putting anything in his mouth. He is also on a completely pureed diet, so thanks to a friend who has let me borrow her huge steamer, I have been making baby food once again! Tomorrow we will hit the 6 week mark since surgery, but Ty's last post-op appointment is Monday. I am very hopeful that we can resume normal foods and lose the arm restraints that day! 


Speech Therapy

Tyson started speech therapy through First Steps two weeks after surgery. He is eligible for 1 hour of therapy each week. When he first came into our arms, he could basically vocalize the schwa sound ("uh") at different intonations. He was picking up several basic signs very quickly: more, please, thank you, eat, drink, milk, mommy, daddy, good boy, sorry, help, and all done. He was even putting three signs together after being home just a couple weeks (more eat please). It was obvious that Tyson was ready to communicate! He has had five speech therapy lessons, and I cannot believe how much progress he has made already. Ty's therapist is AWESOME! She has such great presence with him, is knowledgable about her field, and knows just when to push and when to pull back. I am learning so much from her! The first session focused on his imitation of pretend play with the idea that if he imitated those motions, he would hopefully imitate sounds and later words. The next session introduced more pretend play, as well as cause and effect toys. If Tyson communicated through sign language, he would get the "reward" of playing with the toy. He learned the sign for "go" and "open" and uses them spontaneously and frequently. The third session began more focus on signing and using sounds to request. He was a rock star and attempted to make any sounds that the therapist requested! He is now able to make several sounds: k, d, g, h, l, m (though this is tricky with his lip), n, t, w, and y. Tyson is attempting the sounds for -s, -z, -p, and he is beginning to add some variation with vowels. We heard a pretty good -oo and almost a long -e the other day! So far, he is able to say the following words: momma, dada, Kya (surprise!), and Gēgē (older brother in Mandarin). He woke up saying "Tucka" on Sunday morning and began saying "dog" last night! During breakfast, he will show his preference by trying to say "congee" (kuh-kuh) and "yogurt" (yuh-yuh). It's adorable! I am amazed by this progress! Tuesday during speech therapy, I was showing the therapist pictures of Tyson's orphanage on my computer, and photos of the baby room caught his eye. I initially worried that he might become upset - I hadn't shown him any pictures since leaving China yet. Instead, my concern was quickly washed away when he began excitedly pointing and waving and squealing when he saw photos of his daddy and Noah in the baby room. It was PRECIOUS!!! He was saying an approximation for "hi" while waving and then started to say "Noah" and "dada." Even though the pictures were filled with people he lived with at his orphanage - nannies and children - he did not acknowledge them at all. Instead, he kept finding his daddy and brother in each picture and waving and vocalizing. I am not sure I've ever seen a bigger smile and more joy for so long. My heart felt so much happiness - he knows his people and clearly has positive feelings about them! I started showing him pictures of Liam and Tucker, and he again attempted to say their names (EE-um and Tuh-kuh). It was absolutely adorable, and I wish I would have recorded it. I might have to try that for next time.

video

The past three months have challenged us as we've transitioned into a family of six, especially with surgery in the mix, but they have also brought us so much of joy. I think everything Tyson does is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I'm like a first time parent except that I'm totally not...haha! I look forward to the days when he feels even more trust and security in our family and when he feels more permanency with us. I can only imagine how things might be in another three months! With that said, mid-November he will be facing another surgery to repair his nose and lip, as well as get tubes placed in his ears. Will you pray with us that Tyson's trauma will be as little as possible, especially after what happened after his first surgery? We are hoping that after almost 3 more months together, he will feel that much more secure and safe in our arms. Appropriate pain management at the hospital will be very helpful, too! I am going to miss his big, wide smile, but after seeing the progress he has made with his speech in just five weeks, I cannot wait to see further progress after his lip repair.

Tyson, I can't imagine our family without you! I love you and cannot wait to see what God has in store for your life. So thankful that I get to be your mommy. You are a gift!
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