12.31.2013

Our First Christmas Season Together

Somehow today, New Year's Eve, really crept up on me. The last day of 2013...how did it arrive so quickly? I feel like we have just now recovered from 4 Christmas celebrations and already it is time to celebrate again. This year, we are embracing our current situation and staying home with just Ryan, the boys, and me. While going to big gatherings with friends is super tempting, I know in my heart it is just best to stay home this year. We are hoping to have a countdown with the boys around 7:00 or so, and then we'll put them to bed. My grandfather sent us some delicious steaks and lobster tails for Christmas, so we plan to have a date at home this year with dinner and a movie. We will watch the ball drop, wish each other Happy Anniversary (9 years for us on New Year's Day), and share a nice smooch. :)

A simple ending to a wild year.

My mind was whirling with blog ideas throughout December, but I just could never find the time to write. In fact, truth be told, I'm not even sure what to share today. I guess we will just see where this goes.

December for me was a roller coaster. One day I would find myself basking in the fact that we've all adjusted so well to our new family dynamic. I would celebrate Noah's role as big brother, Liam's heart softening to Tucker, and Tuck's trust for all of us growing much stronger. I would thank God for growing Ryan's and my hearts' and for giving us the patience, endurance, and love to enjoy our lives with these three boys.

Then, the next day, I would feel completely overwhelmed and question if I was equipped to parent these boys, especially Tucker. Recently, someone posted this on Facebook, and it resonated so much.

"Raising a biological child is like building a bridge out of popsicle sticks, taking one stick at a time and securing it to another with glue until you build a work of art. When you adopt a [2 1/2] year old, rather than starting one stick at a time, you start with a pile of sticks loosely formed into a bridge, and the goal is to hold it together while you go back and glue each piece, making adjustments without completely destroying the framework of what is inherently there, to form an equally beautiful work of art. A daunting task, but a worthy challenge!"
There is part of me who so badly wants to look at Tucker and have him just be a boy, my son and not the premature 3 lb. baby who was abandoned by his birth parents, the child who lived his first 2 1/2 years in a HUGE institution, the child who did not receive enough food and nutrition. You see, when you look at a picture of Tuck and his beautiful, charming smile, you see a happy, sweet boy - and he most definitely is. When I look at Tucker, I see those things, too, but a thousand thoughts cross my mind...images of a place on the other side of the world.

I see the place where he was found...the people who were there.

I see the orphanage walls...a playground with no children playing.

I see the children who remain in that institution...the ones who have no heat at night to keep them warm. I can't look at Tucker without thinking of them.

I see the empty eyes of a little boy who followed us there...the little baby with cleft lip and palate. Will someone come for them?

I see Tucker scared and crying on Gotcha Day, not understanding why the people he knew walked away from him.

I feel the rejection he gave me in China...his pushing away and crying because I was not the momma he knew.

All of these thoughts and so many more crush my heart in just one look.

Yesterday, something happened that has occurred many times before. I was in the kitchen, and Tucker walked up to me, grabbed my leg, and said, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy." I bent down, and he just wrapped his arms around my neck. I gave him a huge squeeze, told him I loved him, and kissed his sweet face. As he walked away, I couldn't help but just watch him walk to the other room. I stared at him in disbelief that he is home, that he is walking and running so much more smoothly, that he has gained 4 1/2 lbs. in just 11 weeks, and that he knows me as his mommy. As those thoughts and the ones I mentioned above swirl through my mind, Tucker stopped, looked back, and flashed a huge smile my direction. I smiled back at him, and he ran to my outstretched arms, laughing his beautiful belly laugh. Again, he kissed me and we told each other, "I love you." I told him I am happy he is home. He repeated, "Home." A simple exchange but so many emotions and thoughts that engulf it.

I struggle with wanting to live an easy life again, to not be in this transition of becoming a family and navigating relationships with our friends and family. I selfishly want a "normal" life even though I know this life is perfect and beautiful...the one He chose for us. I get overwhelmed with the fact that I have two 2 year old boys, who find themselves in plenty of mischief and fights over toys. I grow weary of Tucker hoarding food in his mouth during meal time, as it is a reminder of how hungry my sweet boy was and how much he is trying to have some control of his life. I have so many friends and family members who love us and support us, yet I find it hard to describe the trials of this new life. It is wonderful and beautiful but also so exhausting and heart breaking.

My friend, Claire, sent me a very sweet and thoughtful text message yesterday. Hopefully she will not mind that I am sharing it, as I hope it encourages my sweet adoptive momma friends out there...or anyone who finds themselves with these same feelings. She wrote, "Taking on someone else's pain and brokenness is the most Christ like thing we can do, and even He sat in the garden and begged God to find another way!" Reading those words again brings tears to my eyes. It is such encouragement to my soul.

As I navigate 2014, my heart desires Him to lead me still, to be the foundation for our family. I pray that each of you will find a way to get involved in orphan care. It is a cause so close to God's heart, and I hope it is becoming one that is dear to yours. We can't do everything, but we all can do something. Lives are changed. Hearts are mended. Souls are enriched. I can't wait to see what 2014 brings for all of us.

Enjoy these pictures of our first December together as a family!

All dressed for the first big snow


Tucker's first snow fall

Tuck's first Christmas cookies (captured by Noah)




Liam's obsession with open-mouthed pictures

Decorating cookies

Tucker only had a little icing and sprinkles b/c he was in a hurry to eat it!




Brothers - This is how adoption blesses bio kids

With their cousin, Natalie

Look who learned to jump!

All the Tuzzins

Goofballs 24/7

Christmas Program 2013

Intermission Freestyle

Finale Freestyle

First Christmas Eve Eve Together


Mama and Papa's attempt to start a family band

My niece finding out she got One Direction tickets (Yes, I cried, too)

The gift that keeps on giving!!

My three sons

Christmas Eve at home in their Chinese silks



Kisses for their big brother

Tucker putting out cookies for Santa

Story time before bed


O' Holy Night


Santa came! (Truth: Craiglist)

Waiting to come downstairs Christmas morning

My sleepy boy loves his cars

My blue eyed baby

My precious boy

I love him even when he cries

Kya even got treats in her stocking!

Christmas celebration in South Whitley

Surprised by his TMNT DVDs

Sledding indoors

My first adopted baby (9 years old)

Snuggles with my sons

So many incredible memories and moments this Christmas season. In fact, when I just got Tucker up from his nap, I was rocking him when he stopped me and gave me a big kiss. Then for the first time he whispered in my ear, "Mommy, Daddy, Noah, Liam, Tucker...Family...Home." Tears filled my eyes. Thankful for the birth of a Savior who came to redeem us all. Blessed that there is one less orphan in the world and that Tucker will grow up knowing the God who raised us up to bring him home in 2013.

12.12.2013

What Are We Waiting For?

Tonight, after putting the boys to bed, I saw an email come through from our adoption agency, Lifeline Children's Services, announcing that they have been given new files for children waiting for families. I followed the link (HERE) and began looking through the LONG list of children. Some of the children are in the process of being adopted or have already been adopted by a family, and a quiet celebration takes place in my heart every time I see the word "MATCHED" next to a child's name.


But then I see Caleb, who has a faint tracheotomy scar, in his picture. I wonder, who was with him during that procedure? Was he alone? Did a nanny accompany him?



I see Cory, a handsome 12 year old boy who will age out when he turns 14, meaning he will no longer be eligible for adoption. He has "scald scars" on his hand and face. Did he have an accident at a young age? Did someone hurt him?



Then there is Henry...beautiful, precious Henry. I cry looking at his picture again. He is amazing. The video is heartbreaking because there is a line of kids outside the room waiting for their turn to have their videos made...in hopes that someone will see them and love them and take them away from the orphanage where they live.


As if Henry didn't break my heart enough. Then I saw Jimmy...and watched his videos. What a clever, beautiful, joyful little boy. I dare you to watch his videos. I double dog dare you. He is incredible. Again, tears.


Ollie is just like Cory. He is 12 and has little time for a family to come forward for him. He is blind. I wonder how long his file to be adopted has been ready? Did his orphanage prepare it when he was 2? Is it possible that he has been "paper ready" 10 years and yet because he is a BOY and because he is blind, people are not interested? His videos are amazing. This beautiful boy (this old picture doesn't do him justice) not only sings, but he can play the piano...the PIANO! It was beautiful to hear him play while his fingers danced on the keys, and at the same time, my heart broke that he was encouraged or felt the need to "perform" so that someone would be more interested in him.

Yes, I am only sharing today about the boys who continue to wait for a family. As a mother of 3 boys, my heart instinctively focuses on the boys waiting in China. Plus, I so badly want people to realize that just as many boys are waiting for families right now, and yet girls were adopted 3 times more often than boys last year.

Yes, each of the boys I listed have a medical history of some kind. Is this what stops families from coming forward? I know that in my heart of hearts of that if any of our biological children - yours or mine - were born with medical needs, we would fight tooth and nail to make sure our child had the best doctors, treatment, and care. So why do we fear adopting a child with these issues?

What are we waiting for?

I've been writing about our adoption journey since August 2012, and the following, love, encouragement, support, and interest has been amazing. We were asked to speak at our church and share our story with approximately 3,400 people in August. We were interviewed by a local magazine, and it was released today. I get encouraging email and Facebook messages from people who are talking to their spouses and small groups about how God is tugging at their hearts. They are having serious conversations about adoption.

I have yet to see someone come forward, make the decision, and take the leap.

So again I ask, what are we waiting for?

The MONEY: I have seen dozens of families use their own funds and donations from others to fully fund their adoptions. DOZENS! Average people adopt everyday. They found a way to make it happen. You have to believe you can, too. I can give you lots of ideas if MONEY is what stands between you and a child who deserves a family.

The LOVE: Can you love someone not born from your body? Do you love your nephews and nieces? Do you love your spouse? Do you love your friends? I have been extremely transparent about my strong love for Tucker before we met him, but then his rejection of me in China probably caused me to step back. For the past several weeks, I have made the CHOICE to love him, even when my feelings weren't natural. I can honestly say I LOVE this boy with my whole heart. That love is growing stronger everyday, and it as natural as my love for Noah and Liam.

The JUDGMENT: Yes, people have opinions. Friends have shared negative and hurtful remarks made by their loved ones. I have been so lucky to not have anyone make those kinds of statements to me (yet). God's judgment of us is the only thing that should matter at the end of the day. He loves the fatherless and asks us to care for them. PERIOD.

The AGE: Your children are in middle school? High school? Grown? You wouldn't believe the number of families I see who are in their 40s and 50s, and that isn't stopping them from adopting children from China. Oftentimes, they are the brave ones who adopt the 8-13 year old children who we younger couples are afraid to adopt. Yes, I said "we" because when Ryan and I began our journey, we said only under age 4. See, I was no different than many of you. Ryan and I have serious conversations about adopting an older child now.

The UNKNOWN: Of course there are a million unknowns as you navigate this process. Not knowing where to get started, how the process works, who your child will be, when he/she will come home - all unknowns. I am more than happy to be someone to talk to about how to get started, how the tax credit works, how to raise money and find grants or matching opportunities, how to choose a country (if international), and how to pick an agency. You just take this one step at a time, and eventually, you will find yourself home with your whole family (until you are ready to adopt again). :)

There are MILLIONS of children waiting in China alone, but only a small portion of them have their files prepared so that they can be eligible for adoption. The cost to orphanages to prepare those files is very expensive and tedious. The orphanages have done their part, and too many kids continue to wait years and years.

Here's the harsh reality. There are children dying while they wait. They die because they do not receive the medical treatment they could have had if they would've been adopted. It's not right. There are children being neglected while they wait. There are children crying because they want someone to love them.

In most of my blog posts, I am a "PASSIONATE BALANCE" of encouraging and pushing readers while also being patient with God's timing in your lives and being understanding of your personal reasons. I will try to write from that perspective next time.

Today, I am sad. I am angry. I am heartbroken. For Caleb, Cory, Ollie, Henry, and Jimmy. They need families. They deserve families. Don't turn a blind eye today after you read this blog. Go to the website and look at their faces. Watch their videos. Open your hearts and pray.

They are waiting......but what are WE waiting for?
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