Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Love Leads Us to Do More

Some days are so busy with my kids, their activities and sports, carpool, school volunteer projects and committees, typical mommy-kind-of errands, kids' homework and projects...and the list goes on, that I cannot imagine fitting anything else in my life.  Then there are other days that I feel like I really need to do more.  I am finally at a point in my life where I am having more of the latter kind of days.  I'm not talking about more errands, more sports for my kids or even taking on the coaching role on my son's lacrosse team.  We all know where that may lead!  I want to truly give some of my time for the well-being of others.  Love lead me to China, and now so much more!

Throughout our journey of adoption, I have met some wonderful and most inspiring people.  One of those people is Maureen Osbourne.  Maureen's blog is very beautifully written and expresses so much of what many people feel, that we follow her.  Through this blog, she introduced an amazing foundation to me called, Love Without Boundaries.  I have read and re-read many of her posts and gazed at the pictures, some beautiful and some heartbreaking, that she has shared.  It drew me in and made me think, "how can I help these children."  One day, I sent Maureen an email asking her how can I get involved with Love Without Boundaries.  She responded with an offer I could not refuse.

Love Without Boundaries is an extraordinary foundation giving hope to thousands of orphans and impoverished children in China, aiding them with nutritional, medical and specialized care, foster care and education.  This list does not touch what really goes on behind the scenes. In reality, I am continuously amazed to read the leaps and bounds the LWB volunteers make to help so many children live in dignity and to help them reach their greatest potential.  My part of this foundation is very small, but I could not be more proud to be apart of such an incredibly loving and devoted group of people.

So, where do I fit in?  Education is a very important part to all children's lives.  In China, many orphans do not have the opportunity of education because they are not permitted into public schools. This is especially true for children with special needs.  LWB has created Believe In Me schools to be housed within orphanages so children can attend school.  Imagine the excitement of a child whose typical day once consisted of sitting in a bed or orphanage room,  can now explore the bright colors of a classroom, read new books, draw and color beautiful art and experience the joy of learning.  Because LWB has brought Believe In Me schools to China, these children are looking at brighter futures and lives that are forever changed.  I have been asked to be an Assistant Coordinator for the Believe In Me school in Lanzhou, and I could not be more honored to do more for the 34 beautiful children in our school.

Every day I open my email in hopes to see pictures of the children in Lanzhou.  Oh, they are so so precious.  The updates are priceless!  Each picture is better than the last.  LWB could not open, nor could the children participate in Believe In Me schools without donations and sponsorships.  If you have any interest in sponsoring one of our 34 children, I will attach the website below to lead you to this gift.  With sponsorship, you will receive quarterly updates along with photos of your sponsored child.  A one time donation is also very appreciated, and as a donor, you will receive updates and photos.

Love truly has no boundaries, and I am forever grateful to where our journey for Evie has lead us.  When I look at our four children, I see so much potential in their faces and the desire to explore, experience and learn.  All children are so deserving to explore, experience and learn, and if this means my fraction of existence in these 34 children's lives may help them do this, then doing a little more in my own life is so worth it!

Link to Love Without Boundaries - Learning in Lanzhou

Monday, March 3, 2014

Celebrating Our Gift!

The first time I saw you was like a dream come true.
No I didn't give you the gift of life.
Life gave me the gift of you.

As we approach March 11, 2014, we reminisce about "this time last year."  What we were packing?  How we were feeling?  When our visas were coming?  Where we needed to run last minute errands?  Who we were going to meet?  This time last year, I had so many thoughts going through my head, yet I just wasn't sure what to think.  I truly had no idea how life was going to be in the next weeks, months or even years.  Through all of those questions and anxious feelings, I focused on the one little gift that we were given.  Our gift weighed about 22 lbs. and measured about 35 inches tall at the ripe age of three years old.  Our gift is named Evie, and she has truly changed our life.
Oh what a year it has been!  I would be lying if I said it was easy, but it has been so worth it.  Evie is filled with smiles and energy.  She loves clothes, shoes and lip gloss, but she can hang with her brothers on a basketball court.  Of course, she is riding her bike through the basketball game (in our backyard) as they patiently play around her.  School makes her excited where she has many sweet friends, loves painting and building, runs and swings on the playground and plays instruments in music class.  Her brothers are her best friends.  She has declared Bennett as her prince, but Brycen is not giving up on his attempt to take the honor.  I recently heard him say, "I will do anything to make her happy."  LOVE!  Finn is her quiet protector.  His sweet little sensitive personality will pounce on anyone or anything who may threaten his sister.  
You see?  It's growth!  We have all grown because of Evie.  Our eyes have opened wider and our hearts are bigger than ever.  Evie has given our family, in the short time that she has been with us, more than we could ever give her.  She is a gift!
On March 11th, we will celebrate "Gotcha Day!"  From the moment that sweet little girl in pigtails and four layers of clothes walked through the door in Taiyuan, Shanxi, she had our hearts.  We will remember the day that she left all that she ever knew, her security, her China mama and baba (father in Mandarin), to join a group of "strangers" who longed for her to be their daughter, sister and granddaughter.  We will remember her loving and selfless foster mother who cared for her every day since she was three months old.  The lady who fed our daughter every day and night, woke up during the nightmares, held her when she was scared, cherished her first smile, cheered her first crawl and steps, cleaned her surgical wounds and calmed her when she was in pain.  I will never forget her foster mother's ultimate sacrifice to care for and love our beautiful girl, while knowing that one day their life together would end.  That, my friends, is love.  Lastly, we will remember the woman who gave her the gift of life.  She did what she felt she must do, and for this we must not judge, but pray that she "knows" her baby girl is loved and celebrated every day.
Most importantly, on this "Gotcha Day!", we want Evie to know how much we wished for her!  We want her to know that she is loved in our family forever!  We also want our boys to know that they are loved beyond measure and their growth, acceptance and love make our hearts swell.
Happy Gotcha Day, Evie Springer!  You are a beautiful gift!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Finally! We're home!

We are definitely blessed with lots of wonderful loving friends.  After our long journey home from China, lasting more than 28 hours, we were greeted by two of the most kind, selfless and generous friends at the airport.  Our return trip began on March 21 at 5:30 AM in China (5:30 PM, March 20 in Charlotte), and led us through Tokyo, then across the globe to Chicago, arriving in Charlotte at 9:15 PM on Thursday, March 21 Charlotte time.  We jumped through many hoops and over several hurdles to get through the trip, but we made it!  Our kids slept on the long flight, but my mom and I were not as successful.  By the time we had reached Charlotte, we were mentally and physically exhausted.  Elizabeth Bowman and Kelli Lash came to our rescue with fresh faces, big hugs, lots of smiles, extra hands for baggage claim and Kelli’s car to help get all of the kids AND luggage home.  God is good!

Wow!  When we arrived home at 10 PM, Miss Jenny was here to welcome us and help with the kids.  She had the boys in the bathtub and shower so fast, the travel germs barely had time to land on the floor, or so we thought.  Our yard was flocked with pink flamingos by Cat Long and Catherine O’Neal to welcome Evie J home!  Our refrigerator, freezers and pantry were stocked with lots of healthy yummy food by Cat, Catherine,  Kasey Proffitt and Jenny Riddle.  Oh lots of beautiful artwork hung on our front doors made by my boys’ sweet little friends put smiles on everyones faces!  Finally, the beautiful flowers arranged on the countertops of our kitchen, by Kasey and Anne Garrett were the finishing touches of the scenario describing just how wonderful our friends truly are.  We were home!  

The generosity of friends did not stop there.  We have received an outpouring of support from friends, MORE food, special messages, phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, gifts and words of encouragement.  God has blessed us!

My mother is still with us on this journey.  I have a feeling she will be going back to West Virginia soon, and we are all dreading that day.  I absolutely could not have made it through these last couple of weeks without her.  The trip proved to be more challenging than what we predicted particularly because someone always had some sort of virus.  My mom's dedication to our family has never wavered.  She has stuck with us through the tough times and the good.  She is what I want to be as a mother.  I pray I can be that good!

I wish I could report that the transition home has been smooth, but then I would be lying.   Brycen and Bennett have been sick with fevers and stomach bugs.  Evie has not adjusted to her new home (especially at night) and all of us are dealing with jet lag.  I am really hoping today is a new day with much better health and more happiness! 

Evie and I picked Bryan up from the airport yesterday, which was a very happy moment for all!  I was SO excited to see my husband and the boys were ecstatic to see their daddy!  Evie...well, it took Evie a little while to get reacquainted with him, but as I sit and type this at 5:40 AM (yes, still dealing with jet lag), she is leading Bryan around by his finger.  I think they are sitting on the front porch in the freezing cold watching it rain.  Whatever it takes, my friends!  

I hope all of you are well!  Isn’t it perfect that Easter is coming?!  There is so much to celebrate right now, and I am constantly reminded by friends that our life with little Evie J will only get better.  She continues to be a sweet little girl, but her new surroundings how thrown her for another loop.  In time, she will know that this is her forever home and she will be forever loved.  I can’t wait for her to say just as we did, “Finally!  I’m home!” 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New picture: Evie with her brothers

In Summerson's last post she mentioned there was a picture of Evie resting her head on a pillow next to Brycen and Finn as they were sleeping.  Here it is.  I love that she is finding comfort in her brothers!

- Shannon

Evie ready for the Swearing In Ceremony

Look at this sweet, sweet girl!  She is soooooo cute!!!! - Shannon

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Only three more days, but who’s counting?!

March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from China!  I hope you all are wearing your green today.  My boys had on their green and Evie had some green polka dots on her pants.   We’ll make sure she has more green next year!

Yesterday, Saturday, we braved the travel healthcare facility of Guangzhou along with all other families from the U.S. who are adopting this week in China.  Also joining us were some China families who are applying for visas.  Needless to say there were 120+ children in this public healthcare-like system and believe it or not, we were in and out in less than 1.5 hours!  Bryan made a point to say that if we were in the U.S., the process would have gone all day, but some how they were organized AND gentle.  Our first stop was the room to get Evie J’s visa photo.  Then they printed off her photo and gave us paperwork with her information.  We took this packet of information to each station with us.  The stations were “general exam” which meant listening to her heart, lungs and abdomen.  He also did a thorough check for scabies because she has been scratching.  Thank goodness for no scabies!  Just very dry skin, which has improved so much over the last six days because I have been coating her with Cereve daily.  The next station was weight, height and temperature.  Evie is a petite little three-year old weighing just 11kg or about 24lbs.  She’s 34.5 inches tall.  The third station was a TB test taken by a blood draw.  They wisped her in this room and shut the door quickly.  Parents were not allowed in this room because they said it made the procedure more difficult to do with the parents.  Evie was in and out in 2 minutes or less, and all tears were gone within in a minute.  Evie J is a tough little girl.  Last station, the ENT room where they checked her ears, nose and throat.  She did great but they said she has a mild common cold, which we already knew, and to treat her with water.  Overall, we were pleased with the experience and especially to be finished!

Yesterday in the late afternoon, we took a walk in a local park.  It was so nice to see green!  Green trees, flowers and water!  Through this park we walked, took lots of pictures and of course lots of people took pictures of us.   I can only imagine how many Chinese Facebook pages my sons’ pictures have been on in the past ten days!  Through the park, Brycen made Evie J smile and even giggle by teasing her.  He would try to grab her hand to hold it and she would hide it from him.  I can tell she really is bonding with her brothers.  One final stop before we left the park was to watch men fish in a manmade little pool-like pond.  The fish were huge and the water looked really dirty.  We did not tell Brycen that he could rent a rod and fish with these men.  He would have done it in a skinny minute and I did not want him touching the water, let alone the fish!  Oh, I must mention that just as my mom, Evie J and I were standing back and watching the boys and Bryan with the “fishermen”, a rat ran next to us!  If you know my mother, you know that the presence of rodents is her biggest fear.  We quickly got away, and the rat did too! J  Just after the walk in the park, we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants yet.  Or so we thought.  It’s an Australian cafĂ© across from our hotel with western sorts of foods.  After a nice casual dinner, just next to us behind the bar, one the female employees screamed.  She then started to unload the cabinets and with her male co-workers looking on, and we knew she had either seen a rat or mouse!  Our boys rushed to watch the excitement hanging over the bar.  Oh, the entertainment!  I’m not sure I can get my mom to go back there this week for dinner.

Today was a full day.  Went to the Shamian Island of Guangzhou to do some souvenir shopping.  Unfortunately, we left our stroller in the cab that took us over.  Argh!  It was not one that I invested much in, but it was invaluable with all of the walking and sightseeing that we are doing.  I will try to find another one on Tuesday, but tomorrow is another busy day with no shopping in the plan.  This afternoon, Mom, Brycen, Evie J and I went shopping for jade and pearl.  It was enjoyable to get some nice pieces, but we I admit, we are losing steam.  Evie J is fighting a cold so she slept all afternoon.  I hope she sleeps well tonight.

Tomorrow is a milestone.  Bryan leaves us in the early morning to go back to the U.S.  Ugh!  This makes me sad to think about, but my focus is on the fact that we leave just three days later (Thursday).  I believe we may join our group for a safari to see pandas and other animals.  This will help the day pass, but it’s going to be a long one.  We’ll be gone from 8:30am to 5:30pm, and do I need to remind you that we will have NO stroller.  I was told we could rent one at the safari park, but I have a feeling I’m not going to approve of the cleanliness of the stroller.  I’ll take a look, but I’m planning on carrying kids all day.  Only three more days!  Who’s counting??

Some have asked how Evie J is doing with Bryan and others have sent me encouraging emails telling their experiences with bonding, or lake thereof.  Everything Evie J is doing is textbook adoption attachment.  She is still mourning the loss of her foster family, but she is showing great progress.  Each day is something new!  Today, although she does not like Bryan or my mother to hold her (she screams continuously), she will let Bryan be near her and sleep next to her.  She will also take food from his hands and let him kiss her on the cheeks.  BIG progress compared to early last week. 

Evie J loves the boys!  I have a super sweet story.  I’m not sure if Shannon (my loving and helpful cousin who is updating my blog) posted the picture of this, but yesterday morning I had left for the hotel fitness center before anyone woke up.  Apparently, Evie awoke while I was gone and quietly crawled out of bed, walked through our adjoining hotel rooms and found where Finn and Bennett were sleeping.  She laid her head down on a pillow next to them and stood there silently until I got back from the gym.  Bryan and my mom watched her do this and Bryan snapped a picture.  She loves them and finds security in her brothers! Precious.

Since Bryan is leaving tomorrow, I will not have a computer to send lengthy updates.  I will send short updates from my iPad.  Thank you so much for your continued support, thoughts and prayers!  Seriously!  Knowing that we have so many friends and family loving us makes this challenging process so much easier.  We miss you all tons!!!  XOXOXO

Note from Shannon:  I don't have any pictures of what Summerson mentions above.  But, once I get them, I promise to post!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Baby Steps

March 15, 2013

When we got Evie’s referral last August, we learned of her age and bits about her living history.  At that time, our main concerns were how a three year old would be able to detach from her foster mother of nearly three years and attach to our family.  After consulting with very knowledgeable Holt staff and our social worker, we learned that even though it will be difficult in the beginning, because she knows what a true bond is with her foster parents, she will be able to bond with us.  The first four days have been tough, I will admit.  It’s hard to see her grieve.  It’s frustrating to not see smiles.  BUT, it’s so so great to see progress!  Yes, they are baby steps, nonetheless we see a light in her little face that will only get brighter.

Progress in our world as of today means Evie J being in the same room with Bryan without crying.  She even sat across of the table from him twice today and ate her food!  Progress also means showing a natural smile by watching the boys play.  She now looks around often, points and talks quietly.  Oh she’s so cute!  She is a fast walker, swings her arms and even has a little strut.  I love watching her pigtails flop up and down.  More progress is allowing Brycen to feed her AND push her in the stroller!  One more sign…she is able to stay in one room of our hotel suite and wait for me to return without crying.  Yes, baby steps, but so big for such a little girl.

This morning we boarded our plane in Taiyuan and flew to Guangzhou.  This is our last in-country flight.   Yay!!!  The next flight we board will be to go home!  I do my best to not count the days, but sometimes I just can’t help it.  I’m hoping all of the paperwork in this city goes very smoothly and the time flies.  Yes, of course, I want to enjoy every moment and we still have lots to do.  So, I will do my best to be patient and keep focus on the baby steps that our newest family member is making daily. 

Tomorrow will be a tough day on Evie J.  All adopted children applying for U.S. visas must have a medical check before they are granted a visa.  Evie J’s medical check is tomorrow and although it is a basic evaluation, we have been told to be prepared for lots of crying and fear.  I’m afraid Evie may have a setback, but hopefully she will see that Bryan and I will be there to calm and comfort her when she is scared.  It’s so hard to know what is going through her mind.  The language barrier is much more difficult than I imagined. 

Bryan is leaving China on Monday because he has a meeting in Chicago.  It is going to be very sad to see him leave, but I’m so fortunate to have my mother here to help.  After he leaves, we will only have three more days in China, but who’s counting?!  Thank you so much for all of the super sweet and encouraging emails and Facebook messages.  I cannot respond to any Facebook messages because China does not allow Facebook.  I can read your FB messages on my email.  I also cannot read any blog posts because our blog is blocked in China.  I have gotten a few messages saying you tried to post a message on my blog and it didn’t show up.   Thank you so much for caring to follow us and sending us encouragement.  It truly means more than you can imagine!  I LOVE opening my email and seeing lots of messages to read!  I miss you guys SO much!  We can’t wait to get back to Charlotte and show Evie J our “real” day-to-day life.  Okay, I better stop before I get too homesick.  It’s 9:50 and I’m going to go crawl in bed with Evie J on one side of me, Bennett on the other and Bryan hanging on the edge for dear life. J  XXOO