Thursday, March 13, 2014

old hat, new hat


It’s rather obvious that I haven’t been here in quite some time. It would be easy to say I hadn’t written because I’d gotten wrapped up in life. That would be true, to an extent.

The greater truth is that I came to realize how little I actually knew. The other, and somewhat silly, reason is that I felt pigeon-holed by the whole limb different title. I mean, we’ve never seen ourselves as an adoptive family, we’ve always seen ourselves as a family who happens to have adopted. We’ve never seen Ying as a limb different child; we see her as a child who happens to have a limb difference. So why exactly did I start a blog titled limb different?

But as time has gone on, I’ve remembered that I started writing here precisely because I was shiny and new at special needs and limb differences. I started this blog because these are the answers that I wanted when we were starting out. I wanted someone to tell me how to buy a modified car, how to go to an IEP and how to deal with stares in public, and, and, and….

So to anyone stumbling here because you’re starting out, having gotten a little further down the road, I’d tell you this:

Having a differently abled child is as much the fabric of our lives as having a child that runs on high octane – it’s life.

We hardly notice the stares any more. If anything, people come up to us and are very complimentary of Ying and her pink wheelchair. Sure there’s the rogue old man, who tells me he thinks I should tighten the seat belt of Ying’s chair because he’s worried she’ll fall out. But more often that not, I’m meeting the smiles of someone across the way. People seem to feel a great sense of pride in Ying, even people we don’t know.

The questions have gotten harder -- because they now come from Ying herself. We tell her the one thing we know to  be true: we don’t know what God’s reason was, but we know He has a good one.

Do not dismiss the thing you think is hard today. Do not minimize it or trivialize it or compare it to someone else’s definition of difficult. You own it. Some day it will be a measuring stick of how far you’ve come.

Maybe you feel a little isolated, a little alone. Make you think people can’t relate. And to your exact situation, in that exact moment, they probably can’t. Just like you can’t relate to their exact situation at that exact moment. But you are not alone. I’ve been surprised by the painter who casually mentioned an autistic son after seeing Ying. By the coworker who, knowing about our adoptions, talks about a difficult childhood. We were meant to share the hard, to steady the hand next to us, to cheer on the tired mama to the left of us, the stumbling friend to the left of us.

Finally, watch this. Watching this woman put on fake eye lashes will blow your mind, and, sometimes, that’s all the inspiration you need.

Let’s meet here more often. I’d forgotten how much I like it here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Some parts of the country are sick of the white stuff already, but we love a good snow day.

We woke up Christmas morning to an indoor snowstorm, but this would be fun any fine winter’s day.

1. Hang lots and lots of snowflakes from the ceiling on white ribbon. (Don’t toss them when the snow “melts.” Save them for next year!)

2. Cover the steps and hallway in styrofoam packing peanuts.

3. Go to the dollar store and buy boxes of instant potatoes flakes. It makes for awesome snow and fun pictures.

let it snow

let it snow1

4. Have an indoor snowball fight using everyone’s rolled up white socks.

5. Use kitchen scissors to make flour tortillas into snowflakes. After the designs are cut out, brush the tortillas with melted butter and top with cinnamon sugar. Pop them into a 350 degree oven until brown. It’s dirty snow you can eat.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Around these parts….

bike and pink wheelchair

  • We think that wheelchair ramps make awesome bike ramps.
  • We can be overheard saying things like, “If you want to help me cook, you need to wash your feet.”
  • We make rules like ‘no slinkys on the wheelchair’s joystick.’
  • You can hear a little girl say, “good night, pink wheelchair” at bedtime.
  • We’ve been engaged in The Great Shred of 2013. Even though we have 2 finalized adoptions, we had piles upon piles of forms, form instructions, and even the envelope that the form’s receipt confirmation arrived in. It was time to let them go; the shredder has been running non-stop.
  • We’re cheering on Rep. Tammy Duckworth. You can, and should, see her in this video.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Filling a shoebox: Operation Christmas Child

For as long as I can remember, my family packed shoeboxes at Christmas. It’s a tradition that carried over once I became an adult. It’s also a tradition that has come full circle. We learned that, in the past, some of the older children at Ying’s orphanage have been the recipient of Operation Christmas Child. Nothing will make you pack a shoebox faster, and with more love, than knowing that.

operation christmas child 

Christmas shoeboxes

So as a family, we packed shoe boxes this year. Little hands and little feet filled plastic baggies with leftover Halloween candy. (Certain persons were initially more reluctant than others but were soon filling their baggie to the brim). We went to the store and asked our kids to pick out socks and puzzles. Some little girl will be the recipient of Ying’s love for pink.

This is such a small thing. But it means something. It does.

When we were in the Hmong village last year, we took gifts. Several of the gifts came off a suggested list. Things like a small winter coat, hygiene products, etc… We also took a few fun gifts. Things like bubbles and a travel size Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Do you know what gift was exclaimed over the most? School supplies. Pens, pencils and erasers were remarked on by the adults, interpreter and children alike. That’s stuck with me.

Most of us don’t think of a yellow #2 as a gift. I’m not sure what I would do if I found it in my stocking, much less my kids. Yet for children in a school house with no electricity, it was a wonderful present.

Find some pencils. Bag up some candy, stickers and toothpaste (more ideas and details on filling a box here).

Love can’t be contained, but Christmas can fill a box.

PS – The shoeboxes are now hightech. When you donate online (suggested donation is $7/box), you will get a printable barcode that you put on your box. Once your shoebox is delivered, you’ll get an email telling you it’s destination.)  In years past, we’ve gotten these emails. I love knowing where our shoebox has gone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Smashing Pumpkins and Let’s Hear It For The Boy

smashing pumpkins

Luk Chaai is a boy’s boy. He wiggles and squirms and worms. He’s loveable and loud. In spite of our best efforts, numerous times a day he’s asked to be still, stand still, or sit still.

I don’t want that to be our legacy for him, that we tried to change who he is. But some days … dude.

So when we find something that celebrates who he is and what he likes to do, well, we’re on it.

Our pumpkin was already ooey and gooey by this weekend, so we let Luk Chaai climb a ladder and plop Mr. Jack-o-lantern on down. He thought it was great. The pumpkin turned into water balloons and a two wet, messy kids, but nonetheless it was fun.

Here are a few more ideas for a guy or gal who needs to just be:

Friday, November 1, 2013

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. That means there will be a lot of adoption “speak” buzzing about. It will be common to hear things like: orphans, being called to adopt, Gotcha Day and the least of these.

We don’t use a lot of adoption “talk” at our house. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the lingo I mentioned above. But I think it can be overused, misused, and in our personal circumstances, not completely honoring of my children or their circumstances.

That being said, adoption does get talked about a lot in our house.

We talk about the children who wait, about our children’s lives before they came home to us. We pray for foster mothers, for nannies at the orphanage and for their birth families.

It’s a topic I hope that I’m completely comfortable with, that my children are completely comfortable with.

But I get that not everyone is comfortable talking about adoption or even asking questions about adoption. So I’m going to do it for you, ask the questions and give the answers. 

Let’s get started.

1. How long did you wait for your children? We waited 29 months for Luk Chaai - from the day we mailed our application until the day we met him. Ying was a waiting child, so the wait was a little different. We waited 18 months - from the date of application until the day we met her.

2. Do you receive any kind of state or federal assistance? No. That being said, Ying does get therapy through a state-funded agency. She started getting PT through our private insurance, but we subsequently switched. Private physical therapy was expensive and very limited. The insurance company only approved roughly 18 sessions initially. As you can imagine, we needed a lot more than 18 sessions! Ying was eligible for therapy through the state because of her adoption and the extent of her needs.

All the DME (wheelchair, ramp, etc…) has been purchased through our private insurance. We independently purchased the wheelchair-equipped van.

3. How long will Ying receive physical and occupational therapy? As long as she needs it. Initially, she was getting PT and OT, each, twice a week, for half an hour each. She is now receiving OT 1x a week and PT 2x a week.

4. Is adoption expensive? Yes. There are many, many articles and posts that deal with paying for adoption, grants, etc… For us, we found most helpful sites like: and

5. What birth parent information did you receive? All the information that was provided to the agency was passed on to us. We are grateful for every shard of it. As is common in international adoption, the medical information was limited.

Here’s a related post on children of our own

Do you have more adoption-related questions? Stefanie from Ni Hao Ya’ll is also answering questions here (which inspired this post).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Read This, Eat This, Play This

mini bananas-001

Nothing says fall like these Pumpkin Oatmeal Scotchies. Buy 2 bags of butterscotch chips. You’ll need them. This is a recipe you’ll make again and again. This recipe for Pumpkin Pie Dip has also been a winner. And it’s slightly healthier because apples dip nicely in it. Although graham crackers do too. Lastly, we love mini bananas. They’re perfect for snacks and school lunches.

I’m only partway through The Whole-Brain Child by Siegel and Bryson, but I wish I’d read it sooner. One really good take away is to explain to children that emotions are like clouds. They aren’t permanent. They roll by.

Luk Chaai’s teacher recently asked me about our snake. Our snake? The closest we have to a snake is a now-deceased caterpillar that got taken to Share Day in a pickle jar. So when I can across the suggestion to play 2 truths and 1 make believe with yours kids in The Whole-Brain Child, I knew this was a game for us. It’s actually been a lot of fun. We pared it down to one truth and one make believe though to make it slightly easier.

Here’s an example of how I played it with Luk Chaai: I once had a banana cut out of my mouth with a samurai sword or I’ve eaten alligator. (Just ask my summer camp roomie who volunteered me for an “activity”, which one is true.)

Happy eating. Happy reading.

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