China

I have been home from China for almost a month now.  I have sat down to write about my experiences a few times but I get stuck because of mixed emotions about things.  It also didn’t help that I got a head cold on my flight home that lasted for 2 weeks.  Life with 4 young kids doesn’t slow down when you are sick, it just seems to go that much faster around you.  I think being sick just made the jet lag that much worse then it normally is when you have to switch by 13 hours but I have recovered and trying to get caught up on things around the house. 20160414-9N4A7534I found some interesting things out while in China.  When we adopted, all the children’s files went on this large shared list where agencies would try and match you with a child.  On days that they added children to the list, it was a fast pace race to try and click on files to reserve children for their clients.  It didn’t give the agency much time to really work on matching families and children for the best fit.  20160414-9N4A7697Apparently they are switching the system.  Agencies are getting matched with different orphanages in country.  That means that agencies can go over there, see the children interact, report back to families and really work on finding a match that would work.  I think there are a lot of good things that can come from this but some bad too.  A few good things…..I traveled with a group of doctors and physical therapists.  They are going over there and training the caregivers on how best to care for the children there.  Because agencies are matched to orphanages, they have a sense of responsibility to help those future children before they get matched to families that are in the process of adopting.  The earlier you can get treatment or some sort of intervention, the better.  Also, agencies are able to meet and interact with the children there.   I think it gives harder to place kids (kids with higher special needs) a better chance because you start seeing who that child really is instead of just a face with a medical need attached to it.  Like this one, a 13 year old who is very sweet and fun to talk but is confined to a wheelchair.  20160414-9N4A7832The agencies can also start advocating for some of these children.  A lot of this is done on the Superkids website.  Right now they are trying really hard to find a family for Jack, a 6 year old boy who has vision problems but is very smart, he can speak Mandarin and English.  His info is here http://superkidscharity.blogspot.com/2016/05/because-you-can-never-have-too-many.html

It was a lot of fun to meet these children, to hang out with them and play with them like legos and play-doh but knowing they don’t have a mom or a dad to do those things with made I think everyone on the trip a little sad because they are such wonderful kids.  One day we took about 10 kids out on a field trip.  After lunch we took them to a kitchen and made cookies and muffins with them.  To teach them how to cook was a lot of fun, something that I do with my own children all the time.  The simple act of helping them beat an egg can bring such joy.20160411-9N4A6644

At a different orphanage, I spent the better of 2 afternoons talking to a 13 year old boy who is about to age out of the system; meaning once he turns 14 he can not be adopted ever.  There is a family interested in him but he is scared, scared to leave his culture, leave his “family” (other kids in the orphanage that he has grown up with),  leave behind everything that he has come to count on for an unknown….a new culture, a new family, a new language, new foods, new lifestyle, a new everything.  They only have until June because then he turns 14 and adoption will no longer be an option for his future.  He will grow up with never having a family to come home to which makes me sad.   Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great workers in the orphanages that care for him and others like him but I don’t think that is the family unit that God intended him to be in. 20160414-9N4A7841I am talking about the boy in blue; however the boy in the wheelchair, the one I was talking about earlier in the post, he will be in the same situation in a few more months but he doesn’t even have a family considering him.  These two boys, they act like they are brothers and in a way they are because they have spend their whole life together and now 1 may leave and the other will stay.

I know before I left, I had a lot of people tell me they were praying for safe travels (which I had), for my health (which was great until the plane ride home) and for many other things on my trip and I wanted to say thank you.  Although I did get a few comments that people were praying for me not to fall in love with one and bring one home with me (which, not going to lie, really frustrated me).  But I think I would love it if you could continue to pray for these kids, that whoever God is calling to adopt them that they listen and are obedient right away, that their extended families are supportive.  And pray for the children who are sitting in orphanages right now, to give them hope as they wait for a family, to give them courage as they go home with a family they don’t know and for strength for those that will never have a family to call their own.  It frustrates me to know kids like these may never have a family.

 

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On my way to China!

Before everyone gets really excited, no, we are not adopting again or at least that is not in the immediate future for us.  But I am going to China in 6 days.  I had a photography friend message me back in February asking me if I wanted to go with her adoption agency on a trip in April.  We will be spending time in a few orphanages, meeting and playing with some kiddos there.  Part of our job is to get some updated pictures and videos, play with them so we get to know their personalities.  All of this information will be used by the agency in hopes that a family will see the information, fall in love with a kiddo, adopt and bring the child home.  My group is working in 2 difference orphanages; one in Shanghai and the other in Changsha, Hunan.  Here is a link you can copy and paste into your browser and it will show you some of the kiddos the team met last September:   http://video214.com/play/UdpIdlgrIEoMUWINBIxsAA/s/dark

Some prayer requests for the trip would be that we all have safe travels, no one gets sick.  That my kids are ok emotionally while I am gone.  Jenna has been struggling in the last week just with the anticipation of me leaving.

Second for the children we are going to meet.  That their immediate needs are met: medically, physically, and emotionally.  That somehow in their difficult situation they keep their hopes up that one day a family will come for them.  That when that family comes for them, they can let go of all the pain, all of the hurt, all of the anger they have inside of them and learn to love, to enjoy life, to be a kid.

And third that families step up and adopt these children who desperately need a family.  Even though it will be difficult, extended family members might question them, they might question themselves too but that these families learn to rely on God and say “YES” to a child.

I don’t know if I will post while there but my group will be posting about the children we meet on this blog:  http://superkidscharity.blogspot.com  Please follow along and meet some of the kids I will be meeting.  They also have a facebook page at Gladney’s superkids.  And there is another option but I have never heard of it so I am copying and pasting from an email.

And then there is Periscope. We will be streaming live videos on Periscope like we did on our last trip! If you aren’t familiar with Periscope you can download the free app on Apple or Android devices then search for Superkids. If they follow us there they will get a notification when we are live! The videos are available for 24 hours so even if they miss the live stream they can still watch the video! 

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Celebrating Holidays

We have been celebrating holidays left and right around here.  And with Easter this weekend I realized I have pictures from a few other holidays I have not posted so its time to get caught up.

In February we celebrated Chinese New Year.  It is the year of the monkey so I figured a banana cake was in order.  Besides making all of our favorite Chinese dishes I spent quite a bit of time in the schools talking about Chinese culture.  Luke and I worked together and memorized a small conversation in Mandarin to do at the presentation.  I thought we did pretty good when someone who actually spoke Mandarin understood us.  She said not all the words were pronounced correctly but she could understand what we were saying so I think that it was a success.

Next up was Valentines day.  We have a tradition of making truffles with the kids.  This year when it came time to decorate them, only 2 kids wanted to help.  I think it’s because I started making whoever is in the kitchen help clean the kitchen.  But when it came to eating them…..every body came running.  IMG_6164

We then celebrated Pi day with Pie…..March 14 (3.14).  I didn’t take any pictures but we had fun eating pie.  A few days later we celebrated St. Patrick’s day.  I don’t have an ounce of Irish in me but I like to cook so it was fun to learn about some traditional foods from Ireland.  The menu was corned beef, cabbage and boxty (potato patties).  I loved the cabbage…I might have been the only one but roasted cabbage was amazing.  IMG_6247

For dessert I made a cake that was suppose to look like a pile of gold.  Inside I had cut a hole in the cake to hide some M&Ms.  If I was on top of everything I could have special ordered the M&Ms to be all gold, you know like little gold coins falling out of your cake; however, I am not that good and we had just plain colored M&Ms.  After I cut the cake and surprised all of the kids, I explained they were suppose to be gold.  Luke then tells us that the leprechauns must have stolen all of the golden M&Ms and left behind their colored poop inside our cake.  IMG_6251Interesting idea…. but the funny thing is that it made Ryan and the girls spend the next hour making leprechaun traps to catch the guilty ones.  We let them leave 2 traps up over night.  Meanwhile, Luke was at the table drawing and coloring leprechauns on paper to put in their traps.  In the morning Ryan found his traps full of guilty leprechauns…well done Luke.  I didn’t even think of that.
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Which brings us to Easter….every Good Friday it’s egg coloring time!  Guess who turns into a goof when I get the camera out…no surprise here.

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Trip to Florida

While we were in Florida in January Luke had to fill out a vacation journal for school.  I was waiting to get his journal back from his teacher so that he could write about our trip.  So today we have a guest blog post from Luke….his first one.  I added a few comment in parentheses to explain extra things.

by Luke

My Vacation Journal

IMG_5706Saturday 1-9-16:  We went to a Shell Factory and went into a store.  Then, we looked around.  There was a lot of shells.  When we came out of the store there was an iguana.  Our mom asked the owner if we could pet the iguana.  The owner said, “Yes” so I pet the iguana.  Then, we went out to eat.  When we were done eating we drove home through a hailstorm.  When we got home, there was a real tornado warning.  IMG_5745Sunday 1-10-16:  We went to Sanibel and Captiva Islands and went to the beaches where I jumped over the waves but sometimes I jumped too early and landed in the waves.  I got soaked but I only got salt water in my mouth two times.  It was disgusting.  IMG_5759Finally we went to a different side of the beach and collected shells.  Two of the names are slippers and jingles.  My favorite shells are cockles.IMG_5818Monday 1-11-16:  We went to Edison and Ford’s winter estates and learned that Edison and Ford were friends.  I also learned that Edison was a great inventor and Ford came along and asked Edison lots of questions.  Ford invented the car. IMG_5834

Finally, we went to a manatee park and learned lots of facts about manatees.  My favorite fact was that the child only stays with their mom for only 2 years.IMG_5858

Tuesday 1-12-16: We went to a state park and saw a real alligator and her babies.  Then, we went on a boardwalk.  We walked on a boardwalk because it was swampy.  Next, we went to the Everglades and went up an observation tower.  From the observation tower I could see the Everglades.  It was mostly water. IMG_5889Wednesday 1-13-16: We went on a board walk.  Once in a while we saw animal tracks.  I learned that a raccoon has it’s bigger paws in front and smaller paws behind the other paws.  Then we went to the Imaginarium.  I moved a ball around.  I learned about batteries (The Imaginarium is a Science/Children’s Museum.)IMG_5862Thursday 1-14-16:  We went to Siesta Key.  The sand was as white as snow.  IMG_5917There was a restaurant named Yoder’s but it was full so we ate at Der Dutchmen.  After we were done we got whoopie pies from Yoder’s.  IMG_5948

(We came home on Friday which was an adventure.  There were more tornadoes that took out electricity in the airport so everything was a mess.  On top of all the cancellations and delays, our airplane had a hydraulic leak so it was delayed for 14 hours.  We quickly got on a different flight and made it home only 4 hours later then our original flight.  We did much better then others.)

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January in a few pictures

Apparently it is February already or at least that is what my bills are saying.  January really went fast but I suppose that is what happens when you are sick for about 2 weeks.

Right after Christmas break we took the kids out of school and went on our first big family vacation.  We went to Florida to visit Ted’s parents who vacation down there to escape the cold MN winter.  I had just gotten rid of my fever a day before we left so I was not feeling the best most of the vacation but that did not stop my kids from having fun.

They have all said they want to live down there so they can play on the beach when ever they want.  Luke and Ryan said it would be ok as long as we fly north every winter to go downhill skiing.  I think our kids think we are rich….. There is more I wanted to write about our trip and include some more pictures but I will do that at a different time.

About 1 week after we got home from Florida, our niece arrived into the world.  Luke was excited to be the first one to hold her besides baby’s Mom and Dad (and probably the doctor and nurse during deliver but we didn’t tell Luke that).  She was an hour old. IMG_5961IMG_5971 Jenna was the only other kid who wanted to hold the baby.  Ryan said he would do it after his cast was off.  Quinn had no desire to hold the baby but she has been pregnant at home with a stuffed animal up her shirt for most of last week. IMG_5964Speaking of Ryan’s cast, it came off at the beginning of the week.  Ryan was one excited little boy.  Hopefully now life will get back to normal, the kind of normal where Ryan is still the last one out the door, still clueless to where he left his socks, still the last one ready for bed but at least able to do it all on his own and not make someone else late in the process…well except we are all waiting in the car for him or in his bedroom for stories so maybe nothing has changed.  Hmmmm.  Well at least he is happy.IMG_5995

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New Year’s Resolution

I tried to complete a 365 project 2 year in a row and in the second year I think it really burned me out.  I stopped taking pictures for most of the fall because I needed the break and my kids said they didn’t want their pictures taken any more but it is a new year and I have a new photo challenge, a 52 project.  My kids, well 2 of my kids, have asked why I don’t take their pictures any more so I thought it was time to start.  Surprisingly my 2 most photogenic kids are not the ones who asked about it.

My first word for week 1 was resolution….I know….a big stretch right.  I have never had a New Year’s resolution.  If I thought something needed to be changed in my life, I would start right away, right when I had the idea.  As a few of you guys know, we changed churches in September.  With the new church, I got to attend a new Bible study with new women most of whom I have never met before.  One evening while at Bible study, a lady said that she had a word that her family was really trying hard to learn, to see it in their life, in the world around them and to show it to others the way God wants it to be demonstrated.  The word was LOVE.  They have studied it in the Bible, read scripture, talked about what it really means and how to show Love to family and others.

I thought it was an interesting concept.  Around the beginning of the year, I saw a website talking about picking 1 word to focus on for a whole year.  The concept was similar to what my friend’s family did.  The idea is to get rid of the long list of things you want to change in your life and just focus on 1 word and how to carry that out in your life.  Well…..I decided to give it a try.  I was thinking of all these different words that I could focus on but when it really comes down to it, I think I need to focus on the word JOY.  I really need to find joy in my life instead of always thinking about what else I need to get done.  I need to enjoy the life I have and the people that are in it.  I don’t think this means or entitles me to an extravagant vacation, a huge shopping spree or anything else that may give me a temporary happiness because that is all it would be, a little bit of happiness that comes and go depending on my circumstances.  I want the kind of JOY that comes from within, that fills me.  I found this verse in the Bible, John 15: 11.  It says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be full.”  Actually I really like the whole section of John 15: 9-13 which is the part I highlighted in my Bible but it speaks of joy only in verse 11.IMG_5698

I am not sure how this year is going to go.  I know there are a lot of things weighing me down right now yet at the same time it seems really empty but I hope to find the joy in what is before me and to live out God’s purpose he has for me.  And because I am not very good with conclusions, I will end it with a picture from our recent vacation from Florida.  I asked Ryan what would happen if we found a real alligator on our path.  He told me not to worry, he has it covered because he still has one good arm to protect me (1 more week and the cast comes off the other, yeah!).  To have a one armed son protecting you against a 10 foot alligator, who can’t find the joy in that.  IMG_5894

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An unexpected end to the year.

We were looking at our blog over Christmas and realized I have not posted anything for the past 2 months partly because all of my extra time has been working on our kids Christmas presents.  I tried scrap booking a long time ago and realized that was not for me but digital scrap booking is different.  Every 2 years I make books for my kids covering the past 2 years.  The kids love them and it is worth all the time it take to make them.  IMG_5689I have been frantically editing the books all of November and the beginning of December.  I don’t even think I took a picture in November because I didn’t want to take the time to edit anything.  But I finished the books in time to start all of the Christmas concerts we had to attend.  Luke had a school concert and 3rd grade plays.  He also tested for his yellow belt in Taekwondo which he passed. IMG_5626Ryan loves basketball and he is finally old enough to play in a league.  He had a game in Dec at the half time show of a JV game.  He is definitely not the best player in his grade but he did score the first points.  We quickly moved on to the girls pre-school concert. IMG_5632To finish off the concerts season, all of our kids were in their Sunday school concert.  Ted and I made the decision to switch churches in September.  Our new church has a very active youth program which is something we were looking for.  They put on a beautiful Christmas play which included retelling of the Christmas story.  Ryan was every excited to be a Shepard.  Luke was one of the narrators. IMG_5648The girls were only on stage for one song, the little drummer boy.  Jenna loves to preform and sang loudly every rum-pum-pum-pum in the song.  The other words not so much….still working on the speech thing.  Quinn on the other hand has told us she does not like to go on stage but she was a trooper and stood next to Jenna to support her sister.IMG_5643With all the concerts done, we thought we were done running around and could settle into celebrating the Christmas season with cookie baking and game playing.  Plans were all set for all the family gatherings.  We had even worked into the schedule a Timberwolves game for the boys.  Things were good.  The Monday before Christmas I was talking to my mom about menu planning.  The kids were loud so I told them to go outside which proved to be a mistake.  About 10 minutes after my mom left, Ryan started screaming.  He had slipped off the stairs and landed head first into the flower bed.  He came inside.  I took off his coat to put an icepack on his arm he said hurt.  It didn’t look right but it didn’t look wrong either.  I decided to take him to the clinic which happened to close 8 minutes before I got there.  So off to the ER we went.  Two broken bones…lovely.

Surprisingly Ryan is doing great even when they had to reset the bones a few days later.  It is hard to slow him down.  He has a splint on right now because of the swelling and will put a cast on next week just in time for our first family vacation to go swimming in Florida.  We will see how that goes.….

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