Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mistakes (discoveries!) in the kitchen

Rose is so fun! I waited SO LONG for a girl...after five boys I finally gave up and said, "OK, Lord. Girl or boy, I don't care anymore!" Along came Rose. 

My boys like to cook and learn how to make family recipes, but it's different with a girl, somehow.

I have instructed Rose on the procedure to make toasted butter frosting for cakes. It's our absolute favorite frosting around here! After several sessions of watching me make it over the past six months or so, I required her to do it on her own this week.

She was doing great!  She brought the butter to the perfect color point...and then turned off the heat...but...

     ...she didn't take the pan off the burner. The butter turned black-ish in short order. She cried. I calmly sniffed the pan and it didn't smell terrible so we went ahead and finished it together. Once the sugar and vanilla were added, I sniffed it again.

It smelled just like a blackened marshmallow.

Now you tell me, who doesn't love a fresh, crispy black toasted marshmallow? Someone with no soul, that's who!

I love having a daughter. I love making mistakes together and discovering new toasty blackened marshmallow frosting!

Don't forget to order your Adoption/Redemption shirts this week!! See this link:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Full and overflowing!

Life here is full and overflowing!! (If I weren't dealing with it well, I would say chaotic and stressful.)

Theo and Ralph met their new therapists at Heartspring yesterday.  We had some scheduling conflicts and had to make a change. It broke my heart to say goodbye to the ladies we had grown to love, but I think I'll be ok...eventually. Ralph twisted the knife a little. When he found his previous SLP's photo velcro'd to the wall, he started pointing to it insistently as if saying "where is she?"

Ralph and Zhen attended the Down Syndrome clinic in Kansas City last week. It had been three years since Ralph's last visit, so we had lots to talk about. When we first started taking Ralph to the DS clinic, he was on oxygen and I was dragging an E tank all over the hospital. Oh, how things have changed!

The psychologist recommended a behavior assessment for Zhen at school and also a private evaluation for autism. After observing Zhen for a while though, he changed his mind about the autism eval. It might still be useful, but he doubts that Zhen will be found to have autism.

If you know me, you know I don't believe in coincidence. The fact that my friend, Max from Ukraine, was in Kansas City that day, and free to have lunch with us was not lost on me. It was a gift. Maybe one of these days I can talk him into coming to Wichita.

Chipper had a birthday last week. He is 18 now! This boy has overcome so much and has grown into a fine young man. He has applied to my hometown university...gulp. When I think of all the trouble I got into in that town, I get a little nervous for him. He's a lot like me. Would you just look at those dimples?!

The next big thing coming up is Max's eye surgery. I can't wait to see him with his eyes all lined up. Sometimes I have trouble focusing on him because I don't know which eye to connect with! Then we will start the lengthy rehabilitation process. I actually have more hope than the doctors at this point. I believe kids go into some sort of suspended animation in the institutional environment. Maybe it's a protective feature of their bodies, or maybe I'm just crazy, but I believe he still has the capability to improve the vision in his bad eye. He does have extremely small optic nerves, so not sure what that means for his future. We will have to wait to find out.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Turning my attention to the east...

I must turn my attention to the east tonight. My amazing friend Carissa, and her family, are in the process of adopting a darling little boy in Ukraine. Her paper process was very smooth and fast. I attribute the ease of her process, thus far anyway, to the fact that she kept the whole thing quiet.

That is so very difficult, to go through the anxious home study preparation and the nerve wracking, nit picking dossier assembly virtually alone. She did not get to share her joy, her updates, and her fears with the adoption community. It should have been a time of happiness and hope. You see, Carissa has been a well known and effective advocate for many children and families over the past four years. She even worked very hard to raise funds for other adopting families over the summer when she could have been raising funds for her own.

Now Carissa is in country facing some unexpected expenses. I am calling on the community of orphan and adoption advocates to rally around her family. They have only raised $1500 during their entire process and their new child has some medical needs that will require them to have room on their credit cards when they arrive home. We can do better for them.

My original goal was to help them raise $2000 in the next ten days, but I have a feeling that we can do much better than that!

In the words of Derek Loux, "My friends, adoption is redemption. It's costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him."

I can hardly read those words without tearing up. It's the gospel boiled down to the bone. With permission, and with the help of the talented Heather Schlitt, we have put these words on a shirt. This shirt will be yours with a donation of $30 or more to the Lanning family.

Please email me at to order. Choose from Heather Indigo or Heather Cardinal in adult sizes S through 3XL. Shipping is included. Every single last penny over cost goes to the Lanning family! 

Thank you for sharing this on your own blogs, twitter and Facebook. Many hands make light work!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Birthday fail and other stuff

I was really looking forward to the start of school this fall. I love my kids and I enjoy being around them all the time. I LIKE them a lot. I just needed a little more margin.

So it has caught me completely off guard at the level of chaos I have been experiencing. Annoyances and problems rising up on my left and my right, drama to spare...that has been the theme over the past month.

If we were adopting, I would chalk it up to spiritual warfare. Perhaps it's that anyway. I can't say for sure, but I cannot see past the busy-ness right now. I'm pushing a boulder up a hill and I can't stop or it will crush me. I gotta keep pushing until I get to the top of the hill.

The icing on my boulder was coming home from a doctor day trip to find my house with partial power. It was a broken air conditioner sucking power and blowing random breakers. Since the house was so warm, I didn't feel that it would be wise to bake my sweet Max a birthday cake. No one felt like having a party either.

So, the story of Max's life continues...wait a little longer. A little longer for your first real birthday party, Max. I promise it's going to be fun! You are SO loved here. 

Thank you for being YOU and learning to communicate with us. I'll make sure you always have plenty to EAT and DRINK. Thank you for trusting us so completely. You are a real jewel!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three long years

I'm happy to be Max's mother. I love that little stinker. But you know what? I do not claim him as rightfully mine. For years I encouraged other families to consider adopting him. I would have been overjoyed to see him home with another family! God knew he would end up here, but it wasn't preordained. It wasn't His will. The fact that his birth mother rejected him was only the first in a series of preventable tragedies in his life.

Baby Max. Full of potential.

The funny face I fell in love with.
Three years, no growth. Tragic.

Shortly after I brought Max home, I received a message that made me physically ill. A family had seriously inquired about adopting Max back in 2010. They were blocked by the organization that had listed his photo and profile.

"We had been through 2 Ukrainian adoptions, so we were prepared. One stumbling block was the "strong request" to use her people. We have our own facilitator who we wanted to use. We could have pushed it, but she was not forthcoming about exactly where he was or how to find him without promise to use her people.
And I happen to KNOW how she got the info...and pictures...not [the organization's preferred facilitator]....."
Do you understand what had happened here? The photo listing organization was in possession of Max's identifying information, the information needed to petition the Ukrainian authorities for Max's adoption. This organization, which supposedly exists to provide visibility and grant money to encourage the adoption of orphaned children with special needs, withheld this crucial and not easily obtained information. 

This organization's preferred Ukrainian adoption facilitator did not supply this information to them. (The photos and information were provided by a missionary-I verified this for myself.) Yet, without a promise to do business with this specific person, the organization was not willing to provide Max's information to a family that was serious about pursuing him. (Publicly, this organization claims to be fine with families using any Ukrainian adoption facilitator of their choosing.) We are not talking about tire-kickers here. We are talking about an experienced adoptive family. 

(Side note, the family in question did end up adopting again, but from another country with easier travel requirements. Max continued to wait.)

Just yesterday another family contacted me. They requested that the very same photo listing/grant organization "match" their family with Max in 2010. The organization director told this second family that Max was too difficult and suggested some other children, which this family did, in fact, adopt.

I have no doubt that Max could have been home with another family three years ago. He could have had his eyes fixed in time to save some sight. He could have had his teeth cared for before he developed a infected cyst and lost the ability to eat properly. He could have started school three years ago and been spared years of harsh treatment and abuse. 

Max in February 2013

Apparently the photo listing/grant organization in question is fine with my son suffering for three long years, just so long as they didn't allow any of their preferred Ukrainian adoption facilitator's potential business to get away. Or was Max's suffering an unintended consequence? No one could have known, right? 


Just look at the Reece's Rainbow shrine to a number of known orphan children who died waiting for a family: In Loving Memory. The situation in many countries is desperate and every orphan photo listing/adoption grant organization is well aware of the situation.

So, do orphan photo listing/adoption grant organizations exist to serve vulnerable children? Or do they exist to funnel business to their "friends?" Ukrainian "friends" who insist that families make payment in crispy new U.S. hundred dollar bills? Make no mistake, we are talking big money here.  

What gives an orphan photo listing/adoption grant organization any authorization to determine which family is well suited to any specific child? The right to approve a "match" or to turn families away from a child? This is the legal domain of licensed adoption agencies and social workers. This organization employs no social workers and is not licensed to operate as an adoption agency. 

I'm not bitter, or living in the past here. I'm not focusing on "what ifs." I am telling Max's story, which is now my story to tell. But it's story that's larger than me and Max. It is my public service to waive the red flag. 

Adoption minded people and orphan advocates need to be cautious in dealing with orphan photo listing and adoption grant organizations. Some of these organizations will inappropriately insert themselves into a family's adoption process. Some have no problem playing games with families and by extension, the very lives and futures of the children they claim to serve. It's sick.

Edited on September 6: I turned off comments on this post. I will not let commentators put words in my mouth or muddy the waters with passive aggressive garbage. I shared our story and I issued a warning to be cautious in your dealings with adoption organizations. Things are not always as sweet and altruistic as they seem.