A letter to..

I just read this in a group we are a part of on Facebook. Perhaps it will be useful to you if you are bringing home a child anytime soon (or if you didn’t know this still applies to our family). These are the words I was looking for! (Thanks, J.W.N)

______ been in an orphanage for the past 6 years, with little meaningful adult contact. She’s a remarkably adjusted and lovely girl, but she’s learning a lot right now about families and relationships. Right now, as far as emotional relationships, the only thing _____ and I have over any stranger on the street is about 2 months of time. We don’t have a long history of fixing her boo-boos, proving our trustworthiness, and providing for her needs. Without those memories in her “bank”, we’re pretty interchangeable for anyone else that can provide a few months of clothes and food. That parent-child trust and attachment take a lot of time. For many of these kids, as they start to feel that attachment develop, they actually get scared. They don’t want to trust an adult so deeply when so many adults have failed them so miserably. So they push away and look to invest themselves more lightly in other places rather than really attaching to the family. I’ve personally known a family where their kids have run away after 2-3 months to go stay with a friend’s family or their new aunt&uncle or grandparents because they were scared of the emotional connection they felt developing. They couldn’t explain that until later, but that was part of it.

I love you all (I’d say love you like a sister, but most of you ARE my sisters). I know _____ will also love you. But it’s not me being selfish when I say I need her to love ME MORE. It’s for her best interest to learn to love her parents and learn to count on a reliable, loving, consistent parent. She needs to know that she can always confide in me, trust me to help, trust me to have her best interest at heart, and trust me to provide for her needs. This means lots of perhaps strange things.

First: always have my back. Always. If you disagree with something talk to me privately–I’ll screw this up a lot and appreciate advice–but don’t go around me. This goes for totally silly stuff like letting her have a snack or purchased item if I said no, to letting her complain too much about life in our family. If she complains that something is unfair or miserable or whatever, let her vent, but please don’t AGREE. Try “that sounds really frustrating” or “I can tell you’re upset. What do you think would help?” but not “you’re right, she’s the worst. I would never do that!” etc. I can’t emphasize how important this is.

Second: we need her to think of our house and home as her base. We’ll come visit you all as a family, of course, and meet up at places…but we’d like most visits and get togethers with her cousins and friends to be at our house. She needs to feel rooted here.

Third: Let us be the main source of the good things. Kids from orphanages and hard places don’t know how to measure love so they count gifts and compliments and degrees of physical touch and assume more stuff = more love. We’ve missed out on 16.5 years of birthdays and Christmases and treats and snuggles. 16.5 years of telling her she’s loved and special and beautiful and cherished. All kids like to hear that from other adults, too, of course, but we all build that core up from our parents. At holidays and birthdays, please check with us for gift suggestions so you don’t “out-do” us. Let her hug and snuggle, but if it starts to seem overly sweet, please encourage a reasonable boundary. We need her to know that we are the MOST love. Tell her she’s beautiful, or that something looks pretty on her, or that she’s smart and clever and funny and witty (she is! I know!) and give her a hug or a shoulder squeeze. This one is hard to really define—but let us be the parents that fill her up with love. You can be the cool aunts and friends that reinforce it.

Clarification of Boundaries: Sorry I Scared Everyone!

Hi all! It has become clear that my older post about ground rules was overwhelming and left some folks unsure whether they should approach us or not. I’m sorry for that. All of those boundary lists were things I had been mulling over for 3 years and watching other folks live out, so they didn’t seem daunting and foreign to me, but that was probably not the best way to go about it.

So, here is the short list and there is always grace. James is adjusting well, so hopefully we can say never mind to these in several months! But for now (just 3 things!):

-please don’t feed him directly.
-please don’t give him gifts without checking with us.
-please don’t parent in our place. Tattle on him right away and talk to us 😉

There you go. That’s much better, yes? I’m sorry to have created a shadow of worry over the whole thing, but thank you to those who mentioned and helped me see it from a different angle.

In other news, there is the slight possibility V is available for hosting over a month in the Summer. We need real discernment about whether to do that if it is an option.

I AM. LEGEND: Balaclavas, a Visa and a Swastika

Danielle does the blogging and you should be thankful for that. However, tonight she is in bed and I am wide awake trying to process the day. I think I will leave the going away party for her to write about; she is the wordsmith and was there for its entirety. I will tell you about a trip to the US embassy.

As a result of the expeditious processing of James’ Visa, I took my leave of the going away party early leaving Danielle to face the room of clamoring orphans. It was difficult to leave early and miss such a meaningful moment but I would be lying to you if I said there was not a part of me that felt a modicum of relief. Relief from the eyes; eyes within which a cocktail of hope, desperation, loneliness and joy swirled. Eyes that asked why we hadn’t chosen them, that pleaded for attention and sparked when they received it. I will not soon forget them.

I had waited for the last possible moment to leave so I hurried down the sun drenched street, sweat dripping into my eyes as I looked for an available taxi. In Bangkok it is often quicker to walk a block and catch a ride in a less congested area. Once it took us 30 minutes to travel one block, traffic here is horrible. As I walked past Lumpini Park, home to the Yellow Shirt protests, the bullhorn speeches and shrill whistles could be heard coming from the tent city. Danielle and I had mistakenly walked into this camp last week thinking it was a night market. We should have been tipped off by the bag checks and lack of tourists if not by the fist pumping and soup lines. At the edges of the park there were sandbag bunkers filled with military, across the street were police trucks next to a burned out car. The military tends to support the yellow shirts while the police tend to support the red shirts. It was then that I saw a group of men wearing balaclavas sitting on some steps. Did I mention how hot it was… far too hot to be wearing balaclavas for any innocent reason.

Still failing to find a taxi I decided to broaden my experience and take a motorcycle taxi. There are gads of these fellows along the sidewalks wearing bright pink or orange vests who would love to take you on a harrowing adventure as you weave through traffic toward your destination. I haggled a price from a pink clad man and then we were off sans helmets. Perhaps I should specify that I was without a helmet; his head was safely encased in protective gear as I clung to James’ paperwork in one hand while the other grasped the back of the bike. There were moments that I enjoyed myself but mostly I focused on not falling off or worrying about my driver’s deft threading of traffic.

I made it to the embassy with one minute to spare. In the movies there is always a tall gate manned by marines and the hero plus one damsel in distress run toward the gate yelling, “I’m an American citizen, open up!” I had hoped to do this at some point. Thus far I have been disappointed. Perhaps the marine gate is located elsewhere but only Thai security manned the doors to the consular.

I was the only one in the Visa processing area when I entered. I sat for about three minutes staring at poster warning that false visas and passports will open lots of doors (iron barred ones behind which you will sit for years) and close one (to the US) forever. Then my name was called, I was given a sealed envelope for US customs and told in no uncertain terms that I should not open it for any reason lest a sniper emerge from the brush and execute me on the spot. Or maybe it was a hefty fine plus extra hassle at the airport, who can recall details?

I chugged a few small paper cones worth of water and headed back out into the heat. Taxis were plentiful on the street and I caught one with no hassle. Why not have another go at the motorcycle you ask? I was nervous that the sacred envelope might be damaged and said sniper would exact his revenge. Anyhow, taxis are air-conditioned. My driver, Mr. Noppadon, had a swastika tattooed on his right hand. I have seen hundreds of these in Thailand proudly displayed on shirts, patches, temples and now taxi driver hands. Now before you lecture me on the religious significance of the swastika know that I am aware of the distinctions between that use and Nazi use. I am not so sure that the Thai people are aware of that though. Many of the ones I have seen on shirts for example are full on German Nazi Swastikas but I digress. Across the inside of the windshield Mr. Noppadon had written, “I AM. LEGEND.” This stuck me a certain way at the time but I will forgo explaining this as now it strikes me differently. “I am.”

I made it back to the Children’s Home just in time, Danielle and James were about to head back to the hotel. Again, I will leave the parting for Danielle to tell you about but the upshot is that I’m pretty sure our taxi driver thought that we were abducting James.

Dear readers, thank you for your prayers and support along the way, it has meant a great deal to us. Some of you have been down this road already, other are preparing to make it. Some of you are considering adoption yourselves. If I could properly convey the look in those children’s eyes to you dear readers, you would start the journey today.

Baby steps & counting down the days until we are home.

Today, our son got to ride on the Skytrain to get from point A to point B. Vo told us the other day that it had been a dream of his to do so, and he was SO thrilled that he hollered and squealed as he got on and off and was pleased as punch in between. His eye contact has been sustained today, he has been seeking affirmation as he tries new things or performs tasks, he is allowing more physical affection, and he is picking up English words at an impressive rate (counting 1-6, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, pink, thank you, punch, kick, okay, etc.). We are feeling REALLY thankful right now.

He also hurt himself for the first time with us. We’ve been waiting for this to finally happen because homeboy is bonkers when he gets going. He has had a few bumps, but today he fell off the bed and smacked into a chair on the way down (playing with balloons is a full contact sport), and we knew it was go time. He was obviously hurting but could only oscillate between a pained, blank face and maniacal laughter. Immediately, we helped him back on the bed, and held him as he figured out that it was sad he was hurt, that we weren’t laughing at him, and that our faces were properly somber. He melted into the bed and showed us where it hurt after some prompting. We kissed his arm, and though he was mostly confused by the gushing attention, he calmed down and accepted the babying. Small win.

On a happy note, he went in the pool today, and though it took some coaxing (has he ever been in a pool before??) by the end he was splashing like a mad man and holding his breath under water. Another win.

After we read ALL of the books in the room out loud, he went to bed wearing his Spider-Man costume (still sleeping in the mask– we should probably take that off, right?) and was all puffed up and proud that HE was Spider-Man. Thank you for praying for his heart and his hurt. Praising God for a day filled with love.

Resurrection Day is tomorrow, and we are truly grateful for Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. We do nothing to deserve it, but He freely gives it, and thank goodness, because I’m a hot mess.

Orphan? What orphan?

Today we took custody of James.

The visit began with him peeking in the door to the office of the children’s home and giggling as soon as we spotted him. He told Vo that he was so excited last night he couldn’t sleep! The rest of the visit was comprised of the social worker, home doctor and caretakers filling us in on his medical needs, developmental acuity and physical progress, and all that they know about his family history.

We received more than we expected in the family background department! They were able to clarify the circumstances of his relinquishment, help us understand how future contact with his birth family can be initiated and even allowed us to take photos of photos of his birth mom and birth grandmother. Jason and I have managed to hold in most of our tears of joy and of “ohmygosh-he-is-adorable”, but hearing his story was hard. Praise God for beauty from ashes and for the gift of not having to guess at James’ story. When he asks, we will be able to answer, and that is something we are extremely thankful for.

We brought him a back pack filled with a change of clothing, a coloring book and pencils, some snacks and a few of the existing belongings we had sent over previously. He has never owned anything before. Not a scrap of clothing or a toy. He pulled everything out of the backpack, inspected the items and placed them back in. He kept that backpack on until we left and were eating lunch awhile later. Vo and the other ladies presented a Tuk Tuk key chain (she placed it on his backpack), a Spider-Man pencil set and took pictures with him. We will see them again for a goodbye party next week, but it was still an emotional time.

After a stack of papers was handed over to us, we were able to walk out of the home, hand in hand: a family. Jason looked at me as we trotted down the street and said – with a face of bewilderment meets satisfaction – “he is ours now.”

The rest of the day consisted of a failed trip to the hospital for visa medical paperwork, McDonalds as the first official family meal (judgment is fair on that one!), scoping out the hotel room, playing in the kids room at the hotel (fantastic eye contact, creativity and general goofiness ensued), eating at a fancy restaurant for dinner (it may have felt a lot like watching My Fair Lady), and reading every single book (there are at least 10 of them) before bedtime.

Bedtime was when he let himself grieve the day. We did our best to comfort him and express with body language that “yes, this is all really sad. Crying is fine.” Jason placed a hand on his leg until his sobbing stopped and snoring started. It broke our hearts, and we ask for your prayers for his hurts as they continue and as they heal.

We’re a family now.

Drumroll please…. We met James!!!!

The post you’ve all been waiting for – as you’ve patiently prayed for us and encouraged us – is finally here. This morning we met James and let’s just say now we’re 1 for 2 for orphans being terrified of us on day one (V shout out).

When we walked up to the Children’s home this morning we had no idea where the entrance actually was, so we wandered around the campus for a little while. As we rounded a corner, a woman finally noticed us and started to point to where we needed to be, but just then, a sweet little face peeked through a cracked open door and immediately recognized us. He lit up, a little shock but mostly excitement, and made several attempts to come over to us, but the caretaker ushered him back in. As we walked away to the entrance, we waved to him and gave him a “just a second” gesture.

Once we were up in a separate room, the lovely Vo, who has been helping facilitate the adoption and communication with WACAP, introduced herself and started answering our questions. A few moments later, James appeared in the doorway -he had quickly changed into his matching orange shirt- and was brought into the room by a social worker (who is also very kind and gracious).

The whole thing was a bit of a whirlwind (fortunately we recorded the whole meeting) but we had all of the questions they could answer answered and they helped James understand what the next few days would bring. Vo explained to him that we would like his name to be James Polsit, and would he mind that or should we call him Polsit, but his smile was SO big as he insisted on being called James. The women were good sports and started calling him James from then on.

He was shy and was clearly trying to behave well and do things for himself, and the women explained that he has been very excited. As he answered questions, his voice was very soft. He drew some pictures and played with some toys and mostly tried to avoid eye contact with us for the first visit. By the end, he was checking to make sure we were watching what he was doing and he was making more eye contact (so grateful for the blessing of even small gains on the first day!!). Our time together ended with hugs and he said “see you tomorrow(tomollow)” at Vo’s prompting.

A few quick things we learned: he is tiny! Somehow this Thai kid won’t touch spicy food! He thinks cats are great until he sees a video of them and then he hides (ummm)! He’s a quick study! We also found out that his best friend is being adopted by a family in the States this year, so that is good news for keeping that bond for them!

That’s all for now. Tomorrow morning we will take custody, visit the doctor for his visa medical appointment and then take him back to the hotel.

Thank you for praying, dear ones. His heart was clearly prepared for the meeting today, and we can’t believe we are finally a family. The Lord has been gracious to us and we are confidently following His leading as we bring. James. Home.

Thailand: Days 4 & 5

On Sunday morning, we attended church with Well of the Gospel, at the ministry building of Samaritan Creations. The Killars were wonderful hosts, and we would highly recommend checking out their ministry. We are hopeful that we will be able to see them again before our time in Thailand is up!

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After church (which included lunch and a new year tradition), the Killars graciously showed us how to do Songkran properly, and took us into the heart of the waterfight. It. Was. Madness. It was also awesomeness. My absolute number one most despised thing in the world is having anyone touch my face, but part of Songkran involves rubbing this talcum powder paste on other people’s faces, and by the end of the experience I was basically immune. Thanks, Thailand, for a hundred strangers touching my face and rubbing crap on it.

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After celebrating Songkran we went back to the hotel, thoroughly scrubbed off the powder, washed away the questionable street-water and rested. In the evening, we enjoyed the opulence that is Thai movie going. The theater was huge and clean and over the top nice– still half the cost of American theaters.

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Today, we woke up and headed over to the nearby Chao Phraya river. There are boats upon boats that carry passengers from port to port. Impressive wats and complexes, as well as shockingly dilapidated homes line the riverbank. We walked between the Wat Arun, the world’s largest reclining Buddha and the Grand Palace. It was SO hot that we had a difficult time doing more than snapping a few photos and wishing for death, so we made our way back to the hotel for showers after a few short hours.

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Once refreshed, we went to an interesting destination called Escape Hunt. In a nutshell, you are closed in a room that is filled with clues and puzzles, and you have one hour to solve the mystery and escape the room. We really wish there was something like this back home because we want so badly to share this fun with you!! Yes, we escaped, but with only 45 seconds to spare!

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We also ventured out to several stores in search of groceries, before stopping by a bookstore to pick up a few thai/English books for James, eat dinner and head back to the hotel. Songkran continues at full tilt, so we are sticking to the Skytrain route that is much like a neutral-safe zone. 🙂

Hope all is going well at home, and look forward to having JAMES news to share soon!

Thailand: Day 3

Helloooo from the fuuuture!

We visited the MBK mall on our third day to pick up a cell phone and scope out the shopping situation. We traveled using the Skytrain, which is something we definitely recommend for transportation. It is cheap, clean, fast and will take you where you need to go.

The MBK mall is 7 stories and PACKED with stalls and stores. There is food and handmade goods, as well as some commercial options. We had our first Thai Iced Tea in one of the food courts and needless to say, it was amazing. We also ate our first legit Thai meal, and the phrase “from here on out, question every fart’s motive” became our motto.

After purchasing the cell phone, we realized it was Saturday (we definitely thought it was Friday) and hurried back to the Skytrain to ride up to a massive outdoor marketplace(that is biggest on the weekend). It was full of cheap, barter-able items, so we will be returning with James to pick up clothing for him!

After returning to the hotel and showering away the disgusting sweatiness (have I mentioned yet that Bangkok is located on the sun?), we ventured back out in the evening to find a night market. Instead, we wound up accidentally finding an alley in the red light district (it was a dark, unsettling, sad place) and then finding ourselves smack dab in the middle of the opposition’s political rally. As soon as our brains connected the dots – no white people, everyone is cheering on a man giving a rallying speech, and they are checking bags for weapons – we left in a hurry, and never found the night market. Perhaps another night!

We are really enjoying James’ home. It will be a pleasure to bring him back for visits.

More to come!

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Thailand! Days 1 & 2

We are in the same city as our boy!! Craziness! Here is a post to catch you up, share some highlights, and maybe help out future traveling parents/visitors.

Day 1

We hopped on an Asiana flight from LAX to Korea and a Thai flight to Bangkok. Both airlines were punctual, fairly roomy and provided surprisingly good food and entertainment. On the first flight, we were in the air for 13 hours and were fed two full meals, there were free drinks constantly being brought up and down the aisles, and the movie selection was broad. The seats each have their own screen and full control of the playback. At the Korean airport (everything puts LAX to shame), there were free showers (we took full advantage of them and it was awesome) and very comfortable seating. The Thai flight was punctual and had the same amenities, meal and drink service as the Asiana flight. We were only in the air for 5.5 hours that time.

Day 2
The Bangkok airport is large and bustling, and we were anticipating that baggage might be lost, but instead it was already waiting for us in the baggage claim as we walked up. Surprisingly fast.

We had already made a reservation for our first night at the Best Western Amaranth hotel (not far from the airport and offers free shuttle service), so we located the hotels rep near the taxis and buses and were carted off to the hotel within minutes.

The drive gave us a taste of what we are in for. Golden bodhisattvas, large images of the King and ornate golden decorations on street lights and in the medians of roads. We saw golden Pegasus and elephants and horses. Food vendors lined the road, people on small motor bikes weaved in and out of traffic, and we excitedly pointed at a million places we won’t have time to explore. At one point, I asked Jason if what we were seeing reminded him more of China or Mexico, and he was quick to say “Mexico.”

The Best Western Amaranth is clean and modern. We slept for 12 solid hours before packing up and heading over to the next hotel, where we will stay until the 20th.

At some point during the flight, this all began to feel very real. We get to meet James in 5 days. 5. Thank you for your prayers, the travel was painless.