Its about the …



There was some old school The Simpson’s character who would wail some phase like, “what is no one thinking about the kids,” whenever there was some idiotic plan.  This bit filled some void regarding child safety or education.  Today this phase rang through my mind when Jacob met up with one of his friends from the Orphan Hosting Program.

Over the past four weeks we have seen a lot of expression come across Jacobs demeanour. We witnessed his body language though a spectrum from emotions ranging from excitement to being melancholy to being frustrated (usually with his three little housemates). But yesterday at Laguardia Airport I witnessed a new level, exuberance.  Jacob lit up when he reunited with his travel companion, Wen De. It was like seeing two peas being put back in their pod.

The background on their friendship, as I know it, starts with the beginning of their trip from Guangzhou to Beijing to Houston to New York City some four and a half weeks ago. However, there were stronger roots showing through as the two twelve-year-olds shared stories, laughed and goofed around together. They entertained all the New York hosting families with their excitement and interactions.  They bonded or their stories.

As we gathered as hosting parents we shared our own stories as the  anticipations of saying our goodbyes to the kids gathered around us. The GWCA chaperone began organizing the kids together. She organized them in groups to retrieve their boarding passes.  The kids ebbed and flowed between each other, their hosting families and the chaperone a few more times and then it was time to say good-bye. I translated to Jacob that I was proud of him for being brave. I told him we had a lot of fun and thanked him for being a good model for my three boys. He said thank you and gave a good hug. Jacob’s forever father also traveled with us and he said his goodbyes. There was an unspoken understanding, a bond, between them where I believe that Jacob had an understanding of the shared future that lay ahead.  Wen De took the opportunity to take the translator to tell Jacob’s forever father and I that Jacob is a terrific kid.

That moment was probably the most heart-wrenching for me.  Wen De, with all his energy, his positive spirit, his being the life of the party is waiting to find his forever family. I got to spend time yesterday talking with his Hosting family.   They had all positive things to say about him.  They told about his action as a caretaker. He is engaging. He knows how to bond.  He is smart.

We will be devoting this space over the next couple of weeks to help advocate for Wen De. We are searching for a forever family who has an open heart and an open home for Wen De. We would like to find this family by September 7. We will post more information about him, about a grant for him and of course more pictures.

It is about the kids … it is about the friends … it is about family.


A Thousand Words



The other day Michelle took an amazing picture of Jacob with his forever family. It is a beautiful picture. But it is not a picture we can post here, today. Posting this picture will be the honor of the forever family and shared in the months to come. But as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some of those words.

A family stands upon a cement stoop that leads up to an unassuming threshold. Framing the stoop is enriched, black soil shaded by young, green plantings. The soil awaits the opportunity to nurture new life from seed.

The family is framed by a façade of stone. The stone is reminiscent of a country cottage where utility outranks ornamental decorations. One window reflects the shadows of leaves that filter the last rays of sunset before the cooling of a humid, hot August day. The opposite window waits blank where on some winter evening the family will stand in warmth to watch snowflakes fall from a cold Wisconsin sky.

Five of the people pictured include a mother, a father, and three biological siblings. They are shining smiles, but not for the camera. The mother stands behind the children, holding herself with joy and anticipation. She does not need fancy jewelry or designer clothes. She is beautiful because of who she is, the wisdom she holds and the life she has created. The father stands tall, proud and wearing a warm smile that demonstrates a comfortable, confident spirit that knows how to provide for his family. The three children stand in stair-step formation. They span the ages of thirteen to seven; a boy in the middle of two girls. They are smiling because they are excited. They are happy. There is anticipation in their eyes. They know their lives are about to change. The expansions they wear demonstrate a positive excitement for a future of expanded, unconditional love.

These five lives are bonded with love. They have invested into each other over the want to posses’ individual, ornate belongings. They are united. They have open ties that bind.

But what about the sixth person parched upon the step? He wears the same smile as the other five. He stands tucked between the father and the three siblings. He appears taller than what can be measured. There is the same energy, the same enthusiasm; he exudes similar thoughts of being united with the family upon the step. He wants to be part of the nurturing family. He wants to be inspired by the mother and father behind him. There are a few differences. Unlike the three other children, he has black hair. He has darker skin. He comes from a different place. These differences are overshadowed by where he stands. He stands in front of his future home with his future family. He has not been told, but yet he knows.

There is so much clarity in this picture. The focus is on the important, the family. The stoop, the doorway, the flower garden are the frame. The heart beats with this new family of six.

This is the picture that has made the past weeks and months worth every moment of planning and anticipation for Michelle and me. It is this picture that gives me appreciation for the unknown world out there. It is this picture that tells a story that can not be encompassed in the bytes of some blog. It is this picture that humbles me in recognizing the greatness of others. It is this picture that gives me the opportunity to give thanks to all for all the support and love we have received from family, friends and community to help Jacob on his journey. There are many who have open hearts.

Tomorrow we don’t send Jacob back to his past, we send him forward to his future.


Tree Rings


A tree can tell it’s own story.  Each years there is a ring. Each ring tells if the tree was distressed or if it experienced abundance of water and nutrients. We hope that Jacob, and his 28 other friends in the Orphan Hosting Program has a wider ring for 2015 and 2016.

The other day we talked about birthdays.  Michael is fascinated with people’s birthdays and how they celebrate.  His favorite book as a four year-old was Happy Birthday Hamster.  Michael and the other boys were a saddened to learn from Jacob that he never celebrated a birthday. So their goal for the weekend was to throw Jacob a birthday party.

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They took Jacob to the story to pick out cake and ice cream. Jacob was excite to hang streamers throughout the house. Michael, Max and Alex pulled out their party-favors. Jacob counted out 12 candles, placed them on the cake and lit them with pride. He smiled during the rendition of Happy Birthday to you, made his wish and blew out the candles. He served the cake and ice cream to his guests while his ring grew bigger.

Jacob has had a lot of other great experiences the past few days to grow his rings.  Our neighbors invited us to visit the farm where their horse is stabled.  Jacob got the brush and ride the horse. Again, there was pride in his eyes as he got to know the horse and follow the directions of the horse groomsperson. He also got to meet other animals at the farm.

DSC04064 (1)We know Jacob’s ring will continue to grow. We are excited for him and his forever family.  He is a great kid who needs a safe and loving place to land.  He is getting that and his rings will continue to grow.

What’s My Age Again?

JacobquoteWe have received questions about what it means to “age out” for a Chinese orphan. It is difficult idea to understand especially when there are eons of cultural heritage involved that is wrapped around bloodlines.

China law states that when a child reaches the age of 14 that the Child is no longer eligible to be adopted either domestically or internationally. A lot of people assume that this means that the orphanage turns the child out into the streets.  This is not always the case.  There may be no immediate impact after blowing out the candles, but there is a chisam that continues to deepen and widen for that child beyond their 14th birthday.

They will never have a family of their own. They will never have a mom or a dad. For those children, some will remain in the orphanage for a time, some may transfer to an adult group home, some may end up on the streets. Unfortunately, some may have even more tragic futures.

Here is how that child is impacted.

Luck and Superstition
Chinese culture has a deep and ingrained stigma that an orphaned child is unlucky or cursed. To be associated with an orphan, for some, means that they may curse their school or workplace. But couldn’t a child hide the fact they were an orphan in their adult life? Not really.  A hukou is the formal registration status that every individual in China has. Your hukou is family-based in your home city, and orphaned children often have a “group” hukou that clearly identifies them as not having a family.

Education in eastern asian countries is very important.  However, educational opportunities are limited for orphans.  Higher educational opportunities for orphans is unheard of unless the orphanage finds needed funds. Even if they reach and graduate from college, jobs are often difficult to come by due to businesses not wanting to employ people who might bring bad luck to the company.

Almost everything in Chinese society revolves around the family, and great reverence is giving to one’s ancestors and lineage. During major holidays, Chinese citizens return to their family. For orphaned children who age out of the social welfare system, they often find life very difficult with no family ties, and they frequently live on the margins of society.

These are just some of the impacts that a child faces as they age out of their opportunity to be adopted by their forever family. We are so thankful that Jacob will not face a life in China wearing this type of scarlet letter. However, there are a lot of other children, like Jay, who may not have the same opportunity as Jacob.  We are still searching for a family that has an open heart and a open home for him.

I have just scratched the surface on this topic. And by no means am I an expert.  I invite corrections and additional comments in the space below. I have borrowed from other blogs.  You can read more at:





More Wade Please

We have seen some interest regarding Wade’s journey and wanted to share a news story provided by News 4 out of San Antonio, TX

Wade, doesn’t speak English, but he can communicate enough to let you know that he is having fun, you can tell by the smile on his face, he is a happy, lively, 7 year old. “He is a great little boy, he has been very well behaved while he’s here and the few instances that I have had to redirect him, he responds well to redirection and he has a great disposition, so I can’t imagine that someone is not going to fall in love with him at some point,” says, Madrid Wade came to San Antonio to take part in a joint effort hosting program for Chinese orphans. He has been living with Tina and her 10 year old daughter Maylee for the past three weeks, and has two weeks before going back. “When they live in your home for 5 weeks, you know I can now tell people what his sleeping habits are, his eating habits, what he likes to do, if he is afraid of anything, what his health issues are,” says, Madrid Maylee was adopted from china when she was 10 months old. Tina says the idea of adopting another has been on the forefront of her mind, but right now their family is not ready. “As great as he is, because he is a really sweet little boy, we just decided that we are content with life as we know it, but the beauty of this program is that he is not abandoned at that point, because now we are his advocates and we are able to help him find that family that he fits into perfectly,” says, Madrid. The cardiologist tells Tina, Wade is getting good care in China, and is as brave as he can be. “I mean, he is 7 years old and he has come over here and he doesn’t know anybody, the language is different so he can’t communicate with people, the food is different, the activities we do are different and he just takes it all in stride,” says, Madrid. For more information on Wade and the Great Wall China Adoption, Children of All Nations program you can call: 512-323-9595 or email:
Read More at:

A Jacob Update

FullSizeRender[2]The last few days have been focused on Wade, Chase and Jay, so today we want to focus this space back on Jacob.

Last week we were excited to announce that a family has stepped forward to welcome Jacob into their family. Jacob still has to return to China for a number of months on August 21, so we are trying to give Jacob and the family every opportunity to spend time together. It has kept all of us busy. Our social calendar has never been this packed.

Swimming or anything to do with water seems to be the most common activity.  Jacob’s swim lessons have been augmented with boating, trips to the beach and of course swimming in the pool at our house.  Jacob is very comfortable and confident in the water.  Today he and my nephew spent time slashing about together.  Their common language was the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen.

Yesterday, Jacob’s forever family treated all of us to laser tag and trampoline dodgeball. Jacob liked stalking us in laser tag while keeping in the shadows, having fun with us all.   While at dodgeball he was excited to bounce and throw.  He was a good sport when he got out, laughing it off and then excited to go back in when a teammate made a catch.

We made a second Madison Mallards game for Jacob.  A friend donated six tickets for us which included an all you can eat buffet.  Jacob loves to eat and try new food. A few of the foods Jacob doesn’t seem to like is fried cheese and pizza sauce.  But the kid does eat like a horse dressed as a twelve year old.

Speaking of food, Jacob has found freedom in the kitchen often making his own eggs and fried rice.


Michelle has been working with Jacob on English phrases. They spend 15 minutes or so a day working on English.  He is getting a lot more confident in his ability to use his English language.  Jacob is wanting to learn more and more English. IMG_0367

The boys are still excited to have Jacob visiting with us.  Of course they are enjoying all the extra activities we have been doing.  The novelty has worn off a bit for them as Jacob has gotten more comfortable with them.  However, in a little over a week there will be tears that he has to leave.  We are excited knowing that he will be coming back to the states in the new year.


Drafting the Next Chapter

JacobquoteDo you hear that rustling?  That is the rustling of paper in the background as a family begins to draft the next set of chapters in Jacob’s life. We are excited to have made new friends who have open hearts and a open home.  They are excited to become his parents!

The next few months will be filled with paperwork, waiting and more paperwork for our new friends as their applications are processed.  At some point they will be able to introduce themselves as Jacobs new parents. But for now we need to keep mum on those details.

Our hearts will ache when we see Jacob and his other friends from the Orphan Hosting Program board a plane back to China later this month. He will have to wait while our governments sort out all the paperwork.  We will be strong knowing that he will return to the US to be with his new family.

Jacob’s stay with us ins already half over and this is great news to have. We will continue to present his journey here as well as share the stories of other children waiting to find their forever family. We appreciate all the support that has been shown for Jacob.  It means a lot to us knowing there is a strong community of support to help make a big different for a single life.


A Language Without Words


After dinner this evening Michelle and I had the opportunity to sit on our patio and watch the four boys play.  They swam. They played tag. And they explored the gardens.  But they never said a word. Through a series of gestures, guttural grunts and laughter they shared their rules to the games they played. They didn’t need to know Chinese or English to exchange their ideas.  Their laughter was their Rosetta Stone.

Jacob is learning more and more English each day.  He started seeking more opportunities to learn and use English words.  He can do it.  But it is retraining the brain to expand beyond what he currently knows.

But without the words our three boys still know how to communicate with Jacob.  They have figured out boundaries, likes and dislikes.  The new family hand gesture is either a thumbs-up, thumbs-down or a thumb-sideways.  These three simple signs say so much.  But the most important sign they give is that the boys love that Jacob is visiting with them.



Food and Bonding


When Michelle and I were in Seoul for Michael’s adoption we took the time to go on a Korean Food Tour with a guide and some friends we met along the journey.  The guide spent the day presenting a variety of food and dining experiences.   My favorite was the back, back alley off an alley bar that served a Korean drink called Makgeolli. As we sipped the lightly carbonated rice drink and ate different marinated tofu we shared stories with our new American friends and Korean guides.  We bonded and friends and discussed bonding our children that we were meeting in the next day.

The next day we got to spend time with Michael.  How did we bond? Food. We fed him little gerber puffs and he fed us. It built familiarity and trust.


One of the most popular questions we receive about Jacob, after language, is what does he like to eat.  Yes food is different 7,636 miles away.  There are different tastes, different smells, different preparation, different types of fruits and vegetable. However, there is something innate in humans, we want to try different foods and drink.  And this is the point. This exploration is one of the many ways to bound and connect with anyone from a different place.

Jacob wants to try all types of food.  We have developed a signing system for the foods he likes, doesn’t like and food he finds so, so. He has given the thumbs up to Michelle’s Chinese soups.  He thought the frozen pork buns were so, so (the bun was a bit too chewy. He was intrigued by the process of building his own taco. There are many other examples. Of course he is 12, so he is eating us out of house and home.


IMG_0205On our Korean restaurant tour we went had a traditional Confucian meal. This meal was more than just an exploration of food, but a ritual of honor, manners and the bonding of family and friends. While we were in our room eating, I was watching a family who was celebrating their first birthday.  The celebration was food and future.  It was interesting to watch as you could see the joy in the birthday boy for being recognized as the point of honor with his family.

Time spent to eat a meal is what keeps the family bound.



Ice Cream and a Cause

icecreamToday we raised $586 dollars to create a grant to be awarded to the family who steps forward to adopt Jacob. How did we do that? Well, here’s that story.

After learning about our participation in the orphan hosting program, a friend  approached us with the question of how she could help. She is someone familiar with  adoption processes and the costs involved. As we talked about our journeys she volunteered to organize a fundraiser for Jacob.

We were already blessed with so much community support to help cover the costs with the hosting program, we  no longer needed funds to bring him to our home.  We decided to use any money raised, to create a grant to support Jacob’s eventual adoption. The grant will be awarded to the family who steps forward to be his forever family.

Our friend organized an ice cream social that was held  over the lunch hour. The turnout, the support and the gifts were amazing! We raised $586 for two hours of serving ice cream to over 65  co-workers and colleagues.  This along with additional donations has created a grant currently worth $681. And additional donations continue to be gifted.

Jacob was there and did well making the acquaintance of many of my co-workers.  It had to be overwhelming for him. He ate ice cream, he drew and he watched Chinese pop music videos on my iPad. However, whenever someone came up to be introduced, Jacob looked them in the eye, said hello and shook their hand.

Madison, Wisconsin is truly a remarkable place.  If there is a cause and you present the opportunity, people will come and help (if you build it they will come).  It was suggested $5 donation, but those fives add up (a lot of people gave more than $5).  For that they will help a family take that first step in the process of adopting Jacob.

Thank you to all my co-workers and colleagues for helping make this happen. You helped in so many ways today. Thank you.