In 2013 while visiting with Edgar and Dunham in Ukraine, we met a quiet, shy, beautiful young girl with the saddest eyes. She wasn't popular with the nanny's and they were often scolding her for what seemed to be typical child behavior.... running, talking, jumping. Just about everything she did seemed to annoy them. She captured my husbands heart one sunny spring day when she darted from one of the nannys and ran to him yelling papa and flew into his arms. She hugged him tightly, her eyes begging him to love her, play with her, .... to be her papa too! Whenever the other children tried to come near us the nanny's would scold them and tell them that we were Vova's (Edgars) Mama and Papa. Sometimes when they saw us coming they would run over to Vova and yell "Vova, Vova! Papa, mama!" One day my husband captured a quick hug from the sad little girl and told her "I will come back for you one day". We did return to Ukraine to adopt Lettie and Bogdan but my husband never forgot the promise he made to this one sad little girl. Yesterday while cruising FB the face of a little girl grabbed me. I have seen hundreds of orphans on the pages of social media but this child made my heart leap into my throat! The way Willow had done many months earlier. My husband was driving our van as we returned from an ice cream trip with the kids. I leaned over and said "This little girl, her face her eyes. I feel like bursting into tears. I don't know why she is affecting me this way?" My husband yelled "Its her! Its HER Jen!" "Its who?" I asked. "Its the little girl I promised to go back for!" I cautioned him not to get too excited. I told him many of the children look similar. He was certain. I was skeptical. I messaged the woman who posted the pic. I asked her where this little girl was located and what her name was. My husband was relentless. I could tell he was ready to leap on a plane tomorrow! An hour passed. and then.... she messaged me back. and indeed it was the lost girl with the sad eyes. She had actually been on Reece's Rainbow for over a year. We just hadn't seen or recognized her. We prayed. We inquired. and we committed! We are overjoyed and humbled to introduce our daughter................
Daddy never forgets a promise. <3
The FB post that grabbed my attention!
If you would like to help us bring "Chelsea" Home we have set up a YouCaring site
I have thought about writing this blog several times but it just never seemed like the right time.
In a world of so much calamity and fear we have become a very "alert" society. I myself try to be aware of my surroundings and alert at every turn. I have five small young children with special needs. Isn't that what is expected of me. I have watched a million shows about murder, rapes, child kidnappings, pedophiles, drowning, choking................. I want to be a GOOD mom! I don't want to fail my children. So I am constantly checking doors, windows, safety, safety, safety!!!!! I paid for expensive swim lessons to prevent drowning. We practiced what they learned every day after swim lessons. What a great mom I was being! Other mom's surely will say I am doing well. I proudly posted a swimming Edgar on FB. Many commented on how fantastic it was. One mom said "This instructor should be arrested and thrown in jail!" ......... Wait. Huh? Abusive swim lessons??? Yep. This fellow adoptive mother decided she didn't like my choice of swim instructors, my chosen method or ME! and made a call to DCF. She didn't like a video I posted on FB or my decision to delete her when she became insulting. She publicly accused me on FB of "abusing all of my disabled children". Despite the fact only two of the four were in swim lessons, and she had never met me or my children. She started up a lynch mob on social media consisting of her friends and family. She felt my "traumatized orphan children" were being further traumatized by swim lessons. Overlooking the fact that we lived in Florida, the drowning capital of the world. Ignoring the fact we had a swimming pool and that children with special needs were much more likely to drown than typical children. and............ she apparently had no qualms about separating "traumatized children" from the only loving home they knew. She didn't care about facts or accuracy, only painting a picture that suited her vengeful agenda. It was a sad and painful time. Yet, I forgive her. I decided I would not be angry or get revenge and instead did a local news piece on special needs, drowning and the importance of survival swim lessons. My pediatrician and swim instructor joined me. Edgar swam under water smiling his great big Edgar smile! A local Autism Group contacted the instructor to teach survival swim to their students with Autism. It was incredible!
So I watch FB and see this... "OMG I saw a mom put her child in the car without a seat belt, I got the tag and called the police!" I watched as other moms applauded her and called her a hero! Others called the mom a "horrible mother" and vilified her. Perhaps feeling better about their own "imperfect" parenting. Another friend posts.... "Did you see this article? Her children were in the street! Watch your F-ing kids people or don't have them!" and another... "These parent's are idiots. They let their six year old use the bathroom by herself and she was molested. These parent's don't deserve children." .........
A week after moving into our new home we had not yet had the chance to completely childproof although we thought the kids were secure. One day the boys were out playing in our new fenced in back yard. We loved the idea of a 8 foot privacy fence! Now the boys could play outside! Sand boxes, swing sets, running and playing without mom keeping them on a leash! What fun! Bogdan, Lettie and Dunham had just laid down for naps. Gage was sitting on the couch with a sippy cup watching Mother Goose Club. Edgar had decided he wasn't ready to come in yet and was sitting in his favorite spot in the yard. I really needed to stay inside with the other four and fold some laundry. I opened the french doors in my bedroom and living room and begun folding laundry. Peeking out at Edgar every minute or so sitting in his dirt spot playing with his trucks. What a gorgeous day I thought to myself. Just perfect. Marty was out front working on a customers boat. A fresh breeze was blowing in. Check on Edgar, yep playing in dirt. Hang shirts. Check on Edgar, yep playing in dirt. Put away Lettie's blankets. Dog barking. Check on Edgar. Edgar? Edgar! "He's over here!" The neighbor behind me shouted. My heart dropped. I ran to the fence and stood on a bench to see over. "HOW did he get over there!?" "He JUST fell over. He climbed the fence!" She said. The neighbor had a pool (pretty glad I got those "abusive" swim lessons). Standing on her own bench she handed Edgar back over the fence. Several adults were standing in her yard. I wondered briefly what they thought about this "horrible mother". She smiled and said "My daughter has autism. I know how it is. My daughter has gotten away from me twice." I wanted to hug her!!! For taking away my fears. For not judging me. For understanding. The other adults smiled and walked over to the fence. We laughed and made friends. I told her about the swim lessons, she wanted more info for her daughter. She asked to have coffee I gratefully agreed.
I decided to take some additional precautions that day. We moved the bench first of all! ;) We got all the safety locks and door knobs in place. I called the local Sheriff's office and added Edgar and Dunham to the "Potential Wanderer" list. We got missing child kits and added all the children's info. AND I created a flyer and passed it out to all of my immediate neighbors letting them know who we were and about our children's special needs. Phew! Yep! All in ONE day! This "terrible mom" took precautions. But this day was not over yet.....
I called my good friend to share with her my eventful day, and she shared this with me... She had taken her daughter to the craft store along with her older, typical son's. Not sure on their ages but my guess would be 11 and 13? While she sat in the car with them waiting, her 16 year old daughter called needing assistance inside the store. It was a beautiful day, like I mentioned earlier, the weather was perfect! The windows were down in the car. She told the boys to sit tight be good and she would be back in just a minute. After a few minutes she was checking out when a intercom page asked the owner of (her vehicle) to come to customer service. She did. Standing at the counter was an angry woman. The woman said "You left your children alone in the car!!? What is wrong with you!? I would NEVER do that!" My friend was speechless. She stared at the woman. The woman continued to insult her until she quietly walked away. I have known this friend for years, she has three special needs adopted children and she is by far one of the BEST mother's I know. But here on this day..... this very strange special day, we both shared this awful sinking feeling that we were somehow "horrible moms". We questioned ourselves .... doubt began sinking into our minds. Perhaps we underestimated what it would take to care for so many children? We second guessed our decisions to fold laundry and leave teens in a car.
but.... this day wasn't over yet ;)
After dinner I decided to get out of the house for a bit. I grabbed up Gage and we walked out to the van to head to my favorite "ME" Time spot, Target. As we reached the van I notice an adorable little boy was standing in the driveway of my neighbor's house. He was around 18mo? I looked around for his mother. No mom. Anyone? nope. I noticed the big garage door was open and it occurred to me he must have gotten out of the house that way and nobody knew he was gone. A car was coming.... the boy darted into the street. I yelled "STAY HERE" to Gage and darted for the boy. I knew Gage would stay put. He just does. and this was an emergency! The car stopped just as I reached the boy and a man jumped out. He looked panicked. "Its ok" I told him. "I got him." As I walked up to my neighbors door carrying her son, it was not too soon for me to reflect on how ironic it was I had just put a flyer on her door two hours earlier because of "fence jumper". I knocked. The mother and two men came to the door. Dad and an Uncle? The mother was young, pregnant, 7 months? She gasped "Oh my God! How did he get out? how? where?" She looked panicked. So much like me earlier that day. I explained where I found him. She was so grateful. She said "We were JUST discussing your flyer!" I smiled and said "It happens, we are all mom's. We have to look out for each other." I told her about Edgar's fence jumping. We spoke about her pregnancy and photography and we all became friends. I couldn't wait to share this with my friend and called her on my way to Target. She too had a similarly redeeming experience. As she took an evening walk with her youngest a neighbor stopped to tell her how beautiful her baby was. This stranger said "You should have lots of children!" These incredible moments to the end of an emotional day, was a sign. A sign of encouragement from a Savior that loves us, walks with us. He is never wrong. He didn't make a mistake in choosing us to parent these children! Despite our imperfections, we are the perfect parents for our children.
You see... we have a choice friends. We can continue to tear one another down because we disagree or don't like how someone else parents. We can bully other mom's to feel better about our own imperfections. We can vilify and attack others character and even call DCF over swim lessons. We can belittle one another in the craft store or proudly declare ourselves hero's on FB. Or......... we can stop. Show Grace, understanding, kindness. We can lend a hand, make a friend, and truly care for other mother's and their children. We have four adopted children with special needs. This is unusual. Some people want to know why??? Why would someone want these "broken" children. They decide we must have an ulterior motive and they will uncover it and report it! Some people want something to talk about Other's want to be a hero and "fix" or "save" our children from ???????????? Therapy? Swim lessons? Bath time?
I have a third neighbor. She is an older woman. She lives with her grown son. When I was passing out my flyers she asked "why do you need so many children?" Her glaring eyes and smirk were familiar to me. I had seen it on many faces during this season in my life. I saw it on the faces of the Chinese exchange students at Sea World. I saw it on the faces of fancifully dressed Ukrainians as they walked past me looking disgustedly at Edgar. I had even seen this look on the faces of friends and family. I know this look. This voice of disdain. She doesn't like children I thought. Especially "foreign adopted special children". Today, I saw her son peeking through the fence. He was watching Bo. Bo was wearing his usual preferred attire "a diaper" and rolling around in a pile of leaves. The other kids had just gone inside with daddy to get baths. But Bo takes longer and likes to be alone. He doesn't play like "normal" kids because he can't keep up and he is special and unique. He likes rolling around in the dirt and grass. I don't know why... He can't tell me. But I can assume that it feels good to be in the sun after four years in a crib. I was sitting on the porch watching him when I spotted the neighbor. Why was my neighbor watching? I don't know? Was he judging the boy with CP? The mom who let her son with CP roll around in dirt? Did he see what I see? A miracle? A little boy free and loving mother earth? or was it something more sinister? I got up quickly and brought Bo inside.
I thought this blog would flow better. That it would have an end point or some deep meaningful lesson. Maybe I am just an imperfect mom sharing her heart. Maybe I am tired of having to explain why I make the decision's I do as a mother. Maybe I just want to ask that everyone stop judging and tearing each other down and instead show other mom's grace, love and friendship. Maybe I want you to stop and think....... Maybe that little boy with CP isn't unloved, neglected and abandoned in a pile of leaves. Maybe his mama is watching him from the porch, tears in her eyes, watching her beautiful son covered in dirt and thanking God for his very many blessings!
Five days.... that's all. Just five days to focus on my little's, my husband, my life.
and.... What a difference five days makes!! Yes, we completed our post placement report on Edgar and Dunham and registered Bo and Lettie with the Embassy, we caught up on all Dr appts. etc.
BUT the biggest accomplishment by far was the peace we found as a family.
We found peace in the new routine, the bonding, the challenges. I even found peace with my past....
These children. I cannot find the words to explain the pure love, delight, and purpose they bring to our lives.
Bogdan has found his own peace. I hear it in his laughter. I see it in his eyes. He knows friends. At breakfast he no longer screams and demands his food... he waits, smiling. Knowing, here, in THIS "orphanage?" he is always fed well. He loves my kisses! Did anyone EVER kiss him before? I will never know that answer. But I know that he feels mine! He feels daddys! He is gaining weight. He is gaining understanding. He is hearing the TRUTH about his Heavenly Father that adores him! He has NOT been forsaken. He is dearly loved.
Edgar. This boy! He is the very best snuggler you will EVER encounter. I take ALL my naps spooning him. His gentle snore. Oh my! His HUGS! Incredible! The best! He is my helper. He is such a loving smart beautiful boy. Overlooked by many... Dismissed by his nanny's as a "retarded" child. Oh this boy!!! He is NOT to be ignored! His gentle persistence is so inspiring. ANYONE who has the opportunity to know him is SO incredibly blessed. I tell you friends HE IS incredible! He renews my faith! He delights my spirit and my chest bursts with pride at the mention of his name!
Dunham. Small but tough! This little dude is strong! He can do pull ups like a jock on steroids! He is super smart and LOVES to learn! If momma does a lesson he is the first in line and listens intently. But like most smarty's he is quick to lose interest if I don't keep his attention.
Gage! Oh boy! My little bio-baby is his daddy through and through! Stubborn as hell! :) He is demanding and is challenging Edgar as Chief of the Little's! He insists on communicating by crying as loud as possible. Then just as I have had enough of his screaming he does the sweetest things imaginable! Brushing Bogdan's hair, gently kissing Lettie's head, sharing his Goldfish with Edgar. He loves country music and takes his dancing VERY seriously! :)
Lettie. This little girl is a pure angel! She is a daddy's girl for certain. She is also a night owl and snoozes most of the day. Between 8pm-11pm she is a ball of energy! Daddy is an evening person too so the two of them are besties! She is rolling over, gaining weight and has slid into our family as if she was here all along.
Friends, our lives are good. Perfect? No. Full of stressful, hard moments? Yes. But.... How...can we possibly FEEL ANYTHING OTHER THAN BLESSED!!! Bogdan's brain was dying every day he went without surgery. Lettie is gaining weight and will receive the best cardiac services in the U.S. They are LOVED! Blossoming! THIS is what life is about friends!
So much has happened! I traveled to Ukraine to help my husband bring home Bogdan and Lettie. Their thin unhealthy bodies shocked me the most. As soon as we arrived in the US we brought them to All Childrens Hospital. Lettie needs heart surgery but is too small. She needs to gain weight and get healthier first. Bogdan was scheduled for brain surgery immediately. He had that surgery last Wednesday. It was scary, but he is doing fantastic! All of the kids are adjusting well and we have been focused on getting their medical services, paperwork, etc in order.
We are both madly in love with our family! Our five little's are our life. I am grateful God chose us to care for these incredible children. I remind myself when I am tired, sick, in pain.... just how blessed I am! Lettie is an absolute doll! She is so quiet and gentle. She is not a demanding child which is fortunate since we have so many young ones. She is content watching her brothers and notifies us she is hungry by sucking on her lip. She rarely cries and her cry is a gentle low cry. Refreshing from Gage and Dunham's demanding cries! ;) Although she is not demanding she has plenty of character! She makes the funniest faces and plays contentedly by herself. God chose the perfect princess for us!
Bogdan.... oh this child! He has captured my heart so quickly. His eyes say so much! His strength and resilience despite all his challenges is astounding! His hydrocephalus caused CP. It affects his entire body, although his right side is worse. He moves at a snails pace and he has no strength. He is so weak he has to rest his head often. But his smile and laugh are powerful! His eyes are a gorgeous green color and his brown hair and small features make him look most like me! He looks much like the "Reedy" side of my family. He wants to do everything his brothers do and it pushes him to try harder. The peer pressure is positive and he slowly joins in everything they are doing. He cries to me "Na" to join them. He has picked up on several English words, my favorite...."Mommy"! I include him in everything the boys do. It requires some ingenuity to accommodate him safely but I know the extra effort on my part will change his life! He is an incredible little boy and I cannot wait to see what God has planned!
Today Lettie officially became our daughter! Losing Willow was heartbreaking but God knew her destiny long before us. It is because of Willow that we have Bogdan and Lettie. God does not make mistakes! We long for a day Willow is available for adoption. Today however is a day of hope and joy for our wonderful perfect daughter Lettie!
Today "Bogdan Martin Quinn" became our son! Born in Luhansk to a single mother, Bogdan was abandoned shortly after birth. His mother had another child, an older brother he never got to know. We are so honored God chose us to raise Bogdan and he will have plenty of brothers! We are excited and blessed to introduce our son........
Remember that day I went to the Dr for my eczema? The same day I found out about Willow? Well something else happened that day. My physician. A woman. Whom I have known for 10+ years, said something to me that day....
In a past life. Before Adoption. I was a Marketing Rep. Most of my day was filled with socializing with physicians, nurses, and office staff, and trips to Starbucks. I wore dresses and suits and was thin, tan, always dolled up with nails, hair, make up. From the outside I am sure I looked like the happiest woman in the world. I was always joking and laughing. I was good at my job and enjoyed the people I marketed to. But I wasn't happy. I felt like I was wasting every day. It was empty work. Meant only to bring home money. This is what the world told me would make me happy. So why wasn't I happy!? My husband would say to me on occasion "You are never going to be happy." I started to think he was right. Until...
We gave our lives over to God. We committed to seek His plan for our lives. Eighteen months ago we had Baby Gage. Ten months ago we adopted Edgar and Dunham. Right this moment we are adopting Lettie and Ernie. Five children in 18 mo. Two exhausting adoption processes. So there I sat, with swollen eyes, wearing my husbands T-Shirt, no make up, still carrying baby weight from Gage. The Dr walked in. She sat down and said "Jennifer, why are you doing this to yourself?" I knew the mess she was seeing. The once successful, beautiful woman now looked more like a meth head! I smiled. I couldn't help but feel proud of the mess I was. It was like a badge of honor. There was a time I would fret over a bad hair day or a pimple on my chin. I was in the trenches! I was doing Gods work! I was HAPPY! Truly happy. I knew there was no way I would convince her I was. So instead I said "I realize I look a mess. I am doing hard work for the Lord right now. I will pull myself together, don't worry. But for now just know that I am happy." Sympathetically she smiled back.
Some of you know that look. As you tote your herd of children through the Walmart. I know we look disheveled. I know that according to the world we should be miserable, on diet pills, and reading Fifty Shades of Grey. But we are not. We are happy! We wouldn't have it any other way. So instead of commenting "You have your hands full!" or "Better you then me" or a sympathetic smile. Know that we are happy! Our hearts are full! We know there is another life. One without children screaming. We chose this life. Not because we are punishing ourselves or have some misguided delusion. Because, it is God's work. It is the best kind of work. Because it makes us happy, when shoes, purses, and other possessions did not. Sure there are days we wish we could look beautiful again. But that "beautiful" just has a new definition. A shower and shaved legs is good enough for this mama! So old friend don't be confused when we run into each other at the Target and you look like a page off of Cosmo and I look like the Walking Dead...... and I give YOU a sympathetic smile. ;)