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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WE GOT OUR PRE-APPROVALS TODAY

Yeah, we finally got our pre-approvals today for both Peng and Jocelyn. This is a huge step in bringing these kiddies home. It is a letter received from the CCCWA stating that after reviewing our letters and request to adopt these particular children, we have been approved contingent on our Dossier and other adoption paperwork. I just received an email for USCIS (Immigration), and she stated that she checked to see if an appointment for our fingerprints has been set up yet. Unfortunately, no luck, but she will check tomorrow and Friday. I pray I will get a letter in the mail sometime next week so we can do a walk-in. Hopefully, after we get fingerprinted, our 800A approval will come quickly. Just another step closer! Keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HELP! WE ARE OVER RUN...

by Thomas the Train. On Saturday, we purchased a Thomas the Train toddler bed for Brandon. As we prepare for adding two more toddlers, we are now anxiously engaged in acquiring items that will be needed for their comfort and enjoyment. We know Brandon adores Thomas the Train and when I saw the bed on Craigslist, I couldn’t resist.

Sure enough, he was happy as could be and has actually been sleeping in his own bed every night instead of getting in with Amornthep (they share a room), but I know it won’t last long, In the meantime, Amornthep can get some rest.

Today, we won the lottery. A colleague where Phil works up on base gave him two HUGE bins of Thomas the Train items. Everywhere I go, I’m stepping on Thomas and friends. But, the kids are having a blast without fighting, screaming or complaining so it is worth it. A friend told me that one car can be up to $20. We have about 10 cars each of each character….characters I didn’t even know existed. We have tracks of all kinds, houses, garages, planes, automobiles, Cranky, etc. I’m overwhelmed, but so is Brandon. It’s like Christmas.

But, the great thing is it is something he and our two new additions will enjoy. Plenty to keep them busy for hours…that alone is priceless!!
 

OUR JOURNEY TO CHINA – ZHAN CI FEI (MAELYNN)

We knew we were going to adopt two children from China at the start, so the search never ended once we found our miraculous Joshua. However, Jocelyn, which is what her orphanage currently calls her (we are still working on coming up with a name for her), was one of the first children I reviewed when we first started the China adoption process. I requested information on her way back on May 12. Unfortunately, at the time, she was on another agency’s individual list. Therefore, if I wanted to pursue her, I would have to switch agencies and go through Bay Adoption Area Services (BAAS). As briefly explained in Joshua’s post, the CCCWA will release files to specific agencies to go on their individual lists. The belief in this process is that each agency will aggressively advocate for the children on their individual list, helping to ensure these children get adopted. Usually these children have been on the shared list for a while, have harder to place special needs, or older children. Agencies have 60 days to find families for their assigned children, but can also place any child on the shared list. If they do not find a family for their specific children, they have to return the child(ren)’s file to the CCCWA. The child(ren) will either be placed back on the shared list for all agencies to access, or given to another agency for their individual list.

I was already contracted with AAI, and have used them for Amornthep’s and Hana’s adoption, and really fond of this agency. Therefore, this was not an option. BAAS had another month plus to find Jocelyn a family before they would be required to return her referral back to China. So, I moved on in my search for another child. However, I could not get Jocelyn out of my head and checked BAAS’ website frequently to see if she was still showing up on their website, which indicated she was not yet locked by a family.

Time past and the day before we saw Joshua, June 11, I received an email from a child advocate. She stated that she knew I had been interested in Jocelyn, and was aware that BAAS had to return her file back to the CCCWA in two weeks and perhaps they would be willing to release her file to us? I grew very excited and wrote to BAAS asking if they would, indeed, be willing to release her file. A good week past without any response from the agency. We were in the middle of frantically searching for Joshua's file, so her search was temporarily put on hold.

On Tuesday, June 21, I started to actively look for our second child once again. Jocelyn was top of my list so I contacted the advocate to see if she heard anything more. She replied that she was still with BAAS and she was set to be returned end of June. I thought it worth a try to resend my email message. No response all that morning and afternoon. I decided to call the agency directly, and by my fourth call, I finally got through.

As I spoke with BAAS’ agent, Xiaoqing Cai, she remembered my original request for Jocelyn's information back in May. We both shared how perplexing it was that this beautiful little girl wasn’t snatched up. Her special need seem minor compared to most. Jocelyn has atresia (absence or abnormal narrowing of an opening or passage in the body)/microtia (a congenital deformity where the outer ear is very small and underdeveloped) in both ears causing her to be deaf. Other than that, she is a beautiful, healthy little girl. She also had recently developed a severe rash on her face that the orphanage assistants felt was eczema (which you can see in a few of her photos). However, this is not uncommon in orphanages due to malnutrition, poor hygiene, etc.

Xiaoqing went on to explain that normally, children with this condition, especially young girls Jocelyn’s age, get snatched up very fast. She was dumbfounded as to why no one decided to adopt her. She shared that a large host of her clients reviewed her file, but did not pursue. Of course, as she continued to express her frustration with Jocelyn not getting locked by her families, I couldn’t help but think the reason was because she was meant for our family; simple as that.

After I explained that we were committed to her adopt her, that we already had a deaf child and knew sign language, she exclaimed, “you know what; your family sounds perfect for this little girl and there is no sense in making her wait any longer. I will send her file back to the CCCWA letting them know that your agency has a client that is prepared to proceed with her adoption. Just have your agency call them tomorrow.”

I was ecstatic…this little girl that had been my top choice since the beginning was FINALLY going to be our little girl. I had sent her information to Phil over a month ago, but I resent her file to him and he quickly responded that he felt she was perfect for our family. On June 23, the CCCWA released her file to AAI and we submitted her letter of intent. Again, we are waiting for her pre-approval from CCCWA, but very confident that this is the second child the Lord has been preparing to join our family. Our current top picks for her name are Maelynn, Alaina, Adrianna, and Breanna. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Please refer to our Blog often as I continue with our China adoption process. Some huge hurdles yet to be scaled are, getting our official Pre-approval (PA) for each child, getting our I-797C from immigration, mailing our dossier to China (DTC), having our dossier logged-in to their system (LID), getting our official approval from China (LOA), receiving the Article 5 letter, receiving our travel approval (TA), and the crème de la crème, GOTCHA day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

OUR JOURNEY TO CHINA: LI JIPENG – JOSHUA THOMAS BURRIS

This is a story about Joshua Thomas Burris, our son that takes a lick’n but keeps on tick’n. On Sunday, June 12, early in the morning, I was perusing ‘AdvocateforWC’ Yahoo group and looking at photos under the “Boys on Shared List” file. I was immediately introduced to a small picture and write-up about Li JiPeng (Peng) who was being advocated for by Love Without Boundaries (LWB). Love Without Boundaries Foundation is a worldwide group of volunteers dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and impoverished children in China. The write-up was written by Suzanne Damstedt with a link to their Blog. I went to the Blog referred in his intro and the following is the first real introduction I read regarding our precious little boy:

Beep, Beep…Here Comes Peng!

"Peng, a two-year-old little boy who has a very special place in the hearts of many LWB volunteers and supporters, is on the move and has found his way back to the shared list! With his ready smile, inquisitive and clever nature and lively sense of humor, Peng has also become a favorite of the aunties and other children in his orphanage. So many people are pulling for Peng to drive off into the sunset with a loving family.""

Last summer, Amy Eldridge, LWB’s Executive Director, met Peng and was moved to write about him in a blog entitled “Peng’s Chance”. The twinkle in his eyes and sparkle in his heart shine through in each photo we have of him. We can only imagine how he must light up the room in person!"

"Peng was born with a very serious heart defect, and his best chance for a healthy life lies in an operation that is quite risky to perform in China. If he is adopted overseas, then he would have a much greater chance for having the life-saving surgery…as well as a chance to speed into a family’s heart and light it up with his ability to live life to the fullest."

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After finishing this write-up, I clicked on the link that sent me to his original write-up, written below:

PENG’S CHANCE

"Sometimes there are babies in our work who have very complex medical conditions – and sometimes those babies are the ones who are absolutely the most full of LIFE. Little Peng from Guangdong is one such baby. In every photo we have of him, he has this enormous smile on his face. His nannies have told us what a sweet little boy he is, and how he laughs and smiles and just seems to enjoy every moment of his day. When I met him in June, I was quickly taken with the twinkle in his eye and how outgoing he was."

"Peng was born with a very severe heart defect, however, and the doctors in China have said his surgery would be too risky to perform there. His orphanage is hoping that he can be adopted soon so that he can have a chance at surgery on this side of the ocean."

"Peng will be two on Saturday – and we are all hoping that he gets the most special gift of all. We are hoping that a family will see his beautiful face on the shared list and just know he is meant to be their son."


"Seven years ago, we helped advocate for the adoption of a beautiful little girl who also had severe heart disease. Many families would look at her file and say, “It just seems too complex.” But then one night I got a phone call from a mom who said, “We know she is our daughter.” When I told them that doctors weren’t sure how long she would live, she said something so profound that I still think of it almost daily. She said, “How many of us know how many days we have left on this earth? And every day that we get to have her as our daughter will be a day worth treasuring.”

"Her beautiful daughter is now 11 – and has brought amazing joy and love to their family."

"May Peng have the same chance at a mom and dad who know for certain that he is their son – a chance at a family who will hold him, cherish him, and give him the best chance possible of a healthy life." 
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Before I go further in the details surrounding Joshua (this is the name we decided to give Peng), I will discuss what lead us to adopt from China. It all started last month in May, 2011. At this time we were still hoping to adopt through WA State foster care, but we knew we were leaving end of the year for Phil to attend Captain’s Career Course in Missouri. This meant we would no longer be eligible to adopt a child out of foster care because they have to live with us for at least six months in WA state before legalities can begin. We were seeing our chance to adopt dwindle away due to having to move again. Phil’s sister, Anna and her husband Terry, were in Thailand picking up sweet, gorgeous Anon. While in Thailand, we were all excited to reunite Anon and Amornthep via Skype. We were able to communicate via video conference almost everyday with great success. Of course, as we shared in their adventures, all the fond memories of our trip and the excitement of bringing Amornthep home just a year prior flooded our minds. But, it was Phil that first planted the seed.

Phil, upon leaving for work after just speaking with Anna, Terry and Anon via Skype, stated, “Hey, if you want to call AAI and see if there are any children available in Thailand right now, I wouldn’t be too opposed to the idea?” I’m glad he said it, because I sure was thinking it.

On May 6, 2011, I emailed Ky at AAI. Janelle Gray retired from AAI and Ky was her replacement for the Thailand program. She proceeded to tell me that our family is too large now to qualify for Thailand, however, we could look at the China special needs program. I never really thought much about China because I always heard the wait was too long and the bureaucracy too painful. But, she proceeded to state that they allow two unrelated children to be adopted at the same time if they fit in the proper criteria, and it is one of the fastest programs available. Speed; Speed is good when you are a military family, so thus started our journey to bring home our two, precious angels from China.

Now on to the real reason why most of you are here; the miraculous story of our son Joshua. As I stated above, on Sunday, June 12, I had just finished reading the posts regarding Peng (Joshua). I remember a few weeks earlier briefly coming across a small ‘to do’ about him, but brushed over it quickly and moved on once I saw that he had a serious congenital heart defect (CHD). But, for some reason that I now know was the Holy Ghost, I was prompted to read further about this little boy. Normally, I would not even consider a child with such a severe, possibly terminal illness, but I could not, nor was I allowed to dismiss him in my heart. As we were hurriedly going out the door to attend church, I turned to Phil and said, “Phil, come and take a quick sec to look at this little boy.”

We were literally walking out the door so Phil hastily appeased my request, skimmed over his picture and didn’t even read any of his write-ups. During his 10 second perusal, all I said was that he had a serious heart defect. After he finished his examination, he jokingly said, “great, wonderful, he’s the one, he’s perfect…now let’s get in the car!”

Okay, I get the hint. But, all during the ride to church and throughout Sacrament meeting, I could not wipe that boy from my mind. Right after Sacrament meeting was over, Phil and I took Brandon to his nursery class. Once we dropped him off, we started walking down the corridor to attend our Sunday School class, but I sensed, without question, something was weighing very heavy on Phil’s mind. I abruptly stopped right in front of him, put my hand on his chest and said, “What is it Phil? What are you thinking, cause I feel it to?!”

Phil immediately burst in to tears and motioned for us to head outside. We walked to our car to be alone and he quietly, yet firmly looked at me and said, “I can’t get that boy out of my mind. I don’t even remember what he looks like. I can’t even fathom taking in a child with such a condition, but I can not stop thinking about him.” I told him I was feeling the same and we both knew this was bigger than us.

After we attended our Sunday School, I moved on to teach Young Women and, unbeknownst to me, Phil left church during the third hour to find a quiet spot to pray to his Heavenly Father about this little boy. After the third hour was over, I walked out to meet my family in our normal gathering place and saw Phil standing by the front doors. I instantly knew he had an answer. I could tell from his face and from his spirit. When I walked up to him, he gently but powerfully gazed into my eyes and as bold and as sure as I’ve ever seen him exclaimed, “HE IS OUR SON!”

On our ride home, we contemplated what this could possibly mean to our family; that we most likely could be burying a child. We knew the risks involved, but every time we brought that up, Phil’s answer he received was so sure and unwavering that he said it did not matter, he was to be our son. If the Lord’s plan for this boy is to simply make sure he has an eternal family and decides to take him home early, then so be it, but he is to be our son.

So, off to the races…that night I emailed Suzanne and a few other advocates that we KNEW this little boy was to be our son. Of course they were elated. Being Sunday, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do until I spoke with my agency in the morning. However, they did say to be quick about it as there were a few other families that were also showing interest.

Monday morning came around and I immediately called Ky to let her know we wanted to lock Joshua. At first Ky didn’t seem to be in such a rush. She said, “If he has such serious conditions, I doubt anyone will lock him real soon.” But I told her that he was earnestly being advocated for on a number of websites, blogs and Yahoo groups because his condition is desperate. But, she told me there was nothing she could do because Mr. Li, their coordinator in China, was in bed. Mr. Li is AAI’s agent that searches the list and also locks the family with the child(ren) of choice. Of course I was heartbroken as I felt he was going to slip away.

Later that afternoon Ky emailed me and asked if I was in contact with a woman that has also been trying to lock him. No, but now I was worried. She then went on to say that no one could find his information on the shared list. This was certainly odd because he was just on the list the previous week. Usually if a child goes off the list it means two things, either a family has locked them or the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) has assigned the child to an agency. If a child is assigned to a particular agency, they go on what is called an individual list and in order to adopt them, you have to either adopt them directly from that agency, or if they are nice enough, they may release the file to your agency. But, the latter gets tricky and is not very common. You can only imagine how downtrodden I felt. We were so sure he was to be our son and to think that now he is either locked with another family or with another agency caused me great anxiety.

I called Phil within minutes to tell him the sad news. But, without skipping a beat he calmly said, “Kathy, he is our son. It will work out.” I was amazed. I tried to explain to him the red tape involved and how it looks like he slipped through our fingers because we weren’t quick enough to lock him and if he is with another agency, they most likely won’t release the file, etc. It didn’t matter to him. He still held his ground and told me to stop worrying, that he was our son and it was going to work out.

Fine, I’ll seek solace elsewhere. I then wrote to Suzanne and various adoption advocates that were working hard and long to get this little boy adopted. He’s missing, not on the shared list, what to do, what to do? Within minutes I received a flood of emails from them stating not to give up, that this poor little boy has been on and off the shared list more than any child they’ve ever seen and that it’s too early to say. Now to describe these women as angels is an understatement. A number of them even took it on themselves to start searching for him and even called numerous adoption agencies to see if his file was assigned to them. The love these ladies have for these kids, most they’ve never even met, is beyond amazing. There is truly a special place in heaven reserved just for them.

For two more days, we all frantically searched for his file. If a family has locked his file, hallelujah, this little boy finally has a family and be given the surgery he desperately needs. If an agency has his file, perhaps they might release his file to a family already committed to his adoption, knowing his condition is fatal. This little guy’s situation is just too severe to allow him to slip through the cracks again.

Wednesday came around and by this time, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt like I was the one that needed a heart transplant as my nerves were beyond repair, and my body was oozing with anxiety. While driving Amornthep to his therapy appointment, I said a prayer in my head asking if the Lord could give me an answer just as powerful as he did Phil. I felt my faith wavering and though I also felt he was to be our son, I didn’t feel I received such a strong, powerful answer that Phil received. I felt I was entitled to this. Upon finishing the prayer, I did get an answer. The answer was that I was to lean on my husband and through him, I have already received my answer about Joshua. This taught me a very valuable lesson, and so I continued to trudge forward, praying I could heed to the Lord’s guidance and simply rely on my husband’s unwavering answer.

That night, our family was preparing to go see the Bishop for temple interviews in preparation for Hana’s temple sealing. Right before we were to leave, I asked Phil if he would give me a blessing of comfort. I knew I needed to calm down and needed a Priesthood blessing to give me spiritual guidance and ease my heart and lack of faith. I admired Phil more than ever. During those past few days, Phil hadn’t wavered a bit regarding Joshua. He still knew Joshua was our son, and I felt very guilty for doubting.

I can’t reiterate the entire blessing as it was personal, but needless to say, the Lord ensured us that we were getting two children very quickly. That they had been prepared from the beginning for our family and that they were…here it comes…going to be healthy and be with us for a long time. When I heard this, my heart leapt. HEALTHY, could this mean Joshua? After the blessing I turned to Phil and asked, “Does this mean Joshua is still going to be our son?”

Once again, with unwavering faith and a stern look in his eyes, he slowly and deliberately announced, “HE   IS   OUR   SON!” At that moment, I immediately relaxed. For the first time, I was FINALLY leaning on my husband and this time, I believed him. Of course, healthy kept coming to me and my husband and I have talked about that since, but because of that blessing, we have not worried about Joshua at all. Yes, we plan to get him to the doctor as soon as possible. We expect numerous surgeries and know it won’t be an easy trial. But, we have full confidence that if the Lord wants to heal this little boy, he will be healed. We pray the surgeries will do just that and, as he promised, he will live a long, full life.

Thursday came around and one of the ladies mentioned that they heard it through the grapevine that the file was assigned to an agency. Not 100% sure, but taking this as a plus, I contacted AAI again and asked if there was anyway we could request his file from the CCCWA, if he has not been locked by a family. Ky told me she already contacted Mr. Li to see if his file went to an agency. Ky told me to write a letter stating we were committed, and Mr. Li would forward the letter to CCCWA. Friday came and Mr. Li confirmed that the CCCWA did assign Joshua's file to another agency and that they were in talks with the agency to see if they would be willing to release the file to us if they did not already have a family interested.

This was the best news I had heard all week. Finally, we were getting closer to bringing Joshua home. By this time, my confidence was in full gear. After the blessing I received and leaning on my husband’s faith, and hearing this great news, I went in to the weekend with ease that I was going to someday bring this little boy home. I was later told that there were a number of families that were wanting to lock him and looking for his file. Nonetheless, I knew he was meant for our family so I did not let this news worry me. I look back now and wonder if perhaps the Lord had his file ‘hidden’ in order to preserve him for us. We are on the West coast and a number of those families were on the East coast. If his file was still on the shared list, they would have had their agencies lock his file way before we would have even had a chance to call AAI to begin the lock process. Though it seemed like such a hurdle at the time, it truly worked out for the best in the end.


Monday, June 20, one week and a day since we first gazed on Joshua’s picture, there it was, staring me in the face, the words, “LOOK WHO I HAVE!” It was an email from Ky sending me all of Joshua’s medicals, information and pictures. OH GLORY DAY! This meant that the CCCWA released his file to my agency and now, no one else can lock his file. HE IS FINALLY GOING TO BE OUR SON! I ran in to the kitchen where Phil was sitting and screamed, “WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIS FILE!” Immediately, he looked up and said, “Why are you surprised. Of course they have his file.” Well, I just didn’t know what to say. Then he jumped up, grabbed me in his arms, apologized for acting inconsiderate and said I absolutely had the right to be excited, that I worked hard to get this done and again, he should have been more excited with me. After he left for work, I just dropped to my knees, poured out my heart to my Lord, thanked him for watching over this little boy and paving the way to bring him to our eternal family, and apologized for my lack of faith. At that moment, I felt as if I was being embraced and all was well. I then felt as if the Lord was telling me he was so proud of Phil and I for continuing on our quest for this little guy, not giving up, and being willing to take him in to our family knowing his severe condition, and still following the promptings of the Spirit. GOD IS GREAT!!


That day I sent my letter of intent to lock his file. The process usually takes about a week from getting the letter, having it translated, being sent to the CCCWA, having it reviewed, and then getting a pre-approval (PA) for the child. We are still in the waiting stage for the PA, but VERY confident it will be approved. Later that day, I received a phone call from a woman in NY. She asked if I was looking for Peng. I confirmed that I had found him and we are in the process of locking his file. She became overjoyed and told me that over a year ago her foundation was fervently advocating for him, but he slipped through the radar screen and she had been trying to find him herself as she had been so concerned for his well-being. But now, she was so pleased to hear he was finally going to go to a family and get the care he desperately needs. She then asked if I would like videos, pictures, medical reports and information they had on him when he was much younger. ABSOLUTELY, I confirmed. After I hung up with her, my heart was so full. How miraculous to get such a phone call the day we finally locked him. It is very rare for someone to seek you out and offer you a goldmine of personal information on an orphaned child. It was just another testament to me that the Lord is truly watching over this little man.
Over the next few days we started to think of names for Joshua, or should I say Peng at the time. I printed out his picture so we could have it on our fridge. I pulled the picture down and we all started to throw out names. Everyone, including Amornthep came up with some very good names. Amorn even thought up Werner…where he got that I don’t know. Once we finished the list, we held up his pictures and started to say the names. As soon as Phil came to Joshua, we both looked at each other and knew; THAT IS HIS NAME. It just fit him like a glove. And the fact we both felt it at the same time, again, a testament that we were being directed to call him Joshua. We both would have never come up with that name, so we give all the credit to MaKayla as she was the one that was inspired. I looked up Joshua online and the name means, Jesus saves, Jesus is gracious! I was touched by this as I felt it to be absolutely fitting for this little boy. Phil has always loved the name Thomas, so I agreed he could give him his middle name. Thus, Joshua Thomas Burris is his name. Our new, eternal son!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MEET MY HUSBAND, PHILLIP EDWARD BURRIS

I can not possibly continue to recount our adoption journey without first introducing you to my husband. Without my husband, there would be no adoption and no Phillip Burris family. It is true that the wife tends to be the one that first seeks out adoption, researches the adoption agencies, fills out all the paperwork, keeps everyone informed by writing the blogs, sending emails, and organizes all the notaries, mailings, phone calls and appointments. However, this does not mean the husband is not fully on board. Yes, he may be behind the scenes, but their contribution is equally important.

Phil is an Army Engineer Officer, currently attached to I-Corp at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma Washington. I love my husband beyond words and continually thank my Heavenly Father for sending this amazing man in to my life. Phil and I met at the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, NY back in 1995, where he was currently stationed at Fort Drum, NY. Six months later we were married and almost 16 years later, still going strong. We both come from large families (seven children in each), and both grew up in an active Latter-Day Saint home. Thus, having a large family has always been our desire. We watched our parents raise seven children and if they could do it, then so can we…RIGHT? Well, ask me in about 10 years and I’ll let you know how we’re doing.

Phil is a loving husband, doting father, LDS church Young Men counselor, ‘HUAH, HUAH’ Army Ranger, current MBA student with R.I.T., and a passionate patriot. He is very fulfilled with what he does and feels he is truly doing what God intended for him to do during his sojourn here on earth, which is to serve in the United States military and be a leader among the best men and women this country has to offer. He is proud of the fact that he is doing what many men are unable, or unwilling to do. He loves his country with a passion and with everyday that goes by, I continue to stand in admiration for his dedication to his God, his family and his country.

At this time I would like to share with you a dream that he had before MaKayla was born. We had already finalized our paperwork for the adoption and in the waiting stage. However, when we completed our paperwork for the adoption, there is a questionnaire that asks what type of child you are willing to accept (race, gender, age, and any special need). When we filled out the paperwork, he felt he was only capable of adopting a healthy infant of our same race.

One night, during the waiting stage, he had a powerful dream. He was in a very large city on a crowded street. The noise was almost deafening with the cars speeding by, and the people were walking in a frenzied state to get to their destination. Phil stood and watched this flurry of people when he started to hear a faint scream. As he listened closer he recognized it was a baby. Of course, when a baby screams instinct takes over and you feel drawn to the helpless child. So, he frantically started on his desperate journey to locate the child. It wasn’t easy fighting the crowds and the raucous. As the baby’s squeals started to get louder, he felt confident he was going in the right direction. Finally, there on the curb of the busy street, right next to the speeding traffic, he saw a bundle. He was struck with horror as he watched hundreds of people walk right past the infant without tending to the child’s needs, or even see if the child was okay. As he got closer to the baby, he noticed people would gaze on the screaming infant for a few seconds, then draw back with disgust and bolt. This mortified him. How could people do this? It was a baby for goodness sake. How could people just abandon a screaming, crying baby?

Upon seeing the people’s repugnant reaction to the child, his desire to get to the baby grew fierce. As soon as he was finally within reach, he swiftly picked up the crying bundle and, at last, gazed upon the newborn. To his amazement, the child was horribly disfigured. He said he could not describe how hideous the baby truly looked. But, to his amazement, as he held the crying baby, and gazed in to the child’s eyes, he fell completely in love with this child. The love for this child became so overpowering, all he wanted to do was to take the child home, care for the child, nurture the child to health and watch him or her grow to their fullest potential. He was able to see past the grotesque figure and all he could see was a beautiful, innocent, helpless child.

That morning, after sharing his dream, he looked at me and said, “I now know that I am capable and willing to take care of just about any child that comes our way. A child is a child no matter what ‘package’ they come in, nor how healthy or unhealthy they may be.” Looking back and seeing the tremendous blessings we have been charged with, I feel the Lord was preparing Phil for his calling of fatherhood. Our children are beautiful, there is no doubt. But, we have a Hispanic daughter with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a severe deaf, Asian son, an African American girl, and soon to add two Asian children with disabilities of their own; a boy with a severe congenital heart condition and a girl with disfigured ears that is profoundly deaf. Indeed, my husband can love just about any child that comes our way.

Phil is a true family man. There isn’t a place on earth he would rather be than spending time with his family. He makes it VERY clear to his colleagues that come 5:00 PM, unless mandated by his superiors, he is heading home. Everyone knows not to mess with his family time. He adores his children and all children in general. I’ve had women in our church say they love having Phil babysit because he actually interacts and plays with the kids. Yes, he is a big kid at heart, but that is what makes him so endearing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Phil is truly a man’s man. He is 6’3”, 250 pounds of a lean, muscle machine that is undefeated in hand to hand combat, been to war and back and seen things no one should ever experience, an Army Ranger, and leader of men. But, when it comes to his relationship with his God, family, children; and associates, that is what truly defines him as a man!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

HANA REBECCA BURRIS

Hana Rebecca Burris is our third oldest and fourth child to join our family. Phil and I both agree that of all the adoptions, Hana’s adoption was the fastest, cheapest, smoothest and easiest one we’ve encountered. As we say to everyone, “Hana just fit!” It was a peculiar feeling, but from the moment she entered our home, it was as if she had always been with us.

It all started back in August of last year. We had just moved to Fort Lewis and had to do Amornthep’s last post-placement report. Susan Holmgren from AAI came out to our house to meet us. As we were interviewing, we mentioned to her that we would like to pursue adoption again, but our pocket book needed a rest from Amornthep’s adoption and we wanted to explore foster care as an option once again. She was very encouraging and the process began.

Based on my previous comments about foster care, the amount of work and training you have to go through to become a foster parent in order to adopt within the foster care program is exhausting and way more extensive than any other form of adoption. We had to take 36 hours of PRIDE classes, which are required in just about any state, and your house has to pass very specific safety regulations, not to mention the normal background checks and paperwork that has to occur for most any adoption.

We finally finished all the requirements and we were able to start searching for our next child(ren). There were a few sibling groups we requested information on, but getting a response back from the social workers seemed impossible, only making the wait even more agonizing. Our agency was great in reporting our interest to whatever social worker was in charge of each child or sibling group. However, they even expressed some frustration with the lack of communication. When this happens, you grow tired, restless and frustrated. You start to say to yourself, ‘if they want these children to get adopted so badly, why such a hassle and why are they not responding quicker?’ However, having done this process previously and trying to go through foster care prior, I recognize that they have a large number of children they must attend to and they have to ensure that the placement is in the child’s best interest. They definitely do not want the child to be right back in a sad, nightmarish situation all over again. These kids have been through a lot and really need social workers that will look out for their very best interest.

After a few months, we saw a sibling group of three that intrigued us. But, as Phil and I prayed about it, we were not getting the “warm fuzzy” that we so hoped to achieve. This bothered us and I spent many sleepless nights. Deep down, I knew they weren’t the ones, but I believe we wanted children so badly and tired of the wait, that we were forcing the situation. However, during this time, MaKayla kept insisting that there was a black sister out there that needed to join our family. One of the three children we were eyeing was a little 4 year old African American girl. So, I expressed to her that perhaps this is the sister she is referring.

“NOPE,” she exclaimed, “she isn’t the one mom. I know more than ever she is out there waiting for us. She really is mom. You have to keep looking!” MaKayla has always been sensitive to spiritual promptings so I took this comment very seriously. The next morning, Phil and I spoke and came to the decision that these three children were not meant for us. Upon that decision, I walked to my computer to email Susan our decision. However, just as I opened my email, there was an email from her. I didn’t know what it was, but my heart soared as I just knew it was going to be exciting news.

Sure enough, in the email she expressed that there was a family that adopted three children from Ethiopia back in July, but felt they could no longer care for the oldest girl. Her name is Hana and wanted to know if we would be interested in adopting her. As I gazed at her picture, that very same feeling we had with Amornthep came bounding in my soul. SHE WAS THE ONE. SHE WAS THE SISTER MAKAYLA HAD BEEN TALKING ABOUT!

I yelled for Phil to come and read this email and in an instant, he had the same confirmation she was the girl for us. Of course I wrote Susan back and said absolutely, we would love to add Hana to our family. Now looking back, what an amazing learning experience we went through. We realized that those three kids were not meant for us, but we fought and fought the answer, hoping it would change or go away. But, the Lord knows what is best and his perspective is so much more far reaching than our own. Trying to ‘change’ the answer to one we wanted to hear only caused internal turmoil, sleepless nights and a lack of peace. But, as soon as we heeded to the answer that those kids were not the ones, made the decision to obey, the Lord blessed us for our faithfulness. Though this lesson had been taught us many times before, we needed a recent reminder that the Lord is the Master as I will discuss later when talking about the MIRACULOUS events surrounding our little boy in China.

Within a few days, we drove out to Port Townsend Washington to meet our little girl. She was currently staying at an AAI board member’s home until they could place Hana with another family. Chris Little is one amazing women. I should say her entire family is amazing. She has, I believe, 13 adopted children, the majority from Ethiopia. I could be off by a few but if I’m wrong, my guess is that she may have more children than less. You could tell Hana was in love with Chris and her family, and rightly so. She was around children with similar culture and background, and they are a very loving, close-knit family.

Hana had no idea why we were there when we first met her. She enjoyed our company, played with the kids, jumped on the trampoline and even said, “Your husband is a kidder isn’t he?” She was referring to his sense of humor while joining all the kids on the trampoline, doing flips of all sorts. She had a great time and even asked when we were going to go back for another visit. MaKayla then asked Phil if she could spend the night. Phil responded, “Hana, not tonight but I Promise you, we will see you again.”

A few weeks later, Chris drove up to our house with beautiful, adorable Hana. Chris had told her a few days previous that we were going to adopt her. Yes, there was confusion as she did not know why she was leaving her brothers behind, and why she couldn’t live with Chris and her family. But, when she walked in our home, I can not describe how RIGHT it just felt. It was just such an incredible, easy transition.

That night, and only night, we let her come in and sleep with us. During that night, while Phil was snoring away, she and I had a great talk and she shared a little about her mother in Ethiopia and watching her die, etc. This little girl had been through a lot and I knew we had to do whatever we could to make her transition easy.

Hana never fully mourned her mother’s loss. No one in Ethiopia really sat down with her to explain death, where she went and why. So, she became intrigued with the idea that we can talk to God and he can actually talk to us. She became obsessed with any discussion about where we go when we die, and she was also very sensitive to discussions about death. Over the following weeks she would continually ask me questions about how she can hear God. I told her it takes practice and that we have to make sure we put ourselves in the proper environment and calm our spirits. She LOVES church and still gets excited for Sundays. She eats up scripture study every night and constantly requests to say the prayer.

One night she asked Phil, her daddy, to give her a Priesthood blessing. After he was done, she ran in my arms and just started sobbing. I asked her how she felt and she said she felt really good inside. I explained to her that was the Holy Ghost letting her know that the things Daddy had said to her in the blessing were true. Then the questions about her mom started to pour out, but only this time, they were even more in depth and with sincere earnest for answers. She shared more of her experience with her mom and we ended up speaking for over an hour. It was an amazing experience for both her and me.

A month past and it was General Conference. General Conference occurs twice a year where our prophet and apostles speak to us and it is broadcast around the world. Because it comes over the internet, we are able to stay home on conference weekend to hear their inspiring words. Elder Bednar, one of my favorites, gave an amazing talk on how we can and have the right to receive personal inspiration and revelation. This talk pricked Hana’s heart deeply and after the conference asked me how she can actually hear God. I again explained to her that God speaks to us in different ways; sometimes it’s an actual, still, small voice in our minds, other times it could be a strong feeling or sensation to do a particular thing, another time it can be a sensation like your heart is burning, but a good, peaceful burning that fills your entire body. But, in order for him to speak to us, we need to be in a quiet place both physically and spiritually and give him time to answer.

About a half hour later I was making lunch and all of the sudden she runs out of her room screaming, “Mom, it burns, it burns!” Of course I was concerned, thinking she hurt herself. I asked her what burns? She looked up at me, with a HUGE smile on her face and pointed to her heart. “Mom, it burns right here! I feel it, it is so strong!”

I asked her why it burns and she continued to tell me that she knelt down in her bedroom, all alone, and asked God if what I was telling her was true and if this church was true. She said that as soon as she asked, her whole body started to burn starting from her head and down to her heart, but it was a nice burning sensation that made her very happy. Is this the Lord speaking to me? I can not even tell you what my expression was on my face, nor the tears I was holding back. At this young age of seven years old, my little Hana had an experience that so many of us in this world could only crave to have. It takes some adults years to experience such a witness. But, in the purity of her heart and innocence of her soul, the Lord saw fit to answer. It just doesn’t get any better than that for a mother.

Hana is an amazing young girl. Her mastery of the English language is uncanny. She just won a bike from school for being the most improved reader. Considering she only has had four months of public school, been in the States for less than a year, and reading at her grade level, it truly is an amazing accomplishment. She is considerate, sensitive to others' feelings, and truly wants to please. She does tend to be a little lazy, but what seven year-old is not? When she first started school she would ask me every 5 seconds for help with her homework. Considering I tutor three children, one that is deaf and the other dealing with learning disabilities due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, her frequent requests were getting a bit too much. I’m a Nazi mom when it comes to homework and though I believe in directing them in the right direction, I WILL NOT BUDGE when it comes to making them do the work and do it right. Sure, it would be so much easier for me to just throw in the towel and read the sentence for them; erase the non-capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and write it in myself; sound out the word for them; tell them what this plus that equals, etc. But where would that get them? So, after many afternoons of Hana getting frustrated and probably believing her mom was an Ogre, here she is at the end of the year with a brand new bike.

Of course I was above and beyond ecstatic for her and when the house quieted down I took her aside and said, “Hana, I want you to remember this moment. How amazing you felt when they handed you the bike. You so deserve it. But, this is what I was talking about over the past number of months about why it is so important to work hard, hard as you possibly can. When you work hard Hana, you succeed. What would have happened if I didn’t push you and just did your homework for you? Do you think you would have earned that bike at the end of the year?”

She sheepishly nodded no, then grabbed me and said, “Thank you mom for pushing me to be better!” Again, it doesn’t get any better and, of course, waterworks once again. I share with you these incidences so that one, my children will look back on this and remember and, two, to illustrate that parenting, though VERY difficult, tiring and frustrating at times, can also have the most amazing moments of pure exhilaration that it makes ALL those other times erase away. There just isn’t anything better when you watch a child grow in to an amazing man and women.

This past Wednesday, on June 22, Hana Rebecca Haas became Hana Rebecca Burris. It always amazes me how fast the legalities occur as we weren’t in the court room more than 5 minutes. Nonetheless, she is officially a Burris and on July 5, she is getting sealed to us as our eternal daughter in the Seattle Washington Temple. No matter what happens in this life, she will always be our daughter for all time and eternity. Hana, our amazing little girl!

AMORNTHEP LEE BURRIS


Amornthep (Amorn) Lee Burris is our second oldest child and third child to join our clan. Our journey to Amorn began during Phil’s deployment in Iraq back in 2008. About a month before he was to return, I started to think about adoption again. We knew he probably had another two years at Fort Polk, which would finally allow us enough time to finalize an adoption. However, we knew that it would NOT be enough time for an infant adoption, which meant we would need to look at adopting an older child. There are two choices for adopting an older child; one is through foster care and the other is going overseas. But, we tried to adopt through foster care when we lived in WA State for a few years and did not have the best experience. So, for the first time I decided to look at international adoption. I had shied away from this option previously, fearing the amount of paperwork, red tape, travel and cost. However, it seemed to be our only option at the time due to our time restraints.

After a few weeks of research, I decided to use an agency out of Port Angeles, Washington called Adoption Advocates International (AAI). Janelle Gray was my assigned agent and was amazing the whole step of the way. At the time, their program in Africa was my first choice. I felt Russia took too long and was too expensive. At the time I believed the red tape involved with China was too much and the wait for a healthy child was too long. So, for expediency and a cost we could handle, Africa seemed to fit the bill. Besides, for some reason MaKayla had been telling me for quite some time that she wanted a black sister. Well, here was our opportunity to fulfill this desire (more on this later).

I remember the day Phil returned from his deployment all too well. The excitement, anxiety and emotions were overwhelming. We were finally a family again. As we drove home from the redeployment ceremony, MaKayla said, “Dad, we’re going to get a black brother or sister, though I want a black sister really bad.”

“Is that so?” Phil questioned. He then turned to me for clarity. This had to be confusing for him because while he was in Iraq, anytime we discussed adding more children to the family, I dismissed it and acted like I was done with having more children. You have to understand, my husband was gone for a year and taking care of one child all by myself was hard enough, let alone the thought of taking care of more. Phil is seven years younger than me and he felt he was not finished. I, however, was pushing 40 and feared being in a nursing home by the time my last child left home. Of course, all unwarranted, ridiculous fears, but real for me at the time. So, why the change of heart? I really have no idea. I can’t put my finger on what happened that made me say, “gees, I want another child!” But, that did happen and timing was perfect. Phil quickly got on board with the idea.

I continued our conversation in the car by telling him I had found the agency I felt would best suit our needs and that I felt we needed to adopt outside the United States. I know many of you that have adopted, thought of adopting, or have even had opinions of those who have adopted have heard the adage, “why go outside our own country when we have so many children here in the United States that need homes.” RIGHT YOU ARE! But, until you try to adopt through the foster care system (which we have done twice now), you CAN NOT judge a couple that decides to go international. Foster care is NOT as easy as it may appear. The ‘horror’ stories you usually hear about are typically with foster adopt situations. Now, I’m a HUGE advocate of adoption and probably may even look at foster care adoption down the road again, but our personal experience has not been the best and, at that time, we were just not in the position to deal with the HUGE amounts of red tape and bureaucracy that foster adoptions require. I could go on and on about this subject, but that can be left for a completely separate post, and I will deal with it a little more when I discuss Hana. So, for now…back to the story.

The next day we were preparing breakfast and discussing adoption. Phil had grown up in a family where sign language was used frequently and he had grown to love the language. Phil turned to me and said, “You know, I always thought having a deaf child would be great. I don’t see being deaf as a disability.” We had discussed this before and I also agreed that I could handle a deaf child. Right after that comment, he turned to me and out of the blue suggested looking in to adopting from Thailand. Thailand had never even crossed my mind as an adoptable country. Why Phil thought of Thailand, to this day he can not say other than it just jumped in his head at that very moment. His comment peaked my interest so I immediately called Janelle at AAI to discuss our options and to let her know that Phil was now home and we were ready to begin the adoption process.

During our conversation, I again explained that we were willing to look at gender, the age range, and special needs we would be willing to accept. Then, at the end of my statement I said, “Oh, yeah, we would love to adopt a deaf child.” As soon as I made this statement, Janelle got very excited and said, “Deaf you say?! Really? Well, I have the perfect child for you. He is from Thailand and just as precious as he could be with the most gorgeous blue eyes.”

“BLUE EYES? From Thailand?”

“Yes, can you believe it? He has a condition called Waardenburg Syndrome that causes pigmentation and his pigmentation is in his eyes. The syndrome is the reason he is deaf. Oh Kathy, you and Phil just need to look at him. He is precious! I just know you’ll fall in love with him. Let me send you his profile.” On a side note here, Phil’s entire family have the most gorgeous, piercing blue eyes and almost all their children have inherited these gorgeous blue eyes. Thus, they love to tease Phil that he had to go all the way to a foreign, Asian country to get a blue-eyed child. Yes, I agree, it is ironic.

During that conversation, I hadn’t yet asked her if they had a program in Thailand so you can imagine my surprise when she said this little boy was from Thailand. When I got off the phone with Phil and told him, he was in awe and now VERY intrigued. Within minutes, there he was staring at us on my computer screen. In less than a minute, Phil and I knew HE WAS THE ONE! Yes siree…he was precious and we knew he was to be our son. I look back on this episode and marvel how fast it fell in to place. From beginning to end, no more than 30 minutes, we had found our eternal son. From almost one year and two weeks from that very day in early January, we were bringing our son home.

Our trip to Thailand was exciting, exhausting, and educational. We brought MaKayla with us, but had Phil’s sister in San Diego watch Brandon. I remember the moment Amorn walked through the door to greet us. We were looking at his photo album and no one told us they were bringing him to us so we were not prepared. His excitement upon seeing us was overwhelming. He immediately ran in to my arms, gave me the biggest hug, got off my lap and looked up at Phil. He then immediately stood in parade rest and saluted his new daddy. Phil was stunned by this gesture, but proud, and then Amorn rushed his legs with a huge hug. Yes, the waterworks began.

This post will go on forever if I recount the entire trip. Needless to say, I documented day by day during our stay in my journal and posted to family and friends. I will do my best to do the same when we go to China to pick up our other two newest additions.

There was one incident, however, that tore me to pieces, and I pray never to go through again. Due to the fact that he is deaf, and didn’t’ know a whole lot of sign at the time, communication was not the easiest. Amorn had a dear friend in the orphanage named Anon. The whole orphanage was very worried about separating these two boys and even pleaded with the Thai government to loosen their restrictions of only allowing unrelated child be adopted at the same time so that we could adopt them together; but to no avail.

Because of their amazing bond, the orphanage allowed us to have Anon spent one night as a last goodbye. What an experience, as I fell in love with Anon as he, like all children, was so endearing. But, all good things must come to an end and that terrible moment finally arrived when we had to take Anon back to the orphanage. Anon understood he needed to go back, but Amorn misinterpreted and thought we were taking both boys back to the orphanage. You can only imagine the look, pain and instant discord that came from that boy. He started to scream like a lamb going to the slaughter. I quickly picked him up and tried to explain that it was only Anon going back, but he was too distraught to understand. Then, to make matters worse, he went in his room to pack up the few personal items he owned, only for us to tell him they were to stay at the hotel. We thought this would help him understand he was staying, but to him, not only did he have to go back to the orphanage, but NOW he couldn’t’ even take his own belongs back with him. Oh the agony.

For the entire one-hour taxi ride back to the orphanage, there are no words to describe this boy’s anguish. He leashed out like a caged animal, screaming, hitting, pleading, pushing, and screaming even louder as if he was gong to his death. There was nothing we could do. No matter what we tried, we could not communicate that he was OUR SON and he was staying with us. The emotions that flooded my soul as I watched my poor little boy think that we didn’t want him anymore. The thoughts that had to have been going through his mind thinking he did something wrong, wondering why we didn’t love him. My eyes well up just thinking about it. It was one of the most traumatic, heart-wrenching experiences I’ve ever had to endure. And, as his mother, I could not console him. I felt completely helpless. There is nothing more powerful in a mother than wanting to make the ‘booboo’ go away. But, no matter what I tried, it only caused more pain.

Finally, we got to the orphanage. Phil and Anon got out of the car and with his amazing stoic upper lip, Anon walked off, hand in hand with Phil, believing he will never see his friend again. As for Amorn, as soon as he saw Anon leave the car without him, he FINALLY got it! He jumped in my lap, put his arms around me tightly and finally just gasped for his first real breath of air. No screams, nothing, just quiet. I felt his body quiver as his emotions started to subside. I dried off my tears of relief, when he finally pulled backward to look at me and then signed, “I was a bad boy.”

I just grabbed him, squeezed him even tighter, rocked him gently, and then after composing myself signed, “you are MY BOY and a very GOOD boy, and I LOVE YOU!” That gorgeous smile finally lighted his face once again and he just kept hugging me. As soon as Phil got back in the car, he jumped to the front seat in to his arms and embraced him. He then signed again that he was bad and Phil responded just as I had, with a huge hug, an 'I love you', and that he is our son. For the rest of the trip back to the orphanage, he just held me tight. Needless to say, Phil tipped our driver quite well that day.

Since Amorn has been home these past 1.5 years, he has been blessed to receive a cochlear implant and is scheduled to receive his second implant July 27. He is doing amazing, above and beyond what the doctors expected. He is one of the sweetest, kindest boys and is my biggest helper. He has such a huge desire to please and everywhere we go, people rave about his gorgeous blue eyes. But, more than anything, his personality takes the cake. He is so outgoing and charismatic that his deafness does not stop him at all. He is confident and makes friends so easy. Our family has learned sign language and we continue to become better people because of this little guy.

Honestly, I would say the adjustment to his adoption was more difficult than Brandon and MaKayla. Mainly because they were infants when we got them and we had time to bond before they become more independent souls. However, adopting an older child (Amorn was seven) is a whole other ball game. It takes more patience and the bonding does take longer, but it DOES happen. We can’t imagine our lives without him. We have been so enriched and his capacity and willingness to love is beyond description. Again, we know the Lord directed him in our lives and we are floored that someone, so far away, on a completely different continent was picked for us from the beginning. The saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” truly is the case here.

On another exciting note; you remember Anon, his dear, best friend. Phil’s sister and husband were so touched by their relationship and their separation, that they also had an amazing spiritual witness that Anon was to be their son. Just about a month ago, they brought Anon home from Thailand. Two weeks ago I just got back with Amorn from visiting his best friend and now cousin. Again, it amazes me that not only has Amorn’s adoption affected our lives, but his adoption eventually helped find my sister-in-law her eternal son. GOD IS GOOD, and so is our amazing, loving, blue-eyed boy Amornthep.

BRANDON GAGE BURRIS

What can I say about our adorable, little Brandon? He keeps us on our toes, that is for sure, and he is our youngest child going through his terrible twos. Though he is our youngest, he is chronologically our second child. There was quite an extensive gap of eight years from the time we brought home MaKayla and the time we brought home Brandon. Why did we wait so long? It wasn’t because we didn’t want more children, but mainly because we moved frequently and every time you move to a new state, you have to restart the adoption process. Frustrating, yes, but when it is meant to be, it will be. And man, when it was meant to be the flood waters came rushing in. We went from one to three in a six month period, three to four in a one year period, and soon four to six in a six-month period. All in all, we will have gone from one to six children in less than a 2.5 year period. Now, unless you are having quintuplets, I would like to see most women out there do that?

Brandon is our cute, adorable, highly intelligent and ONE ACTIVE little toddler, and his story is just as miraculous. We were in the process of working on Amornthep’s Thailand adoption and already had our home study completed, just waiting for our approval to travel. Yet once again, the Lord, under his watchful eye, started to prepare me for his arrival. We were currently living in Louisiana at Fort Polk. It was a hot, muggy summer day (aren’t they all in Louisiana) and I was sitting on our living room couch browsing through our mail. Suddenly, out of the blue a powerful thought plummeted in to my mind that a little boy was being prepared to come to our family. Of course, I mentally responded that the little boy was Amornthep. But as soon as I did this, the thought grew more powerful and divulged details. By the time the inspiration left, I was convinced that within a few short months, there was going to be a baby added to our family. And, just to show how kind the Lord truly is, he even told me that the bearer of great tidings would come from my newly acquainted friend, Helaine. Helaine was a new convert to our church and she and I had become fast friends. Helaine was/is everything that a southern gal dictates; hospitable, engaging, to the point, determined and full of spunk. No wonder we got along splendidly.

About a month later, Helaine called to tell me that her brother’s girlfriend was pregnant and thinking about giving her baby up for adoption. Oddly enough, even though everything fit the inspiration I had received a month earlier, I knew this was NOT the child the Lord was planning for us. I did listen to the situation, but nothing came of it. I wasn’t disappointed as I was very confident that call would come in time.

Two months later, again sitting on the couch, my mind was immediately caught up in inspiration that I was going to receive a phone call from Helaine regarding our new child. Within 30 seconds of this thought, the phone rang and I said to myself, “This is it, this is the phone call.” Sure enough, Helaine was on the other end, asked if I was sitting down and had a very important and urgent item to discuss. She proceeded to tell me about her niece, Whitney, that recently had a baby but due to her current circumstance, was no longer able to take care of the child.

Yep, this was it…this was the phone call. Within hours, I was on the phone with Whitney; sweet, dear Whitne. When we first started to speak, she was so hesitant. Come to find out, she was worried I wouldn’t WANT to adopt her child and I was worried that she was not fully on board with the idea of having her child adopted. But by the time we were done, we realized this was going to happen. Phil came home that night and I told him what occurred. Of course, we were thrilled, but after a few days past, we hadn’t heard from her. It was July 2nd, and we were preparing to leave the next day for a two week vacation in Spokane, Washington. Our hope was that we would at least be able to settle the proceedings and get the legalities moving forward. But, lack of contact made us start to worry she was rethinking her decision. Finally, Helaine called us that evening and said she was working on getting us back in contact with Whitney. A few minutes later, there was the call. As we talked, Whitney seemed uneasy and I could tell she wanted to ask something. Finally I said, “Whitney, do you want us to take the baby now or would you rather wait?”

“Really,” she gasped, “You would be willing to take him now. I just didn’t think you would want him this soon.” But ironies of all ironies, here we could only hope and pray to get a child so soon, and all along she was concerned that she was putting a burden on us by requesting we take her son as soon as possible. Of course we told her we would relieve her of the stress she was experiencing and take him. And, it just so happened we were leaving for Spokane WA tomorrow and had to go right through her hometown on our way out. That night, as soon as I got off the phone, we ran to Wal-Mart and bought diapers, formula, car seat, baby clothes, etc. 17 hours later, we were picking up our son Brandon.

We were blessed to meet Whitney and her now husband, then boyfriend, Trey. They were pleasant, easy going, but obviously we knew the meeting would be difficult for Whitney. She was making a completely unselfish decision by acknowledging that this little guy needed someone that could better tend to his needs. But, she also has been his mother for the past four months and to give him up now, such excruciating pain. We sat in their home for a few hours to get to know them and promised Whitney that we would keep in contact and she would be blessed to watch her son grow. She seemed to become more at ease, but by the time we needed to depart, once again, I watched a beautiful daughter of God make the most unselfish, amazing, loving decision she probably ever had to make in her life. Of course she wept, and wept and hugged and held her little child. I gave her an enormous hug, promised her he would be loved and cared for and off we went. To me, that day and her actions have always impressed me. This young lady had her baby for four months. Most birth mothers that choose to have their child placed for adoption only have them for a few hours to a few days. And, for her to still make such an amazing decision says that her love for this child was far more powerful than anyone of us could imagine. I personally do not think I would have had the strength. But, she did and she was the instrument that brought Brandon in to our lives. Again, I love her so deeply, and respect her so intensely for making this decision and giving us the amazing blessing of raising and being parents to Brandon. And, in honor of her, we kept his middle name as Gage, which is what she calls him to this day.

During the two weeks in Spokane, Whitney called frequently. I can’t blame her. She just had to know how he was doing and there were a few times she was rethinking her decision. Looking back, it was probably the best thing that we were 2000 miles away as we were unable to return the child to her if she wanted us to. However, after the two weeks, she was able to realize that her decision was truly in the best welfare of the child.


On our way back to LA, we stopped at her home so she could visit with Brandon and finish the legal documents. Just a month later, Brandon legally became our son. We continue a strong, close relationship with Whitney, though our military lifestyle requires moving quite a bit. But, we usually talk with her via phone once a month and try to catch each other on Facebook when we can. She is now married to her then boyfriend, Trey, and has a beautiful little girl named Malena and just as happy as can be.

In my post regarding MaKayla, I mentioned my sister’s comment about the danger of having such a good baby first. Our other two children came to us much older, so Brandon has only been our second baby as he was four months old, and WOW, he is ALL BOY! Whenever I go out, I have people tell me that they get exhausted just watching me deal with him. He is in to everything, goes everywhere, and can annoy just about anyone. But man, is he just the cutest. AND SMART…our 2 year old knows almost all of his letters just by looking at them and has already started reading. We had him tested by a geneticist, and results stated he has an above average intellect. Great for when he is older, but HORROR to the parents when he is young. Yes, I’m a proud mom, but he is my baby and I just adore my little Brandon.

Brandon comes from a tall, large and strong family and has football in his genes. His grandfather was an Army Ranger and we have been greatly blessed to continue relations with his birth family. Once again, another amazing and great blessing from above…our little Brandon!