Sunday, October 7, 2018


The other day, we had a marathon session at Shriner’s with our youngest. She
went through a pretty hellish surgery/recovery a little over a year ago, from which
she still suffers PTSD. (She gets freaked out thinking that the doctors had to cut
her to fix her hips.) Anyway, at one point during our session, she saw her x-rays
with a large screw in one hip. For some reason, that screw caused her to get really
quiet and sad. She was even brushing tears off her cheeks at one point. When I pulled
her close to me and asked what she was feeling, she said “mommy, I don’t remember
any China words.” From there, she went to several other statements about her life in
China...her “old” mom, dad, and brother, to…"I miss my China friends.”

You see, in the adoption community, and often from outside it, we hear or are told that
our kids are resilient. That they can bounce back from the trauma they’ve faced, and
that the lives they have now can somehow erase or make up for their traumatic
experiences. This rings false with me, based on my own experiences with my children
as well as from the research I’ve done on this topic.

I prefer to describe my children as malleable.

In my mind, I see a hammer bouncing off an object that is resilient. But  I see a hammer
leaving a mark on a malleable object.

Trauma leaves a mark on our kids. Sometimes lots of marks.

It’s our job as adoptive parents to love them between the trauma marks. To help them feel
safe between the trauma marks. To teach them skills to deal with and maybe even move
beyond the trauma marks. Even to use the trauma marks for good in their lives. To help
them be strong and independent between the trauma marks. To leave other marks on our
kids...of love, safety, peace, strength, independence...between the trauma marks.
Sometimes we are successful. Sometimes we are not.

Our kids are not resilient. They are malleable.

When we finally got home from Shriner’s that day, she ran in the house, found the nearest
notepad, and drew a “Chinese character.” She showed it to me with a big grin on her face;
a grin almost of relief. That she still knew a Chinese word. I have no idea if it really is a
Chinese character or not. But I sure celebrated it like it was.

Love marks between the trauma marks.


Friday, July 28, 2017


When we first adopted Gladdie, no...I have to go back further.

When we first got a doctor's opinion on Gladdie's file, before we'd even met her, and knowing that she walked with a severe limp, I assumed that hip surgery would be in her future. And to be honest, it terrified me.

It was honestly my worst fear in this entire adoption...her, at age 8, being stuck in a body cast for weeks on end...unable to walk, play, swim, bathe, or use the toilet. It was scary.

I think the Lord had some mercy on me, though, because when I first heard the word "surgery," it was way last October. I had months to plan and prepare for it.

I remember thinking: It's all for Gladdie. She will be so much stronger for this. She will be better for this. It's better to do this now than wait until she's older. Let's just get it over with and allow her to move on in life.

Surgery went well. We were out of the hospital in 2 days. Her pain seemed very minimal, and overall her spirits were pretty good. She had one "meltdown" when we'd been home only a short time. Other than that...she has been the BEST patient. I mean that seriously. The BEST.

I admit that there were times when I was selfish and didn't want to "serve" her. She was completely helpless. She had to rely on us for EVERYTHING. And the Lord would remind of that. Remind me of how she must feel to be completely dependent on other people for her very life, especially after being such an independent child.

We moved her down to the cool basement after a week or so. And that's where she stayed for the rest of her "confinement." Again, I can't emphasize enough what a great patient she was. She was content to sit in her chair with her iPad or "compuyee" and play/listen to her heart's content. Her sisters would come down and interact with her, and always at least one person would eat meals with her.

Close to the end of the 6 weeks, the word "humility" came to me. I was reminded of Jesus and how He washed the disciples' feet. What a wonderful example of humility. This whole experience has been one of humility. For all of us.

For Gladdie: she had to humbly accept our help for EVERYTHING; she experience physical humility in that the cast prevented her from wearing any clothing on her bottom half; she had to accept our serving her.

For us: we had to humbly acknowledge that we had to do everything for her--feed, clothe, bathe, toilet...everything; we also had to acknowledge that her physical health was dependent on us, as well as her mental and emotional health. That brings with it quite a feeling of humility.

A few verses that really capture my heart about humility...
     Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph 4:2
     Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the                     very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
    Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever        welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is        the greatest.” Luke 9:48 

I think that this experience, which of course strengthened Gladdie's physical body and will improve her overall health and life, was equally meant for me. To give me a first-hand, visible lesson on humility and the great responsibility and honor it is to raise and care for these children that God has given us.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Robes of Righteousness

We met Gladys Mae 7 weeks and 4 days ago. That's 53 days total. For over 40 of those days, Gladdie refused to wear anything but her Gotcha Day outfit.

We knew (mostly) the "why" of this phenomenon. For the days in China, we decided to just let it ride. Her entire world was changing, and this ONE thing was all that she could control. Plus, she was grieving HARD for her "mama," and I think these clothes gave her comfort in her grief.

Once we arrived home, we hoped that she would embrace her new life with as much vigor as she grieved her old.

She kind of did.

But not with her clothes.

She clung to those things for days...and days...and weeks...and weeks.

My parents came to visit in early June...we'd been home for a few weeks by that point.

My mom said that Gladdie's Gotcha outfit was starting to look a little worn out. I totally agreed. And it brought to my mind again an idea that had been swirling around in there since China.

Her clinging to her worn out Gotcha outfit was like the new Christian who sometimes hangs on to her filthy rags even though, through her new life in Christ, she has access to beautiful robes of righteousness.

Why was Gladdie hanging onto her "filthy rags"? Control. Fear. Lack of trust. Sorrow. Anger. Comfort.

Why does the saint hang onto her "filthy rags"? For. The. Exact. Same. Reasons.

We feel the need to control our life still rather than turn it over to Him.
We fear that He will not take care of us.
We do not trust Him fully yet.
We mourn our old way of life to some degree.
We struggle with anger over having to relinquish what, in our finite vision, seems like SO much.
We find comfort in our old things because the new is scary and uncomfortable.

Back to my parents' visit in early June. They took us out to dinner and invited the kids to swim at the pool in their hotel. We were pretty sure that Gladdie would not swim, but I took her suit just in case.

Also with us (and back for the summer!) were Auntie Ruth and cousin Owen. So, the 3 Gs and Owen got in the pool. I kept showing Gladdie her suit and asking if she wanted to put it on. She kept shaking her head "no."

Then, Auntie Ruth rolled up her pant legs and stuck her toes in the hot tub. We asked Gladdie if she wanted to do the same. Here is her reply:

Then, I showed her the swimsuit again and asked if she wanted to put it on. Here is her reply:

And then, this:

The next day, she went right back to her Gotcha outfit. But, because of the progress she made the night before, I decided to be bold. Because the weather was so warm, I forbade her from wearing her hot nylon socks and plastic shoes. I pulled out a pair of sandals.

At first, she gave me the hand shake which means "NO." But then, I pulled out some toenail polish and showed her that we could paint her toenails a pretty color. I had her. Here was her reply:

The next day was Sunday. She went right back to her Gotcha outfit. But I was still feeling bold, so I gave her the sandals to put on. Also, I gave her a dress (all 4 Gs have the same dress, and the other 3 Gs were wearing it to church that day) to wear. I indicated that she could wear it over her Gotcha outfit. Here is her reply:

After church, it was SO hot outside, that I just knew it was time to get her out of her hot, heavy Gotcha pants. So when we got home, I pulled out a Strawberry Shortcake skirt that grandma and grandpa had purchased for her. Here is her reply:

The next day, she had to go with us to take Gia to get an MRI. We knew we'd be in the hospital all day. But we needed to keep the outfit ball rolling. Here is her reply:

Every day since that hospital day, Gladdie has worn a new outfit. She kept wearing her Gotcha undies for several days. But finally, we found some Disney ones that she liked, and now she doesn't even wear the old undies. 

In fact, she often jumps for joy when I offer her new clothing choices each day. She says, herself, "pitty" when she's dressed and her hair is done.

And she is beautiful. In these new "robes," we can see not just the outward transformation, but the inward as well.

She is more comfortable. More trusting. Less fearful. More confident.

Oh, if only the saints would embrace the robes of righteousness offered by our Lord the way Gladdie has embraced her new wardrobe. 

Let the old life go, Saints. Embrace all that your Father has for you. 

He is good. 
He loves you. 
He will care for and protect you. 
He knows your every need before you even ask it. 
Let Him love you.

Take a lesson from Gladys Mae. Lay down the filthy rags. Put on the robes of righteousness.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We Will Walk

Gladdie Mae went 27 days in a row wearing her Gotcha outfit. We started kidding with each other...making bets for how long she’d hold out.

Then came Sunday. She didn’t change out of her pjs all day. Then Monday, the same. Then Tuesday, the same.

We Thought, HOPed, PRAYED that she was turning a corner in her trust and acceptance of us.
Could it finally be?

Then, that tiny sliver of sunlight was shut out when the window slammed down this morning.

She got dressed in her Gotcha outfit. Once again.

I’m not going to lie. I was upset. I melted down.

Partly from pride/jealousy. (Am I not enough for her? Why can’t she love me like she loves her foster mama?)

Partly from inconvenience. (Geez, now I’m going to have to wash this outfit every night again!)

But mostly from a broken heart...for my daughter.

Here she is, having just had the rug pulled out from under her. Her entire world topsy-turvy. 

She’s trying to make sense of it all by clinging for dear life to the only tangible thing she has from her old life. Probably hoping with every fiber of her being that she’ll get to go back to that old life.


So I wept. And I let her see me weeping. I want her to know that she is not alone in this topsy-turvy mess. I weep for and with her.

I think she partly understood, because at one point, she handed me a tissue.

I'm grateful to a gracious God who forgives me my meltdowns. And a little girl, who does too.

So, what to do when your hope for your child has just been shattered into a million pieces?

You pick up your frustrated, weepy self by the scruff of the neck, walk.

We live in a beautiful gulch that goes for a few miles up into the surrounding hills. I started walking up and down it a few months ago during some particularly stressful times in our adoption process. I found great comfort walking to a steady beat, listening to worship music, and praying as I walked.

So, I put the wee one in the stroller, in all her Gotcha-outfit-glory, and I pushed her for a couple miles.

I pushed until my legs burned and my heart was thumping out of my chest.

And I prayed the entire time. Sometimes my prayer was just “Jesus….”

Often, I can’t find the words to describe the pain...He knows. So I just say His name.

Walking is great therapy. It's good to get out in nature, to work your muscles, to be reminded of God's beauty and glory. To know that in this huge, vast universe, God cares for little Gladdie and her broken heart. God cares for us as we care for and love her. God knows.

I long for the day when she is at peace...with us.

But until then...we will walk.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


In the adoption community, the act of returning home after an international adoption, and all that ensues, is referred to as re-entry. It can be some of the HARDEST days of the process.

So far, our re-entry has been pretty smooth. But I digress. Let me start at the beginning of the end.

We last posted about our last day in China. We were pretty ready to get home. But, we were kind of dreading the trip. Just a LOT of logistics with a LOT of kids. LOL

We had a very early wake-up...3:45 for Simon and me and 4:30 for the Gs. We met our guide in the hotel lobby at 5 am. We couldn't believe how quiet the lobby was! Although we did see a few all night party-ers coming "home" at that time.

The ride to the airport was uneventful, but our guide told us a couple times that they have had "many problems" with similar flight schedules as ours was that day. So I was a bit apprehensive. If I had known what was coming, I would have high-tailed it right back to the hotel, called our travel agent, and re-scheduled our flights. Hindsight.

We were flying out of Guangzhou to Shanghai, and then to Seattle. The way China operates, we were not allowed to check our bags all the way through to Seattle. We were told we had to pick up our bags, re-check them, and then get on our international flight. Well, okay. As it was, we had a 2.5 hour layover before our Seattle flight. Plenty of time, right???

Wellllllllll, as we boarded our flight in Guangzhou (one of those get on a bus, ride out the the middle of the tarmac, climb some metal steps, and get on the plane kinds of boarding), we could tell something was wrong. There was NO AIR. It was STIFLING hot in that plane! Oh no! Could this hold us up and eat into all of the time we would need for our transfer in Shanghai? You better believe it!

The air conditioning was "broken...thank you for inconvenience." I think what the computer-generated translator meant was "sorry for the inconvenience." Uh, yeah! You better be sorry!

So, we sat on that tarmac for I-don't-know-how-long. All the while, I'm trying to swallow the lump of PANIC that has started to make its way up from the pit of my stomach. Please, God. PLEASE let us make our connection!!!

Finally, our flight is ready to go--with a fixed air-conditioner(!)--and I refuse to check the time. I don't want to see how late we are. I just keep praying the entire time.

Oh. I forgot to say that say that our seats on this flight were in 6 different rows...37C, 43C, 44C, 45C, 46C, and 47C. I was in 43C and Gladdie was 4 rows behind me in 47C. Really, Shanghai Airlines? REALLY?!?! So I not so patiently show the ticket numbers to an attendant, point to Gladdie, and she asks a gentleman next to me if he'd mind moving back. Whew!

So, we're in the air on our way to Shangahi, eating some sort of rice noodle breakfast, and things are looking up. I'm feeling pretty good about. The pilot announces our descent into Shanghai--"we will land at 10:10 am" (our connecting flight wasn't until 12:00 noon!)--all is right with the world!

Well, all WOULD HAVE been right with the world, if Shanghai Pudong Airport wasn't the BIGGEST AIRPORT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AND OUR PLANE HAD TO "PARK" A MILLION MILES AWAY FROM THE TERMINAL!!!!!

I am not kidding.

We landed at 10:10. You know how long it takes to disembark, right? All the pushing, shoving, etc. Women and children first? Connecting flights first? Don't be silly!

As a family of 6, we were LAST off the plane. Stuffed into a bus, and away we go to the terminal. Halfway there, the bus stops. And just sits there. It's 10:34. PANIC. Why have we stopped? Come on, people, let's go!!!! Oh, and Gladdie indicates she needs to use the bathroom. Of COURSE she does. Of course.

Turns out, we were stopped waiting for PLANES TO GO BY on their way to take-off. Seriously. That's how far away from the terminal we were.

And it's 10:34. And our connecting flight leaves at noon. And we still have to...well, you get the picture.

Finally, FINALLY, we arrive at the terminal. We rush to a restroom. We RUSH to the baggage claim. I RUSH to a Delta person. I show her our boarding pass for the Seattle flight and how it starts boarding at 11:25. She nods, says "wait here," and goes to look through the baggage claim door to see if any baggage is coming yet. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that she sensed the PANIC in my voice and was WILLING our luggage to get there ASAP.

But remember how far our plane was out on the tarmac? Well, our luggage had to come all.that.way.too.

Finally, FINALLY our bags come through on the conveyor belt. It is now 11:05.

We race to pile them onto 2 luggage carts, race to the "Transfer Desk," race to put them through an x-ray machine, race...

Wait. Why did you have to put them through an x-ray machine when they just came off a domestic flight, you may ask??????? Well, as my wise sister, who used to live in China, says: TIC. (This Is China) I think I remember Simon, at this point, yelling "I need you to stop throwing the luggage, Amy!"

Race to put our bags back onto the carts, race through the elastic maze to the transfer desk...
...and BEG the Delta people for help! A man comes up to us with a dot-matrix print out with passenger names on it. We point our names out, he puts a check mark next to them, and we think "Whew! We're going to be okay!"

And then we stand at the desk for what seems like HOURS!!! The time is now 11:20.

It looks as though people behind the desk are working on something, but what that something is??? We do not know because NOBODY is telling us ANYTHING!

I seriously thought about bursting into tears at that point. Maybe that would help our cause.

Finally, FINALLY, after hand writing the luggage routing numbers from stickers on each piece,  a woman indicates that we can start putting our bags on the conveyor belt (THEY HAD TO RE-TICKET EACH BAG!!!!), and before we get to our 2nd luggage cart, she brings our boarding passes to us, writes "25" on mine, and says "3rd floor." We then frantically leave our 6 pieces of luggage with total strangers, trusting they will load them and tag them correctly.

Gate 25, 3rd floor. Okay. We can do this. The time is now 11:25. Our flight is boarding. Now.

We race. And I mean RACE. Think Amazing Race style. Gracie and Gemma are ahead, I'm carrying a 35-lb backpack in the middle, and Simon is carrying a 50-lb backpack AND a 45-lb little Chinese girl. Said Chinese girl is absolute DEAD WEIGHT when it comes to being carried. Said Chinese girl is also yelling in Mandarin, taking Simon's glasses off, and slapping his head, almost playfully. Seriously.

We run, up 3 flights of escalators, looking for gate 25 arrows. Finally find a "Gates 16-29" sign and kick it in high gear.

Then, everything comes to a crashing halt. We have to go through immigration. You heard me correctly. To LEAVE China, you must pass through immigration.


I find an employee directing foot traffic, show her that our flight is BOARDING NOW, and she rearranges the elastic maze for us to squeak ahead of lots of people. Yeah! It's now 11:35.

But wait!!! She asks us if we have our yellow cards filled out. Yellow cards? What yellow cards? Nobody said anything about yellow cards.


We need to fill out a yellow card for EACH member of our family, including passport numbers, names, addresses, and flight details. ARE.YOU.KIDDING.ME.

I really just wanted to fall to the floor in a puddle, curl up in a ball, and transport myself to another dimension.

No way! We've come this far! We are NOT missing our flight!

Simon and I take 3 yellow cards each and start writing. I have no idea what I wrote. I'm sweating like crazy, the pen is slippery in my hands, my handwriting is unrecognizable. WHATEVER!

Finally, FINALLY we get our yellow cards filled out. I think people were steering clear of us #crazyAmericans because we walked right up to the immigrations officer with no one in line in front of us. I show him our boarding pass--that our flight is BOARDING NOW--and he kind of but not really rushes us through immigrations. We both had that Clark Griswold look in our eyes.

Whew! We're home-free! Just gotta find our gate. The time is 11:45.

But wait! We still have to go through security! That's right. SECURITY.

Do you know what a PAIN this is when it's just one person? Try multiplying that times 4 kids who have electronic devices that must be removed from backpacks. Add to it a wee Chinese girl who thinks everything is funny and a game, and a technology coordinator whose ENTIRE backpack must be emptied--- Every laptop, every battery pack, every tablet. #untimelyfirstworldproblems


I about fainted at this point. But, this Mama was not about to be denied. No way, no how!!!

I yell--yes, yell (not my finest moment)--at the Gs to remove their iPads from their backpacks and get ready to go through security.

I gotta say, the 3 Gs were rockstars here. Somehow, I honestly don't know how, I and the 4 Gs are through security and ready to go. Poor Simon is getting practically cavity-searched at this point. I say to Gracie: "Gate 25...RUN!" The time is now 11:55.

She and Gem take off. I yell at Simon that we're going on, he yells back at me "I'll carry go!" and we're off!

Imagine this, if you will...

1. Sweet Gracie leading the pack...rolling her carry-on behind her, sprinting like a champ. She's always been our map-reading, directional wizard. So far ahead of me that my mom instincts remind me about stranger danger and child abduction, but I just shake it off. No time to worry about that now!
2. Gemma right behind her. Running like crazy but having to hold her pants up with one hand because they're too big! (Telling me later that she plays soccer...she could keep running.)
3. Me, lumbering with my heavy backpack, sweat dripping--yes, dripping!--down my back and legs.
4. Gia, what a champ--alternating between running and walking fast, keeping up with me.
5. And Simon and Gladdie. He's carrying her and running with his backpack on. He's soaked through his t-shirt. She doesn't know how to wrap her legs around when being held, so his knees are hitting her legs with every step. And she's just having a grand old time laughing, hitting his head, yelling at him in Mandarin, blowing raspberries in his face, and taking his glasses on and off.... still.

I cannot make this stuff up.


Of COURSE it was.

I see the gate before I'm actually there. I see the attendant holding her hand out to take my passports/boarding passes. I expect a "you made it!" from her. It seems like a mirage.

We all, except for Gladdie of course, are doubled over trying to catch our breath. There appears to be some kind of problem with one of our boarding passes. At that point, I don't care. They can't leave without us. We made it, right?

Much to my surprise, while we are waiting there, panting, several more passengers come to the gate...all looking surprisingly calm, cool, and collected compared to how I'm sure I appeared at that moment. I felt a slight triumph at not being last to reach the gate. Ha ha! Victory is mine! I shall not be denied!

They finally get us checked in, hand me all the passports, and we take the escalator down to the "hallway" to the plane. There, they check our boarding passes AGAIN. Apparently, there is STILL something wrong with one of them. I care not. I'm in a state of euphoria at this point, having made our flight just in the nick of time. Or maybe I was really that close to passing out from exertion. I'm not sure. I do know that my legs felt like jelly at that point.

Finally, FINALLY they let us through. Oh wait! One more bag check before you enter the plane. "Ma'am, do you have any bottled water in your bag?" "Sir, I just RAN through this ENTIRE airport in less than 20 minutes, including immigration AND security with 4 kids, one of whom doesn't understand a thing that's going on. When do you think I had time to purchase a bottle of water? And speaking of water, I'm absolutely parched. Do you have any?"

We get on the plane, find our seats, get the Gs situated...and for the next 12 hours, I don't care what happens.


So, getting back to re-entry...

It's actually gone quite well. My folks, 2 sisters, nieces/nephews, in-laws, aunt/uncle, and cousins all greeted us at the airport.

What a sweet welcome for our newest American. BTW, Gladdie became an American citizen the second the plane touched down in Seattle. :)

We rode back to mom and dad's where we stayed for 3 days.

We left China Friday morning and returned to Seattle on...Friday morning. So we basically had to relive a day. Except for Gracie and me, all the Millers stayed up until 6/7 that evening. From that night until now, all the Gs have slept at least 8 hours (Gladdie, more) each night. Praise the Lord!

We drove back to Idaho on Monday. #swaggerwagon And the 3 Gs went back to school today.

I will stay home with Gladdie for the rest of the school year.

None of us got sick, like in 2014.

So far, it's been the smoothest re-entry of them all.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gladdie--Day 11--The Wonderful, Heartbreaking, Beautiful Story

The last full day of our China trips are always #bittersweet. We want to absorb as much of the culture that we can while not stressing ourselves out before our BIG day of travel. As Simon mentioned earlier, it's so #bittersweet.

If I think about it too much, I might start to weep. This is Gladdie's last full day in her birth country...the country she's lived in for 7 years. The language, food, people, and smells that she's used to. This is the last day she will experience all those. We are blessed that each of the other Gs have been able to re-visit the land of their birth. But who knows what the future holds? We have no idea if Gladdie will ever have the opportunity to return to her birth land again.

Thus, it's #bittersweet.

We awoke late and had a leisurely breakfast at the amazing hotel buffet.

We lingered and fed the koi both in the upper AND lower ponds.

We had some nice downtime in our apartment, starting to pack and trying to relax.

Mommy went out alone to purchase a new piece of luggage and do a *little* shopping at H & M across the street.

We sent daddy out for some Chinese McD's for lunch.

We took a walk to a new/different part of Guangzhou in search of last minute souvenirs/gifts.

We played some apartment living room basketball.

We watched some Chinese cartoons and whatever else looked interesting to a certain someone.

We went to the pool one last time (this was the hottest day since our arrival!).

We went to a familiar restaurant for our last dinner in GZ. They were even showing Star Wars on one of their TVs. It was meant to be.

And we got the girls 1 last faux ice cream cone from 7 Eleven on our walk back to our apartment.

Now, the girls are bathed and in bed; most of our bags are packed and ready; we have returned the stroller we borrowed to the concierge; we have ordered a luggage cart to be sent up at 4:45 am; we are pretty much ready to go.

But part of me doesn't want to go. I think part of that feeling might be due to the fact that the REAL work of adding Gladdie to our family really begins once we get home. But I think mostly, I'm nostalgic for her sake. Trying to take it all in so that I can tell her the wonderful, heartbreaking, beautiful story of how she entered our family.

I don't want to miss a thing!

So, please keep us in your prayers. We have a super early morning and 17+ hours of travel time PLUS jet lag to contend with once we arrive back in the states.

This #goingtogladdie journey is really just beginning. We covet your prayers for many more days, weeks, months to come. We will love sharing how Gladdie transitions into our family.

We will love sharing the wonderful, heartbreaking, beautiful story of the #Miller6Pack.