The Zoo Kids

The Zoo Kids
Finally Together

Monday, December 24, 2012

Two weeks home with Eli and Zoe

We have been home now a little over two weeks and I just wanted to update on how things are going. We have definitely seen our share of blessings and challenges.

We had our first medical appointment with Zoe this week. I think we have shared before that she has a blood disorder and we have to regularly monitor her blood and organs to be sure all is working as it should. We also have to have her blood checked regularly. The doctor did a very intensive exam on Zoe and did confirm that she did indeed have mild cerebral palsy caused by her blood disorder going untreated for her first 2 years. The doctor did say that God obviously had his hand all over Zoe's little life, that she was a walking miracle and shouldn't have lived past her second birthday. We aren't sure yet what direction to go with the cerebral palsy as this is a knew road for us but we know physical therapy and maybe some corrective shoes could help some? Thankfully, only her lower limbs are affected and cognitively she is perfectly normal. They did a tremendous amount of blood work while we were there to give the doctor a good baseline as to where to start with Zoe's care. We were thankful to learn that Zoe's medicine that we were told could cost us up to $300 a month after insurance will only be $45. We do know that this first doctor visit/blood work will be quite costly for us but after this first time, it will get better.

I had a sweet momma moment with Zoe yesterday...Saturday night, Briena and Zoe were playing rough on the bed and Briena got hit on the face. I sat down with Zoe and explained that when someone gets hurt, you must say ,"Im sorry". Zoe got really quite and it was bedtime so I told Zoe, "I love you but you must say sorry when someone gets hurt, go to sleep and maybe tomorrow you can tell Briena sorry." When Zoe and Briena came in for breakfast, the first thing Zoe said to me was, "I tell Briena sorry." So glad to see her understanding and responding well to discipline. Wish it was that easy with my biological kids some days!

Eli got to spend the day on Saturday with his buddy from his orphanage. From what I understand, they were together from the age of 5 for Eli and roomed together until Luke was adopted last January. He was so excited and so much fun playing with his friend. It was obvious that Eli took on a big brother roll at the orphanage. Luke's family lives in Birmingham so we will be able to reunite the boys often. They are only about 45 minutes away from Nana and Papas house.

WE are still working through some of the annoying or orphanage or cultural behaviors with Eli and it will be a work in progress for awhile but it has definitely gotten better! He still struggles to sit still for more than a few minutes unless he is building Legos and especially when he is excited! We are teaching him and redirecting him daily on what is culturally acceptable.

WE have had some really sweet moments with Eli as well. Yesterday while opening presents, he opened his gift from Aunt Nae and it was just pure innocent joy! I am sure he has never experienced gift giving or Christmas. After he opened his gift, he ran around the room to everyone else to see what everyone had in their packages. We in our desire to have him just sit still and be quiet and watch everyone open their presents kept telling him to "sit down." It makes me a little sad to look back and realize that his excitement and joy should be what overflows from us as well rather than the attitude of entitlement that is so evident when we open our gift, use our manners to say thank you, and then either wait for the next gift or quietly watch others open theirs. I don't know how to put it in words but I wish we all had a little bit of his childlike innocence and excitement!

As we celebrate Christmas this year, for the first time with Eli and Zoe, we so want them to see the real meaning of the season. That the birth of Jesus is what we are celebrating.... I really feel like Eli is the one teaching us a little bit about the season. I wish we had the same wonder and joy over the birth of Jesus....that we showed that exuberance and excitement and it overflowed from us. My prayer this holiday season for our family is that we would be unified, that we wouldn't allow Eli's nuances to annoy us but that we would be able to point out his positives (he really has so many).....and that Eli's joy would be contagious and spread to all of us.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Eli is teaching me so much. Through our relationship I am gaining a much deeper understanding of my heavenly Father's love for me. I am so thankful for these lessons and I am thankful for my son.

Here is part of my conversation with a friend over lunch yesterday:

Friend - How are things going with all the kids?

Me - Everyone is learning to adjust. The kids are playing together just like all brothers and sisters do. There are still some things with Eli that need some work, but he'll get there.

Friend - What if he doesn't? ...

What if he doesn't?! What if the things that are frustrating with Eli right now take a long time to change? What if they never change? Will I love him anyway?

The bigger question is, "Will I change?" Will I learn to love others in spite of their faults and flaws? If they can't or won't change can I? That is definitely the bigger question and the biggest challenge for me to date!

Let me pause here to say how blessed we are that the frustrating things with Eli are mostly silly issues or issues related to communication. We are not facing any issues with him that are character or safety related. We are blessed to have him as our son.

I am learning so much about the Lord's love for me through Eli. When the Father chose to adopt me as His son He did not choose me because He saw something favorable or some great potential. He actually chose me knowing how sinful my past was and how I would continue to stumble in my attempts to measure up for the rest of my days on earth. He knows ALL my faults and flaws - past, present and future - and He loves me nonetheless! The Father does not look at me and say, "Tracey is doing pretty good. There are still some things that need some work, but he will get there." I believe the Father just looks at me and says, "This is my child, and I love him very much!"

The Father's love does not hinge on my ability to do the right thing today or my potential to do the right thing in the future. One of the beautiful things about GRACE is that the Father chose to love me in spite of my ability to ever measure up.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works [past, present, or future], so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 ESV, brackets added)

Thank you for loving me in spite of all my faults and flaws. If I could ask you, "Why do you love me?" I believe your response would be, "Because I can!" And only you can love me unconditionally knowing all my faults and flaws. No one else could love me the way you love me. Lord, help me to truly grow in my understanding of your grace and love that I might be able to extend your grace and love to the world around me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

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Friday, December 14, 2012


They say adoption is a beautiful picture of God's plan of salvation. I agree! But what we are experiencing through adopting an older child is helping us see the picture of God's plan of salvation with HD clarity!

Eli has some great qualities about him. We have seen him give up his food so a homeless person could have a meal. We have seen him go out of his way to care for and comfort younger children. We see he has a great heart and that speaks volumes! However, he is almost 14 going on 10. For the past 14 years he has been trained and shaped by things that are very different from how he would have been trained and shaped had he been a part of our family (not separated from us) for all these years.

I am born separated from my Heavenly Father. I have been trained and shaped by this world. Had I been by God's side from birth things may have been different. I have faults and flaws that are ingrained in the fabric of my being because of the separation I experienced from God early on in my life.

God has always know my faults and flaws and even knew them before He chose to accept me and adopt me as His son. He knew I would struggle to obey even though He would clearly tell me the same things over and over and over again. He knew I would do silly things that would just simply be annoying. He knew I would not change over night and that I would never fully measure up. And yet He still accepted me, chose to love me, chose to adopt me and went as far as to give His only perfect Son's life so I could become His son. He traded the life of His perfect Son for the life of a disobedient, annoying, foolish, fleshly son who would never be able to love and honor Him the way He deserves.

Would we have adopted Eli knowing how hard it would be to accept and learn to love him through all his ingrained faults and flaws? I do not know the answer to that question and I am glad, in His sovereignty, Father did not reveal this to us ahead of time. Had we known ahead of time - in our weakness from to all our ingrained faults and flaws - we may have passed on and missed the blessing of having Eli Xialong (Little Dragon) as our Son!

Father, thank you for loving me in spite of all my many faults and flaws. PLEASE help me love others the same way you love me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Homefront

We have been home now for 7 days so thought I would update on how things are going....I will be honest and say...there are moments when I look and all the kids and praise God with gratitude for all He has done.  They are orphans no more!  There are also moments that I look at all the kids and just want to sit and cry out to God,"what have we done!"..."what have you called us to??"..."this is so hard!".

Zoe is precious in every way...she is learning English fast, she is incredibly smart, she loves Briena and gets along well with her siblings.  She is a Girly girl, she's anxious to try new things, and she has been very compliant when corrected.  Please be in prayer for us as we take her to Atlanta for her first medical evaluation on Monday.  We have been advised that this could be very costly because of her special need so please pray for Gods provision here as well.

Eli has been the biggest challenge for sure...we desperately covet your prayers....that we would view him from a lens of love and compassion, that'd wed be able to love him as Christ does and that our children would do the same.  It's not that he isn't compliant, he is.  The challenge is in teaching him socially acceptable ways to interact and behave and to try to view him not as a 13 year boy but more as a 10 or 11 year old based in his maturity level.  We sometimes have to tell him the same things over and over again and that gets quite old.  His idea of engagement with the little kids at times is to flick them on the cheek or jerk them up and spin them...things the orphanage kids probably enjoyed just because they were getting attention but that my kids don't find fun or funny!  With the older kids he can just be downright aggravating.  He can walk up to them and holler in their face or just make weird I said...things that might have been funny in China but that's just weird here!

The other issue is just going out in public...I dread taking him in public right now but I know it's necessary so he can learn how to behave.  Here are some things we've encountered, sometimes it's easier to just laugh!  At the grocery store..if you holler when you walk in, everyone shopping will turn and stare.  It is not ok to stand right behind the cashier while she is working.  Walking up to the counter at a fast food restaurant when there is a line is not received well by everyone waiting!  It is also not ok to walk behind the counter at Wendy's....I could go on and on...

I know things will get better with Eli as he learns English and we can communicate.  I know he will mature at some point from an annoying, aggravating, middle school boy into a teenager and young adult but right's just plain hard!

I am writing all this in complete honesty..I want others to know that when God calls us to adopt, it won't be easy!  There will be adjustments and so much growth, humility and selflessness will surely come through this. God does call us to obedience and He reminds me daily that his grace is sufficient for me for His power is made perfect in my weakness and right now...I am surely weak.  We are completely in survival mode.  I will close with this verse from my Jesus Calling devotion from Romans 8:28..."We are assured and know that (God being a partner in their labor) all things work together and are (fitting into a plan) for good to and for those who love God and are called according to (his) purpose and design."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Older child adoption...

I want to be completely honest and transparent here...I know there are those that are very skeptical of adopting older kids and those that are in process now. I'd like to detail the real story of our experience over the next few months. I think there are too many of us that put a smile in our face and pretend all is well...although we are falling to pieces on the inside...that was us with Mei at times. I promise here to tell the good but not leave out the hard and the bad. I am specifically referring here to adopting a 13 year old...although Zoe is considered an older child as well...she is easy compared to a 13 year old!

We knew when we agreed to an older child that we were agreeing to all the baggage they may bring with them as well. We have no way of knowing Eli's life experiences up to this point. What we didn't consider was...what if they aren't really 13? Although Eli's paperwork shows his date of birth as 1/13/1999....his behavior is really closer to a 10 or 11 year old. We know Eli was the big brother at the orphanage and probably had no one to model behavior for him. We also know that because of his heart condition he was about two years delayed starting school. That means he was day in and day out with younger kids. Is he really 13 turning 14? Is he just really immature for his age? Who knows?

What do I mean by immature? Well...he still loves toys and would sit and play with them for a good while. He loves Legos and yo-yos, comic books, and cartoons. He has an attention span of about 5 minutes and can't sit still to save his life! He thinks its fun to squeak his shoes when he walks or to shake up a soda for it to explode. He played with a kaleidoscope at a store today for several minutes and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Is some of this because he's been institutionalized for 13 years...he's never had toys of his own...and a very regimented, routine schedule with little freedom to just be a boy? Who knows? Only time will tell.

Our other issue is just the social norms that we have taught and modeled our bio kids since birth. We feel like we have to constantly say no or redirect...what do we mean here? are just a few examples...when we wake up in the morning, we brush our hair...deodorant is important, when we are in large crowds of people, pooting must be controlled;-), we don't holler across a restaurant to the server, we stay together in large crowds, popping the top off the water bottle in a fancy, crowded hotel lobby is not ok, you must ask before picking up other people's children, there is such a thing as boundaries and personal space and we stand in line, wait our turn, ladies first. You must ask before taking something from some one else ie...the remote, ect. I could go on and on...I am sure this list is to be continued!

Eli has some great qualities and I don't want to leave those out! He is genuinely compassionate, loves children, loves to serve others, gave his uneaten sandwich to a homeless man the other night! He is very compliant and obeys when we tell him "no".

Please pray for us as we journey down this new road. Adopting an older child has definitely brought light to our adoption into Gods kingdom. Little children/babies are so easy to love but with an older child, love is a choice. They are not cute a cuddly. In the same way, God chose to love us in all our faults and flaws. We must continually choose love.

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