Monday, January 27, 2014

A Post of Pictures

We're back! So sorry that I've abandoned my blog lately. Here are some pictures from the past few months. We are having a ball!

Halloween fun.....Policeman, Southern Belle, and Wolverine
. 
We celebrated a birthday in October!
                                                                                              
 
Sweet girl singing away! I've always heard from other adoptive moms that the "first" birthday home is so uniquely special...and I completely agree.


 
First Christmas with her forever family!

Christmas 2013


Adoption has blessed our family in ways that we will never be able to adequately put into words. Since many of you have asked specifically about adoption & albinism, I thought that you might enjoy this post as well:

I hope to find the time to write soon, but for now, enjoy this picture-filled post!:)






Friday, September 27, 2013

Online Silent Auction....Coming Soon!!



 It's beginning to feel like we have a good grasp of our "new normal" these days in the Sanders household. Turns out that the adoption counselors actually knew what they were talking about:), and "cocooning"--although quite challenging at times--worked!

Our older two are trucking along in 1st grade and K-3.
The baby of the bunch, Allie Ruth, visited Mother's Morning Out this week for the very first time! Amen! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! I just can't even begin to tell you the HUGE strides this sweet girl is making each and every day. God is faithful!
We are making a strong effort of protecting our family time, thus spending many weekends away, just as a family of 5. We even made it to the Bama game last weekend.


While we've been getting adjusted to life as a family of 5, we've also been working on something near and dear to my heart. If you read my last post, you already know about Forever Families Foundation. Take a look at our website for more information: www.4everfamiliesfoundation.org


We are holding our first fundraiser in November.  It will be our First Annual Online Silent Auction. It is already filled with many GREAT items----which would make awesome Christmas gifts! It is pretty simple---the more money we raise, the more families we can help. It is our prayer that many people will choose to do some Christmas shopping with us, and truly let their dollars make a difference!

We will be sharing more info about the Online Silent Auction, so please stay tuned! If you are a business owner or individual willing to help sponsor this online event or donate to the auction, please contact me via the website. We are making phone calls, sending emails, and visiting businesses each day, so you may just hear from us soon regardless.:)

Mark your calendars....Nov 8-29, 2013---help us spread the word & stay tuned for more info!!

For His Glory,

Alison

Friday, August 16, 2013

Forever Families Foundation

 
Oops!! I didn't realize when this story aired last night, viewers would be encouraged to visit my blog for more information on Forever Families Foundation.
I'm gonna need a little grace, friends!!! This new momma of 3 is in "back to school" mode, and life is beautifully chaotic around here.
However, I am SO PUMPED to share with you about this:
We are so excited that the Lord has led us to this opportunity. We are in the process of launching Forever Families Foundation. This foundation will be partnering with families from the Wiregrass and beyond as they follow the Lord's call to adopt. We are committed, along with many other families, to providing adoption financial assistance to families who are opening their hearts and homes to orphans--both locally, and around the globe.
The foundation is in the very early stages. We are working on the lengthy process of becoming an official non-profit. We are also putting together a pretty incredible team of passionate people to help us raise funds, provide grants, and bring awareness to our area of the global orphan crisis. If you or your church is interested in partnering with our team, please contact us here.

Stay tuned for lots of information, and watch for the launch of the Forever Families Foundation website!

I am so excited that I am can barely stand it!  

For His glory,

Alison

Monday, July 8, 2013

"Hello"

We've been home one month now! It's been a challenging few weeks, as somewhat expected, but we are seeing positive strides in the right direction each day. We've definitely had moments for high-fives and fist bumps. However, just as we have thoughts of...."ok, maybe we can lift this cocoon a little"....we have a setback.

Thankfully, Shu Shu's favorite word in English is now "hello", rather than "mama." This has made for a lot less awkward moments.:) This has also helped to confirm that she didn't really believe every single person (male and female) was her mother, but it was rather just a common word in English that she knew. She literally repeats her favorite word--once "mama"--now "hello" constantly. She wakes up "hello", she sits down to eat--"hello", and she goes to bed saying "hello". It's actually pretty cute.:)

You've also probably noticed that we are still calling her by her Chinese name, Shu Shu. Transitioning to Allie Ruth is really the least of our concerns right now.

The Lord has been teaching us so much through this adoption journey. We hope that we can share with you all one day soon all that God has been doing in our lives through this blessing of a new daughter. We are certain that God's call for our family to help in the massive, worldwide orphan crisis does not end with the adoption of Allie Ruth. We are confident that, in the days ahead, we have a responsibility to "rally up" fellow Christ-followers to support families who feel the call to adopt.

In closing, we thought you all might like to see some updated photos and a video, too! 

My sweet friend, Stephanie Fisher, came and got some sweet photos of Shu Shu. Here's one of my favorites!:)
 

Good times on our morning drive around the Circle.
 

Singing some Chinese nursery rhymes to me.
 

This girl loves to play dress up.
 

Loves her big brother! They are giving hugs through the window.
 

Out for another morning drive...pajamas and all!

 

Pool time!
 

July 4th! Shu Shu and I stayed home...while the rest of the family watched it rain at the lake. She loved getting dressed up in her patriotic attire.

She loves the tickle monster. The best part of the video is Austin's ending. TV broadcasting may just be in his future. Have mercy!




Friday, June 21, 2013

"Cocooning"

So, this beautiful thing called adoption has happened.We are home. We are thankful!

Allie Ruth has had some great-very thorough--medical appointments this week. We are thankful for our local physicians, who we are blessed to also call our friends, for taking such great care of Allie Ruth! We were also thankful that we were able to spend Wednesday at Children's Hospital/UAB International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham, having many adoption specialists assess and evaluate the behaviors of our precious daughter.  This clinic is an enormous asset for all families who are adopting internationally.
IAC appt--we were in this same room for 4 hours...and she was a trooper!
As we move forward, we cannot forget what life has been like for our daughter. Yes, she now has a mother and father who are deeply in love with her, and would do anything for her. Sadly, she doesn't understand that just yet...and she may not for a long time. We, along with the adoption professionals, have reason to believe that she has likely never bonded or attached to anyone...ever. Shu Shu showed no emotion when her caregivers passed her over to us at the Civil Affairs office. As I wrote about in a previous post, she didn't shed a tear as we said goodbye to her orphanage. This behavior is very telling. Breaks my heart to even think that my child, at 2.5 years old, has never been loved, or loved someone enough to miss them.
 
This was taken just a few minutes after she arrived at the civil affairs office to meet us.
Every child is different, and there are many things that will impact a child's behavior and their ability to attach to their forever family when they get home. Although we have a good amount of positive information about her last orphanage(thanks to the partnership with Lifeline), we do not have any information about the first orphanage where she lived for the entire first year of her life. We feel it is likely that she lacked in nurturing and was shunned/neglected in her orphanages because she has albinism(which is culturally rejected and feared in her birth country). Picturing my child for some--or even any--of her months of life thus far as not only the "least of these", but the "least of the least" is almost too much to even think about.

Allie Ruth loves, loves, loves being around people--especially other children. Those of you who met us at the airport, have seen us at doctor appointments, or have dropped off food/gifts have probably observed the same. She is truly the giggliest, funniest, happiest little chatter box of a child I've ever been around.
What we have observed though--as I mentioned in my last post-- is that she still has no fear of strangers, and calls almost everyone she meets "mama". Charming adults has been a survival mechanism for her over her two years of life. As strange as it may seem, adopted children who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers is not a healthy thing. It typically means that the child hasn't attached to anyone.

So, here's the good news! Those terrible days as an orphan are gone...forever...for our daughter!
Allie Ruth loves her new room!
So what does her behavior mean for our family unit as we move forward? We must "cocoon" with her...and we were told by the adoption specialists to expect this to be necessary for Shu Shu from anywhere to 3-6 months. If you are not in the adoption loop, it may sound crazy to you. However, Stephen & I must be her only caregivers 24/7. We will be the only people to meet her physical needs-- the only ones to feed her, bath her, change her, console her, and so on. She must stay home with at least one parent as much as possible. We were told to limit visitors, and encourage friends and family to pour their affection, time, and energy into our boys, while we meet Allie Ruth's needs. Hopefully, then she will come to understand that we are her sole parents for life, and will have a strong and healthy attachment to her forever family. We had expected to "lay low" for a few weeks, but it actually needs to be much longer for her.

Will it be tough? Absolutely.

We ask you to pray for us all--especially our precious boys, who have been amazing big brothers. They are having to share the attention of mom and dad with a little sister these days. Their schedule and life will be different in the months ahead, and we pray they adjust well.
Big brothers serving breakfast in bed on Allie Ruth's first morning home.
Thank you all for the continuous calls, texts, and emails. I haven't been able to respond to most of them yet, but please know how much it means to know that you all are thinking and praying for our family.

 We have claimed this verse from the start, and will continue to do so.
 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with
you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)


Trusting Our Father,

 Alison

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! We are home! All three of our children are all under one roof now. We are extremely thankful!
 
 
God has blessed us with some of the most precious family and friends who greeted us at the airport upon our arrival to Dothan. Allie Ruth LOVED every minute of the attention and the play time with all of the children.
Keep in mind that we had been traveling for the past 30 hrs, and just recently finished up a consecutive 14 hour flight. That girl is something else!

My sweet friend, Stephanie Fisher, was SO incredibly kind to give of her time and talent. She drove down from Birmingham to capture over 600 pictures for us. Here are a couple of pictures from her blog. I'll post more when I receive them. What a tremendous blessing!

Thank you to all of you who made Allie Ruth's homecoming so special! You all are a blessing to our family.

We had the privilege to share our two weeks in China with the Hammond family from Huntsville, Alabama...an amazing family all around. I encourage you all to read their blog (start to finish)...their adoption story...simply incredible. The Hammonds were in China adopting two children. We met precious 22-month old John Thomas on our very first day in China. We actually flew with them to Chongqing, and it was on that flight that we witnessed how extremely frail and sick this sweet angel was, and how deeply loved he was by his parents. The Hammond family returned to Huntsville late evening on June 6th, had a similar "welcome home" airport celebration, and then headed home. On June 7th, John Thomas went to be with Jesus. The Great Physician healed John Thomas, but his healing did not come on this Earth. We are weeping with them today. Please join us in praying for their family, today especially, as they will remember his life.
 
A fund has been established to cover funeral expenses. The Hammonds have spent the past year or more fundraising to secure the funds for the adoption of TWO children. They were obedient to the Lord's call to adopt, and He provided every penny needed. Sadly, they are now incurring the cost of a funeral for one of those precious children.  Here is more information on that fund if you feel so led to give.
John Thomas' aunt shared some words yesterday that were so beautiful. Here is a portion:
"And because of God's plan, John Thomas died knowing what it felt like to be loved by two of the sweetest people on this earth. His life mattered. He felt love. He thrived and learned so much in such a short time. He touched so many people just through his pictures, videos, and the written word. His life will bring glory to God. That is all any of us can hope to say about our lives when we finish the good race. The t-shirt Erica was wearing when she got off the airplane with John Thomas had this scripture on the back: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Thank you Lord for bringing John Thomas into our lives."

For His Glory,
 
Alison


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Our Last Night in China


As I write this post, I have tears streaming down my face. Tonight is our last night here in China (we leave for Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon, and will board our first of three flights around midnight). Stephen and I have really been missing the boys and home over the past few days. We have been longing to have all three of our children in our arms at once. I've dreamed about our reunion with them, as well as, our friends and family over and over again. I cry every time I think about it. As thrilled as we are to be heading home, we also will be returning home forever changed. 
Tomorrow brings goodbyes (we actually just said goodbye to one wonderful family today). The precious families journeying with us during this time will all be heading to their respective homes. They will start their "new normal" lives with their newly adopted children. It's been a great experience to meet families from across the United States- I just can't put into words how blessed we have been to share conversations, meals and hear each family's story about their particular adoption journey. No doubt God has been ever present and ever faithful in all of our collective journeys. He has been a constant sustainer and carried us all through the past two weeks. Most of the families with us also have other children at home, so we've been able to lean on each other when we are missing our kiddos back home.
The Norris and Hammond Families
Lifeline families getting ready to go on the Pear River dinner cruise
As I said earlier, we are returning to Alabama forever changed. The most beautiful blonde Asian has stolen our hearts...we love every ounce of her strong-willed, high energy little personality. God placed Allie Ruth with us for a purpose-how blessed we are! What great peace we feel! We're excited to see what He has in store for her life.

Preparing to come home, we ask that you pray for Allie Ruth....although we are still calling her Shu Shu. :) For the first 2.5 years of her life, she has had no mom or dad. Every female caregiver was her "mama". She loves people...what we would consider to be a personality that is the "life of the party". However, she has no fear of strangers-she will go with anyone/and sit in anyone's lap. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are "very friendly", but this is actually something that isn't good for the child.
Although she seems to enjoy our company and has made HUGE strides over the past nine days, she has not experienced God's design for a family while in an orphanage setting. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone-which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. That being said- please understand that we want nothing more than to have Allie Ruth hugged, cuddled, and cherished by ALL of you. But, until she has a firm understanding of her family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct her to us if you see that she is seeking out food, affection, or comfort.
We may break the "adoption rules" at the airport a little. Afterwards, we will be laying low with her for a period until we know that she is ready to branch out. We're very excited for her to get to know all of the wonderful people that already love her dearly. We are about to explore a "new normal" for the Sanders family!

Let me end this extremely long post by giving a huge, heartfelt thank you to so many! We are so grateful for our family and friends who have kept the boys very entertained while we've been away...whether it was a sleep over, beach trip, play date at Chick-fil-a, or just that friendly face at VBS this week...we can't thank you enough! You all have been a huge blessing to our family. God has truly blessed us with an incredible support system and we are thankful!




Saturday, June 1, 2013

No more appointments, no more paperwork!

We have successfully survived our day of international medical evaluations. We survived--but it was not pretty. I wish that I could paint an appropriate picture for you of the scene. The office was crazy crowded. It reminded me of our pediatrician's office during the peak of cold and flu season. However, instead of sick children, the room was filled with overwhelmed adopted children...and the room temperature had us all sweating from the start. Total chaos from start to finish.. Doctor Daddy had a tough time with the system in general.  He had many suggestions for improvements that he kept to himself:), but the end was most challenging. "Parents- no go in room"---instead,  you sit at the door and listen to the horrid screams of your child as they give 5 ml of blood for TB testing. Allie Ruth was more challenging than others, & it took them FOREVER to draw the blood. Apparently, they tried 3 different places before they were successful. Sweet little girl was pitiful. She cried, I cried, and then she fell asleep in my arms. Whew, we are glad that is over! No more appointments, no more paperwork. We are just here waiting on our scheduled US Consulate time (which is Wed), and then we are headed back to Alabama!

Each day gets sweeter and sweeter with Allie Ruth. She is getting more comfortable with us, so we are now seeing her true personality. It's so AMAZING  how similar her personality is with one of her big brothers. In fact, they are only 15 months apart in age, so this is gonna be good! :) We can't wait to be together as a family of 5.
Here are a few pictures that we thought you all might enjoy...
Allie Ruth's first bathtub experience...and she loved it. Gone are the days of orphanage sponge baths! 

Out and about in Chongqing.

Allie Ruth's first experience outside for consecutive hours. When we asked her caretakers if they used sunscreen on her, they replied, "no go outside."

Those two fingers are her comfort.

She loves to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with me.