MIA

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Sorry everybody. I know I’ve been MIA (missing in action!!) for awhile. I’m still alive. Life is just full and somewhat complicated and consuming at this season. Thanks for those who have emailed to check in and find out if I’m okay. I am. I just am not good at this…this more masked bloggy me. No photos, careful not to give away info that could be used to harm my family. Ugh! I don’t know what to share and what to keep, so I’ve just been quiet.

The kids are all well and we are making progress with our youngest one. More surgeries coming up for her though. (sigh) It’s hard to be a parent sometimes and not be able to take away pain and suffering for your own child.

On the adoption front, it’s slow. As in turtle slow. Molasses slow. S-L-O-W. (sigh) Things out of our control taking forever. But the One Who is in control is still on the throne and surely has a purpose for allowing things to seemingly drag out like this. So I will not fret about it. I don’t have to LIKE it though, right?

Christmas. I am so not ready. If only I could get my entire family to agree to forgo presents entirely for a year…ahhh, that would help so much to just enjoy the wonder of Christmas for me. the presents stress me out.
We have greatly reduced our gift buying in recent years. The kids get ONE gift each and then stocking gifts. We have pretty much stopped buying for friends and extended family. But still…it feels so commercial to me.

Attachment- always ongoing and much to still write about, but have to go pick up a child soon, so that too will have to wait.

So much to be thankful for. So many questions rolling around my head that I don’t have any answers for. Much to trust the Lord with!

I truly hope you all have a wonderful simple Christmas celebration with those closest to you! I’ll be back! 😉

 

My Attachment Journey- Part 2

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The first months home with Shifu were emotionally intense. More than anything I felt so alone. I had met so many people online who had adopted before, but I was way to ashamed to admit that I wasn’t feeling connected to my new little bundle of joy. How could this be happening? What had I done wrong? I got sick in country and that sickness lasted for a good while after my return. My feelings towards Shifu’s birth country were less than positive. I was NEVER going back there. It challenged me on so many levels! WAY out of my comfort zone. Shifu had a flat head in the back, head shaved almost bald and his teeth were misshapen by his constant thumb sucking. His thumb had permanent callouses on it from constant sucking. I didn’t know all I now have learned. It grossed me out. He was so withdrawn in his own world. He didn’t seem to really be all there. His motor skills were seriously lacking. He had no idea how to play with toys. He cried if I put him down. Everything scared him. Everything. Baths were like torture. He was TERRIFIED of water. God forbid I even SHOW him a baby pool. Forget-about-it! Grass? Wretched awful stuff. Foods? Oh my. He would gorge and stuff himself and hide food in his diaper and pockets as if each feeding might be his last. This was all so bizarre to me. I was so underprepared. He cried. A lot. I was NOT his favorite person and that wounded a place in my heart that I was to ashamed to even admit to my husband. This kid was rejecting me before I could reject him. A noble effort on his part not to get hurt. But I didn’t know that then. How the heck did we get approved to adopt from overseas being so ignorant anyway??!!? I have since learned that often times our adopted children have a way of finding the old wounds in our own hearts and exposing them. Rejection. Oh my gosh it hurt so bad. This tiny little bald headed Asian baby was rejecting me. He couldn’t have cared less all that we went through or paid for in order to get to him. Of course. I mean I get that. His losses were huge. But nobody told me how much it would hurt that the baby from the photo, the one in my dreams was going to reject me. It would be years….years….as in recently, before I would come to understand that my own rejection by my father in my own childhood still bleeds beneath years of scars in my heart…and even a perceived rejection from someone close to me rips through all those scars to the raw wound of first rejection. Owwww!

I finally did tentatively reach out in a Yah*o group of other parents who were using the same agency. I mentioned my feelings of distance and concern. I didn’t feel like a new Mommy at all 😦 Most of them were very kind and said my feelings were normal and basically, that they would pass. And truly, things did get better. But Better isn’t what I was looking for.

I continued to fight depression. Being an adoptive Mom was harder than I’d ever anticipated. I remember filling out paperwork for Shifu’s first surgery. I was literally in tears. I didn’t know ANY of the answers. I felt like such a loser Mom. Who made that stupid form anyway? Obviously they assumed that a GOOD mother was a biological mother who would know when her child first crawled and walked, cut a tooth and hit all of their other developmental milestones. Shifu wasn’t talking when we met him and he didn’t do anything but grunt for a very long time. He appeared pretty delayed. We were surprised as he’d been in a foster home from the get-go. Apparently that is not a guarantee that a child will get the stimulation they need. Anyway, I made up my mind that love is a decision and not always a feeling but I was crushed inside that I didn’t FEEL the love the way I wanted to. I felt more like Shifu was a kid I was babysitting instead of my own son. Calling him son felt so strange to me…it took me a long time to get over that. I was so critical of myself…my actions, my motives and my hidden feelings. The one thought that continued to plague me was, “What if I never love him the way I should and I have to fake it forever?!”  My eyes would fill with tears and my heart would just cry out to God and ask Him again and again, “WHY did you choose me? WHY? I SUCK AT THIS!”

To Be Continued in Part 3…….

Thoughts about this journey…

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Thanks for all of the well wishes over the announcement of our impending adoption! I can always count on the adoptive community for support even if certain friends and family members think we have jumped, fell or maybe even been PUSHED off the deep end! 🙂 I am working on finding a website to share photos that are password protected. No photos here but maybe, just maybe, IF I can find a way to do it and feel secure, I would love to share with you! I have already had one really bad experience with sharing and sadly, someone stole one of her photos and made it public and refused to remove it. It has been an ordeal. 😦

My days are so busy and my thoughts so jumbled! I do need to finish writing about my attachment journey…more to come on that 🙂 But for now, a little bit about how we arrived at another adoption!

I would love to throw out a question for all who have been there done that- Is there anything that stresses you quite like 3 homestudy visits all in your home with a NEW social worker? whew! No matter how many times we do this, it never feels easier! We have had 4 social workers now! FOUR DIFFERENT ones! This one was, in my opinion, the most challenging one yet for many reasons. We had much more work to do this time, the questions were harder and felt a bit more intimidating. For the first time, our choice of education was potentially an issue. For the first time I felt like we had to defend our motives for wanting such a “huge” family. I wonder about some of my blog friends who have 5 or more children (some who have 10, 12, 13, 15 and more!) and how their homestudy visits go each time they add to their family. Explaining how we would manage to meet the needs of each child individually when we already have four, and how would we give #5 the extra attention she needs while still maintaining Mommy of the Year to the rest of the children was interesting. Maybe such a line of questioning would not have been a bit stressful to me had I always PLANNED a large family. I never did. I was simply ignorant about adoption and blissfully unaware of the blessings in store for me and for my hubby. And each time we’ve adopted, it has been a very clear call from God. This time it came as quite a surprise. Much like a pregancy might have surprised us actually!

We struggled a bit with this surprise honestly. The timing seemed wrong. Four is a nice EVEN number. Mei Mei still has some pretty big medical things ahead of her. And just about the time we were really believing that God truly did have another child waiting for us despite our own plans to be done growing our family, all heck broke loose in many different areas! Seriously! Stress to the max. Things just kept going wrong! The worse it got the more I was convinced that we truly did have a daughter in China waiting. The enemy wanted desperately for us to say no, not to inherit the treasures God has for us, for her. Saying yes happened after a ton of really BIG signs from above. Really big. Really obvious. That is a huge post in itself…and will be a wee bit challenging to share and still keep anonymity for myself and a few other people God used to open our eyes and our hearts.

I received a photo the other day. A surprise photo! Our waiting daughter. Oh but she is a rare gem! This is a photo EVERY waiting mother would LOVE to have. You see, this is a photo of our precious girl at the very moment she has been told that she has a family coming for her! She is holding a dolly in her arms. A dolly that I picked out from Target, never knowing for certain if it would ever truly make its way into her arms. She is looking at a family photo that I sent, with red ribbon tied at the top. And she is smiling. Genuine joy. Can you imagine my heart?!!!!!!!? She knows. Oh Lord Jesus in Heaven!! She knows!!!!!!! And she’s smiling!!! That photo did something in my heart. Every day I have moments when I ask myself “Can I REALLY do this? Can I really handle ONE more child?” I ask myself this especially after challenging encounters with certain children! and Always. ALWAYS. the Lord gently whispers, “You can do ALL things through MY STRENGTH I give to you.”

But honestly, there have been some really big times of doubt in my heart. Things haven’t been easy since we said yes. At the end of each day I sleep knowing that my God is big and faithful and His ways are not my ways and His plans are good and trustworthy. If He called ME and Hubby, then He will surely equip us for this journey in every way. Money? We have no idea. Communicating with a school aged child who doesn’t know English? No experience. Medical issues? Well, hers are new territory for us. How our other children will react once she’s here? Nobody knows. I could let myself get all worked up, panic and convince myself that the Lord surely did not speak. But He did. And not just once…but again and again and again. This was very evident. I wrote much of it in my journal and am so thankful to have it to look back on when I start to wonder. Seeing this picture of Jewel (yes, her blog name is Jewel!) made those doubts melt away and bolstered my courage once more. How will we pay for it all? I don’t know, but I know HE does. How will she respond to us? I don’t know but I know He will be there with her as we bond. How will we handle her special needs? I don’t know all the answers, but I know the One who does and He loves her and He will lead us to getting the care she needs. How will our families respond? Well I have a pretty good idea but even if it is as rough as I expect it to be, at the end of the day, HE is the One we stand before. Alone. He is blessing us and we are accepting the blessing and responsibility of parenting Jewel..JUST the way she is. What about our other children and their needs? He will equip us to meet all of their needs. She’s ours. Seeing her face, knowing that so very recently she was standing there with that brand new doll baby that I lovingly picked out for her, seeing our faces for the first time and smiling that she had been chosen to be adopted sealed the deal in my all-too-often-fickle-heart. Come what may, she’s ours. And I’m so very humbled and grateful beyond belief that God in His mercy and grace, chose US to be her Mommy and Daddy! I am still in shock. Us. Regular people. Nothing fancy. Not good. Regular. Sinners. Average. But He chose us for this blessing. Again. We are just so floored and honored!

The story of miraculous events that led us to Jewel to come…it’s a humdinger of a story 🙂

Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwiches

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I will continue my Attachment post, but wanted to take a moment to share some pretty significant news on the homefront! We are expecting again! (I have even FELT hormonal and strange food cravings, near tears about EVERYTHING…SO odd!)

This has come as a pretty big surprise to us as we had NO plans on our own for another addition! The way this all came about is a long story for another day but we have NO doubts that God has spoken to us and that He has shown us precisely which child He has waiting for us!

While we are still a bit in shock and awe, we realized that we are truly blessed that the Lord would choose to entrust another precious child to our care.

So for now…we do paperwork. and we wait.

More to come. Oh yes….another daughter. We’re thinking pink…again! (okay maybe more like purple!) Yes- China. School aged 🙂 Her name? Well, for here, we’ll call her “Jewel”! I truly wish I could share photos here….she’s beautiful. Well, ALL of my children are beautiful. But you’ll just have to trust me on this one 🙂

Perspective

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When I’m stressed, I clean and I eat…not necessarily in that order. I think I have eaten a pound of Gummi Bears in the last 24 hours. (ahem!) I have been re-reading the book, Adopting the Hurt Child, I also read Don’t Touch My Heart (which made me cry) and I am also reading Attachment in Adoption (Deborah Gray). As an adoptive mom, I struggle at times to differentiate what problems are or might be attachment related and which ones are or might be just normal kid issues! Reading these books over the weekend has brought out a variety of emotions. Mostly I feel angry. Next I feel sad. Very. Very. Sad. The unfairness of it all just gets to me most. These poor kids! And yet my pity will do them no good. I get so stinkin mad at all of the parents who have caused such trauma to their children by abusing, neglecting and mistreating them. And yet those parents themselves are in desperate need of intervention and assistance. It’s way too easy to judge.

I read Xinran’s book last weekend, Confessions of an Unknown Chinese Mother. I felt so much heartache and frustration and anger at the situations that Chinese woman have faced and still are facing. I was livid about the intentional killings of so so many infant girls and yet once again, I realize it is so easy to judge when I have not lived in their world nor walked in their shoes. My heart hurt for my own Chinese children who were abandoned as infants. Now I get to be the one they call Mama, the one who gets to try to help them through their pains and questions about why their first mothers did not keep them. Again, the unfairness of the situation so many Chinese mothers face just bore into my soul. IT’S NOT FAIR! IT’S NOT RIGHT! What can I do? What should I do? What will I tell my children? I have felt such a burden for their Chinese mothers…and what about their fathers? Do their fathers even know about them? Do they mourn their loss? What about grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins? Even sister or brother? It’s not fair.

I feel guilty. I have a relatively easy life. Comfortable. I never wonder if we will have food to feed our family. If I haven’t planned well, we run to Subway or order pizza.  We have been able to pay off debts and live moderately and adopt two children from China. Our children have more stuff than they need or really even want! We have been able to afford their homeschooling curriculums every year. We’ve never not been able to purchase books or supplies. They have more clothes than they could ever really want to wear (thanks Mom and your love of thrift stores!) We have been able to afford for the children to participate in extra curricular affairs such as sports and arts. We have immediate medical care available to us. We have money to fill up our monstrous vehicles with gas. We can afford groceries. We spend tons of money on toiletries and come to think of it, we spend tons of money on toilet PAPER! (ahem!) We live in luxury in comparison to a large majority of the world.

We have some “junk in our trunks” so to speak. We have some family discord and broken relationships and such in our external families. We didn’t both have rosy happy Leave It To Beaver upbringings. But we’ve made it….I mean we’ve been considered normal, above average parents who are worthy to adopt someone else’s child. We’ve been examined and found worthy. (Sometimes that does boggle my mind!) We have had hard times. We’ve seen adversity. Pain. Bitterness. Testing. Temptation. Discouragement. But never despair. Our faith that God is at work for our good and that His word is true, even when it doesn’t FEEL true, has gotten us through some heartbreaking seasons of life. There are things I will never ever blog about.

But all this to say that it isn’t fair. Why do I get this life and my Chinese children’s mothers get their lives? How am I any more fit to be their child’s parent than they are? (I’m not!) Why do I feel all of these feelings? Why can’t I just let them go and be happy that I have these children and that they have a family and go on about my business? Is it some kind of sickness for me to look into Shifu’s face and wonder what his mother and father look like? to wonder for the hundred-thousandth time WHY he was abandoned? Why? What if they could know that his “special need” is no big deal? Would they have gone back and undone their act of abandonment? Would he be speaking fluent Mandarin and chewing on dried seaweed instead of munching on cheese sticks and fruit roll ups?

How is it right that the government allows each family only 1 child and yet they end up taking care of hundreds of thousands of orphans, paying for orphanages, staff, clothing, food, medical supplies, etc? Wouldn’t it just be easier to allow the parents to keep their children or to offer assistance when medical care is needed? Sure, maybe I’m thinking too simply, but I just don’t get it. There are REAL LIVES at stake here. I have put myself in the imaginary shoes of my children’s mothers and I can’t imagine living…as in going on…if I had no choice but to give up Sunshine or Cinderella shortly after their births.

Now, I love Shifu and Mei Mei (even when she is being especially ornery and defiant like today!!!). It isn’t that I don’t want them, it’s just that I hurt for them, for their first Mommy and Daddy. It just isn’t fair. I think for the first time I am really beginning to understand a wee bit, the other side of adoption- the “sucky” part. I had initially thought adoption was just so wonderful and blessed. Well it is…for the adoptive family. And maybe even eventually for the child being adopted. But there is a heckuva lotta hurt on the other side. In our children’s cases, by the time we found out about them their parents had long since abandoned them, police had searched for them and of course did not find them. The children were in the care of orhpanages and I do not propose that leaving them there would have been more just than adopting them. We are truly blessed to be the parents of these children not born to us, but entrusted to us. But my heart hurts for them and their first families that are lost forever to them. Shifu has already asked me many times to tell him about his first family. I know nothing. Nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. I only know where he was found. That’s it. I don’t know what he was wearing, I don’t even have a baby photo. His orphanage did not give me any additional information about his early life. I have no baby photos of Mei Mei either, though I have a bit more information as to her early life and what it was like.

I do not think that either of my adopted children have reactive attachment disorder. I do think that they both have some attachment anxieties that manifest in various ways at random times. I have found that despite what other parents have told me, parenting children who were adopted, adopted internationally, adopted as toddlers, is NOT just like parenting a biological child. It isn’t even fair to expect that it would be the same. The love is not less. The parenting is not less. Just different.

My Mei Mei is having some issues. They are coming out in ways she can control. I am not sure why. My Shifu has also had some not so fun issues in the past and even recently. We had him tested for SPD (sensory processing disorder) but he does not seem to really have a need for any interventions. And yet he sometimes hurts himself. And he’s discovered a way to hurt himself where we cannot see. But a Dr. discovered it. And I was shocked! He figured out how to poke the back of his throat with a fork and make it bleed. The Dr. discovered puncture wounds and bruises all over the soft palate and throat. It took some time alone with him for him to confess to me that he’d done it. He doesn’t know why. My first response was to feel guilty. Surely I must be doing something wrong. Perhaps I need to do more of this or less of that or read another book? I chased my tail round and round fretting about this upsetting news. We waited for days for results of a throat culture to confirm that he didn’t have some rare disease, rather that they were just self-injury marks. The Dr. just didn’t believe from spending time with Shifu that he was emotionally disturbed. And I think it wouldn’t be even fair to suggest that he really is. I think sometimes he hurts inside and he doesn’t know how to express it, heck, maybe he doesn’t even really understand his own feelings. We have had long stretches of time where he is not hurting himself, not acting out, not withdrawing from the world, and then once in awhile, we see signs that all is not healed up. I wonder if it will be a life-long process? There was a season where he and I went to therapy together. It was a huge waste of my time. Ugh. Shifu was eating things that were not edible. Everytime my back was turned. I was at my wit’s end. I just didn’t know what else to do. Turns out, neither did the counselor. She thought he had PICA? He didn’t. She was in the process of referring us to a place about 2 hours away that specializes in child hypnotism. Yeah. No thanks. Guess what? God had the answers and tools I needed all along. Daddy was gone, working away from home for an extended time, and some severe anxieties has arisen in young Shifu and that was his way of expressing himself. He has some deep- seated issues with food, and I have reason to believe he was truly hungry as a baby and his hunger pangs often went unnoticed. We navigated through that season with the Lord’s help and have never been back to counseling. I am quick to freak out when new and upsetting behavior arises. Picking onself until bleeding is not something that is preferrable. Shifu has done that. So I’ve learned to start asking what is behind the behavior. THAT is what we need to deal with.

Shifu is a great kid. Mei Mei is a great (albeit naughty right now!) kid. They are going to do much more than just make it…they are going to thrive. God has plans for them..plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans to give them a future and a hope. God has entrusted me for reasons I will never understand, to be their Mama. Therefore I will trust in His provision for me in order that I might be what they need when they need it along this journey of attachment and life.

There are days when I want to just give myself over to sorrow, for what they have lost, for their mothers’ losses and for myself even. It’s all about perspective. Is the glass half empty or half full? Somedays I see what’s missing and other days I see what’s there.

We all have brokenness. We all need healing in varying degrees. Today I am purposing to be thankful that God the Father made a way for ME to be part of HIS family and that He allowed ME to be the mother to these four…and counting 😉

My Attachment Journey…Part 1

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Attachment. If I’m going to be completely honest, attachment is not a word I ever gave any mind to prior to Shifu’s adoption. With Sunshine and Cinderella, we had many long nights and days together, while they were infants at my breast to develop strong bonds. By the time the time they were toddlers, we were mutually in love! Shifu and I were at a distinct disadvantage. He was a toddler and a stranger to me. The first years of his life are filled with more questions than answers. I still wonder did he suffer abuse at the careless hands of ayis or foster parents? Why was he moved so many times in his short life? Really, if I could remove my emotions altogether, I wonder at how he has been able to trust and attach at all. He certainly was given no reason to believe he could trust or love adults in his short life prior to adoption. I read some books. I was a mix of horrified and in denial that WE would experience such extreme issues such as were discussed in certain attachment/adoption books. I learn best from experience. God help me. Literally. In the short half-year that we waited to hold him in our arms, I longed for Shifu. I prayed for him and wept for him and begged the Lord to protect him and to prepare his heart for our arrival. Meeting Shifu was so different from how I’d imagined. He never cried. He never smiled. He never made eye contact. He was completely withdrawn and in survival mode. He looked so tiny to me. He was brought to us by officials who’d never met him before, therefore they could not answer any of our questions about his life, his schedule, his likes, dislikes, fears or comforts. We were truly on our own. All too soon, the officials were gone and we were alone in our hotel room with a sleeping Chinese toddler that we knew almost nothing about. I almost panicked. All of my prior experience and mothering skills flew out the 38th floor window! How in the world had the people in charge really thought that we could do this?!? Unknowingly, I was a member of the “fake it till you make it” club. So I pressed on. I smiled and attempted to hold Shifu and to engage him with food and toys and to carry him around like I’d done this a million times before. Sure, I knew what I was doing. Sure, I was his mother. But I felt FAR from natural! What I really wanted to do was pause time indefinitely and just stare at him. Who was this stranger? He looked so tiny and helpless and so very different from me, from Hubby, from Sunshine and Cinderella. Well duh, I mean of course. He’s Chinese. But I’d never held a Chinese child. I never knew how course his hair would feel or how unusual his little Jedi hair tail would seem to me just inches from my face. I’d never seen an uncircumcised boy part before. At first I wondered what in the world he had going on down there! (feel free to stop and have a good chuckle at my expense!) I couldn’t have known then how much it would hurt when he would reject me. Again and again. Mind and emotion would fight against one another as I would try to push through my own disappointment and be Mama. I would utter “Wo ai ni” over and over and feel like a hypocrite. How could I expect Shifu to believe it when I felt like a fake myself? China was challenging. When we came home, I was so relieved. I was in MY comfort zone again. Sweet Shifu however, was just thrust into another unknown realm and his way of coping was to retreat and withdrawn deep within himself.  He was no more attached to us than we were to him. We had made a choice, a commitment. He wasn’t in on that! Nobody had prepared me for the possibility that I would not feel gushing adoration for my new son. Nobody told me that it might feel strange, very forced and strange indeed, to even CALL him “son”. Nobody told me that I might feel more like a babysitter than  Mommy for a long time. Nobody told me that I might sit and cry to Hubby wondering what we had done, wondering if Shifu was supposed to be in another family and if we’d made a mistake. Why didn’t I FEEL love for this child? I mean, we’d just traveled to the other side of the word, spent an exorbitant amount of money, 2 weeks of our lives and more paperwork than I thought possible at the time (pre-Hague!!)…where were the feelings of ecstasy? He was finally  home! Where he belonged? Right? But a nagging thought kept bugging me- WAS this really where he belonged? didn’t he REALLY belong at home, in CHINA? With his MOTHER, his REAL mother and father? Surely we were never going to measure up? Oh my goodness did I doubt our decision. Adoption is born out of loss. And all of a sudden, it was hitting me between the eyes all that Shifu had lost. And then I wondered what we had done. I wanted my old life back. I wanted to give him his. I felt so confused and ashamed and depressed. (the dreaded D word that most adoptive parents never utter aloud for fear of judgement and criticism) I could not yet even begin to see how the Lord would redeem those feelings and show me, and Shifu a whole new perspective.

(to be continued in Part 2)

Beginnings

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So many of us have stories hidden deep in our hearts, longing to be told, but we keep them inside, usually out of fear. What if nobody understands? What if nobody cares? What if someone laughs? What if someone ridicules? What if someone attacks or judges? So many of us keep silent, carrying our stories silently.

This is a place to tell the stories. This is a place to come and share and be encouraged and cry together and rejoice together. Life is hard sometimes. But always, God is good. Some days I might need that reminder myself. He doesn’t always FEEL good to me.

Being a mother is my honor and privilege. It is also my biggest challenge and source of heartache. Parenting children who were born from unknown mothers living in a faraway land…a land about as different as the one I’m in as night from day, and yet here we are-together-family.

Here my children’s identities are protected. Their names, affectionate nicknames, their beautiful faces  hidden from prying eyes with ill intentions. Here I will share some of their stories as I share also my own. If you know me, please kindly refrain from referring to my real name or the names of my children in your comments. Thank you!

Grab a cup of tea or coffee, sit down and share a little piece of your life with me as I share mine with you!

Glad you stopped by!