Monday, May 4, 2015

China plans {help me pack my suitcase}!

As many of you know, I am leaving for China in less than 2 weeks!  I am headed there on a crazy whirl wind 10 day trip that includes the following:


1. Visit to Kunming, Yunnan to see the finalized playground that Yunnan Kids International built at my daughters foster village.


I am so lucky to be a small part of this non-profit! The playground is amazing – here are a few sneak peak pictures.  It is like an Aveda Salon for kids! I am super excited because Emma gets to come with to see where she spent the first 15 months of her life.    She was there about 1.5 years ago (when we adopted Luke) and talks about it a lot so hoping to cement more memories for her on this trip.  Here is a sneak peak!




Yunnan Kids -

2. To consult with a Chinese Bank on their mobile strategy (this is the official reason for the trip).


On the work side, I was designated as the contact from our digital team to provide strategic consulting to a Chinese bank we partner with.  It’s a fun task and  I am super excited to talk about opportunities in China.  Our amazing family friend and nanny, Catie Holmes, and my mom and sister are coming with me too.  Pretty cool, right?!  Also, as a side bonus, I was given a 10 year, multi entry visa for China.  I am hoping this will be a HUGE help for me in the future as visa’s can be very expensive and a pain to get. 


3. To visit a few of the US run non-profits that care for orphans in Beijing.   These non profits do amazing work caring for sick and SN orphans that otherwise would be getting less than ideal care in an orphanage  I am hoping to bring a ton of donations (see below) and love on some of these amazing kiddos as they wait for their family to come and get them!  We hope to visit New Hope, New Day, and Little Flower and bring a roller bag full of donations for each non-profit. 


Can you help us by showering these babies with love?

Make it fun, involve your kids in the shopping or have your kids make cards for the kids/babies!  I will be bringing back something from each non profit for anyone who donates items!

Wish list!!

Check out with Amazon and it will ship directly to my home. Or feel free to drop items off baby items on my doorstep all the way through May 12th and I'll hand deliver them to these babies!

Here are pics of a few of the babies at Little Flower, thanks to pink cloud photography in Beijing for the adorable pics!  

New Hope -

Little Flower-

New Day -

Friday, January 2, 2015

China Adoption Agency Cost Comparison

I have had so many requests for my agency spreadsheet comparison I decided to put it out there. 

Detailed Cost Analysis (updated as of 1/2/2014) for China adoption agencies found at this LINK.


** Tax footnote - check here to see if you can use the adoption tax credit.

Takeaway message - if you find your kiddo on the shared list, go with CAWLI and save yourself a boatload of $$!!

Caveat -- I tried to make these apple to apple comparison, meaning I generically put the following costs for all agencies. Obviously these costs will vary depending on your Homestudy agency, when you travel, etc.
  • $2200 as the HS costs
  • $870 for USCIS
  • $6600 for in country fees (SWI Donation + Provincial fees)
  • $7,000 for travel (2 parents at 3500 pp).
  • I did not include actual costs for post placements but did include post placement retainers.  I also included fees related to post placement mgmt. (some agencies have them, others do not).
The above can vary but are not usually that widely different from agency to agency.



FOOTNOTES -- All costs taken directly from these links...

CAWLI Fee Chart
FTIA Fee Chart
Lifeline Fee Chart
WACAP Fee Chart
Madison Fee Chart
AAC Fee Chart
CCAI Fee Chart

Monday, December 22, 2014

A boy who rocked my world in a 2014 that I have your attention with that title... ;-)

We have officially had Luke in our family for a year!  Before I get into the past year, I wanted to recap how we got here: 
  • In 2012 we welcomed Emma to our family
  • In 2013 we welcomed Jake to the family
  • In 2014, we welcomed Luke to the family
You would think we had this 'new parent' thing down pat.  Well, apparently, that was not really the case..

As many of you know, Luke came to us angry, sick, and confused. For the good part of 2014, this kid was on constant alarm. He was in fight or flight mode every day.  His blood pressure regularly dangled about 120 (which is dangerously high for a child).  He would scream and yell when he woke up -- I mean every single morning. And every single nap.  He would wake up and you could see it on his face "oh no, you people again?!"  He would throw his food in anger to the ground because we didn't understand what he wanted.  When he was really pissed, he would give us the Chinese 'index finger-hook' symbol for 'die' (see here for more information on that crazy thing!).  This kid just plain did not want to be with us.  He wanted to go to what he knew - his foster mom, his foster sister, his home. 

All that said, since Thanksgiving (about 3 weeks after his last surgery), Matt and I see a new boy.  A boy that loves us. A boy who wakes up and then says 'brother?' and goes to Jake's room to look for him. A boy who pushes Jake a plate of donuts to make sure he gets one before taking one himself. A boy who wants to teach his little brother how to put on his coat.  A boy who loves to read books. A boy who loves hugs and wants to give them to me when I come home from grocery shopping.  A boy who is healed. 

I don't know if Luke turned a corner now because we have been home a year, or because his final surgery is over, or because he is almost 3 (ie leaving the terrible 2's). In the end,  I don't really care why we are leaving this phase.... I just know that this boy has redeemed my soul. And my love for him is more overwhelming then I ever could imagine.

Some people say that I am 'pro adoption'. I am actually not. I am pro the reduction of orphans.  My preference would be for that to happen upfront in the process -- before the child is abandoned. But once a child is abandoned, adoption is the redemptive action that brings wholeness to the child.  It  understood this fact a year ago but I am now realizing that it also brings wholeness to the parent as well!

Reflecting on 2014, it becomes obvious to me why Luke was chosen for our family. We need to grow, to be challenged and stretched. Most importantly, we needed to learn to depend on God.  I can't say I was grateful for that opportunity during the year but I certainly am grateful now.  Now we have a son who we love, who is healed, and, in addition, I am much closer to God then I was a year ago.  I think that was His point the entire time perhaps.  Have I made mistakes this past year with him? You bet.  But I can literally see His handiwork shaping and molding me to be a better human.  I am not done growing yet!

I also should mention.... when we brought our 4th child home, I was so worried that my other children would have to 'give up' something.  Give up playing a sport, give up their bedroom, give up time with mommy, etc.  The reality, now that we are home, is that Luke has taught them so much more then anything they had to 'give up'. The girls now understand hurt, compassion, how to grow in  love, orphan care, and even the art of redirection of a toddler.  :-)  My 4 year old asks about the orphans left in China regularly and what she can do for them. She wants to make the world a better place.  I mean adorable, right?!!

For those of you just home with a new child (biological or adopted), keep up the good work!  Parenting, toddler life, adoption, and special needs are challenging. But that is the point, you will come out the other end a stronger and better person.

Merry Christmas from the Lillie Family!!

Oh how I miss that cleft!!

One year ago today, flying home from China with Luke!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Good news from the ENT!

I just want to take a minute to celebrate the fact that this little guy passed his first hearing test yesterday!! There were a few slight variations from ideal hearing but the audiologist said it still fell in the normalish range. The ENT confirmed that his tubes look good too! 

We are so darn excited to, hopefully, see this kiddos mood improve as his ears continue to feel better!!  

Funny enough, jake - my 16m old - is getting tubes placed tomorrow. He has had ear infections up the wazoo so hopefully this saves me from the painful ad hoc doctors visit during walk in hours with 4 kids in tow.

The good news is we love the boys ENT doctor at U of M. After seeing Luke in the afternoon yesterday, we ran into him at the pool yesterday evening. We will see him again tomorrow morning with jake. Hopefully that's the last time for a few months!

Monday, July 7, 2014

But he is ok now, right?

These are the questions we get asked a lot. 'He's fine now, right?' Are is surgeries done?'  'Well he looks great!'
The reality is this:
  • Luke has gone under 3 times this year for  8 different procedures.  He has 2 more scheduled sedations with one extended hospital stay in November.
  • Luke has failed all of his hearing tests except for his newborn hearing screen (ABR). Meaning his permeant hearing is likely intact but his ears are so messed up all the time he can't actually hear anything. 
  • Which leads us to speech...Luke's speech is delayed behind by 15m old.  When he talks he sounds hearing impaired for sure. We have speech twice a week for an hour each.  The goal is to get him speaking but not everyone agrees on how to do that - the dr says no signing, speech pathologists say signing helps alleviate frustration. What's the 'right' answer? There prob isn't one.
  • Which leads is to frustration....Anyone who has spent time with Luke knows this, Luke is not an easy kid to parent. His anger trumps all and we run around trying to accommodate him and keep him knowing he is loved. He bites, throws, and hits all of us. Including my 15m old.  It's not always this way - We can see him changing..the more love we give the less aggressive he is but it's not easy.  We know the frustration is not his true identity and we are doing our darnedest to turn that around.
  • Luke has food pouring out of his nose all day long. The dr asked that we actually stop wiping it constantly because his upper lip was so raw it was prohibiting healing of his lip repair. So, yes, we know foods coming out of his nose. Please don't say gross or point it out. We are aware and have bigger fish to fry.

So what is next?
  • At the end of July, if lukes ears still are not functioning, they will finally fit us with a hearing aid. I am begging for it at this point. Anything that will help bring down his frustration level is welcome.
  • Luke just left the house with hubby to go to the ER. Poor kid got his third set of tubes replaced 10 days ago in a last minute surgery and, since, has had green snot spread through his nose, to one eye, then to both eyes, and now to his lungs with a seal like bark.  He screams when we try to clean his ears like they tell us to. Owie is one of 5 or 6 words he says clear as a bell.
  • In the future we have 5-7 more surgeries, at least. It's so many and it's hard to keep track. And the success rate on surgeries, specifically palate repairs, is not great.  So I would guess 5-10 more sensations before he is 16.  Here is an overview of the timeline for a kiddo with the best care born in the US.

In the grand scheme of things, yes he is adjusting. But this is anything but easy. His cleft is anything but cosmetic. It has caused him sickness, delays, pain, and frustration. So when you see him scream, run, throw, or hit, please don't judge him or us. He is such a lovable kid deep down. It just takes a lot if work to peel off that frustration layer to really see him. And you may only see him for a few minutes. But he is so worth it.

Holding his ear saying owie (while watching toy story on dad's phone)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Now officially one punching bag!

Luke just got out of 4 hours of surgery! This kid got the work up again and rocked it! 

He had an ABR that showed normal hearing in one ear and slightly under normal in the other. We will continue to watch his hearing and he may end up having him wear a Soft Baha band -

at some point to help his hearing in the short term, until the fluid in his ears stops. We will follow up every 3 months for a year with our U of M audiologist.

He had a tube replaced in one ear - they put in a titanium tube, pretty cool! Apparently they work better sometimes!

They put a steroid shot in his lip to reduce scar tissue. I think his lip will look better and perhaps this is something we can do at home in the future.

They repaired his soft palate completely. He now has  one 'punching bag' uvula - instead of the two split uvulas he had this morning. 

His hard palate closed 40 percent in 3 months. Amazing!! We will be back in December for the final palate repair. 

He is in some pain but we are staying on top of the medicine! Our nurse in fantastic. 

Thx for the prayers!


1 hr post surgery

Immediately post surgery. Kinda a sad pic, he really is doing well, all things considered!