Sunday, June 28, 2009

Always Positive?

I think all of us have gotten dozens of holiday letters from our friends which extol the virtues of their beloved children: "Donny was voted most likely to succeed, won state in basketball, and scored a 1600 on his SAT....Lisa won the national junior golf title, saved an elderly lady's life, and is now fluent in four languages." Just once I would love to see a holiday letter that said, "my daughter is flunking chemistry and my son just sits around all day playing video games and eating Taco Bell." I think I would find that pretty refreshing.

I think most charities fall into this same "holiday letter" mentality, in as much as we are hesitant to ever post a mistake or say that a project isn't going well. Since all charities are run by humans, I would have to think that just about every charity learns through experience, often the hard way. But you would rarely know that from charity blogs or websites. We are just as guilty of this as everyone else, of course. Our blogs and newsletters are filled with positive success stories, which thankfully we have a lot of. But we certainly have matured our programs by learning real lessons when things didn't go as planned. For example, we recently tried a "halfway house" program for young ladies aging out of their orphanage. We renovated an apartment, hired a house mom, encouraged them in every way to live on their own.....and it didn't work. Despite our absolute best intentions and a lot of hard work....the project didn't go the way we had hoped.

So how do you feel about charities being honest in telling things like they are? Do you prefer to only know the good? Or would you want to know if you gave to a project and it didn't work out? I have often wished that some of the groups that I gave money to with little results after Hurricane Katrina would just say with complete sincerity, "we know we messed up." I think most people can understand and forgive just about anything when people are honest. Or do you think that charities need to project an always perfect image to keep their donors committed?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Photo of the Week - Pick Me Up Please

The very first time I walked into an orphanage, I tell people that my life changed forever. I don't think anyone can walk into a room filled with row after row of baby cribs, full of children who have lost their parents, and not have their heart be burdened. The hardest part about that first day for me was all of the children who reached out to me wanting so desperately to be held. I would pick up a baby and they would just cling to me. The importance of human touch to a child cannot be overstated.

This photo was recently taken when one of our team in China visited a new orphanage to LWB. He said the moment he walked by, this little girl reached out her arms wanting to be held. And his heart, just like all of us who work with orphaned children, was reminded yet again that no baby should be on their own. Every child born deserves to be held. They deserve to be loved, to be nurtured, to be cherished. And so we can never give up trying to make that a reality, even if we can only do it one child at a time.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness Day is Coming

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about how she and her kids loved doing "random acts of kindness" in order to foster a love of giving. We thought her idea was so great that we have decided to promote it every quarter. On July 1st, we encourage you to do one random act of kindness in order to spread goodwill to others, and also to remind people that millions of children around the world live each day as orphans.

To take part, here is what you should do:

1) Print off the image on this blog, and cut it out as a small "coupon" or postcard. (if you double click on the image, it should load it on your computer in a larger size)

2) On July 1st, pick a moment to do something kind for someone. Some suggestions include paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line, buying a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you at a coffee shop, helping someone with lots of groceries load them into their car, etc. Be creative!

3) After doing your kind deed, give the person your "kindness card". If you are in a drive-thru line, simply give it to the cashier and ask them to give it to the next person in line while telling them that their meal is free. Then you can turn around and wave at the unsuspecting person behind you with a huge smile as you drive away.

So many people in this world are having a hard time and could really use a pick-me-up. You will never know how your random act might have given them just the encouragement they needed that day. It ALWAYS feels good to give, doesn't it? Invest just $5 into surprising someone with random kindness on July 1st, and help spread awareness about all of the children who go to bed every night without parents to love them. You will be adding a moment of giving to the world as well, and no act of kindness is ever wasted. Do a fun deed on July 1st and then come back here and tell us how it went!

(Warning: our friends who have done this with their children say their kids absolutely LOVE doing it, so be prepared to have some extra cards printed and in your glovebox! What a great way to teach our kids that giving to others is a blessing.) Have fun!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Do You Communicate?

I remember when I was a little girl and the way I communicated with my friends was either to call them on our rotary dial phone or hop on my bike and ride over to their house. Life was so much simpler, but I also have to think that communications were so much slower…how did business get done?

Today, I am amazed that we are able to run a virtual foundation, out of over 150 homes around the world to help orphans in China. We get emails and Skypes with updates on the children we help daily from our staff in China. Problem solving is instantaneous and happens immediately with computers. We are able to conference call for meetings and there are days that I never speak to anyone except through my computer.

I have to laugh, though, at a conversation that I had with Amy on Friday. When I was talking to her on the phone, she said that she didn’t know where to start…she had hundreds of messages on Facebook, Twitter, email, that all needed to be returned. We both thought back to a year ago, it was just email and phone. Now we know people in all different mediums, people who want to help children, have questions about adoption, or doing the work to make this foundation run. There are even more social networking tools out there that we have still to explore, like Linked-In. How funny it is that we have so many ways to communicate. I wonder what will communication look like a year from now, what about 10 years.

What do you use to communicate and what is your favorite way to contact people? Do you think there is such thing as communication overload? Do you see disadvantages as more of our communication takes away from personal contact or do you think that communications will allow us to streamline how we work and create even more personal time?

Karen Maunu

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pic of the Week - Erik

This sweet photo is of a special little boy named Erik who was left at the orphanage after his birthparents discovered he was blind. I have known Eric since he was just a baby in 2003. I remember thinking how overwhelming it must be to live in an orphanage if you are blind, with so many babies crying and loud noises, and not to be able to see your surroundings to make sense of it all.

When we first started foster care in his city, we knew that we wanted Erik to be placed into a home. He has such a kind foster mom! She has encouraged his love of music and really wants to see Erik accepted into a school for the blind. Sadly, Eric has been on three adoption lists so far....but has never found his family. We are all hoping he will get at least one more chance, as he is such an intelligent and loving little boy who deserves a permanent home of his own.

We loved this photo as it captured so clearly the tenderness felt between Erik and his foster mom. It immediately brought to my mind the wonderful quote by Helen Keller:

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.

We couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dear Birthmother....

Having my girls home everyday for summer vacation, I have enjoyed them playing around the house, coming to me with their questions, creating art projects, writing stories and songs. They are no longer toddlers, preschoolers, or young elementary age little girls anymore, but are now on the cusp of becoming beautiful preteen girls, with ideas, opinions, and creativity. I often think of their birthparents as I watch them, wondering if they were gifted in music or if they were athletic or if they were shy or outgoing. Looking at their wonderful but different personalities, I wonder where they may have come from or their features and think about what their birthparents might look like.

A friend told me about this website containing letters written by adoptive parents to their childrens' birthparents LINK. Their letters, combined with my current thoughts, made me wonder, what would my letter to my girls’ birthparents say? If I could send them a letter what kind of a tone would it be written in - happy, sad, or angry?

Their first parents have given our family the greatest gift, but at the same time, I think about their loss. I wonder if they might think about them on their birthdays or holidays, or if when they abandoned them, they erased them from their minds. I wonder if they were ever worried about their safety after they abandoned them and if they stood and watched nearby.

If you were to write a letter to your child’s birthmother, what would the letter say? Are you angry with them for leaving your child or are you grateful for the gift? What things do you think about that you would want to ask them?

Karen Maunu

Monday, June 15, 2009


Today I stumbled across a blog called "Land of the Not-So-Calm", written by an adult adoptee who came to the US from Korea at six months of age. In the post, An Inconvenient Truth, the writer discusses feeling second best as an adoptee, knowing that her adoptive parents tried infertility treatments first. She also raises the question on whether her birth parents considered her "second best" as well. I thought it was a very thought provoking article, and have posted it here. The beginning of the article says this:

"Adoption was my parents’ second choice. I don’t know exactly how far down the infertility treatment path they went, and I’m not sure that I really want to know just how distant their second choice was from their first. How many years of trying. How many dollars in futile doctor’s visits and medications and hormones and injections. I mean, it’s bad enough being second choice — I’m not sure I want to know just how second.

The way I look at it is facts are facts: adoption was my parents’ second choice. I consider it a kind of inconvenient truth, and to me, sugar-coating this truth is like sticking your head in the sand and trying to rewrite history. Trying to say that it somehow really wasn’t second choice, that all those wasted years TTC and those thousands of dollars on infertility treatments were a mistake, sounds suspiciously like revisionist history. Shouting loudly how much you love your kids and how YOU don’t think they’re second-best is great — and when you think about it, is exactly what adoptive parents should be thinking, if not doing — but that still doesn’t change facts." --Sang-Shil

After reading Karen's blog last week about having relatives make comments that adopted children somehow are "different" than biological children, this article makes me wonder how many people who have been adopted have indeed felt like they were somehow a second choice. I know many adoptive parents could argue that adoption WAS their original decision on how to form a family, but this thought provoking article has me pondering choices this morning....the choices of birthparents, adoptive parents, and the children. Does society as a whole still consider adoption a "second choice?" What are your thoughts?

Amy Eldridge

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Photo of the Week - Happy Graduation!

Several years ago we became involved with a program called Mama's Wish, which helps the poorest but most promising rural and nomadic children on the Tibetan plateau. For many of the girls in this region, arranged marriages at 14-15 take the place of a high school education, and a university degree would be an impossibility. Thanks to our wonderful supporters, LWB helps 100 students in this region "dream big" by funding their education. Just this week, the first college graduates from this program received their degrees, and we couldn't be prouder of them! Meet Wan Ma, who just received her college degree in Animal Husbandry from a university in Chengdu. She is hoping to continue her education to receive her Masters Degree, and then return to her village to make a difference in the lives of those who live there. Congratulations Wen Ma! We wish for you a BEAUTIFUL life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are they "Real"?

Yesterday, my grandma made a comment that has really been bothering me. She is 94 years old, and so I understand that she has different views on things than me at times, but her comment was near and dear to my heart. My dad is one of five, two biological and two adopted siblings, exactly the same make-up as our family. One of his brothers had called to talk to him….and my grandma’s comment was, “you know, that isn’t his REAL brother, does he ever talk to his real brothers?”. Luckily, I wasn’t present when she made this comment, but she said it to my mom who shared it with me. This rocked me to my core, because I look at all five of my children the same. I love them all very deeply. There is no difference in the love I feel for any of my children.

Interestingly, this same grandma has a close relationship with one of my girls, one of the children who joined our family by adoption. Her comment has made me think deeply about how she views all of our children. I am still processing this comment and my feelings around how others view families that include children through adoption.

Have you had close family members make shocking comments about your adoption? Do members of your family treat any of your children different and if so, how do you handle it? Do you think that more people from this older generation view adoption differently?

Karen LWB

Monday, June 8, 2009

Positive Connections

In the last six months, we have been doing a lot of reading on how nonprofits should market themselves. Being mostly moms without a lot of education in this area, we have been learning a lot of ideas by studying those who are already successful in this area. One nonprofit that does an incredible job using social media is the National Wildlife Foundation. They are known within the nonprofit social media circles as being one of the best. I have loved watching what they are doing and how they are getting their message out. They are making a wonderful difference and also helping to teach all of us, too!

Today, I heard about this interesting article on nonprofits and how to advertise. I thought it had a lot of great points Blog Link. I loved the Salvation Army’s guerilla marketing campaign…great idea!!

Have you heard of other nonprofits that have great social media ideas? Do you like to follow a certain nonprofit because they have an interesting way of promoting their message? If there are certain groups whose websites, blogs or marketing you love, we’d love to know about them, especially those who are spreading their message in unique ways. We believe the best way to get people excited about helping those in need is by forming real connections with them, and we love to learn by example. Who do you know that is doing this well?

Karen LWB

Friday, June 5, 2009

Photo of the Week - Kyle

This is Kyle from our foster care program in Yunnan province. Let's just say that he and his foster mom often disagree on what he should be wearing! His foster mom loves to knit handmade outfits for him, and some are quite complex. When we saw Kyle in her newest creation, a beautiful sweater that some boys might not exactly think looks "cool", we laughed out loud. He is very clearly stating with his furrowed brows: "NO PINK!"

Kyle, our hearts are with you, as many of us had to wear something we didn't exactly like as a child because it was homemade. Just keep remembering that it means you are loved! And we promise not to show this picture at your high school graduation. :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What are Your Rules?

Last weekend my family attended a birthday party. It was all the usual fun…kids competing to see how many pieces of pizza they could ingest, begging for cake, playing with toys from goody bags until one of the adult guests I had been chit-chatting with asked me if my family was comfortable talking about adoption. Immediately, three pairs of Chinese eyes swiveled to me and “the rules” went into effect.

Rule 1: Be pleasant. “Yes, we are comfortable talking about adoption—why wouldn’t we be?”

Rule 2: Answer to my children’s ears. “No they are not all from the same place, but yes they are all from China, no they are not biologically related but became siblings the day they took our last name for their own.”

Rule 3: When questions become too intrusive, change the venue. “Gosh, it’s getting late. We’ve got to be going. Let’s chat again sometime, it was great meeting you.”

In the course of our nine years as an adoptive family these rules for public conversation have developed. Thankfully, friends in our adoption community have given us strength, grace and humor to handle these situations with very few bumps. We’ve learned that “outsiders” are usually curious in the good ways and only occasionally strange or rude in ways that we chalk up to them not having learned their manners!

This incident reminds me of a wonderful Children’s book (for children ten years and older) titled: Rules (2006, Scholastic Press). The main character in the story, twelve year old Katherine, longs for a friend close enough to send Morse code messages to at night….but her quest for a friend is shaped by her relationship with younger brother, David, who has autism. Katherine lives with public situations and questions that have forged her need to keep a sense of order for herself and brother. Some of her rules are just funny: “pantless brothers are not my problem!” Some rules are heartbreaking: “Sometimes people joke with you to be fun….sometimes they joke with you to be cruel.” In the unfolding of Rules, Katherine does make friends…unexpected friends that force her to evaluate being rigid or flexible when deriving rules. By the end of the story, readers are happily cheering for Katherine’s growth as a sister, friend and young adult. Rules, while not directly about being and adopted child from China, addresses how young people grow into a comfortable acceptance of self and others.

Rules is a 2007 Newberry Honor book and winner of many other literary awards. Lots has been written about this heartwarming story and it’s a staple in most libraries. Cynthia Lord’s website has wonderful discussion questions and activities related to Rules, new books and the writing life.

How about you? What rules has your family developed in your history together?

Linda Mitchell

Associate Education Director

Q & A on Cleft Lip and Palate

We have had a number of people write in with questions on cleft lip and palate. Below is some information from the cleft section in our Special Needs Manual. If you have any other questions please leave them below in the comments section and we will be happy to answer them.


  • Cleft lip or palate is not caused by something the mother or father did or did not do.
  • In the normal course of development, structures simply do not close as is typical.
  • A child with cleft lip/palate may have difficulty speaking clearly
  • A child with cleft lip/palate may sound as if he or she speaks through her nose
  • A child with cleft lip/palate may have difficulty eating
  • Food may come through the nose of a child with cleft lip/palate
  • A child with cleft lip/palate may have frequent middle ear infections
  • A child with cleft palate may tend to have dental cavities
  • Cleft lip is a split on either one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral). This split may be slight indentation to a full split to the nose.
  • Cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth and can include both hard and soft palate or just hard.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate may occur separately or together.


  • Cleft lip/palate may be surgically corrected
  • Middle ear infections may be treated by a physician
  • Speech therapy may help the child to speak more clearly
  • Good brushing of the teeth is very important
  • Child should be held in an upright position in a high chair.
  • If food comes out of the nose, child should be seated upright, chin tucked toward chest, shoulders pulled forward
  • Child should be fed thick foods such as thicker congee that is chilled or room temperature.
  • Child should use a cup with a side cut out.
  • The head should not tilt back to take sips.
  • A specially designed bottle may be needed.
  • If a special bottle is not available use a squeezable bottle with an orthodontic nipple and cut a larger X hole.
  • Baby should be burped frequently
  • Baby will take longer period of time to feed, 20-30 minutes to take a 2-3 ounce bottle is normal.
  • Baby may need to eat smaller amounts but feed more often such as early morning, midmorning, lunch, midafternoon, early evening, and later evening.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Imagine This - please help!

I know this will be a longer story than usual, but I am going to ask you to read it all the way to the end. Something amazing happened to me today, and I believe it was for a reason. I hope you will feel the same after reading this letter.

LWB has been working in China since 2003, and just a few months after we began helping children there, we decided to do our very first cleft surgery mission to Guangdong province. It was on that trip that I met Dr. John Padilla, one of the most extraordinary men I have ever had the honor to meet. His love and compassion for children born with cleft was humbling, and he influenced me in an enormous way. He helped heal 53 children on that first mission, and he promised me he would return to China with LWB every year to heal more. Tragically, John died just a few months after our trip to China in a plane crash. I wrote a blog dedicated to him that you can read here. I hope you do have the time to read about this extraordinary man, but for those of you who don’t have the time, I will tell you that John Padilla is a hero to me. He is the man who dared me to “dream big”, and our cleft healing home idea was created completely in his honor. I think of him every time we heal another child born with cleft.

Recently LWB was invited to submit a project to a new proposed television reality show called “Imagine This”. This show was created in large part by an actor named Eion Bailey. Many of you might have seen him in Band of Brothers, on ER, or in many movies. He is a man with a heart of compassion, and he came up with the idea of doing a reality show where each episode would be shot in a different location around the world, and a team of people would come together to do something amazing…whether it is to build a school for kids in South America, or provide a well system for a village in Africa. We were asked to submit a project for consideration, and immediately we knew that we wanted to submit the idea of a new cleft healing home for a province in China, where all the orphanages in that province could send their children born with cleft for loving, one on one care. We have created our sample episode at this website location:

Today Karen Maunu and I had a conference call with Eion Bailey and one of the show’s producers. We were discussing the possibility of building a new cleft healing home, and Eion told me that he would really love to see it happen because it had personal meaning to him. He went on to tell me that he had a friend who had been so influential in his life. This man had believed in him from the very beginning, had invested in his future and his career, and was someone that Eion admired greatly. He told me that he wanted to see this episode happen because he wanted to dedicate it to this man’s life, as he had sadly passed away. And then he told me that this man had an absolute passion for children born with cleft, and I got goosebumps all over my entire body. “Are you by any chance talking about John Padilla?,” I asked holding my breath. And unbelievably, beautifully, miraculously…he was. So while I tried my best not to cry, I said, “Eion…I need to tell you a story.” And so I told him about LWB’s relationship with John, how he had gone with us to China and fallen in love with the people there. How he had told me he wanted to return every year to China to help even more children in the future. How he had told me that if I really dreamed of a day where no orphaned child would die from being born with cleft that I needed to never give up until we made it happen.

I think everyone on the call was emotional by this point. Somehow a mom in Oklahoma helping orphans was on the phone with an actor in Hollywood who wanted to help bring change to the world, and we were both tied together through the same amazing man who had died far too soon. I am sure that John was up in heaven at that moment smiling, saying “I told you all to dream big.”

There have been times with this foundation where I have known I was part of something absolutely extraordinary. I have seen miracles happen and have felt the enormity of God working for the good. I remember baby Kang, the baby who started it all. The heart surgeon in China told me he was not going to survive post surgery, but when thousands of adoptive families came together through the internet to pray for that one tiny baby, he rallied the very next day, and LWB was born. I remember baby Hercules from our cleft mission in 2005, and knowing that I was in the middle of something so beyond me as everything came together in the exact right way to save his life as well. I remember Baby Li, and Cui, and Chang, and hundreds more lives which have been changed because people came together and believed a difference could be made. I have been so blessed to see again and again that when people step out beyond themselves to help others, the EXTRAORDINARY occurs.

Today, I felt again with everything in my heart that something extraordinary is going to happen. I don’t know what, I don’t know when, but I felt so strongly that something wonderful is going to come from this show if it becomes a reality. It might not even be in China…it could be an episode shot in Peru, or in Haiti, or in the US, but I believe that Eion Bailey and I were supposed to speak with each other today and learn about our connection to John Padilla for a reason.

PLEASE join with us one more time and be a part of making something wonderful happen. We need your help! We need as many people as possible to visit, sign up to join the group, and leave a comment on how important this project and show would be to orphaned children. The producers will be meeting with the networks very, very soon, and there are still people out there who don’t think that America would want to watch a show where people are doing good in the world.

YOU CAN HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN. Log onto our page, join our healing home group, and leave your feedback that this type of show is EXACTLY what we want to watch, what we want our kids to see, what we believe is important. Forward this to everyone that you know, help spread the news for as many people as possible to voice their opinion. I know every single person who supports us believes that saving the lives of children is absolutely important. But now we need to take action and let the networks know as well. Thank you so much in advance for believing this project should be done and that our healing homes can give orphaned children a second chance. Let your voice be heard, both in John Padilla’s honor and in honor of every child with cleft who is in heaven right now with him because they lost their struggle. You helped save 10 babies’ lives with the Facebook challenge, you saved even more with the Cookie Contest, and now we have a chance to impact countless others by showing our support for this new series and an episode to help orphaned children in China. Thank you, thank you, thank you….for always believing that every child born deserves to know love. Together, I know completely that we can make this show and a new healing home a reality, and give some of the most vulnerable orphaned children real hope.

Because every child counts,


Monday, June 1, 2009


I was at a wedding shower this weekend and ran into one of my favorite fellow adoptive moms, whom I hadn't seen in quite some time. She has a grown daughter from Korea, and I remember feeling like a "stalker mom" every time I would run into her in public over the years. I wanted to hear all of her wisdom and experiences, since her daughter always seemed so well adjusted and happy as an Asian teen in a 99% white Oklahoma high school.

We had a really interesting conversation because as I was telling her some of the things my daughter had experienced this year in 3rd grade, she was telling me how her daughter had gone through the same things in elementary school. But the differences in how our children dealt with the obtrusive comments from peers was like night and day. For my daughter, they caused real sadness and pain. For her daughter....they rolled off her back and were gone in an instant.

I'll give you one example. Both of our daughters faced teasing in school for having a flat face. For my daughter, this was a very hurtful experience. The kids teasing her compared her face to a pug, and we have had many conversations on why children can be so mean. My friend's daughter had faced the exact same situation but handled it completely differently. When a child once teased in a crowded classroom, "wow your face is totally flat," her daughter instantly retorted, "I'm Asian, you idiot." No tears. No hurt feelings. Just an eye roll over anyone being so clueless. Her mom told me that she had always faced the world that way and really believed that anyone who made a racist or ignorant comment was completely unworthy of her time.

So how do your kids react to these type of comments? Every child is different, aren't they? As we discussed some of the ways my friend's daughter had responded to kids over the years, truly not letting people ruin her day, I was wishing there was a way to bottle some of her "I'm not going to let you upset me" attitude to share with my own kids and quite honestly even with myself.

I think her daughter is a wonderful example that there will always be people who are out to try and hurt us, but we really do have the choice on whether to let their comments into our heart or not. So are you a duck who lets the "water roll off your back"? Or are you someone who lets what others say get to you? Personally I think I need to still work on learning how to quack a bit better. : -)