Nothing Wonderful About This

UPDATE: The video of the commercial has been scrubbed from the company’s website and You Tube channel and removed from Clay Matthews’ Facebook page. It remains live in other places including the article mentioned below and on other YouTube channels such as BusinessWire. Clay Matthews’ agent has issued an apology on his behalf and assurances they’ve requested this ad “never see the light of day again.” The “Wonderful” company has given verbal assurances that they will not run the ad on TV.

If you’re outside the adoption community, you may not be aware of a firestorm that is brewing around a commercial that was aired Sunday night on NBC primetime during the Green Bay Packers game featuring Clay Matthews of the Packers speaking for Wonderful Pistachios and the Wonderful Company at large. The opening lines are shocking, offensive, deplorable and utterly disrespectful to the trauma, pain, and loss that millions of orphans in this world have endured including my two precious children. This is one in a series of commercials the company is called the “Chronic Losers” Ads and it is awful. The loss of a child’s birth family does not make them a loser. AND there are children who’ve experienced EXACTLY what he describes – being shuffled around between institutions – and let me tell you something – they are ten times the over comers anyone at any of these companies will ever be! How dare these people exploit the trauma my children have experienced in order to make a profit? This was the best comedy they could come up with? The ad is STUPID and morally irresponsible.

Can you imagine for one second what it would be like to be the person on the other side of this ad? To be the one who knows they were placed at an orphanage and their story is held up as comedy for profit? Lifelong struggles with self-worth and identity are pervasive among individuals who’ve experienced the loss of their birth family in this way. How incredibly insensitive and unnecessary. In fact, the entire line of ads follows this theme and represents a total lack of creativity. When you can’t be funny without being funny at someone else’s expense, you’re not funny, you’re just mean. And when you attempt to profit off your cruelty you will be held accountable. So I’m asking you to stand with our family, to stand up for our kids, and to take action. Send an email, comment on their Facebook pages, Tweet Them, Instagram them, dislike the youtube and Vimeo videos, demand they take it down and cancel the campaign and issue an apology. #takeitdown #nomoredale #shameonclaymatthews #notsowonderfulpistachios

Still not sure what you think about it? Read this article and the excerpts below and then tell me this isn’t sick.

“There were a couple of times where we wondered if we were going too far,” Moran said. (NO NEED TO WONDER MORAN – YOU JUST WENT WAAAAY TOO FAR!!!)

“We never wanted it to seem like we were making fun of customers or kicking people when they were down. A lot of lines we didn’t include because they felt like they crossed the line,” he added. (OH BUT MOCKING ORPHANS MADE THE CUT, HUH?)

He described the goal for the characters’ various absurd misfortunes as “things that technically could happen, but wouldn’t.” (EXCEPT IT DOES HAPPEN!)

The spots were originally intended not to have music, but the result, Moran said, was that they were “almost too dark.” (HMMMM…I WONDER WHY? BECAUSE IT IS TOO DARK!)


Give a Thumbs Down and register your complaint where the videos are listed on official channels on YouTube and Vimeo. (Links to come soon!)

The Wonderful Company –
(310) 966-5700

Wonderful Pistachios –


Clay Matthews, #52 Green Bay Packers

@ClayMatthews52 (Twitter)

NFL Commissioner

NFL Public Relations at 1-212-450-2000 (you may have to leave a message in voicemail)

Green Bay Packers

920-569-7500 – ask to speak to Aaron Popkey or Katie Hermsen




Transition Time

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Our oldest celebrates her 11th birthday tomorrow and I can’t even wrap my head around having a middle schooler who is quickly becoming a young woman right before our eyes. She’s fantastic and at least once I day I think to myself that I truly don’t know what I would do without her. I’m really going to miss her when school starts next week, but I’m excited for her to have a great year.

Andrew celebrated his 8th birthday this past month and will be starting third grade at the Montessori school in our town. I homeschooled him last year which was definitely the right thing for that year. We are equally confident that this is right for him this year. It’s a financial sacrifice, I’ll be honest. We are carrying a fair amount of adoption debt, and adding private school on top of it leaves us with some big question marks about how all of the payments will be made. But the public school system just doesn’t have the services and resources to provide the environment he needs to succeed in school – academically or emotionally. It adds a layer of complexity to our days as I have to drive him to and from school each day. But after seeing how he responded during his two day visit in the spring, we are really excited for him to get started and thrive!

James starts Kindergarten at the same elementary school Gabi and Andrew went to. He has a very kind, loving and experienced teacher. He’ll be going in the mornings for a half day. He’s got a ways to go in terms of his new hand and fingers and the fine motor skills required for school are going to be a challenge. It’s not only retraining his muscles and hand structures, it’s retraining his brain. He was so used to using only his right hand while the other one was in the fixator and cast. It’s still his default to use his right hand for everything. And his brain has to learn for the first time, how to use his old index and middle finger as a thumb and index finger now. If you pray for him, please pray specifically that the scar tissue would further break up, that strength and range of motion would increase in his fingers and hands, and that he would have the personal emotional strength to press on towards the goal of a fully functioning left hand. We need this hand to be ready to go when it’s time to begin the process on the other hand.

James was reunited with Ping Ping this last month! We have so enjoyed seeing these two together and seeing her with her new family. We try to see them at least weekly. They’ve gone to the 4-H fair together, our adoption group pool party, and just played at each other’s houses. PingPing loves babies so she really enjoys being with Emily too, and it’s been neat to see her interact with all of our kids. So grateful to God that the little girl we met less than two years ago is now a cherished daughter and sister!

And finally Emily…baby girl turned 2 this past month and has been with us for two months this Sunday. We had a brief respite from all the medical appointments, and then last week we had a very full day at CHOP. Next week we have several appointments at DuPont Nemours in Wilmington, DE for second opinions, and then back to CHOP to meet with a surgeon that we couldn’t see last time because we got behind in schedule when her MRIs started late. We have another big round of bloodwork to do but thankfully got insurance approval to do it at our local children’s hospital with the help of child life and hopefully a little Versed to help her relax – this worked GREAT at CHOP. We are slowly getting some answers, and putting the pieces together of different things related to her diagnoses. We anticipate the first surgery in October which will have us inpatient for up to 5 nights and then we’ll begin serial casting of her club foot as soon as her back has healed enough to allow that. We will have to drive to DuPont for the casting every week for 6-8 weeks. DuPont is almost 2 hours one way. The hope is that we can attain a good enough level of correction that we can maintain it just through nightly bracing and a walking brace during the day. Her club foot is derived from the nerve damage from her spina bifida, so she will likely always require some sort of brace to maintain correction and help with mobility.

Developmentally, she is doing great. She’s saying more words now (shoes, buh-bye, hi, dada, Flash -the dog, book, ball) and she’s really attaching to Kevin more. We are just starting to see the beginnings of her turning to him to meet her needs and not just for play. Her favorite thing is doing Ring Around the Rosie! It’s so cute! 🙂 She’s sleeping well overall and eating okay although we’d like to see her start to gain some weight. She had lost some at her last visit and if they measured her right in China in April she hasn’t gained any weight since then.

As the summer wraps up and school begins we are feeling the time of transition coming on in a lot of ways. Definitely pray for us if you think of it. We can’t always share everything publicly that is happening, but there are a couple of bigger things happening that are definitely pushing us to keep our eyes on God and grow our faith.

The pain in adoption

Adoption is a beautiful thing right? Children placed in loving, forever families. One less orphan. The parents with beaming, albeit exhausted, smiles as they hold their new addition. Siblings proudly displaying their new welcome home signs and new “big brother” or “big sister” shirts. The fanfare, the celebration, the joy! So many emotions leading up to those moments. Happiness and excitement chief among them.

Adoption is a lot of things. It IS beautiful. And it IS hard. And at times it’s downright painful. But maybe not in the way you’d think.

Adoption, particularly international adoption, means coming face to face with the gut-wrenching reality that adoption is literally lifesaving for thousands, if not millions, of children in our broken and hurting world. Because when you review files, when you look into the eyes of a lonely, often sick, child who has no one to call them “son” or “daughter”, when you go through the agonizing process of seeking out which child God is calling you to, it means saying No to others along the way. Other precious ones who are so deserving, so worthy, so valuable. Ones who MATTER and do not belong in orphanages and institutions, but in homes and loving arms. And you pray that God will place them in those homes. And you advocate and you share and you hope. And you celebrate when that Mommy and Daddy step up and say “Yes, we will answer the COMMAND of Orphan Care by following our calling to this child.” And you weep, bitterly, so very bitterly, when no one comes and instead Jesus comes and takes them home to heaven.

Little Linus was a darling. Tiny and special. His broken heart is now whole with Jesus. His heart that never knew the love of a family now knows a perfect love. I grieve that we didn’t, couldn’t, say yes then. We were scared. “Heart condition” was terrifying at the time. Now, 2.5 years later?…not so much. But we were scared. Sigh…imagine how he felt. I learned last week that he died. He. Died. In An Orphanage. I pray his passing was peaceful. I pray he was held by someone with gentleness and care. I pray I’ll never forget this feeling. This pit in my stomach. This heavy aching in my heart that we couldn’t do more. That we didn’t do more.

Don’t tell me “you can’t save them all” because that’s not the point. The point is HE mattered and now he’s gone and we couldn’t make it better. And we need to stop trying to put the pain and grief of this world into a neat, tidy box that we can rationalize or spiritualize away so we don’t have to be uncomfortable or feel it. I will lament today. I will lament and fight the tears that threaten to come every time I so much as think his name. And in the lamenting, I pray my heart softens and therefore strengthens. That my passion be fueled not by justice alone, but by compassion and care. That the aches and pains of this world pull me closer to heart of the only One who will one day make all things right. But in the meantime, He is at work. He is at work IN AND THROUGH US my friends. And that means that in our fear and vulnerability, He can do beyond and above what we might imagine. He disrupt our lives to GO. To open our hearts and our homes to the hurting child. So yes, celebrate. Yes, rejoice in one less orphan. But do not forget. Do not become complacent. Do not think we’ve “done enough” because there are million more Linuses out there who need us.

One Month Together

One month ago today we met Emily and became a family. In so many ways it feels like much longer because it feels like she has been with us almost all along. Her personality is such a great fit with our family and she brings us incredible joy. We love being able to make her happy and know that we are meeting her needs for unconditional love and a forever family and ultimately to show her the perfect love God has for her.

We landed back in the US 3 weeks ago today and Emily has been transitioning really well. She sleeps in her crib in her room for naps and at night. She usually goes down pretty well, but occasionally wakes up once at night or needs me to stay with her a little longer in the room. She wakes up happy and ready to eat and play. We get to celebrate her second birthday this month! We are so, so thankful that she didn’t have to spend any more birthdays without a family to celebrate her life. She is curious, funny, determined, smart, and brave. She’s actually a little daredevil – the higher and faster the better for her! She loves to go outside, go in the swing, play in the sandbox, ride in the Power Wheels Jeep with James, and be silly. She LOVES water and swimming – we have to work to keep her face out of the water actually. She’s even settled in with our big dog finally. She tries to get close to him to pet him now! She is still nervous about Kevin picking her up, but she really enjoys playing with him now and isn’t upset if I’m not in the room with them. Their bond grows by little bits each day and we know it won’t be long before she’s ready to fully embrace him.

Her language is delayed due to institutional life and the change in native language. But in just one month we can see rapid progress in her receptive language understanding. Her expressive language is very limited, but she has been saying “Mama” for awhile and just in the last week she’s started saying, “Buh-bye”, “Nigh-Nigh”, “Da Da”, “Eyes” and tonight she is trying to mimic “One, Two, Three”. She loves to make her own little “woof” sound to imitate Flash which is adorable. The International Adoption Clinic gave us some great guidance for how to help her speech and language improve. They would like her to have about 50 words in another 4 months with some 2 word phrases. If she doesn’t they’ll reassess for possible speech therapy.

We have already had several doctor appointments this first month. As we shared a few months ago when we were in process to adopt Emily, she has a tethered spinal cord which is caused by a lypomeningocele (a form of spina bifida) which seems to also be impacting her lower right side -hip, leg, foot. It also likely impacts her bowel and bladder function and we’ve been referred to a pediatric surgeon specialist to evaluate that issue a little further. She had a full cardiology workup to confirm that her PFO had closed and that the murmur they heard was innocent. Everything turned out fine for that, so she now has a sedated MRI for her spine and pelvis later on this month. In two weeks we will be going to Baltimore to see a specialist in club foot at the same Limb Institute that James goes to. This is a critical second opinion because the orthopedic doctor we saw at CHOP was not a good experience (I’m being very generous when I use those words) and because this Doctor has decades of proven experience. We’ll also be going to DuPont Nemours in Wilmington, Delaware for a second opinion on all of the spinal, urological and orthopedic issues during the first week of September. We had heard great things about DuPont from many families and the Orthopedic doctor there did her fellowship under the doctor in Baltimore. We would prefer to work with a centralized team of multi-disciplinary specialists in one location. But we also need to go with who we feel most comfortable with and believe is the best for her. I felt really good about the Urologist that we saw today. He would work with us for the long-term in managing her bowel/bladder needs and thankfully he works out of a CHOP extension campus that is less than 40 minutes away. We are also hopeful that whatever orthopedic specialist is the lead for her care that they can utilize the therapy hospital we go to for any of the casting and bracing she may need.

Because she is adjusting so well in such a short time it can be easy to forget that this is a big change on everyone else in short time. Please keep praying for the family dynamic. I am looking forward to getting into a routine with school starting although it’s going to be an intense year as we anticipate at least 1 surgery for Emily plus the ongoing orthopedic treatment, and starting the next series of surgeries for James’ other arm. For now, we are trying to go one day at a time and I am super thankful we came home to a summertime schedule that is not nearly as demanding as the school year. A year ago at this time, another adoption wasn’t even on our minds. And here we are with this amazing little one that brings us a very special type of joy. It gives us strength as we face whatever may be ahead.

Trip Pictures Part 1

We shared a lot of pictures on our Facebook page during our trip because it was so much easier to upload quickly from our phones, but I wanted to try to start to get the blog caught up as well. So here are some highlights from our trip to Beijing and our touring time there. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since we did all of this – Wow!

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Family of 6!

We are home safe and sound! Trying to get settled in, deal with the jet lag, and get things in order before Kevin returns to work on Monday and we start medical appointments on Wednesday. Here are a few pics from our return! I hope to get caught up on blogging about the rest of our trip before too long!

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Our second day with Emily is what is known as “Adoption Day” because it’s the day that all of the final paperwork is signed to finalize and complete the adoption legally. Depending on the province, there are a variety of offices to visit and papers to process. We had several places to go and things to do and it was really overwhelming for Emily. She stayed in the carrier but was so scared and cried most of the time. The first office was quiet and it was just us, but we also had to go to the police station to take her passport picture and register the adoption and apply for the passport and it was in and out of the van and loud and tons of people and the poor thing was just so scared. We got a quick break for lunch and she got a tiny nap at the hotel, but then we had to go again to the Notary office. She was so tired and just fussed in the carrier the whole time trying to go back to sleep but just hot and overwhelmed. It was a relief to get back to the hotel to stay put for the evening.

In Tianjin she was consistently happiest when we went to dinner. Time and again we would see her relax and start to really open and up and be funny. She was not happy about coming back to the room and usually would cry a little when we opened the door to go in.

Wednesday and Thursday we had some great outings in the morning to the Old Cultural Street and People’s Park. We got some great souvenirs at Old Cultural Street and enjoyed every chance to learn more about Chinese culture. Our guide gave Gabi “Chinese lessons” each day teaching her 5-6 new words and Chinese characters so we practiced recognizing and saying them when we were out and about. On our way home she took us to a great local place to get a true Tianjin pancake. Wow!! Soooo good! Not at all like our pancakes. More like a wrap crepe thing made of eggs and flour with a crunchy texture inside and a variety of choices of filling. Our second day we walked through People’s Park. It was just absolutely lovely. The sky was overcast and the weather a little cooler so we just strolled and enjoyed the beauty of the park. I could have stayed there for hours. It was so peaceful and relaxing. Emily loves feeling the texture of the leaves and plants. It’s precious. On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the famous Tianjin Eye – a massive ferris wheel. We took some pictures and were in awe of how big it was.

This city is really beautiful. Different from Beijing and Guanzhou. Lots of new construction happening with skyscrapers that remind us of NYC, but historical buildings and areas rich with European architecture from former times when countries invaded and ruled this port city.

On Friday morning we swam a little, then packed up and prepared to leave. We had to go back to the orphanage for our guide to pick up one last document, then stop by the police station for her to pick up the passport, and then we headed to the airport. It was wonderful having our guide with us all the way to the security checkpoint. She made sure we got our checked luggage on okay and our tickets in hand and we even got Gabi some McDonald’s before heading towards the terminal 🙂  We were very sad to say goodbye to our guide. She was not only great at her “job” but she was a kind friend and companion. We really enjoyed getting to know her, sharing things about our lives and learning from her. She has over twenty years of experience working with families, orphanage directors and children. We feel honored to have had her as our guide.

The flight from Tianjin to Guangzhou was delayed 2 hours. So we got dinner in the Terminal. Kevin’s dinner was the biggest bowl of soup I have ever seen – all three of us could have shared it. And my plate of noodles was huge! I shared it with Emily and we had lots leftover.

We were thankful to be waiting in the terminal by the gate and not on the plane which often happens. We could at least move around. Emily fell asleep in the carrier about 15 minutes before we were called to line up for boarding. That little catnap was it until almost the end of the flight…

Chinese airports are a very different experience. We learned that the majority of the air traffic is controlled by the military. Each plane must get permission from the military before taking off, so there are often delays. Everything is communicated by an automated loudspeaker system. There are no screens or computers at each gate. The attendants are just there to collect tickets. There are screens displaying flight information, but when a plane is delayed they don’t tell you how long it will be. You just sit and be quiet and wait. You watch the other delayed planes on the screen to see how close yours is getting. And then you get ready because the second they announce your flight is boarding people jump out of their seats and walk/run to get in line at the gate. There are no “groups” for boarding. It’s every man for himself. In our case, we had to board a shuttle bus to take us to the plane. They pack you in like sardines. Then your ticket is checked again at the airplane. So it’s really different. But honestly? The whole thing was way better. People were polite, it moved really fast once they announced boarding. It was probably less than 30  minutes from that announcement to the plane taxi’ing away from the gate. Yes, there’s a lot of “Control” in play, but it was a nice change from the typical chaos and rudeness we often experience in American airports.

As we went “wheels up”, I wasn’t sure how Emily would respond but she was quiet and happy. Just like when we left James’ province last time, I felt my heart break knowing my precious girl was leaving her birthplace and her birth mother was out there somewhere. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I hate the pain this broken world causes. I prayed for God to give her birth family an unexplainable peace that she is okay, and for all of the children and families who are forever separated, that God’s gracious love would give them strength and healing. I couldn’t hold back my tears though. I love my daughter, and I hate that this part of her story has to involve such loss. I have learned that it’s important to let your heart grieve. To feel what you feel and to connect with it as it comes in this journey.

The flight was comfortable and the people were very patient. No one said a word as our girl cried and sometimes screamed for nearly the last hour of the trip. She took a break, asleep from exhaustion, for about ten minutes towards the end, then woke up for the final descent to bring us down with some more crying  🙁   It was nearly 11pm at that point so hopefully everyone understood there was nothing we could really do, she was just so tired. Thankfully she was quite happy to be off the plane and was quiet until we got in our van where she promptly fell asleep. It was 1am before we all crawled into bed. We were relieved it was over and so glad to be in Guangzhou in a more familiar place knowing we’d be seeing other families soon.

Our trip is now more than halfway done and that too is a relief. We miss the boys a lot and while they have had a great time with family, we know they are ready for us to come home. It will be so wonderful to hug and hold them after this long separation. And we can’t wait for them to finally meet their sister!