Photo journal: Monday

January 15th, 2013

I traveled to Tommy’s orphanage with a list.  A list of hopes, a list of requests.  An agenda.

Not a bad agenda.

But most decidedly an agenda.


Monday afternoon

We arrive by bus in Tommy’s city with plenty of time to spare before our appointment with the director of his orphanage.  We find a little restaurant across the street from the hotel that serves food traditional to this beautiful country, and it suits us so well that we go back to it every day.  While we enjoy a late lunch, I talk my list over with the pleasant young woman who is to be our translator for the week.  I can see she is hesitant, and we agree to take it slowly through the week.

When we arrive in Tommy’s orphanage, we have the first of what will become many long and productive meetings with the director of his orphanage.

We learn that within the past few months, Tommy has been moved from the top floor to a lower floor of the orphanage and his weekday routine has changed.  Now, instead of staying in bed nearly all the time, his day contains various activities that have him up and out of his bed for most of the time throughout the day.  We are invited to come early and stay late this week.

I had prayed that the director and I would connect, and connect we do.  From the first moment our eyes meet, there is an understanding and trust between us.

Despite the opposition she is receiving from inside and outside the orphanage, she has accomplished an extraordinary amount in the past eight months.  She is the perfect person for her task.  She’s intelligent, compassionate, sensitive, creative, visionary, hard-working, and energetic.  She’s driven by the motivation to get the orphanage to a point where the individual needs of each child there are met as well as an orphanage can meet them.  She is very open to learning.


Now it’s time to officially meet you, Tommy!

Here you come, carried in the arms of your baba.  Throughout the week, we discover that she is very open to learning anything she can about how to help you best.  She told us emphatically that she always calls you, “Tommy” now, and is so glad you have a family.

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You’ve just had a snack, and look ready for some play time, but…

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…you don’t know me, Tommy, and my face is unfamiliar to you.  All you know is that your baba keeps saying the word, “Mama, mama.”  Does that mean me?

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But I have loved you for almost two years and blink back the tears as I think…

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…how hard it is to believe I’m really here, looking into your familiar face.

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What will you think?  How will you respond to this strange lady your baba is calling “Mama?”

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Your baba tells me you like toys that you can rattle to make noise.  This is one of the few things about you that is similar to Katie.

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I notice a few of your characteristics right away.  You’ve learned to compensate with those quick hands of yours, and you are very tuned into toys.  They don’t interest you for long if they don’t make a noise.

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You are not resistant to physical touch.

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This makes my heart glad and sorry at the same time, because I am a stranger to you and your response is more proof to me of how you have been wounded.

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You quickly catch on to The Bag as the place where all your new treasures are kept.

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This bag is with your baba now, and will provide a small measure of continuity during your transition into our family several months from now.

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I notice that your nature is essentially calm.

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You are curious and bright-eyed and don’t miss much.

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You don’t resist eye contact, which will help us bond more readily.

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You loved the noise the treat bag made, and that was very positively the full extent of your interest in the treats!

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Your teeth…well…now I know what rotted stumps look like.  Your breath smells exactly like Katie’s breath used to smell.  You have adult teeth that came in directly behind your baby teeth, again, just like Katie’s.

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You reach out your hand immediately to grab the bubble bottle.

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Is this a look of anticipation?

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Lady, what’s taking you so long?  [I thought Target would have better quality bubble stuff than this!  Should have tested it before bringing it!]

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Time to remove the leg brace you wear on your left leg for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

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I find out that four years ago, at almost twelve years old, Tommy first received a baba.  She saved his life by holding him and providing just a few hours of interaction each week.

Tommy at age 11


After two years with this baba, he received a new baba, and continued to progress under her care, although he still spent almost all his time in bed.  Here’s Tommy as we first saw him nearly two years ago.  We never dreamed that he was almost fourteen years old.



It’s time to say goodbye for the day.  We go back to our hotel to prepare for the evening ballet.  The director’s young daughter will be part of the performance, and she has arranged for some of the children from the orphanage to attend.  It turns out to be only a handful of children, because the available vehicle space and winter wraps are insufficient to bring more children.  I look down from my box seat and recognize every one of the other children from the orphanage.  With emotion, I picture which mommies will be carrying them home within the year.

The staff psychologist pushes Tommy into our box in a stroller and places him on my lap.

I study the reactions of Tommy and the other children to the crowds, the movement, the music.  Tommy bobs his head back and forth, keeping time with the rhythm.  He shrieks a pterodactyl shriek when he is overcome with happiness, and everyone in the theater hears it more than once.  He even draws a comment from an announcer on the stage.  He responds well to calming and soothing techniques that I have learned for Katie.

When the director comes to bid us goodbye for the night, we hand her a stack of thank you notes, translated during the bus trip by our facilitator.  I wheel Tommy out to wait for his ride.  It is bitter cold and his coat zipper is broken.  His tiny, thin hands quickly lose their heat, and then he is ushered off to the waiting vehicle.

I am consciously in the present, drinking in the experience.

But underneath, my mind and heart are beginning to process…



[To be continued…]



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25 Responses to “Photo journal: Monday”

  1. taraandfamily says:

    Simply beautiful! So happy for your family and Tommy, what a blessing he is!! Thank you for sharing your journey thus far, can’t wait to see him “home” with his “family” forever.

  2. Amanda says:

    Susanna, I am a long time reader and I don’t comment much. Tommy is gorgeous, as is Katie, and as are all your other children. What you are doing is selfless and a blessing, loving these children whom others did not want. Tommy seems to be thriving in the past few months and will only continue to progress as he comes home. Congratulations on being accepted to bring Tommy home to a loving family. Will be anxiously checking as the saga continues.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Beautiful! And exciting. I can’t wait for you to bring him home!

  4. Emily H says:

    Thank you so very much for inviting us along on this journey! It is simply amazing to see how God has equipped you for this time. It makes me feel more confident that God is training me to handle seemingly impossible tasks! Here I am Lord, send me!

  5. Kim says:

    Now I am blinking back tears!  Sweet boy.  Your “damage” is just a part of your story.  Here comes the rest :)
    Love to you Susanna!

  6. Susan says:

    So, so thankful for the positive things I see in Tommy’s life (and in the lives of the other children where he’s presently living). What a blessing to have such a wonderful director! Along with a loving baba – did Baba knit Tommy’s beautiful blue sweater, I wonder?
    One of my young relatives from EE turned 16 recently – like Tommy. my young relative also has big brown eyes,  a captivating smile – and CP. I shudder to think what my relative’s fate would have been, minus adoption. But I rejoice in the growth and joy that adoption has brought to my relative and their younger sibling, and the growth and joy that their adoption has brought to our family. It’s good to see growth and joy already beginning with the upcoming addition of Tommy to your family! Thanks so much for sharing his story.
    Susan in Ky
    Cousin to 2 from EE

  7. Corrie says:

    Dear Susanna, Thank you! Thank you for writing this sweet story on paper, and thank you God for writing this sweet story in real life. Can’t wait for the rest of the week. :)

  8. Judy says:

    Your account is so instructive, we all are learning so much.  How many positives there are for the children there.  I hope the director is getting support in accomplishing so much more that needs to be done.  Thank you for writing such a complete account for your readers.

  9. Maureen says:

    PTL!! It’s so clear what positives there are in the orphanage, just from those photos. Can’t wait to read on!

  10. Jill says:

    I love hearing the positive things you are seeing! I know you will probably get to this, but are there children on the horrible “top floor” who spend their entire day in bed?

  11. Holly F. says:

    Tears of sadness and joy.  I’m anxiously awaiting the next entry!!

  12. Taylor-Tots says:

    After such a long, emotional, and physically draining trip THANK YOU for spending valuable time recording this time with Tommy.  We love sharing in your family’s journey!  (We’re looking forward to more installments, but not at the expense of precious family time.)
    Praying for you ankle’s full recovery, rest for your body, and peace in your heart as you miss dear Tommy.

  13. Kim says:


  14. Kendra says:

    Ah you are such a good writer Susanna…hard to wait for the next part. Thank you so much for sharing your journal with us!

  15. Anna T says:

    Thanks for sharing and LOVED the pictures!!  Praying!!  Anna

  16. Joni Owada says:

    I loved reading about your trip and will anxiously wait for your next update!!! I am just thrilled to see how God has moved!
    How are you feeling after your long, long trip? How is your leg/foot?
    We will all be here anxiously waiting, but please, please take care of your needs first and those of your family, we all can wait! I know you have to be exhausted both emotionally and physically! Please know that I do understand and do not feel any pressure to hurry and report. We all will wait! Take care of yourself and your family.
    Your fans will wait!!! Love you, dear friend

  17. Cindy says:

    YEA! Just, yea. Can’t wait for him to be home and to hear more positive things about the orphanage!

  18. Kim says:

    I loved this!  I loved every word of it.  Wow, I think Tommy looks so much better now then when he was 12.  What a difference love makes.  :)

  19. Becki says:

    SO happy to follow this journey. What lovely, lively eyes Tommy has. I cannot wait to see him home with you!

  20. Gina in Spain says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us all about the trip and Tommy….That first pic of him before his Baba is HEARTBREAKING…..I am so happy for him that he is going to be saved and be part of your family……Susanna you are truly blessed…and so is he.,…HUgs…

  21. Susanna says:

    Susan, no, the sweater would have been a donation just like the hundreds of clothing items my friend and I took with us. Will be talking later about the specific needs in this area that others can help with. :)

  22. Saige says:

    Happy you are home safe and sound. Happy you met that boy of yours. God is good, so so so good. Praying all the time!

  23. Andrea says:

    Susanna, I am so happy to see/hear that your visit with Tommy went so well.  I hope and pray the time passes quickly between now and bringing him home.  What a doll he is!  I also pray you are well, with your pregnancy and all.  Can’t wait to see what else God has in store for you and your family, so very blessed.  

  24. Jill says:

    Crying tears of joy and sadness.  What a hard life these kids (and so many others) have.  So glad you are able to open your home to Tommy, Katie, Verity and all of your other precious children!  My 8wk baby sits behind me not having any idea how great her life can be in this country.  None of our 7 children have a clue how blessed we are to have each other, live in a country with opportunities and open ourselves to other less fortunate children.  Praying for your family as the long wait begins to bring Tommy home.

  25. Thomas R Boroughs says:

    I love the picture where you and Tommy are nose to nose & eye to eye!

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