At the age of 37, I have finally decided what to be when I grow up. As a mother to two fabulous and complex boys who struggle with diagnoses like Asperger syndrome, sensory processing disorder, and dyspraxia we are used to daily routines that involve therapy, patience, and compromise. When we decided to add another child to our family, our hearts led us to Winnie, and she just happens to have Down syndrome. Follow our journey as we continue to learn and work through these needs. Sometimes we live one day at a time and sometimes we live hour to hour. Welcome!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


This trip is hard. I have traveled the world and even lived abroad for a year, but this 2 week trip is hands-down the most difficult time I have ever had being away from home.  

So many things contribute to this hard-ness.  I miss my boys profoundly.  I have never been away from them for this long.  Chris and I go to the beach for 5 days at a time each year, and I am always so ready to be home with them by the 5th day.  Today marks the 10th day that we have been away and I cannot wait to see their stinky little faces and have one sided "conversations" with them about Minecraft, classic cars and cute puppies.  We do get to Skype with them each day, but Winnie really hates Skype and that makes it difficult at best.  I can totally understand why it freaks her out.  It freaks me out too.  It is both unbelievable and amazing that we are able to dial them up and see them and talk to them in real time every morning.  Winnie has never seen anything like us before….and seeing more big white people jabbering at her through the computer screen is incredibly unnerving for her.  Pair that with the fact that we have to Skype first thing in the morning, and she pretty much just hates it.  Besides, it's not that comforting for me either.  I love seeing them, but nothing is as good as the real thing.  Short of time travel, I am not sure what would sate my need to be with all of my children at the same time during these tough two weeks.  However, I am so glad that we decided to have the boys stay at home…. (go back to the first sentence of this post.) 

On another level though, this trip is so hard because it is about being homesick.  All of us….Me and Chris and Winnie.  We are all feeling homesick for the things that make us feel safe and comfortable and happy.  It is pretty easy for me and Chris to see and understand that we miss our kids and our house and our cars and our dog and our favorite foods and our tempurpedic and our routines.  But we can also see that our sweet girl is so homesick too.  I had planned to blog every single day on this trip, but the truth is that our girl has needed me in a way that I did not expect.  She has experienced so much loss in the last 10 days that I cannot even begin to fathom what homesick must feel like for her.  She has certainly had her ups and downs during the short time that we have known her.  At her core, Winnie is filed with so much happiness and joy that it spills over into everything that she does.  She is whip-smart in a way that I really did not expect.  (I didn't know what to expect really…I did not even know if she was able to communicate verbally.)  She is much more like a typical 5 year old girl than we ever dreamed, and her abilities mean that she is also able to truly understand and grieve her losses.  She has moments of quiet grief where we realize that she is silently sobbing and missing something that we never knew she had.  She will almost always silently cry herself to sleep after softly singing a song from her recent "past." We have tried to start to create new memories for her by singing a new song, but she doesn't understand and I also know that she needs to grieve.  I know this in my mind, but it breaks my heart to know she is hurting and missing those who loved her before we could.  I am grateful that she is attaching to me and she does let me hold and comfort her.  She trusts Chris, and she lets him carry her and bathe her and dress her.   But when it comes to feeling safe and secure, she needs to be able to see me at all times, and it is only me that can comfort her or be affectionate towards her.  

Homesickness is about missing our creature comforts, and so much of that is linked to food.  In Wuhan, we had such a hard time finding familiar food that we felt sick and hungry most of the time we were there.  Now that we are in Guangzhou, we are able to find things that better suit our Western palettes.  Tonight we even had decent Mexican food and margaritas.  We have noticed that Winnie is a picky eater, and we don't know if this is about what she likes or how she is feeling.  She will always eat two things : bananas and fried rice.  She will sometimes eat chicken.  Over the last two days we have noticed that she only wants to eat in the room…. or more specifically in the bed.  Winnie has thankfully always had enough to eat, and she will always offer bites and sips to us, but she does have some sensory issues about where she feels safe to eat.  I think that she has seen and done so many more different things in the past week than she has in her entire life, and she just prefers to eat in peace, and in the safety of a quiet hotel room with some Pleasant Goat on the iPad or TV.  I get it.  We all love some breakfast in bed… or breakfast lunch and dinner in her case.  

Here's the deal though.  For the next little while, Winnie gets to make her own rules.  We want her to know that she can trust us for all of her needs, and that we will deliver however she sees fit.  Nobody hates crumbs in the bed more than Chris Phillips (he's got some sensory issues too :)) but for this girl he knows he can deal with it.  We will feed her rice in bed and sing her to sleep and hold her for as long as she needs to cry, because we know that she is going to come through this and we are too.  Winnie is our daughter and we love her fiercely.  I know that bringing her home to Nashville is going to mean that she will continue to be homesick for a long time, but I have had a small taste of that on this trip and I plan to be there every step of the way for her.  If she needs to eat bananas and rice in bed for a while we can make that happen.  (We will just stock up on the Miralax at Costco.)  

We know that our girl is going to come through this and make it to the other side.  She is going to love life in Nashville, and I know Nashville is going to love her back.  We have gotten little tastes of Winnie's electric personality, and I cannot wait to see her meet her potential with lots of love, good nutrition, wonderful teachers and skilled doctors.  This child is such a valuable gift to us, and her life is worth so much more than all of the homesickness we could imagine.  I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for her.  We are so fortunate that we get to be a part of what happens next.  


  1. We adopted a little girl last year and she came from the identical situation as Winnie.She was part of Half The Sky and lived in the same foster family for years. We were able to also meet with her foster family. The whole grieving process takes a while to work through and you will have many ups and downs! As you continue to meet her needs and love her she will begin to heal but it takes time which is sometimes six or more months. Winnie is beautiful and you are very blessed to be her new parents!

  2. I love this girl so much!!! You're doing an amazing job, and Winnie will thrive with love and happiness in her new normal in no time!!

  3. I read every blog Chris shares on Facebook. Frances (my mom) and I have delighted together in your journey. I rarely comment, because I can't think of anything useful to add. Your truly say it all. Up until this post, I was under the delusion from all the smiling photos that she was happy all the time. I did not understand how that could be so, but was grateful for you. To think of this precious little girl grieving... that is heartbreaking. The first pic in this post makes my hear heavy. I cannot imagine what it feels like for you as her mother to see her this way. I will pray specifically for peace for all of you... that is something we all need.

  4. It is exhausting when you can't leave her sight, but It WILL get better-I promise! Are you at the Garden? How about that awesome breakfast buffet?!!

  5. Incredible insight!! Know you are all feeling so many things, and being so far from home and the norm for you does not help! You have my prayers that the next few days are good and bring a special peace and safety as you travel home. Blessings to all!!

  6. Hang in there! Before you know it you will be home!