Uncategorized

Coach Chapman’s Blog

NOTE: This blog is an archived version taken from Brentwood Academy’s website. Due to the nature of the backup, posts are in reverse order. To read the entire story, scroll to the bottom, and start from there.

May 21, 2019

May 22 2019 8:36 AM

Eleven years ago today, my five-year-old niece Maria died. Many of you will recall the tragic driveway accident at the Steven Curtis Chapman residence involving my nephew, Will. It is a day none of us in the Chapman family will ever forget. I remember exactly where I was the moment I got the horrifying phone call from my sister. She was hysterical and the only thing we really understood was that my wife and I and our family needed to get to Vanderbilt immediately. It was about 5:00 in the evening. When we arrived, the hospital staff escorted us to family holding room separate from the general waiting room. That is when we knew it was bad, really bad. As more family and the closest of friends gathered, we knew the forthcoming news was what we all feared, Maria had passed away. The international outpouring of thoughts and prayers, well wishes, and yes, monetary gifts from celebrities, dignitaries, normal people, and fans; was, in a word, phenomenal.

I start with that because here we are, eleven years later. Seems like last week. A bad dream. Through that horrible tragedy, a legacy was born. An organization which was in its infancy, The Show Hope Foundation, bloomed. In Luoyang, China, a big sky-blue building with clouds painted on it (purely by an accidental mis-communication/translation) grew out of the ground and opened its doors to eight little, very sick babies a little over ten years ago. Our little baby, Fahlin, was one of those eight. And yes, irony of ironies…the very hospital where Maria was pronounced DOA, was the very same Vanderbilt that gave Fahlin life.

What a story. Tragic on the front end, hopeful on the back. Where would Fahlin be if there was no Maria’s Big House? All eight of the first eight are with their forever families, but where would those kids be if not for the big sky-blue building? It is bind-bogglingly discombobulating to try to figure out all of the weaving in and out of all the pieces that have fallen together, not by chance, but by divine, sovereign design. What Satan meant as destruction, God has turned into hope. This side of Heaven we will never, ever even come close to understanding the ‘whys?’ of why this happened, or understand how it all ties together, but rest assured, when we do finally arrive in Heaven, I am sure we will go, “Oh, THAT is why? Now, I get it!”

As God prompts and brings them to your minds and hearts, pray for the Chapmans please. For Steven, Mary Beth, Emily, Caleb, Shaoey and Stevey, and especially Will.

April 10, 2019

Apr 15 2019 8:57 AM

It’s time for a new blog post. Fahlin has begun swimming lessons. Now, to be clear, in the Chapman Family, if you are not swimming by age 4, you are basically waaaaaaaay behind. It’s part of life in our family. When you spend your life around water all the time, it is imperative to know how to swim. Period.

Fahlin has been the exception. If you have spent any time reading any of these blogs, you know that physically, she simply could not exert the necessary energy to swim. Her heart wouldn’t allow it. Her body could not do it. She was physically unable to perform. That was then…

…This is now. Fast forward from 2015 to 2019. We began lessons with Coach Amy. Amy Caulkins. Amy is probably the most knowledgeable swim instructor in the world. We go back a long-ways. At one point, she was the American record holder in 100 freestyle, that is until her more famous sister, Tracy Caulkins broke that record only a mere hour after Amy had set it. She swam in the Olympics and was on the inaugural American Women’s Olympic water polo team. AND, she is quite a character! Loud and boisterous, yet loves the sport of swimming and the kids she teaches and coaches.

She loves Fahlin. Lovers her story. Has a compassionate heart for how far she has come and what all she has been through. She gets it. She understand the trepidation on Fahlin’s part. Amy has seen it all, dealt with it all and overcome it all.

So, she is now Fahlin’s swim instructor. Now, mind you, learning to swim at age 10 is much more difficult than learning at a younger age. We are now two lessons in and of course, Fahlin is progressing slowly. I think she can do more, but that’s just because I know how Fahlin can be. It will just take Amy a little time before she figures out Fahlin’s nuances. But for now, the lessons are what they are. Amy is great. Fahlin will learn…

THEN it’s on to summer swim team! Every time we mention it, Fahlin simply rolls her eyes and says, “Ugggh!” Hahaha!

April 1, 2019

Apr 1 2019 9:00 AM

Happy birthday Fahlin! Yes, it is Fahlin’s birthday. She turns 10! The big 1 – 0. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago today, this little girl was born with a heart that would be later diagnosed to be very, very sick. She arrived at Maria’s Big House when she was about 4 months old and was immediately diagnosed with a congenital heart problem. She would have what is called: Complex cyanotic congenital heart defect with truncus arteriosus, pulmonary valve atresia with collateral vessel formation. In other words, Fahlin would not live very long, let alone 10 years. She was immediately placed on the palliative care floor, where she was loved by a very caring staff as they waited for the inevitable to happen.

Yet, she lived to see one. Then two. Then three. She was still purplish-blue. Always had been, still was at that time. Then she turned four, then five.

Then a family in Nashville Tennessee decided she would be theirs. It was a rather large family, full of crazy people. A bald-headed Dad, a Mom who had been praying for this little girl without even knowing her name, four fully grown brothers and sisters and three other sisters also from China. She had no idea what was about to happen, but she longed for a family, and we were it. Haha. Surprise!

Well, here we are, four years and untold numbers of heart echo-cardiograms, a ton of heart catheterizations, and three major open-heart surgeries later and we are now celebrating a little girl’s 10th birthday who once had no hope at any kind of life. Wow! If anyone tells you there is no God or no such thing as a miracle, you tell them you know a family who can show them otherwise. We live with little miracle every day. We see how far she has come. We know who we should thank, and we do every day.

She had her most recent follow-up check-up last week. I will end with this quote from Dr. Janssen (with a smile on his face), “Fahlin, your heart sounds BORING!”

March 5, 2019

Mar 5 2019 12:11 PM

Who is this child?

I am referring to Fahlin, of course. The past month has been quite interesting. Fahlin has changed. Since the surgery over four months ago, we have been watching to see if we would notice any difference with the new heart re-construction. Boy, in the last month, her energy level has just exploded. Either that or we just all of a sudden noticed the difference. She is happy, energetic, helpful, runs up and down the stairs, runs around the house; she’s even doing P.E. in school.

She was acting particularly crazy the other day when I looked at my wife and asked. “Has she all of a sudden gotten new energy?” Our thought is that her body has been adjusting, adjusting, adjusting, trying to figure out how it is going to handle all new oxygen. We think it has finally figured out what to do with it all and it is showing as energy.

We could not have prayed for a better outcome. To borrow a well-used cliché, she literally has a new lease on life. And it shows in everything. Her brain is even exploding. The vocabulary is expanding at an alarming rate (in a good way). She doesn’t get pooped like she used to. She is even going up and down stairs without holding onto anything. She has always been uncertain. Her strength has improved as evidenced by the fact that she can carry heavier things in from the car from the grocery. She has grown two inches since the surgery. Everything is great.

God is good all the time, all the time, God is good.

February 12, 2019

Feb 28 2019 10:45 AM

Our friend, Mariah, who was a nurse at Maria’s Big House was on staff the day Fahlin arrived at Maria’s. She has begun sending us (Fahlin) letters chronicling the journey of Fahlin “Pre-adoption.” Fahlin’s first five years. As we get those I would like to share the highlights with you. The first one we received has insights about her name that we never knew.

Here are some excerpts. The originals letters are written in beautiful handwriting compete with little hearts:

“[Fahlin’s first day]…You, dear one, arrived at our Big House with several other very sick little ones from the orphanage. Each of you wrapped in more than you imagine for that hot summer day. Your head, shaved and bald, was sweaty from the heat, yet you were blue all over, a very tangible measure of the condition of your precious heart…You were assigned to my special unit on the 5th floor…We asked my sister, Melissa to help us with selecting names…As I listened to your heart, checked your oxygen levels, weighed you, counted every finger and toe, measured you from top to bottom, held you close, and examined ever inch of you, she began watching you closely as she flipped through the pages of the baby name book, carefully scanning the lists of names and their meanings…”

[Scripture says in Isaiah: 56:5, “I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.”]

“…Your Chinese name was Xue Fang and so Melissa started with the “F” section of the baby name book, scanning the pages filled with little girl names and their meanings looking for the perfect fit. Suddenly her finger stopped, she looked up at me and smiled, “What about Daughter of the King?” …It was perfect you were the “Daughter of the King.” God had already spoken, He would be your defender, your strength, and your salvation. His mighty hands would direct your path and we would have the joy of watching your grow…”

Anyways, here we go with this new series of blogs.

January 26, 2019

Jan 28 2019 8:30 AM

January 26th. What is so special about this date? Four years ago today we were in Luoyang, China. We were there to get our daughter. This is Fahin’s official “Gotcha Day.” Gotcha day is ‘thing’ among adoptive families. We usually celebrate by going out to eat, or going to some event, or having a little party. Today, however, was a pretty special “Gotcha Day’ for Fahl Fahl. She got to spend the day with her big sister, Abby in Chattanooga.

Let’s step back just a bit. This special day all came about because our twelfth-grade daughter, Izzy, had a little Honors College obligation at UTC (University of Tennessee Chattanooga). So, Since Izzy wanted Abby to ride along with her, Abby decided to take Fahlin with her. They made a day of it by going to the Chattanooga Aquarium where Fahlin fell in love with the fish and the penguins. Her favorite fish were the sharks. The penguins were hands down her favorite, however. Of course, if you ever saw and of the Penguins of Madagascar movies, you know why they are everyone’s favorites.

“Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave!”

In case you’re wondering, I was at the middle school regional swim meet downtown watching two more of my daughter’s swim, while my wife was at work. Sometimes, we find it difficult to be four places at once, believe it or not. We’ve tried…it just doesn’t happen.

By the way, she HATED the butterflies. She hates bugs anyway, but she apparently fails to see the beauty of those little winged creatures. She closed her eyes, held Abby’s hand and ran through the butterfly room as fast as she could. [Side note here, she runs like C3P0]

After the aquarium, they had lunch at Champies then took in Mary Poppins for the second time. By the time Izzy’s festivities ended and they headed for home, she was exhausted, felt terrible and had trouble relaxing on the way home. When they finally arrived back home around 8:00, she climbed up on the couch and didn’t move. Four years ago, in her condition, we could never have even attempted a trip like that. Her little body could barely walk up a flight of stairs. My, how far has come (understatement of the century).

She ended the day in our bed, plopped right smack between Yolanda and myself. I guess compared to where she came from; scared, sick, alone, it must have felt like a pretty safe place to be. It didn’t take her long to pass out, asleep…ZZZZZZZZZZZ.

January 20, 2019

Jan 20 2019 4:07 PM

With Fahlin’s surgery behind us, the holidays in the rear-view mirror, and life sort of getting back to what we know as normal, it is hard to find things to blog about. So now I look for small things. Or, I wait for things to ‘happen’ like today. We go out to get in the car after church and the left rear tire has completely fallen off the rim while we were in church. What is that? How did that even happen? There is not even a hole! I changed the tire, but now, you know, that makes our next couple of days more difficult as we deal with that. When we get to the neighborhood, our car loses power, sputters up the hill, lights start blinking and it tell us, ‘reduced engine power, check traction control monitor, and blah, blah, blah…research tells us it the throttle body and there is a recall. Just what I need.

I guess the entire point of all of this it to keep us on our toes. Just when everything is going smoothly, something happens. Always does, it seems always will. Is it ok if I interject here? PLEASE STOP! Enough already!

On top of that, it causes great irritation. Then, my girls, Jayne and Fahlin start in, “Way to go Dad!”

“I did not do anything!”

Now I’m taking deep breaths while I type, calming down, and realizing there’s nothing we can do today, so why worry about it now? Tomorrow we have a day off. Perhaps we will get it taken care of then. Perhaps. But you all know how that goes, nothing is as easy as it should be when it comes to car repairs.

So much for reflecting on where we were just five months ago compared to now. So much for normal. So much for relaxing and taking it easy for a while. I only hope it’s an easy fix. Oh, and I hope the tire is under warranty. And…

I guess I will watch football for now!

January 9, 2019

Jan 11 2019 8:24 AM

Let’s write a blog. About Fahlin. Post Christmas. Post Holidays. She’s watching me type, “You’re doing another blog?”

“Yes.”

She thinks I’m crazy. I might actually be…and it’s probably all her fault anyway. Everything she’s been through has a way of making parents crazy.

“Meow,” she says, getting into Sasha character mode. “Prrrrrrrrrrrrr,” she follows. Do you suppose she needs counseling? Perhaps. Maybe we all do?

As my wife and I reflected last night on life, love, family and our own mental health, we talked about everything we’ve been through. From being run out of a small town (super long story involving my basketball coaching career), to moving to Nashville while pregnant with child number two, signing a record deal, losing the record deal (another super long story which includes losing to Lone Star at the ACM’s for new group of the year) to where we are

now (another long story, part of which involves all these adopted children we have) has been actually, quite a ride. One we should be proud of. We’ve lived life. We took risks (most of which involved my career with my supportive wife by my side). We’ve raised great kids. We now have the three cutest grandbabies on the planet.

And yet we are weary. But I think that’s part of the grand scheme. My wife is awesome. She has been the rock, always has, always will. We will run here, run there, pick up here, pick up there. I think what tires us out is that by the time we get to our eighth kids, we are exhausted (that’s why I work out, got to in order to have the energy). The Bible never promises us ‘ease and comfort.’ But yet it does promise us crowns, blessings, mansions. I’ll take that! It just takes us a while to get there.

“Fahlin, do you have anything to add?”

“Grrr, grrr, prrr, grrr,” she says.

I think that means, the end…

December 26, 2018

Jan 3 2019 11:01 AM

The day after Christmas. I waited ‘til today because I wanted to take it all in yesterday. The excitement level at our house was higher than usual. Our annual Christmas Eve party for our way-word Nashville transplants which has been going on for 28 years was once again a huge success. As an aside, the group is comprised of families who came to Nashville around the same time we did, all in search of some sort of success in the music business (not everyone, but a large majority), all of whom have experienced one level or another of said success or who have gone back to civilian lives at some point. The rule is once invited, the invitation stands for life. I suppose if everyone came who has ever been invited over the years, including kids and now grandkids, we would have 300 people in our house. But lives change, and families grow up and people move on, but still, the invite stands forever. There are times we won’t see people for three or four years, then all of a sudden, there they are, knocking on our door and renewing old acquaintances. I miss people. Anyway, the excitement level began at the party.

Fahlin was beside herself excited. She couldn’t go to sleep. We couldn’t let her in our bed that night because the girts are all in our room. I tell her I’m Santa Claus, but she refuses to believe. Hilarious. She finally nodded off around midnight. So, my crew of elves sprang into action. The gifts were under the tree in no time. There was barely any room left in the living through which to walk.

5:05 AM. Fahlin is awake! Just standing there looking at me. She knew Mom would get up, but Dad, well Dad would. It was good. She actually cuddled with me as she stared at all the presents. A rare treat. We cooked the casserole for everyone. Her brother Canaan, my second son, had been driving though the night with their little girl from Dallas and pulled in our driveway at 5:30…AM that is. They said hi and went to bed for a couple of hours. Fahlin could not stand it she couldn’t stop smiling. “When’s everyone getting up?” She would ask repeatedly.

I love the calm before the storm, when everything looks so beautiful, undisturbed, peaceful. Our tree with all 2200 lights was beautifully decorated thanks to our daughter Abby. We faced timed our eldest son in DC. They stayed home this Christmas because Natalie, our Daughter-in-Law just gave birth to their first on the 17th. That alone is great Christmas gift. Anyway, as the kids tore into their gifts, the fun began and as I type, still has not abated.

I love Christmas. This Christmas was the best ever because we have gotten to celebrate with Fahlin for the third time when we told we may even celebrate one with her. How far she has come. How miraculous her journey. How wonderful Christmas this year is…

December 18, 2018

Dec 19 2018 11:48 AM

One week away from Christmas. I am pretty sure this Christmas will be the most special, yet bittersweet of all. People ask me all the time what our plans for Christmas are. Well, we aren’t going anywhere…well, at least not all of us. Our oldest son, Jordan and his wife Natalie just had their first child yesterday, a little girl named Eleanor Beatrice. My wife flew to D.C. this morning to spend four days with the baby, and my son and his wife Natalie too, of course. Haha. I am home taking care of the family and besides, two of our children still have school for a couple more days. Fahlin even has a little Christmas concert Thursday.

Speaking of Fahlin, how can we not have a great Christmas? Are you kidding me? Little Miss Miracle is alive and well! How can Christmas not mean more now than at any other time in our family’s life? I remember it was about six years ago it was quite the opposite of Christmas’s. Yolanda’s father passed away on Christmas eve. So, you can see what I mean when I say Christmas is bittersweet.

Our other son, Canaan, and his family will be in on Christmas day, Bethany comes in in a couple of hours in fact. We’ll also hang out with my sister’s side of the family after Christmas when they get back. So, as you can see, our Christmas plans are just as confusing and complicated as pretty much everyone else’s. That’s part of the excitement of it all. The anticipation, the presents and little kids running around everywhere.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: We are blessed. Blessed with a little girl who was not supposed to with us yet, here she is. With all the other plans we have going on, Fahlin is the cherry on top of the Christmas pie. She is the star that tops on the tree. She is the famous Fahlin (she does not like that moniker). She is definitely a Christmas miracle.

December 10, 2018

Dec 19 2018 11:47 AM

I was in our school’s chapel service yesterday and friend of mine, Rian Berger, spiritual life director at Brentwood Academy was speaking and he said something very interesting that caught my ear, “God’s greatest gifts are often wrapped in difficulty.” He went on to talk about how “acts of God” are often associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, volcano eruptions, and calamities of all kinds, yet, we forget that beautiful sunsets, picturesque snow-covered mountains and the miracle of birth are all also “acts of God.”

How true. My thought is how awesome is God? How real is God? Well, if He does indeed give us our greatest gifts while wrapped in difficulty, I live with one of those gifts. Her name is Fahlin. Her life would qualify as ‘difficult.’ Her story began as potential hopelessness but now is nothing short of miraculous.

Out of the ashes of the tragedy that was the death of my five-year-old niece Maria, rose a six-story building painted sky blue with white clouds and is now home to nearly 120 orphans and the flagship to a network of care centers housing several hundred. Fahlin is one of those whose personal story, though tragic, has taken flight and is now impacting lives everywhere. There are literally millions of people who know of Fahlin and her journey, thanks in part to the millions of followers her aunt and uncle have on social media. She is a gift. She was wrapped in difficulty. Our family experienced the difficulty with her. And now here she is.

She started back to school today. No restrictions. No physical limitations. Nothing, all new territory for her. School will be much different for her now. We know this is just another page, another chapter in story her life is writing. There’s a part of me that has a sneaking suspicion she will one day embrace her story and share it with world. How? When? No one knows. But one day…

…a gift from difficulty.

November 27, 2018

Phil Goodman

Dec 3 2018 6:05 AM

The following is “Fahlin’s Memoirs,” as she calls them. These are her words and thoughts. I have typed them exactly as she typed them on her iPad, including punctuation, spacing and everything else. Used by permission. Prepare to cry.

The following is “Fahlin’s Memoirs,” as she calls them. These are her words and thoughts. I have typed them exactly as she typed them on her iPad, including punctuation, spacing and everything else. Used by permission. Prepare to cry.

Chapter 1

About my heart surgerys

Hi I’m Fahlin my life has been stressful for me all my life I’ve had 3 surgerys I had one when I was 6 years old, and two when I was 9 the last one is because in my heart there was a hole. When my surgeon did my second surgery he saw it and thought it would be fine to leave it instead of closing it, but when he did my second surgery he saw it was getting bigger so he thought he needs to close it before it got even bigger so I had another surgery.

Chapter 2

Meet my family

I have 5 sisters that are 27, 25, 17, 14, and 12, 2 sister in laws that are 30 and 30, 2 brothers that are 31 and 29, 1 brother in law that is 30, and a niece that is almost, 2 a nephew that is 3 and a niece on the way. My parents have 8 kids ( that’s a lot ) my sisters and sister in laws names are Bethany, Abby, Izzy, Lydia, Jayne, Ami and Natalie. My sister Abby and I are best friends sometimes we fight even though were sister friends. My brothers and brother in law’s names are Jordan, Canaan and Adam. My favorite brother is Adam. My nephew’s name is Nash he is a little crazy whenever me and my sister play or do something he’ll want to do it to and he can sometimes be grumpy. My niece’s name is Millie she’s so cute and she likes to watch lots of movies she likes Netflix. My parents names are Yolanda and Jim they both lived in Ohio. My mom is always with me when I am in the hospital. My Dad works so hard for us he tries to care for us but sometimes it’s just hard for him.

Chapter 3

About my stuffed animals

I have lots of stuffed animals but I don’t play with them my two main stuffed animals are a Siberian Ttger ( snow tiger ) and a brown dog. My brown dog (named Fluffy)I got it last Christmas I was only 8 years old. She was my favorite I would take it mostly everywhere I wanted to, then my Siberian tiger ( named Sasha) came along and my aunt bought me Sasha when I was doing my last surgery so I used it at my 3rd heart surgery. My brow dog is brown and tan and my Siberian snow tiger is gray and white. Both of them are very soft. Sasha has a very long tail and Fluffy has a very short tail.

Chapter 4

About my family

Jordan’s wife is name Natalie there about to have a baby girl. Natalie is a teacher and Jordan is a lobbyist he makes a lot of money. Canaan’s wife’s name is Ami they have a daughter named Millie. Canaan’s job is a youth minister and Ami’s job is administrative assistant. Bethany’s husband’s name is Adam they have a son his named Nash he can be a little grumpy and stubborn. Adam works at an airport whenever someone is getting on a plane he helps he and has all the imformation. Bethany sews all the time she makes quilts, blankets, and clothes. Bethany stays at home with Nash. Abby nannies and coaches she coaches at BA ( which stands for Brentwood Academy ) and at excel aquatics. She nannies a family that swims for the Nolensville hurricanes swim team. Izzy goes to BA with my dad. She’s a senior she works really hard she gets stuck sometimes school is really hard for her she tries really hard to do it. In a month she goes to college she got into 2 or 3 colleges. She works at a swim shop all day. Lydia goes to BA with my Dad and Izzy. Lydia works at the concession stand at BA she also makes a lot of money. Jayne goes to curry ingram Academy she has compute and paper for homework.

can you say processing?

November 13, 2018

Nov 13 2018 9:11 AM

As promised, a brief recap of the events of the past three months, in bullet point fashion. My dates may not be exact, but they are close. It’s the re-cap that counts:

· If you’ll recall, the original surgery was scheduled for mid-August. It was pushed back three times (in order to save the lives of three other babies)

· Finally, surgery happened the last week of August

· After repairing a large hole in the ventricles, constructing a new pulmonary arch, putting in a new valve and bundling a bunch of small arteries into two larger arteries, the surgery was deemed a success. A small hole was not surgically repaired and was expected to close on its own.

· She was in the hospital a total of eight days

· During a follow-up echo-cardiogram, high pressures within the heart were discovered and the hole that was to have closed on its own had become larger

  • · A heart cath was ordered
  • · Complications ensued
  • · She was in the hospital another eight days
  • · A second open heart surgery was scheduled for a week after she was released
  • · This was approximately two weeks ago from tomorrow
  • · They repaired the now large hole using a hybrid technique, removed two stents and replaced a now damaged valve
  • · That surgery was deemed a super successful success
  • · The doctors were smiling
  • · She came home three days ago after another eight days in the hospital
  • · She will not need another surgery for seven to twelve years, depending on the new valve and how long it lasts
  • · She now sleeps smack between my wife and I. She takes up the entire bed
  • · Today is her follow-up visit
  • · I pray the doctors are still smiling

November 10, 2018

Nov 12 2018 9:15 AM

FAHLIN IS HOME!

Details coming in the next few blogs. For now, I just want to cry tears of joy and rest.

November 9, 2018

Nov 9 2018 8:57 AM

I saw Fahlin last night at the hospital. She was smiling, happy, eating, walking around, and basically almost back to being herself. She is also sad that she has to remain here for THREE MORE DAYS. There is only one IV line left to remove. Her O2 level is 95-100 without oxygen support. Did I mention she is dad that has to be here THREE MORE DAYS?

My wife has been a stud. 24/7. Sleeping on an uncomfortable couch night after night. Getting awaken by the nursing staff at all hours. Helping Fahlin through the recovery time. This has been hard on her. I can see it in her eyes. You know it’s hard when she actually even misses her husband.

As for her husband, he has finally reached the end of his rope. Thankfully there is not a noose at the end of it. I am tired, edgy, irritable (though I don’t mean to be), and have very little tolerance for whining, complaining and pettiness. When you see what our daughter has had to endure, it gives you an entire new perspective on life. It changes your mentality toward a lot of things. Forgive me if I am snarky. I’m trying my best not to be.

I guess I need sleep. Of course, any of you who are parents know that once you have your first child, sleep is a thing of the past. Multiply that by eight and the definition of sleep changes. Add open heart surgeries (emphasizing plural) for your little girl and the stress level zooms out of control. On top of all of that, our family has not been all together for weeks. It is taking its toll on the girls. They don’t express it, but you know it’s there. We are out of sync.

So here we are. The home stretch.

November 4, 2018

Nov 6 2018 9:58 AM

Here we are, four days out from surgery. Her surgeon and cardio team are ecstatic about the success of her surgery. It appears that the last of her major issues have been dealt with and the prognosis is extremely optimistic. They are saying her new valve will eventually wear out in seven to twelve years (they say that’s an easy fix). Her heart pressure are nearly perfect, not quite, but nearly and she may not need any interventions in the near future. The news is really, really good.

Unfortunately for Fahlin, this recovery has been rough. Not like all the other recoveries. She was in so much pain. It’s not fun to watch your child hurt, to suffer. Two open hearts in twelve weeks has taken its toll on her little body. Meds and fluids have taken awhile to figure out. But the team is very, very familiar Fahlin and her journey. They are doing everything they can to make our little girl comfortable and get the recovery right. The main thing they do not want is a repeat of the last few weeks when we went home and the fluids were not quite under control and we ended up back in the ER and in the hospital for a week.

Anyway, I feel like I’m rambling. My wise brother-in-law reminded me that God himself stood by and watched as his son suffered. If he could watch his son bear the sins of the entire history of the world, then He would give me strength to watch my daughter. True, very true. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I feel so helpless.

As I type this however, it’ almost 8:00 PM and I’m sitting at the hospital, she is showing signs of turning the corner. She’s sitting up, she’s eating, talking, going to the bathroom and occasionally whimpering when something itches, or hurts or simply annoys her. She’s swollen slightly, but all in all, she looks good. She want to home tomorrow. [Sad face here] Sorry sweetie, you still have a ways to go.

“You said only a week,” she says.

To which we respond, “To be clear sweetie, we said a week TO ten days.”

My wife is a trooper as well. 24/7 at the hospital. How hard is that? This is all so hard, but we know we are almost there. I wonder how long it will take to get back to any semblance of normalcy? Wait, normal? Us? The Chapmans? Not possible.

November 1, 2018

Nov 1 2018 7:58 PM

As I sit here next to Fahlin in the ICU (again), I’m looking at the face of a little girl who has been through a lot in the past three months. She has been through a lot in the last three years. In fact, she has been through a lot since she was born. I see the wires, tubes, meds, and monitors. I listen to the noises of a gurgling something and the hum of something else. There’s the sound of air rushing through one of the machines and beeping coming from the monitors.

She is a beautiful little girl. she looks so peaceful, asleep, resting. I cannot help but think back to those earliest images of her in China. She looked so helpless. She looked sick. She was purple. She was not long for this world. Yet, here she is. I’m looking right at her. Alive. Recovering form yet another surgery. She looks so good. Our own little Sleeping Beauty. I can’t wait ‘til she feels good enough to be our own ‘Beast’ from ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She actually looks angelic. I am in awe of our God who somehow, in his infinite wisdom, orchestrated these supernatural, sovereign tapestries of life that have woven our lives together with her life, together with our doctor’s lives, and the people’s lives who have come alongside her to love and pray for her, all so that she would have a miraculous story to tell. We’ve counted eight times she has been in the ICU since we brought her home. This should be the last for a while.

The prognosis this time is that her new valve will last seven to twelve years before needing it to be replaced. Even then, it can be replaced with a cath procedure, and who knows, in seven to twelve years there may even be some other medical breakthrough that would make the process even less painful. I know this, coming back to the ICU is something I am sure Fahlin does not want to do any time soon.

So, for now, we wait for her to wake up so the process of disconnecting all of this and getting on with life…a fantastic life at that, can begin…yet again.

October 30, 2018

Oct 31 2018 10:38 AM

I do not know what has hit us. The past three months have been emotional to say the least. Do you ever think to yourself, “What in the world is going on?” The past three months and in particular the past two weeks have been nothing but a blur. It seemed as if everything was normal, but complications with her heart cath put an end to normal. Our days seemed to be both fast and slow at the same time.

I just deleted an entire paragraph explaining what exactly was going on but as I looked at it I realized how crazy it was. Too crazy to be believed by anybody, too crazy to be lived by anybody. And it was day after day after day after day after day…

Here on the eve of Fahlin’s third open heart surgery, the second in three months, word do not describe my feelings. I cannot even pray, although I do. I just sit silently and pray for the spirit to intercede because I don’t know the right words. If you asked me or my wife for that matter to describe our feelings, I know I couldn’t. To use my wife’s words, I’ve been ‘weepy’ all day. I know, not very manly, maybe choking back tears would be more accurate. It’s indescribable.

One thing I do know: My wife and I appreciate our friends and family and acquaintances and strangers that keep walking this road with us. You lift us up when we don’t even know what we need. Please be in prayer for Fahlin, her surgeon, her cardiologist, all the other doctors and nurses that will be taking care of her. We couldn’t handle any of this without knowing our Savior is in control.

Isaiah 41:10 is a verse that was given me by a friend just this morning. It is so appropriate: Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Of this I am certain…

October 26, 2018

Oct 26 2018 9:51 AM

So, we went from holding pattern to mow we have a plan. Fahlin was sent home from hospital last night with oxygen. New plan. Surgery next Wednesday, Halloween, 6:00 AM. Since her heart cath complications, her oxygen levels have been dipping at night. While we don’t know everything yet, we suspect through everything we’ve been told, that this next surgery will again be super serious. She will be on by-pass for several hours. This is just what we didn’t want to happen. Yet, here we are.

So now we have this skinny little thing sleeping smack between us while being hooked up to the oxygen machine. I think my wife was looking for a way to get rid of me when she suggested that the machine may be too loud and I might have to find another bed to sleep in. Ha, I fooled her. That machine just purrs along with a gentle hum that actually lulls me to sleep. Operation ‘get rid of Dad’ failed!

Of course, most nights I toss and turn while thinking or dreaming of possible outcomes of Fahlin’s upcoming surgeries. It’s nerve-wracking. While I try my hardest to pray for the greatest possible outcome, my mind takes dark turns sometimes. I hate that. I know that is not where I need to be. It’s scary to think about. I have to remind myself that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord. To quote David A.R. White, from one of his movies, I can’t remember which one exactly, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.” Yes. I know. I know, I know, I know… [By the way, who is David A.R. White?]

Where is Fahlin right now? Fahlin’s spirits are mostly high. We noticed she had been squinting a lot and asked her about it. Low and behold, she couldn’t see. Wow, she made it all the way to third grade before her parents realized it. Great parenting…again! So, we went to a place that had a lens lab, had her tested, ordered glasses and had them a couple hours. The first thing she said was, “The trees look so realistic!” She smiled all day. She sees new things everyday now. She even asked if she could take them to hospital with her next time. I guess she wants to see all of the machines and monitors she’s hooked up to.

Once again, we are at another ‘taking one moment at a time’ phase on our life. There’s too much to think about to do otherwise. One step, one breath, one thing, one day at a time…

October 22, 2018

Oct 23 2018 8:21 AM

Okay. Today was to have been Fahlin’s third open heart surgery. It was canceled. No date yet. Fahlin is still hanging out at the hospital. What is going on you may ask? We do not know. We are not sure. From what we can glean, Doctor Bichelle has been out of the country. We do know when he is out of the country, he is usually doing mission work in a far-off distant continent. But he apparently has had difficulty getting back and on top of that, has had to deal with a family matter, the details to which we are not privy.

Ugh.

So now we wait. Again. This is something like the eight or nine push backs and/or cancellations. But what can we do? I think we are beyond frustrated to the point of resignation. There is absolutely nothing we can do and since doctor Bichelle is the best at what he does, we have only one option…to wait. And wait we will.

I’s hard on our family. My wife is not home. She is at the hospital. I am holding down the fort, but it not easy to be five places at once. It’s not easy changing plans on a daily basis. It’s not easy running back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And seeing Fahlin in a holding pattern is tough. Her spirits are high, however, higher than we have ever seen when she is in a hospital. Of course, it is probably nice for a change not getting poked, prodded, stuck, injected, recovering, being in pain.

I do not want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. We are blessed. Our house is warm, people are providing delicious food, there is gas in the car, I still have a job at school heaven, we have our health, Fahlin is alive, she has a great team of doctors and nurses, and above all, the prayers of friends, family, and millions of people from around the world. God is good.

We don’t think they have forgotten about her. They do after all, keep coming in to her room and checking on things. After all, she is the famous Fahlin.

October 20, 2018

Oct 22 2018 8:58 AM

What a week. What we thought was going to be our last visit to Vanderbilt for a while, has turned into a serious ordeal. During Fahlin’s heart cath procedure last week, not only did she begin bleeding during the procedure, they also discovered that her new re-plumbing was causing unusually high pressure in the right side of her heart and that what they once thought was a small hole, is much larger than they thought and is in fact, needing to be closed in order to alleviate the pressure. If the pressure is not relieved, her heart would eventually give out, sooner, rather than later. We assume due to the speed at which this procedure got scheduled, she is need of this operation sooner, rather than later.

Her cath was on Tuesday of this past week. On Wednesday we got the not so good news. On Thursday we got the news that the surgery was going forward on Monday, On Friday, we found out she was first in line. My wife and I have been like this…

[ Stunned silence ]

There have been a couple of dark moments in my life. Moments of extreme emotion brought by extreme life circumstances. Scary moments. Life altering moments that now seem so distant. I’ll keep the details to myself if that’s okay? Ha. But nothing compares to this. The anxiety, the apprehension, the uncertainty feels like trying to breathe in a vacuum. There’s no air. My thoughts are scrambled. So far, I’ve been able to manage everything. I’ve had to turn each day and myself into a walking checklist:

1. Get Jayne to her school √

2. Get myself to school √

3. Teach first period √

4. Run downtown to the hospital second period √

5. Come back and teach 3rd period √

6. Teach 4th period √

7. Coach swim Team √

8. Run the ‘littles’ home √

9. Feed the ‘littles’ √

10. Run downtown to hospital again √

11. Come home and go to bed √

Check, check, check and check. My wife? 24/7 at the hospital with Fahlin. Luckily, this week, the meal train starts back up. That is HUGE!. Food is the last thing I have time to think about until it’s time to feed the children. Did I mention my wife is at the hospital 24/7? Our daughter, Bethany is back in town this week after cutting short their vacation in D.C. in order to come help. Another HUGE help. Thank you!

So here we go again…Monday…

October 17, 2018

Oct 18 2018 9:08 AM

I do not know where to even begin this blog. Yesterday was supposed to be just a simple (not that any medical procedure is really simple) follow-up heart cath to her surgery. A fact-finding mission, if you will, with the possibility of ‘stenting’ any narrowing trouble areas. Easy peasy. We were expecting this to be in-out-home, thank you very much and go on with life.

So much for easy. So much for getting on with life. Fahlin decided to throw everyone a curveball during the procedure. Before the cath was even initiated, she started bleeding into her airways and lungs. They were able to stop it. Doctor Janssen has no idea where it came from. This is the third time this has happened. It only happens during cath procedures, never during her open-heart surgeries. That was only the beginning. He was able to find some trouble spots, but they were located in spots that were no ideal for stents. After the procedure he told us they are in, but not exactly where he wanted them and he is not happy that they are not perfect. This is due mainly to her recent surgery. He discovered a larger hole in her heart wall that they originally thought was a lot smaller which will require surgery to corect. The pressure on one side of heart is higher than he likes. Over time, he says, it cannot be sustained. Of course, there is a whole lot more information to digest, so I will leave it at this: this is not the outcome we had hoped for.

My wife and I troubled by all this news. It looks like ANOTHER open-heart surgery is looming on the horizon.

“I imagine within the next two months,” according to Doctor Janssen.

We thought we out of the wood for a while. We are not. For about the past 24 hours, I have been basically speechless, choked by fear, apprehensive about an uncertain future for Fahlin. My thoughts are jumbled, confused and discombobulated. We, of course are helpless to do anything. I cannot even begin to process the information overload we received. For now, we are simply waiting to see what the meeting of the minds comes up with. The cardiac team is convening on Thursday morning to discuss her situation and formulate a plan going forward. I cannot wait to hear what is decided. We pray for wisdom and discernment. A little clarity wouldn’t hurt, either.

Help us, oh Lord…

October 10, 2018

Oct 11 2018 1:26 PM

Okay. Big sigh. Even though Fahlin’s heart cath looms next week, she actually started back to school today. Yesterday, Yolanda took her by to take her books back and to get reacquainted with her teachers and class and, yes, as you may have surmised, that did not go well. Prior to going, huuuuuge meltdown. So much so that Yo (my pet name for my wonderful wife with the outstanding parenting skills) actually lifted her and carried her out to the car. When she arrived, head was down, no eye contact, fought back both tears and smiles. Thankfully, her first-grade teacher saw her, hugged her and loved on her. That made all the difference.

Fast forward to today. Here is a direct quote from my wife’s text this morning, “…has been dropped off. No tears, smiling a little.” Later in the day, we got a text from her teacher. Fahlin was playing with friends and smiling. Yes, smiling. Kinda what we thought, once she got there she would be okay. When she got off the bus, more smiles. When she got home, a bit grumpy for a few minutes, but a popsicle cured that.

So, between surgery being moved three times eight weeks ago, finally HAVING surgery, recovery, heart cath being rescheduled three times, school starting back, Mom starting back to work, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sleeping between two parents every night because someone is all of a sudden afraid of the dark and a general feeling of uncertainty, Fahlin is finally easing back into a life of routine.

You know, as I think about this I realize that it is no wonder I’m exhausted. It doesn’t seem like I am until I stop. STOP. This happens about every three weeks for me. Once I sit down, it’s like a wave of tired-ness hits me. I want to take a nap…I NEVER take naps. They make me feel yucky.

I was reading a devotional about how God places a ‘Mantel’ on us, like Abraham, Peter, even Jesus. Scholars tell us the Mantel was always too big because the Mantel is not designed to fit the person we are, but rather, the person we are to become. I have been chewing on that ever since I read it. I do know this. In our chaotic and uncertain life, God is in control. I know that is somewhat of a Christian cliché, but if there is one thing I have learned in this life is that, cliché or not, God truly is in control. Of the scheduling? Yes. Of surgical outcomes? Yes. Of those ‘God moments? Yes. Of miracles? Yes. Absolutely. Of circumstance? Yes. Of our Mantel? Yes.

October 9, 2018

Oct 10 2018 9:19 AM

A lot has happened since the last blog. I’ve kind of been waiting to see how it plays out. Don’t worry. Fahlin has been doing great. Her recovery could not be going better. What was once a little purple five-year-old whose oxygen levels were 60 on a good day, is now a pink, thriving 4’4” little girl whose oxygen levels now hover around 99.

Her heart cath was originally scheduled for last Tuesday, Oct., 2nd. They called, “we need to move it to Thursday. Okay. We show up Thursday, “Oh no, we meant next Thursday.” My wife was livid. Next Thursday won’t work, her FMLA runs out. That poor, poor scheduling nurse. They called. “Tuesday, Oct 9th, 8:30 AM.” We arrived. We checked in. So far so good. Our Doctor walks out. We were expecting him to tell us what was going to happen today. “We can’t do the procedure today. The Chicken broth you gave her had fat in it and that counts as a meal, so the anesthesiologists do not feel comfortable.” Wait? What? Oh no, this may actually push my wife over the edge. Apparently, chicken broth strained from chicken noodle soup with fat is not okay. Chicken broth from a bouillon cube IS okay. Our mistake.

I have lost count of how many re-schedules we’ve had. Our daughter is already traumatized enough and this just compounds it. Fahlin doesn’t mind. It’s become our tradition that when a procedure is cancelled, we go to Cracker Barrell and she gets a pancake. She loves pancakes. My wife on the other hand is standing on a ledge of a tall building and I am reaching my hand to her to drag her away from the edge. Our brains are scrambled. Life is a whirlwind. Everything seems uncertain, but as people often remind us, God’s timing is best and He knows why things keep getting moved and rearranged. We on the other hand may never know. So, for now, we breathe deeply and exhale. We take one step at a time. One day at a time. So cliché, yet, so very, very true.

We can’t be mad. Our doctor is so cool and gentle. He told us a story of God’s timing. A couple weeks ago he and his wife were traveling to see their daughters at college. Their flights kept getting delayed, and delayed, and delayed until they could not make their connecting flight in Dallas. So, they were put up in nearby hotel where thy ran into an elderly gentleman who asked them if they were the “praying sort.” He told the man they were. The man held up a picture of a little girl who had obviously had heart surgery. She looked familiar. The night before, the little girl’s heart had stopped and a team of doctors rushed to help save the little girl’s life. Our doctor was part of that team and the little girl was this man’s great-granddaughter. Because of the delay, a God ordained moment in time occurred and reminded us all through that story that God’s timing is always best, whether we know why or not.

So now on to next Tuesday, the 16th.

September 27, 2018

Sep 28 2018 8:49 AM

“When you look upon the face of human suffering, you have two choices. You can turn around and walk away or you can stay, reach out and try to ease that suffering. If you choose to stay, be prepared for the breaking of your heart, for tears of sorrow, for the loss of every earthly thing you own, enduring your own suffering and feelings of inadequacy. Be prepared for a time that you feel that you have not an ounce of strength left to carry on. But somehow, you find that strength when you hold on to His hand until the day you hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”” Dr. M. Joyce Hill, MBBS, FRACGP, AM (Excerpt from the forward of her book, Children of Hope, 29 Inspiring Adoption Stories

Wow. I had just read that and thought, wow. Dr. Joyce Hill has been a friend of ours for many years. She and her husband Robin have played a major role in the lives of two of our daughters, Jayne and Fahlin. Their stories, our story have been included in the book. Jayne actually grew up in Hope Foster Home for the first 4 ½ years of her life before we adopted her. Fahlin is from Maria’s Big House, which Robin and Joyce help oversee. How was I to know that obeying a calling on our lives would end up with us walking through exactly what Dr. Joyce talks about in her book’s forward?

I truly just think of myself as a Dad to these two little girls. Looking back, I guess we did have some hard times with both of the girls. Jaynes issues are too numerous to get into right now, in fact, her story would also require a book of its own, I suppose. And Fahlin, well Fahlin’s story is well, pretty overwhelming itself. It too, I suppose should be a book. I guess I should write a bunch of books, but I digress. If a took the time to reflect I’m pretty sure I would be overwhelmed by the events of our lives with these girls the past three or four years. There’s no time for that. The girls need cared for, taken places, fed, driven to school, picked up from school…etc. Who has time to reflect?

Anyway, in reading the stories included in Dr. Joyce’s book, and in re-reading our own story, who are these people who adopted such children in dire need? Were they crazy or obedient? Sane or not? I stopped trying to wrap my head around these things a while ago. I just live. Just pray. Just trust. What else can we do?

Maybe in the next few blogs I will try to reflect a bit…maybe I’ll forget because I’m busy taking care of the girls. Either way, I’ll be interested to hear what I’m thinking because I’m sure I know myself. Just read the first paragraph again and ponder…

September 22, 2018

Sep 22 2018 4:43 PM

As we continue on this journey known as Fahlin’s story, we can’t help being continually reminded that everything that has happened in Fahlin’s life is simply one miracle after another. Our friend, Dr. Joyce Hill, who, along with her husband Robin Hill, founded Hope Foster Home in Beijing and later partnered with the Show Hope Foundation to open five more care centers for serious special needs orphans, has compiled a book, Children of Hope (available on Amazon), which chronicles the stories of nearly 30 children who were born with no hope of survival, no hope of a family, no hope of ever being loved and most importantly, no hope of ever knowing Jesus. These heart-rending stories tell of child after child finding the necessary medical care while in China and eventually finding a forever family, or rather, a forever family finding them, and their stories.

As you know, two of our daughters come from these care centers. Jayne from Beijing, Fahlin from Luoyang (Maria’s Big House of Hope). I mention all of this not just because Joyce and Robin are friends of ours and our girls’ stories happen to be a part of the book, but because Joyce included a picture of Fahlin we had never seen before. We did not know this picture existed. Fahlin was about four months old. The picture got to me. She looked terrible (maybe awful is a better word). I was saddened when I saw it. My heart hurt. We have always known she was one very, very sick little girl, but this image has been seared into my brain. She literally looked like the palliative care baby she was, being made as comfortable as possible until God took her home.

But as mentioned earlier, God was not ready for Fahlin then. He obviously needed her here on Earth so her story of one miracle after another could unfold for the world to see. I guess I am somewhat grateful (I don’t know if that’s the word I’m looking for or not) that I did not know exactly how bad Fahlin’s heart was or in fact, how sick she really was. Yes, we knew death was an imminent possibility, but I guess I didn’t really know that death really was an imminent possibility. Death. She defied the odds while in China and she continues even now to defy them.

I seriously just don’t know what to think. I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief. I find myself staring at her, wondering what she is thinking about. I wonder if even she knows how wonderfully miraculous she really is. We try to explain things, but after all, she is only nine. I watch her, and after being a month removed now from the surgery, I ask myself, what is she feeling? How does she feel, really? She can’t really put in into words, but my guess is ‘different?’ Will she ever truly know how awesome she really is? And what about the people God has put in her life? The nurses? The doctors? The surgeon? The pastors? Our friends? Our family? Her teachers?

Mind continually blown…

September 7, 2018

Sep 11 2018 11:04 AM

Fahlin has been home two days from her second go ‘round in hospital. The hospital is quickly becoming one of her least favorite places. She has lost about six pounds since she’s been home. Yes, that is too much to lose for such a skinny girl. So, let’s start with her day today. She had to return to Vandy today so that she could have X-rays, bloodwork, etc., etc. Stuff she does not enjoy. They adjusted her meds and sent her home. But it was a longer day than she wanted, for sure. They will see her next week again.

But, the good news continues. Her O2 levels are hovering between 94-97. We have even seen 100. Fahlin is a very bright, intelligent little girl, but I think my oldest son, Jordan said it best when he said, “Dad, she’s so smart now, just think how smart she will be once she has oxygen flowing to her brain!” I digress. The other good news is her lungs are clear of fluid. She is on medication to help control that for now.

What is next for Fahlin? Stamina. Doctor’s orders tell us to stay away from crowds. She can’t afford to have some random germ running amuck in her recovering body. No way. But she has to walk. Walk around the neighborhood, perhaps; possibly a trip to the park, she could even walk the mall early in the day when no one is around. Just take it a day at a time.

I know one thing for sure, walking through this with her is exhausting for us parents. I cannot even imagine what she is going through as she recovers. But I will say this, she looks great. Her color is good, her smile is precious, she is talking more, playing more, laughing more. I am so relieved the hard part is over. Well, it seems like it may be over. With hearts you never really know. Yet up to this point, Fahlin continues to defy the odds. We are breathing a bit easier. Each day gets a little better.

As I read back over this blog, I realize that it is not one of my greatest literary works. It seems scattered to me. I’m blaming it on lack of rest since I was banished from my wonderful sleep number bed. If anything, I think ole Dad needs a day to just sleep…Then perhaps my next blog will be a little more eloquent.

Sept. 1, 2018

Jim Chapman

Sep 5 2018 7:31 AM

This is a blog I did not expect to write. Thursday evening, I noticed Fahlin’s face and shoulder area looked bloated. Yolanda noticed she had developed a small cough. We went to bed. The next morning, yesterday, we noticed the swelling had moved to her torso and abdomen. Yolanda put a call into the cardiologist. We were to monitor it throughout the day. It got worse. She gained weight that day. She was weighing more than her pre-operation weight. Very unusual, especially for a little girl who has always been skinny. After another couple of calls and returned calls, the cardiologist told us to get her the emergency room and that they would be expecting her. That was around 4:00 yesterday. Sure enough, X-rays showed her chest was indeed filling with fluid. They caught it early enough that the plan of action only involved an IV line and diuretics to flush out the fluid. I do not know how that works, but that is the plan. She was admitted last night and is now back up on the seventh floor at Vanderbilt.

Fahlin was so upset. When it came time for the IV, she was scared. Always before, she had either been out or sedated when the line was put in. This frightened her. It is an awful feeling knowing there is nothing you can do to ease the fear of uncertainty in your child. The poor nurse missed on his first attempt. OUCH! That only exacerbated the problem. I gave him a hard time. (only a few minutes prior to that he “assured” us he was good and the stats to back it up J) My wife asked for the IV tech expert to be brought in. Poor guy. It was the end of his shift and he ended on a low note. Th IV tech expert brought in her ultrasound gadgets and bingo, bango, bongo, next thing you know IV inserted, crying subsided and we were off to the seventh floor…where…

Fahlin’s mood changed. During the move, I ran to get food. When I returned, she was sitting up, watching one of her favorite shows, smiling and talking. Very strange behavior for Fahl Fahl while in a hospital. Maybe it was the fact that didn’t have a hundred tubes hanging out of her, or that they were poking and prodding all the time. Or maybe she knows that this is only a blip on the radar of recovery. All I know is this, this is not where we wanted to be five days after coming home from the hospital.

We know she is in good hands. We know the plan of treatment. We know the doctors and nurses and support personnel want only the best outcome for Fahlin. We also know that the Great Physician is aware of everything that is going on and that He is in charge of her recovery. Somehow, it seems as if Fahlin knows that. All I know is that she is one tough cookie. And cute too! Get well Fahl Fahl!

So much for our lazy Labor Day weekend plans…

August 27, 2018

Aug 28 2018 2:56 PM

SHE’S HOME! I don’t even know where to begin. The emotions we’ve experienced are indescribable. I can’t even begin to put into words how we feel right now. I’m tired, but my wife spent every minute at the hospital with Fahlin so I know she must be super exhausted. That sleep number is going to feel pretty good tonight, I imagine. I have already found out, I am the odd man out. Princess gets the bed, toad (that’s me), gets wherever. Okay by me!

So, what about Fahlin? How is she doing you may be wondering? We are too. She’s quiet. She will answer questions, but is still not very talkative. She hurts. You can just tell (wish I could take that pain away for her). I asked, “Are you glad to be home?” Head nodded yes. For right now, she is just sitting on the big pillow comforter on the couch, next to Mom. I just look at her think “Awwww.”

Before we left, the cardiologist on duty (not our regular doctor, but a partner) was talking with several other doctors and technicians. Of course, none of it made much sense to me so I asked her what all of that meant. She said, “It’s a process…” What that means is that Fahlin has a lot of healing to do. How her body reacts to the new plumbing is all yet to be determined, and although good to this point, apparently there is still much to glean from this process. That’s just great! More stuff to worry about.

Poor thing. She is just not herself. I understand for sure. My wife keeps telling me to treat her like normal. Well, how in the heck am I supposed to do that? I want to watch her. I want to hover. I want to make her comfortable. I want to ease her pain. I want to help. “But Jim, you’re in the way.” Hey, I’m just trying to be the best Dad I can be for Fahlin. I had no choice but to relocate for the foreseeable future. I’ll try the spare bed in the girls’ room for a while, then maybe the couch, then who knows, I may even strap up the ole hammock. Who knows? If in the future I ever make it back to my own bed, I may write a blog about it.

For now, she needs to heal. Just hang out at the house and heal. We can’t be around crowds of people, can’t travel, can’t do a whole lot. Just rest and heal. And drink water. And eat. And gain strength. And rest. And put a few of those pounds she lost in the hospital. And rest. And heal some more.

Welcome home Fahl Fahl!

August 25, 2018

August 25, 2018

Aug 26 2018 9:38 AM

So here I am, sitting here, staring at a beautiful little girl whose name happens to be Fahlin. This is day six, Saturday. Yesterday was a bit stressful. A second, smaller chest tube had to be inserted yesterday. Fluid had been gradually filling the lower right chest area putting undue pressure on her lung. The tube did the trick and today, Fahlin is a new creature. She was sitting up, smiling of all things. The larger of the two chest tubes was removed this morning (that had to feel better). Her oxygen was removed. She’s on the homestretch and her demeanor has changed remarkably.

As I sit here, I watch her monitor. Heart rate mid 120s, Oxygen levels 90-94. The inconceivable has happened. Nine years ago, as a four-month-old, she was delivered to Maria’s Big House of Hope; a last gasp at care for a very sick baby. She was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and moved immediately to palliative care on the fifth floor. The prognosis was bleak. Day after day she was loved on by the fine people at Maria’s. While that didn’t change her long-term outlook, she started growing and surviving. Her little heart began to grasp at any possible oxygen source it could. And somehow, it worked well enough to keep her alive. She was purple. As she continued to grow, she was moved to the lower floors where, as a three, four, and five-year-old, she helped care for other smaller sick babies.

As you may remember, Fahlin was one of the original eight babies that found their way to Maria’s when Maria’s first opened some nine years ago. One by one Fahlin watched as each of her seven friends were adopted to their forever families. She longed for a family. Because of the seriousness of her condition, she was not permitted to be placed on any adoption lists. She was ‘unadoptable.’

Let’s fast forward a bit, through a series of miraculous, divine events, Fahlin became ours (on loan from God, of course). Maybe I should write a book? Anyway, I think back to those first few days in China. While she was fulfilling her life’s dream of getting a family, she was also a very sick, frightened, little girl who did not quite know what was happening to her. We were tasked with making her life as happy as possible; to give her the greatest family any kid could ever have. Why? She wouldn’t make it to Christmas of that year (it was February).

The plane flight, we would later find, was dangerous. She literally could have died en-route to the states. Fast forward a bit again. A glimmer of hope showed up in her first heart catheterization. She had one pulmonary artery that was barely functioning, but it was salvageable. One of her lungs was not even supplying any oxygen to her body at all. A shunt to that lung began the process of supplying blood to the area which promoted the growth of blood vessels throughout the lung in an effort to eventually handle a new blood flow. The cardiac team developed a plan of treatment which culminated with this procedure, a full repair of her heart. Sounds simple, it wasn’t. in fact, it was even a surgery that no one ever does, because her heart is so unique. One in seven billion. This process was three years in the making.

We have gone from zero hope to now. When we first heard of Dr. Bichelle’s plan for a full repair, he simply told us that our daughter was going to live a long happy life. That was three years ago and has truly been the underlying driving force behind every decision that has been made. This little girl who been the topic of many conversations at Vanderbilt University these past three years is now the topic of a huge success story not only being told throughout the halls of the children’s hospital, but is being lived out in front of everyone’s eyes. I am in awe of the skill it took to do this surgery. I am impressed with every level of care Fahlin has had along the way. And to me, it seems as if there is an underlying current that something special did indeed occur this week at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

So, I sit here, looking a peaceful sleeping Fahlin. A little girl who has gone from zero to 100 in three short years. No hope to the hope of long life. So why are those numbers so important I mentioned earlier? When she arrived, oxygen level was 60…on a good day. Today, right now, I’m staring at 93. Her heart is purring along, the newly reconstructed ventricle and new valve seem to be doing a bang-up job. Something special? You bet. I’m staring at right this moment.

August 20, 2018

Aug 21 2018 8:33 AM

Today was the long-awaited surgery. The full repair. Our day started at 4:00 AM, well, 4:30 for me. We got up, got Fahlin up, loaded up the Suburban and headed to the hospital at 5:01 AM. Fahlin was quiet. We were checked in and headed back to the surgical waiting room where she changed into her gown, chilled a bit and then welcomed the onslaught of nurses, anesthesiologists, more nurses, nurse anesthetists, and finally, Dr. Bichelle himself. After apologizing about the many re-scheduled dates and telling us that there were several babies who were thankful because of that, he walked us through the procedure again and made it sound as if it would be a walk in the park.

They took her to the operating room at 7:20. From that point on, we only heard updates from the O.R. about every 90 minutes. The first came at 9:00. Dr. Bichelle had begun. She went on bypass a little before 10:30. The next three updates were, “Things are going well, Dr. Bichelle is doing his thing.” Finally, around 3:00 PM they told us they were about to begin warming her body and testing the pressures in her heart to see if it could withstand the new plumbing. It could. They closed her up around 4:30 PM. Dr. Bichelle came out to waiting room, carrying Fahlin’s heart (the 3D model, not the real thing), we were the only family left at this point, and sat down. He remarked, “It’s still daylight.” He went on to tell us how well everything went and despite being on by-pass for approximately five of the seven and a half hours, he was able to do the complete repair. We would later find out from a little bird who was privy to the entire day’s proceedings that Dr. Bichelle was extremely pleased with the operation, was actually ecstatic by his standards. She said, er, I mean the little bird said he never does that. So, that must be a good sign.

Throughout the day friends, family, co-workers and more friends stopped by bearing gifts of snacks, food, lunch among other things. We were so grateful. Prayers were being lifted by literally millions of people all over the world. And today, the entire surgical team just got swept up in the miracle, according to my sister. The miracle continues. The little girl who once had zero chance of survival is now in an ICU recovery room with another new lease on life.

We had to wait another three hours before we could finally see her in the ICU. It was emotional. To see her there, asleep and resting peacefully, hooked up to a million gadgets was a lot to take in. I love that little girl. She was so brave this morning and now twelve hours later, she has a newly re-constructed heart.

We quote Jeremiah a lot, but today it seems appropriate again: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She has more of a future now. Was it a long day? Oh yes. It was worth it.

August 18, 2018

Aug 18 2018 8:47 PM

Third time’s a charm. We hope. After being scheduled and re-scheduled three times, Monday is the day. This past week started out with the epic disappointment of having Fahlin’s surgery delayed and the emotional trauma that went with that, but as it progressed, the ‘attempted’ normalcy at trying to the do the day to day stuff just seemed weird. Everything has been foggy. My thoughts are scattered everywhere from trying to get all the beginning of school things accomplished to trying to remember what has to be done next, or where I have to be next, or even who do I have to pick up next and where do I go after that?

Fahlin, on the other hand still has not started school. We simply can’t risk it. Yolanda’s FMLA has already started. We have already had friends reschedule their schedules just so they can help. Others have offered to help in any way they can. The outpouring of care and love has been awesome. Yolanda is a wreck, emotionally. I’m a wreck emotionally. The girls are concerned and don’t quite know how to deal with all of this.

And Fahlin…well, Fahlin has spent four days, or should I say nights, in bed with us…obviously scared to death and with no other way to cope. I can’t sleep when she’s with us. She sweats, wiggles, kicks, and hogs the bed…all night long. Who knew such a skinny little thing could take up so much room? It’s okay though, I’m not the one who needs sleep. So, we muddle through the night. My wife and I argue each morning about which one got less sleep, who got kicked the most, and which of us had the most Fahlin body parts poking us in the ribs or back.

So now the nervous emotions have begun creeping back into my life. I’ve gone from being a wreck to seemingly clam on the outside, back to emotional wreck again and now I am once again feeling the emotional knots in my throat and stomach. The reality of Monday’s surgery is back staring us in the face. It is not a good place to be.

And poor Fahlin, once again, the days leading up to the surgery are upon her. We are letting her stay up late, sleep as long as possible (even though we don’t get much), eat a lot of candy, and watch way too much PJ Masks. She will cry for no reason, act like a dog or lion for no reason, purr like a kitten for no reason, get angry over little things for no reason, and yet sit and cuddle with us, also for no reason. But we all know the real reason. She is coping. In her own way, this is how she deals.

AAAAAAHHHHH! We just want it to be over, complete with a full recovery, happy, healthy, with a new lease on life…literally! Please!

August 13, 2018

Aug 13 2018 5:50 PM

The day of the surgery…timeline:

11:00 PM: Fahlin stayed up late

Midnight: No food after midnight

9:00 AM: Cutoff for clear fluids

9:10 AM: Began almost loading up for hospital

9:15 AM: Yo’s phone buzzes…It’s Vanderbilt. Surgery canceled and MOVED to next Monday,

Aug 20th, 5:30 AM

UGH! Alright, enough! That phone call was not a happy moment. How much more of this can our family, our wife, and especially Fahlin take? This is the THIRD date she has had scheduled. This causes so much strife it’s hard to comprehend. We had family coming in town to take care of the homestead and help with logistics for the other girls. The meal train (thank you, by the way) has to re-schedule dates. Friends were in town to lend their support during the surgery and recovery time. What if they have to leave (they do)? Our help and support and help we would have had is leaving. And what about the blood we donated? It will be 20 days old on the surgery date. What now? Yolanda’s FMLA has already kicked in and I now have to schedule a sub and take care of things on my end. On top of that, my niece was taken to the hospital today and my dad is nor doing so well after his hip replacement surgery. Can anything else be piled onto this mess? My wife is at her wits end (I don’t know how much more of this she can take) and even Fahlin herself, all nine years and 53 pounds of her threw up her arms and said as only Fahlin could say, “You know, I just want this to be over…ugh!”

Then she just sobbed. Fahlin’s entire life has been a life of traumatic events. Just think, abandoned at birth (or shortly thereafter), sick and alone. Adopted at 5 ½ to a family of insane people (us), one of whom is bald and scary looking. Near death experience on the plane coming home (so we were informed), heart cath after heart cath, open heart surgery number one, more heart caths and now rescheduled three times. Even at nine years of age she is perceptive enough to know that this is not good. Poor, poor thing. I cannot imagine what she’s thinking.

So, the women got her out of the house today. Lunch, the park, where I met up with the and taught Fahlin how to play Bocce Ball, ice cream and now a trip to Target. What’s for supper? No one knows. That usually means leftovers and fend for yourself (for me anyway). Time now drags on for another week. What do we do? We trudge onward. Business as usual. Busy-ness as usual. And PRAY they don’t change the date AGAIN!!!

August 12, 2018

Aug 12 2018 3:51 PM

The day before. Surgery tomorrow. My wife refuses to talk to me about what I should expect. The only thing she has told me is that this surgery will not be like the first one. Protecting me I suppose. This one is serious. I know! I know! But she doesn’t think I know. I really probably don’t. The first surgery was a simple shunt. Simple. This one her heart will be stopped. She will be on by-pass for two to three hours. Serious stuff. Our doctor makes it sound like just another day at the office for him. Oh wait, it is for him. I suppose there’s no need to mention the fact that she has live about nine years longer than anyone expected (she’s nine).

I don’t know what to expect and she won’t tell me. I’ll just experience it Monday. One excruciating moment after another. My guess is it will be a super long day, an agonizingly slow day…for both of us. Fahl Fahl will be asleep. Her life will be in the hands of a brilliant surgeon, whose hands in turn will be in the hands of the greatest physician of all. Of that, I am confident.

The mood at our house seems normal on the surface. Our three-year-old grandson makes sure of that, but the reality is that there is tension, anxiety, and something else…indescribable. Hard to put into words…at least for me. Fahlin, she just seems normal as well, however, her mood swings tell us otherwise. I know she’s thought about it. As for what she thinks now, it’s hard to say. She can be eloquent when she wants to be, but on this subject, she is pretty much mute.

So tomorrow it is. Surgery at 12:30. Call time 11 AM. It’s Sunday. At church I was getting choked up. Thinking about it. Talking with the children’s pastor, Brad Smith, more choking. Our Sunday school class, more choking back tears. As I type even now, at 12:10 Sunday afternoon, I cannot help but to think about tomorrow. Right now, I want to take each moment as it comes. Maybe I’ll go work out, come back, paint some, get my mind off things.

Fahlin is getting nervous as well. She will seem fine, then the tiniest thing will set her off. She retreats to sulking, not speaking, watery eyes, draws her legs up into a ball, doesn’t make eye contact with anyone. Kinda like what I want to do… As we were driving home, Jayne asked a general question, “if you had three wishes, what would they be?” Immediately I thought that my first wish was that Fahlin would not have to have surgery. I would give anything if she didn’t have to go through this. To be honest, I will be totally transparent and go ahead and say what I’m thinking about tomorrow…

I’m scared.

August 9, 2018

Aug 10 2018 8:34 AM

Today was the day Fahlin was to have had her surgery. Because a couple of seriously sick ‘heart babies’ arrived at Vandy in dire need of surgery, Fahlin’s was pushed back to early Monday morning. Today we got another call; pushed back to later in the same day. While we want to say “UGH,” we’ve got to believe there’s a reason for the schedule changes. Reasons we will never know until eternity.

Fahlin has gotten old enough to figure out that heart surgery is serious. She is also tired of waiting. She does not like hospitals, even though she is a semi-celebrity in the cardiac unit and she is ready for it to be over. She is brave. She knows she will be in the hospital for several days. She knows she will be in pain. She knows she will not be able to move for a while. She knows the food is yucky (why is that, by the way?). She knows it will not be the most fun thing she ever experienced.

My wife on the other hand is over the schedule changes. It is so frustrating. Yet, it is what it is. When the called today, my wife told me she just wanted to cry. Can’t say that I blame her, I did too. The wait is excruciating.

Luckily, I have beginning of school activities and a busy weekend to keep my mind distracted. My mind is so discombobulated I’m afraid I’ll even forget what I am supposed to be doing. I am literally right now running a hundred things through my brain trying to keep them straight. Even while I am typing this blog.

If you should happen to see me wandering around with a lost look on my face, feel free to stop and help me get my thoughts together. Ask me what the heck I’m doing? Don’t ask HOW I’m doing, I may just beak down and cry while I tell you everything is great. I’m just telling you, deep down inside, I am not fine. I will not be fine until Fahl Fahl is being wheeled out of the hospital with her heart functioning like it’s supposed to and the doctors telling us they are confident she will have a full recovery and a long, healthy life.

So again, we wait. It seems like Monday will never come…but, unless the Lord returns between now and then, come it will…

August 8, 2018

Aug 8 2018 1:51 PM

I have hesitated writing this blog for many reasons. We have entered the final countdown to Fahlin’s surgery. Originally her surgery was scheduled for this Thursday, the 9th. Unfortunately, and even fortunately for them, a couple of very sick babies arrived at Vanderbilt whose hearts need Dr. Bichelle’s immediate attention. I understand. Fahlin’s surgery has been pushed to Monday the 13th. Our emotions are on edge, to say the least.

Fahlin is at the age where she understands the severity of the situation, maybe not completely, but at least to the point where she just wants to get it over with and put it behind her. Today is ‘Pre-op’ stuff. Should take anywhere from four to six hours we are told. My wife didn’t seem to want me tagging along but I did anyway. I get it. She says I’m antsy. I’m pretty sure I’m not antsy… maybe nervous is a better word.

Anyway, with school starting back, meetings taking place, paintings to do, appointments to be met, I have enough distraction to take my mind off things for few a minutes but my thoughts always come back to Fahlin. It’s super hard for me not to go the “what ifs?” part of my brain. I think back to Fahlin at one year old; sick, blue, in palliative care in China. I think of our trip three years ago to get her to bring her home; how purple she was and (in hindsight) how dangerous the actual trip home was and how fortunate we are that she survived the flight home. I think of the care she has received at Vanderbilt and I’m overcome with emotion.

So here we are, pre-op at the hospital. Fahlin is in complete shut-down mode, not speaking to anyone, grumpy, scared, nervous. You know your child has been to the hospital too much when she knows the exact position in which to put her body when she gets her echo-cardiogram. She assumes the position. Poor thing. I really, really, wish I could get into her mind for a few minutes. I’m sure it would crush me the emotions she’s experiencing. You can see it on her face. Somber, serious, uncertain. Oh Fahl Fahl, if there was a way for me to bear this for you I would. Any of us would; your brothers, your sisters, your aunts you uncles.

God chose Fahlin for this moment and this burden. She is one strong, courageous little girl. I’m proud of her and scared for her. But a friend of mine, Mark McFerran just emailed and said something very encouraging in his email…that “this is the week God shows up again…”

I pray for that very thing.

July 24, 2018

Jul 25 2018 2:43 PM

So, this is the week we usually go(went) to Florida…but, wouldn’t you know it? Our friends who normally let us use their condo on the beach SOLD IT! Bummer. We will always be grateful for the memories we had in Panama City spending time along the “Redneck Riviera.” [As it’s known to the locals and sung about by Kenny Chesney]

This year, however, this week (our normal Florida week) has turned into our ‘Plan B’ week, which is back to school stuff…Shoes, senior pictures, a college visit, school physicals, and oh by the way, donate blood for Fahlin’s upcoming surgery. Yes, everything we do these days has that ever-present underlying current to it. We cannot get Fahlin’s surgery off our minds. I don’t know if ‘Plan B’ week is any good, but it is a plan nonetheless. We are also shipping Jayne and Lydia off to Tampa on Friday for a week. That should be fun. Izzy has her senior theme verse retreat, which leaves just Fahlin with us. We told her, secretly of course, that we would take her to the Lego Store at Opry Mills (her favorite thing is Legos), and take a trip to Build-A-Bear (she loves stuffed animals as well, especially her Fluffy). She’s excited, and…

…also weirding out a bit. Can’t say that I blame her. She is finally getting old enough to understand that her surgery is serious business. While we try not to talk about it too much, we still feel we the need to prepare her for her hospital stay. And while we don’t tell her all of the possible scenarios, she does know the date and time along with our continued prayers about her well-being. She’s excited about school, yet also knows she will miss the first month or so. She was excited to get her new shoes, but knows she won’t need them for a while. She has wanted to climb in our bed at night more than usual and is holding Fluffy a little tighter these days. I’m sure she is thinking about it, surgery that is.

On top of all of this, my Dad recently came to town, had a hip replacement, zoomed back to Ohio, recovering slowly, which means a quick six-hour trip to Ohio for me. Can there be anything more on our plate? Knock on wood. But what am I doing worrying about my plate when my youngest daughter’s plate is the fullest of all? How can I even think of myself? Fahlin’s surgery is on our minds constantly.

It’s hard to wrap up such a jumbled mess of thoughts. I think of our friend Clint Redwine from Mix 92.9. his daughter Izzy just had heart surgery two days ago. It went well, but unforeseen complications have occurred. She is on a breathing machine and has a collapsed lung. We pray for a full recovery, but this also drives home the seriousness of what awaits. You just never know what’s around the next corner. Ultimately, God knows. I just drive myself crazy trying to figure it all out. I can’t. Never will. She’s in God’s hands…both Clint’s and ours…simple as that.

July 16, 2018

Jul 18 2018 8:22 AM

So, I had the opportunity to sing at the Grand Ole Opry the other night. It is always a fun, great experience. But, before we left I asked Fahlly, “You wanna go to the Grand Ole Opry with Daddy and Mommy?”

“No”

“But Fahlin, it’s the Grand Ole Opry! It’s the most famous place in Nashville.” I explained. “Well, too bad, you have to go anyway.”

What she did not know was that our friends Mikey and Rebecca Shook were in town from China. We were going to visit them on the way to the Opry House. They actually live at New Hope Foster Home in Beijing and Rebecca was actually Fahlin’s pre-school teacher at Maria’s in Luoyang for a time. They were and still are rather fond of Fahlin. In fact, one of their favorite pictures of theirs is one of them with Fahlin who was wearing a pair of pink starshaped sunglasses when she was about three years old. The entire visit was filled with Fahlin stories. They couldn’t get over how good she looks. Of course, Fahlin went into full ‘shy’ mode. She is still not very comfortable talking about, thinking about or even remembering about her time in China. Mikey and Rebecca totally understood.

Anyway, the entire time we were there I kept choking back tears. Mikey is a superstar in my eyes. Many years ago, he left a great job in California and moved to China with no job prospect whatsoever and by chance (we know it wasn’t just by chance), and landed in the front yard of New Hope Foster Home. He has been there in one capacity or another ever since, caring for and advocating for these ‘least of these’ children. He met his wife in China, at Maria’s Big House of Hope, no less. She worked there as the pre-school teacher, as mentioned earlier. They are both fluent in Chinese, not the easiest language to learn, by the way. Just knowing they were so close to Fahlin and the fact that they know her so well means a lot to my wife and I. As we said our goodbyes, we shed a few tears.

When you know the people who are in the trenches on the mission field and see the fruit of their labor of love; a little girl who shouldn’t be alive, living in our house, thriving (relatively speaking), because she was loved by so many people, it humbles us to know how well she was cared for. And while Fahlin’s path has been set before her, the seriousness and uncertainty of that path continues to force us to our knees.

So off to the Opry we went. I was singing with my two brothers-in-law, Herbie Chapman, and the more famous one of course, Steven Curtis Chapman. Even though SCC is not a country artist himself, his roots go back to his early bluegrass days with his family and his early years in Nashville working at Opryland (PLEASE, SOMEONE BRING IT BACK!), and the Grand Ole Opry loooooves him. Steve was doing two bluegrass songs. One was and old hymn, Railway to Heaven (I got to sing the second verse, thank you very much) and the other was a bluegrass version of one his huge hit songs, Dive. Every time I sing or have sung at the Opry it is awe inspiring. The history, the old timers, the trailblazers, the lore. It does not get much better than the Opry. Anyway, I opine…

“Fahlin, what did you think of the Grand Ole Opry?” I asked the next day.

“Boring.”

July 11, 2018

Jul 12 2018 9:22 AM

Here we go. New blogs time. As we get closer now to Fahlin’s surgery, which, by the way is August 9th, my emotions are running the full gamut, and my blog will be designed in a way for you to follow Fahlin’s journey leading up to and through the surgery. I cannot imagine what is going through Fahlin’s mind. She is acting weirder than usual. More emotional. Little things affect her that have not bothered her before. She is talking more. She also loves her Kindle. She asks to sleep with us more.

This blog is not starting out so well, but I will continue. We got to see the three-dimensional model that was printed using technology that did not exist three years ago when we brought her home. It was totally cool. When Dr. Bichelle walked us through the procedure using the actual model and showing us exactly what was going to be done, I was totally able to follow along, since I am such a visual learner. Now I understand. I also understand that Fahlin’s heart is a one of a kind as is this surgical procedure.

Our cardiologist told us if his little girl needed this type of surgery, Dr. Bichelle would be the man. I cannot tell you how many times I have thanked God for the world class doctors who live here in Nashville and practice at Vanderbilt Children’s hospital. We are so blessed.

So, as I proceed with these ramblings in the weeks to come, my hope is that I will be able to communicate adequately what we are feeling, what our family is going through as well as share with you the latest musing about Fahlin. For example, she loves acting like a dog. She acts like a dog a lot. She speaks dog. She’s weird, like I said. Maybe even possibly in need of dog-counseling. Anyway, thank you for following along. And please keep Fahlin in your prayers.

June 22, 2018

Jul 12 2018 9:20 AM

A day I was apprehensive about turned out to be a day of great hope. We met with Fahlin’s surgeon, Dr. David Bichelle at Vanderbilt Children’s. I for one, remain totally impressed by the man. He had the 3D model with him. I was VERY COOL, by the way. To see and hold an exact replica of our daughter’s heart is pretty amazing; a technology that didn’t even exist when we brought Fahlin home three years ago, now was an actual sculpture we could hold in our hands.

I, being a both a very visual person and learner, could very easily follow along as Dr. Bichelle took us through the steps he would perform during her next surgery. He carefully explained each step in a way I could actually understand and by having the heart right in front of us made it easier for me in particular to follow along. The most obvious thing is that her heart is backward, reversed, opposite to what it is supposed to be. Her ventricles are fairly normal in size and although he said it was difficult to reach, he was quite confident he could repair the hole and direct the proper blood flow to correct spot in the ventricle. She is totally missing the pulmonary arch, which I could now see perfectly. He explained how he would repair that, then connect that blood flow to the other ventricle. Six Hours. Easy peasy. I am certain it is not as easy as he makes it sound.

One of the highlights of the consultation was when my asked him, “How many of these do you do a year?”

The answer was, “Zero.”

We laughed. He continued, “There are no other hearts like hers. She is unique.”

Fahlin has been the topic of months of conversations and consultations among the cardiac team at Vanderbilt. Her situation is unlike any other. We did find out that had she been born in the states, she would have quickly been diagnosed and treated as a baby and the total repair we are looking at now would have been done at four months.

Anyway, this is just a snippet of the one-hour conversation we had with our doctor. He was kind, thorough, confident and assured us that the time was right for this surgery. My apprehension level is a lot lower that it was. Am I nervous? Most certainly. Am I still processing? Most definitely. The date? TBD. We will let you know.

June 10, 2018

Jun 11 2018 9:13 AM

Now that summer has sort of calmed down a bit, we have seen a side of Fahlin that we haven’t seen hardy at all; the pleasant, cute, smiling, curious, sweet, helpful, happy, and even the “I’m hungry can I have a snack?” Fahlin. Where did this come from? Was it our fantastic parenting skills that finally paid off? I doubt it was that. What I think is that the stress of school, homework, busyness, and constantly being on the go is not there in her life anymore, at least for the summer, and she has responded, albeit unbeknownst to her, with this personality transformation.

When she smiles, her eyes disappear and her face shines. There are two thing that make her laugh or giggle or smile more than anything else. First, being around her family at the dinner table when we are all together, and second, talking about girl stuff, and by girl stuff, I mean…well, you know the gross “girl stuff.” Without going into the gory details, she finds the female physiology fascinating. I, on the other hand have noticed that during a certain time frame of each month, Dad is neither seen nor heard, no matter what else is going on in our house. He does not exist. I am but a mere gargoyle sitting on the mantle of life, high above the world, watching, hoping to one day be heard in my own kingdom. But alas…

And Fahlin finds all of this hilarious. If I could share the conversations I have overheard, you too would laugh hysterically, but, my wife is thanking me in her mind right now as she reads this that I have chosen to bite my tongue, or rather not type the words. Suffice it to say, eventually one of us has to intervened with the famous parents’ words, “Stop, enough please. Girls this is not an appropriate subject. If you have questions or need to know more stuff about…you know what…ask your Mother.”

That usually stops it, along with the Wii or a movie, you know the ole, ‘distract and re-direct’ method of parenting. Then it’s back to funny Fahlin, smiley Fahlin, and even the Fahlin who wants to know, “When is my heart surgery going to be?” Way to keep things in perspective Fahl! By the way, we don’t know yet…

May 30, 2018

Jun 1 2018 11:11 AM

The past eight or nine days since my last blog have been a bit overwhelming. Not because of Nashy visiting, or because of Fahlin’s ups and downs, but because of all the peripherals. Summer swim team started, but a week early, in the afternoons no less, and not because I scheduled it because I wouldn’t have, but that doesn’t matter, it happened. That left no time to do anything else. On top of that, signups were a nightmare, again, not by my doing. And on top of that, there were the graduation parties and actual graduations of both my niece and her school, and those of my school. Again no time left for anything. And on top of that, my youngest biological had been driving our extra car, a car I loved, a car I was proud to have gotten a super great deal on, and what happened? Late Friday night, she rear ended someone on the interstate and totaled it. I am thankful she was not harmed, which allowed me the weekend to angry with her. That caused even more consternation and inconvenience at the highest levels. And that frustration has now dragged on for a few days longer than I would have hoped. But she is alive and safe. Thank God.

Deep breath here. Sorry to unload. I guess I am not alone. What family does not have ‘things?’ What family does not have ‘life issues?’ What family does not appear normal on the outside, but on the inside there is always a bit of uncertainty? What? You don’t? I know you do. We all do. But just about the time I feel overwhelmingly sorry for myself, in walks Fahlin. Walking, talking, laughing, crying miracle. In walks Jayne. Walking, talking, laughing, swimming, crying miracle. In walks Lydia. A little miracle in her own right. And then there is Izzy. Directionally challenged Izzy, but the tiny miracle who is now officially a senior that started this crazy journey of adoption some 16 years ago.

Reality check. Jim, you are blessed, not overwhelmed. You are provided for, not destitute. You have a wonderful, beautiful wife, not some old…okay; I’ll stop there. Your older kids are God’s servants in their everyday lives; their jobs, in their communities. 3rd John verse 4: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Deep breath. Smile.

May 18, 2018

May 18 2018 9:16 AM

Well, he’s back. The holy terror known as Nash. Nash Potato. Nashanator. Nashy. Nash-ville. Those are some of the nicknames he goes by to us adults. To Fahlin he’s known as “Nash!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “Stop it Nash!” “Ugh, Nash!” “Make him stop, Dad!” And “[Bloodcurdling scream, which I don’t know how to spell!]” Yes, he’s back. And he brings a whole lot of energy with him. Whew.

Now, the first three days have been rather uneventful. In fact, I would say they border on super pleasant, great even. Fahlin and Nash have actually been the best of friends. Best buds, even. They’ve played, read books, played some more, laughed, giggled and been quite hospitable toward each other. I even wondered aloud to my wife, “How long will this last, do you think?”

“We’ll see. It’s twelve days.”

But this evening, I started to see the cookie crumble a bit. We were playing Crazy 8’s when Nash decided it was time to climb on the chair and jump over our card game. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and well, you get the picture. Every time he jumped, she would roll her eyes, let out the obligatory “Ugh,” and mumble under her breath something about “He’s going to mess up all the cards…”

So, the great explosion seems to be coming. Don’t know when, but it’s coming. With Yolanda working this weekend and myself and Izzy and Abby in charge, what could go wrong? Thankfully, Sandy, Nash’s Grandma on his Daddy’s side, is in town and has agreed to take Nash Saturday. That should help.

Nine days and counting.

May 3, 2018

May 9 2018 5:01 PM

Fahlin had yet another procedure today. A CTA. Computed Tomography Angiography. I love big words I don’t understand. A coronary computed tomography angiogram (CTA) uses advanced CT technology, along with intravenous (IV) contrast material (dye), to obtain high-resolution, 3D pictures of the moving heart and great vessels. [Courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic] Then, those images are 3D PRINTED, yes; they make a 3D model of Fahlin’s actual heart. From what we understand, this process is fairly new. And now it’s available to help our daughter.

It’s almost an all day process. When she first arrived at Vanderbilt, they checked her in complete with name badges. After being called back, they hooked her up to a monitor and begin monitoring things like blood pressure, O2 levels, heart rate, etc. Then, in went the IV, never Fahlin’s favorite part, but necessary nonetheless. Then she was wheeled over to adult part of the hospital. Before she was put in the tube, they asked her what colors she would like to see while lying in the tube. “Red, pink and purple,” she said. Those were basically the only words she spoke while at the hospital, other than getting to choose which color of Gatorade to drink afterwards.

In fact, one nurse asked Yolanda if Fahlin was ‘non-verbal.’ “No, she’s very verbal,” responded my wife, “just not here.” She does not talk at the hospital…ever. Apparently today, however, she did smile a lot. The entire actual time spent in the tube was only about ten minutes. The only part of the day Fahlin did not like was when they squirted the dye into her IV. She said it “tasted funny.”

Little girl has been through a lot. I love her braveness. She is pretty chill on the outside, but I’m sure on the inside, as evidenced by her not speaking, there is definitely some turmoil. That behind us, the next time she goes to the hospital, it will get very real. Very, very real. A very serious open-heart surgery awaits. With the new information this 3D model gives the doctors, a plan will be formulated, dates will be set and we will sit down and hear it all. And then I will leave the room overwhelmed by the magnitude of the conversation and the seriousness of Fahlin’s situation. We have had several friends who have had children go through similar surgeries, some with wonderful results and others whose children didn’t make it.

For now, I need not worry about what I cannot control. I am not driving this train, God is and his ace number one passenger is Fahlin. She is in the only set of hands that I would ever want her in, and the only set of hands that matter, God’s.

April 27, 2018

Apr 27 2018 10:22 PM

I have been wondering what to blog about since my last post. I was sitting at the table with the girls eating dinner when it struck me. I should write about yet another quirk Fahl Fahl possesses. It’s a little weird, and somewhat common among adopted children, but a quirk nonetheless.

Fahlin will sometimes leave food stuffed in her cheek when she eats. First of all she is the slowest eater in the history of the world. Second, she is the slowest eater in the history of the world. Oh wait, I mentioned that. It takes her forever to eat. What’s funny is she takes tiny bites and chews them super fast…pause ten minutes…another tiny bite, chew it up real fast…pause ten more minutes…another bite…oh wait, “Swallow the first bite Fahlin before you take another bite…”

And so it goes. Kinda gross if you ask me, but as I mentioned earlier, also kind of common among adopted children. Many times, the kids in orphanages don’t get a lot to eat. Oh they may get three meals a day, but sometimes those may not be very filling. One of our daughters’ favorite foods according to her paperwork was ‘bone soup.” Doesn’t sound like steak and potatoes. Not a three-course meal. “Bone soup.’ So, as a result some kids will sneak a roll, or a cracker or other some such morsel back to there beds for a secret late night snack, out of fear they may not get enough to eat tomorrow. Many kids, after being adopted will still hoard pockets full of food despite having loving parents who give them all the food they want. It happens.

For some reason, Fahlin will stuff her cheek. There have been times when I have discovered a jaw full of sausage an hour after breakfast. “Oooo, gross Fahlin. Spit it out or swallow it, please.” And still now, it’s been three years since she’s been home and just tonight, she did it again. I cannot fathom what could have happened in China to cause a little girl to feel she has to be a squirrel? Makes my heart ache for her, as if it doesn’t already. I have been to Maria’s and I can tell you, the kids eat well. The food is great. So I don’t know. I just do not know.

So, the cheeks live on. Stuffed full of food. “Oooo, gross.”

April 19, 2018

Apr 19 2018 11:10 AM

The new Fahlin? You will recall the acrimonious moments we’ve had with Fahl Fahl. The ups and the downs. The emotional outbursts. The tantrums. The power struggles. Well, the new Fahlin has emerged, and you will never guess how we did it. It was a stroke of genius most certainly. Even though it is early in this grand experiment, it would seem that Yolanda and I have once again solidified ourselves on the Mt. Rushmore of Parenting. How did we do it?

Fahlin had been asking why Jayne, Lydia, Izzy and myself get up so much earlier than her to eat and why we get to have better breakfasts than she has. She followed that up with, “Can I get up with them and eat breakfast with everyone?” So, I said, “sure,” not knowing what the outcome would be.

It started about a week ago with ‘test drive.’ “We will try it, Fahlin, but if you are going to be grumpy and uncooperative, we will not do this again. Understood?”

“Uh huh,” she nodded. The experiment began the next morning. Now mind you, while my wife gets that extra hour of beauty rest (not that she needs it because she is already so beautiful), I fix nice breakfasts for my girls. Plenty of protein, eggs mainly, sometimes fried, sometimes scrambled, sometimes omelets, but always eggs. Then there is always the accompanying whole-wheat toast, sometimes honey cinnamon toast, whole grain bagels, or sometimes the weekly bowl of oatmeal or Cheerios or Wheaties; no junk cereal for us. And then there is always the weekly Pancake Day or even French toast day. I do it up right. Izzy has bought in. Jayne will eat anything. Lydia complains about anything that is not made with 100% sugar or chocolate, and Fahlin, well Fahlin calls herself a ‘foodie’ because she will try anything.

So we got Fahlin up at 5:35. She got dressed, hit the bathroom, and came down all smiles ready for breakfast. I read the Bible like I always do each morning and prayed, and then we ate. She ate. No complaints. Excited. Happy. Who knew? The next day, same result. Next day, same result. Next day, same result. She still goes to bed at the same time, so she’s actually sleeping less, which I thought would make her grumpier, but noooooo, not at all.

So yesterday my wife texted me after she dropped Fahlin off at school. “I like the new Fahlin!” So far, so good. Who knew? Who could have predicted this? Even though we only one week into this grand experiment, I guess it really is time to get that spot ready for us on the Mt. Rushmore of Parenting!

April 15, 2018

Apr 15 2018 6:24 PM

Do you remember a while back when I referred to Fahlin as ‘The Puzzler” due to her prowess as puzzle putter-togetherer? Well, I have officially removed that title from her. Yep, I started a new 500 piece puzzle and was all excited to have some Daddy / daughter time but something unusual happened. Fahlin decided she was not helping with this puzzle. It could have been that she was intimidated by the small sizes of the pieces, or that the number 500 scared her off, or even that the picture looked difficult, but whatever the case, she was not interested.

“C’mon Fahl, let’s do the puzzle,” I would implore to no avail. That was three weeks ago. I have been plugging away at this stupid puzzle, by myself for three weeks. It turned out it was a rather difficult puzzle. The painting was of a French river lined with European styled row houses, townhouses and buildings done in a sort of impressionist style. Every square inch was covered in a plethora of colors. On top of all of that, the pieces were all tiny and were cut very similarly to every other piece. Of course the outside edge pieces were the easiest part. They always are. But there were days when I agonized, sometimes only assembling four pieces.

“C’mon Fahl, help your Dad,” I would implore often, to continued no avail. It is lonely trying to do a puzzle by your self. Some would say peaceful. Others might say relaxing. Others might even say it’s better that binge watching a show on Netflix. I say frustrating. But nevertheless, I plugged away, day after day after day, with no help from my daughter, the former “Puzzler.”

So today, I was finally on the homestretch. The water and the sky. Guess who all of a sudden wanted to help? The former “Puzzler.” But guess what? She came, one piece, looked around for a while and took off, no longer interested. That didn’t take long. So I finally finished it. My daughter Izzy, cold hands and all, jumped in to the last few pieces of sky. Done! Finito! Only took me three weeks. She will probably try to take the credit at some point.

I only have one thing to say to you Fahl Fahl, “Ha, “Puzzler,” take that!!!”

April 9, 2018

Apr 10 2018 8:36 AM

Well, Fahlin has taken up songwriting. I found this out when I noticed the girls were quiet, the house was quiet and well, the house is never quiet; hasn’t been since our eldest was born. She says Jayne helped, but after watching the performance of the song, I was pretty much convinced that Jayne was just ‘in the room.’

I yelled upstairs, “What are you girls doing?” I noticed the door was shut.

The door opened, Fahlin’s head popped out, “We’re writing a song, Dad!”

‘Oh, okay, well, I want to hear it when you’re finished,” I said, expecting this to take a while. Five minutes later, they cane clomping down the stairs.

“We’re done,” they announced.

“What’s the song about?”

“God,” Fahlin responded. “We are writing songs about God because Uncle Steve writes songs about God.”

“He writes a LOT of songs about God, girls. Okay, who is going to sing it for me?”

“I am,” said Fahlin, simultaneously with Jayne’s “Fahlin is.”

I videoed the performance. “Hey, if this song is a good song, we need to send this to Uncle Steve.” She immediately faked acting shy, but she sang it beautifully.

Here are the lyrics:

Help us God, we know you can

Help us God, we know you can

Help us when we need it

You give us strength and power

Everyday oooooooo

God you made the world

And everything that’s in it

And it’s beautiful (It’s beautiful) Fahlin says if it’s in parenthesis, you repeat it…hahah)

I thought it was great. So after she finished singing, we watched the video. “Okay,” I said, “Let’s send it to uncle Steve and Aunt Mary Beth.”

[Note: in case this is the first time you’ve read this blog, Uncle Steve is contemporary Christian recording artist multi-Grammy and Dove award winning singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman and one of the most prolific, if not THE most prolific Christian singer/songwriter of all time.]

It didn’t take long for Aunt Mary Beth to respond first. She said she cried when she heard it. Not long after that, Uncle Steve, who was on the road and getting ready to go stage for one of his shows, also sent a video back to Fahlin telling her how proud he was of her and to keep writing songs about God and Jesus. It so sweet of him to take time out of his hectic schedule to text her back. Fahlin just smiled from ear to ear.

I guess we will see if this grows into a career, after all, ya gotta start somewhere!

April 1, 2018

Apr 2 2018 1:26 PM

Fahlin turns nine today. That’s nine years she was never supposed to have. Nine years of life. When something this miraculous happens I can’t help but wonder what it is the God has in store for this little girl?

“…For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 27:11

Now that I am progressing up the age the ladder, I look back on my life and wonder, is what has occurred in my life, the plan for my life? Was everything up to this point preparation to parent a bunch of little girls with serious medical needs? I am not quite sure how any of my individual experiences could have possibly been related to anything related to these girls, and Fahlin in particular.

I guess all those stupid things I did as a teenager somehow prepared me? Put it behind me and move on I suppose. Or all those mistakes I made in my 20’s? Put those behind me and move on I suppose? Or all the parenting mistakes I made with our first gaggle of children? Put those behind and move on as well I also suppose? What about all of those nights on the road singing away from my family? Did that help? Somehow I suppose? What about all the coaching I have done? Did that help? And what all the continued (alleged) bonehead things my wife continually points out to me? That all helps?

“…I know the plans I have made for you…” Jeremiah 12:11

I trust that God did indeed weave all of this together. For his master plan to work in connecting our lives, Fahlin’s and mine, God’s hand is deeply involved. How else could two lives come together from so far apart? How else could every roadblock we didn’t know about get broken down? How else could every detail be worked out in order for us to be here at this time with Fahlin?

And what about the medical advances that have happened in just the past nine years Fahlin has been alive? Apparently, two years ago, a 3D model of a patient’s actual heart was not possible, but is now. And who knows how many more advances have helped save Fahlin’s Life? For that matter, what about all of the lives we have crossed paths with in order to get here and all their past life experiences? Our family and extended family, teachers and professors, husbands and wives, pilots who flew us, flight attendants who attended us, the doctors, nurses, techs, receptionists, employers, well, if you try to think of every possible link or connection, you see that this would be never ending. All inter-woven and connected…and we don’t even realize it. The mind-boggling crisscrossing of all of these wires boggles my already boggled mind. Just what I need, a more boggled mind than I already have!

“…For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 27:11

As I type this, I am sitting across from Fahlin at the table while she puts together her new Lego Friends Playhouse. Have you ever seen how many pieces these things have? And the instruction booklet is more like volume than a booklet. Anyway, as she sings songs from The Greatest Showman and works on her Legos, I stare at her. God’s miracle girl…and I am glad I’m here with her on this journey that will take our family and us to who knows where?

“…For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 27:11

March 27, 2018

Mar 27 2018 4:58 PM

Spring break! Yay! We hopped into the car and headed to Plano, Texas. My 15 month-old granddaughter is there. Oh, and so is my youngest son Canaan and his wife, Ami…almost forgot.

“BINGO!” I shout as a yellow car drives by. “Game on girls!”

Silence.

“Girls, I said bingo, game on? Aren’t you going to play with me?”

Let me explain. Whenever we travel, we play this game where each person scores points when they are the first to spot a yellow vehicle. Our family has a sliding scoring system. It is as follows:

Yellow car or truck, 1 point

Yellow VW beetle, 2 points

Yellow motorcycle, 3 points

Yellow Hummer, 4 points

Yellow boat or canoe or kayak, 6 points (being pulled, of course)

Yellow tour bus, 10 points

First person to 12 wins

“No!” Came a voice from the back of the Suburban. It was Fahl Fahl.

“What?” I was incredulous, “Not playing! Man oh man….”

A little time passed. “Bingo! I have two!”

“Not playing.”

“Bingo, Hummer, I have six!”

“…Still not playing…”

I smiled. Undaunted, I continued to keep a keen eye out for anything yellow.

“Bingo! I’m winning girls!”

“…Uh, still not playing, Dad.”

“Well, I have seven…Ha!”

All of a sudden, I looked across the median and there it was, sitting there all by itself in a motel parking lot, a huge yellow tour bus with the word, ‘Tornado’ on its side. I couldn’t wait to say, “Bingo…BUS! I win girls! Ten big ones!!!” That made 17 points, by the way, but who’s counting?

“Dad, we don’t care!”

Only nine more hours to go…

March 20, 2018

Mar 20 2018 1:05 PM

Well, we’ve had an interesting week of Fahlin. It seems like a somewhat delayed reaction to her hospital visit, but mean Fahlin has re-emerged. Yes, sometimes our little girl is not who she appears to be. What we think has happened is this: In the hospital, Fahlin has absolutely zero control over anything and everything. She feels powerless to control any aspect of what is going on around her. So, when she gets home, she has to reassert her power, her control if you will, over our household and us. Over her sister, over her Mom and over me…

It comes out of nowhere, triggered by the smallest of things (such as telling her to brush her teeth, or simply Dad saying, “good morning Fahlin”), the most unexpected of things, followed by three hours of ugliness, disrespectful screaming, uncontrollable sobbing, and so on and so forth and so on and so forth and…you get the picture. It’s tough. Tough on us as parents. Tough on our family (the girls have the amazing gift of being able to tune her out, we do not have that luxury).

When we adopted these girls we wondered what we could offer them, what we could learn through this experience, and you know what? There are a lot of things we did not consider. We did not think it all the way through. But you know what else? We couldn’t possibly have weighed EVERY option because there are so many unknowns. It’s different adopting a nine month old compared to a five and a half year old. Regardless of the situation from which our girls came, they come with baggage and while we may not see it at first, it will surface at some point in some way shape or form. But, as parents we are different than we were way back in the first go ‘round with our other children. We have more information at out disposal. Friends who have also adopted. Friends who have been through a lot with their own children. Research. And while all of this helps, we still have to go through it. We still have to deal with it. It sure keeps us on our toes. And then again, sometimes it takes us completely by surprise. We do not know what each day will hold, that is for certain. But to be fair, full disclosure, this is only a fraction of her day, could be 15 minutes, could drag out to three hours, could be nothing happens on any given day, we just never know.

So, what am I babbling on about? Not sure. Not sure if Fahlin is not feeling well. Not sure if she’s still recovering? Not sure if she’s dealing with thoughts of her former life in China. Not sure what’s going on. Just not sure about any of it. We simply remind her she is loved, we care and she is surrounded by people who would do anything to ease her whatever it is that needs eased.

As I type, I shake my head and sigh. And pray. Help us Jesus.

March 11, 2018

Mar 12 2018 8:53 AM

Since our last post we now have new information. So, at the risk of using a little improper grammar, “Where we at?”

Weeellllllllllll, interesting stuff. Our cardiologist called Thursday, or was it Friday? Not sure. Anyway, the next step it appears is for Fahlin to undergo a MRI-like/Cat-scan-esque test that will give the doctors a super unique look at Fahlin’s heart. The information gathered from this test will then be turned into a three-dimensional model of Fahlin’s heart via the use of a 3D printer. They are actually going to PRINT a replica of the actual heart!

Apparently, the ability to hold the actual heart in their hands gives the doctors a unique look into the intricacies of the heart they will actually be working on. I get it. Rather than pictures to go from, the doctors can now hold the heart in their hand; turn it, look at it, study it in ways never before possible. New technology.

It boggles the mind, at least my mind, how far medicine has come. For all of this new technology to be available at a time in history that would benefit my daughter at this precise moment is Devine intervention as far as I am concerned. Thank you Jesus!

So, that is what’s next. Now the next obstacle is actually being able to schedule the date, since apparently the lab in which the test is performed is only available on a very limited basis. So that is our prayer…availability.

Hopefully soon.

March 5, 2018

Mar 5 2018 4:02 PM

Well, how about that? My last post chronicled our concerns related to Fahlin’s heart cath on Thursday. My wife and I were walking about in a cloud of confusion, unable to process the conflicting details concerning Fahlin’s uncertain future.

…Then the phone rang (or vibrated). It was our heart cath doctor. He began by say apologizing for jumping the gun the previous day. Remember, we didn’t know if the news was good or bad. He said he went back and looked at all three cath results, all 160 of her echocardiograms (I’m exaggerating), and her MRI results. After compiling all of the information he came to a different conclusion; one that allowed us to catch our breaths, one that caused me to sob like a baby.

Fahlin is the PERFECT candidate for a full heart repair. Her chambers are large enough to be modified into two chambers and the hole in the lower part of her heart can be repaired and the new pulmonary artery is capable after all of carrying the new blood flow. Of course, this is all contingent on the committee meeting this week to discuss results. At that point the cardiac team will come to consensus and will contact us with a plan. According to our doctor that would most likely mean major surgery this summer.

That’s all well and good, and I am glad. But I am an emotional wreck now. I even cry during Hallmark movies. So for now, my wife and I are breathing somewhat normally again and we are back to taking one day at a time. That’s the only way we know how to do it.

As for Fahlin, even though she didn’t quite bounce back as quickly from this procedure as she has in the past, she doesn’t seem too bothered by any of this. It’s just a normal part of her life. Her normal, of course.

March 2, 2018

Mar 2 2018 12:44 PM

The day after the heart cath from Hades. That was no fun. Not for Fahlin, not for me, not for my wife, not for the doctors, not for anyone! We rolled into Vanderbilt, confident since we’ve been there done that. 6:30 AM. No problem. The morning started out normal, as normal as any standard heat cath procedure can be. They went through the pre-cath protocols, got her ready and off she went. A couple hours later, we are in the consult room with the doctor; everything went well, all good news.

Ten minutes later, he’s out in the waiting room looking for us. Fahlin was bleeding. They had no idea where it was coming from or what was causing it. Then the parade of doctors began. We were in our own private consultation room. First the anesthesiologist, next the Ear-nose-throat doctor, followed by the pulmonologist. What was going on!!!???

[Historical note: Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital holds many bittersweet memories for our family and extended family]

About four hours later, and who knows how many procedures, she’s in the ICU. ICU? She spent the evening on a ventilator as they weaned her off anesthesia. After they finally removed all the tubes and wires, she spent the night. Apparently she slept off and on, but by this morning was running a slight fever. As I type this, I just got word that the fever is under control and is now being released as soon as I can get there. What about that?

The motional roller coaster we have been on the past twenty-four hours has not been particularly enjoyable. I told my brother-in-law, who has been through the worst tragedy of all in losing his daughter, that I didn’t know how I can continue to handle this type of stuff. But so often, as Christians we assume everything is going to all happy and perfect, when the reality is this, James 1:3 …for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

So now, Fahlin comes home and we begin the process of “What’s next?” The processing of all the new information the doctors have gathered. Was yesterday good news or bad? What’s the long-term prognosis now? Timetable?

…and I thought parenting would get easier as we got older…apparently not!

February 27, 2018

Feb 28 2018 12:50 PM

Two days before Fahlin’s next heart cath and she’s acting weird. Who can blame her? Poor thang. She has got to be nervous. I know I am and I am not even having anything done to me.

How is she acting weird you ask? Well, lets start with her wanting to climb in our bed and sleep with Mommy and Daddy…EVERY night. She does this every once in a great while, but this close to her next procedure, we know it has to be nerves. I don’t mind, but she is like sleeping next to a furnace. Another indicator? Emotions. She is more emotional than she has been in recent months. I mean roller-coaster emotions…over nothing! But hey, I’m a dude, what do I know about nothing? Nothing, I suppose. Poor thang.

We have kept her home from school this week as a precaution. With her condition the way it is she does not have the heartiest of immune systems. With that being said, she has been remarkably healthy, all things considered. The last this she needs is the flu, and as we all know, schools can be a breeding ground for germs, viruses and all sorts of undesirable things (boys, cooties, lice…Haha).

So Thursday it is. Heart cath number three. What does it hold for us? For Fahlin? My prayer is that she will come through it with flying colors. That the information gleaned from the procedure will give the doctors good news. Good news about her progress, her ‘internal’ infrastructure growth, and a wealth of information that will give the cardio team confidence to make the proper determinations about how to proceed. I only wish there was another way, so she would have to go through this again. She’s been through so much already. Poor thang.

Please pray.

February 21, 2018

Feb 21 2018 10:58 AM

All right, do you remember how recently I have been telling you about sweet and loving Fahlin has been lately? Ha, it was all a ruse! The holy terrorizer known as Nashy, our grandson is in town, and well, the jealousy bug has hit Fahl Fahl big-time. It’s kind of weird, one minute they are best buds, the next he’s pummeling her (as only 2 year olds can pummel). And, Fahlin is kind of a diva.

She will push Nash out of the way when he is in front of the TV, and likewise, Nash with put his arms out and ‘hog’ the TV while telling everyone to, “not watch.” It is actually a battle of wills, Fahlin’s 8 year old will vs. that of a 2½ year old.

As a result of all of this, having Nash around is more than Fahlin can handle. She likes ‘her world’ to be ‘her world’ with no intrusions, but as we all know, toddlers, especially little boy toddlers can be quite…unintentionally demanding. When he wants her attention, he wants it NOW. But the timing has to be on her terms, not his, thus, the consternation. And boy, when consternation sets in, it boils over as screaming, or crying, or yelling, “Naaaaash!” When it does boil over, it takes awhile to get everything back to normal.

It is kind of funny watching a little kid terrorize a bigger kid (is that bad that I think that?). I know though, that Fahlin wants to just haul off and bash him, but she resists because she knows she is the older child and the Aunt, and that Aunts bashing their nephew would not be good. So she goes with one of her fallbacks. Poor Fahlin. It is hard being her.

Really though, I couldn’t imagine what it is like being her. A new family, heart issues to deal with, and now a nuisance nephew. “What is my life coming to,” she must be thinking? But, when all is said and done, she knows she is loved, she loves in return and if you listen closely, you hear her tell Nash, “I love you.”

February 17, 2018

Feb 21 2018 10:57 AM

BURP…BURP…BURP…

“Fahlin, stop burping,” came the cry from my wife while cooking in the kitchen. “Who made you so gross?”

All of a sudden, a little gecko finger was pointing straight at the gentleman in the kitchen who was just standing there minding his own business…ME! [I just now discovered from my computer’s spell and grammar check that using ‘his own’ is a reflexive pronoun and should consider revising…nope, not gonna.]

“Me?” I replied with animated laughter. “Me? What are you talking about? I would never do such a thing as to teach my little girls to be gross…nooooo, not me…”

Maybe, when I’m tucking them (Fahlin and Jayne) in at night I shouldn’t pick up the ukulele and sing the silly Poopy-Butt song. Or perhaps I shouldn’t sing the Jayne Likes to Toot, song or even the ever-popular Fahlin Likes to Burp song. Maybe that’s where they get it? Surely not.

Anyway, truth be told, full disclosure, Fahlin can and often does make her self burp. And burp. And burp. I did not teach her that…promise! Sometimes, she doesn’t even know she’s doing it and we have to remind her to stop, which also ends up in louder burps, followed by giggles and all out laughter.

The best part about the burping, especially if she keeps it up into her teenage years, I won’t have to worry about boys, that’s for sure. Who wants to date the ‘burping girl?’ I’m smiling right here thinking about that. In fact, now that I think about it even more, keep it up Fahlin, keep it up!

February 13, 2018

Feb 14 2018 8:25 AM

Now that the whirlwind known as the ‘end of the swim season’ is over, I have immediately turned my thoughts to Fahlin’s upcoming procedure and probable surgery. It’s nice to have something to distract you, but when the buzy-ness settles down a bit, reality sets in. Our reality is that we have a little girl with a super sick heart who is not out of the woods yet, though at first and second and even third glance, one would assume she had never been in the woods in the first place.

Upon further inspection, you would have to look closely to find what we call her ‘gecko hands.’ The clubbing that occurs with a child with a heart condition is usually pretty noticeable…and blu-ish. Fahlin’s clubbing has improved a immensely and her color is absolutely better, no doubt about it.

But I want to stay guarded. I still worry a lot. My wife follows the Facebook story of another little heart baby that has had a very difficult road. She will not let me read it. She knows me so well. She knows that I would fall apart and go into full on panic mode if I actually knew what was really going on, not only with the little girl’s story she follows, but the seriousness of Fahlin’s situation as well. Yolanda, being in the medical profession knows all kinds of scary stuff. And she is wise to not tell me and I am wise not to ask too many questions…at lest for now. I am sure when we close to the upcoming procedures, I will have plenty.

You know, by this time in our lives, we at one point figured we would be planning our retirement years, but alas, retirement will never happen, it seems. It’s okay though; for we know this is our calling. God continues to provide for us on daily basis. He has worked miracle after miracle in Fahlin’s life and we have no reason to doubt He will continue to keep his hand on this little girl…and me…and my wife…and our family.

Finally, FYI, starting on week six of Fahlin liking her Dad. I like her this way.

January 27, 2018

Jan 28 2018 6:23 PM

Jan

Yesterday, Jan 24th, marked the three year anniversary of Fahlin’s ‘Gotcha Day.’ Boy, that little girl has come a loooooooonnnnnng way. I remember very vividly how frightened she was. She had always wanted a family, but now, in that moment when that reality was staring her in the face, it was a scary idea. She was about to leave five years of life in the only place she ever knew, behind forever. She was about to venture out into a whole new world. Her little mind could not even comprehend the change that was about to happen. I often imagine what it would be like to uproot and leave everything I ever knew. We spoke no Chinese. Other than her daily pre-school class, she knew no English.

She was very sick. Closer to death than we ever imagined. We knew it was bad, in fact we went into the adoption with the understanding she may not live to Christmas. She was blue. Her lips, her gums, her tongue, her toes her fingers, were all blue. We loved her immediately. We had committed to doing anything and everything we could to nurse her back to health. Doctors in Nashville were waiting. Friends and family were praying. At this point, the great unknown lies ahead of us.

China was cold, snowy and grey. The air quality not very good, the accommodations however, were quite nice. The food was, as always, outstanding. She didn’t talk to us. Her angry eyes were seemingly a permanent fixture on her face. She didn’t talk much, if at all. She was sad. She was apprehensive. She was lonely. And yet, we knew, with time all those feelings would fade away and she would embrace her new life, her new surroundings, her new siblings.

Now here it is, three years later. She didn’t pass away. In fact, she is healthier and stronger than she’s ever been. Her color is good. She is not blue. Her previous surgery and previous cath procedures have provided remarkable results. Fahlin has embraced family life. She loves her brothers, she loves her sisters (well, we’re not sure about Lydia), she loves her Mom and she even loves her Dad. She wants to take piano lessons. I did not know that, but we will put that ball in motion. These four adopted daughters of ours, these four DAUGHTERS of ours, have changed our lives, my life especially, in ways that cut deeply into my soul. It’s hard to explain, but I am better for it. As for Fahlin three years later? One look at her tells us all we need to know. She is better. She is happier. She is adjusted. She is bright. She is charming. She is thriving. She is cute as can be. She is alive.

January 20, 2018

Jan 23 2018 12:00 PM

I have been putting off writing this blog because if you will recall, the last blog documented how Fahlin had obviously missed her Dad so much when he went to China that she was being nice to him. Well, I’ve been waiting for her to devolve back into ‘meanie Fahl Fahl’ but alas, that has not happened. She obeys, she hangs out with me, she kisses me on the cheek a lot, plays Crazy 8’s with me, she gives me hugs, she wants me to tuck her in, she does puzzles with me, she even wants to watch ‘guy movie(s)’ (again, no s) with Dad. ?!?!?!? What’s up? It has been 11 days and counting. We even had several snow days where the girls were out of school and we were all confined to the house, surely a recipe for disaster.

But Noooooooo. Apparently, absence had made her heart grow fonder of her Dad. She just didn’t know how great he was until he was gone for a week. What has emerged is “sweet Fahl Fahl.” She is pleasant, she is funny, and yes she is still acting like the random animal. Usually it’s a tiger or cheetah, sometimes it’s a dog, but an animal is always lying just under the surface of Fahlin’s personality.

She will walk by, “Hey Fahlin, where are you going?”

“Growl, growl,” will be the response.

Or, “Ruff, ruff!” Then, off she goes, on about her business.

So, now I write a blog. About a pleasant little girl who loves her Dad. Yes, this one is short and sweet. Apparently, in Fahlin’s case, absence made her heart grow fonder…of her Dad.

January 10, 2018

Jan 14 2018 7:03 PM

Something wonderful has happened. And all it took for it to happen was for me to be away for eight days. I took a trip to China with some students from my school. It was a great trip, which climaxed with a visit to the Great Wall. But apparently, while I was gone, someone missed me. That someone was Fahlin.

Since I have been home, she has hugged me, snuggled with me, kissed me on the cheek, hugged me some more, even waited up until I went to sleep so she could come climb in bed with me. Then it was more cuddling, more wiggling, more smiling. We went out to eat. Guess who saved me a seat beside her? Guess who kept leaning over on me? Guess who climbed up on my lap? No, not Jayne, Fahlin.

So I thought I would ask her if she missed Daddy. No response, just a sly little grin. Fahlin actually missed her Dad. All my picking on her, hugging on her, kissing on her has finally paid off. My wife told me to “ride this as long as I can.” I will.

It’s weird, though, I must admit. I’m not used to her liking me or being nice to me. This is all new territory. But for now, I will just see how long it lasts. Sometimes we just don’t know ho good something is until it’s gone, or we don’t have it anymore. We miss it. We took it for granted. Perhaps that is what Fahlin is feeling. Even though she seemed to have not enjoyed my picking on her, she actually missed the attention I was giving her. Yes, it seems my expert parenting skills have paid off once again.

So for now, I’m riding the “I like you” Fahlin wave for as long as I can. Who knows, maybe it’s not just a wave; maybe it’s a trend…

December 29, 2017

Dec 29 2017 5:25 PM

Well, Fahl Fahl’s 8th Christmas has come and gone. She was soooo into Christmas this year. She finally realized that this is the most exciting time of the year. Her brothers were in town. They brought their wives. Fahlin loves adult company, especially the brides of my sons. Her big sister Bethany was in town, with her husband and little boy, Fahlin’s nephew, Nash. This year, they were big buds. She actually enjoyed playing with Nash.

She even figured out I was NOT Santa Claus. Even though I tell her all time I am. I had taken my daughter to wrestling; yes pro wrestling in Portland, Tennessee, while my wife took the ‘littles’ to a Christmas party where the REAL Santa Claus showed up. Yes, he actually showed up, and it was not me. That convinced her once and for all I was not Santa. My conscience is clear, however. Hahahaha.

Watching her open gifts this year was sweet. She was so excited, she couldn’t even stand it. The biggest surprise was her brother Canaan, who Fahlin didn’t expect until Tuesday, the day after Christmas, drove all night from Dallas on Christmas Eve and arrived around 4:00AM, just so he could surprise not just Fahlin, but also all the girls. It was a not only a surprise to the girls, but also a huge blessing to have him with us on Christmas.

Since our family is so big, the kids draw names and exchange gifts. Canaan had Fahlin’s name. He got her what she asked for, a box full of chewing gum. When asked what her favorite gift was, she thought and said, “My box of gum.” Here we are again, back to gum. She wanted gum, her brother got her gum and she was very happy. A simple gift. Extreme happiness.

Sometimes we over think things. It is the simplest things that mean the most. And this Christmas, the simplest thing to me was having my entire family, in the same room, the same house for about four days. With the way life has changed as the ‘bigs’ grow up and move on to bigger and better jobs and start having children of their own, and our ‘littles’ keep growing up in front of our eyes, it is very rare that we are all together. That is the simplest pleasure I could ever enjoy. My wife. My kids. My family. They are my chewing gum. Extreme happiness.

December 20, 2017

Dec 20 2017 9:10 PM

As Christmas nears, Fahlin is not very happy that I am out of school, Izzy is out of school, Lydia is out of school, Jayne is out of school and she is still IN school. Ha Ha, Fahl Fahl! Of course, I have to remind her. DAILY! While I am driving her to school. It brings joy to my heart. Poor thing. “No fair!!!” She says.

But this also allows me to pick her up from the bus stop in the afternoons. This is one of the highlights of my life, not just the day. You will recall all the previous blogs about how moody and grumpy Fahlin can be? And that she has been notoriously ‘not nice’ to her Dad, me. Well the ‘picking up at the bus stop’ moment adds another dimension to all of this. Let me set the stage for you. It’s 2:40, and the bus come rolling up. She is expecting her Mom, or Abby, or perhaps even one of her older siblings who might be in town visiting for the holidays, but she is NOT expecting me, for sure! So off the bus she bounds, happy as a lark, when all of a sudden, she notices my car. She looks harder, maybe someone else is driving. Nope, it’s Dad. At that moment of realization, her demeanor changes. She slumps her shoulders, rolls her eyes, puts on the angry face, and huffs and puffs her way to the car. Disappointment written all over her face. She opens the door, rolls her eyes again, slams herself down into the seat, never making eye contact.

“Well hello Fahlin, how was your day?” I say cheerily.

No response. Silence. No acknowledgement. None whatsoever. “We cannot leave until you are buckled,” I say.

More grunts and groans, but reluctantly, she buckles up. “Okay, we can go now,” she says in an ugly tone.

“No we can’t,” I respond, again with a cheery tone. “Because you were ugly, we have to sit here for a minute until Daddy decides to go, because I am the boss, not you.” Great parenting, I might add. Let them know who is in charge.

That was day one of an ongoing saga. Day two, I videoed her getting off the bus, just so I could have proof of the demeanor change. Day three is today. We will see how it goes. My wife almost feels sorry for me. She’s afraid my feelings are being hurt, but I have decided that they are not. I love that little girl, and I realize she has some things to work through, after all, she was in China longer we have had her, and she’s not used to having a male authority figure in her life. That would be me. But hey, it’s Christmas, Santa is alive and well and Fahlin will have some great surprises awaiting her on Christmas day. By the way, I tell her “I am Santa!”

To which she replies, “No you’re not!” [Insert smile here]

December 6, 2017

Dec 9 2017 1:21 PM

Fahlin continues to be a Debbie Downer in the mornings. Grumpy, irritable, angry, ugly, moody, disobedient…where’s my thesaurus? We are almost nearly beginning to almost get frustrated with her. It’s a good thing she is kid number eight. It’s a good thing her story has had a profound impact on us as parents. It’s a good thing she’s cute!

Usually, it is my wife Yolanda who has to deal with the wrath of Fahlin in the mornings. We have numerous theories. One, is she wakes up starving to death. We know she gets grumpy when she is hungry, so this would only make sense. Two, is she is simply exhausted. Her little three-chambered heart has to work so hard to pump blood to through her body that it is working overtime, thus the exhaustion. Another theory, number three, is she simply wants to be in control, going back to her days in the foster home in China where she ruled the roost. One of my new recent theories is she has multiple personality disorder to which my wife responds, “No, it’s just five years in China,” which is probably correct. Maybe she has not attached to us completely yet. After all she was China’s longer than she has been ours. Perhaps there is something to that theory.

Anyway, regardless of the reasons, mornings are a battlefield. A Fahlin fueled field of skirmishes. And they continue daily. [Fast forward. It is two days later. Yes, sometimes I write a blog that takes a couple days to complete] So the battlefield now moves to the afternoon and the enemy is Dad. Good ole Dad. When I came home today, I went to the living room, sat down beside Fahl Fahl, and started talking to her about her day, the TV show she was watching, school, just general Dad stuff…crickets…silence…cold shoulder. So that is a signal to me to begin…wait for it…yes, picking on Fahlin. A tickle here, a tickle there, a hug here, a squeeze there, a wet Willy, you know, annoying immature stuff that Das like to do. Wait! Am I the only one that does that kind of stuff? Anyway, she still screams and cries, but it has the distinct sound of insincerity. Believe me, I can tell fake crying when I hear it, most parents can.

So, to summarize, the battle continues. Mom in the morning, Dad at night. The difference between my wife and me is that Fahlin is usually nice to Yolanda once she wakes up, but with me, I never know when or if the niceness will come my way. It does not hurt my feelings, really it does not. It might hurt if she would have been child number two or something, buy I do understand that Fahlin was Chinese for the first almost six years of her life. She hasn’t been home long enough just yet. These adjustments take time. Obviously, the older the adopted child, the longer the adjustment.

Don’t misunderstand me; Fahlin is not the monster I make her out to be. She simply has some things yet to figure out. For now, she has to realize she is not the boss any more. She is not the big dog. She is not the queen of the care center. She is not in charge. She is not taking care of babies anymore. She is not the oldest. She is not…alone.

November 26, 2017

Nov 26 2017 8:18 PM

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It has caused me to realize something, this year especially. Fahlin is still experiencing these holidays as a “newbie.” What I mean by that is that even though she is eight years old, she is only experiencing her third Thanksgiving and this upcoming Christmas will only be the third Christmas she has ‘really’ experienced.

Because of that, her Christmas list will make you cry. Although it will be apparent shortly, her list screams INNOCENCE. Each year all of our children draw names for our family gift exchange. It is a true Chapman tradition that has grown as our family has grown. Adding the ‘littles’ to the mix has made the whole event that much more fun. Our son Canaan drew Fahl Fahl’s name. There is not really a price limit, so in theory, the girls could ask for anything. Fahlin asked him for one thing. Are you ready for this? Gum. She wants her own gum. Mint gum. Gum she can keep all to herself. Her own gum. Gum?!?! Chewing gum.

I remember Jayne’s first Christmas she just opened a box of something, put it down and walked upstairs. The next year she asked for “Crayons and a coloring book.” That was it. So, we actually had to go get her and teach her to open more presents. Fahlin’s first Christmas was much the same. No clue. Couldn’t understand why she got gifts, what they were for, the reason, let alone Jesus’ birthday. Now she wants gum. This, from a little girl not expected to see Christmas number one let alone Christmas number eight. She could have anything.

Enter her 2017 complete Christmas list. Are you ready for this?

1. a lamp

2. slippers

3. Paw Patrol Playset

That’s it. Let’s explore the third item on the list. My wife immediately says. “That’s a little young for her?” Yes, it may be, but Fahlin has never been ‘young.’ When she was five, she was taking care of babies. Rocking them, feeding them, even changing them. That’s the way it works in the orphanages. Sad. She never really had a childhood, as we know the meaning of childhood. So now she gets to experience it. So if some of these shows she watches are too kiddie-ish, so be it, and if she wants play sets, play sets it is. After all, I AM SANTA. I can make it happen. The girls are just now understanding Christmas, even though their lists have not really evolved to “IPhones” and “Cars.” And this Christmas promises to be the best Fahlin has ever experienced. Santa will see to it.

November 10, 2017

Nov 13 2017 11:35 AM

Right now, as I type, Jayne is leaning over and watching every move I make. She usually just stares at the screen. Then all of a sudden she will ask me a random non-related question or make a random statement like, “You need to wash your car.” What’s that? She just said that exact thing. Hilarious. No kidding. Another thing she will say is, “Dad, you have 8% battery left.” Or whatever the percent happens to be at that moment. Wait; no kidding again, she just did that. Then there is the “Why are all the blogs about Fahlin?”

“Because Jayne, this blog is about following Fahlin’s story from the day we left to go get her.” Nearly three years ago, by the way. But the fact that I just wrote a little bit about Jayne makes her happy, at least for a while.

My fallback blog idea usually centers on Fahlin and her moods. Man oh man, those moods. This past weekend, my wife worked, which means I have ‘littles’ duty. So I watched. Specifically, I watched Fahlin. I have discovered a couple of triggers that set off those explosive (somewhat dramatized) emotions.

Trigger one: “Hurry up Fahlin!” those words immediately send her into a tizzy. She cannot function under pressure.

Trigger two: Jayne gets to sit in the middle row of the Suburban; Fahlin is relegated to the rear seat by herself. Cue fits of rage. Fake fits of rage. Then when they die down, and I ask why everything is so quiet, fits of rage ignite again.

Special note: with our bigs, this bothered us. With the littles, we barely notice, or rather, provide fuel to the fire, in my case for sure.

Trigger three: When Jayne finally has final had enough of Fahlin’s bossy-ness and walks off and does her own thing. Fahlin has not yet figured out that she is the baby of the family,

Trigger four: When dad tries to hug her or kiss her cheek. For some reason, I have not quite figured out why that is, but alas, it is my lot in life. Maybe its because I am the first male authority figure she has ever known. Perhaps my psychology major daughter could shed some light on this.

And finally, trigger five: Telling her to do anything she doesn’t really want to do. For example, “Clean your room,” “Take this upstairs and put it away,” “Brush your teeth and comb your hair.” Simple tasks. Ballistic reactions. Or sometimes the sullen face and slouched shoulders with a big hrummmph attached.

Anyway, this is the little girl we love. The little girl who was dying of a congenital heart issue, the one who is now thriving, the little girl who went from zero family to seven brothers and sisters and two great parents, several cousins, eight aunts and uncles couple of nieces and nephews and even a set of grandparents. It might be overwhelming. Maybe three years of adjusting is not quite enough. As with all of our kids, we simply keep on loving her, caring for her, providing for her and most importantly, praying for her. Oh Fahl Fahl!.

November 3, 2017

Nov 6 2017 2:36 PM

My how life has changed. Halloween has come and gone. This Halloween in particular got me to thinking. Thinking back to our first go ‘round with the ‘Bigs.’ That was back in the day when we thought we were being good parents by not exposing our children to the evils of Halloween. Many churches back then offered alternative plans to Halloween; Fall Fest, Harvest Festival, Autumn Harvest Festival, etc., and etc. We would pack up the kids, in costume, by the way, and go our church on that night and the kids would play games, eat food and yes, get candy. It really was a cool time for the family. And I don’t think we harmed our kids in the process. Churches have sort of gotten away from those festivities and have begun encouraging members to use that time to share the gospel with Halloweeners who might stop by. I think that is a great idea.

In our case, we have decided to take the little girls Trick or Treating. In our neighborhood, or course. But our big kids are quick to point out how they never got to go Trick or Treating. I’m they may have once or twice, when the boys were really, really little, but really, we mainly did the church festival thing. Anyways or anyhow, or even anyhoo, what harm could taking the ‘littles’ Trick or Treating do? Now that we have gotten more experienced as parents (older) we have taken the plunge into Trick or Treating.

Our neighborhood is called Woodland Hills. You can guess why. Our driveway is a 45º angle straight up. Well, I guess 45º is not really straight up, but you get the gist. You can also imagine how a little girl with ¾ths of a heart, poor circulation and half as many pulmonary arteries as a normal person would fare in such a hilly environment. She started out strong. Operative phrase, ‘started out.’ It’s a good thing I brought the wagon. Always do where Fahlin’s concerned. Do you know how heavy that wagon can get even with only 48 lbs. in it? And I’ve even been working out!

You can always tell when Fahlin runs out of gas. She turns blue, stops moving, gets grumpy and stops talking. Those are the signs. But no worries, Mr. Wagon-puller came to the rescue. Still, it seems to me there is nothing wrong with candy for little girls. Besides, with our girls it’s not really about seeing how candy they can eat, it’s more about how much candy they can accumulate. It’s about the experience. The anticipation. The lead up. The moment. Being together as a family.

On top of that, Fahlin dressed as a witch. A witch! We would NEVER HAVE DONE THAT with the ‘bigs.’ I hope that doesn’t make me a failure as a parent. Meanwhile, I’d better go, I have to call my sister…it’s her birthday!

October 27, 2017

Oct 26 2017 1:41 PM

You’ve heard of The Joker? You’ve heard of The Riddler? Meet… The Puzzler! She, who confounds her opponents with clever skills never before seen in Gotham City, or the world, for that matter. She, who confounds and amazes her parents both at the same time. She, who charms her way into the hearts of those who meet her. She, who defies all odds in the medical realm as she continues on the path to a long life.

Yes, Fahlin Maria Xuefang Chapman is she. She, who is known as The Puzzler. She who has this unique style of completing, yes, you guessed it, puzzles. Now, of course there other implications indicated by the name Puzzler, like how she has a puzzling personality that runs sometimes hot, sometimes cold, sometimes loving, sometimes rebellious, sometimes fun, sometimes stubborn, yes, puzzling for sure as the name indicates. But the name came from her mad ‘putting puzzles together’ skills. My wife Yolanda referred to her at The Puzzler, and it has stuck.

So what is this unique technique she employs to assemble puzzles at a dazzling rate of speed? Once the frame is completed, she sorts out the colors. Then she meticulously, one by one tries to fit a piece into one spot. If the first one doesn’t fit, its on to the second and third and fourth, and fifth…. And 197th….and 215th, until a piece fits, then she repeats the process at the next spot, and so on and so forth. But, she does this at an alarmingly fast rate of speed. Next thing you know boom, she’s finished.

Now, don’t try to assist or help, though. No… you will be greeted with the “get out my way because you are not doing right angry eyes look.” If you continue to help, which, of course, like any good Dad I do, then that only escalates into the “crossed arms, hummmmph, sit down and pout look.” So, when that happens, a lot of times I will wait…until she goes to bed, then I will swoop in and do an entire area, only to be greeted with the “I cannot believe you would even dare to touch my puzzle while I was sleeping,” look. I just can’t win.

Anyway, the name the puzzler is so appropriate. We have tons of puzzles finished and tons of puzzles still left to do. So, unleash the The Puzzler, and Batman beware!

October 23, 2017

Oct 23 2017 7:31 PM

First of all, Happy Birthday Izzy. Our daughter, Izzy turns 17. Words cannot express how I feel about that girl. I am so glad God saw fit to bring our lives and worlds together. I will circle back to Izzy.

When you have eight kids, time for yourself is at a premium. I cannot even remember the last time I even had a couple hours home alone. What got me thinking about this happened the other night. The girls seemed content, as they usually do, but as soon as I hopped into the shower, the knocks on the door began. Are you serious? You could not have asked me something five minutes ago?

How about the times I go out in the garage, AKA, my art studio. I no sooner start to paint when the door opens and someone needs something. Never fails. And my wife?! Even she joins in. She never pays much attention to me while I’m actually IN the house, but as soon as I begin to paint, she all of a sudden finds something interesting to discuss while I am in the garage, AKA, my art studio. It usually starts with, “That painting is ugly. You will never sell it,” or “Why did you paint it that color?” Thanks, dear.

Or what about the times I go to bathroom? Well I’ll tell you… on second thought, well, I won’t tell you. Let’s just say, well, I won’t say. I will just assume you all know what I am talking about? Can a man go in peace, I say?!?!?! To much information?

And so it goes. No peace for Dad. Eternal parenthood. Don’t get me wrong I love my girls, all of them including my bride. I want that clearly known. Now, circling back to Izzy. Thank you Izzy. You’re about the only one that doesn’t do what the others do, and I appreciate it. Hahaha…

October 15, 2017

Oct 15 2017 11:11 AM

Family dynamics. I love my family. As I look back and reflect and see how my original four kids have grown and who they have become and think about how they used to interact with each other compared with how they interact now, I think yes, our family dynamic is really good. Now add the ‘littles’ into equation. Izzy, our first, was brought home from China In 2001. She immediately melted the hearts of her big brothers and has been the apple of their eyes ever since. Four years after that, through a series of extraordinary events, including our eldest becoming a page for then Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, Lydia came home. Her quirks and speech defect endeared her once again to her brothers, especially her brother Canaan, who, at first had doubts about whether another child in our family was a good idea. The first two? Easy. Jump ahead to ‘Jayne the Brain.’ This special little girl, with all her special needs was the child who reminded us that parenting is sometimes not that easy. The big kids loved her. My wife struggled. Jayne continues to provide a challenge for us. Of course, by this time the big kids and their extra help were gone, having started their own lives. Abby remains, thank God. Jayne’s educational needs, her physical limitations, while not that noticeable, continue challenge our everyday lives. Then there is Fahlin, our ‘heart baby.’ A whole new level of uncertainty and concern. And that personality she brings? Whooooo, boy.

That leads my back to family dynamic. The two littlest obviously are best friends and at the same time struggle for dominance over the other. They annoy Lydia and obey Izzy and Abby. Yet, throw a two-year-old grandson into the mix and jealously rears its ugly head in a very ugly way. Jayne and Nashy? Best buds. Fahlin and Nashy? Mortal enemies…most of the time. She refuses to pay with, help or even acknowledge his existence. When asked to help with Nash, she shuts down, pouts, sits, throw herself down, ignores and cries. Wait?! What?! We help each other in this family, young lady! So, the situation escalates, and next thing you know, every parenting trick in the book is exhausted. No kindle, no TV, go to bed early, timeout and even ‘lay on bed’ time (she usually falls asleep).

So I say all of this to say that what was originally meant to be ‘empty nest’ time has become Star Trek ‘time-warp’ time. We are re-living the glory days we had with our first four children. So instead of chasing my wife around the house in my leisure time, we continue to focus on parenting. Izzy is a junior, scored very high on her first ACT and now has colleges after her. Lydia has five more years before we think of college, Jayne’s educational future is uncertain which means we will have to navigate all of that and Fahlin faces heart surgery in the spring, which means we have to get through that before we can take the next step. That’s just the education stuff. What about food, shelter clothing, holidays, birthdays special days, trips, activities, teams, parties, cookouts, chores, homework, colds, headaches, ‘time of the month’ times and everything else that comes along with parenting?

Proverbs 3: 1-6 says… “Do not forget my teachings and keep my commands in mind, because they will bring you long life, good years and peace. Do not let mercy and truth leave you. Fasten them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will favor and much success in the sight of God and humanity. Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths smooth”

Smooth? Okay. I’m counting on that…

October 8, 2017

Oct 10 2017 9:13 AM

My wife recently told someone that our lives are like a giant Jenga puzzle. As long as the pieces are standing, the puzzle is sturdy and strong. But our lives are a constantly changing Jenga puzzle. We have to move one piece to another spot while making sure the tower is still standing then we do it again, hoping to maintain the proper balance of life, school and activities. Every now and then, however, we pull a piece and the tower comes crumbling down. Just like any plan(s) we may have made when that happens, we start over. We build the tower again, start pulling pieces again, and next thing you know, the tower grows again, teeters again, sways again and…and…hey, it’s still standing! Maybe this plan will work?

We literally do make plans each and every evening for the next day. As crazy as that sounds, it has been the only way we can make our logistical problems work. That, and help rom our friends. It is comforting to know that so many people are ready and willing to help out at a moments notice. True friends indeed.

So it’s a matter of balance. I am not sure we do a good job of balancing all the Jenga pieces, but we sure try. Maybe that’s why my heart is always palpating. I’m constantly anxious and double-checking to make sure I didn’t forget someone, or forget to get someone somewhere or “Who did I make arrangements with to get someone somewhere and did they confirm and is my wife meeting me with one of my children and where was that meeting place anyway? I forget.” I have those kinds of thoughts in my brain all the time.

Yes, when my said we live a Jenga life, she was right on. The Jenga piece we have the most trouble balancing is the piece that allows us, my wife and I, to have time together. A date night? Rare. Home alone? Even more rare. Most of the time, I like her a lot. Especially on those days when she’s not pointing out my mistakes or faults or shortcomings, or dumb things I do. Who? Not me? “From the moment I first laid ‘eye’ on [her]…” at her Dad’s little ole country church in Derby, Ohio, (Quote from, Monsters Inc., when Mike Wyzowski was talking to his girlfriend at work) I knew it was love at first sight. (Little known factoid, my wife was once ‘Miss Derby,’ yes she was!) Little did I know waaaaay back then that that first sighting, when our eyes met that life would take us where it has taken us. The Jenga tower has grown out of control for sure, but you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. (Well, I do wish I could have continued the music career long enough to make a small fortune which would come in handy about now, but I digress).

I know I’ve kinda rambled today, but you now, when you live a Jenga life like we do, rambling is normal behavior…not that our lives are normal, by any stretch!

Dateline Sept. 27 from Washington DC

Sep 28 2017 6:27 PM

Pictured (L-R) Steven Curtis Chapman (Show Hope), Tracy and Scott Hamilton (this year’s national CCA honoree), Jim and Yolanda Chapman (“Angels”) and Mary Beth Chapman (Show Hope)

Dateline: Washington D.C. My wife and I are in Washington D.C. We found out a couple months ago that were being honored as Tennessee’s “Angels in Adoption” through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. Senator (Bob) Corker nominated us, and we were selected as this year’s state winner. How cool is that?

But here’s the thing, my wife and I, while certainly honored, feel like we have done nothing to warrant such an honor. We are just parents of four beautiful little adopted Chinese daughters. We work to provide for them, tote them around, feed them, tuck them in at night, celebrate birthdays with them…you get the picture, we just think of ourselves as normal (although we have figured out that we are not) parents of eight children. We are tired, worn out and old. It is sometimes hard to make ends meet yet God provides and always has. We have determined that we will have to work ‘til we’re 90. But that is okay.

Do not misunderstand me. We chose this life. We knew our lives would be different when we adopted. We did not really know what that meant. We began to find out when adopted our last two little girls, both with severe special needs. One, Jayne, with a brain issue, the other Fahlin with a major heart problem. That sort of changed things for us. What we didn’t know was how much BETTER our lives would be because of these little girls. Sometimes, we forget to notice the joy we experience on a daily basis. We are so caught up in our daily chaos that we forget to stop and think about the awesomeness of what is happening in our family. It’s like we are standing inches away from a great impressionist masterpiece by Monet. All we see are blotches and strokes of random color, but as we move away, we see that the entire painting comes into focus and the masterpiece itself is right there in front of us.

An honor like this from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption reminds us that we are not alone. Families and organizations from all over the country are brought together, each one honored for their own contribution to the adoption world. We begin to see how small we are when you see a family that adopted Down’s Syndrome children, children in wheelchairs with severe disabilities, and even a single blind father adopting triplet blind sons and we begin to think we are not the heroes, they are.

My brother-in-law sang at the Gala. Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife have been champions for the cause of adoption for going on 18 years now. They were honored as national ‘Angels’ in 2001. We talked after the Gala. I expressed how grateful we were for his help in bringing home our girls. I talked about the impact he and Mary Beth have had in the world. SCC is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet. Even at his lofty, elevated status as a multi Grammy and Dove Award winner, he was quick to remind me that Yolanda and I were true heroes in his eyes. What? Steven Curtis Chapman, my friend, my brother-in-law thinks my wife and I are heroes. How ‘bout that?

September 23, 2017

Sep 24 2017 11:15 AM

So, now, on to Fahl Fahl’s anger issue. It’s not really anger it’s more an act, we think. Or at least we hope. It never fails. I come home, I have not seen Fahlin all day, I rush up to her and scoop her into my arms and give her big kisses on her cheek. You know, normal Dad stuff. But wow! She stiffens her little body and screams bloody murder. What???!!!!

So, I talk to her. “Fahlin, I am not going to stop until you do two things.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” But this time there’s a hint of a smile. At least think there is. Meanwhile my wife looks on with concern.

“First, if you let me give you one more cheek kiss…” I say. “Then, all you have to do is tell your Daddy you love him. Then I will leave you alone.” More stiffening. More screaming. I look at my concerned wife. I squeeze.

“I love you, Daddy,” come the words, somewhat sheepishly, yet begrudgingly, yet in sincerely, yet with a hint of a smile, at least I think there is. I let go. She stomps off.

Mom intercepts her; again, because this happens quite regularly. She begins to explain to Fahlin how much her Daddy loves her, how he would do anything for her, how he works hard, etc., etc. She explains that her actions could hurt Daddy’s feelings (they don’t, really) if it weren’t for the fact that he loves her so much.

My wife and I are perplexed. Why does this happen? We do not know. She is pretty moody as it is. But yet, we are not sure if the moods and outbursts are an act or a result of bad parenting. This is child number eight; surely we have figured it out by now. But seriously, could it all stem back to our first ten months with Fahlin? Remember, when we adopted her at 5 ½ years of age, we were told she most like would make it to Christmas due to her dire heart condition and our primary job as parents was to make her happy and give her the greatest possible family experience. So we said yes. Yes to EVERYTHING. After Vanderbilt got a hold of her though, her health improved to the point where the doctors were (and are) confident she could live a longer life than originally expected. So we reversed course and became REAL parents again. You know, the kind that say no sometimes, instill discipline, establish bedtimes and other routines, schedule chores and ask members of the fam to contribute in a positive way to the functioning of our family unit as a whole.

But alas, if he wakes up hungry (almost every day), she’s grumpy. If she doesn’t get her way, she’s grumpy. If she has to go bed, she’s grumpy. But then, something miraculous will happen. All of a sudden for no apparent reason, happy, loving, kind, cooperative, helpful Fahlin will show up. Who is this little girl? She is pretty awesome…when she wants to be. And she has been known to smile and on certain occasions, smile a lot. Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t change a thing and we know that raising children is a lifelong commitment and on top of that, we know that it takes time for children to grow and mature into the people they are to become. So, we continue to nurture. We continue parent. We continue to love…

Is that a hint of a smile I see?

September 20, 2017

Sep 24 2017 11:14 AM

We have discovered something about Fahlin. I think, we think, she may have a photographic memory. Fahlin loves puzzles. Not your simple eight piece kiddie puzzles, mind you, but we are talking 300 pieces. She loves puzzles. But, you have to get on her good side before you are ‘invited’ to help. Every now and then, I make it onto her ‘good’ list. When that happens, I make the most of it. On most other occasions, however, I have to sneak my pieces onto the puzzle. Oooo boy, does this make her…how shall I say? Upset?

So, how does all of this relate to her having a photographic memory? Well, what I discovered was that if I put a piece on the puzzle when she is not around then wait, Fahlin will come in to the room, take one look at and, whammo, “DAAAAAAAD!!!!”

“What Fahlin?” I will say.

And so it begins. “You put a piece on my puzzle.”

So, It was during one of those times when she was furious with me that I decided to conduct a little experiment. I asked her to turn around with her back to the puzzle and I told her that I was going to remove two pieces, then she was to turn around and tell me where they belonged. Sure enough, she turned around, surveyed the landscape, and boom, pointed and said, “Right there.” I glanced at my wife. Surely that was a lucky guess. I tried again, with three pieces. Sure enough, she nailed it.

It does not matter which puzzle it is, she knows. She always knows. Even when she goes to bed, I can remove or add a piece here or there and she will not only notice, but also know specific pieces. The other night in fact, she had gone to bed and was working diligently on her puzzle until I went up to tuck her in. I told her I was only going to put three more pieces on.

“Only three,” she said.

The next morning, she got up and proceeded to look at the puzzle. I had already left for school. What I didn’t tell her when I tucked her in was that I had secretly been working on her puzzle PRIOR to telling her that I would only put three more. She was not happy.

“He put more than three,” it was reported to me later. Technically, no, I only put three AFTER I told her I would only put three. It was that time frame prior to ‘the three’ when the additions were made.

I guess that explains why she was mad when I came home. Will I ever change? I doubt it. Will Fahlin get over it? I can report she did. Does she have a photographic memory? Who knows? It seems she does. As for her madness, that is the next blog.

September 6, 2017

Sep 5 2017 1:38 PM

Are you ready to cry? Fahlin asked us, “Where did my name come from? Who named me?” When we adopted our first two little girls, Izzy and Lydia, they only had Chinese names. They were actually in state run Chinese orphanages. Izzy was Yue Ye Mei, Lydia was Chang Bizhen. We gave them their American names. Jayne and Fahlin were in foster care under the umbrella of the Show Hope organization. The care centers are impressive places filled with caring people who love the least of the least of these unconditionally, day after day. They care for the sickest of sick, the babies that the state orphanages are often ill equipped to handle. The names of the babies are Chinese, however, often a stateside sponsor will get to choose the ‘western’ name for the child being sponsored. My wife and I actually sponsored Shi Bao Yi, AKA known as Jayne. I chose Jayne’s name, and perhaps in the next blog I will tell that story. It’s pretty funny.

But Fahlin’s name? Fahlin decided to call her Aunt Mary Beth. Surely she would know where the name came from. And what we found out is quite a different and sweet story. See below:

Mary Beth,

This just came in from Mariah Bywater:

“Fahlin arrived in those early days along with several others and while Jona, Erma, and I did assessments and nursing stuff my sweet sister Melissa selected names and made all the name sheets for us. She was so good about carefully observing each child and then choosing names with meaning or that fit the child. She selected Fahlin because it was an old Irish name that means “Daughter of the King.” Which is why she and I always referred to Fahlin as the little Princess. On a fun side note we later found that in the Barbie Movie ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ one of the Kings Daughters, one of the twelve little princesses, was named Fahlin.”

God’s hand has really been on this special girl!

Very respectfully,

Steve

September 1, 2017

Sep 2 2017 7:13 AM

August 25, 2017

Aug 25 2017 11:52 AM

Fahlin: “I can’t decide what I want to be, a teacher or a traffic person…” Oh Fahlin. The things that little girl says and does. Let me just tell ya. She is an expert at animal imitations. She does a great dog. She can do everything from large dogs to Chihuahuas. It really does sound real. She does a great cat purr. Yes, the purring kitten is quite…eerie…it’s so good.

August 13, 2017

Aug 13 2017 9:26 AM

Fahlin is officially a second grader. By all accounts, she should not be. We are thankful she is. Rock Springs Elementary does not fully understand the depth of that statement. She really shouldn’t be. But God, obviously has a different plan. She is really quite funny about it. When I asked her how her first day was, she merely responded, “It was not quite what I expected.”

“What did you expect?”

“Did you expect it to be like first grade?”

“No,” said Fahlin.

Did you expect it to be harder than first grade?”

“Yes.”

“Was it?” I asked, interested in getting to the bottom of things.

“No, I was expecting something different.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know,” came the answer.

I am so confused. HAHAHA. All I know is this, whatever it was she expected, it was either different or the same as what she expected. There! Clear as mud. I do know this. Once school starts, Fahlin comes alive. Her brain starts working, she is involved and her demeanor changes for the good.

I also always ask her, “Are you the smartest kid in your class?”

“Yes,” is usually the response.

“Do you have any kids in your class that are not very smart?”

“Yes, the boys,” she says a matter of factly, without hesitation.

So far so good on that front as well. “It’s good to be back at school, isn’t it Fahl Fahl?”

“Uh huh…”

August 2, 2017

Aug 2 2017 5:54 PM

Well, here I am, back home, refreshed from our vacation, and full of stories…Fahl Fahl stories. She is definitely an inquisitive little girl. The best question cane while my wife was in Texas, “How did Millie get in your belly?” Millie, of course is my youngest son’s daughter, our granddaughter, and the question of course, was asked of Ami, our daughter-in-law. Hoo-boy, glad I was not there. Not sure how it was answered by my Dil (nickname for Ami), but I am sure she giggled while answering. Of course, in the past, when I was called upon to explain the birds and the bees, I was pretty, umm, how shall I say, pretty descriptive. [I read a book about raising Christian boys, can’t recall the title, but there was an entire chapter dedicated to “the question,” and the author encouraged fathers to be forthcoming with all the details, which I was.]

Anyway, on to the next question. “Did all my brothers and sisters come from China?”

“No, Fahlin,” answered my wife. “They came from my belly, you came from your birth mother’s belly.”

To which she uttered a profound, “Oh.”

In the past, we have explained to the girls that there are many reasons birth mothers give up their children. Suffice it to say, the girls may not have born out of Yolanda’s belly, but they were definitely born out of her heart.

And finally, this question, “Is burping and belching the same thing?” one of life’s perplexing questions, no doubt in Fahlin’s brain. She has been practicing and perfecting her burping technique all summer. Obviously it has been on her mind. Now she knows, “yes, Fahlin, they are the same thing.”

So, for now, I’m back in the blog saddle, excited to continue the story of Fahlin and the all the Chapman’s. There is a lot of material yet to be explored, announced and written about. Thanks for continuing to read. Feel free to forward and share with anyone and everyone.

July 19, 2017

Jul 19 2017 10:04 AM

Vaca time in Tennessee for Falh Fahl and the Chapman Clan. Our annual trip to the beach in Florida is just around the corner, but this year, things are a little different. My wife has an extended span of time between work dates so she has decided to head off to Plano Texas and see grandbaby number two, Millicent James Chapman, and, by the way, take all the Chapman females with her.

Recently, I started doing “live event paintings” by painting wedding receptions while they are going on. I have has a wedding booked on the 22nd for some time now, so am staying behind to paint the event. Side note: the paintings are really cool, and become a cherished keepsake for the young bride and groom. Plus, I am part of the entertainment for the evening as people come by and watch and comment and even beg to be put in the picture.

Not that you would, but don’t fret for me, I will be joining them at the beach on Sunday. Anyway, can you imagine the car full of girls heading out for 11 hours, the fun they’ll have, the joyous camaraderie, the pleasantries they will exchange? I can. And can you imagine the quiet in the house? I cannot remember the last time I was alone in the house. Years. Wish I had friends I could hang out with, or play golf with, or break bread with. Ahhhh, I’m just joshin,’ I do have friends. But instead of doing stuff with them, I will be painting two bedrooms and part of a hallway. I’ve already defied death by painting the stairway then followed that up with the kitchen. It’s been a productive last week and a half. What’s funny is that I am a great artist, but I cannot for the life of me ‘cut’ a straight line in the corner of a room or along the ceiling. Never have been able to do that. Crazy.

So I have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday to get the rooms done. I’m confident I can. But did the girls help by moving their stuff to center of the room? Or out of the room? Or into the hallway? Noooooooo. Oh well, at least they won’t be around to make suggestions on how to do the job better. Comments from the peanut gallery? That I can live without!

So be safe girls. Be extra safe, please. Say hello to number two son and daughter-in-law for me, and especially, give Millicent a big kiss on the cheek from her G-Dude! I’ll see you in Panama City.

July 13, 2017

Jul 12 2017 8:59 AM

It is that time of year again, when the Chapman family starts preparing for their annual trip to the beach, which means summer swim team is over and it’s time to tackle the ever mounting honey-do list. In order to prepare for that, we have to also take care of all the little errands that have been put on the back burner. So, we started with “The List.” I took Fahlin’s little notebook in which she writes down stuff, and made list of things Daddy needed to do, complete with boxes for checking off each errand when completed. She totally bought into “The List” and couldn’t wait to get started.

Now, mind you, Izzy, Lydia and I had just returned from a swim meet in Georgia. On that trip home, we got off to eat in Chattanooga, but when we did we hit a HUGE, unseen something, whether a pothole or construction debris, I’m not sure, but it jolted the car like never before. I checked the tires before we got back on the road again; all seemed well.

Back to the list. [The tire story makes this day very interesting] So, we go out to the car and take off, but the car is driving weird. Wouldn’t you know it? Apparently there was significant tire damage from the day before and the tire was flat. Like any good father, I drove it like that to the nearest Mapco for air, thinking I could put air in the tire and continue on our way, which I did.

“Fahlin, add fix tire to our list.” She did.

Errands #1, #2 and #3 were checked off. I checked the tire. Going flat again. More air. Errands #4, #5, #6, checked off. But after #6, the tire was flat again. This time we were about a mile and a half from Tire Discounters, so rather than change the dang tire, I decided to drive very, very slowly through the city of Brentwood to the tire shop. Dumb move. By the time I got to the tire store, my tire was shredded. Sometimes I am amazed at my own stupidity. You would think, after all these years, I would know better…but NOOOOOOOOOO. Errand #7 was a little expensive. Fortunately, errand #8, eating lunch was accomplished at the same time the new tires were going on the car. There just happened to be a Sonic right across the street. We sat outside and had lunch. Hotdogs, corndogs and milkshakes. The girls loved it.

By this time we had been running errands for about four hours, but because of “The List,” Fahlin was engaged and enjoying the day. “The List” made the difference. Jayne was with us as well, but Jayne has always been a pretty good “go with the flow” kid. We paid for errand #7, then off to errand #9, washing the car.

“Oooo, goody, can we go through one of those carwashes with the things?”

“Yes.”

Carwash complete. Quite fun. Until… Until I went to vacuum. Yikes, half of my car had fallen off during the carwash! After s few words with the employees and manager, we got it put back together. Gheesh!

Anyway, we skipped errand #10 and head home. Errand #10 could wait. That was our Monday. But looking back, it was great day. And Fahlin put it all into perspective when we had gotten home and were listening to Mom’s ‘tireade’ (pun intended) about the tires. In hindsight, the tire was damaged in Chattanooga, yet we drove on it for two more hours. We were in danger and the tire could have caused a serious accident. “God kept his hands on you guys,” Fahlin stated. Yes, Fahlin, yes He did.

July 4, 2017

Jul 5 2017 10:20 AM

Fahlin is a great American. She even knows who our President is. When we asked whom (I wanted to put who, but spell check told me to use whom) our Vice-President is, she said, “Bill Clinton.” Okay, so she’s not completely up on current events. When asked if she liked being an American, she said, “I guess,” but then quickly added, “I like living here a lot better than in China.”

Kids. Even a kid like Fahlin, who has been so much in her brief life, just boils things down to the simplest of terms. I wish I could do that. We have taken on a lot with these little girls. I’m not sure we actually understood what we were getting ourselves into. Jayne with her brain and developmental issues, the seriousness of Fahlin’s heart problems, Lydia’s newly found ‘little person’ status (did you know if you are under 4’10” a person is considered a little person?) and Izzy’s sky-high ACT score (we expected to be good, but a 33 on a first try without any prep is impressive).

I cannot describe how I am feeling exactly. I realize that what I’m talking about now has nothing to do with the 4th of July, or who is President or VP, but with everything that’s going on in our family, my feelings are somewhere between paralyzed with fear and discombobulated, I think. I tried to talk with my wife about these things but when we get about two sentences into the conversation, we both just stop talking and look at each other blankly with this look of, “What do we do next?” on our faces. It is a difficult place for a parent to be. We should have a plan, but with so much to figure out, how can we even begin to make a plan? You know, when I pray, I stop, because I don’t know how to pray or even what to pray. This is when I turn it over to the Holy Spirit and ask for intersession. He knows what I do not know.

With the fall looming here in the couple months, I have got to figure out how all the pieces are going to work. How are we going to get Jayne to her new school and back home, my girls who go to my school schedules, and Fahlin at her school, and then where they all belong after school and how to get them there and home (wow, I was hoping that sentence would make sense, but I’m not sure it does…I’m leaving it because that is how my brain is working right now…see what I mean?).

Anyway, we still have a good portion of summer to go. I’m hoping to get things figured out by the time we head to the beach. In the meantime, I’ll still work on my paintings, get my China trip stuff together, get Jayne situated at her new school, do my summer reading, but enjoy my leisure reading more (1000 pages of Sherlock Holmes), work out, paint the kitchen and stairway, get Abby and Izzy’s rooms switched out and maybe once in awhile, grill a burger or two. I’m better off not thinking about the important stuff too much… it would drive me crazy. I think. If only I could keep things as simple as Fahlin. And to think, this blog all started with “Bill Clinton.”

June 28, 2017

Jun 30 2017 2:51 PM

This blog is simple and to the point. Our summer is crazy, and this week is the craziest. Championship swim meet. All day Friday and Saturday. Swim team party Sunday evening. Then it’s over. So for now, that’s it. I will write a real blog next week, promise….

CRAZY!

Did I mention our summer was crazy?

June 20, 2017

Jun 21 2017 6:38 PM

It hit me. As a family, we have so much for which to be thankful. But do I actually take time to stop and think about all the blessings? All the miracles? The little lives that are in our care? I think about our grown children. A lobbyist in D.C., a youth pastor in Dallas, an adoptive mom in Tampa, a soon to be graduate (with a double major) in the ’Boro. The lobbyist’s wife is a bilingual teacher, also in D.C., our youth pastor’s wife is a new mom and works at the same church, and my adoptive daughter’s husband will soon be taking over the airline business (well, maybe not soon, but eventually). We are batting 1000% in the spouse category, for sure.

So that’s brings me to the most somber of thoughts. Who takes care of the girls when we finally pass? I don’t mean to be morbid. My kids accuse me of it all the time, especially when my wife is getting onto me about something dumb I ‘supposedly’ did, to which I will respond, half mockingly I might add, “Someday you will miss me when I am not around and you’ll be wishing I was here?” But seriously, really, it is something we must face, and a question that needs asking. What is great about our big kids is that they have assured us that we need not worry. They have ‘talked.’

“Dad, don’t worry!”

A long time ago, a friend of mine from back in the old 4Runner days wrote a song, which my brothers (the Chapman Brothers, we traveled and sang with Loretta Lynn for a few years) and I demoed, which was subsequently recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys called Homestretch. The song contains a line in the second verse that says, “The dyin’s easy, but the leavin’s hard…” My bro-in-law Herbie Chapman was singing lead on the demo, but when he got to that part, he along with the rest of us were bawling our eyes out, he sang with such emotion. We left it just like he sang it, tears and all. But I have recently been listening to that song and it has profoundly touched me. That line is so…profoundly profound.

Heaven will be awesome, of that there is no doubt, and once I am there, I’ll have no worries either. Until that moment comes, the human part of me will be concerned for our girls’ wellbeing. I’m only human. But you know what? We just take everything a day at a time. It’s the only thing we can do.

June 16, 2017

Jun 21 2017 1:20 PM

It has stuck me just how much prayer our little Fahlin has received over the few short years of her life. On a lark, I Googled ‘Fahlin Chapman.’ While I didn’t expect millions of things to pop up as with most searches, over 10,000 items did. Now, not all of them are specifically Fahlin, but it did give me a sense of how big the ripple in the pond was that Fahlin has made.

From the first time anyone knew who she was as she made her way somehow to Maria’s Big House, people have been touched by this this little girl, whose inauspicious beginnings to life has turned into a miracle in the making. G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.” I don’t usually understand much of anything G. K. writes, but I do understand that. People all over the globe that have somehow heard Fahlin’s story in one form or another, have prayed for this little girl. The ripple continues to expand.

I recently received this email from Brooke Carman, whom I have never met. It is unedited, honest, and you’ll see why I share it with you, and I hope you don’t mind, Brooke.

Hi Jim,

My name is Brooke Carman, and I just happened across your blog through a link from the Show Hope site, and through tears just read the adoption stories and updates of your youngest daughters. I felt compelled to reach out and let you know how much hope and courage they gave me. You see my husband and I are currently in the process of adopting the most precious 3 year old boy from China diagnosed with congenital heart disease. His condition is also very complex and has been described as palliative. On top of his diagnosis, the story you tell about Fahlin watching her friend be united with his family as she stood their broken hearted and left behind… that is our little guys story too. You see his best friend was adopted by our friends here in Middle TN back in March, and as soon as they returned home from China they told us about this little guy they had met and left behind at their son’s home, and through God’s grace we knew he was meant to be our son, and so we are working fast and furious to get to China and bring him home. We are currently watching as God continues to open doors on our journey to him. Both of our boys have lived their entire lives together in China and both have very complex heart conditions. The realities you mention of not knowing how much time we will have with them weighs heavy on both of our families now, but we believe that God still performs miracles and so that is our prayer for these boys. We are praying big, bold prayers for miraculous healing. And even if that isn’t their story we know that every moment we are able to spend with them will be a blessing.

Anyways, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your families story, and let you know how God used it to encourage my heart this morning as my family clings to hope as we wade through this journey with a very uncertain future. We will continue to put our faith and trust in God and pray for miracles!

Thank you!

Brooke Carman

Another family listened to God’s still small voice and stepped into a difficult situation, with an uncertain outcome and adopted a child in need of a family. We totally empathize. When we did that, I am pretty sure we ‘thought’ we thought of every possible outcome, but we did not even come close. I never realized the emotional toll raising two very sick, needy little girls would be so ‘roller-coaster-ish.’ I hide it well. We hide it well. Our family doesn’t know any different. Our life is our life. An uncertain future IS our future. We can’t worry about what might be. We simply live in the now. Financially, it’s not easy. Medical bills are exorbitant. The newest car we drive is seven years old. Not complaining. Our house needs serious updating which we just can’t do all at once. We just chip away at it with a new paint job here, a new stove there, but what about the sinking porch, or the garage door? Still not complaining. Seems like nothing ever gets done, and the list just continues to grow. Oh woe is me! I should be ashamed of myself. God is a big, good God. I know that. I KNOW THAT! Really, I do. I feel selfish when I let everything weigh on me and that overwhelming feeling of being overwhelmed overtakes me. Pray, pray and pray. That’s all I know to do, so I do a lot. Thank you for praying with us.

So to bring it all back around, the ripple effect is huge. Families continue to be touched by Fahlin’s story, by Jayne’s story, even by other two daughters, Izzy and Lydia’s stories. And they, too come to find that there is lot of stuff that comes along with the ripples. But then his or her story touches someone that we could never touch. And I am sure some of those families need a new roof, or new car, or a leaky toilet fixed or even their lawn mowed. But despite that, the common thread through all of these stories is one, simple thread…Miracles. They are all miracles. Each and every child, and as I have said before, we get to live with them every day!

June 12, 2017

Jun 12 2017 3:37 PM

So, Fahlin has these little quirks. They are sooooo cute. One of the grossest, if that’s a word, is how she eats chips at a Mexican restaurant. We always order sour cream; because we are a family that believes everything tastes better with sour cream either in it or on it. The next time you mix up a batch of pancakes, put a dollop of sour cream in the batter. It will revolutionize your pancake eating life. Anyway, back to Fahlin’s gross chip eating quirk. She takes her chip and she basically scoops the entire bowl of sour cream onto the one single chip in her hand, then proceeds to ‘lip’ it off the chip, then eat the chip. Delicious, I’m sure.

Another food quirk is how she likes to peel her grapes. Yes that’s right, peel her grapes. She will not eat a grape until she has removed the skin, and then gobbles it right up. If she’s outside, she’ll throw the peels in the grass, if inside, she will just make a small mound of peelings on her plate. Too funny.

She likes to carry little things around in her hand. At any given time she will have a small canister, you know the kind, small, adjustable, of Chapstick with her. It could be the grape flavored, or the original non-flavored, but for some reason she must like the feel having of something in her hand. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of psychological explanation. Another similar object she will carry is a small tube of hand moisturizer. If you ever get a chance to hold her sweet, little hand, you will immediately notice how super soft it is. Baby skin soft (I almost typed baby butt soft, but decided not to).

Her latest object is a fabric measuring tape, the kind that is made out of a vinyl like substance and easily rolled up. She carries it with her everywhere, telling anyone who will listen, “I love this! Mommy say I can have it!” Her bicep measures only five inches. But she really doesn’t use it to measure things; she uses it more like a YoYo. Roll it up, let it go. Roll it up, let it go. Over and over again.

I’m sure it has something to do with her first five years in China. I mean, I suppose if I were a small orphan child being carted off to a new land with people I just met, even though they loved me more than I understood, I would want to hang onto to something if for no other reason than to feel as if I had control over at least one thing in my life, no matter how small. I can’t imagine what she was thinking. Anyway, it’s been almost four months now, and I also can’t imagine our life without her.

June 1, 2017

Jun 5 2017 11:34 AM

I just had to write about our experience we had last night as a family. The “China Lights” exhibit at the Nashville Fairgrounds is in town through next weekend. We decided to go check it out since, well; half of our children are from China. It’s both cool and strange at the same time. There are giant dragons, huge Chinese lanterns of all sizes and shapes, lighted Terra Cotta warriors, floral walls of lights and a show that features Chines performers doing things that only Chinese performers can do.

As we were watching one of the performances, Fahlin said the classic line of all time; “I have never seen any real Chinese people before, other than my nannies!” The way it came across was quite hilarious.

One guy balanced and tossed heavy clay pottery onto his head, then from arm to arm, then flip them using only his hair. Think Harlem Globetrotters only with a clay pot rather than a basketball. Then there was this girl who rode an eight-foot tall unicycle and flipped bowls onto her head using only her foot. There was the contortionist and then the ‘mask-face-changer (in Chinese Opera tradition),’ which were both cool, but nothing compared to the guy who played the ‘Two-Stringed’ instrument called an Erhu. This guy was PHENOMINAL. If he was not a world-class performer, I do not know who is. Surely the Nashville Symphony could invite him to perform. And he did it all with only TWO strings. Amazing.

Of course, no authentic Chinese display would be complete with the obligatory signage that goes along with each attraction. It is kind of set up like a walking tour and when you get to each display, there would be a sign explaining details of what we are looking at; in both English and Chinese. Fahlin took charge and had each of us take turns reading each sign. She was really into it. Of course the translations are always hilarious, resulting in what is called ‘Chenglish.’ The English is never quite right. My daughter Izzy and I howled all night.

But we had a blast. It was a good night. Go see it; you’ll know what I mean…

May 30, 2017

May 30 2017 8:49 AM

So this summer we have some work to do. First, let me say, yesterday, Memorial Day was quiet for us. Steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, just wonderful. Our dinner conversation centered on what we where looking forward to the most this summer. Most of us are looking forward to the beach, but Fahlin said she was looking forward to spending time with all her family. It doesn’t matter what we do, just that we are all doing it.

Now, back to the work that has to be done. A couple days ago, o noticed that when the two ‘littles’ (Lydia has graduated from being included in the ‘littles’ now that she will be going into the 7th grade. Izzy has become a ‘big,’ Lydia a ‘non-little,’ and Jayne and Fahlin remain the lone two ‘littles.’ But, now that all the summarizing as been completed, one thing I noticed when Jayne and Fahl Fahl spend TOO much time together, Fahlin ALWAYS ends up mad. Mad at not getting her way, mad at Jayne for not wanting to play, mad at everything. So, I put the foot down, yessiree I did! I told my wife I was didn’t know if I could stand the bickering all summer. It was, well, ridiculous!

“Not more being mad,” I edicted. “You will NOT be mad all summer. I will NOT tolerate it anymore!” So that night, while tucking in bed, I reminded her, “Tomorrow, we you will not be mean…at all…to anyone at anytime!”

It’s actually worked. Who knew? All I had to say was “No more being mean?!?!?” Well, I figured I would have to remind her occasionally, but so far, only once. Can this work? Will she keep it up? Who knows? But I do know that I will have to stay vigilant if we are to succeed in “Stopping the meanness.” Anyways, I’ll let you know how it goes. Gotta go see why everyone’s being good…

May 19, 2017

May 19 2017 8:58 PM

Sorry about not having a blog post lately. Hooboy, it’s been crazy. You would think the school year ending would be easier than the beginning of school, but I am not so sure anymore. Between my school, the girls school, summer swimming, exams, applying to another school for Jayne (wait, what?!?), spring garage cleaning, oil changes, artwork to finish, daughter finishing her last class of college, yard-work, fences falling down, teaching BA swim camp, hiring young coaches to coach for me this summer, paperwork (I hate paperwork), hauling equipment to and from various pools for one thing or another, writing our ‘story’ for Dr. Joyce Hill’s new book, and well, you get the picture, life can be crazy. You’ve all been there with similar busy-ness. I just want to slow down…just for a minute.

Even though this is a blog primarily about Fahlin’s journey, Jayne is on one of her own as well. Jayne’s special needs trump just about everything you have ever seen or heard. They are plentiful. Yet, she is doing remarkably well. While she may never be a straight A student, her teachers and support personnel think the world of her and care about her deeply. We know this to be true by the way they responded when they heard she was accepted into Currey Ingram, a school whose specific mission is to help those children who have learning differences for one reason or another, or in Jayne’s case multiple reasons or another. One teacher in particular cried. Tears of both happiness and sadness. She doesn’t want to lose Jayne. She has seen the immense amount of progress she has made and has grown quite attached to Jayne. But, not to worry just yet, Currey Ingram is expensive. We haven’t quite figured out that part just yet; let alone logistics. It is all in God’s hands.

So, summer is about to begin. Our first month will be a whirlwind of swim meets. After that, we are planning on seeing the kids. I miss the kids (the big ones). As for Fahlin, hopefully she will remember how to swim. She jumped in my lessons last night and totally forgot everything we taught her last summer. She immediately sank to the bottom and one of my young assistants had to grab her. Not a good start to class. She eventually floated, then kicked a lap or two on a noodle. That was about it. Out of gas. We never really like to push her little heart too hard. So, she knocked off for the night and walked around all big and bad with a towel wrapped around her like the big girls. Oh Fahlly Fahl, what does the summer hold?

May 11, 2017

May 15 2017 3:17 PM

Jayne and Fahlin

A Chapman Family Story

By: Jim and Yolanda Chapman

Jayne

It was June of 2006. I remember because I was leading a Show Hope Foundation trip of teenagers to China and to Hope Foster home in Beijing. I had known of Robin and Joyce Hill and had met them briefly, but at that time, only as an introduction. Of course, little did I know that the trip of 2006 was the trip where I would meet a very sick little un-named baby that would turn our lives upside down…again. I will explain.

In 2001, we had adopted our daughter, Izzy and four years later, through a series of supernatural events we adopted another daughter, Lydia. The two daughters, Izzy and Lydia brought our total children count to six. We were finished. Done. No more children.

But during those trips, something happened in my heart. Not only did my wife and I fall deeply in love with those two little girls, but also fall in love with China and the Chinese people as well.

So that brings me back to the 2006 trip. It was much like any other trip, see the sights, work with babies, see more sights, play with more babies, eta some cuisine, go back to the orphanage, shop, play, work. The most impactful day of the trip was the last night we were in Beijing before heading back to the states. I was in Robin’s office, chatting, when a nurse brought in a baby. A very sick baby. She was pathetic. When they handed her to me, they told me that she had just recently arrived (from the Xinjiang Province in western China near Mongolia) and didn’t really know any details as to how she even got to Beijing. But what was known was that she near death, very sick, in need of numerous procedures and surgeries. She had no sponsor. I was overcome with emotion. A student took our picture. It still hangs on our refrigerator as a reminder. I reached into my pocket and pulled out every penny I had, Chinese and U.S and said, “Here, let me help.” I became her sponsor. It was then that I was able to give this little girl her American name. I had always liked ‘Jane.’ My wife never liked the name. She wouldn’t let any of our other four daughters be named ‘Jane’ so I decided to name ‘Jane’ ‘Jayne,’ with a ‘y’ to make it a little more fancy. Little did I know that four and a half years from that moment, Jayne would become our daughter.

I remember the email from Dr. Joyce vividly. The area from which Jayne came in western China was not known for adoptions. Jayne’s original orphanage had done the necessary paperwork and despite the many, many special medical needs that would typically prevent a child like Jayne from even being approved for adoption, she was able to be placed on the ‘special needs list.’ We could hear the surprise in Joyce’s email as she asked us to pray for Jayne and pray that she would find a family. We now know that was Joyce’s way of telling us, “She is already adopted and YOU are going to be her parents.”

I remember calling my sister, and told her that Jayne had been placed on the special needs list and that she was eligible to be adopted, something we have prayed for all along “Why don’t you guys adopt Jayne? After all, you named her!” And there you have it. First, an email from Joyce, then a phone call from Mary Beth, and voila, Jayne was ours. To be clear, it did not happen exactly like that, we did go through proper channels by contacting our agency, which in turn found her on the registry. We started our home study and next thing we knew, we were off to Beijing.

At first, she was a sad, brokenhearted little girl. She was scared and her future uncertain. Our future was uncertain. She was born with imperforate anus, brain damage, epilepsy, one kidney and a couple holes in her heart, all of which were fixed under the supervision of Dr. Joyce Hill, for that we are eternally grateful. We were concerned with how her bowels would function, how her brain would work missing a portion, if she would have seizures or not, how active she could or could not be, especially with one kidney; if she would be able to transition to understanding and speaking English. Making a long story short And after having been home a little while my wife received a call from one of the world’s most renown neurologists (whom my sister Mary Beth had met at a fundraising event some time before). He had looked at her medical files, tests, MRI’s, etc., and he asked two questions: 1. “Was she in a wheelchair?” She was not, she ran, hopped jumped, skipped and had learned how to swim. And 2. “Does she speak?” Yes, in fact she was transitioning from Chinese, which she had spoken the first four years of her life, to English just fine, thank you. He simply said, and I am paraphrasing, “Alrighty then, that’s good, according to her records she should be doing neither. She’s good to go!”

Fahlin

Fahlin was born in 2009, April Fool’s day to be exact. Maria’s Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China had just opened. At the time it was a huge six story building painted blue with white clouds all over it. While the details of how Fahlin came to be at the Big House, she was one of the ‘Original 8’ children who arrived at Maria’s. She was a very, very sick little girl. Having been diagnosed with a non-operable congenital heart disease her prognosis was bleak at best. She was not expected to live past one. And on top of that, she was purple. Her lips, fingers, tongue, gums, and skin were all bluish-purple. Her body was working overtime to provide oxygen to its cells. Life was a struggle.

I happened to be there on a mission trip, painting large white flowers with an orange center and one blue petal on the side of the Big House. Though I was not allowed on the palliative care floor where she was, I went up anyway to hold babies. I don’t remember much from that day, other than the overwhelming feeling helplessness that swept over me.

That was 2009. We adopted Fahlin five years later. Obviously, during those five years, Fahlin defied every bleak prognosis and survived. Year after year. She was bluish-purple because of her lack of circulation. She could barely do any physical activity because she would easily get winded. Amazingly, she grew up. She got to move out of palliative care and eventually ended up on the first floor where she became the ‘big sister’ to a room full of babies and toddlers.

So how did she come to live with us? Here’s what happened. Once again, my sister Mary Beth and her husband Steven were involved. It was July of 2014 and they had just returned from China. As the Founders of Show Hope, they will often go over to check on everything. We had just sat down at dinner when Yolanda asked Mary Beth, “I’ve got to ask, how’s Fahlin?”

She looked at Steven and said, “I swear I did not say anything.” Turning to Yolanda, she said, “Why are you asking about her?”

Yolanda responded, “I don’t know, God has put her name on my heart the past three or four months.”

At that point Mary Beth began to share with us how she and Steven had watched as Fahlin’s friend Jude was united with his new family. They watched as Fahlin stood there broken hearted with tears in her eyes as her last friend climbed into a vehicle with his new family, realizing that she did not have a family. She was the last of the ‘Original 8’ babies that were the first children to reside at Maria’s Big House. Seven had been adopted, and Fahlin remained. It was at that moment when my sister asked the Show Hope medical staff why Fahlin couldn’t be adopted.

Something to effect of, “If we could find the right family, knowing full well that it would most likely be a palliative care situation, we think she could be,” was the response.

At this point, we committed to finding her a family, and, as Yolanda put it that night, “If no one else will adopt her, we will.” She looked at me knowing full well I would totally be in, of course.

She was five years old at this point. When she turned six, she possibly would have to return to the state run orphanage and leave everything behind. Dr. Joyce and my sister, and the staff doctor at Maria’s all agreed, she must not return to the state orphanage. And just like that the Fahlin ball was rolling. I think we set a record as to how fast we could get paperwork done. God set a record as well for his ‘door openings,’ which were happening at a fast and furious pace, and about seven months later in February of 2015, my wife and I along with my sister Mary Beth and her road manager, David Trask were headed to China. The amount of red tape we able to circumvent truly stretched all the way to China and back.

While Fahlin truly wanted a forever family, the initial transition was extremely difficult. She was still a very sick little girl. She was very scared. Who were these people? Where am I? She had so many questions. She understood she had what she had always wanted, a family, but now was pretty uncertain what all of that meant. She took to me pretty well, but did not seem too interested in her new Mom. We had been through this before and understood that patience and time would solve this, but it was still difficult.

With her specific heart condition, air travel was dangerous. Our doctors told us at first that she would not be able to fly. After considerable research and consultations with our pediatrician and then with the heart doctors at Vanderbilt University, it was decided that she could fly if she were connected to oxygen. The fear was he could go into heart failure at altitude. We were very concerned, of course. The Chinese government even forbade us from flying with oxygen while in China. We had to take the train everywhere, from the orphanage, to the consulate in Guangzhou and even private cars to Hong Kong from where we were to fly home. It wasn’t until later, after we had gotten home, that we found out from our cardiac team at Vanderbilt that even though we had flown with her attached to oxygen, she literally could have suffered a massive heart attack on the plane. Flying was, it turned out, was indeed that dangerous.

[We had known this and as a precaution, had made alternative plans to train her from Beijing, through Russia, through Europe to England, then hop on the Queen Mary and sail to New York where Uncle Steve would be waiting with his bus to truck her on down to Music City. This would have taken nearly a month and we were not sure there was any less risk, in fact even thought the stress of that trip might even be too much for her little body]

During one of a series of tests at Vanderbilt, echocardiograms, MRI’s, heart catheterizations, etc., etc., they had found that her blood was as thick as molasses. Having gotten that under control with blood thinners, and during one of her heart cath procedures, the doctors placed a stent in her right pulmonary artery, which would allow for better blood flow, followed by the placement of a shunt between the aorta and a very tiny left pulmonary artery, again in hopes of increasing blood flow and even growing a new pulmonary artery. Our little purple girl has made remarkable progress and, thanks to the stents and shunt, gradually turned pink. The team of doctors has since given us encouraging news that they could in fact save Fahlin’s life and offer her hope for bright future. They have mapped out a plan that they are confident will give Fahlin a new lease on life. What was once a hopeless cause with a one percent survival rate, suddenly was now an optimistic prognosis that with a couple of specific heart surgeries performed by one of the leading pediatric heart surgeons in the world, she has been given a 97% chance of getting a college education and living a productive life. Fahlin is definitely a trooper, and continues to defy the odds.

Jayne and Fahlin: What’s next?

So that is where we are. Jayne turned eleven on May 7th; Fahlin turned 8 on April 1st. Two little girls whose humble beginnings to their lives offered zero hope for any type of quality life. In fact, the only thing certain in their lives was uncertainty. But here we are, all these years later. These same two little girls have been through a lot. Their little bodies bear the battle scars of rough beginning to life and serve as reminder to us of everything they’ve been through. It was a very real possibility that God had called us to adopt two little girls who very well could have died in our arms. But now they have a family. They are thriving. The two of them have now have six brothers and sisters who dearly love them, an extended family of Aunts and Uncles and Brothers and Sisters-in-Laws and grandparents who are all committed to caring for these girls. While there are still many obstacles still to overcome, both short and long term, these two ‘fighters’ who have become fast friends have a lot of life ahead of them to live. God must have something big planned for these two, Jayne and Fahlin, because at this point they are simply, “Walking, talking, heart-still-beating Miracles,” with a capital ‘M.’

April 30, 2017

May 1 2017 7:58 AM

Grandson Nash is in town for a week. How does this effect Fahlin? Hooo boy, a LOT! The dynamic between those two is, well, a study in psychology to be sure. First of all, if you ask Fahlin if she likes her nephew, she will tell you an emphatic “No!” [Excuse me while I go change a poopy diaper.] We are not sure why, but this trip I decided to watch closely and observe.

The very first thing Nash did when he saw Fahlin was to walk up behind her, reach out with both hands, grab two full locks of hair and yank! Hard! At that moment he screaming and wailing commenced, and the battle was on. Every time Nash would come close to Fahlin, she would cry, or yell, or scream. She would get up and run to a new spot yelling, “No, no Nash!” Or, “Stay away!” Or even, “I don’t like him!”

Hmmm? So I continued to observe. And what did I find? A little girl who was not quite as innocent as she seemed. When he would walk by where she was sitting and catch her off guard, she would knock him down with a subtle push. One time he was on the opposite end of the couch and as he crawled closer to her she turned around and nudged him off the couch with a thud. She would give him the cold shoulder and even turn her nose up at him.

And so the battle raged. Hair pulls here, knock downs there. Meanness and ugliness on Fahlin’s part, retaliation on Nash’s part. Until last night. For some reason, Nash wanted to follow Fahlin around. She did not like that. So we told him to “Get her!” he took off, she screamed and took off as well, terrified of what the little monster might do once he captured her. Around and around they went, terrifying screams and giggles mixed between the two of them. Finally, down the hall they went, Fahlin in the lead, monster baby right behind. Fahlin ran into the downstairs bedroom with Nash right behind. The door slammed! Right onto Nash’s head and arms and body. The terrifying ordeal had come to a climax with violent end and the monster baby lying on the floor crying after having been smashed by the door, which Fahlin had slammed into his face. Well, it looked and sounded much worse than it turned out to be. Didn’t even leave a mark.

Epilogue:

Later that evening, Fahlin turned the tables. After putting all the terrifying moments with Nash behind her, she began to play with Nash. They ran, and played, played and ran. This morning when they woke up, they were big buds. Still are as of this moment. Ah, kids. Go figure.

The end? I think not…to be continued…

April 24, 2017

Apr 25 2017 12:52 PM

Esther 4:14b “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” As my wife and I navigate through these uncertain times with Fahlin, and Jayne for that matter, both of whom have severe medical needs as you well know, there are moments when we look at each other and remind ourselves that this is our calling and now is the time God has placed us where we are, in this timeframe of the world’s history; to be here for these children regardless of the difficulties we encounter along the way. This is our time.

Case in point: Fahlin is hard. Cute on the outside. Cute to everyone else, but hard. Every now and then she goes into this mean spirited, hateful mood where she will not have anything to do with her Dad. This has nothing to do with my picking on her, that is self-inflicted and purposeful on my part. This is different. It is very hateful and hurtful…that is if I were tempted to allow it to hurt. I know for certain she loves her family and her Dad. I looked at my wife and she looked at me last night. We were both thinking, “What’s up with this?” She even remarked, “I don’t know why she does this Honey.” She still calls me honey.

It prompted us to have a very serious conversation about Fahlin being ‘hard.’ I told her something like, “You know, if this were kid number one or two, I might feel different, but since she is number eight and since we have been put in this position to be her caretakers, this does not offend me at all. In fact, if anything, it makes me want to love her even more.”

Yolanda simply said, “She is hard.” We do not know what brings this on. Almost certainly it has something to do with China, her condition, her early life, her care…everything we don’t know. On the other hand, we want to help. We’ve been called to help and this is where we are at this very moment, for such a time as this.

The best thing for me to come out of all of this is that I have finally; we have finally realized that this does not seem to affect us the way things like this affected us when we were younger parents. We don’t get mad. We don’t get flustered. We don’t over-react. We actually love better. Love stronger. Pray harder. Hmmm, maybe we are finally developing wisdom? Jim Chapman being wise is not usually a phrase that is used to describe Jim Chapman. It’s kind of weird, but, after all these years, maybe it’s finally clicking. And maybe this is the piece, or should I say, peace we have needed all along that will us navigate this road ahead with Fahlin. She is hard.

April 19, 2017

Apr 19 2017 6:08 PM

I have wanted to write this blog for a while now and now is finally the time. Fahlin is “s l o w.” A slowpoke. Piddler. Dawdler. Dilly-dallier. Snail. Straggler. You get the picture? It never fails, if she is getting ready for school, she is the last one ready. If it’s church, she is the last one. If it’s just to go anywhere, she is the last one.

But there is one thing you never want to do and that’s use the words, “Hurry up!” Oh my. If you say those two words, then get ready for the storm. She panics. She immediately shuts down. She is incapable of “hurrying up.” If fact, she does just the opposite. She goes slower. She sulks. She is totally flustered when she tries to hurry. She cannot function. If she’s trying her shoes, she suddenly forgets how. If she is looking for a jacket, suddenly she cannot find one. She gets upset. She huffs and puffs and snorts and stomps and mumbles under her breath.

It’s quit comical, but she doesn’t see the humor in “hurrying.” Of course, as you all well know by now, me being the great Dad that I am will fan the flames by adding to her stress. I will pick on her and her attitude by mocking her (in a fun Dad way of course, not in a mean spirited way). My wife will say something like, “Jim Chapman, stop agitating her!” or I’ll pick her up and kiss on her when she doesn’t want to be picked up and kissed on. Always makes things worse, according to my wife (with whom I often disagree on this point).

Eventually, she gets her act together, but not until we’ve exhausted every word of encouragement we can think of. Rare is the occasion she is first. It happens, but not often. I think we have finally realized that this is who she is. Fahlin the slow poke. Better a slow Fahlin than not having a Fahlin at all. We’ll take it!

April 14, 2017

Apr 14 2017 8:41 AM

First of all, it is Good Friday as write this, the first day of Easter weekend, which is without question the greatest series of events ever to have happened in the history of the world…PERIOD. I do not want to forget that as we celebrate our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

I love fixing breakfast for the girls. I love eating breakfast. In fact, I recently told my family (not to be morbid as they often accuse me) that if I should happen to pass away (I’m not planning on it anytime soon, mind you), I want breakfast foods at my funeral. But, I digress.

Fahlin just made me laugh by something she said. As we were talking, I was asking her if she ever ‘thinks’ in Chinese, because the other day, I could have sworn she was speaking Chinese to Jayne.

She said, “Dad, we were pretending to be Chinese!”

What?!?!? They were PRETENDING to be Chinese. Hmmmmm. I think they ARE Chinese. Well, we have come to the realization that while our girls may appear to be Chinese on the outside, they are far from it. They are as Anglo-Saxon as it gets, I think. I’m not even so sure they realize it even when they look into a mirror.

Fahlin is the best dinner (breakfast) conversationalist we have. You never really know what she will say next. So when she finished her breakfast, she put her stuff away, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I remarked that she had the softest skin of anybody on the world.

“You’ve told me that before, Dad!” she said in her Fahlin tone.

“Well, you do,” I said. “Why do you think that is, sweetie?”

She looked at me and softly replied, “Because of my special heart?” It was more a question that a response, but wow, what a thought.

“You know,” I said, “I bet that does have something to do with it. How ’bout I ask the doctor about next time I see him?”

She nodded and ran off. I guess I will ask him if that has anything to do with her soft skin. But that was our Good Friday breakfast conversation.

The rest of the day will be rather somber. A teacher friend and colleague at school passed away this week rather suddenly. The service is today, Good Friday. I know now, however that Coach Campbell is truly experiencing what the resurrection of Jesus made possible all those years ago, and seeing first hand, that for which we long…

April 10, 2017

Apr 11 2017 9:11 AM

The cardiac team of Vandy doctors have convened. They present cases and information on Thursdays. We had been waiting for news, and now we have it. First of all, Fahlin is doing great. Much to the surprise of the team, she continues to defy all odds up to this point. She is a miracle child and we never lose sight of that fact.

It appears we now have somewhat of a plan for the next six to twelve months for Fahlin. The heart cath revealed a lot of helpful information. Her new pulmonary artery is growing, though not as significantly as they had hoped, but by the same token, nothing to be alarmed about as well. In order increase the blood supply they put two new stents in that area. Her left lung however, has continued to amaze everyone with increased growth in all her ancillary vessels. They are five times bigger than a year ago. This is very good. They also informed us that she has two smaller holes in her heart that they must not have previously seen, but do not seem to be too concerned about.

Anyway, all of this is good news. The plan is to be in NO hurry. She will have a cath in six to twelve months, depending on how she’s doing. At that time, pressures in the heart’s chambers will be taken, measurements of blood vessels and arteries will also be taken, all in preparation for the next step, reconstruction and re-plumbing of her heart. The fact that she continues to grow is HUGE. They say they are in no immediate hurry, no reason to hurry. They want to get it right.

We want them to get it right as well. I cried. The thought of having our daughter go through major open-heart surgery (even more major than the first) is quite daunting. Our eight year old. Serious. Very serious. Scary, so scary. But, deep breath here, we have time to wait, pray, prepare and nurture Fahlin as we endeavor to provide her the best quality of life we can give. The best love we can give. The best family she could have. What the future holds, we do not know. Life is precious. Life is short. We know she is in good hands. We have all the confidence in the world in out cardiac team. But ultimately, she is in the only hands that truly matter, God’s. There are no better hands.

April 4, 2017

Apr 5 2017 8:00 AM

Last night, after grilling burgers and watching Wall E, which Fahlin had never seen, and after eating said burgers, the ‘littles’ stayed out at the table to draw and write. Jayne drew a picture of a large footed girl, who I called the ‘Large Footed Girl’ and Fahlin wrote a story on her white board. For some reason, she loves that little white board, well, any white board for that matter. She draws and writes on them all the time.

I know the impact these girls have had on my life to this very day, ever since our 16 year old was placed in our arms, but I have often wondered what is going through their minds? Especially now that they are getting older and are now understanding more of how their lives have been changed. And especially Jayne and Fahlin, who actually spent years in China before being adopted, I’m sure there are memories in those brains of theirs. So often, they keep those thoughts to themselves, but no so much last night. Fahlin started writing a story on her white board. I usually don’t pay much attention until they are about finished and even then when I read them aloud, I change them and the girls get all riled up that I am not reading their story correctly. They hate it when I do that (I however, love messing with them).

But, last night Fahlin’s story started out with, “Once upon a time there was a little baby from China…” ok, brace yourselves and be ready to cry. I am going to share the entire with you. It’s not very long, but wow, so poignant.

“Once upon a time there was a little baby from China named Xue (Fahlin’s given name), who had no parents and was very sad. But when she was about to cry a mother was walking in. She knew that the mother would be hers. The end.”

It wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning…

March 31, 2017

Apr 4 2017 3:15 PM

March 31st, “Birthday Eve” for Fahlin. Yes, tomorrow Fahl Fahl turns eight. Not too shabby for a little girl who was not expected to see one. Since her most recent heart cath, it took her awhile, but seems to have rebounded quite well after her initial tough first few days afterward. Poor girl has been through a lot so far and she still has a long road ahead.

Let me tell you about something I have learned. One thing I’ve indeed learned about Fahlin is that while she is one tough cookie, she is a bit squeamish when it comes to her dad’s injuries. I’ll explain. This week, Daddy nearly cut his pinky finger off. Yep, nearly severed. I wont go into the gory details, but it was bad. So bad, in fact it required seven stitches to sew it back together. I told Fahlin that what helped me get through the ordeal was ‘If Fahlin can go through heart surgeries, I can surely get a few stitches.’ She was my inspiration. But what I did not know is that she wouldn’t look at my finger when I changed the bandages. She thought it was gross. She has had gadgets, gizmos, wires and IV’s of all kids hooked up to her and yet she won’t look at my finger. Funny girl.

So, getting back to the birthday girl, no we do not any big plans planned…yet. Since Jayne’s birthday is coming up in May, we think we are going to do a tandem birthday party for both the girls. I’ll let you know. But for now, Fahlin has decided she wants ONLY Mommy and Daddy to take her shopping for her gift. She wants flip-flops, of all things. Flip-flops. That’s what I love about all our girls, they rarely ask for anything, and if they do, it’s usually something simple, like this. so, for now, happy birthday Fahlin!

March 26, 2017

Jim Chapman

Mar 27 2017 1:00 AM

Sorry it’s been a week since the last blog, didn’t mean to leave you hanging about the outcome of Fahlin’s heart cath. We did come home last Saturday, but the procedure kicked her little cutie [petootie] (can’t find the correct spelling) this time. However, like any good parents, we sent her off to school on Monday, fingers crossed. No word, so she must have done okay. When she came home, she flopped down on the couch, got out her kindle and didn’t move. Usually, she goes outside to play, but not this day. The same thing happened on Tuesday, then Wednesday.

Thursday, we, again being the great parents we are, took the girls out of school for the rest of the week, since it was actually my spring break and we wanted to get out of town for a few days. When the spring breaks don’t line up, it’s tough to plan anything. So it was off to my sister’s Lake-house in Kentucky.

But once we arrived, Fahlin seemed to have a whole new energy level. We assume it was because of the interventions the doctors did during the heart cath. Where the shunt was initially put in, they widened it a bit with two new stents. We were able to see the before and after pictures from a year ago. The new blood flow that the shunt provided to Fahlin’s left lung has paid huge dividends. The amount of vein growth into her lungs is five times larger than before (a year ago). It is amazing. They had expected more growth with the artery, however, they were not disappointed at all. What all this means I do not know. We will know more this week when the team conferences together on Thursday to discuss options.

It is quite journey. She is quite a little girl. And by the way, for the weekend, team Chapman caught 12 fish; Fahlin reeled in two. No, they were all on the small side, except the monster catfish Lydia caught, and the 10” Crappie Jayne reeled in. We threw them all back. After all, it’s not about the fish, its about the cherished time I have together with the little girls while I still can enjoy it. I know I had a blast. I’m pretty sure they did as well.

And for the record, my wife is the only Chapman who didn’t fish…tsk, tsk, tsk.

March 16, 2017

Jim Chapman

Mar 16 2017 1:00 AM

Tomorrow is Fahlin’s heart cath. It’s interesting to see how our perspective on things has changed since our adoption of two special ‘situation’ little girls. Way back in the day, college days in fact (Wright State University), I worked and coached at a residential center for [retarded citizens] (that’s what it was called). I’ve always been a kid person, and special needs children have always been one of my passions. In fact, let me tell you a story then come back to my initial idea.

The little boy’s name was Eddie. Eddie was Down’s syndrome. He was about 11 when I started working at the residential center as a freshman in college. He had a problem with pulling the fire alarms. He couldn’t help himself. If he saw an alarm, her pulled it, and yes, the fire trucks would come rolling up. Over the course of the next four years, the staff finally was able to get Eddie to control his urge to pull the fire alarm. He was a cute kid, lots of fun and was my favorite. He called me “Chappin.’” I loved that kid.

I remember it was my senior year, I was ready to graduate and I had turned in my notice because it was off to the real world (not that this wasn’t the real world, it was a very real world in which these kids lived, but you know what I mean). I had told Eddie that I was leaving him. In his own way he was sort of saddened. But my last day with Eddie at the residential center was a day I will never forget. I’ve often thought that that day would be great, heart-wrenching ending to Hallmark movie.

I clocked out for the last time and went to find Eddie. He was in the gym. “Hey, Eddie, come here!” I yelled.

“Yes, Chappin,’” he said as he came running over.

“You know Eddie, this is Chappin’s last day. I am leaving and not coming back.”

He looked at me with his sad little Down’s syndrome eyes. He was about 15 by this time. They where watering a little. As were mine.

“How would you like to pull the fire alarm one more time, Eddie?”

“REALLY, Chappin?!’” His eyes lit up. He gave me a big hug.

“Yes, really, Eddie…Go ahead, it’s okay,” I said. With that he turned and ran toward the other side of the gym toward the fire alarm, and I turned and walked out the door, across the parking lot toward my car. As I climbed in and started the engine, I rolled down the window and listened. Yes, Eddie had pulled the fire alarm. I waited a minute or two before leaving, savoring the moment and hoping Eddie wasn’t about to get into some sort of big trouble. Sure enough, the fire trucks were pulling in as I pulled out.

True story.

Now, back to my original point. How full circle has my life been? Starting out, pre- marriage even, my life involved special needs children. And now, here I am, all these years later, married, 600 kids, and poof, two little girls come into our life and they have special needs. Who knew? Maybe those formative college years at the residential center taught me something that we as a family are subconsciously doing right now with our ‘littles.’ I know we say ‘yes’ to these girls quite a bit more than we ever did with the others (we don’t encourage pulling fire alarms, however). Anyway, special needs mean special circumstance and special circumstances mean special procedures. We as a family seem to be getting used to heart caths, brain scans, and surgeries and take them in stride. I hope we don’t get too used all this, I mean after all, we’re dealing with serious brain (Jayne) and heart (Fahlin) issues, not a tonsillectomy. I simply long for and pray for the day when everything is behind us and we get on with the normal part of life, but then again, I guess this is normal for us…Isn’t it?

March 10, 2017

Jim Chapman

Mar 14 2017 1:00 AM

We are one week away from Fahlin’s next heart catheterization at Vanderbilt. It was almost a year ago when she had her last one. This time, the doctor’s want to see how her first surgery is progressing among other things. It is pretty amazing how well she has been doing since her heart surgery. As you have read in this blog, her color has improved exponentially from purple to pink (I should write a song with that title), her energy level has gone through the roof and she has shown many sides of her emotions and personality traits that we did not know existed. I’m pretty sure that last one is not related to the surgery, but rather just Fahlin pushing the envelope a bit.

We have coasted through this most recent time period. When I say coasted, I mean as far as health issues have gone, things have seemed pretty normal. No trips to the emergency room, no illnesses, no flu, no fevers. Pretty good run of good fortune I must say, and for that we are thankful.

But, as always, whenever Fahlin goes into the hospital, I become a bit apprehensive. After all, when you have a wife who works in the health care profession, and you hear some of the non-hipaa violating stories she tells, it can get a little frightening. I’m an emotional kind of guy as it is; what I don’t need is a reason to be even more emotional.

The comforting part about the whole thing is we have gotten to know and have gotten comfortable with Fahlin’s doctors. Her cardiologist is awesome, the cath-lab doctor is awesome, the surgeon is awesome; the whole entire team is awesome. We know that aside from obviously being in God’s hands, she also in good earthly hands. While we never want to take anything for granted, we know that the highly trained doctors with whom God has allowed us to be surrounded by are blessings themselves. So here we go again, round two, next Friday. It’s off to Vandy and the cath-lab.

I will now take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

March 4, 2017

Jim Chapman

Mar 4 2017 1:00 AM

Tonight was a first for Fahlin. She got to go to the Grand Ole Opry. And not to the Grand Ole Opry, but backstage to hang out and watch her Daddy sing with her Uncle Steve. Yes, the ole Bro-in-Law called and asked if I would I would sing with him at he Opry. Are you kidding me? Of course!

Now, it’s time for a little backstory. Way back in another lifetime a few years ago, I was in a band called 4Runner. We were signed by a man named Harold Shedd to his Polydor record label in the mid-nineties. He discovered such acts as Alabama, Billy Ray Cyrus and Toby Keith. And then us. To make an interestingly long story short, we were and instant hit in country music and climbed to the top of the charts almost immediately. It was a fun ride. Narvel Blackstock, Reba McIntire’s husband was our manager. John Huey and CAA was our booking agent. Buddy Cannon and Larry Shell our producers. The dream team of all dream teams surrounded us.

As a result of my time in the music business, I had the good fortune to sing on the Opry stage numerous times including the many times I was asked to fill in for one of the Carol Lee singers as the house bass singer. Since those days, while I have had opportunity to sing out at the Opry, they have been less frequent in recent years. So naturally, when SCC asked, I responded with a resounding yes. We sang My Redeemer is Faithful and True, and believe it or not, Herbie, Steven’s brother and I also sang BGV’s (that’s background vocals for those of you not in the music business) on Steven’s rendition of the old George Jones tune, He Stopped Loving Her Today (there’s a backstory here, too; buy his knew book and find out).

Fahlin did not truly understand the historical significance of the Grand Ole Opry, nor did she understand what was going on. She was just kid enjoying the entire experience. Her Aunt Mary Beth was there, cousin Rachel and of course, people who knew her but whom she didn’t remember knowing. Anyway, she got a cool wristband and a sucker and that is what seemed to make the evening memorable.

Finally, we went to eat across the street at Cracker Barrel and the server asked her if she was at the Opry. “Uh huh, yes,” she said.

“Tell her where your seats were, Fahlin,” I said.

“Back behind everyone.” I’m pretty sure the server thought she meant she was sitting behind some big oaf, blocking her view. What she didn’t realize was she meant ON STAGE at the Grand Ole Opry. Yep, pretty cool first trip, Fahl Fahl. I guess I should have gotten her a GooGoo.

February 28, 2017

Jim Chapman

Feb 28 2017 1:00 AM

The weather has been so nice lately, almost unseasonably nice. I’m not complaining because I can always do without winter. So the other day, I’m sitting out front on the porch, watching the girls play and ride their bikes. They are fun to watch, but the thought crossed my mind, whatever happened to the days when we would let kids just go outside and play? Times must have changed, but when? I pondered that very question for a while.

Anyway, Jayne fell out of a chair; Fahlin wanted in the wagon, Jayne wanted to shoot baskets and ride her scooter, Fahlin her bike. All of a sudden, I hear Jayne, “Hey, Dad, can we go to Miss Laura’s?”

“Yep!”

They headed off down the road to Miss Laura’s. They were gone. So, like any good Dad, I got out my I Pad and watched a show while enjoying the evening. Then all of a sudden again, I remembered I needed to start dinner, as my wife was out with a friend.

“Girls!” I bellowed. The sound echoed through the neighborhood. “Girls!” I yelled again. “Jayne…Fahlin!”

No girls. I thought to myself, “Oh no, did they come back and I just didn’t see them?” I went into the house and yelled for them. Not a sound. “Where could they be?” I thought to myself. I went back outside and yelled again. I started walking towards Miss Laura’s. Whew! I saw Jayne’s pink basketball flying through the air. They were at Miss Laura’s. Of course, even though I may have ‘lost’ them for a minute, I still had to lecture them on the virtues of coming when called, however. Anyway, the girl’s were found, and the evening was saved. No one knew I was panicked, and besides, the hamburgers were delicious, by the way. I’m really glad I didn’t really lose them. That would have been terrible.

Yolanda was none the wiser…until she reads this, of course.

February 22, 2017

Jim Chapman

Feb 22 2017 1:00 AM

You know, just when you start to wonder what good you are actually doing in the world, something like this happens. I know we are doing what we are called to do by raising these ‘littles,’ but sometimes it does the soul good to hear positive things that do indeed remind you of your place in this world. I have left this exactly as I received it on Facebook. There are a lot of little backstories to go along with this and it brought back a lot of memories. Hope you enjoy it…

Dear, Mr. Chapman My name is Jarl Pedigo and I used to be one of your students. You we’re my art teacher at Christiana Elem., Roy Rodgers Jr High, and Cedar Grove. I believe my first broken vivid tangerine crayon was in 2nd grade which was also the year I learned the most famous art song of all time called “I love art”. When I was 14 I lived in the town houses not far from you in LaVergne and would stop by occasionally to say hi. It’s been over 15 years since we last spoke and quite a few times I’ve tried to find you on Facebook to contact you. Mr. Chapman, you saved my life through art as a child and even into my adult years. My home was always broken, I bounced from school to school, home to home throughout my parents relationship. I was very troubled as young kid and even into my mid 20s my troubles lingered. I’m 34 now and I’ve found peace and made a new life for myself in CO. During my years in TN I struggled trying to balance being an artist and working. I’ve played piano since I was 4 and when I was 15 I started getting into producing, mixing, and mastering music. Through my ups and downs I consistently stuck with my arts. 2 years ago I was offered an amazing job in CO if I would help teach an old friend how to produce, so I took it. My life has changed dramatically over these last 2 years. I count my blessings and I am so thankful I had someone like you as a child who taught me a broken crayon is a good crayon. They say the biggest thing you can do in life is help someone who can never repay you, and that’s what you did for me. From the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you and to let you know youve made an impact on my life in a way that I will always be humbly thankful for. I wish you and your family nothing but the best life has to offer and sincerely appreciate you being such a great role model and inspiration for little ole me. With never ending gratitude, Jarl Pedigo

Thank you Jarl!

February 15, 2017

Jim Chapman

Feb 16 2017 1:00 AM

Well, Grand-baby Nash is in town. Yolanda put Nash in the car and went to pick up the girls from school. As soon as Fahlin climbed in the car, she looked at Nash and immediately went into her ‘angry-eyes-I’m-not-happy-about-him-being-here-and-I’m-going-to-pout-now,’ mode. Sigh. Yes, little Fahl Fahl is jealous of ‘littler’ Nash. She will have very little to do with him. Of course, we tell her that the job of an Aunt is to have fun with her nephew. She is not thrilled with that job description.

“Fahlin, do you think we like Nash more that you,” I asked?

“Yes, you do.”

“What? You are crazy? We love both of you!”

“Hmphhhh,” came the response.

That’s how it goes in the Chapman household with Fahlin. One day she’s happy as can be, the next day she’s jealous. One day her heart hurts (when she doesn’t want to do something), the next she has ‘Super Cheetah Speed.” One day she watches Netflix and we never hear a peep, the next, it’s fighting with Jayne.

My Dad recently asked me, “Is your life the way you want it?”

Without hesitation, “Yes, Dad, yes it is.”

No doubt about it, God has us right where he wants us. It’s not necessarily easy, but easy isn’t in the Bible, and that’s okay. We just continue to take it as it comes. One day at a time. Sometimes we take it in stride, sometimes it’s stressful, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and sometimes, well sometimes we just take a deep breath, put our head down and trudge on.

Can’t wait ‘til little Millicent (our Grand-daughter in Dallas) shows up. I wonder what Fahlin will do then? Hmmmmm[ph].

February 12, 2017

Jim Chapman

Feb 13 2017 1:00 AM

Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog. Craziness of life stuff.

Life is complicated. I thought life was complicated when we only had our first four children. But after awhile, we smoothed everything out and kind of cruised for while. My wife and I made a great team and we figured out to sail the ship. Then God took us on a second journey. The ‘next four,’ I’ll call them. What a journey it has been. My wife and I have been a good team this time around as well, however, this time we are dealing with health issues that make this go ‘round more complicated than the first time. I guess the first four prepared us (sort of) for the next four. Only we didn’t realize it at the time.

While we had never dealt with heart issues, or brain issues, or other issues related to the adoption process, we have never lost sight of the fact that God has orchestrated all of this and put us in this position to parent these girls. If we let ourselves stop and think about everything, it becomes very daunting. If we just go and go and go, and don’t overanalyze, it seems to fall into the category of ‘just living life,’ or ‘It’s just what we do.’

But it becomes a bit overwhelming when unforeseen circumstances come up. My dad recently had an emergency appendectomy. When the appendix was removed, it was the size of a golf ball. A huge red flag. It was cancerous. Now we add that layer of upcoming exploratory surgery on top of everything else in our life and a quick trip to Ohio and, well, complicated becomes more complicated. See what I mean?

On top of that, God has blessed me with artistic things to do. A LOT of them…with deadlines. Can I fit it all in? Can I do it? Can I get it all finished? And then, my grand –son comes to town and on top of all that, I have the state swim meet and trip to Knoxville. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

…Lord, Grant me the strength…

January 31, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 31 2017 1:00 AM

It is truly amazing the amount of support Fahlin receives on any given day. People are always asking, “How’s your daughter?” “How’s Fahlin doing?” or “How’s your daughter with the heart condition doing?” We are so appreciative of everyone’s interest because we know if people are interested, people are praying as well.

I often find myself thinking about God, about life, about Fahlin about orphans about all kinds of things and how they all work together. If I think on these things too long, I get overwhelmed. I prefer the simple route, and that is this: we live in a house of miraculous-ness. Fahlin should be alive, yet she is. Jayne should not be alive, yet she is. Come to think of it, but by the grace of God, none of us should be alive. Each breath is a gift. Each moment a gift. My little girls do not understand nor do they comprehend the magnitude of their blessings of life that has been granted to them by God. I’m sure one day they will understand how close to death they once were, but also come to appreciate each and every day of life they have been allowed to live.

And I, we get to share that life with them. The other day, I was watching daughter number four, Lydia swim at the middle school championships. I started crying I do cry a lot, but not at moments like this, more so at children’s movie’s). Lydia is growing up, but she is tiny, 4’6.” The doctors are now saying, maybe 4” 8” if she’s lucky. She is technically going to live her life as a little person. A perfectly proportioned small, little, tiny human. An as I watched her swim, I was concerned about her future. I also remembered her humble beginnings, being found at the orphanage gate at five days old, umbilical cord still attached. Lydia has never met a stranger, is not afraid to do anything, extremely self sufficient, talkative, small, and I worry about her. Thing is, she doesn’t seem to be too bothered, nor even aware of her diminutive stature.

And, so it goes with my girls and me. Gifts all, blessings true, happy children. I need not worry about their future because I know who holds their future, and it’s not me. As much as I want to control everything that goes on in the lives of these girls, I know that that is not possible. The God who created everything out of nothing made these girls exactly the way he wanted and placed them exactly where they needed to be placed at the exact time to intersect our family and change our lives forever. So here we are, Fahl Fahl and her heart, Jayne and her very special brain, and Lydia, the small but mighty one. Since I do not what else to do except trust in the Lord, and as I close (In a former life I wrote and sang southern gospel music), I’m reminded of an old Bill Gaither song,

“…Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,

Because He lives, all fear is gone,

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives…”

January 26, 2017 — Gotcha Day

Jim Chapman

Jan 26 2017 1:00 AM

Hard to believe, but today is what we call “Gotcha Day.” Two years ago today, Fahlin became our daughter. In the two years since we have had her, she has had numerous tests, echocardiograms, and doctor visits. She has had a heart-catheterization, and a stent placed on one of her pulmonary arteries. She has been through one open-heart surgery that resulted in the now new growth of the missing pulmonary artery (yes, a new pulmonary artery is growing from her lung to the aorta…crazy to think about). She is no longer blue and has grown five inches and gained 12 pounds. She is still skinny, however. While the doctors expected success, she has far surpassed their expectations and is doing remarkably well. She is a different kid than she was two years ago. Next up for her is a second heart-catheterization over spring break in March. This is so they can see exactly what is going on. From there, a course of action that involves possibly two more open-heart procedures will be planned. While we know not what the future holds for this little girl, we do know she is a walking, talking miracle.

As you can see from the attached picture, Fahlin was more than thrilled to have a new Mommy and Daddy. Not! While she pined for family, when she finally got one, it was a scary ordeal for her. She was being taken away from the only place, the only ‘family’ if you will, she ever knew, and whisked off to a foreign land full of people who did not look like her or talk like her. While we were being attentive to her every need, she was scared. While we made sure she had clothes and food, she didn’t know if she could trust us yet. While she cried tears of sadness for leaving everything behind, we also cried. And the coat she is wearing? Two sizes too big with a huge word embossed on the back in six-inch letters, “MARY.” We still have the coat.

I remember how horrible the weather was while we were in China. It snowed almost every day. The snow was brown. It was bitter cold. And the days it didn’t snow, it was nasty and slushy and wet. One we got to Guangzhou, in the south, the weather changed. It was much nicer.

But, because of our agency provided guides, Rita in Beijing and Youyang, and Kathy in Guangzhou, the trip could not have been more flawlessly organized and we could not have been taken care of any better. They were both intently focused on making sure everything went smoothly, and that Fahlin would transition to her new family as easily as possible. They loved what they did. They loved their job. We could tell that it wasn’t a job to them; it was what they loved to do. They genuinely cared for each of us. The memories of ‘Gotcha Day’ will never be forgotten. Because of our four little girls, China will forever be on our hearts as we pray for the babies, the people and the country of China as a whole.

We hope to one-day return with Fahlin to show her where she came from. In the meantime, two years later now, we know she loves us; Jayne is her best friend and her sibling rival. Abby is her favorite big sister, she loves her big brothers but doesn’t understand why they can’t live with us. Not quite sure where Izzy and Lydia fit into Fahl Fahl’s big picture. She hates being called Fifi or Foofoo, or any other such silly name. And yes, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, she not only loves us as her parents, but she trusts us. She knows we will come home. She knows we will be there when she wakes up. She knows she will have food. She knows her Dad will pick on her. She knows Jesus and knows that God loves her. And, she knows she has a…family. Happy Gotcha Day!

January 23, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 24 2017 1:00 AM

So, on January 20th, our new President was sworn in. I had gotten home around 4:30, which is early for me, but the girls had already been home awhile. I was fixing food in the kitchen, Fahlin was doing something with her school stuff when all of a sudden, she turns around and out of the blue says, “Finally, Donald J. Trump is our President!”

I chuckled and said, “Did you get to watch the President’s swearing in?”

“Uh huh,” she said then ran off to play. I guess they watched it at school.

The entire scene was hilarious. I expected our usual banter, you know, “How was your day, what did you learn, did you put your jacket on the hook, do you need a snack?” You know, after school stuff. After all, she is only seven, and she has only been a U.S. citizen for 23 months. How does she even know anything about politics, the election or the President? I guess her class keeps ups on current events, that, or she has heard us talking with our friends or family.

It has been interesting watching Fahlin. In many ways, she is wise beyond her years. She reads way above her grade level, comprehends what she reads, her vocabulary has grown immensely, and she remembers everything, including, apparently current events.

“Who is President Trump’s Vice-President, Fahlin?” I asked, innocently enough.

“Oh I know, I know…Pence!” yelled Jayne from across the room.

“JAYNE!” out came the Fahlin crossed arms and angry eyes. “I was going to answer!”

… and so it goes at the Chapman house…I just smiled.

January 19, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 19 2017 1:00 AM

My how times have changed. I remember when I was a kid, my parents would turn me loose in the neighborhood and I would wander and play and explore. We were in a new neighborhood and there were hundreds of new houses being built all around us. It was an epic playground of discovery and imagination. And I did that every day.

When we had our boys and we moved to Tennessee, we did not move to that kind of area. The boys went outside and played, but a part of me wishes they could have experienced the joy I did while playing in those houses.

Fast forward to now, twenty years later. When my wife and I should be contemplating our future retirement years, our fist and fourth grader want to go outside and play. Of course, girls, go ahead. But times have changed. Now, we pull up a chair and watch the girls. We monitor their every move. What changed?

The world, I think. Now, I watch the girls like a hawk and when something happens like kids wandering into my girls play space, I take serious notice. And when those kids eye the girls’ new bikes, I take even closer notice. And when they run up my driveway onto my porch and ask me to take off the training wheels, well, the only thing I could think to do after nicely asking the kid what he was doing on my porch, uninvited, was yell, “Yolanda! Please come here!”

He left; my wife came. “What do we do?”

“That one kid is pretty weird. I think he has something wrong with him,” she answered. I thought, “I wonder if people think something is wrong with our kids?” If they only knew. Poor kid. His face was kind of weird looking. I later found out he was a third grader and he really does have something wrong with him. Then what in the blue heck is he doing with a new IPhone? I am shaking my head incredulously, even now.

“Time to come in girls,” we told them.

I guess the only thing to do is move…

January 16, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 16 2017 1:00 AM

Sorry it has been a week since the last blog. Had a lot going on. I was called away over the weekend to Ohio because my father had to have an emergency appendectomy. My sister and I hopped in her car and surprised him. I’m sure it was because of our presence that he is now recovering nicely.

Now, onto the Fahlin blog. I wonder if I am violating Hipaa (probably not, since I’m not sharing records)? We met with her cardiologist today. They did an echocardiogram, which gives them a lot of information, of course, to me; it all looks like colorful static. We were amused at his line of questioning. “Has she fainted?” “Has she passed out?” “Has her color changed?” “Does she seem lethargic or less energetic?” All signs of what could go wrong with her last surgery, which was now nearly ten months ago.

“No, none of those,” was our reply. “But, you keep asking us these kinds of questions. What was supposed to happen?”

“Well, we usually see these kinds of things… but, apparently in her case, it’s just not happening…which is very, very good.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but the fact remains Fahlin is right smack in the middle of defying ALL odds. And it continues daily.

It is time, however, he says, to move onto the next heart catheterization. It will be scheduled for sometime in February. At that point, they hope to gather more information about how everything has healed and is functioning, among other things that I probably shouldn’t go into just yet. I share this with you so will you all will know how to pray and of course, we hope you will continue to do so. We looked at a diagram of what has been done with heart so far. Very interesting. I’m such a visual learner that seeing a drawing helped me. I didn’t realize that her heart is all mis-aligned and sort of backwards. But the drawing was helpful to me for clarifying my understanding of everything. Interesting. So, for now we just wait on the office to call. Details later!

I just need to make sure I take a sharpie with next time so I can draw a face on latex glove I blow up. The journey continues…

January 9, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 10 2017 1:00 AM

I noticed something last night as I was tucking Fahlin in bed. She has all of her little stuffed animals neatly lined up along the side of her bed. I thought to myself, “Awww, how cool,” but then I thought, “How sad.” She had nothing like that in China. No ‘things’ to call her own, no clothes to speak of, nothing nice for sure. Now, she has more than she could ever imagine. So I asked her to tell me about her stuffed animals, of ‘stuff animals’ [notice no ‘ed’].

“I have owl, leopard, two dog, a chick, bunnies, pony, unicorn, pig,” she told me.

“I like the way they are all lined up,” I said.

“Uh huh.”

Each night she organizes them along the edge of her bottom bunk. A few years ago I built the bunks for Lydia and Jayne. Now, Jayne is on top, Fahlin has the bottom, along with all her [stuff animals]. I pray and pile on blankets, especially when it’s super cold outside, but she has usually thrown those off by morning, which means she is cold, which means her SATS (medical term for oxygen levels in the bloodstream) are lower because her body has to work harder to stay warm.

Anyway, I digress. How cool it is to be the parent of such a needy little girl, well two little needy girls including Jayne, but not needy in a bad way, more needy in a way of which they are unaware. They really don’t walk around knowing they ‘need’ heart surgery, or knowing they are missing a brain. They just live life to fullest. In the moment. How I envy them, their innocence, their simplicity of life. They remind me daily of just how blessed WE are. I am. And apparently I need reminded daily. So here they are, daily reminding me, whether it’s by a simple row of lined up stuffed animals, or blankets strewn on the floor, or when Fahl Fahl climbs up on my lap out of the blue, or Jayne runs bye and yells her usual, “I love you dad,” without stopping.

Life is…life! Thanks for the reminders, girls!

January 5, 2017

Jim Chapman

Jan 6 2017 1:00 AM

So here it is, the aftermath. Our final ‘big’ child, Bethany, left this morning with Nashy and headed back to Tampa. I told my wife that I kind of wanted to be sad that all the ‘bigs’ were gone, but didn’t think I could because we have to jump right back in to life in the fast lane with the ‘littles’ they left behind (oh wait, they live with us, not them…hahaha). It was great having them around because they were such a big help. They took them places, did things with them. It was much needed bonding time between the ‘littles’ and the ‘bigs.’ More so, I’m sure for the ‘littles,’ but then again, I am not sure.

But here is what’s great about having the little girls around; they serve as a reminder to me about what is important in life. When I think of their humble beginnings to life, their abandonment, their story of being found, how they came to be in the custody of the China Welfare Service, their medical needs, etc. and look at their referral pictures; pictures that show the despair in their eyes, the loneliness in their hearts, I realize there is no time for sadness because our big kids are gone, but rather it’s time to continue on as parents to these now thriving, beautiful, cute little girls (even though Izzy is 16, in this context she is lumped into the ‘littles’ category).

No rest for the weary. I don’t think I am weary, but sometimes I think it would be great if we could just get away and do nothing. But that is a selfish thought. Forgive me. We do not have time for that for sure. So on to life. Catching up with the neglected laundry, restocking the groceries, cleaning the house, heading back to work, putting away the decorations, and on and on. Come to think of it, our life is quite humorous.

We were reminded just how humorous our lives really are when our social worker, Sandy Ivy arrived at our house yesterday for her final Fahlin visit. Sandy is great. We could not have asked for a better social worker to guide us through the adoption processes of all four of our girls. She has basically watched our kids grow up. And this was the last of the last of the last of the in home the visits. It was almost sad. I was almost sad. There’s that word again. We reminisced, talked about Fahlin and her progress of course, as well as doted on the other girls whom she has known since day one, well, our day one, when this journey all started with that little girl we call Izzy and is now coming to an end for Sandy at least. That’s 16 years of adoption questions, adoption meetings, adoption paperwork, adoption visits, adoption stuff.

It has been quite a journey. To think of all the doors God opened, the stories we could tell, I should write a book. Hey, who knows, maybe one day this blog could be part of that book. The way the lives of our big kids intertwined with the little kids. The way our family dynamic morphed from one generation to another. The way we now continue to live the life we have always lived and seem destined to live for at least another lifetime. I really wouldn’t change anything. Sure, financially it can be a challenge sometimes, but God has always provided. We have everything we need and then some. Even some things we don’t need.

In China they speak of the “Red Thread” that binds our lives to those of our adopted daughters and runs through their unknown lineage. Our “Red Thread” runs from Tampa to Dallas to Washington D.C., to Chicago, all the way to Changde, YueYang, Luoyang and Wolurimshi, all in China, of course. And after this Christmas, I am convinced that that thread is stronger than ever. Amen!

December 28, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 29 2016 1:00 AM

It is now three days after Christmas. And a glorious Christmas it was. All Chapman children were in town at the same time including the two grandbabies, a rare occurrence, but the most awesome Christmas ever. As I get older, I realize it’s really all about being in the same room together at the same time. I cherish those moments.

But, since this a blog about Fahl Fahl, it was fun to watch her around her brothers. She doesn’t get to see them very often. They both have a special place in their hearts for each of the girls and they do a wonderful job of engaging them in conversation. They pick on them, spoil them, make fun of them and have fun with them.

But then, it happened. Nash attacked! One of baby Nash’s gifts was a drum from his Uncle Jordan. A seemingly cute, innocuous idea…at first. That was until he realized that the drumsticks could be used for more than just banging a drum. Yes, Nashy figured out that the drumsticks could be used to bonk Fahlin on the head. Before we could get to him, bonk, bonk, bonk, three pretty firm whacks right on Fahlin’s noggin.’ Tears…lots of them. We looked at each other. It had to hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, the attack continued for three days before G-Dude (me) decided to hide the drumsticks.

“Fahlin, do you have any bumps on your head from Nashy,” I asked Fahlin?

“Yes,” came the curt response, the bitterness in her heart was apparent. I think she survived okay. After all, it is Christmas time. “Go play with Jayne,” Fahlin tells him. Hilarious.

It’s all good. The fam is all together, the holiday is awesome, love abounds, even from Fahlin to Nash. As I write, we are heading out to Aunt Mary Beth’s and Uncle Steve’s. The Christmas festivities continue. Fahlin can’t wait to ride her new ‘L’il Bubba’ bike around the barn, we can’t wait to see them and fun will be had by all. On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer………

December 20, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 20 2016 1:00 AM

Well, we all know what time of year it is, Christmas. Of all the Chapman children, Fahlin is shaping up to be the most ‘normal’ of them all. Or maybe I should use the word ‘typical’ here. I’m not sure what I really mean, but each of our children is unique in some non-typical manner. So, in order to get what I mean, let me try to summarize our kids.

Our oldest son, has two degrees from George Washington University, works in D.C, reads incessantly and basically knows almost everything (in a good way). Our youngest son is a youth pastor at a super-mega church in Plano, Texas. He is a pied piper of sorts to kids, fun loving, energetic, likable, a new father and whatever his brother doesn’t know, he knows, and between the two of them, they do know everything. My eldest daughter, is a loving, mother, sweet wife, talented singer and seamstress, has a heart for adoption and an even bigger heart for ‘family.’ Number four child, number two daughter is the social butterfly of the group. She also rides the emotional roller coaster life on a regular basis [Side note:] Sure wish one of you out there in reader-land knew of the perfect young man, handsome, 6’ or taller, athletic, between the ages of 23-26 who is looking for a beautiful young sparkplug of a young woman to spend the rest of his life with would let us know where she could find such a young man (she’s gonna kill me).

Izzy is our studious one. She accepts nothing less that perfection in everything she does. She’s quiet, but yet reminds me of son number one in many ways. She is pretty cool. Lydia is the comical one, although she doesn’t really know it. She is just plain funny…quirky and hilarious, random and social…unique…and tiny. We’re pretty sure she is going to end up being a perfectly proportioned little person of about 4’8.”

Jayne is goofy, and forgetful, asks the strangest questions and eats everything in sight. Then there is Fahlin, which is where I started this blog in the first place.

Fahlin is one of those kids at Christmas who, at the last minute throws you a curveball by answering the question. “If you could get only ONE present for Christmas, what would it be?”

“A bike.” I guess that is what I mean by normal. The last minute item, never before mentioned.

Uh oh. Not on her original list. Not on her recently updated list, not even on that shopping is complete list. Now what? Well, a year ago we celebrated Christmas Fahlin feeling both blessed AND relieved that Fahlin even lived to see Christmas, although she had no understanding at all about what Christmas was. Now a year later, not only does she know, but yes, she is alive, vibrant, healthier than ever and yes, I went and got her a bike. Shhhhhh. A fluorescent yellow one with big, fat, black tires, blue rims and it says “Li’l Bubba” on it…definitely not a ‘Frozen’ bike. Now Fahlin can have a normal Christmas…and we are thankful.

December 16, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 16 2016 1:00 AM

“Hurry up, Fahlin!” Apparently, we are finding out, those words must have not translated well from her Chinese days to her now English speaking days. They seem to do a couple of things to Fahlin: 1. Instill a sense of fear, 2. Paralyze her to where she cannot move, 3. Cause her to flop herself on the floor and cry uncontrollably, and 4. Slow down to a snail’s pace. She simply cannot function at all when we utter the words, “hurry up!”

What happens in that moment is purely a matter of speculation. It could be she simply doesn’t want to do or go wherever it is we are hurrying her up to do or go. It could be a power play. Remember, she likes to ‘think’ she’s in control. It could even be the ‘pressure’ of having to perform something faster than normal, i.e. tying shoes, putting on a coat, grabbing her stuff she needs to take, etc., etc., etc.

I don’t know. But I do know that it is frustrating to deal with her when she is in “hurry up” mode. Man oh man. Dealing with a distraught child who becomes paralyzed in “hurry up” mode is one of the many things as a parent I have yet to master on the list of things parents should master at some point in their parenting life.

As I think about it, if only she would get out of bed when we told her it was time to get out of bed, her life would be much simpler, but, if you’ve read this blog at all, you will know Fahlin is definitely NOT a morning person. Her sister, Jayne even said as much this morning. There’s only two more days of school until they’re out for Christmas, then maybe we can let her sleep in, catch up on her rest and then maybe Dad (me) can let her stay up later than normal and get her totally out her routine…ahhh, Christmas!

December 14, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 15 2016 1:00 AM

Man, I was just cruising along doing this thing called life with family, my kids, my co-workers, my co-coaches, my friends; things were going great. But, don’t you know it, that eerie feeling began coming over me about three weeks ago that something was going to happen to spoil it all. Never fails, if things are good, the enemy usually swoops in and goes on the offensive in an attempt to rob us of our joy.

I recently learned the difference between joy and happiness. Joy comes from within us, while happiness is determined by what happens around us. Took me long enough to figure that out. So there is was, BAM, a stomach punch right to the ole gut, then a right cross squarely to my jaw. “What in the heck just happened?” I’ve been asking myself? I hate it when stuff like this happens, but it never fails, never fails.

But then I look around me. Most of you who read this do not know what it is like to live with four former orphans, but when life throws you a sucker punch, having four little girls in the house whose life circumstances could not have started out any worse, serve as reminders, especially to me, that I am not the one in control, and no matter how big my mountain might be that’s staring me in the face, my problems, although important, yes, pale in comparison to my four daughter’s lives prior to becoming our daughters.

And as yet another reminder, tonight was Fahlin’s little Christmas play at her school. Talk about de’ja vous, our boys performed the same play, with the same teacher nearly twenty years ago. It’s still cute, still hilarious, but the difference is this time, there’s this little girl with a serious heart issue sitting right in the front, flawlessly spouting out line after line and no one is the wiser…but we are. What a miracle. A miracle baby (Jesus) being celebrated by another miracle baby (Fahlin). Sure the play was about Santa Claus and reindeer and that kind of stuff, but the teacher closed with Silent Night. Doesn’t get much clearer than that, what Christmas is all about.

So now what? I am at peace…for now. I know myself, sometimes this kind of thing can eat at me, but I’ve prayed about my situation, bandaged my wounds; watched a little girl perform in a play and thought, “How great is this? Look at her!”

December 8, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 11 2016 1:00 AM

Yolanda has returned from Dallas. Just in time, I might add. Fahlin was not doing well without the complete family unit being in tact. She needs to know who is here, whom she can rely on, who is dependable. Watching her while this is going on is both interesting and challenging. She struggles with authority. Remember, she was the ‘big dog’ in China. Here, she is not. While she has done a pretty good job of adjusting to her new role, there are still times when she can be belligerent, angry, pouty, sad, and even mean. Yes, this little adorable, cute, sweet, innocent looking child can take many ugly shapes. Please don’t misunderstand me, most of the time she IS sweet, happy and compliant. I would put the percentages at about 80/20. Yes, 80/20. You were expecting the obligatory cliché of 99%, but alas, no, she can show her dark side more often than we care to see. And when the family unit is broken up for a time, like in the instance of Mommy being gone for a period of time, or Dad out of town for one reason or another, it throws her off and she acts out. All part of being an orphan, or in Fahlin’s case, as our big kids often remind us, orphan no more.

Can you imaging the baggage some of these children must carry with them? Fahlin was five when we got her. Imagine what a huge change that must have been for her, how scared she was, how ‘new’ everything was, how strange this new world called Tennessee must have seemed. So it makes sense that she occasionally acts out. One thing we’ve learned through adoption is that we have to parent differently this time around. While we try to stay consistent with our core values, however, there are times when we just ‘punt.’ What to do? What to do?

But Momma gets home, what a change. She brightens up, smiles more, gets happy. She definitely likes having her family unit in tact, at least the family unit she knows. Just wait until the entire fam invades our home. She will not know what to do. It will be stimuli overload. It will be a sight to behold…until the babies come out. That’s right, when the grandbabies show up someone gets their nose cut off. Fahl Fahl. Yep, jealousy reigns supreme. Fahlin does not like sharing the limelight, especially with baby[ies]. So, as you can see, the Fahlin dynamic takes on many sizes, shapes and colors. And our parenting has taken many twists and turns, but y’know, I don’t think we would ever change a thing…90% of the time. Ho Ho Ho. Let the Holidays begin!

December 2, 2016

Jim Chapman

Dec 2 2016 1:00 AM

Sometimes we have to make sacrifices. Some big, some little, some life altering, some not noticed, but sacrifices nonetheless. For example, our new granddaughter was just born in Dallas. As you know from reading this blog, it’s hard for us to just up and go, so my wife is in Dallas, while I handle the ‘littles’ here at home. My heart aches to hold that grandbaby, but I have to wait ‘til Christmas. Sacrifice. I have been promised first dibs when get here, however.

Please don’t feel sorry for us. We chose this. Sometimes, though, we come across life situations that we hadn’t really counted on and realize that we never factored certain things into our life’s equation while adopting, especially when it comes to these girls of ours. For example, when our youngest graduates, I’ll be something like 110 years old and using a walker. Or how about this; by the time Fahlin is driving, she won’t even have to drive. She’ll just get in the car and it will have been programmed to take her where she needs to go. Probably not really, but our kids’ world is definitely changing. I only hope I have enough of my senses left to understand and figure out what’s going on, unlike being a young, virile parent

But I digress. I miss being with my granddaughter, my son and his wife. I missed my girls’ events this morning at their swim meet because I couldn’t be three places at once. You’ve heard this before. But, it is the life we chose, gladly I might add. The girls themselves far outweigh the inconveniences that happen in our lives, and it seems we are able to work through all those logistical nightmares. Hmmm, it really isn’t so bad. The joy I get just by watching and hanging out with the girls is something you would have to experience to fully understand. They are pretty, cool, demanding, needy and fun all at the same time.

So here I am, day three of the ‘no Mom around’ week. I got to watch Izzy swim this morning, missed Lydia, and the little girls are at the art show “helping” me. That’s “helping” in quotes. Haha. Anyway, here we go. Hope I sell some paintings.

“Hey, girls, give everyone who looks at my booth the cute face,” I tell them…maybe people will buy. [smile]

November 29, 2016

Jim Chapman

Nov 30 2016 1:00 AM

So much is happening. The year has flown by, Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas has totally snuck up on us (number two for Fahl Fahl) AND our daughter-in-law Ami, wife of our youngest son, Canaan, is having our second grandchild, first granddaughter, TOMORROW! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I want to pull out my hair, oh wait, I have none. On top of all that, we can’t just all up and leave to go see the baby because, well, we are not empty nest grandparents, we have a first grader in the house. So to add to my stress, yes, it’s all about me at this point (not really), my wife will be leaving early Thursday morning to head to Dallas to spend a week with the new baby, whose name I cannot reveal just yet, but it is a pretty cool name, in fact, one of my all time favorite girl’s names ever. [Side note: ever wonder why we like or don’t like certain things?] But I digress. So it will be me…alone with the girls…well, Abby will be able to help out some, I think, and thank goodness, Izzy is driving now (I say thank goodness, but I am still a nervous wreck, oops, bad pun, every time she drives). But with the big BA Art Show looming this weekend (yes, I have all my paintings finished, some 60 of them, the big Excel Aquatics prelim/finals swim meet also this weekend for Izzy and Lydia, the choral concert for Lydia, and the two ‘littles’ still hanging out all weekend with me and or Abby, and the end of the semester wrapping up including study days, one more high school dual meet, then the Williamson County Championships, not to mention exams happening all while my wife is gone….How can I do all of this? It’s so disconcerting to me that I have not been able to even start a new paragraph. Plus, something at work has happened that has me so upset that I can’t even think straight (or talk about it here, now, but it’s a problem that will require some divine intervention and possibly some time to get resolved).

Deep breathe…sigh. Repeat.

Continue. So here we go. One step, one hour, one day at a time. I’ve already started praying, for everything. The baby, safety as my wife travels, the logistics of the weekend, that paintings would sell (wanna buy one?), schedules can work out, healthy baby, my son, his wife, my girls, that this ‘thing’ at school finds a solution that works, that I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed. I’ve even decided since we have a new extra day out of school this Friday, that I am going to let my little girls skip their school and come to my school with me to help me with the art show (great Dad parenting award).

So, I’m asking for your prayers to the One that sees all, knows all, understands all, that He would help me see all, know all and understand all that is about to take place in my life here in the week or so. HELP! Man, it feels good to get this stuff off my chest.

November 26, 2016

Jim Chapman

Nov 26 2016 1:00 AM

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It was…weird at our house. For the first time since I don’t know when, we neither had visitors coming nor were we going anywhere. No big kids coming to town, no parents coming in, family out of town (Disney, I hate that for them), nobody’s house to which to go. Strange.

At first I was upset, then bummed, then saddened, then I looked around my house. I have six lovely women living with me. (I’ll have to write about how that has emasculated me sometime…) So I suggested to my wife, “Why don’t we do Cracker Barrel?” We thought about it and decided that would be our plan. “Cracker Barrel it is!” we decided.

We have started keeping track of things like Thanksgivings in what we call ‘Fahlin years.’ This was Fahlin’s second Thanksgiving. Her second Christmas is just around the corner. She is seven years old. Can’t wait ‘til she’s celebrating her sixth Thanksgiving or her thirteenth Christmas, because that would mean she is doing well. Thankfully, she is healthy enough now for us to count in ‘Fahlin years.’ A year ago at this time we were concerned she would even make it to Christmas. My what a difference a year can make in the life of a sick child. She doesn’t even act sick any more. That is until something doesn’t go her way. But as we posed the question to girls about what they are most thankful, Fahlin always lists her ‘heart.’ She is thankful for her heart. Her little three chambered, one pulmonary artery powered ‘heart.’ How ‘bout that? That is her normal. She doesn’t even know that’s not normal, but to her, she doesn’t know any different. You sure can learn a lot from kids.

So, off to Cracker Barrel it was…two hour wait (potentially bad plan). I called a different Cracker Barrel, they said the wait was not very long, whatever that meant. We drove to Brentwood, put our names in, and voila, we got seated in fifteen minutes. I, of course ordered turkey, the big girls ordered chicken fried chicken, and Fahl Fahl, well, she ordered…wait for it…PANCAKE. The Thanksgiving meal now has a new tradition started by Fahlin; pancake[s]. I hope she remembers next year. We then hit the movie, Moana…great, by the way, a little weird, but great.

But, it could not have been a nicer, quainter Thanksgiving. It was different, for sure, but sweet in its own way. I love my girls. I love my women. And for them I will forever be thankful…

November 17, 2016

Jim Chapman

Nov 17 2016 1:00 AM

Ok this is going to be the simplest blog ever. My wife was having Thanksgiving lunch at Fahlin’s school today. Fahlin had a little assignment: What am I thankful for? I hope you can interpret it…[my heart because…last year I had a heart surgery]

“my heart because… last year i had a hart surdre”

First of all, I had no idea. Second, I am in tears. What has been rolling around in that little head of hers? My gosh! So, in order to keep this simple, I am including the actual assignment, in her handwriting. Thank you for your prayers for our Fahlin.

November 13, 2016

Jim Chapman

Nov 14 2016 1:00 AM

Last night was the Show Hope dinner. I was asked to speak on behalf of those whose children have received care from one of the five Show Hope care centers. This is what I was wanting to say. I am not sure how it actually came out. Hope you enjoy it.

My wife tells me I can to ramble at times, so in order to avoid that, I have written it all down tonight. As I stand on stage with these amazing families, I am struck with overwhelming awe at the unbelievable sovereignty of our almighty creator. Just look at this…how does this happen? Well, it all started with a dream, a vision, a tragedy and a blessing and a few willing people ready to step on faith and begin a work in China to care for those orphans deemed unworthy to care for. And this is the result.

Let me introduce to a couple of ‘someones.’ This is our daughter Jayne and this is our daughter Fahlin. Their stories are mindboggling…to the point that I am still trying wrap my brain around the lives of these two miracle babies that now stand before you. No one really knows how our Jayne got to the Hope Foster Home in Beijing. I remember being there when she arrived, sick, and frail and near death. They didn’t expect her to live much more than a month or so. I emptied my pockets and said, “Here, I’ll sponsor her,” not really realizing that 4 years later we would be called to adopt her. She got her name because my wife wouldn’t let me name any of our other children Jayne. She didn’t even know I sponsored her until I got back to the states. Born with a portion of her brain missing, one kidney, imperforate anus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and a heart issue, her list of maladies was a mile long…she had no hope (I think I actually left part of this part out). But 4 years of life later, and after a series of surgeries facilitated by Dr. Joyce Hill, Jayne was alive and living a life she would never have had, had it not been for the continued care she received in Beijing at the Hope Foster home, one of the six (I said five earlier because one of the care centers is temporarily closed) caring centers supported by Show Hope.

Then there is Fahlin, one of the ‘original 8’ as I call them at Maria’s Big House of Hope. About six years ago I was there to paint ladybugs and flowers everywhere throughout the facility, when I first met her. I don’t remember a lot about the initial meeting because she was on the 5th floor, the palliative care floor, where she was being held, comforted and cared for until she passed in the arms of a caregiver. She was the little purple girl with no pulmonary arteries who wasn’t expected to live to see one. Fast-forward 5 years. Once again, the fact that we can fast forward is a testament to the care she received at Maria’s Big House of Hope. Fahlin was about to age out and be sent back to the state orphanage, where she surely would not have survived. All of the other ‘original 8’ had been placed with families and adopted, but Fahlin had been deemed “too sick” to even have a family. She was unadoptable, according to China. My sister was there when number seven went home to be with their new family and watched as Fahlin cried as she saw the last of her closest friends leave. To make a long story short, something had to be done. My sister new Fahlin needed a loving family.

There is a lot to this story that time won’t allow tonight, but trough a series of Godly interventions, one Chinese roadblock after another was eliminated, and we were able to adopt Fahlin…with the understanding that several things could happen, all of which were bad. But at least, we told ourselves, she would have a family. Due the severe condition of her heart, she could even die on the airplane ride home to the states. If she did make it home, she most likely wouldn’t live to see Christmas, 10 months away. We were staring death in the face. But it was and is a testament to the outstanding care she received while at Maria’s that she was even stood a chance, even if it were a remote chance.

Fahlin and Jayne’s stories are same stories these families represent. What these families here in front of the stage have in common is that every one of them could tell you a story just like our Jayne’s or our Fahlin’s, about how their child that began life with utter hopelessness, no family, alone, most likely with some sort of serious medical need, in fact, they wouldn’t be in a care center if they didn’t have a severe medical need, but each one of these potentially tragic stories has gloriously unfolded into a story of life, of love and of healing. And it all started with the care these kids received while in China.

I never thought we would adopt, but we did, then I never thought we would adopt again, but we did. The thought of adopting a little girl with severe medical needs didn’t cross my mind, until we did and finally, adopting again? A child with a serious heart condition? What were we thinking? But we did. And I am 100% certain, that each and every family represented here tonight answered God’s call without hesitation. It’s not easy what these families do. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. At time inconvenient. I know. It takes sacrifice. It’s not about us; it’s about them, the children. And to a family, I can assure you; each family here would do it all over again. Repeat. We would do it all over again.

Many people have answered the call to adopt. Many more have answered the call to care. From the original 8 to the six care centers now in existence the work of Show Hope continues to grow. Its effect can be felt throughout China as many state run orphanages now use similar models for the caring of their children. And to those of you who have worked and continue to work in those care centers, From Dr. Steve, to Robin and Joyce Hill to the housekeeping staff, the kitchen staff, the nurses, and the Ai’s to ensure that our babies are as healthy as they can be when we come to get them, a simple thank you does not seem enough. But yet thank you is all I have. There are no words adequate enough. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

November 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Nov 12 2016 1:00 AM

The Show Hope celebration and fundraiser event is coming up this weekend. It’s a time when friends and supporters of my sister and brother-in-law’s foundation gather together in Nashville for weekend of celebration, concerts, fun and fundraising.

The Show Hope Foundation supports six care centers in China, which in turn take care of nearly 600 very sick orphans. Not only that, they also offer grants to adoptive families, provide post adoption counseling, host multiple mission group trips and much, much more (I sound like a commercial). It takes millions of dollars to do what they do. Because of their work, many families have added a child to their families.

I get to represent the families who have adopted a child from one of Show Hope’s care centers and to speak on their behalf to thank the caregivers in China who were instrumental in nursing our children to health. We, of course have two, Fahlin and Jayne. Aunt Mary Beth wants them to be there tonight at the big dinner because apparently, people are asking to meet them. People who have read this blog, people who have heard Steven and Mary Beth speak of them, people who saw them while on a trip to Beijing or Louyang and who want to see them again and see how well they are doing. So the girls get to go with us to the dinner tonight, at Aunt Mary Beth’s invitation.

It should be a fun evening with SCC doing a short concert, Randy Frazee speaking awards to be given, food to be eaten, it should be a great evening of fellowship. Mike Hamilton (yes, that Mike Hamilton), the executive director of Show Hope will be leading the festivities. Mike is an awesome dude. He and his wife have adopted five children, so who better suited to the lead the charge than Mike? I have saved my speech I’ll be giving and will post it next blog. It’ll be a great night.

October 27, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 27 2016 1:00 AM

I’m sitting here on my back porch, watching the small fire I’ve built in the fire pit. It’s a beautiful evening with a slight breeze and the fire cannot decide if it wants to burn or not. Usually Fahlin and company would be here asking if we could have s’mores or we would be cooking hotdogs, or just hanging out, but tonight, they are in bed.

It’s about 8:45 PM and I just wanted to sit out here and gather my thoughts. I’ve had lots of thoughts lately. I don’t even know how to organize them, or where even to start. They usually involve worry. Yes, worry. I worry (even though the Bible tells us not to) about the ‘littles’ a lot. I worry a lot about Izzy now that she has started driving…by her self! Not sure how that fits into this blog, if it even does. Maybe it’s more concern than worry. Yes, I’ll go with concern. Maybe it’s all just me ‘being weird’ as my wife calls me. Maybe it’s just old age or sentimentalism but I know that I am definitely being ‘something.’ Don’t know what, but something.

Could it be the juggling act of being old and young at the same time? Having grown children and a seven old at the same time? Not in the same house, but you get my drift. Could it be I’m in a house with six women, the youngest of which has a major heart issue? Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s an overwhelming fear that I won’t be able to provide care, or even Christmas presents one year. Silly, I know, but that’s me, I guess.

Well, I’m taking this space in this blog at this time to blame it all on Fahlin, as if she doesn’t have enough to worry about (tongue-in-cheek). She has brought all of this on. She’s such a trooper. She’s so cute, so intelligent, how can the God of this universe find me to be fit enough to be her father? That’s it! Eureka! It’s the pressure to be the best Dad I can be to this little girl that is doing me in. More thoughts flooding my head. To think about the despair from which she came to now and everything in between, my tiny brain cannot handle it. I just want to sometimes yell “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Deep breath. I feel better now letting that out. Thanks Fahlin! Smile.

October 21, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 23 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s class went to the zoo the other day. Grassmere. It seems like forever ago, yet it was only less than two years when we in China at the Guangzhou Zoo with Fahlin. Since it was the beginning of our fall break, I was able to go with her. I wondered if she would remember her trip to the zoo in China. She has on occasion talked about feeding the giraffe[s] at the Zoo, so it is apparent she definitely has memories of her Zoo trip in China. At that time, she could barely walk any distance at all without getting winded and therefore was riding in her ‘Happy Dino’ stroller. She remembered feeding the Giraffes. People would stop us and ask us (through an interpreter) why she was purple. She was one sick little girl. My, how far she has come.

So here we are, walking into the zoo with the rest of her class and she says, “Where are the Zebra[s]?”

“The Zebras?”

“Uh huh.”

So, after the class got situated, we sent our separate, merry ways. “We need a map, Dad.” I wish you hear her tonal inflections when talks. It’s kind of a cross between valley girl and sassy. Most of the time it’s her normal and cute self. Fahlin just being Fahlin. This was a normal time. So off we trudged back to the front gate to pick one up. And boy, she didn’t let that map out of her grip. Once I showed he where we were, it was off and running time. She couldn’t wait to see the Zebras. It didn’t matter which exhibit we were viewing the question was always. “Where are the Zebra[s]?”

I would show her on the map where we were in relation to the Zebras. “Fahlin, don’t worry, we are almost at to the Zebras.” She couldn’t wait. But one thing I did notice, she had a whole lot more energy at Grassmere than she did when she was at the Guangzhou Zoo. Except. Yes, except when she was going uphill. She would stop, look at me, raise her arms and give me the “I’m tired,” look. So up on the shoulders she would go. Walking uphill with an addition fifty pounds on me was quite the workout. But well worth it. Fahlin was having a blast. We finally arrived at the African Sahara part of the zoo. She was disappointed she could fee the giraffes, they were too far away from us, plus they don’t do that at Grassmere, apparently. Finally, low and behold, we saw the Zebras and wouldn’t you know it, all we could see were their behinds? Very anti-climatic, I must admit. But rather than stay and dwell on the beauty of the Zebras, Fahlin was off to the next exhibit.

“Fahlin, don’t you want to stay and look at the Zebras?” Apparently not. It was off to the Kangaroos, and the Tortoises, and the Tapirs, and the Red Pandas and the….

October 17, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 17 2016 1:00 AM

How does Fahl Fahl do in school you might be wondering? Glad you asked. In a word, GREAT! I have included a picture of her report card and as you can see, it is pretty great, considering everything she has been through. I guess now would be a good time to reveal how Jayne is doing as well. Three “C’s,” one “B” and one “A.” My first thought is a terrible thought, “not bad for a little girl with half a brain.” She is awesome, by the way, and goofy, and unorganized, and messy, and very loving. Then there is Lydia’s first grade card from Brentwood Academy, four “A’s” and two “B’s.” We didn’t know what to expect, so we’ll take it. Then there is Izzy, Fahlin’s sophomore sister, also at BA, that does not get much mention in these here blogs, but I think the number “4.5” says it all. As Darth Vader would so aptly say, in Episode IV, A New Hope, “Impressive, most impressive.”

But, back to Fahlin. As I look at her card, I notice she is reading what they call “beyond” her grade level. Of course, we knew this, because she has started reading chapter books, usually a good indication. And she will tell you about the book. When it comes to writing, she struggles a bit. I don’t know if it’s content or penmanship they are grading, but suffice it to say, Fahlin is better color-er of coloring books than a calligrapher. Just sayin.’ She is brilliant in math. In fact, she will sit around sometimes working on a math workbook that is not school issued and work math problems for fun. What is wrong with that child? Who does math for fun? Everything else is above grade level as well.

But this leads us to our next dilemma, which has been playing out the past few months and will most likely continue going forward, and that is the fact that often times, Fahlin helps Jayne on her homework. That’s hard to watch. I know Jayne struggles, and Fahlin loves to help, but the sibling rivalry between these two inevitably rears its ugly head on these situations. Sometimes we will even hear a big “smack” followed by Jayne running to us and telling us Fahlin hit her. Often times Fahlin will resort to orphan survival mode, even when it is absolutely not necessary. All of needs are taken care of, but sometimes she loses site of that. She is after all, a kid who has been through quite bit, which is an understatement to be sure.

So, all this talk about grades has led us to the growing, maturing Fahlin. The one who sometimes is too big for her britches, stubborn beyond reason, bossy and emotional. All signs that she is healthier than she has ever been, adjusting well to her new surroundings, fitting in with her family and growing up. What she fails to remember is that she is still a skinny, cute little girl who sometimes needs to be reminded about her place in the pecking order. She has gone from top dog to low man on the totem pole. Hard, I’m sure.

As for Fahlin’s schooling, she is in good hands. We love her teacher, Patty Short. Patty will be missing a few weeks because of exploratory surgery to check for cancer. Patty is awesome. We have known her for thirty years. Pray for her.

October 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 15 2016 1:00 AM

It has been about a week since my last blog, you know, the one about, dare I say it? Fahlin and boobs. Sorry about that, but it was after all, a milestone. But now on to deeper, more important things. I have on occasion been known to be sullen, pensive, and even quiet at times (yes, hard to believe, I know), especially when I think about the current state of our family’s life status. My mind just goes Ahhhhhhhhhh! I shake my head and my heart palpitates…for no apparent reason. Yet, here I am in one of those times, at one of those crossroads. How did I get here? Work is going better than ever. Although Fahlin still does that ‘fake-angry-cry’ thing when she doesn’t get her way, the rest of the kids are doing great.

So where does my emotionalism come from? It starts with Fahlin and ends with our youngest son the youth pastor, Canaan and his wife Ami. Let me explain, or at least try to explain. We are in an unusual life circumstance. Our aforementioned son and his aforementioned wife are expecting their first child, a little girl, and our first granddaughter on Thanksgiving Day no less. Like most grandparents, we would do anything and everything to be there. Just up and go!

BUT! And that’s a big but (that struck me as funny)! We can’t just ‘up and go.’ Why not you may be asking? Welllll, our family structure is not the norm. My wife and I are not empty nesters. I’m pretty certain we never will be (grin). Yes, we have a first grader still in the house, a fourth grader too and a sixth and tenth grader. If we did ‘up and go’ we would have to take the entire clan with us. I don’t mind doing that, it’s what we’ve always done however, my son will have a new baby in the house and to have a couple of wild yahoos running around squabbling and gabbing and being noisy all the time, I’m sure would drive my son and daughter-in-law batty, not to mention the constant shhhhshing that would be going on and the high stress level coupled with the overwhelming experience of that of a first child. That’s a lot to put in one sentence. And it does seem to be grammatically correct, at least according to spell and grammar check.

So you see what I mean? Difficult to do. So our plan now is to send Grandma (Yolanda, who goes by Yolie, by the way). She will fly to Dallas and hang for about a week while I hold down the fort. But holding down the fort is hard to do when you still have to work, coach, cook and transport, but yet mentally be somewhere else, worried and concerned for our son’s new family. Not sure how the logistics are all going to play out, but we will hopefully develop a plan that has a reasonable chance for success. In the meantime I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not be able to hold my granddaughter until Christmas, when they come to town. Thank God for Face Time. Then again, that is not the same.

So you see why I’m in the mood I’m in. From Fahlin to my oldest and everyone and everything in-between, I want to be everywhere, be there for the birth, and at the same time I want to go see my other son in D.C. and at the same time I want to fly to Tampa to see Bethany, and yet I still have to take care of Fahl Fahl and Jayne and yet…This is what we have chosen our family to be. No complaints. We knew there would be compromises and sacrifices at some point. That point is now. And I am not handling it well from an emotional point of view. Physically, logically and logistically I know we can “Git-r-done,” but how without the requisite stress and tears? Big softie here. So for now, we plan. We talk. We figure things out. And, we thank God for his goodness, for life, for the miracle of birth…and adoption…and healing…and airplanes…and food…and shelter…and…a million other things that will make all of this possible.

October 8, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 8 2016 1:00 AM

Okay, the blog I am about to write is about a subject that I never thought I would be writing about in this forum, but here goes. Of course, a brief reminder in is order. You know I live in a houseful of women, including Yolanda, six to be exact. Our other daughter, Bethany, is in Tampa. So, I have been around females my entire life (I miss my boys). Naturally, the conversations we have in our household center around female issues. There are a lot of those. But last night, the conversation was about as funny as I’ve ever heard, and it all centered around Jayne.

I hope this is an appropriate subject for a Christian school blog post, but bear with me, I do tie it all up in a nice, neat little bow at the end, so here goes. Buckle up. Strap in. Close your eyes. Yes, Jayne has started wearing a training bra. It’s such a big deal in our house that Fahlin had to announce it at dinner, “Jayne is growing boob[s].” Said Fahlin (without the ‘s’ it is really funny). Yes, Jayne even pulled up her shirt to show everyone.

We made big deal about it, because this milestone has always been a constant topic of conversation on our household since my oldest daughter went through puberty some thirteen or fourteen years ago. Now, mind you, the matriarch of our family, my wife has set the bar pretty high and has, as Fahlin says, “Huge ones.” I definitely think I’m typing myself into trouble here. But needless to say, we have been discussing these things for as long as I can remember. From Bethany, to Abby, and all the way now down through Jayne.

[Break time. There is so much I am thinking about writing, but won’t.]

I’m back. Now that Jayne is entering a new a chapter in her life, about which Fahlin is happy to loudly proclaim, “Jayne is growing….” Well, you get the picture, I pause to think about what a miraculous little girl she really is and about the fact that she wasn’t expected to live through the first chapter of her life, let alone all the other chapters she has gone through. And, of all things, now this. Haha.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I guess in Jayne’s case, this includes training bras. Lord help me.

October 7, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 7 2016 1:00 AM

I think the anticipation of an event is often the most important aspect of the event itself. Let me ‘splain. Fahlin and Jayne are on fall break this week and Aunt Mary Beth has offered to let the girls come over and spend the night one night. Now, I have been through this with our other 600 children, so I know what’s about to happen. Every day leading up to the big event is filled with questions. And I am sure you know what the questions are. “When are we going to Aunt Mary Beth’s?” Are we going to Mary Beth’s house tonight?” “How many more days until we go to Aunt Mary Beth’s house?” I’ve lived these moments many, many times.

So the day arrived. “Hey, Sis,” I texted, “what time do you want the girls?”

“I have Show Hope meetings all day, so how bout we meet for dinner and I’ll get them then?” was the response.

“The girls have practice anyway, so that sounds good.”

Well, now what? You guessed it. AGONY! The poor girls had to wait alllllllllllll daaaaaaaay. Fahlin said, “Uggggghhhhhh.” Jayne, of course, just went with the flow. That’s actually one of things she does best, goes with the flooooow.

“When are we going?”

“We are meeting Mary Beth for dinner, then you guys get to go home with her.”

“Yippee.”

So we finally met up for dinner at one of our new favorite places, the Corner Asian Bistro (if you haven’t tried it, it is awesome). The girls always fight over who gets to sit beside Aunt MB. Fahlin won this round. Mary Beth filled us in on the many comings and goings and family things that have been going on with Steven, the girls and the grandbabies. Lots of info.

But finally it was off to Mary Beth and Uncle Steve’s house. It was already about 8:00. It was whirlwind of an evening, the culmination of which was sleepy time on the special bunks in the special bunk room, which is a small room with bunks designed to be like tour bus bunks. Very cool. Jayne was on the middle bunk. “It was scary.” She said.

But the next morning, my wife picked them up at around 10:00, and it was off to Louisville where Yolanda’s friend, Kimber lives. See what I mean? Quick, effective, and a memory. See? It’s all about the anticipation. And fun was had by all…

October 2, 2016

Jim Chapman

Oct 4 2016 1:00 AM

Go figure. I just don’t understand something. Why is it on the days you need the girls to get out of bed at 6:30, they don’t want to get up, but on the weekends or their day off, they are up at 6:00, rarin’ to go, happy and energetic! I do not understand, nor do I have an explanation.

In our house, this has always been the case. Our eldest son could go to bed at 10:00 PM, and wake up at 6:00. He could go to bed at 7:00 PM and still wake up at 6:00, so, guess what? He went to bed at 7:00. I have often said, that is the reason (or one of them) for children numbers two, three, and four. Haha.

But to these ‘littles’ the ‘getting up’ times do not mean anything. I have never seen Jayne sleep past 7:00…ever. Fahlin has slept in on occasion, but that was more when we first brought her home, not so much recently. By sleeping in I mean 7:00 as well. There have been times when we get up and there they are, sitting in the dark. Sometimes it’s Jayne sitting creepily in the dark; sometimes it’s Fahl Fahl sitting quietly watching her Kindle. At least the other girls would come climb in bed and cuddle with us. These guys are just weird in the mornings (I’m chuckling because that sounds bad, but it’s not meant to sound bad).

I usually like to get up earlier than everybody. It’s about the only time of the day I have to myself. But that only translates to about fifteen minutes of quiet time before the natives start to appear. I don’t mind. One of my real joys in this world is cooking breakfast for these girls. Always a good, healthy breakfast. Sausage, oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, bacon, toast, although not all at once and not every day. It varies from day to day. And when the girls get up early, I usually put them to work cracking eggs, stirring the pancakes or simply getting the stuff out of the fridge and/or putting stuff back. They love breakfast when they cook it with me.

So, for whatever the reason they get up early, I don’t really mind. I guess they have to get up some time, so why not early? I guess I will never know what it’s like for myself to sleep much past 6:30. Still, they are silly girls, getting up early and all…and, for the record, I am glad they do!

September 25, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 26 2016 1:00 AM

We have discovered what seems to be Fahlin’s new, true talent. Sewing! Yes, sewing! ‘Sew’ what, you might be asking? My eldest daughter, Bethany, whom we call ‘Babz’ (with a z because it’s a much cooler way to spell it), is visiting for the week (I almost said home, sad face , I miss her), and she is an expert ‘sewer,’ or should I say seamstress? My daughter-in-law Ami’s baby shower is today and Bethany is making her sister-in-law a gift. I cannot reveal it at this point as I write, but suffice it to say it’s a complicated sewing project. And it is really, really nice. And besides, those gifts that have someone’s heart poured into them are always the best ones; the most cherished ones, the most used. You know what I mean.

Where was Fahlin when all this sewing was going down? In the way, of course. “I can do that,” she kept saying. “I want to do that,” was her mantra. Over and over, nonstop. “Can I do one?” She would ask, over and over. “Can I push the pedal?” She watched Bethany’s every move. She sat on her lap and helped. She even bantered with her a bit.

“Did you know you are my Aunt?” She asked.

“No, I’m your sister, Fahlin,” Bethany answered.

“Well, when I was little you were my Aunt!”

No, she wasn’t, but oh well, I think she’ll figure it out. So her Aunt who is really her sister, Bethany, finished her project and gave in to Fahlin’s persistent request. They found some material, found a simple pattern, cut and pinned and began sewing. Fahlin had helped earlier by sitting on Bethany’s lap, but this time, she was on her own, pedal and all. She did a great job.

But here is the sobering thought. Bethany awakened a new love in Fahlin’s life. Sewing. The harsh reality is that, assuming she lived long enough, had she not been adopted, she would have returned to the state run orphanage, which in turn would have turned her out onto the streets when she was around fourteen. She most likely would have found work chained to a sewing machine somewhere, under deplorable working conditions, twelve hour shifts, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I wonder if she would have loved sewing then?

God had a better plan. I’ve included pictures. See the joy on her face. The pride of accomplishment. Obviously this is the little girl God intended her to be, in the place where He intended, with the family He intended her to have, doing the things He intended her to do, and loving every minute.

Tank you ‘Aunt’ Babz.

September 23, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 22 2016 1:00 AM

I don’t know how this happened, but the other night, the little girls were in rare form, especially…yes; you guessed it, Fahlin. I came home after swim practice, walked into the kitchen minding my own business when out of the blue, Fahlin says, “You smell like an old rag and dog poopy!” The girls giggled and guffawed like that was the funniest thing ever said in the history of the world.

“What ???!!!???” I asked myself? “Do I really?” I sniffed my armpits and shirt. I found no traces of the aforementioned smells. First, for the record, we do not own a dog, nor do I even know where on earth I would have picked up the smell of dog poo, let alone an old rag, second I did immediately walk over to my bride (wife) and asked her, “Do I really smell like and old rag and dog doodoo?” The girls guffawed some more, hysterically, I might add.

“No dear, you do not,” was the reply.

‘Ha! See girls, I do not smell bad!”

“Well, if you came over and [stand] next me, I would vomit!” Fahlin stated to the uproarious laughter of Jayne. Where did they get this stuff? So, like any good Dad, I slowly sauntered over to Fahlin where she was sitting and stood as close to her as I could.

“Well?” I asked with a grin.

She immediately went into the pouty face mode.

“I’m waiting little miss poopy nose.” Yes, very mature of me. She smiled a little smile. “I think you are the one who smells like an old sock and poo yourself.” Well, that just opened the spigot. From then on we spent the next ten minutes or so calling each other Mr. Poop, or Miss Stinky Pants, or other such first grade terminology. The laughter was hilarious and infectious. We laughed ‘til, well, ‘til it totally got out of control. I’m even smiling now thinking about it.

Finally Mom intervened and reminded the girls it was time to settle down, finish dinner and get ready for bed. We reminded the girls that they really shouldn’t call people names like that. We are after all, good parents, you now. Up to bed they went. We said our prayers, talked a little and I kissed them goodnight. As I walked out of the room, though, I couldn’t resist, “Good night stink heads!” I said quietly. The giggled…

September 19, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 19 2016 1:00 AM

Remember a few blogs back about how awesome I was about being able to be not one, not two, but three places at once? When the ‘littles’ needed be somewhere, I was Mr. Responsible. Mr. Reliable. Mr. Incredible. Well yesterday, I was Mr. Colossal Failure at being three places at once. I was basically, nowhere I needed to be. I feel awful about myself when that happens. What if I was the only person invited to these functions, responded yes, then didn’t show? How disappointed would the invitee be? What if the shoe was on the other foot and was the invitee and no one showed? See what I mean?

[Late breaking news: turns out there were FOUR places I needed to be. Fahlin just reminded me about a birthday party we missed. Kiss Father of the year goodbye!]

First, I was invited to Beavercreek, Ohio for big bash honoring Ben O’Diam (Lifetime Achievement Award, my first boss at the first school at which I ever worked. He had a long career in education, followed by a distinguished career in local politics. Second, was the Brentwood Academy retreat, to which I planned to take the ‘littles’ and go fishing. Third was the wedding of one of my former swimmers, whom I think the world of. And finally, the aforementioned forgotten birthday party.

Now, you may be wondering, where was Yolanda in all of this? That’s just it, the wrench in the plans. She had to work one of her twelve-hour shifts at he hospital. As you also may know, I cannot think much further ahead than about a day or two. But I did know all of this was sneaking up on me and I was powerless to figure it out. Helpless, in fact. Weak even.

My plan was good. I would get the girls to their practices in the morning AND bring the little ones with me, which always adds a different dynamic to anything we do. I had decided if Yolanda was not working I might try the up and back trip to Ohio. But that didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. So next, I was going to wait for Izzy, my 15 year old to return from a team bonding floating trip down the duck river, then proceed to the retreat. But it “POURED down THE rain,” as my wife would say. I mean poured! I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of paralyzed. But, around 2:30, I went ahead and loaded Fahlin and Jayne into the car and headed to the BA retreat, only to be stopped thirty minutes later on the west side of Nashville at the 440/40 junction by traffic going nowhere. Dead stopped. Argggghhhh! I quickly made the decision to catch the return loop to 440 and head back home at that point. We were going to late as it was, this would make the trip stressful; at least that’s what I was thinking.

So now plan C was I could make the wedding I was missing, but low and behold, it was starting in fifteen minutes and there was no way, no how to get there, let alone go home and change, yadda, yadda, yadda. So it was home to give the girls baths and cook supper. By that time, it was 7:00 and the day had been a complete waste. Or was it? I tried; I really, really tried to be all things to all people at all the places at all times. All I really managed to do was to be no one to no one and nowhere at all. I did nothing I had planned to do. Thus, my own failure label. My consolation was that I got to hang out with the girls, take care of them and the really interesting part is that they never knew what I had failed at not doing. They never really knew I wasn’t where I wanted to go, wasn’t where I needed to be, knew what I had missed or how I felt about missing everything. But now it is Sunday, the day after. While I am disappointed and embarrassed at myself for the failures of Saturday, it’s time to get the girls ready for church.

[Another news flash: WHAT ABOUT THIS CRAZY GAS SHORTAGE?]

So, as Yolanda works again today, I am making another executive decision. Since there is no gas, we are not going to our regular church, instead, we are heading down the street about two mile to the girls’ school where my friend pastors a start up in the gymnasium. Short drive, starts a little later so everyone sleeps in a bit and I save my gas for tomorrow…and he’s good. We can worship our Creator. So, after yesterday’s disappointing debacle, today is a new day. On with life!

…And, I am SO sorry!

September 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 15 2016 1:00 AM

So as most of you know, we are in a holding pattern with Fahlin’s future heart surgeries. The doctors want to let her grow for another year. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem with as food as this child has been socking away lately. Like last night for example. A pork chop, two helpings of broccoli (yuck), a pile of potato wedges and a salad. My wife and I just looked at each other and smiled as if to say, “Where in the world is she putting this food?” Or better yet, pancake day. On the weekends, I make pancakes for the girls. She love[s] pancake[s].

It is amazing what a little love from a family combined with some food and an increased oxygen flow to the body can do. She has grown like a weed, her stamina is up and she evens tries to do pushups. She reads on the third grade level and does math workbooks (not for homework) for fun. We see it all the time with adoptive families. Little, frail children get adopted into a loving family and the next thing you know, you have a growing, thriving, flourishing child. It is truly one of God’s visible miracles being lived out right in front of our eyes.

What to do? Well, I think for now, we keep feeding her and loving her and sit back and watch her grow. Literally. In all facets of life. It’s rather extraordinary to watch. It’s also been enjoyable for me to share her journey with you. As long as God keeps inspiring me to write, I’ll keep it up. Thank you for your continued prayers for both Fahlin and our family.

September 12, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 12 2016 1:00 AM

Well, after all these blogs about how moody and difficult Fahlin has been lately, this past weekend was the total opposite. Happy Fahlin was everywhere. She was joyous, giggly, and talkative, not to mention even cuddly. Who was this imposter? What have you done with my daughter and return her to me immediately! If it were my daughter Abby, I would think she was up to something or needed money, but it was Fahl Fahl, so I’m sure if she had a motive.

She actually wanted to go to Sunday school class with us, instead of her own class. When it was time to watch the Titans, she wanted to watch football with daddy. Then, as the afternoon turned to evening, she wanted to watch ‘guy movie’ with dad.

“We never watch guy movie any more,” she said (remember, no ‘s’s).

“Well, Fahlin, that’s because we’ve been watching other stuff these days.”

I remember when we first brought Fahlin home. She was frightened, anxious, uncertain, so we took care to be attentive to her. We didn’t let her go to sleep alone, and made sure she knew where we were when she woke up. Most days that was right between my wife and I. I often reflect and think about what these little girls are going through transitioning to a not only a new family, but also a new environment, a new country, a new everything! So we coddled her. I coddled her. When it was bedtime, she would snuggle up on my shoulder and watch the ‘Expendables (1, 2 and 3)’ with me. I had the headphones; she would just watch the explosions, then drift off to sleep…with all those violent scenes floating around in her little brain. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.

Thank goodness she has learned how to read. She reads very well in fact. Almost third grade level. WooHoo! Books are much better than the ‘Expendables.’

“Fahlin, why don’t you go read a good book?”

September 7, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 7 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin continues to display emotional outbursts of all kinds. Whether it is the pouty lip I have mentioned before, or getting angry at holding Daddy’s hand, or even as happened today, throwing a small fit over what we ordered for lunch, it is not very becoming of a little girl. While it’s not at the frustrating level yet for me (I am much more patient with this type of behavior now as compared to twenty years ago), it is getting to the point where we do indeed have to figure something out what we’re going to do about it. Ah, the travails of parenting. Well, I guess I have lived long enough to answer the question, “Does parenting ever actually get any easier?” the answer, of course is an emphatic “No!”

Right now, I am pretty certain that we are experiencing a power struggle here. Yes, the little, skinny girl thinks she is in control. Ha! She is not. But she is definitely convinced in her mind that she determines what goes on in her life.

“You know, Yo,” I said to my beautiful bride the other night, “We are in the midst of a power struggle.” She agreed. We also agreed to stay strong and prevail in this battle. Then we smiled and determined, “She is sooo darn cute!” But we cannot let that deter us. Of course, part of the problem stems from the early days when we first brought Fahlin home. We said yes all the time because of her uncertain future. Now, we have to be the fisherman and reel her back in, no matter how cute she is

So despite our parental flaws, with as much experience as we have, we feel confident we can call upon all our resources to prevail. It will take time, however, as we well know. And no matter how long it takes, we old pros must and will prevail…if we live long enough, that is. It is pretty cool to know that the prognosis is now for a long life for Fahlin. It is very possible she could outlast us, which would indeed be the most fabulous miracle of all. The fact that she is here testing us some eight months after the time we thought we might lose her, speaks volumes to the majesty, the sovereignty, the magnitude of God’s impressive love he has for us. Amazing!

So on we go…

September 3, 2016

Jim Chapman

Sep 4 2016 1:00 AM

Moody. Getting back to Fahlin, it’s time to maybe figure out Fahlin’s moods; what causes them, why she has them and how on earth we are going to attack them. Geeze Louise, my wife always says. It wouldn’t be so bad if the mood swings were a little subtler, but sometimes they can go from clam to volcanic for no apparent reason.

In the mornings it’s easy to figure out. If she is grumpy, not enough sleep. Starving could also play a part in that. She often will get ‘hangry,’ the simple cure for which is a quick bowl of cereal. Those two mood swings are both understandable and treatable. But there are times when I don’t understand where they come from. For example, sometimes I will go up to her and give her a hug while licking her arm. Just a little lick, but man oh man, you would think I just talked about boys or something. She gets maaaad. Sometimes, when Jayne gets to do something, but Fahlin does not, she will lower her head, cross her arms, stick out that bottom lip and flash the angry eyes, just make a point. Sometimes when I say stuff like, “Come here Fahlly and give Daddy kisses…” Even that will make her angry, and all I ever did was love her in the annoying way that only Dads can love their little girls. And what about when I am stinky and sweaty from when I just finishes a workout? “Oh no, don’t get near me!!! Hmmmph!” I don’t get it. Who wouldn’t want to hug this sweaty lug? And then again there is tickling. Tickling? What could be wrong with that? I do not understand it, but it makes Fahl Fahl mad. Oh well.

Yes, oh well. Get used to it little girls. That’s how I roll. Your sisters lived! They survived! They still love their Dad. I don’t see myself ever changing. And you know what? The angry eyes, the pouty lip, the crossed arms do not affect the way they did when I was young parent. Thank God for the second go ‘round. All the more reason to never change…and I won’t! Count on it girls!

August 28, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 29 2016 1:00 AM

I have been thinking…a Lot, lately. You know that, about Fahlin, her future, Jayne, her future, life, mortality, family; lots and lots of stuff, on top of everything else in my life, swim team starting, school starting, lesson plans, teacher stuff, how to keep my wife happy, retirement income (Haha), parents who are getting older, you know…just thinking about things. And thinking about how I can be everywhere at once on the weekends my wife works.

I’m pretty good about being two places at once, but when I have to be three places? Well, that’s a bit outside of my abilities. That can only happen when people we love and do life and activities with and consider our friends chip in to help. Like LaDonna King. My daughter, Izzy swims with her son Daniel and sometimes Izzy and former ‘little’ Lydia need a ride to practice, or home and LaDonna is always willing to help. She lives sort of near us, but it out of her (or her husband Kenneth’s) way to bring the girls home. To say thank you is not enough, but here goes, thank you Ken and LaDonna.

There are more, like Barbara Carney, who absolutely loves these littles girls and is always willing to help. Like Joanna, who actually knew these girls in China, like Janice Fields whom we’ve known for years who watches the girls after school on some days, like Laura Disney, another friend of nearly thirty years who is always, always, always there for us. She’ll even mow the yard; take out the trash, clean the house do the laundry…all because she loves these little girls. Even our swim team family has willingly pitched to help when needed. Always behind the scenes, always helpful, whether convenient or not. Deborah, Dana, Jan, Leslie and the list goes on.

That’s the effect these ‘littles’ have on people. The effect has even rippled throughout the lives of our friends, no matter how brief or involved, as family after family decide to adopt as either a direct result to interactions with our girls, or indirectly by watching them live life and grow and flourish. Now, obviously not everyone is called to adopt, but people everywhere who have friends who have are stepping up and helping in ways, both big and little that are appreciated by those families more than they will ever know. As I have been thinking, I think it’s important, on behalf of every adoptive family I know to say thank you to those unsung heroes who do the little things that add up to big help. And for our family, even a triple thank you, thank you, thank you is not enough. I’m sure Heaven will have some special crowns waiting for you all.

“…And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt 25:40.

August 21, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 22 2016 1:00 AM

Football season is upon us and of course, it is imperative I teach the girls the way of the south, and that means loving football. It all starts with Brentwood Academy. So Friday night, we loaded up the girls and took them to the game.

What was amazing is that Fahlin was a different child this year. Last year at her first football game, she had only been home with us from China for a short while. She was frail, skinny, weak and purple after having just received a stent in her heart. We had not seen the positive effects of that at this point. As you can tell from the accompanying picture, she has grown, gained weight and muscle (you might have to look hard for those muscles, but they are there), and her color is noticeably better.

What a difference a year makes. Doesn’t she look cute in her cheerleading outfit? And don’t be fooled, although she looks tall and lanky, she is still pretty tiny. The picture is deceiving. She looks huge. She is not huge.

She loved the game. Luckily, she didn’t realize that that the Eagles got off to a shaky start, but eventually took control of the game and rolled. But I’m pretty sure she was more enthralled with what the cheerleaders and dancers were doing than the actual game. Now all she wants to do is ‘moves.’ She has NO rhythm, repeat, NO rhythm. So watching her put into practice what she learned at the game has been rather entertaining. Funny, even. Humorous in fact. I’m even chuckling to myself as I type.

We are thankful that Fahlin is with us; healthier than she’s ever been and living a life she could never have lived in China, or at least had little or chance of ever experiencing anything like she is now. It’s hard to imagine our family without her. While she presents our family with enormous challenges, by God’s grace we will continue to walk with her. And while tomorrow is never guaranteed [as we found out Saturday morning when one of my friends in Ohio passed away; I ran up to Columbus to sing at the celebration concert in his honor and returned Sunday], we certainly know that God has all of that figured out for us. For now, we just trust in Him.

August 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 16 2016 1:00 AM

So it was Jayne’s turn for an MRI. Guess who was her coach? Guess who was the so-called MRI ‘expert?’ Guess who wanted to go with her to the hospital? Yep, Fahl Fahl.

But first, a little back-story. Jayne is from northwest China, near Kazakhstan and Mongolia, in fact very close to both their borders. In fact, the indigenous people of the area don’t even look Chinese; more middle eastern. Not a very friendly part of China at all, so much so that we were told not to venture outside our hotel after dark. I did anyway. But that is another part of the story.

Back to Jayne. Jayne has what is known as ‘Vader Syndrome.’ No relation to Darth. It is a certain combination of medical symptoms that, when combined add up to Vader Syndrome. During the birth, or right after, Jayne’s brain was severely damaged, in fact, she is missing a third of it. The missing parts control her speech and motor skills (uh, she runs, skips, hops swims and speaks English after having only spoken Chines the first four and a half years of her life). She had a hole in her heart (which was fixed), a crooked urethra (which was straightened), only one kidney, imperforate anus, which was surgically repaired as well (she had a colostomy bag the first six months of her life), epilepsy and a pretty symptomatically severe case of cerebral palsy AND two arachnoid cysts on her brain, which, at this point do not need to be removed. She has been through the ringer for sure.

Which brings us to the MRI. During her recent visit her neurologist; he determined that it was time to take a look at everything. The cysts need monitoring every few years, just in case. In case of what, I’m not sure. She did her practicing, and with Fahlin’s help, was able to survive the procedure. I told her the purpose of the MRI was to see if she still had a brain. I think she believed me, because afterward, I asked her if she thought they found her brain and she said, with a huge grin on her face, “I don’t know.” She is so much fun to have around.

We get the results I a couple of weeks. As you can tell, there are a lot of serious needs in our family. But with lots of prayer, as we can all plainly see, God has done and is doing miraculous works in the lives of the two little girls known as the ‘littles.’ Fahlin didn’t go with Jayne to the hospital, but she was proud that because of her efforts, Jayne was able to return home safely in one piece, brain and all…God bless Jayne.

August 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 13 2016 1:00 AM

The first two days of first grade at school, no problem. Fahlin was excited, happy and chatty. Non-stop. Then, day three arrived. She couldn’t get up, couldn’t get moving, was not happy and basically was a grump…especially in the mornings. So, we being the experienced parents that we are; decided no more 7:30 bedtime. Ha! 7:15 it is girlie!

Now you may be wondering, how could fifteen minutes make that big a difference? Well, let me tell you. The next day, Wednesday, good ole Fahl Fahl popped right up, went to the potty, came downstairs, smiled, ate a big breakfast, carried on a nice little kid conversation about ‘stuff,’ and was generally pleasant the entire morning. In fact, she was even dressed, teeth brushed and shoes on at 7:05, ten minutes before ‘leave time.’ Amazing. Yes, fifteen little minutes DO make a difference.

We repeated the process Wednesday night, and wouldn’t you know it? She did it again! Popped right up Thursday morning and boom, boom, boom, ready to go! And I haven’t even mentioned how she does in afternoons. Day one was great, what with the excitement of a new school year and all. Day two was a bit more listless, but day three, when she just layed around and moaned and groaned about how tired she was, sealed the fifteen-minute penalty for her that night.

So, while Mommy was at work Thursday, I rewarded Fahlin with five extra minutes. What could possibly be bad about that? Well, Friday, today, my wife informed me that while Fahlin was not too slow, not too urgent, not quite as bubbly, and still on time to leave, it was not quite the same as when she got the extra fifteen. So, on school nights, 7:15 it is. Weekends, well, we’ll see.

In the meantime, she will get to stay up significantly later tonight. Our friend the Rittners are returning from China with their new little girl Emma. We plan on being there at the airport when they arrive. If you have never been to an adoption homecoming, you need to go. It is overwhelming. So enjoy the late night Fahlin, and welcome home, Emma!

August 8, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 8 2016 1:00 AM

My wife and I have gone ‘round and ‘round about which day is actually the first day of school for the two ‘littles.’ [Special note: we are now down to two ‘littles’ since Lydia begins middle school in another week or so.] I say the Rock Springs registration day was the first day, albeit only a two-hour day. My wife says no, Monday the 8th is because that is the first full day.

So, this past Friday, we went to school and registered the girls, found their rooms, met their teachers and visited with old friends. The girls did not wear their ‘first day of school’ outfits that mothers so love because their mother, my wife, said, no, they can do that on Monday. I guess that means I lost the argument. Hey, if it counts as one of the 180 official days, then it’s a real day…just sayin.’

So Monday Fahlin begins her journey through the jungle known as first grade. I think she will do fine. She is so smart, especially now since, as my oldest son has said, “she has oxygen actually getting to her brain.” I asked her if she was going to be the smartest kid in her class to which she responded, “I guess…”

“What about the boss? Are you going to be the boss of your class?” She just sheepishly smiled at me as if to say, “Of course, Dad!” Wouldn’t surprise me. She can be pretty bossy. It helps that she will be oldest in her class. It should be interesting to see that plays out.

We are just glad that our life could be fairly normal for a year since there does not appear to be any major surgeries on the immediate horizon. That could change, of course. We are simply thankful that God continues manifest his goodness by blessing this little girl with such relative good health that it continues to baffle our medical team. That’s all right with us. If you’ve ever sat in a waiting room through the uncertainty of an open-heart surgery for one of your children, well, I’m sure you can figure out that it’s not real enjoyable. But, for now we can relax and see how first grade goes.

August 4, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 5 2016 1:00 AM

Here we are again. The first day of school is upon the ‘littles,’ however, this year the ‘littles’ have dwindled by one. While Fahlin and Jayne start school tomorrow (how crazy is that?), Lydia is moving on to middle school at Brentwood Academy. But as I think about what is happening tomorrow, our two youngest ‘miracles’ continue to both amaze and confound the medical professionals. Neither one of our two youngest should be alive today, yet they are, and they are thriving. Some day I will devote an entire blog on Jayne. As incredible as Fahlin’s story continues to be, Jayne’s story is every bit as intriguing and interesting. She has quite a story.

But, again, Fahlin starts school tomorrow. First grade. For a little girl who was not supposed to live to see her first birthday, first grade sounds pretty good. It’s only registration day, but still, here she is, all excited and ready to go. It will be interesting this year to see how she does. Without any surgeries looming on the horizon, it will be her first full year of school. We know how tired and exhausted she was last year prior to the surgery, so this year, since she is obviously in better physical shape and her energy level is so much higher, we are thinking it will be…well, interesting…to see what happens.

Her teacher is Patty Short. Patty is a friend of ours and has been around for years. In fact I taught with Patty many, many years ago. She has had every Chapman kid except one, Lydia. I think she even put off retiring just so she could have Fahlin. I can’t wait for Patty to experience the “Fahlin Effect.” That’s where she steals your heart when you see her and know her story and then see her personality in action. She just has that… ‘thing’ about her. And whatever that ‘thing’ is, it grabs your heart and holds on and will not let go.

So tomorrow is registration day. Excitement is in the air. It didn’t take her long to fall asleep. That is a good sign. She is not a morning person, so we’ll see how excited she is in the morning. In the meantime, look out Mrs. Short. Your life is about to change.

August 2, 2016

Jim Chapman

Aug 2 2016 1:00 AM

The first thing we did upon returning from vacation was of course; go to Fahlin’s cardiologist appointment to find out the results her recent MRI. She goes with us, and does NOT talk from the time we leave the house until we climb into the car. The news was good. Very good in fact, we think, if we interpret it all correctly. Lets see if I can recount it correctly. First of all, Doctor Moore said she looks great. Her color, her growth, her height. In fact, my wife and I think he seems somewhat surprised she looks so good. (More on this later) He said the blood is flowing very nicely through the shunt (from her initial surgery). It sounds strong. The MRI showed that her ventricle (she has only one) appears to have enough volume to support surgery to separate, put in a valve and create two separate chambers. The pulmonary artery that is growing is doing just that, growing and seems to be flourishing.

All of this is good news. Apparently, patience is the next order of business. We wait, let things grow and even let Fahlin keep growing. Apparently, there will not be any heart surgery in the near future, in fact, no surgery this school year, it appears. That was relief. But, that doesn’t mean she won’t have the occasional procedure. For instance, in three months, she will have another echocardiogram. At that point, they will schedule another heart catheterization. The purpose of which is to see for sure how the blood is flowing. It seems there is one major concern about the shunt (and thus her coloring). Sometimes, as the new artery grows, tissue growth it make its way into the shunt itself and occasionally, that part will need to be ‘ballooned’ or stented to increase blood flow similar to that of stent on her other artery. This apparently is why he keeps telling us to watch her coloring. It is an indication that blood flow has been obstructed.

I’m not sure this is all correct, but it is close. It was really all very good news. On one hand, we can breathe easier that there is no imminent surgery looming in the near future. On the other, it concerns us that he is concerned about something that has not happened yet (the miracle continues). For now, we proceed with life, keep an eye on her, start school and keep her held out of physical education class. So, now, Fahlin, it is okay to talk…(smile)

July 26, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 27 2016 1:00 AM

Exciting news! You remember our concern about Fahlin learning how to swim? How we wondered if her heart could take the stress? If she would have the strength to save herself, should she fall in? Well, despite all our concerns, it seems as if she is on the verge of becoming a kid who can swim, which is good, considering how embarrassing it is to be a swim coach and the father of a child who cant swim. Unacceptable, it is! She is still a little shaky, a little nervous, but a LOT more comfortable in the water. Today, she actually swam!

Let me take you though the progress of Fahlin’s swim life. Being the expert swim coach that I am, and having actually taught half of all the kids in middle Tennessee how to swim, and even coached the other half who went on to become a competitive swimmers, I have developed the fool proof Brentwood Academy Swim School method of teaching kids how to swim; guaranteed! So In April, when our swim lessons started, Fahlin came to some of the classes. She was soooo nervous. Poor thing. Part of what we do in the BA lessons is we acclimate the kids to getting used to being on their bellies with their faces in the water. To do this we teach them streamline position, which is face down, hands and arms tightly outstretched in front. Then we push them, or rather, glide them from one coach to another, being careful to NOT move. No moving! Be very still! We do this over and over and over. It really works! Eventually, we add the kick and the arms and voila, you have the beginnings of a swimmer.

Fahlin was a glider. I would hold her and could feel the tension, her little three-chambered heart was rapidly beating. I was worried if I was pushing her to far, if maybe we were putting to much stress on her little body. The doctor had assured us that teaching her to swim would be okay, and that it was also a pretty good idea, since we are around water all the time. But she would assume the position, beating heart and all, and glide to whichever coach was the ‘catcher’ that day.

She did a couple of lessons a week. We wanted to take her slowly and not tax her body so much. After each lesson, the big concern was her O2 level, which turned out to be a legitimate concern. Her oxygen levels would plummet to the low sixties, which as you know is dangerously low. Her body would return to pre-surgery purplish-blue levels…not good! We would wrap her in towels, put in a warm car, and as her O2 level rose, she would pink back up to the current pink-ness levels we are now accustomed to. She did this for the six weeks we ran the lessons. It helped a little.

Then summer came and swim team cranked up and it was chaos. My team, the Nolensville Hurricanes, defending Williamson County Swim League champions, by the way (unfortunately, we lost out this year by a mere 80 points), practiced outdoors. Early in the summer, outdoor pools are cold, somewhere in the 74-78 degree range, a little cold for swimmers to practice in, but way too cold for Fahlin. She didn’t get in much throughout the summer, other than an occasional practice, in which my high school coaches would pamper and baby her by never letting go of her. She just smiled. And the occasional jaunt out to Aunt Mary Beth’s house, where she would jump onto a noodle and noodle around. So when vacation time came (present day), we began to practice her swimming in earnest. I let her wear a life jacket so she could fell the freedom of floating and playing in a pool. Then she would take off the jacket and do a swimming ‘lesson.’ Gliding, gliding and more gliding. She began to add her arms, and much to my surprise, she all of a sudden took off. She could only do it two or three times before pooping out, but nevertheless, she was indeed, swimming! Yay Fahlin! We repeated this throughout the day, and by golly, she was getting it. Tomorrow we continue. More swimming. She sent a video to Her brothers and sisters, and to Aunt Mary Beth. They were all very proud. And I finally, as the expert swim coach that I am can proudly boast of another success story…Fahlin’s. My little girl!

July 22, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 23 2016 1:00 AM

Weeki Wachee State Park, Florida. My Son-in-Law, Adam and Bethany suggested we go to spend the day at Weeki Wachee. We did not know what to expect. Weeki Wachee is known for the underwater stream that feeds the park with 74 degree water and for their world famous underwater Live Mermaids show. There’s also three large water slides, a dock off of which to jump, a kiddie are, canoe and kayak areas and about a 400 yard long lazy river which is really a river. You just hop in at one end, float a couple hundred yards, climb out, walk back around and do it again…in 74 degree water. As far as waterparks go, it’s definitely a little lame, but there was one thing about Weeki Wachee that was extremely cool. The Mermaid show…

The first thing we did was to take in the Mermaid show. The theater is underwater, has a huge glass observation window, and the entire show is performed by female swimmers, under water. The theater was also freezing inside! It was so cold Fahlin turned blue. The Mermaids use breathing tubes to catch breaths, but being a swim coach, I was so impressed with their breath control. Very impressive. They are underwater for a good 45 minutes, yes, in 74 degree water. Cold, very cold.

So, being a swim coach and curious, I asked one of the Mermaids if they had a swimming background. Turns out, no, they don’t, sort of. Each mermaid is a certified scuba diver. Then, after that they spend a year training how to breathe out of the tubes and learning the performance. Makes sense, after all, they perform some twenty feet under water with dressed in a Mermaid outfit and with only a tube through which to breathe. On top of that, they lip-sync each song. How do you do that while being under water, holding your breath?

I’m not sure little Fahl Fahl totally appreciated the Mermaids. She was busy trying to stay warm. She was mesmerized, but only because we were on the front row about one foot away from the glass. The other ‘littles’ loved it, however. I came away from show thinking, “That would be good job for my daughter, Abby!” About three hours later, a storm moved in and we were rained out the rest of the day…

That was okay, because, tomorrow we leave Tampa and head to Panama City Beach. Fahlin’s family vaca continues…

July 18, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 23 2016 1:00 AM

Look out beach, here we come! It’s our annual trip to Tampa, then Panama City. It’s a great two weeks. The only bad thing about going to the beach is that I never want to leave it. I’m glad no random person ever walked by, looked at me and said, “Hey there Jim, how would you like to come work for me (at a place to which I never applied) at such and such a place for a randomly large sum of money?” I’m afraid I might be tempted… for a second or two anyway.

I remember last year we were worried about how well Fahlin would handle the heat. She had not done very well during the summer and you could tell it was dangerous for her to be in the heat. It’s hot here, but it’s even hotter in Florida.

She is so excited this time. She has come a long way since last year. The surgery, the stent, the aspirin regimen; all have helped immensely. So, naturally, we too are excited. Excited to see how she does this year. Excited to see how much fun she will have frolicking in the water. Excited.

So off we go to Tampa, where we will visit my daughter and her husband, our grandbaby, the girls’ nephew. Poor kid, they treat him like piñata. Or better yet, like an old Stretch Armstrong. He loves the girls, but let’s face it, they will definitely have to fight Grandma (AKA Yoley). I, of course will lay back and wait for the right moment to pounce and take over. I am sooooo looking forward to the visit, Tampa, the beach, all of it.

But really, I don’t know who is more excited, me or her? I am only sort of dreading the ten-hour drive, but other than that, (did I already say?) I am sooooo looking forward to Florida. You know how these trips go, everyone wakes up early, hops into the car and goes back to sleep while Dad drives. Look out panhandle; here we come! Man, it will be epically awesome. Hopefully there will be some great Fahlin stories to tell…

July 12, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 14 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s burps. Fahlin has learned how to burp. Fahlin burps. Fahlin burps a lot. Where she learned how to burp, I am not quite exactly sure. It has been going on now for a couple of weeks. I discovered her burping quite innocently. She came up to be and said she could burp the ABC’s, which she proceeded to do.

“That’s great, Fahlin,” I said. I guess that statement was a big mistake. Confirmation that burping was some sort of acceptable, spoken form of language. Anyway, I think we have created a burp monster. Even now, as I type, she is standing right beside me watching Transylvania 2, and you guessed it, burping.

“Fahlin, are you…burping?”

She looked at me and just smiled. My wife will look at her and tell her to stop burping, and she will, for a while. Then, it starts back up again.

Random burping on the couch,

Random burping in the car,

Random burping here and there,

Random burping near and far.

Burping in the living room,

The bathroom and the hall,

She does her burping everywhere,

In front of one and all.

Fahlin’s burping in a boat,

Fahlin’s burping in a moat,

Fahlin’s burping as she walks,

Fahlin’s burping as she talks…(well burps)

Okay, I’ll stop.

Sorry, my inner ‘Dr. Seuss’ just came out. So for now, we are living with a strange burping sound somewhere in the background and the sound of a little girl’s Mom saying, “Fahlin, stop burping!” or “Fahlin, it’s not nice to burp all the time,” or, well, you get the picture. Perhaps it’s just a phase. If not, that’s okay too; it would sure solve the dating problem later on.

“Keep burping, Fahlin, Keep on burping!”

July 8, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 11 2016 1:00 AM

I have yet to figure our Fahl Fahl yet. Oh sure, the cute factor works in her favor and I am certain we treat her as well as the other ‘littles’ differently than we did our grown up children. But her personality characteristics are hilarious even when they’re not really funny and need to be dealt with. I don’t know if she is being herself or mimicking her sister Abby (I wonder if she’s reading this blog). Abby sure has a full range of emotions and personality traits, that’s for sure.

But, the trait I love the most is her willingness to help when she really wants to help. Sometimes she helps begrudgingly, but most of the time she has a willing heart. It’s in those moments the ‘China’ comes out in her. I will explain what I mean. Being on the cruise ship reminded my wife and I of being in a five star hotel and restaurant in China. Every time we turned around, an employee on the ship would say hello, or ask us if we needed our glass refilled, or if there was anything else we needed. The staff in these five star establishments in China are very similar, quick to serve and very thorough in their service. And there is more help than we are accustomed to. Servers and bussers everywhere. It’s almost as if you want to say, “Stop asking us stuff!” But we don’t because it’s really fun to feel important. Service at its very finest. Fahlin is very much like this.

So Izzy and I returned from a swim meet in Louisville (she was not happy with her performance), and of course, there were chores to do. I rushed right out, got the gas can filled, put some in the mower and mowed. But when I finished and came in the house, there was Fahlin at the sink, washing ears of corn. I watched. She was totally into it as she washed and washed and washed and scrubbed each ear meticulously.

“What are you doing, Fahl, washing the corn?”

“Uh huh. Mom showed me how to do the first one and I did all of these all by myself,” she said, proudly.

She was as proud and happy as she could be. So now it’s off to the grill. Hamburgers, sweet corn, chips, my special dip (I keep saying that someday I’m going to bring my line of ‘Jim’s Dips and Gravies’ to market); it’s going to be a great dinner. If only now we can get Fahlin to stop her one, new annoying habit…Burping. I feel a blog coming on.

July 4, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jul 5 2016 1:00 AM

Back home from Alaska. It was apparent that Fahlin was starting to get a little nervous about her parents not coming home. Poor thing. Abby said she was acting weird. Weird usually means an ‘orphan abandonment’ thought has crept into her thought process. I will never know what that is like. None of us who grew up with our parents ever will. It has got to be troubling for her. I cannot imagine what was going through her mind. Remember, she has only been home a little over a year. A lot has happened in her short time she has been with us. It was a big concern of ours, leaving her for a week. The others we were not too concerned with. We knew they could handle it. But Fahlin was the wildcard. It turns out; we were gone maybe one day too many days for her taste.

When we did get home Saturday night, it was very late. We went from room to room kissing each of the girls, but no Fahlin. Guess who was in our bed? She was smack in the middle, asleep…waiting. Of course, we left her there. My wife and I were so wound up we couldn’t sleep. As we lay there, she began to giggle in her sleep. We knew she was dreaming happy thoughts. Obviously about her Mom and Dad coming home. The next morning, she couldn’t remember what she was dreaming about.

What she was was funny. She didn’t know whom to go to first. Who to hug, whom to cuddle with (not sure why spell check changed one who to whom and not the other). It was good to see her excited…and obviously she was relieved we were home. When we brought out the gifts, she was excited, as were all the girls. Of course, while on the trip you look for something cool, but end up with t-shirts for everyone. They were cute and the girls loved them. They are wearing them at this very moment.

So now, it’s back to the summertime routine for us. The girls were still doing what they do. It’s Yo and I who have to re-acclimate. The jet lag has hit. It’s not too bad for me as I type, but Yolanda has had a relapse. She’s not feeling too well. Anyway, it’s onward and upward. More swim meets, some down time then family vacation time to Florida. We’re home! I glad.

June 30, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 30 2016 1:00 AM

…Sorry for the gap…I’ve been in Alaska, a place of incredible beauty, magnificent scenery and no Wifi or Internet…Thank you Jesus…for all of that.

I wonder what Fahlin is up to? I wonder what Izzy is doing right now? How about Lydia and Jayne? And what about my daughter Bethany? How is she holding up? Nashy? I hope he is still in one piece after being tugged in so may directions by his Aunts. Yes, my wife and I are smack in the middle of our Alaskan cruise and I am worried about our kids back home.

We left Vancouver on the Nieuw Amsterdam (Holland America) about thirty hours ago. The scenery is breathtaking. God is a magnificent creator. You know He is real when you just look out over the balcony. Awesome. We just entered Alaskan waters last night, which meant yet another time change so now we are three hours behind Nashville. Not only do the days run together on a cruise, we are in Alaska, which means it is basically daylight all the time, which also means you never really know what day it is; so much so that the cruise line changes the floor rugs in the elevator each day. Why, you may ask? The floor rug has the day of the week on it nice, large fancy letters…problem solved.

We have also been without cellular service or the Internet (when did the word Internet become a proper noun? Spell check keeps capitalizing it), which I must say is kind of nice. Not having to repeat questions or statements to someone who says they’re listening, but are really distracted by their hand held device is, I must say, pretty nice. But for a small fee of something like bazillion bucks, you get the Internet 27/7. We passed. We’re on Vaca. Plus, we don’t have a bazillion bucks. We will have service in Juneau, Alaska, population as of the ’08 census, 30,000 (probably a little higher now). That is where we will try to catch up with the girls. With the three-hour time difference, their day will be half over as ours just gets started.

For those of you wondering, yes we have already seen Whales, several in fact. We have already seen Dolphins too, hundreds of them. But today we will get a close up look on our Whale watching excursion. Cannot wait! And as for the sun, it rises at about 3:00 AM and sets at 11:30 PM. It never really gets dark. And it actually seems like it’s rising and setting on the same horizon. Crazy.

[Note: We saw four Whales plus a baby whale. We were within a hundred yards]

But there was curveball thrown at me on this trip. I noticed yesterday that the commode water was pink after going to the bathroom. “Hey, Yolanda, come look at this. I think they put some sort of cool chemical in the toilet water.”

“That’s not a chemical Jim, It’s blood.”

Well, one thing you may not know about me it stuff like that causes me to instantly panic. Apparently, after much discussion and remembering the events of the past week, my Respiratory Therapist wife and our Registered Nurse sister-in-law’s diagnosis was that I had passed a kidney stone (my first ever, by the way). May I just say OUCH! Anyway, a few days ago my lower back ached, which it never does, and I was hurting in a place that I don’t normally hurt. I just figured I pulled something while working out. I guess I now know what to look for if it ever happens again.

‘At any rate,’ (I am paying homage to Tom, our bus driver who took us to and from the Whale watching excursion. It was his catch phrase). This trip has been amazing. It’s taken me three or four days to get over the guilt of leaving the girls. The Alaskan landscape is breathtaking to be sure. Glaciers? Are you serious? They were the highlight of the trip. They actually DO cry out as the verse says, “…Even the rocks would cry out…” They make these loud; cracking noises that almost sound like thunder or explosions. Awesome, awesome, awesome! God’s majestic creation cries out to us all… “I am the Creator, the one who put ALL things in motion, the God of the universe…See me, hear me, experience me!” On this trip, I have. I cant wait, though, to get back home and tell the girls all about it.

June 24, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 28 2016 1:00 AM

As I write this, my wife and I are preparing for an early morning flight to Alaska. Well, Vancouver, to be exact, where we depart on weeklong cruise the great white wilderness. Alaska is the only state to which I have never been. For that matter, It will be our first cruise ever. Fun, I hope.

Our daughter Bethany flew in today to watch the girls. We figured between the two of them, Abby included, they could handle it. We’ll see. There’s a big long course swim meet for Izzy and Lydia this weekend. That starts things off with a bang. On top of that, Nashy is here too. Oh you should see the girls. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on their nephew. They’ve been ‘Dibsing’ him all afternoon, fighting over him, and definitely over stimulating him. Poor kid. He’s got a week of this.

“The kids will be fine…” I keep telling myself. Of course, my daughters in charge are twenty-five and twenty-three respectively. They are adults. Bethany even has a child. What happened? How did this occur without me knowing? Ahhhhhhh! Anyway, the girls are in good hands, I know.

Swim meet, swim practices, another swim meet, more practices and that’s just the mornings. There’s food to be fixed, snacks to be packed, towels to dry, and a baby to watch on top of all that. Sound like a fun week. It will be good for the big girls to see what ‘real’ parenting is all about (I’ve always said your not a real parent until you have the third child). It will be good for the little girls to be with their big sisters and let’s not forget Nash. As I write I see images of house in total chaos. Noise everywhere. Kids everywhere. Stuff everywhere. Clothes everywhere. Dishes everywhere. That’s probably not going to happen but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. This experience will either inspire my daughters to have large families or stick with one. Haha.

So it’s off to Vancouver, then Alaska. Have fun girls…

June 22, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 22 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s next big adventure us happening as I write this. It’s back to the dentist’s office. Of course, this is a day my wife works. I thought it was going to be a simple, routine visit, but nooooo, nothing can ever be that easy in the Chapman household. Turns, out, Fahlin has two cavities that need filled, plus she has this one front tooth that has anchored itself into her gum and just won’t come no matter how hard we tug and despite the fact that the other two front teeth have already grown in. I’m pretty sure Doctor Alex at Brentwood Pediatric Dental Specialists will jerk that thing right out!

With Fahlin’s heart condition the way it is, every time she has a dental procedure she has to take a pre-dose of antibiotics. I’m pretty sure it’s a precaution to prevent any type of infection setting in that may or may not affect her heart. Better safe than sorry.

Speaking of Doctor Alex, she has got to be, by far, the greatest practicing dentist alive. Every time I am around her I am impressed. She is loving, caring and concerned about Fahlin. I’m sure she is about all her patients, but I can tell that Fahlin has captured a piece of her heart. Sometimes you just know these things. I couldn’t imagine Fahlin being anywhere else for her dental care.

Wait, what!!?!! I cannot go back with her? What is this? Oh no! I guess I do remember they don’t let us back there with our kids. So now I’m just sitting out here in the lobby with Izzy, typing away. Good thing I packed myself a lunch. A Peanut butter, honey and oatmeal sandwich and an apple. A Honey Crisp (I like mine with salt, but no salt today). All I know is they said, “It’s going to be a while.” Great.

…Waiting mode…

“Fahlin’s Dad or Mom…” Came the announcement. I walked up to see what was up. “That will be $146.00,” or some such amount. I go back and sit down.

“Fahlin’s Dad…” Again came an announcement. “Do you want Fahlin to have ‘Happy Gas’?”

“Yes, if she’s familiar with that.” She was. I sat down.

“Fahlin’s Dad again.”

“There’s a loose front baby tooth….”

I interrupted, “Yes!” They pulled it. I sure hope I have time to go to he bathroom before they call for me again.

“Fahlin’s Dad?” As I was washing my hands.

“Yes?” I answered.

“She’s finished. She’ll be out in a minute.”

Next thing I knew, there she was, all woozie from the ‘Happy Gas.’ She was bit unstable and still a little a goofy. Hilarious. So we walked out to the car and headed to the pool (where else?). Our adventurous day at the dentist was complete…and a huge success. I never did see Doctor Alex.

June 19, 2016

Jun 19 2016 1:00 AM

I thought during summertime it would be hard to come up with topics for the blog. It hasn’t so far. As I write this, Fahlin’s big sister, Izzy is in the air headed back to Nashville from Dallas. She spent a week with her youth pastor brother, Canaan in New Mexico at youth camp. We have been planning this for three years, since he became the high school student minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Talk about something out of Izzy’s comfort zone…man. This was way outside. Way, way outside.

But she was trooper. Didn’t know a soul. Not one person. There were ‘only’ fourteen busloads of kids. What kind of crazy-ness is that? Who in their right mind would take a thousand kids to a camp? Canaan put her in a cabin with girls he said, “Were the best.” I know there were activities she liked, others she wanted no part of, like Zip-lining off a four-story tower. Izzy is not a late night kid, so the late night worship and activities I’m sure wore her out. She seemed to have fun. I think.

I’m anxious to talk with her about her week. But if I know Izzy, finding out information about camp will be a difficult task, as Izzy is not one to go on and on about something. Of course the biggest reason for camp aside from spending time with her brother was to provide an opportunity for Izzy to deepen her relationship with Jesus. That is what it is all about. That is what everything is all about.

So my conversation with Izzy went very well. We asked about the food, the activities, the flight, the time with her brother; to which she was very forthcoming with her answers. I asked her if she would like to do it again…crickets. I think she is thinking about it.

As a father, especially on this Father’s Day, I know that each of my girls mean so much to me. I’m glad I’m their father; in fact I would even call it honored. I remember when Bethany left, when we took Abby to college, it was hard on me. I know this, I missed Izzy terribly. I was teary-eyed every night. I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when she heads off to college. A blubbering idiot, I suppose. I’m pretty sure. Anyway, I’m glad she’s home. And for the record, when I asked Fahlin if she was glad if her sister Izzy was home, she said, “Yes, yes, yes!” Yes.

June 16, 2016

Jun 19 2016 1:00 AM

The MRI is complete. Fahlin was a superstar. The radiology staff at Vanderbilt was amazed at how well she did. They said that she was the only seven year old they have ever seen do the MRI without sedation. They could not praise her enough. Way to go Fahl Fahl!

So I asked her to tell me about it. “The scary part was the IV. Everything else was good.” She smiled. Obviously, my wife’s preparation techniques prepared her better than expected. I can see it now, Yolanda starting her own ‘MRI Preparedness Class.’ That nylon tube is now more than just a baby’s toy; it’s a makeshift MRI tube. It really did work. Fahlin knew exactly what was coming and it didn’t even bother her.

As for the information they gleaned, we won’t really know for about another two weeks what it is they will have found out by then. I’m pretty interested as you could imagine. There was a cardiologist on hand to make sure they were getting the pictures they needed. He told us that once they gathered all the images, the staff would look at them together and come up with a consensus as to what is going on with Fahlin’s heart.

I continue to be amazed by this little girl. Today when she was telling me about everything I just wanted to pick her up, squeeze her and hold on to her. She was cute, vibrant, energetic, animated. What an amazing transformation we have seen from that little, frail, scared, purple child. No longer purple, scared, frail or little, well she is still sort of little, but now she is so…ALIVE. You know, the Bible tells us that we… “Entertain Angels unaware…” I remember when Izzy was little, about nine maybe, and we were having a conversation one night at bedtime about Angels. She said, “Dad, what if I’m an Angel?” I froze. A chill ran up my spine. The way she said it…What if? So I wonder (a lot and often) about each of my girls. What if? What if they are ALL Angels? I mean real Angelic beings, not the “Oh you’re such a cute little angel,” lower case ‘a’ type. That would explain a lot. Talk about pressure! Living in a house full of Angels? Great, now I’ll be thinking about whether they are really Angels or not…What if?

June 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 15 2016 1:00 AM

Tomorrow is Fahlin’s cardiac MRI. I am always nervous about anything that puts Fahl Fahl in an uncomfortable situation. She’s had a tough beginning to her life, been through a lot already and I worry about her. Although the MRI is not an invasive procedure, it’s still unfamiliar.

So my wife, you know the one who gets onto me about not wiping down counters, or putting things in the dishwasher that haven’t been rinsed or putting things way up high on top of the cupboards where only I can reach them; came up with an ingenious way to prepare Fahlin for the MRI. [Sorry about that slight digression, but I had just received my latest lecture so it was fresh on my mind. Sure am glad we are going on that marriage enrichment cruise to Alaska in about a week]

We have one of those nylon tubes that babies crawl through. It’s approximately the same size as an actual MRI My wife downloaded the MRI ‘sounds’ from the Internet. Fahlin crawls into the tube, lies down on her back, puts in her ear-buds with Taylor Swift playing; Yolanda cranks the MRI sounds as Fahlin lies there for ten or fifteen minutes in preparation for the tomorrow’s event. I think the plan is brilliant and Fahlin does a wonderful job of just lying there. It’s actually quite cute.

Tomorrow will be different however. She gets noticeably quiet when she walks into the hospital. Can’t say I blame her. Even though she knows she knows she feels better, the hospital, I’m sure is associated with pain and discomfort. It’s our job as parents as you well know, to comfort and reassure our kids when something like this happens. So we prepare as best we can. Fahlin does not seem to be as worried as I am. She is such a trooper. I think she is ready to go, thanks to her Mom.

After tomorrow, the doctors will have a clearer picture of what is going on with her heart and the healing/growing part of her treatment. They will know exactly what her heart looks like. It will be interesting, for sure to find out about what they find out through the MRI. Thank you for your Fahlin prayers.

June 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 11 2016 1:00 AM

Last night, Fahlin’s big sister, Izzy, whom we adopted in 2001, was finishing up her packing for church camp. We have been planning this day for going on three years. Her big brother, Canaan, is the high school Student’s Minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. It’s a small little congregation of 30,000 members. So you can imagine how big the youth group might be?

Anyway, this is the first time Izzy has ever done anything like this. Although she has flown a lot, this will be the first time BY HERSELF. She will be flying to Dallas, where her brother and sister-in law, Ami will pick her up. Then, late Saturday night, she will board one of the buses (there will be a fleet of them for the nearly one thousand kids that will be attending camp – crazy), and head to New Mexico for camp. I still cannot believe we are doing this. But I know she will be in good hands with my son and his wife and besides, it will be a great experience. I remember when I was Izzy’s age and went our church’s camp. It is where I decided to commit my life to Jesus. So I know the importance of church camp.

While we were packing, however, Fahlin and Jayne were hanging out and getting in the way of everything. Cute. So I asked Fahlin, “Do you remember when we brought you home and how we put you in the suitcase?” There was a long. Awkward pause. The look on her face was priceless as she tried to process what I had just asked her

“No.”

“You’re right, Fahlin, we didn’t really put you in a suitcase to bring you home…Hey, Jayne…”

I asked Jayne the same thing. Once again, processing, then, “No you didn’t.”

“That’s right Jayne, we would never do anything like that.”

So after all the fun bantering with the ‘littles’ the packing continued. Izzy is so funny. I cannot tell if she is nervous, excited, anxious or what. Izzy has always kept her emotions under wraps. She’s cute that way. I lover her and I am so excited she has this opportunity. I know her brother will put her in a cabin with good girls, I know he will take good care of her, of that I have no doubt. So have fun Izzy. I miss you already.

In the mean time, the rest of us will be heading to Uncle Steve’s and Aunt Mary Beth’s for a few hours today. The little girls have been looking forward to this. They had to wait ‘til she got back from Hawaii. But now that she’s back, here we come. I’m sure there will be another blog that comes from this little excursion. Stay tuned…

June 7, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 8 2016 1:00 AM

A couple random thoughts on some Fahl Fahl things. At the swim meet today, as I was watching the various races, and on more than one occasion, someone would walk up to me and make a comment about good Fahlin was looking. They remembered last year when she was sickly, blue and skinny. Now, after a year of treatment and one major surgery, she is noticeably healthier to those who may have not seen her since last July. To be honest, last year she was miserable at swim meets. She literally could not handle the heat. She would breathe hard, pant; her heart would work so hard to cool her body she would turn a deep shade of bluish-purple. We would have to get to a cool room or leave her home (not by herself, of course), or with her Aunt Mary Beth. This year it’s different…way different. She has made friends and continues to make new ones. She is quite social. She loves the swimmers. Big ones, small ones, her age, older, it doesn’t matter. She makes friends. The only thing we really have to do is remind her to drink water. Other than that, she’s doing much better this summer.

We also do a lot of running around in the summer, you know, catching up on all the things we should have taken care of during the school year, but were too busy to do. The girls will often listen to our front seat conversations, unbeknownst to us, but after eight kids, you would have thought we would have learned.

“Awwww, Dad, you said the ‘S’ word!” from the back seat. “We’re not allowed to say the ‘S’ word at school.”

“What ‘S’ word is that?”

“We’re not allowed to say it.”

‘Do you mean ‘stupid?’” I ask, referring to my use of the word while driving on stupid Concord Road, which has been under construction for three long, inconvenient and annoyingly stupid years to supposedly help the traffic flow which has turned out to be a stupid waste of time because they only built three stupid lanes and a stupid SIDEWALK, which won’t alleviate ANY traffic at all, because during the three stupid years of inconvenience, a thousand or two new homes have been built which has added to the traffic problem they were supposedly trying to fix in the first place but didn’t because they only built three stupid lanes. Did I mention the whole thing is stupid?

“Awwww, you said the ‘D’ word!”

The ‘D’ word?” I ask, innocently enough. For the record, I don’t cuss or swear, ever, although I may have wanted to on an occasion or two. I do remember a time when was in about the third grade and I threw a ball that got stuck in a “D[arn]” tree. I ran right into the house and immediately told on myself. I was sent to my room without supper and that was that! Just like that!

The ‘D’ word the girls were referring to was my use of the word “dumb” while referring to the dumb construction on dumb Concord Road and how dumb it is that it has gone on so long yet nothing is going to change because they are only building three dumb lanes and a sidewal…oh wait, this rant sounds familiar.

So from Fahlin doing so well this summer to the pointing out of my misuse of a couple un-allowable words, this summer is serving as reminder…a reminder of haw far one little girl has come and how far she has yet to go…on some dumb, stupid road.

June 4, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 5 2016 1:00 AM

Bear with me. Today is Peili Engle’s birthday. She would have been six. Three years ago, our friends, Sarah and Adam Engle went to China to pick up their daughter, a little girl with a serious but fixable heart condition. It was February of 2013.

I remember when they came to us to talk about adopting and how they were thinking of going to China. Their friends, the Hamilton’s had adopted a whole slew of children and since they had been around adoptive families, they too began thinking about adopting. When they approached us, the conversation turned to ‘special needs.’ Special needs adoptions are usually mush faster, the process is quicker and you can actually select how minor or serious the special need actually is you as a family would be willing to take on. Some families have adopted children in wheelchairs, some have adopted Down’s syndrome children, others with Cerebral Palsy, and still others have adopted heart babies. I have met some of these families. They are pretty phenomenal. No, they’re not ‘pretty’ phenomenal; they ARE phenomenal.

We helped convince them that a heart baby would be a good fit for their family. In fact, they had settled on a little girl who looked remarkably like Adam. It was uncanny, the resemblance. The fact that she had a heart issue was a big concern, but we helped convince them that she would be here in Nashville where some of the world’s foremost heart doctors live and work. She would be fine. She would have the greatest care at the greatest children’s hospital by the best doctors.

They took a chance on this little girl and named her Peili. She came home in February. Cute as cute could be. Like Fahlin (remember, this all happened three years ago), she was an interesting shade of bluish-purple. In May, just three months after she got home, she had surgery on her heart. I remember sitting in the waiting room at Vandy with the Engle’s when the doctor came out. The surgery had gone well. But then something happened. Her heart just wasn’t doing what it was supposed to doing. The doctor came out again. He drew a picture of what he had done and what the heart was supposed to be doing. He didn’t understand why the heart was not doing what it was supposed to now be doing.

The next few weeks were strenuous on the Engle family. The recovery was long and difficult. In fact, another friend of ours, Marla Hastings and her husband Dwayne had also adopted a little boy with a similar heart condition, Hudson. He was in the hospital at the same time getting a similar procedure. He had already gone home. Peili struggled.

She was finally released from the hospital. She got to go home. The next day, Sarah and Peili, along with one or two of the boys (I can’t remember how many of the boys were with them) were leaving to run errands. She got strapped in her car seat. As they started to back out, one of the boys said, “Mom, something’s not right with Peili!” She passed away before the ambulance could arrive.

Having had a family for such a brief time is no solace to the Engle’s. She was buried near Maria, about one row over. I spoke at the funeral. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. How does a family recover from that? But by the grace of God. I know, I see it daily with my sister, and when I see the Engle boys, or Adam, or Sarah, my heart still breaks.

When we were considering adopting Fahlin, the Engle’s were on our minds. The Hasting’s were on our minds. Maria was on our minds. We were staring at the same potential reality. Now, three years later, we have a daughter who has had one heart surgery, facing another. Days like this remind me to pray for those who have lost little ones and are hurting. It also reminds me that each and every day we have with our kids is a blessing. That gets said a lot, but it is so true.

While questions still abound, like, why Maria? Why Peili? Why is Fahlin the lone survivor out of a thousand similar children? Only God knows the answers. Easy to say, hard to wrap our brains around sometimes. The adoption world is small and each story unique and in many ways, intertwined. Through the tragic stories and those not so tragic, the adoption community feels them all. But God is God is God is God, and I am not. He knows best. Of that I am certain.

Happy Birthday Peili.

June 3, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 5 2016 1:00 AM

A big thank you to my friend Barbara. She knew I could I use a little assistance with the ‘littles’ while Yolanda was in Tampa and next thing I know, she swooped right in and took them off my hands for an hour or so. At the time, Fahl Fahl was a grumpy butt, and I warned Barbara, but the next I know I’m getting a text that “She is not.” That little stinker. The littlest things can mean so much. And the girls made a new friend in “Ms. Barbara.” They have even asked if they could hang out with her again. Beware Barbara! Every little or seemingly minor contribution to helping someone can add up to equaling a HUGE help. We have had so many people offer to help, but if you’re like us, it feels weird to accept help.

A simple thank you all is not enough. I’ve often wondered what I would do if I won the lottery. First, I would write a very large check to my sister’s foundation, then, well, be advised, I’m making mental notes as to whose homes I am secretly going to pay off someday (most likely not, but you never know), or who is in need of new car because theirs has 200,000 miles on it. “I’m watching Wyzowski, always watching…” [Quote courtesy of Monsters Inc.]. In the meantime, my wife and I in our own little way have looked for ways to pay forward all the kindness you’ve shown us. Little things.

While writing this, though, something…I’m not sure how to describe what happened…happened. It was Fahlin. She looked at my computer and happened to see the picture of Maria’s Big House on my desktop. I keep it there as reminder to pray, as well as a reminder as to how far our girls have come and in particular, Fahlin. After all, that was her home for nearly six years.

I was behind her; she was leaning on me. Whenever you are behind someone, you can really see a person’s vulnerability. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. You see things from nearly the same perspective. I often try to figure our what someone may be thinking. I could tell something struck a chord with Fahlin. “Can I look at that, Daddy?” She asked?

I pulled up several images of Maria’s Big House. Did you know if you Google search it, 1.7 million sites pop up? Wow. She was quiet. I asked her if knew what that place was. She nodded. I asked her if she remembered the people there, or her friends. She was still very quiet. What was she thinking? It was quite sobering to me. I choked back my tears as I squeezed her a little tighter and lifted up a prayer of gratitude for Fahlin; for her health, her wellbeing, for the blessing she has become to those involved in her life. After all, it was not even a year and a half ago she came home to be with us, her forever family. My, how far she has come.

I don’t know what was going through her mind at that moment, but she didn’t seem to want to let it go. So we just looked at the picture some more. I showed her where her room was when she was near death (I told her that was her room when she was very sick). And as she got older, I explained how she moved to different floors and finally to the first floor where she helped with the little babies. I still don’t think she realizes how sick she was or is still. Some day, though, maybe she will. Some day we would like to return to Maria’s with Fahlin, so the people there can see her and so she can see where she came from. Maria’s Big House played a significant part in Fahlin’s healing. Now maybe, she, too can pay it forward some day.

June 1, 2016

Jim Chapman

Jun 1 2016 1:00 AM

In case you have been wondering, Fahlin’s MRI has been re-scheduled for the16th.

Now, on to today’s blog. The end of the year transition to summer is always a bit confusing. Figuring out schedules; who needs to be where, who’s doing what when always takes a little time for me to figure out. It doesn’t help that this is the week my wife decided to go to Tampa to help Bethany and Adam get settled into their new home. You and I both know that was only the pretense. She really only wanted to get her hands on the grandbaby.

Oh how far I have fallen down the pecking order. I remember when my wife, then girlfriend couldn’t wait to be with me let alone keep her hands off of me. By the time child number four rolled out and our initial quota was met, I became an immediate afterthought. That’s okay, though, as I have grown and matured into manhood, I have come to realize it is our lot in life.

Add to that another four children to the brood, those with sad backstories and medical needs and you can see how much further into the pit of non-importantness I have tumbled.

You know what? It is all right with me. I love being Yolanda’s husband most of the time. I love being the father to eight children. I’m like a Geico commercial… “It’s what I do!” But Yolanda, did you have to go THIS week? I’m only one man. So, since it is only me; here is my day that is about to occur (by the way, Abby is around, except she coaches her own team is never home when I really need her):

So, I need to get up at 5:20, fix breakfasts for everyone before we head out at 6:00 to get Izzy, my senior level, ‘two-a-days’ swimmer to her first practice at 6:30 before heading to my Nolensville Hurricane practice, where two of the ‘littles’ practice, which starts at 7:00. At 10:00, when it is over, we are heading to our friend’s, Doc Thomas’s office so he can look at Izzy’s shoulder (it’s been bothering her a bit). After that, I’ll take the girls out to lunch, then hit the bookstore to pick up summer reading books and then as a special treat, Jayne gets to take her life’s savings to the used music instrument store so she can buy a guitar. You would think her Uncle Steve would hook her up…hahaha, but he is in Hawaii. [In my best napoleon Dynamite voice] Luckeeee!

Hopefully this all goes off without a hitch. The key is little Fahl Fahl. If she wakes up happy, all will be good, if not, it gets real difficult real fast. Oh well, suck it up Chapman! Be the great Dad you always are… and “git-r-done!”

I wish Yo were here…

May 27, 2016

May 27 2016 1:00 AM

Whenever anyone who has not seen Fahlin in awhile, sees her, there almost unanimous response is, “I did not even recognize her,” or “Is that Fahlin?” She looks so good, so healthy. We see her every day, so we, I guess, have begun to take for granted how good she is doing. For example, the other day we saw Uncle David who was with us on the trip to China to get her and who we have seen off and on since then and his first words were, “Oh my gosh, it took me awhile to figure out who she was!” He was amazed, as is pretty much anyone who comes into contact with her.

So my wife (whom I love…just had to say that) and I have been discussing adoptions in general, and in particular little Chinese children. One of the most important aspects to adoptions and to the overall heath of these little girls is LOVE. It is amazing the difference love makes. When families see the first referral photo, there is a noticeable emptiness in the little girls’ eyes, perhaps even loneliness or desperation. It is sad.

After your new bundle of joy is placed in your arms, something miraculous takes place. Like metamorphosis, this little bundle begins to transform from a lifeless infant into a vibrant, energetic new creature. Like a plant blossoming into a beautiful flower, these little girls change. It is truly remarkable. On top of that, when you add in quality heath care from world-class doctors, no wonder people don’t recognize these little creatures, especially if they haven’t seen them in a while.

What started all of this reflection was the beginning of summer. People from the swim team who knew her last year and what she was going through, now see a remarkable change in a little girl who use to be purple and couldn’t be out in the heat for even brief periods of time. Quite a change. It’s nice to be reminded. I hope we never take for granted the miraculous transformation that has taken place in each of our little girls. Obviously, Fahlin and Jayne with their severe issues have overcome the most, but likewise, to see Lydia grown into a pre-teenager and Izzy just blossom with each new day serves as a friendly reminder that we live among miracles every day. I don’t want to miss them.

May 25, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 25 2016 1:00 AM

Whenever I go places, I see kids with their dads. I have always been the guy who makes fun of other dad’s hairstyles, or clothes, or weight. Yes, I feel bad about that…a little. And I am sure people have made fun of me along the way. But what I have begun to notice is that despite how we dads look, kids love their dads. I guess it doesn’t matter to them. Let’s face it some of us dads are not much to look at. Then again, there are those of us who are quite handsome and debonair.

The other night, and on more than one occasion, Fahlin has alluded to my bald head. My shaved head. Well, there is quite a story behind this ‘look’ I sport on a daily basis:

In another life, many years ago, the mid 90’s, I was part of a Country Music act known as 4Runner. We had just moved here with our two baby boys. It was…an exciting and interesting time in the life of our young family. Anyway, 4Runner, the group, not the vehicle, consisted of four vocalists (a quartet), Craig Morris was the lead singer, Lee Hilliard sand the tenor, Billy Crittenden the baritone and I sang the bass part. We were good. We were signed by Harold Shedd with Polydor Records, which later became A&M Nashville, but that’s a sidebar story. Our co-producers, Buddy Cannon and Larry Shell were the best. Our biggest hit at the time was a song called “Cain’s Blood.” It was a huge hit for us. Our first album sold upwards of 400,000 copies. We were big-time. We were managed by Starstuck Entertainment and Narvel Blackstock himself. Yes I am namedropping, but it is important information for this story. Our booking agency was John Huey and the wonderful people at CAA. We were the real deal. We toured with Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers, Reba, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Brooks and Dunn, and well, just about every big name you can think of. We did it all. We shot videos on the volcanoes of Hawaii and the desserts of Yuma, Arizona, and in abandoned prisons near Mexico. We appeared at the Mother Church, the Ryman Auditorium and sang at the Opry House and even performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. We were nominated by the Academy of Country Music for ‘New Group of the Year’ in ’96. The world was our oyster…

As part of all of that, we also had image consultants helping decide what we as a group and individually would look like. What we would wear, hairstyles, accessories, etc. Prior to the first album’s photo shoot, we were gathered in a room to consult with our image specialists. This was the moment IT happened. The consultants decided, Craig was ‘short, curly-haired guy,’ Lee was ‘surfer-dude,’ Billy was ‘long-haired country boy,’ and I would ‘shave’ my head. I was also instructed to never be seen in public without designer sunglasses, which were provided by my friends at Image Optical. I would be the first in country music to do such a thing. Our manager, Narvel simply said, “Whoa, that could be sooo cool!” So that is how it happened, and for a while, I was the coolest, most recognizable dude in country music. [Side note: I miss those days]

Back to my current status as Fahlin’s dad. So here I am, just adopting babies, babies who grow up to love their dad despite his lack of hair. He doesn’t have to be famous, nor handsome, just engaged. I love these little girls. They have changed my life. Who knows, had I remained famous with a long, illustrious career in the music business would we have led a different life? Would we have adopted? My wife and I have often wondered. I do know this; I accomplished everything in the music business one hopes to accomplish when moving here, a record deal, critical acclaim, touring, having adoring fans…the only thing I didn’t achieve was ‘fortune’ part of fame and fortune. But I would argue that, because of these little girls, we are far ‘richer’ now, than we ever would have been as a country music star. And I am at peace with that.

May 21, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 23 2016 1:00 AM

Jordan and Natalie are in town. Fahlin loves it when her big brothers and their wives come in to visit. It’s bittersweet this weekend, however, as it was eight years ago today our niece Maria, who was five at the time, was laid to rest at the Williamson Memorial Cemetery. It’s hard to put into words what that is like. Real hard.

Fahlin never knew Maria, yet Fahlin is connected forever TO Maria. After Maria’s accident, the Big House of Hope was built in Louyang, China. You see the connection. Without that building and those people who work there and care for the ‘least of these,’ I am pretty certain Fahlin would not be alive today.

So our families meet at Maria’s grave every May 21st. We gather and we talk. We catch up. We reminisce. Steven leads us in a couple songs, we pray, we cry. We cry. It’s pretty emotional. It’s hard. It gives us pause. Time to reflect on life, what really matters and the most important relationships we have. I love my sister and brother-in-law and their kids, my niece and both nephews a great deal. I have admired them and supported them. To watch them walk through this journey was heartbreaking. I know how difficult it was. I know the dark places they experienced. I know the story is not over. It continues daily. One step at a time, one breath at a time, one day at a time.

Maria’s legacy lives on. There are now six care centers, which take house of hundreds of unwanted babies. Babies who are now loved and cared for and who will hopefully one day be able to be adopted by a forever family.

Whenever I look at Fahl Fahl I am reminded of Maria. Whenever my wife gets onto Fahlin, “Fahlin Maria Xuefang Chapman,” I am reminded of Maria. And I know one day, we will see her again…

May 19, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 19 2016 1:00 AM

What’s next on Fahlin’s agenda? Well, glad you asked. A couple of things. Coming up on the 27th, is the cardiac MRI. This procedure will give the doctors a clear, three-dimensional, anatomical picture of Fahlin’s heart. There is no anesthesia involved, but the confined quarters of the MRI tube can be somewhat disconcerting, I would imagine, since I’ve been fortunate enough never to have had to have one. Poor Fahlin.

The good thing about the MRI, I suppose is that Fahlin is so tiny it shouldn’t be too cramped. It might actually be quite roomy, in fact. When it comes to stuff like this, she usually takes it stride. Her parents are the ones who get all worked up, well, one of us does, anyway.

Also on the ‘What’s next for Fahlin’ upcoming events calendar is the continuation of swim lessons. Fahlin’s sporadic swim lessons have miraculously gone very well. She doesn’t come all the time but when she has come, she has progressed surprisingly nicely. She is much more comfortable in the water, much more relaxed. It is very taxing on her body as you could imagine and she gets very cold very quickly, which causes her heart to work overtime compensating for the loss of body heat. At least we’re at the Maryland Farms Y indoor pool, which is a balmy 84-85 degrees. They keep it at that temperature in order to keep the little old ladies water aerobics class happy. But, 85 is still thirteen degrees cooler than a normal body temp.

And finally, next Wednesday, it’s Kindergarten graduation time. I am sure I will have an emotion filled blog about that event. Maybe even powerful enough to inspire a hallmark movie about a little girl with a severe heart issue adopted by a family in Tennessee who, above all odds is nursed back to health by a crack team of cardiologists, a loving family and faith in God. Has the makings of an epic, I feel.

So as you can see, Fahlin’s calendar is full…and that’s a good thing!

May 16, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 17 2016 1:00 AM

So when I think about what to write, I’m always looking for something cute or interesting or informative or even serious or humorous. Many times it just hits me, like the other night. As with many couples, one of the main topics of conversation is the children. We were discussing the differences between all eight of our children when we realized that what we once thought were eight polar opposites is really not the case. Izzy is a lot like her oldest brother Jordan, and Fahlin, who has come to now being called Fifi (that’s a different blog at some point), is a whole lot like Abby. The similarities are bizarre. So I guess we only have six.

What are the similarities? Allow me to list them in no particular order:

  1. Fahlin loves being the center of attention…as does her older sister, Abby
  2. Fahlin is cute, beautiful, effervescent and adorable…as is her sister, Abby. I put this one right after the first similarity because Abby will be in denial of the first one.
  3. Fahlin laughs and giggles a lot…as does Abby.
  4. But with all the highs, come the lows. Fahlin is very, how shall we say…emotional. Pretty much a roller coaster. The similarities between Abby and Fahlin on this one, is eerie.
  5. Helpful. Fahlin is helpful. Abby is super-helpful and we are grateful she moved she back from Chattanooga to help us with the ‘littles.’
  6. Fahlin get grumpy when she is hungry. Hmmm, Abby does too. In relation to hunger, their diets are similar as well. Abby has never met a chip she doesn’t like (to my knowledge). Neither has Fahlin.
  7. When Fahlin is in one of her moods, look out…When Abby is….

[Perhaps I should pause while Abby comes running into the room where I happen to be at this moment to find our why in the world would I write such things?]

8. Fahlin is full of love. Love for her family, love of life, love of the next adventure. So is Abby. I know she knows we love her, unconditionally, forever, regardless. I’m talking about both girls.

9. Abby studies hard. She has even decided to pick up a second major. Fahlin studies hard as well. She loves her school, her teachers and learning; much like her big sister, except with the second major.

10. And finally, Fahlin is single, although only seven. Abby is too, although only twenty-three. As a father who has gone one-for-one in son-in-law category so far, the pressure is on for the young man who finally decides Abby is the ONE. Or is it Abby who decides who is the ONE?

In all seriousness, Fahlin are two peas in a pod. Most days, Jayne is Fahlin’s number one playmate, but when it’s cuddle time, Abby and Fahl Fahl are inseparable. When they are lying there giggling, playing and just being sisters, I think how fortunate we are to have grown children who have embraced our calling by loving their little sisters unconditionally. It is an awesome sight to see those two goofing around. Fahlin makes no bones about it; Abby is her favorite. You can see that a mile away. God can too.

May 13, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 14 2016 1:00 AM

What’s been going on? We have just been living life lately. May is a tough month, and May 13th is a tough day for our family, and by family I mean our extended family, Mary Beth and Steven’s and ours’. It was eight years ago this month (May 21st) when my niece Maria went to be with Jesus. She would have been 13 today. 13! This month is always tough on the family. I am sure I will have more to write on this next week.

But through Maria’s death and the subsequent kindness of people all over the world, Maria’s Big House of Hope was built and thus provided healing place for a little girl with a major heart issue named Fahlin, who by the way, is Maria’s cousin; a cousin neither has ever met but one day will. In Heaven. Think about that a minute…mind-blowing, mind-boggling, mind-exploding. Can you even imagine that meeting? I am positive Heaven is so awesome that despite whatever super great imaginations we could imagine, it would only be a tiny fraction of its actual total awesomeness. And watching those two meet for the first time will be epic, no doubt.

Fahlin is not the only one who has been loved and cared for while at Maria’s. Hundreds have come through Maria’s with one malady or another and have gone on to be adopted by a forever family of their own. In the eight years since Maria’s was established, five more caring centers have been opened in China and hundreds more babies have been given the care they so desperately needed.

Still, the special connection of Fahlin and Maria is one of God’s miracles that only He could orchestrate. While our hearts are heavy and empty, especially at this time of the year, we can be assured that through this mysterious cycle of life and death and life again, we will see her again. Our families still grapple with the ‘what ifs?’ and the ‘if onlys’ and the big question of ‘why?’ Why Maria? We will never know the answer this side of eternity, but one thing I do know, the impact that little girl’s life has reached half way around the world to a home in Tennessee. To a little girl, her cousin, named Fahlin.

Happy Birthday Maria Sue!

May 10, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 10 2016 1:00 AM

So, yes, Fahlin’s weekend was up and down. She is soooo funny. She has soooo many different moods. After eight children, we have pretty much seen it all as far as personality traits and dispositions. In fact, all eight of our children are polar opposites if that’s even possible with eight different polar directions. So to watch Fahlin go through all of her quirky actions is quite fun.

To set the stage for Fahlin’s emotional weekend, Saturday was Jayne’s birthday. If you’ll remember, we celebrated Fahlin’s only a few weeks ago. One thing we learned early on, when Fahlin’s not the boss or the center of attention, hoo-boy look out. On top of that, the grandbaby was in town, so Fahlin’s position in life as ‘baby’ was temporarily usurped (nice word).

Saturday morning, it was ‘grumpy-butt’ Fahlin. We could do nothing to figure out what was wrong, until she described a leg pain, which we figured out was a cramp. A Charlie-horse, of all things! Obviously her first one ever. Then ‘happy’ Fahlin arrived…until Jayne blew her off and didn’t want to play whatever imaginary game Fahlin wanted to play. Then it was ‘stomp-my-foot-and-scream’ Fahlin, followed by ‘trying-not-to-smile-because-it-would-defeat-the-purpose-of-stomping’ Fahlin.

As the party started and the Aunts, Uncles, in-laws, friends and neighbors started arriving, ‘pleasant’ Fahlin returned. ‘Cute and smiley’ Fahlin also showed up and after a while, ‘hungry’ Fahlin arrived. Nothing that a hotdog off the grill couldn’t cure. When the present opening began, ‘snubbed’ Fahlin was in attendance. She thought Jayne’s presents were her presents too. We had to remind her that her birthday party was last month and she got her own presents. ‘Patient’ Fahlin tried her best to be patient. ‘Watchful-but-I-want-to-do-that’ Fahlin stood by, fuming in as nice a way as she knew how.

‘Playful’ Fahlin made the most of the evening hours until ‘tired’ Fahlin finally got to slow down and watch a movie, Transylvania 2. Then it was off to bed, where a mere nine hours later, the emotions would begin again. Oh wait, that cramp I mentioned earlier? That actually was Sunday morning, but I’m not going to re-write the entire blog, so just know that it happened, just not on Saturday morning. A Fahlin’s life goes on!

May 6, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 9 2016 1:00 AM

This has been one of those weeks when I have been so swamped I actually have not gotten to see Fahl Fahl very much. I realized this last night on my way to bed and my wife informed me that Fahlin was sleeping with us. Sure enough, there she was, zonked. Due to the evening swim lessons I have been teaching, I realized I had not seen much of her. And this session is full of crazy, nervous, crying, difficult children, so I opted to have Fahlin sit this session out. She would have folded like a tent in a storm. It would have set her swimming development back a ways, for sure. But I digress.

This blog is about the time or lack of time I have gotten to be with Fahlin. With her new bedtime in full force, I usually get home right after she goes to bed. But by the time I get up there to the room to say goodnight, she is out like a light. I reach down and kiss her on the cheek, much like one of those mushy, teary-eyed scenes from a Hallmark movie.

So in the mornings, in order to get a glimpse of her, I will go bursting into the room about fifteen minutes before they normally get up, turn on the lights and say something like, “Girls, time to get up…” Then I’ll rub her face and kiss her. That usually makes her angry. Oh yeah! Then I will run by her and pick on her, kiss her cheek, tickle her foot or other some such thins and she will just glare at me. I pretty sure she’s mad at me for not being around. I don’t blame her, I would be mad at me too if I weren’t around.

I’ll make it up to her on the weekend. With a weekend of fun and frivolity scheduled (Jayne and Nash’s simultaneous birthday parties, along with Mother’s Day), maybe Fahlin will start liking her daddy again. She can help me grill, start the fire, swing in the hammocks and play with Grandma and Grandpa Chapman (hope they come). Yes, the weekend will be fun.

May 4, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 4 2016 1:00 AM

It is national “May the 4th be with you” day. Of course, having been at the original release of Star Wars many, many years ago (as a small child) and after having watch each episode a hundred times is my lifetime on VHS, DVD, Blue Ray and even the digital version of the new one, we in the Chapman family household are big Star Wars fans. So, Fahlin, being the newest member had to be indoctrinated. A few months ago before Star Wars XII came out, we did a Star Wars marathon at the Chapman house. Everyone was invited. Fahlin was there, Jayne was there, Izzy was sort of there (she was studying while watching); Abby blew us off, Lydia refused and Yolanda. Well, she was working.

Well, as you could imagine, the little girls left to go play after about the first twenty minutes of Episode I. This marathon was in numerical order; sometimes we do it the purists’ way; IV, V, VI, then I II, III. I was determined to watch them. I stayed strong. Izzy did too. Each episode prompted extensive text conversations between me and my boys (I know, not grammatically correct). There are always questions. Perceived plot discrepancies, timeline discussions, and curious “What about this’s or that’s.” Lots of banter.

The only way I could get the girls back was to tell them it’s time to eat and that we would be having ‘picnic time.’ That’s where we throw out the big red blanket on the floor and watch a kid’s movie; however, this time it was Star Wars. So, after fixing them food, we sat down again and this time they became intrigued. They loved C3P0. They loved R2D2. Couldn’t figure out what Jabba the Hut was kept asking, “Who’s that guy?”

Of course, we didn’t get the entire episode in before they decided to go do something else. Those girls! I only want what’s best for them, and being a Star Wars fan is part of living a well-rounded life. At least after a few days, we finally put in Episode VII. The girls were drawn to BB8. So for now, I will just feed them small pieces at a time. I won’t get into the eastern mysticism overtones or whether or not our children should be drawn into this impossible fantasy space world set a long tie ago in a galaxy far, far away. We will watch just for the pure enjoyment factor. Nothing more. Every time we sit down to watch another episode, I will invite them, have picnic time and hope they eventually climb aboard the Star Wars train…and join the chat group with me and their brothers, my boys!

May 1, 2016

Jim Chapman

May 2 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin has been extra-especially grumpy these days. My personal opinion is that the long school year, combined with going to bed too late (8:00-8:30), then blabbing with Jayne while in bed for an hour has physically taken its toll on her. So we implemented ‘Plan: Different Bed Time!’ Our plan is to have the two girls who share a room, Fahlin and Jayne, go to bed at different times and for Jayne to use the top bunk over Fahlin because that way, they wouldn’t actually see each other if Fahlin was still awake by the time Jayne came to bed. We implemented our plan over the weekend.

Well, as you could imagine, Fahlin objected. “Not fair,” she said, referring to the fact that Jayne got to stay up later.

“Jayne is nine, almost ten, Fahl Fahl. When you are nine almost ten, you can stay up later as well.” We responded, as any good parent would.

But, the plan is working. Saturday, she was still a grump. Throughout the day, she would find a reason to pout about just about anything. She lost at Uno, pout, Jayne didn’t throw the ball to her, pout, no one would play with her, pout, she didn’t get the right snack, pout…you get the picture. Now at this point I’m sure you may be thinking Fahlin is spoiled as compared to exhausted because she is not getting her way over one thing or another. I can see how one might think that, but that is not the case (well, maybe a little, but definitely a lot, I promise). So Saturday night, after dinner, she hopped in the tub, played a bit, got out and dressed in her nightclothes; and after a quick game of Uno, which she won, by the way, it was bedtime. 7:00PM. I know, I know, sounds early, but not for little Miss Grumpy Butt, as her mom has come to call her.

We did not hear a peep. Zonked. Then at 8:30, Jayne went up to bed, climbed into the top bunk and was out like a light. Our plan was working. The next morning, today, Sunday, Fahlin woke up around 7:00 (that’s eleven hours of sleep, by the way); little Miss Pleasant woke up and was ready to help with the pancake[s]. Our plan seems to be working so far. We will see if it continues. For now, sleep well Fahlin, sleep well.

April 27, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 26 2016 1:00 AM

Update on Fahlin’s swim lesson. News flash. The screaming has given way to smiles and confidence. When I teach swimming to children who have never swam before, I approach it from a swim coach perspective. I don’t mess around with blowing bubbles for two weeks and bobbing up and down. We get them on their bellies, faces in the water, glide and float then swim. All in a matter of eight lessons. It usually works like a charm. Sometimes, the child ‘almost’ gets it, but we have laid the groundwork and almost 100% of the time it will click, usually during the summer at some point, and off they go, swimming like a fish; although I don’t want them swimming like a fish, I prefer swimming like a torpedo…in a straight, fast line. Every now and then, I will discover a talented swimmer and convince the family that the best way to develop strong swimmers is to immediately stick them on a local swim team. The only way to really become a great swimmer is to SWIM…A Lot!!!

So back to Fahlin. She is now floating and gliding like a pro. When it comes to adding the arms, that’s a different story. She is still so skinny and weak it’s hard for her to establish any momentum with her arm pull. Plus it puts a tremendous amount of stress on her little body. We have to be careful. Baby steps. But she is doing great. She floats and glides, puts her face in the water. Then she sinks a little and we have to scoop her up, tell her she is doing a great job, and sit her on the side, where she shivers because she’s “freezing to death,” as she puts it.

So today she visits Dr. Moore, her cardiologist. We will find out first how she’s is progressing, post-op. Then I’m sure we’ll discuss upcoming plans and procedures. And finally, if swim lessons are okay. See what I mean? Swim lessons seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But, it is something she sees her sisters doing and she wants to feel a part of what they do. We will see how it goes and what the doctor says.

Other than that, we will just let her tell us all about the lessons, what’s next, and listen to the excitement in her voice as she talks about her accomplishments in the pool. When she is at lessons, the smile only leaves her face when it’s time to jump into the pool at the very end. She hasn’t done it yet. It’s such an appropriate metaphor. To make things happen, you just gotta jump. The way she lives her life, she has jumped in just about every other pool imaginable, now it’s time for a literal pool. If I know Fahlin, she will…

April 24, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 26 2016 1:00 AM

Another thought I had. There are four little girls (well, Izzy is 15) who at one point in their life did not have a Dad. Then in God’s infinite wisdom, He decided to give them a Dad. He chose some dude named Jim Chapman to be their Dad. Now, all four call me Dad. Now, all four call me Dad. As you can tell, that thought rattles around in my brain on a regular basis. With each daughter came a new set of challenges. Each one’s need got a little more severe. I guess God used Izzy to prepare us for Lydia and Lydia to prepare the way for Jayne and Jayne to get us ready for the needs of Fahlin.

What people don’t know is that Izzy had what is called torticollis, which is a crooked neck caused by the tightening of one side of the muscles that caused her to lie in the same position in the orphanage thus causing her to head to flatten and therefore the need for one of those little corrective helmets. She’s beautiful now (as she was then as well). Lydia had what was called lorengeo malatia [sp?] which basically means that a part of her esophagus was too big for her little body causing her to have severe breathing issues (right up the alley of my respiratory therapist wife). She’s supposed to grow out of it, but she’s so tiny I don’t think that will ever happen. Jayne, well Jayne has a whole list of things, not the least of which is brain damage and Fahlin, well, you pretty much know all about Fahlin.

As you can see, each one’s gotten a little more serious. God prepared us to grow. Now, we as a family just don’t know any different. I can see how we have grown as parents and myself in particular. Now I say, “Yes,” a lot. “Okay,” a lot. “Well, alright,” a lot. Except Lydia, she asks for everything. Our big kids say it’s not fair, but then I will remind them they weren’t found in a cardboard box or along side the fence of an orphanage in a handmade basket. Life’s tough, I’m sure it’s tougher in China, but I’m trying my darndest to keep the ‘littles’ from experiencing that type of tough.

It’s like in the movie Finding Nemo, when Marlin, Nemo’s dad tells Nemo (Directed at Dory) he is never going to let anything happen to him when he’s hanging onto Dory in the mouth of the whale, to which Dory responds by asking if nothing is ever going to happen to him, how can anything happen to him? Then the two, Dory and Marlin discuss whether or not trust the whale and let go. How do they know something bad isn’t going to happen when they let go? They don’t. And that’s just it, as parents we don’t know what’s going to happen next. We just let go and see…

April 22, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 22 2016 1:00 AM

Whenever we try to do something or go somewhere, or make any plans whatsoever, we quickly realize that nothing in our lives is easy. And then, just by writing, or thinking this, I feel bad. The Bible does not tell us life is meant to be easy. Jesus himself never tells us it will be easy. I was not hoping to ride off into the sunset anytime soon, but the girls pretty much guarantee my wife and I will never experience what is commonly known as the ‘Empty nest.’ It’s probably for the best. I’m pretty sure all would do is chase my wife around the house. Poor woman.

But getting back on topic, whenever we plan or do anything it requires a great deal of thought. And, according to my wife, I don’t make things any easier because I have no sense about these things. My plan rarely, if ever, is the plan we go with. My wife’s plans are usually always better. The difficult part is when two of the littles have to be one place, and the other one has to be somewhere else while Izzy has to be even somewhere else. There are only two of us, four of them. This is nothing unusual mind you, we did this with the first four, but we were a lot younger then. I guess as I get older, it just seems more confusing to me I suppose. Haha.

Occasionally this means that one of us has to miss out on something, and sometimes it means that the girls have to miss something as well. I hate that for them, especially. Sometimes we just do not have a choice. Our daughter Abby helps, but there are times she can’t which leaves us on our own. Like tonight, for example. The BA musical opens tonight. We want to go. However, my youngest son and his wife are coming into town. Originally, there were going to Ami’s (his wife) parents for the evening. So I bought five tickets (still not enough because I forgot about Fahlin).

“What are we going to do with Fahlin?”

“She can sit on my lap. It’s not like she weighs anything.”

Then we were informed that after dinner, they want to come over and see the girls. So now, we divide and conquer. My wife can’t wait to see the kids (I can’t either for that matter). Izzy has swim practice early; Lydia and Jayne have it later. The play starts at 7:00. I have BA swim lessons at 6:30. Huh? See, one big puzzle. So now, the girls are coming to the pool early, so they can get out at the same time as Izzy. I have to leave at 5:40-ish get to the other pool (the Y), where the lessons take place, so my wife will then have to take the girls at 6:00 after Izzy gets out, to get something to eat. I, in the meantime am hoping for a huge thunderstorm that will cancel swim lessons at the Y so I can meet the girls for supper somewhere in Brentwood. If not, after dinner my wife will then take Izzy and Lydia to the play, drop them off and head back home with Fahlin and Jayne, while I finish up my lessons and rush right over to the play, soaking wet of course, wearing a speedo. [Just kidding about that last part, although it would be interesting to see everyone’s reaction. I wonder if I would still have a job tomorrow?]

You see? The only way we can survive…I can survive is though humor. This evening’s flurry of activity is an example of what most of our days look like. To get through, we have to laugh. Laughter offsets the harsh reality of what ‘could’ have been. I often think about what the girl’s lives would have been like had they not been adopted. It’s scary to think about. Izzy would have already been turned out on to the streets at 14, the director of Lydia’s orphanage was jailed because he was selling babies to Cambodia, so I shudder to think where she would be, Jayne would most likely have not survived her first few weeks of life and Fahlin has already outlived 99% of those who suffer from the same condition, primarily due to the great care of western trained doctors.

There you have it, my inner conflict. So no matter how complex I may think our life is, it is still a pretty great life. Thinking about where the girls could have been helps me keep in perspective the reality of the importance of what we are doing in the lives of these little girls regardless of whether or not our plans are complicated. As I ponder the sovereignty of our great and glorious God who orchestrated all of this before time even began, I am resolved to continue caring for Fahlin, Jayne, Lydia and Izzy to very best of my abilities…whether it’s easy or not!

April 20, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 20 2016 1:00 AM

Well, just as I expected, little Miss “I know how to swim,” screamed her head off. Yes, the first swim lesson was a rousing success. One of my high school swimmers who help me with lessons, Watts, picked her up, scooped her into the water and the screaming began. I love swim lessons. To look into the eyes of a little child who is totally petrified is pretty fun, because I know the outcome. They will only be petrified for a day or two before they get the hang of how we teach swimming. Plus there is the ‘Coach Chapman is cool’ factor as well that kicks in after the first day.

Back to Fahlin. She only screamed for about five minutes. Then Daddy swooped in to the rescue. As the half hour lesson went on, she calmed down. We like to move them along pretty quickly, and Fahlin was not going to be the lone exception. We had almost all of them floating by the end of the first lesson. One little girl even swam all the way across the 25-meter pool. She had never done that before. Call me the ‘swim whisperer.’ The only kid not floating was three years old [note: He did float the next day], so that does not really count. So after getting her on her belly, she sort of floated and glided. All in all a pretty good first day for Fahl Fahl.

But the other thing we nervous about was her turning blue and her oxygen levels dropping. Both of those happened. It turns out Fahlin’s body can tolerate a cold pool for about 20 minutes. We won’t tell you haw low her O2 actually got, but suffice it to say we were concerned.

“Maybe we should talk to her cardiologist?” I inquired to my wife after the second lesson. We both knew that that was a good idea. After two lessons, we are giving Fahlin the day off on Wednesday and checking with the Cardiologist. Just in case what we are doing is a bad idea.

She absolutely appears to love lessons. She smiled all the way through the second lesson. She put her face in, she floated, and she did everything we asked except the “Jumping in Game!” That is the game we play at the end of the class where every kid jumps in to the pool. But not Fahlin. She literally stood there, paralyzed with fear. I’m sure her heart was pumping faster than normal. So we assisted her into the water. It was not even close to a jump. But, at least she survived.

My wife whisked her away, dried her off, and got her robe on her as quickly as possible. When we tucked her in the car, we took the oxygen reading it was on its way back up. We wrapped her in another jacket to warm her some more. By bedtime, she was back to ‘her’ normal. As she slept, I am pretty certain she dreamed of swimming like her sisters. We can only hope…

April 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 15 2016 1:00 AM

My wife kind of enjoys the Duggars / post Duggars / Duggars daughter’s reality show. And while, yes, that family is pretty insane with 19 kids and even more grandkids, I got to thinking, our life is pretty much a reality TV show. Think about it, how crazy our life has been the past year especially, but ever since began the adoption journey.

We could call it Fahlin’s Life Journey. You have the ‘star’ of course, Fahlin, but then the supporting cast would include her five sisters, two brothers, the cousins, those silly parents, Mom (Yolanda) and Dad (Jim, me – Yo and I would be the co-stars) and those two culprits who started all this mess, Aunt Mary Beth and Uncle Steve (the famous Uncle). Then there would be the cameos of the grandparents, the brother’s wives, Ami and Natalie and Fahlin’s Brother-in-Law, Adam, and her only nephew, a star unto his own right, Nashy. Of course, then you would have extended family and friends who would all be a part of this production…oh wait, they already are. It would be a compilation of everyone who ever was or ever is or ever will be involved in Fahlin’s life. The doctors, the nurses, the dentist, her teachers, and the list goes on and on.

Life at school, at the pool, at church, on the go, would all be backdrops for Fahl Fahl’s life. Even the simplest of activities would tweak the hearts of adoring fans everywhere. If you are familiar with Duck Dynasty,they have family dinner in each episode where they sum up the days activities and offer life lessons from the Robertson family. We could do that too. The difference is Fahlin would do all the talking…and LOUD talking at that. Every time we have family dinner, she cannot stop talking. She is so excited. It would make for great TV, I am sure.

Just think about the impact this little girl’s life would have on a worldwide television audience. The fact that she continues to thrive is an inspiration to our family, but could also be an inspiration to the Robertson’s and everyone else in the world for that matter…well, anyone with a heart…

April 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 11 2016 1:00 AM

This weekend provided me, the old dog, an opportunity to learn yet another new trick as a parent. I guess we truly are never too old. Fahlin and Jayne play together a lot. A LOT! They have become good friends. Sometimes, they play together too much. Eventually, they do get on each other’s nerves. Fahlin wants her way, Jayne wants her way, heads butt, and next thing you know, a problem develops.

We have established a couple rules for them to play with each other. The first rule is golden. If the first word out your mouth, whether it’s Jayne referring to Fahlin, or Fahlin referring to Jayne, is your sister’s name, then you are not allowed to proceed with the comment. The second rule is no physical hitting. You may not know this, but Fahlin likes to hit. I have watched it. It’s more like one of those ‘sissy’ hits, where it doesn’t even really hurt, but it’s the intent that matters. So the dilemma is if one of the girls hits the other (Fahlin to Jayne), and Jayne says. “Fahlin hit me.” You see the dilemma. We need to deal ‘the principle’ of thing. Turns out it was simple bop on the head.

So being the wise old parent that I am, a light bulb of genius-ness clicked on. “Fahlin, come here.” I was calm and patient. I reached down, picked her up. I then proceeded to take her upstairs to her mother, who was enjoying a Sunday afternoon nap. Fahlin was crying, well, more of a fake, pouty cry. “Yo, Yo…” I said, being sensitive to her need for sleep. “Fahlin needs some Mommy time.”

She snuggled up to Yolanda. [Long pause] Four hours later, she woke up. Poor ‘thang,’ it appears, was just plum tuckered out. Exhausted from a weeks worth of educational activities and family running around stuff. Apparently she needed a nap, and I, being the astutely aware father I am, subconsciously knew that. Score one for the Dad.

Of course, that made for an interesting evening. Since Fahlin slept for four hours, she got to stay up while Jayne had to go to bed at the regular time. “Oh, boo hoo,” cried Jayne, “I can sleep when I’m all alone by myself.”

“Too bad…” Notice the compassion in my voice. This meant Jayne fake cried for a while before she finally fell asleep. Fahlin, of course, felt special. I told Jayne if she ever took a four-hour nap, she could stay up later like Fahlin. We will see if she ever does. The smart money says no. So, around 9:00PM, after When Calls the Heart on Hallmark Channel, it was Fahl Fahl’s bedtime. She was acting weird when I tucked her in. When I say weird, I mean some sort of ‘orphan’ memory weird. It happens occasionally. I knew what would happen later.

Around 10:30PM, sure enough, here comes Fahlfy, “I’m scare[d].” This is a former orphan asking us if she can climb into bed with us because she is scared. We always say yes. YES. Can you imagine how many lonely nights she had in China?

“Okay,” her Mother responded. “Climb in.”

The rest of the night was spent trying to constantly reposition her head, legs and arms to the center of the bed. That little skinny kid can sure take up a lot of room. So today, my wife and I went to work somewhat sleep deprived, but you know, it’s all right. We will survive. And Fahlin will too…

April 9, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 11 2016 1:00 AM

Bath time is turning into something big. Fahlin has decided that she going to learn to swim…in the tub. We give the girls baths in our tub up in the master bathroom, mainly because our tub is huge and deep. Early on, Fahlin would not want to have any part of water in, on or near her face. Now, I can just pour it over her head. She has learned how to blow out through her nose (like swimmers do), and breathe in with her mouth (like swimmers also do). She wants to be like her sisters.

“Dad, can you tell everyone to come upstair[s] and watch me float?” She will say with her serious face.

“Hey everybody!” I yell downstairs, “Fahlin wants you guys to come watch her float!”

So up the stairs they all trample. “Okay, Fahlin, show us.”

Sure enough, she will take a big breath, lies on her belly face down, and wouldn’t you know it, her little skinny body rises up onto the top of the water, and in a foot of water, she is floating. Now, we have to be careful of course, because if someone only has a three-chamber heart, holding your breath for long periods of time is not necessarily a good idea. It doesn’t take her long to start turning blue, so the floating comes to a slow stop.

“Yayyyyy! Fahlin, that is great!” We all tell her. She beams.

Will she ever be able to join swim team, like her sisters? Not in the short term, for sure. Will she be able to swim well enough to save herself? Since we are at a pool every day, that’s the goal for right now.

It should be interesting teaching her how to swim. The first time we put Jayne in the pool she sank right to bottom and just layed (not sure if that’s the right word, but in conveys the message) there. Oops. She does fine now, and she knows all four of the competitive swim strokes. The variables we have to consider with Fahlin are many. How much exertion is too much exertion? Will she get too cold? Is the water too cold? Can she handle the workload? All of these are factors to consider because of her mitigating circumstances. The next step is to get her to the Brentwood Academy swim lesson sessions that start on the 18th. We’ll see how she does!

April 6, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 6 2016 1:00 AM

I have been thinking…a lot. The older I get (I’m fighting it all the way, by the way), the more reflective I get about life experiences. There are several life-changing experiences that happen in our lives that, to use the term life changing, does not do them justice; at least in my mind. For example, the day I got married (we sort of eloped) changed my perspective on everything. Now I had this beautiful woman to accompany me through life. Where did she come from? But being married was/is awesome. The day my firstborn son made his appearance into the world profoundly changed me. I cried for a month every time I looked at him. The day my first daughter showed up, well, that was another matter altogether. Boys beware!

You see what I mean? These are only a couple of examples. But then we started adopting. The moment the women from the Izzy’s Chinese orphanage placed her in my arms, it was all over. How could someone love someone so much? I could not stop smiling, crying and blathering. To watch the birth of your child proves the existence of a Creator. To hold a baby for the first time from half way around the world also proves how great our God is. That moment was divinely orchestrated.

And so it was with each of our children. Now I live in a house full of miracles. It is awe inspiring to see Jayne jumping and hopping around, happy as can be. To watch Lydia flitter as we call it does my heart good, and well, then there’s Fahlin, the latest and last of the Chapman girls, yet another miraculous little bundle of joy that also happens to live in our house.

So I’m saying what I want to say the way I want to say it, but for now, or until I can find the right words, I’ll just leave it at feeling overwhelmed; not by the enormous responsibility of parenting all of these girls, but by the enormity of God. My piddly mind cannot even begin to calculate the infinite number of details God orchestrated from before time began in order for our world to collide with Izzy’s, with Lydia’s, with Jayne’s and with Fahl Fahl’s. And why us? Why my wife? Why me? Why our family? Am I worthy of such a gift as these girls? I’m pretty sure that’s not even the right question to ask, or should be asking any questions at all. It’s just mind numbing to me.

Thank goodness, my wife keeps it real. As I write this or any other blog for that matter, sometimes, the phone will ring and she’s on the warpath. With the girls, with Jayne or even with the ants that have invaded our kitchen. Now I’m back on planet Earth. And while I continue to wax philosophic about the girls and the enormity of God, I know that life awaits us. Every day. Day after day. But there is something bigger going on. Always. And only God knows what it is.

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The coolest thing of all? They love me…with all my faults, my hidden ugliness, my sin…they love their Dad. How cool is God now?

April 4, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 5 2016 1:00 AM

Now that the heart cath is behind us, the next step is to figure out the next step in Fahlin’s heart adventure. The cardiology team met and discussed various possibilities and options. The good news is that the doctors told us we now have time to get everything right. Last year at this time, we were in ‘life or death’ mode, now, however, Dr. Moore tells us we do not have to be in a hurry. Fahlin is stable, her energy level is up; her O2 sats are consistently around 80. She is in a good place right now, according to the doctors.

The next step will be to get a picture of her heart. A three-dimensional picture. I guess there is this thing called a ‘Cardiac MRI.’ It specifically takes a three-D picture of the heart. This is what they want to do next with Fahlin. It’s scheduled for the end of May. They want to attempt in without sedation. That concerns me. Putting Fahlin in a tightly constricting tube for an hour and telling her to lie still does not sound like something she will be overly thrilled doing. But the cool thing is they bring her in a couple days ahead of time and familiarize her with all the equipment. They will also go over how everything works and what she will be doing during the process. Great, just one more thing for me to be concerned about!

Fahlin? She doesn’t even know what’s coming. It’s best that way. Even when we try to explain it to her, she will just nod her head and make a face in her normally sassy Fahlin way. We tried. So for now, we wait another seven weeks or so before we face the tube (end of May). My wife and I have a real peace about this next step. The way the doctors have explained things and the cautious nature of their approach has put me, for one at ease.

I’m going to confess something right here. Do you know what it is like to go to bed at night wondering if your daughter will even make it through the night? I did that a year ago. It’s awful. Now, I’m in a different place. I am confident in our team’s approach, nothing seems to be urgent at this point and because of that, I no longer worry as much as I used to. The Bible tells us not to worry, so for now, I’ll just be concerned in a non-worrying type of way. Why not take that approach? If it is a good enough approach for Fahlin, it should be good enough for me!

7th Birthday!

Jim Chapman

Apr 2 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s 7th birthday. WOW! I you have read this blog for a while, you will know that for Fahlin to have made it to her 7th birthday is an absolute miracle.

How about little review? We’ll come back to the birthday in a minute. When she was first brought to Maria’s, the diagnosis was not hopeful. Having been born without pulmonary arteries, Fahlin’s prognosis was bleak. She was placed on the palliative care floor, a place where the staff at Maria’s ensures that no baby dies alone. The fact that she made it to one-year old was astonishing. Then she made it to two years old. Then she made it to three years old. Each year a gift from God. She was moved into the general population. As the oldest in her room, she was expected to help with the other babies. She made it to four years old. People started advocating with the Chinese government for her to be adopted. She made it to five. Amazing. The clock was ticking. Her three-chambered heart was a ticking time bomb as well. Advocates advocated.

Meanwhile, 12,000 miles away, God put in motion a series of events that would allow a family from Tennessee to adopt Fahlin. It was our family. The last birthday she would celebrate in China was the big ‘five’. Our two worlds were about to merge. Little did we know how dire the situation was into which we were stepping. Thank God we are now on the ‘less dire’ side of that. She turned six years old a month after we returned home with her. Six years old. Six birthdays she was never supposed to have.

So birthday number seven is today. We actually celebrated it on Tuesday. We have a tradition at our house, the birthday child gets to pick where and what to eat. Sometimes it’s a home cooked meal, usually it is some restaurant somewhere. Fahlin chose Chinese. Go figure. We went to the Corner Asian Café in Brentwood. It is a GREAT place to eat. We knew it must be good when every patron in the place was Asian. My oldest daughter and her husband were in town; Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary Beth were also in town (after a whirlwind three months of both touring, speaking, and travelling the world). Cousin Shaoey was there as was Fahlin’s three-year-old second cousin, Eiley. We stood out, kinda like Elmo asking, “Which one is not like the other one?”

Anyway, as Steven and I were sitting there, eating and talking, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, “…and she wasn’t even supposed to see one!” We both teared up.

[Pause]

Now, on to the presents. After blowing out the #7 candle, with the help of Eiley, Fahlin began opening gifts. Aunt Mary Beth and Uncle Steve gave her a cute Piggy Bank, something she had been wanting and talking about. Eiley gave her three small rocks from her personal rock collection (very personal and meaningful). Dad, that’s me, was next up with the gift giving. My wife had called and told me I had gift buying duty this time. So, having listened attentively to every passing Fahlin comment in the past 12 months, I landed on three gifts. Nothing is too good for my Fahl Fahl. Gift number one; a two-toned blue Eno (in honor of Fahlin’s former skin color). Gift number two, a very cool purse that I purchased at TJ Max. I know it is cool because my daughter Abby said, “Cool purse, Dad! I want one!” then finally, I got her cute little Piggy Bank. No worries, though, Fahlin said, “Look, a daughter Piggy Bank!” Yes, my Piggy bank was much smaller than my sister’s, but Fahlin didn’t seem to mind. (It was cute, by the way).

If you will look at her picture that is accompanying this blog, you will see the life in her eyes, the love she has for those around her, and the happiness in her heart. She is a different little girl from the frightened one we adopted over a year ago, and the picture of Fahlin says it all. Just look at her. Each birthday she celebrates is truly a gift from God. Each birthday is another reminder of just how great our God is. Her story is still being written for sure, so when I asked her how many more birthdays she wants to have, she answered, “Five.” I told her I hoped it would many more than that. Happy Birthday, Fahlin. I love you!

March 31, 2016

Jim Chapman

Apr 1 2016 1:00 AM

The hair cut. The spring break hair cut. My wife is a brave woman, taking three little girls to the salon for haircuts. All at the same time. But you know, girls looovvvve getting their haircut. They love being pampered. This is Fahlin’s for REAL haircut, she’s had a trim job, but this time, it’s the real deal.

“How short do you want to get your hair cut, Fahl Fahl?” I asked innocently enough the other night while tucking the girls in bed. She made a scissors motion with her fingers and showed me. It was right about her chin. Hmmm. I wondered to myself if Yolanda knew.

She didn’t. She tried to talk Fahlin out of the shortness, but to no avail. Fahlin also now has bangs. Her hair always falls down anyway, so why not embrace the ‘bang-ness?’ Talk about cute. Read my NEXT BLOG and you will see a picture of it at her birthday party. I just shake my head.

The worse thing about all this haircutting is that the girls now strut around like they are ‘all that.’ Oh brother. I guess it’s my lot in life, to be surrounded by a bunch of beautiful girls, big and small, older and younger, all beautiful. I guess my life is meant to be crazy…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

By the way, be ready for that picture of Fahlin in the next blog…cute, cute, cute, cute cute!

March 30, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 31 2016 1:00 AM

The Lake-house. The little girls’ spring break and my spring break rarely ever coincide, so it makes it difficult to plan any family activities for either spring break. At least this year they are back-to-back weeks. So last week, like any good, upstanding set of parents, we took the girls out of their school a day early so we could spend Thursday through Monday at my sister and brother-in-law’s lake-house in Kentucky. [Side note: the reason some of these words are hyphenated is because of spell check…just sayin’]

We took our time leaving Thursday and got up there about 2:30. Any time you travel with seven women in a car, it takes forever. If you stop to eat, it takes forever. If we stop at a roadside rest to potty, it takes forever. Luckily, our grandson, Nashy was with us to balance out the estrogen/testosterone inequity. Unloading the car, with clothes for seven women, takes forever. But we had time. Plenty of time. I was in no hurry to do anything at all.

One of the reasons I enjoy the lake-house so much is that it is a place where we can go to ‘unplug.’ I look forward to no wireless, bad cable and spotty cell service. But wouldn’t you know it? My sister updated the cable service, Wi-Fi was up and running, and cellular service is now greatly improved. Noooooooooooooooooooooo! I told the girls we were NOT here to lie around and watch Netflix, we were here to enjoy the great outdoors, to fish, to lie in hammocks, roast hotdogs and make s’mores.

And enjoy it we did. Each day I would cook breakfast, then the lazy day would begin. Mary Beth’s house sits right on the lake. Maybe a hundred yards. Down around the corner, to the left, is a rocky point where we go fishing. That is where you catch ’em, we’re told. Yeah right. Five days, three stinkin’ fish! And two them came on day four on the first two casts of the afternoon. I thought, “Wow, this is going to be a great day.” Not even a nibble the rest of the time…nothing. The only consolation is that no one, even the locals were catching anything.

So, the five days of ‘eno-ing,’ fireside chats, hotdogs, driving the golf cart around, fishing, snacking, s’mores and popcorn were the best days. Little Fahlin was non-stop, Nashy was non-stop, Jayne instigated, Lydia tried to keep them corralled, Izzy just chilled. We even made a visit to a local, random Baptist Church on Easter. It was great. I love walking into a strange place with our entourage of multi-cultural ethnicities in tow. The looks we get are precious. But wouldn’t you know is, there was a couple sitting right behind us that also had a little girl from China who just so happened to be a ‘Show Hope’ baby. What a small world.

I did realize a few things on this trip. When you’re sitting by the lake with a fishing pole in your hands, it’s a great time to pray. To be thankful for a lot of everything in your life…and I did that. I also realized that going to church is not about the church itself. It’s about the people, about the relationships and about Jesus…period. And I also realized how fortunate we are that our girls are part of our family, and how wonderful it is to share these moments with them. I know this for certain, these special times mean more to me that the girls will ever understand. Maybe one day they will…

March 25, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 25 2016 1:00 AM

Conversations with Fahlin can be so entertaining. What inspired this particular blog was the conversation we had last night about ‘oviparous’ animals. ??? How in the blue heck does any kindergartener even know the word ‘oviparous’ even exists…and what it means. For those of you who are not enlightened or biology majors, the word ‘oviparous’ refers to any animal that hatches from eggs. I did not know that until last night when Fahlin informed us all. My daughter Bethany had to look it up to verify Fahlin’s definition. I just thought she was mispronouncing another big word. I know idea what she was talking about. So while we were all laughing hysterically, Fahlin was as serious as she could be as she listed all the animals she knew that hatched from eggs. “Bird, snake, turtle, dinosaur, fish, owl, not kangaroo, they are like us, duck (no plurals, you’ve noticed), eagle, ladybug, spider…”

It has been hilarious listening to Fahlin learn the language. She is so serious when she speaks. She is focused and intense. It’s a cultural thing with her. She’s been Chinese longer than she has been American. If you’ve never been to China, you will quickly notice that conversations are quite animated and intense and also very, very literal. I know Fahlin has a lot of that still in her. I must say she has definitely entertained us this past year with her grammatical growth and language mis-use.

Smart? I think we can safely say she IS that. Remember, she has missed nearly sixty days of school, yet continues to amaze us all. We knew she a sharp cookie almost immediately. She was witty, very literal, and retained a lot. She learned English very quickly. As my oldest son told us nearly six months ago, “If Fahlin is this smart without oxygen getting to her brain, just imagine smart she will be WITH oxygen!” He has been prophetically right on, as she has shown us on many occasions. ‘Oviparous’ being only the latest example.

So, for now we just carry on with life as usual, or unusual as is the case with us and we just wait for the next surprising thing Fahlin will say. As was with the word ‘oviparous’ I can honestly say there is no way to predict what will be said or even what subject matter it will encompass. Let’s just hope it’s not a bad word or a word that her mother will have to define. I know for sure though, that Fahlin is growing and blossoming more and more each day. For that, I am so truly thankful.

March 22, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 22 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin really loves her Aunt Mary Beth. Currently, though, Fahl Fahl is having Aunt Mary Beth withdrawals, I think. Mary Beth is a celebrity. She has something like a half a million Facebook followers and another 200,000 Instagram followers; she’s a bestselling author and in demand as a speaker plus represents the Show Hope organization any time she can and on top of all that, she is Steven Curtis Chapman’s spouse, which makes her even more famous (or infamous) in Christian music circles. Since Christmas, she has been around the world twice, back and forth across the country about six times, gone on vacation, although a working one and basically has not been home for any length of time. Fahlin cannot seem to find a window of opportunity to go visit her Aunt.

So she asks about her all the time. “When are we going to see Aunt Mary Beth?” She will ask.

“Let’s call her and see…”

As soon as Mary Beth answers, Fahlly will clam up and go silent…and smile. So we converse and quickly determine that, unfortunately Aunt Mary Beth will be out of town. “Again!” As Jayne will say.

Her Aunt is not the only family member she misses. There is Uncle Steve, too. “When are we going to see Uncle Steve?”

“Well, Fahlly, Uncle Steve is on the road singing. But I am sure when he gets home he will want to see you.”

She frowns. She scowls. She smacks her face with her little gecko hands and shakes her head. So the consolation prize is a weekend trip up to Aunt Mary Beth and uncle Steve’s lake-house. I think Mary Beth will be there with us on Easter, which will make Fahl Fahl happy. More on that later. So for now, it is back to life as we know it and on to the lake-house.

March 19, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 18 2016 1:00 AM

Another Fahlin story. I call it “The Attack of the Killer Centipede.” It was early this past Saturday morning. I am always up first. Always. On the weekends, I make pancakes. I cooked up some bacon as well. It was also the day that I made Fahlin a special treat. She loves Daniel Tiger. Daniel Tiger loves strawberry pancakes. So Fahlin got strawberry pancakes. She devoured them and loved them. Mission accomplished.

“Go wash your hands and brush your teeth Fahlin.” Innocent enough. The bathroom where Fahlin brushes her teeth is nearby. I sat down in the living room. I don’t get to sit down much. Felt good.

All of a sudden, I heard a bloodcurdling scream, unlike anything I have ever heard, especially in our house.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!” Fahlin came running out of the bathroom. Hysterical, screaming, crying. She was moving faster than I’ve ever seen her move. Tears flowing, shaking, frightened beyond consoling. Poor thang.

I sprang into action. “What’s wrong Fahlin? What happened?” I asked as I checked for blood or broken bones or something terrible.

“A bug!” That was all I could get out of her. Jayne went in and looked. Apparently, when Fahlin turned on the water, a bug scurried up out of the drain and was running around in the sink. So being the big, brave father that I am, I immediately rushed into the bathroom to eliminate the problem. I was fully expecting some sort of small, multi-legged insect. But, Nooooo. I immediately realized why Fahlin was so traumatized. It was one of those two-inch long, fuzzy looking centipedes with long, gangly antennae and about twenty legs. If I were a little girl, I would have been scared too! I grabbed some toilet paper, scooped it up, squished it, tossed it into the toilet and flush, it was gone. Just like that.

It took a good five minutes or so to console Fahlin. She finally calmed down. But the rest of the day, she would not step foot in that bathroom, not even to potty. Here we are almost a week later, and she still will not brush her teeth in that bathroom. Instead, she goes to Abby’s bathroom. Oh well, since she is child number eight, we won’t sweat it. It will eventually get back to normal, pretty sure. Then watch, just as soon as she gets comfortable going into that bathroom, another bug will rise from the depths of the drainpipes…and we’ll start all over again.

March 18, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 18 2016 1:00 AM

Well, Fahlin’s heart cath is behind us. Behind Fahlin. She was so brave. We arrived at the hospital at 9:00. Fahlin was fine so far, talking, smiling; watching her Kindle, doing normal little girl stuff. It didn’t take us long until we were called back to the holding area. Did you know that Fahlin has gained fourteen pounds since we brought her home? And she still looks skinny. Haha.

At this point she started getting quiet. Don’t blame her; I was quiet too. When your daughter is facing a serious procedure made more serious by her condition, even a procedure that has been performed successfully hundreds of time can elevate ones [my] level of concern, which mine was.

The anesthesiologist came in. Thank the Lord it was our Doctor friend, Alex. We know him through swimming. His daughter trains with my daughter. Anyway, it was comforting to see a friendly face. He was so gentle with Fahlin. He carefully explained everything. When he asked her if she could tell him how she was feeling, a tiny tear trickled down her cheek. She was scared. That told him all he needed to know. A sedative was on its way.

Our Doctor, Doctor Jansen came in as well. He is a believer and cool all at the same time. You can tell he cares deeply about Fahlin. He had not seen her since the surgery and was impressed with her coloring and how good she looked. We chatted, he explained some more about the procedure; then we signed on the dotted line of the waiver form. I don’t like that 1% chance of death occurring.

The actual procedure only took about an hour. We were relieved. They told us she did well. When we talked with Dr. Jansen again, he pulled up the images and then gave us his assessment of what he saw. The news was fabulous. The stent they put in last summer was working flawlessly. The shunt that Dr. Bichelle attached from the aorta to the unformed pulmonary artery five months ago was doing its job as well. In fact, what can be called the small existing artery has now grown an estimated 150%. Remarkable. My thought is, ‘Who was the first genius that had the idea to try to grow a new artery from a nearly non-existed one?’

So for now the news is very good. The doctors say we do not need to be in any hurry. She’s stable, she’s full of energy and life, there’s not that sense of urgency we had when we first brought her home. Fahlin is in a good place and the doctors are pleased at how well she is doing. Next step is a detailed MRI. From there, more discussion and a plan will be formulated.

For now, we continue to pray for healing, for continued growth of the pulmonary artery, for the ‘process.’ She doesn’t seem to be too bothered by all of this. The only thing she will say is that she doesn’t like the hospital very much. Hey, she only missed one day of school and on top of that, didn’t even complain about any pain, didn’t take any pain medication, not even Ibuprofen. She’s a pretty tough kid and certainly a pretty resilient one. It’s amazing to watch.

March 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 15 2016 1:00 AM

It is Heart cath day. We finally told Fahlin Sunday night, which probably explains how she ended up in our bed crying because she was “scared of the dark.” She has a nightlight. Anyway, it was unusual but after we figured it out, it made sense.

The first heart cath was very disconcerting for me as Fahlin’s father. Not knowing what to expect, how her condition would react to the anesthesia, if she would even survive the procedure were all major concerns for me. My wife, being in the medical field knew what all was involved, so she handled everything like the professional she is. I love that woman.

But this time there is another layer. A sad layer. One that involves another adoptive family. A Show Hope grant recipient family. The adoption world can be a small circle, especially when there are similar circumstances that surround our adopted children. Another little girl, Eisley was brought home a few months after Fahlin. She also had a heart condition, though different than that of Fahlin’s. Yolanda was part of a Facebook group, which included parents of heart babies. On that forum, parents, mostly moms, share their lives, their concerns, and their updates with each other. Eisley had surgery on Dec. 28th, 2015. She was two years old at the time. Initially, the surgery seemed to have gone well. But complications set in during the recovery time. It seemed as if one complication led to another. Treatments would work and she would stabilize, then take another turn for the worse; more treatment, more ups and downs. It was a rough, rough road for that little girl and her family. Finally, a few days ago, on Sunday, early in the morning, while in her mother’s arms, Eisley passed away. A journey of adoption that began with so much hope had ended with sadness.

Something like this sends ripples throughout the adoption community. It’s sad. It’s tragic. At the same time, this little girl died in the arms of a loving mom. Something a few short moths ago, she did not have. She was surrounded by love she would have never otherwise known had she not been adopted. It does not seem quite fair, but then I am not God. Only he knows the ultimate purpose and significance of little Eisley’s brief but impactful life. As you read this, please pray for the family as they face this very, very difficult time in their lives.

Which brings us back to Fahlin. Now you see why I’m concerned. While I do not anticipate anything will to go wrong during the catheterization procedure, the possibility is always there. That’s why we sign waivers. I am weak. I do not want to be weak, but I am weak. Fahlin is one who is going through the procedure, not me. She is the strong one. Please pray along with us… “Cast all your cares on [Me], for [I] care for you…”

March 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 14 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s sister Jayne is quite a character. A brief recap of Jayne’s medical history may be in order. I actually met her in China while I was on a mission trip. She was about three weeks old at the time and near death. She was a very, very, sick little baby. Jayne was born with Cerebral palsy, is missing 1/3 of her brain, has a cyst on her brain stem, one kidney, was born without an anus, needed a colostomy bag the first six months of her life, which was repaired, had a hole in her heart which was also repaired, a crooked urethra and on top of it all, has Epilepsy. Poor thing. A miracle, too. It is pretty humbling to be parenting not one but two little girls who are walking, talking, playing miracles.

Anyway, I have noticed that Jayne has a way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it. All of sudden, she just appears. “Hi, Dad!” She will say, then vanish. Or, “I love you Mommy!” Of course, it is important to note that she is only three inches from your face (or the back of your head) when all this happens. Crazy.

Sometimes we will see the ‘creepy, floating’ head of Jayne. It just appears out of nowhere; for example the corner of the stairway that overlooks our living room. After about six or seven steps, there is a wall. Early in the morning, or late at night, up in that little corner of the stairway, there will be Jayne’s head, motionless, just peering out over the living room. AHHHHHHHH!

Or if some unfortunate family member such as myself is not careful enough to completely close the door when going to the bathroom, the door will slowly open (even though she knows better) and in a moment of lapsed attention, I will look over, having not noticed the door is now open, and surprise, there the ‘floating Jayne head’ will be again. “Hi, Dad!”

Then there is the corner around which the ‘floating Jayne head’ appears when walking on the treadmill. Or the doorway in the dining room when I’m out there working on something, or the kitchen when we cook or the front door while on the porch. The ‘strange, creepy, floating head’ is everywhere, and it is attached to Jayne’s neck.

You can’t get mad at her. She is nothing if not loving, for sure. She struggles to make C’s and B’s and works her little buttocks off to succeed in school. She tries so hard to please, so hard to help so hard to be accepted. She loves Jesus and the Bible. She will spend days copying stories out of the Bible. You gotta love that!

And she loves her sister Fahlin, although sometimes that may not be evident. She is sometimes more concerned about being outdone by Fahlin, or Fahlin getting more attention than she does and it is a never ending battle trying to convince her that that is not the case. It’s all connected to her medical issues and to be sure her brain.

Since we brought her home at four and half, nearly five years ago you would not believe the change in her. She has come so far. There is a whole, whole lot more to Jayne’s story. It in and of itself could be its own book. The way God orchestrated her entire journey is pretty fantastic, but it was clearly evident God wanted her here. Just thinking back to those supernatural moments gives me chills, even now. She’s a beautiful little girl with a loving spirit. We could not imagine our lives without her. And though she has been the most difficult of all the children, we would not change a thing, except maybe for those times we as parents, well… (or could have handled some things a little better), besides, what would we do without that ‘creepy, floating Jayne head around?’

March 9, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 9 2016 1:00 AM

I love it when the girls do something that inspires a blog. We love watching Fahlin run. She can’t really run, and we shouldn’t really let her run. Her O2 saturation really suffers. So last night, while they were waiting at the pool for Izzy to finish yet another in a long line of rigorous workouts, Fahlin was playing ‘PJ Mask.’ ??? She was Super-Owl, Jayne was Super-Cat. Fahlin would was running around with her hands cupped around her eyes like binoculars. I said, “Fahlin, what are you doing?” That’s when I found out who Super-Owl was. “I am Super-Owl.”

“Who is Super-Owl?” I asked.

“She fly and she can see.”

“Who is Jayne?” I asked.

“She is Super-Cat. She run fast and jump.”

I looked at my wife. She nodded, apparently knowing who they were and what they were doing. “Well then, have fun girls!”

So they did. They ran around and had fun. That led to races, which led to the stopwatch coming out which led to timed competitions. Well, you know and I know and my wife Yolanda knows that Fahl Fahl does not have an entire heart. She was having a blast but was also breathing hard. I looked at Yolanda and told her we needed to stop. She had probably already run (or ran) eight or ten little races that covered maybe 20 yards. Yolanda pulled out her O2 sensor, placed it on Fahlin’s finger and low and behold, if her levels hadn’t dropped to dangerously low levels. Her heart rate was way up as well. Oh man. Time to stop. We stopped. She stopped. We felt like horrible parents. We won’t do that again.

So for now, Super-Owl has grounded. No more flying around. I told her I was going to become Super-Baldheadman. I haven’t figured out my super powers yet, but when I do…

March 7, 2016

Jim Chapman

Mar 7 2016 1:00 AM

We are about a week away from Fahlin’s next heart cath. I haven’t been thinking much about it until now. I harkened back to the sleepless nights my wife and I had as we agonized over whether or not to even do the initial procedure. Looking back, we obviously made the right call, but it was not without great consternation. So as we look forward to next week, I want to be sure to guard against taking for granted that everything will turn out all right. It is still a heart cath. It is still an invasive procedure. It still involves an overnight hospital stay for Fahlin. She still has a heart issue. See what I mean?

So it’s next Tuesday. Fahlin’s next heart cath, that is. We have not told her. It’s always a question for my wife and I about when do we tell her? Because, if you’ll recall, on more than one occasion she has let it be known that she does not like the hospital. “I no want to go back!” She would say before she learned how to use the word don’t. We’re thinking a day or two out.

I hate it for her. To know she is going to be put to sleep, alone and scared is hard for me as a parent. I know it is all part of her healing journey and the information gathered would be immensely instrumental in determining the next step such as when the next major surgery will happen. I am apprehensive, as the time for the procedure gets closer. I hate seeing Fahlin in such a helpless position. She is so pathetic. I cannot get the visuals from the other hospital visits out of my mind. The wires, gadgets, bags. Awful.

So here I go again, counting down ‘til next week. In the meantime, it will be life as normal. School, pool and home. School, pool and home. Wednesday family dinner. School, pool and home. Friday, Saturday, Sunday dad duty as Yolanda works. Normal stuff for us. Baths, hair, pajamas, popcorn. Squabbles. Wii. “Get off your Kindles!” Ha Ha. I love this life. I know Fahlin loves this life, too. She doesn’t even know she’s lived longer than expected. She’s just livin’ the high life. And I (we) get to come along for the ride.

February 25, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 25 2016 1:00 AM

Sometimes, there is a lull in life and when there is, it is hard to figure out what to blog about, so I wait for something to happen. Last night, something happened. It was a conversation I had with Fahlin when I was tucking her in. Of course I brought out the Ukulele and sang the expected silly songs, then read a few verses from the Bible. A conversation ensued that went something like this…

Fahlin: I need someone else to play with. All I have is Jayne.

Dad: Do you want us to adopt again?

Fahlin: Yes, because we are mad at Lydia. She doesn’t play with us.

Jayne: She’s always watching her kindle. (Ouch, parenting indictment).

Fahlin: And her phone. (Ouch again)

Dad: Do you know any orphan children who need a family, Fahlin?

Fahlin: No

Dad: Yes you do, you used to live with a hundred of them.

Fahlin: I don’t want to go back to China.

Dad: Well, don’t worry about that. If we do it will only be to visit. (She might be thinking we were going to return her or something)

So I called Lydia to come upstairs.

Dad: So girls, tell Lydia what you told me.

Girls in unison: You never play with us.

Lydia looked at me her Lydia look that says, “Why I oughta…”

Lydia: You drive me crazy.

Dad: That may be so, but they really want you to play with them once in awhile. Do you think you could do that? (Aside to Lydia) They don’t realize you are a tween-ager and that you are older than them, but it wouldn’t hurt you play with them once in a while. Do you think you could do that?

Lydia: Okay

So there you have it. Blog inspiration at its finest. You never know what these little girls are going to come up with next. Good night girls…first one to sleep gets a dime…

February 20, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 22 2016 1:00 AM

This is the ‘Random thoughts about Fahlin’ blog, because I have been having some random thoughts about Fahlin. These are based on just being a Dad and general observations.

First observation: Fahlin gets ‘mad’ a lot. But, it’s not really mad. It usually happens when she doesn’t get her way, or when her big sisters try to boss her around more than she would prefer, or if she loses a game, or if she generally has to do something she doesn’t want to do, or simply because she is hungry. It is usually fake. Fake anger. Followed by a wry, sheepish grin, which becomes a giggle, which in turn turns back into fake anger or tears.

Second: Fahlin has been running a lot more. Now mind you, when Fahlin runs she looks exactly like C3PO when he runs. Not fast at all. Gangly and un-coordinated at best. She runs kind of on her heels. And, she doesn’t remember she has a heart condition, so she gets very, very winded. It’s really cute.

Third: She is very bright. She is starting to read quite a bit. She knows hundreds of sight words and can read simple books. Of course, reading is a fundamental life skill that is super important. Fahlin just wants to learn, whether it’s reading or math, or whatever, she just wants to learn. Plus, she can sound out words. Not bad for a kid who has missed about 50 days of school

Fourth observation: She loves life. She is curious, serious and opinionated (well, as opinions for kindergarteners go). She is usually right, remembers everything and wants to please. She has a clever sense of humor, but doesn’t realize she is being funny. That’s kind of a Chinese thing, very ‘matter-of-fact.

Finally, a fifth observation: She loooooves to sing. But she caaaaaan’t sing. She has trouble staying in tune. But that doesn’t matter to Fahl Fahl. She sings loudly and proudly, and words, well, if they are not the right words, that doesn’t matter either. Taylor Swift, Uncle Steve, or any other pop song that plays on her big sister Abby’s car stereo are fair game, and she knows (sort of) them all. Hilarious.

I love that little girl.

February 18, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 18 2016 1:00 AM

Wednesday has turned into Fahlin’s favorite day of the week. That’s right Wednesday evening is family dinner night. It is the one day of the week when there are no late night swimming practices. Izzy and I get home from practice around 6:45 and the fun begins. Fahlin stands at the door and cannot wait ‘til we walk in. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” She will yell. Then she will hug me and want me to pick her up, which I do.

The girls also love it because Wednesday is ‘clean the house’ day. So when they come home from school, they sweep, vacuum, pick up and work. It is also our nice meal night. The girls will help mommy out in the kitchen. They set the table, and get stuff ready. They have a blast. You can tell by the smile on Fahlin’s face. From the moment we walk in, until the moment I tuck her in (along with Jayne). Smiles, from ear to ear.

So when we sit down to eat, Fahlin gets so giddy, she wait to ask if we can do the ‘good part / bad part’ of our day. This is the time when, starting with the youngest and working our way to the oldest person at the table, we tell everyone what our good part and bad part of the day was. The bad parts are usually things like, Mommy having to work, or swim practice was hard, or someone broke a nail. The good parts are usually things like getting an A on a test, or this is someone’s favorite meal, or being glad we had a snow day yesterday, which technically doesn’t count because it was yesterday.

When dinner is over, the little girls, Fahlin and Jayne spring into action. They become our busboys, or I guess, bussers. I sometimes feel guilty letting them do all the work, but then I think about the important life skills they are learning. On Wednesdays, they are my little Cinderellas. Fahlin was still smiling while she bussed the table. How great is that?

I still just look at her, amazed. Who is this little girl? She had no real family a little over a year ago, and now she has what she considers the greatest family ever. Still smiling. Still bussing. Time to get ready for bed, brush her teeth, pajamas on. Smiling. This is the life she loves. Her family life. You would never know this was just an average family, doing average family stuff. She thinks it’s a great life. I do too.

February 15, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 15 2016 1:00 AM

You would think after a year of blogging I would run out of things to write about. Because of Fahlin’s unique story and circumstances however, I have not. She keeps providing material on a daily basis. One thing that my wife and I have noticed is that Fahlin likes to be in charge. I think I have mentioned that before, but we have figured out why…we think.

When Fahlin was in China, she was the big dog, the head honcho, the man in charge…she was the oldest child. Now, however, she has been thrust into the role of ‘baby’ of the family. She has plummeted to the bottom of the pecking order, the lowest rung on the ladder and with seven brothers and sisters that is a long way to fall. She doesn’t actually know her role has changed. She is not actually aware that she has gone from the top to the bottom; she simply is trying to figure out her status among the family.

Don’t misunderstand me. She has done a remarkable job fitting in. There is always a power struggle going on. An example would be at night for instance, “Fahlin, it’s time to get your PJ’s on and brush your teeth for bed.” If Fahl Fahl does not want to go to bed, she will just stand there and stare. Defiant. We also have an original Wii, which we have played more in the past two months than we have in the past five years. For some reason, it is SO important for Fahlin to be controller number one. She will actually get mad if she is not. When dad is playing it’s, “Too bad Fahlly!” If she and Jayne are playing, then it’s “Take turns, girls!”

My psychology major daughter Abby explains it psychological terms, but the simple reality is she was once the oldest now she’s the youngest. By age, she was the oldest child at Maria’s; by age she is also now the youngest child of the Chapman’s. It’s all part of the ‘birth order’ thing that concerns adoptive families. She is actually in the right birth order with our family, but at Maria’s Big House of Hope, she was also in the right birth order.

Families who adopt for example a nine year old while also having a three and five year old in the house are sometime asking for trouble. While their hearts are in the right places, problems often arise that can sometimes be serious. Not always, but often. We are not experiencing that in our family with Fahlin. Just little sibling rivalry things. Nothing unusual. Nothing we can’t handle. We just watch(and smile or laugh), intervene when necessary, and love unconditionally.

Turn off the Wii girls.

February 11, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 15 2016 1:00 AM

Strep. Fahlin has strep. Remember when I told you the pediatrician said any little thing is important? So yesterday, when Fahlin was running a fever, we took her to the doctor. It was strep. Since the surgery, Fahlin’s color has been much, much better, but when her body has to fight an illness, it changes. Noticeably. By the time we left the doctor’s office, she was no longer pink. The blueness had returned. All afternoon, we kept the ibuprofen in her and started her on the prescribed antibiotics. All pretty normal parenting stuff.

Remember also when I told you my wife doesn’t easily get rattled? Well it happened yesterday. While we were at swim practice, my wife noticed Fahlin shaking. Literally shaking…almost but not quite violently. She was so cold that she was shivering. And very blue. It’s not good when Fahlin’s heart has to work so hard just to keep her body warm. Blue is bad. Her condition puts limits on her body and her heart was working overtime. Her O2 sats dropped to 60. That’s the lowest it has been since we’ve had her. With the recent loss of Leeya weighing on Yolanda’s mind, she sprung, sprang, springed into action (pretty sure springed is not a word, not sure which of the other two to use. I suppose I could have spell checked, but them this blog wouldn’t be so riveting). She wrapped her in blankets, made her lie down on the couch and rest. That seemed to do the trick. So after, her sats (oxygen saturation level in the bloodstream) shot back up to 80.

When I got home from practice, Yolanda recounted the events of the afternoon. I could see that for second, she was concerned. She said she had never seen shivering like that before and we have eight kids who swim; so we know what real shivering is. Anyway, Yolanda warmed her up and the shivering subsided. Disaster averted.

So for now, we just remain ever vigilant, watching for any signs that might indicate an illness is lurking around the corner. I wouldn’t say we are paranoid, but I could see how we could easily become so. So we continue to pray daily for a full healing, and we know many, if not all of you of you are praying as well. For that we are grateful. [Fast forward a day or two] The antibiotics have done their job. She’s obviously feeling much better and back to her usual self. As for the rest of her heath issues, we are halfway there. Things are looking good for Fahlin. We will keep you informed.

February 10, 2016

Jim Chapman

Feb 10 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s journey continues. I know it’s a few weeks away, but next month, she goes into the hospital again for a heart-cath, which will enable the doctors to see if the new artery they are trying to grow is actually growing. Yes, they are hopeful that a new artery is growing (mindboggling to me). While I am not quite as apprehensive about this procedure as I was the first time, I am still a bit concerned. It requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Yolanda will stay with Fahlin; I will have ‘littles’ duty.

Yesterday, as the girls were enjoying their snow day, we noticed Fahlin was extra moody. Usually that means she either hungry or tired, but yesterday it was different. Thanks to our great parenting skills, we finally figured out she was running a temperature. Now our pediatrician, who loves Fahlin and has followed her story from the very beginning, even while she was at Maria’s Big House, has told us that due to her condition and the circumstances surrounding Fahlin’s heart and heart surgeries, should there be ANY kind of fever or other health anomaly, he wants to see her IMMEDIATELY.

I understand his concerns. As you know, our friends the White’s little girl, Leeya suffered flu like symptoms before she passed away. Another little girl with heart issues, two years old, we know through the adoption circles in which we travel, we will call her E (her parents have requested that anyone posting anything about her circumstances not use her full name) is also having a difficult time with her health, requiring multiple surgeries. She is hanging on, but has not been an easy road for that little girl.

So now you see why we have to take every little thing seriously. It could be nothing, most likely it is nothing, but when dealing with these unusual circumstances, we can never be too careful. Hopefully it’s no big deal. It is a bit nerve-racking for me. My wife just takes it stride, and hopefully, since it is once again a snow day, the roads aren’t too bad between here and the doctor’s office.

February 6

Jim Chapman

Feb 6 2016 1:00 AM

Today was Grandparents day at Brentwood Academy. It was also the 100th day of school for Rutherford County. So to celebrate, all of the Kindergarten classes at Rock Springs Elementary, ask the kids to dress up like they are 100 years old [see attached photo of ‘little old Chinese woman’ Fahlin] and bring in 100 of something, anything at all. Fahlin took in 100 small pompoms in a jar. In the past the girls have taken pennies, army men, soda can pop-tops, paper clips, Popsicle sticks, candy and toothpicks.

Fahlin played the role perfectly. She was grumpy this morning, as usual until she gets something in her belly. Our ‘In-House’ style guru, Abby, was her clothing coordinator and Yolanda added the baby powder to ‘age’ her hair. As you can tell by the photo, she is a pretty cute little old woman.

I asked her if the did special stuff for the day, and she said the only thing they did was, “Share our thing and show every one.” Okay. Well, there you have it folks. I have found over the years that the true excitement about any activity at any school is the anticipation of said activity. The lead up to the activity. The slow build that happens as the day draws near. Then ‘poof,’ the day is over. Come and gone in a flash.

So the 6th of February marks the one-year anniversary of the wheel touching down in Dallas as we returned home from China, and at that instant, Fahlin became a U.S citizen. I included the picture for a couple reasons. First, to celebrate ‘old-lady’ / ‘old-man’ day on the 100th day of school and to show you updated picture. Second to show you just how good she looks one year later. I hope you can see for yourself that her color is better. You can even see part of her scar. A lot has changed for that little girl and she has handled everything remarkably well. So on the 6th, we will quietly smile on the inside as we reflect back on and celebrate her 365 days of citizenship. Glad you’re here, Old-Lady Fahlin.

February 3

Jim Chapman

Feb 5 2016 1:00 AM

Hello again. Man it has been a busy week. For a swim coach, this is by far the busiest time of the year. At least four swim meets (plus a rescheduled BA dual meet) in a six-week period, possibly a fifth (sixth one if you count the BA dual meet) if one of my daughters does exceptionally well at the State High School meet coming up. But I digress.

Fahlin once again had her monthly follow-up cardiologist visit. I cannot begin to tell you just how well she has been doing. It really is an amazing thing to watch. But I love these visits to the doctor’s office. I never know what I’m going to hear when my wife returns. This time it was for an echocardiogram, and hoo-boy, my wife was not happy. There is one Echo-tech that my wife really likes, but…here it comes, on this day, she was not the one assigned to Fahlin. She shall remain nameless for now, but according to my wife, she was TERRIBLE. Now, Yolanda, my wife, works in the health care industry and deals with people on a daily basis. Without violating HIPAA, I hear stories, man do I hear stories. My wife of course, was trying to be helpful to the woman, after all, we have been through this more times than we can count. Perhaps Ms. Gruff was having a bad day. Those do happen sometimes you know.

First of all, she was gruff with Fahlin. Hello?!? Who would dare be gruff with this little girl named Fahlin who has been through so much? But this woman who shall not be named, picked the wrong patient with which to have a poor bedside manner. Secondly, she did not position Fahlin correctly in order to get the ‘looks’ Doctor Moore wanted, and Yolanda knew this. She tried to tell her, but nooooo, Ms. (I presume she’s not married because of her gruffness, I mean, what man in his right…oh, uh, sorry…) Personality would have none of it. When she left, my wife gently tried to tell her that she would prefer someone else do the procedure, to which the woman with no name responded with something to the effect of, “I got all the pictures we need!” Yolanda smiled, on the inside. She knew what was coming next

Sure enough, surprise, in walked Missy, Yolanda’s fave. Now Yolanda could relax. Fahlin was in good hands. The other Tech did not get the necessary pictures. My wife then proceeded to ask Missy if she could request her when it was time for the next one, and of course, Missy told her by all means.

So, naturally Yolanda had to fill me in on all the details of the doctor’s office visit. Good thing she did, otherwise I would not have had much material for a blog. Thank you Yolanda. Thank you ‘woman who shall not be named’ for not being gruff with Fahlin in the future, because Missy will be there and not be gruff. I hope you have a better day tomorrow. Thank you Missy for saving the day. Thank you Dr. Moore for your continued loving care of our daughter. Thank you Vanderbilt for your world-class facility and world-class service. And thank you Jesus! “…And with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

January 28

Jim Chapman

Jan 28 2016 1:00 AM

A little girl named Leeya, also from Maria’s Big House, and adopted by the White family here in Nashville was in the hospital having heart surgery at the same time as Fahlin. She had a really rough go of it, but was finally able to come home after about a month in ICU. Everything was fine with Leeya until last week. She came down with flu-like symptoms. The parents, needless to say, were concerned and headed to the hospital. This was all going on during the blizzard like conditions here in middle Tennessee. While at Summit medical, she took a turn for the worse. Vanderbilt was dispatched, picked her up and immediately decided to turn back around. Leeya’s little heart gave out, crashed and she did not recover. She went to be with Jesus last Thursday.

My wife Yolanda attended the funeral last night. She said it was a sweet service. Yolanda made sure to stay and talk to Jon, Leeya’s Dad. We had met them while at the hospital during Fahlin’s stay and had been in touch with them through this tragedy. Since we both had children from Maria’s Big House, we felt a connection to them. Jon made sure to ask my wife to get a message to my sister and brother-in-law. He said he was so grateful for the work that Mary Beth and Steven were doing in China and for making it possible for Leeya to become a part of their family. He wanted to make sure my sister knew he was certain that the first thing Leeya did when she arrived in Heaven, after seeing Jesus of course, was to run and find Maria Sue Chapman and give her a big, big hug and thank her for building that big, blue house. Jon was so thankful for the short time they had with her and was even more thankful that they were the family that got to be Leeya’s family, if even for a short while.

Times like these always make me wonder why some children are taken to Heaven at such a young age while others suffer through a lingering disease or one condition or another and still others are healed completely and go on to live long, full lives. God’s sovereignty is surely a mystery that will never be known until we see eternity; of that I am certain. Did God value one little child over the other? Of course not. But, we will never know the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ and ‘why nots.’ It only confirms that the mystery of God is just that…and always will be…a mystery. My brain couldn’t handle any more than that.

How fortunate and blessed we are that Fahlin is doing as well as she is. Two little girls, connected by a common thread that started at big, sky blue buildings with clouds and flowers painted on it, sharing an ICU floor at Vandy, both of whom having had open-heart surgery at nearly the same time, and yet two startlingly different outcomes. As I try to grasp the painful reality the Whites are going through I grapple with my own questions, not just the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions (and thoughts), but questions like “What’s in store for Fahlin?” Or, “That could have very easily been Fahlin,” or even, “The next surgery is more involved, so is this what we are facing?” Scary. Sobering. Our prayers continue to go out for the White family.

January 25

Jim Chapman

Jan 26 2016 1:00 AM

January 25th. Fahlin’s ‘Gotcha Day.’ A year ago today, little frightened, scared and nervous Fahl Fahl started on a journey that would include meeting five new sisters and two brothers; ten cousins, eight Aunts and Uncles, a couple of Grandparents and untold thousands of new friends and acquaintances

In the adoption world, ‘Gotcha Day’ is like an annual national holiday. It’s a day that families who have adopted set aside time to celebrate the addition of the newest member of the family. It’s actually like an additional birthday. Usually a trip to the Chinese buffet, extended family are usually included and gifts, don’t forget the gifts.

Our kids do not remember the actual day we ‘got’ them. They were all so little, well, Jayne wasn’t, but that’s another story. Fahlin, however, does remember. She was, after all, almost six when we got her. She was leaving the only home she ever knew and she was old enough to know that things would be different. How different, she could not have remotely imagined, but the thought of going somewhere new with strange people she did not know and had just met, let alone to a foreign country, had to be terrifying, no matter how badly she had wanted a family.

Wow. What a year it has been. And what difference a year makes. Looking back, we were just as terrified, well, I was; my wife, being in the medical profession, was up to the challenge that awaited us as a family. The though that you new daughter could die at any moment is not pleasant one. As much as I would fight the urge, the thought would just linger there. Whenever Fahlin was breathing hard, or bluer than usual or het O2 saturations were lower than the usual low number, I would think, “Is she alright? Is this bad? Should we do something?” Helpless.

Now, a year later, to see her laugh, to watch her play, to know she has friends at school, to see her interact with her Mom and the family is truly an answer to prayer. To be honest, I didn’t know how far we would get. I had hoped and prayed we would be where we are right now, but I didn’t know for sure if that would happen or not. The reality is that I think we are farther along than I ever imagined, even though I don’t now what I was imagining or where our family would be at this point. Being alive is a good place to be. Running, playing and living life to the fullest is a VERY good place to be for Fahlin at this point. The doctors are pleased and happy I would say. Our pediatrician is amazed. He smiles a lot and shakes his head when he sees her

To show you how far Fahlin has come in a year, Fahlin played in the snow for two-and-a-half hours. Last year, right after we returned from China, an icy snowstorm hit Nashville. Fahlin had not been treated yet, so we had no idea how she would do in the cold. Without a whole lot of circulation, she was cold anyways, but in the cold and snow? She lasted about ten minutes. She was already purple, but she turned an even more noticeable blue-ish purple. We were actually a little scared we over did it. Now, however, twelve months later, there she was, playing in the snow, building in the snow, sledding in the snow. She even complained she was too warm. Pretty amazing. We had a blast (an Arctic blast).

So ‘Gotcha Day’ was celebrated with a lunch trip (since the girls were out of school) to the Chinese buffet, of course. My daughter Bethany and oh, by the way, Fahlin’s eight month old nephew I forgot to mention joined them. As for the gifts, I was at school so I am a little nervous to see what my wife treated Fahlin to. I guess I will find out when I get home.

Happy ‘Gotcha Day’ Fahl Fahl!

January 23

Jim Chapman

Jan 25 2016 1:00 AM

One year ago today, we left for China. It was the culmination of about six pretty intense months of paper pushing, hand ringing, and string pulling. I’m pretty sure we set a record for the fastest China adoption in history. Between God and Mary Beth Chapman (who claims to have not done anything), doors were opened and decisions were made faster than we ever thought possible.

My sister, our friend and Steven’s road manager David Trask was accompanied my wife and I and our guide, Rita, as we embarked on our trek to retrieve our new daughter. I remember we were ‘grounded’ by the Chinese authorities while in China. That meant we were limited to buses, vans and trains because Fahlin’s condition was deemed to serious to risk a plane flight. The weather in Beijing and Luoyang was awful; freezing cold, snowy, icy, wet, windy and foggy, let’s not forget the smog…always the smog.

We actually went to Fahlin’s province a couple days before we were actually allowed in order to visit Maria’s Big House and get a sneak peak with Fahlin. We were traveling on the DL. Don’t tell China. Fahlin was so looking forward to meeting her new family, but petrified at the same time. She so scared when Yolanda met her for the first time (I had met her on previous trips). It is really hard to put into words the feelings that one experiences when you meet a child for the first time whose life is about to be turned upside down, inside out and changed forever (for the better, usually). The look of shear terror on her face told us that it was not going to be easy. But when it came time to actually leave with us, we knew how much she would be missed when the entire staff and all the kids at Maria’s came out to the lobby to say goodbye to Fahlin. They all knew her medical options were limited, her prognosis not good, but they also knew that she was being given a chance at not only a better life, but just…life itself.

So I asked Fahlin if she would ever like to go back and visit China. “No.” No elaboration, just a simple ‘no.’ Do you miss China? “No.” The usually effusive Fahlin said again, using only one syllable. Do you remember when we came to get you? “Yeah.” Again, no elaboration. At some point, I’m sure we will have to dig deeper, but for now, we will leave it at that. She does actually talk about ‘her’ China on occasion. She actually remembers quite a bit. I’m certain we will take her back some day. When? Not sure.

As I look back over this past year and see how far she has come, how the surgeries and procedures have impacted her and given her literally new life, I also think about the impact her life has had on ours. I can no longer just treat my any of my daughters as my children, rather I think of myself as a servant, not in the sense that I am subservient to them, but rather in a way that allows me to engage the mission of Matthew, Chapter 25; to serve the ‘least of these,’ When I stand before God Himself, I most assuredly want to hear Him say to me, “…Enter in my good and faithful servant…” I am not the perfect Dad, but because of these little girls and especially because of this past year’s experiences with Fahlin, I am getting closer.

On a sad note, as I was writing this we received word that Leeya, the little three-year old Show Hope baby that was in Vanderbilt for heart surgery at the same time as Fahlin, took a turn for the worse this week and passed away yesterday. Her Dad, Jon, posted that…“They were numb…we thought we would go to the hospital, get and IV and some antibiotics and be home before we knew it…but God had other plans…Heaven has a new Angel today.” Please remember the White family in your prayers.

January 20

Jim Chapman

Jan 20 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin and daddy share something. We have something in common that to Fahlin; seems pretty cool. Aspirin. When Fahlin first returned with us from China and began all her blood work and tests, it was discovered that her blood was ‘thick.’ This was one of the ways her body compensated for an extreme lack of circulation and thus, in her case, and extreme lack of oxygen. In order to operate, do the heart cath, or any other procedure, the doctors had to thin her blood. Of course, after all the procedures, she was put on an Aspirin regimen. One baby Aspirin per day.

Well, guess what? You guessed it; Daddy is also on one baby Aspirin per day. When you get old and high blood pressure runs in the genes, I guess Aspirin is pretty standard. But hey, I have been working very hard this year to get in shape and stay in shape. I am looking gooooood…Thanks to my life coach, Coach Oatsval.

What is really sweet about this is every morning when I go downstairs to eat, I sit at my spot and voila,’ one, single Aspirin is there waiting for me, Fahlin puts it there each night, just for me.

“Daddy,” she will ask, “did you see your medicine on the dining room table?”

“Yes, and thank you.”

“We take same medicine, Daddy.”

“Yes, but for different reasons, Fahl Fahl.” I just smile. She is so proud. And so glad to ‘help’ her Dad.

By the way, Saturday the 23rd marks the one-year anniversary of the day we left to embark on this Fahlin journey. I think that blog will be the ‘reminiscing as we walk down memory lane,’ issue. I may even interview all the parties involved, haven’t quite decided yet. See you then.

January 18

Jim Chapman

Jan 19 2016 1:00 AM

Sometimes, whenever there are a few days between blogs, I am waiting for that one special thing to happen before I write. Sometimes I wait for an ‘incident,’ and sometimes, I just wait to hear that little ‘gem’ that comes out of her mouth.

It was bath time and the girls had been in the tub for quite a while. They were splashy-er than usual. The floor was soaked. Jayne got out first. I wrapped her up and sent her on her way to get dressed for bed. Fahlin decided tonight was the night that she would put her face in the water. So, after Jayne left, I let Fahlin play a little while longer. Then, I was summoned. “Daddy, come watch me put my face in the water (That was not the gem).” So I watched as he put her face in the water. She really did put her entire face in the water. Being a swim coach, I was excited.

“Maybe I could float in the pool (that is not the gem).”

“Maybe,” I responded, “but you have to be able do it in the tub first.” So she practiced. It was terrible, but she tried, and at least her face was in the water. I was proud of her.

“Okay Fahl, time to get out and get dried off and get your P.J.’s on.” She headed to her room; I took time to go to the bathroom. I know, that’s a lot of information, but it’s the set up for the ‘gem.’ She usually gets dressed by herself, but tonight she wanted Daddy to help.

“I wish I could be like you, Daddy,” she said, but that was not the ‘gem.’ I asked her if that meant she wanted to have a baldhead like Daddy.

Here comes the ‘gem.’ “No, Daddy, I wish I could PEE like you,” she announced proudly.

“Ooooooooooh,” I laughingly responded. Dare I ask why, I thought? While I was pondering whether or not to ask the question, she decided to be silly and started yelling weird noises as she danced around her room. Whew. I was off the hook. She continued being crazy as she put on her pajamas. It was silly-time. It was fun. It was memorable. She forgot about being like Daddy. It was just another reminder how blessed we are to have this little girl in our family.

January 15

Jim Chapman

Jan 18 2016 1:00 AM

Every adoptive family has a social worker that has helped with the process from beginning to end. Our social worker for Fahlin’s adoption (and Izzy, Lydia, and Jayne as well) is Sandy Ivey. What is cool about this is the fact that throughout the last fifteen years, since our first meeting with her about Izzy, Sandy has become a good friend. We have now known her a long time. She has certified on more than one occasion that we are indeed, crazy.

Yesterday was our one-year follow-up meeting. It’s hard to believe that almost one year ago we were preparing to head to China to pick up our latest bundle of joy, a little girl named Fahlin. Wow, it really was about this time last year. Couldn’t be. It is. Oh man, I need to digest this a bit.

Pause.

Sandy came in and sat down and after chitchatting and catching up, began reminiscing about how long we’ve known each other. Sandy is the best social worker any family could have. Not only is she caring, she understood and supported each of our decisions to adopt. That is big to us. Our adoptions, after all, were a little bit out of the norm, and Sandy helped make them happen. She means a lot to our family and has been a huge part of our family’s story.

One year, huh? Well I guess that means we have some anniversaries to celebrate, like the day we left, gotcha day, the day we returned to the states with Fahlin. Those blogs are coming up, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’ll close with a Fahlin / Jayne story.

My daughter Bethany was conversing with my wife when she said, “Jayne is something else.”

Fahlin, in the vicinity, said, “Yeah, she’s something else.”

Yolanda at this point asked, “If she’s something else, what is she?”

Fahlin, “A alien…what? I’m just sayin’.”

She’s been home almost a year already…really?

January 13

Jim Chapman

Jan 13 2016 1:00 AM

Fahlin and Jayne have become great friends. As sisters, they play well together, that is until Jayne decides she’s had enough, or Fahlin decides she wants to be the boss. I would say it’s about 80% good, 20% bad. They are an interesting pair. Fahlin is six; Jayne is nine.

Let’s give you a little insight into Jayne’s backstory. She was born in Urumqi (pronounced yer-rim-shee), China, near the Kazakhstan / Russian border. It is so far to the western edge of China that people there do not even look Chinese; more middle eastern, actually. In fact, when our family was there to finalize Jayne’s adoption; our guide informed us that there were only three white people in that entire province, and we were two of them.

Anyway, Jayne (with some unknown help) had made her way to Beijing to the Hope Foster home run by our friends, Robin and Dr. Joyce Hill. They are still unsure as to how she got there. I was there with a mission group from Show Hope; it was the day before our last day when Jayne arrived. She was about a month old and was so sick she was near death. I was in the office when they bought her in. They asked me to hold her. I cried when they told me how sick she really was. She was born with severe brain damage, there is a cyst on the base of her brain, she had a couple holes in her heart, her urethra needed repair, one kidney, was born with an imperforate anus (she had a colostomy bag the first six months of her life), a clubbed foot and on top of it all, she had Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. She had no chance at survival, let alone a normal life in China.

No one had sponsored her at this point. There was no money to provide for her basic needs. I gave them all the money I had in my pocket and said, “Here, I’ll sponsor her.”

“Good, you can name her,” came the response. My wife had never liked the name Jayne, but I had always wanted a little girl named Jayne. I guess I showed her! That was nearly nine years ago. I knew that trip changed the lives of the students on the trip, but little did I know the eternal impact it would have on my family and me.

Fast-forward four and a half years. Each year I had gone back to China and each year I visited Jayne at the foster home. She had had everything that could be repaired, repaired. She was growing, learning and thriving. However, she was getting close to the age when she would have had to permanently return to the Urumqi orphanage, a place where she would have been alone and forgotten. During this time, Dr. Joyce had been advocating with the Chinese Government to have Jayne placed on the “special needs” list.

Through a series of Godly interventions too complex to explain in a blog (More like a book is needed to tell everything), Jayne miraculously appeared on the China special needs list. We received an email from Joyce asking if we knew of anyone who would, in spite of her seeming limitations want to adopt Jayne? We knew of no one (duh) and told her we would ask around (ha ha). Well, despite the fact that she had so many things ‘wrong’ with her, and the fact we were too old, and the fact we had too many children, and the fact we couldn’t afford to adopt, and the fact that we were certifiably insane, China pretty much waived all of those things and allowed us to adopt Jayne. Next thing we knew we were in this very weird part of China, being told by our guide not to go out at night, sleeping in beds that were nothing more than box springs stacked on top of each other and that was in a supposed five star hotel, with a scared little girl who was gassy to high heaven (boy, did it smell bad, poor thing). What have we gotten ourselves into, I remember thinking?

Fast-forward four and a half more years. Our neurologist ordered a battery of brain tests for Jayne. Everything from I.Q. testing to testing that determines which part of her damaged brain are doing what and which parts have picked up the slack for the missing parts and which part of the missing part has not been compensated for. The results have been quite telling. Suffice it to say, Jayne’s I.Q. test scores were pretty low. We have always been blessed with kids on the gifted side of special education, but now we have one on the opposite end of the spectrum. A different kind of blessing. We were informed that she functions in school at a higher level than her scores indicate, but as she gets older, the difference will become more noticeable. She has enough challenges without having to deal with her peers making fun of her. I hurt for her and she doesn’t know it; will never know it.

Our task now is daunting. We have about three years to figure out what to do educationally. We cannot afford Curry Ingram or Benton Hall for that matter (where she was recommended). As with all our kids, we continue to pray and ask for guidance and wisdom. This is outside of our zone to be sure. There is a lot more to tell and a lot more to deal with with Jayne, and of all our children, she is the hardest to parent (not difficult, hard). But you know, we were chosen by a God who knows a lot more than we do to be Jayne’s parents and has said in His word that He would not burden us with more than we handle. So we trust Him. Philippians 2:3,4 says… “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

So now you know the backstory. Jayne and Fahlin play on the same level because they function on the same level. At some point that dynamic will change. For now, the sisters will just be sisters, playtime an occasional battlefield, and toys the constant centerpiece of consternation. The way sisters are meant to be…close.

January 12

Jim Chapman

Jan 12 2016 1:00 AM

The great pancake debate has been ongoing at our house since Thanksgiving. Fahlin and the other ‘littles’ have informed me that their big brother Canaan’s pancakes are muuuuuuch better than Daddy’s. What? How can this be? So I asked them what the difference was? Supposedly, his are fluffier. And tastier. And better.

My downward spiral off the pancake pedestal all started over a year ago, before Fahlin ever came home. I have gone off ALL white flour. None. Ever. But I am allowed to eat whole-wheat flour. So after an extensive search, I have landed on a couple of whole-wheat pancake mixes that are really quite good, despite what the girls say. And since that is all I make now (I am the sole pancake maker in the family), that’s what they eat whenever I make pancakes. In fact, I embellish the recipe with a couple of my own secret ingredients, sour cream and oatmeal. The oatmeal provides a little oomph to the mix and the sour cream, well; everything is better with sour cream added. That is just a fact.

But at Thanksgiving, my son pulled out his special pancake recipe, light, fluffy and delicious, according to the girls and they have never forgotten about them. This past weekend, the subject came up again when I cooked them some pancakes and Lydia said, “No offense Dad, but Canaan’s pancakes are so much better than yours.” Thanks a lot Lydia. The girls were quick to jump on the bandwagon. That led to more discussion. I pointed out that my pancakes were healthier and besides, had not one, but two secret ingredients.

So I asked the girls, “Okay, what other pancakes are better?”

“Cracker Barrel.”

“Izzy’s.” For the record, whenever Izzy fixes pancakes, she uses the same mix I do.

“Bethany’s.” She uses Bisquick.

It was so funny listening to them insult my pancakes. They went on and on all morning. Of course, I was egging them on a little. But as they bantered about batter, I noticed something. Fahlin wanted one more, Lydia gobbled hers right up, and Jayne always eats more than the other two. Before I knew it, the plates were clean and the pancakes devoured. I guess they’re no so bad after all. Ha!

January 9

Jim Chapman

Jan 9 2016 1:00 AM

I took Fahlin to her first basketball game. As I pulled into the parking lot at Brentwood Academy, Fahlin yells, “Yay, my favorite place!” That was cool. I told her it was my favorite place, too. If you are associated in any way with BA, you know that sentiment to be true. It’s a pretty awesome place.

We walked into the game. The girls were playing. Now Fahlin has seen football games, but basketball was new to her. I think the popcorn was more important than the game, however. She heard people cheering, so she cheered, unfortunately, it was for the wrong team. I had to educate her as to who cheer for, teach her what a basket was, and who had how many points.

Then it was a quick trip to the pool to drop off Lydia at swim practice and pick up Izzy from swim practice, then back to the school for the boys’ game. I’ve got to say, the BA boys basketball team is pretty darn good. The girls are too, for that matter. Here’s little tidbit about my life you probably do not know: at one point in my teaching and coaching career, I was a basketball coach. Eleven years. I coached 7th grade for a year, moved up to 8th grade for three years, then freshmen, all boys, at Ferguson Jr. High in Beavercreek, Ohio. I was very successful as I climbed the coaching ladder and spent the next four years coaching freshmen, JV and finally got a head-coaching job at Cedarville High School. There is quite a story behind our days in Cedarville. I could write a book. Suffice it to say, God was involved there as well. I’ll leave it at that for now. I enjoy the game. But that was another lifetime ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The girls enjoyed both games, but as we were leaving, someone stopped me as we were leaving and ruined my evening. “Hey Coach Chapman,” A man said as he shook my hand, “So you have your grand-daughters with you?” I didn’t know who the man was, but obviously he has not read this blog. What’s up with that? Okay, so can I say this? The next person who stops me and asks me if my little girls are my grandchildren, I’m going to punch them (it has happened more than once). I thought I was holding up pretty well. Oh well, my wife and I will just keep living by a piece of advice we heard many years ago from whom I can’t remember, “Old parents are better than no parents.” Well, got to go…Gotta get the girls out of the tub!

January 7

Jim Chapman

Jan 8 2016 1:00 AM

Something big has happened. The girls have returned to school and Fahlin has decided that she no longer needs to ride in the stroller from class to class. She informed her teacher, Ms. Tomkins, that she wanted to walk to her related arts classes. This is big indeed. The hallways at their school are a mile long in each direction, so it is a lot of walking. Art class, Music class, Library, Computer; all require a trek for the little ones. Fahlin’s condition warranted caution, as she easily ran out of gas. She would get winded at the least amount exertion. I think it speaks volumes as to how well she is doing. Her recovery is going remarkably well. Her energy levels are obviously up, to the point she now feels comfortable walking to her Related Arts classes.

I was unaware of this development until I got home last night. Fahlin was waiting with the news. “Daddy, I tell Ms. Tomkins that I did not want to ride my stroller anymore.”

“Wow, Fahlin, that’s awesome.” I looked at my wife, my wife looked at me with that ‘I guess it’s alright, if that’s what she wants to do and she thinks she can,’ look. I guess it IS all right. It’s just another step toward a full life. She is obviously getting stronger with each day, with each breath, with each life experience. She is a pretty amazing kid.

Her report card came home as well. She has missed 57 days of school, while attending 67 days, yet her teacher says she has jumped right back into school without skipping a beat (another heart pun, in case you didn’t notice). What kind of kid does that? Well, a pretty resilient one for sure. Fahlin is the resilient kid, to which I refer. You know I have said all along that Fahlin didn’t and doesn’t and still doesn’t know sick she is and/or was. And now, she just trudges along as if nothing has happened. Come to think of it, I cannot remember the last time she was short of breath, or turned that awful shade of purple she used to be. God is good.

Despite her truancy (we received a medical excuse), despite her heart adversity, despite all odds, she is flourishing in a big way. And we as family couldn’t be happier. We are so happy that life seems normal…well, as normal as life can be with eight kids, and that Fahlin seems as normal as the rest of our crazy family. Keep on walking those hallways, girl! Resiliency, schmiliency. She doesn’t even know what the word means.

January 5

Jim Chapman

Jan 6 2016 1:00 AM

Since returning to school, I’ve been asked numerous times, “How was your Christmas?” The best answer I can think of is, “We got to celebrate Christmas with a little girl who wasn’t expected to be alive at Christmas. It truly does not get any better than that!” What a disconcerting thought, and yet, what a wonderful time we had.

Fahlin has been a gift, but so are the other ‘littles.’ Jayne still gets mad that this blog focuses on Fahlin’s story, but I try to tell her that she is woven into the fabric as well. Like now. Ha ha. They are all part of the big picture, the “Glorious Unfolding,” as my Bro-in-Law so eloquently puts it.

It seems like we are coasting right now through Fahlin’s recovery period. Yesterday was her monthly visit with her cardiologist. He is very pleased at her progress. Pleased is such a normal word, but it carries great significance with us. Her color is much improved, her O2 numbers are hovering around 79-80. For you or I, those numbers would mean a visit to the nearest emergency room, for Fahlin, normal, everyday life numbers. So on she goes, her next appointment is a month from now. We, our family, proceed as normal.

I have also realized over the holidays that writing these blogs about a very serious life issue of one of my children has been very therapeutic for me. Before, whenever I had something on my mind, I would dwell or even stew on things for a while, sometime to the point that I would lose sleep over whatever it was I was stewing over. But since I’ve started blogging, I have noticed that putting my thoughts down on paper (or technology) has really helped. It’s almost like a burden is lifted. I even think they are almost like prayers. I do actually pray over what I write; that it would bless someone; that God would hear what is written as a prayer. It has been a very positive thing for me. Everything is God’s hand anyway. “Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you…[1st Peter 5:7]” And Matthew adds, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Uh, no, I think not. And that’s what I mean; I sleep better (my sleep number is 65, but I’m not sure how that relates to this, other than my half of the bed is pretty darn comfortable). It’s not that I am not concerned about Fahlin, I am, but I have a great God upon which to lean, and that is what I am daily choosing to do.

So I continue to write. I continue on this path, telling a story about a little girl who had no hope, but at least for now, has all the hope in the world.

January 2

Jim Chapman

Jan 3 2016 1:00 AM

Happy New Year!

I thought it might be good to recap a few of Fahlin’s life highlights from year 2015. How ‘bout bullet points?

  • Late February, Fahlin gets a new family…ours
  • March, doctors visits begin…news is not very good
  • May, abscess tooth extraction…we find out she can handle anesthesia
  • June, heart-cath…good news
  • August, Fahlin starts kindergarten
  • October, open heart surgery number one
  • November, First Thanksgiving for Fahlin
  • December, first Christmas
  • Sixth New Year, first in the states…thanks be to God.

As simple as this list looks, you can see it is filled with some serious stuff. The emotional roller coaster we have been on the past ten months has been as crazy as the “Beast” at Kings Island. Admittedly, the past moth or so have been pretty uneventful. If we are not careful, we might even be headed for normal…wait, is that actually possible with our family dynamic? Over the holidays I noticed something, our friends have all moved on to the next phase of their life, you know, kids leaving home, getting jobs, getting married, grandchildren…oh wait, I guess WE have moved on to the next phase as well, then moved back into the original phase in order to re-live the phase from which we had already moved on from. So, yes, normal is out of the question.

The other thing I have noticed, particularly about Fahlin over the holidays; since she has been out of her routine, the late nights have made her a grumpy butt in the mornings. Geez Louise! Good thing she is cute! It’s like she has multiple personalities…grumpy butt, happy girl, crazy girl, pouty girl, quiet mouse, serious girl, focused girl, tattle-tale. I am not saying she has psychological issues, just that there are many facets to this little girl. Thank God and thanks to Vanderbilt, we will now have time, at least for now to discover other things about Fahlin and to love her, nurture her, guide her, shape her and direct her as she grows up.

So now, we head into the New Year kind of knowing what awaits, but yet uncertain about the details. We know she has another heart cath coming up, as well as a second heart surgery some time toward summer. Other than that, we will indeed remember we have other children in our house as well that need our direction and care. We have some serious decisions that need to be made about Jayne, who has a plethora of her own special needs, herself. Bless her heart. Izzy has straight A’s and a 4.33 GPA, but we can’t take that for granted and Lydia, well Lydia is just Lydia. God has blessed us tremendously. Of that we are certain. May He continue to watch over our family.

December 30

Jim Chapman

Dec 30 2015 1:00 AM

It has been a few days since my last blog. I have been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking about family, love, the holiday season, Fahlin, where we are as a family. Just a lot of…soul searching is not the word, but something like that. This was supposed to be a sad Christmas for us. As you will recall, when we first adopted Fahlin some ten months ago, we were told her diagnosis was so severe, that her little heart most likely would not hold much longer, much less make it to Christmas. We smiled throughout the adoption process, all the while bracing for what could be an extremely bumpy road, one filled with heartache, loss and death. A somber thought that was always in the back of our minds. We informed the kids, and told them that a possible short and dark road was ahead. We braced for impact, one step at a time.

But, God intervened. It a very, very big way, He intervened. As we were visiting with my sister and Brother-in-Law, we recounted the year. As we looked around the room, between Mary Beth and Steve’s three, our four, and Herbie and Sheri’s two, and My Daughter’s our families have accounted for a grand total of ten little (some not so little), adopted blessings sitting together as one big, really happy family. Not to mention the all the new second generationers (grandchildren) we have welcomed to the family in the past four years since my niece Emily started having babies. It is awesome just to see it. It’s actually pretty rare that we are all in the same place at once.

But I cannot help to think about the biggest blessing of all that I want to make sure doesn’t get lost in all the presents and excitement is the fact that Fahlin is/was indeed very much alive this Christmas; healthy, happy, smiling, laughing and loving every minute of Christmas with her new family. And I am overwhelmed in the brain just trying to understand the magnitude of this blessing God has chosen to give our family. Blown away, in fact.

This puts pressure on my brain as well. It is my job as Dad to work, provide for, take care of, help Mom, give baths, fix food, mow the grass, well, if you have children, you know the list is never ending. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed thinking about the great responsibility it is to be a parent, but now, I add the other overwhelming thought, which is that before time even began, a sovereign God ordained that four little girls from China would be the daughters of Jim and Yolanda Chapman in Tennessee. Wow and whoa!

So, for now as I catch up on all six ‘Star Wars’ episodes, after first watching number VII, preparing to watch number VII again, I guess I will just continue to self analyze my thoughts again, and again and over and over. It’s just the way I roll during the holiday season. Then I’ll watch ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Minions’ for the fourth time each with the girls, which also makes me ponder things; kids movies do that to me as well. And I will continue to think, about Fahlin and Jayne, and Lydia, and Izzy, and Abby, and Bethany, and Canaan, and Jordan, and life, and the future, and the past, and blessings, and think, and think…and think some more.

December 25

Jim Chapman

Dec 28 2015 1:00 AM

It’s actually the 26th as I am writing this. I needed a day to gather my thoughts about Fahlin’s first Christmas. When you have eight kids spread out over twenty some years, each Christmas brings back so many memories. The older kids talk about things that I had no idea impacted them the way they did, the younger ones are creating new memories we will not know about for a few years.

This Christmas saw three new members of our family added to the fold. In February, we in China picking up our soon to be six year old daughter, Fahlin, in May, we added our first grandchild, Nash; in June we added our Daughter-in-Law Natalie. It’s been an eventful year, come to think about it. Wow!

Fahlin didn’t know what to think when she arrived on the scene in the living room and there was this mound of packages basically blocking the tree. The pile was huge. We dialed up my son Canaan on face time. He and his wife were basically with us for Christmas, just not in person. Fahlin was a bit confused and overwhelmed. The family was gathered, all fourteen of us. Let the unwrapping begin.

We always rotate from youngest to oldest. It was funny to watch Fahlin, as she has not yet learned to just rip into each package, meticulously and gently peel off the tape as if in slow motion. “C’mon, Fahlin, just tear off the paper!” Everyone was encouraging more urgency. It was a box. A smallish box. She put it aside. She did not know there was great joy awaiting her inside the box. She opened it. Clothes? Now she was really confused. You could see the wheels turning, “Where’s all the fun stuff I have heard so much about?” But with each round of gifts, you could see her gaining confidence as the ripping intensified.

She was cute. We couldn’t really tell if she was having fun or not. I am still not sure she fully comprehended all the excitement of the other children. I watched, knowing full well I was watching a little miracle unfold right before my eyes. Here was a little girl, unwrapping gift after gift, laughing, giggling, impatient, anxious; and she was not supposed to be here this Christmas. I was contemplating how different Christmas could have been had the initial diagnosis of Fahlin’s eminent demise come true. But it didn’t and she was here, in our house on the living room floor experiencing Christmas for the every first time. The gift of life. What gift could ever compare to that?

December 24

Jim Chapman

Dec 28 2015 1:00 AM

Christmas Eve. Fahl Fahl’s first. Lots of activity, big kids coming and going, last minute errands, pick this up, pick that up, go here, go there, trips to the airport, lunch, no, don’t touch that, don’t eat that, wait. Hurry up, people are coming over tonight. Jim do this, Jim do that, did do that, did you do this? The crazy-ness of Christmas Eve at the Chapman household.

We moved here twenty-five years ago, a washed up basketball coach looking to make it in the music business. “You gotta be here to make it happen,” I was told. One door, one chapter of lives closed behind us as new chapters and new doors began to open in Music City. The songwriting took off, a Dove award followed; I made the jump from gospel to country (even if just for a season). God affirmed us being here. It was our second Christmas in Nashville when the Christmas Eve tradition began. We had made new friends at our new church, new friends in the music world, all of whom were transplants like ourselves. With our families so far away, we had the brilliant idea to begin inviting people over to our house on Christmas Eve. These people were to become our ‘new’ family.

Excuse me a minute while I run to the store for my wife. Another last minute thing…

Okay (40 minutes later), I’m back.

It started out small, maybe three or four families. The rules were simple. No ‘official’ invites were ever mailed. You had to be considered ‘cool’ by our standards, for various and often-vague reasons. Once invited, even if we never interacted again, you were ALWAYS invited. Once you came, you were (are) always welcome back. I’m pretty sure our invitee list is well over a hundred (families, that is). The only common connection between all the families, is my wife and I. Sometimes we invite people who will not know any of the other previous invitees. They make new friends at our house on Christmas Eve. It’s great. If everyone who was ever invited decided to come on the same Christmas Eve, we would have a HUGE problem. On any given Christmas Eve we will average 60-90 people. I think the high was 140 one year, the low around 28, maybe. New people get invited every year; no one is ever ‘un-invited.’ You must bring your favorite holiday finger food or snack or homemade desert AND, most importantly, a ‘White Elephant’ gift. The [hideous-er], the better.

Some years we will see people we haven’t seen in several Christmases, others it will be the core crowd we have known for years. Some years celebrities will show, some years they won’t. It is certainly the best way to stay in touch with some of our very best friends. Life changes, kids grow, hard times and good times happen, but the one thing that never changes is the Christmas Eve party. (When you see me just let me know if you want to come next year)

The people have not yet started to arrive, Fahlin is excited, but doesn’t know why, and, in fact, this will be the first time for some to actually meet her. Well, time to wrap it up, I have lights to turn on, things to do, last minute preparations to do, orders from my wife to follow…

December 22

Jim Chapman

Dec 23 2015 1:00 AM

The Christmas adventure for Fahlin continues. We (my wife) decided we should go see the lights at Jellystone Park out near Opryland. We locals call the Opry Mills area Opryland because where Opry Mills now stands, there used to be the greatest theme park in the world, Opryland. We would buy family passes each summer and spend a minimum of four evenings a week out there with the kids. In fact, kid number four came about because kid number three had no one to ride with at the theme park…true story!

Opryland was so nice, so fun, so family friendly. It never felt rushed, never felt like we were being gouged, just a clean, wonderful place to spend a day. And we did, day after day. But that was fifteen years ago.

In fact, many country and Christian music artists got their start at Opryland. Singers and songwriters would come from all over the country to audition and those fortunate to land a gig would play there, sing and dance there and hone their skills in front of hundreds of people each and every day. Many have gone on to stardom.

The Rockin’ Roller coaster, the Tin Lizzies, the coffee cup ride, the Batman Coaster (I forget what it was called…see? It’s been gone too long), the country shows, the Christmas Special, even our favorite magician, gone, all gone! Our first four kids made memories we still talk about while our second four will never get to experience what it is we are talking about. Sad, so sad.

The dumbest thing that ever happened in Nashville was the day someone at the top of corporate ‘Opry-world’ decided to shut down Opryland. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Mistake! I cannot tell you how many conversations we have had with our friends about how much we miss Opryland. We all do. If you have lived in Nashville for any amount of time at all, you know what I mean.

So back to Jellystone, which, did I mention was out near Opryland, er, Opry Mills? It’s a drive through light show set to Techno-Christmas music that is synchronized with each light movement. It takes about 45 minutes to drive through the display. It’s really pretty cool. The music a little weird, I mean Techno-Christmas, really? Different, but cool. Smile. Fahlin was sort of enthralled. The other ‘littles’ enjoyed it and the big kids had a blast. Fahl Fahl is still trying to figure it all out. During the drive through, my oldest son, Jordan, asked her, “Did you celebrate Christmas in China?”

“We not have Christmas in China.” She said matter-of-factly. The drive continued.

Well, Fahlin, we are celebrating with you this year for sure. I hope you like it. As for Opryland? You will never know the many, many fabulous memories you have missed out on. Someone, bring back Opryland! Please? For Fahlin.

December 18

Jim Chapman

Dec 23 2015 1:00 AM

One week ‘til Christmas. It was also the last day of school for the little girls. Along with that, is Fahlin’s class’s kindergarten Christmas program. It consists of each child holding up a placard with two lines from “The Night Before Christmas,” and each child takes their turn saying their two lines. It’s cute. Of course, Fahlin was cutest, AND said her lines almost flawlessly.

That was followed by a rousing rendition of the song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Finally, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” followed by breakfast for the kiddos and parents.

Fahlin’s teacher, Amy Blackburn, or should I say, since she recently got married, Amy Tompkins loves Fahlin. I’m sure she loves all her students, but sometimes, you can just tell when a teacher loves your kid just a little more than the others. I’m sure it’s partly because of her circumstance, partly because of her heart, but it has to be mainly because she is smarter and cuter that the entire rest of the class combined. No doubt. We have been very fortunate to have great teachers for our ‘littles’ over the years. We have not had a clunker yet, in fact I would say just the opposite, we’ve had the best Rutherford County Schools has to offer.

Each Christmas, I let the girls select one of my paintings to take in to their teachers. Fahlin chose a heart. I thought, how appropriate. When Fahlin was recovering from her surgery, she even came to visit. Whoever the new Mr. Tompkins is, he knew a gem when he saw one. The painting will always serve as a reminder of the little girl named Fahlin who was entrusted into her care on a daily basis. Who, despite all odds, has survived to inspire those with whom she comes in contact, including her teacher. I know she inspires me.

So, now it’s seven days and counting…’til Fahlin’s first Christmas!

December 17

Jim Chapman

Dec 17 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin has a little Christmas program at school this week. Well, we all know what that means, she has to learn her lines, AND it means Daddy has some work to do as well. She brought home her poster board that had her lines on it… “When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer…” just above it is the space left for artwork. Artwork! Guess who had the ‘privilege’ of drawing a picture of Santa in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer? Me! What if I couldn’t draw? What if I were not a professional artist? What then? My daughter would have been the little child standing up there, holding her placard, not realizing that the amateurish drawing she held in her hands was embarrassingly bad. But that did not happen. Nooooo, it did not! Just another way in which God has brought Fahl Fahl into the right family.

She is so funny, Fahlin, that is. She is learning lines to a poem about a guy and his reindeer, which is about a holiday about which she knows nothing. She does not know what Christmas Eve is, that Santa brings presents, well, she sort of knows, but she doesn’t really know, and she doesn’t really know what will happen on Christmas Day when all the presents miraculously appear under the tree that has been standing in the corner of our living room for three weeks (“Why is there a tree in our living room?).

I can’t wait to see how this plays out, both Christmas and her Christmas program at school. I am pretty sure both will lead to a new blog post. As an aside, I am ecstatic that her school, Rock Springs Elementary in Rutherford County, in this day and age of political correctness, still has classroom ‘Christmas’ programs in the teachers’ classrooms (although what used to be called the Christmas choir concert is now called the Winter concert…disappointing). Hopefully, something interesting will happen during the program, like a tree falling over, or a kid will wander off, or some other similar thing, just to make it YouTube worthy and my blog memorable. But if it doesn’t, that would be okay as well. Her story will continue for now, each day of which is a blessing in and of itself. Everything Fahlin experiences this holiday season is fresh, new, a first, noteworthy even…and we, our family, are the fortunate ones who happen to have a front row seat…AT CHRISTMAS!

December 15

Jim Chapman

Dec 14 2015 1:00 AM

This is one of those ‘reflective’ blogs, maybe my first such attempt. At Christmas time, I sometimes get quiet, melancholy even. My wife accuses me of getting depressed, but that is really not the case. Case in point, we have a little girl named Fahlin that is now living in our home as part of our family who wasn’t even around last Christmas. To me, in my reflective state of mind, that is mind-boggling. What’s even more mysterious to me is that it seems as if she has always been here. [Twilight Zone music now playing in the background] What is even more mysterious are the many miracles associated with this child’s life. She is not supposed to be here, but yet here she is, excited and happy about this thing called Christmas she knows very little about.

The impact that this little girl has had on our family is monumental. Everyone knows what was supposed to happen yet has not happened and apparently will not happen any time soon. It makes this Christmas very, very special. It’s as if God has placed one of his Angels in our midst and we get to watch (as my Bro-in-Law’s song says) the Glorious Unfolding of this little miracle’s life right before our very eyes. Our big kids understood the seriousness of Fahlin’s situation and now understand the magnitude of it as well. They love her like, well, like a little sister should be loved.

Which leads me to the next little bit of my Christmas time reflective phase. My wife says stop it, my daughter, Abby, says I’m morbid, but I often sit and wonder what Christmas will be like when I am gone. I hope it is not for a very long time, but it’s kind of like I’m Ebenezer Scrooge (but NOT Scrooge-like at all) when he is being shown Christmas past, present and future. Have I grounded the kids in the faith enough? Have they been taught about Jesus? I know, I know, it’s not about what I have done, but the work He has done in their hearts. I know. But still…

Do other Dads do what I do or am just a weird dad, thinking about weird stuff? I watch the family as it gathers, as the boys banter, as the girls’ gossip (not in a gossip-y way, but rather in a girls getting together and catching up sort of way). It warms my heart. I wax nostalgic. I cry. I swell up with pride like a puffer-fish wearing a Santa Claus hat. I feel so much love in my heart I don’t know what to do with it. So much to think about my mind gets all crowded with all kids of thoughts, not all of which are morbid, I promise. I guess the best way to sum it all up is that, in my mind, Christmas feels like a Hallmark movie at our house, without the obligatory boyfriend / girlfriend drama, but instead, the all warm and fuzzy, feel good, happy endings kind of Hallmark movie.

And Fahlin? Well, Angel or not, Fahlin is the icing on Jesus Birthday cake, just waiting for that mysterious day called Christmas.

December 12

Jim Chapman

Dec 12 2015 1:00 AM

Today is a special day. It is Fahlin’s Mommy’s, my wife’s birthday. I like to say that she is the reason I am in this mess. Six girls, hormones flying around everywhere. Yes, insanity is a given in our household, and my wife and I lead the way down ‘Crazy Lane.’ But, you know better than that, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our lives are full. Our lives are blessed. God is good.

So, since this blog focuses primarily on Fahlin’s journey (with other stories and insights added as needed), I decided to interview Fahlin about her Mother. “Anything you would like to say about your Mom for her birthday?”

“Uh, I will say Happy Birthday Mommy Chapman!” She said proudly.

“Anything else?” I asked, hoping for some truly insightful thoughts from Fahlin.

“Uh, if you want me to. You are best Momma ever!”

“Why?” I asked, as any probing interviewer worth his salt, would.

“Because I love her. She pretty…Except you not pretty because you don’t have any hair.” Ouch! Where did that come from? This is supposed to be about Mom, not me. She turned on me anyway. I am not pretty, I guess. The truth can be painful sometimes. She actually told me she thought I would have black hair if I grew it out. I think probably not. “I love her very, very much,” She said finally.

The ‘littles’ all chipped in to buy Mommy a gift. I must say, since Pandora arrived, the bracelets, not the music station, gift buying for someone special, like a Mother or a wife, has become so easy. The hardest part is remembering which charms you’ve already purchased. They even giftwrap.

So our special birthday activity is a wedding. We’re all loading up and heading to Angela’s wedding. Angela is the best friend of our Daughter-in-law Ami’s. It will be good to see Ami; in fact we’re spending some time with her tomorrow. My son, Canaan couldn’t be here (he sounded sad when he called his Mom), he’s too busy flying around 60 feet in the air as Gabriel the Angel in the Prestonwood Baptist Church Christmas show. [As an aside, if you are ever in Plano, Texas around Christmas time, you need to go see the show. It rivals Broadway in every way. Each year, nearly 70,000 people attend. Incredible]

And so it is, another year in the books for the most beautiful woman on the planet. Inside AND out. There is no heart bigger, no devotion stronger, no love unsurpassed than that of my Yo. Oh sure, I spend a lot of my life on her ‘list;’ you know the one where you’re pretty much blamed for everything that goes wrong. Every husband spends time on the ‘list.’ But I have finally realized that if you live long enough, it doesn’t matter. She loves me anyway, I love her anyway and beside, there are a whole lot of more important things to worry about than the little things that do not matter, like a bunch of little girls who need our attention and care. And so it goes…

As Fahlin says, “I love her very, very much.” Me too!

December 11

Dec 10 2015 1:00 AM

Time just rolls right along, doesn’t it? Man oh man. I cannot believe Christmas is upon us. Nine months ago, when we first got Fahlin, we were bracing ourselves for a very harsh reality. That reality was that she may not make it to Christmas. Fahlin’s initial diagnosis, some six years ago was quite dire. Reaching the age of six was miraculous, as was five, and four, and three and, well you get the picture.

Here we are, nine months later, one heart cath, one open heart surgery, numerous appointments, hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills later and Christmas couldn’t be looking any brighter. We have a little girl living with us who will now experience her first REAL Christmas. Jesus is the ultimate, greatest Christmas miracle of all time, but I am going to put it out there…right here in this blog…Fahlin ranks right up there in the top ten of the all time greatest Christmas miracles in the history of the world. There!

It really hasn’t sunk in completely that Fahlin has overcome such great odds. She is a happy, thriving, skinny yet growing, intelligent little girl. She is as cute as can be; an interesting conversationalist. We have noticed she is also fairly intense. Not intense like a football player, but rather, intense in life. She is serious about everything. It’s a cultural trait we have seen over our many visits to China. She is no nonsense, focused on whatever task is at hand and doesn’t understand a lot of our humor. She has fun, mind you, but as of yet has not grasped puns, or any of my stupid humor or witty repartee.’ She does like gross humor, potty humor, and the occasional flatulence (not that I know of anyone other than Jayne who would do such things).

But, let’s get back on topic. Christmas is shaping up around our house to be the best ever. The entire family will be here, plus the grandbaby, but minus my youngest son. Sad (he just had to use ALL his vacation days on a two week trip to Europe). He will be here in spirit and on face time for sure, but will be greatly missed.

Fahlin is certainly in for a treat. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year for our family. And after everything that our little girl has been through these past nine months, we will most definitely count our blessings, be thankful for God’s goodness and appreciate the simplicity of life, while at the same time trying to grasp the even larger complexities that cause us to shake our heads in wonderment. God’s divine hand of providence was obviously on Fahlin while she grew up in China, but if her first nine months as an American citizen are any indication as to how exciting her life is going to be, well, we just need to hang on…and see how many more miracles await!

December 9

Jim Chapman

Dec 9 2015 1:00 AM

This will be an unusual blog, in that for my family, and me it all began last night with a trip down memory lane. Someone, a Facebook friend of my wife’s or a music business friend of mine from another life ago had posted a video of the country group 4Runner singing an A Capella version of the Christmas song, “What Child is This?” [I have included the link at the end of this blog for your enjoyment] Fahlin was curious as to why we were listening to that song. What she didn’t know, is that way back in the day, her Daddy was a member of the group, the bass singer in fact. The kids all gathered around to watch and listen. Of course, they laughed at their dad as he performed flawlessly on the song with his melodic bass vocals. Well this led to Mommy finding more videos of Daddy and his group performing more songs. I hadn’t heard some of these in awhile, so it was fun to watch and reminisce.

We watched “Getaway Car,” our failed attempt at a come back, but a great song nonetheless, and it sounded incredible. I had even forgotten where we filmed it. It’s pretty cool. The laughter continued. She played our first huge hit, “Cain’s Blood,” which was filmed in Hawaii, in both Maui and on the big island. Ahhh, those were the days, travelling the world, seeing the sights, playing the biggest venues with the biggest country acts. We were big…for a time.

As fate would have it (or, for us Christians who believe all things work together for good to them that love the Lord), the career only lasted a short while. Actually, about four years. It was a good run. No, it was a great run. Hit songs, Tim McGraw tours, Kenny Rogers Christmas tours, appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” trips in Reba’s private jets, the Ryman Auditorium, Fan Fair, ACM Awards, CMA Awards, and on and on it went…for a season.

The music gods giveth, and the music gods taketh away. When our record deal came to an end (due to a lot of unforeseen circumstances), it was dark time in my life. It’s a long, long story I won’t go into, but a chapter in the story of my life that apparently needed to happen in order to get us where we are today. For it was AFTER the music business days, that we realized how much God’s hand had been and was and still is involved I our lives. I really should write a book, now that I think about it. What a life I have lived, but without Jesus Christ, we, my family and I would not have survived and in retrospect, grown into this wonderful compilation of individuals our family has become.

Would we have started adopting? I don’t know. I would like to like we would have, but who knows how all those music commitments would have affected our lives? I made some great friends in the business and have memories I will never forget. I am thankful God gave me that desire of my heart, to sing and perform all over the world.

But, I like where we are. The world of adoption has changed everything about our family, our life direction, our focus. God has now given my wife Yolanda her desire, to adopt. Not so sure when we started out on this journey we planned on doing it four times, but I cannot imagine our life together without these kiddos. They have changed everything. So Izzy, Lydia, Jayne, Fahlin; go ahead and laugh at your Daddy. Those days may have fun for a season, but this new season is far more fun than I could ever have imagined.

Here’s the link. Merry Christmas! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75fZoXszRsM

December 7

Jim Chapman

Dec 7 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin is back to talking her big game again about Santa, now that the ‘ordeal’ is behind her. I walk into the house each night shouting Ho Ho Ho on by best Santa voice, and she will come running. [Side note: She runs like C3P0] “You are not scary me,” She will say.

“But I AM Santa Claus!” I will argue.

“No you are not! You don’t have a red hat!”

And so it goes, night after night. Jayne joins in the fray as well, “You don’t have a red suit!”

“Or a black belt!” They threw that one at me just last night. That was new.

Each night, as I tuck the two littlest in (they share a room), I have been reading Luke, chapter two. I read it in two parts, each part, every other night, just to ingrain it into Fahlin’s heart. It is such an important story and to think, she has never truly experienced it before, at least not in English, this is somehow sad to me, yet at the same time, exciting, because we as a family get to share the greatest story ever told to a former ‘least of these’ little girl.

How awesome is that? I send their teachers a gift each year, one of my small “Cross” paintings. The other girls understand this. So when I mentioned taking one of daddy’s paintings to the their teachers, Fahlin was not quite sure why I would do that. So I explained, that at Christmas times, we give gifts to each teacher. Then I asked her if she thinks her teacher would like one of Daddy’s paintings, to which she responded with a resounding, “Uh huh.”

So if you are Amy Blackburn, or Danette Wells, or Keith Stanley and you are reading this, act surprised if the girls show up with Christmas paintings as their gift for you. They are so excited to be able to give these to each of you. I hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas.

December 6

Jim Chapman

Dec 5 2015 1:00 AM

This weekend is the big ‘Fine Arts in Brentwood Art Show and Sale.’ I have a booth here along with 60 other local and regional artists from Nashville and the southeast. It is a big fundraiser for the school and I am so happy to be a part of it.

BUT…it is also the weekend of Fahlin’s first encounter with, (ominous music here) dun, dun, dun…SANTA CLAUS! Yes, Santa carved a few precious hours out of his busy schedule in order to make an appearance at the art show for a few hours. So, my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to bring Fahlin and the girls to Brentwood Academy to see him…BAD IDEA! Or rather, maybe GOOD IDEA!

At about 1:00, Fahlin arrived. She was talking a big game about Santa Claus. Around 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, Santa arrived. Big game over. Let the clinging to Mom begin. She grabbed on to Yolanda with a death grip that got tighter as he got closer. The tears started soon after. The hysterics happened when Yolanda edged closer to where Santa was sitting. Two thirds of the littles sat down beside Santa, no problem. Then wife tried to swoop in wit Fahlin. Screams! She was petrified! Flashes flashed, pictures were taken anyway. Then Santa threw a curve ball. He spoke to Fahl Fahl in Chinese. Xie Xie (sort of pronounced she she), which means thank you. She looked at him with a big, puzzled look. You could see the wheels turning. How in the world did Santa know that? She grinned a sly grin…briefly. It was so funny…

…And so sad. She has never celebrated Christmas, as you know. So to actually see THE Santa, in the flesh, beard and all, was rather traumatic. Think about that a minute. If a dude in a red suit with a long white beard yelling Ho Ho Ho would come to your house carrying a bag full of unknown items accompanied by eight reindeer, no make that nine, one of which has a shiny red nose while driving a big red sleigh; would you let him in your house? Yet we do every year (that part is for the kiddos).

Well, she survived the ordeal. From what I understand, she did not talk about him or even mention his name on the entire trip home. No mention at all. I’m pretty sure this was the first step toward a lifetime of counseling. I know there have been many a children traumatized by the man in red throughout history and most of them turned out okay, at least the ones I know. Thank goodness, this one knew one Chinese word. Xie Xie Santa.

December 5

Jim Chapman

Dec 5 2015 1:00 AM

So now, what does Santa (who loves Jesus), get a little girl from China who has never ‘officially’ celebrated Christmas? Santa is a lot like Jesus, in that he loves kids and His life revolves around giving gifts, although Jesus was the ultimate gift, to be clear. If you’ll remember, Fahlin didn’t want to ask Santa for much because “He doesn’t have any money,” in her words.

What does any good Santa Claus do in this situation? Well, I’m sure he has encountered little adopted girls before who have never celebrated Christmas, so he probably has a plan. So I dialed him up and asked him (not really because he is me).

We decided to start with a list. The other girls had started theirs,’ so naturally, Fahl Fahl wanted to do a list as well. Here is the list, spelled exactly as she wrote it:

Iwnta suNGlisis

anIMptaBtWKBiDriu

IWutan

??? Hilarious, I know. So I asked her what this said. What was on her list? The interpretation went like this… “I want a sunglass [she never says plurals or s’s], and I want a toy computer like Jayne [again, no s].” That’s it? Yes, that was it. Why didn’t we learn long ago as young parents, just to get them what was on their list and keep everything simple? No, we had to go overboard. I remember one year, one of our girls, I forget which one, asked only for a new set of crayons and a coloring book. C’mon, that was a softball waiting to be hit out of the park. But alas, we went…OVERBOARD. Just think how much farther ahead in our retirement plan we would be had we just been frugal at Christmas. Oh well, too late now and besides, no regrets.

Naturally, the first gifts of the holiday my wife purchased, was NOT on her list. Yet, somehow, we know she will love it. A set of Daniel Tiger stuffed animals. She loves Daniel Tiger. I miss Mr. Rogers. But I digress. So the over-boarding has begun. How do we stop the train? Not sure we can, nor do we want to…

December 4

Jim Chapman

Dec 4 2015 1:00 AM

We finally put the ornaments on the tree last night. Fahlin was so excited. She doesn’t even know why she is excited. I think it might be the glitter of the lights or the shine of ornaments, or even the stories we tell about each ornament. The funniest incident from the tree decorating session was when she picked up a small, loose cord with a disconnected bulb and wanted to know where to put it. We all giggled as Abby explained it was not really an ornament.

Again, we went over the story of Christmas. We happened to have the Charlie Brown Christmas show on TV. It was perfect timing. Linus was about to remind Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas. “Okay, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls…hurry, sit…be quiet…now listen…Linus is about to explain Christmas to Charlie Brown.”

I don’t know about you, but Linus’s version of the Christmas story, taken directly out of Luke, is the single, most inspiring moment on mainstream TV. It’s untouchable even by the political correctness police. It is proof that that a timeless truth can bless a generation or two of children and families and serve as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas all at the same time. It is a cute and memorable scene.

“See, Fahlin? That’s what we have been telling you. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.”

“You are not Santa Claus, daddy,” Interrupted Jayne. Where did that come from? We went from a Jesus moment to Santa Claus in blink of an eye.

“Oh yes I am, Jayne!”

“No you are not!”

I’ve always told our kids that, and now, kid number 7 and number eight have joined the club of unbelievers. I tried. My conscience is clear. It’s so much fun, Christmas is, at our house. Having the little ones around serve as a reminder to my wife and I to keep it light and fun. It’s a joyous time for sure. I just smile while Abby stresses, smile while my wife reminisces, smile at the overwhelming joy in Jayne’s heart, smile at Lydia’s fidgeting around the tree, smile at Izzy’s stoic, yet somehow happy approach to decorating and smile at the innocence of Fahlin’s naiveté. I makes me happy, very happy.

December 2

Jim Chapman

Dec 4 2015 1:00 AM

December already. Really? Fahlin has been home going on ten months. Unbelievable. So she had her seven-week post-op checkup, yesterday. Dr. Moore loves what he sees. She is pinker than she has ever been. She obviously feels better than she ever has. She is now going to school full days. Life is good for Fahl Fahl. She does not need to have a heart cath yet, because the pictures they are getting from the echocardiogram are revealing plenty of good news. And, the doctor tells us; he can now hear a murmur. A real heart murmur. That makes him happy

Now we begin teaching a six year old about Christmas. At Maria’s, mind you, every Christmas, the staff would bring the children together, dress them up as shepherds and wise men and even have kids play Mary and Joseph. Interestingly enough, three years ago, our Fahlin was in fact, Mary. We have the picture to prove it. It is hilarious. We have since learned that Fahlin really does not know the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, I’m certain Ms. Vicky, her pre-school teacher told them all about it, but knowing what Christmas is like here in the states compared to Christmas at a foster home in China is two different things. We are working on it.

Our tree in the living room didn’t seem to shock her at all. My wife tells me they had a tree at Maria’s. We have yet to put the ornaments on it, so we will see what memories they evoke. We have shared with her why we give gifts. She said she is only asking for two because Santa Claus doesn’t have any money (how did she know that?). We have not even talked about Santa yet and how he fits into all this Christmas equation stuff. We have focused on Jesus being born in a manger, his birthday. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

How many days there are until Christmas is not even a thought to Fahlin. While the other girls have begun the countdown, Fahlin just lives each day as a new adventure to be experienced. It will be fun to watch her on Christmas as she opens gift after gift. I remember Jayne’s first Christmas. She was four. She opened a present, saw a box, put it down and went upstairs to play. We had to go get her. I sort of expect something like that with Fahlin. It should be loads of fun. Can’t wait to see how this year’s holiday unfolds. One thing I know, when you get to be ancient as I am, having a bunch of little girls in the house sure makes Christmas fun.

November 30

Jim Chapman

Dec 3 2015 1:00 AM

I loathe traffic. The trip TO Dallas, not so bad. The trip FROM Dallas, not so bad, UNTIL Memphis. It took us almost SIX hours to get home from Memphis. Sorry, I didn’t mean to start out this blog on such a negative note. Deep breath. There, all better now. Full disclosure, the girls were awesome on the trip. Fahlin, who was really good for 11/12ths of the trip, did have that ‘episode’ at about hour number eight, and decided to throw one of her fake crying fits because Jayne wouldn’t let her look at her money thingy. Thankfully, she fell asleep for about an hour after the ‘incident.’ Did I mention it RAINED the WHOLE WAY HOME? Not fun.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, Thanksgiving (Fahlin’s first and only Thanksgiving so far) was really wonderful. Although all the kids were all in Dallas at the same time, getting them all in the same house at the same time took some doing. Friday was the day they were all in one place. Of course, the women wanted pictures. We took pictures. They even wrapped up Nash in a strand of lights and took his picture. The things moms and grandmas do to their children.

I miss my boys. Many of you do not know my two oldest are boys. I miss my boys. I think I may have already said that. The biggest moment of the weekend involved son #2, Canaan and daughter #4, Lydia. Since the day we adopted Lydia some eleven years ago, we have talked to her about Jesus, as we have with all of our kids. With every kid, it has been an easy conversation. With Lydia, it is a different story. It started like this: My son asked me where they were spiritually. I said, “Watch this, and you will see.”

“Hey, Fahl, Fahl, come here. Do you love Jesus?”

“Uh. Yes.”

“Hey Jayne, come here. Do you know who Jesus is?”

“Yeah…sir,” Came the reply.

“Hey Lydia, Come here. Can we talk to you about Jesus?” Bwaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh. Instant tears. Not just tears, but uncontrollable sobbing. It has been like this since we met. Every…single…time. My son looked at me. “She does this all the time?” I responded, “Yes, every…single…time.” We continued to try to talk to her, while the uncontrollable sobbing continued. Thirty minutes, no exaggeration. Finally, my son, the youth pastor couldn’t take it any more. His instincts kicked in. This is as far as I ever get with her. He took her and cuddled with his little sister. Another thirty minutes. No Exaggeration. Finally, he told us that he was going to take her some place quiet and away from everyone so he could talk with her on a personal level. It was a sweet, sweet moment. After about another thirty minutes, no exaggeration, here they both came out to the kitchen. “Lydia has some news for you all,” He announced. Bwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh (again). He had walked her through the sinner’s prayer and she accepted Jesus into her heart as her savior. November 28th, 2015. Luke 15:10 says, “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

How great is that moment? What a way to cap of a wonderful Thanksgiving. From Fahlin’s simple declaration that she loved Jesus to depths of Lydia’s despair, to quote David A. R. White from the movie, Revelation Road 2, we see that “God is good all the time, all the time, God is good.” I am Thankful.

November 27

Jim Chapman

Nov 28 2015 1:00 AM

So how was Fahlin’s first Thanksgiving? We tried, we really tried to teach and instruct as any good parent would, but the gist of Thanksgiving according to Fahlin is to…“being thankful.” What does that mean, Fahlin, we would ask? “Liyah gno,” She muttered unintelligibly. Huh? That was her answer. I’m not sure what she was saying, whether it was Chinese or just some weird answer she concocted, but whatever it was, it made no sense. We all giggled. One time she actually said, “Pilgrim.” Thankfully, we know what a pilgrim is.

She ate the turkey, dark meat, ate the corn casserole, the cranberry apple salad, the mashed potatoes and gravy, made by me, of course. My secret dream is one day to introduce a line of Jim’s Dips, Gravies, and Sauces to the food world. They are all my own recipes and quite good, if I do say so myself…but I digress. For a 32 lb., skinny Minnie, she does eat a lot; I’ll give her that. Where does she put it?

She really took to her sister-in-laws, both Ami and Natalie. They (Fahlin and the littles)haven’t seen them face to face, other than face time, in quite awhile. She played school, family and mother-daughter with them. It sure looked like they were having fun, especially the ‘littles.’ It was so much fun for me to just watch and listen. The grandbaby was tossed around like hot potato. He is getting cuter by the day (I feel so badly for all the grandparents in the world whose grandchildren are not as cute as our Nashy). The conversations between the boys, the women, the girls, the adults, were all so great. The political debates, the football talk, the stories that were shared, the embarrassing moments that were divulged were all just…so…so…fun.

Many of you know what it’s like to experience the feeling of pride when it comes to your family. I know some of you also have tough times at holidays. I know. But to see the family come together, especially at such a special time as Thanksgiving, and to actually have all the kids all together at the same time is simply wonderful. It is really hard to put into words all the emotions I am feeling as I type. I just sit in wonderment and smile to myself as I watch my family evolve into the next generation. A yuppie lobbyist in D.C., a youth pastor at a mega-church in Texas, a housewife in Tampa, a future psychologist…not bad, Dad (and Yo). And that’s only the first round of children. I cannot wait to see what happens with the next four.

And to watch Fahlin take it all in and process it is priceless. Does she understand this thing called Thanksgiving? Not totally. Does she know why we all gathered? No, not really. Does she realize that she herself is a gift to her family this holiday season? Definitely a no. But she is truly a huge reason for us to be thankful, but not the only reason. There is plenty for which we are thankful. Take a minute, why don’t you, and count your blessings as well.

November 25

Jim Chapman

Nov 25 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s first road trip began without a hitch, unless you call over-packing a hitch. I love being the one blamed on bringing too much stuff, when in fact it is definitely the women who over-pack…or even the baby! Babies bring waaaay too much stuff, or at least those taking care of the baby do. Amazing.

Then we got on the actual road. It didn’t take long for ‘it’ to begin. “Fahlin’s taking up too much room.” “Fahlin’s touching me.” “She’s leaning on me.” It was Jayne. So, being the experienced father that I am, I gave the obligatory stern lecture and continued on down the road to Dallas.

This was our first trip in the new car. It is obviously my wife’s new car. Since we got it, I have only driven it to church…once. I smile because it has made her so happy. So she started off driving the first leg. I didn’t even get a chance. But that’s okay, this way I don’t have to have all my shortcomings as a driver brought to my attention. Pretty nice, I must say. Turns out the first leg is seven hours. I got the last four and a half. The car is sweeeeet.

You should see us pile in and out. Whenever we stop for potty breaks or snack breaks or gas breaks, it’s like one of those circus acts where a hundred clowns climb out of a Volkswagen. In our case, you can always tell when you are in an area of the country that has not yet (and I say yet because you never know the impact a chance meeting may have on someone) embraced the world of international adoption. We notice the stares and the puzzled looks when we all walk in; this mixed, jumbled group of various ages and ethnicities. It doesn’t matter to us, though what people may be thinking in these remote areas of the country, and it’s fun on our part to speculate. Often times it leads to conversations as to why we adopted, where the girls are from, and many times leads to a more in depth conversation about God’s bigger plan for us all. It actually happens a lot.

We finally pulled into Plano, Texas at about 12:30 AM this morning. You would think everyone would have been grumpy, but no one was, well, maybe Izzy a little. Everyone was so excited to see their big brother Canaan, and his wife Ami, and likewise, they were as excited to see us as well. Son-in-law Adam arrives tonight, my oldest son Jordan and his new bride are already here, so the fam is together, all in on place, a rare occurrence these days, and in Dallas, no less, but a welcomed one to be sure.

So this morning Fahlin locked herself in the bathroom, also a first, only to discover that she did not know how to unlock the bathroom door, also another first. Thanksgiving couldn’t start out any better!

November 23

Jim Chapman

Nov 25 2015 1:00 AM

The holiday season is upon us and for the Chapman Clan, it promises to be quite interesting. It is Fahlin’s first Thanksgiving, which she knows nothing about. It is also, Fahlin’s first Christmas, which she knows nothing about. She has never celebrated either of these holidays. Part of me thinks, how sad; another part of me thinks of it a great opportunity to share not only the story of Christmas with her, but also the gospel, through the story of Christmas. We assume everyone knows the true meaning of Christmas, of Thanksgiving, of Easter for that matter, but millions of people do not. Think about that…and our family has one of those individuals living with us right now…Fahlin.

I remember Jayne’s first Christmas. She was four and a half, and had never opened a present in her life. Her first Christmas was just a month after we return from China with her. We gave her her first gift, she unwrapped it, “What is this? A box?” She must have thought? Next thing we knew, she was upstairs playing. The gift, unopened.

As I was out putting Christmas lights on the house yesterday, Fahlin wanted to know what I was doing and how she could help. “Do you know why we are putting light son or house and bushes?” I asked. “Uh, no,” Came the reply (she always puts an ‘uh’ on her one word answers). I explained to her that it was one of the many things we do during the holidays to celebrate. We decorate, we give gifts, we gather with friends and family and eat food, we sing songs, and we put up lights on the bushes, all because of Jesus’s birth. Well you could imagine, I was getting too deep for her. So I just let her hold the lights, feed them to me as put them on the bushes. She had a blast. Then she would help her sister, Abby, who was in charge of the railings on the porch. It was freezing outside, but she didn’t seem to mind. She actually turned a little blue, which was different. We haven’t seen that shade on her in a while.

We are heading out to Dallas tomorrow. My youngest son lives there with his wife. My oldest son’s wife’s family is in Dallas as well, so he and his wife will be there. My oldest daughter surprised us last week and decided just to hang and extra few days and ride to Dallas with us where her husband will meet us on Thanksgiving. See how that all worked out? Of course the ‘littles’ have no choice, they just load up and go wherever their parents take them.

And Fahlin? Well Fahlin is excited to be going to Dallas for Thanksgiving, despite not knowing what it is. She will have a blast. We will have a blast. Just having the fam all together is good enough for me. But adopting these four little ones has brought a sobering new reality to our family. There really is a lost and dying world out there not among the least of which are 150 million orphans and we get to make a difference in lives of four of them. Make that 149, 999, 996.

November 21

Jim Chapman

Nov 25 2015 1:00 AM

Our oldest daughter, Bethany, or Babz (with a ‘z’) as we call her lives in Tampa with her husband, Adam and their son, Nash (Fahlin’s nephew, well, all our kids’ nephew). We were so humbled to find out that Adam and Bethany had decided to start their family through adoption. We knew deep down that our kids had been impacted by the lives of the ‘littles,’ and kind of had a feeling one or more of them would adopt at some point, but to jump right in and actually start their family through a domestic adoption was pretty cool on their part.

The final paperwork was signed, sealed and delivered on Wednesday of this week. Nash is officially a part of our family, their family and our first grandbaby; and nothing will ever be able to change that. Not that either Yo (in case you did not know, I call my wife Yo, short for Yolanda) or I are old enough for grandchildren, mind you. Yes, our first grandchild was adopted and brought home from the hospital at one day old.

Well, all of that to say, that Bethany was feeling rather homesick on Tuesday. Adam, being the ever attentively astute husband that he is, had four days off, saw how homesick his wife was, and so they loaded up the car and turned the eleven-hour drive into a ten-hour drive and showed up here in Nashville. How happy are we to see them? Ecstatic!

It doesn’t take long, however, to forget about Bethany and Adam and focus solely on Nashy. He is so cool. And Fahlin? Well Aunt Fahlin just has a way with babies. When she was in China, she was actually a little assistant caretaker of the babies in her room. She could discipline, feed, rock and change diapers all at the same time. So taking care of Nash is second nature to Aunt Fahlin. In fact, just yesterday, Fahlin was holding Nash when everyone looked over and saw that he had fallen asleep in his Aunt’s arms. Sweet. As an aside Jayne unfortunately, does not have that gift, but she loves Nash dearly. Poor Jayney.

If we were ever going to leave any sort of legacy, the life-changing world of adoption would be it. It’s so great to see Nash being loved unconditionally. We know in our hearts that each of our children have been deeply impacted by the ‘littles.’ Each of their stories is unique by its self, and together, the four of them have quite a backdrop on which to paint a marvelous masterpiece. As the second generation of families begins, our hope is that one day, each of our kids will follow Bethany’s lead. Their lives will be better because they did.

November 18

Jim Chapman

Nov 19 2015 1:00 AM

Fahl Fahl is back at school. Last Friday, the doctors cleared her to be around people, go back to her school and just get back to normalcy. Of course, she is soooooo excited to be back at school with her friends. She did not fall behind at all in fact; she actually learned to read a whole lot of sight words and was able to basically keep up with class. It’s no wonder though, I would guess the school probably sent home 200 pages of work, and she did every last one of them.

The funniest thing about going back to school was Monday. Since my wife had to work that day, we had made arrangements for Fahlin to stay with Aunt Mary Beth. So we asked her, “Fahlin, do you want to go back to school on Monday or stay with Aunt Mary Beth on Monday and start school Tuesday?” I was not even close…Aunt Mary Beth won. So no matter how badly she missed something, Aunt Mary Beth trumps everything.

Little did we, or Fahlin, for that matter, realize how exhausted she would be. We decided to initially start her back with half days. It’s a good thing we did. She was draaaaaaaaging after the first day. She even went home and collapsed on the couch and semi took a nap. She never does that. Of course, since she was so exhausted, it made it much easier to put her to bed (her bed) at a much more reasonable hour and since she was so tired, it did not take long for her to fall asleep, hand over her face in that familiar Fahlin position.

Waking her up in the mornings is a different story. She is NOT a morning person. So it takes her awhile to get going. She is so funny in the mornings. She sort of walks around in stealth mode. If she weren’t so cute and sweet, you would probably think she was kind of creepy. She’s not, but I could see how someone would think that. For now, she’s back to school for half days. Her friends are happy to have her back, her teacher, who is so sweet, is happy to have her back and we are happy to have her back.

November 17

Jim Chapman

Nov 17 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin has been cleared to go back to school, repeat; Fahlin has been cleared to go back to school. Amazing. It was only 34 days ago she was lying on an operating table with her chest split open. We were told, as you know, not to expect any great changes in her coloring or oxygen saturation levels, that this was only a step toward the finished product. BUT, God has once again showed up in a big way in Fahlin’s life. Her hands, fingers and tongue are all pink! Her O2 levels have gone up, especially when she is resting, sometimes even as high as 86, which is very high for her, low for a normal human (Fahlin is superhuman, to be clear).

She has also finally matriculated to her bed, finally, hahaha. I must admit, how I made that happen was a stroke of genius on my part. “So,” I said (something like this) to Fahlin, “I think tonight after you go to sleep, Daddy is going to put you in your own bed and when you wake up tomorrow, you will be in your own room. Your heart is better now, so it’s time to sleep in your own bed.” “Okay Daddy,” Came the sweet reply.

My wife said I was being mean. Mean?!!!? How is that mean? I am only looking out for Yolanda’s own wellbeing. I mean she DOES need to get her beauty sleep after all, not that she needs much beauty sleep because she is already beautiful. But I do know how much she cherishes every possible minute of sleep. Me? I don’t need no stinkin’ sleep! Give me six hours and I’m good.

So the plan was implemented. Fahlin would climb in bed with us, jabber incessantly for an hour or so, fall asleep then be taken to her bed. That was the plan. Everything was going accordingly until Yolanda and I both fell asleep BEFORE Fahlin. Next thing we know, it’s morning and she’s still there, in our bed! It was a Friday night, so I got up. Fahlin slept ‘til about 9:00. I heard her skinny footsteps coming down the stairs. The first thing she said to me was, “Why you not take me to my bed?” Boom! I knew I had her. So that night, I waited, and sure enough, she fell asleep (really it was fake sleep, but she thinks I didn’t know it was fake). I scooped her up and off we went to her room. She was smiling the whole time. Task accomplished!

So Fahlin now sleeps in her own bed. I was afraid it was going to stretch out to eight or ten months. No more sweaty nights. No more head on my hip. No more feet in my face. No more 200 stuffed animals interferring with my nostrils. No more little pat-a-pat-pat on my cheeks. How much more of this can one man take? Yolanda’s little, human shield is now gone. Poor thing…Yolanda, I mean (Insert smile here).

November 15

Jim Chapman

Nov 15 2015 1:00 AM

Take-aways from the weekend. Friday evening, Fahlin was standing outside the aVenue Friday night with my niece, Emily was hanging out with her. Emily asked Fahlin if she was could and wanted her scarf; Fahlin pointed to her chest and said, “No thank you, I have my own.”

It seemed as if everyone who was in attendance knew who Fahlin was or had been on a mission trip to Louyang and had pictures of themselves with Fahlin. Fahlin would patiently stand there and look at the pictures, and then when asked of she remembered taking any of those pictures; she would shake her head no, then smile.

Friday night was ‘Bluegrass Gospel Night’ with Steven Curtis Chapman and family. I was fortunate to have been asked by my bro-in-law to participate and do some singing with the family. His brother Herbie, who has a fantastic voice in his own right and who is my favorite singer of all time (having spent years on the road singing with him), his dad Big Herb and even my dad all joined us on stage. It was a fun night of gospel singing. You don’t hear Steven like this very often. The crowd loved it. Fahlin’s dad even got to sing a couple solos.

Saturday morning, her story again stole the show. As Mary Beth conducted the interview and we answered our way through the questions it was apparent that the audience was smitten with Fahlin. When she finally made it to the stage, she was a living testament not only to the care she received in China at Maria’s Big House, but also to the power of a loving family, supported by the prayers of friends, loved ones and people we don’t even know.

We were overwhelmed at how just how beautiful Fahlin’s picture turned out that was used on the cover of the Show Hope Miracles publication “Believe,” that was handed out to all in attendance. The book highlights the many miracle stories often associated with adoption. When you see the videos, hear the stories, you just sit there stunned by how obvious the hand of God is in each story. It is an emotional weekend. I cannot watch any of the featured videos without choking up, tearing up, or just plain boohooing. It’s pretty awesome to know we are a part of something so big it is too much for my puny brain to understand. God is definitely IN the business of miracles.

And finally, to the many, many people who came up and told me how much you have been enjoying this blog, thank you. To know that people read what I write has encouraged me to continue documenting the amazing life journey of Fahlin (and her sisters, for that matter). Feel free to share the link all over the world!

November 13

Jim Chapman

Nov 13 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin is so cute. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that. But last night she was even cuter. My girls had attacked me and I was giving ‘horsey’ rides all over the living room. Man those girls are getting heavy, but I digress. Fahlin was just watching and giggling and when we had finished, she walked over to me and, being her usual animated self, gestured to her scarf (her word for her chest scar), and said, “I can’t ride on your back Daddy because my heart (her words).” She made a vertical motion to her chest with her little gecko hand. Awww, I just motioned to her and said, “Well then, how ‘bout a Daddy hug?” She hugged me.

I have noticed since the surgery that Fahlin talks incessantly and loudly. Having been to China eight or nine times (no, I don’t bring home a child EVERY time I go), you sort of get a feel for how Chinese people act in general. One characteristic of the Chinese is that they do seem to talk loudly and their normal conversations seem to have a serious, almost angry tone to them. Fahlin is that way. She so literal. She is so serious. She is so ‘matter-of-fact.’ Dare I say it? She is so…cute!

Anyway, when she gets involved with a conversation, she gets serious and loud. I asked Yolanda if she is loud all day, she is, on and off apparently. Of course, on occasion I myself have been accused of being loud, so I guess she fits right in.

My kids think I am loud. So, of course I love it when my kids mock me. They all use the same loud, low tone whenever they make fun of me. Go ahead kids; laugh away. Some day the old man won’t be around for you to kick when he’s down. But then, you will just amuse yourself with funny ‘Dad’ anecdotes using the ‘Dad’ voice. I hope I’m leaving you some good material. That’s all right though; I would do the same thing.

For now, I will just amuse myself by watching each of you (and poke fun where and when needed) and especially keep an eye on the progress of Fahlin’s Americanization. It has already been a fun process up to this point (notwithstanding the not so fun part called surgery). We will just continue to see where this road takes us…and if it gets quieter.

November 11

Jim Chapman

Nov 11 2015 1:00 AM

This weekend Fahlin is going to be a star. It’s the big Show Hope fundraising weekend and Fahlin will be one of the big stars, along with her Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary Beth. Each year Show Hope honors families from around the globe who have adopted and this year, our family has been chosen as one of those stories to be shared. I’m pretty sure it’s because a little girl named Fahlin has a special place in Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s heart.

Fahlin goes with them all the way back to the very beginnings of Show Hope. To a dark time in our families’ history. To a time when a flower bloomed out of the sadness into what has become known as Maria’s Big House of Hope. She was one of the first seeds that were planted in the caring and fertile soil of that big blue building with the clouds.

The sad, tragic truth is, some of the small babies who come to Maria’s for care are simply too sick to survive. On those unfortunate occasions, for some of the sickest of the sick, Maria’s has provided a loving, caring place for those children who are called the ‘least of these’ to breathe their last breath. Never alone, never afraid, never the least of these…instead, a launching pad, if you will, for them to soar above the painted clouds and into eternity with Jesus.

Far greater are the success stories, those who have blossomed into their own petals of beauty and life. Fortunate to have been blessed with a family all their own. Ours is one of the fortunate ones. All of Fahlin’s original friends have new families as well and the number continues to grow. Show Hope has helped bring home nearly 4000 children who are no longer called orphans.

To have been such a small part in a story that has so many big pictures, is an honor and to be honored by Show Hope is wonderful. We will share part of Fahlin’s story through a video interview, as will the other families, but we know that Fahl Fahl will steal the show when they show her playing with the nativity scene. If you don’t cry, you don’t have a heart (pun intended).

I’m sure I have used Jeremiah 29:11 before, but it is so appropriate today… “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He has given Fahlin a future.

P.S. Happy Birthday Mom!

November 9

Jim Chapman

Nov 10 2015 1:00 AM

So my wife went back to work at the hospital for the first time in over six weeks. She was out, obviously because of Fahlin’s surgery. I guess she finally felt comfortable leaving her with Dad. It’s both god and bad to have a wife who works in the health care industry. The good is she knows what goes on in a hospital. The bad is she knows what goes on in a hospital. That’s why she felt the need to warn me about how awful Fahlin would look in the ICU and what to expect when I walked into a room. The Hospital is a scary place.

So back to my weekend with Fahl Fahl. I learned a great deal from her. For instance, why she doesn’t like her Daddy’s kisses. I don’t shave on weekends, which explains a lot. I found out she doesn’t like my scratchy whiskers, so no kisses. I also found out that she now likes her nasty tasting medicine. With animated gestures she told me, “I take my nasty medicine ten times, now it taste good.” So just to be clear I asked her, “Are you saying that your nasty tasting medicine does not taste nasty any more?” “Yes!”

I continued to learn a lot more about Fahlin. Did you know she talks non-stop? All day? Everyday? So I listened and watched and nodded and bantered with her. She has an incredible vocabulary, all English and well beyond her years. But she does not say plurals or s’s on any of her words. Must be a side effect of speaking Chinese for six years then learning English. I am pretty sure it will come to her as she grow(s). I did that on purpose, that’s how she speak(s).

I have been busy painting my fingers off preparing for the big BA Art Show in December. So I promised the little girls they could paint with me. So off to the ‘studio’ we trudged, dressed in old clothing, because I know how messy it gets in the Chapman garage. I painted, they painted, we all painted for hours. Everything for them was basically an abstract because I told them to cover the entire surface. It was a blast. In fact, since Fahlin is the featured child for this coming weekend’s upcoming Show Hope fundraising festivities, I had this brilliant idea that my Brother-in-Law should auction off Fahlin’s painting. They loved the idea, so I’m anxious to see what it brings. A small fortune, I would hope, for a great cause.

Finally, I learned that if Fahlin doesn’t eat about every two hours, she gets grumpy. Hoo boy, does she get grumpy. Come to think of it, that is just one more indicator that she is pretty much back to normal. But feed her we must. She still loves eggs, all kinds of eggs, any time of the day. She still loves Cocoa Krispies. She loves milk, both with and chocolate. Loves popcorn, spaghetti, and yogurt. She has a pretty good appetite and she usually always finishes what is put in front of her.

I know she does not like me going to school, teaching and coaching all day. She has told me “You gone too much!” So this past weekend has been good for us both. She is still cute as ever, clever as ever, serious as ever and spunky as ever. I am so glad we got to share some time with each other. Oh, and by the way, she is still sleeping between us. I have really GOT to figure out what to do about it…(insert smile)

November 7

Jim Chapman

Nov 7 2015 1:00 AM

I just wonder sometimes why God puts us in the places He puts us. He tells us in His word “Not to be anxious…” and to ‘Cast all our [cares] on Him because He cares for us.” But sometimes, even though we have done this good thing called adoption, we run into these ‘things’ in life called obstacles. I was somehow hoping that adopting cute little girls would earn us some ‘good grace’ points with the man upstairs and we could at last, put all the hard life stuff behind us. But nooooooooooooo, I guess there is more He wants to learn…or teach our children by modeling how we deal with all these…‘things.’

We knew there would be major obstacles with Fahlin, and Jayne (with all her medical needs as well) for that matter. But what about those times when there’s more month at the end of the money? Or that filling falls out of your tooth and you discover that it will take a root canal and three visits and a couple thousand dollars to fix it (not that that is happening to anyone I know in our family at this moment)? Or that pesky possum that thinks your garage is his home? I (was going to say hate) don’t like stuff like this. They make me feel inadequate as a father, husband and person for that matter. Don’t worry, I know better. These ‘things’ remind me to pray. Not that I don’t, but to focus my prayers on casting my cares on Him. Makes a big difference.

To be honest, I would like for there to be a period of life when just once, when someone asks, “How are you?” and we answer “Fine,” we actually mean fine. Fahlin doesn’t know when we run into struggles. When her parents are facing some unforeseen circumstance. As for our other children, I would prefer they don’t know our struggles…at least I think so.

But for all of our struggles, they pale in comparison to the struggles of our ‘littles.’ Of Fahlin and her serious heart issues. Of Jayne and her many, many, many medical issues and her brush with death when she was a just a newborn. Of Lydia’s being abandoned in a small, handmade basket at the orphanage gate with her umbilical cord still attached. And of Izzy’s sad beginning to her life in a cardboard box along the side of a road at a non-descript marketplace in Yueyang, China some fifteen years ago. They don’t remember those times, to be sure, but Fahlin is still living hers.

Problems? I am embarrassed by what I consider difficult and ashamed when I feel inadequate or sorry for myself. I do not have time for self-pity. I do not have time to fret. And anxiety? I wish it would just go away. But, do you see what I mean? My problems do not even compare.

I truly do not mean for this blog to be some sort of pathetic attempt at gaining sympathy. No, not at all. I just needed to vent a little. Otherwise, I would not have been able to sleep. I have come to realize that when I write, I can move onto the next thing. I know that what we have been called to do is of utmost importance. There are now four little girls (well, one medium sized) who depend on my wife and I to take care of them…despite ‘things.’ That’s what we intend to keep doing.

November 6

Jim Chapman

Nov 6 2015 1:00 AM

This blog is dedicated to my sister. Today is my sister Mary Beth’s birthday. Yes, Fahlin’s Aunt Mary Beth is turning “Seventy,” according to Fahlin, “In her sixties,” according to Jayne. Full disclosure here, they both think I am 106. I don’t think I will correct them, but rather just smile and leave it at that. So happy birthday, Mary Beth!

I love my sister. She is probably the biggest reason (other than God) that my life is infested with four of the cutest little Chinese ladybugs there are. We are so blessed to have had our lives turned upside down by these girls. It was over 15 months ago now that we sat down with her and Steven and had our initial conversation concerning Fahlin. Now, here we are, amazed at how well she is doing…Fahlin, that is

Whenever we get together with Beth and Steve, they continue to marvel at her progress. It is always good to get someone else’s perspective that doesn’t see her everyday. Whenever they see her they always remark about how her color looks so good. We see it everyday, however, it is always good to get another point of view.

So, congratulations Mary Beth. You’ve made it to your sixties (not really). Don’t worry; I’ll not reveal the real age as that only makes me older as well. But let me just tell you how proud I am of you and the work you’ve done through the establishment of the Show Hope Foundation. Faith can move mountains, but so can God…and Mary Beth Chapman. Nothing can stop her. Many times during our adoptions, we would hit roadblocks or closed doors. The next thing you knew, problem solved. We would always suspect it was my sister making something happen behind closed doors, or was it God? I don’t know how many times we have mentioned God and Mary Beth in the same breath. I am certain she will have a special place in eternity right beside Jesus himself as she plays and dances with her daughter Maria, the namesake of Maria’s Big House, which is where Fahlin came from, of course. Fahlin would not be here if it were not for Aunt Mary Beth. Hundreds of kids would not have families. Lives would not have been changed.

Once again, happy birthday, thank you and I love you.

November 3

Jim Chapman

Nov 3 2015 1:00 AM

We are starting to suspect that Fahlin has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Mayo clinic defines it as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event either by experiencing it or witnessing it. Our suspicion is that the whole open-heart experience from pre-op to surgery to recovery traumatized our little girl.

You will remember she asked us if she could sleep with us until her heart was all better. Well, that was three weeks ago and she’s still stuck right in the middle of our king sized sleep number bed. Of course, I am trying like crazy to convince her that her heart is getting better and it’s time to go back to her bed and sleep with Jayne. I’m obviously trying harder than my wife, by the way. Anyway, last night when we asked her if she would like to keep Jayne company by sleeping in her room, she looked at us and said, “I’m scared to sleep by myself.”

Well. How do you respond to that? After a few more probing questions, it was apparent she is not ready yet, at least in her mind. That was when my wife brought up the idea that she could have PTSD. I never would have thought that. I would have just kept thinking she was being stubborn or milking this for all it’s worth. I have no idea what the treatment is. I suppose it’s something to ask about when we see the surgeon on Friday.

I read that any extended hospital stay can cause PTSD. I am hoping that Fahlin really isn’t experiencing it and that her extended stay on the sleep number is about over. I don’t think there is anything to this. It was just a thought, but nonetheless, we will keep our eye on things.

She is progressing phenomenally. To me she pretty much seems to be back to her normal self. Perhaps I should resort to drastic measures. Maybe I could bribe the other kids to let her sleep with them…or simply enjoy Fahlin’s wiggling and talking and roasting hot body heat for a few more months. I mean, someday in the blink of an eye or should I say quicker than a heartbeat, she’ll be heading off to college. Then what?

November 1

Jim Chapman

Nov 1 2015 1:00 AM

Here are a few takeaways from Fahlin’s Friday follow-up appointment with our cardiologist. First of all, we were told that this first procedure was merely that, the first step toward a larger picture. We were told not to expect any major changes in her coloring or her O2 level for that matter. BUT, and I use all caps because we have seen a BIG difference, again with the caps, in her coloring. Her O2 numbers have climbed a little as well. Our pediatrician, our cardiologist and the surgeon all say she looks great. Our family, who know her intimately, even says she looks great.

I think once again there is more at play here than just medical breakthroughs. God is at work in Fahl Fahl’s life…again. It seems to me there must be something big in Fahlin’s life that awaits her somewhere in the future because God’s hand is totally evident in her life. We have seen it over and over since we returned home with her seven months ago, and those who knew her before, in China have seen it as well.

As I was driving to a morning meeting the other day, I was having a very special prayer time. It was weird. The special prayer time wasn’t weird, but the feeling that came over me was. There was a definite moment when the still small voice of God was speaking directly to me. I felt a warmth, a calming assurance that our family was directly in the center of His will. As God continued to speak I just knew that He had been preparing me for this moment in our life and felt an awesome sense of responsibility to have been chosen to be a part of our sweet Fahlin’s life. I am humbled. We are humbled. Peace. I felt peace. That’s unusual in these hustle and bustle lives that we live. So to feel an overwhelming sense of peace like this is both unusual and welcomed.

And frightening! What does the future hold? Where do I (we) fit in? What will we be called on to do? I don’t know the answers, but I have figured out that trusting God is pretty easy to do. To rely on Him has proven easy as well. He has always taken care of us and now that we are involved with raising little girls from half way around the world, our understanding of trusting Him has deepened. So, when whether we run short of funds, or something takes us by surprise, or the unexpected happens and throws us a curve, we just trust. Where Fahlin is concerned, trust is a given.

October 31

Jim Chapman

Nov 1 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s first Halloween. Halloween is my least favorite holiday, but being the great Dad that I am, the girls still get dressed up and go trick or treating. It really is all about the kids and the candy. But Fahlin knew nothing of this strange holiday. “I don’t know what is Halloween,” She said. Well, girlie, you’re about to find out.

Now, the doctor told us that she could go trick or treating, but to be careful and by all means, keep her hands clean. We all know what was happening Saturday, rain! It looked hopeless most of the day, but as the evening neared, the rain subsided just long enough to get out and hit a few houses. She could not believe that people would give her candy for no apparent reason

My sister had called and we arranged to meet at our friend Donna’s house. She hosts an annual Halloween bash and at the time, when it was raining, hanging out at the house instead of walking around in the rain sounded pretty good to me. Of course we told her that we would have to bolt at the first sign of someone else’s kid with a runny nose. She understood, because guess what, yep, she also had met Fahlin while she was in China on a Show Hope mission trip, and knew most of her story.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the rain stopped around 6:00 so off we went. Donna’s neighborhood is full of pretty large houses with pretty large yards with pretty long driveways. No way Fahlin could make the journey. So, again, being the great dad that I am, I pulled out the collapsible wagon and off we went. We would pull her up to the house, I would reach down and lift her out then she would climb the few stairs and put on the cute face. All was well until about house number seven. That was the house that left the door open and when the girls rang the doorbell, three humongous dogs came charging, all the while barking right into the faces of the girls. Fahlin screamed bloody murder. I thought she was going to have a heart attack, or at the very least, wet herself. Her first experience with Halloween and THIS! At this point she’s probably thinking, “This Halloween stuff isn’t so fun! I almost just got eaten by a pack of ravenous dogs!” The rest of the night, she wouldn’t budge out of that wagon, so one of the girls or even myself would hold the bag.

But the funniest part of the evening happened when we got home. We all know that the first thing kids do when they get home is to dump out their candy and see what they got. But Fahlin said, “What I do now with my candy, Daddy?” She didn’t even know to do that, so I told her to dump the candy out on the table and count the pieces. Do what Lydia is doing. So she did that. “Now what I do with the candy?” “Tomorrow you can eat it, but for now, it’s bedtime.

So there you have it, Fahlin’s first Halloween. Thirty-eight pieces of candy, a near death experience at the hands of three very large Labrador retrievers, and more candy than she has ever seen…that people just gave to her, for no reason. I don’t think she will have any trouble remembering Halloween (She dressed up as a…Doctor!)

October 27

Jim Chapman

Oct 26 2015 1:00 AM

As I write this it has been two weeks since Fahlin’s surgery. This time two weeks ago, my wife and I were nervous wrecks. We didn’t know what to expect and were afraid of the worst. But the prayers of the faithful avail(s?) much. We are pretty sure that there were millions of prayers being offered up on behalf of Fahlin, from all over the world in fact. We could feel the power at the hospital room. I know people say that, but we really could. It was surreal.

So here we are two weeks later. She seems to be back to normal. She keeps herself busy, gets mad at her sister and pouts when she doesn’t get her way. Excellent! She must be doing very well. We couldn’t be happier. Of course, now we have to get back to the full time job of parenting Fahlin. She is definitely a different animal. We’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

As you will recall, she wanted to sleep with us, “Til my heart gets better.” My back is hurting because of Fahl Fahl. Yes, she is still sleeping between us. Not just between us, but half the night she crowds me, the other half she crowds Yolanda. And she sweats. She is so hot it’s like sleeping with a furnace in the middle of our bed. So since I can’t move, my back aches. Forget my sleep number (60), it is rendered irrelevant when there is a little girl sleeping ‘catawampus’ (as my wife says, but she adds an ‘r’ as in caterwampus) in the middle of everything.

The last two weeks have been a blur. I cannot really remember many details, but I do remember the machines to which she was connected and to see that now it is all long gone and she’s behaving like a normal Fahlin is, well, so wonderful to me. She is so funny when she doesn’t get her way; funny when she is hungry, funny when she tries to run, funny in so many ways. The old pre-surgery Fahlin. I am just so glad we’ve taken the first steps toward getting her heart straightened out. It makes the funny more memorable.

The doctor told us not to expect any significant improvement in her color or energy levels, but I have to tell you, her color is better. Trust me, I’m an art teacher, I know my colors. Her fingers are pinker, her lips are too. And her O2 numbers back up our claim. 84. That’s the highest it has been since we’ve known her. Call me crazy, but this little girl continues to defy the odds. Our hope is that one day in the future, she will embrace her story and understand the dire circumstances she overcame and how God kept his hand on her little, skinny, sweaty body the entire time. It will be quite a story…has been quite a story…it IS quite a story, so far…

October 24

Jim Chapman

Oct 25 2015 1:00 AM

The surgery, the post surgery and now having Fahlin home have taken its toll on my wife. She stayed with Fahlin while she was in the hospital. She couldn’t leave her. I hated to leave myself, but Dad had to be home with the ‘littles.’ Do you know that there are kids in the hospital who are alone? No one there with them, by themselves. Where are the parents? How could you leave them? Babies, big kids, disabled kids. I don’t get it.

So it’s understandable that Yolanda is maybe a bit stressed. She hides it well on the outside, but I’m pretty certain it’s there. Because who gets blamed for everything around our house? You guessed it. Why did you drink my water? Did you make the mess with the butter dish? Is it so hard to put a cup in the dishwasher? Do you always have to wear your headphones when you work on your art? How am I supposed to talk to you? If I did that, I would never hear the end of it. Do you know that sometimes your sweaty bandanas stink? How low can someone go, attacking my poor bandanas?

But you know what? I don’t mind. I have broad shoulders. And I understand my role in all of this and that is to be a great husband and if need be, indeed be the punching bag. I say bring it on. I remind her (and my family) that someday I’ll be dead and gone and then what will they do? Huh? Who will they make fun of then? My daughter, Abby will then start on me by saying something like, “Dad, why do you have to go get all morbid on us?

I don’t get all morbid. I do it in a southern, backwoods hillbilly sort of voice. You know, the embarrassing kind of stuff that dad’s do but never tell anyone about. Oops, well, I guess you all know now that I do weird stuff. I must be a normal dad. Luckily, Fahl Fahl doesn’t understand, she just goes along with everyone when they start making fun of me. And she laughs. For now, I’ll just keep a list and try to improve on my imperfections. Impossible.

October 23

Jim Chapman

Oct 25 2015 1:00 AM

The first surgery was life saving, the next is life CHANGING. As our pediatrician stood there smiling at Fahlin, all he could do was shake his head in amazement. He knows the backstory. How she had no hope. He’s a big supporter of my sister’s work, so he knows the stories. When her oxygen level was checked today, it was 84. 84. When we brought her home, it was 60. After the stent, 78. Now this.

I asked about her coloring, which seems better. He agreed. It’s because more blood is reaching the harder to reach places that it didn’t reach before. There’s a medical word for it, which he told me but of course, I forget. Our surgeon had told us before the surgery that we would not see a big difference in her color or energy level, the key word being big. There’s definitely a little difference, so we’ll take it.

Dr. Leeper listened to her heart. He smiled some more. He said he could hear the shunt working perfectly. A swooshing sort of noise. He could not be more pleased. Of course, every good visit has to get ruined with a shot. This time it was the flu shot. Bummer. He told us to stay out of stores, schools and to skip church for a while. Those places are where the germs hide in plain site. Dangerous. So for now, that is our plan. In the meantime, we keep getting the automated phone calls from Rutherford County Schools telling us our daughter is absent and in danger of being considered truant. Don’t worry, we filled out the necessary documents and I called an old friend in the attendance office.

Since she has been home, I swear she seems different. She smiles more, she is calmer, she seems appreciative in a way that we had not noticed before, which leads me to believe; she IS simply more appreciative since the surgery. I even mentioned this to my wife. So when Dr. Leeper also said, “She seems different…” I looked at my wife and said, “See, I told you!” Something has changed. Since the doctor said it also, it’s a true medical diagnosis.

So what’s next on the agenda? Next week she sees Dr. Moore, our cardiologist. In three weeks, she sees the surgeon, and in two to three months, another heart cath to check on the progress. I find myself sometimes just looking at her, staring, overwhelmed at the wonderful story that unfolding right before our eyes…and I can’t help but think about her future and how great it is that for now, after all, look how far she’s come…

October 21

Jim Chapman

Oct 23 2015 1:00 AM

Here we are, one week removed from Fahlin’s surgery, one week, and home since Sunday. The advances of modern medicine blow my mind. I mean, they don’t even sew up the chest anymore, they glue it! Glue I say! What madness! The crazier thing is the scar it not nearly as noticeable. That is a good thing.

Since she has been home, Fahlin has been non-stop. Up, down, over here, over there, talking up a storm, yes, you heard me, talking a proverbial blue streak. About everything. It’s as if she knows she has been blessed with a new lease on life, so she wants to tell us how much she loves us and pretty much about anything else that comes to mind. It’s a great relief to have her home so a little jabbering doesn’t bother me at all.

When I come home in the evenings, I have to hug all the girls. Of course, Fahlin comes up to me as well. Just yesterday I leaned down and started to hug her, “Mommy [say] be careful of my heart.” I almost cried. So I was careful of her heart.

Things are a little different now. Later that same night, at bedtime, Fahlin came up and climbed into our bed. Yes, I said our bed. I actually offered to let her sleep in my spot until she felt better, but she insisted that she sleep BETWEEN Mommy and Daddy, as long as we…you guessed it, were careful. I found out that she had asked my wife earlier if she could sleep with us until she was better. Well, that’s going to be eight to 10 months from now, after the next and final surgery. Grin.

I doubt it will be ten months of little Fahl Fahl sleeping between us. After all, I am the father of eight. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. But for now, I am (we are) perfectly content to have this little furnace sleeping between us to remind us how fortunate we are to have her in our lives and to remind us that there is a very big God who is bigger than all of us who is large and in charge…of everything, including one little girl’s heart. I’ll be careful.

October 19

Jim Chapman

Oct 19 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin came home from the hospital yesterday (Sunday). Open heart surgery on Tuesday, home on Sunday. Seems pretty miraculous to me. The doctors simply told us, “There is no need to keep her here.” Who are we to argue with the medical professionals?

So home she came. The princess has arrived, safe and sound, albeit with a five-inch scar on her chest that wasn’t there a week ago. Remember when I told you how she wasn’t speaking to anyone at the hospital? Well, that’s all changed. Now she is jabbering non-stop. Literally, constant talking. My guess is she is telling us everything she wanted to tell us while at the hospital, the good, fun stuff, that is. I’m sure she is keeping the angry vitriol to herself…I hope.

Of course Aunt Mary Beth and Uncle Steve and cousin Shaoey and Grandniece, Eiley had to come see her. Chaos ensued, but boy was it good to see her up and around. My wife and I haven’t been able to breathe for about five days, and we could noticeably feel how much easier it was to take a breath on Sunday as compared to the rest of the week. Relief.

Of course everyone was happy to see her. Jayne didn’t know how to act, other than her usual ‘Bull in a China Shop’ way. “Jayne, be careful!” was the mantra of the evening. Lydia, while reading her latest mystery novel, was just hanging out. Izzy was doing both homework and playing with her nephew, Nash. My sister and Bro-in-Law were just amazed. I was just sitting back and watching all, in awe that this special little girl was actually sitting / standing / playing in our living room.

My mind is too puny to figure out the mind of God for sure, but I am smart enough to see a miracle when it’s standing in front of me. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for Fahlin once her heart is finally re-plumbed. Yes, she has one more open-heart procedure to go through before she gets on with the normal, fully oxygenated part of life that awaits her. That will be in about eight to ten months. We asked her last might if she ever wanted to do another surgery again. You can imagine the answer was not a resounding, “Yes.” But rather and emphatic, “NO!!!”

Ok, so we will deal with that when the time comes…welcome home Fahl Fahl!

October 17

Jim Chapman

Oct 17 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin’s recovery continues. It’s Saturday morning and I’ve noticed that Fahlin is now sleeping on her side. I’m thinking that has to be good, and definitely more comfortable. She looks a lot more peaceful than she has been, for sure.

The care here at Vanderbilt has been outstanding. I am so impressed with everyone, especially the nursing staff from the ICU to the seventh floor. As Darth Vader once said to Luke during their epic battle in episode six, referring to his acquired skills as a Jedi, “Impressive, most impressive!” The Show Hope, Maria’s Big House, Chapman family connections continue, however. It’s pretty crazy. Her seventh floor day nurse, Dabney, is 23 and went to school at CPA with my nephew Will Franklin. So she knows Mary Beth, Steven, Caleb, Caleb’s wife Julia, Emily, well you get the picture, and has been involved either directly or indirectly with them through all the good times and the tragedies they have experienced. She has taken special care of Fahlin.

When it came time to change Fahlin’s IV to a new location on her wrist because it was hurting so much, a nurse who specializes in IV’s only was called in to do the dastardly deed. Her name was Betsy. Turns out, Betsy was on duty seven years ago when the tragedy of Maria’s accident happened and she was directly involved with caring for Maria that night before she passed. For the record, it is an event that our families have nor gotten over, nor will never, ever forget, nor do any of us want to for that matter

But out of the ashes of the past, beauty does indeed rise. Because of the love and tremendous respect Steven has garnered throughout his career, the music community, the Christian community and a worldwide following of those touched by Maria’s death, a miracle happened. The outpouring of love and support led to the construction of a miracle that is now a large blue building standing six stories tall in Louyang, China with clouds and flowers painted on it that is dedicated to the sole purpose of caring for the least of the least, called Maria’s Big House of Hope.

There were eight children in the first group of seriously ill orphans Maria’s took in. One of those is now lying in a bed at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, recovering from the first of two lifesaving open-heart procedures we did not even think was possible. Fahlin. Fahlin Maria Xuefang Chapman.

The connections are too numerous for all of these to be coincidences. God is God, and I am not. God is sovereign beyond anything we can imagine or understand. I cannot comprehend the things I think about, which I’m sure explains my discombobulation sometimes, but God has somehow chosen us to be Fahlin’s parents from the beginning of time. Out of all the possible parent combinations throughout the history of the world, this is the chosen time and place for us to be Fahl Fahl’s parents. Now. Maybe one day I’ll be able to wrap my brain around everything. Maybe not.

October 16

Jim Chapman

Oct 17 2015 1:00 AM

Deep breath. Someone asked me today if I was breathing yet. I hadn’t thought about it but I guess I am breathing a bit easier. What a week. Today was an eventful day for Fahlin. Finally, all the tubes and wires came out, except one IV line. She is resting much more comfortably now (off and on) than she has been. She’s also finally started talking, not much but at least we know she can still speak English. But her main language is still a series of grunts and cute little moans.

We are unsure as to when she will be discharged, but we’re obviously hoping it will be soon. We were told five-ten days, depending upon how well she’s doing. She is obviously still in a great deal of pain. In spite of that though, she will still get up and walk to the restroom. It’s so hard on her, but she does it. I just want the hurting to go away.

During her better moments, when she is feeling better, she will sit and watch Daniel Tiger or color in a coloring book. I lover her more with each stroke of the crayon, each moan or groan she makes. I would say my heart aches for her, but in reality the ache in my heart is nothing compared to the aches she is experiencing in hers. The feelings we have for her as a family, is difficult to explain. If you would add up all the love everyone has for each other in the entire world and multiply it times infinity, that would not explain how we feel toward this little girl, who seven months ago was living in China.

It’s hard to watch when medications are administered. She obviously hurts when they inject it. The tears are not horrible, yet she looks at us it is with this look of despair as if she’s saying, “How much longer are you going to allow this to go on?” Not much longer I hope.

“Please, please oh God, creator of the universe, the one who has knit together Fahlin’s heart in the special way it was, healer of our wounds by whose stripes we are healed, please provide Fahlin comfort and take away the hurt.”

October 15

Jim Chapman

Oct 16 2015 1:00 AM

Day three of Fahlin’s hospital stay is almost in the books. It has been a tough three days for little Fahl Fahl. The doctors are very pleased with her progress. She’s finally eating a little. In fact tonight, while my wife took a much needed power nap, she ate one whole chicken tender and several bites of rice. She actually got up out of bed and walked to the restroom. It was pretty painful, but she was a trooper. Poor thing.

It is soooo hard to watch your child suffer. If there was a way I could take all the pain she is experiencing on myself during the healing process, I would…you would too for your own child, we all would. She still hasn’t talked to anyone. She is angry. I’m sure it’s something like, “Why did you do this to me?” We say things to her like, “I know it hurts, Sweetie, we’re so sorry.” Or, “You have to cough, Honey, it will help you feel better.” “Yeah right,” Mom and Dad, is the look we get. Or it’s the “My chest hurts from…oh, I don’t know, open-heart surgery perhaps, how do you think I feel?” look. It’s not the time to get upset or frustrated at all, we just hurt for her and try to reassure her, and even make her feel as comfortable as possible. Of course we have no idea what kind of pain she really is in, it has to hurt, badly in fact. We just want it to be better…immediately. You know what I mean.

We have heard from people the world over who know Fahlin or of Fahlin and her amazing story, and know there all kinds of prayers being lifted up on her behalf. We can feel them. God is a big God. If the astonishment levels of the curious peripheral doctors, interns, residents and fellows who stop by to take a peak at this little girl with the unique anatomical physiology is any indication, then the magnitude of the miracle playing out at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is pretty remarkable indeed.

So what can we do to help Fahl Fahl feel better? Well, so far nothing seems to work. But everyone is trying. I ‘borrowed’ a couple of blue latex gloves that I blew up into balloons and drew funny faces on them. No response. What kid doesn’t like blue latex balloon guys? We took her a stuffed bunny (she loooves bunnies). Another family brought her a cute pink bunny, nothing! If we fill her room with bunnies, maybe she would smile, but I don’t know, right now she is a tough nut to crack. Aunt Mary Beth brought her a doctor’s costume, something she said she wanted prior to surgery, and even that didn’t work. She must feel bad, that’s all there is to it.

So another long night awaits my wife. I myself am exhausted from the emotional strain of the week, so I cannot imagine how tired my wife is. Tomorrow we are taking the ‘littles’ up to see Fahlin for the first time. Hopefully this will be ticket to laughter and smiles. She might get so upset she’ll cough her little head off, or she may simple be missing her sisters. We’ll see, and I’ll keep updating.

October 14

Jim Chapman

Oct 14 2015 1:00 AM

The day after. They took Fahlin’s breathing tube out last night around midnight. From what I am told, she was not happy. Remember, I’ve told you how feisty, bossy and demanding she can be, well, those attributes are great when it comes to recovering from surgery. So that’s good. Of course, I went home late last night to be with the girls, and came back early this morning. My wife, what a trooper, stayed here all night with Fahlin.

So today they told us that she may actually get to move to a regular room. I say praise God. Poor thing, though. She is hooked up to all kinds of things. One by one, I know they will come off, out or whatever. The catheter was removed a couple hours ago. Ouch! They did an echocardiogram. Cold gel. Those two things combined to make her a little mad, but it was good because being mad means she’s upset, which makes her cough and that’s exactly what she needs to do. I know it has to hurt, like she just got hit by a Mack truck. But she still needs to cough.

So because of all that has gone on so far this morning, her pain level was pretty uncomfortable. Enter Mr. Morphine. She went right to sleep again. Right now, as I look at her as I write, she looks so peaceful, so angelic. I can only imagine what she is going through, but the big part of surgery part one, is behind us. In the doctor’s own words, “So far, so good.”

Stay tuned…

October 13 Part 3

Jim Chapman

Oct 14 2015 1:00 AM

It’s now 9:00 and sitting here, staring at all the tubes, wires, gadgets and gizmos that are hooked up to my daughter is quite a sobering sight. Scary, in fact. I feel more helpless that ever. Thank God my wife is a medical professional and when she asks questions, it doesn’t take long for the hospital personnel to figure out that she is not ‘just another parent.’ It makes it easier to find out things.

But as we were waiting, and waiting…and waiting, I received the sweetest email from one of my students. This young lady embodies everything good about Brentwood Academy as well as our youth of today. Please read, I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing, I didn’t ask.

[Coach Chapman,

I know you have plenty of things on your mind right now and probably the last is checking your email. With that being said, I do not expect any type of response any time soon nor do I expect you will see this, but in case you do, or for whenever you do, I want you to know that I am praying for your family.

I am praying that God’s peace will surround you and your family this week/next couple of weeks. I am praying that your family feels loved and feels thought about because you are. I am also praying for sweet, sweet Fahlin. I am thankful that I have gotten the chance to meet her beautiful self and I am praying that all goes well. Praying that the doctors feel God’s hand at work and that they will finish successfully and that sweet Fahlin will heal quickly and painlessly.

I am so inspired by what your family has done and I am praying that you see how much you have impacted families, especially mine. I hope that despite all there is to be worried about and to fear, that you will be rest assured that Gods hand is in it all and He will be with you, and will be with Fahlin through it all.

Thank you for being such an awesome teacher!!

-Haedyn West]

We know our extended family and our friends and co-workers, friends from our former lives, past acquaintances as well as people all over the world have been praying. You can feel it when you’re near her, in the room; it’s just simply evident. Thank you for the encouragement Haedyn, and thank all of you…

October 13 Part 2

Jim Chapman

Oct 13 2015 1:00 AM

So today is the day [I’m actually typing this while at the hospital]. I took Izzy to school, trying to keep her routine as normal as possible. Returned home took a shower. I tell you this because I didn’t know what else to do. I was not talkative, Yolanda was not talkative, Fahlin was not talkative. There was definitely a cloud of tension in the air. “Keep it together Jim, keep it together,” I kept telling myself.

We kept her up waaaaay late; we ourselves didn’t even get to sleep ‘til about 1:00, that’s AM. She had her chicken broth in the morning, and then got dressed. My heart has been in overdrive for the past week, but now it’s down shifted into supercharger mode. This is an awful feeling. I don’t like it. At all!

We checked in around 11:00. It didn’t take long until they took us to the surgical holding room where they took her vitals and asked us a bunch of questions. The nurse came in, others came in, then at around 12:15 the anesthesiologist came in. She was awesome. I was so impressed with her, her bedside manner, her heart, the fact that she knew of Fahlin and her story. I couldn’t keep it together. I tried, but lost it. My wife told me to exit the room. I felt like I was in trouble, but I knew Fahlin needed me to be strong. My sister and Bro-in-Law took my place for a while, while I gathered myself.

Finally, around 1:20 the crew came to take her back. It was so hard to see her go. I leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her, her mom did the same. Man oh man, how hard! I stopped breathing, the tears flowed.

The first update came at around 2:15, the lines were in. At 2:42, the incision was made. 4:10, the shunt was being connected. 4:40, out of surgery. Wow! A whirlwind of emotions, tons of prayer and a lot of support. So for now, we’re just hanging out, waiting to see her. Can’t wait to see her. I know it will be rough, but just seeing her will be a huge relief. I have started breathing again.

October 13

Jim Chapman

Oct 13 2015 1:00 AM

I’m actually writing this on the eve of Fahlin’s surgery. My wife looked at me tonight and said she was about ready to toss her cookies. She was a little more gross than that, but the look in her eyes told me how serious the reality is we are facing tomorrow[today]. I too, am feeling something that I have never experienced before. It’s a feeling that literally cannot be described. I’m sure some of you have been through things serious enough to elicit feelings that could not be explained. I am with you.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you…” Deuteronomy 3:6 keeps coming to mind. It’s funny how God puts faith-strengthening verses in you mind when the situation warrants it. What tomorrow holds, only time will tell.

As I think about what Fahlin is about to go through, I think back on my life. Have I gone through anything like this? Sure, I’ve had my share of surgeries, broken bones brought about by the reckless behavior of my youth. But none of those were what I would consider life threatening. My wife was in a motorcycle accident when she was about twelve and in a complete body cast for a while. That was pretty serious. She also watched as her brother passed away from cancer at 21 years of age. Sad for sure, but she has told me on more that one occasion, he reached people for Jesus while he was in the hospital. There has been more heartache in each of our lives, including the tragic loss of our niece, Maria.

I ask myself, why am I thinking about all of this? How horrible am I to be thinking about tragic instances in our lives, when all I really want to do is everything in my power to help Fahlin through this. It’s all about Fahlin’s life right now. I’ve talked about feeling helpless, and right now I am about as helpless as it gets. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in Lord with all your might and do not lean onto your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths…” Right now, that is all we can do…lean on Him.

We are going to keep her up late, feed her late, let her sleep in, enjoy a little of the morning, then take her downtown to Vanderbilt. We are going to hug her, kiss her, hold her hand, talk to her and look at her. She is so cute. I can’t look at her without thinking about tomorrow, without wondering what the day will hold. We know we’re doing the right thing. We know it. So here we go. We know the great designer has designed this little girl’s heart the way he did for a reason. As this adventure unfolds I’m sure it will become clearer at some point. In the meantime, we pray, for all involved, from the doctors to the nurses to the anesthesiologists to the support personnel. And we pray for Fahlin. And we most likely will not get much sleep.

October 12

Jim Chapman

Oct 12 2015 1:00 AM

Well, this was supposed to be ‘The Day.’ The day when Fahlin was to have had her surgery. It was pushed to tomorrow around noon. My heart beats faster each day as we approach surgery. The pre-op visit went off without a hitch. That is now behind us. Fahlin, I think, equates hospital visits with surgeries. She told me, “I don’t like surgery!” “Why not?” I asked. “Surgery is boring!”

As you can imagine, I laughed. Boring? It’s going to be boring all right. So Tuesday it is. What we are worrying about right now is this little cough Fahlin has right now. We’re afraid that it might push the surgery back even further. I guess anesthesiologists aren’t too fond of coughs. Our theory is that it is allergy related. Ragweed or something like that. She doesn’t seem ill, nor does she have a temperature and the drainage she is experiencing is clear. We’re hoping it’s nothing to be concerned about.

So now that we have re-rearranged our lives, we’re just gearing up for Tuesday, which is the first of two surgeries (the second one to follow in about six to eight months). My daughter, Bethany is coming in on Wednesday, Yolanda’s friend, Kimber is coming in from Louisville, Deborah has started the meal train (which is huge), my sister and brother-in-law have completed their world travels so they can be here and people are praying all over the country. If I start naming names, I know I’ll leave out someone out. But I do want to express a heartfelt thank you to every one of you for supporting our family and especially Fahlin through this entire process.

As you can imagine, this week promises to be emotional to say the least. Our prayer is for a positive outcome, and a quick and speedy recovery with as little discomfort for Fahlin as possible. That the doctors would have clarity, dexterity and have a ‘good day.’ That the operation would come off without incident. That the Lord would be glorified through the life of this special little girl.

As I close this posting, I am reminded of the conversation I was having just this afternoon. Fahlin has never experienced a Christmas, never experienced a Thanksgiving, or even a Trick or Treat evening. There is so much life for Fahlin yet to live. So for now we pray…And I will keep you updated this week as to Fahlin’s progress.

October 8

Jim Chapman

Oct 8 2015 1:00 AM

We found out yesterday that Fahlin’s surgery has been moved from Monday morning the 12th to Tuesday afternoon the 13th. There’s nothing we can do except go with it, of course. But it is a little frustrating having to undo all the orchestration we’ve been doing over the last couple weeks, not to mention re-arranging my sub, my practices, and re-arranging our life in general. Oh well, like we’re not anxious enough. My wife kept in perspective when she said, “I’m sure God has a reason.” I have always loved that phrase. We blow it off sometimes, but in retrospect, looking back on any of our lives, I am certain that we can now know that God did indeed have a reason for whatever it was at the time He had a reason to do whatever it was He did. It all comes down to trust. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding…”

Okay, so we go on. Last night, we filmed a family segment and promotional video for the Show Hope Foundation about Fahlin and the impact she has had on our lives and how Show Hope played a large role in Fahlin’s life. It will be used this fall at the big Show Hope fundraiser weekend in November. [For more info go to showhope.org] After that, Fahlin was filmed putting together the pieces of a nativity scene that will be incorporated and edited into Uncle Steve’s Christmas Tour video. It should be real cute. And Fahlin is a real pro. She takes direction well and does things over and over without complaint. Aaaaannnnnddd, she’s so photogenic. I think it’s the purple skin tone.

Then there’s the ‘Fahlin is mad at Dad for some reason’ syndrome playing out. My wife even noticed. First of all, let’s get something straight; I am a great Dad (just ask me). I told Yolanda what I think is happening is that I have been spending a lot of time away from the house due to coaching at BA then slipping over to Excel to coach some more, then take the girls home. Sometimes its 8:30 before we walk in the door and by that time, she is asleep, so she doesn’t get to see Daddy. It’s actually a common adoptive child thing. After all, even though it seems like she has been here her entire life, she’s only been home seven months. This is all still part of the adjustment period. We’ve been though it before. With time it will pass…I’m pretty sure.

And finally, there’s a second follow up photo shoot for Fahlin tomorrow at Aunt Mary Beth’s house. Just trying to fit everything in before the surgery is crazy, as you can tell. Supposedly it will only take an hour or so. It’s that ‘or so’ part that always gets you. It just better be finished in time to get to the game tomorrow night, just sayin.’

So the countdown to surgery continues. Today she spent four hours at the doctor’s office for pre-surgery stuff. That ‘stuff’ includes poking, prodding, EKG, echo, X-ray, blood draw, a meeting with our cardiologist and a visit with our surgeon. I’m pretty sure she is not having fun. I know she will be glad to get out of there when it’s finished. I know I will be glad when all of this is behind us as well. Meanwhile, the craziness continues.

October 5

Jim Chapman

Oct 5 2015 1:00 AM

This weekend was a good weekend for us all. My daughter Bethany was in town with our grandson and Fahlin’s nephew, Nash. Fahlin loves babies. She will even tell us stories about how she would help the nannies at Maria’s. We know that she has fed babies, changed babies and held and comforted babies. She shows a real knack for caring, and she is only six. She loves having Babzy around, although I’m pretty sure she would rather play with the baby.

Our daughter-in-law, Natalie was in town as well. The girls love hanging out with her. But when we went to breakfast, I discovered something rather disturbing about Fahlin that I did not know. She likes to eat butter with a spoon. I am shuddering right now just thinking about it, the image of her little skinny tongue lapping up the leftover butter out of the small cup it was in. Eeewww! In the past I have described some strange food combinations Fahlin likes to eat, but now it’s time to share some of her other strange eating habits.

Besides the butter, she would eat ketchup with a straw if we let her. Whenever we get fries, she will just eat the ketchup right out of the little cups. Just this evening in fact, we noticed her cleaning out the sour cream bowls at the Mexican restaurant. One right after another. I like sour cream, but on or in something. I mean, c’mon, Fahlin! Then there are also the little jelly packets at Cracker Barrel. Sweet nectar to Fahlin to be sure.

We are exactly one week away from her surgery. I remember my brother-in-law, Steven Curtis telling us he would give anything to have Maria back so he could let her eat butter, which she did quite often. So with the seriousness of the surgery and as we march on to next week’s appointment, I say Fahlin, eat all the butter and sour cream and ketchup and jelly you want, sweetie. I won’t hurt a thing!

October 1

Jim Chapman

Oct 1 2015 1:00 AM

As you know this blog is about the life and times of one Fahlin Maria Xuefang Chapman. The journey began last July with the initial conversation between my sister and her husband at Old Chicago Pizza. We brought her home in mid February and now here we are, on the precipice of surgery. The main thrust behind everything we have done for Fahlin was to A, provide her a loving family, and B, fix her if we could.

Low and behold, through a series of supernatural, God ordained chain of events we now stand poised to see more of what He has in store for our little girl. We are at eleven days and counting. In my last couple blogs I mentioned that Fahlin is now talking about ‘surgery.’ I asked her the other day if she knew what a surgery was. She just shook her head no. But at least she knows the word.

She also has a sister named Jayne. Now Jayne is a miracle baby herself (quite a story of her own as well). She’s nine years old and has lots of medical issues, but primarily she is missing a huge portion of her brain, the part that controls her motor skill as well as her speech. She is in the third grade and believe it or not functions right on grade level in pretty much all of the disciplines. She struggles with reading comprehension a bit and can sometimes forget from one minute to the next what she is supposed to do, but other than that, the continuous smile on her face would not indicate any issues.

Well, Jayne finally asked me why I don’t write a blog about her. Why is it about Fahlin? I explained that although it is about Fahlin, everyone in out family gets mentioned, even her. So why am I bringing up Jayne today? Yesterday, while riding home on the school bus, Jayne FORGOT to get off the bus. The funny part was the other two ‘littles’ did. Lydia and Fahlin. “Where’s you sister?” Yolanda asked. “We don’t know. We didn’t see her on the bus.”

She was on the bus, just forgot to get off. So there are few layers here. Yolanda panicked, called the school, which in turn got ahold of the bus driver who in turn gave the phone to Jayne who fortunately remembered her mom’s number (remember, she occasionally forgets stuff, like her shoes). She called my wife in tears. Turns out the bus was still in the neighborhood, so Jayne was returned safely to her mother. More layers, like “Lydia, did you not see Jayne?” “Fahlin, did you guys wonder where Jayne was?

That was big negatorio to both aforementioned questions. So now, while we assumed Lydia would watch out for her two little sisters, we apparently assumed incorrectly. That is now Lydia’s new permanent job. Where is Jayne? So we avoided a catastrophe. We didn’t lose Jayne after all. So Jayne, this is your special time to shine in Fahlin’s blog. Please don’t do that again…

September 30

Jim Chapman

Oct 1 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin is a grumpy butt. I don’t know what’s been going on lately, but oooooh boy! I think she’s exhausted. School wears her out. Busy weekends wear her out. Staying up an extra half hour wears her out. Have you ever had those moments with your own children when they act up but when they act up they act so embarrassingly bad that its actually funny and you want to laugh but you know you can’t? Well Fahlin takes that to a new level because on top of acting so ridiculous, she is so stinkin’ cute. And on top of that even, half of what she is doing is that fake cry, fake stubbornness with a wry grin that angers you even more, thing. Whatever that is. She must have learned that in China. That’s all I can figure.

She doesn’t want to wake up in the mornings, doesn’t want to get dressed, let alone get dressed in the clothes we have picked out for her and wants to wear that pair of shoes that’s a size or two too small. Being the great dad that I am, however, rest assured that I am Johnny on the spot as I swoop in to correct the situation and remind her who’s in charge. That always goes over well. But she’s so stinkin’ cute!

My wife tells me I only make things worse. My daughter Abby tells me the same thing. Izzy glances at me to see if I am going to let her get by with whatever the latest crazy thing is. Then I get the evil looks from Yolanda and Abby as the ‘cuddle-duh’ time with her in order to console her. Little adopted girls have a different set of needs for sure. Hey, I can nurture with the best of them too!

But alas, life for Fahlin goes on. Eventually she gets over it, goes to school where she is obviously the most loved, smartest and popular kid there is. Life does go on for Fahlin. Twelve days and counting until the surgery. Regardless of whatever tantrum she throws, or whichever dress she doesn’t want to wear, all of that doesn’t really matter to me. I know she will eventually grow out of this stage and I know she loves us with all her being. What is important is that we get her better. These moments of pigheadedness are not really as bad as I make them sound, and sometimes it is even something as simple as she is just hungry but just hasn’t bothered to tell us yet. Did I mention she is so stinkin’ cute?

So our life goes on as well. I think we’re zeroing in on our logistical arrangements. People have offered to help us in any way we may need. Food is being planned, which is really great because I will be holding down the fort in the afternoons and evenings while she is in the hospital and that just one less major thing (the most major thing) to worry about. Awesome.

So we continue…

September 28

Jim Chapman

Sep 28 2015 1:00 AM

Today is Monday, Sept. 28, exactly two weeks out from Fahlin’s surgery. Yesterday at the swim meet she came up to me and said, “After my surgery, I am going to join the swim team.” Well, that statement has lots of layers. First, it’s the first time I have ever heard her mention the ‘surgery.’ I didn’t think she was aware, but apparently she is. Secondly, it was always a given that she would join the swim team. It’s what we do here in the Chapman family. But before that happens, she must first learn how to swim. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Back to the statement, “After my surgery…” Hmmm. Does she know what surgery is? I am pretty certain that if she does know what surgery is, she has no idea about the depth or scope of the seriousness of this particular surgery, which she faces. In her innocence however, I found solace. “After my surgery…” She was so nonchalant when she said it, but it made an impression on me, so much so that I am now typing and entire blog about it.

Is she confident? Confident in the doctor? Confident that God is in control? Or just plain naïve? Naïve in a cute way. Or does she know something we don’t? She just smiled. I hope it prophetic. That someway, somehow, she just has this inner peace or understanding that comes directly from either an angel or even Jesus himself, seems logical to her. These little girls from China are pretty special. Maybe they do have a connection to Heaven that we adults don’t know about. Izzy told me something when she was little that I’ve never forgotten because it sent chills down my spine when I heard it, “Daddy, what if I am an angel?” What if? I’ve always wondered.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the upcoming surgery were nothing more than a simple routine procedure followed by easy recovery? I know reality says otherwise. And at least Fahlin now seems to know that something is coming her way, this thing known as a ‘surgery.’ With two weeks left before the big day, our prayers have gotten more directed, more serious. My nerves are getting a bit more frayed with each passing day. My chest feels like I am the one who needs surgery whenever I think about Fahlin because my heart beats so hard at times I can feel it trying to burst through my ribs. But I have to admit again, I really like what Fahlin said, “…After my surgery, daddy…” Yes, Fahlin, after your surgery…

September 25

Jim Chapman

Sep 25 2015 1:00 AM

The entire family now wants to give blood for Fahlin’s surgery. Our family, our extended family, my sister’s family, friends. It’s great that so many people want to give. She’s A Positive, in case you’re wondering. I didn’t realize how much goes into prepping a child for surgery of this magnitude. Not only do we have blood to give, but also teeth to pull, pre-op meetings to attend and still try to figure out a way to tell her what’s going to happen.

A friend (Big Mike) asked me today if I was nervous. I think you know the answer…that would be a big fat yes! It is basically in the back of my mind no matter what I’m doing. How can it not be? And yes, nervous is the word. Nervous for the all the ‘lead-up’ to it stuff, nervous about the actual surgery, the recovery, what happens to our other daughters, are we going to have enough help with them, the food situation?

My wife told me that the only thing she is hoping for is meals. Meals for the family. There are going to be some long, long days ahead and that would ease her mind. We haven’t quite figured that part out yet. After all, we’ve never had anything like this to prepare for before.

I know my sister will be around, my daughter Bethany, our friend Kimber, Laura, and Janice. And there are more, I know who will be there. I hope they know how to cook. I’m sure they do. But how all the logistics are going to work, I’m not quite sure just yet. My wife and company are good at those kinds of logistical things. I get confused as to what my responsibilities are most of the time. So all my bosses just tell me where to go, what to do and when to do it. Works best that way.

So as the countdown to surgery continues, my anxiety level grows, as we get closer. I’m pretty sure I will be a nervous wreck. How do people who have little or no faith in Jesus Christ go through these kinds of things? The strength He gives us is the only reason we can even breathe while our daughter faces such a serious time in her young life. And as for the little matter of logistics through all of this, I’m sure it will all work out.

Jeremiah 29:11 “… For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

September 24

Jim Chapman

Sep 24 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin went to the dentist yesterday. Our dentist, Dr. Alex is awesome. She loves Fahlin and has closely followed her story. She has never dealt with a case quite like Fahin’s, so when the cardiac-anesthesiologists scrubbed in for her earlier impacted tooth extraction from a couple months ago, she told us it was fascinating to hear them discuss the anatomy of Fahlin’s uniquely constructed heart. So when she discovered two loose teeth, and with the surgery coming up, Fahlin had to make the trek back to her office this morning. Yes, Dr. Alex wiggled them loose and pulled them. We can’t be having loose teeth and heart surgery at the same time.

Then it was back to school for a fun-filled day of learning activities at Rock Springs Elementary. It wasn’t two hours before my wife’s phone rang. It was the school nurse. Fahlin was running a temperature of 102.5. Not good timing let alone the fact that she has never had a temp that high since we’ve had her. So it was off to Dr. Leeper’s office. God has blessed us with great people (doctors) surrounding our children and in particular, Fahlin. Dr. Leeper is no exception. We have known him for over twenty-five years and trust him implicitly. He has known about Fahlin and her story since she showed up at Maria’s Big House. He supports Show Hope. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on her when we got back form China. He referred us to our heart doctor. See how this all works?

He could find no reason for the temperature, ears were clear, sinuses, throat, and you know, the usual culprits. But with the surgery coming up, of which he is very much aware, he wanted to cover all his bases and rule out everything. That, of course, meant blood cultures. Here we go again, poor Fahlin, getting stuck not once, but twice. He wanted to check for bacterial infections, which could impact the heart in a negative way. I don’t know about you, but that something we definitely don’t want.

Now we wait. She is already on antibiotics due to the fact that she had her teeth pulled earlier. This is not good timing, for sure. We are less than three weeks away from surgery, eighteen days to be exact. Not that we’re counting. What else can happen? I hope nothing. I pray nothing. I pray nothing comes of this as well.

But, how about my wife? What a superstar she was today. Everything she did, she did out of love for that little girl. I know it made for a long day for Yolanda, and Fahlin as well. She works in the medical field as a respiratory therapist, so this stuff surrounding Fahlin is extra fascinating to her. It’s also taxing on her. On me as well. You want your children healthy but sometimes they’re not. And sometimes it’s serious. I don’t wish it on anyone…and I have to admit, I will be glad when she’s out of the woods.

September 21

Jim Chapman

Sep 22 2015 1:00 AM

We are exactly three weeks away from Fahlin’s surgery on Oct. 12th. My wife and I have decided to write a children’s book about how to talk to your child about an upcoming surgery because there seems to be very little material out there that addresses this subject, especially heart surgery. We’re sort of in the dark here. Poor thing, she’s just going about life as a six year old, fighting with Jayne, disobeying parents, being stubborn, and playing, coloring and drawing. Yes, our little, sweet Fahl Fahl is a normal six year old. We still need to write that book, though.

Which brings me to my new dilemma. I am pretty sure I know the answer, but how do you lovingly discipline a cutie petutie (or patootie?) who is facing heart surgery? I have decided to stay the ‘good parent’ course. We cannot let her get away things like being stubborn, throwing fits and basic kid indiscretions. And as a result, knowing what awaits her in three weeks, I sometimes feel horrible after I get on to her, especially when she sobs uncontrollably…for what I think is basically nothing to sob uncontrollably over. How do I live with myself?

I know you are probably finding it hard to believe that Fahlin is fallible, but alas, she is (Aren’t we all?). Don’t misunderstand me; she is as sweet as can be 90% of the time. But those other 10% moments come when we least expect them. Part of it is orphan issues; we understand that of course, part of it is sibling rivalry, which we don’t understand. Another part wants to be in control and part of it, according to my wife, is me picking on her. No, not me! We remind her in those moments that she is not the boss, and usually that does not go over too well with her, thus the sobbing…oooooh boy.

I think she understands what we are trying to accomplish and she understands that in order for the family to function effectively, the little kids need to fall into step and exhibit the behaviors we need them to exhibit. She will get it eventually, I’m certain. I know she knows we love her unconditionally and would do anything for her. Her big sisters are good examples of both what TO do and NOT to do. More ‘tos’ than ‘nots.’ She loves us as much as we love her. I know that for sure. “Daddy, I love you one million,” she will say with a cute little Chinese accent, to which I will respond, “I love you two million!” And the argument ensues. I always win because you can’t beat ‘infinity-infinities!’ Ha

So as we prepare for surgery, little Fahlin continues to grow and learn. The book my wife and I want to write is coming along slowly as we search for words. The pictures will be easy; I will take care of drawing those. And, while we’re at it, I suppose I need to pick on Fahl Fahl a bit less. Ahhhh, girls. Six of them…maybe that’s the problem (he says with a smile).

September 19

Sep 20 2015 1:00 AM

To follow up on my last posting, I would like to talk about the impact Fahlin has had on our lives, and in fact, adoption itself and the effect it can have on those who are involved with bringing a new child into the family.

We have adopted four little girls from China. Each one has her own unique story and each one is with us through nothing less than the providence of our sovereign God. Izzy began her life in a cardboard box, Lydia was found at the orphanage gate with her umbilical cord still attached, Jayne was delivered from Mongolia to Hope Foster Home in Beijing and was so sick she almost died, and no one knew how she got there; and finally there’s Fahlin, whose story begins with a bit of confusion as to when she actually arrived at Maria’s Big House. There is more to each story, but the common thread is that God’s hand of protection was on each of these girls’ lives. It’s spine chilling when you know the stories behind the stories.

We cannot imagine our lives without any of these girls. It’s like they have always been a part of us, which they actually always have been, since the dawn of time when a sovereign God knew the series of events that would take place and lead to each of these girls becoming a member of the Chapman clan.

And Fahlin. Fahlin has grown into her role as the baby of the family. She is hilarious. Her little idiosyncrasies are fun to watch. She smells soooooo good, her skin is abnormally smooth, and when she runs she runs like C3P0. Her giggle is infectious, her sassy-ness needs to be reeled in (after the surgery), and her constant bickering with Jayne is so…so normal for two sisters. Every night, Mr. Bunny seems to throw Fahlin’s covers off and sometimes she ends up in the middle of the floor. Hmmmm. When she’s hungry she eats like a horse, when you tell her know no, she pouts (after the surgery we’ll address that as well), and when she goes to the bathroom, she will give you a full report. I cannot imagine her not being around.

So that is why she has to have the surgery. She has so much of her life yet to live, so much of her story yet to tell, so many friends yet to make, so many trips to the beach yet to take and so many more ‘firsts’ yet to experience. She has many more smiles to smile, laughs to laughs, giggles to giggle, games to play. I just smile when I watch her and wonder how to pray…

After my last posting, a friend sent me this verse: Romans 8:26 – “But in the same way the spirit helps us in our weakness. We do no know what we ought to pray for, but, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” My friend, Barbara says that when her heart is heaviest, this is the verse on which she leans. I see why. I needed to be reminded. Thank you Barbara

Twenty-three days and counting.

September 18

Jim Chapman

Sep 18 2015 1:00 AM

Sorry for the delay with this blog, but I have been agonizingly debating with myself about whether or not I should bare my soul. The tipping point came when I received an encouraging email from a BA parent who has been reading the blog and the email said that this blog was a blessing to them and talked about how much the blog has meant to them. This has happened more than once, and I am grateful. It is nice to know people are reading, supporting, and praying for Fahlin and our family through this journey.

So here goes. The other night I confessed to my wife about how scared for Fahlin I was. As we have gotten closer to the surgery, my thoughts turn more and more to the uncertainty of Fahlin’s future. Despite the doctor’s reassurance, we are still talking about opening the chest of my little girl. Through tears in my eyes, I asked my wife, “What if this is the last time we see Fahlin alive?” I felt awful just verbalizing those words, but that is the question I dwell upon. She will go to sleep, not knowing why, then wake up in excruciating pain, and still not know why. My wife just hugged me and said, “It won’t be her last day.”

As a parent, you know we would do whatever it takes to prevent anything from happening to our children, and if there was anyway I could do this for Fahlin, I would in a heartbeat (I just realized that was a pun). As a parent, I hurt for Fahlin knowing she will be frightened, uncertain about what’s going on and why she’s in the hospital. I just now asked her again if she knew she was sick, “Uh, no?!?”…Big sigh,” was her response.

The literature we read about what to say, what not to say, how to approach surgery like this, is sobering; a stark reality for what waits. When I think about if I can handle it, the surgery that is, I feel horribly selfish. This is not about me. I (we) have to be strong for my (our) daughter, all the while feeling torn apart inside, aching like I’ve never ached before. And all I can do is watch, wait. Talk about helpless.

While I have confidence in the skills of the surgeon, have confidence in the skills of the anesthesiologists, the nursing staff etc., I cannot help myself. I know that Jesus is the Great Physician. I do not doubt the Great Physician, yet I am so nervous. I can’t help it. I’m just being honest here. Try as I am, I just am not able to express my feelings here. Words escape me and the emotions I feel apparently cannot be described, at least by me. I’m grasping. Please continue to pray for Fahlin and the medical teams involved; and please pray for my wife and I and our family, and it’s ok if you use words, because when I pray, I just sit there, not knowing what to say. Maybe that’s best…

…And thank you from the bottom of our hearts (another unintentional pun).

September 16

Sep 16 2015 1:00 AM

My wife and I were wondering how Fahlin would do in Kindergarten; if she would make friends, how smart she would be, if she could fight off germs. We worried about these things, well, at least I did. But, Fahlin has surprised us all. She is thriving in her new environment. When I ask her who the smartest kid in her class is, she says, “Me.” Every time.

Now, though, she’s been invited to her first birthday party. A little girl named Marabelle. When Yolanda asked Fahlin if she wanted to go, she said. “Uh, yeah!” So Saturday, she will attend her first birthday party. Yolanda has met Marabelle’s mom, I haven’t. So that, I guess, is a good enough reason to go.

I remember when we were raising our first go ‘round of children, we would never go to a parties if we didn’t know the people, or at least checked them out, and if necessary, we would gracefully bow out. Yes, we were ‘those’ paranoid young parents who were a bit overprotective. Thankfully, time has mellowed us a bit. We still worry, but differently these days. Times eight (kids, that is)!

Now Fahl Fahl will need to go shopping, pick out a gift, wrap it and basically, enjoy herself. As we count down to her open-heart surgery, I suppose these little opportunities for joy and happiness are big reasons why Fahlin needs to partake of little kid pleasures like birthday parties. I see no reason whey she shouldn’t. Look out Marabelle, here she comes!

September 14

Sep 13 2015 1:00 AM

It was quite a reunion. Thursday, the Show Hope office here in Franklin held a meet-n-greet for the Maria’s Big House full time physician and his family. I need to keep his name anonymous for now, but suffice it to say that he and his family are awesome people. They have dedicated the past seven years of their lives to living and caring for the babies not only in Maria’s, but the other five medical care centers located through China which Show Hopes funds. I’m pretty sure it’s both a lonely and satisfying job at the same time. It is a true calling to do what this family does.

The Nashville area is very supportive of adoption. Many families in this area, perhaps hundreds have adopted children from all over the world, including several from the caring centers that are funded by Show Hope. The meet-n-greet was a way of showing appreciation to the doctor and his family for the many years of service and dedication to these children.

It is apparent when you meet the doctor for the first time that he loves what he does and he loves the children he serves in China. When I saw him yesterday at the meet-n-greet, the smile on his face said all that needed to be said. Regardless how rewarding the work may be I am sure that living in China, half way around the world, separated from everything and everyone you ever knew, can be a lonely proposition. It is truly a calling, perhaps even the noblest of all callings…caring for the least of the least of these (I meant to say that), the rescued forgotten ones who were left to themselves in dark, cold and lonely rooms in some non-descript orphanage.

When we do get to Heaven, I know that we will be walking around, worshiping Jesus, high fiving everyone who is there, but then we will look over and see an even more exclusive club for those like the good doctor. He and his family will be in the ‘Special Spot,’ reserved for those who have sacrificed everything for the sake of the call of Christ. Their crowns will be bigger, the jewels adorning them will be brighter and the songs they sing will be louder…guaranteed!

Matthew 25:40 says: “…And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

And right before that, this verse: “…Enter in my good and faithful servant…” Job well done, Doc, job well done. May we all learn from your example.

September 9

Jim Chapman

Sep 8 2015 1:00 AM

This past Friday, Fahlin went to her first football game. Brentwood Academy vs. Pope John Paul II. After a delicious meal at our Headmaster’s home, we walked to the stadium. Large places tend to overwhelm Fahlin as she processes what’s going on around her. She gets clingy and quiet.

Fahlin was wearing her BA cheerleading outfit. She looked so cute, As we walked by the student section near the cheerleaders, one of the girls, Holland Jones asked if she could come down to the field and cheer with them. Fahlin was not interested. She didn’t know what a cheerleader was or what they did. I told her we would go get a seat and she could watch, then, if she changed her mind she could go back down with the cheerleaders.

I’ve been trying to acclimate Fahlin to the game of football. After all, if you’re going to Daddy’s girl in the Chapman household, you have to appreciate football. Every one of my girls, when they were little would lay on my chest and watch football with Daddy. It was required watching. Quality time at it’s best.

Well, she changed her mind, so down the steps we went. Holland took her. She just stood there, Fahlin, not Holland, looking around. It was precious. She did not know what to do. The game was exciting for us, not so much for JP II. Fahlin did not know the difference. She didn’t know the score, what a score was or even which team actually scored. She doesn’t even know what a ‘score’ is. Eventually she was handed back to us. We watched the rest of the first half, then decided to head home. After all, we have three little children who need their rest, including our little cheerleader.

Go BA!

September 3

Jim Chapman

Sep 2 2015 1:00 AM

My wife sent me a text informing me that the date for Fahlin’s open-heart surgery has been set for October 12. My heart actually palpated, or jumped and a lump came up in my throat. It was a weird feeling. The reality of the gravity of her situation has become a reality that we must now face. It is not a pleasant spot to be in as a parent. Fahlin has no idea it’s coming.

My mind goes to a dark place. Although we have been assured that the procedure is 97% successful, I cannot help but wonder what if the unthinkable happens and something goes terribly wrong? It’s not like she’s getting a hernia fixed or her tonsils out; this is serious business. It’s all I can do to fight back the tears as I type. I love her, dearly. I think about the about the recovery time in the ICU, the discomfort and pain she will be in and how frightened she will be. As I have mentioned before, she doesn’t even know she is sick. I would do anything if I could take this cup from her.

When I look at her I see a little girl who has had a lonely life. She was one of the very first children at Maria’s Big House of hope nearly six years ago. As orphan care in China goes, MBHOH is as good as it gets. They do a wonderful job. She spent the first couple of years on the palliative care floor. The earliest diagnoses being that without any pulmonary arteries to speak of, she would not live long. But she survived. At around three years of age, a woman here in the states initiated the adoption process for Fahlin. Her name was to be Mackenzie, but during the process, her doctors advised her to disrupt the adoption because they were certain she could not survive the plane flight home. She disrupted. China closed her file. We know it broke her heart to do so and have actually been in contact with this woman and she is happy that Fahlin now has a loving family.

As Fahlin got older, she was then moved into the general population where she helped raise the littler babies. She could rock one baby with her foot while feeding another. This, I am sure, is where her bossy-ness comes from. Through a series of political finaglings, or miracles as we like to call them, China opened her file back up and we swooped in and claimed her off the waiver wire. She would be ours. As one by one her friends went home to be with families, Fahlin’s heart ached for a family. I’m not sure we’re what she bargained for, but to make a long story short, she did become a valued member of our team (that’s a quote from the movie “Penguins 2”). Turns out, the seriousness of her condition really could have caused her to die on the plane. God’s hand was upon her, there is no other explanation.

Our God is a big, big God, so Fahlin’s story continues. “…Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you…” She doesn’t have a care in the world, so I as her Dad, my wife as her Mom, we bare this cross for her. We have to cast our cares about her onto Him, the creator of the universe, and the one who created Fahlin. The next couple months promise to be…(insert adjective here; nerve-wracking, interesting, emotional, etc., etc., etc.)

September 1

Jim Chapman

Sep 1 2015 1:00 AM

It was Fahlin’s first trip to Ohio, this past weekend. With three of the ‘littles’ in tow and my sister and her grand-daughter, Eiley, we took off on Friday, drove the seven hours to Springfield, Ohio to celebrate my father’s (?) birthday as well as attend a ‘co-ed’ baby shower for my nephew Daniel and his wife Melissa. We haven’t been to Ohio since I don’t when, so we were due for a trip north.

It was good to see some old friends, some of whom brought up some inappropriate memories from my youth. That’s not always good because it leads to questions from my wife. “Yolanda, that happened thirty years ago, when I was a youth…I don’t even remember what they are talking about!” One guy, my former youth pastor even asked me if my wife was my ‘first’ wife. I don’t think he was quite in his right mind. He didn’t really know he was saying, I hope.

Then there was the white haired woman, the pregnant man, the distant relative, some meatballs, chicken salad sandwiches, a veggie tray, fruit, some door prizes and gifts for the couple. I was struck by how normal everyone seemed. This was Middle America at its very best. They were all very sweet people, gathered at the Church of God Fellowship Hall who were there to celebrate the birth of a baby boy. It was great.

We went back to Mom and Dad’s house where we hung out on the back porch, ate pizza and celebrated his birthday. More friends came by, friends who have also adopted. They were anxious to see Fahlin and hear about the latest news. We talked into the evening hours and played some Euchre, a northern card game played with half a deck of cards. Very fun. My wife and I dominated. Listen, I’ve lived in the south long enough to consider myself a southerner, for dang sure!

So that was our weekend, Fahlin’s first trip to Ohio. She did great, enjoyed herself and met a lot of people who wanted to see her. The highlight, however, had to be my sister picking up a traffic ticket in Dayton while heading back home. 84 in a 65. She even called the male officer Ma’am. We loved it. It was a nice time, but it’s always good to be home for sure, here in Tennessee.

August 27

Jim Chapman

Aug 27 2015 1:00 AM

My wife and I are looking at the calendar trying to figure out when would be the best time to schedule the surgery for Fahl Fahl. Fall for sure, preferably before flu season hits. But, as we try to figure this out, a strange thought hit me; our lives are nutso. With the addition of Fahlin, I never dreamed how much more confusion we would have just by adding a Kindergartener into the equation. Man, did we really do this 20 years ago? And are we still doing this today?

My strange thought continued: Our first go ’round of children are basically out of the house and married (still praying for that right guy for Abby to come along). At this point, we should have been empty nesters. I remember all our friends having kids the same age as ours. I guess they’ve all grown up and moved on like ours. Now, however, we have four more, but everyone else around us who have children the same ages as ours, are mid-thirty something’s. I wonder when they look at us do they think we are just two old people watching our grandkids, or are we too old to be anyone’s friend, or do they just not know what to think? And I don’t know what all that means. I mean we have friends, I think…I hope.

We did after all; choose to walk this path God laid out for us. My wife and I think its fun to see the looks we get when we show up somewhere with our ‘littles’ in tow. This area it’s a little more common site, but when we go to Ohio, or Florida, or Illinois even it’s the “What in the world kind of family is that that just walked in?” look. Oh well. So on we go, marching to the beat of a different drummer for sure.

I think we’ve narrowed the date down to a week, the second week of October. That’s after our girls’ fall break, right before mine. The timing should be good. I never in a million years would have thought that we would be figuring out when to have one of our children’s open-heart surgery. It’s a pretty scary thought. But our doctor tells us it’s time and assures us that the results will be worth it. We’ll let you know for sure when it is.

August 25

Jim Chapman

Aug 24 2015 1:00 AM

The Visit With The Surgeon:

It has taken me all weekend to process what my wife, Yolanda and I heard from our Doctor this past Friday. My sister went with us. It’s always good to have her extra set of ears. He came in, sat down and proceeded to explain Fahlin’s condition to us in English. What I mean by that is it was so easy to understand exactly what he was saying. He went into the history of the procedure he was proposing by drawing a picture of Fahlin’s heart and how it works. As he drew (he actually started out in the medical field as a professional medical illustrator), he carefully explained how Fahlin’s heart worked differently from a normal heart. He showed us where the stent was placed and told us that we actually did dodge a bullet when we flew home with Fahlin, because her condition could have worsened very quickly and she quite literally could have died en route. The way he described it sent a chill up my spine. I did not realize how close we actually were to disaster. We now know without a shadow of a doubt, that the trip itself and just getting off the plane with Fahlin was a miracle.

Then, he continued by explaining exactly what the procedure would entail. It would involve building a shunt using a tube shaped material called ‘Gore-Tex,’ (which is basically the same type of material from which rain gear is made), from the left pulmonary artery to the lung and attaching it to a branch of vessels that were separated from the artery. The shunt would promote the growth of a new artery. Sounds simple, but there’s more to it than that for sure. He would go through the sternum, which is serious of course, but he explained the advantages of going through the front as compared to the side. This would be step one. Step two would happen about six months later, and would involve closing the two holes in her heart and connecting all the ‘plumbing’ as he called it. He even gave us a piece of the Gore-Tex so we could see exactly what it was. It’s pretty cool. The surgery would take about five to six hours depending upon all the variables.

He told us that Fahlin being as old as she was has worked to her advantage. It also was a disadvantage. But because it was a disadvantage, it has now become an advantage again. Huh? Anyway, all I know is this, where there was no future, now it looks a whole lot brighter.

We then asked the question. “What are the odds for survival?”

He said, “There’s about a three percent chance of failure.”

“What?!? Did you just say three percent?” We were floored. And we cried. That means there is 97% chance that she will do very well and come through the surgery and recovery time alive and well. I like those odds. I am sure God does not care about the odds. In fact, I am pretty certain that He created Fahlin just the way He wanted her, along with a built in cure that only needed to be discovered. Imagine the story this little girl will be able to tell when she grows up. It’s not IF she grows up, but WHEN she grows up. Pretty amazing. We continued to cry, especially me.

He seemed puzzled. Then my wife and sister proceeded to fill him in on Fahlin’s back-story. How we were basically prepared to provide palliative care for her so she hopefully could make to Christmas. This is where we discovered how serious the flight risk actually was.

He responded, “Now I understand the emotion. You’ve gone from zero hope to over 90%.”

We asked him if this were his child, what would he do? Technically, I don’t think he’s supposed to answer that question. He said he absolutely would not even hesitate. So now we are trying to figure out when the best time would be. Recovery time in the hospital would total a week or so, give or take a day or two, then a couple weeks at home maybe three. With swim team getting ready to crank up, we are hopeful to be in and out before it starts. It looks like October.

It’s difficult to sum up everything that was said, everything that we heard. The emotions we have experienced and myself in particular, have drained us. It is exhausting trying to wrap our minds about all of this. In the midst of this foggy whirlwind one thing I know is crystal clear, God’s hand has been and is still on this little girl’s life. Jeremiah 29:11 says; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is what He is doing for Fahlin. I have a feeling this scripture was written just for her.

August 24

Jim Chapman

Aug 24 2015 1:00 AM

What is going on?!? Who is this little girl that talks incessantly? Where did all this energy come from? We thought Kindergarten would kick Fahlin’s little tush, but it seems to have had the opposite effect. She comes home invigorated. School seems to be agreeing with her. Simply put, she loves it. Apparently she does well in the mornings, then runs a little low on gas in the afternoons so she hops the stroller (her teacher calls it the ‘rolling chair’) to one class or another, like Art or Music. At the end of the day, she rushes to the bus, climbs up, finds a seat and waits for her sisters to show up. And I was worried…pppppppsssshhh. I don’t know how to spell the sound you make with your mouth when you know you were right all along.

We have adjusted her bedtime over the last week. She is definitely not a morning person, so now we put her to bed at 7:30. Adjustment accomplished. At bedtime, I’ll pick up the ukulele and sing a couple stupid songs that I make up. I can get Fahlin and Jayne laughing so hard that Fahlin loses her breath. Then, to my surprise, I start strumming and singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Fahlin knows the words. “I learn that song in my China, Dad!” How about that, little orphan children in China are singing about Jesus. Awesome!

We then read the Bible and pray. The first one to sleep gets a quarter for their bank, but this night we have to start over because of a little incident known as the ‘Torn Down Curtain’ incident. The girls had tried to put a hair bow on the curtain. We never heard the curtains fall. We just discovered them the next morning, in a pile with the rod that had been ripped out of the wall. I tried to get mad at them, but I couldn’t, they were just too cute. But, no quarter!

Fahlin did run out of gas on Friday. She’s been tired and grumpy all weekend. Her teacher talked with my wife and said she was little pitiful today. But we are so encouraged watching her proudly stroll the hallways of Rock Springs Elementary. She’s so cute. However, there’s still a long road ahead for little Fahlin. We visit the surgeon on the 21st (at this writing, that could have today, or yesterday, or this past Friday). I’ll be sure to fill you in next time. Keep her in your prayers.

August 20

Jim Chapman

Aug 19 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin has pretty much blown both of us away. You are aware of my trepidation going into the school year. My wife, Yolanda was much more optimistic and even she mentioned how surprised she was. Fahl Fahl doesn’t seem to mind the bus; in fact she loves the bus. She doesn’t even wait for her sisters at all. She marches right out to the bus, climbs up those very large steps and presto, finds a seat and waits for her sisters, who in turn, help her off the bus when it arrives at its stop seven minutes later (we are the second stop on the route and its only a couple of miles from the school). At this rate, she will be in control of the entire school in about a month.

Of course when I was a kid, we walked to school, which was over a mile away and it was uphill both ways. It is taking an emotional toll on me. These little girls have a way of doing that to a person, me in particular. In fact, just today at school, in my first class of the day, I cried. Yes, I’ll admit it. My daughter Izzy is in that class. Here’s the story:

At the beginning of every school year, I introduce myself to my class and tell them a little bit about me. I talk about each of our children and then tell our adoption story. It’s never affected me this way before, but today was different. When I began to tell the class about how adoption changed our lives, mine in particular, I started to tell them about that day nearly 15 years ago when a little baby was placed in our arms for the first time…and it was Izzy, who is now sitting right here in her Dad’s class.

I started to cry. Not just cry, bawl. Overcome with emotion. I didn’t even feel it coming. And yet here I stood, in front of my class trying to gather myself and I couldn’t. I couldn’t even breathe. I couldn’t speak. I made a few attempts, but all that came out where squeaks and squawks and blathering and blubbering. It felt like ten minutes. Later, my daughter told me it was more like two. It felt like forever. Well, I got past the awkwardness; you know, that part where the class was sitting there looking at me with that, “What in world is going on, did I miss something, did something just happen, are you alright?” look on their faces. When I explained it to my wife, I said it just hit me. “Like a truck!” Izzy added from across the room. Came out of nowhere.

To me it was a precious moment. One I will never forget. My daughter, Izzy is in my class. At BA! Who would have ever thought that a little girl who started her life in a small, cardboard box would end up half way around the world in Brentwood, Tennessee, going to a prestigious private school like Brentwood Academy? Only a sovereign God can orchestrate stuff like this. It’s crazy, but here she is.

But that is what happens when you adopt. We are the blessed ones. I am blessed, blessed, blessed. I don’t know which other word to use. Words aren’t adequate. But little miracles just like Fahlin, are waiting in cold, desolate places all over the world for their stories to unfold. All it takes is a family to commit. It’s not necessary to be a perfect family, just a family. Then, just hold on…the tears are coming!

August 17

Jim Chapman

Aug 17 2015 1:00 AM

Man, oh man! I thought for sure going to Kindergarten would wear Fahlin out. WRONG! She was up at 5:30 AM, ready to go. “No, no, no, no, no, Fahlin,” I said kindly (really, it was kind). “It’s too early to get up. Go potty and I’ll tuck you back in so you can go to sleep for a little while longer.” Then, I went outside, did my usual half hour walk. As I was returning, guess who was coming down the stairs. Yep! Fahl Fahl.

“Can I have pancake?” She asked (that’s the way she talks).

Of course, this is also the weekend my wife works. I am usually a great Dad when it comes to taking care of the girls. I’m good at baths, tucking in, and cooking stuff, but this is one of those weekends with a lot going on and I cannot be three places at once. Really, I can’t.

Secretly, I wish my wife could work from home, or I could find an extra income stream (i.e. sell more of my paintings) to offset her earnings that would not hinder or distract from my ability to do my best for my current employer, that I absolutely love, by the way…yes, secretly…it would be a whole lot easier. Well, I guess that’s not so secret now. But parenting these gals is busy, hard work, and Fahlin’s newfound energy is not helping, haha. And besides, God’s word never promises us anything will be easy. So, I take a deep breath and (as my bro-in-law sings) keep “Divin’ in.”

We made it through Sunday, which also was a bit of a challenge. Thank God our daughter Abby still lives with us. She is awesome. I have to throw her a bone every now and then, but I don’t mind. She’s a huge help. Monday will be another challenge as it’s the fourth day in my wife’s four-day weekend. Plus it’s the first day Fahlin will be riding the bus home. Her big sisters will be there to assist. Hope THAT goes well.

I am still a nervous wreck. My wife makes fun of me. We will see. It’s Fahlin’s first full week of Kindergarten as well. I am pretty sure she will be totally exhausted by the end of the week. We will see. So, first full week, first bus ride, and more firsts for Fahlin as she experiences, art, music, library and naptime. We will see how it goes. We will see.

August 14

Jim Chapman

Aug 15 2015 1:00 AM

“Good,” when asked how her first day of Kindergarten was.

“I ate yellow soup and grape,” she answered when asked what else she did.

“Uh huh,” was the answer when questioned about her class’s quest to find the Gingerbread Man (the teacher’s creative way to show the kids their new environment called a school).

So it was. Fahlin’s first full day of Kindergarten. Of course it was girls only, today. Tomorrow, the full compliment of children show up. Boys. I have instructed Fahl Fahl that she is to never kiss a boy under any circumstance. Until she’s older, of course and even then he has to be on my ‘pre-approved’ list…and closing in on thirty (years of age, that is, her, not him, well him too).

But, it seems as if the day went well. She showed me the little cartoon pictures of the faculty she found on the Gingerbread Man hunt, then preceded to go into details explaining how the day went. She told me the first thing they did was “stuff.” Then they went outside for recess, followed by a return trip to the room where they did more “stuff,” followed by another trip outside to the playground. Then, “We eat,” said Fahlin. Apparently, the Gingerbread Man theme carried throughout the day, because Fahlin told us they read two books about the Gingerbread Man as well. I’m sure somewhere during all the visits to the playground and the classroom.

On the playground, she just, in her words, “walk around.” She must have gotten tired, as well. We found out her teacher asked her if she was tired, which she was, so she got to ride in the stroller we provided. Ms. Blackburn pushed her, “Not too fast!” she said. She made friends, Violet and Maribelle, and a few more whose names she couldn’t remember. As I type, she is standing here just blabbering, non-stop.

And so it begins. Thirteen more years of school to look forward to. A far cry from the “We don’t know if she will even make it to the first day of Kindergarten” we were told when we first started the adoption process. Here we are, in school, living the dream with Fahlin, our Kindergartener. I didn’t want to be an empty nester anyway. So much for that idea!

“Uh, huh,” was the answer to the question about whether or not she was the cutest kid in the class.

“Uh, huh,” was the answer to the question about whether or not she was the smartest kid in her class.

We’ll keep working on “Yes Ma’am,” and “Yes Sir.”

August 12

Jim Chapman

Aug 13 2015 1:00 AM

We have come to calling Fahlin many different things. Fahl Fahl, Fahlly, Fahlly Fahl, Fee Fee, and even FF. It’s all fun, and she answers to all. Well, little Fahlin, or, Fee Fee, or the soon to be ‘Majesty, or Highness’ of the class, starts Kindergarten today. It’s all girls Thursday. The boys were phased in on Wednesday.

What will the day hold? I have many questions. Will she be able to walk up and down the halls? They are so long. Will she overheat at recess? Will she freeze to death in the room? She doesn’t do well in either. What happens if other kids run over her? She bruises easily. Will she catch a virus or germ that will cause complications? We’re not talking about a normal child here. We’re talking about a child who has a serious health issue. My child. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that. But that is the point of my concerns. I am a nervous wreck over Fahlin going to Kindergarten. My heart palpates just thinking about it and it feels like my heart is stuck in my throat. Anxiety, I guess. (I know, the Bible tells us to be anxious in nothing…I know, I know).

Last night was Kindergarten parents’ orientation. While I was at the Brentwood Academy ‘Back to School Picnic,’ my wife attended the meeting. She was able to find out who Fahlin’s teacher would be, Ms. Blackburn. From what my insiders tell me, she is awesome. Having a child with certain, well, limitations is nothing new to her. She seems to understand the gravity of Fahlin’s situation and is willing to do whatever it takes to make Fahlin’s first year in school a wonderful experience.

One thing I know for sure, Fahlin will rule the roost. No Doubt about it. I heard Jayne the other day ask Fahlin, “Can I stop playing with you now?” That’s the power she has over kids. I told Jayne she didn’t have to ask permission anymore to stop playing. But I can see it now; get the Queen’s throne ready, because, here she comes. Kindergarten will never be the same.

August 10

Jim Chapman

Aug 9 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin did wonderfully on her Kindergarten assessment, at least according to the teacher that administered the test. Whew. Since Mom was working Friday, I had the job of taking the girls to school for registration day. I like Lydia’s teachers a lot, I have known Jayne’s teacher forever and she’s great, but this Kindergarten thing has me a little worried.

Even though Fahlin’s energy level is much higher than prior to the stent, I noticed she was laboring to walk up and down the very, very, very, very, long halls of Rock Springs Elementary. I’m not sure how she will do being there all day. I am pretty certain it will be pretty taxing on her little body. We have secured a doctor’s waiver from P.E. class. Next, I suppose, we will most likely provide the school with a wagon that she can ride in when she gets tired. Really, we have a wagon. It’s made out of canvas. Very cool.

We’re not sure how we are going to do transportation just yet, either. She has enough trouble going up and down steps. Trying to step onto the school bus steps (they are pretty big) may well be impossible, especially as slowly as she goes. We take the girls in the morning, but I can just see it now, after school, all the over-excited children rushing to get on the bus just trampling over poor little Fahlin. Sigh.

Her first ‘phase-in’ day is Thursday. Boys come Wednesday, girls on Thursday, the whole class on Friday. As we get closer to beginning, I can’t help but wonder what the school year holds for ole Fahlin. How will she do? How tired will she be? I know how smart she is, that is not something I’m worrying about. How will the surgeries go? How much time will she miss? Will the school cooperate? Will they even care? It is really not easy on me (or my wife) at this point. I am choking back tears even now as I think about how she will do in her new environment. She is awe-inspiring to watch, and as long as I don’t let the potential negatives creep into my mind, I do okay. It is when the sad, weak, frail human side of me takes over that my heart palpates and I nearly panic. That’s when I realize I still have five girls living in my house and that there’s still a lot of other responsibilities on my shoulders as well. I guess I should be panicked all the time, come to think of it.

On the outside, I will put on a brave front. I’ll be confident and reassured that I’m good at what I do. Everything will look like it’s going well. But rest assured, inside I’m crying, praying, screaming, reflecting, frustrated, hopeful, apprehensive, optimistic and well, simply put, a basket case of every emotion possible. But the Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 13 …that we must abide in these three; faith, hope, love and that the greatest of these is love. Those are the ‘big three,’ for sure. They trump all the other feelings I may be experiencing. I’m grateful to be able to lean on that verse, and not just because we adopted a little girl named Fahlin, but because my life has changed completely…once again. Kindergarten at RSE may never be the same.

August 5

Jim Chapman

Aug 4 2015 1:00 AM

We have direction. The Fall promises to be the hardest road we as a family have ever walked. I don’t know if we are looking forward to what lies ahead, but it’s what lies ahead. We met with our cardiologist on the third, a couple of days ago now as you read this (I’m actually writing this on the third). It was basically a follow-up to the heart cath, plot a course and let’s get an echocardiogram just to verify her improved blood flow kind of meeting.

As you have followed Fahlin’s story, you will remember how we have gone from absolutely no hope to now having the very real possibility of a long life. Dr. Moore reiterated this to us today. He made a statement that has not left me. He said, “It would be more of a concern not to proceed.” He’s that confident. Of course, now the next step is to actually meet the micro-surgeon who will be doing the procedure. I’m excited to meet him because we have found out that not only is he an accomplished surgeon, but also an accomplished medical illustrator, something I considered long ago. I have always felt a great artist could also be a great surgeon. I was not that confident in my smarts. But I digress, a little.

The ‘fix’ will come in stages. The first step is to establish blood flow from the left lung to the heart. The doctor will place a shunt made out of PVC pipe from the right lung to one of the arteries and then, if all goes according to plan, her body will grow a new artery. Pretty amazing. Pretty mindboggling. Pretty frightening. I fought back tears all morning while with the doctor in the meeting. I needed to be strong for Fahlin. She has no idea what’s coming. My wife didn’t see me. Of course, our plan is to get a second, third and fourth opinion from other noted children’s hospitals in Boston, Pittsburgh and Michigan. On top of all of this, Fahlin starts kindergarten in a few weeks (her kindergarten assessment was yesterday…she did well, by the way). We are concerned with how all this is all going to work. Our cardiologist of course, gave us the necessary paperwork to limit Fahlin’s physical exertion while at school. I guess she’ll be getting a lot more Art and Music. The other layer to all of this is how much school she will miss. The school will just have to understand. I actually used to teach there so I still have a pretty good relationship with everyone there. She should be fine.

It’s a lot to think about. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Sounds to me like that verse was specifically laid out in the Bible for Fahlin. After all, the big determining factor in our adoption of Fahlin was to try to find hope. It seems to me God has made that hope real.

August 3

Jim Chapman

Aug 3 2015 1:00 AM

Well, what we are calling “Fahlin’s First Vacation,” has finally come to a close. It was almost 12 days ago we loaded up my sister’s big blue van called ‘Big Blue,’ and headed to Florida. First, to Tampa to see my daughter, then to Panama City Beach for another week of fun in the sun. It was to to be the best ‘vacay’ ever! Fahlin was sooooo excited…and she doesn’t (didn’t) even know what a Florida or a beach or even a vacation was.

We always let the girls pack a bag of stuff to take to entertain themselves with on the trip. It is always interesting to see what’s in their bags. Fahlin’s bag was full of stuffed animals and other miscellaneous items. Mr. Bunny was in there, along with Mr. Giraffe, two pairs of ‘sunglass,’ as she calls them, and her pink slipper boots. Can’t live without the slipper boots. As for the other girls, well let’s just say, theirs were packed with all sorts of items that made us laugh out loud when we saw what they were. Kids.

I have to admit; I thought being a grandparent and visiting my daughter would be a little easier. I mean, I remember my grandparents visiting then leaving. In and out, smooth as silk, or us visiting them, in, out, fun. But in our case, as our children have all started spreading out eleven hours in each possible compass direction, logistics require a little work. And on top of that, when we visit we are usually lugging around all one hundred (so it seems) of the ‘littles.’ It sometimes makes for logistical nightmares, or as we prefer to call them, memories.

Like our first night of the trip, for instance. We decided to break up the drive by stopping at around seven hours in. Valdosta Georgia was our chosen stopping point. The Drury Inn, to be exact. We like Drury Inns, free continental breakfasts and free continental suppers. That works out great when you have too many children for the legal occupancy level of each room. So, how were we going to sleep? Well, in one bed was Abby, Izzy and in between them was Jayne. In our bed, my wife and I had two little guests of our own, Lydia and Fahl Fahl (yes, we really do call her that still). BUT, we decided to sleep sideways or crossways, not the usual way you would lay in a bed. I sprawled out over the nightstand; Fahlin was next to me because she never moves, Lydia was next to Mommy, and Yolanda was at the foot of the bed. Good luck. It was a horrible idea. Hahahahaha. We are still laughing about it. Jayne flopped around all night and proceeded to make enemies of Abby and Izzy. Fahlin pinned me against the headboard while Lydia talked and sang all night long IN HER SLEEP! Hilarious! Just hilarious. What were we thinking? We really did have a good laugh the following morning.

Four more hours and a few Florida rain showers later, we were in Florida. It is always so good to see my daughter, Bethany. We have always had a solid Daddy/Daughter bond. I took her everywhere with me when she was little. We even got her ears pierced when she was a baby because she had absolutely no hair and everyone thought she was the cutest little boy in the world. She was adorable. How could she not be? After all she was my first-born little girl and besides, she looked exactly like me. Lucky girl, or poor thing, I’m not sure which. I love her dearly, and to watch her transition to motherhood is pretty awesome. She came with us to Panama City for the week. I was so glad to have her around. I miss her. She is doing such a wonderful job as a new mother. I am so very, very proud of her

So as “Fahlin’s First Vacation” comes to a close, we cannot wait ‘til next summer for “Fahlin’s Vacation Two, the Sequel.” Of course, between now an then, Fahlin will have one of the toughest years any young child should never have to experience. If all goes according to plan, she will have faced two, that’s two open-heart surgeries combined with the recovery time associated with each. On top of that, she will have started kindergarten, and how we’re going to do that plus the hospital time we haven’t quite figured out just yet. Our hope is that this time next year we will be celebrating a new, healthy little Fahlin, complete with new and improved plumbing, compliments of talented, highly trained micro-surgeons blessed by our Holy Father. A somber prospect, for sure. But we will take each day one at a time, and if all goes well, we will once again be standing on the beach as a family, taking all those silly pictures…and cherishing each and every moment.

August 1

Jim Chapman

Aug 3 2015 1:00 AM

As our vacation is about to wind down, it seems that Friday evening is ‘Family Photo Night on the Beach.’ What?!? We have done this every year we’ve come here and I still don’t understand. After a very fun, exciting, death defying and long day at the water park, the photo prep began.

* Special note: Fahlin said and I quote, “I really looooved that water park!” For the record, all she did was stand in the water. She would walk into the kiddie pool area, stand or squat there, then walk back out. From what I understand, she did this the entire time. My friend Don and I, on the other hand, were busy escorting the other three ‘littles,’ which included our special guest ‘little,’ Molly Kate Orr. We did every ride there was to do. The fast ones, the tall ones, the tube ones and the ones where you needed a mat. It was fun indeed. The strangest thing about the day was the thunder and lightning that rolled in. They kept the pools and the park open despite any apparent danger. It truly was death defying.

Back to the picture taking story. My main thought, as I watch the chaos of preparation around me is, “Why does it take seven females so long to get ready for pictures on the beach?” Oh wait, they are seven females. So, like an idiot I ask the question, “Why does it take seven females so long to get ready for pictures on the beach?” “Because you sit around and don’t do anything to help!” comes the answer. I had to ask. Somehow, it’s my fault. “How in the heck is it my fault?” I think to myself. Am I the only husband out there who just can’t win? I smile.

At this point I decide to mind my own business and just do what the seven women say. I am told to drive us to a local restaurant. Of course, we get there late and there is a massive line, which immediately adds to the stress of the moment. There may not be enough sunlight left in the day for pictures. So, we load up and head back to the beach. We will eat afterwards, I’m told. Oh great, another two hours before supper. Everyone is already showing early signs of being ‘hangry,’ especially Abby. You know, ‘hangry’ is the grumpy-ness caused by being hungry.

After fighting traffic like I’ve never seen before in Panama City, we arrived back at the beach. We changed into our picture taking clothes (since most of us are messy eaters, we all had on eating clothes, especially the little girls) and walked out to the beach. Just like I anticipated, almost two hours later we were finished. We had plenty of light left. My family is beautiful, I decide with absolute certainty. They really, really are. Of course, I knew all along we would have enough light.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fahlin eat more food faster than she did that night. She inhaled her Firehouse meatball sub in about two minutes. My wife asked her if she was hungry. With the biggest grin she could grin, she said “Uh huh.” That missing tooth just adds something special to her smile. Y’know, she really is one cute little kid. And this has been one really special vacation…just for her (and if truth be told, us too!).

July 29

Jim Chapman

Jul 31 2015 1:00 AM

We are fried. Like eggs. The day started out wonderfully. The gulf was about as calm and still as I’ve ever seen. We got to the beach around 9:00 and the day began. Izzy paddle-boarded to Belize and back, it seemed. Lydia and Jayne met up with Molly-Kate, their friend and the adopted daughter or our friends, Don and Edee Orr. Fahlin played in the sand. Did I mention Fahlin playing in the sand? We all hung out and played all morning. It got hotter as the morning went on, but we were having such a great time playing, and talking and catching up with the Orrs.

Don and Edee are great adoption supporters and advocates. They totally understand the effect these little ones have on the lives of those who adopt them. It’s hard to explain, but the impact is indescribable. I know because I live it every day. And I’m so glad I do. I cannot imagine any of our daughters not being around. Izzy’s ‘old soul,’ mature mentality, Lydia’s effervescent, happy-go-lucky style, Jayne’s clueless innocence, and Fahl Fahl’s over-the-top personality that I did not expect at all. If you would have told me this is who she was while we were in China, I would never have believed it. Take her new hairstyle, for instance (see picture). Also notice her tooth, or absence thereof. Yes, she lost that a couple days ago. That is what we live with. I love that picture.

After lunch I talked with our friends about Fahlin’s future. Yolanda had succumbed to the heat a while earlier and nearly passed out, were it not for the heroics of one Izzy Chapman dousing her with cold water. I only learned this later, however. Otherwise, I would have been much more concerned. The conversation turned serious. Edee and Don were in China with my sister and brother-in-law the day Fahlin’s last best friend, Judah, was adopted, and they watched as Fahlin cried when her friend left with his new family (He now lives in Nashville as well, and yes, we have gotten them together). It broke their hearts to see the depth of Fahlin’s sadness, and it was then and there that they committed (and schemed) to finding Fahlin a family. Us. We continued to bake, unbeknownst to all of us.

After a long, hot day in the sun, we lobsters headed back to our villa for an evening of rest, relaxation, supper and recovery from the heat. That’s when Fahl Fahl proceeded to show us all her new dance moves, which are hilarious by the way. Poor thing, she has absolutely no rhythm whatsoever. Jayne has even less, which we found out as well when she showed us her moves as well. But the girls finally managed to talk me into taking them back down to the pool. They had a blast and, much to my surprise, it happen to be movie night at the pool, when all the kids could float around on the water as the movie “Frozen” played. It was a beautiful evening.

As I reflect back on the day, a somber reality hits me. As much as I try not to think about the negatives of Fahlin’s condition, I can’t help but think about what lies ahead for her. Could Fahlin’s first real vacation also be her last? Heart surgery is no laughing matter, and there are no 100% guarantees. But after talking with Don and Edee, we realize that none of this is in our control, but in that of the Father in Heaven. He has brought us this far, brought Fahlin this far, and any uncertainty is more than outweighed by hope and faith. This will not be the last vacation. Certainly not.

July 27

Jim Chapman

Jul 29 2015 1:00 AM

You all know we are on what we are calling “Fahlin’s First Vacation.” The stay with my daughter, Bethany was wonderful, even though it basically rained the last 48 hours or so. We did manage a few hours in Clearwater on the beach. It’s pretty nice, I must say, and it was Fahlin’s first trip ever to the beach, or even the ocean for that matter. She didn’t seem overly impressed, in fact, the closer she got to the water, the more frightened she became. I picked her up, swooped her into my arms and walked into the Gulf of Mexico. I got to about my knee-depth. She was screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs. Bloodcurdling screams. I thought to myself; this needs to stop. I turned around, trudged back to the beach, the screaming stopped. She played in the sand. We arrived in Panama City around 3:00 on Sunday.

The very first thing we did, after unpacking, that is, is the four ‘littles,’ Abby and myself got our suits on and headed immediately to the beach. Of course, we put Fahlin on top of all the stuff we had in the red fold-up wagon (it was unfolded, by the way) and pulled her along behind us. What a diva! We arrived at our spot near the edge of the gulf. The water in Panama City compared to Clearwater was much calmer and more emerald colored. I guess that’s where the name ‘Emerald Coast’ comes from. I swooped her up again and headed in. Oooh boy, mistake. The screaming commenced with unbridled furor. I squatted down and held on as the gentle waves (they were mild compared to the thrashing waves in Tampa) washed over us. I told her when she stopped screaming, I would get her out. She stopped. I took her out. She played in the sand. Again.

There will be another opportunity tomorrow, when she least expects it (insert evil laugh here). But then, IT happened! A random woman, named Candy I would later find out, from Georgia, asked THE question. “Are those your GRAND-daughters?” She asked with a straight face. I just wanted to punch her. “No,” I answered, trying to show the love of Jesus as best I could, “They’re actually my daughters.” She apologized (I still wanted to punch her, but Jesus would not have done that, I’m pretty certain), and proceeded to delve into the backstories of the girls. I don’t mind indulging strangers when they are interested in the girls, and I certainly am happy to share about their lives, even when being mistaken for a Grandparent. Ugh. It’s becoming a recurring nightmare and has happened more times than I care to admit. So much for working out, staying in shape and fighting Father Time. I’m not that old…(don’t ask). Hey, old parents are better than no parents! Conversing about the girls nearly always leads to a conversation about how God has worked and is still working in their lives. He’s led us to this point in our lives. He’s provided for us, taken care of us, blessed us immeasurably; given us friends who share their good fortune with us by letting us use their condo on the beach. God truly is good.

Side note: The family who is letting us stay in their condo is also the family that was very instrumental and played an enormous role in us bringing Fahlin home. So back to Candy, the woman on the beach. She was smitten with Fahlin and her story. She was taken by all the girls. She told me she would keep them in her prayers. But that is what happens when you live in the world of adoption. Let’s face it, when a dude of my stature and age walks into a place with four obviously Asian little girls, it catches people’s attention, especially if you’re in an area where adoption is not as common as it is in Nashville. We get stopped quite often. I get stopped quite often. But it’s all-okay. I may look like someone’s Granddad, but to them, I’m just Dad!

July 24

Jim Chapman

Jul 24 2015 1:00 AM

I am a morning person. I cannot remember the last time I slept much past 6:00. Usually it’s anywhere between 5:15 and 5:45. AM, that is. My wife? Definitely NOT a morning person. My kids? Fahlin is not, that is for sure. Izzy is the closest thing there is to a morning person among the children. And that’s mainly because she is either getting up early to ride to school with me, or getting up early for morning swim team practice. I admire these kids who get up at 6:00 to go swim the first of two practices on the day. No wonder they’re all good swimmers. Make that, GREAT swimmers!

But I digress a bit. This morning I was up, out of the house, and finished with my morning workout waaaay before anyone even noticed. I could have dropped over and no one would have even noticed until who knows when. I even fixed breakfast. Then I sat. I just sat. In the dark. I prayed over each member of my family from my wife to the grandbaby. I even made tea. They never heard the whistle of the teapot. Ha!

But, I listened. My daughter and son-in-laws apartment is plenty big for their young family, but when the seven of us invade, we are all just piled up on top of each other. Fun stuff, for sure. Fahlin makes weird noises while sleeps. She sort of smacks her lips, grinds her teeth and mutters to herself. It’s usually one of those three sounds all night long. Nothing annoying, just subtle little nuances of sound.

I’m grateful to be the one who gets to listen to those noises. In the quiet of the morning, it’s nice to be reminded of our greater purpose. It goes beyond us. In my case, it reaches half way around the world. These one-time fatherless little girls now have a father. I’ve stated before and I’ll state it again, what an honor. I do not take that responsibility lightly. I sometimes feel sorry for them though, that they have such a weird father. But, I have seen other adoptive dads, and believe me, when I compare myself to them, I don’t look that strange at all. But, they still think I’m weird. That’s okay, it’s part of the job description.

They can be a little weird as well. We’ve spent several hours in the neighborhood pool so far. What’s really funny is watching serious swimmers get in a pool who are only there to play or relax. They don’t know what to do with themselves. Izzy even asked, “What do I do?” But the little girls are, “Daddy watch this!” or “Daddy watch that!” or “Daddy get in with us!” or “Can I stand on your shoulders?” So I oblige. I even took my weird Dad status to a new level yesterday when I donned the Speedo. The girls were horrified. I just figured I would embarrass them for a day. After all, it’s not like I knew anybody.

Fahlin was petrified, not of the speedo, but of the water. Terrified of me getting near her. Death grip city when I did get her in (and, yes, I’ll keep getting her in). I suppose I should not have dunked her that one time. Hindsight moment. But nevertheless, she needs to be comfortable around the water. It’s where we spend our lives.

So I think about all those moments I’ve had with the girls. I pray some more. Speak to me, Lord. In those quiet moments of our lives, which for me are mainly in the mornings, I try to quiet my mind and listen. In my mind I think all these moments with the girls are good. I like to quote kids movie lines because I think God sometimes uses kid movies to reveal great truths in our lives. In the movie ‘”Bolt,” the hamster character named Rhino is standing next to Bolt as they prepare to jump off a bridge to certain doom onto a fast moving train below. Rhino looks at Bolt and says, “Every moment I spend with you is the new greatest moment of life!” That’s the way I feel about these little girls. Having Fahlin solidifies that thought. Thank you for speaking to me, God.

It’s 8:53. Why isn’t anyone up yet?

July 20

Jul 19 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin has a lot more firsts coming up in the near future. Tuesday we head to Tampa to visit her sister Bethany and nephew Nash for a couple days. Then it’s back up to Panama City Beach for a week. I hope it’s blistering hot. I love hot. Oh, wait, not sure how Fahlin will do in the Florida sun. I foresee a lot of early mornings or late evenings for her at the beach, while the rest of us build sand sharks, body surf and try to ride on that big paddleboard thing.

But, before I get to more anticipated firsts, Fahl Fahl experienced a first I never thought she would ever have to experience and, for sure it was frightening for each of us involved; five of us were in the car, myself and the four ‘littles.’ It happened last Saturday after the final session of the Williamson County Swim Championships (which we won, by the way, ‘we’ being the new Nolensville Mighty Hurricanes summer swim team, which I also coach, but that in itself is quite another story).

I always drive my old, 1994 green Explorer to those meets. It hauls all the tents, chairs, coolers, stopwatches, t-shirts, starter systems, etc., etc. Even though the windows only half work, the paint is looking rough, duct tape holds one window in place and the check engine light never goes off, the old car still passes emissions and has always served me well. I rarely let the girls ride in it, and even more rarely are the times when they all have to ride in it at the same time. But that day Yolanda was working and I had no choice.

On the way over earlier that morning, the brakes felt soft, but nothing too alarming. I was by myself then, so I didn’t think anything about it. The ride home was when it happened. Driving east on Concord road through all that ongoing and might I add, stupid construction, the brakes went completely out. I swerved into the barrels on the right at one point to avoid a collision. Then, as I approached Edmonson Pike I noticed we began to pick up speed going down the hill. There were three cars in the turn lane up ahead, two in the straight lane and the light was red…and I was speeding up with both feet firmly stomping on the brakes as I tried to stop my car. Lydia was screaming, Izzy was saying, “Uhhh, Dad, are you going to stop?” I swerved left into the oncoming traffic lane right before the intersection, as the light turned green. I made a sharp left in front of the three cars that were heading directly toward us who were all honking their horns as they b-a-r-e-l-y missed us. Fahlin was oblivious.

I pulled into the first neighborhood and coasted to a stop where I gathered my thoughts and formulated a game plan as to how to get home. A little over an hour later, averaging a whopping ten mph while riding low gear down hills, unintentionally running every stoplight and stop sign I encountered, and forgetting I had an emergency brake, we arrived home. I could finally breathe. I was sweating like a pig. Fahlin was still oblivious.

I subsequently called my mechanic, who informed me the repairs would run about as much or more than the car was worth. I sold the car for $300. It was kind of sad to see old ‘Greenie’ go. We had been through a lot. Fahlin has not noticed.

So, after surviving the harrowing ‘Car Ride of Terror’ (which, as we all now know to which Fahlin was oblivious), Fahlin gets to see her first ocean sunset, walk on her first white sand beach and take those silly beach pictures with the family all dressed in matching clothes that the wives love to take and we husbands just go along with. She gets to sleep in her first condo, play in her first Gulf, and bury her daddy in a sand pit. It doesn’t get much better than that! I cannot wait. I’m pretty sure as I sit looking out over the Gulf of Mexico, I will harken back to the many good memories that were made in old ‘Greenie.’

July 16

Jim Chapman

Jul 16 2015 1:00 AM

Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” I know that when I first became a parent, I felt unprepared, overwhelmed and ill equipped. I’m sure many of you did as well. Why would God trust me with the upbringing of any child, let alone eight, half of which are from the other side of the world? From where I began as a parent to where I am now, I have to admit I sometimes wonder how I got here. But by the grace of God, to be sure.

Children are the least of these. Orphan children are even ‘more-least,’ I’m sure. I have loved almost every second of parenting our children. Our first go ‘round as well as this go ‘round. I would argue that this second go ‘round of children has turned the tables on that verse and have, unbeknownst to them, they are the ones who have ministered to me. I am nothing but a lowly, bald-headed sinner saved by grace, imperfect, flawed with a history of some things I would certainly like to forget. I also am the ‘least of these.’ My girls know nothing about their 15, 20 or 25 year old Dad. Thank Goodness. They know nothing of their 30, 35 or even 40 year old Dad, other than the stories of Dad being a famous country singer (a lifetime ago, it seems), which doesn’t matter to them in the least.

I can only imaging what goes on their minds. As far as Fahlin is concerned, being the most recent acquisition to the fold, and at age six, I am certain she struggles with rectifying everything that has happened in her life to this point. And then, as I write this, I hear her playing in the tub, giggling loudly with Jayne as they are splashing around in their own little world. Where would she be at this point if she were not with us? I don’t want to think about it. I know she would be back at the state orphanage, because she would have ‘aged out.’ Would they have caught the pinched artery and put in a stent? I tend to think not. That is a scary thought to me. More giggling I hear in the distance. More reality, sitting right there in the tub. Such life! Such cuteness! New hope. I shake my head in disbelief.

I simply hope some day the girls come to realize the impact they have had on my life. That they are the ministers. They are Jesus to me. That they are angels unaware to me. Not out of a sense of pride, but out of an understanding that comes from knowing the gospel and knowing the direction God has for them in their lives.

I only hope that by sharing these thoughts about Fahlin’s journey along with details of her story, that each of you is touched in some way. Thank you for coming along for the ride. You see, all of our second go ‘rounders have a story to tell, each one unique in its own way. We have seen the ripple effect Izzy’s life has had (it’s huge, by the way), we know everyone loves Lydia, Jayne’s sad beginning to her story makes people cry, and now Fahl Fahl’s has touch thousands…and especially mine. Splish splash, Fahlin’s takin’ a bath…

July 14

Jim Chapman

Jul 14 2015 1:00 AM

My, oh my, what has happened? I looked at my wife and asked, “Is this the same kid?” Fahlin has gone crazy since the heart cath. Here she was, ukulele in hand, standing on a small stool in the living room playing and singing songs she either made up or that were written by Taylor Swift or Uncle Steve. She doesn’t even know how to play a ukulele. Or sing, for that matter. But that makes no difference to her. It was both hilarious and cute at the same time.

For some reason, since the stent was placed in one of her arteries, she also has started speaking a lot louder. Yep, the decibel level has definitely gone up. I don’t know if there is some medical explanation or not, but it has definitely happened. “Fahlin, why are you yelling?” We ask. “I not yelling, Daddy.” Okay, if you say so. But it is so strange. It’s not our imagination, I promise. And I will ask our doctor. I am also pretty certain he will either tell me I’m imagining it, laugh, or look at me like I’m crazy.

I’ll take it, though. I mean as recently as two weeks ago, she was a cute, fun-loving child, albeit a tired one, who would quickly run out of gas. Now she is a cute fun-loving kid who doesn’t really know how to act with all this new energy floating around. In fact, earlier in the evening, she was walking through the kitchen, babbling in a made up language as loudly as she could. She was in her own little world and didn’t seem to care about anything going on around her, nor did she even notice. It was fun to watch.

The only negative we have seen is a result of being prescribed a daily aspirin. Her blood count was rather high, so a blood thinner was needed. I also take one every day, so Fahlin thinks it’s cool that we take our medicine together. But the aspirin has had a side effect. She now bruises much easier. Her legs look a mess, bug bites are problematic and it concerns us somewhat. We just monitor her time outdoors and keep a close eye out for mosquitos.

So we continue. Continue on our Fahlin journey. The next step begins when we return from vacation. Our appointment with the cardiac team is August 3rd. Most likely the meeting will be filled with scary descriptions of the type of surgeries Fahlin is facing. It’s a bit unnerving knowing she faces two open-heart procedures and the decisions we are facing as parents are pretty serious. With lots of prayer, I hope we are up to the task.

July 10

Jim Chapman

Jul 12 2015 1:00 AM

Well, we just finished visiting with our social worker, Sandy Ivey. It was the post-placement follow up visit required when adopting. This is a time when we talk about Fahlin and how well she has adjusted to her new surroundings here in Tennessee. We talk about family relationships with each sibling, events in her life, doctor’s visits, schedule, eating habits, and on and on. Sandy is great. She has been with us through all four adoptions, two of which happened after we had told her to close our files because we were finished adopting. Ha! Each time we called her and told her to open up our file again, she would just laugh, then jump right on board our runaway train. She has made all of the adoptions and the paperwork associated with each seem easier than it probably was. We feel a special connection with her, for sure, and are grateful for her support and devotion to our family. Fahlin had been crazy all morning. In fact, she was so full of energy she was acting as goofy as we had ever seen. But as soon as Sandy showed up, zipped lips…for a while, at least. Fahlin obviously felt comfortable around Sandy because it didn’t take long for her to open up. Sandy got to see the real Fahlin. She even got to witness Fahlin’s baby-whispering skills as she cuddled with our new grandson and put him right to sleep. She had obviously honed this skill while in China all those years. Part of what we told Sandy was that we did know what to expect from Fahlin, personality-wise. In China there was absolutely no indication she would have this much personality. I guess we thought she would be sickly and listless. Forgive me. I am thankful she’s not. And this extra oxygen? Well, it is amazing what can happen to a person when they actually have oxygenated blood flowing through their veins. I can only imagine how different she will be when these two surgeries are behind her. As Sandy was getting ready to leave and we were saying our goodbyes, it was apparent she was very pleased with Fahlin’s progress. After all she’s been through so far and all things considered, how could she not be? We gave Sandy the required eight or so pictures the agency wanted. These are to show the authorities back in China how well Fahlin is doing. Just one look at the smile on her face in each of the pictures and you will know instantly know she is doing with her new family. Fahlin is doing wonderfully. Thank you Sandy. Thank you China. And thank you for your prayers.

July 8

Jim Chapman

Jul 8 2015 1:00 AM

I realize the past couple blogs have been pretty heavy duty. Time to lighten the load a bit. Monday, after swim practice of course, we headed to my sister’s lake house on Kentucky Lake for a day of fun and frolicking with Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary Beth and the cousins. It was Fahlin’s first time ever on a boat. I doubt she’s ever even seen a boat before this, let alone ridden in one. She was so excited. In fact, as my wife was getting ready in the morning, she told Fahlin that they would leave to pick us up as soon as she took a shower. When my wife sat down and dilly-dallied for a bit, Fahlin said, as only Fahlin could say, “Uh, Mom, You should take shower now!” She starts a lot of her sentences with the word, uh. Anyway, Yolanda sat there, playing on her phone or computer or some such device a while longer, “Uh, Mom, you should take shower now!” Finally, after Yolanda had sat there long enough in Fahlin’s mind came the final plea. “Uhhhhh, Mom, you really should go take shower now!”

It was a day of more firsts for Fahlin. First time in a boat. First time in the tube behind the boat. Don’t worry, uncle Steve went slow, after all, this was Fahlin he was towing. First time to play on super large flotation apparatuses (or apparati?). First time to fall off of said floats and get scared. She did have on her Coast Guard approved life vest, however. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. She got right back on said float.

Another first. First time to watch her old man climb to the top of a 40-foot cliff in the rock quarry area of the lake and jump off. I surely wasn’t going to let these young whippersnappers, i.e. my nieces, Stevey Joy and Shaoey, my daughter Izzy, and the all the other young daredevils who were there climbing the ‘Cliffs of Doom,’ show me up. It wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be…and much easier to climb than it looked. There was only one way down. And I did it twice. The funniest part was hearing the kids climbing behind me making fun of the ‘old dude.’ I took it as a compliment.

The day at the lake could not have been more enjoyable; the cousins had a wonderful time. The grilling out was delicious. We got caught up with Beth and Steve. Their life is always interesting. My sister and I went down to a horrible defeat in a game of Euchre at the hands of our teenage daughters. I’ll take the blame. I was obviously not on my game. And probably best of all, Fahlin had the time of her life. Her smiling face said it all and from the time we arrived to the minute we loaded up to head home, that same smile never left her face. It was a good day.

July 5

Jim Chapman

Jul 8 2015 1:00 AM

Even though Fahlin’s oxygen levels have improved dramatically since the stent was put in place, we have noticed that she still has some days that are better than others. Some days, her coloration is more toward the normal, other days its leans toward blue. Our doctor tells us to keep an eye on her O2 levels as her body settles into its new normal. It serves as a constant reminder of the road ahead for our little girl.

And then there was last night. Fireworks. A friend had invited us to his hangar at the Smyrna Airport for a cookout before the fireworks display. It was great. Tons of kids, about 40 people, and better yet, we didn’t have to fight the crowd for a prime location. The food was great and it was also great getting to catch up with some old friends we hadn’t seen in quite awhile.

But the most amazing part was watching Fahlin. She was non-stop from the time got there, around 7:00, till we left at around 10:00. Who was this energetic child? She didn’t seem out of breath, but her little heart was working pretty hard. While I was watching her I kept saying, “Awwwww,” to myself. She didn’t even take a break, until the fireworks. Then she told us she had seen these before in “My China.” A week ago she would not have been able to do what she was doing.

But…and this is a big but, we have begun the conversations with our doctor(s). Fahlin is not out of the woods yet. The surgery that is being suggested will consist of two parts, six months apart. They are both very real open-heart surgeries, not without risk. What we have to weigh is the risk of surgery compared to the longevity (or lack thereof) of Fahlin’s life. I had enough trouble with the catheterization let alone heart surgery! Open-heart surgery!

As I have said before, we understood going in that Fahlin’s future would be fraught with uncertainty. It seems as if she has been ours forever already. To lose her would be unthinkable. But, it is something I think about. How can you not? I think I am pretty normal dude (no comments please) so thinking the unthinkable is something a normal person would think…I think. I don’t mean to and I try very hard not to. This is the first time I’ve even mentioned it to anyone other than my wife and my closest confidants. The Bible tells us that we don’t know what tomorrow holds, as this week will attest to, with two of our friends unexpectedly losing a husband and a son respectively, but we do know who holds tomorrow. And what we cannot bear on our own, Jesus bears for us. That is the hope upon which our family must now lean.

I will close this post with some lyrics from an old Bill Gaither song that go something like this:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.

July 1

Jim Chapman

Jul 8 2015 1:00 AM

It’s amazing to see the difference in Fahlin’s complexion and skin tone. Not only that, her energy level has gone up. She can ride her tricycle longer now. She can go up and down stairs without getting as out of breath as she once did. She sleeps longer. And this is only the first stage of what we are assuming will be a difficult year ahead.

We found out she was a ticking time bomb. The artery in which the stent was placed had a little section that was sort of pinched. Our doctor told us that if she had gotten overheated and dehydrated, that area could have formed a clot and caused a massive heart attack which most certainly would have been fatal. We had no idea. We are still kicking ourselves for even considering not doing the procedure. Again, we are glad we did.

So now we wait. The doctors are meeting this week to devise a plan. At that point we will then begin the process of putting together a timeline. What are we looking at? Two open heart surgeries, about six months apart. That should just about take up our next year. By this point in the calendar next year, or by Christmas for sure, everything should be okay. Everything should be okay. Those words are music to our ears.

That all sure sounds simple, but I can’t help but still worry (even though the Bible tells us not to worry). Okay, so maybe I’ll be concerned instead. We are talking about open-heart surgeries. We have numerous friends who have gone through various heart surgeries with their little ones, usually adopted little ones and we feel confident going into this. However, one of our friend’s children did not survive. That, is a difficult walk. One I am certain I do not want to face. Although the procedures we are talking about are completely different than what their little girl went through, she is always in the back of my mind. The outcome of course, is in God’s hands for sure and I must remember that. Each day is a blessing. Life is fragile, for sure, uncertain at best. We just simply have to pray and be thankful for each day we have with Fahlin and each other for that matter…and take it one day at a time.

June 29

Jim Chapman

Jun 29 2015 1:00 AM

It’s now the day after. You’ll remember we hesitated and almost did not go through with the heart cath. I am still stunned. My wife and I are trying to figure out what on earth happened. The earth had nothing to do with it…God has divinely intervened. I am serious. When we adopted Fahlin from China, we were prepared to be a loving family and provide whatever palliative care she would need. We were told there was nothing that could be done. She was so sick she was un-adoptable. We were even told she would most likely not even survive the plane flight home. Her complexion was even so blue, why would we believe otherwise?

Every night since we arrived home, I have prayed with Fahlin that God would heal her heart and make here body whole. She would even ask me, “Why you pray for my heart, Daddy?” I am ashamed to admit that I questioned my own faith. I know God heals, but I wanted instant results. Like in the Bible results. I tried so hard not to doubt, but I kept praying. I know many of you prayed as well. I know many of my sister’s and brother-in-law’s social media followers prayed. I know people in China prayed. If my faith was lacking, which I hope it wasn’t, the faith of every prayer partner was so obviously strong that somewhere between China and Tennessee, the healing had begun. I don’t know when it started, but God began a work in Fahlin’s body that was discovered in a heart Cath Lab in Nashville, Tennessee.

So what changed? Everything changed! We had no reason to doubt the diagnosis we were being told throughout the adoption process. There were records, charts, eco-cardiograms and the mysterious, missing Chinese heart cath results that were used to formulate her diagnosis. As we looked at the computer screen in the Cath Lab and listened to everything the doctors were telling us about what we were seeing, I felt a peace come over me. They could fix this one little place with a stent, today! Then in the near future, they could insert a shunt that would connect the heart to the left lung. Six months after that, they would then be able to repair the hole in her heart. Our cardiologist was just shaking his head in disbelief. He told us that what they were seeing and the suggested procedures they were talking about were not possible only one day prior to this. We would find out later that he was so excited about Fahlin’s change of fortune that he couldn’t wait to call his good friend, our pediatrician to tell him the good news.

Now I have to wrap my mind around what lies ahead. Everything sounds great. There is hope for Fahlin. There are options. But let’s get serious for a moment. We are still taking about two open-heart surgeries. Heart surgeries. Serious stuff. Long periods of time in a hospital. Long periods of recovery time. This next year looks like it is going to be a year of difficult decisions and even more difficult hospital stays. I can’t bear the thought of Fahlin having to go through what she’s facing, but I know in my heart of hearts (pun intended), that our little Fahl Fahl now has a future. Of course, that is if all goes well. For now we will celebrate our good news and enjoy the company of new less blue and more pinkish/very light purple daughter. And continue to pray…

June 26

Jim Chapman

Jun 28 2015 1:00 AM

It’s heart cath day at Vandy. We woke up around 5:00, got ready, had some breakfast then woke up little Fahl Fahl. Fahl Fahl is NOT a morning person, so you could imagine how extra quiet she was this morning. Apprehension and uncertainty will do that. She was quiet in the car, quiet at the hospital, quiet in the ready room. When the parade of doctors and nurses began, the silent glare continued. They would try asking questions, trying to get her to smile, trying to engage her…nothing. We explained to everyone that she would not be speaking to them, nothing personal, it’s just what she does and how she is in situations like this. At least after they left she would give us a smile or two.

I tried to liven up the proceedings a bit by making some balloons out of blue surgical gloves (see attached picture). It worked. It brought out the smiles. I actually made her a whole family of them. After the drugs started to kick in, loopiness and all, they wheeled her off to the Cath Lab.

The procedure was scheduled to last two and a half hours or so, with the occasional updates. We got a call shortly after she went back. She went under fine, and the procedure was off to a great start. Then came ‘the call.’ The lady at the desk said that the doctor was on his way out to discuss something with us. I immediately thought the worst, my wife, being in the medical field was not as shaken. We had known going in that there was a possibility that she may need a stent in one of her blood vessels. Sure enough, the doctor whisked us back to an office with a malfunctioning computer and then took us to the Cath Lab itself (the actual inner sanctum) to look at a few pictures of Fahlin’s heart. He showed us where he wanted to put it, and of course, between the doctor doing the procedure, our cardiologist, my sister and my wife and I, we decided to proceed. Fahlin’s recovery time was now quadrupled and our original somewhat short stay in the hospital has now turned into what could be a weekend affair, possibly through Sunday.

It was a little after 11:00 AM when we were brought back to the consultation room for the post procedure debriefing by the doctor. Not knowing what to expect, the news could not have been better. We went into this thinking we were going to find out how long Fahlin actually had to live, instead we came out of it with a new hope. The stent is working beautifully. The results of the catheterization were stunning. Our doctor told us as he shook his head in disbelief, that the postoperative pictures of Fahlin’s heart were beautiful. From what we understand, the entire Cath Lab was ecstatic about the results of the test. The doctors now think that there will be surgical options down the road, which will allow Fahlin to lead a fairly normal and active life, even to the point of being able to participate in athletics. This is amazing news considering how bleak her original prognosis was. We were in tears. Tears of happiness and overwhelming joy. Of course, there will be meetings, appointments and consultations in the future. Decisions will have to be made. But, according to all indications, if we proceed cautiously and take each step as it comes, Fahlin’s quality of life will improve dramatically.

Now, you and I both know that God is at work in this little girl’s life. My daughter-in-law said it best when she said that it’s Fahlin’s heart that touches everyone else’s heart with whom she comes in contact. There are so many details about her adoption and subsequent treatments and treatment options and little things that have happened, that to think God is not at work here would be silly. From the doctors involved, to the support people, the nurses, the technicians, the anesthesiologists, everyone, we feel certain that God has used each one to facilitate healing in our little girl’s life. Of course we cannot overlook the power of prayer. Let me say that again, we cannot overlook the power of prayer. I know there have been hundreds, thousands, even possibly millions of prayers lifted on Fahlin’s behalf. No doubt in my mind. And I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have had an impact on what is going here with Fahlin’s heart. We may never know how bad her heart really was and what has changed, but I know something has. God has heard our cries. He has answered in a mighty way.

I think our doctor summed it up best when he said “I see her as a twenty year old college student. I certain we can get her there.” A little later he followed up, “…and I see no reason why she couldn’t be playing on a soccer field in two years…” Although in our case, the sport is going to have to be swimming!

To say I’m glad we went ahead with the catheterization would be a major understatement. All that’s left to say now is “Praise God!”

June 25

Jim Chapman

Jun 25 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin is scheduled for a heart catheterization tomorrow. As you know, we are understandably concerned. We are going to proceed. Even though we’ve only had Fahlin for four short months, it seems as if she been ours forever, as if she’s always been ours. Well, I suppose she has always been ours. It’s rather mindboggling to think about the sovereignty of God and how He has ordained from the beginning of time that Fahlin would be here at this moment in time as our daughter.

As I type this, Fahlin is jabbering in my ear about various random things. She just got off face time with her brother who asked, “Why are you sleeping with Mom and Dad tonight?” To which she responded, “Because I like them!!!” Yep, she’s sleeping with Mommy and Daddy tonight. It’s hard to say no sometimes. She finally snuggled down into her pillow and went to sleep.

It’s pretty crazy the love you feel for these little girls. You love them instantly…totally…completely. You would do anything for them, just as you would your biological kids. But loving an orphan child (or ‘former orphan’ as our grown kids call them) is a different thing. As I watch Fahlin everyday, I don’t see how I could I love her any more and yet each day our love for this little girl in particular, grows. And I worry about her, what her future looks, what her life will be like. I understand there’s uncertainty for each of us and we do not know what each day will bring, but in Fahlin’s case, the uncertainty is staring us in the face each day and that uncertainty is the color purplish-blue; a constant reminder. What a trooper she is.

Sure, I don’t want her to go under anesthesia. I don’t want her to feel horrible as she recovers. I don’t want her to be sore afterwards. I don’t want her to risk her life. I don’t want her to go through this at all. She doesn’t even know it’s coming. This is awful. I am not looking forward to this. But if there is a chance that something could be discovered that might help our little girl, is it worth it? I’m sure it is…well, pretty sure, at least. Friday will be nerve-wracking for certain, anxious even. I know one thing for sure; I can’t wait ‘til Friday is behind us. Then maybe, I’ll be able to exhale.

…I’ll be sure to update you.

June 23

Jim Chapman

Jun 22 2015 1:00 AM

I’m a little nervous, no, make that a lot nervous this week. Friday, Fahlin is scheduled to have a heart catheterization. Her pediatric cardiologist has suggested to us that it would be a great way to see how her heart is actually working and it might show something that the Doctors can use to improve Fahlin’s quality of life. I don’t even know the name of Fahlin’s heart condition; I do know however, that 999 children out of a thousand that suffer from the same condition never reach it to Fahlin’s age. Thus, the medical curiosity.

Our pediatrician has told us both the upside and the downside to the heart cath, as has our cardiologist. It puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body, even in ‘normal’ situations (although I don’t know under what normal circumstance anyone would have a heart cath, certainly not for the fun of it). But in Fahlin’s situation, with her pulmonary artery missing in fact, I can only think the worst. On top of that, we have had close friends go through the procedure only to eventually have surgery where their daughter passed away as a result. Tragic. She too was adopted from China and had only been home a few months. You see my dilemma.

As a dad, do I want my daughter to be a curiosity for some Vanderbilt research paper, or do I want her to live as normal a life as possible without having to subject her to unnecessary procedures? We have already been told there are no medical options, no medicine, no surgery, nothing. So as I have been trying to grasp Fahlin’s reality and decipher my own jumbled thoughts about everything, the only thing I know to do is seek council and wisdom from people I know…and pray. Our friend, Dr. Reggie Anderson has assured us this procedure would yield a lot of helpful information. I trust him. It helps.

All I can think about is nothing good. To be honest, I’m scared. Scared for Fahlin, scared for our family, scared about the procedure. I walk around the house just shaking my head and muttering to myself under my breath, “What do we do? What do we do?” We have about three more days to decide. I am leaning, but please help us by praying…pray for clarity, wisdom and peace…either way…and thank you.

June 19

Jim Chapman

Jun 19 2015 1:00 AM

Our daughter Fahlin has some really weird eating habits. It all started with her naming her foods. For example, she loves brown cereal, which is Cocoa Crispies, red cereal, which is Fruit Loops, which, by the way, come in a red box and yellow soup, commonly known as Egg Drop Soup from the local Chinese place. She really does refer to a lot of things by color. Interesting.

Then there are her eating habits. Strange eating habits. Just the other day, she was eating oatmeal and peanut butter crackers. Next thing I knew, the crackers were all crumbled up IN the oatmeal. “This is good, Daddy!” She proudly proclaimed. It looked disgusting. We had white chicken chili one day for lunch. I had cut up some delicious pink lady apples for the girls to eat with their chili. Sure enough, Fahlin figured out a way to make that combination a nasty mess. She was dipping her apples into the chili like a corn chip. “This is really, really good, Daddy!” I tried it, it wasn’t.

In case you were wondering why I was doing all the feeding of the children, my wife had headed to Chicago to help our oldest daughter pack for her family’s move to Tampa. Bethany’s husband was leaving the airline side of the air transportation business to go to work for the Tampa Airport Authority. I was left to hold down the fort. It was a good time for me to notice these bizarre eating habits of child number eight.

If she is eating soup, cereal or anything ‘liquidy’, she first sucks all the juices out of whatever it is she’s eating, then eats what’s left. The whole process is agonizing to watch because it takes so long. I just want to yell, “Will you please hurry up and eat!!!” But, we all know, quickly gobbling down ones food is not the best way to eat. Why just today, she ate all the turkey and ham off her sandwich and replaced it with green beans. I had never heard of nor even seen a green bean sandwich before. I’m kind of glad I haven’t. It did not look very appetizing.

So for whatever reason, Fahlin eats like a weirdo. It is cute, sad and funny; yet, at the same time, I can’t help but wonder why she has such strange eating habits. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe there’s a reason. I don’t know. She eats very well. You even wonder where she puts it. She is only thirty-five pounds, which, thankfully means she has gained two pounds since we got her home. She’s still nothing but skin and bones. I guess we’ll just have to keep trying to fatten her up a bit by feeding her foods that are named after colors. Maybe green eggs and ham…Oh well.

Wait! Just as I was getting ready to post this, Fahlin did something strange to the ice cream sandwich she was eating (big step, by the way…remember when she wouldn’t eat anything cold?). She meticulously licked all the ice cream between the two chocolate cookies so that there was nothing left but an empty, wilted shell. I have never seen that either! I chuckled. What a cutie!

June 15

Jim Chapman

Jun 15 2015 1:00 AM

We are a swimming family. A competitive swim team family. My boys swam, and were great. My oldest two daughters swam and were very good swimmers. My eighth grade daughter Izzy swims at very high level and there’s no doubt she’s the best and fastest of the bunch. My ten-year-old daughter Lydia was reading this while I was writing it and said to make sure I didn’t forget to mention her as well. When she was little (she’s actually still little), she used to stand at the edge of the pool screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. It was embarrassing. Sometimes, and this is no exaggeration, no, not even sometimes, it was a daily occurrence, but she would spew vomit into the pool, thus causing the ‘Y’ to close down for an hour while they ‘shocked’ the water so people could swim in again. Shocking the water means putting so many chemicals in the pool that they would offset the effects of the vomit. Disgusting…AND true! I kid you not! Our nine year old, Jayne, also swims. Bless her heart. She tries so hard. She’s getting better. Because of her special medical needs our pediatrician determined; a tri-athlete at heart that swimming was one of the best activities she could be involved in, but results have come slowly. Bless her heart, again. I remember the first time we put her in the pool she sank directly to the bottom before we realized what was happening. We just assumed she was a Chapman so she could swim already.

Sunday was Fahlin’s debut in the pool. We had been discussing what we were going to do with her. I mean we are around the pool all the time. Not only do I coach Brentwood Academy’s varsity swim team, I am also on the coaching staff of one of the local year ‘round swim teams, Excel Aquatics AND coach a new Williamson County summer league team, the Nolensville Mighty Hurricanes, so we are around the water all the time. Fahlin, we decided, needs to at least know how to save herself if she falls in. But, how do you teach someone to swim who is missing a portion of their heart, can’t catch their breath even on dry land and is usually freezing her hands and feet off all the time? We did not know how taxing on Fahlin’s little body swimming would be. So, we decided to take it slow…very slow.

Enter Aunt Mary Beth’s pool. Most of the pools we hang around are cold. They have to be because of the volume of yardage the kids swim each day. It’s not possible to swim a lot of yardage in a warm pool. But, in Fahl Fahl’s case, we figured the warmer the water the better and Aunt Mary Beth’s pool fits the bill. It’s heated, even in the summer. Perfect for Fahlin’s first swim adventure. One end is deep, the other has steps. That is where we started with Fahlin. We also broke our number one Chapman family swimming rule…NO SWIMMIES!!!! Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but we broke out the swimmies, you know, those arm thing-a-ma-jigs that you put on the upper arms of those kids who are petrified of the water. You’re a Chapman, “You don’t need no stinkin’ swimmies!”

To our surprise, Fahlin was not petrified, nervous, but not petrified. We would take her out into the shallow water and let her float around awhile. She was apprehensive, but kept the smile on her face. Then we would let her sit and play on the steps, then repeat the scenario. Even though the air was 90 degrees and the water 88, after about an hour, she was sitting there, shivering. I would say she turned blue, but she already is. But she did look a little bluer than normal. So it was out of the pool and ‘let’s get wrapped up in a towel’ time. It didn’t take long for her to warm up. We stayed another hour then headed home. Fahlin’s first venture into a pool was a success, I think, even though we did break rule number one. I so wish she were able to just take off and swim. Maybe one day.

June 12

Jim Chapman

Jun 12 2015 1:00 AM

So, Fahlin has these little quirks. They are sooooo cute. One of the grossest, if that’s a word, is how she eats chips at a Mexican restaurant. We always order sour cream; because we are a family that believes everything tastes better with sour cream either in it or on it. The next time you mix up a batch of pancakes, put a dollop of sour cream in the batter. It will revolutionize your pancake eating life. Anyway, back to Fahlin’s gross chip eating quirk. She takes her chip and she basically scoops the entire bowl of sour cream onto the one single chip in her hand, then proceeds to ‘lip’ it off the chip, then eat the chip. Delicious, I’m sure.

Another food quirk is how she likes to peel her grapes. Yes that’s right, peel her grapes. She will not eat a grape until she has removed the skin, and then gobbles it right up. If she’s outside, she’ll throw the peels in the grass, if inside, she will just make a small mound of peelings on her plate. Too funny.

She likes to carry little things around in her hand. At any given time she will have a small canister, you know the kind, small, adjustable, of Chapstick with her. It could be the grape flavored, or the original non-flavored, but for some reason she must like the feel having of something in her hand. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of psychological explanation. Another similar object she will carry is a small tube of hand moisturizer. If you ever get a chance to hold her sweet, little hand, you will immediately notice how super soft it is. Baby skin soft (I almost typed baby butt soft, but decided not to).

Her latest object is a fabric measuring tape, the kind that is made out of a vinyl like substance and easily rolled up. She carries it with her everywhere, telling anyone who will listen, “I love this! Mommy say I can have it!” Her bicep measures only five inches. But she really doesn’t use it to measure things; she uses it more like a YoYo. Roll it up, let it go. Roll it up, let it go. Over and over again.

I’m sure it has something to do with her first five years in China. I mean, I suppose if I were a small orphan child being carted off to a new land with people I just met, even though they loved me more than I understood, I would want to hang onto to something if for no other reason than to feel as if I had control over at least one thing in my life, no matter how small. I can’t imagine what she was thinking. Anyway, it’s been almost four months now, and I also can’t imagine our life without her.

June 8

Jim Chapman

Jun 8 2015 1:00 AM

This past weekend, my firstborn son Jordan got married in Champagne, Illinois to wonderful young woman, Natalie Norris. He’s the third of our first four biologicals to do so. It’s about time. Haha, just kidding. Quick background: She went to SMU, he to George Washington, she moved to D.C., which is where they met. She just graduated with her masters from Columbia; he is working on his at G-Dub. They’ve been dating a couple years. Back story complete (the abbreviated version, at least).

Fahlin was in the wedding. Well, actually, all of the littles were. Izzy read the scripture verses, Lydia was the ring bearer; Jayne and Fahl Fahl were flower girls. Fahlin had never been to a wedding, didn’t know what a wedding was or even what the whole weekend’s activities were all about. She wasn’t even excited because she didn’t know she should have been. The other little girls, with the exception of Izzy, who is always serious, were so giddy they could not contain themselves.

Friday was full of activity, especially for the women. They all gathered at the country club to eat salad and tell stories about the bride and do other women who are getting married stuff, I guess. I took the boys to a local shooting range. Later in the day was the rehearsal. To me the coolest thing about this wedding was the fact that my youngest son, Canaan, the youth pastor was officiating the ceremony for his older brother. Mind-blowing for sure, but also a proud moment for my wife and I. The rehearsal went as well as rehearsals could go, I guess. It was a huge wedding party with ten bridesmaids and nine groomsmen, plus two singers, a scripture reader, Izzy, two flower girls, Jayne and Fahlin and one ring bearer, Lydia. I was pretty sure it would go well, besides, I was anxious to hear what my pastor son would say

It began with everyone in the wedding party filing in, followed by the cutest flower girls in the history of the world, then the ring bearer. Then, as the bride processed, my son Jordan, cried. I cried, my wife cried and just about everyone else cried. It was awesome! Wedding tears are the best, ranking right up there with crying during Disney movies, McDonalds commercials, and sappy Halmark shows. My youth pastor son was great. Hearing him tell his older brother it was his turn to listen as he imparted marriage wisdom to both he and his new bride was priceless. Younger brother has been married almost three years. As we all know, that’s plenty of time to figure out the mysteries of wedded blissfulness. I loved it. Canaan quoted scripture, updated the vows a bit and added a little humor (all while using his late grandpa’s little black binder in which he had kept his notes, sermons and ceremonies). We were about as proud as parents could be.

The only glitch was Fahlin. When it came down to ‘go’ time, she couldn’t ‘go.’ She freaked out, not in the ‘freak out’ sense you’re thinking, it was more like the ‘I’m afraid I’ll mess up’ kind of meltdown. No harm done. The wedding went on with Fahlin as a spectator and a cute little spectator at that.

After the ceremony, shuttle buses took everyone to Natalie’s home; where a huge tent was pitched, complete with tables for a couple hundred guests, dance floor, stage for the band, ice cream truck and other amenities. Insane. It was a simple ceremony, but the dinner and party afterward was a complete blowout. It was great a time for all, and that, is probably an understatement.

But, the entire weekend was taxing on Fahlin. From the seven-hour drive up on Thursday, to the long Friday of wedding activities, to the wedding itself, to the reception to the drive home, the whole experience wore her out. When I say, “Wore her out,” it really means something more. She was purple all weekend, more so than usual. Even Aunt Mary Beth was concerned. We checked her O2 levels, they were normal by Fahlin standards, but yet she was still noticeably bluer. The long days, maybe the Illinois air, maybe the whole experience itself was what was causing her color issue. Concerns aside, my hope is a couple days of rest in our own house will be the best medicine for Fahlin.

Our third child married, both boys, one girl, five girls to go. Life is good. Life is crazy. Life is uncertain. Life is the hands of our maker…simple as that.

June 5

Jim Chapman

Jun 5 2015 1:00 AM

Well, we are starting to see a stubborn streak in our sweet, little Fahlin. She lulls you sleep with that wry grin of hers, then, whammo, her comes the storm! She does not seem to want to obey her mom. It’s not like we ask her to clean the garage, take out the trash or mow the lawn, noooooo, we simply ask her to do things like take her clothes upstairs to her room or put books back on the shelves. Easy peasy.

Then here it comes…the statue. She doesn’t move. She stands there, scowling, fuming, silent. She doesn’t budge. “Fahlin, we asked you to do something, please obey your mommy and daddy and go put your stuff away.” Nothing. “Okay, no Kindle until further notice.” Then it starts, the half fake, half real tears start to flow. Quietly at first, then, when we don’t pay attention, the crying escalates to a decibel level she thinks will grab our attention, but after eight kids it does not faze us a bit. We glance lovingly at each other and go about our parenting business. She stands pat.

Since we are leaving in a couple days for my son’s wedding, it’s cleaning day. She’s sort of in the way at this point, so I pick her up and scoot her over to the stairs. She stands there and cries as we vacuum, fold blankets, wash dishes, pick up and just generally do whatever needs to be done in order to keep mom happy. The crying continues. So I climb the stairs and video her tantrum, which I then send to the Chapman Clan text group. The Clan likes this kind of stuff and it usually elicits many clever responses such as, “Awwwwww,” “Poor thang,” and “That’s pathetic.” Granted, those are not real clever, disappointing, actually; they are usually more inventive than that. It was obviously an off day.

So twenty minutes later, we start winding down the quick cleanup spree, and low and behold, no Fahlin. She had taken the few things we had given her up to her room and put them away like we asked. Good girl…but still…no Kindle.

Next up, big brother’s wedding…

June 3

Jim Chapman

Jun 3 2015 1:00 AM

The big Show Hope Caring Centers grand reunion was this past weekend. This is where families from all over the country are invited to Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s barn for a fun-filled day of family activities ranging from petting zoos to hayrides to food, balloon artists and crafts. Nearly 500 people were there from all over the country. The common thread being that at least one of their children were at some point cared for at one of the six Chinese care centers that are funded primarily by the Show Hope organization.

It is really quite amazing what this organization has accomplished in the past ten years since its inception. Obviously I am so proud of my sister and brother-in-law who started all this by writing checks out of their own pocket. They eventually got it up and running as a non-profit and now ten years later, here they are celebrating with all the families they have helped along the way. Pretty amazing.

My wife was especially excited about this day. Several of Fahlin’s little friends from Maria’s Big House were there…Judah, Isaac, Willow and Naomi. We were curious as to how she would react when she saw her old friends, each with their own miraculous story of healing and finding a forever family that might not have been possible were it not for the wonderful people at Maria’s. Some, she hadn’t seen in a couple years. As we suspected, Fahlin was bit overwhelmed by all the people and was understandably quiet. When she finally came face to face with her friends, you could tell she was processing everything. I could only imagine what was going through her mind as she tried to piece together the events of the day and what in the world was going on, and, for that matter, how that familiar face at which she was staring got there as well. It was sweet, sad, awesome and interesting all at once. They each just stared at each other as the parents, mainly my wife, conversed with their parents, mainly the mom. You know how we dads are; we just shake hands, tell the short version of the story complete with a couple of exaggerations, then move on to the food.

There are some incredible people out there who have adopted some incredible children with incredible special needs. And what is even more incredible is that these parents don’t think of themselves as incredible. They simply felt the call, answered the call and put their faith into action. God did the rest. Some have adopted children in wheelchairs, others children who are missing limbs, still others have adopted children with Down’s syndrome, cleft palettes and CP. They didn’t have to. Their life could have been far simpler. Instead, they chose to jump in the trenches and live their lives on the front lines. Hard stuff. Without a doubt, a crown awaits these families in Heaven. And these Show Hope families were all gathered in one place. Fun to be a part of it, for sure.

Fahlin’s nurse for many years, Mariah, was even there. It was a tearful reunion as Fahlin actually remembered her. Of course, Mariah cried, we cried, everyone around us cried. Happy tears. Joyous tears. Daddy tears. There was no hope of Fahlin ever being adopted, yet here she stood. Mariah was overwhelmed. She could not believe what her eyes were seeing right there in front of her. It was great seeing her together with Fahlin, the little baby girl who was once on the palliative care floor at Maria’s and in whom she had invested so much love. Fahlin has been a wonderful answer to Mariah’s prayers, and as we have come to find out, hundreds of other people are as well. God is good all the time; all the time God is good.

June 1

Jim Chapman

Jun 1 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin had an abscessed tooth. I noticed it while getting her dressed for church. Her little cheek was swollen and I felt a small knot in her jaw. What could it be? She had been complaining of her cheek hurting, but she had a small scratch there as well so we didn’t pay it much mind, thinking it was the scratch that hurt. We kept asking her how she scratched her cheek, oblivious to the real problem lurking beneath.

We managed an appointment with our pediatric dentist, whom we love; she’s great, but she immediately determined that with Fahlin’s heart condition, she could not intervene and sent her to Vanderbilt. Our pediatrician had already started her on antibiotics in order to reign in the infection. A pediatric oral surgeon was called in and scheduled surgery two days out. We were concerned. What seemed like a pretty straightforward tooth extraction for any normal dentist, turned into a much more serious endeavor when you add the heart complication into the mix.

We called a friend of ours who is a cardiac anesthesiologist to ask him if any special precautions should be taken. He happened to be in Hawaii, which we didn’t know until he said, “I happen to be in Hawaii.” We told him the circumstances surrounding her tooth. Next thing we knew, Vanderbilt called and said that the cardiac anesthesiologists were taking over the anesthesia part of the surgery. We downplayed this ‘new’ development with a “Whatever is best for child, of course.” His friends in town obviously got involved. Thank you Jesus.

On Thursday morning at 11:00, we arrived, checked in, and waited…and waited…you know how it goes. Finally we were called back to a room in the pre-op waiting area where Fahlin was given Versed. Of course that knocked her for a loop and she was off to surgery. Now mind you, it was only a simple tooth extraction, however, you could tell there was some concern on the doctors’ minds, especially the anesthesiologists.

Two and a half hours later, our dentist, Dr. Alex walked into the consultation room just beaming with excitement. She said she did very well, but the most exciting thing was listening to the doctors and the anesthesiologists discuss Fahlin’s heart physiology. They apparently had not seen anything like this and were fascinated by how strong her heart pumped, and how it even worked the way it worked.

All we know is God’s hand was involved in this whole process as it has been throughout this little girl’s entire life. We just take it day by day. And watch the miracle continue.

By the way, they kept the tooth for Fahlin. I’m pretty sure it will end up under a pillow…soon.

June 1

Jim Chapman

May 31 2015 1:00 AM

Do you know how hard it is to find a dang tricycle in this world? You know the kind I’m talking about, red, three wheels, simple? Like the ones most of us rode when we were little tykes ourselves? Nearly impossible!

Fahlin has been mentioning a bike ever since the weather started getting nicer and the girls began riding their bikes in the neighborhood. So my wife and I began the search. We searched online, but could never quite find what we were looking for. I don’t know how extensive our search was, but we looked nonetheless. We looked at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, even TSC. Nothing suited our fancy. So we sort of forgot about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

It was just the other day we decided to go to Sam’s club for other stuff non-bike related. It wasn’t even on our radar. We shopped, we looked and we visited the bathrooms. As we approached the check out counters, we saw it. There it was, just sitting there in all its glory. And it was pink, well not actually pink, pink, more like a magenta-pink. But it was perfect. The perfect size, perfect color, it even had a bell. It was nowhere near the toy section, it was just there, as if abandoned by some disappointed little kid who didn’t get to take it home. My wife said, “Jim, look!”

“That’s perfect,” I responded. It was obviously a floor model, so I ran to where the bike section was and checked out the price. The trikes there were all red, not magenta-pink like this one. We knew which one we wanted…that one! Yolanda inquired as to its availability and low and behold, the next thing we knew, we were proud owners of a magenta-pink tricycle.

Just one problem, I had driven my car. My car is cool, a 2005 Acura TL. I’ve had it a little over a year and I love it, but it’s not built to haul a lot of stuff around. My car was loaded with three large boxes containing 150 t-shirts for our summer swim team, a smaller box of swim caps, all my clothes that I had brought home from school and the coaches’ locker room (it was a load, for sure), a folding chair and some art junk. We had also been shopping and had a huge cart loaded with stuff from Sam’s not to mention the bike.

“Where are we going to fit this stuff?” I asked. “You should have thought about before!” My wife lovingly responded. It took us awhile, but eventually we got the car loaded. If we had been in an accident on the way home, no one would ever have found us. But, we made it home safely. We put it on the porch and told Fahlin there was something outside for her. She was so surprised. I love doing things like that for her. She never rode a tricycle in China. Now she can ride one anytime she wants, weather permitting. I’ve included a picture with this blog. I’m sure you’ll notice, the smile says all that needs to be said.

May 28

Jim Chapman

May 28 2015 1:00 AM

Fahlin and her strawberry pancakes. Fahl Fahl has three kids’ shows she loves to watch. One is “Caillou”, one is “Ruff Ruff, Tweet Tweet and Dave,” (as she calls it) and the other is “Daniel Tiger.” On a side note, boy, I sure miss Mr. Rogers! But, he lives on through “Daniel Tiger,” meow, meow! Well, Daniel Tiger loves strawberry pancakes. Fahlin has been talking about strawberry pancakes for weeks now. Keep in mind pancakes are a new food concept for someone who has lived on egg-drop soup, dumplings, leeks and Chinese noodles. Every weekend, I try to make the girls pancakes. I have graduated to whole-wheat pancakes for (my selfish) health reasons, but the girls are good sports and the whole-wheat pancakes are actually pretty good, AND good for them, I might add! Mix a little sour cream in them and they take on a new life. Sour cream, I have found, makes everything taste better. But, I digress.

In case you haven’t tasted this year’s crop of strawberries, you should. It is a very tasty year for strawberries. We have been buying strawberries now for the last few weeks. As soon as we get them, they somehow magically disappear. Weird. So this past weekend, the time came for me to make Fahlin the highly desirable strawberry pancakes. Turns out all the ‘littles’ wanted to try them. Lydia even went so far as to put whipped cream on hers. I simply made the pancakes, buttered the pancakes, then sliced up a few delicious strawberries, sprinkled them onto the pancakes then doused them lightly with syrup. Fahlin then realized her dream of eating strawberry pancakes like Daniel Tiger’s by devouring every last drop.

“Was that good?” I asked Fahlin? She nodded yes. Fahlin is not prone to over exaggeration, but you could see the satisfaction on her face. You still can’t help but be reminded every time you look at her that she is still one very sick little girl. So if making Fahl Fahl strawberry pancakes will bring some joy into the life of my little blueberry (Yes, she’s had blueberry pancakes at well), then what Fahl Fahl wants, Fahl Fahl gets. In fact, my wife and I have secretly adopted that as our Fahlin mantra. Just wait until you hear the story about the tricycle in the next blog. It is riveting to be sure.

When you parent a child whose life expectancy is unclear, we have found you parent differently. Spoiling a child was never an option for us, providing yes, spoiling no…until Fahlin. Why not? Are we doing something wrong? I think not. It’s fun watching her experience all these firsts; the tastes, the sights, the ‘things’ she never had. It’s fun having her around. I hope and pray it’s for a very long time.

May 26

Jim Chapman

May 26 2015 1:00 AM

Here I stand…A grandpa with a soon to be kindergartener, Fahlin, in our house. Now what? Usually when you become a grandparent, the kids are grown, out of the house and on their way up the corporate ladder or at the very least, self sufficient, paying their own way and finding out what life is all about. It’s amazing how quickly kids figure out that paying $60 for a shirt doesn’t make a lot of sense when you can find the same shirt at a thrift store for four bucks, or that five dollars can buy a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread and you can eat for a week compared to a $12.99 entrée at T.G.I.Fridays!

I sooooo wish I had taken what little money I was making 30 years ago and put in a mutual fund instead of spending it on golf clubs or clothes I didn’t need. I keep thinking that $60,000 dollars I would have made from a measly $1500 would sure come in handy right about now. But nooooo, I had to spend it! Idiot! There are a few things I would definitely do over if I could, and that is one of them. What I do not regret doing is spending a couple of our retirements on these little girls that have become a part of our family forever, who now reside with us. Money well spent, I must say.

I was recently in Chicago for a day to visit my newborn grandson. My daughter Bethany and her husband Adam had just brought ‘Nash’ home from the hospital and were on emotional pins and needles as they awaited the signing of the documents by the birth mother that would relinquish all rights to their new son. I was actually there when the social worker arrived. At around 2:05, Thursday, word came down; the birth mom had signed. There were tears all around. Bethany and Adam signed their part of the agreement then wrote a rather large check. I was astounded that this young couple could do that. God has honored their faithfulness to tithing, to praying, to their stewardship of what he has given them. They have figured out at a young age what has taken me a lifetime to learn. And now they have a son to show for it. I am so proud of them.

Now my wife and I have to try to figure out how to take care of the four ‘littles’ while also trying to figure out how to see the little guy as much as possible. Thank God they work for American Airlines and we get to fly free. That helps a lot! Thank God for face time. That helps a lot, too! And of course, thank you Sprint! Having a cell phone at the ready also helps a lot! My daughter calls her mom daily asking for motherly advice. Ah, young parents. I remember those days well. My, how far we’ve come, but that will be for another blog at another time.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep taking care of Fahlin and the ‘littles.’ As for figuring out exactly what to do and how to do that? Well…

May 21

Jim Chapman

May 21 2015 1:00 AM

Today’s Fahlin blog is dedicated to the memory of my niece, Maria. I want to be sure you all know, the intent of this blog today is to honor my sister and bro-in-law, and the memory of my niece. Today marks the seventh anniversary of the tragic accident that happened in my sister and brother-in-law’s driveway. My nephew Will was driving. He never saw her running to see him. Many of you reading this will remember hearing the horrible news announcing the death of “Contemporary Christian superstar recording artist Steve Curtis Chapman’s five year old daughter.” We were at the pool (where else?) when we received word. We shut down practice and ran to Vanderbilt as fast as we could. When we arrived at the hospital, we immediately knew it was bad. Hospital personnel met family and friends at the door and directed everyone to a private, secluded room. That’s never good. Yolanda, having been involved in many emergency room situations just like this knew what the rest of us feared. Our five-year-old niece, Maria, had gone to be with Jesus.

In the days and weeks that followed, I watched my sister and brother-in-law experience the deepest loss any parent could imagine. They were walking right through the heart of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The weight on their shoulders looked unbearable, but by relying on the scriptures… “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” the grace with which they carried themselves was astounding. The strength they exhibited was not their own, but God’s. They were superstars indeed. I love them dearly.

The outpouring of love and support from the Christian and secular communities alike was amazing. This is where the Fahlin tie-in begins. Through the generosity of thousands of donors, enough funds were raised to build a large blue building with clouds and flowers painted on it in Luoyang, China named after my niece, Maria’s Big House of Hope. Her picture hangs in the lobby. Its mission is to care for the least of the least of these.

It was nearly four and a half years ago that Fahlin showed up at Maria’s. At fourteen months old, her prognosis was not good. But the underlying purpose at Maria’s is nursing sick children back to health. A great percentage is, but some, unfortunately don’t make it and pass on to eternity with dignity in the arms of their caregiving nanny, at the very least, not alone. Fahlin was on the palliative care floor when I first met her. I was there visiting on a mission trip with BA students (at that time, I had no idea she would one day be my daughter, let alone live to see tomorrow). She does not recall, she was little, but I do remember how heartbroken I felt when I visited that floor. These were the loneliest of the ‘least of these,’ on death’s doorstep…waiting for angels to carry them home. I couldn’t stay.

Somehow, Fahlin managed to survive and thrive. Her little heart refused to quit, adapted to it’s condition and day after day grew somewhat stronger and stronger. Because of the generosity of thousands of caring people, Fahlin was able to receive top-notch care at China’s flagship orphan care facility, Maria’s Big House. She eventually moved out of that floor and eventually became a little helper to those younger than herself. Pretty amazing.

I understand very little of God’s sovereignty, and trying to comprehend how Maria’s death and Fahlin’s life tie together boggles the imagination. I know my sister and brother-in-law still grieve deeply over the loss of my niece, their daughter, and I know they would give anything to have her back, but I also know they are grateful to be a part of Fahlin’s life and would do anything to protect and help that little girl. To this day questions still abound, after all we are still human. At this point, trust outweighs the hows and whys. What else can we do, but trust? We will only understand the grand complexity of this unique story when we ourselves pass into eternity and stand before God himself and see Jesus and Maria frolicking in Heaven. And, though Maria and Fahlin have never met here on this Earth, I know one day beyond a shadow of a doubt, they will.

May 19

Jim Chapman

May 19 2015 1:00 AM

Well, Fahlin has become an Aunt, which means her sisters and brothers have also become Aunts, and Uncles, as the case may be. Which also means…my wife has become a Grandma. I’ve never been married to a grandparent before. Weird. Oh, I guess I’m leaving out the obvious…I guess that means also that I have become dare I say it? A Grandpa! Ouch! Surely my kids are not old enough to have kids of their own, are they? And surely, I cannot possibly be old enough to be a grandparent? Surely not! But alas and alack, the inevitable has happened. (Deal with it, Chapman! Grandpa-up!)

My oldest daughter Bethany (BA class of ’09) and her husband Adam Bouchard, have adopted a baby boy this past weekend. On Friday, May 15th, at 1:07 AM, the birth-mom gave birth in Chicago to a healthy 7 lb., 10 oz. baby boy. Andrew Nash Bouchard. Bethany and Adam were able to visit and spend a good portion of Friday with him. They were both ecstatic and nervous at the same time. First time parents, but also first time adoptive parents who know the birth-mom and walked with her through the entire process. It has been quite an emotional ride for all parties to be sure.

On Saturday, my wife, whom I now refer to as ‘Granny,’ flew to Chicago to be with them, leaving me home with all our other kids. Wait a minute, how can you be a grandparent and yet still have a teenager, a ten year old, a nine year old and a six year old in the house who just this week got registered for kindergarten in the fall!!? Crazy! But I digress. The three of them, Bethany, Adam and Granny all rode to the hospital to wait for the adoptive placement. The birth mom was struggling letting loose this time. I say this time because she had made an adoption plan for three other babies prior to this, but this one reminded her of one of her daughters. She assured the social worker that Bethany and Adam would indeed get to keep the baby, but needed a little time this time. It was excruciatingly nerve-wracking. The birth-mother’s name is Sarah. Sarah made a conscious decision to make an adoption plan for a little boy she knew she could not care for.

Obviously, as the granddad here, I am grateful Sarah chose life. Pray for her. I am also so proud of my young daughter and her husband. They chose to start their family through adoption. How amazing? The second generation of our family has begun. And how cool it is that adopting a little boy started it. It is apparent that the four little girls we brought into our home over the past few years have made a huge impact on the life of our daughter, Bethany.

Aunt Fahlin has talked to Nash (as we’re calling him) via face time already, as have the other children. I’m flying up Thursday to see him face to face for myself. Can’t wait to hold that little rascal. I’m sure it will be surreal…but I can’t wait! Maybe I’ll call him Sparky!

May 17

Jim Chapman

May 19 2015 1:00 AM

“Why you pray for my heart healthy?” Asked Fahlin just the other night. When I prayed that night, as I do every night, I asked the Lord to touch Fahlin’s heart to make it healthy, to heal her. I would love to think I have enough faith to believe it can happen and I do believe that God is still in the healing business, but I do wonder if it will ever be instantaneous like when Jesus touched the leper, or raised Lazarus. Or when Peter told the lame man to walk. Forgive me.

We have seen a big change in Fahlin’s coloring. Even though she is my ‘little blueberry,’ she now seems to have days that her coloring is actually a lot better, even on the pinkish side of blueberry. I’m sure breathing better air, eating better food and all that walking up and down stairs has helped.

Remember when I told you that a woman had asked what kind of candy Fahlin had been eating, then felt bad when she found out her lips are always that color? Well, it now happens quite regularly. It’s actually pretty funny these days. “I see your daughter has been eating a sucker?” Welllllll, thank you for noticing but actually… then our conversation turns to her heart issues. We try not to give too many details and really try to downplay her condition and always return to “God only knows” what’s ahead. One woman even said, “Be healed in the name of Jesus!”

In this instant gratification world of or ours, we want results and we want them now. Who’s to say God isn’t doing a great work in Fahlin’s life right now? Who’s to say she isn’t being healed gradually? When faced with an impossible situation, over which I have no control, I must realize and trust that God is bigger than me, for sure. And continue to pray, and pray and pray some more.

Sounds pretty simple, actually. Indeed.

May 14

Jim Chapman

May 14 2015 1:00 AM

To continue with the theme of having our routine messed up, I don’t know if our life ever will settle down. Like the other day, for instance, Jayne had a ‘Pancake for Parents’ breakfast at her school. Fortunately, I was able to attend, but my wife was at work so I had Fahlin duty that morning as well. Fahlin is such a slowpoke. I mean S-L-O-W-P-O-K-E. She eats slow (I probably should use slowly, but for effect I have chosen to use the word slow), she walks slow, she runs slow, she dresses slow, she goes to the potty slow, she brushes her teeth slow. Slow, slow, slow. We haven’t been able to get anywhere on time since she arrived. Thank goodness, Abby was able to come and meet us there by the time I had to leave to get to school. But when I arrived at school, I was already out of my routine, so the entire day I felt as if I was running to catch up, even though I really wasn’t running to catch up, because I was already caught up. Confused? Me too!

So when my wife calls to touch base with me and go over plans for tomorrow, which are already confusing enough, I have to stop her and say, “I love you dear, but can we go over this tonight when you get home? Please?” So I write this blog between breaths. Yes, I do get to breathe…once in awhile.

“By the way, what is going on tomorrow?” Oh, I know, 8th grade athletic assembly, then run home, get the little girls from our neighbor, cook supper, eat, get dressed, do their hair, then head back to school for Izzy’s 8th grade celebration (she does her own hair, I don’t have to do anything to mine, it’s always perfect). Slowpoke Fahlin will be coming as well. I better be keeping an eye on the time. Remember, I am super Dad. I can do this; in fact I do this kind of stuff all the time. In fact, I guess I really have done this before. In fact, I really AM stuck in a time warp. In fact, I guess there is no reason to be confused; I’ve done all of this before. In fact, after eight kids, I should be able to do this in my sleep. In fact, I have before.

My wife will be at work, of course. Unusual that it’s a Tuesday, she rarely works Tuesdays. But, she is planning on getting off early, however, and rushing right over to the festivities. I still can’t believe we’ve had Izzy for 14 years. From a Chinese orphanage to Brentwood Academy. What an amazing journey!

We trudge on. It’s not a chore; it truly is a blessing. It’s not hard at all. We know we’ve been called. And though I may get confused or overwhelmed, well not actually overwhelmed, more like ‘stop and think a minute…what’s happening next?’ I know we each have our duties, our responsibilities. After all, we’re parents of adopted children. Lots of them. Even a slowpoke. It’s our life!

May 11

Jim Chapman

May 11 2015 1:00 AM

This past Saturday morning I informed my wife that now that we have Fahlin, I cannot think much beyond a day at a time. Especially on the days she works. Those days can be a logistical doscombobulatory (yes, I know that’s not a word, but it is so appropriate) nightmare for me. Logistics were so much easier when she was on FMLA, but alas, those few, short enjoyable weeks are behind us.

Of course my wife reminded me that even before we had Fahlin I couldn’t think very far ahead. Haha, very funny! I know that we have a grandbaby due in about two weeks and the wedding of our eldest son on June 6. Our anniversary is June 13th and my youngest son’s birthday on June 16th. So there, wife! Ha!

I often tell people who have children that you’re not a real parent until you have the third child. The third child is a game changer. You go from man-to man to zone. But after that there’s really not a whole lot of difference between three and seven. It’s all the same and all a blur. Fahlin is number eight and really, there really has not been a lot of change in our overall life routines except for the confusion I’m experiencing. Now that Yolanda has gone back to work my mind has been…well, boggled. (She only works eight days a month at Stone Crest Medical Center, and primarily on weekends, so it’s really not too bad). I think part of what has been throwing me for a loop could be that we have only had her for about three months and adding a six year old to the pile is a bit different than a baby. Babies are easy. Not that Fahlin hasn’t been easy, but her physical challenges are always on our minds, and I’m worried about taxing her little body with unnecessarily long days that I didn’t realize were going to be long days until the day-of. That’s what I mean. Each day sneaks up on me. I have to ask my wife over and over, “Now, what exactly am I doing tomorrow?”

I know it will take time for me to figure out how to keep doing everything a Super-dad like myself usually does. I’ve been one of those for several years now but I have finally found something that I didn’t know existed, my kryptonite…Fahlin. She and my wife returning to work have just messed with my brain for the time being. I am just so scattered sometimes. My wife would say, “Sometimes?” So until I find my defense against discombobulation, I’ll just keep taking each day one at a time and keep asking, “Now, what exactly is going on today?” It’s the only way I know how to do it.

May 8

Jim Chapman

May 7 2015 1:00 AM

The picture that goes with this blog pretty much sums up how little Fahlin is doing. As you can see, she is quite the beauty queen. My wife calls her sassy. I prefer to think of her as having a lot of personality. This picture is what we see everyday. If pictures truly are worth a thousand words, then I’m sure you can see those thousand words right there in front of you.

When you meet her at school or at the pool or on the street, she is nothing like this picture. She immediately shuts down and gets very, very quiet. New situations bother her quite a bit. I truly feel for her. Everything…EVERYTHING is new. It has got to be scary for a little kid to face so many new experiences. I wish I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself, awww poor thing.

But, back to the picture. She has found it easy to love her new family. Just last night, she said, “I love cuddling Abby!” (That was how she actually phrased it) “Who else do you love cuddling with?” I asked, hoping I would be mentioned by name. With as much animation as she could muster, she responded with just one word, “Family!!!!” As if to add ‘duh!’ but didn’t.

So here she is, loving life to the fullest. It is so neat to watch. It’s just as neat to watch our family dynamic and how, as I look back, it has changed over the last 14 years since our first adoption of Izzy. I think it is safe to say that over a hundred families have adopted because of our daughter Izzy. Someone thought, “how cute, we can do that.” Then someone they knew thought the same thing, then a friend of a friend of theirs who was a friend of someone else, thought the same thing, then, well, you get the picture. It’s the Izzy ripple effect. It’s so great, it spans hundreds of miles, encompasses several states and now, has rippled all the way back to our family and Fahlin. My oldest daughter, Bethany and her husband are even adopting, this month in fact.

As you look at Fahlin’s picture, please continue to pray for her. For her health and happiness, for fullness of life, and that she would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The ripple has come full circle and as you can see in the picture, it’s been worth every minute.

May 6

Jim Chapman

May 7 2015 1:00 AM

Little Fahlin finally got to meet, in person, one of her older brothers, Jordan. He’s a lobbyist in Washington D.C. for the Biotech Trade Industry Association. Don’t ask me what they do, because every time I ask him, I walk away with my head spinning and more confused than ever. I’m pretty sure he works on the policy writing side of things, but that’s about as far as it goes with my understanding of what he actually does.

Now, Fahlin has actually Skyped, Face-timed and talked on the phone with him quite regularly, so at least he wasn’t a total stranger when she saw him for the first time. He had flown into town for his bachelor’s party. I guess young, upwardly mobile guys do this. They pick a spot, all show up, then the guys in the wedding party spend a couple days and nights together doing things a father is better off not knowing about. He actually carved out time to meet Fahlin on Friday before everyone actually got in. I met him for lunch at O’Charley’s. As Fahlin and I were waiting, I kept wondering what her reaction would be to seeing him in person for the first time. It was cute. She went right to him, gave him a big hug, then, when they sat down in the booth, she scooted over to him as closely as she could. I could see my son’s heart melt. That’s what is known as the ‘Fahlin Effect.’ People all over who have met her have experienced it. It pretty much happens to everyone. All she ate were rolls.

He could not get over how tiny she is. By that I mean, she’s six years old and weighs a whopping 35 pounds. Her arms and legs are so skinny you can put your fingers completely around them. Even her feet are skinny. Poor thing. He marveled at her coloring as well as her multiple facial expressions. She jabbered as if she had known him her entire life. It’s almost like she had this sense that she could immediately trust him because he was family. Or, it could be all the Skyping, I guess. With most people she meets for the first time, she merely stares. It takes a while for her warm to anyone new she meets for the first time. We’ve seen it before. It is definitely an orphan thing.

That leaves just one brother she has not actually met in the flesh, Canaan, who lives in Plano, Texas. Canaan’s wife, Ami, has met Fahlin and experienced the Fahlin effect first hand. So that is what we are trying to figure out. I’m pretty sure it will be this summer, most likely at big brother Jordan’s wedding. And, I’m also pretty sure she will like him… a lot!

May 4

Jim Chapman

May 4 2015 1:00 AM

What’s the latest on Fahlin? Many are asking. Apologies. I’ve kind of gotten away from Fahlin in the last few posts. After all, this blog is about Fahlin and the fantastic journey she is on. Three months ago, we were given a scared little girl, one who badly wanted a family, but who was uncertain about everything that was going on around her. My, how far she has come…literally. 13,000 miles, seven siblings, two parents, countless Aunts and Uncles, cousins and in-laws later, here she is, in Tennessee of all places. She is one happy kid. It is amazing to watch the transformation from frightened little girl to a child who is so happy she can’t stand it. She smiles constantly, talks incessantly, loves face timing her out-of-town siblings and likes to go to Target. Yet, she does all of this while she’s constantly out of breath, tired and blue (literally, I don’t mean sad, I mean blue). It’s nothing she hasn’t encountered before. It’s how she lives her life. She doesn’t seem to mind, after all she’s too busy being happy! There’s no time to think about being sick, nor does she seem to really know that she actually is very sick. She is a little trooper, for sure. So one night last week around 4:00 AM, she showed up in our room, breathing heavily and sporting a low-grade fever. Of course, I immediately think the worst; my wife however, being in the medical field, never panics. She doses her up with Ibuprofen, and goes back to sleep. “We’ll go see Dr. Leeper in the morning,” She says, matter-of-factly. I love my wife! With Fahlin, each day she lives is a blessing, a gift. She has outkicked her coverage already. So, we don’t know what each day will bring. But, we (I) cannot allow ourselves (myself) to get caught up over-reacting to every little symptom. At the same time, I don’t want to be in denial about Fahlin’s reality. I’m hoping the Lord will help me figure it out as we go along and I pray we get a lot of time to figure it out. In the meantime, happiness is the order of the day. Lots of hugs and kisses for sure, fishing trips to the lake, ice cream cones with no ice cream (remember, she hates cold stuff), more eggs and visits with Aunt Mary Beth will be regularly occurring life events. Then there are Uncle Steve concerts; Colony House concerts, Taylor swift concerts (Aunt Mary Beth is efforting this, however, if there is anyone out there reading this with connections, well…), and anything else we can think of for Fahl Fahl. But of course, some of the very best times are the simple times, like sitting around the living room, making S’mores around the campfire, watching her go outside to climb in her hammock with only a shirt and underwear on or cuddling at bedtime. As we look to the future, we can’t let ourselves dwell on what ‘might be’ (especially me), but rather what ‘is.’ Right now, though, I’m not sure who’s making more memories, Fahlin or the rest of us.

April 21

Jim Chapman

Apr 21 2015 1:00 AM

Throughout the entire adoption process of Fahlin (and our others as well), many people have been encouraging, helpful and supportive, but one young lady needs special mention. When she was eight years old, she was supplanted as the baby of the family by a little bundle of joy named Izzy. It was a tough adjustment for her, however, as time went on, she came to realize that adoption was simply going to be a part of our family’s story…period!

Our three oldest were out of the house when our daughter Abby graduated from Brentwood Academy and headed off to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It was a perfect match for her, and through the first three years, as a Psychology major, she flourished. Year four is when we started our adoption process for Fahlin. It was also the year that Abby began to struggle. Without going into many of the details, we sat down with Abby and listened as she shared her heart and we ours, and came to the mutual decision for her to transfer to MTSU and move back in with us. I’m sure homesickness played a big part in her coming home. She loves her little sisters and I am quite confident I can say she missed them terribly. And they missed her as well. Who wouldn’t? She’s an awesome big sister! As proof, I offer the almost nightly sleepovers in Abby’s room with each of the girls.

During our conversations with Abby prior to her coming back home, it was apparent she wanted desperately to be part of Fahlin’s life. She told us she wanted to be home to help us in any way she could. We knew she meant it from the heart when she said it. And, help, she has! Big time! Having an extra set of wheels alone is crucial to raising a hundred children, as we have. She worked her schedule around so she would be available in the mornings to help with the girls on the days my wife. Yolanda works. She helps on the weekends, she helps at night, she just helps. At times, I know she feels underappreciated and taken advantage of, and we certainly don’t mean to underappreciate her or take advantage of her, but her heart never waivers. She is an incredible young woman. Yikes! Did I just say my daughter was an incredible young woman? Where did the little brown haired girl with the huge brown eyes that used to do everything with her Daddy go? I guess she’s all ‘growed’ up! Wow! When did that happen?

We are so glad she’s around. This beautiful young lady is so full of life, works hard, studies hard and loves hard. My wife and I are so grateful for the sacrifices Abby has been willing to make. As a Psych major who wants to study for her masters at TCU and specialize in counseling with families who have encountered post-adoption issues, I know God will bless her in the future. I pray daily that His hand will remain on her, guide her and direct her. I pray He will open doors and bless whatever she decides to do.

…and send her a good, Godly young man!

April 20

Jim Chapman

Apr 20 2015 1:00 AM

It finally happened. It happened a lot while we were in China. Whenever we would go somewhere, someone would notice and ask about it. It’s something you don’t see everyday, so I wondered when it would happen here. We were getting ice cream at Baskin Robbins (Fahlin just eats plain cones, she doesn’t like anything cold at all) when a woman approached and commented as to the girls’ cuteness, then it happened. She looked at Fahlin and asked, “Why is your mouth all purple? Have you been eating candy?” Fahlin just stared at this stranger as if to say, “Thank you for pointing out my purple-ness to world!”

I intervened. Turns out she was one our long lost friends from back in the day and she was there with her husband. As we became reacquainted and got caught up on our lives, I explained Fahlin’s heart condition to her. Obviously she felt bad, and through watery eyes apologized. No harm.

Our daughter, Fahlin IS purple. Sometimes I call her my ‘Little Blueberry.’ Or ‘Smurfette.’ All in fun of course. She’s a good sport because she does not really know what a blueberry is nor has she seen the Smurf movie as of yet. I guess I need to take care of that.

Her diagnosis has so many unpronounceable words I won’t attempt it, but suffice it to say, without a pulmonary artery, it’s hard for your body to get oxygenated. Fahlin’s body has adapted remarkable well, but, that does mean her O2 levels are low, she’s tired a lot, out of breath a lot and yes, blue, sometimes purple. So if you see us while we’re out and about and you notice something like purple lipstick and eye-shadow, just know it’s not makeup or candy, it’s just Fahlin…The way God made her.

April 17

Jim Chapman

Apr 16 2015 1:00 AM

It’s my birthday. For the record, I despise birthdays. I loathe them. I tell my girls I’m 107. For the most part they believe me. I think I’ll leave it at that. Fahlin thinks it’s funny that daddy also has a birthday in the same month as she does. I, too, think it’s pretty cool that our final child, the last of our children, number eight and I have the same birth month. It will always be one of the things that bind us together. Go April!!!!

But, this blog is basically about Fahlin and her life journey. So, when it comes to my birthday, Maybe, I need to change my thought process and go ahead and take a few things into consideration. Now that Fahlin and I share April, I thought I could go ahead and celebrate with her. Why not? We’ll leave out the fanfare for now (I don’t need to reminded that I’m drawing close to 107), and probably just have a little birthday dinner at home as I wait to see if any of my other children remember to call me, which I hope they do. I might even do my own cooking so I can whip up a few of my faves, something low carbs, and high protein for sure (so I can keep my svelte, sculpted, manly physique).

My ten-year-old daughter, Lydia has volunteered to help with the birthday cake. Lydia has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone in the world. She has never met a sweet she didn’t like. But, I have decided to do a gluten free white cake with strawberry or cherry jello poured into it, then topped with whipped cream. Lydia’s fired up. It doesn’t take much for her to get excited. Helping Daddy bake will be new ground for Fahl Fahl, but I can think of no better teacher than Lydia. They will have a blast. Mommy goes and hides because she knows how bad the mess will be.

This is definitely a new chapter for me when it comes to birthdays. I guess it won’t hurt to celebrate a little. Plus, it will give me an excuse to do something I never do, go out and buy something for myself. Hmmm, I need to give that some thought…

April 14

Jim Chapman

Apr 14 2015 1:00 AM

The funniest things happen in our house, especially where Fahlin is involved. I feel bad for those of you who do not get to experience them the way we get to…as they happen. You’re missing out. But, never fear, I am here to fill you in and hopefully convey the experience to you in way that will put a little smile on your face.

We know that Fahlin is fitting right in. But let’s be very clear, Fahlin was the Queen Bee back in China at Maria’s Big House. She ALWAYS got her way. Well, Fahlin, life is different now here in our house. The Queen Bee has had to learn a few things, one of which is, “You don’t always get your way,” and what the word “No” means. My wife and I have to be very careful, because when we tell her, for example, it’s time for bed, the facial expressions she makes convey emotions that range from, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” to, “Are you seriously telling me to go to bed?” Just last night, for example, we put this to the test. I told Fahlin, in my loving father voice, of course, that it was time for bed. To which she responded from her Chinese squatting position in the living room with her sweetest of sweet little voice, “No.” Then I told her it was time to potty and brush her teeth, also in my gentle fatherly tone, to which she also sweetly responded “No,” and “No.” This is our nightly routine. But, don’t worry though, Daddy won the night. I gently held her hand and directed her to the bathroom. Victory!

Then there’s the Fahlin / Jayne dynamic. Jayne, of course, is our eight year old ( with her own medical challenges) who used to be the baby of the family, but has obviously been supplanted by our new addition. Jayne tries hard, bless her heart. Sometimes too hard. As a result, she can drive people crazy. Especially Fahlin. In the past four days alone, Fahlin has informed us that, “I not talk to Jayne anymore!” What was that? So she clarified, “I no talking Jayne anymore!” Okay. Well, one thing I’ve learned from being a parent all these years is that sometimes we have to wait for the solution. Sure enough, a few hours later, the problem apparently rectified itself, as Jayne and Fahlin were obviously once again friends.

So, we wait. What utterances will she share with us next? She speaks fluent ‘Chenglish,’ that sometimes requires my wife and I to collaborate on a specific phrase’s meaning which, usually between the two of us, we can finally figure out exactly what she was trying to say. We also have to be careful what we say because at times, she can be a human tape recorder. Her latest thing is walking around the house saying “What the heck?” Sure glad I didn’t say the other word (which I don’t, by the way, thank goodness).

Which leads into the final Fahlin-ism of the day. Every night, at bedtime, Fahlin and I have our prayer time together. It is so funny. I will start out with “Dear God,” or “Dear Heavenly Father,” to which Fahlin will almost instantly mimic my every utterance. Then the prayer continues as she tries to anticipate each word I’m about to say almost simultaneously. It sounds like she’s praying in tongues or some sort of foreign language, not related to Chinese. It is actually very sweet. We end each prayer by pointing to the sky and saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”

And we are thankful for Fahlin.

April 10

Jim Chapman

Apr 10 2015 1:00 AM

I have often wondered if anyone is reading this blog. It’s been a great way for me to sort out my thoughts while trying to grapple with Fahlin’s reality and its effect on our family. But to answer my own question, yes, people are reading…and thank you for doing so, it means a lot. I know I’m not alone. A pastor from Georgia has asked if he can use some of my posts in a devotional book he is writing. I’m honored. A family in Texas, which has been waiting for years for their adoption to be finalized, had just about given up hope when they started reading about Fahlin’s journey. They decided to stay the course and just recently arrived back in the states with their little girl, Piper. Again, I am honored.

So, I’ll keep on writing.

Fahlin has become Americanized. It didn’t take long but, her Americanization comes with some Chinese influence. For example, when she eats soup, she loves to suck the broth out of the bowl. The same goes for cereal with the milk. It’s weird to watch the way she eats. Funny, in fact. Her favorite foods, you ask? Eggs! Pronounced egg-uh. Second favorite? Hotdogs. Pronounced hotdog-uh. Third favorite food? Ketchup! So gross! She just eats it! One morning I even made her a hotdog omelet. As she inhaled each bite, she was in food heaven that morning for sure!

She has also become a little bit of a sleep nomad as well. One night, she’ll want to sleep with Izzy, the next with Abby and so on down the line. She’ll fall asleep with Daddy, then, if I haven’t fallen asleep yet, I’ll get up and take her to the appropriate spot where she will spend the night, otherwise, Mommy does the carrying. It’s our nightly routine. For those who are thinking that this might be horrible parenting, this only happens on the weekends. She ends up in her own bed during the week. When we do just put her in her own bed, she usually ends up at our bedside, breathing heavily, staring at us and scaring us half to death. She has not quite grasped the concept of going to bed like a normal child and going to sleep. Oh well, we’re sure it will happen sooner or later (at least I hope it does). In the meantime, we’ll just keep seeing where each nightly adventure takes us.

It’s not like we haven’t done this before. Our other three little girls did the same thing. Its part of the adoption life we live. Different kids adjust differently. Izzy took 18 months, Lydia about nine, Jayne hardly any time, and now Fahlin. With the insecurity that comes with being adopted, we know how important it is to make our little girls know that we will not be leaving them, or abandoning them ever. And that takes time, lots of time. And that’s okay, its not like we have anything else to do…

April 6

Jim Chapman

Apr 6 2015 1:00 AM

So yesterday we had the big 6th birthday party for Fahlin. It was Easter. It was a big deal, especially to not only our family, but our extended family as well. My sister Mary Beth and her husband Steven Curtis Chapman have known Fahlin since she arrived at Maria’s Big House. They opened up their home for Fahlin’s first “official” birthday party of her life. It was big deal.

They had made several extended trips to China in the past few years and each time they made sure to spend some quality time with Fahlin. They grew very close to Fahlin. Their kids also grew very fond of Fahlin and would play with her for hours on their many trips to China.

Well, Fahlin was not sure what was going on. Aunt Mary Beth’s house was pretty daunting. The grill was heating up, Easter eggs were hidden, presents were on the table, and it was the biggest family gathering we’ve had in awhile. Emily, Caleb, Will (and their spouses and kids, Eiley and Della, and soon to be mystery babies), Shaoey and Stevey Joy were all there. Uncle Herb and Aunt Shari and three of their five were there. My wife and I were there with, well 5/8ths of the kids anyway. We’ve resorted to fractions. It was awesome seeing everyone all in one place, all there to celebrate a little girl who, just by being there was miracle in and of itself.

We ate food, hotdogs are Fahlin’s favorite, with ketchup of course, hunted eggs and watched as she opened presents. She never did quite figure out what all the fuss was about, but she had a smile on her face almost the entire time she was there. Fahlin fact: she loves chocolate (she says it in a whisper, each time emphasizing every syllable), but hates ice cream…too cold, she says. She loved her gifts, a baby doll like her sisters’, blue tooth headphones (what sis year old doesn’t need those?), a warm, cuddly robe, and well the list goes on.

Yesterday, she was spoiled. If any little kid deserves to be, it’s her. After the festivities settled down, I think my sister summed it up the best. She said, “It really puts birthdays into perspective when you realize that this could possibly be the last birthday you have.” In Fahlin’s case, it could be true, we hope not, we pray it’s not. When you stop to think about it, that statement could apply to any of us. Someday, we will all celebrate a birthday for the last time. Thanks to Easter, and what it means to Christians everywhere, we don’t have to worry about that. Ever.

April 1

Jim Chapman

Apr 1 2015 3:57 PM

April 1. Today is Fahlin’s birthday. She turns six. Six. Six is a wonderful number. She was not expected to live to see two…or three…or four…or, well, you get the picture. The lump in my throat I am experiencing as I write this serves as a reminder of just how blessed my wife and I are to have this little girl in our lives and how blessed our family has been. It’s hard.

Will she still be with us for birthday number seven? We don’t know. She doesn’t even know how sick she is. To Fahlin, it’s normal to be out of breath all the time, to feel tired and cold constantly. Her little body does not know anything any different, so to her, being out of breath and tired is not strange at all. She doesn’t let it bother her, for sure. She goes 100 MPH and talks nonstop all day long, that is after she wakes up. She’s like her mom for sure, definitely not a morning person

To her, life is great. She loves her family. Loves her sisters. Loves her brothers. Loves her Aunts and Uncles. Loves her cousins. Loves Jesus and God. And boy, do we love her! It’s amazing how instantaneously love fills your heart the minute you are officially matched with your child, but it multiplies exponentially when you finally hold them in your arms for the first time. To say it’s miraculous is understating it.

Yes, she’s a special little girl with a special purpose for her life. Of course, we do not know what that is as of yet, but by taking things day by day, we will be happy to stand by and watch as God’s plan for her life unfolds. Whether it’s another week, month, year or many years to come, we’re committed as parents (and as a family) to be there for every step. For now, she doesn’t seem to be too concerned about anything except being a little girl who is full of life and ready to live it. I think we’ll live it with her…forever.

March 30

Mar 30 2015 1:00 AM

This past weekend, Fahlin went to her first Easter egg hunt. Now remember, everything Fahlin does is a first time experience. She’s turning six on April 1. Most kids by this time have been to four or five Easter egg hunts, let alone one. The first thing I noticed was that all the parents there were significantly younger than my wife and I. A lot younger, in fact! But I digress…back to Fahlin. It was the Annual Brentwood Academy Easter egg hunt, which is a great event put on by the wonderful people in the Alumni Relations office at BA. Any new situation involving a lot of people is a bit disconcerting to Fahlin. It takes her a little while to process what is going on then to realize she is safe and nothing bad is going to happen. But once she does, look out! She played games, ate cookies and picked out a pink balloon flower from the balloon artist guy.

Then it was on to the actual Easter egg hunt. Fahlin’s favorite food right now is eggs. If you ask her what she wants to eat, it’s usually eggs, followed closely by hotdogs (yes, I know, come to America, eat better). So when we tried to explain to her that Easter eggs are different and that they are colorful and filled with candy, well, she just looked at us like we were crazy. Then we tried to explain to her that she was to run and gather as many eggs as possible and put them in her bag. What?!? That is also crazy! You Americans are weird! Her big sister, Izzy was such a great help. She walked with her and helped her to hurry and pick up eggs. She taught her to trip, kick and elbow other little children out of the way…just kidding…that is actually what Jayne does, not little Fahl Fahl.

The entire morning was a huge success. Games were played, eggs collected and candy was eaten. But, the most important thing to come from the Easter egg hunt is that we were able to explain to her what Easter really is all about. Who Jesus is and what he did for us on Good Friday by dying on a cross for us, and then how he rose from the dead on Easter to live forever. I have never been quite sure how eggs, bunnies and candy tie into the true meaning of Easter, but we have always used it as a reason to share God’s story. It’s a lot for a little girl to take in, especially one from China who has not been here very long, but now she knows who (it should probably say whom right here, but for the sake of how I would say it, let me just say who) Jesus is and what he did for us. Hopefully, one day she will understand it all.

March 26

Jim Chapman

Mar 27 2015 1:00 AM

Over spring break, my sister and her husband were gracious enough to let us use their lake house on Kentucky Lake. It is awesome, a simple three story home located right on the water. Look out fish here we come! It was my wife, myself and the four ‘littles,’ we call them. Even though our eighth grader is not really little anymore, we include her when we refer to the grouping of our four youngest as part of the ‘littles.’ In case you don’t know by now, we have eight kids. Four are grown and between the ages of 22-26 and the ‘littles’ range in age from 5-14. Our life never changes (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). Fahlin will be six on April first. By the time our older children were six, we had already been to the lake house several times. We informed Fahlin of our plans about two weeks ago. Big mistake. She couldn’t wait to get there. She doesn’t even know what a lake house is, let alone what a lake is or for that matter what a ‘Kentucky’ is. Then I told her we were going fishing. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy was she excited. She’s never been fishing either. She also doesn’t even know what a fishing pole is, or what bait is or even what a fish is. She must have asked us a hundred times when we were going and if she could go fishing. Hilarious. When we arrived at the lake house, she freaked out. She became real quiet and withdrawn. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but I’m pretty certain she was thinking, “Strange place, strange surroundings equals something bad for me…maybe they’re going to leave me?” Sad. This is the kind of reaction that little former orphan children have to new surroundings that we as adoptive parents have to try to recognize, then navigate. I’ll have to admit, sometimes these situations take us by surprise and we don’t know what to do, but we have learned that taking it slowly and loving on our daughter is the way to go. She is such a bright, little girl though, that it didn’t take her long to grow totally comfortable with her new surroundings. “Daddy, I go fishing?” Fahlin would ask over and over. I took her fishing. Many times. I would ask her, “What are you going to do if you catch a fish?” To which she would always answer, “I no like fish!” So, I would cast the line out, she would reel it in. We did that over and over, for hours. After four days, the five of us who actually fished (my wife did not) only caught one small striper (Izzy, on the first cast of week) and one small bass (yours truly). The week of fishing was soooo disappointing. The week of hanging out at the lake house was not. We sat by the fire, made s’mores, swung on Enos, rode bikes and scooters and little plastic cars, and went on the great ice cream adventure. Fahlin’s life is full of firsts, and her first trip to the lake house was a huge success. Lord willing, we will go again. Soon.

March 18

Jim Chapman

Mar 19 2015 1:00 AM

My wife and I started having children when she was 21. It’s fun being married to the hottest woman on the planet. It’s fun living life with her, going places with her, doing things with her, raising kids with her. Notice I didn’t say growing old with her. With all the kids we have, we cannot afford to get old. I fight it everyday by working out, eating right and taking my supplements. Physically, I still have to be somewhere between 25 and 35. Yes. I’m

But our life took a weird sci-fi twist when we started adopting. With the exception of Abby, our 22-year-old MTSU senior, our first batch of biologicals is out of the house, married and on their own. There was an eight-year gap between Abby and our second wave of children, which began with the adoption of our 8th grader, Izzy. Now we have four from China, with Fahlin being the youngest, and she won’t even start kindergarten until the fall. So when I say our life took a weird, sci-fi twist, what I mean is we are living in a Star Trek ‘time-warp,’ the same life we lived 20 years ago.

The difference between 20 years ago and now, though, is that we have evolved as parents. We made all the common first time parent mistakes with our first family grouping while this time around; we are making absolutely NO mistakes. Our biological (please understand, we love all our children the same because they all are our children) children often point out that we treat the little girls TOTALLY different. Agreed. We probably do. I mean, why not? After all, each of their lives started out with little or no hope. Izzy was found in a box, Lydia in a basket, Jayne just showed up at the foster home one day and no one knew how she got there and Fahlin should not be alive, yet she is. So, YES, we treat them, well I do at least, differently. I say yes all the time. I feed them ice cream for breakfast, sometimes in lieu of supper and buy them stuff they don’t need. So, yes.

Our time-warp life has been interesting. I mean it is the same day after day after day after day. But my wife and I live life with a purpose and that purpose is to “…care for orphans…” as James 1:27 commands us to do. Yes, we are on the front lines, in the trenches, fighting the battles and any other war metaphor you can think of. We don’t have time to grow old together and we don’t have time to be empty nesters. Even though we’re old enough to be grandparents (which, by the way we will be in May when my daughter Bethany and her husband Adam will bring home an adopted bi-racial baby boy from the hospital…hooray), all we have time for is taking care of the kids and living our lives together. We’re not complaining…we just wouldn’t have it any other way!

March 15

Jim Chapman

Mar 16 2015 1:00 AM

I’ve been thinking. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about Fahlin’s future. On one hand, we have watched Fahlin’s life be transformed from orphan to integral family member. From no apparent future to speak of to everyone’s favorite little sister. From bleak to vibrant. It has been amazing to watch. She changes and grows on a daily basis. Mindboggling.

On the other hand, the medical news we have been given, although expected, has been rough to digest. There is currently no medical procedure that can fix Fahlin’s condition. We knew going in that our daughter was in for a tough road. But as I’ve been thinking about things, that also means our family in for a rough ride at some point. So, what to do? We have chosen life as usual…busy, hectic, running here and there, the pool, school and everything in between. Life.

Fahlin’s birthday is coming up. April 1st, yes Aprils fool’s day. But Fahlin is no fool, for sure. She is bright, intelligent, animated, funny and our of breath most of the time. She loves her family, loves her life, doesn’t even know how sick she is. It’s been five weeks, going on six since we’ve returned from China. That’s all the longer she needed to become ‘Americanized.’ Since all her sisters have a Kindle or IPad, guess what little Fahl Fahl wants for her birthday? You’re right, a Kindle! She doesn’t even know what a birthday or birthday party is (we’re having it at Aunt Mary Beth’s house). It took us forever to explain the tooth fairy!

So, what does all this mean? She does not know that her prognosis is not good. She is happy with life. At the same time, what kind of parent buys a Kindle for a six year old? Hmmm, come to think of it I guess a lot of parents do, for entertainment purposes on those long road trips, I suppose. But, with all Fahlin is facing, unbeknownst to her, I am pretty certain this little girl is going to be pretty spoiled. Most likely, she’ll probably get everything she will ever want and some things she didn’t even know she wanted. After all, why not?

March 11

Jim Chapman

Mar 12 2015 1:00 AM

It’s pretty interesting watching Fahlin adjust to life here in the states. Quite fun, in fact. Her life is full of firsts. Full of special moments. Even though it does snow in the region of China she comes from, she obviously has never played in snow. Of course, her condition dictates we bundle her up extra warm and limit the time she is actually out in the cold. Her laughter is priceless. The look on her face is too. You can almost hear her thoughts, “What is this strange, white stuff?” The same goes for leaves. To watch her try to walk on uneven ground covered with leaves is painful. She stops pauses, analyzes the situation then cautiously proceeds, unsure of what those things (leaves) are she’s walking through. Poor thing.

Car seats are new. China has no child restraint laws. Shoot, we could just hold her on our lap whenever we went anywhere. It has taken her awhile to figure out the buckle. She hasn’t quite figured out that every time we get in the car we are not necessarily going to Aunt Mary Beth’s house, or even home for that matter. We actually go to all kinds of different places. She loves the pool, but doesn’t want to actually get in. Swim lessons should be interesting, for sure.

Our driveway is steep, very steep, like Daytona steep. To watch her try to walk down our driveway is torture. Things we don’t even think about are big, new deals with her. I put her on a bike with training wheels over the weekend. It was so much fun to watch. For the life of her, she couldn’t pedal. I had to walk along behind her, pushing gently. She even experienced her first crash when she hit a curb. Don’t worry, daddy was there to catch her and avoid a catastrophe.

The most special moment though is bedtime. I’m pretty sure it’s special for her, but it’s really special for me. Whenever a child is brought into a family who has lived their life in an orphanage there is always a huge adjustment, especially when it comes to sleeping patterns. These children almost always develop a comfort mechanism that helps them escape the reality of their situation in order to be able to sleep. It could be sucking a finger, rubbing a piece of cloth, or sleeping in a specific position. It varies according to each child. All of our adopted little girls have had their issues or quirks. Some were easier to overcome than others; some took awhile… a long while. But, we managed to get through it and now look back at those moments as fond memories. What was difficult to go trough at the time now does not seem so bad. Time has a way of doing that.

Anyway, back to bedtime with Fahlin. One way to adjust sleeping patterns is to let the little sweeties fall asleep in our bed then put them in theirs after they go to sleep. Fahlin’s bedtime is 9:00. We go upstairs, she pee pees, then brushes her teeth, both of which take an agonizingly long time. Then she gets on her ‘Dude,’ our term for footie pajamas. Then it’s prayer time. After that, the wiggling begins. Then it’s the non-stop “I love yous,” which I love…who wouldn’t? My favorite was “Daddy, I Think I love you!” Then finally, she will assume her position, which is where she puts her little face in her hand, then rest her head on my shoulder. The next thing I know, silence. How long will this go on? As long as it takes.

March 5

Jim Chapman

Mar 6 2015 11:56 AM

We’ve had two appointments so far with our pediatrician, Dr. Brian Leeper. He’s been our kids’ doctor for years, since we moved here nearly 25 years ago. We love him and trust him implicitly. But, I have to admit, the last visit we had went great for him, horrible for me. Fahlin had to have her flu and DPT shots. Even though both my wife and I were there, guess who drew ‘hold down Fahlin while getting shots duty?’ That’s right…me! Not fair! It was awful. The nurse, or official shot giver as I call her, swooped in, pulled out the needles and bingo, bango, bongo…next thing I knew, I’m holding a very tense, frightened little girl who was crying uncontrollably, wondering what just happened. My wife had left me to fend for myself during the incident, thank you very much. Thank goodness that’s behind us. I never want to do that again.

Dr. Leeper had known about Fahlin and her special circumstances through his involvement and support of Show Hope. Because of his genuine concern for Fahlin’s health, he had arranged an appointment with a friend of his who is a pediatric cardiologist at Vanderbilt. If Leep trusts this guy, we trust this guy.

The appointment was a sort of initial get to know you and information gathering session. They took X-rays and did an echocardiogram. You can imagine how all that went over with little Fahlin…not well. Well, at least at first it didn’t go well, but as the visit went on, she ended up feeling more comfortable and even giggled and smiled a bit.

The visit confirmed what we thought we knew. Her condition is very serious, and there is no surgical alternative available. Fahlin was born without a pulmonary artery. Her little body has adapted by using collateral blood vessels to oxygenate the blood. In most cases, by age five, 999 out of 1000 children have not survived this condition. It’s a sobering thought to know that the next cardiology appointment is for a heart catheterization that will give the doctors the information they need to determine not a course of action, but rather how long we can hope to have Fehling with us. I’m still having trouble letting that sink in. I knew we were getting into uncharted territory when we adopted this little girl, but when my wife told be about the harsh reality we were facing with Fahlin, it really hit me hard. I don’t know what to think at this point. It’s heartbreaking to look at this little girl everyday wondering, well, you know…

We know beyond all doubt that God has a firm grip of our daughter’s life. He has a plan for our family and what we might face. Of course, we pray for healing daily. Does He hear us? I know He does. Has He healed her? How do we know He’s not? We just may not be able to see it yet. God did not tell us life would be easy, but He did promise never to leave us. We know one thing for sure, our trust is in Him and Fahlin is a living miracle just as she is, the way He made her.

Feb. 23

Jim Chapman

Feb 26 2015 1:00 AM

Well, little “Fahl Fahl,” as I have come to call her has definitely come to life. Wow! She is not the quiet, cute little helpless orphan we thought she might be. Oh, no. Now she is the loud Fahlin, talkative Fahlin, copycat Fahlin, follow you around Fahlin, “Pick me up, please,” Fahlin, creepy in a nice way Fahlin, as in you turn around and there she is, staring intently at you, breathing heavily, wanting to you to do something with the booger she just picked out of her nose. Yes, the ‘Snow-pocalypse’ has brought out the best is little Fahlin.

She loves her new family. In fact, when she goes to bed around 9:30, she will usually cuddle up to her daddy then spend the next 30 minutes muttering the names of all her sisters and brothers under breath, over and over, then all of a sudden, sit up and yell, “You watch movie, daddy?” Then she’ll go crashing back onto her pillow, or bonk her head on the headboard and just giggle. Next thing you know, heavy breathing and out like a light. It’s the strangest, yet most fun part of my day.

It’s rewarding and heartbreaking all at the same time to watch this little girl. She is so sick, but I don’t think she knows just how sick she is. She has lived with shortness of breath her entire life. She has lived with being cold her whole life. It doesn’t seem to faze her. Her oxygen levels are so low, that more than one health care professional has told us that if she were brought into the emergency room with those levels, there would be all out code blue, complete with crash carts and defibrillators at the ready. We would be delirious and/or unconscious. Her little body, however, has learned to adapt and adjust. Amazing.

Why? I’ve often asked why this little girl? What is her purpose? Out of a thousand others with the same condition, 999 of them would already be in heaven. So what is the bigger purpose here? Why has she survived? What am I to learn from it? What is the world gaining by having Fahlin here, alive? Her story is inspiring. She is inspiring. Between Fahlin and her sister Jayne (another unbelievable story herself), I live in a house full of little, living, walking, talking, thriving miracles.

I wish you could understand how it feels. It’s indescribable. Overwhelming. Confusing. Humbling. Inspiring. Yet, somehow, our house feels right. Our family feels complete. I was not sure it would, but now, for sure it does. It’s a lot of pressure. My wife and I have been entrusted with these girls and I often wonder, what if we make the wrong decision or go the wrong direction? Or what if we get angry? How could we get angry or frustrated at these sick, former little orphans? What kind of man would I be? How awful a person I would be. What if we’re too lenient? Am I going to burn in Hades if I make a mistake raising these girls? This whole thing is hard to put into words. Which is why I’m blogging now, to try and figure it out in my own mind. We ask lots of questions.

But, in the end, Fahlin is in God’s hands. It’s not about me. Well, there might be a part of her story that teaches me something about my story, but nevertheless, it’s indeed in His hands, not mine. Can’t wait to find out what the story is. Thank goodness, He knows the answers to all the questions we may ask. He knows how long she’ll live. He knows her purpose. He knows why. He knows her story…all of it.

Feb. 20

Jim Chapman

Feb 20 2015 1:00 AM

While we were in China, the ideas for blogs came clearly and often. It was easy chronicling the trip. We had a new schedule each day that usually involved doing something related to the adoption process. Now, however, that’s different. I see the importance of updates, not only for those of you who wish to follow Fahlin’s progress, but also as a way for me to sort out my thoughts about the journey we are on. Many have asked how you can pray for us. Well, read this and you will know. And know your prayers are appreciated.

As of today, we’ve been home two weeks. Two weeks. My wife and I were talking last night and came to the conclusion that we don’t even know who this little girl really is. On the surface, the whirlwind return home seems to have gone as good as it possibly could have gone. She’s been officially ours for about 24 days. I shake my head in disbelief…eight kids!!!!

When you have your first child, at that exact moment, reality sets in. The little bundle of life you are holding in your arms for the first time faces a life of danger and uncertainty, something you didn’t even think about until that very moment. It’s frightening. Well, at least it was for me. Life is full of firsts, as most of you well know. First smile, first step, first word, first day of pre-school…you get the picture. For Fahlin, her life of firsts was probably the same, but we, unfortunately, missed out on those. Her life of firsts with us is quite different, and we are just now finding some of those out. Did you know she did not know how to turn on a light switch? She had never gone up a flight of stairs. She had never slept in her own ‘big bed.’ She owned one pair of shoes and had never walked on carpet as evidenced by the way she carefully transitioned from carpet to tile in our hotel room. It was actually gut wrenching to watch.

And now, we begin the adventure of real parenting. As she becomes more comfortable around the family, we are beginning to see some of her less endearing qualities surface. That sounds terrible. Our ‘Rock star’ daughter likes to hit, bite and ignore. Can you say stubborn? And, since ‘Snow-pocalypse’ she has decided to basically shun her mother. Not good. I cry for my wife. My heart aches for her. She is hurt, but understands. Our older children often accuse us of treating our younger daughters differently. Well, that’s true, we do. We have to. What I just described to you are all traits that older adopted children exhibit. They can’t help it. They have been in survival mode for so long, those habits are sometimes difficult to break. But most of the time, they do. What adoption has taught us as parents is patience…patience in the REAL sense of the word. We have to love her through the adjustments. Something we’ve learned along the way. It takes time. Time and prayer.

Yes, we have learned to treat our younger daughters differently. Think about this: One was found in cardboard box at four days old, another in a basket at the gate of the orphanage with her umbilical cord in tact; no one know where one came from, and Fahlin was abandoned at 14 months. YES, they deserve to be treated differently. With all the love and compassion we can muster and then some. So, we just continue to love Fahlin through the adjustment period. Continue to care for her, nurture her, teach and instruct her. While it might not be as bad as it might sound, our work has just begun.

Feb. 13

Jim Chapman

Feb 17 2015 1:00 AM

As I reflect back on the trip, it amazes me to think that only three weeks ago we were leaving for a country half way around the world to bring back a little girl who was only two months away from being sent back from Maria’s Big House to the state run orphanage in Louyang, China, where she might not have access to the critical care she needed. Its makes me appreciate the work being done in China by a group of un-named heroes who unselfishly devote their lives to the care or these least of the least of these. Fahlin would not even be alive were it not for these very giving people.

But if you are reading this blog you have been instrumental in your own way in helping bring Fahlin home. Many of you, whom we don’t even actually know, have prayed for us through the process of adopting Fahlin. Prayers do not fall on empty ears. The way we want our prayers answered and the way they actually get answered are two completely different things, and the longer I live, the more I am convinced that we will never know the depth and breadth of the answers until we are with Jesus.

Others such as Denny and Laura, Ladonna, Janice and Whitney helped behind the scenes with watching our ‘littles,’ as we call them, getting them where they needed to be when they needed to be there. And our daughters, Abby and Bethany and her husband, Adam, who were in the trenches with them every morning and night, a simple thank you does not suffice, but thank you guys. Did you know talking care of children is hard work? Just wait…

It’s been a week now since we’ve been home. It is simply amazing to watch this little flower named Fahlin blossom right before our very eyes. She’s still very apprehensive about everything as revealed by her little facial quirks, stubbornness and willingness to test the waters of authority. There’s a delicate balance between knowing when to allow her to still be an ‘adjusting orphan’ (who is no longer an orphan) and a member of the family whose expectations are the same as our other little girls. It’s a process. A long process.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Feb. 11

Jim Chapman

Feb 11 2015 1:00 AM

Many of you have asked that I keep you updated on Fahlin and her progress. We have now been home for five days. I think I’m pretty much over the jetlag. Unusual for me to turn it around that quickly, but I seem to have gotten lucky this time. My wife, well, that’s been a different story. Poor thing, she’s struggling.

Fahlin’s not helping much. The first night home, she went to bed at 10:00 PM, woke up the next morning around 7:30. Not too shabby, we thought. That night, being the great dad that I am, I thought I would teach her how to watch movies. We threw the blanket down on the floor, collected all the pillows we could find, gathered around the TV and put in my all time favorite movie, Toy Story. It was about 6:00. Big mistake. At approximately 6:01, she was asleep…sound asleep. Oops! Now what? I looked at my wife, she looked back at me with that look wives give their husbands all the time, “Smooth move Sherlock! What were you thinking?” I was in deep doo-doo.

We put her in her bed and crossed our fingers. Our luck, or should I say, my luck ran out at 2:00 AM. I heard the toilet flush and saw a shadowy figure wandering around lost. Guess who was up, happy and rarin’ to go? Not either one of Fahlin’s parents, that’s for sure. But, since dad was the one who messed up, dad ended up staying up. Breakfast at 2:00 AM, lunch at 5:30, dinner at 9:00. My wife took over around 8:00 as I took off to a swim meet. Four more meals later, she made to 10:00 PM (that was Sunday night, by the way) and went to bed. Between my wife and I. No more wandering. She slept form 10:00-7:30. Awesome. The next night, bedtime was 9:30; she slept til noon the next day. What is going on? I guess jetlag finally caught up with her. Had we turned the corner? Of course not. Last night, bedtime was 10:00 again, but low and behold, she was up at 2:00 again. This time we decided not to get up and put her back in bed between us again. I don’t think she ever went back to sleep. She was up with me this morning, eating Fruit Loops, oatmeal and eggs for breakfast. It’s a good thing she’s cute.

So that’s where we are. She loves her new house, new sisters, new life, it seems. Doctors’ appointments start tomorrow. What lies ahead for this little girl who actually likes to kiss daddy’s toe, lick people’s faces, make weird noises and mimic every English word we say? We’ll start finding out tomorrow. For now, we just want to get her acclimated and make sure she feels safe. She deserves at least that.

Day 22

Jim Chapman

Feb 9 2015 12:25 PM

The trip home from China is always a very, very long day. So, I decided to see just how long. As we were pulling out of the parking lot at the Guangzhou China Marriott Hotel, an extremely nice hotel, I might add, I started the stopwatch on my phone. The first leg of our trip was a 3 12 hour van ride to the Hong Kong Airport. It was really only about two hours to Hong Kong, through what I thought was going to be a ride through the Chinese countryside, but it turns there is no Chinese countryside in that part of the country, just one big city after another connected by highways and byways. Then we spent an hour in line at the drive through customs area departing China and entering Hong Kong, which is sort of its own sovereign country but not really its own sovereign country. Then it was another half hour or so to the airport. The watch was still running.

It was nice to be greeted by a friendly face behind the American Airlines desk. “We’ve been waiting for you. You have the little girl who needs the oxygen.” That would be us. They were so helpful. Since we were flying standby, they gave us a whole row of seats so we would have room for the O2 concentrator. It wasn’t long until we were seated, situated and ready to go. We were so looking forward to the next 14 hours of cramped bonding time back in coach. But you know now that it’s over, it was not so bad. Our biggest concern was whether Fahlin could survive the trip. Turns out she could, with flying colors at that. She didn’t really need the O2 after all. The doctors concerns were either unwarranted (but they were the concerns of Doctors after all, so they must have been based on some knowledge I don’t have), or a miracle took place right before our eyes. Most likely the latter. We arrived in Dallas an hour and a half early, which was so great it allowed us to catch the last three seats to Nashville on the 3:45 flight.

The watch said 22 hours and counting. We were reliving February 6th for the second time. Our son in law had arranged for the little girls to get to come to the gate to greet their new sister. It was a teary-eyed homecoming for sure. I sure did miss my family, but to see them unite with their newest member was more than I could take. What I was witnessing was so incredible. God’s hand was so evident. There about 20 family members and friends waiting at the concourse exit. It was great to see everyone. Fahlin was a bit nervous of course, but as the night went on you could sense that she was getting comfortable with the idea of sharing her life her new siblings. We introduced this exhausted little girl to her new home by taking her on a tour of all the rooms. We showed her the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and all the bedrooms and told her whose room was whose. Then we showed her the room that she would be sharing with Jayne and let her climb up onto the bed in which she would be sleeping.

All told, the final trip time tally was 30 total hours and two minutes. One long, long day for sure. At around 10:00 pm, she finally said “sleep,” which meant she was ready for bed. She chose to sleep in her new bed. We prayed, gave kisses, and five minutes later, she was dead asleep. She slept all night. It was a successful homecoming, for sure for our little trooper. In the past two weeks, her life has changed so drastically, it’s hard to imagine what she could possibly be thinking. I know this though, she seems to like the idea of having a family all to herself. I only hope we can live up to what she has imagined in her dreams.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Home—What’s Next for Fahlin?

Jim Chapman

Feb 9 2015 1:00 AM

What’s next for Fahlin? Our doctors are aware of Fahlin’s heart condition. Our pediatrician wants to see her as soon as possible. His heart doctor friends want to see her ASAP. My wife’s doctor colleagues at her hospital where she works have thoracic specialists waiting to see her. They even have friends who know people in Michigan and Pennsylvania who specialize in this kind of thing waiting to see her. Poor thing. We have the appointments scheduled, but AFTER this coming week. We want her to acclimate a little before strangers start their poking and prodding.

What’s the prognosis? She’s already outlived the original prognosis. Obviously, many prayers have been prayed on this little girl’s behalf, and now that her circle of friends and family has grown, we know that there will be more prayers lifted toward Heaven. We’ve already seen one miracle on the plane, who’s to say there aren’t more ahead for her? Our little girls are a constant reminder that God is a big and mighty God who has his hand on every little detail of every little thing in every little life. And though we may not, with our tiny, finite, human minds understand what is really going on, He nevertheless is in control of it all. We will see what the future holds.

So here we go, onto the next phase of this big adventure. As we adjust to the jetlag, we pray our thoughts would be clear; decisions sound and wisdom would be given to us as we seek an answer to this complex condition. We’ve been told there may or may not be a medical solution. That’s okay with us. All we know is that this little girl has already brought joy to our lives with her smile, her personality and her sweet, caring spirit. While our future with Fahlin is somewhat uncertain, we trust in the Almighty. For now, we’ll just focus on loving her, caring for her, teaching and nurturing her, being with her and just hanging out together.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

China Day 19—Heading Home

Jim Chapman

Feb 5 2015 1:00 AM

Here we go. Home sweet home here we come. We are about a four-hour car ride from Hong Kong. Our luggage has to be down stairs at 6:00 am, we have to be ready by 7:00. The date is February 6th. What is significant about that is that we will be re-living the same day today when return. We leave at 1:40 pm. Some 28 hours later, we get in, but it’s only actually eight hours later on February 6th. I’m so confused. It’s hilarious talking to my wife about this as we try to figure out the time travel difference. What I wouldn’t give right now for Scottie to ‘beam’ us back to Nashville at this very moment. Then I hit the ground running, because Saturday morning the three girls have their Mardi Gras Swim Meet at the ISC. No rest for the weary.

Our biggest concern when we started this process was Fahlin’s heart condition. Our second biggest concern was the flight home. While in China we were prohibited from flying with her, thus the train rides, car rides and vans. The differing opinions were definitely cause for concern on our part. As long as she’s on oxygen, our doctors feel she will be alright to fly. My wife’s medical training in respiratory care makes her the perfect person to administer the oxygen while we are in the air. Of course I am a little nervous. My wife on the other hand is confident the O2 concentrator will do the trick.

We’re flying stand by home, which was news to me. You know, the dads are usually the last to know anyway about anything. Our Son-in-Law Adam, a junior exec at American says there is not a problem getting out of dodge in Hong Kong, but the 6:30 flight to Nashville out of DFW is a little tight. We may have to take the 8:00 flight. We’re keeping our fingers crossed hoping for three open seats. So let the ‘trek’ begin (note the second Star Trek reference). It’s Hong Kong, Dallas, Nashville. Then home.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 18

Jim Chapman

Feb 5 2015 1:00 AM

Food and sports. Two things that are completely different here in China than they are at home. Our guide, Kathy, told me not to eat the street food. Kathy is hilarious. She and her husband have lived all over the world. She speaks fluent Danish. She hates Chinese food. She even says her friends tell she is not Chinese at all. “Oh, no Jim, street food is not safe.” So, I tried the street food. I figured if they are cooking it right in front of you, it can’t be that bad. I tried this ham and egg and crepe thing that looked sort of like a breakfast burrito. It was awesome. I let Fahlin try it. She devoured it. I had to get me another one. I also tried this spiral shaped deep fried potato on a stick thing. It was awesome as well; in fact I was thinking someone could make a killing selling these things at every county fair in the country. I can proudly say I survived the experience.

The three main sports, as far as I can tell, are soccer, team handball, and table tennis. As for soccer, I can’t watch it. Too much flopping, not enough action. Sorry, Coach Gift. As for team handball, from what I can tell, it’s a game played with seven on a side, your only allowed to take three dribbles, max, the ball looks like a small soccer ball and the goalie is pretty much useless. It seems there is a type of three point line behind which all shots must be taken. So a guy will get the ball, take a dribble, charge the line, jump as high and far as possible, then throw the ball at the net before landing in the no shooting zone. Of course, he scores because the goalies can’t block anything. Then the guys lands on his shoulder, grimacing with pain, obviously seriously injured, only to miraculously walk away a few seconds later. Wimp. These guys apparently weren’t toughened up playing the sports we did, you know, the big three: football, basketball, baseball.

Finally, ping pong, or as its known here, table tennis. The guys that play table tennis at the highest level in the world are incredible players. They stand 20 feet away from the table and hammer it as hard they can. The game is so quick it’s hard to follow. And those guy’s legs are jacked, obviously, that is where they get their power. I’m pretty sure the only guy in America who can compete at this level is Forrest Gump.

Anyway, one more day in Guangzhou, then it’s home. I hope to get you one more blog from here before we return. I have rather enjoyed the blogging process more than I suspected I would. If it’s okay, I think I would like to continue blogging with Fahlin updates every so often. So, keep it right here.

We’ll be flying home on American Airlines from Hong Kong via Dallas to Nashville. We get in Friday evening around 8:00. It will be one very long day.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 17

Jim Chapman

Feb 5 2015 1:00 AM

Today was the American Consulate visit where we applied for Fahlin’s visa and did the swearing in ceremony stating that everything we have said in all documents was to the best of our knowledge, true. The Consulate is new, having moved off Shaiman Island to its current location in the city. It’s a pretty modern looking building surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of Chinese citizens trying to get in and do some sort of official stuff.

Since we were American citizens, we got to go to front of the line. I liked that part. When we got inside, after passing through security, of course, we were greeted by a guy named Ike. Ike is a UTK grad from Pennsylvania who has been stationed here for the past two years. We got to talk ‘home’ for a bit. It felt good visiting with someone from back home.

During our interview, it was determined we were missing a document that should have been included in our paperwork. He said it was nothing major, but needed to be taken care of. Out CCAI adoption agency rep, Kathy, was on it. She is great. They are all great. She took care of everything and the potential snafu was avoided.

Two more nights in Guangzhou and then it’s home. I’ll give you details later, but we get in Friday evening, Feb. 6th, 8:00. If you’ve never been to one of these adoption homecomings, you should come check it out and say hello to our new daughter. We have been to dozens of them and I cry every time. They are pretty cool. Can’t wait to get home.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 16

Feb 3 2015 1:00 AM

We have adopted three times. All three times have been wonderful experiences. This time has been as well, however, for some reason, this time I cannot seem to wrap my brain around the complexities of everything that is going in the adoption realm. I ended my last blog by saying this was our calling. But, what if it isn’t? What if it is Fahlin’s calling? What if she’s the one called to adopt us? What if my wife and I and our kids and our friends and our community around us are the ones who are being ministered to by this little girl who was once abandoned and all alone? I’ve been thinking in ‘what ifs’ a lot since I got here.

The Good Book tells us that we entertain Angels unaware. What if? How do we know for sure? Most likely she’s really just a little girl with a serious heart condition, albeit a very special little girl who is funny, clever, and cute as can be. But, I cannot help but wonder.

Now, theologically and doctrinally there might be something askew in my thinking, then again, there might not be, I am human after all. I wonder about these kinds of things a lot. Since I am writing from where I am, I must choose my words carefully. The Good Book also says that if we’ve done something for the ‘least of these,’ we’ve done it unto Him. I can think of nothing more ‘least of these’ than little orphan children. Does that mean He is a little Asian child? Apparently, it could.

For Fahlin to get where she is today, there were so many layers. She was born, obviously, then abandoned (we don’t know a lot of the details about that), someone found her, showed compassion on her and got her to the authorities, who in turn took her to a State orphanage, which determined they could not provide adequate care which then led to her being placed in foster care at Maria’s Big House of Hope and now, four years or so later, here she is! How does that happen? Was someone watching over her? Had to be…I choose to think there was.

So here we are. I don’t understand how our world has gotten to this point. I guess the original fall of man had more dire consequences than we wish to ponder and those consequences go much deeper than we care to think about, because if we did, it would take us to a really dark place, where frankly, I do not care to or want to go. All I know is this, we are all called to, in some way, shape or form to care for orphans. That doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to adopt, but there are things each of us can do. Can the orphan epidemic in the world be eliminated? I think it can be, one child at time…What if?

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 15

Feb 2 2015 1:00 AM

In case you were wondering, yes I got to watch the Super Bowl, well at least the first half, until we had to go to our appointments. A room was set up just off the restaurant with a large screen TV. The picture was American, but everything else was Chinese. The graphics were Chinese, the announcers were Chinese and the commercials were Chinese. It was also Monday morning.

I thought for sure there would be a crowd of westerners longing for a piece of home, but again, I was mistaken. Three loud, obnoxious American businessmen, one wearing a shirt that said, ‘Big fat Patriot fan’ on it came in for awhile, but then decided to up to the 17th floor executive business lounge where the could watch it in ‘American.’ I sat there rather enjoying myself, trying to figure out what the announcers were saying. They definitely weren’t Michaels and Collinsworth, that’s for sure, but were excited, nonetheless.

At halftime, I went up to the room and discovered that Yolanda had been trying to get ahold me. The game was on the Star Network, in English with Charles Davis doing the commentary. Still no American commercials. And what about Katy Perry?

I’m convinced the world is suffering a pandemic of epic proportions and there seems to be no immediate cure available. I call it ‘Screen Watching’ and its rampant, even here in China. Our kids, old and young are addicted to their mobile devices, as they’re called now. We parents are no better. Shame on us. I am pledging to set a better example. I guess when there are a billion people walking around staring down at their screens, its more noticeable.

But alas, with all this modern technology available back home and here in China, we are still having great difficulty emailing, skyping, face timing, and staying connected to the World Wide Web. It’s frustrating because there are only certain windows of time when we can communicate with our children. We miss them. Look at what I’m complaining about and we’ve just adopted a little girl who was given no hope of a life or future. Reality is staring me in the face everyday and it looks like a cute, little blueish tinted girl named Fahlin. If anyone has a right to complain, it would be her. She’s too young to know it.

I mention her bluishness because we have been getting a lot of stares when we are out and about. Finally, we were approached by two women who inquired about her skin tone. They wanted to know if she was wearing makeup, and why she was blue. When we told them about her bad heart, they seemed genuinely concerned and told us what a good thing we were doing. Well, we don’t for certain about Fahlin’s future; we just know she was our calling.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 14

Feb 2 2015 1:00 AM

Once again we found ourselves in ‘nothing scheduled’ mode, so we decided to take a trip Shaiman Island. The Island holds many fond memories for us. The White Swan Hotel, which has been closed and under renovation for the past three years, sits proudly on the island and it’s where we stayed for our previous three adoptions (is this really our fourth?). We thought we would check it out.

While many of the little shops that surrounded the hotel are now closed up and long gone, a few remain. It was fun negotiating and walking away at the last minute only to have the storeowner come running after you to close the deal. We need to stop the spending. Things are definitely not as cheap as they once were. A sign of the times, I guess.

Probably the closest thing to authentic western cuisine you get in Guangzhou is a little place on the island called ‘Lucy’s.’ We have eaten there many times in the past, so we ate there again for old times sake. The apple pie was made with dried apples, Yolanda’s burger was pretty close to a real burger and Fahlin’s grilled cheese was not melted, but the fries were spot on!

I guess from everything we had heard, we were anticipating the island to be a ghost town. Far from it. Replacing all the westerners pushing strollers with adopted little children were hundreds of local tourists. It also appeared to be THE destination for wedding photographers and photo shoots of cute Asian girls dressed in creepy anime’ costumes. Definitely strange. Busy, but strange. The local shop owners each told us something different when we asked when the White Swan would be opening again, and each were hopeful it would be soon. I hope so too.

We did not have a guide with us, which made getting back to our hotel a bit of an adventure. We hailed taxi after taxi only to get blown off and we they did stop, we would show them the instructions our guide had written out for us to which they would wave us off, shake their heads no and drive away. Finally, after about an hour of trying this spot and that spot, we were able to hail our reluctant victim. Funny thing about our trip back to the China Marriott, it cost us twice as much to get back as it did to go. Hmmmmmm.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 13

Feb 2 2015 1:00 AM

I was worried about how today might go. We were to take Fahlin to get her picture made for the consulate for some reason. Simple enough. Painless. But what was next is what had me worried. It was the visit to the Chinese Medical Emigration Center, or something similar to that, that had me nervous. It’s where everyone wishing to leave China for another country, whether it be for study or tourism, or business, or whatever, that’s where everyone must go to get a medical exit exam. Fahlin falls into one of those categories, since she will soon be leaving the country.

I expected a million people to be there, and I was right, but they led us to an area that had been sectioned off especially for families who were adopting. Okay, not too bad yet. There were three stations for the children; the ENT, general stats like height, weight, temperature, etc., and then the dreaded TB test. At the first two stations, we were allowed to tag along, but the for the TB test, Fahlin would be led away by the nurses she did not know to a room where we could not go, but where blood would be drawn…and we couldn’t be there with her.

We put our ears up to the glass and didn’t hear anything. Once again, our little girl was being very brave. When the door opened, there were no tears, but you could tell she was a bit distraught. She went straight to Mommy. That’s when she teared up. She couldn’t quite process what had just happened, but she knew it wasn’t fun. I couldn’t help but think about the many tests that await her when she gets back and how frightened she might be. As I write this, she still is a little concerned about the booboo her Band-Aid is covering. After today, though, she now knows that one person she can depend to be there for sure is her Mommy.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 12

Feb 1 2015 1:00 AM

There is a noticeable difference between Luoyang, where we were, and Guangzhou, where we are. For one, the sun is shining, something we haven’t seen since we arrived. For another, the city seems…cleaner. While there are many similarities, the back alley stores, the smells that waft throughout the city, the constant busy-ness of the people, Guangzhou seems newer, definitely more modern, for sure.

It’s crazy, but it almost seems like we have walked onto the set of a Chinese ‘Truman Show’ movie. Cue the extras…okay, everyone, act busy…action!!! Then you turn the corner and, boom, there it is, Guangzhou at it’s busiest. Millions of people, going here, going there, going everywhere. Crazy.

Apparently, scooters have been outlawed here. That, in and of itself is pretty strange. I no longer have to dodge sidewalk drivers anymore. Everything here is more expensive as well, and the places where one can bargain are nowhere to be found. Sad, so sad.

Our guide has told us not to go out at night, “Not safe,” she says. We don’t quite know what that means. I mean it seems like a nice place, but I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. I remember back in 2005when we were adopting Lydia; we brought our teenaged boys with us and turned them loose on the city. They would climb into a taxi armed only with a hotel card and go off on some huge adventure. I guess in hindsight, we shouldn’t have done that. Can you believe some parents?

Fahlin has had her best day yet. She’s happy, she’s talking up a storm and she has really taken to her mother today. As of right now, she has changed clothes twice, taken a bath, played with Play-Doh, and given her dad Chinese lessons. Yes, I have a five-year old Chinese instructor. She giggles whenever I mispronounce things. Cute.

My wife is happier today…

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 11

Feb 1 2015 1:00 AM

I never thought I would enjoy blogging as much as I have. I just thought I would write some stuff down and keep people informed, but it has gone further than that for me. It’s given me a way to sort out my thoughts about exactly what is going on here in our lives and the life of this little girl, Fahlin. I’ve simply tried to be real. Don’t know if I’ve been funny, don’t know if I’ve been somber, I simply want to convey what has been going on.

One thing for sure, she likes her daddy a lot. Mom, on the other hand, is a different story. As often happens during the grieving process, the new mom, Yolanda in this case, becomes the target of all the pent up resentment and anger that the child is experiencing. She is hurt, scared and lonely because all of the female caregivers she was used to and trusted are no longer around, and she is processing how and why this happened.

You know, I know, they know and yes, Yolanda knows, that her life is already significantly better, but it is also about to get even a whole lot ‘more better,’ once we get to the states. That doesn’t make it any easier on my wife. Yo wants so badly to be the one that Fahlin turns to for every need. Instead, she’ll pull away, make the angry eyes, won’t make eye contact and basically resist when my wife tries to help. It’s not happening all the time, but there has been a period of time each day, usually in the mornings and then again in the mid to late afternoons, that this seems to take place. There are good moments, playful and fun, but the difficult is outweighing the easy at this point. It’s normal, but hard. Please lift my wife up in your quiet time. This is killing her. It breaks my heart to watch it break her heart to know that this little girl is fighting the love my wife wants so much to give.

We know from experience that it gets better, it pretty much always does. The poor, little thing. If only she could understand how awesome her new mother is. And she will…one day…soon.

Go Aqua-Eagles! On to State!

Coach Chapman

China Day 10

Feb 1 2015 1:00 AM

We took the Bullet Train today to Guangzhou. As we pulled up to the train station I was impressed with new architecture of the building. It was a lot like a miniature large airport, except different. High-speed electro-magnetic trains are relatively new to China having only been in use for about the past four or five years. Since I watched the video about how the train works at least three dozen times, it was the only thing playing on the display screens, I now consider myself an expert. The power comes from the wires suspended above the track, which shoots some sort of electricity down the appendage that sticks out of the top of the train, which then in turn shoots it to the car then onto the tracks, creating an electro-magnetic force that propels the train along the line at about 307 kilometers per hour, which by my rough calculation converts to nearly 200+ MPH. The ride is smoother than a silk road (that was a Chinese historical reference by the way, even though I’m not so sure how smooth the silk road actually was, but I do know how smooth silk is).

Of course, I very quickly noticed that everyone who rides the train travels light, very light. A satchel and a small suitcase seemed to be the order of the day. Man-purses are very popular in China; in fact, there are entire stores dedicated to them, and they were everywhere. But here we were, the only Anglo-Saxons in the entire station, hauling our five large suitcases, three backpacks, a stroller and miscellaneous other items like coats and blankets onto the platform. Our sweet little guide, Rita, who made fun of us for having so much luggage, by the way, managed to gain permission to go to the train with us so she could help the family with the sick little girl. She said, “We must hurry, you only have two minutes!” Great, I thought, what will we do in Guangzhou with our friend Rita helping us? Well, at least I had five hours to try to figure that out.

My plan was this: When we were about 10 minutes out, I would grab all the bags and make my way to the area between the cars, where the exits are located. So far so good…that was it. That was my plan. After our rapid exit, we stood on the platform and thought, now what? We were kind of like the fish who were in the ziplock bags at the end of “Finding Nemo.” All of a sudden, this dude shows up out of nowhere with a dolly and says in very broken English, something to the effect of, “Need help?”

“No Sherlock, we got this…of course we need help!” I didn’t really say that, in fact, I didn’t even really think that, but this guy had to be…an angel, no doubt sent by God himself. It did cost me 60 RMB, though, so I guess he wasn’t actually and angel, since as far as I know, angels don’t usually charge for their services.

This is our last stop before we head back home on Friday. Our week will be spent doing consulate visits, medical exams and maybe a little sightseeing. Little Fahlin has been a trooper, though. She’s had a few rough patches, which I will detail in the next blog, but for now it’s on to the next thing!

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 9

Jim Chapman

Jan 30 2015 9:55 AM

I finally admitted to my wife that I was not only apprehensive, but actually afraid of Fahlin. I didn’t know how or what to do with a little girl in her condition. I didn’t know how frail she would or wouldn’t be or if she would bruise easily at the slightest mishap, or what, but that was just because I was uninformed.

I quickly realized she wasn’t going to break if I picked her up, wasn’t going to wince with pain if I tickled, or that her little blue fingers wouldn’t feel weird when I touched them. Her fingers are really cool. They kind of look like miniature alien hands, like E.T.’s.

We learned that she has never walked on carpet, can’t go up or down stairs because she obviously never has, and tires quickly on short walks to the hotel restaurant. We are definitely going to have to build up that stamina if she’s going be a swimmer. But for now, we don’t even know if that is possible. I know this, she wants nothing to do with the pool at the hotel. She is petrified, it seems, of the water. So, the plan, I guess, will be to start easy and build our way up to becoming friends with the water.

We leave Zhongzhou in the morning and head to Guangzhou via the Bullet Train. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Go Aqua-Eagles! Swim fast at Regionals!

Coach Chapman

China Day 8

Jim Chapman

Jan 29 2015 1:00 AM

It finally happened. We both knew it would, just didn’t know when. Grieving is perhaps the most important part of the adoption process. Imagine being uprooted from the only life you have ever known and being placed into a situation that is a 180 degree opposite of everything you’ve ever known.

Thursday evening, our little Fahlin, who had been so strong, who was being so brave, finally gave into the fear. Her little almond shaped eyes became teary. I could tell she didn’t know what to to, so I motioned for her to come here. I picked her up, squeezed her, and held onto her, gazing directly into her eyes as she mourned the loss of her nannies, her little friends, her crib she had slept in for five years of her life. I assured her over and over and over she would be okay and that we would take very good care of her.

Mommy had gone out for a bit and had not yet returned. I was left hanging in the wind on this one. Aunt Mary Beth, Uncle David and I went to dinner in the hotel. That seemed to help for while as her spirits lifted. Soon after we got back to the room, Mommy arrived. Fahlin was already dressed for bed when the emotions erupted again. This time it was Mommy’s turn to spring into action, which she did, ever so gently, so sweetly. It is totally heartbreaking to watch. She seemed so helpless, so innocent, so alone.

We can’t wait to get her home so she can start her new life with those crazy sisters of hers. There’s no doubt her life is going to be so much better. But, she doesn’t know that yet. She will, just not yet.

One more day here in Zhoungzhou, then it’s off to sunny and warm Guongzhou. Six more days.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 7, Part II

Jim Chapman

Jan 29 2015 1:00 AM

The waiting game has begun. As we wait for Fahlin’s passport to arrive, we get to have a day of freedom. Of course, yesterday evening it began to snow, and as I look out the window this morning I see the city blanketed with snow and ice. It will be interesting to see how it impacts day to day life in Zhoungzhou (I’ve learned the pronunciation is something like ‘Jung Joe’).

I am thinking about the swim team right now. Twenty three of our varsity BA swimmers have qualified for the Middle Tennessee High School Swimming Association Regional Championships on Friday and will compete against neary 70 other high schools. My very capable assistants, Ellen Mincey and Jimmy Ker will be manning the helm of the ship in my absence. I’m wondering if Jimmy, since he is an [Englis taecher], is reading this blog and dissecting my spelling and grammatical errors and sentence structure. But, I digress (I did the misspelling on purpose, In case you missed that).

I am also thinking about my eighth grade daughter, Izzy, who will be swimming with the rest of the middle school swim team on Saturday. That is for the Middle School Championship of Middle Tennessee. Did you know that there are over 100 middle schools? Crazy. That meet will be nuts. I have been able to check what is called the ‘Psych Sheet,’ which shows the seeding of the entrants. Izzy is seeded 4th in 100 free, and 7th in the 100 back. The swimmers in top heats are all pretty much friends that she has either trained with when she was little or trains with now. Should be a lot of fun. It is a prelims / finals meet, which means the top eight swimmers from each event in the morning, come back to swim it again at night…kind of like a mini-olympics. Who would have thought that a little girl we adopted as a nine month old from China 14 years ago would doing what she’s doing at such a high level. The creator is so cool.

That’s why we adopt. To give these little girls a chance, to give them hope and so much more. I don’t whose lives get impacted more, theirs, or ours?

Go Aqua-Eagles! Go Izzy!

China Day 7

Phil Goodman

Jan 28 2015 4:21 PM

We left early this morning to head to Fahlin’s hometown of Louyang in order to apply for her passport. Seemed simple enough, until we encountered snow as we got nearer to Louyang. Now, my wife and I grew up in Ohio (Go Bucks!) and learned to drive in the snow, and as we have transformed ourselves into true southerners the past 22 years or so, our snow driving skills have deteriorated to those of typical Nashville drivers. But that is nothing compared to what we experienced today! My oh my oh my! I’m still shaking my head in disbelief!

One inch of snow usually wreaks havoc in Nashville, but nothing like what I saw today. The eight lane interstate was pure ice. Trucks are supposed to stay in the two right lanes, cars in the two left. But, one thing I’ve learned in all my travels to China is that lane lines are merely suggestions and four lane roads can quickly become six lanes of traffic at any given moment. No one gets mad because, as our sweet little guide puts it, “Everyone here knows that everyone here is a bad driver!”

The trucks decided to stop dealing with the ice and simply stopped dead in their tracks, right where they were and wait it out…every last one of them, hundreds of them. The cars, however, decided to continue on. It turned into the most interesting ride ever. Our driver bobbed and weaved (or wove?) in and out, right then left, berm or median, meant no difference, but we made steady progress at about five mph until finally, we broke through the truck maze to daylight. It was the most incredible piece of driving I have ever witnessed. Amazing!

Six hours of driving, twenty minutes to process Fahlin’s passport application, and our day finally came to end. As we retired to bed, Fahlin began to liven up. She had not talked for two solid days, but last night we began to see glimpses of who this little girl was really going to be. Yolanda and Fahlin had been making bracelets out of some sort of shiny plastic materials and stickers when she looked up and said, “Give this to Mary Beth. give this to David.” She’s fluent in English! Yay! But wait…I was hoping for “I love you dad,” or even better, “I love you Mommy.” I know that will come with time. She’s already said it with her eyes.

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 6

Jan 27 2015 1:00 AM

It’s official! She’s ours! Yesterday at the Civil Affairs Office, we signed our guardianship agreement, today we finalized the adoption. The Director that oversees adoptions in the Henan province conducted a simple ceremony where he thanked us and congratulated us on our new addition, then handed us the official paperwork. Her official name is Fahlin Maria Xuifang Chapman.

Back story time. My sister Mary Beth has played a huge part in all our adoptions, but this one has a special connection. Fahlin is the last of the original six or eight babies that came to Maria’s shortly after it opened nearly six years ago. She was not expected to live. Maria’s Big House of Hope came into existence through a series of both supernatural and tragic circumstances. Steven and Mary Beth had a deep desire to make a difference for orphans in China and had begun laying the groundwork for what would become a beacon of hope for the sickest of the sick, orphaned children in Louyang, China.

But tragically, almost six years ago May, Steven and Mary Beth’s third adopted daughter and my niece, Maria, lost her life at the age of five in a tragic accident at their home. It was a deep, dark period in our families’ lives, especially theirs, but through much love and prayer and mourning and grieving, they slowly climbed out of that place of despair. Through all of that, and thanks to an overwhelming outpouring of love and support, funding became available to complete the work on the big, blue building with clouds called Maria’s Big house.

Since that is where Fahlin has spent her entire life, we wanted to somehow find a way thank them for all their work and support, so my wife and I chose to honor them by asking if would be okay to name our daughter after Maria…thus, the name.

Tomorrow, we head back to Fahlin’s hometown to process her passport. With snow possibly moving into the area that means either a two hour drive, or a trip by train. The last time I was on a train in China, I was attacked by bedbugs and nearly ended up in the hospital. I shudder at the thought.

In case you’re wondering, it is AMAZING to watch the transformation and to see how well she’s doing. Her eyes have come to life, she loves her new shoes and and hates having her hair down. I don’t know how much more cuteness I can stand to be around and adding Fahlin to the cuteness that already exists in our household, may just lead to an explosion from cuteness overload! Lord help me!

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 5

Jim Chapman

Jan 26 2015 1:00 AM

It’s ‘Gotcha Day!’ We were to meet Fahlin at the Civil Affairs office at around 10 am, however, her arrival was delayed about two hours due to…well, we’ll call it fog. Apparently she slept all the way so when she woke up, the next thing she knew she was in an unfamiliar place with lots of people standing around waiting for their little children to also arrive. You could tell she was frightened out of her wits, but she was soooo brave. The people at Maria’s gave her a big send off. This is the day she had hoped for for so long and now it was here. I’m pretty sure it was not the way she had envisioned it in her little mind. As we drove back to the hotel, tears not only trickled down her cheeks, but ours as well. Hers were from a mixed bag of emotions from sadness to fear to joy, and ours were liquid love.

We passed signs that read “Manhatten Beauty of Street,” “Dental Implant Very Professionally” and “Hotel Sea of Multitude.” Something was obviously missed in the translation.

My orders from mom were to find a stroller. “Do not come back without one!” I was on it! Walmart was about a mile away, but it was just about as quick to walk there as it would have been to grab a cab, so I hoofed it. Now, going to a Walmart in China is about as weird an experience as you can ever have. It’s really hard to put into words just how strange it is, but I did manage to find a Happy Dino brand stroller and after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find my way out of the store, I managed to make it safely back to the hotel. You see, the streets are for cars, trucks and buses, the sidewalks are for people and SCOOTERS, tons of scooters! I was staring a broken leg in the face with every step I took.

I delivered the stroller to more orders, “Her shoes are too big. Go find her some 26’s or 27’s and we need some boots.” This time I decided to go scout the area stores on the streets around the hotel. It’s really fun for me to do stuff like this when I cannot speak a lick of the language and I’m in the deepest bowels of Chinese infrastructure. But despite my obvious handicap, the boot/shoe search was a success.

I don’t know exactly what we were expecting to happen on our first official full day with Fahlin, but it could not have gone better. She was not talking much, but she was playing with her sticker book, putting together her puzzles, smiling and giving everyone high fives. She fell asleep between my wife and as I write this at 3:00 am because my body clock has not turned around yet, she seems to be sleeping comfortably. Prayers for a smooth transition must be happening everywhere because we can see the results here in our room. Please don’t stop.

Thanks so much from China!

Go Aqua-Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 3

Jim Chapman

Jan 24 2015 1:00 AM

Just found out a few hours ago that our mighty Aqua-Eagle and Mini-Eagles both went down to defeat at the hands of Ensworth. Bummer. The meet looked close and we did have quite a few individual victories. We just seemed to come up a bit short in the point totals. We’ll get ’em next time. Just wait til we build our pool, Ensworth. Watch out! Special shout outs to Coach Ker and Coach Ellen for keeping the ship afloat. Now we put this meet behind us and focus on the HUGE MTHSSA HS regional meet at the downtown sportsplex where over 70 High Schools, both public and private, in the middle Tennessee region compete for the title of mid state champion. It’s huge! and its a lot of fun! That is followed the next day by the MTHSSA Middle School Championship with over 90 schools competing. It is an all day affair with what are called prelims in the morning where everyone swims, followed by a four hour break then the Finals, where the top 8 qualifiers from in the morning in each event come back to swim it again for all the marbles. Very, very, exciting. If you’re not doing anything or have never been to a swim meet, check it out! Until tomorrow, please keep Fahlin in prayers during this tough transition… Go Aqua-Eagles!!! Go Mini-Eagles!!! Coach Chapman

China Day 2

Jim Chapman

Jan 23 2015 1:00 AM

I’m writing this to you from the future. Fourteen hours in the future to be exact. We arrived safely in Beijing around 7:30 in the evening, Friday night. Our friend Robin Hill picked us up at the airport and drove us to Hope Foster Home where we will spend the night. Then it’s up early and back to the airport for our flight to Louyang and Maria’s Big House, where Fahlin is currently staying. The Beijing airport has got to be one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen. It is massive!

About eight years ago, the summer prior to my first year at BA, I was on a mission trip to Hope Foster Home and it was our last night there when a little baby arrived. To the best of my recollection, no one knew how she got there. I happened to be in the office when they brought her in. She was tiny and frail, and very, very sick. BA grads Victoria and Jake Petway were with me on that trip. They were the first Brentwood Academy kids I had ever really met, and I remember thinking to myself, if all BA kids are like this, Brentwood Academy must be a pretty awesome place. Victoria took a picture of me bawling my eyes out, holding this little girl whose life expectancy was about six more weeks. I cherish that picture. I became her sponsor that day when they told me there was no money for her to get the basic medical treatment she needed. I gave them every last Yuan I had in my pocket. Little did I know that four years later, through a series of supernatural events, that little girl I got to name Jayne would become my daughter.

Tomorrow it is on to Louyang. We do not know what this trip holds. We have been told that Fahlin knows she is getting a new family. We have sent pictures, stuffed animals, blankeys and toys to Fahlin, but I’m not so sure how much that will prepare her for what’s about to happen. One of the pre-school teachers here who knows Fahlin pretty well thinks she is probably nervous. No kidding! Imagine being uprooted from everything you’ve known. And, even though it is a foster facility, Maria’s is the perhaps the nicest facility of its kind in all of China. Life is about to change in a very big way for one little girl.

Pray that the transition goes well.

Go Aqua Eagles!

Coach Chapman

China Day 1

Jim Chapman

Jan 22 2015 1:00 AM

Things are starting out great! The first leg of our adventure was easy and uneventful, a one-hour flight to Chicago, first class, no less, courtesy of my daughter Bethany and her husband Adam who both happen to be employees of American Airlines. And thanks to them, we are spending our eight hour layover ‘roughing it’ in the lap of luxury in one of the O’Hare Admiral’s Clubs. Pretty cool! My sister Mary Beth and our friend David Trask will be meeting up with us here in Chicago to join us on this “Great Adventure,” as my brother-in-law once wrote in a song a few years ago.

We are on a great adventure. As my wife and I have found out along the way, life itself is a great adventure. Six months ago we had no idea would be heading to China in January. Our biological children were already pretty much married, engaged, attending college or out on their own. We had also adopted three more little girls after an eight year gap. Our life was full and complete…or so we thought.

Then one night in July, we had dinner with my sister and her husband Steven. They had just returned from visiting Maria’s Big House of Hope in Louyang, China. There they had watched a brokenhearted little girl named Fahlin (pronounced Fallon, as in Jimmy Fallon) cry as the last of her best friends was led away with his new family. As we would find out at dinner that night, my sister was devastated and thus the scheming between my sister and wife began.

Without going into details, and there are many, and through a series of God ordained miracles, this seemingly un-adoptable little five-year-old girl with a serious heart condition was going to get a family….ours! Fahlin’s new mom would be the young, beautiful Yolanda Chapman, my wife. Unfortunately, she’ll have to settle for an old, baldheaded dad…me! I’m sure she’ll love me, who wouldn’t? Anyway, I will attempt to keep you updated via this blog as we travel down this road of uncertainty. We arrive in China tomorrow night around 7:30 where we’ll spend the night with our friends Robin and Joyce Hill. Please keep us in your prayers.Go Aqua-eagles! Coach Chapman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *