Friday, July 7, 2017

Are You Really Just Starting An Orphanage?

"Is this a little ball team?"

"Are you a church group?"

"This looks like a fun birthday party!"

"Do you work for a day care?"

"What charitable corporation are you with?"  

As we have grown into a multi-racial and large adoptive family (10 total), those are some of the questions or comments our family has received. To strangers, we can be very confusing at first glance.  

I get it.  :)

Not one of those comments/questions offends us in the least - we are proud to declare we are a family. A little bit of nations gathering, a little bit of heaven on earth. (Well, not heaven all the time, lol.)

Three times since our announcement of our eighth child in early 2016, a new question has emerged:  "Are you really just starting an orphanage?"

That question is different. The truth is, that one rubs me the wrong way a little bit.  

But . . . why?  

Is it because I have been inside multiple orphanages, witnessed the conditions, and interacted with the children who spend day-after-day-after-day there? Certainly being immersed in that reality gives me a clearer perspective. 

Or is it possible there is truth to the statement that a large adoptive family is essentially an orphanage? My instinct screamed, "No! Absolutely not!" If that were true, we would essentially be moving a child from one institutional setting to another, and if that's the case - what is the point? I'm an open-minded person, so I set out over the last 12+ months to contemplate the evidence and honestly answer this question.  


It seems numbers are the main train of thought when folks say that having many children is equivalent to being an orphanage. When our 6th and 7th children came home, our youngest daughter (adopted the previous year) began acting out a bit. Someone suggested that our daughter probably thought she was living in an orphanage again, as there were now so many children in our home. That sounds logical; however, her orphanage had HUNDREDS of children. Where she slept, there were at least 20 - 25 cribs. (It's not always one child per crib in an orphanage either.) Even with six siblings, our family was small in comparison to her institutional life. And large, biological families aren't susceptible to this accusation. So in the end, I submit it is simply not a valid argument to say a large adoptive family is like an orphanage based solely on numbers.

Some orphanage environments might attempt to replicate a home, but overall, even in "nicer" institutions, the feel of the environment is more comparable to a school. Is it the little touches that are missing, like warm lighting, pictures on the wall, and a comfy communal area? Or is it the lack of bigger physical qualities, such as having access to the kitchen? (Versus never seeing anyone prepare meals because it is always brought to you cafeteria-style.) Either way, I don't feel there is a valid association of a home's physical characteristics with an orphanage's.

I remember a friend telling me how fascinated their newly adopted child was with the carpet in their home. It hit me that none of the orphanages we've stepped inside - 10 at this point - had carpet. Upon consulting with others, the cold, hard concrete floors are a common trait of institutions. But not every home has carpet either, so that doesn't truly give us a strong contrast in home versus orphanage.

I do find a compelling contrast, however, in the bars and locked gates. Bars, you say?! Locked gates, you ask?! Yep. It broke my heart the first time we entered an orphanage and I saw young girls on the other side of bars, arms draping through, heads propped up against the cold steel, and their beautiful but lifeless eyes staring back at me. Whether to protect the kids from predators and abuse, outside or in, this is not a physical characteristic of a home. Nothing about the process of having a worker unlock gates as you pass into different sections of the orphanage says, "you are loved." 

You may be able to make a crude comparison of the physical characteristics of orphanages and homes, but ultimately, I think it's very apparent that would not be a solid assertion.

Y'all, the next two sections are the meat of this subject! The facts here are unequivocal proof that a home, with a loving FAMILY inside, is incommensurable to life in an orphanage. 

The restricted environment and regimental orphanage lifestyle can make it impossible to thrive. Many institutionalized children rarely see life outside of their orphanage. One of our daughters never left her compound for the entirety of her time there - almost 10 years!! 

Often, there is really no such thing as "free time". With many children and few caregivers, the schedule is strict to maintain order. One of our kids had a schedule with specific times all the children were put on and taken off the potty!  At another of our children's orphanages, "free time" was in their schedule, which meant watching t.v. and no variation from that. 

But people can still thrive under rigid schedules and confined spaces, right? Sure, as long as someone is pouring love and positive emotions into their life.  And guess what? Those are missing elements in the typical orphanage environment.

Think about it! There are no opportunities to use your imagination! No one encourages you to explore your creativity. How can a child learn self-confidence and self-worth if they never accomplish anything (because there is nothing to be accomplished)? No one is telling you "good job!" or giving you constructive criticism to do better. 

Nothing is feeding the spirit, the life, inside you. When I mentioned lifeless eyes earlier, I meant exactly that.

If no one is pouring into your life, and no one is teaching you how to cope with stressful times, you are living in survival mode. You're only capable of doing what is necessary to keep yourself alive and functioning. One of the saddest moments we have had in our adoption journeys was when we watched one of our newly adopted children, brought home at an older age, completely block out anyone else's needs. At night, she would cover her head completely with the blanket on her bed. She never flinched when one of her siblings cried out from a nightmare or called for Mommy and Daddy. You could have screamed in terror and she would not take notice.

We realized she had lived in an environment where there were no safe, loving arms to comfort a crying child in the middle of the night. Because she has never seen compassionate care, she coped with the crying she heard by covering her head. Later it was evident she was going beyond just blocking the sound. She left reality and began talking to imaginary friends. She was an empty shell. Emotionless. Detached. A robot of sorts going through the same motions day-after-day-after-day-after-day . . . Survival mode.

And finally, let's touch on spirituality. Not all parents raise their children to know and love God. But to those who do believe in Him and His great love, it is the single most important information they can share with their children. The chances of even hearing about God in an orphanage are slim.  And certainly, having someone to nurture the knowledge and growth of a relationship with our Savior is just not going to happen.

Simply put, the emotional and spiritual life of a child living in most orphanages is virtually obsolete. Period.

In a home, one or two consistent caregivers are with their children day and night in the role of parent or parents. Their purpose and joy is to care for the child(ren) and always look out for their best interests.

Every. Single. Day.

Without Fail.

In an orphanage, caregivers come and go. Orphanage life is full of rotating caregivers. Certain folks work during the day, different ones work at night. There is no way to know if a favorite caregiver will even be working at a time when a child needs them most. Establishing permanent, life-long relationships does not typically happen. 

And what is the real quality of relationships with caregivers who do not have a child's best interests at heart? Will a paid, orphanage caregiver: 
- come-in on their day off when a child has a cold, laying with them all day just so the child feels comforted? 
- if there is an accident or severe illness, stay with a child during every minute of a hospital stay so they are never alone? 
- bring a special treat like stickers or ice cream to celebrate a good grade at school? 
lie awake at night with tears wondering if they made the right decision for their child, or if they could have done better for them?
- write each child a letter every birthday, sharing their favorite memories/successes/and hard times of the past year?
- teach them important skills like cooking, budgeting, washing clothes, and good hygiene?
- comfort them when they face the unfairness of life?
- help them learn calming skills when they are upset, or explain to them how to work out disagreements with friends?
- love the child even when they do things you disagree with?
- pray on a daily basis that the child grows to be a kind, respectful, caring adult who contributes to the world in which we live? 
These are all things we have done as parents. Do you think an orphanage caregiver does the same?

When a child has no one looking out for them, guiding them toward success and steering them from disaster, he/she learns that the most dependable person in their life is . . . 

. . . themself.  

It is highly unlikely there is a single person truly and fully advocating for you in an orphanage. Highly unlikely there is a person who will be there for you at any time, and who always chooses the best for you over themselves. 

Here is what it boils down to:  an orphanage has caregivers, at their best, similar to a camp counselor, den mother, or group of authority figures put into place temporarily. A home is made up of parent(s) who care for your very souls and well-being, along with the blessing of siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and so on. Family cheers for you when you try, delights with you in your successes, cries beside you through sadness or defeat, and accepts you when you make mistakes.

So, are we really just starting an orphanage by having a large, adoptive family? 

Absolutely NOT.

In the end, I simply cannot reconcile where the comparison of a home and an orphanage could truly come from. I've been inside them, and maybe those who expressed this opinion have not spent time within the walls of an orphanage. Hopefully this post has changed your opinion.

Possibly it's a societal thing. Some folks these days have a hard time understanding large families. Many children appears to mean loss of individual attention. That's so untrue. There are many layers of that conversation that I hope to tackle in another post someday.

Maybe you have made the "are you starting an orphanage?" comment without truly thinking it through. If so, it's all good! We all make mistakes, and I definitely need a reminder to weigh my words before speaking them. 

One final point in knowing decisively that our home is not an orphanage is that it is not filled with orphans. It is filled with our sons and daughters. Yes, once they were orphaned, but that is part of their past. It is no longer who they are, and does not define them.  

*I feel it is important to note that there are orphanages that exist that do seek to pour love into the children under their care, but they are few and far between. I fully believe that even a good orphanage is no replacement for a family.

**Photos in this post have been blurred to prevent any identifying information and protect the children who might live in these orphanages. These are actual photos my husband or I have taken. We have seen much worse conditions in places where cameras were/are not allowed. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Simply A Family

A young man at a restaurant eyed our family curiously.  While gesturing to our eight children, he politely said, "Okay, I have to ask.  What's the story here?"

With a smile I replied, "We're simply a family."

We've been asked all sorts of questions by curious strangers, which we don't mind too much because we love to advocate for adoption.  Those inquisitive minds inspired this fun t-shirt!  

This design is a precursor to our main fundraiser tee coming in late July or August. I understand the design below is not for everybody, although it is offered in front/back OR front only design.  If you are one of our sweet supporters who is anxious to help us fundraise and spread awareness by donating for a tee, but this particular one doesn't fit for you, have no fear - the main fundraiser design is a shirt absolutely anyone can wear!  :)

Sample tees have arrived!
The Heather White of the baseball tee is actually a light grey - super cute!

Different Options, too! We will also consider any special requests, like tall sizes, tanks, or maybe a tee that is not the soft style, so just ask!

Click on the links for a website that has sizing info under "View Specs".  All pricing listed is suggested donation only - if you have less to give, it is still a blessing to our family!  For shipping, please add $3 per item.
A. Baseball Top, Blue/Heather White OR Gray Sleeves/Heather White, XS - 3XL, $23
B. MENS V-neck, Blue OR Gray, S - 3XL (easily works for women, too), $20
C. WOMENS V-neck, Blue OR Gray, S - 3XL (these run small!), $20
D. Soft Hoody, Blue OR Gray, S - 3XL, $30
E. Soft Unisex Tee, Sapphire Blue OR Gray, S - 3XL, $18
F. Youth Tee, Sapphire Blue OR Gray, YS - YXL, $15

Make sure you let me know the style, color, size, and if you want front/back or front ONLY.  Contact is   You can pay via, or mail a check! Taking orders through mid-July!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Prayer Magnets

So much prayer.  

We have prayed so fervently about where we thought God was calling our family next.  Praying even that He would halt any efforts we were making to adopt again, if it was not the best thing for our current children and the child to come.  Time-after-time, He has confirmed to us that we are to adopt one more child in this current season of life.  Final confirmation came this past Thursday when we received amazing news.  We have another daughter!!!

Not all countries and cultures are comfortable with the idea of a large family.  God led us to the country of Philippines, and against the odds, they granted us pre-approval to adopt a tiny little doll baby!!  She has dark hair and dark eyes, and is three years old.  Her brothers and sisters helped choosed her name, Ellie-Kate, because 'Ellie' means "God is my light."  We have been told she is super cuddly and loves to be in someone's arms.  She is rocking an extra chromosome, meaning she has Down Syndrome, and we are blessed beyond measure to call her ours.

Because of the country guidelines, we are unable to post her picture.  But in the midst of all our praying, and others praying with us, we had the idea to send a picture to anyone who wants to be part of changing her story!  We are making these beautiful 3x5 "Prayer Magnets" which will have an un-blurred photo of our little angel.  You can stick these on your refrigerator as a reminder to pray for this gorgeous girl and her future family!  Every single family or individual who requests a magnet will be named in Ellie-Kate's lifebook, a forever reminder to her and our family of the prayers and community pouring out to bring her home!

Buying a photo magnet like this through an online source like Shutterfly would cost $8 plus tax and shipping.  To do them ourselves, our expenses include postage and printing, which costs about $3 each.  We are suggesting a donation of $7 per magnet.  The $4 raised once expenses are paid would go 100% to adoption fees.  If we could send just 250 magnets, that is 250 households praying for this girl, and $1000 toward adoption expenses!!  Look at what just $4 could do!  We hope you will consider being part of our adoption and prayers for Ellie-Kate!

Instructions:  your donation can be sent through paypal at www.PayPal.Me/LoveMakesaFamily.  Make sure you choose "sending money to family or friends" so we are not charged a fee, and please put your mailing address in the "Notes".  You can also contact me for our mailing address to drop a check in the mail.  We will print and mail your magnet asap!  Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Forget the Frock! (Adoption is Anchored in Love)

"Forget the Frock" is a national movement to replace buying fancy Easter dresses and attire. Instead, spend that money buying a shirt that supports a charitable cause, and wear it on Easter Sunday! 

These shirts support our adoption of a little one with Down Syndrome. Unisex, Ladies V-neck, flowy tank (in limited quantities), and a kids tee available with the message "Adoption is Anchored in Love." Pricing from $12 to $22.  PLEASE spread the word! Don't hesitate to order - I failed to post this earlier in the week and we are finalizing the order on Monday, 3/20 so they can arrive in time for Easter!
(Shipping is $3 per item for those who need it shipped)
*Size charts can be sent to you upon request*
Email with your order and we'll arrange payment!

Crochet-back flowy tank, $22 suggested donation. SO cute!!
4 Mediums, and four 2XL available!

V-neck is available in Small to 3XL. Suggested donation is $18

Super soft Gildan unisex for $15 suggested donation (if you do not like the soft style, regular can be ordered as well)!!
Small to 3XL

KIDS tee!! $12 suggested donation!! Size Youth Small, Youth Medium, Youth Large.

Monday, February 20, 2017

If You Think My Hands Are Full, You Should See My Heart!

ATTENTION:  Perfect Mother's Day gift for moms, grandmoms, teachers, etc.!

Gorgeous design in FIVE shirt styles ranging from just $16 to $29, multiple colors, an apron and a bag as well!  Ordering instructions are at the bottom, shipping available for a small fee.  :)
Here is our design, hand-drawn by this Momma of 8!  <3

Small to 2x
Click here and "View Specs" for measurements
COLORS:  Black, Heather Galapagos Blue, Heather Aubergine, Heather Raspberry

Anvil 3/4 Sleeve Scoop Neck in FOUR colors!

Heather Galapagos Blue
Heather Aubergine
Heather Raspberry


Small to 2x

Click here and "View Specs" for measurements
COLORS:  Black or Midnight Navy

Bella Dolman in Black or Navy



OPTION 3:  Anvil Long-Sleeve Scoop Neck  $20
Small to 2x

COLORS:  Black or Midnight Navy


OPTION 4:  MV Sport Crochet Back  $29
Small to 2x
When you look at the size chart below, don't forget to take into consideration that you'll need to wear a tank or cami underneath!  :)

COLORS:  Deep Blue or Jade
S23 1/217.5
L24 1/220 1/2
2XL25 1/223 1/2

Deep Blue

OPTION 5:  Gildan Soft Style Unisex Tee  $16!!!
Small to 3x

COLORS:  Small to 3x - Black, Navy, Antique Sapphire (similar to Galapagos on Option 1)
Small to 2x Berry (similar to Raspberry on Option 1)


Super Cute Apron (one-size, black) $17

Black Tote Bag $14
·    Durable 10-ounce, 100% cotton twill
·    Cotton web handles
·    Dimensions: 14"h x 14"w x 3"d, Approx. 588 cubic inches

-Send an email to with subject MOTHERS DAY.  Please list specific item, quantity, size & color for shirts, and shipping address if necessary.  (Shipping is $3 per item, but I will discount large orders.)  I will then send you a link to my paypal with the total, or we can arrange for you to mail a check.  :)
All pricing is suggested donation, and profits will go to our adoption fund! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Adoption Changes Lives!

Love, love helping adoptive families design their tees, and just in case this will help gather more orders, I wanted to post this one here!  Our friends are adopting two girls, age 14 and 11, from Colombia. We have had the privilege of spending time with them when our friends hosted the girls over Christmas break, and they are just amazing!  Won't you help them bring their girls home?
Our kiddos with our two new friends from Colombia and one of their soon-to-be sisters

You can choose from black or charcoal! Super Soft Gildan!!! 
Small - XL and Youth Small - Youth XL shirts are $18
2X-3X $20
Shirts can be shipped for a small fee. They can also deliver to anywhere around Owensboro KY, or Dubois IN area, and anywhere in between.  You can email with your order!  Thank you for your consideration!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tiny Heart Warrior

you know how tumultuous and scary heart conditions can be.  My dad had a quadruple by-pass done just a couple of years ago, and it's a massive surgery that takes it's toll on an adult.  

Now just imagine a child undergoing open-heart surgery.  Kendall Hope is the newly adopted 2-year-old of our friends Danette & Jay.  She was born with several serious health issues and required open-heart surgery shortly after coming to America.  Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful, and Kendall has endured numerous post-operative complications. She and her sweet mommy have been in Florida for weeks, hours and hours away from their Kentucky home.  The rest of the family, which includes five other amazing children, have been separated from them during this time.  Currently, they are trying to transfer Kendall to a hospital that is not only closer to home, but better able to care for her needs.  Because of her condition, she needs to be med-flighted, which costs $25,000 and the insurance has not approved it.  While they are appealing, it's unlikely the flight will be covered. 

As I contemplate all the difficulties of the entire situation, I cannot even fathom how stressful and heart-wrenching it is.  Watching your daughter, who has already been through so much in her short little life, go through such intense surgery and horrific recovery, has got to be agony.  In addition, the separation from her husband and other kiddos, the financial strain of mounting medical bills, and it's got to be strenuous on Danette's health as well, as she is limited to what foods are available and sleeping in a chair at the hospital.  This family needs our help!!  Here are three ways you can get involved:

1)  Pray, pray, pray, pray unceasingly for Kendall and the entire family!  

2)  Purchase an awesome t-shirt designed by Danette!  She and I worked on this before their adoption was finalized, with the intention of selling them to help with adoption funds.  It seems more appropriate now than ever, as we cling to the HOPE of our Savior to heal this sweet baby girl.  Hope is also Kendall's middle name, and the heart on the tee represents this little heart warrior!  (Multiple colors and types available, see ordering details below.)

3) Donate directly.  I have verified with Danette that this is a legitimate account that will help their family.  Go to

I do not want the tees to be any work for Danette, so please contact me directly to order at, with type, size, quantity, and color.  Please pay via paypal at (do not choose "pay for goods" or it will charge me a fee), or let me know if you need to mail a check.  Shipping is included on all of these tees and will probably be my local method of delivery, too, considering we are coming back from China with our own new sweetheart!  Please note my reply time may be delayed since we are in China, but I will confirm every order and payment.  :)  I will do my best to send tracking info once these mail out, approximately October 17th.
Super Soft Unisex Tee, Red (for the little heart warrior!), Royal Blue, and Pinksizes Small - 3XL  $20
Youth Tee, Red, Royal Blue, and Pink, sizes YXS - YXL, $20 (must have a minimum quantity of 12 to order)
Toddler Tee, RedRoyal Blueand Pinksizes 2T - 5T, $20 
Super Soft Long-Sleeve Tee, Red only, sizes Small - 3XL  $26
Hoody, RedRoyal Blueand Pink, sizes Small - 3XL  $32

100% of the profits, after paying cost on the tees and postage, will be given directly to the Mattingly family.  The more we order, the cheaper the cost per item, which means more funds going to the family!  Please share with everyone you know!!

Soft Unisex Tees
Youth Tees
Toddler Sizes

About Me

My photo

Two grateful children of God who are head-over-heels for one another, best friends and partners in this crazy world!  Parents striving to disciple our eight incredible children who arrived in our arms in different ways, but fill our hearts with an uncompromising love.  Full of imperfections, but trying our best every day . . . well, almost every day (that goes back to the imperfections).  THANKFUL, THANKFUL, THANKFUL to know the love of our Savior and our precious family.