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Jan. 3, 2022

Episode 28: Hilary Ableser: An International Adoption Story

In this episode, DJ talks with Hilary Ableser about her internal struggles of adopting a child and how after lots of research, she and her husband embraced it. From there, it was a long journey but synchronistic at the same time and led them to their perfectly delightful and darling daughter, Ava.

Stay tuned for this heartwarming story about one family's journey to adopt a little girl named Ava from an orphanage in China, how they educated their two young biological children about the process and how when they finally were able to bring Ava home 18 months later, all the effort made for a smooth transition.

Listen to this episode to hear a mother’s story of international adoption, her and her husband’s love for Chinese culture, why they chose to adopt a child from China… and the incredibly detailed and time consuming process that was made so worthwhile when they met their new daughter, Ava. 

Tune into this episode to hear DJ and Hilary Ableser talk about the challenges and rewards of adopting a child. And hear Hilary’s candid explanation of the feelings and emotions she was having in the last few days before meeting her child after 18 months of waiting.

BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING, YOU’LL LEARN about one determined and persistent mother’s journey to adopt internationally… and how the education she sought out and the research she did created a smooth transition when adoption day finally arrived.

Have you adopted or are you in the process of adopting a child? Please share your journey with us and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy

Connect with the host:

DJ Stutz:





DJ Stutz  0:13  
You're listening to Episode 28 of imperfect Heroes, insights into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host DJ Stutz. Not only is this episode 28, but it is the very first episode of my second season. And I am so excited to be moving forward with everything. And I have you my listeners to thank for it. Hillary is a married mom of three ages 10 and under, who adopted her youngest child from China three and a half years ago. Ava Lin is happy spunky, confident five year old, who conveniently happens to be best friends with my grandson Sylvan. And yet, of course, no adoption story is complete without struggles along the way. And some interesting tales of the attachment process. Hillary says, There's no perfect mother, only ones who are trying their hardest. And I totally agree. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

Before we get going, I want to let you know that we have a new website for the podcast, And you can follow us there. And it's so easy to leave a review. You can also click on the contact button and reach me. How would you like to start the new year on a positive path? I know the last year was difficult in so many different ways, and this year will surely have more issues. But what if you made a decision that would help you take control of the things that you can control? Do something that would provide you with more knowledge and confidence in the most important task of your life? That of raising confident, strong, kind and thoughtful children? Honestly, can you think of anything that would mean more to the world. Coaches are a common part of our society. And we use coaches to help us lose weight, to get in shape to help us become better athletes to get better at our jobs, and the list goes on. So one is a coach to help us with the most important job we will ever do. And that is raising strong moral and independent kids. Little Hearts Academy USA offers one on one and group coaching to help you create loving and lasting relationships with your children. As you strengthen your family in a way that will impact generations. Give me a call at 720-989-6475. And let us discuss the best way to make life better. And if you missed that number, don't worry. I'll have it in the show notes. If you enjoy today's episode, please leave me a five star rating and review. These reviews helped me know if what I'm talking about are things that were meaningful to you. It helps give me direction, and also helps other people find our podcast. So you're helping all kinds of people by just leaving a review. So be sure to listen to the end of the podcast and become one of my linger. longers. Before we get started on today's show, I've got to give a shout out to my listener of the week, Christine, who says DJ is a natural at seeing the easier way to parent. She advocates treating our children as we should ourselves as a native understanding, gentle guidance and an anxiety free space to develop fully. DJ is warm and knowledgeable and full of great stories to enjoy the podcast. Wow! Thank you so much, Christine. That review really means a lot to me. I love love, love hearing from my listeners. And so I hope that all of you out there, we'll just take a second. It really only takes one minute to leave a review. And so I hope that you will do that.

I am a huge advocate of adoption. And I have so much respect for women in a very difficult position, who choose life and then make what must be the most difficult decision in their lives and give that child the best chance at a good life and one that she would not be able to provide for that amazing child, and there are so many families who have been waiting for years to give love and opportunities to a child, and adoption gives them that opportunity. There are however, children who do not come to their families at birth. And theirs is a different story. Every adoption is unique, and even the quote unquote easy ones have their bumps and bruises. If you've listened to me very long, you know that I am an adoptive mother, my precious youngest daughter came to us later in life, and my life is better, because she is a part of it. And that is a story for another day. Today, I am talking with a co adoptive mother. Her name is Hillary, AB blesser. And I love her energy and enthusiasm. Hillary story is one of international adoption, and in her case adopting from China. I ran into Hillary and heard about her story while visiting my daughter Rocky in Reno. And it turns out that her daughter, Ava, and my grandson Sylvan are absolute best friends. And if there was ever an advocate for international adoption, Hillary is it. Maybe you are thinking about adoption, or have a family member or friend that is thinking about it. Maybe you've gone through it, or someone you love has. This is an episode that will answer some of your questions and shed some light on the topic. So let's listen in. I am joined today by an imperfect hero who has an amazing story to share. And her name is Hilary Ableser out of Reno Nevada, correct?

Hilary Ableser  6:47  
Yes. Hi.

DJ Stutz  6:49  
So Hillary, tell us a little bit about your family.

Hilary Ableser  6:54  
Okay, I would love to so the way that DJ and I know each other is my youngest, one of her grandsons best friends. They're both five slash six around that age. And then her daughter is one of my closest friends. So she knows my story pretty well and has seen us and met us quite a few times in person. And so happy to be here. Today I'm talking about international adoption. I'm married with three children, a 10 year old girl, my son turns eight in a week. And then my youngest, Ava, as I said, is five and a half. And she is kind of the reason that I'm on talking to DJ tonight. She was adopted from China at age two by us and she is such a delight. She is just oh my gosh, such a darling child. But you know, there's also some struggles that come with that as well. So do gender ready to have a good conversation about this?

DJ Stutz  7:49  
Yeah, well, and most of my listeners that they've been listening to me very long. Know that I too am an adoptive parent. But my story is very different.

Hilary Ableser  7:57  
Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. I'm so glad you just reminded me of that. I'm so happy that we can talk about that. I love that.

DJ Stutz  8:04  
Exactly. Mine was a little older. When we adopt her. She was 12.

Hilary Ableser  8:09  
Yeah. adoptive parents, we have a kinship. It is so special.

DJ Stutz  8:14  
Yeah, it really is. And I have so many students that are international adoptions. Yeah, well, and

Hilary Ableser  8:20  
my dad was a different type of adoption. But he was a blended family and his my grandma is actually his adoptive mom. He was a baby when she adopted him. And so my grandma and I have a little kinship as adoptive parents as well. It's really sweet.

DJ Stutz  8:37  
I didn't know that part of your dad's story. That's pretty. Yeah, I had the opportunity to meet your dad many years ago. And who knew that down the road? We our kids would become such good friends. I know. Right? Yeah, for sure. So, anyway, I guess one of my questions is what made you think about adopting and then what made you decide to adopt nationally?

Hilary Ableser  9:06  
Yes. Okay. So, Edie and I, before we moved here to Nevada to be closer to my family, we lived in Arizona, we both went to college there. And he finished up grad school and we got married and had two little kids out there. And life seemed pretty hard living out there without much of a support system. And so we bit the bullet and made a big move in our lives when our two older kids were really little. And we moved here and it was like a breath of fresh air. I'm so much happier. I had my grandparents Yes. But what I meant to say was my kids grandparents around my parents, and I saw it so many family members so much more often. And all of a sudden I started thinking, I feel like we were meant to have another child. Now that I can breathe a little easier. Somewhere along the line, I kind of turned this corner where I realized, oh, you know what? Edie brought up adoption to me when we were dating. And it was something he's always wanted to do. He's a licensed mental health counselor. So he works a lot with foster kids in the welfare system and things like that. And so that's always been on his heart. And when he brought that up to me, and we're dating, I said, No, because I just wasn't educated about adoption. And I didn't think it was for me, because I didn't know that there was different types that fit different people and fit different people's personalities. And so I said, No. And anyways, as we were kind of arguing on and off about two kids versus three kids, this all sort of started dawning on me. And then I saw this blog by a woman who had adopted from China. And it was like, all the puzzle pieces came together. And I just realized, oh, my gosh, this is our perfect answer. We will be able to have three children. I know Eddie's always had a heart for adoption. And I didn't necessarily until I saw that there was this, this type of adoption that fit what I want that fit me and fit my criteria. And it's not for everybody, but it was really perfect for us. So I brought that up to him on Thanksgiving Day. Of Okay, let me see her it would have been Thanksgiving Day of 2016. Wow. And I brought it up to him. We were out of my parents house for Thanksgiving. And he said, with tears in his eyes. He said, let's think about it. And then I knew like, oh, yeah, this is a done deal. Like he said, let's think about it. That means for sure. That we are going to and I got working and I got researching. There's so much work that goes into it. And I started reading and researching at all hours of the night. And 18 months later, of course, we met Ava and I know now without a shadow of a doubt that that whole road the whole Oh, I think we're meant to have three kids. And then me reading this woman's blog and all of these things. I know that that was my hand being guided, because we had a daughter out there who had been born in February 2016. So yeah, so it was basically around the exact same time. And I know that Heavenly Father was like, like, no, no, no, that's not how you're supposed to do it. You know, he was just guiding our hand towards our daughter who is 100% our child and was waiting for us. Yeah, so yeah, that's amazing.

DJ Stutz  12:47  
Yeah. And

Hilary Ableser  12:48  
then you did ask, though, about why we chose International, right. So every adoptive parent, I just feel is like, like you said, what's the word? What's the title of this podcast?

DJ Stutz  13:00  
An imperfect hero? And him right here?

Hilary Ableser  13:02  
Yes. Okay. Yeah, I'm not trying to sell for hero by bus. Okay, I don't care if it's, I don't care if it's foster care, or infant adoption domestically or international. It's such an amazing thing, right. But for us with how little our own biological children were at the time, we really felt like a toddler, it fit our hearts to adopt a child out of an orphanage. And then it also fit our preferences and our to not adopt an infant. You know, in the United States. Private domestic adoption, which is where you go through a lawyer and you adopt as a newborn. There are more waiting parents than there are children put up for adoption. So that is also an incredible journey, but it just didn't really speak to us. We really wanted to adopt a child who really needed us out of an orphanage. And it fit the criteria to maybe like a toddler that would fit in really well with our two children that we had at the time. And oh my gosh, to say that she fits in with them is like, I mean, she is a sister to Brielle, she is a ninja warrior fighting partner with Zack. She is so tough and funny. So anyways, it just fit our criteria for what we needed for our family. Yeah, so international workout best for

DJ Stutz  14:38  
us. Sounds great. I saw that you have a video. It's a beautiful video. It's about 15 minutes long. And it was just so cool to watch. That whole process of you going over with the kids and getting her. Before we talk about the video though. I wanted to talk a little bit about maybe how Did you prepare your kids for this big event? And how did you even approach the topic with them?

Hilary Ableser  15:08  
Oh, yeah. Okay, so that is a big focus of this adoption slideshow video that we had made. And at the time that we decided we were going to adopt, we had a fairly three and barely five year old. And then by the time we went to go pick up Ava, they were four and a half and three, and six and a half sorry. So a three year old and a five year old. And, you know, kids are so like, malleable, they don't ask a ton of questions always mind, don't. They, they just go along with whatever I say. And so from the time we started adopting, we chose a name for Ava early on, which I totally understand a lot of people like to meet their child first and see what their personality is like. Or there is some controversy around changing your internationally adopted child's name right away. However, I will say my answer to that is a, their name is like given by the police officer that finds them like it doesn't have a lot of meaning to it. And when they're in an orphanage, they're one of hundreds of kids. And so they probably don't know their name, the way that we think of our kids as knowing their name and having a be a part of their identity. So anyways, that was a little side tangent. Her name and the orphanage was Hong. So we decided that since she was two, we weren't going to keep honk. And we early on chose the name Eva. It's just kind of classic. And it sounds really cute with Abla, sir. And once we did that, we started talking about her with our three year old and five year olds, as if she was a member of our family. I mean, we talked about Ava all the time. And keep in mind until for the first year of the adoption process, we were not matched with a child so we didn't know what she looked like. We were just calling her Ava and had this like vague idea in our heads of what she might look like. And we are referring to her as if she was an actual member of our family. And we talked about her and Ava your sister this and Ava your sister that and you know what they completely understood. By the time we went to China a year and a half later, they completely understood who she was and what the whole thing meant. And so the fact that we talked about it every single day, and we celebrated her birthdays, yes, we celebrate her birthday. We talked about her and it just made the transition. Very easy.

DJ Stutz  17:50  
Nice. That is so nice. And you could pick that up in that video too. And I've seen her actually with your kids and yeah, she's just

Hilary Ableser  18:00  
one of the crew. Yeah, yeah. Is one of the crew. Yes.

DJ Stutz  18:04  
Too much fun. Too much fun. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so talk about maybe the process, what were the hard parts? What were the surprises? And what were the exciting times as well?

Hilary Ableser  18:18  
Okay. Um, so the process for international adoption, we, of course, with COVID right now, it's actually really devastating. There are kids. I do think that other countries besides China have picked their programs back up again. But China has not so there are people who have been matched with children. And those kids are, you know, we're expected to get picked up say, March, April, May of 2020. And they are still in orphanages. And so not only are those kids, I'm not crying. Not only are those

DJ Stutz  18:58  
tender moments.

Hilary Ableser  19:01  
Not only are those kids still in their orphanages, but then of course there if anything more children have been brought into these orphanages because of the poverty and the economic issues that COVID has caused. And so the orphanages are overflowing. They are low staffed, they are short on medicine, beds, clothes, diapers, food, everything. So it's a really sad situation over there. Where I was going with that was that in 2016 to 2018, which were the years kind of that we were working on our adoption. I was able to work really, really really really hard and at all times of the night and push a couple things through a little quicker than they normally would have been and the process took 18 months. Now, it is taking significantly longer than that. I feel so, so lucky that we started winning We did and that we were able to travel when we did, of course, not knowing what was going to happen to the whole world in 2020, because the timing worked out for us to get our daughter. But, you know, the first step in the process, I would say is You we chose an agency, there are tons of international adoption agencies, your adoption agency does not have to be in your state, your home study agency, does have to be in your state. But that is not even important right now. Because the agency that you choose, which does not have to be in your state RS was in Oregon, they can be anywhere they can be anywhere in the United States, they will guide you through the entire process. So when I say, Oh, your home study agency has to be in state don't even like that's, that doesn't even need to be something that anyone would stress about, like, what's the home study, it doesn't matter. Your first agency that you choose will held your hand when you pay them quite a bit of money. And it is worth it, because none of us know how this works. And they tell you every single thing that you need to know. So it is wonderful. We chose an agency just by word of mouth. And I think I made a couple of calls in a couple interviews. And then I looked at the countries that those agencies that I narrowed it down to like maybe two or three, I looked at the countries that they have a program with. So our agency, we wound up going with Holt International, it starts with an H. And they have an international adoption program with like 10 countries. So then I looked at the countries qualifications. And some countries require things that we just simply weren't able to do, whether it was an age thing, or some countries, you can't have other children in the home. Some countries you have to travel and live in that country for like, six months. And some couples have the ability to do that. And it might have only been six weeks, I could be exaggerating, but like some couples that maybe work remotely, that don't have any other children in the home that might be something they're able to do wasn't something for us. So I narrowed it down to India and China. And then it became clear that we were supposed to do China, which was China, because my husband actually lived in China in high school. And he loved it so much. He lived in Shanghai for a year with his stepdad. And he has a bachelor's degree in Mandarin. So he speaks Mandarin, and has a love for the Chinese culture. So when it got narrowed down to India, and China was like, Oh, well, of course, like, of course this is meant to be. And so all the puzzle pieces fall into place. Of course, again, now I know that that all happened because Eva was in China, and that was where we were supposed to go. So the paperwork is for sure, the worst part of it all. And I would say to people, it's not that it is difficult, because your agency or adoption agency holds your hand and helps you so much, that it's not difficult, they practically give you a step by step, you know, process, but it's incredibly detailed and time consuming. I mean, like, get a police report from local city, state, and FBI, for every single state you've lived in, in your life.

You know, I mean, so it's like, and that's like the tip of the iceberg. So that and then address and details of every home you've lived in since age 18. Every single paper you turn in has to be certified by the city level, and then by the Secretary of State, and then at the FBI level, and then by the consulate in San Francisco, like all these steps where everything has to get certified and this and that and how so it is a ton of work. But when I would feel discouraged because of how overwhelming the amount of work was, I would say if other people can do this, so can I and I repeated myself, I repeat that to myself all the time. If other people can do this, so can I and I would like Okay, the next task on the list, and I would start on it and then I would get it checked off and so anyways, yeah, it was a lot of paperwork, but it wasn't necessarily that difficult if that makes sense.

DJ Stutz  24:49  
Yeah, it does make sense having been through Yeah, adoption process myself. Yeah. And adopted out of foster care just

Hilary Ableser  24:58  
takes Yes. No, you did. Yeah. Yeah, a lot of time.

DJ Stutz  25:01  
It's funny. I was talking to my daughter. We went and had Thanksgiving with her and her family. And her say, Man, I knew how well you were going to turn out. I'd have been much calmer. Right? We just love her to death. She's she's an amazing young woman right now. So great. Thanks. Yes, isn't it? I know.

Hilary Ableser  25:19  
I'm Rachel. Yeah, I've heard Oh, really? Ah, yes.

DJ Stutz  25:24  
That's nice. Yeah, no, I'll be glad to hear that. Anyway, I noticed in your video that you took some time with your kids before you went and got Ava to go and do some fun things and build that. And so how important and meaningful Did you think that was? Or was it just something just fun to do or what went into that?

Hilary Ableser  25:46  
You know, so we flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Eva was in Guangzhou, which is very, very far south. East China. Yeah. So you've seen her DJ, I don't know if you've noticed she is very tan. And so down by the equator is South China, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam. And China is such a huge country, that South Chinese look very different from Northern Chinese, which is up by like Russia.

DJ Stutz  26:19  
Oh, yeah. No. Yeah. So

Hilary Ableser  26:21  
there is a huge difference there in climate and like I said, so she's down close to the equator and tropical tropical countries. She has definitely a self, Chinese child's face with very, very, very tan skin, which is absolutely gorgeous. And oh my gosh, she's so darling. So my point was that Guangzhou, which is the city where she was in is down in southeast China, we flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and spent about four or five days in Hong Kong before taking the train from Hong Kong into Guangzhou, and then settling into Guangzhou for two weeks, which in a minute, I can tell you, I have to be there for two weeks if you'd like. Yes. Um, so we decided to tack on, we were like, You know what, I mean, we do definitely plan on going back to China in the next couple of years. But we were like, you know, this is not a once in a lifetime, but once in a blue moon kind of huge trip across the world, right with our children. And so we decided to tack on an extra week at the beginning of the trip and spend some time in Hong Kong, which my husband had been to before, and told me that it was really beautiful, which it was it had so many fun things we did Hong Kong Disneyland, as I'm sure you saw, you know, at that week, I look back on and I almost get butterflies in my stomach, because I've never experienced that type of anticipation and happiness before. I mean, we had been working towards this adoption for a year and a half. And all of a sudden, we land in Hong Kong. And we're in China. And we're going like this is happening, like this thing we have been working towards for a year and a half is happening. And I remember the couple things that we did in Hong Kong, I remember watching and studying every single little girl that I saw. And just looking at them like, Oh, that one has things look really cute. Oh, look at her beautiful hair. Oh, I mean, I was just I was fascinated. I was so happy to be there. And I'm so excited that my anticipation my excitement level was like an 11 out of 10. So I remember it as being like one of the happiest weeks of my whole life. And then of course, it was topped by our actual adoption day. And the two weeks that followed were very, very, very happy. Lots of bonding that went on as well. But you know, there were some more difficult moments. Once we got into that things got real. We'll put it that way. Right. Anyways. Yes, we had such a good time.

DJ Stutz  28:59  
That's so much fun. So did you meet her the day you brought her home? Or did yeah,

Hilary Ableser  29:04  
she was in that video, you see her handed to me in my arms in a civil affairs office. And that was the first day that she was handed to us. That was the first time I'd ever seen her. I'd seen videos of course, right. And as first time she'd ever seen me, which you can tell by how hard she cried, which was actually a good thing. So your agency something that your adoption agency has you do is read they have a required reading list. And I actually looked on my Kindle app right before we started this call to look up the names of some of the books that I read. So the Complete Book of international adoption, the connected child for good one. Good one. Yeah, forever mom. There were a long list of books and I got to choose but they're also required. And they are all about attachment. Yeah. And at the time, I remember reading them and yes, I did learn some new Things that I just kind of absorbed at all. And I wasn't sure how applicable it was going to be to my exact situation. And I can tell you, they were so helpful. I mean, there were things that I recognized an EVA that I wouldn't have recognized before. And I knew that the fact that when she was handed to us, she cried really hard. And she reached for her orphanage caretaker. And I knew from some of my reading, that's a good thing. It's scarier for a child to have no emotion, because that shows that they weren't connected with anyone, which of course, is harder for a child to get over and can cause some long term problems. And so the fact that she at age two was reaching for her caretaker and loved her caretaker and felt that that was her person meant she'd connected with somebody before. And that made it so much easier for her to connect with us. And so I knew what to look for with attachment issues, too. So when people hear attachment issues, they think, Oh, someone being scared that their child, their adopted child won't attach to them. And it's so much more than that. Right? It could be that they attach to you, but also to everyone. Right,

DJ Stutz  31:14  
right. discriminate? Yeah, they

Hilary Ableser  31:17  
don't discriminate. They don't know who their person is. That's just one example. Or they could really attach to you. But then they touch too much. And they don't feel secure, and they cling to you every time you go somewhere new, and they can't start school and they cry when you put them to bed. I mean, I knew things to look for. And it was so helpful to read some of those books. So I actually want to be very grateful. So the first time we saw her, that was her first time ever meeting us and our first time ever meeting her. We went to the Civil Affairs Office, the video makes it look like we were there for about five minutes. But we were there for about two hours, okay, and signed a lot of paperwork. We took her home to our hotel that night. And we were quote unquote, babysitting her. Then we had to return right back to that same exact room the next morning. And we met with an actual judge, and we signed papers. And she became ours legally. Wow. That fast by the Chinese government. Yes. So like, I mean, literally, like, less than 24 hours. And then shoot. So then she was legally ours. In China, we spent two weeks doing immigration work and getting her a passport and a visa. And then we did re adopt her in the United States in a ceremony that I'm sure you are familiar with in a courtroom, in Carson City in July. So we went through that paperwork and did that enjoy you? That's actually not required. But I'm like, Yeah, I'm not leaving anything. I don't know what crazy stuff could go on in this world. So we made sure we covered all bases.

DJ Stutz  33:00  
Right? That was probably pretty smart. When I've seen Eva I mean, I haven't seen her that often. Just a couple of times when I've been visiting Rocky, you know, she just seems so well adjusted and able to communicate well and confident. And all that stuff is just like wow, this is amazing. Yeah. But you've mentioned that there's some bumps along the way. There's some bumps along the way with DNA kids. There's bumps. Oh, for sure. It's about raising lots of bumps. Yeah, for sure. For sure. What were some that you might want to if someone else was looking to adopt internationally or just adopt period? What are some of the things that you would want to tell them?

Hilary Ableser  33:45  
Yeah, I feel so lucky. We had a fantastic experience. I do feel like it is partially credited to Ava's personality. She has all those things you just mentioned. She is so confident. Oh, my goodness. She is so fun. She is headstrong. And yet, I do also have to give credit to how well prepared Eddie and I were for this, that he's a counselor. And I I know that sounds so silly compared to having a master's degree in social work, which is basically what he has. I'm like, I read the books, but I read a lot. I sound super pathetic compared to him. But we were both very, very prepared. And I would recommend to someone to make sure that they do their homework, you know, there's even differences amongst countries. So check into what different countries orphanage protocols. So any country that is interestingly, I don't know if you know this any country that is really first world. So United States, Canada, Europe, or I know Europe is a continent but anything in Europe, really. Japan, Australia There's no children adopted from those countries internationally. You've never heard anyone say that they adopted from Italy, or England or Japan. Any country that is, like I said, has a good government system in place has foster care, and they only do domestic adoption. Right? Then countries that are in much bigger need, they have more abandoned children. They have an orphanage system, China is actually starting to switch over to foster care. But you can imagine how many decades it takes to switch from orphanage to foster. I mean, do you know that when my dad grew up in Carson City, young, there was an orphanage, like not so right by the high school, and children lived in the orphanage until like the 70s. So the United States even had orphanage care until 3040 50 years ago. So it's very, very new and expensive for countries to switch over to foster care. So you know, do research. There are all different types of orphanage care, even there are countries, I'm trying to like tread lightly, because I don't know maybe someone listening to this will have adopted from Russia or the Ukraine, but different countries have different personalities and are warmer than others or China. You know, Eva was from a really wealthy city. Guangzhou is the fifth largest city in China. And it's like three times the size of New York City, I think. And so it has a lot of money. So that meant that the her caretaker to child ratio was good. That meant she was getting attention. That meant she wasn't severely malnourished. And those things affected her attachment to us, right. So there's a lot of things you can look into and make sure that it's for you make sure that you know what goes into attachment before you start. But at the same time, I will say Don't let things like that deter you. Because I mean, we have been blessed with the most fantastic child's on the face of the planet and thinking about her, her personality, and her confidence and how loving she is thinking about her having spent years longer in an orphanage, it sends a chill up my spine like that was not where she was meant to be sure you feel the same about Noelle Asher was not where her heart was meant to be. And so it's been such a fantastic experience.

DJ Stutz  37:37  
I'm so glad to hear that and to hear the preparation. And so I'm wondering if you wanted to send a list of those books that yeah, I can include them in our show notes. So if any of my listeners are considering adoption, I think that reading some of these books prior to making your decision is really helpful. Or if you're in the process, I would definitely work hard to make sure that you are getting the education that you need to help your child and yourself be successful in this process. I have a lot of family that's adopted both domestically and internationally. And oh, yeah, tons of it. So I've got some that their child came from not such a great orphanage. And so they've got reactive attachment disorder, things that are going on that can really be a struggle. And so I know getting educated in that can be hard. I know my Noel dealt with that. Quite a bit. But yeah, that's that is so random abandonment, yeah, is hard. But on the other hand, we had a really rough go, actually during the teen years. And yet I look at her now. And I see that she's married, she's got this adorable little boy. And she is just really successful with her work. And she's just making so much progress. And so I think it's easy to get caught up in the moment. Sometimes, when you're dealing with some of these other issues that maybe you didn't have to deal with so much with Ava, not every kid is as easy. But yeah, you can just realize that someday it's all going to come together. And you'll look back and say, Yeah, that was worth it.

Hilary Ableser  39:27  
Well, and I will tell you to I a question you asked a minute ago was what are some of the bumps in the road? Yeah, you know, I am really preparing myself and of course, she's only five but I'm really preparing myself that I have maybe seven years till she's like 12 or 13 Because she's turning 16 So she's about 12 or 13 and I am mentally preparing myself for a rough go. And my husband and I are prepared for therapy and stuff like that. Yeah, sure. She is like I have described her she is so confident oh my gosh, she knows her role in our family. And she is so comfortable. And she loves everyone and she loves her friends and she has tons of friends and she is great. And my son, my middle child is not an easy child either. So it's not like I think that, oh, children should be easier than this. No, he is really hard to do. And he did not spend his first two years in an orphanage, okay. But she is tough in a different way. When she is happy, she is an angel. And that is what she portrays. Most of the time, when we're outside of the home, she's having fun with friends, and she's so happy, she's with family. And when we're inside of our home, she is happy most of the time. But the second that I have to critique her or get angry at her for something which of course I do, she is she is treated exactly the same as my other two children, for better or for worse, I am equally as in love with her. And I am equally as like annoyed with her. And so, of course, of course, I you know, Eva, I have asked you three times now to go get dressed for school go right now. And the second that I have to turn my voice into that, that serious mom mode, she absolutely shuts down. If she feels critiqued in any way, she can't handle it shuts down, she almost gets like a glazed over look on her face. Wow, she will hit and kick a lot like especially in the car, she absolutely refuses, she will lay down, she will cry, she will throw a tantrum. And I do think that some of that comes from the fact that for some reason, I don't even think it's conscious yet in her five year old brain, but she feels insecure about something. Because she gets very, very defensive. The second, I have to critique her at all. And it's cost to come from a place of insecurity, which I can only imagine is has something to do with her adoption, because I seriously tell her 1000 times a day. You are amazing. You are so smart. You are so beautiful. Oh my gosh, look at you. I love you so much like we are so complimentary to our kids. So I'm like, it's clearly there's there's a an insecurity issue here. And I believe that it stems from adoption. And I think that it's only going to get harder as she gets older. So we are prepared for some bumps in the road for sure.

DJ Stutz  42:35  
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I have some friends that are even my age, you know, so older than dirt that were adopted. And they struggled through their teen years. Like why would my mom give? Yeah, why this? Why that. And it's funny because a couple of them have been able to reconnect with their DNA. And it's like, oh, wow, I'm so grateful. Oh, yeah. Right. Yes. Wow. Um, such a better life. So yeah, it's that whole? I don't know, it's that whole thing. And, you know, just life with human beings is always going to be interesting. Yeah. And our kids are no different. So I gave you a little bit of warning on this. But I always asked my guests the same question as we start winding things down. How would you define a successful parent?

Hilary Ableser  43:30  
Oh, okay. So for me, now, it's interesting, because my mind immediately goes to the stage of life that I'm in, which is a, you know, relatively young adult. And I think, oh, a successful parent is someone who has a good relationship with their adult children. Because, you know, I actually feel like you spend more of your life with adult children than you do with actually little kids. That's such a fleeting window of time. So a successful parent, I think is, is maybe someone who their adult children enjoy seeing them and spending time with them. But in addition to that parent who makes their kids feel accepted for anything they want to try or do not just something that is appealing to that parent. And then as a parent of teenagers, or someone who's easy to talk to, but isn't too much of a friend, you know, so it also lays the rules down and my parents were not super friend ish with me and I had a couple friends and as a teenager whose parents were that cool mom, and of course I was so jealous at the time. And now I look back I'm like, Oh my gosh. So don't want to be you want to be cool, but not too cool. And yeah, so accepting when they're little, the bright amount of a friend as a teenager and then Then someone they want to spend time with as an adult, I think. I think that's successful.

DJ Stutz  45:05  
That's fantastic. I think you've got all those stages covered very nicely. That is great. I really appreciate you taking the time to thank me. Adoption is of course, very near and dear to my heart.

Hilary Ableser  45:21  
That's so special. Oh, well, thank

DJ Stutz  45:23  
you. And thanks for being my daughter's friend.

Hilary Ableser  45:27  
My pleasure, truly,

DJ Stutz  45:30  
so hard to be around. I know.

Hilary Ableser  45:32  
Oh, my gosh, Rachel. And so then, oh, the whole Smith family come over for a Chinese New Year party at our house. We tried to really incorporate a lot of Eva's culture and stuff into our family. And so we do these New Year's party and it was just so fun. So we're doing it again this year.

DJ Stutz  45:48  
Yeah. Well, she speaks so highly of you, rocky does. Thanks. Alright, so Well, thank you very much. And we look forward to hearing more good news about your family and all this. Maybe we can revisit this and see how everything's gone.

Hilary Ableser  46:04  
Okay, love it. Thank you so much.

DJ Stutz  46:07  
You're welcome. I love her energy and the love that she shows for her family. And I know that Ava has found an amazing home. But it isn't just Ava, that's lucky, her family is lucky to have her as well. If you have an adoption story, or a foster parent story, or a story of overcoming a family challenge, I would love to hear it. Just email me at and become one of my imperfect heroes. Check out the show notes where I have the link to their family video, which is awesome. It's about 15 minutes long. And I smiled the whole time I was watching it. And I think you will too. And I also listed the books that Hillary mentioned, they are really good reads. So I have a little challenge for you. I would love for you to take the time to listen to my Tuesday Night Live. So if you're on Facebook, you just go to Little Hearts Academy, USA. And I do a live there every Tuesday night at seven o'clock Mountain Time. And I talk about our current podcast topic. But this is also a chance for you to ask questions, to share ideas, share things that maybe have worked for you with some of the other listeners. It's an interactive space for everyone to participate and give you kind of a little bit of an idea of what it looks like when we do our coaching sessions, whether that's one on one, or one of the group coaching sessions, you can kind of get a feel for what it is and what we have to offer for you. If you've missed it, don't worry, we are starting to post those episodes on my YouTube channel, which is Little Hearts Academy USA. And so you can go there, do a search for Little Hearts Academy USA or you can just do a search for DJ Stutz. And you'll probably find it there. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love for you to post about it on your social media. Just tag me @imperfectheroes podcast on Instagram, or @littleheartsacademyusa n Facebook. You won't believe this. But we are international now with listeners in 13 different countries. And the more you share, the more families we can reach. So remember that @imperfectheroespodacst on Instagram, and Little Hearts Academy USA on Facebook. Of course you can always get me at That's my email. And if you're interested in some parent coaching, whether it's private or a group coaching situation, just give me a call. It's 720-989-6475 And again, I'll have that number in the show notes. So my next episode, I am talking with Mr. Maayan Milka, the creator of a program called felt and mine is actually from Israel. So it was kind of fun and interesting trying to get timezones figured out and to have a conversation from literally the other side of the world. But if you have a relationship that just needs some repair, you want to learn how to better communicate, or you want to teach your little ones how to communicate and solve problems with your help. Minds program is amazing. Learn what I mean by tuning into the next episode. And until then, let's find joy in parenting.

Hey Linger Longers. I'm looking for families with stories to share and questions to ask. So if you're a parent who is trying their best, recognizes that you don't have all the answers, and is always looking for ways to be better. You are an imperfect hero and I would love to hear from you. You have something to share. Trust me, you have something to share that others could learn from. What are your biggest challenges? And what are some of your most enduring stories? Contact me at Okay, I'm gonna go now!

Transcribed by

Hilary AbleserProfile Photo

Hilary Ableser

International Adoptive Mom

Hilary is a married mom of 3 (ages 10 and under), who adopted her youngest child from China, 3 and a half years ago. Ava Lin is a happy, spunky, confident 5 year old (who conveniently happens to be best friends with DJ’s grandson), yet of course no adoption story is complete without struggles along the way, and some interesting tales of the attachment process. There’s no perfect mother — only ones who are trying their hardest!!!