Saturday, August 2, 2014

Prayers, please...and a Serenity update.

Please pray for my dear friend Susanna from The Blessing of Verity.  This precious woman and family have been one of the two top inspirations for me through the last few years as God has called us into the world of special needs adoptions.  I cried and prayed and cried and prayed with her for little Tommy with the million dollar smile to be adopted.  God, in His wonderful grace, provided for Susanna and her family to be the ones to rescue him.  She was so in love with this little man - it was amazing to behold.  Two days ago, God called little Tommy home to Him, a little over a year after he came home to Susanna.  I don't have any details other than it was an accidental drowning and that Susanna is blaming herself, though those involved say it was just a tragic accident. 

I cannot even imagine the grief and pain.  This is a road that every parent prays they never have to walk.  Please lift her up in your prayers over the next weeks and months.  That our precious Savior would carry her and her family through this time of unimaginable grief.  I trust with everything I am that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan ~ it is just hard to understand at the moment.  But just because I cannot understand, does not mean that it is not true.  Oh, sweet Savior, please carry my precious friend.

It is hard to move on to a Serenity update when I just want to grieve for my friend, but I don't know when I will get another chance for a bit....

Serenity's surgery was on July 25th.  She came through the surgery very well though there was some concern during the surgery about her breathing.  Everything appeared to be just fine that afternoon, so Handsome and I were fully expecting that she would come home the next day.  Ummm, no.  This was the first time that Serenity had been hooked up to oxygen monitors while sleeping at night.  We knew she had sleep apnea - thus the reason for the surgery - but we just didn't realize how bad it was.  In general, healthy people have an oxygen reading of 95-100 while sleeping.  When we brought Romeo home from Guatemala years ago, the hospital staff freaked out that his numbers hit 82 occasionally.  The removal of his tonsils and adenoids ended the 2 month long search for what was wrong with him health-wise.   So we have some knowledge/experience in this area.  But even with Serenity's tonsils and adenoids out, she was in the low 80s, dropping into the 70s.  This was not what was expected! 

This lead to a holding pattern at the hospital - they wouldn't let her come home because of the numbers during the night were so bad...but they didn't know what to do to improve the numbers...so just endless hours turning into days of waiting.  On Sunday, it was proposed that she have a trach tube installed.  I think that was the moment I finally understood how critical this all was - not just urgent, but critical.  We obviously have been-there-done-that on a lot of medical issues, but it still doesn't make it easy to dive in happily to such a huge event.  Thankfully, I am in touch online with many moms with different medical experiences.  They were able to tell me that it would be much like the g-tube; scary at first, but doable. 

But this set up a whole new set of circumstances - mainly how to cover work for Handsome during a long hospital stay.  Just as we got the "troop movements" put in place (as all the planning here is called), the doctors on Monday afternoon took the trach back off the table and sent her home with oxygen and monitors while they came up with a plan.  Relief....temporarily.

Deep sigh...more medical equipment and monitors.  I was pretty surprised at my dread of another medical adventure, as this is exactly what we knew we were getting into.  I guess even when the head and heart are right, the emotions can be very hard to combat.  The first two nights were really bad.  I was up at least 11-12 times each night.  The first night was all due to the sensor coming off her finger.  So, I had to get up and replace it and then the machine would reset.  The second night was a combination of the sensor coming off and her oxygen dropping below the 82 mark - one time even down to 69!  This is brain-damage territory - really not good.  The last two nights were much better.  In fact, last night it didn't go off at all!  But I know from experience that this is just the beginning of a very, very long journey.

This was emphasized by several phone conversations I had with several doctors.  There are a great deal of conversations/meetings going on in the background of what to do next.  The main doctor does not want to attempt anymore surgeries (the oxygen concerns are the same for surgeries as they are for sleeping) until her airway is more "secure"....but they don't know how to secure it without surgery...and round and round it goes.   The next step is an official sleep study done at the first part of September and then conversations/decisions from there. 

I think it is hard to wrap our heads around how serious this is because she is so healthy during the day.  In fact, the doctor said, "We are just in amazement that she can be so healthy and happy during the day with such low oxygen numbers at night."  Hmmmm. 

I know that the plan includes a surgery in 3-4 years that pulls the front part of her face forward.  This is major, major surgery - like halos and facial braces holding the front of the face out, etc.  (With kiddos with Aperts, the front triangle, including the nose, does not grow at the same rate as the rest of the face, causing this area to "sink" into the face.)  This surgery will help pull out the area around the airway, hopefully eliminating the breathing issue.  If they do this surgery too soon though, they will have to repeat it in her early teens.  Oh, no!   However, if they cannot come up with another way to ease the problem, this is exactly what they will need to do.  BUT this leads back to the airway needing to be secured, especially for such a massive surgery - which puts the trach tube back on the table.  Oh how my mama's heart hurts!

As always this time of year, my thoughts and prayers are full of what we need to do/change/adjust/expect for the next year to begin.  (Our lives do revolve more on the school year than the calendar year)  I am trying to assess what the issues with Serenity will mean and how to plan for it.  This includes new sleeping arrangements so she is with me and I can take care of the monitors...which means Hope needs to be moved.  She has been with me because she still fusses a great deal some nights.  It is very much like a chain reaction in the effects.  One of the things I have noticed with the very large family is that many things that seem "small" in comparison can throw off the smooth (or relatively smooth) system we have in place.

I need to get the morning rolling as we have a birthday party for our summer birthdays tomorrow...which means making cakes and cleaning today.  I love having company but the preparation ahead of time is really difficult.  We live in every inch of our house...so it isn't like we can clean it once and be done.  We need to "major" clean it and then keep updating the cleaning until the company gets here.  Sounds tiring, doesn't it?

Please pray for Susanna.   I cannot imagine....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Breathing....

First, I want to start off by thanking all of you that are praying for us.  There are some days that I just know that God's grace is being poured out in abundance upon us.  He promises to hear our prayers and to carry us - our life is a living example of that!  It touches my heart to know that people with their own busy lives, with their own praises and requests, their own needs, take the time to lift us up as well.  I cannot express what an encouragement that is to me.

This morning, Serenity goes in for her tonsils/adenoids removed and tubes placed in her ears.  This is normally an "easy" surgery.  However, given her special needs - including her personality!!! - we are not sure what to expect.  The doctors are also taking special precautions.  She will be staying overnight at least tonight and possibly tomorrow night.  In addition, the doctor reserved an ICU bed for her "just in case".  That makes my heart tremble just a bit, honestly!  Knowing our little firecracker, she will either be wanting to run around right after surgery or she will be testing our faith with complications - either way, we will need your prayers and His grace! 

Handsome will be the one staying with her.  I still struggle with the change in our roles a bit.  I can truly see that I need to be the one at home, especially with Little Man's arrival.  But it is hard to kiss my girls goodbye as Daddy takes them away to the hospital.  I am so thankful for God's provision on this, but it tests me in a whole new way!

Grace is doing so very well recovering from her surgery!  Her spica cast is beginning to really smell though, despite our best efforts.  She is scheduled to get it off in about 3 weeks.  We had a heat wave here just after she got it on.  Once again, God had arranged provision way ahead of our need.  When we moved into our home over a year ago, we had to replace the furnace.  Given where we are and the lack of gas lines, a heat pump was the best option.  It automatically comes with air conditioning.  I told Handsome at the time that there was no way we were going to spend the money to run the air conditioning given that our area only gets a heat wave about once a year!  I should have known as soon as I said that!  So fast-forward a year and I am so thankful for God's provision for Grace's comfort.  It looks like this week may be hot as well, so I will thank Him for the cool air and trust for the provision to pay for it.  (Then, I will go back to our "no AC" vow. ;-) )

Grace continues to be such a joy in our life.  She is Handsome's reward at the end of a long day.  He still cuddles with her every night as the day winds down and scoops her up every morning as the day begins.  I am amazed at the Lord's gracious gift to my hard working husband.  He fiercely loves all his children and each one has their own niche in his life, but Grace is his peace right now.  What a precious thing.

As for life in the rest of the family?  It is a busy summer.  I am learning in yet another way, to let go of self and rejoice for others.  I don't like "busy" - I want a "quiet" calendar.  But I have realized again, that is not necessarily what my kids want.  They want to be seeing friends and going places - to enjoy their break from school to the fullest.  I also have to remember that even though each mark on the calendar means I am busy, it doesn't mean each child is busy.  Today may be the "Big 3" busy with youth group, but the younger ones are at home.  Tomorrow it may be four doing things, but the others are not, etc.

Even though it is busy, it is a little hard to believe that the summer is almost gone.  I tell Handsome that I feel like on May 31st, we are at the top of the slide and then "zoom"....we are at the bottom of the slide and it is time to start school again!  Once again, it is so true for another year.  I am seeing the end of summer quickly arriving.  I have to laugh once again at all my big plans for this summer.  As the summer closed last year, I was determined that this summer I would finish painting the house and garage, have a garden going, and work on at least several areas of our overgrown, wild yard.  (We are now on 5 acres - what a gift - but Handsome and I laugh that it feels like a half an acre due to the the overgrown blackberry bushes everywhere!)  I certainly didn't picture that I would be bouncing a cranky baby and dealing with multiple surgeries!  I, of course, had planned for spaced out surgeries - not bunching them altogether due to a pregnancy!  God's plans were obviously different - and I praise Him for that.  So we will survive another year with one side of the house a different color....and blackberry brambles still taking over.  I finally picked one 10 X 15 area that I will get landscape fabric and bark on, just for my own sanity.  (But right now, all the supplies are stacked up and waiting....hopefully they won't still be mocking me as we start school on August 25th!)

I am starting to feel like I can breathe again.  I find that with each new baby or adoption.  There is a "fog" that surrounds the first two months of each new addition.  I don't see it at the time - in fact, I would insist that it wasn't there at the time!  But then as we pass the two month mark, I do realize that in a way, we were in survival mode and now we are finally getting into the new "normal."  We were given a really nice baby swing to use by some friends and it has made a world of difference.  I am able to snuggle him in and have a small period of time in which I am free to tackle the dishes, laundry, or paperwork pile....or just snuggle another precious little person. 

However, there is a cost.  If he sleeps well in the swing, he doesn't sleep well at night.  So then the endless debate begins - stuff done during the day or sleep at night?  It really should be an easy answer, right?  I think that if I could count on getting a good 4-5 hour stretch of sleep, it would be an easy answer...but so many nights, there are repeated needs of kiddos...so it makes for lots of "cat naps" but not real, restful sleep.  (I can hear an "amen" from some of my friends!)  So every morning, I think that it is more important to have the freedom during the day to get things done, but then by 4 in the afternoon, I am longing for sleep instead.  And not just that "boy, a rest would be nice" but the "I am feeling nauseous because I am so tired" type thing.  Once again, I need to be trusting that my Savior will provide for all I need...even sleep.

So as I pray for the days ahead asking my Savior what my priorities and goals should be, one of the things I have realized is that my three girls - Serenity, Hope, and Mimi - have hit their "happy" place...and this is not necessarily a good thing.  They are more than happy in what they can do and aren't seeing the need to do more.  For example, Hope is safe, well fed, and slightly mobile.  All the basic needs that were denied for 5 1/2 years are now met and she doesn't see the need for more.  So most days as we put her on the floor, she will pick one toy or thing, scootch to it on her bottom, and then "pick" at it the rest of the day.  If we move her away to something else, she will just wait until we look elsewhere and will move right back and begin "picking" again.  Her therapist is really working on teaching her to walk, but like Mimi, she really isn't interested. 

So, I am praying for ideas and opportunities to press each of my precious girls forward in their development.  There are endless ideas and resources out there, but I know from experience it is very easy to plan and even to buy things, but the implementation is the key.  And that depends on so many things that are outside of my control - like others' needs, bad attitudes, paperwork/medical issues that need to be taken care of, etc.  If you are praying for us, will you lift this up as well? 

For Serenity, my focus at the beginning will be communication (either speech or sign language) and more directed play.  Not just wandering from one mess she makes to another.  She still doesn't play with toys and probably won't if she doesn't learn "how" to, beyond throwing them or putting them in her mouth. 

For Hope, both moving and communication are on the list.  Specifically walking or walking in a gait trainer.  The communication is much more difficult.  She doesn't even grasp the concept of communication being interactive.  Having Little Man, I am more painfully aware every day of what she has been denied.  He cries and someone picks him up and soothes him. He coos and someone coos back.  He smiles and gets smiles in return.  He knows already that if he does something, something will happen in return.  Hope has never had that.  As a baby, no one came when she cried.  No one answered back when she cooed.  No one returned a smile.  No one "talked" with her.  It is amazing at the hole this has left in her life.  It almost wires things "backwards".  Now when she cries and we try to respond as we would any of our other children, it does not soothe her, it winds her up more.  When she cries or fusses and we talk gently to her or try to rub her back or soothe her, she screams and pulls away - or she just ignores us.  This does not mean that we will stop, but it does make it harder.  Again, God is showing me the damage that has been done.  If it is harder for me to want to soothe her when she doesn't respond or responds negatively - and I know why and I know she needs it anyway - how much harder is it for her to understand how to interact when all she has been given is negative responses?  We have to begin at the beginning again - but with a child in which all the natural desires to interact (such as with Little Man) have disappeared or have been warped into something to fight against.  It hurts my heart to even think about. 

For Mimi, the goal is also communication and mobility- but again, her little life stands in stark contrast with Hope.  Mimi, without miraculous healing by our Savior, does not have the potential that Hope does to communicate.  Cognitively, she is just not able to.  However, because she had a family from the very beginning, her little life is so different!  I was determined from those first days that she needed to always be with me - always seeing my face and hearing my voice.  So even though she is not able to communicate with sign language or words, she knows if she cries that we will respond.  She knows that her laugh will make others laugh.  She knows that her facial expressions trigger a reaction.  The difference is almost beyond description.  Even though I don't think she will truly have language skills, I still want to fill her time with practice of these things.  The biggest challenge with Mimi is that she does not "mimic".  So if I say "Dada", she will not even try to repeat it.  If I do a motion with my hands, it is not repeated.  If you really think about it, it takes away the starting block for building any communication.  Our only option is to use things she already does and try to turn that into a language of sorts.  For example, when she was pretty tiny, I am thinking around a year old, she began to purposely "blink" at me.  I immediately began to blink back at her.  It became a game that she still plays to this day.  Eventually it has gotten to the point that if I blink first, she will blink back at me.  But this is has taken many, many years of playing this game.  Rereading what I just wrote makes it sound as if she doesn't interact with us, but that is really not the case either.  She is very interactive and loves people.  She will crawl over to us and pull up to a stand and growl at us until we pick her up.  If she wants someone to turn on the TV (she loves music videos), she crawls over and makes a specific sound until we come.  But I can probably count on one hand these type of specific communications.  She "talks" to us all the time, but it is in her own delightful way and on a very limited level.  I know this is a hard thing to grasp if you don't have a child like this, but I saw it summed up on day on a poster.  It said, "They say you will never talk, but as your mommy, I hear you "speak" every day."  This is so very, very true.

My time is gone this morning as the sun is fully up and the house begins to stir.  I will continue breathing and praying and praising God even as I am counting the benefits versus the drawbacks of drinking another cup of coffee this morning.  He is so good.  Even when life is hard, He is good.  Maybe I should say especially when life is so hard, He is so good.

Here are a couple of pictures to tide you all over until I can get more of the rest of the gang...I am limited right now to the pictures the kids take of each other and baby - so needless to say, most of them aren't posted publicly because of the crazy poses and angles! :)

 The Prince

 Little Man

Hope

To Him be all glory, honor and power.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Grace's Surgery and EFBF

What a month has gone by since my last update!  Almost every morning I think, "Today I will update the blog!"  And then another day goes by....or I decide that maybe what I would write that day would be worthless because I was so tired physically and emotionally.

The good news is that Grace's surgery is done and was successful!  Praise the Lord.  She went in on Monday the 30th and came home on the 3rd.  Handsome had to stay with her because there is no way I could do it with Little Man.  It is hard for him to be away from work for even a few days, so I am very thankful he was able to do this. 

Grace will be in a half-body cast for at least 4 weeks, poor baby.  The doctor decided that the second hip did not need to be operated on, so we are also very thankful for that.  She did much, much better at the hospital with Daddy than she did with me in November for the g-tube.  Again, God knows best.  I was pretty frantic that I was not the one staying but with cell phones if the nurses needed to ask a question, it went very smoothly.

She had to have a special car seat and we have to be careful on how we position her at home.  Her pain meds are also critical at this point.  We were a little late this morning and she was hurting.  It broke my heart.  Please continue to pray for her.  That she heals quickly and well.  Pray for us as we maneuver through the next few weeks with the cast.  The day(s) right after the cast is taken off will also be incredibly hard....so many prayers would be appreciated.

In the meantime, I am suffering with EFBF - Extremely Fussy Baby Fatigue.  This is a condition in which your baby is so fussy that you are worn out body and soul.  It quickly develops a partnering condition of EFBA - Extremely Fussy Baby Anxiety.  This is when your baby is so fussy that you have to strategically plan everything - including things like how to go to the restroom - around your baby's screaming.  When you look at everything you have to do through the lens of, "How do I do this with one hand?" while bouncing your fussy baby with the other hand.  Both can be downright debilitating.

Yes.  Right after my last blog post, my content baby turned into our typical extremely fussy baby.  I had forgotten how hard this is.  I am just not hard-wired right to handle a screaming baby - it just completely undoes me.  Don't get me wrong, we do let him cry. We have to in order to keep life moving here, but it is just not something that I am able to get used to.  Our hardest time right now is at night when I need to feed and rock Mimi to sleep.  By the time I lay her down, I am wiping back the tears at hearing him cry in the other room - as well as feeling so badly for Handsome, The Warrior, or The Testy Chef - whoever has the turn of trying to walk/bounce him until I can come get him.  By the time I have him back, I am so wound up that I cannot sleep....leading to more Fussy Baby Anxiety! 

So right now, even the most mundane like showering, using the restroom, folding laundry, and cooking has become epic in proportion. However, because this is our ninth or tenth kiddo like this, I do know that it is just a season.  That eventually (with some a little over a year) this too shall pass.  I am so in love with this Little Man and so thankful for this precious gift my Savior gave to me that I cry over him daily.  Even during such a hard, hard time, I know that I have been blessed beyond measure - far beyond what I could ever have imagined.  I know this seems contradictory to some, but it is the truth.  It is a huge struggle to get through the days, yet I am so filled with joy over him.

My precious family did go camping in mid-June.  The Helper and The Testy Chef (my two oldest daughters) stayed home with me and the "Little 5" to help and to finish their schoolwork.  It was a really difficult week with Little Man and trying to keep the other four well taken care of so the girls could study.  BUT the amazing thing to me - though some of you will laugh - is how QUIET it was (other than Little Man!).  I could not believe it.  I just soaked it in every day.  In addition, a completely amazing thing happened - something I was told was true, but had seriously doubted over the years...when I had a few seconds to clean something...it STAYED clean.  Really!  Did you catch that?  It STAYED clean.  I have to say, as silly as it sounds, this did give me some hope for the distant future.  I might, just might, have a clean house some day....ah, bliss!

The week after, my two oldest girls took a trip to Colorado with their Bible quiz team.  The Helper's team took second in the nation and she was personally the third highest quizzer in the nation!  I am so proud of them both!  While they were playing and getting a much deserved break, Handsome, The Warrior, and I had to hold down the fort at home.  These are really tiring days!  The day after they got home was Grace's surgery - so the team at home shifted again to the Big 3 kids and I while Handsome was in the hospital with Grace.

This morning, my Big 3 are headed off to youth camp.....Can I say that I am really dreading this week?  I don't think any of them read my blog regularly, but I won't post this until they are gone...two of the three have offered repeatedly to stay home and help me.  It makes my Mama's heart melt at their kindness, but there is no way I am going to let one of them stay home.  Their youth group is an amazing group of kids and leaders and they deserve the break!  But....I am still dreading this week.  After the Big 3, I have three 10 year old boys, an 8 year old girl, and a 7 year old boy.  I am realizing more and more that they just have not been expected to learn/do the same things as the Big 3 because they are so capable....so this is a good week to really work on some training.  I have realized, especially with the boys, that there really seems to be a 'you-got-it-or-you-don't' gene for taking care of smaller kids - and I get that.  I don't expect them all to be kid-helpers.  But I should be able to say, "Will you take care of ______?" and have it get done.  Hmmmm, another area to work on.   Regardless, I would so appreciate prayers for this week.

Once the Big 3 are back, life still stays busy for July.  Lots of doctors' appointments and Serenity has her surgery for tonsils, adenoids, and ear tubes the end of this month.  Another extended family camping trip in there as well.  I just keep praying that although I am exhausted (EFBF and EFBA), that my kids are loving their summer and will be filled to the brim by the time we need to focus on school again.  Praying for the strength for today....and tomorrow...and the next day....

Here are a few photos for fun:
Hope playing

Serenity with Grandpa!

Hope with Smiley and The Boss

Hope on her hands and knees!!!

Hope with Grandma

Mimi with Grandpa

The Testy Chef with Little Man

Grace and Little Man

The Boss

The Warrior with Little Man

Serenity (She is so easy to get fun pictures of!)

Little Man

The Helper and Serenity (both addicted to selfies).


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't Let Me Choose....

I have my Little Man snuggled in on my shoulder.  I hear Mimi playing with her toys around the corner.  Handsome and Smiley went into the shop early this morning to get some work done before the day really begins.  Everyone else is asleep....

I treasure my early mornings as I sip my coffee and spend time with my Savior.  It is the only way to start a morning.  I can focus my heart on the right things, plan for the day, and spend time in thanksgiving for all things.  As it gets lighter earlier each day, I wake up a little earlier and enjoy more time.  If it gets too early, I may need a little more coffee!  ;-)

Ever since Little Man arrived almost 3 weeks ago, the same thought has been running through my mind.  It has been one of my main prayers for the last year or more ~ "Lord, don't let me choose.  Don't let me choose because I will choose the wrong thing every time."  The more I walk with Him, the older I get, the more I see this to be true.  So many decisions are made on the emotion of the moment, not based on a far-reaching or a Christ-glorifying perspective.  It is based on my emotions of the moment - which are usually temporary, easily swayed, and so often selfish.

In October, I would have chosen not to be pregnant - and obviously not to have had a stroke.  I am NOT saying I would have chosen to abort.  I am saying I would have chosen to not get pregnant in the first place.  I would have chosen the easy way.  Even at the time, based on my life to that point, a niggling voice whispered that once I had seen my little baby's face, I would think it was all worth it - but I didn't want to go through the discomfort and the difficulties.  I didn't want to have to battle fear over the stroke and dangers for months and months.  I didn't want to figure out how we would get through the last weeks when Grace was too heavy for me to lift and I couldn't get down on the floor to change diapers and clothes.  I didn't want to fight off those feelings that I get every pregnancy of feeling like life was "on hold" for almost a year.  (Again, this is a feeling, not based in truth.)  Life was hard enough each day without adding more to it.  I also, honestly, didn't want to give the critics any more targets to aim at as they are always firing off anyway.

I see so many areas that if I had chosen, I would have taken the wrong path.  I would have chosen something easier, some that seemed clear compared to the other path, something I could understand, something that took less faith and less risk.  Something that seemed like it would partially ease the desires pounding in my heart, but in reality would have been like eating an Oreo when what I really needed was a full day's worth of good, nutritious food.  It would have eased the hunger pains for about 5 minutes and then I would have been in need again.  But how many times would I have chosen the Oreo instead of waiting for my precious Savior to provide what I really needed?  Every. Single. Time.  Yes, a very humiliating and humbling answer.  I would chose the wildly changing emotions over the truths in Scripture and the unbroken pattern of Christ's faithful provision for me.

I have learned how very dangerous emotions can be if they lead me away from the truth found in God's Word.  This is not to say all emotion is wrong.  The Bible is full of emotion - the joy of the Lord, rejoicing in all circumstances, abhorring what is evil - the examples go on and on.  The danger comes from the emotions that say, "I know You are asking this of me - because all things are in Your perfect Hands - but I don't want to."  I may not want to for many reasons - I am too tired, it is too hard, I can't understand why or how, it was not part of my plan,  it just seems utterly impossible, I don't feel like doing it, etc., etc. 

By the way, I have heard throughout my life people saying that if God truly wanted them to do something, He would make it so that they wanted to do it.  Because they don't "want' to do it, it must not be God's Will.....as they brush it from their hands and walk away.  Well, following that logic, Abraham must have wanted to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel must have wanted to be held captive by the Babylonians, Paul must have wanted to be beaten and eventually beheaded, and Christ must have wanted to be crucified and suffer His Father's wrath....right?  Remember, even Christ prayed that the cup would be removed from Him if it was possible!  What all of them wanted above all else - even their own emotions - was to obey whatever God asked of them - not the specific circumstances!!!!  There is a huge difference there.  A life-changing difference if believers would apply it to their lives.

So, as I snuggle this little man, I am so indescribably grateful that I didn't get to choose...that God knew best, and gave me another perfect gift.  All my children are perfect gifts given by a loving Father.  He heard the cries and saw the tears of a young woman so many years ago, sitting in an empty baby's room.  I thought my arms would always be empty - yet here I am, my cup overflowing by His grace.  How do I ever fail to trust His faithfulness and His perfect plan?

Soooo, does this mean that life is easy?  Nooooo.  Little Man is a very content baby - only our second content baby out of a dozen that came to us before they turned 13 months old!  That makes everything much more enjoyable - but still a challenge.  I think it helps as well that we have done this so many times - so we know that we must strive to find our new "normal."   Our biggest challenge right now is that he usually decides he must eat immediately, when I am in the middle of feeding one of the other three girls.  There are a total of 13 feedings that I need to do separately each day between Grace, Mimi, and Hope.  Some of them Handsome can help with - in a pinch, the oldest three can help, but it is not ideal.  We also are trying to find a new normal with the bedtime routine. I want to rock each of the girls before I put them in bed (some in combination with a feeding), but am having trouble as Little Man also needs me at the same time....hmmm.  How to do it all?

It is the end of the school year as well.  We did the required testing (by our state) last week.  In the past, this has always marked the end of our school year.  However, this year due to the trip to rescue Serenity and Hope, my oldest three are not done yet.  I have to laugh how important summer break is to me - I obviously went to public school!  I want to have a few weeks that we do not have to focus on assignments and due dates....but it may be a precious few weeks this year!  If you would, please pray for my oldest three - to have the motivation to get their work done.  I know it is discouraging to them even though they say it was more than worth it.

We have some camping trips on the calendar this summer, the first of which is next week.  However, this year I will be staying home.  The Testy Chef has volunteered to stay with me - but, oh, how I wish I was going!  But I know this is the best plan for this year.  Little Man is so tiny and I just don't think that Hope is ready for such a huge thing yet.   Grace will also be happier in her comfy chair rather than having to deal with changes.  It would be a good experience for Serenity, but it would also make it very, very hard for Handsome to juggle the needs of the other kids and corral Serenity for her safety.   There is another trip planned for mid-July, but Grace will be in her cast from her hip surgery, so I will stay home with youngest again. We have a church camping trip at the end of August that is only 90 minutes away from home.  The plan is that we will all try to go for this trip, but that decision will be made as it gets closer. 

This is one of the realities of adding kiddos with special challenges.  Handsome and I have to balance out the needs of each precious one with the needs of all the others.  In this case, the camping trips are a very important part of family life.  We go with my parents and my siblings.  It is a very precious time of relationships and freedom from the responsibilities at home.  Last year, the first trip was hard on Grace, enough so that I came home two days early, but it was so good for everyone else!  With such a large group going, my bigger kids get a break from their daily responsibilities and the younger ones can help with chores as adults guide them.  Keeping this in mind, Handsome and I knew that we wanted to have those who were able have the ability to go even if others couldn't.  I am so thankful for a husband that is able to do so much - even bring 8 kids camping without me!

Hope is doing very well right now.  She is consistently sleeping through the night.  This is probably due to the fact that she is now mobile!  Praise God!  She is scooching on her bottom around the house.  So now we have to corral she and Serenity and Mimi.  We laugh at our "modular" gating system - trying to block off the areas that they are not safe in, yet giving them enough freedom to explore.   She is now drinking from a sippy cup on her own as well.  Our next food challenge will be for her to expand the "flavors" she is willing to eat and to start taking food with more texture.  Honestly, it makes me exhausted to just think of that battle ahead.  I have realized that all of my adopted kiddos have wills of iron - except for Grace.  I think they have to have this determination and "fight" to survive their circumstances as a orphan - but boy, can it make the learning process at home very hard!

At therapy yesterday, they put Hope in a gait trainer like Mimi's and she was moving until she got cranky about it.  We will pull out Mimi's and work on it at home as well.  I do not think it will be long until she is walking though.  She is now pulling herself up to her knees at the couch to get to things - the drawback of being so much bigger than a 9-12 month old is that there is nothing really tall enough for her to pull up to a stand yet.  She listens very intently to all that is going on around her, but she is not trying to babble or talk yet.  She makes a lot of "noises" but they are not in patterns or recognizable sounds yet.  We are debating when to begin some speech therapy with her.  From experience we know, especially with the speech therapy, that there needs to be at least some willingness to cooperate and we are just not sure that is there yet with her.  Overall, I am praising God as she grows calmer and more secure.  I am working on focusing on the progress already instead of the distance that still needs to be conquered.

Serenity is still full of life!  I pray that never changes - but it can be so exhausting.  The damage to Hope's emotions and cognitive abilities are very, very obvious.  The damage to Serenity is not immediately obvious, but is there nonetheless.  There is simply no behavioral control for her.  If she is happy, she is EXTREMELY happy.  If she is mad, she is EXTREMELY mad.  If she wants something, she wants it NOW.  If she wants on your lap, she wants on it NOW.  If she doesn't get what she wants, she immediately flies into a massive temper tantrum.  (We call them grand-mal temper tantrums as they are all-consuming.)  I have come to realize that although she was in a good orphanage and was loved by the people there very much, she was on a crash course to be one of the older children that are tied to their beds because no one can control them.  I am NOT saying this is okay in any stretch of the imagination - but I have come to see how it happens.  Many of the older children that have such huge behavioral challenges, have come to be that way, not necessarily because of their special needs but because of a complete lack of training in self-control.  When they are tiny and cute (like Serenity), the behavior can be controlled by distraction and physically moving/restraining them - but as they get bigger and stronger, it is no longer easily done.  And honestly, it is no longer "cute" anymore.  It gets to the point that no one wants to deal with it and they are then confined to control them.  Very, very sad.  Handsome and I have discussed several times that although Serenity and Hope's orphanages were extreme opposites, in the end, the consequences end up the same as they grow older.  Children need families.  There is no substitute for this.  None.

My time is gone today....I am so thankful for each one of you that read and pray for us.  I pray you can learn from my mistakes and failings without having to go through it yourselves.  I pray that you can see God's grace shining over two people who are so imperfect and limited - but are able to do what God has asked of them by His power and grace.  I pray that you can see even though we are sinful and flawed, that we desire to serve and glorify our Savior above all else.

Oh, and one last HUGE praise!  Samson has a family!  Praise the LORD!

We are at the six month mark for Serenity and Hope  - so we have a post-placement visit with the caseworker this week.  As I gather the pictures for that, I will post them here......

Until He comes....may He be glorified in all things.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Indescribable Blessing!

Perfection....born May 13th....weighing only 8lbs 12oz (it was thought he would be 11 lbs)....

God is so good and His plans are perfect

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Racing by...

Where have the days gone?  Good grief...I am sorry for the neglected little blog!

First of all, Grace did not have her surgery.  She began throwing up in the middle of the night before the surgery and that was that.  She is rescheduled for the end of June.  While it was a bit of a relief at the time, it will be much more complicated when Little Man arrives and a hot summer with a half body cast.  Another thing I am just trusting our loving Father has a plan!






Little Grace has been so happy these last few weeks.  We are not sure why, but we are enjoying it so much.  She "sings" to us and laughs and smiles.  It is just pure delight to us.  She is doing well in therapy as well.  Although it may not seem like much, she is trying to move her little body...what a wonderful thing to behold!  A child who was written off as nothing - seeing her grow in her own ways.  Praise the Lord, oh my soul!  We love this child more than could ever be imagined.  She is the apple of her Daddy's eye and a favorite of all her brothers and sisters.  God took something that was such a huge step of faith and has poured blessings over us in abundance!  Praise His holy name!



Little Hope is slowly, oh so slowly, opening up to life around her.  I am more convinced than ever that there is so much more going on in her little heart and mind than we ever guessed.  But there is such scarring and damage from her first 5 years, at times I am sure it is a very painful growth.  I am sure there are days she wants to retreat to a world of "nothingness" just to avoid the growth pains.



She has started demanding more food on her own.  This is HUGE....it is a huge step that she is pushing for something, anything she needs.  We knew she needed more calories, but just could not get her to eat more.  She is now eating double what she was a week ago AND she is drinking from a sippy cup with handles by herself!  Again, we praise the Lord!  Every little thing she learns she can do is one more step towards healing and growth. I know that it may seem so small...too small for our level of excitement...but it is not.  Not when we know where she has been and what she has had to endure - or go without.



She is also doing very well in physical therapy.  Mimi's therapist has taken over with her and has truly fallen in love with this little pixy girl.  She is so close to crawling.  I cannot even begin to measure how this will change her little world.  As well, she is actively playing with her sisters and brothers.  She seeks attention from Smiley in particular and he is more than happy to oblige.  What a gift God has given us in each child - each strength and ability.  The Helper has begun to come every week to therapy as well so that she can see what things she can work with Hope on.  How my heart overflows with love for each gift we have.

Mimi is turning 6 years old tomorrow!  This is so difficult to fathom.  This little tiny girl - hardly the size of a two year old...the little one that we didn't even know if she would make it to her first birthday...and here we are getting ready to celebrate her sixth!  I can't tell you what this does to my heart - again, the blessing upon blessing!  This has been an interesting few months with her as well.  After years of struggling to get her to eat even the tiniest little bits by mouth - she has decided that if Hope can do it, so can she!  She and Hope battle each other to be the first to be fed!  Another praise.  She still must be fed the majority of her food via g-tube because she just cannot get enough fluids/calories by mouth - but there is always hope for more.  In addition, it just adds to the input in her life - good foods, sweet flavors, joining with others as we eat.  She always comes quickly if she sees me with food and wants a taste - even if it is just a little.  Thank you, my Savior!



We have also seen another side of little Mimi as she purposely crawls over to Hope and angles her feet to kick at her!  We were so shocked the first time - not our little baby!  She wouldn't do that....would she?  Sure enough!  Poor Hope!  Mimi is also getting more demanding of sitting on my lap or snuggling - not the best development with Little Man just a few weeks away!  Big changes in store, little girl....just wait and see.

And then there is the hurricane....Serenity!  Yep, still have not found a way to summarize this ball of energy beyond..."wow".    We will meet with the ENT (ear-nose-and-throat doctor) on Monday.  He is the one that will need to sign the prescription for hearing aids.  I am beginning to feel a little frantic about getting them.  I need to know how much of the behavioral issues are simply her dynamic personality and how much is due to her being closed off in her own little world due to hearing loss.



This last Monday was a big day for her at the Children's Hospital.  Her CT scans were done and we met with a slew of experts.  I think I went into the appointment feeling pretty relaxed.  After all, they assumed the "worst case" scenarios with Hope and instead all was very, very good and she is a "textbook" case  for her surgery in about a year.  With Serenity, they have always been pretty positive...so just another textbook case.  Right?  (You know already the answer coming, right?)  Nope, not at all.  No textbook scenario this time.

Although she always charms with socks off of the doctors and staff - and although she is so capable in so many ways - there is significant pressure on her little brain from the skull malformations.  Much, much more than they assumed, even with a child with Apert Syndrome.  In fact, they showed me pictures of the inside of her skull - where there is massive "scalloping" of the bone where the throbbing of the brain is carving away sections of the skull.  Wow.  That is hard to even think about.  Her (wild) hair also does such a great job hiding her skull, it was pretty sobering to see how different it is from an "average" skull.

The discussions that went on in the room full of colleagues was a little sobering.  This is not a "textbook" situation after all.  We knew she would need surgery on her skull (obviously) and we knew that her mid-face would need surgery...in fact, there are a lot of surgeries we knew she would need to have - but it moved to a whole new level of urgency after the scans.

After much debate and discussion, it sounds like the approach will be to have her tonsils and adenoids removed soon to allow her to breathe better, especially at night.  (She snores like a boat full of drunken sailors.)  Then they will tackle the skull.  The goal is to shorten the height, while adding to the width.  She also has a significant hole at the top of her head (which is probably her saving grace right now) but will need to be closed.  The hope is to be able to add to the forehead enough to start to protect her eyes, which are significantly unprotected right now.  How hard it is to even fathom this.  Thankfully, God has brought another family into our lives - who have become the very dearest of friends - whose daughter has had numerous cranio surgeries.  So they can help us to know what to expect.  One of the hardest parts emotionally, will be to have her head shaved.  We try so hard to show how beautiful each of our children are - it is going to take some creativity to work with that shaved head, especially in the summertime!  It is silly when compared to the magnitude of her issues - but emotions are never rational, are they?

All of this to pray on, even as the days are getting so short before we welcome Little Man into the world.  Not quite 3 weeks left - how hard that is to believe!  They measured him almost 2 weeks ago and he was already at 7 1/2 PLUS pounds.  Wow!  No wonder I am so uncomfortable!  He may be nearing 11 pounds by the time he is delivered.  The Boss, our last bio baby, was 10lbs 1oz - so we will see if we have a new record holder.  Maybe a c-section is not so bad after all! ;-)

On a slightly different topic, I have been "chatting" via email with another mom of many.  A woman that I admire so very much and wish I could just have one cup of coffee with her in person!  We had to laugh as we both thought the other person was "superwoman" because of all she seemed to do...how silly to see how wrong our assumptions were.  So, I just want to share a few ways in which God has provided for what we have needed.

After my stroke in October, we knew that Handsome needed to go on the rescue mission to get Serenity and Hope.  That left me at home - in that very sick and tired pregnancy stage - taking care of the rest of the treasures as Handsome and my two oldest were gone for 2 weeks.  All I could do was pray for strength.  But God had a huge gift already in process for us.  The mother-in-law of a very dear friend told me that she wanted to come stay with me the entire two weeks Handsome was gone.  I cannot tell you how blown over I was by her offer!  I had always enjoyed her company although we did not see each other regularly - but I could have never imagined her making such an offer, especially living 90 minutes away over the mountain passes.  I couldn't help but think though that our chaotic crowd would scare her away before the 2 weeks were up!

Well, she came a bit like the magical elves in the shoemaker's shop and began helping with the cleaning and cooking.  We tackled serious housecleaning and organizing.  Every single closet, bedroom, and shelf.  In addition, she cleaned every carpet and scrubbed every surface.  We were both exhausted every night.  After the first week, she needed to go home for the weekend.  I was secretly afraid that she would not be coming back - that we were just too much to handle.  When she came back - to my delight!- on Sunday afternoon, she was glowing.  Hmmm.  What did that mean?  Well, she shared with me her plan....Would we mind if she parked a camping trailer under our carport so she could come over two days every week to help us?  What?  I just couldn't believe it.  I still can't.

I had prayed for at least a year that if we needed "outside" help, that God would provide it.  Although we have amazing family and church family, I just couldn't see anyone that could make that kind of commitment.  Well, He graciously and amazingly provided through this loving woman.  My kids now have "Grammy" in addition to their Grandma and Nana - and they love her.  She has them over for cups of cocoa in her trailer and she is always willing to stop and love on one of the little girls as they need it.  I cannot tell you how she has blessed us.  She doesn't even hesitate to tackle the overflowing laundry baskets - even when she left them empty just the week before.  I smile every time I see another indication of "Grammy" in my house.  I had given up on weekly dusting and sparkling clean floors long ago - and yet I have them now - at least for 2 days a week! - because of her generous love.  We still do laundry 6 days a week, all day....we still have to work to keep things picked up and in some sense of order...but she comes and helps pull it altogether again every week.  What an amazing gift from our loving Father.  She will come for 2 weeks at Little Man's grand entrance as well.  Ahhh...bliss!

Also, my mom, "Nana" has been homeschooling the youngest 5 homeschoolers this year.  Wow!  Another amazing gift.  She laughs that she went to college and got an elementary teacher's degree forty something years ago....only to use it now!  She is a born teacher.  After a rough start - as every homeschool mom knows! - they are in a really good groove.  This has freed me up immensely to work with the girls who have so many needs and to just meet the needs of such a large family - in addition to business paperwork for Handsome's business.

I am not superwoman - I cannot do it all.  Without this extra help, some things would have to be given up for a time...maybe even a long time.  We make every adoptive decision based off of whether we could do it ourselves if necessary - but have been so amazed by the gifts given to us through our loving God - using those willing to serve wherever He asks.  The days are still impossibly full.  I still cry in exhaustion so many nights - but when I see His faithfulness to provide all that we need, my heart can rest in peace that He is always with us.  I don't know what the future holds - but I have seen the One that holds the future...and He is faithful.  ALWAYS.

So in the coming weeks, please pray for Serenity's "game plan" with surgeries.  Pray for safety and blessing with Little Man's delivery.  Pray for His continued provision in all things.  Pray for wisdom and amazing patience for Handsome and I as we raise these amazing young people.

Please also pray for little Samson.  He is in a horrific orphanage - one that we are very familiar with.  I have been there - I know.  He has CP - untreated CP - that is pulling his body backwards into a position that is making feeding and even breathing very, very difficult.  Pray for a family to race forward to rescue him.   You can read more here .  Here are several pictures....please print them out and pray for him.  Please.

I know it would be so much easier to look away.  To just pretend we didn't know.  To not hurt and be horrified.  But we can do something....please pray for him every time he comes to mind.  He also has a donation button here that you can make a tax-deductible donation to a fund that will be given to a family that chooses to rescue him.

God is faithful.  Always.