Monday, November 14, 2016

A little doctor visit update....

I have a few minutes before dinner, so I thought I would give a bit of an update after numerous doctor's appointments these last few weeks.

Jesse had an audiologist appointment at the end of October.  I almost cancelled it, thinking it was a bit silly.  The audiologist asked if I thought there were any issues.  I said that I really had no concerns at all.  Then I thought suddenly, "What if I end up eating those words?"   This test was not done at the Children's Hospital, so the woman seemed a little unsure of what to do once she found out that he was blind.  I actually felt pretty badly for her.  They ended up doing the testing by having Jesse put a ring on the stacking toy every time he heard a noise in the headset.  Both the audiologist and her helper were amazed at his concentration and accuracy.  The audiologist said that she was completely convinced at the accuracy of the testing because Jesse was so precise.  However - you saw that coming, didn't you? - it does turn out that Jesse has hearing loss in his right ear.  It is labeled as "mild to moderate", but as we found with Serenity, the average person would find it much more than a "milk or moderate" loss.  Some of the sounds that they were playing in Jesse's right ear were loud enough I could hear them plainly without headsets and there was a warning flashing on the screen about how loud the sounds were for the eardrum.  So much for my "no concerns"!  We will see an ENT next to see how to proceed from here.

Tomorrow Jesse will have a CT scan done of his skull and then see the craniofacial docs right afterward.  This will be our second meeting with them.  I do think though that we are not going to do any type of surgery for the nose unless there is some kind of surprise on the CT scan.  We think it would be best for Jesse to have some input into whether he has surgery or not.  He will still see endocrinology, a urologist, and the sleep study in the new year.  I need to look into an appointment with the ophthalmologist and dentist as well.

Serenity and Hope had their "round table" meeting with all the doctors in craniofacial last Monday.  It was a lot to absorb as we also saw the speech therapist, nutritionist, neurologist, as well as a variety of surgeons. 

With Hope, a couple new things came to light.  The muscle over the top of her lip is split because of her cleft.  This changes how she can use her lip - for eating and talking.  It is actually a pretty major thing.  It also turns out that repairing the cleft of her face would take at least two surgeries.  The first would be fixing the bone but the second (and following) would be repairing the muscles, etc.  This moves the surgery from the category of "purely cosmetic" to maybe more of a needed issue.  However, in talking with one of the main surgeons, he said that he would like to see the surgery in the next 5 years, but it did not need to be right away.  This brought a great deal of relief.  I just don't think she is ready for that trauma yet.  I don't think there will be a "good time" for the surgery, but I do think there are times worse than others.  So, we will check in with them again next year.

We did also have her hearing checked.  When I was asked if I thought there was a hearing issue, I laughed and said that I had already been wrong once in the last week, but that there wasn't anything I had seen to indicate one - that Hope was always the first to jump or respond to a noise.  Well, guess what?  She probably has a hearing issue!  She was extremely difficult to test as she wouldn't/couldn't respond to the standard testing setting.   But there are definitely markers for hearing loss.  (Next time we have a hearing test and they ask me if there is an issue, I am just going to refuse to answer!)  The ENT had already looked in her ear (and removed a popcorn kernel she had stuck in one ear!), so we know it is most likely not fluid behind the ear drums, making it more likely it is a structural problem.  The woman doing the testing wants us to see the ENT again (though I am not sure why) and try another hearing test.  If there is not more reliable results or if they think she needs hearing aids, then she will have to have a sedated hearing test like Serenity.  Part of me gives a deep sigh that now we are looking at at least 3 with hearing issues -with Peter and Lucy whom I am convinced have issues - still to go!  But part of me is also wondering if getting hearing aids will open up Hope's little world much further to us.  Still absorbing this information, even a week later.

With Serenity, we did talk more about her mid-face advancement surgery.  I don't know the technical name for the procedure they use, but they will go in through the same scar site on the top of her head and break/move some of the bones in her face.  They will then attach a metal halo to her head/cheek bones (much  like you see when someone has a neck injury) and every day we will turn the screws on the apparatus to move her mid-face forward by about 1 mm.  After the mid-face has been advanced as far as needed, the halo will stay on for a while longer while it all heals. It sounds like it will be a 1-2 month process.  It will effect her jaw - so eating and speaking - as well as around her eyes as the bones move forward and protect her eyes better.  It will bring her whole nasal area forward a great deal.

About a year ago, we were at Children's and met a little girl and her mom.  The mom said that Serenity looked "just like" her daughter.  We looked at her daughter and thought "they look NOTHING alike".  It must have showed on our faces because the mom said, "Let me show you a picture before she had her surgery."  We were skeptical but looked anyway.  Sure enough, they could have been twins!  It was breath taking!  But her daughter looked SO different than the picture.  I wish we had thought to take a picture at the time.  As time has gone on, it has begun to sink in that Serenity's looks will completely change after this.  That is really hard on my mama's heart.  Think of someone you love completely - and then think of their face changing into someone almost unrecognizable.  A little hard on the heart, huh?  I have been told by numerous parents that there is almost a grieving involved.  I have never heard from the child's perspective though - I wonder what she will think?

Anyway, it was also discussed that there is a good chance - but no guarantee - that the trach could come out about six months after the surgery after having another sleep study.  I want this for her so badly!  She wants to be back in the girls' room, not with me!  She wants to play in the bath and go swimming (which she does, but on a very limited basis).  She can't go anywhere without someone trained on the trach with her.  It is a very limiting thing - and she is beginning to feel it.  I would love to have all the tubes and monitors gone from her life.  The doctor said anytime in the next 2 years for this surgery.  My immediate thought was to try to get it done before Don goes to China to get Nora in the springtime (hopefully!).  But the doctors would prefer not to do it during "respiratory illness" season - which is completely understandable.  So, we are roughly planning on the end of summer next year.  We will work in the meantime at her using the "cap" on her trach during the day - kind of like practicing using a snorkel - you DO have to practice and keeping her as healthy as possible.  I am almost giddy with excitement with the trach possibly coming out.  We shall see what the Lord has planned.

Oh, and one other "update" - Grace did not have her surgery last month, we all got the flu AND a nasty virus that took that off the table. Four weeks of "sickies" was a LONG time.  I am going to try to get that back on the calendar after Christmas.  That is my time for today.  But a few fun pictures to share...

Until He comes....I will praise His Name!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Who Is God? (continued)

I received comment on my last post that I feel needs to be addressed ...

"I say this with love and with prayer that you are able to see the true face of God soon. I don't think you understand who God really is. I will be praying for you that you do soon. You are doing a great job with your children and I admire what you do. However, your self-righteousness may be your downfall. I will pray you know the true God soon. You are wrong to have such hatred and judgment towards your fellow human being - that is not at all what Jesus preached or practiced, and that is what I see here. Please be humble. That is what God wants. Let Him do the talking. It is not for us to judge others in the way you are doing now. As for your trolls, they too will be judged . . . but it is not for you to do so. God bless you. - Lily"

Lily –

One of the many weaknesses of online interactions is that you cannot see me, you cannot hear me, and you do not know me other than reading a few posts of mine.  This is a conversation that should take place over a cup of coffee, nose to nose, heart to heart with our Bibles open in front of us so we can see the Truth before us.  You could see that I do not hate anyone.  You will not find that anywhere on my blog and you definitely would not find it in my eyes, or my tone of voice, or my words.  

I was angry with the comments against my family and my children – but even more so the mocking of my Savior.  I was angry that they were deliberately choosing to focus on those that believe in Christ and the fundamentals of the Bible – as shown by the title of the “chat room” of the criticism.  However, I do not hold on to that anger – I willingly forgive.  The momentary anger quickly gives way to deep compassion.  The things that they have chosen to focus on show that they do not know Christ.  It matters very little what they say about me, my family, or even orphans – it matters for eternity what they believe about Christ.

I think another of the huge weaknesses of online communication is that words are easily thrown out, especially when people are upset, without really thinking about what they mean.  You referred to my "self-righteousness" and I have to gently laugh a bit.  The definition of self-righteousness is being "
confident of one's own righteousness".  I have NO righteousness, Lily.  NONE.  That is one of the main points of the Gospel.  I have no righteousness.  It doesn't matter how many children we choose to adopt, how many "good" things I do - nothing, nothing will erase my sin apart from Christ's death and Resurrection.  I cannot state that boldly or fully enough.  I have no righteous.  I am guilty of breaking every one of the Ten Commandments in one way or another.  I deserve nothing but hell.  My Savior, Jesus Christ, is my righteousness - He has clothed me in His righteousness.  Isaiah 61:10 "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."   I have nothing to claim on my behalf.  It is not "self-righteousness" to state what God has clearly said about Himself.  Sharing that truth is not showing anything good or righteous about myself - it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with His Word.

You say that I do not know God.  That is an amazingly bold statement – and may I say very gently, a fairly judgmental one for someone very concerned about me judging others.  I think it calls for a deeper communication and discussion. 

I grew up in a Christian family, surrounded by Christian friends, learning about the God, the Bible, and Christ.  But one day, I read (as in truly thought about) a passage that I had skimmed over many times.  This passage scared me to death!  It is Matthew 7:21-23 "21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [d]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’  This is a passage that most Christians have heard but haven't really thought about.  What does this person call Jesus (the one speaking in this verse)?  This is what I never thought about.  This person calls Jesus "Lord"!  This is someone who thinks they know who Christ is!  This isn't someone who just acknowledges God or even an unbeliever (as I had always assumed) - this is someone who calls him LORD!  In addition, this person prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles in Christ's name!!  This is someone who is "all in" - not just a casual observer.  Let that settle in.  This is someone who fully believed they knew Christ.  Then what was Jesus's response to them?  "I never knew you..."  Wow.  That is terrifying.  

I realized at that moment that I couldn't just trust what I thought I knew of God -or even the men teaching from the pulpit.  I needed to go to the source - His Word.  This is the ONLY source of truth.  Not our feelings, not what we "believe in our heart" to be true, not our experiences, and not well crafted lessons - God telling us exactly Who He is.  

He is holy - (one of many references)
1 Peter 15-16 " but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  

He is righteous and just - (one of many references, again) 

Psalm 89:14 "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face."   

He is full of mercy, truth, and compassion - (one of many references)

Psalm 86:15 "
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth."

He is also the one Who tells us that He will punish sin:

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
"...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.."

These are just the tiniest drops in the ocean of what God tells us about Himself - it is just the beginning of the foundation of what I said in my post.  

I realized that I must know what God says about Himself and that is it the TRUTH.  I don't get to take some pieces out that I don't feel comfortable with.  I don't get to change or delete things to make Him seem "nicer" or more palatable.  If I start doing that, I might as well pull out my knife and carve   myself a graven image to worship.  He is not a "god" of my making.  HE IS GOD.  I don't get to change Him to suit my own needs.

As for what Jesus preached and practiced, He said (Mark 16:15-16) "“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."  I am preaching that gospel, Lily.  He was also the one that called those opposing Him a "brood of vipers" (Matthew 3:7, Matthew 12:34, Mathew 23:33, Luke 3:7, etc.)  He was also the one who told us the most about hell - read the Gospels - the reference are too numerous to mention right now.  He was not the sad, weak little man that people what to paint Him out to be - the one we see on stained glass windows.  He was bold and firm with the truth.  He did not tiptoe around people's feelings - because He loved them so much and He knew that they had to know the truth to be saved.  He was "gentle" but not in the way the world wants to paint Him.  He was meek - meaning His power was held in control.  He was gentle with those who came to Him for salvation - He had no tolerance for those who wanted to force their own beliefs about God and what they thought He should be on Him. He had no tolerance for those who did not believe they needed a Savior - that they weren't "bad" enough to need help.  Read the Gospels, it is all there to teach us.

So here is my gentle and compassionate challenge to you, Lily.  I have given you a handful of references as to who God is.  I can give you many, many more if you would like.  My question to you is how do you know who God is?  I have His own words as proof of who He is.  How do you know?  Please give me the reference from the Word that you feel I am not seeing.  This is not said in an angry, "self-righteous" tone of voice - this is from someone who has stared at the horrifying realization that I did not know who God was and I had to find the truth to save my soul.

Please Lily, please don't stop at what is easy and makes your heart happy - study His Word.  KNOW who He is.  Eternity depends upon that.  My prayers are with you. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trolls and Jesus

I received this comment on my post about Trolls a few weeks ago:

"God loves the way you love these children... They have such innocence... Trolls do not I understand... But these trolls are people too. Made in the image of God... God is love... Your description of Him doesn't sound all that appealing... (Especially for people who don't know Him) - Jesus is the most appealing thing in this universe. Just remember that God IS love... People haven't grown up getting the chance to know Him like you or I do... Pointing to people's flaws will never lead them to God... It only leads them deeper into their despair... When we speak of Jesus it should be done with a smile from our heart, with our hands wide open towards even those who don't agree with us. There is so much more that could be said... But hey... -Your friend in Christ"

I have wanted to reply for some time, but had to organize my thoughts and find the time to type them out....

My anonymous friend,

Let's say we were having a conversation together with someone who had never seen a rainbow.  He asked us to describe it to him so that he would know what it looked like.  I jump right in and begin to describe a rainbow.  I say that it is up in the sky after a rainstorm and it is blue.  I go on and on and on describing how amazing the blue is - how it is the most beautiful color I have ever seen.  How the beauty has simply changed my life.  I talk about the blue in the rainbow for a very long time, making sure he truly understands how amazing that it is!  I want him to truly understand that.  I never mention any of the other colors - just the beauty of the blue.

When I paused finally, what would you say?  Was my definition accurate?  Had I truly described a rainbow?  My definition of the blue might be completely accurate - but was my description of rainbow accurate?   What if you challenged me on it by saying I didn't fully describe the rainbow, that I had missed so many of the other colors....and I continued to insist that all he needed to know was how amazing the blue is in a rainbow....that the rest just wasn't important in light of the beauty of the blue?  You would either doubt my sanity or my integrity - or maybe even question if I had ever truly seen a rainbow if I could miss all the other colors?!?

That is exactly the problem when we choose to limit our description of Christ and God.  People want to focus on His love.  It IS breath-taking and life changing!  It is worth an ear to ear smile every time we think on it - reflecting the joy in our heart over His love for us!  I would venture to say that most people in America are familiar with the phrase "God is love"....and most people don't really care.

God IS love - not just that He feels love or gives love, He is the definition of love.  This is oh, so true!  And it makes our hearts rejoice if we know Him!  But this is not an accurate -as in complete - description of God.  What of His holiness?  What of His justice?  What of His righteousness?  What of His promise to avenge those who defy His laws?  If you are not including those, you are not really describing God - and you are also taking away almost any hope of a heart moving to salvation.  If you think that love is a complete description of God, then I would have to question whether you really know Him.  His love colors everything He does - but so does His righteousness and His justice.

Another scenario for you: 

Let's say one day I come running up to you.  You have no idea who I am, I am a complete stranger.  I breathlessly stop in front of you and pant out, "I came racing to tell you that it is paid.  That $100 million dollar fine is paid that you owe and you don't have to go to jail either.  I just didn't want you to worry about it anymore!"  You would think I was absolutely crazy!  Then you would probably get angry.  You would say that you didn't owe a fine and that I must have been thinking of someone else.  No matter how hard I insist I am talking about your fine, you would not believe me.  I am sure that eventually you would just walk away.  You had no idea that you owed anything and were about to be held accountable - so what I said meant fact, it probably made you angry that I would even suggest you owed such a fine.  It would seem ridiculous.

Now, let's redo that.  Let's say one day the police came to your house and arrested you.  They brought you before the highest court in the land.  The judge of that court showed you laws that you had been breaking since infancy.  Law after law after law.  You could see it in front of you in black and white.  You see very clearly that you had broken every one of those laws.  You tremble as the sentence is read - you owe $100 million dollars and must spend a life time in jail because of it.  You have no way of paying that.  No way out.  You hang your head as sobs burst forth.  Then, all of the sudden, you hear my voice in the crowd - you still don't know me - but you hear me saying, "It is PAID.  It is PAID.  All the fines, all the jail time!  It is all paid.  This judge's son has given himself and his bank account and has set you free!  You are FREE!"  You are not going to scoff at me!  You are not going to think I am crazy - you are going to rejoice!!  Not only that, you are going to focus on the judge and his son - you will want do whatever you can to serve and thank the son that paid the price for you!

Do you see the difference in the two scenarios? 

I am not simply "pointing out flaws" as you said.  Sins are not flaws - to call it such is to take away the true meaning and to trivialize it..  Sins are deliberate choices to disobey God's laws.  In fact, God's Word says we are incapable of keeping it.  It isn't a little thing that can just be brushed aside.  They are real laws.  Real laws put in place by the Creator of the universe in keeping with Who He is.  Breaking these laws carry a real consequence for eternity.  Pointing out people's sins and the consequences for those sins is EXACTLY what leads people to God.  If you do not truly grasp that you are a sinner - bound for hell because of your sin - and God, because of His love for you, sent His only Son to take that punishment on your behalf so that you could be saved - that you are completely and utterly lost without Christ paying that price - then you do not understand salvation at all

Salvation is not found in "God loves you."  You will not find that anywhere in the Bible.  Salvation is found in God's law being broken, Christ taking that punishment on the cross for us, and us asking for forgiveness and trusting in Christ's death and resurrection for our redemption.  Salvation will completely change us.  The Bible describes it as bringing life to a dead heart of stone.  It is complete regeneration - new life.

The laws that have been broken are easily summed up in the Ten Commandments - have you ever lied?  Stolen - even something small?  Used God's name in vain?  Looked at another with lust?  Coveted something your neighbor has?  If you have ever - even once - done one of those things then you are going to hell for eternity.  Your only hope is in Christ.  And that is only 5 of the commandments!

Do you know who spoke the most about hell?  JESUS CHRIST.  Yes, read the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and read what Jesus Himself said about hell.  Why is it wrong for us to warn people of hell when Jesus Himself did so?  Read Revelation.  This is a description of Christ's return.  When He returns, He is the one carrying the sword.  There is no longer any hope for redemption - just for judgement.

I understand your desire not to hurt people or make them angry - but it is a mistaken desire.  It would be the equivalent of me coming to your door and chatting with you about changing the color of paint on your house instead of telling you that your house was burning down around you and you needed to get out before you died - but I decided not to tell you about that because you might be hurt or distressed.  I know that sounds silly, but it is accurate.  You are not going to tell people about Christ's coming judgement and the consequences that will damn them for eternity because you don't want to hurt their feelings now?

People must know the truth.  They must know God's holy judgement in order to truly understand His amazing love.  Please, please pour over God's Word for yourself.  Truly understand Who He is - ALL of Who He is.  Don't just fall for the christian cliches and warnings of not "scaring" people away.   They must know the truth - before it is too late.

This is the message of salvation - the truth of the Gospel.   This is what must be taught.  People will not change their lives because some "god" somewhere loves them.  Their lives will be changed in realizing what they have done and what they must be saved from - in asking forgiveness and giving their lives to Christ - the One Who died for them in His love.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How is it going?

Did you know there is a pace to life beyond "warp speed"?  I didn't, until now.

A bunch of people are asking "How is it going?" and I haven't even had time to answer.  I have a few quiet moments this morning before church preparations, so we will see how far I get. :)

I want to start by saying, as many of you have already heard me say, there is a delicate balance in blogging about daily life.  I never want to "sugar coat" it in anyway.  That is not honest and it does not help anyone, especially those that are reading to see what it would really be like to jump into the adoption arena.  At the same time, when I do share some of the struggles, it stands in glaring black and white - without any of the gentleness of love and grace to soften the edges.  As well, please remember that this is just a snapshot in time - it may look completely different tomorrow - for better or worse!  We desperately love each of our children and would not change a moment of the journey, although some things over the years I wouldn't ever choose to go through again if it was up to me.  I am thanking the Lord that it is NOT up to me and that I can trust Him in every detail.  So with that said...


Lucy is quiet and gentle for the majority of the time.  She likes to help and she likes routine and following the "rules".  She has figured out how to tattle on her siblings even without words.  The majority of the time, she is right - they are doing something they shouldn't.  But occasionally, she is just not happy with what they are doing.  There is a tiny streak of stubborn in there as well.  We see it pop up every once in a while where she pretends she doesn't hear us or sits on the couch just refusing to move (particularly when it is bedtime).  But it doesn't take anything more than a strong tone of voice to get her moving.  She did kick Jesse pretty hard this week much to my surprise.  Jesse was tormenting, but obviously we don't tolerate physical reactions at all.  I put my hand around her foot and told her "no" pretty strongly.  She hid her face and softly cried for a bit but then went on as normal.

Lucy LOVES doing school with the kids.  She has surprised us by how quickly she is learning.  She was not in any kind of school in the orphanage that we were told.  Now, to keep this in perspective, she is doing preschool type work - learning her colors, learning to trace/draw letters and numbers by copying, learning to recognize there are three pictures and circling the number "3".  She has also started learning patterns and doing color-by-number pages.  When we hosted her last year, we knew she loved to color and fill pages with "letters" but weren't sure how much farther she would go, especially right after coming home.  She is surprising and delighting us with what she is doing.  In addition, SHE is so happy and excited, it is contagious.  When our elementary kiddos sit down in the mornings, she is right there with her pencil box and basket of books and stays the whole school time working on her pages.

She is pretty independent with daily care.  She can get dressed and take care of her personal needs completely.  We still are working on showering/bathing.  Her hair is very thin and greasy - something I am hoping good nutrition will start to change.  She is also going through all the hormone changes, which has been hard on my other girls' hair as well.  We are still working on getting teeth brushed thoroughly as well.  She has definitely gotten pickier about food, along with Jesse and Peter.  This has forced a change in our lunch menu.  We have always done sandwiches at lunch during the week for the most part.  All the kids could make their own and help those that couldn't.  I would just lay out all the supplies for either P and Js or meat/cheese along with pretzels/crackers and fruits/veggies.  None of the three like sandwiches at all.  They just won't eat them.  After a few weeks of trying, I knew we just had to come up with a different plan.  So now I am making homemade "noodles' (Jesse's favorite) with meat and veggies mixed in or casseroles of some sort.  All three of them could use a few more calories so I don't want them just skipping meals.

Lucy's hearing test is in the middle of November and I am very anxious for this.  I do wonder if there is a hearing issue and this is what is effecting her speech.  We do have to talk a little more loudly for her to hear, especially if she is not looking at us.  I think I will be more surprised if there isn't a hearing issue than if there is.  She had her heart checked on Friday and everything looks perfect there.  We are having her fit for orthotics for her ankles - they lean inward a great deal and that is probably what makes her gait pretty awkward at times.  We also need to see a dentist for her abscessed tooth.  Oh, and we will have a sleep study done as she has enormous tonsils as well.  This are all pretty simple things and once they are done, she will just move on to yearly check ups.  A happy place to be. :)

Her favorite people are still Daddy and her brother William, who is almost 7.  They have a great time playing in the yard, pretending in the house, and looking at books together.  It is a bit of an unlikely pairing on the surface, but it works very well.  Jesse is definitely her "nemesis" right now as he is always getting in her personal space.  Overall, her adoption could not have gone more smoothly.  She is a delight to be with and we are so excited to see how she will grow over the coming years.

My "hopes and dreams" for Lucy right now?  I pray for more healing and confidence that she is loved - I want this to settle into the very marrow of her soul.  I want her to truly learn who Jesus is and that He loves her completely and made her perfectly.  I want her to learn to speak clearly, even if it is still limited - not for our sake, but so that she can interact with anyone she comes in contact with.  I would love to see her learn to read, even on a basic level.  I know she wants to learn to help in the kitchen and with the kids - I would love to help her to do that.  I want her to be able to do more crafts and creating - as she LOVES this.  Some of these things are LONG-term goals, some are short term.  I just love seeing her joy grow and blossom as she settles in.


Peter is like the other side of the coin of older child adoption.  Lucy's has gone very, very smoothly.  We know there is damage to her little heart of years of orphanage living, but we see healing and growth every day.  Peter, on the other hand, is very, very damaged.  He is 7 1/2 years old.  He was in a good orphanage for several years in the middle of his short life, but we don't know what the other years have held other than he has been bounced around a great deal - 7 times in 7 years, I think?!?  And if you calculate he was in the good orphanage for several years, you realize there was a lot of moving around in the last few years - several times a year.  He is the classic orphanage-damaged child in my mind.  Much like Hope when she came, he wants to live in his own little world.  It isn't even that he ignores everyone else, he doesn't hardly even realize there is anyone else around.  He chews on his hands and whatever he is holding.  He makes loud, awkward, and repetitive sounds.  Honestly, it is hard to hear for long periods of time.  I scoffed when I first entered the world of special-needs adoptions at parents who would complain about the noises - thinking they were just a bit heartless and impatient.  Oh, how I eat those words now.  I don't know how to describe the noises other than they are not just normal baby/kid noises - they are screechy/nails-on-the-chalkboard noises that grow louder and louder the longer he goes on.

He doesn't know how to play with toys - a common trait with all my adopted children - but rather than just ignoring them, he throws them as hard as he can.  This is actually very dangerous with the other kiddos on the floor.  He is strong and can really chuck those toys!  He goes through a room like a whirlwind, pulling books/toys off shelves, tossing things around, chewing on everything.  This is the reality of some (not all) older-child adoptions.  I don't think this should be hidden.  It may even sound like a small thing, but it reality, it changes life.  He cannot be unsupervised - not even half-supervised.  I am definitely striving to Peter-proof our living areas, but you can honestly only do that so far, especially with others needing to live in those spaces.  The balancing act is that he needs to LEARN how to be part of a family and interact with toys/objects/people appropriately - so it is more a "controlling" of the environment than a child-proofing of it.

He is unable to do any type of independent care for himself.  Although he could definitely feed himself (as in putting food in his own mouth) he just shoves it in like a crazy, starving man to the point of choking and gagging.  I have even tried to give him crackers after a FULL meal of rice/meat/vegetables - thinking that if he was full, maybe he would slow down - but this is a habit too deeply ingrained to fix that easily.  He is completely frantic to get that food in his mouth!  I know this is "orphanage-living" at its height - both being always hungry (in the past) and knowing if you don't get it quickly, someone else will.  He still has a great difficulty swallowing liquids - we are waiting for a swallow study to be scheduled to see what we can do to help.  I don't think (after going through this with Mimi) that it is the actual swallowing.  I think it is the muscles in his mouth being too loose to close his lips and "suck" the liquid back to the throat - a common trait with Down Syndrome - but something that would have been worked on as an infant/toddler instead of having been ingrained now for 7 years.

Peter very rarely makes any kind of eye-contact.  His eyes bounce back and forth (I forget the medical term for this right now) but his brain adjusts to the bouncing and "corrects" it.  It is again the orphanage-isolation.  He was not held and cuddled and interacted with as a baby - and now he doesn't even know that type of interaction exists.  I am positive that he need glasses and even more positive that we have a major hearing issue -even beyond the institutional-autism.  Both appointments are scheduled in November.  However, he DOES like to be cuddled for short periods of time, unlike Hope.  When one of my older boys is laying on the couch reading his school books, Peter will climb up next to him and sit for long periods of time.  He does not resist when I want to hold him and will in fact snuggle in for a while.  I am so, so thankful for this!

Peter does like to be outside.  Sometimes he wanders and goes down the slide by himself.  When it was warmer, he LOVED the water table - in fact, he would try to climb IN the water table.  Other times he sits on the front porch step and just rocks back and forth (another orphanage behavior).  Either way, he is much calmer after being outside and he sleeps well.

I know this paints a pretty bleak picture of my precious son.  I think the honesty is important - especially with growing numbers of disruptions in adoption.  However, this is not the end....this is not the whole picture.  I do not think a year from now he will be the same.  Will there be MAJOR changes?  Probably not - this will be a tiny-step growth chart.  My prayer is with CONSISTENT good nutrition and family-interaction/direction and medical help (hearing/seeing/swallowing) we will be at a different place in a year.  I do think he will learn to interact at least on a basic level.  I do think we will reach a point that he can be in the living room with others while I am doing dishes around the corner.  I think that eventually the eating will no longer be an issue.  How long will that take?  Years.  Yes, years.   We will not be able to undo 7 years in weeks or even months.  He will be 15 years old before we will have had him longer than he was without us.  That is a LONG time.

Do I regret his adoption?  Not even for a moment.  God sent us this little damaged child to love and protect.  Even if he doesn't change at all, I do not regret it.  I do pray for continued strength, patience, and wisdom for Don and I, but I don't regret it.  My hopes and dreams for Peter?  How I hope to hear the word "Mama" some day from his lips.  I hope to see him interact with others in a meaningful way.  I hope the scared, haunted look in his eyes disappears someday.  I hope he will look at books and enjoy people.  I hope he will hum along when I sing to him.  Big dreams...but we serve an even bigger Savior.


This little amazing man has probably been the biggest surprise for me this time around.  We had a great deal more information on him because he was hosted in the US last Christmas.  His host mom blogged about him, sharing great information - both medically and day-to-day life.  I thought I had a pretty good handle on what he would be like.  However, it has been different than I thought.

Jesse has no nose and no eyesight other than some light/dark perception.  He is very, very, VERY smart.  He mimics everything and is learning English at a breath-taking pace.  He LOVES people.  He loves to explore.  There are times when a outsider would not be able to tell he cannot see.  He has an uncanny way of navigating even a toy-strewn floor with ease.  He is immediately adored by everyone - medical or daily life - that meets him.  His little voice is so sweet and his laugh is contagious!  However, he is a very big challenge for me.

Like two of my other children, there is a MASSIVE gap between intelligence and social behavior.  I couldn't even begin to rate where Jesse is intellectually - mostly because he doesn't speak enough English yet - but it is far, far beyond his 6 years.  It is a bit scary how smart he is!  I am already scrambling to figure out how we will keep up with him academically over the next years.  However, socially he is very, very immature.  I would put him at 2-3 years old at most - temper tantrums, screaming, pinching and all.  This makes for a very difficult balance.  He knows (and wants) much more than he can deal with emotionally. He knows what he wants (intellectual smarts) and will NOT back down regardless of the situation (emotional immaturity).  At first I thought that he was bored - that we were not providing enough input - but I have seen over the last month that that is not the case.

I think part of why he did so well with his host mom is that he was the focus of her attention and the only young child by far.  He got to be the center of her universe - what a gift to him!  But honestly, long term, this is not good for any child.  Each one needs to learn to live with others - sharing, being compassionate, taking turns, sacrificing what you want for someone else.  This is one of the main lessons learned in a family.  It is especially ingrained in a large family.  Jesse probably really, really needed that "center of the universe" time for his little heart!  Now, he needs to learn he is dearly and desperately loved - but he is part of a family.  Most likely, Jesse is going to live independently (to some extent) from us someday.  He is going to need to know how to work with others, how to be part of a group, how to serve and help others.  Our life is never just about us.  I pray that Jesse learns to love and serve his Savior - which involves learning to lay ourselves down for someone else, even when we don't want to.  At his maturity level, this is learning to share toys, learning to take turns, learning that he doesn't get what he wants every time, learning that he can't just snatch whatever he wants.  In the long term, it is learning to think about what others may want or need and making a deliberate choice to give it to them, even at cost to himself.

Now before anyone starts to freak out that somehow he is being neglected, he is held and carried and played with more than most infants and toddlers!  There is always someone willing to hold and snuggle him.  Snip has started carrying him around in a kinderpack on her back, which he loves.  He is honestly held more than he is not held at this point!  He can climb up on Don and my lap whenever he needs to.  If there is someone already there, we will make sure he gets a turn quickly.  We know that he is desperate for that love and interaction.  His little heart has many years to make up for of NOT having a family.  But filling his little love-tank to overflowing is far different than giving him whatever he wants.  One will build him up, the other will destroy him.

So what does it look like on a day-to- day basis?  Well, right now it means A LOT of temper tantrums. A all day.   He wants what another child has - even if he has the same thing already.  He wants what he wants NOW...not in a few minutes.  He wants to do what he wants to do NOW....not later.  This is the basic description of any toddler to some extent.  With Jesse, it is a toddler on steroids with lots of "smarts" to try to manipulate the situation even farther.  The smarts also leads to a great deal of tormenting of others.  If Lucy won't let him take her pens, then he will just keep putting his hands on her or her pens just to upset her.  Even after I step in, he just waits until he thinks I am not looking and does it some more.  Honestly, it is exhausting most days. It is difficult to know just how to discipline him (or any of the other adopted kids) because I don't want to use isolation (sending them to their rooms) as a consequence because it is so damaging to their little hearts.  So right now, we strap Jesse (or Peter or Jillian) in the wheelchair in the middle of the living room - they are still with us, but they are in a "time out" for now.  The buckling-in just means they aren't getting more attention by mom having to hold them in their time out spot.  Jesse has quickly gotten to the point we can say "Do you need to go in the wheelchair?" and he will immediately say, "No."  But that doesn't mean he actually decides to stop...he may still chose to do whatever he was doing.  Did I mention that this is exhausting?   But then he gives you a Jesse laugh or a sweet smile or says something cute and the frustration starts to melt away.  Just like every child, we are starting at the beginning.  It was a little silly of me to assume otherwise - even unconsciously.  Because of all they have missed, we have to start at the beginning....Mama and Daddy love you and they will give you all you need to grow.  They will not leave, they will not change when their "shift" ends, they will give you what is best for you, not what is easiest for you or them.  For Jesse, this is just more intense right now.  Another struggle is that he would still go home with just about anyone.  This was a struggle with Serenity for a very long time.  It is critical that he learns that his place is with our family - not with whoever is willing to pick him up.  This is a simple time and cocooning issue - I am confident it will come, it will just take time.

Medically, we have been through the initial round of appointments (pediatrician, head pediatrician with the craniofacial clinic)- which then leads to the next deeper round (endocrinology, ophthalmology, audiology, sleep specialist, etc.).  The summary of the head pediatrician with cranio was that every thing was "remarkably non-urgent".  He should see endo...but not urgently.  He should have a sleep study...but not urgently.  You get the picture.  He is still very, very thin and that concerns me a bit.  He eats A LOT - though like Lucy, he is getting pretty picky.  (The pickiness is a good sign that their tummies are finally feeling full though!)  Between his tendency to be hyper-active and the lack of weight gain, I am a little worried we have a sleep apnea issue. :(  Unfortunately, the first available appointment is not until Feb 7, 2017!  We are on the wait list though, so I am hoping it will be much sooner.  These are a bit tough as it is usually a phone call the morning of and we will have to scramble to make it work.  Oh, how I am praying it will just be the removal of tonsils and adenoids and NOT a trach.

My hopes and dreams for Jesse?  I pray that his little heart will settle - that he will trust that we will take care of him, that he will get his fair turn and then more - that his little heart will be filled up - that he will truly understand and grasp that he is not just one-of-many, that he is loved fully and completely for who he is.  I am praying he will gain maturity even as his little mind is growing at an extremely rapid pace.  I pray we can meet that hunger for knowledge and stimulation.  Most of all, I am praying he learns to know and love His Savior.


This little girl is growing physically by leaps and bounds.  Her legs are so long now and her tummy and legs are pleasantly plump.  She has just finished up her yearly 25 visits of physical therapy (what is allowed by insurance).  She is close to walking, but still not interested in doing so.  We have a new walker for her.  (It looks like a little old lady walker!)  But she still prefers to scoot around or crawl.  She is not fighting me on the food any more, but she does not chew at all.  One of the things I give her is tiny diced ham - but it is one spoonful of tiny ham, washed down by a spoonful of yogurt.  One of my friends laughs that she always has to have a "chaser" to wash anything down.  She does eat mac and cheese, lasagna, oatmeal, and some casseroles without a chaser now though.

I have always known that she has "institutional autism", but I have always hoped she would grow out of it.  I am at the point of understanding that she has autism period...however it may have started.  Autism is, of course, a spectrum diagnosis.  She has grown a great deal in her awareness and curiosity of others.   This is a gift.   She wants to be held by familiar people.  She does observe and is curious about what the other kids are doing.  She does focus when we talk to her - though she does not communicate with us at all.  There is still no desire to mimic.  This is a HUGE missing piece - really, it is something that if it is not there, she cannot grow any farther.  If she won't mimic, she won't learn to say words or sign.  She won't learn to play appropriately with toys.  She won't learn self-care skills.  We keep trying to expand her little world beyond putting everything in her mouth, spinning the wheels on toys, or repetitive noises with toys (tapping, banging, etc.) - but she is just not interested.  She even resists "hand-over-hand" play - when we try to use our hands to direct her hands how to do something.  It really makes my heart very sad.  It is hard to have to keep coming back to the baseline of "she is happy, content, and will never be hurt again", when there is so much more to her little world now!  So much she could learn and do and enjoy.  However, this is where my precious child is at.  I need to be content in that.  I need to REJOICE in that.  God loved her enough to bring her somewhere that she is loved and safe.  Every life is precious - even one that is very "simple" from the world's perspective.

My hopes and dreams for Hope?  Well, they are not as big as they once were.  God may choose to do something amazing...He may not.  But she is happy, content, and will never be hurt again.  I do hope she will walk eventually as she will eventually be too big to carry.  I do hope she will learn some self-feeding skills.  I hope she will learn she can make choices that effect her world.  I don't think I will ever hear "Mama" from her mouth - but I can still dream.  We have another appointment with craniofacial for Hope in November.  Honestly, I don't think we will do any surgeries on her face right now.  The surgeon is anxious to do so, but it is purely cosmetic.  There is no value to her beyond what she looks like.  I just can't come to grips with putting her through that much pain and turmoil for just changing the way her face looks.  If she begins to go out more, we may consider it, but right now it is not necessary.


This little missy is LOVING school.  She goes every day from 9:10 to 11:20.  It is just the right amount of time for her.  It fills her days a bit and wears her out.  It also changes the dynamic at home for a bit which is a good thing at times.  She is starting again to try to say more things.  I don't know if this is due to school or hearing Jesse mimic everything.  She still has very, very garbled and limited sounds - which then limits what she can say.  I don't know how much of this will change when they do the front face advancement surgery.  She also has an appointment in November and we will get a better idea of when they are planning this surgery.  I am assuming it is still at least a year off -but I may be wrong.  This is a surgery that I deeply dread - but also cannot wait to get done.  Once it is done, they will do a sleep study to consider removing the trach about six months post surgery.  I really, really pray the trach can be gone for her sake.  As marvelous as the trach is for her health, it is very limiting.  She cannot go to a classroom (at church or school) without someone trained on the trach right there with her.  She cannot truly go swimming and a bath even becomes trickier. She cannot be back in the bedroom with the rest of the girls like she wants to be because I need to be monitoring her machines at night.   It does change how people react to her appearance.  If we need it, then we keep it...but I am praying that is not the case.

She is growing in maturity but intellectually, she is very behind.  She is 7 but I would place her at about a 4 year old level with both maturity and intellectual ability.  I don't know how much this will change.  She still adores new clothes and dressing up (much to her older sister's delight).  She loves to be fussed over.  She is almost fully potty trained.  We are going through the "lazy" stage with her right in "I don't want to stop playing, so I am going to just wet my pants instead".  Frustrating, but a normal part of life.

My hopes and dreams for her?  Clearer speech, life without a trach, getting to be in the "big girls" room with the others.  Joy and sweet sleep without fear.  Healing from her beginnings.  How I love her happy heart.


This little Jilli-Bean is still quite the fire-cracker.  She is one of my others that is much farther intellectually than she is emotionally.  Not quite the massive gap that Jesse has - but enough that our days are full of fussing and temper tantrums, much like Jesse.  It is a good thing we love these kiddos so deeply and completely!  The Lord knew that - and I thank Him for providing that!

Jilli had the surgery on her hands in the spring.  Unfortunately, because she would not keep her braces on at night after we put her in bed, a bunch of the skin between the fingers has grown back together and it will need to be redone.  This makes me very, very sad.  The doctor wanted to do the rest of the finger separations right away but I don't think it is worth it if she will not cooperate.  I am hoping this will come as she matures.  She will also have an appointment in November (you should see my November calendar!) with the cranio docs to see what surgery is next for her.  I am assuming she will have surgery on the front of her skull, but I am not sure.

When she is not cranky, she has the cutest personality!  She is very smart and her smiles just take your breath away...but when she is out!!  We love this little dolly so much.  She talks more than Serenity did at this stage and doesn't seem as limited yet but she is just turning three - so I don't know if it will get worse or not.  She and Little Man still are the best of buddies though all of them play together a lot.  We call them the Chipmunks or the Tiny Tribe.  There is just a lot of "wait and see" yet to go with Jilli - but we will enjoy the ride right now. :)

My hopes and dreams for Jilli-Bean?  Right now, that she would just learn to be happy.  It is a choice - not one even that I think a three year old could really make right now - my almost 10 year old is still having a hard time grasping that...but I just pray she could learn to be happy.


This little girl is still pretty close to perfect. ;-)  For those who may not remember, Grace was born with CP but was beaten so severely by her birth family at 6 weeks old that she is 70% brain-dead.  She truly is at a newborn level and will never progress from there.  She has beautiful smiles and laughs.  She ADORES her Daddy.  She is completely and utterly dependent on us for everything - even moving her legs and arms and adjusting her position.  She is tube-fed.  She has seizures and is on pretty significant medication to keep them under control.  But, oh, how we love this precious girl!

She is going to have another hip surgery on Oct 24th.  She already had one surgery for hip dysplasia but the scoliosis caused the hip to slip out again.  Now that she has had the rods put in her back, they will try one more time to get it to stay in place as it is causing her a great deal of pain already.

There isn't much more to say about her other than she is simply amazing.  She is such a gift.  She is Don's reward at the end of a long day as he snuggles her in the recliner.  I long for heaven when I will hear her sweet voice and see her dance - but we will enjoy each and every day until then.

I am out of time but will include a few more fun pictures in the meantime.  Please pray for each of my precious kids - those discussed and those not.  Please pray that Nora's paperwork will keep moving forward - we have hit another silly delay.  Pray for wisdom and strength for Don and I as we walk this journey.

Until He comes...