Tag Archive: Parenting


He Came to Save Us

“He came to save us” our four year old Damien said with a smile on his face and a light in his eye. I nearly fell over and had to take a few deep breaths so I didn’t start sobbing in the middle of our Family Home Evening.

bethlehem-star-1-1383865
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints practice something called Family Home Evening (FHE) once a week. Family Home Evening is a time to grow and deepen our bonds as we study the gospel together. This practice of studying the gospel as a family has gone on since the dawn of time. However, in 1915 church leadership encouraged families to have one night a week devoted to studying as a family.

Family Home Evenings can be such spiritual and uplifting times, and with five children four and under they can also be a three ring circus. With children crying because their play time was interrupted and babies wanting to eat or sleep added to the moth like attention span of children this young I occasionally have asked myself why we bother trying to teach them anything.

nativity-1-1358215

Tonight for FHE we decided to talk about the birth of Jesus Christ and the true meaning of Christmas with the kids. After our opening prayer and song we read from Scripture about the night our Savior was born. We then watched a Veggie Tales clip from YouTube that showed the story briefly to engage the kids with characters they were already familiar with. To finish up before we lost our short hold on their attention we watched the breathtaking video of The PianoGuys’ “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. The video is beautiful and at one point shows Mary holding a newborn baby Jesus, I said to the kids “Look, there is baby Jesus” and that is when Damien showed me exactly why we wrestle the kids into focusing on the gospel every week when he said joyfully, “He came to save us”. It was a simple statement and one I could tell he was proud he knew and understood.

When Damien, Perry and Alize joined our family last year they had no experience going to church or knowledge of the gospel. We were kind of generic Christian attending a Methodist Church when the kids came home and since then we have found our way to the fullness of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we are growing alongside our children in our knowledge of the gospel. It is so important to us that the kids grow their testimony’s and this was a huge milestone moment for us all. They really are listening, even when they seem to be doing everything but listening.

Damien could sense how proud we were of him and when it came time for our closing prayer Damien was bouncing in his seat waving his arms asking if he could say it. I leave you tonight with the sweet prayer of our four year old:

“Heavenly (Heably) Father, Thank you the baby Jesus and Christmas. In the name Jesus Christ, Amen.”

visiting-baby-jesus-1517234

 

From all my reading on the subject of homeschooling I find relief in the knowledge that I am not the only Mom who has felt a bit like I am riding a merry-go-round in my head on the subject. I find myself literally mid thought changing my mind on the subject and the closer we get to our oldest being of age to start Kindergarten the more frantically the merry-go-round seems to spin.

DCF 1.0

Merry-Go-Round

To homeschool or not is a thought that dominates my mind lately, no matter how many times I remind myself that the decision doesn’t have to be set in stone I still feel like this is the pivotal moment for the decision to be made. Damien currently attends a specialized Preschool where he receives the extra support he needs to succeed. He loves his school, loves going and his teacher is phenomenal. If this had been our only experience with preschools I would feel fairly confident (despite my original plans to homeschool) sending him off to Kindergarten next fall, unfortunately this has not been the only experience we have been through. Damien was enrolled in his current preschool before we finalized his adoption and it was part of the local county supports he was involved with before joining our family. With the idea of kindergarten looming we decided it would be a good idea this past September to enroll him in Head Start so he could experience a more Kindergarten-like setting (his current preschool only has 6-8 kids in a class and is only two days a week). Head Start was complete disaster that ended in me pulling him from the program and filing both state and federal grievances that lead to an investigation. Without getting into the specifics of what happened at Head Start the situation involved many of my main concerns with public education; lack of trauma informed care, no acknowledgement of the student as an individual, rigid policy with no reason, etc. We returned Damien to his original preschool and things returned to normal and now next week we have a meeting about transitioning him to Kindergarten and I am so worried. I worry about a repeat of the Head Start debacle. I worry about class size. I worry about my son who struggles with transitions succeeding in a traditional public school setting. I worry he will lose some of the magic that makes him Damien as he conforms to the school norms. I worry about the focus being on standardized tests and not on creating a lifetime learner.

a-boy-a-girl-and-a-book-1491381

I love the idea of homeschooling and I could write an endless list of the reasons to homeschool so in that way it seems like a no brainer and yet I still go back and forth. I am concerned about sending Damien or any of our other children to public school and I am also slightly (sometimes extremely) worried about my ability to successfully homeschool all five of our children and meet their various needs. When I imagine us five years down the road I can picture an amazing homeschooling rhythm and I have so many lesson ideas I cannot contain myself, however when I think of getting started with school next year I get so nervous and I feel frightfully unprepared to juggle my first year of homeschooling and four younger children at the same time. I worry about the logistics of getting them all to the various extra activities I want to involve them in if we homeschool to add more diverse experiences and socialization opportunities.

Round and round my thinking goes. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Does anyone have a magic ball that can give me the exact right answer or some assurance that if I decide to homeschool I won’t fail my kids? Of course I know what I need to do in this situation, as with any situation when I am stuck, I need to take it to the Lord in prayer.

I pray for clarity.

I pray for courage and strength.

I pray for wisdom.

I pray to be sure the decision we make honors Heavenly Father and ultimately helps our children grow closer to Him as they grow into the amazing young men and woman they are becoming.

just-hands-1550395

I have learned countless lessons from my children, at least once a day I find myself humbled and amazed by the knowledge small children seem to posses that we lose somewhere on the way to adulthood.

Today’s lesson came while taking our three year old son to buy “Big Boy Underwear” because he needs a jump start on potty training. Perry knows where to go potty and how, he can go by himself even…. but he doesn’t. This morning he was playing with a toy in the living when he suddenly turned around and started grunting. I asked what he was doing and he responded nonchalantly “Oh, I’m pooping”. I scooped him up and raced him to the potty, the whole way reminding him that he knows he should not poop in his pants and that he is a big boy. He was unruffled by the whole scene and once we got to the bathroom I asked him where he was supposed to poop and again he responded as if there were nothing amiss, “Poop goes in  the potty”. That was the moment I realized, he fully gets the concept, he is just choosing not to use the potty because he thinks going in his pull-up is easier. This discovery lead us to our post dinner Mommy-Son Target run for big boy underwear.

 

IMG_7177

We go to Target a lot, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that I love it, I think Target is a mini vacation.It is aisle upon aisle of books, home decor, cute clothes and of course the essential we need at a moments notice.  Target is a Mommy haven, it also happens to be less than two miles from our house. With five children I try to make sure we have time one on one as often possible and this was a great opportunity for some Perry and Mommy time.

From the minute we entered the store Perry was a ball of energy and excitement, I am sure to the casual observer it must have appeared that Perry had never been in a store before in his life. Every display, sign or person we walked past was gushed over with equal zeal.

“Wow, Mommy what is that?”

“Look at the dress”

“There is Christmas on the ceiling”

“Hi boy”

“Let’s go that way”

“Look over there Mommy”

On and on he went, I really do not think he stopped to breathe the whole time we were there. I could not get over his unadulterated joy at a quick trip to the store. We were about half way through when he looked up at me eyes filled with wonder and breathed “It’s amazing. I love you”.

I wondered as I watched my son delight in the magic of a Target run when I lost the ability to see the divine magic in the everyday? Where did I lose that wonder? Possibly more important than when or where I lost it is why did I lose it? I need to get it back regardless.

We are surrounded by amazing, wonder inducing, beautiful things every day and we can lose sight of this fact as adults. We are living in a world so diverse, complex and beautifully created that one could find no end of joy if we approached our daily tasks and errands with the same joy as a three year old. There is joy in that Target run, there is joy in the sink of dishes and the piles of laundry, there is joy in the errands and the work. Everywhere you go and in everything you do there is joy, the trick is to find it.

So stop, smell the roses…or if you are near a Target hit the candle aisle and delight in the joys of the seemingly mundane. Everything in the world was created for a purpose and our purpose here is to find happiness and joy while progressing, the joy is hiding in plain sight. There is no magic formula to find joy; we won’t find it once we get that promotion, buy that house, drop those pounds or find those riches. The magic is all around us and within us, we just have to tap into it and remember what it is like to be three.

I am eternally grateful I have five little miracles here to teach me these lessons and I hope I learn them well. I don’t want to miss out on the wonder of a single moment.

IMG_7178

 

Dreams of Insanity

I remember the day I told my husband that I wanted eight children, we had just started dating and he looked panicked at the mere thought. He was quick to tell me he thought one, maybe two children was plenty. I knew having children biologically was going to be a challenge for me so I did not give our different numbers too much thought. Fast forward six years and here we are awaiting the birth of our fifth child, another boy. We now have three boys and a girl; ages three, two, seventeen months and one year. Our birth mom is cooking our new little boy and he should be welcomed into our home and the world this April.

Six years ago when I envisioned eight children I can honestly say I had no clue what that life would look like. For example, it was a hard adjustment for me when I realized I would be driving a cargo van for most of my life now. I did not realize how many everyday task like washing dishes or planning dinner would change with so many children. I did not realize how having such a large family immediately sets one apart from the majority of America, where three children seems like a lot. I did not realize how little I would sleep or how rare a moment alone with my husband would become. I did not realize that doctor and therapy appointments would rule every week’s schedule. Most of all I did not realize how full my heart could be.

Our large family has some unique qualities due to the fashion in which it was stitched together. All of our children have joined our family through the miracle and tragedy of adoption through the Foster Care System. This has meant that two years ago we had zero children in our home. Let that thought sink in, in two years we went from zero to five. I read an article once, that I cannot find to reference unfortunately, that stated that parents need roughly a year to adjust to adding a child to their family. I am wondering how long it takes then for a family to adjust to the addition of five miracles at almost the same time? Another unique challenge for our family is that ALL five of our children have experienced loss, trauma and have higher needs than their peers.

We are slowly finding our way as parents to so many beautiful souls. The biggest lessons we have learned so far are; to embrace the insanity because there is beauty in that insanity and to remember we are learning how our family works right along with our children. We all need grace, love and hugs when hard days come.

Leaving Behind The NICU Machines

Final Goodbye

A lot has happened since our little Miracle Man was two pounds and in NICU fighting for every breath, for every heart beat. It is almost hard for me to remember where it all began as I look at our healthy, bouncing twenty-six pound boy. Our son who came home with more wires attached to him than most TV’s have is now completely cord and monitor free for the first time in almost eleven months. Hallelujah, and yet I am terrified. It is so hard to let go of the security those machines provide, especially when you have been able to depend on that technology from day one.

Miracle Man came home on oxygen 24/7, a heart rate monitor, an apnea monitor and a pulse ox monitor. First thing to change was the amount of time he was on the monitors, then the oxygen left during the day, then the oxygen left a night, then the heart rate and apnea monitor left and now we are finished with the pulse ox monitor. No cords, ever? No numbers to verify how healthy he is at the exact moment I want them? How does that work?

Monitors, Monitors Everywhere

Monitors, Monitors Everywhere

Preemie Parents

Preemie parents are a different breed, those first few glorious days, weeks and months with our little ones are colored by the constant worry about their bodies not being ready for this big world. Every breath is precious, every obstacle overcome is headline news in our lives, even the simple ones. We gain ridiculous amounts of knowledge in a short amount of time. I use words and acronyms now that I forget are not commonplace for most parents. Few parents can tell you the typical heart rate, respiration rate and saturation levels of their babies at sleep, play and while eating. For most parents, once the baby starts sleeping through the night the parents are able to sleep through the night as well. Preemie parents are setting alarms to get up and check the various monitors all night. It is just a different life. Not better, not worse, but different.

MY

Goodbye Hurts

I know when we first came home from NICU I was so upset that our monitors at home did not display numbers like the monitors in the NICU. While sitting beside our Miracle Man’s crib in the hospital I could watch the numbers and the pattern of all his various vitals and I could see alarms coming before they started and sometimes intervene before the event occurred. I did not have that luxury when we got home. I had to wait for the alarm to sound. That was my first sign that I was hooked on the ability to instantly check in on my son’s vitals and health. No wondering and less worry I could look and know in a second.

Each machine leaving was an adjustment. We would go to a specialist appointment (Can I get an Amen Preemie Mom’s? We see those specialists more than our husbands sometimes) and leave one machine short and I would be simultaneously happy dancing through the parking lot and fighting off panic. It would take a few days of me feeling like I could not take my eyes of Miracle Man for a second before I would relax and adjust to the new limited machine configuration.

Now we are down to zero machines and I am in the middle of my happy dancing panic. Miracle Man fell asleep easily and now comes the hard part; I am supposed to sleep with no verification that he is doing well. I know he is doing amazingly well and that he will be fine. I will just have to remind myself that about a million times between now and morning.

God’s Plans Amaze

 I have not had a moment to spare lately to update everyone following our journey. Here is a warning ahead of time: hang on to your hats (it has been a crazy ride) and grab some tissues (it has been miraculous and beautiful). As I write this I am listening to my beautiful and miraculous nine week old son cooing in his bassinet as he takes a nap. If you had to stop and reread the last sentence a few times to be sure it was real you have a rough idea how surprised we are that this is actually happening. To ease understanding while we fill everyone in here are some notes ahead of time; we cannot and will not be releasing our son’s name so for now he will be known as Miracle Man, his case is a legal risk fost-to-adopt case, he was our first placement, our agency almost never has infants.

Last I updated the blogosphere about our progress in the fost-to-adopt process we were waiting to finally have our safety check complete so we could begin the matching process. Getting licensed was an unexpected ordeal with many pitfalls, false starts and errors along the way. I now know why each one happened and by the end of this tale you will as well. As our Friday appointment approached to finalize our certification as a foster care and adoption home we were so nervous that yet another issue would crop up and disturb the process. For this reason we were trying hard not to get our hopes up about having children in the house anytime this year even. The day before our safety check my friend and neighbor calls to tell me that her five year old daughter came downstairs that morning with interesting news to report about our certification. Addy informed her Mom that the night before she had prayed that our safety check would go well and after her prayers she talked to Santa (she apparently has direct contact with Santa) and he informed her that because we had our Christmas Tree up and we had been good that we “for sure” were getting a kid by Christmas. The sweet innocence of this statement lifted our hearts but we informed Addy that you never know when it could happen but we hoped Santa was right. We did not think Santa was telling Addy the truth but it did not prevent it from being a cute tale.  The big day arrived and everything (for once) went smoothly, we were certified and we could begin the matching process. We jumped into matching with both feet. The first week and a half after we were certified we were following up on potential matches and getting calls about new possible matches multiple times a day, every day. We knew there were a lot of children in the foster care system looking for forever homes, however we did not fully grasp how many there really are until we began the matching process. It was overwhelming at the beginning to be discussing so many possible options but we were trusting God to lead us to the right child(ren). With all these possibilities nothing was really moving forward with any speed and we still thought it would be months before our house had little souls within its walls.

It was at this time that our lives took off in an entirely new direction. Our Case Worker told me that when she did our safety check it broke her heart to see the crib in our bedroom because she was fairly certain she would never be able to match us with a little one to go in that crib. Then a week and a half after our certification she was in her office working on another family profile when she felt the need to stop and go for a walk around the office to stretch her legs and clear her mind. On her travels she passed the desk of the Placement Specialist at our agency who was on the phone doing the intake process to place a child into foster care. Something about the call caught our Case Worker’s attention and she went to stand in the doorway to hear what was needed. The Placement Specialist waved her over and told her the situation. They were getting a six week old infant who had been born ten weeks early and was currently in NICU. Our Case Worker said as soon as she heard this part she knew he was meant for us, they instantly suggested us to County (during the intake call) and we were chosen for Miracle Man before his intake was even completed. Had she not decided to go for a walk who knows how things would have played out in this case, we may never have even made it to consideration for his case since we were so newly certified. The court hearing to make it official was two days later and that night Tyler and I were finally able to go to NICU and meet our little miracle.

The moment I laid eyes on Miracle Man I knew he belonged with us and he had found his way home. The next week was a long haul as we were basically living in NICU watching our little guy get stronger by the moment. Out of sheer curiosity Tyler and I decided to look back and see if we could figure out what we were doing while our Miracle Man was being born. As soon as we did this God’s hand in this match was undeniable to anyone involved in our case. Miracle Man was born on the morning of October 7th, literally one minute before he was born we received the call that our background checks had been miscoded and that our certification would be delayed. I was in tears when I saw the hand of God holding us off to ensure we were available to welcome our son home. As always, though we often forget, God’s plans trumps our plans every time.

Now to get to the bragging about our perfect little Miracle Man.  He has a beautiful buttercream complexion, strawberry blonde hair and deep blue eyes. As I stated he was born ten weeks premature and he was only 3lbs. 4oz. when he was born. Due to how much he had to fight to stay alive those first days his weight dropped down to a little over 2lbs. Due to his prematurity he was born severely anemic, with a hole in his heart and pretty significant RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Most, if not all of, these issue are things that will improve with time. By the time we left NICU he was up to 6lbs. 6oz., his anemia was improving, the hole in his heart had closed (although he still has a murmur), he was down to only ¼ liter of oxygen needed and he had gone five days with no serious incidents of Apnea (where he forgets to breath) or Bradycardia (his heart rate dropping way too low).  He came home still on his oxygen and an Apnea monitor that alarms if he stops breathing or if his heart rate goes too low or high. He has been doing amazingly well at home, he has few alarms and often is able to self-correct and begin breathing on his own. We are still in for a long road with doctors, therapies, case workers and early intervention services but we are sure he will continue to get stronger. He is surprising everyone with his strength and ability to improve by leaps and bounds.

As for the legal risks involved with his case, that has fewer clear cut answers and plans. Miracle Man has five other siblings out in the world, none of whom his biological parents were able to retain custody of or parental rights.  Given the biological parent’s long and storied history with the county the case worker wanted to ensure she found a placement for Miracle Man that could work as an adoption resource (where we are headed). Nothing is for sure until we go through the process but every case worker involved in this case is very confident that this will quickly begin moving in the direction of Adoption. We knew he was ours from day one and while we know there are no guarantees that is no different than parenting any other way. We are never promised a tomorrow with our children and all any of us can do is love them every day we are given with them. We are looking at a long process of 15-22 months before any adoption would be complete. It is a beautiful and tragic miracle that we are able to welcome him into our family and we are thankful for his biological parents and their love for him. They are just not equipped to care for him as he needs. This little Miracle Man has a lot of love in his life.

Well, now that we are all on the same page with our newest fost-to-adopt adventure I am going to put this laptop down so I can return to my favorite activity, snuggling with our Miracle Man and watching him grow and thrive. God bless you all.

Changing Our Perspective

Expectations not being met; that is the main source of frustration we feel going through most experiences in life. The tricky part is we sometimes do not consciously know what we are expecting until it does not happen. Unmet expectations have been the main source of the pain and frustration we have felt during our certification process to allow us to adopt through the foster care system. Some of those expectations originate with us and our desire to be parents. Some of those expectations were set by the information provided to us by different representatives of the agency we are working with to complete our certification. Not to minimize the many errors that have occurred during our process; lost paperwork, mis-coded background checks, delays, etc. however; most of our pain is rooted in expecting things to move smoother and faster than they have. We have been working through our frustrations and trying to view this situation from the right perspective so we can appreciate what is happening. It has not been easy, when you have expectations deeply engrained in your mind it can be hard to let those things go. Letting your expectations go is key to being able to approach the reality of a situation and find the good within what you initially see as only bad.

Our case worker (with good intentions) has repeatedly been giving us unrealistic expectations only to let us down when reality came crashing down and she was not able to deliver what she promised us. This has happened so many times it left us angry, hurt and wanting to lash out and fix the problem. I have been very conscious of not wanting to make a decision out of that anger and because of that we decided to explore our options but hold off on any permanent decisions. It was easy to say we just need to change agencies and that would solve everything. That may solve some problems but it would undoubtedly bring new problems into the mix. No matter how you approach something as complex as adoption you will be relying on other people to get through the process and those people are just like we are; they are wonderfully and humanly flawed. Therefore mistakes are going to happen and you are going to be let down. That is the nature of the world and nothing worth going after will come without some scars. We did our research though and we spoke to other agencies and other foster families. The biggest difference we found was that it appears that our agency focuses more on waiting to place children in our home because their goal is more geared towards adoption while other agencies are more focused on getting children in the home immediately and worrying about adoption later. This is not to say that the different types of agencies do not do things on a case by case basis, this is a gross generalization to make the differences more apparent. With that knowledge we had to decide which direction to head in next. Stick with our agency and their approach or make a change?

The first step to making that decision was letting go of our anger and expectations long enough to make a clear headed decision. I was so excited for every step of this process and after all of the let downs I became numb to the situation. When we were told our certification could be completed this week I could not find my joy at the progress, it seemed to be missing. This was the hardest part for me. I felt like I had let the pain rob me of my hope and joy. I spent a lot of time yesterday praying and soul searching to find my joy again. Most importantly, I reminded myself I have zero control over how things are meant to work out. God has a plan and I need to remember that. I needed a new perspective of the situation in order to not lose myself to the pain of the process.  After we discussed it all we went back to the fact that everything happens for a reason and maybe these delays forcing us to be patient have happened to slow us down. Parenthood is our goal but it is a marathon and not a sprint. Perhaps the reasons have been for us to discover what makes our agency different and to truly take the time to ask ourselves which would be the better route for us. We have decided that for the time being we think that struggling through the wait to find a more permanent match is the best route. We want to be someone’s forever family and perhaps this is how we are meant to get there. We do not know what the future will hold or where God will lead us next. All we know is that both of us, despite the countless reasons to feel differently, feel that we should stay with our current agency and see where that leads us.

Our safety check is scheduled for Friday and there is a matching event on the 19th that we are planning on attending. We hope God leads us to our children soon but we have again found our joy and faith in the knowledge that He does had it all worked out. Someday He will lead us to them, when they need us and we are ready for them.

Why Are You Angry?

In the last few months I have noticed an interesting trend. Tyler and I are new to Chambersburg and Pennsylvania so we are meeting new people every day. During introductions the topic of course comes up; “What do you do?” I have noticed a strange combination of responses to my short answer: “I am a housewife”. Women especially have amazed me. Almost every woman has responded in the same way, a look of shock and anger followed by a snide comment (“That must be nice”, “I could never sit home all day”, “Aren’t you bored?”).  First of all ladies; really, stop attacking and belittling each other. Life is hard enough.  Additionally, more than this bizarre response I have noticed what it triggers within me. I immediately find myself rushing to justify that choice by explaining that we are adopting through foster care and during that transition we want to offer as much stability as possible for them. I have stopped doing this, why do I need to justify the choices we have made for our family? Everyone does what they believe is best for their family and this is what we feel is best.  Why does our choice make so many people angry? Our culture is so quick to base our estimation of a person’s character, heart and intelligence based solely on how they pay their bills. I catch myself doing it to others and obviously even to myself. It comes so naturally I do not think we even stop to think about it. This reaction has become so engrained in our subconscious, the very limited notion that what you do as a career is who you are as a person. I could stop these people who are offended by my choice and tell them I am simultaneously working on finishing a degree in special education and another in counseling. I could tell them I am also a writer who is currently working on two very different novels. I could tell them that I truly believe raising your children well is the most important thing you can accomplish. I could explain that we made this choice knowing we would be financially limited but rich in many other ways. I could describe the many ways I volunteer in our community and help those around us. I do not need to tell them any of those things. Anyone who immediately dismisses me based off my career choice does not need to be welcomed into my world or shown who I am as a whole. In the grand scheme of things it was not too long ago that my choice was the preferred choice, becoming a housewife was simply what women did, often because they were not given any other options. Today we are lucky enough that few doors are closed to women today, and those that are can be rammed open by determined effort. So in this world of choices why can we not embrace the choices everyone makes as an acceptable or honorable choice? I have done the looking within myself to see why the reaction I get impacts me so much. Now I simply extend grace to everyone and take the disgusted reactions in stride. I am a housewife, that is not all I am and it is not a bad thing to choose to do with my life. I have a lot I would like to accomplish in my life and the most important part of that life right now is my focus on raising our children and welcoming them into our home and family.