Monday, November 21, 2016

Thankful for Adoption

Just about six weeks ago now, the last of our Big Kids, our Bio's, the fruit of my womb, MOVED OUT!!  Yep, for real!!  Brian and I ponder to ourselves (half in jest, half seriously) and try to imagine what kind of life we would have right now if that last kid to move out WAS, in fact, the last kid to move out.  

I'd like to think that we would be frolicking around, travelling the world,  ... seeking out adventure ... and delighting in romance ...

Ahh, yes, ... thank-you for that ... it really isn't good to stray too long from reality.  

It's National Adoption Awareness month ... yep, it is ... and that means something to me.  It means a whole LOT to me, actually.  

You see, just a few weeks ago, we celebrated our 10-Year Adoptiversary with our sweet Molly-bug!!  Fastest ten years of my live ever!!!

Adoption was always something I was open to but seemed to be an impossibility and adopting Molly is nothing less than an ordained miracle ... PURE REDEMPTION for this selfish mother who just wanted a daughter.  

You can read a bit about how we finally 
decided to adopt here: The Transition to Adoption.

There used to be so many places that I wanted to go, so many things I wanted to see and do ... so much LIFE that I wanted to experience.  I looked forward to the fact that when my children became adults, I was still going to be pretty young and able.   

And then came Molly.  
Molly is a fantastic daughter!!  
She is so responsible and hard-working, kind and helpful.  
She does really well in school and she loves being active and involved.

We're crazy about her and we are SUPER BLESSED to have her as our daughter. 

 In fact, because of her, our lives were permanently altered.


Because of her our eyes were opened ...
... our hearts expanded ...
... our blessings were multiplied.

Since adopting Molly, we also added Brynn, Jonah, and Rees to our family.  We've learned and experienced and grown SO MUCH!!  
We get a small glimpse of what it is to be adopted, accepted, and loved by God as he draws our OUTCAST selves into His LOVING ARMS.  

There's things I wish we could do, places I wish we could go, things I wish I could give to my children ...

... but are any of those things really the things that matter?  No.

My life may not be the way that I originally pondered but we have certainly travelled the world (to a beautiful place where our children were born) ... our lives are in tandem with the greatest adventure we could have ever planned (As soon as I saw you I knew an adventure was going to happen -Winnie the Pooh) ... all for the romance of our Great GOD and Savior who we LOVE to serve.

Not what I thought but so much better, so much more than I'd ever even imagined possible.

I would not trade it for anything!
Adoption has deeply enriched my life.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I did an object lesson for the children at church yesterday.  It's not mine to brag about ... I stumbled across it on the internet and liked how simple, yet powerful it is.  Each child was given a doughnut, which they were, of course, THRILLED about.  We talked about the doughnut for a bit and I told them this cute little rhyme to remember about their doughnut.

As you go through life make this your goal – 
look at the doughnut and not the hole.

Some people might look at the doughnut and struggle to focus on anything but the fact that the hole in the doughnut means that something is missing -- 

-- something that was taken away -- 

-- something that should have been there.  

But instead of focusing on what's missing, shouldn't we look at what's still there?  

Shouldn't we look at the doughnut and be thankful for all that we still have?  

Instead of wondering what the doughnut might have been like had it not been altered, shouldn't we be grateful for what it is?

Shouldn't we admire it's design and delight in it's taste trusting that it's exactly the way that it was meant to be?

Instead of focusing on the things that I don't have or longing for the things that have been taken away, I'm choosing to be thankful ... 

... thankful for all that I did have, even though I no longer have it.
... thankful for all that I do have, even if it's not what I thought it would be.
... thankful for all that I will have, trusting it will always be exactly what I need.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When is 'one more' the last 'one more'?

A co-worker/friend came in to my office last week … to see if we were ready for the next day, which was Rees' most recent surgery …

I told her, “I think so!” … but then threw up my hands and said, “we’ll see!”  She asked if I was doing okay and I said ‘yea’ in my “but there’s more” way.  So then I gave her the scoop on all the weird things that have been happening lately and how it seems like we’re being attacked.  I told her about our shower fiasco and then the deaths of our iron, dishwasher, AND hot water heater all in the same week.  It’s all so strange but I know this kind of thing happens to other people and we’ve probably just been “DUE”.  

But, then I said, “you know what is bugging me even more lately?”

And I told her about a few comments that have been made to me at church lately.  Comments that are disheartening.  Comments that are coming from women who I would look at as Christian role models.  Recently, I was sharing with several ladies about an experience I had at a local Christian event.  An orphan ministry was presented.  Stories were shared and tears were shed.  A plea was made and my face got red hot as my heart beat wildly inside my chest.  This is nothing new.  My heart is for the orphan!  But I made the comment that it made me consider future adoptions.  And the response was, “Do you ever think maybe that’s Satan toying with your emotions?”  I was stunned the comment made its way out of her mouth!  I just could not believe it! But what if she's right?

You know, ... I am definitely tired.  I have definitely been frustrated in the last year.  I have been overwhelmed and to the point of exhaustion.  Adoption is a challenge and it can be difficult.  A roller coaster of emotions.  A seemingly insurmountable task to complete.  I don’t know that there is anyone who could or would say that adoption is easy and I have, admittedly, had my struggles.  

Yes, I struggle.  I complain.  I have my fits … because I am a comfortably spoiled individual who hasn’t really had to go “WITHOUT” too much of what's necessary in my life (even at its hardest).  But I don't know that I would or could ever think that my "broken heart for orphans" is Satan toying with my emotions!  I purposely stay out of Waiting Child Advocacy and Agency Groups because it is too hard for me to see all the faces of the many orphans that are just waiting to be loved.  But I said to my friend, "Just one file of information, one story with a face, attached to a real life ... a life in need of medical care and a family ... and all my "issues" seem insignificant and selfish ... not so big compared to the fruit and treasure of helping just one more.

And LITERALLY within a few minutes, I received an email from another friend who sent a photo of an adorable waiting child who looks just like one of my other children, with an almost identical genetic defect.  I was floored!  Panicked!  Curious!  Intrigued!  

... JUST ONE MORE ... 

Oooohhh ... then I say to God, "Really? ... Is this YOU?  Are you talking to me?"

And He says, "Do you trust Me?"  And I say, "Sure, I do ... I just don't really know if it's You talking to me."

Caring for orphans is where I’m close to God.  It’s where everything makes sense.  It’s where I see God “SHOW UP” more than in any other circumstance of my life.

And, yet, I doubt ... and I do not move from this spot I am standing in ... and I wonder to myself "Am I missing it?  Am I missing the next step to His call on my life?"

There's always the possibility of one more ... so, how do I know when 'one more' is the last 'one more'?  

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Surgery Number Seven (for Rees)

 The number seven is considered the number of Completion ... I wish that was the case for Rees' 7th surgery, which he had a couple days ago (alas, it is not his last surgery).  Just a day after his First Adoptiversary and his Baba's birthday (yes, they shall forevermore celebrate together!!), Rees had his 7th surgery.  We were pretty quiet about it this time as we pondered what might go wrong this time.  However, we started the day optimistic and trusting, armed with what is necessary to get through any day!  

We allowed Molly to take off from school so that she could go with us for the day.  In the last year, she has really taken an interest in healthcare and is steering towards anesthesiology.  As she is now in high school and already starting to think about her future, we thought it might be a nice opportunity to observe and be a part of the day.  What we didn't think about was having to get permission from anyone at the hospital to have her be with us.  Apparently, it is against the rules to have a minor in the pre-op room as well as the recovery and post-op rooms.  

** The thought never even crossed my mind **  
(I'm fairly certain that in this past year I have experienced a bit of brain cell degradation)

HOWEVER, God must have ordained the day ... because, though the rules were expressed and seemingly prepared to be enforced, exceptions were made in every instance ... very graciously, I might add.  It was amazing!  She was able to be a part of all the parts.

Something else that was so amazing ... Anesthesiology (the doctor, resident, additional staff) always comes in before the procedure to evaluate and ask questions.  They also like to assess whether or not they will need to make any special accommodations for the little patient.  We were asked who Molly was and we explained that she is our daughter, that she is the one that started us out with Dr. Denny and Children's Hospital, and that she is interested in becoming an anesthesiologist.

Well, the anesthesiologist, who happens to be the director for the department, talked to us in length, not only about Rees' procedure, but also how Molly can shadow with her team when she is a Junior in high school.  She gave us her card and explicit instructions regarding the process to shadow and to get a proper experience to help in deciding her future in healthcare.  We were so impressed!!

Then another thing happened that hasn't happened before.  This anesthesiologist told us she had a medical student with her for the day and she wondered if we would be willing to talk with her about the boys' adoptions, as well as the girls', and the social, emotional, and medical aspects of all that we've experienced.  It was amazing and we were able to share a lot with her.  She was really intrigued and took a lot of notes.  We were able to show her many photos (gotta love technology!) and talk about many aspects of adopting two severely medically-challenged boys.  We were told later by the Director that the student was glowing after interviewing us and that she was really excited that we were so open to share so much with her.  The Director stated that this was exactly the type of thing that helps to motivate and steer a student in the direction that they're looking for.  And Molly was able to be a part of that!

Before the surgery, this Mama was a bit anxious ... but that's nothing new for me, right?  Rees was pretty calm; just look at that beautiful grin!  He's so tough ... yet, so gentle and sensitive.  

For some reason, he was unable to take the versed ('goofy juice') this time.  He became a little grumpy when the nurse came in with the syringe of fluid and he was very hesitant to take it.  I tried to help the nurse out by giving Rees a small amount of the liquid (I'm used to being the 'bad guy'), but as soon as I gave it to him he gagged and threw it up.  But then, he couldn't stop wretching and, unfortunately, he didn't stop until he expelled the small amount of water he was allowed to have when he first woke up that morning.

So, Rees had to brave it out and go into the operating room without any liquid assistance to help him relax.  But he did pretty good with only a few tears at first, which were quickly diverted by a resident who handed Rees his cell phone all set to play Temple Run.  It worked at least until it was time to use the face mask.  Next time, the plan is that Rees will be given a valium when we arrive in pre-Op and that will work the same as the versed but we won't have to worry about him vomiting it up.

The surgical procedures scheduled to be done were to correct Rees' (very small) cleft lip, to reduce the size of his nostrils and to give him a nasal tip.  Well, this didn't all go as planned and they didn't want to push it during the surgery, however, what WAS done made a HUGE difference in Rees' appearance.  

We are absolutely amazed!!
Rees did okay and there were no wild and crazy mishaps or complications ... none so far after two full days since the surgery.  
We are so relieved and thankful!

The biggest surprise came when the doctor told us that Rees didn't have to stay overnight!!!  Say what??  We were shocked, even a little confused as this was definitely not what we expected.  We spent just a couple hours post-op and then we were able to bring our little guy home.  

Can you believe the difference??
Just take a look at the first photo in this post again ...
... it is truly amazing what can be done.  
Either way, we are crazy about our Boy-Rees!  He is so brave, so strong, so ardent and fiery (just like his name says) and we are so blessed to have him in our family (and SO THANKFUL for the toned down surgical experience this time around - Thanks, God ... )

One Year with Jonah and Rees

Well, here is our first "family" photo with Jonah and Rees, taken shortly after we met them a year ago.  This photo shows them looking somewhat happy and comfortable with us.  
Our first few days with the boys were rough. 
Our first few months were an adjustment ...
... and after that ... 
...well, as you may recall, it got a lot better, but also really challenging! 

We are so happy to say that we made it through our first year!!  
So, of course, we had to celebrate with CAKE!!  
The boys L-O-V-E Paw Patrol, so we had it decorated accordingly.

They were pretty excited about that!

We thank the LORD that we made it through the first year.  
We have learned so much and experienced a great many blessings to counter the heartache we've endured.  Hopefully, we're stronger ... hopefully, we're wiser ... hopefully, we're more equipped for whatever year two brings us.

FALL is here!!

Fall is here and it's my FAVORITE time of year!  
I love ALL THINGS Pumpkin and Cranberry, Falling, Crackling, and Burning Leaves, the various Colors of Autumn, Dimly Lit and Cloudy Skies, and the Smell of Backyard Fires.

I also really enjoy taking photos of all the color and beauty of the season ... 
... of course, to include my kids!! 

I especially like going on our Fall Hikes ... 
and it warms this mama's heart to see these two boys sticking it out ... together!!

We recently celebrated Baba's birthday and he always picks a hike as the activity he wants to do.  
We took a trek along a nearby lake path ...

It provided for several beautiful spots to take photos.  Enjoy ...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

School's In Session

Well, we have the first month of school under our belt.  Whew!  It's been pretty good but a definite challenge getting back into the routine, structure and discipline. Brynn has started off okay and likes her new teacher.   

She definitely enjoys the various gadgets that are used in class.  They use calculators, iPads, Smart Boards and Chromebooks ... oh boy!!

Our guy, Jonah, is enjoying being in first grade very much!!  
The classes are involved in Project Lead The Way and it seems to be a fun and creative way to get kids engaged in learning. 

Despite Jonah's obstacles in speech and language, he reallys enjoys socializing and interacting with his peers and they have been wonderful at accepting him just the way that he is.  While Jonah's speech is quite difficult to understand, fortunately, his peers have acclimated and adjusted to his way of communicating and can even interpret for someone who is not used to hearing Jonah talk.  

That really is wonderful and we are so pleased with the way the children are able to overlook the differences and accept Jonah the way that he is.  However, we have been continuing Jonah at Speech Therapy through Children's Hospital and we have now just received approval for the implementation of an IEP (Individual Education Plan) at school so that he can have more therapy integrated right into his daily routine.  

Jonah may have another surgery sometime in January to revise and/or enhance the pharyngeal flap that was done this past June, however, at this point, it is tentative depending on the progress with his speech.  He is working really hard and he does sometimes frustrate quickly.  But he has so much to try to catch up on (identifying letters and numbers while at the same time learning to read and understand beginning math concepts) all while he is working hard to make his mouth form the sounds of all those letters and numbers and words!  It really is A LOT and I am so proud of him and I really try to show him how exciting it is when he succeeds.  It's amazing how his whole face lights up!

And then there's this little buddy, Rees!  He's having a great start to going back to school.  He is much more comfortable with the routine and the structure and environment than when he first attended earlier this year . 

Rees is scheduled to have his next surgery late October.  The plan is to continue taking steps to correct the numerous issues he's been dealt.   

I do find that I am getting a bit anxious as I anticipate Rees' next surgery.  I am admittedly worn out and knowing that he will have surgery in October, then in January and then again in April ... well, let's just say that I'd like to throw myself on the floor to have a baby-fit!  Honestly, my life has become more challenging.   

Silly me ... I thought the biggest challenge was going to be the possibility of two kids having a serious surgery at the same time.  Uhhh ... 

... well, one surgery turned into eight surgeries in just seven months.  Eek!!  
But I am really happy that they are doing quite well.  They are changing and learning and growing every day ... and really doing SO WELL for all that they've endured in such a short time.

I am still a whole lot of worked hours SHORT of qualifying for FMLA for next year but thankfully my manager has been very understanding and has allowed me the flexibility to work around the numerous appointments and follow-ups we've had and continue to have.  It does put a bit of additional stress on me as I am constantly calculating, re-calculating, arranging, and re-arranging my work hours so that I ensure I am getting in all of my hours but I have been blessed as well in being able to balance it all.  

Rees, too, has been working hard at school and at home trying to learn ... though, he has a bit of an advantage with the fact that he started over and is in kindergarten again.  Yet, he is still behind the other kindergarteners simply because they have five years of learning experience on him.  But another advantage that Rees has that we feel will help him is that he pays attention when we're working with Jonah and he often follows along and wants to do what Jonah is doing so he's getting double practice, which is great!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Favorite Time of Year ...

My favorite time of year has begun!! 

We've been so busy - busy - busy ... but we just HAVE TO SQUEEZE in a little festive and seasonal enjoyment.  A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Cedarburg Harvest Festival.  We made it an opportunity to get some nice photos.

Here's Molly trying to teach me how to do a "selfie"!

This past weekend, we made an impromptu visit to the nearby Apple Orchard.  
The kids really enjoyed picking apples.

Then, of course, they just had to make caramel apples!

They were super excited to eat their sugar-loaded apples!!