Friday, October 5, 2012

Road trip benefits

My oldest son at home, Tyler, accompanied the baby boys and I to the children's doctors for appointments yesterday. The drive is about 4 hours one way so I really enjoyed his company. He also is much stronger than I am. By the end of our day, I was really ready to hit the pillow but he helped empty the car and get the boys in. One of the best things of having individual time (well, plus the babies!) with the kids for the medical trips is that I get their undivided (mostly) attention. It's fun talking about drivers training, politics, religion and relationships. It's also nice to see him interact with the boys and to watch him meet their needs, whether it's sharing snacks,or wiping drool. I was even surprised when he fed Gborlee before he even began eating his own lunch. I really want what's best for each of my kids as they grown and learn, but I must say, there are parts of Tyler's growth that I am thrilled to be witnessing. It hasn't been a basket of roses for tyler to learn to know and love us, just like it has sometimes been more like a bin of thorns to love and accept him. But for the record, I think he is growing up to be a pretty nice teenager these days, and it makes me appreciate him even more as he attends to our disabled boys. For me, this is all I need our family to be. Helping each other to become people they can be proud of. I am proud of tyler this week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Real Life phase

We just completed our second post-placement meeting last night with our social worker, which signals the boys being in America for nearly 6 months now. I am amazed every day at all the changes, even the little ones, they continue to make. So we are settling into the phase I call "Real Life with Disabled Children."- A few highlights would include: *learning not to faint when the total medical bills for two small children already add up to over $100,000.00. *automaticaly packing an overnight bag when traveling to the children's hospital, rather than being down there and finding out i am going to have to stay over, and not being prepared! *actually getting a shower most days, even if it means waiting until naptime to take it! *scheduling NOTHING until I check my planner *referring to their doctors by first names, especially the ones I see more than my family! *meeting the NICEST people in the world - parents of other special needs kiddos *counting a therapy play group as a time to talk to other adults *having a diaper bag packed and ready to grab as I walk out the door, with enough in it to last at least three days *laughing and snapping pictures of the messes they make, even though I was just in the bathroom for a minute I have to plan a little more, be a bit more flexible and make sure I have the emergency seizure kit with me at all times, but these CP boys are not much different than any of the other kids when they were toddlers. Someone told me the other day they could never do what I do. Really? It's easy to love these angels, and if you got to now them, you would do all you could for them too. And I disagree with my friends' last statement: "they are lucky little boys to have you" No, I will always believe it is me. I am, by far, the luckiest woman alive.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Update: as in, there are simply NOT enough hours in a day

I have thought about an update for many weeks now, but since the boys came home in April, each day is so full that I find it hard to take time to write! Part of that is because when I sit down, it is usually to fill out more paperwork or something equally as captivating and before I am even done with that task there appears another at my feet (normally in a little hand tugging at my legs to pick him up!) Well, enough complaining! I am trying to get the boys on a nap schedule now that everyone else is in school. I would have to say, no matter how tired they are, they miraculously gain super strength on the walk to their bedroom. I have the monitor on to amplify every little breath and wail, so as to not miss a thing. Today, it's a concert of screeching and laughing. It appears they are taking turns keeping the other awake. I will start with the youngest first, since that is how to try to do things around here. It used to be the squeaky wheel gets the grease approach, but we have several squeakers that used up all our attention so this approach works better for us now. Isaiah is the youngest, at 27 mo., but no longer the smallest! He has made it to about 28-29 pounds on our scale now, and my aching back can prove it! He is so joyful and is usually the happiest kid on the block! He has a feeding tube now and is settling into a formula called Elecare, Jr. It's pure gold, because 11 cans of it is $500. That lasts 22 days at his current schedule and has to be pharmacy ordered. Boy are we thankful for WIC that covers 14 cans a month for him!! He also can lift his head when on his tummy and look around. He has gained a lot of strength in just 4 months. He was diagnosed with seizures due to epilepsy but the medications are keeping those pretty mellow now. He takes medication to loosen his spasticity and rigidity and looks much more comfortable than he was before he came home. His smile melts hearts and his eyes attract many kind comments from strangers even. We were blessed with a donated wheelchair/stroller that is very supportive and comfy. He is getting speech, occupational and physical therapy now, and we are learning to understand his "language.". He is a daily delight! Gborlee will be turning 5 in just 2 months! I am amazed by his determination and resiliency. He has progressed so very much since April. He is doing very well with his eye glasses, and looks adorable in them! He scoots everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Since he learned that skill, he hasn't stopped moving! He has few fears anymore, except his walker. I can honestly say he hates it. But, he will step now when we hold his hands, and he giggles because he is so proud of himself. I think he has only gained about 4 pounds, although he eats nearly anything handed to him. He will finger feed himself now, but without being watched the whole time he will launch it in his special catapult way. That can be frustrating in public. He is starting to mimic different sounds we make, can stand on his own for a few seconds, and is just beginning to use his right hand (the palsied one) in play. He will still need a leg brace for strength but I can see him walking soon with assistance. What an exciting time! He has now learned the one finger play for iPad games and he can sign "more" and wave bye-bye. He was diagnosed with schizencephaly where the MRI detected so much brain stunting and grey matter. He is deaf on the left side and his brain had stopped growing in utero. That appears to be the cause of his right sided palsy. He knows love, and gives awesome hugs and kisses. He will accomplish whatever God has in store for him and we will keep encouraging he, and isaiah, along the way! Isabella is in all-day kindergarten now. Wow. As much as I love not having to pick her up at noon, I do miss her chatter. She likes school and is ready for the whole day experience. I really can not believe she will be 6 in february. Those years flew by! Tommy is 8, in second grade and loving it. He has an awesome teacher this year and I know he will continue to thrive. He loves routine. He is opening up more and communicating. He especially loves to answer the phone. Meredith, 9 at christmastime, is more timid than Tommy, but seems to like school so far. I thought she got a tough teacher, but she likes her and it may be more structured than mere likes but the best thing for her. She is already turning into a bit of a preteen, which will be interesting the next few years around here. Next year tom and mere will be going to the elementary school, so they are at the top of the ages brackets at their school this year. Tara, 10 1/2, is a 4th grader now. She got the teacher she dreaded just to find out he may not be so bad after all. We have a wonderful and supportive school system and the kids are doing well. Tara attended a week long choir camp this summer and is excited to be a part of this years' school production of the musical "Annie". My jenni was a part of that play in high school too, so it brings back many memories. Tara is a spit fire, but growing up nicely and whatever she does she wants to do it wholeheartedly. Nelly, 13, is an eight grader in the Jr. Hi. She loves her Kindle and spends a lot of time reading. Her goal is to be on the honor roll again this year. She also wants to grow her hair out really long again, so it will be an exciting year. She babysat this summer for money for school clothes and is excited that she got to pick out things she wanted and pay for them too! I love that attitude! She is kind and loves her friendships. Nicole, a freshman now, will be 15 in november, wants to be involved in everything possible, and hates our limits. She enjoys music the most, so her and nelly both are looking forward to play auditions next week. She loves her friends, and has several favorite teachers. It should be a good year! Tyler is in a new computer based home school class now, and is learning to balance his time with the requirements of the class work. He is a bright student, and we hope taking negative peer pressure away we are giving him an opportunity to thrive academically and refocus on the importance of doing his best. He will be 16 in October, a sophomore, with very little time left in high school and here at home. We know how very fast these years go. We were blessed to spend 2 weeks with our son, Scotty, wife Britt, and the three grandsons,Kaiden, Keegan and Keano in August. They live in Puerto RICO, so we were treated to wonderful home cooked meals and a free place to rest our heads, plus a beuatiful adventure every day in this tropical climate. Got our first taste of what hurricane season is like there and his difficult it is to live in a place where the language is different. We had a great time with them! Soon they will be travelling to meet and bring home their fourth son, Kai,from the Congo, and we are thrilled to be able to welcome another boy into our family! Hurry judge, sign those papers! We are involved in a special home for medically fragile children and will be starting a play group one day a week at their facility in south bend. That will be a huge benefit for both my boys, but also for me as I meet with moms of other special needs kids. We find a lot of strength for our journey by standing together! Africa still holds our hearts. We are pleased to be on the board of a new foster care ministry that is being built for special needs children n Liberia. The need is great, and we hope and pray being involved will alleviate suffering for more children who have no voice. So, my babies are napping, so is mom. The snoring in the monitor is making me as sleepy as if there were someone trying to hypnotise me. I suppose that means I still have an hour to close my eyes... Gee, that would be kinda nice.......zzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, July 20, 2012

hospital musings from a tired mom

So, what started as a routine sleep study and doctor appointments for my two babies at the childrens hospital four hours from home, I am now spending my 3rd night on a stiff cot so I can be close to Isaiah while he recovers. Many of you know that we have found other medical issues going on with the baby since he's been in America, but this one kind of caught us off guard. We were headed down to the clinic and appointments on Wednesday, with my mom and Nelly in the car and the two boys, when Isaiah projectile vomitted his entire feed and doused Nelly with the formula that came back up. We had been having a few episodes of this happening, and we kept trying to determine if it was related to how fast we fed him, or the type of formula, or the movements he made between feedings, or his position...basically, looking for a pattern that we could tell the doctor about, or even self- diagnose and correct. Unfortunately, this time was his 5th straight day of urping at least one complete feed every 24 hours. Getting just 30 ounces of feed a day is what is suppose to be beefing him up, so losing 6 or more ounces in that time frame was dangerous. I called the kind nurse at the clinic, and she immediately sent us to the emergency room. We were able to get Gb into his urology appointment to set up the date for his hypospadious repair, and were in the ER before an hour was up. He had been struggling to breathe and had been very loud with every breath, sounding more pinched and constricted each day. We made it to the entrance to the ER, they rushed us back and had an IV inserted before I had time to let mom and Nelly know what was happening. I figured it was serious when 7 professionals came quickly into the room with an "all hands on deck!" approach to our situation. He was going to be admitted, we found out within a half and hour of our arrival, and the plans began to form. To make a long story short, instead of having a night at the hotel with the babies, Mom and Nelly would be making their way back home just a few hours after we had reached town. And the night and following day, Isaiah was NPO (and starving!) while the tests came in. He went through a surgery last night to remove floppy tissue around his voice box, where they also noticed some narrowing of the passage, when I got a call from the doc in the OR. He was doing well, but his adenoids were soooo enlarged there was NO air getting through - the question: could I consent to tonsils and adenoids being removed too. SURE!! Out came a tiny boy, who must have felt like a MAC truck had climbed into his nostrils, looking every bit as pitiful as I have ever seen a baby before. He was on oxygen, pain meds and had a plastic "trumpet" coming out of his nose. (By the way, when the doctor removed it today, it looked to be at least 6 inches long, although he gagged as if it were 6 feet coming out!) He was declared to be on the mend, and the night of coughing and gagging and suctioning was completely normal for what he had gone through that evening. His blood pressure fluctuated on the high side, while his oxygen dropped scarey numbers that set off alarms all night long, which is not, by the way, conducive to my sleep either. Then today, by noon we were off to the "regular" floor, out of the PICU and improving by leaps and bounds. Isaiah would disagree. Each cough is painful to watch, and our big fear was how well he would tolerate feeding again. And why was that an issue to begin with last weekend? Or, too, how would we keep him from pneumonia? The first 3 oz. went down ok, although he arched in pain and coughed more. Three hours later, still getting all his regular meds and now 2 types of pain meds, another 3 oz were introduced when, as if on command, he lost it. They had so hoped to get 6 oz. feeds going again and be thinking of sending us home this weekend! NOT. I must say, the nurses and doctors here are fabulous, and I was introduced to the Ronald McDonald house where they fed me two meal today, and I have also been blessed with friends who have faithfully prayed a calmness into my last few days too, so I am doing well. Tired, and living on caffeine and God's goodness! Tonight they put Isaiah on the feeding pump which pumped his last 3 oz feed over an hour. So far, he is peaceful and tolerating it. That schedule will continue through the night,and perhaps by morning it can be increased. I met a sweet lady who has been here at this hospital for 3 months since her 6 year old son was injured in a bad car wreck. She seemed calm. I asked how in the world she did it this long. Her answer? Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. This weekend I wanted to go camping. I had plans to take the kids to the children's museum near our town, and I had an idea of what my following week would look like. That is all out the window now. The main focus is getting my baby well so we can go home. Trying my best to not embarrass God the Father who had seen this week coming and preparing me to adapt to what ever happens.. I am learning to lean and learning to accept help. I also know that I am just doing what I have to do. Day by day. Minute by Minute. One step closer to getting this baby well. And let me tell you, I really appreciate the village that is helping us. Nelly cried and was worried about me staying here alone, four hours from home. Sure., I miss the family, and I would rather not be alone, but this is not Africa this time, and I already found out that God is bigger than Africa. I think He's completely able to take care of me here, in this world, better than I know how to take care of things myself. SO, with a peaceful and resting baby boy, I am ready to hit the cot and see how things work out tomorrow..."for all things work together for good to those who love God." I love you, God. Thanks for the peace.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Months

I can hardly believe the boys have been home for three months already,but on the other hand, it seems like they have been around forever! Gborlee, our big little boy at 4 1/2 years old, is learning to venture out! Since getting his adorable glasses, he now can see his world and he loves it! He scoots on his bum and can practically "run"! It's funny how so many of his village behaviors have dissipated now, and how quickly he has embraced the American ways of life. He is a great eater, although he has only gained 3 pounds in the three months he has been home. But he also advanced from a total couch potato to a moving machine, so he is burning more calories every day than he can take in! So at the doctor this week, he was 26.2 pounds and given the direct permission to eat all the fattening things he can! Wow, I have wanted to do that my whole life! So, bring on the whole milk, the butter, the cheese and heavy cream! We plan to fatten this boy up! What a great boy he is - very tender and loving, learning more each day. He says "cooo" and uh-oh. He is beginning to mimic sounds,and he plays independantly now. Bella thinks we brought him home specifically for her, and although there is only 9 mo. Between them, he is her little baby and she takes this big sister roll seriously. He loves everyone, loves hugs and kisses, and is tolerating his big boy walker from the therapist. He clapped at every fire cracker that lit up the sky on the fourth, and he has even learned shopping in a cart isn't so bad after all! Isaiah celebrated his second birthday here, with a lovely impromptu party where many of our family and friends came for cake. He got so many nice gifts, but mostly, he was surrounded by love and happiness for the evening. In his short time here, he has been treated for a parasite, gotten rid of ringworm, given ringworm to numerous other family members, been given a pharmacy of needful medications to take on a daily basis, and been through blood work galore, EEG tests and an overnight video EEG. He has been diagnosed as cerebral palsy, microcephalic, epileptic and malnourished. He has had a g-peg surgically implanted for feeding 5 times a day, and had a circumcision at the same time. He has been put on meds to settle his stomach, and meds to calm his tense muscles. He has meds to decrease his many daily seizures, and we have been taught how to administer meds in case he should have a grand mal seizure. We have had many doctor visits in town, along with therapy from three different places, including the children's hospital four hours away from home. He takes meds to make him poop, and meds to stop his projectile vomiting. He will have a sleep study this Thursday, to see how much the breathing issues are affecting his quality of rest. He has had a positive tuberculosis test this week, and two clear x-rays of his chest. The future is unsure for Isaiah, except for this: he is ours forever, he is getting all the help he needs, and always will, and his smile each day is worth a million bucks! I am thankful he is not in a country that can not handle his very special needs, and that he continues to smile regardless of what goes on around him! I hate rude people who comment about the boys disabilities, but for the most part we have been encouraged by kind, wonderful people who are excited about this journey we are on. Having the boys baptized this past week was a highlight to our getting the boys home, and we are going to do our very best to raise them to know what miracles they are and help them grow in the knowledge of a savior who will be their constant friend. It's been a short three months, yet the journey of a lifetime. I am ever grateful that God has given us these beautiful lives and thankful for these boys who have already blessed us all!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

1935 -2012. Resting peacefully

My dad died on fathers day, June 17. We gave him a celebration service on the 22nd, in the church where he grew up and was married, and where he made his peace with God in the final weeks before he died. We buried him in the local cemetery where he had purchased a lot. Now we figure out life without him. For months dad had talked of dying. With congestive heart failure, deteriorating kidneys, and diabetes he tried so hard to control, life had become too much of a struggle for him. He had a hard time breathing, and even walking was a chore. He had come to my house to celebrate my birthday on Tuesday, 5 days before he died. I just figured a doctor appointment would shape him up and we would continue loving time with him for a while longer. But then he was gone. I think my brothers and I will never forget his last day on earth. He had visitors the entire day, laughing, telling stories, receiving hugs and kisses. Even without the ability to breathe comfortably, he never complained. He was kimd to the nurses who cared for him, and he let us all know he was ready for eternity. He died with such grace and dignity. And then he was gone. When I Saw him right after he passed, my grief was intense. I just couldn't fathom he was really gone . The week of preparations for his funeral was pain filled and intense. Different brothers took their various rolls, taking turns protecting mom. We were able to express our tears at his passing and our love for each other. This would become our new norm. The last few weeks since dads death has been overwhelming. We have been going through dads office and sorting the unimportant vs. the important. My oldest brother has taken over organizing the bills and insurances, my second brother has agreed to work at selling their extra vehicles, and my little brother and I have been gathering items for a garage sale. Mom moved in with us, and this is life. I sat in dads favorite chair this weekend. It was the closest I will come on earth to getting one of his big hugs now. I want to bring the chair to my house, mostly because I can not imagine anyone who would buy it second hand getting any amount of satisfaction out of it more than I will by having it occupy a corner of my home. He is not there, but I could sense him so close when I sat in his chair. We all know that dad is at peace. He can breathe, run, laugh and love all of the family that reached glory before he did. Gramma and grampa and brothers all there, reunited in one heavenly hug that makes me long for the day when we all wil be together again. My brothers and I have talked, and we wouldn't wish him back here to the human life of bad health and suffering. Our only loss is on our side, not his. I miss my dad, and always will. I am so proud of the generous and beautiful life he lead, and thankful that of all he left us with, the most valuable was his love of stories and laughter, and smiles til the end. His nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters and inlaws all know him and remember him in their own ways. Mom, his wife of 56 years, remembers him her way. My brothers, each have their memories. Me? I have his smile in my minds eye, and all the wonderful ways he loved me to hold close to my heart.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


It is incredibly hard for me to believe I have been home with the boys for three weeks now!! Talk about time flying!! Just to recap, I spent one day short of a month in Liberia trying to finish the adoption of Gborlee and Isaiah. They spent a couple of weeks with me in the hotel in country, and I could never have made it without the help of my sweet friend,Christina, and my new friends Brian and Lindsay. I am so grateful for the ways God met my needs each and every step of the way and that will be a story of length for another time! Now, we are diligently pushing for every service we can find to help the boys. Through some earlier connections with the other kids, we have been able to get evaluations done for the boys for physical and occupational therapies, along with speech! They will be attending the developmental clinic at Riley Hospital for their delays and cerebral palsy issues. We are excited at how quickly it is all getting put into place. My oldest daughter says they had to wait so long to come home that God knows these next steps need to go quicker! I think I finally feel normal again. The flight and time away from home took its toll on my body, but I am back to my normal! I am thrilled to see the boys already learning new things! Gborlee has taken to army crawling and getting all around, and Isaiah is learning to lift his head and hold it up to look around when he is on his tummy! They are interacting and learning to be a part of a family. A family who loves them very much! We are backing up to celebrate Easter and Christmas with the boys this week and then next week we celebrate Isaiah's 2nd birthday!! I think that means a big event is coming up soon! We were at dinner the other night, and as our typical arrangement, the little ones sit closest to mom and dad while the older kids settle in at the farther end of the table. A kind young mom came to our table to ask if any of the kids were foster or adopted. We spoke for a few minutes and she told me her story of being in foster care and then being adopted with her younger brother. She thanked us for what we were doing. It warmed my heart, and I find a lot of people are supportive and encouraging. As we were preparing to leave, the waiter told us our bill had been paid in full!! The family quietly paid for us, and left with smiles. We were not able to thank them, but what a precious gift! Our bill, for "fast food" was over $80. I was speechless, and the kids were amazed that a stranger would do that. I believe it to be another blessing in a path that has been full of blessings with the building of our family! I am looking forward to hearing from our oldest son on the next child to come to our family through adoption. Scott and Britt are waiting for the call for their referral on a baby from the Congo. What an exciting time for them, but also for us! Grandparents have the best of both worlds!! I know they will have stories to tell of their journey to Africa too! God has been so faithful to our family and I watch my newest angels in our home, grateful for the opportunity to be their mom. It's such a beautiful gift to be a mother, and families grow in many different ways. I love the way ours has grown, and we have our perfect dozen! Thank you for all the prayers! We are blessed!

Monday, April 16, 2012

From Liberia, with Love

I am wide awake at 3:45 am, Liberian time.
I have been in country for nearly a month trying to finalize the adoption of our 11th and 12th children, two boys who captured our hearts over a year ago. Our path has lead us to many months of frustration dealing with an incompetent adoption agency out of Indiana, and 3 trips to Monrovia. I was able to connect to a wonderful agency from California, and now the adoption worker is one of my sweetest friends. I can thankfully say now that these tiny boys are now sleeping beside me, beautiful trusting souls who now carry our family name.

I would be the first to tell you, IT HAS BEEN THE HARDEST YEAR OF MY LIFE! It has tried my marriage, my friendships and my family. It has cost far beyond our planned expenses, and I have been through situations I never could have envisioned being in. I have cried, yelled, gained weight, lost weight, experienced physical and mental duress, and nearly given up many times. I have faced officials with highest hopes, only to have them dashed at the last minute. I have learned how strong I can be and how much I hate being without my family. I have learned to Love Liberia and hate it at the very same time. I have resolved to spend the rest of my life caring for two disabled children, knowing in my heart that they will far exceed even my expectations. I have also determined I will do all I can to relieve suffering of the littest orphans in this war torn city, and I will look for ways to minister peace and comfort to the best of my ability to the vulnerable ones here.

I did not start out to be a pioneer, a champion, or a hero. I just wanted to be a mom. I am far from perfect, and my children will tell you how determined I am to follow my heart, but sometimes I fail along the way. I am starting my family on the hardest endeavor we have ever done, but I am also very proud of the way all of them are embracing the change ahead. I have learned things about the older kids that has encouraged me along this difficult path and I have delighted in the youngest of our family that waits our return now with open hearts of love for the brothers they have only known in pictures. I have found out that this "paper pregnacy" is far more difficult than the most difficult pregnancy I have ever had or even known of, but it is now over and I am almost home.

I couldn't have made it even half this far without the support of so many. My oldest children, who have busy lives of their own, have surrounded both Mike and I in the most tangible ways, making us more than proud at how they have all pulled together to support us. The family members who have prayed, babysat, brought meals, and the friends who have done the same and more. Right when we felt our lowest, someone was always there loving us back to reality, that "this too, shall pass."

I am amazed, over and over, how GOD has been my strength, my shield, my father, my hearts desire. I have been lonely for family, but have never felt that GOD had left my side. I was aware of how He had come before me, guided me daily, and gave me peace in some of the most difficult moments in a foreign country. I know He has a fabulous plan for these boys lives, and one day they will bring Glory to Him for the way He will restore their broken bodies and we will be able to experience their spirits soaring !

I am almost home. I can't wait for everyone to meet these beautiful creations of God, who has known them before they even grew in their mothers wombs. I KNOW they had a rough start to life, but they have all the potential to have a bright future.

I would say that International Adoption is not for the faint of heart, but looking at the sleeping and peaceful faces of my beautiful African angels, I would encourage anyone to step out of your comfort zone, and see what God has for you! Maybe it's not the path I took, but there is a path that YOU can take that will make your heart sing and your life at peace because you stepped out and did the extraordnary.

I am still not a hero. I am a small town Mom who followed her heart, and now it is big enough to hold two more special angels. And that makes me one happy momma!
Even all the struggles of the past year can not change the fact that I have been blessed beyond measure and I can not wait to get home!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The next adventure!

I feel like I am sitting on the edge of my chair these days!
Today I return to AFRICA to do all I can to complete the endless forms and appointments to complete our adoption. I will be spending two weeks there, on this huge quest, and am hoping with my whole heart that I will be returning before easter with my babies.
What a whirlwind!

I know when I wait for something it seems like it never gets here! Today, it feels like it came really fast this week, mostly because I couldn't get everything done that I planned to do. Ash has been such a great help and support over the last few days and weeks of waiting, and I have complete confidence in her and Mike while I am gone. I have alot of people committed to praying for me and the boys, and I totally feel God's presence going before me and preparing the way!

I am excited about 2 weeks with my dear friend Christina in Africa! She has a wonderful heart for our Lord, and is a wonderful visionary. She has been called to begin a new orphan ministry in Liberia and has asked Mike and I to partner in prayer with her as board members. I hope and pray there will be other ways to minister with her in this new endeavor and I am so excited to see what God's hand is doing in the land I have grown to love. The needs are great and children are waiting for a place to be loved and accepted. I know we are willing, so we ask God to open more doors for us as we travel there!

I am missing my dear Jenni who traveled in December with me. I felt so blessed to have her with me then, and this time it is in spirit! I know my room will be very still and quiet while I am alone, and I will miss her encouragement so very much. It's a huge and draining experience to be surrounded by all the needs and poverty and I am praying God comforts me and keeps me from loneliness.

My two littles, Tara and Tom finish up their Upwards Basketball season today. It's been a wonderful couple of months of watching them grow and hone their skills, and it's been awesome to see them learn to work together as a team member. I am so proud of them both!

Part of what drives me to adopt the boys from africa is due to the terrific growth I have seen in these 7 kids. Each of them came with poor diagnosis for health, mentally and physically, yet they are thriving and growing in ways we wondered if it would ever happen. There are trials, and heartbreak along the way, but I wouldn't trade it for anything! I am thankful that God saw fit to make me their mother. I have great hope for the future of these boys and what they will accomplish! I know God has directed their little lives this far, and will continue to do it all. They are our miracle boys and will bring glory to the LORD!!

Thanks for prayers and encouragement!! Off we go!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

a loss unspeakable

As parents, we are always thrilled to see our children succeed in life. When they are little, successes may seem insignificant to others watching, but as a parent we are counting each milestone with hearts full of smiles. It is so good to see them thrive.

Now that I have three grown up kids, they continue to amaze me every day. The ways they reach out to others, in their own home and town, and the things they do that make me proud to say, "hey, that's my kid!!" I could list several things in each of the older kids lives that make my heart smile, and swell with pride. Today I want to focus on my oldest son.

Scotty was always a gentle and loving kid, loved being outside doing men's work, and grew to be a successful adult with a wife and three children. The Coast Guard has offered them opportunities they could never have experienced had they staying in our town, although I miss him like crazy. We have shared excitement over his achievements in the CG, but even more than that, his successes as a father. It's never easy to parent, but some people make it look like it is.

Scott has 3 boys, all beautiful grandsons we adore like I never thought was possible. They are the only kids in the world who call us PaPa and Gramma, and their personalitlies are emerging to be loveable and kind children. That doesn't happen on it's own. It takes some pretty good parents. Scotty chose well when he picked is wife, Britt, and they make an awesome team. They are active, healthy, and loving beyond their years. They focus on their bundles of energy and do so many cool things with them. As grandparents, we are thrilled with that for our grandsons. They are happy and well adjusted kids, (not to mention extremely handsome boys too!).

So when they told us a while back that they were pursuing adoption, we were pleased. We knew they had seen our path that was often heartbreaking, trying and expensive. They were not going into it lightly. We encouraged them and were proud of their decision. I was hoping they could sale through the process, and not have any of the pain or issues that we had been dealt over the last 4 years of our journey towards adoption.

I know they considered many options, but they grew committed to adopting a child who was HIV+. They studied the disease, searched their hearts, and knew this child would become a part of their family as surely as the first three. Then they "met" an 8 month old boy from the Congo, who they felt God had directed them to. They would call him "Kembe" and began to prepare for his arrival. The crib was set up, and we all waited patiently as paperwork was completed before their travel to get him.

Then they got the call that changed that plan forever. Baby Kembe had contracted malaria, and did not survive. What a sad, sad call to have to go through. What a devastation to their family and to all of us who loved and waited. He was to be their son, our fourth grandson, and now he was gone.

As christians, we have our deep faith to fall back to when tragedy strikes. but as much as we all truly believed God had a plan, it did not eleviate the suffering of our own loss. We grieved for the baby who would not see his first birthday with a family who desperately loved him already, and we, as parents, grieved for the pain and loss our own children were having to endure.

It is a journey of faith, a major growth spurt in our spiritual lives. It changes what we expected, and what we had hoped for in our future plans. It reminded us again that our children are "on loan" from our God and our plans are not always HIS plans. It is a time to reflect and determine what life really means.

We will always remember baby Kembe in our family tree, although he is going to be celebrating his first birthday in heaven with his Creator. We will shed tears. We will miss what will never be with this precious child. But we also are spurred on to action. Britt has determined that she will make it her mission to help provide mosquito nets to far villages in Africa who have no protection against malaria. We are joining in this cause. It does not bring back the child we lost, but prayerfully, perhaps it will save the lives of other babies in his village.

I have been encouraged that Scotty, in spite of this great loss, has not given up on the plan of adoption that God placed in his heart. I am thankful that baby Kembe has been the beacon that directed them to this area of need, and we look forward to another referral that will match a baby with their awesome family. It's been a loss, but they are turning it into a positive in what they are allowing God to do in their lives.

See what I mean? I love my son's heart. And his family. And his determination to do good in a world full of suffering and loss.
I am proud of you, Scott, and know God truly has a plan for growing your famiily. Thanks for keeping your eyes on Him. It is the only way to make it in a broken world.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Being an old mom

I have been reflecting lately on how different it is to be a mom in my 50's than it was when I first became a mom in my early 20's.
Maybe because my oldest daughter, the one who first called me mom, just turned 30. That in itself is a reason for reflecting!

We started our family when we lived out of town, so we never really had any of the family hoopla that accompanies births day. I didn't have a baby shower thrown by an excited family member, no one rubbed my tummy and wondered who or what the child would look like. We were surrounded by a wonderful southern church family, and they were more than kind and giving, but the "real" family piece was missing.

No one crowded our hospital room, trying to catch those first photos of the new one, and some even took the news of her coming into the family as "not the best timing", being that we were struggling, poor college students far away from home.

We used all cloth diapers, and were able to get formula through the local WIC program. Life was hard.

But, in spite of all the struggle of having a child and being far from family, we managed it and even added 2 more to our quiver before I had to have a hysterectomy and watch the dreams of a large family disappear from our horizons.

We moved closer to home when our first son was one year old, and got involved in family fun and responsibilities, but we found out that the years we had been gone were totally irreplaceable. Our siblings families were in town, and there was a different sort of relationship with their children and our parents than there was with our children. It just happened that way.

Our kids grew up, way too fast, and we entertained the idea of adoption. We were 40, had determined we still had a shot at growing our family and searched our souls for the possibilities. It would impact and change our lives, but we were ready.

We read, and took council from many of our friends and family. We questioned our growing children and decided to proceed. We knew there would be differences that we would have this time around, especially adding 20 years to our aging bodies....and becoming parents to toddlers again.

Some of the things we would learn along the way were givens. Having 3 or 4 toddlers at once meant pushing one cart of kids at Walmart, while pulling another behind me full of groceries. Melt downs in the candy aisle. Added expenses for, clothes, vehicles big enough for us all, and renting 2 rooms at hotels to fit us all. With 7 new lives, the first three grown and gone, we are still learning.

Like, it is really hard to homeschool ages 15 to 5. Not a failure, but it didn't work well for us the year we did our best to execute it.
NOBODY invites a family of 9 over for dinner. (well, maybe one person does!)
Ballet classes, Y memberships, basketball teams or family outtings always cost more than an average size family.
You eat alot of casseroles and pasta.
Vacations with teens vs toddlers or little people rarely goes smoothly. One group of kids always feel left out or unhappy with the choices for the other group.
I am much more tired. So is dad.
Our parents are no longer interested in being grandparents....BTDT. At least not at the level we wish they could be involved.
Babysitters are never free.
A night out as a couple takes alot of planning.
Once we get out, a high time on the town is relaxing at the bookstore with a warm cup of coffee, until they close the doors at 11. By 11:00 we are ready to go home and sleep...knowing the kids will be up at the crack of dawn.
Saturdays are for games and activities, not browsing the antique malls or sleeping in.
Grandma and grampa are tired, and as much as I wish they were able to be here, alot of times I feel torn between caring for them and caring for the little ones still around me. It's hard to be in the middle when they all need so much care.

Now lest you think I am complaining, stop here! I have no complaints.
I wouldnt' trade the last 10 years of extra parenting for anything.

We have learned more about sharing, more about forgiveness, more about sacrifice.
We have learned about FAS, RAD, ADHD, OCD,PPD, CP .......
We have learned all the things we value are family, friends, relationships.
We have learned to trust God and let the little things go.
We have learned a messy house only means a busy house and there are way too many important things to do. The mess will be there later (and we will still be too tired to care!)
We also know it's OK to have macaroni and hot dogs for supper some nights. Or pizza. Or ramen noodles.

Life is full and rich and good.
Life is too short for regrets.
Life is what you make it.

It's harder some days, to be an older parent.
It's harder, but so worth it.
When a kids crawls in between us because they need to feel secure, we welcome them with open arms. It all goes by way too quickly.

The circle of life continues. And I am still glad we are going around again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An open letter to my daughter

Letter to my young teenage daughter,

Dear (fill in the blank),
You keep asking me to drop you off at the mall. You want to meet your friends there, enjoy the fun and be able to have a little freedom without a mom (me) breathing down your neck. You have some money in your wallet, the perfect outfit for your mall trip, and all you need is your mom (me) to drop you off.

You promise to keep the cell phone (we bought for the occasion when you were not right beside me) in your pocket, make no eye contact with strangers, and be right at the door when I come pick you up from your few hours of freedom.

I really want to be able to tell you yes. I KNOW you love styles, jewelry and all the glitter and glitz of the mall stores. I KNOW I hate to shop at the mall, and have been over that phase for a long time. I KNOW you believe you are capable of time without your parents, and I actually agree.

The problem with the plan comes down to values. Not yours, but mine!
I value YOU.
I value your innocence, your soul, your purity.
I value your charm and your beauty.
I value your future goals and dreams.
And I dont want any of those compromised on my watch.

You will be grown and gone so soon.
You will have to face the ugly in the world, and the ones who are out there that don't value you like I do.

So, let me ask you this...would I take my purse to the center of the mall, with my credit cards, drivers license and personal information to the common area and leave it?

Would I walk away from the things that matter enough to me that I carry it whereever I go? Would I trust my purse to strangers who would walk past it, look at it, or maybe even IN it? Would I trust that someone would see something they like about my purse, and that they wouldn't just take it with them? Would they handle it, but eventually take what they wanted from my purse, and leave it, discarded, stripped of what they wanted, and put it in the trash on their way out the door to the rest of their life?

No way! I would never do that with my purse!! I would never want to see my things violated, lost for good, pilfered for whatever someone else found useful. I image someone would even look at my purse, make fun of it (it's no COACH, ya' know) or not see the value of it like I do. After all, it's MY purse. I happen to like it, and want to keep it safe.

And that's just my purse. It's not nearly as valuable as you!

You don't feel it now, but time will fly by so fast. Soon you will be out there, hopefully loving your freedoms and be prepared to face whatever life throws at you.

But right now, I am not ready to set you down in the center of anything that feels like you could face danger.
Please trust my judgement when I say, I value YOU.

You are the reason I think twice before I say NO.
So when you hear NO, realize it's not forever, and it's not that I don't want to let you go.
I just VALUE you.

Alot more than that old purse.
Love, Mom


I have a beef today. It has really been brewing for quite some time, but it takes me a while to get it all sorted out in my heart.
It's about responsibility.

I have to start by saying, I am glad my parents were wise about teaching me responsibility. At the time of being a teenager, I probably resisted it. I remember a time I had bought some special shampoo with my own money, because what my parents bought just wasn't good enough for my own hair, and I left it in the family bathroom. Believe it or not, my little brother used it more than once, and I felt that wasn't fair. When I complained to my mom, she reminded me that everything I had ever needed was provided for me and if I bought anything that I was not prepared to share, I needed to keep it put away.

What I learned from that point in life was two-fold. I needed to view my "things" as an opportunity to share or be responsible to keep them put away. If it's out, it's expected to be community property.

How does that transfer to my parenting? Even though its not sinking in all the time well, this is how: my teenagers do their own laundry. Most of the time it's the clothes we purchased, but they have to keep them washed, dried and put away. They don't pay for any supplies, the electric and gas is provided, as well as the soap and softeners. They each get 2 nights a week to accomplish this task, and all they are required to do is to be respectful of the laundry that may already be in the appliances, and follow them through the cycle.

This is where it fails. I go down to the laundry room, and they still have a pile of clothes in the washer. Wet. So, they sat in front of the TV for the evening, and never followed through on their responsibility. Or, the basket of my laundry was pulled out of the dryer or washer, left heaped in a basket, and they proceeded to do their own thing with no concern for what it has done to someone else. That ticks me off. It is ONE of the only things they are required to do without fail, and it's for THEMSELVES and they still can't follow through.

So, I reminded each of them last night, I am not their slave. I have fed them, clothed them and cared for them all. They are each able to fend for themselves in the laundry room and they are creating more frustration for me when they dont' take responsibility for this ONE aspect of their lives. I have told them if I find any of their clothes in the dryer I will personally bag them and throw them away.

Yeah, I am trying to teach responsibility. This week it worked. The dryer is empty today.
Small steps.

I don't normally believe in parenting with such force. Afterall, they are just teenagers, right?
I have to tell myself as I am training them, we have such a small amount of time left. I have 3 teenagers right now, 15, 14 and 13. I keep watching them grow taller, wiser and older ! The time left to influence and train them is going by very fast. My 7 kids at home each have challenges, carry-overs from their families of origin. We deal with RAD, FAS, ADHD, and social issues. Behaviours can be frustrating, and as much as they look normal, each of the kids carry baggage from past hurt and trauma that makes their paths even tougher to negotiate. I could excuse alot of what they do, but instead, I really want to train them up to be their very best!

No one will do their laundry when they leave here. No one will feed them when they are hungry. No one else will be picking up after them. Adulthood is looming largely in front of them all, and they have much to prepare for. Laundry is just the beginnng.

I hurt for parents who are still babying their grown kids. I hate it that in this time of their lives, they are still figuring out how to get their adult children an education, or a home, or babysitters for their children's children. I am all for helping the helpless. But I really strive to be the parent who is conscious of training them while they are home, and setting them off for their futures prepared to excel.

I have three grown kids, married and thriving. It's not that I was a perfect mom, or that we haven't been through struggles. But I am so very thankful that they have learned responsibility from an early age, and when they make choices, they know they will be responsible for the outcome. I believe it has helped them be good citizens, employees and spouses.

Whether anyone else agrees, I see the huge benefits of learning responsibility at an early age. And the funniest part is, my 10 year old is already asking, "When do I get to start doing my own laundry?"

I dont' think its time yet, but I am glad she's already prepared to take that next step into responsibility for her personal life. That makes me proud.

End of sermon.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The weathermen are calling this Juneuary this year, due to the unseasonably warm weather our Michigan weather is thowing at us right now. I don't know about others in our area, but I am really sick of the ups and downs. I suspect now that we are in February, it is gonna get really icky and cold!

Speaking of colds, we have all had them. It has been the worst season for us all being sick with the upper respiratory junk, and today we have 2 seeing the doctor today. Tommy has had a ton of asthma issues this week, and is now being treated for a sinus infection. Missing 3 days of school is not as bad for him as some of the others would be, because he will catch up easily. Bella has been in school all week, but has been miserable. No fever, but told me in the night her ears have bubbles and hurt. Oh boy. We will get that appointment done at 4 today. And tomorrow we celebrate her 5th birthday, so its a shame for her to not feel good enough to enjoy that!

Mike took Tyler to the emergency room yesterday. He met him at school after a call that said "eye injury in machine shop". Oh how scarey! Fortunately, the foot that caught his eye did not carry any contaminants, and altho there is a split in his eyelid, no stitches. It was sore last night, and pretty puffy this morning, but the CT scan showed no internal damage. Wow, he is determined to mess up his face!! He has now had at least 2 broken noses, and several black eyes. I told him his modeling career will have to wait...

The rest of us are just treading water. The wait for my return to Africa continues to be delayed. It is painful, at best. I told a friend yesterday that I wish I could get this waiting thing down to a graceful and peaceful attitude. I KNOW God is in control. I KNOW He has a perfect plan. But since we were all geared up to bring the boys home in December, January drug by as painfully as possible. We have fired our original adoption agency, and are pursuing legal action against her. While researching her agency further this year, we have found numerous individuals who are doing the same thing. Sad. Frustrating. Down right disgusting that any agency would use children as pawns to further their own individual lives, while putting the orphans at risk. I am more mad each time I have to deal with any paperwork in regards to the agency that has messed up an entire year for us and our boys.

I have a wonderful lady now in an agency in California that has been AWESOME! If there is any hope in an agency, it's with her. I am more and more amazed that the boys are growing and still holding well during this time. They have wonderful foster families in Africa that care so much for them. That consoles me, although I know there are many things they can not get there that they need here. I just keep praying for that miracle, but the news that changes day to day puts us farther away instead of closer to them. Sigh.

I am a huge advocate for adoption. But it is surely not for the weak of heart! It's HARD! I know this is why alot of well meaning families stop the process to adoption. It's too many steps and too emotional to hang on week after week. Since meeting the boys I have had several people tell me maybe I misunderstood Gods plan. Maybe I was just meant to KNOW of their needs and become advocates for all the children, not actually meant to adopt these boys. Well, as neat and tidy as that may seem to some people, these boys are not just pictures I have seen or stories I have heard. I spent a year of my life praying for them, preparing for them, and holding them on two different occasions, promising them I will return to bring them home. They have been a huge part of our life plan for more than a year, they have beds and clothes and toys waiting for them here. I have secured doctors and talked to specialists about their care. I have purchased equipment for their therapies and spent hours researching their health issues. We have spent hard earned monies so I could go be with them twice last year, and I have spent more than one night, sleepless, either in worry or prayer for them both.

I have done my best to keep things normal around here for the rest of the family (whatever normal is!). Bella asks most every day when the boys are coming home. In her little heart it's been way too long also. Our plans keep being weighed against the "unless I am in africa then" statement, and to be honest, I am pretty sick of it all.

But my committment to the boys never changes. I can not fathom our future without them in it, and I can't believe I could ever STOP pursuing them. My daughter is law said it best: If these were one of the children that you already had/have, would you walk away from any of their lives just because it got hard to deal with?

NO.. NO...NO. I know in my heart they are as much mine as any of the others who are officially so. But to my blogging and praying friends, please keep it up. My friends who have adopted you know the pain of uncertainty. Please keep praying. For family and friends who are tired of hearing me whine, please keep praying. I am embarrassed to feel so vulnerable. But for some reason, God has choosen this timing in our lives, and for that reason alone, I keep praying.

For health, safety, grace and mercy. For me, my family and my african boys.
I really want to report soon that I am coming home with them. Your prayers will make it happen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Andrew Has The Dog

Taking our granddog, Kodiak, to the airport for his flight home to Puerto Rico, was such an experience, it still has us laughing!

We were able to get to the airport, in spite of a snowstorm that left alot of our area businesses closed for the day. The airport is about 2 1/2 hours from our home, so we left in plenty of time. 6:30 am, for a 12:30 p.m flight. It was still dark out, and very cold. Kodi was visibly nervous as we got into the van, but he calmed down and slept on one of the back seats. Big white dog...with a scared puppy face!

We were able to travel at the high speed of 35 mph, and actually got to the airport in plenty of time for Scott and Kodiak to fly out, but due to the extreme measures it takes to fly a german shephard out of the states, Scott had to spend a large amount of time at the counter getting a new flight that would allow them both to go.

Kodiak weighed in at 95 pounds, crate and all. We had found an airline approved crate for him last summer, thinking eventually Kodi would fly home. Scott was really missing him, and when Kodi first saw Scott when he flew in for Christmas, he kept "talking" his shephard howl, and couldn't get enough of his time with Scott.
Ah, I am gonna miss that dog.

So, at the airport, Kodiak was slipping and sliding on the slick tile floors, totally out of his element. Big dog, timid as a mouse. Every now and then a tiny lap dog would peek it's head out of a posh carryon, causing Kodi to bark in hysterics, wanting to play. I think the other dog's owners thought he wanted to eat their tiny treasures, but not Kodi. He is a big dog with a gentle heart.

At last we were ready to place Kodiak in the hands of a seasoned professional. Andrew appeared out of nowhere, calling Kodi "cute" and rubbing his back. As soon as Kodi would turn his head to face Andrew, he would draw his hand back and take at least two steps further from Kodiak, obviously overwhelmed by his size.

Incidentally, Kodiak was 10 pounds over the limit, but they agreed to let that go. For a time, we figured Kodi may be living with us an additional 2 1/2 years of Scott's time in Puerto Rico, so we kept our fingers crossed. Big dog, living in a little house with 2 other dogs, 4 cats, 7 kids and a bunny. He had to go home.

Andrew tried to set our minds at ease. He obviously wanted us to feel comfortable in his ability to care for Kodi, although the entire time Andrew would have Kodi would be while he was caged. Anyhow, Andrew told us he had raised many breeds for over 30 years, his favorite being his breeding of a shephard and a "doverman" dog. Interesting combo....and Andrew also prided himself in his ability to know exactly what a dog likes.

The conversation went something like this:

Andrew..."I love dogs. I breed dogs and raised many breeds for over 30 years."
us..."Oh, that's nice."
Andrew..."I made them a new years easter bread. It has flour and real orange peels."
us..."Wow, and the dogs like that, huh?"
Andrew..."I know dogs. You know that bread? It has real orange peel. Made it myself."

The entire time I couldn't get the Dustin Hoffman "Rainman" out of my mind. Very similar!! But he took his job seriously, and was determined to get Kodiak safely stowed in the belly of the plane.

As he gave Kodi a last tickle and a "cootchy cooo", we placed him in the crate, and waved goodbye.

"See you in Puerto Rico, Kodiak" and away he went.

Scott called later to let us know they made all their connecting flights, and were safely landed in PR. Kodiak seemed no worse for the wear, and is now adjusting to a life in 80 degree weather in January. Poor dog.

It is obvious that our home is lacking a big dog. I will miss him. But I am so glad he is back with his owner, who missed him so very much the last 6 months.

But mostly, I miss Scotty, my oldest son. He maintains a high standard of excellence in everything he does in the Coast Guard, and he continues to make us proud. It was wonderful having him under our roof, and I am grateful he left his wife and kids here for another week so we can get more loving in on those grand babies. It is always sad to see him go, not ever sure when we will see him again.

But thanks to Kodiak, we laughed until the end, and we know that our family ties will keep us together even when we are apart.

We will miss you Kodiak. And of course, Scotty.