The General

When we set out on our adoption journey I honestly didn’t want a toddler. To start over. I hated potty training and had ZERO desire to do it again. The car seats, the messes, the sippy cups…the time and energy toddlers take. I am an “older” mom. There are 40 years between me and the General. But God had other plans. And we are thankful He knows better.

Our youngest man cub literally longs to be in charge, to be the boss in almost every situation. Hence the nickname, The General. While it has been challenging, we are leaning on God to teach us how to equip The General for the obvious call to leadership God put in him.

IMG_2814Here he is trying to negotiate bedtime with Dad (a former Marine, mind you). While we got a few good laughs, the General’s strategies didn’t work.

IMG_2957  This pose comes naturally to him, as he is ever ready to defend and protect. (Yes, those are flip flops on his shoulders.)

IMG_2974His independent nature overrides any fear or hesitation most of the time. Sometimes his sense of adventure + independent nature + lack of proper fear can = a nervous momma.

IMG_2812He LOVES Jesus and wants to preach one day. He has it all planned out. The general will stand in the back at church with the “Big Guys” who too feel called to preach and make plans to preach in each other’s churches. “I am just a kid” is not in his DNA. Here when we set up our first nativity scene he kept staring at Jesus and Mary. He had questions but most of all he wanted to make sure Mary and Jesus would be alright out there all night. I am telling you the urge to protect is very strong in him. It is so precious and enduring too. He has stood up to people in defense of others. He is also convicting quick to forgive.

IMG_2972Raising a leader is an honor while at the same time, challenging. Teaching when to lead, when to follow. When to be on top and when to support can be tough for a kindergartner, heck, to be honest, for some adults too.

IMG_2711No one wants to raise a dictatorial tyrant. (Seriously, he came out like this. Not even sure if he has ever seen Hilter, but by golly…) Thankfully, God put a sweet tenderness in the General to balance out his need to be the boss. He is ever ready to give hugs, compliment and encourage. He knows no stranger and EVERYWHERE we go people LOVE him. Out of all six of our kids, he is the most social. If you were to look up social butterfly you’d see his sweet face. Cannot wait to see what God has in store for him.

IMG_2712What are your tips on raising independent leaders?

 

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These Two

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When it comes to our man cubs (thank you for the phrase, Ruth from Gracelaced), these two are close. Our oldest and youngest man cubs. Though they are very different in personality they connect so well. Their imagination goes way beyond the others. They push each other and yet are each other’s safe place. Each is a leader, yet both are willing to follow the other. 14 years age difference may seem like a big now but I am excited to see this relationship grow. To see what God has in store for these brothers.

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V.P.I.

Our youngest has had a bunch of medical procedures in his short life. You can read about  some of them in the Doctors catergory. One of them affects his speech. There is actually a video of him at the doctors here. (If you don’t like medical procedures or have a weak stomach you may not want to watch the whole video.) Velopharyngeal Insufficiency (VPI) is a failure of the body’s ability to temporarily close the communication between the nasal cavity and the mouth, because of an anatomic dysfunction of the soft palate or of the lateral or posterior wall of the pharynx. In layman’s terms when he says certain words he talks very nasally. The air and salvia come up when they aren’t supposed to. The note below is what the doctor (cleft palate plastic surgeon) injected, where it was injected and what our son has.

IMG_2598It was a relief to find out what was going on.

IMG_2599Here he is with the super kind nurse prepping him for his video and nasendoscopy. He did so well with it all. The doctor and nurse were excellent as well. Note: the tissue coming out of The General’s sock is his shin guard. He was pretending to be a baseball player.

IMG_2600Hubby, on the other hand, could not watch. After finding out that the General had VPI we scheduled the injection. Now, this was out of town and required an overnight stay. While The General loved the doctor he wasn’t having it when they called us back. When we were told to dress him in the little gown, etc. he lost it. We had to make things fun. It took him a very long time to get fully undressed and then dressed for the procedure.

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Having a hospital, medical staff that has worked with children and makes everything less scary makes all of the difference. One sweet nurse brought in a little laptop and even found the exact movie he asked for!! So grateful for small gestures.

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So with Teddy (a gift from the hospital) by his side and movie playing, he finally settled in for the long wait.

IMG_2756One other BRILLANT idea that every child should get is there “sleepy” medicine in liquid form! I love this place! We have had too many other places inject all of the meds through I.V. Nobody likes those, especially little kids.

IMG_2751Poor guy started to hallucinate from the meds…this fish on the wall were jumping out at us, the curtain was going to fall on Dad, etc.

IMG_2732He took many photos like this with my phone and this is probably just how things looked for him.

The procedure…well, it didn’t work. Next step, actual surgery. We meet with the doctor again and go over questions we have concerning the operation and see if we even want to go through it. There’s a lot to weigh out. Without it or a miracle (which we fully believe in and are praying for), he will always talk this way. But depending on the answers to our questions is this something we want to put our son through.

If you have ever had to make a hard medical decision for your kid or kids you know the depth of our emotions, our questions, and our choices.

As an adoptive mom, when health, cognitive, and or behavioral issues come up it is hard not to blame the birth parents. Some of the issues are obviously due to the bio parents others there’s no telling. As a mama, many times it takes getting on my knees to cool the mama bear in me, pull back by claws of bitterness, and anger, and give my kids and their issues to God. For He is the ultimate doctor, teacher, and counselor.

The Power of One

I try to stay away from current affairs on my blog but this one really hits home.

“13 siblings held captive…” has been all over the media. And rightly so. My first reaction was of course sadness and disgust. Honestly, I really didn’t want to hear more about. However, my curious nature got the best of me and I dove a bit deeper into the story. After learning just a bit more two other things struck me right upside the heart.

  1. ONE girl…if it wasn’t for the ONE sibling escaping and notifying the police those poor children would still be existing in those unspeakable conditions. This hit very close to home and without going into much detail, our kids, many kids across our neighborhoods would still be in horrible conditions if it were for ONE brave child taking a chance, risking it all to get help. Those brave children are heroes in my eyes. They save themselves and many times their siblings from such depravity.
  2. If it wasn’t for the number of children found would this be such a big story? To us, sadly, this is the reality. This is just ONE of the stories that happen every day whether we hear about it on the news or not. We would not have four of our kids if it were not for stories like this. I could go on about this but please, let me direct you to a wonderful post that says it much better than I could at Faithfully Fostering.

What are we to do about it? Do we treat it like any other disturbing news story and wish it away? Or do we do something about it? Maybe you can’t help those 13 kids (God knows they are going to need a LOT of support and a STRONG family). But you can look out for the kids around you. If you see kids marching back and forth in the middle of the night for hours (as one neighbor saw) or things of that nature, be the ONE to call the police. Be the ONE to become a foster and/or adoptive family. Be the ONE who comes alongside a foster family to support them. Be the ONE who will cry out in prayer for these kids and for families who take them in. Be the ONE who loves your kids a bit more and invite a neighbor’s kids over. Be the ONE who helps struggling parents, lead them to the ONE, Jesus. Don’t be the ONE who lets someone else take care of this problem.

 

 

Sticks and Stones

The other night I was reminded of the glaring differences between our family and families not affected by trauma.

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You can buy this adorable print here.

There are many things “regular” (what is regular anymore anyway?) folks joke about and/or just throw out in conversation that no one thinks twice about. Unless you are my family. Maybe I am hypersensitive to certain topics. Maybe I can overreact. But this is where we are for now.

Take the game of cops and robbers. The old-school game of pretend where the “good” kids-the cops protect citizens from the “bad” kids-the robbers. Now imagine it on steroids. Where gang members are involved, along with the robbers. Your kids found chains somewhere and have their sibling’s hands bound in those said chains. No more cops and robbers. Then we have hide and seek. Again a simple innocent child’s game. When things look a bit suspicious you start checking things out and see signs that are more fitting for a horror story than a child’s game posted all over your yard. No more hide and seek. Lots of teaching going on here. You get pulled over for going a bit too fast and the child with you has a look of complete fear on his face. The police officer has to calm your child and let him know he is not taking you to jail. Simply, Mom was driving a bit too fast. Raise kids whose birth parents were in and out of jail so many times that it’s just a way of life. Going to jail is such a huge topic of discussion to our younger kids. It’s like it’s no big deal. You get caught, go to jail and get out. No biggie. Let’s rethink this okay?

Joking about race…really SO many of us do it. Let’s be honest. Yet, when one of your children is drawn to parts of their culture that aren’t the greatest, one tries to steer that child down a safer road. Not everything about each of our cultures needs to be embraced.

Make a joking comment to two of my kids about food and eating and they simply cannot brush it off and enjoy a laugh with you. Going without food and eating rotten food for so long make certain things much less funny. Comedians-need not apply.

Now I am not one of those people who is offended by every little thing everyone says or does but when you have a child with special needs certain words become hurtful. When your child is a different race than you, you become more aware of your own probable racism and of those around you. When your child has been through certain types of trauma and you are living out the effects of that you become more protective of what your child hears and sees.

For the most part, when those around us are made aware that certain words or topics affect us and our children differently they are more than willing to change and are apologetic about it. For that, I am grateful and have been fortunate. Sometimes it just takes a few moments to explain why those things are not appropriate to help someone see things differently and make our world better. Sticks and stones do break bones, but contrary to the old child’s saying, words do hurt, sometimes pretty bad.

Addicted

As you more than likely know, we brought home a sibling group of four in the beginning of 2015. We went from a household of three to a household of seven overnight. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. But one of the first things we noticed was our son’s addiction to video games. He (Chief) was a month shy of 11 when we got him.

Now when we were told about the kids from CYFD, one of the things we were told was that he had been diagnosed with a learning disorder and he liked to play video games. “Okay, no problem,” we thought. However, the extent of it was not told to us. For the sake of this post, I am going to focus on the video game addiction and how it intertwined deep into his brain and personality. Socially he was awkward and behind. He was and still is a quiet kid. But when he did anything, draw, play it all centered around video games. He only drew video game related characters and scenes. He pretended (more like thought) he was in a video game. Seriously, it was strange and at times scary. We’ve all heard the stories of foster kids killing their foster parents. Well, those fears weren’t too far from home or our mids. To engage him in normal conversation was very hard. He hadn’t had much practice at it.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity we didn’t pull the plug on the video games right away, even though it was obvious that not only our second oldest son had a problem, but so did the other two. Our youngest soon got too used to watching videos, albeit educational. We did go through the gaming devices that they came with and got rid of the questionable games, apps, etc. We started to limit the screen time as well.

We also noticed that when the kids would get off of their devices or stop watching anything they really struggled transitioning back into reality. They would remain in a fog state for some time. The longer the screen time, the longer the fog time. It changed their attitudes and behaviors, never for the better. Today, they are very rarely on the computer for anything, unless at school. Video games are a thing of the past. Movies are only occasionally on the agenda. T.V., well, we don’t have one and don’t watch it online either.

Chief had the hardest time with the restrictions. Honestly, gaming was all he knew. No matter where they lived growing up, how little money they had he was never without an XBox or gaming device. In foster care he was able to stay up very late playing video games, watching inappropriate things without any supervision. It was a means of escape for him. He hated when we’d limit screen time or actually take away his devices as a consequence. He had withdrawals. But it was okay.  Not easy, but okay. We knew it was for his best interest.

Like I said we didn’t go cold turkey with him or the other kids, and at first, we watched way more movies than we ever did with our oldest two. Seriously, the movies started out as a way for all of us to be able to sit in the same room without chaos. But today after a long and hard, but definitely not the hardest battle, he has changed SO much. His sketch pads are filling with everyday items, happier storylines, and he’s even made up his own characters. His imagination has soared. When he plays he plays how a “normal” kids should play. I can’t remember when we have seen him act out video games. He reads. He creates. Best of all he engages. You should see his smile. Chief has really matured and grown into a funny, sincere young man. He knows he was addicted. He still wants to play from time to time but even though he hasn’t said it I believe that he is grateful we took the stance we did and took away screens of all sorts. (You can read a bit about our stance on screen time here)

A side note on learning disabilities and screen time. They do not and should not go hand in hand. It only hinders brain development and growth. What kids with LDs need are hands-on experiences, outdoor fun, books, engagement from adults, real life. They need to be challenged to learn, not pacified. They need to see what they are capable of in the real world, not some fantasy digital world. Though he still has his academic struggles, he has made great gains. He is learning to use his brain in ways he never has. He has even stated that his brain would hurt in the early days with us.

I also want to state that Chief was not the only person in our house addicted to electronics. His was just the worst. Yet God used it to reflect and show us our own shortcomings and pitfalls where electronics were concerned. Isn’t it funny how God does that? Sometimes our children are the perfect mirror.

Power of a Game

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There is so much meaning behind this photo.

You may just see two people playing chess.

I see a father and son finding something that helps them bond.

I see a young man who has a diagnosed learning disability, who once was addicted to video games, who didn’t know how to function outside of video games almost beat his dad, who is very good at chess.

I see how our son, The Chief, being an example to his siblings and starting a wave of chess playing in our home.

I see a young man who has studied the game, went over plays in his head, practiced and even made his own chess sets.

I see the power of a game.