Good Parenting ISN’T Easy

The other day at my 60 something appointment since February I got two comments, in regards to our big family, ones that I get too often.

“It must be hard.” and “You seem so calm.”

First of all, parenting brings the best out in a person but it can bring out the worst as well. My husband and I are no more “special” than the next parent. And trust me we have been pushed to our limits more than our fair share on this parenting journey. So if you think I am calm…thank you. But really you are looking at the work God has done in me or you just caught me at the right moment.

Second, of course, it is not easy. Good parenting is never easy. Raising a child into a functioning, civilized, caring human being, one who knows they are capable of reaching their potential takes work. That is raising them from day one, with your DNA. Throw in someone else’s’ DNA and all that goes into raising kids from foster care and no it is not easy.

Today I see things in a different light. I used to take so much for granted when I only parented our bio kids. Sometimes it takes a broken mirror to show you just how important the little things you did really are. So many of the little moments, just talking about the everyday things like “Oh, look at that bird,” all of the small touches, the little everyday connections, if missing can really affect a child. Not to mention when bad stuff happens.

My husband and I truly feel no different than the next good parent trying their hardest. We have no special super powers (though I wish we did, they’d sure come in handy). We haven’t taken any over the top intense training to prepare us for this. A lot of it has been off the cuff parenting, a LOT of praying and yes, a lot of failing.

Moms and dads, don’t let the media or those around you pressure you into feeling like you are not a good parent. None of us are great…well okay there are those among us. None of our lives are Pinterest perfect. (At least no one I know.) We all make mistakes, we all yell at times, we all lose it and you know what…that’s okay. We are showing our kids that it’s okay to be human, to be less than perfect. It’s okay it mess up. They get to see how we handle failure, how we handle a stressful situation, a major plot twist in life. To me, that is what real parents do. If you don’t have laminated ABC’s on your walls…it’s okay. Your kids don’t care. They want your time and attention. They want to be bored and discover things on their own. They need to fall and figure out how to get up on their own.

Parenting isn’t for sissies for sure, but I really haven’t met too many of those, so you are more than likely going to be just fine as a parent. So pull up your big girl/boy panties and stand your ground, spend time with your kids, make the hard decisions (I have said this more than once, “I want you to be safe more than I want you to be happy.) Make your kids do chores, teach them to forgive, show them how to notice and accept others around them. Give them new experiences in and out of their comfort zones. Let them cry, let them feel pain, let them know the depths of messing up and being forgiven. Show them grace, give them order, hold them accountable.

Parenting is hard. Parenting sometimes sucks. But parenting is also very worth it.

 

 

 

My Little Helper

Love the toddler age, when chores are more fun than work. The General is in that stage. Loving his help and him getting independent. Whether it’s helping me with the laundry or attempting to make his own microwave oatmeal, cooling it off in the freezer or emptying the sweeper/vacuum he really loves to help. He amazes me all of the time.

An Epiphany

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I have been working on a post about how we do chores. It is written and finished, BUT it is so very long. So while I am figuring out how to shorten it I want to share this something with you all.

We have pulled a Donald Trump and fired our 9-year-old. For the sake of the emotional well-being of our home, we fired him from the dishes. You see while he is very capable of doing them he gets so deregulated that he really isn’t capable of doing them. While he did just great last year, this year is a completely different story.

99% of the time when it is his turn to do the dishes he gets so emotional that it isn’t worth it. He gets upset, mom gets upset, dad gets upset, etc. The older kids had no problem taking over his slot.

No regulating tricks have work, no strategies have worked, no “just suck it up and do the dishes” have worked. So for now, maybe for awhile, he isn’t doing the dishes.

The epiphany…physical or even cognitive capability isn’t what we need to measure. The ability to be emotionally capable is.

Puppets, Scared Dog and Good Times

On a much lighter note, this week thus far has been appointment free other than taking The General to his speech and OT!!

I have also had the privilege to work alongside our eldest son as he has taken on the project of fixing up the Children’s Church puppets.

YEARS ago I was involved in the puppet ministry and actually hand made four puppets along with another fellow puppeteer.

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These poor puppets have seen better days. We fixed up the tears, broken arms, and holes.

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Gave them all a good shave. Took years off of them.

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Removed old, missing eyes. Replaced them with new, bright ones.

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He fixed their hair, gave them new clothes, tongues (not shown here) and a few got accessories. A lot of work, but so well worth it. I love working alongside my son and seeing our new kids see behind the scenes and all the work that goes into these. The General LOVES the Granny.

The funniest thing was we had them all set up like this in the dining room, where the dogs go in and out. Our big dog would not come in with them in there. Hubby had to put them all in the playroom before she’d come in the house. They can give you the impression that someone is there at first glance.

Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt. 2

To quickly recap from part one; when starting a budget you need your essentials budgeted first.

*Food- we should be spending 9-14% depending on what source you read.

*Shelter-Depending on your income and outflow you may have to reassess where you live and/or your living arrangement.  Financial advisors will that no more than 25-28% (the opinion varies from site to site) of your income should go toward housing.  I am no financial advisor, but you may have to downsize or move if you are over your budget here.

*Clothing-While we need clothes…thank God for clothes…this one can be easy or hard to figure our just how much you need, especially if you have growing children.  However, after looking it up, conscience says about 4% of your income should be spent on clothing.

Let’s go back to food…my favorite: set a budget for your food allowance and plan accordingly.  I am a meal planner, have been for over 20 years now.  At first, t can be hard, but it quickly becomes second nature.  You can gather up old cookbooks, Grandma’s recipe box or look online at the endless recipe sites and start planning.  When meal planning, make sure when picking out recipes that they include regular products you either have already or will use again.  Sauces and spices for example can add up really quick especially if you will rarely use them.  Ask a friend if he/she has that sauce or spice and see if you can use it just for that recipe.  If so, make sure to give them some of the yummy dish you make.  That way they will more than likely let you use there pantry items in the future.

My grocery lists would/do include items we need all of time like toiletries, milk, bread, eggs, did I mention milk.  We have usually ate pretty much the same things for breakfast so that was easy.  For lunch Hubby took leftovers to works.  The kids either brought lunch or ate at school, it varied.  I also ate leftovers or made something at home.

Again, our grocery list didn’t vary much other than for dinner items. For that is where the planning helps a ton.  Here’s what I looked for: I had a few easy, quick meals for those busier than normal nights, meals that would stretch and I would try to vary the meats.  I tried to keep the favorites in there (I give my recipes a star rating to quickly identify the favorites) and add new recipes to try out.  Like I said living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring.

Now for the clothing.  Luckily, I don’t get bothered if I don’t wear name brand clothes.  My family has been pretty good about it too.  When the kids got jobs they tended to buy more name brands, but they too quickly learned how to find a good deal.  So, I am going to be completely honest…I love to shop at thrift stores.  I shop at stores ending in Mart as well, and some name brand stores (clearance racks and sales $$$) as well.  But there’s not much like thrifting and walking out with three grocery bags full of shirts that only costs $35.  Yes, that just happened last week!  It’s like treasure hunting.  Hubby mainly buys brand new clothes.  In his line of work he needs very sturdy, heavy duty clothes that are VERY hard to come by used.  However, the kids and I have gotten a good amount at the thrift stores.  Now I don’t buy undergarments or swim wear used.  EVER.  No matter how tight our budget is.  I also shop online for clothes.  Where we live we have a For Sale-(our city’s name) on Facebook.  It’s like an online yard sale.  I have gotten our toddler grocery bags full of clothes for under $40.  These types of sites/pages are great for reselling your kiddos used clothing too. There’s also this site I LOVE, LOVE: Thredup.  I have to not go there too often or I WILL go over my clothing budget.  They have name brands, if that matters to you, quality clothing for women and children.  With a family of seven, this is a game changer.  Their return policy is terrific too.  Okay, enough of the infomercial here.  I have also shopped yard sales, but not too often.  I prefer the organization of stores.  Hand-me-downs have been a blessing to us.

To briefly sum it up, there are many ways to save money and stick to your budget.  It takes a bit of time and effort, but it will be worth it and it will pay off.

 

Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt.1

If you missed my first post about budget living please go here.

Frugal.  Cheap.  Penny-wise.  Prudent.  Practical.  Thrifty.  Tight.  These are just some of the names one might call you if you watch your money and/or live on a budget.  Some are names to be proud of, some maybe not-so-much.  The word I love when it comes to money is not on this list is SMART.  Telling one’s money where to go puts you in the driver’s seat and ahead of the ball game.  Being smart with your money all comes down to a budget.

Just the thought of that word budget can send shivers down one’s spine, or get the audible groans from some in the crowd.  While for others it is a word bringing gleeful delight.  No matter which side of the budget fence you are on you need to be on a budget for the long term.  Hubby and I use Dave Ramsey’s budget method.  We got on a budget due to some unfortunate events (not related to the book).  I wish I could say we have stuck to our budget like a straight-A student.  We haven’t.  It’s more like we’ve been on the dean’s list, should’ve been in detention and everywhere in between.  However, we have stuck with it, reworked it here and there and are still making it work.  Here’s how we did it for over 20 years on virtually one income, while raising two kids and adopting 4 along the way.

Let’s start with things everyone needs: food, clothes and shelter. I am going to have to make this a two parter…talking about food alone takes up my word count!!

*Grocery Shopping-One of the first things we budgeted was our grocery bill.  Now our grocery bill included toiletries, diapers (some people will put diapers in their clothing expense category), cleaning supplies, etc..  Lumping it all together worked MUCH easier for me, instead of having to finger through three to four different envelopes and keeping the items grouped together on the conveyer belt when shopping all at one store.  I got a certain amount when Hubby got paid and had to stick to that amount for two weeks at a time.  I became a meal-planner.  It is second nature for me now.  I would sit at our kitchen table with my cookbooks, varying them each time, even trading with a friend to mix it up, and pick out different meals (mainly dinners).  Today, with the internet, looking up cheap meals is just a click away.  We ate a lot of casseroles, spaghetti, beans and rice, and just food that would stretch and would make a lot of leftovers.  During our lean years we didn’t eat out much at all.  I made and baked almost everything we ate.  We grew some vegetables and would’ve done more if we lived in a more garden friendly environment.  Where we live couponing doesn’t really help much, but I do use coupons only when they save me money.* (more on this later)  We even shopped at one of those food stores that sell slightly damaged (dented) food products for a fraction of the price.  This has been great for snacks and boxed items.  I watched the store sales and since we live in a smaller town I could go from store to store getting the good deals.*  Living on a shoe string budget or just a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat like a pauper.  We have eaten good tasting healthy meals for all of these years and there hasn’t been too much complaining.

Another help in the food department when you have a family is setting limits.  It’s good for adults too.  We haven’t ever let our kids just eat whatever, whenever, how much ever they want.  We set limits and have snack times.  We serve smaller portions at dinner.  This way there is less waste for those times when their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.   (Can we just say with some kids this happens more than not.)  Besides, they can always get more.

One more note about grocery shopping and buying food.  Buying healthier food can be more expensive and put a big dent on the food budget, but it can be done.  When a person eats healthier, fresher foods they fill up faster and the pangs of hunger don’t come as quickly as when they eat the cheaper, less healthy food choices.  It can take more time to prepare, cook or bake, but it is worth it of you manage it with your schedule.

*About using coupons and driving around from store to store, it may not be worth it.  This is where you need to put your detective skills to work.  Get that old calculator out and see if  using that coupon on the particular name brand item is actually worth the little bit you’d save versus buying the generic version.  In most cases the generic is just as good and will save you money.  (Every little bit helps.)  Learn what you can and can’t buy generic.  When it cost more in gas to go form store to store for that “great” deal then it’s not so great.  I know of a lady who will drive out of state (about 1 1/2 hour drive) just to get “cheaper” diapers.  That is NOT smart shopping.  Not only will she spend more on gas than she will save on the diapers, she will probably spend money on something to eat.  If she’s like me she’ll pick up other items that weren’t on her list as well.  However, if, like us, SAMs is that far away and Hubby works half way there already then it is worth the trip to save us some money on big bulk items we go through all of the time.

 

Ewww That Smell

I mentioned in my one of my last posts that I would talk about the ninos and their smell.

Well, here goes.

When our little guys and girl came to us almost two years ago they were coming from different foster homes. Chief and Nana were in the same home. The other boys were separated too. So four kids, three different homes. Yet they all had the same funky smell. They didn’t smell per se. It was their clothes. It took months to get that funk out. They all were in clean homes too and ours was a clean home.

I talked to another adoptive mom about it. How no matter what I used, how many scented beads I shook into the washer, their clothes still smelled. She said her boys did too. Stress related. She can actually tell when one of hers would be lying by his smell.

I did some researching, just a bit to see how studied this really is. Here is what I found:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/body-odor

http://www.springdaleclinic.com/how-does-anxiety-cause-body-odor/

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Anxiety/Aniexty-and-body-odor/show/5052

There isn’t really much info on kids from foster care “smelling”, but there is evidence that anxiety and body odor can be related. There are also other types of B.O. that golly, I really didn’t know existed. B.O. I’d rather not mention here.

Recently I posed this question/topic on a foster/adopt Facebook page. The result was better than the internet search. Yes, it really is a “thing”. No matter what kid. No matter the background. No matter the age. They all came with some kind of smell. Some reported taking a year to get rid of the smell. Other than the stress factor others suggested they kids diets as well.

​Having a Plan

When Hubby and I got married, way back in the day, we knew that at some point I would stay home and keep the house while he brought home the bacon.  After 20 plus years of marriage and just about that many years of living this way, we still get mixed reactions.  However, we are okay with it and have made it thus far, virtually on one income.

How did we do it?  Glad you asked.  Let me give you a bit of background first. I had been working for about the first three years of our marriage when it came time for me to quit.  (That is a whole other post for another day.)  At this point of our lives, we had recently moved to a new state far away from all friends and family, everything we knew.  We literally packed up our two trucks and headed East.  (Just about everywhere’s East coming from California.)  We had savings that covered the moving expenses, and our butts, while we both found a job.  We were living in a sort-of-furnished mobile home, really enjoying life.  Then I quit my kitchen job one of the local senior citizen homes, to take care of our home and possibly start a family.  Hubby was working full time, making a bit over minimum wage.

Honestly, we didn’t have a financial plan or even a budget for that matter.  I sure wish we did, though.  It would’ve helped us be a lot wiser with our money and maybe save us from debt.  We were two young lovers, just enjoying the simple things in life, like staring into each other’s eyes.  This was way before Pinterest, heck, Pinterest-worthy we didn’t even have the internet then.  So, we really didn’t feel the prePinterest-worthy home, hair, car, wall decor, meals or anything.  We simply lived simple.

In the early years we didn’t use credit cards and paid for most items in cash.  I was pretty crafty so I made a lot of our decor and gifts for friends and family.  I cooked and baked, getting better by the year.  (At least I hope so.)  Therefore, we didn’t eat out much.  We did these and many other basic frugal lifestyle habits, just trucking along.

Year five we gave birth to our first daughter.  At the same time Hubby had started a cabinet making business.  (Again, another story for another post.)  Long story short we didn’t have much business or accounting experience, one thing lead to another and we were in debt.  With a business to keep afloat, a baby to care for and rent to be paid, there was no escaping that we needed a plan.  As anyone who has been where we were you can imagine the nice, sweet, rosy (insert sarcasm) conversations Hubby and I had.  We had to get on a budget and do it fast.

The first things to get on a budget was tithe for church (which we were already paying), our groceries, rent and utilities.  This started us on a lifetime of budget living.  I wish I could say it was all easy and a bed of roses from then on.  Let’s just say that one of us is a saver, likes to live on a budget and overspending sends this one of us into cold sweats.  While the other…well, we are opposites.  Need I say more.  Budget living is not easy for everyone.  Some relish “living in a box” and “staying in the lines”.

Nonetheless, having an agreed upon plan/budget did help us navigate our way back when we got off course.  Our budget was a reference point and sometimes a referee when called upon.  Over the years there has been tweaking done to the budget as more bills got added on (piled up) and jobs and pay changed.

Whether you are single, married or rooming with someone a plan/budget is key to your financial success.  Without one you are inviting disaster to happen.  Anyone can do it, no matter how hard it is for you.  There are many budget planning resources out there.  Our favorite is Dave Ramsey.  Just make sure the financial help you get is free.  You are trying to get a handle of your money and spending.  Even if the cost is very low, it still cost you your hard earned dollars.  I just did a Bing search for free budget planning and eight topics came up under the search bar.  If you’re not on a budget, start now.  You can do this.  You are worth it.

Overloaded Calendars

Do you have those months, weeks, heck, years where you are drowning in appointments, IEPs, school events, sports events, etc.? Have you had to cancel an appointment or two (or more) due to your unorganized and overlapping schedule? I have a solution that might help you.

This month I have 12, yes twelve appointments. Not to mention the church, school events and other things like that. Just appointments. Now I have always been more of an organized person, even as a kid. Can’t help it, just am. But months like these call out to my inner organizer to help sort out the business that is my life. I have to write it down or I WILL forget. I came up with this system, golly, I can’t even remember when, but it’s was years ago. Hopefully, it can help you as well.

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I HAVE to have a calendar where I can see it. So, on the frig it goes. How to pick the right calendar.

*Pick one you like to look at. Though the top half of mine usually gets covered up with notes from school, important reminders that I need to see or year, I will forget.

*Pick one with big enough date/day spaces to write all you need. I have literary filled those nice little rectangles up before.

That’s really about it. Now get some colored fine tip markers. I use CD type markers. There is no really reason for this other than that it what we had at the time I started and it worked so well I still use this type of marker.

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*Now for the colors: RED for birthdays, BLUE for church events, GREEN for school, ORANGE for appointments, PURPLE for dates, ladies nights, etc. YELLOW for those misc. items. I rarely use YELLOW as it is hard to see. I tend not to use black as it blends in with what is already on the calendar.

Using this color coded method helps me know what type of event is coming up at a glance.

The standard calendar worked for years. I needed nothing more. Along came the ninos…and many, many appointments followed. At first I tried using my smart phone. (Which I only got when we got the kids.)  I am not good at looking at my phone calendar or writing them down on my phone calendar. I ended up over lapping my appointments. I needed to change or add something.

Introducing the purse planner!!

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THIS my friend has helped tremendoously. I use the same color coded method. I started out using the markers but they bled through the pretty papers. No bueno. While in Durango, CO I found this totally cute, totally perfect little colored pencil set.

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I keep it attached to the front with the clip in the previous photo. With the same clip I hold  all of the appointment cards on the inside. Once the appointment is done I throw away the card. I keep the cards in case I need the number, or for some reason I forget to actually write it down. Which has happened.

To make this planner really work for me and not just be a lot of wasted paper bound together. I found one that I would actually use. It had to fit in my purse, check. It had to be attractive, check. I mean from the cover to the photos throughout where so me. I plan to hang the photos up when I am done with the planner. How’s that for multipurposing! It had to have big enough date space  (Again, I have been known to fill a day like a crazy woman.)

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It also comes with encouraging phrases, that somedays are timed just right.

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I have not used all that it has to offer, but have used the secondary calendar pages for notes. I keep a big rubber band as a place marker in this section. It also helps hold any loose paperwork I sometimes acquire at IEPs, Dr’s visits, etc.

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So, if you’re struggling to keep dates, appointments straightened out and not overlapping one another, don’t despair. Start with a standard calendar. There are SO many cute ones out there. Get some colored markers and start…to quote the cover of my purse planner: “The best way to get something done is to begin.”

Brave Little Solider

The Wednesday before New Year’s the General suffered a broken leg. Long story short, he got tripped.

img_2068All of the boys were playing in the playroom and I was getting dressed after my shower when I heard loud, painful crying. I quickly went to see what was wrong. Oldest son had the General on our counter trying to see what was wrong. He started taking off his shoes, nothing, except crying. The General wouldn’t tell us were the pain was. We took off his pants, nothing except crying. Even thought we couldn’t see anything amiss I knew something wasn’t right. I took him unto my bathroom away from the crowd (sometimes our family can be a crowd) to see if he’d calm down. After about 5 minutes we were all on our way to the ER.

After about 3 hours of MUCH pain, MANY tears, X-rays, a nurse who I still want to yell at and way too much paper work for a mommy holding her scared injured little one to fill out, we found out his shin was broken in two places. Clean breaks but still. The nurses in the ER put the splint on him and sent us on our way, discharge papers and script in hand.

Our little guy was in pain every time we moved him to use the restroom, to clean him, to feed him, to go anywhere…the splint really wasn’t helping much. Again, one angry momma here wanting to yell at some people. The General has been through a LOT in his little life, enough doctors to fill his lifetime quota. With pain, the unknown, or things he thinks he may not like he gets TERRIFIED and screams, cries and fights. He fought us each and every time we took him to the toilet, every time we moved him. Hubby slept in the General’s room for those first two nights, just to comfort him, move him, give him his pain meds. It took two of us to put him anywhere. It was really a big ordeal for those two days.

The following Friday he got his cast on!

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(It was SOOO good knowing that we weren’t hurting him now every time. We surely needed the cuddle time together after the first three days.)

The actual getting casted was another huge tiring ordeal. Most of us were near tears. BUT once that bright orange cast was on the pain started to decrease. The fear wore off with each passing day. He even let Biggest Brother doodle on it.

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Thankfully we had kept our stroller. I seriously was going to get rid of it the week before. The general did so good adjusting to his new limitations and didn’t let it stop him too much.

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He scoots around for the most part. He rode around on a dolly you use while working under your car. He can get in and out of bed, open doors, look out the windows, get himself all of the way up to the arm of the overstuffed chair in the playroom, and even sneak into the garage to hang out with Dad. All while not putting weight on his leg!

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We were able to rent him a kid sized wheelchair. (It had to be ordered from out of state!) The wheel chair is so much easier than the stroller. He mastered maneuvering around the house and even Walmart (he wanted to) super fast. He loves the freedom it gives him. It also enables him to ride the school bus again. The General, as friendly and as talkative as he is, made a new friend since being in the wheelchair with another student on his bus who is also in a wheelchair.

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Using the toilet and sponge bathing are the biggest challenges for us. But if you find yourself in this situation I have a few tips:

*Get a lint roller, especially if you have dogs. The amount of dirt and hair your little one will pick up on his bum from scooting around is frankly, embarrassing, no matter how much you sweep.

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*Keep hand sanitizer near by in the restroom and in your purse. As hand washing proves to be tricky especially when not at home.

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*Rent a wheel chair if at all possible. Life saver! Worth it in every way.

*Improvise. There are so many things they can’t do in this condition.

*The bruises on your hips from carrying your casted little one will go away. So will the sore toes, from the wheel chair. And your sore back from lifting and caring him everywhere.

*Get old pants or buy cheap ones. Even if jeans fit over the cast, they are a bear to get down quick enough when your little one needs to pee. Cut the casted leg off of the pants if needed. Know that they are going to get worn out quicker than normal from all of the rubbing against the cast. Same with socks.

*Lotion…his little toes are so dry it’s not even funny. Even on his good leg.

*Enjoy the extra cuddle time you will get. For us, it has been good since we didn’t get to “baby” him as a baby. I truly think this has helped him/us in the healing (from the past trauma) and bonding process even more.

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One last thing I cannot fail to mention. At our second X-ray the doctor informed us that the General’s bone was not healing straight. We were possibly looking at operating. He waited another week. We prayed for a miracle. At our third appointment, they took the cast off, which I didn’t expect and took a third X-ray. (they can X-ray through the cast). I think they expected him to need an operation. The X-ray proved our God is a big God. His leg straighten out!! No need to operate! He was so brave this go-around. Got to wear headphones and hold some tools. We go back in one week. Hopefully, this will be it. Hopefully he won’t need a cast anymore.