Category Archives: Family

Bucket Filling at Home

I am often late to the party, but it’s never too late to make a change for the better as they say. I have been reading for more than a year on various teacher blogs about bucket filling. I try to foster this type of environment in our homeschool and in our home, but I will admit the last 21 months and if I’m being completely honest even before that, the Prez and I have often been surviving and picking up the pieces instead of laying down a solid foundation.


After several very tough battles within our family, various children in various therapies, and just a general feeling of hopelessness mixed with sadness over all that’s been lost, the Prez and I are determined to foster a much more positive vibe in our home. One of the ways we are doing that is with a bucket system. Continue reading


Disney World 2014: On Our Way

I never blogged about our trip to Disney World in February 2014. Now that my blog is all spruced up, I am going to blog … about whatever I want. Since the Prez and I have been talking about going back to Disney World next February, I have been perusing our photos. So, on February 5 and 6, we finished up the packing and loading of the camper for an afternoon departure on February 7. All Disney trips require some staging of the camper: past photos on the walls; Disney-themed toothpaste; band-aids, and spaghettios; and of course Disney movies!Disney2014.1We knew we would stay overnight halfway down, and we found that Georgia rest areas have designated camping spots WITH dump stations and electricity! Continue reading


Merry Christmas!

To all my friends near and far, friends that I’ve known for years and friends that I’ve just found, to family both near and far, to family we will see this Christmas and to those we will miss, I wish you all a Merry Christmas from our family to yours! And to those who have sent us your beautiful cards, please know I took this task off my to-do list this year.



Complex Heart Disease and Common Illnesses

The thoughts in my mind must look like the ball in a pinball machine at the moment. They are ALL OVER THE MAP. Or is there even a map? That is seriously a scary thought!

A friend told me I should not feel the need to defend decisions the Prez and I have made and continue to make regarding our children’s healthcare, but I suppose I do. I realize our children all appear healthy and they are thank God. They are. Except they aren’t.

When you watch your baby sedated just an hour post-op from open-heart surgery with a breathing tube in her mouth that is doing all of the work for her lungs, sensors on her forehead to alert her medical team for early signs of a stroke, a large cut down her chest that required  sawing open her sternum, so many wires and machines behind her that you find it hard to believe the wonderful PICU nurses can even keep up … but they do, and you just breathe in and out as you watch her chest move up and down rhythmically with the machine. These are only part of the things that were attached to, going into, coming out of, and working together to keep our baby girl’s body right where it needed to be as she began the recovery phase after receiving life-giving open-heart surgery on April 23, 2013.

When you have done this, it never really leaves your mind. For long. It is just always there. Sometimes in the forefront. Other times in the recesses. But it never goes away. And when you’ve done it twice … what can I say. It changes you.

On my FB page, I have shared my heart about how concerned I am for our children, especially our three younger ones, who are ages 9, 9 and 4 currently. They are healthy, but they are also children who will always have survivor beside their names, because they ARE against medical odds and unimaginable odds. Our two 9-year-olds born with not only complex forms of heart disease, but also born with cleft lip and palate and orphaned as newborn infants. The odds were not in their favor.

Then our baby girl. Her story and the many more details we know is not one I will share here other than to say she was born with a very unique heart that is so complexly malformed the team of pediatric cardiologist at Vanderbilt can’t even agree on the exact set of defects it contains, so she is officially labeled with “indeterminate single ventricle disease.”

Indeterminate. not exactly known. established. or defined.

Because I know someone will wonder and I don’t mind sharing, Li’l Miss was born with transposition of the great vessels, which means the two main heart vessels are switched. The one taking blood to her lungs actually should be going to her heart and vice versa, so the oxygenated blood is pumped back to the heart for oxygenation and the blood needing oxygenation is sent out to the body, which makes for a very cyanotic child. She lived this way for 35 LONG months, against all odds and all the while also living with an open palate and a cleft in her lip as well, which makes feeding extremely difficult for infants before solids can be safely eaten.

Li’l Bit was born with pulmonary atresia, dextrocardia (flipped), and an upside-down heart as well as a smaller right ventricle, or maybe it is her left because her heart is so rotated the doctors couldn’t determine which side was functioning as the left or the right side.

To put it bluntly, their hearts are complexly formed and with many defects. While the surgery they received—the fontan— did work to help their hearts function much better, the defects are still there and their surgeries were palliative in nature meaning they aren’t corrective and only served to improve their quality of life.

A sobering reality.

When I worry about the influenza virus or a rampant stomach virus, I am serious when I say our girls DO NOT NEED to be unnecessarily exposed. When Li’l Miss gets a stomach virus, she ALWAYS becomes dehydrated, which for her or Li’l Bit is EXTREMELY dangerous. EXTREMELY dangerous. They just don’t have the health that most of us have to combat this in a way that most of us do. At the moment we see signs of dehydration, we go into overdrive and we take it very seriously. In addition, both of our girls would be admitted to the hospital if they were diagnosed with the influenza virus. It is EXTREMELY dangerous to their little hearts.

Last night, the Prez and I had to make the extremely difficult decision to let some family members know we’d not be able to attend the pre-planned extended family Christmas gathering because a family member’s child would be present with lingering symptoms of a stomach virus. At the heart of it, our precious kiddos are the losers because they aren’t going to see cousins, aunts, uncles and spend time with all of them together with grandparents. While it may seem like its not a big deal that a child still has diarrhea, we are faced with trying to keep our little girl from germs while she fights for her palate to heal from surgery on Dec. 2. We also know a stomach virus running rampant through our family and especially our littles is just not good for their overall health.

An oft-quoted saying among us Mommas of kids with complex heart disease is this: She (or he) is the healthiest sick kid you’ll ever meet.

So very true. So very true.

I want to add one final word here. For those who are healthy and whose children are all healthy, please do remember that not all of us are, not all of us have healthy children, even if they may appear to be from the outside looking in, and that the choices you make to be around others and expose others to seemingly “just let it run its course” viruses could actually be serious business for those with weakened immune systems, hearts with palliative surgical repairs, and many others plagued with illnesses of many kinds.

If you knew someone’s life would depend on your taking responsibility for the choices you make in exposing others knowingly to viruses, you might make different choices. I hope. One final note: our littles will never be cured from their congenital heart disease. It is part of who they are, and it is always a factor in our determining what is safest and best for their well-being. It isn’t something the Prez and I talk about openly a lot, but it is always present and always at the forefront of any decision we make regarding what is best and what is safest for them.



Why We Don’t Capitalize the Word santa

Insert the groans. Not another post from some ultra-conservative Mom of many about why she and her family don’t play along with the man in the red suit game and the little doll that sits on a shelf. I seriously don’t even get that. I clearly missed that boat.

First, I’m WAY FAR from ultra-conservative. Seriously way far from that.

Second, I don’t capitalize the word santa even though my iPhone tries SO VERY HARD to make me.

Third, our family made the break with the red suit lie many years ago when we brought our first daughter home from China, and we have never—not one time—regretted it or felt our kids had a less-than Christmas.


I could list many reasons, but honestly the ONLY reason for us to make the break is this: IT IS A LIE. A BIG FAT LIE.

For some background: both my husband and I were raised in Christian homes where santa was experienced. We had the nativities, the lights, the tree, and santa. We have many fond memories. My husband’s favorite Christmas memory is the year he was given shiny black boots. He was 4 or so, and he and a neighbor friend met up outside, and so the story goes the neighbor friend must’ve gotten new boots too. The Prez ended up knee-deep in a snowy, mushy, muddy mess and when he was pulled out the boots didn’t come with him. Needless to say he was in some trouble, but I think once the boots were retrieved all was well.

For me, its hard to pick one stand-out. I think for me it was waking up with all four grandparents there to see me and my older sister getting our presents. I remember one year I had asked for this larger-than-life hot wheels garage, and there it was under the tree along with brand-new matchbox cars! I was elated and can still see that garage with orange plastic pillars and cardboard walls.


I don’t know one day what our children may remember about Christmases in our home. I hope they remember good times spent with extended family celebrating the birth of Jesus and making memories with those we hold most dear.

Now I will attempt to tackle why the big lie is not a part of our Christmas celebrations ever.

1. Gifting gifts to our children from santa requires either telling them the truth when they begin to ask questions or lying to them.

Let’s face it. Some kids just put 2 and 2 together, and they will ask. Our 12YO began asking the questions around age 4. And yes, we lied to him to keep the “magic” alive. I will never get over that fact. We lied to our son to propagate a lie.

I can’t even form anything else to say here that I can put on the blog. It is so huge to me as the parent of kids who have been traumatized in so many ways, but everyone doesn’t have that perspective I realize.

2. Not all good children, including four of ours, are visited by santa on Christmas Eve.

I would daresay there are as many children in the United States who find out the hard way—because santa skipped their house due to economic constraints of the parent(s)—that he isn’t real as those who find out from a friend or a parent or walking in on santa activities late at night on Christmas Eve.

What can I say to this? I hear teachers talking about how awful it is that druggie Mom isn’t getting santa gifts and I hear friends bemoaning the fact little Johnnie’s friend told him the truth because his family couldn’t afford to buy fancy gifts from a fake image. Folks, no matter the reason, why propagate a lie at the expense of a little child who has learned early on that it is all a LIE. It doesn’t matter the WHY—orphan, single mom spending money on drugs, single mom working three jobs just to pay the bills, parents who choose not to do santa—but it does matter that the lie is forced on innocent children.

As for our four from China, they all KNEW—even the “baby” who happens to have also been the youngest at adoption at age 23 months—santa was fake and didn’t actually bring gifts to all of the good children in the world. Two of them spent their first four and five Christmases in a Chinese orphanage. I will tell you that fact folks will RIGHT your perspective on the big fat lie. In China, everyone knows he is fake, even the families who celebrate him tell their children it is just a story and the gifts are from them. I like that much better actually.

3. He is an idol to many, and while we aren’t really even getting it done in our own home regarding the real reason behind Christmas, we’re darn sure not gonna add another distraction to this season.

There isn’t room in our home or hearts for two big guys at Christmas. Why do we as Christians do the gifts? I’m not even sure myself, but if I’m going to do them I definitely want them to be a symbol of the Christ who came as a baby and was welcomed with gifts from afar. We do three gifts as well as a symbol of the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Life has been so hectic with the surgeries and just hard stuff around here that we aren’t reading an advent book, we aren’t doing family devotions and gasp … we haven’t  regularly in a long, long, long while … and who knows when we will again because its not my place to question … but we also aren’t propagating a lie about a man who doesn’t have reindeer who fly and live in the North Pole along with a plump wife and little people with pointy ears.

I will just conclude with this question: what if your insistence that those of us who don’t “do santa” are ruining your child’s Christmas also meant that you were adding to the trauma of a child who learned a long time ago that your santa  didn’t care enough about them to pay them a visit even though they tried to be good in spite of going to bed hungry, afraid, alone, cold and helpless with NO ONE earthly to care for them. Just think on that.


Adoption in Hindsight

November is National Adoption Month, and around the web you may have seen many posts, tweets, status updates, and campaigns promoting adoption. Most of those are about the children who wait, and this is GOOD.

This post though isn’t about that.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who is at the end of her rope.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who feels utterly and hopelessly ALONE.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who has children in circumstances that rip this Momma’s heart in places she thought would be fatal … until she realized her heart had been ripped there.

This post is for the adoptive Mom who has given her all and yet … it isn’t enough.


I used to be much more involved in efforts to advocate for adoption. All out. No matter what. At all costs.

I honestly used to think adoption was the only answer for children who have through no fault of their own found themselves without the presence of their parent(s).

Hindsight as they say is 20/20.

In looking back and thinking about all our family has been through the past 6 years and 2 months since the adoption of our first of what would be four adopted children, I am challenged to share honestly about life as the mother of six children—two by birth and four by adoption.


Our family has been immensely blessed by adoption and our family has also been immensely challenged by the individual struggles and traumas our adopted children have endured.

This post will not be about our children’s traumas or their struggles. I cringe when I see some of the personal information that is all too often shared, and I shudder at times when I think of what these children may feel when they one day realize their adoptive mother or father has shared very private information in the name of education or awareness or {gasp} as some form of self-serving therapeutic release. Continue reading


Gulf Shores Family Beach Trip: October 7, 2014

Tuesday was the warmest day yet with highs in the mid-80s by the afternoon. We had found our groove with toting items to the beach and everyone by now knew their favorite beachside activities. It took us all of about 1 minute to set up our spot and for everyone to get busy or get chillaxin, whichever the case may be!




This most unusual cloud formed right over us and we wondered if it might storm, but as quickly as it popped up it was gone onto shore and we never saw any clouds but white fluffy ones occasionally the rest of the day.



Is there anything better than sand between your toes at the water’s edge? Well there is, standing here enjoying the moment while watching my children playing joyfully and carefree! Continue reading


Gulf Shores Family Beach Trip: October 6, 2014

I am back posting and back dating these posts, but I’m D.E.T.E.R.M.I.N.E.D. to document this spectacular family vacation. I snapped this photo while lying on the bed early this morning AWAKE again at my regular alarm time of 5:30 a.m. Oh well, at least everyone else was able to sleep in LOL! This shows you though just how close our site was to the beach! We could hear the ocean waves at night when the rest of the world was quiet. So relaxing!


On Day 2 at the beach and, the Prez and I had the lunch making down to a science. Reduce, reuse, recycle lunchmeat containers complete with names written in sharpie!


I saved the sandwich list from the first day and made modifications as requested on my iPhone List app, so it was easy-peasy. The Prez and I decided to make the sandwiches all week and delegated other jobs out. It worked efficiently and we {mostly} enjoyed doing this task each day. We have found in our large family that dividing and conquering is most effective and continuing with the same tasks each day usually lends itself to efficiency as well! Speaking of efficiency, I can’t say we pack light but we are PACK MULES. If you can carry it, you can bring it. Bigger items go on the Little*Tikes wagon, which as I said before has been on family beach trips since 2001! We received quite a few compliments from fellow beach-goers on our efficiency and ingenuity in packing and hauling effectively.


The theme of this day was PLAY ALL DAY and that we did. Li’l Bit LOVED digging and immediately coaxed one of her big brothers into helping her get her hole started. She is telling him just how deep she wants him to dig it. Um … yeah, she gets her way a lot. She’s the baby, what can I say?! Continue reading


Gulf Shores Family Beach Trip: October 5, 2014

Day 1 on the beach was everything I imagined. Well, waking up at 5:30 a.m. wasn’t in my plans, but it did give me a little quiet time before the littles began to wake up about 7 a.m. I grabbed this screenshot of the low temp for the week! YIKES!


That was a bit cold, but we never saw temps below 70 again for the week and those were at night. Perfect! The temperature was a bit chilly, but as the day progressed the weather app read 73° by 2 p.m. and we were well on our way to warmer weather! I am often asked how I’m so organized and how in the world do I manage with 6 kids.


First off, The Prez and I work well together as a team when on vacation, but during the day-to-day I’m winging it solo as he works a lot of hours and isn’t here when we’re headed out the door most mornings. I very much appreciated him taking the role more often than not of sandwich maker each morning. It is a given law of family dynamics that 5 minutes (or less) after arriving at the beach no matter how much breakfast was consumed that people will be hungry. Continue reading