Category Archives: Just My Thoughts

Mourn WITH Those Who Mourn

I’m so tired of stories, REAL stories involving REAL, LIVE human beings where Christian brothers and sisters PERSECUTE the very brothers and sisters who need LOVE the most. What is wrong with us???

We’ve lived this in our own family, the SHARP PIERCING, DEEP WOUND of persecution in the midst of unimaginable suffering within our family. When we need love and support the most, those whom we expect to provide and offer it are often the very ones who TURN AWAY and worse you SHUN and attack and isolate us. WHY???? You throw stones and you make us feel as if the world is even crueler than we’re already realizing it to be.

I don’t think most people realize the DEPTHS that adoptive families in particular go to FOR THEIR CHILDREN. When a tragedy such as suicide by a child strikes, DON’T YOU KNOW THE FAMILY MAY HAVE ALREADY WALKED OUT EVERY COURSE OF HELP IMAGINABLE.

“If only they had sought counseling … ” THEY’VE LIKELY BEEN TO TOO MANY THERAPISTS TO COUNT THEM ALL.

“If only they hadn’t left him alone … ” MAYBE THEY NEVER DID! Have you ever been in a position where you simply can’t leave your child(ten) alone or even in the care of other siblings? THIS IS LIFE FOR MANY.

“Why did they have weapons in the home?” HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ADVISED BY A PROFESSIONAL HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOME SUICIDE-PROOF? Because I have. And YOU CAN’T.

As another adoptive family faces the heartbreak of the loss of a child, not even yet a teen, it GRIEVES my heart to read the words of the father who speaks of the “sharp words” of some, undoubtedly other Christians. STOP. JUST STOP. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

If you’ve never adopted for GOD’S PRECIOUS SAKE, just STOP and KEEP QUIET and PRAY and let those of us who get it in some very real ways come alongside. And if you haven’t adopted and truly want to be supportive, then say that. Say I want to help but I don’t know how. HOW CAN I HELP YOU? If you truly mean it, they will know it.

I am weary. So very weary. Just this week, yet again, the Prez had to filter out IGNORANT TALK by a woman, who has said the very same things to me IN FRONT OF OUR SON WHO WAS ADOPTED. She goes on these UNEDUCATED (and she is in every sense of the word) tirades of why they can’t adopt a child even though they’d love to adopt one. LORD, PLEASE don’t ever allow that to happen. She doesn’t have what it takes. Truly, she doesn’t. If money is her greatest worry about international adoption, well then as those who’ve walked it out can attest she has no business considering it anyway.

She went ON AND ON AND ON about how it costs $30,000 “up-front” and why does it cost so much? Now mind you, her husband manages a local, fast-food chain restaurant, and she stays home with their high-school-aged daughter, who is in school all day 5 days a week. But anywho, she said “we’ve got to pay off the thousands we spent on Janie’s off-road vehicle for her Christmas gift (who in the world spends thousands on a Christmas gift for a child???), we’ve got a $500+ monthly payment on my brand-new blah, blah car, and we just don’t make a fortune like THOSE PEOPLE who adopt all these kids.” WHAT THE WHAT? Did I mention she was talking to my husband and she knows we’ve “adopted all those kids.”

To my fellow Tennesseans, I apologize in advance, but if there ever was a person who fits the persona many in our great nation think of as Tennessean, this lady is IT. I would share some reasons, but in an effort to keep her identify protected, I will refrain. My point is, NO ONE would do such a thing about a biological child. They just wouldn’t. And they don’t. But when it is an adopted child, all bets are off and filters apparently as well.

As for the adoptive family whose tweenage son took his own life this week, I cannot imagine their grief. And to those who would actually have the audacity to persecute them in the midst of this unimaginable pain and grief and LOSS, SHAME ON YOU. You WILL answer for your actions. NO DOUBT. For those who persecuted our adopted son, YOU WILL TOO. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. His Word gives us SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS for how to walk out MINISTRY.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

 

 

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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.

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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

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Turns Out I Don’t Have the Friendless Gene

 

Read that again. It packs a lot of power in 16 rather simple words, doesn’t it? How often though do we find ourselves trying to go it alone. Trying to be strong. Trying to look like we have it all figured out. Or have it all together. Or know what the heck we’re doing. Or we tell ourselves we should have it all figured out or know what the heck we’re doing, because after all, we reason, we must be really messed up if we don’t have it all figured out or can’t go it alone or can’t put on the image of being strong.

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I Have the Friendless Gene

*Editor’s Note: I failed to note that this post is strictly about girl friends. I am very thankful my husband is my best earthly friend and he tells me all the time I am most definitely his best friend. He doesn’t long for a guy friend of the sort that I seem to long for in a girl friend.

I must not be the only 40-something married Momma in America who cannot sustain lasting and real friendships. There I said it. Deep exhale.

If you have that circle of friends or some “besties” (I didn’t even know that term until recently), then this article is most likely not going to be of any interest to you unless you just want to read about someone like me who seems to have the friendless gene. If you like me wonder what in the world is wrong with me or am I just always a day late and a dollar short or maybe always not at the right place and right time … then this article might hit all too close to home. What is the deal? goes through my mind daily. Except I’m going to choose daily to take that thought captive and toss it out of my brain and more importantly, out of my heart. I am NOT going to allow it take root again, because I am going to trust God knows what is best for me and that my idea of best isn’t a part of His plan, which is always better.

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I realize friendship is a give and take. I honestly try to do a lot of the giving. In my recent venture into opening up my heart yet again and becoming vulnerable (really takes a lot out of me perhaps because of my history of failed friendships), I gave a lot: a card with a heartfelt note  and small gift in recognition of her birthday, a surprise cup of her favorite coffee except I left out one ingredient I would later realize, texts of encouragement, sharing about very vulnerable areas in my life, being the only one to suggest actual face-to-face meetings for the sole purpose of being together instead of those times we see each other in relation to a more professional connection, which is how we first met one another … but in the end it wasn’t enough because one day I let my irritable and neurotic side show a lot … I apologized that same day but I never heard those three words I forgive you and its fairly clear she hasn’t. And yesterday I realized that potential real friendship has most likely slipped right out of my grasp just like all of the others.

I think one of the big light-bulb moments for me has come in recent months as I prayed and prayed and prayed some more for God to reveal to me how I could change in order to gain friends or even just one real friend. I have a lot of acquaintances mind you, but I was thinking and praying for that kind of friend you’d take a trip with year after year, who you have a language with that doesn’t even have to be spoken, who ALWAYS remembers to support you when not one but two of your children are undergoing major surgery … yeah I realized back in December that one of my “friends” wasn’t really there for me as she “forgot” by her own admission. I rarely speak to her or see her. When we do, we have a good time chatting but there is no longer any depth there. It stays at the surface and that is A-OK. It is just that she isn’t “bestie” material and I’ve come to accept that. It’s really OK.

I’ve come full circle in that quest for self-discovery and realized I can’t change who I am. For better or worse, I’m who I am and yes, I can be difficult to figure out and difficult to walk alongside. I have lots of “friends” mind you, but they always have a circle that I’m not a part of. And quite frankly, it gets old. And it HURTS. BAD. Being the other friend. The sometimes friend. The when-it-fits-their-schedule friend. The The specific time and place friend. The specific label friend. More often than not, our friendship formed from a shared circumstance.

Here are a few of the friend labels I have from sharing a circumstance with these ladies:

Bible study friend

My Child’s Therapist friend

Homeschool Tutorial friend

Childhood friend

Sorority Sister friend

Neighbor friend

Church small-group friend

Adoption Agency friend

Local Adoptive Moms Group friend

Older Child Adoption friend

The list could go on and on. I can think of others, but these are the ones that seemed early on to have great potential, but in all these cases it didn’t take too long for these potential friendships to unravel just as quickly as they seemed to begin taking shape. That is the most mysterious part. I don’t seem to struggle making initial connections, but going beyond that first stage … in worldly terms, I’m an epic fail on that.

I remember the time a former “bestie” (we were tight there for a few months and I never knew why she stopped contact) contacted me out of nowhere because she needed assistance with a project in which she wanted me to use my mad layout and design skills on the computer. That was very strange to say the least. Thankfully, I was able to say no without guilting myself, because I really at that moment in my discombobulated state did not have the time. And I never heard from her again until I saw her a couple of years ago at a dance recital. It was kind of awkward when she went to introduce me to her “best friend” who walked up as we were talking. The unspoken words were heard loud and clear by both of us. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since as our paths just don’t cross, but we were so tight scrapbooking together every weekend and sharing life together. Until one day she just didn’t return my phone calls. I still for the life of me don’t know what happened. It was at the time when we were in our first adoption paper chase, and granted I was a bit neurotic about that paperwork but maybe adoption turned her off? I guess I’ll never know and honestly until I began writing this article I hadn’t thought of it in years.

As I’ve struggled to sort out what exactly is wrong with me that no one wants me in their close circle of friends, I think one thing I’ve concluded is that I’m actually an introvert who retreats in my shell all too often because of my past experiences with epic failed friendships. I’m skeptical because I’ve opened myself up so many times only to have the friendship implode when I have a weak moment and don’t seem like myself to the other person or it implodes for no reason whatsoever. And I wonder what in the world happened. And I wonder am I the only one out of the loop. So they cut their ties and walk away. I can’t say I blame them.

At 41 years old, though, I’m tired of striving for that coveted spot in someone’s inner circle of friends. I’m weary of wondering daily what is wrong with me that I don’t have a friend I could call at 10 p.m. when my husband needs to go to the ER?  Thankfully, on that recent night, I asked our 16-year-old son if he would drive his Daddy to the ER so we didn’t have to take his five younger siblings to the ER. Our life is complicated and we can’t just leave all of our children at home alone. Even with a very responsible and mature 16-year-old son at the helm, we have some complicated situations that just would require too much responsibility to be placed unfairly on his shoulders.

One of the reasons I avoided Facebook like the plague and one of the reasons I rarely post on my blog anymore is I was trying to avoid seeing those “bestie” group photos and captions on FB, which ironically is where I recently learned of the term “bestie” referring to that friend and also with the blog I was hoping to avoid the happy feelings I would get when my blog buddy friends would comment on a post and I would wonder to myself if we lived in the same city, would I maybe be in her inner circle?

As for Facebook, it has gone down quite honestly as I suspected it would. I see post after post of people thanking God for their little group of lifelong friends, their call-upon anytime friends, their take an annual trip together friends, their our kids have been friends since birth friends … and on and on and on. People posting selfies with their besties. People who would say I’m their friend posting those selfies, but I’m never in any because I’m no one’s bestie. I try to hold my head high and speak the truths I know over myself. Even yesterday one of my FB posts is a reflection of this venture I’m on with my Father to claim and believe that I am a child of the One True King and to push out all of the lies the enemy loves to whisper in my mind and heart. He knows all too well that this friendship failure for me is a huge discouragement and he uses it daily to render me useless for the kingdom as I fight feelings of failure, unworthiness, rejection and sadness over my lack of close friends or circle of friends to call my own.

I realize this post is vulnerable in the most vulnerable of ways. I searched on google and found many articles about people not having friends, but I didn’t find the one that has been weighing on my mind and heart for months, but honestly for years too. I didn’t see the one which talked about being the person who would go to the monthly local adoptive Mom friend group only to leave fighting the tears that would flow as they talked about a recent play date which left me wondering but why didn’t they invite me and my Chinese kids to play too? Or another monthly meeting where some of them discussed their recent Chinese New Year party that was held together, but our family wasn’t even invited. So I stopped going. Who needs that right? I was in the group but I really wasn’t. I think the break-up for our family came when we brought our boys home at ages 10 and 5, and this quite frankly didn’t fit into their ideal of what a Chinese adoption should look like, and our boys clearly didn’t fit in their little Chinese girl play groups. But I know when I’m not wanted, and I’m the first to walk away in most instances. It doesn’t mean it hurts less though.

I didn’t see the article either about the Bible study friend, who has has stood by my family during an extremely traumatic time and a time when the few other well-meaning Christians I shared openly with left us high and dry, but we only get together occasionally with our kids, which is great, but she has a circle of which I’m not a part. She has a circle with whom she and her husband socialize and it isn’t taking in any new members. And so I see her and I love her, but I’m not in her inner circle either.

I’m not sure how to tie this up neatly. I don’t think I can. But if you are like me and realize perhaps God has called you to take a different path, a path that doesn’t include any “besties” or that circle of girlfriends who are lifelong and can read your mind with no words spoken .. TAKE HEART ladies. In the words of Matthew West:

Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief

Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies
And I have believed them for the very last time

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

Jesus is my very best friend. And if He’s the only “bestie” I’ve got, then I’m going to be OK. Because He is enough.

*After writing this post and much reflection, I wrote a follow-up post Turns Out I Don’t Have the Friendless Gene, which you might like to read also.

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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, which is when this photo was taken.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Day in My Life: My Kids Are Having Surgery

On Tuesday, December 2, the Prez and I rushed around our home after setting our alarms too late. 6:00 a.m. seemed early enough the night before at 11:30 p.m., but as time marched on we realized we had too much to do in too little time. I frantically packed the last few items in my daughter’s bag as they were just finishing up in the dryer. It was THAT frantic.

The surgeries for which we were rushing about would involve repairing the alveolar ridge in each of our 9-year-old children’s mouths. They were both born with congenital cleft lip and palate, and this surgery was the 3rd for our daughter and the 4th for our son related to repairing their mouths. This is also Lord willing the last major surgery either of them will face. This was our daughter’s 15th surgery since 2008 and our son’s 10th since coming home in 2010 (he had at least 3 surgeries in China before we adopted him), and some of them involved repairing their cleft lip and palates while others involved heart repairs for congenital heart disease.

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Before the Prez left with Li’l Miss, who is now 9 years old, I hugged her for a long time and told her I would see her up at the hospital, and we all prayed a simple prayer together. Her brothers and little sister told her bye as well. Yes, thoughts do emerge in your mind and heart as you contemplate questions like could this be the time? what if there are complications? what if? what if? what if? With each and every surgery, which the Prez and I determined this would make numbers 24 and 25 between our three littles combined since September 2008, the anxiety level for me and I suspect Li’l Miss too, goes even more through the roof. It is horrible.

I don’t like good-byes anyway. I know, most of us don’t. It all seemed too real at this point. I wasn’t ready. How could December 2 have come to be so quickly? Wasn’t it just October 31?, I thought. And what happened to the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving? Why did we even schedule these surgeries on the same day? WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

Clearly, my mind was working in overdrive, though it wasn’t making much sense. At all.

Not fifteen minutes after the Prez left with Li’l Miss, the phone rang. It was the dreaded 343 number. And yes, on surgery day, seeing the caller ID display the hospital’s generic number was definitely not a good thing. How could this be? I thought. Cancellations had happened before, the week before, the day before, but never the day of. That would be a new first for us. I timidly answered Hello? The lady on the other end asked for Mrs. ___ and I said that’s me. She began to ask if we’d left yet and my heart sank. But just as quickly, I was elated to hear her saying the words: There’s been a cancellation and Dr. Kelly is hoping to move their surgeries up.

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Yes, yes, yes! A thousand times yes! I told her the Prez had been gone at least half an hour and it would take them at least an hour to get there, maybe more with morning traffic. She noted this and said they would be waiting. I hung up and panicked all over again as I realized I was not nearly as ready as I needed to be with my bag, Li’l Bro’s bag and Li’l Bit’s bag. As it would turn out, my Dad met me at an interstate exit, which saved me a good bit of time not having to drop off Li’l Bit, and I threw her things in a plastic grocery sack. Li’l Bro, also 9, Li’l Bit, 4, and I were out the door within the half-hour on our way to the hospital for what would prove to be a very long day.

The Prez arrived less than an hour before us as he hit major traffic snarls and we seemed to come through Nashville just as rush hour had ended. He and Li’l Miss arrived around 9:15, and Li’l Bro and I around 10 a.m. And that is when the “fight” I imagined began. I knew they wouldn’t let me take Li’l Bro back as his surgery was scheduled on paper for 3 p.m., but I had Li’l Miss’s stuffed dolphin she had forgotten by the back door and I had to hug my big girl again if given the chance.

The Prez was texting me in real time saying they would be taking her back any minute, and I knew they weren’t going to wait because Momma happened to be having a mini freak-out out in the waiting room as “very nice but very rule-following desk attendant” said I could go back but Li’l Bro could not. Truth be told, I wanted all four of us in there together before they took Li’l Miss back. It was that important. So after taking a deep breath and calming down, I asked the “very nice desk attendant” to kindly call the charge nurse in the back and explain our unique situation, so she did. And the charge nurse said without hesitation that Li’l Bro and I could be allowed back immediately and so we were. Within 60 seconds, I had my arms around my big brave girl, and we were at once surrounded by quite a crowd of nurses and staff who wanted to see “the twins having the same surgery the same day with Dr. K.”

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It is quite funny when Li’l Miss and Li’l Bro tell people “oh, we’re not twins, but we are the same age and we were born just four months apart.” Most people don’t even ask a follow-up, but rather say “hummmm.” It is quite comical actually. Soon after, Dr. K himself appeared with his reassuring smile and asked if we were ready. We said Team {Family Name} was ready and he said “let’s do this then!” Oh how I love that man! If there’s one thing I want in a surgeon who will be operating on one (or two as it were) of my children, it is CONFIDENCE thank you very much! And he has it. Which is good. Really, really good.

It would be impossible to retrace the many steps the Prez and I took over the course of this very long day, but I will try to hit the highlights with this graphic.

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Our day as I stated earlier began at 6 a.m. when the alarms started going off on our iPhones and we both attempted to hit the snooze button before nudging each other to get out of the bed. And quick.

I’m going to be honest here. When faced with this kind of day, you just gotta put on the big-girl panties (or whatever the case may be) and face it. Nothing is going to motivate you to do it except sheer grit and determination. And when your kids are depending on you, you really do have to put on the game face and be the strong one. It really isn’t optional. No time for tears at this point. No time for IBS issues. No time for coffee even.

It is kind of weird to think about how each experience sitting in Vanderbilt Children’s 3rd floor waiting room is different. This time around, there wasn’t much sitting out there and waiting. Once we got Li’l Miss sent back for her surgery, the Prez, Li’l Bro and I had about an hour to sit and wait before he was called back. Oftentimes, my mother- and father-in-law are sitting there with us, but this time my MIL didn’t arrive until after they had taken us back with Li’l Bro for his pre-surgery intake and waiting.

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Li’l Miss Post-Op and finally resting.

She like us had planned her day and arrival around the original start times of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Normally they allow only 2 adults with each patient, but basically we asked if we could bring her back and they said sure, which actually worked out well because at this point things started hopping with us getting updates Li’l Miss would soon be finished and in recovery. And once she came into the recovery area, the Prez and I were literally fast-walking back-and-forth from recovery to pre-op and back again. We had a fast pass with a quick walk from his private room (which isn’t always the case but he scored one of the private TV rooms for pre-op) to her nook in recovery.

I knew it was going to be bad when a nurse hurried into Li’l Bro’s room and said, “Are you Mom?” to which I said “Yes” and she said “I need you to come with me. Now.” OK, so I hugged Li’l Bro and instructed the Prez to definitely come get me before they took him back. When I neared the double doors leading into recovery, I could hear her ear-pearcing screams. There was no mistaking these were the deep cries of our Li’l Miss and unfortunately, I’d heard them before. Many, many times. This is usually how she recovers initially post-op.

Several nurses were trying different things to calm her down as she was writhing and trying to pull wires and the oxygen mask and … well, let’s just say it was harried in there. So I leaned in close and said, “Honey, Momma’s here now. I’m here. You’re OK. It’s all done. I’m HERE.” I remember hearing the nurse say, “Well, we should’ve gotten Mom sooner. Her heart rate is already going back down. Look, her oxygenation is much better. Just keep doing what you’re doing Mom. …. ” And I just kept stroking her forehead and speaking softly to her, telling her what she needed to hear.

It has been a rough road in many ways for Li’l Miss and me. Attachment hasn’t come easy. At all. She would much prefer her Daddy to hear her tell it, and so it was somewhat surprising she asked for me in her desperate state post-op, but the nurses were adamant that she came out of the OR screaming for Momma even before the breathing tube was fully removed. She wanted her Momma and everyone within 500 yards or more knew it. And I’m so very thankful she knows who will be there for her and who will bring her comfort like no one else on Earth can. Being a Momma is a big job, especially so when your little one is struggling and feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

At this point, she was calming and I was freaking out inside. Why did we do this? What WERE WE THINKING? How can I make it through this day? And where is the nearest bathroom?

I knew Li’l Bro would be taken back soon. His pre-op nurse had told me they would have the OR turned over in 30 minutes, and that the surgeon was not taking a break other than the wait for the cleaning of the OR. He was game on and ready and waiting for the room to be readied. In fact, the surgeon went over both releases with us before Li’l Miss’s surgery and he told us if we gave him our blessing that he wouldn’t come back out to see us before Li’l Bro’s surgery, which we gladly gave because we knew the sooner he could do his thing the sooner Li’l Bro would make his way up to a room on the floor.

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Li’l Bro Post-Op and smiling as always.

I don’t really know how much time passed, but it wasn’t much and the Prez did make his way back to see Li’l Miss once she calmed down. He couldn’t have handled seeing her writhing, not on this day anyway, and his Mom came back too with him, and we did the switcharoo so I could go back to see Li’l Bro who was so patiently waiting for his turn. Soon after, they told us it was time, so the Prez made his way back to Li’l Bro’s room and we said quick and non-emotional good-byes (so much better for the patient) and prayed again silently. We always pray with them, but we do it well before the hand-off, because again, it is just better that way for them, and he was off just like that. And I was a hot mess. I held it in, but on the inside I was crying out and thinking I CAN’T DO THIS. I CAN’T DO THIS.

But we did, and the day was far from over. This post is getting so long, so it is going to be a part 1 of hopefully 2. I have another post swirling in my head titled “What Is Women’s Ministry?” and it will relate to this most recent hospital stay and a recent email response that quite frankly left my mouth gaping open. I know, what a cliffhanger, right?

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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.

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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.

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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

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Current Reads {Book Talk Linky}

Starting to public school for our middle schoolers has led to required summer reading, which we have always done and they don’t mind, but of course I wanted them reading the specific books assigned by the school. I can’t remember the last time I read a book in one day. Possibly a decade or more ago?

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One of my 10 Things to Do This Summer includes reading more books. While I’m still working on Uncovering the Logic of English (it isn’t a book you can read in a day and survive doing it), I have finished another book: The Outsiders. And yes, I read it in one day. Or rather I read 170 pages of the 180 pages in our used copy in one day.

Raise your hand if you read this as a middle school student yourself. I’m guessing a vast majority of my readers just raised your hand. OK, seriously, you probably didn’t, but I’m sure a lot of you have read it back in the day.

I admit to thinking, This book is going to be a yawn. Boy was I ever wrong! I couldn’t put the book down. By the way, S.E. Hinton is not a man like I thought. Maybe you did too. She was a tomboy growing up by her own admission and had many male friends growing up, but truly, she is a gifted storyteller. Just. Wow.

Larry and I have had quite a few discussions about the book. A warning for other adoptive families: the main character in the novel and his two older brothers are orphans. Their parents died in a car wreck, which is quickly told in first person by the main character. I wondered how Larry processed this, but that part … he isn’t willing to discuss. That is OK. I always throw it out there. He knows the Prez and I are willing to listen anytime regarding his own abandonment and losses. He talks about it when he wants.

But back to the book, I highly recommend it. Read it with your teen. Discuss. Engage. It is that good. Seriously. Read it. In a day. Or longer if you can actually put it down. I found it nearly impossible to put down.

I want to interject a tip to my readers who love to save money at this point in my post. If you don’t mind used copies of books, I **HIGHLY** recommend Abe Books. I use them ALL.THE.TIME and have ALWAYS been highly satisfied with the customer service and the high-quality books we receive. They have paperback and hardback copies, many of which are former library books complete with library binding. I rarely pay more than $7 for a HB and never more than $4 for a paper copy of “very good” rating, which usually means slightly used or like new. This isn’t an affiliate link; I just love books and love this source for very affordable books and wanted to share!

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This post has a bonus. Did I mention that previously? I don’t think so, but yeah, in trying to read more books and honestly connect with the aforementioned middle schoolers, who will be going into 8th grade and 6th grade, I am also reading …  gulp … The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

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Oh. my. goodness. This one is WAY OVER my head. It has maps, pages and pages of maps. That I don’t understand. Yet.

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But I am reading on and enjoying the wide smile evident on my almost 12-year-old’s face when he asks, Did you read another page or two?

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And he isn’t exaggerating. Because, folks, I can sometimes read only a page or two. If you don’t understand hobbits, you’re in good company. At present, after finishing the first chapter of Book 1 of the first book (yes the book has two books within it; don’t ask me), I know that Frodo and Bilbo are related and Bilbo has disappeared. Oh and that Gandalf the Wizard cannot be trusted is actually a good guy. I DO get that much. I am currently in chapter 4 of the first book within the first book of the trilogy or epic as Mo puts it.

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Since initially drafting this post, I read more today. I actually am liking it more and more. I am on page 80 of 458 pages currently. I think I can definitely finish this one. As for reading two more in the series epic, I’m not sure my mind can encompass that! If it brings a smile to Mo’s face though … I think I can, I think I can (as she bows to all middle school teachers out there who actually work with kids everyday who love this stuff and love that so many teachers bring classics such as these to the classroom!).

One final note: no doubt about it that S.E. Hinton is a master at crafting with words and J. R. R. Tolkien was a master storyteller of epic proportions.

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Linking up with Mrs. Jump. Please do share there or here. What are you reading currently? And why?

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10 Things I Want to Do This Summer

Deanna over at Mrs. Jump’s Class posted a fun linky last week. I read her list and thought it was a great idea, so I’m joining in with my own 10 Things I Want to Do This Summer list.

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1. Cook a meal EVERY night. I’ve gotten a bit less intentional about this since my bout with poison ivy and 11 days in China. We have a family of 8 though and going out to eat just isn’t an option very often. I LOVE to eat meat and veggies, as does the fam, so I need to COOK!

IMG_9103Here are some fresh apples just cut up ready to sauté in the skillet with a little olive oil and cinnamon. They were so sweet I didn’t even add any sugar!

IMG_9106I’ve tried plans and charts and calendars. Truth be told, if I get to the store and buy the food, I usually get it done. So yeah, getting to the grocery store might help LOL!

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IMG_9109Speaking of the apples, they were delicious and none were left of course, much to the Prez’s displeasure since he is always hopeful (if rarely indulged) for a leftover plate for work the next day, which brings me to number dos! Continue reading

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