A Repost: THREE YEARS AGO TODAY!

**The following was posted on my original blog at Room for at Least One More three years ago today, February 5, 2012, the day we met our baby girl Li’L Bit. GOD IS SO GREAT!!!**

AMAZING!!! is one way to describe it!!!

The appointment was very different than the one we had in Chongqing. I will say we were completely unprepared for how LONG the appointment would be. We left the hotel at 4:15 p.m. and did not get back until almost 8 p.m. We not only signed the harmonious agreement but also the adoption papers. Usually you are given one day to decided for sure if you want to adopt the child. It didn’t matter to us as we already decided no matter what, but it was sort of strange to be required to sign and post date a form. Like I said it was very different but we all survived and the kids all handled it well. Yes, we were all starving and the babies were beyond starving. We needless to say ordered room service! A club sandwich never tasted so good!

She is SO SMART and just a little live wire! It is hilarious how well she is receiving all of the attention from her brothers and sister. She is eating it up. She is a MOMMA’S GIRL it would seem!

I have to help get her to sleep so I will post more later. She has been happy until now. She is scared I’m sure. ūüôĀ We are so blessed!!!!

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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 ‚Ķ 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 ‚Ķ but in the end it wasn’t enough because¬†one day I let my irritable and neurotic side show a lot ‚Ķ 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 ‚Ķ 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 ‚Ķ 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 ‚Ķ 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
‚ÄėTil you‚Äôve 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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First Day of School 2015

This is our 6th year of homeschooling. Our oldest son Curly is in 10th grade, and I am going to wax on about him for a moment because I rarely do. When we began this journey, he was starting 5th grade. Now I realize his high school years will be over in the blink of an eye. He recently took the ACT for the first time and he scored in the upper 20s! We are all so proud of him, and this was just a “practice” for him. He is very determined to score a 30 next year, and he did say I could put in print that he scored a 32 (out of possible 36) on the English portion. We might have had more than a few heated discussions over the years about the importance of his language studies, but even he admits it has all been worth the hard work.

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I’m beyond proud of how hard this young man works and the man he is becoming more of every single day. He loves the Lord and has such a servant heart about him. The Lord could not have placed a more capable, trustworthy, diligent, respectful or loving young man as the oldest child in our family.

Today marked our first day back to school and our first school day ever in the year 2015. I thought it worthy of a post, plus I figured my few readers might be wondering if I was ever coming back. I did toy with the idea of shutting this blog down, but I do love to write and for now this is my platform. I have come full circle in this homeschooling journey especially as of late when I was striving to determine along with my husband the Prez what would be the best decision for our son Mo regarding his schooling. A wise mother and veteran homeschooler told me years ago: “All you really need to teach your children at home is your Bible and a library card.”

And all these years later, I have to say she is right. In truth, all you really need is your Bible, but I will readily admit I love books and my kids do too. This evening, my husband gladly fixed breakfast for supper because I asked him if he would, ¬†so I could take Mo on a little date to the library. He has been asking me to take him for days, and really, what Momma can deny a 12-year-old boy a trip to the library? He chose three books, one he needs for his new on-line language class, and two for pleasure. One of those pleasure reading books is 800 PAGES LONG. Oh, how I’ve missed seeing this boy of ours so excited over reading. 800 PAGES. He was like a kid in a candy store at the library tonight, and what Momma doesn’t love an hour of time alone with one of her children when she has six to spread herself between. Here he is reading his new science text: Apologia General Science. My heart swelled seeing him rocking in the glider under my favorite blanket that he loves to curl up under too! LOVE.

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Today, the 3rd graders (and our little PreK tag-a-long) worked on mostly our tutorial classes, which start back on Thursday. Continue reading

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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.

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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 ‚Ķ 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 ‚Ķ 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‚ÄĒthe fontan‚ÄĒ 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‚ÄĒnot one time‚ÄĒregretted 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‚ÄĒbecause santa skipped their house due to economic constraints of the parent(s)‚ÄĒthat 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‚ÄĒorphan, single mom spending money on drugs, single mom working three jobs just to pay the bills, parents who choose not to do santa‚ÄĒbut it does matter that the lie is forced on innocent children.

As for our four from China, they all KNEW‚ÄĒeven the “baby” who happens to have also been the youngest at adoption at age 23 months‚ÄĒsanta 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 ‚Ķ we haven’t ¬†regularly in a long, long, long while ‚Ķ and who knows when we will again because its not my place to question ‚Ķ 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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Giving Back: 50% to LWB Unity Initiative TODAY

Today I’m participating with many sellers at Teachers Pay Teachers who are giving back from their store to charities or causes that are near and dear to their hearts.

I will be giving 50% of my store profits back to Love Without Boundaries Unity Initiative. This fund is used to help local families in China, who have children in need of medical care, to pay for the medical costs. This is very important to me because all four of our children from China were born with heart disease and two of them were also born with cleft lip and palate. In China, there is no welfare, medicare, or private insurance except for the extremely wealthy, which is a tiny percentage of the population.

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If you have been thinking of purchasing resources from my store at TpT, today would be a great day to buy and know 50% of the profits will go to help these desperate families in China and their ill children.

Thank you!

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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 ‚Ķ 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. ‚Ķ. ” 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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Another Detour: Bringing Our Boy Back Home

Life is a roller coaster, isn’t it. I like a roller coaster on occasion, but I don’t attempt those really intense ones.

Except life can feel like I imagine those twisty and curvy and loop-de-looping roller coasters feel. Last year, I shared in-depth about a decision that had been made to send two of our sons to public middle school at the beginning of this school year. We were optimistic and hopeful and willing.

 

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Just when we exhale and think now I can take a deep breath I get a text saying, Our son has been suspended.

Yeah, I got that text. I was in a meeting of sorts and my phone rang with the school on Caller ID. It rang only once, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Except it was. They called the Prez though and reached him, so I didn’t hear back. Then the text from the Prez came through and I thought, “Well there’s a first time for everything.”

The writing was already on the wall before the suspension. When we were seriously considering sending our boys to the local zoned public school, I did what anyone would do right? I went to Go*ogle. I remember thinking when I found a site where people could rate schools that it couldn’t be that bad.

One reviewer said: When I moved here I thought Little House on the Prairie but what we got was Dangerous Minds without Michelle Pfeifer.

Sadly, I have to say I feel EXACTLY the same way now and I was hoping for Little House on the Prairie as well. In addition to the very low academic expectations at the school, the environment seems to be volatile and on top of that if your parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, etc. didn’t go to the school ‚Ķ well, you’re just a nobody.

Our boys have no friends there. From day one, our 6th grader was told, “We have been friends since 1st grade. We know each other and we don’t know you. Did your grandparents go here because ours did. He’s my 1st cousin and she’s my 2nd cousin and on and on and on.”

We went ¬†to the Open House and met the teachers and passed the already-formed groups in the halls. We went to the Fall Festival in September and NO ONE except a couple of teachers spoke to us. Have you ever been to something like that where there are hundreds of people and its crowded and you feel incredibly lonely? I knew right then how our boys feel every day at the school. They have told us it feels like this in so many words, but then we experienced it. Our 8th grader does have a few kids who seem nice enough to him, but they call him “Ninja” which he really dislikes. He is the only Asian or non-white child in his entire grade.

Have I mentioned how unfriendly the environment is? Oh and the Prez signed up to be on the PTA and you know how many times he’s been to a meeting? NONE, because they said they didn’t need anymore help. YEP. We don’t have the Serenity Fair School bloodline (yes, I made up the name but you get the idea). He kind of joked when he signed up to be a PTA member and paid the annual dues that he doubted they would accept him into their group, but he was hoping to get involved. Saddest part is he would be a great asset to them, but we aren’t in in the inner circle or the outer one for that matter.

One of the reasons our 6th grade son accepted the invitation to meet another 6th grade student the size of an adult man in the bathroom for a fight was to try and put the bullies at bay. He said the two days he was back before Thanksgiving break did prove to be less volatile for him and that the bullies were surprised he stood up to them. He was beaten up pretty good though, and seeing your child with bruises all over their back from punches and kicks from an adult-sized kid when your son is small for his age? It HURTS. Bad.

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Can you imagine walking into a new school as a middle schooler and the groups have been formed since kindergarten. To say they have had an uphill battle socially is an understatement. Our 6th grader also isn’t typical neurologically. Finally, after many years of wondering, I was asked by his therapist if I had considered he might have Aspergers. I have suspected he does for years, but when I have asked doctors and others they have assured me he didn’t have the markers or enough of them. It all makes so much sense now, and honestly it is a relief to know why he has some unique struggles in certain areas that frustrate us incredibly. But even more so, they frustrate him.

Our boys have big hearts and they really tried, but in all honesty they never had a chance at the school. I feel the same way about the surrounding community. It is very closed and if you don’t have roots here, you are an outsider. Period. You imagine moving to the country and finding friendly faces and welcoming arms, but in all honesty this is the most standoffish place I’ve ever lived in the South. It is very strange, but at the school it is even more apparent.

At the end of the day, one of the major reasons we chose to try public school was for the boys to experience school in a classroom outside the walls of our home. We also hoped they might make some friends, but that isn’t going to happen. As I type, I reflect on our hopes for them this school year and they’ve all been dashed. I know middle school is hard no matter where you are, but I did have this ideal that this little school in the country with 50 students or less per grade would be a nice transition for them back into public school. Boy, was I ever wrong.

In addition to the mounting social issues, the academics at the school are very inferior. Our 6th grader is incredibly bored and no, there isn’t a gifted program. Our 8th grader has been challenged in some areas, but he could be expected to do much more. They are in science rooms where the lab tables collect dust and house outdated textbooks. They have to share textbooks, so they can’t bring them home to study.

When my husband asked at the first parent-teacher conference why they aren’t doing labs in middle school science, he was told by the coach (I mean, teacher) that “I’ve requested supplies and equipment, but apparently there is no money for it.”I daresay our 8th grader has learned absolutely NOTHING in science this year, compared to ¬†the science text we use in our homeschool, which is very in-depth and hands-on and engaging.

Oh, I could go on and on and on about how the academics pale in comparison to what they were doing, but what is the point? At the end of the day, my husband who made the ultimate decision to send them to school is very disappointed on many levels and he asked me to bring our 6th grader home in January. A big part of me doesn’t want to and I told our 6th grader I wasn’t sure I could do it as he is very resistant to my authority at times, but the thought of him getting beat up again in the school bathroom makes my stomach very upset. How can I leave him there to fight alone against the bullies?

He has had at least 10 teachers for his science and social studies class. Why you ask? Well, the permanent teacher was on medical leave when school started, so they hired a long-time sub. She was there until right before Thanksgiving. She was the ONLY bright spot in his day, and he misses her terribly. She was his homeroom teacher as well as science and social studies. She took interest in him and made some accommodations for him that made his day much more livable. But she’s gone. And since then, he has had multiple substitutes. I don’t even know what to think. Why don’t they hire a teacher??? But instead, each week it is somebody different including the mother of the kid who beat him up in the bathroom. Yep, you read that right. I can’t even comment further on that.

I know this post is super negative and I’m sorry for that. But this has just been building up and our 6th grader will be coming home for good when school finishes for the semester on December 19. He doesn’t even know we’ve made the final decision, but today I woke up and thought this is why I’m here. These kids are my mission field. He is worth it. So with my husband’s 100% support and our son also asking desperately to come back home, we will have 5 students again in our homeschool. Our 8th grade son has asked to finish the school year at this school, and we fully support him in that request. He has said he has no desire to go back there next year, and so it is very probable he will be home schooled again in the fall of 2015.

I have no idea what the future holds and I have had to majorly adjust my expectations and plans for our spring semester of school, and we are making plans for specially tailored coursework for our 6th grader, which will involved a private on-line school, but at the end of the day you just gotta do what you are feeling led to do. And trusting your gut can go a long way as well.

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Black Friday Bundle Bash Sale TODAY!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and/or friends yesterday! I have thoroughly enjoyed hosting my husband’s entire family at our home the last couple of days and my sister’s kids a couple of days before that! I feel incredibly blessed this year as I look back to last Thanksgiving and see the goodness of the Lord in our home and hearts.

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