Friday, August 30, 2013

WE ARE BACK!!!! :)

 Ahhhh......feels great to go on vacation, but it feels GREAT to be back HOME as well.  Now that we are back and getting unpacked today I knew that I should make a reappearance in the blog world too. 
 So the pictures today are from our trip to Busch Gardens before we left for vacation, but you know since I fell off the face of the blog world I thought I would use them first.  More posts and pictures will be coming soon!! 
 Awwww.....Joanna's a big girl now and riding on the "kiddie coaster" - how did this happen??  Of course Sarah is indicating that she is "too cool" ;)  in the picture. 
 So where in the world have I been?? 
 We decided that we would go back to Louisiana this year for vacation.  Not only did we go back, but we stayed at the Christian Camp we used to work at!  It was so fun and relaxing!!! 
 The new directors there are a couple that met while on our staff at Uskichitto Retreat Center!  They now have 2 children and are doing an amazing job there.  We are thrilled that they took over and have done amazing things including continuing to reach children for JESUS!  :) 
 The young lady who was our assistant while we were there still works there as well- and we enjoyed spending time with her and others that we worked with too!!!  IT WAS FUN! 
 We got to relive old memories, enjoy some camp activities as a family, and pretty much not on purpose, but take a technology break!  Other than coming to the office to get some internet- because we had to make sure to take care of our wonderful clients with Christian Adoption Consultants, we didn't have ongoing phone connection at all.  So it was good and helped us just relax a whole lot more without modern technology.  :) 
 We had camp fires, made home made ice cream - crank style, did pizza pie irons - more on that later, hiked, played mini golf, climbed the rock wall, hung out with former staff and present staff members, roasted hot dogs and smores, laughed, played, and so much more!!! 
 It was the kind of vacation where you just totally unwind.....remembering great times, creating new memories, and enjoy the present. 
 So now that we had our 16 hour trip there and yesterday we did our 16 hour trip home- I am over roadtripping for a while!
 Today consisted of unpacking everything, putting together some things for school- we home school and will start next week, and just surviving.  Oh and restocking our cupboards! 
 This next week we have start up to our new school year, as well as home school testing!  Fun times :)  and I am not being sarcastic....I LOVE IT!!!  For me it is ok to have summer and shorter school days, but I LOVE MY SCHEDULE!!!  I LOVE HOME SCHOOLING!!!!
 I am thrilled to get back to "normal" if you like.  It is my happy place.  It is hard for the kids and ME to be so flexible ;).  Just putting that out there because it is who I am. 
 I hope all of you are having a good back to school time whether your babes go off to school or you get to see them all day long. 
 Someone decided this little guy needed some "coolness factor" :).  Gotta admit- he is STINKING ADORABLE! 
 My sweeties enjoying the Summer Nights at Busch Gardens.  They love the little games they have set up, the hula hoop competitions, and we didn't stay this last time, but the fireworks are great too! 
 What is your favorite part of "back to school" / Start of Fall time?? 
 I love the schedule (I may have mentioned that once or twice), I love getting back to school more full time because we home school all year, but in the summer it is more relaxed, I love cooler days when it is bearable to go outside without swimming in the air, I love purging and cleaning and fresh starts!
Did I mention I love routine ;)! 

Ahhh.....LOVE being HOME!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sharing your child's story with them

 Pictures today are brought to you by..........Bekah Shae Love Glasses :).  OK so while we were at Empowered To Connect's Train the Trainer Class in Dallas- we met a couple there and we were talking about different Christian music artists.  I said my 3 year old's favorite it Bekah Shae and she can get on a phone, go to You Tube, and find her "Put Your Love Glasses On" song. 

Now Bekah Shae has been to our church The Crossing (Brandon, FL) before and my family posed with her and her husband for a picture.  Needless to say in the picture Bekah Shae was holding Joanna, and she never lets you forget that!  Joanna will say, "Bekah Shae hold me".  :) 

Ok so while at the class Pam said- I know Bekah Shae......and I said that is awesome!!!!  So she texted her a note along with my address......and we got a package in the mail with "Love Glasses", a CD with the song on it- and a note to Joanna, as well as a bumper sticker too!  Very sweet! 
 We also have some pictures of our venture out to a nearby park that we went to Monday.  It has been too long since our family has had what we call a family day together!!!  We had tons of fun even though we were all very very very sweaty.  This is why I prefer to just swim all summer, and then do other outdoor things other times of the year here in Florida ;). 
 So this subject of sharing your child's story with them...........hard one for me!!  I am sure I am not alone.  I am sure other adopted families have really tough stories too!  I am sure there are others shaking in their boots just thinking about it!  I know because I have talked with some of you. 
 I always thought......why do you want to share their whole story with them.  Not because you don't want to, but if you are at all like are afraid to.  I mean it is tough enough for them as it is sometimes knowing that they are adopted, but throw in a story that is hard to even utter out of your mouth.......and it just about kills me. 
 I look at my children, and I know their story, but I also know that it isn't all that they are.....they are strong!  They are AMAZING!  They are still children, and I don't want to hurt them.  :(  It breaks my heart! 
 Then I read Telling The Truth To Your Adopted Or Foster Child (Making Sense Of The Past) by Betsy Keefer & Jayne E. Schooler and my world was ROCKED!!!!!!  I am telling you- if you are like me.....shaking.....quivering.....praying for help with this.....GO GET THE BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Can not emphasize that enough.  I got it while at our class and it has totally redefined what I think about it! 
 Ok so here is how it plays out in our home.  Don't be too critical of me- I am a person who is in need of a Savior- I know that!  I make mistakes daily!

If one of our children comes to us asking a question about a birth family - we answer them at a level they can understand.  We tell our family's story to them in generic terms if you like- similar to what I have shared on our blog.  Nothing that is really personal (unless it was only about our struggles- not with their story). 
 We have pictures up in frames of all our children with their birth family in our dining area!  We have met all but one birth family.  We thought that was good......maybe??? 
 That is where my bubble was BURST ALL OVER!  Being real here......I don't want to share it not because it isn't their story, but because I want to mask over that pain for them.  I don't want them to have to live it, breathe it, and deal with it.  I don't want them to have to feel those feelings!!  IT ISN'T FAIR!!!  People adoption isn't fair!!!! 

It is selfless, hard, sometimes down right gruesome!  Sometimes there are hardly any details at all to speak of which can make it even more unbearable- what do you say then? 
 So what do you do???  YOU TELL THEM THEIR STORY ANYWAY!!!!!!!!  DO NOT THINK IT IS OK FOR YOU  NOT TO SHARE!!!!!!  AND in addition to that- share often.  How often?  I have a dare for you:  if you have a child that is verbal and knows they are adopted- ask them how often they think about their birth family!  DO IT!  You may be shocked or even fall over- not kidding!!!
 I wanted to live in a bubble!  I wanted to protect my children and myself from hurts that I know they must feel.  Not telling them about their story will NOT PROTECT THEM FROM THE HURT!!!!! 

Whew!  Now that I know that....and I am still processing that......I feel better in moving forward! 
 One of the chapters is called the Ten Commandments of Telling:  Principles to Consider
1)  Initiate Conversation About Adoption - don't think they will ask.  If you were tired one day and your child asked and you blew it off.  They may think they can't approach you.  Or if you were avoidant while answering before...again they think you don't want to talk about it.  If your child NEVER brings up the subject- YOU BRING IT UP AND TALK ABOUT IT!!! 

2) Use positive adoption language!!! 
NOT TO SAY- Real parents, natural parents, gave up for adoption, put up for adoption, adopted child (overused it makes them feel like they are weird), their own child, their real child, keeping, hard to place........and I am sure you know more.
DO SAY- Birth family, Made and adoption plan, my child, birth child, to choose parenting, waiting child, child with special needs, adopted person.....again there are more.  **Expectant mom is now used before the adoption happens in domestic adoptions. 
If you don't know if it is a good term to use- ask yourself if you would like to be called that, or ask :). 
 3)  Never lie to a child about the past or a birth family member!!!!  People this isn't Santa Clause- it is REAL!  Don't you dare lie about it because it is hard enough as it is.  Please have compassion and if it means you have to talk about other hard subjects as well (sex outside marriage, drug use, etc.) they by golly get it done!  Because our children need to know at all times- we are going to be completely honest with them!  ALL THE TIME! 

4)  Allow a child to express anger toward a birth family member without joining in!  It is good to be supportive of their feelings.  It is not good to say- well I could they have xyz.  Don't do that!  Support them however you can.  Acknowledge what they are feeling and help them process it by asking them open ended questions about their feelings as well as lending a listening ear.  It is more about listening and caring then stating your own opinions. 
 5)  Omissions are ok UNTIL AGE 12!  After that ALL INFORMATION SHOULD BE SHARED!!!!!!!  That doesn't mean don't say anything until they are 12.  Just that at this point- there is nothing your child should not know about that you know- NOTHING!  Why 12?  Because before their teen years which already can bring a lot of struggles for any child in their own identity you need to have given them all the pieces to their own puzzle. 

6)  Don't impose value judgments on the information!  This is important and that goes for positive judgments as well as negative!!!  So don't say- I bet your birth mother thinks about you daily- if you don't know her.  Or say I am sure xyz.  DO NOT DO IT!  Say things without your feelings or things you want to be true.  In the same respect don't make it look worse than it is.  Don't say I bet she is doing drugs right now.  OYE!  That is not a good picture.  Now if you know because of ongoing contact with her or the agency that she still uses drugs you can share she/they still struggle with drug addiction.  If you know that the birth mother has said- she thinks about them daily- then yes you can say that! 
 7)  Don't try to "fix" the pain of adoption.  This is where I fall FLAT!  Oh how I want it all to be better.  To tell my children a fantasy, but it isn't/wasn't true.  When we do that - we are not allowing our children and therefore our family to resolve the pain in their own way.  Your child needs that validation- don't take it from them! 
8)  Don't impose value judgments on the information.  In fact letting them read some of the reports or paperwork on their own when they are old enough is a great idea.  With you there to answer questions and to be a person to lean on.  Trust me they will need you there!!  Even if they don't act like it.  When you let them read for themselves - you are not hindering their story!!! 
 9)  Your child should have control of telling his or her story outside the immediate family!  This is something I think we all agree on!  Your child should have to tell aunt Martha if they don't want to, and they sure in the world don't have to tell the guy from the grocery store.  I do know some children even ours who will gladly tell you a generic version of their story, or even more personal IF they see it as sharing a testimony as to what God has and is doing in their lives- PERFECT!  Let it be up to them!!! 
 10)  Remember that the child probably knows MORE than you think her or she does!!!  Trust me this is true!  Those feelings God created within us- they are powerful complicated things.  Memory is living not a file drawer and your child has them (even if adopted at birth).  So don't think that it doesn't matter or that you can omit things! 
 So here are some tips.....pick some time when you can be alone with your child- or just you and your hubby and the child. 
Ask them if they ever think about their birth family?
How often? 
Ask them what they know about "their story"?
What is their earliest memory?
Scrap book it!!!  Whatever information and or pictures you have!  Even if it isn't much- won't matter!
Share this story often- or different parts of it.
Put up a picture of the child with their birth family if you have one.
Let them read their file if they have one- or at least the documents you have.
Let your child guide the discussion. 
If you don't know something- DO NOT MAKE IT UP!  Just simply say- I don't know that sweetheart- I am sorry.  **If you can ask- do it!
Allow your child to write letters to their birth family- even if you don't or can't send them.  If you can't tell them you can't, but that we can keep them in a special place so if and when they are able to meet them they can give them to them. 

There is more swimming in my head about this, but I pray it helps you to start thinking about it.  I know it has helped me immensely!!!!!!  :)  Trust me I am still growing and learning with you!  Maybe you have some pointers for me!!!  That would be good too- would love that :)

Oh and GO GET THE BOOK!!!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

My BIG 4-0 BABY!!!! Remembering 32 years ago yesterday.........

 So my day started off with all the kiddos jumping in my bed singing happy birthday to me!!  :)
 Then my hubby bringing out a confetti gun- I mean one of those large tubes!!!  Yes....I spent a lot of yesterday cleaning it up.  No worries our home always needs a good scrub anyway ;). 
 Joanna is showing me her card :)......
 Surrounded by my babes.......
 And my hubby.........
 It was a great way to start the day!!!!
 I even had chocolate chip cookies with ice cream in the middle (cookies made by my kiddos)!  Hey at this point you know you only live once!  :)
 Balloon fight!!!  Then my hubby said he was giving me a surprise- one that we were supposed to do on our anniversary, but instead we were with Michael (obviously more important!!!). 
 This was part of my surprise!  A helicopter ride!!!!!
 Yes, of course we are both sharing photos on FB!!!!
 Aren't we cute? 
 Take a closer look- definitely cute ;)
 Sooo....up up and away!!!!  It was pretty smooth, a little bumpy, but not in a bad way at all.  It was more like we were floating.  Kind of like how I would imagine a super hero floats up into the sky. 
 Then.......another surprise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 He circled over our HOME!!!!  With my babes out front!!!!!!!!!  :)
 We also went over Busch Gardens!!!!  Whoop whoop!!!
 Sheikra- one of my favorite rides!!! 
 Then we flew over Tampa!  It was awesome!!!!!  I will spare you the many other pictures ;). was amazing!!
 THIS was the second part of my surprise- as if a helicopter ride over your home wasn't enough? 
 My aim with the camera stinks, but you can see the top of Jason's head ;). 
 It was great being in nature!
 It's rough......
 Making Jason do all the work ;)  Hey, he wanted to be in back. 
 Hey my British hubby!  Looking good! 
 We enjoyed a few hours.......of this......what is that you ask?  PEACE!!!
 We did see one alligator!  Of course I took a few pics and none were really clear - boo! 
 More of this - PLEASE!!!
 It was fun.....
 Then when we came home- my sweeties made me a home made angel food cake with home made buttercream frosting!!!  YUUMMMMMYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes- Jason put on 40 candles- stinker.
 Yes, the cake looked like a ball of fire! 
 This is me laughing because the smoke alarm went off- just from the sheer heat of this thing!  ;) 
Me - thinking how BLESSED I AM!!!!!  The BIG 4-0 isn't so bad?  ;)

32 years ago- yesterday...........MY TESTIMONY OF HOW I AM A WALKING MIRACLE :)

..............As it is my Birthday...I thought I would share some of my testimony of my life with all of you. I grew up in a Christian Family- they are wonderful. My parents taught us from a very early age abut scripture, God's Love for us, repentance, guidance, church, friends in Christ, and sooo much more. As with all children you never realize what you have until you are older or you miss it. That is how I feel as well. I used to cringe when people said I was just like my I consider it a high compliment. (more on that maybe in a later post.)

So a big part of my life that most people don't know....unless you have heard my testimony before is that I am a cancer survivor. When I was 8! Actually a day after my birthday is when I found out. We were on a camping trip with our family. I had the urge to use the restroom.....again and my parents took me to the doctor. They did tests thinking I had kidney failure. What they later found with more tests is a tumor that had shifted to leaning on my bladder.

They did a surgery a day later- 7 doctors.....14 hours later........and I was done. After a yearish of radiation therapy, hospital stays during the week, and coming home on weekends only......AND DID I MENTION LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF PRAYERS SAID BY SOOOO MANY PEOPLE I WILL NEVER EVEN KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was healed- by our GREAT PHYSICIAN! I was officially pronunced cured at age 18!

This was a very difficult time for our family. My dad was a truckdriver, my 2 brothers stayed with grandparents, and we saw each other only on weekends. Very tough - on my brothers, on my parents, on me.....not to mention my dad lost his sister to cancer about 7 years prior to this happening.

My grandmother called me a "walking miracle"- which is soooo true!!! The cancer weighed a whopping 5 lbs. which for an 8 year old skinny girl was a lot! They took out anything that wasn't absolutely necessary for me to live- including all of my "female" organs, scrapped all kinds of organs, and took bits so they were triple sure to remove anything cancerous. They thought before surgery that it was benign, but discovered during surgery- it was malignant and had burst outside of itself. Making my recovery and life- A MIRACLE OF GOD!!!!

It doesn't get any better than that!!! To be born is a miracle of God!!! To be saved by HIS AMAZING Grace- another MIRACLE!!!! To be cured of cancer- ANOTHER HUGE MIRACLE!!!!!!!! What can I say- you all thought I was crazy and Blessed just because of our family, but I say everyday I am alive and can breath in and out - is a miracle Blessed By God!!!!

What can I mom was heartbroken that I would not be able to have children. She even had a crazy notion that she would have children for me.....and when she had to have a hysterectomy as well- cried her eyes out. When she told me about it.....I simply said- God has brought me this far and HE has a plan.

I remember those long days sitting and waiting for a doctors......all the mom would be reading scripture, devotions, praying, and just loving every minute she had with me! I could never know exactly what she and my family went through, but I do know that God did many miracles in all of our lives through this crazy, tough, hard- financially, physically, spiritually time.

Praise God I was able to see HIS plans and when He provided my AMAZING husband who loved me - no matter what. When HE provided each one of our little Miracles- I MEAN HUGE MIRACLES!!!!!!! It just goes to show HIS GLORY even more!!!!

I mean our life is a story that no one could just think up. 2 people from different countries camp.....a girl with cancer.....survives......they marry......and adopt 9 children ....I mean who could think that up??? Not me!

But, I am BLESSED on my Birthday to remember all of the many, many, many, many miracles God has given to me....and part of my calling is to share that with as many people as possible! So I wanted to share with all of you!!!!!

Thank you for reading this incredibly long post, and please feel free to share with others my miracle or never know how it may change someone's life forever- FOR GOD!!!!!

I pray that today you are BLESSED!!!  Praying for miracles in your life to show God to others who need HIM!  So glad to be turning 38 today because that means I have experienced a miracle that most don't get.  I have been Blessed with 30 years of life after surviving cancer- ALL BECAUSE OF GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!  PRAISING HIM TODAY AND ALWAYS!!!!