Tuesday, December 16, 2014

grace went to the dentist...

I'd like to interrupt the frenzy of getting ready for Christmas or Chanukah with a little update on my sweet, special girl.  I started this post last week, but was sick and over-tired because of being sick so I'm writing about it today.  Grace had her fist dentist appointment last week!

As with most things that typical kids do without thought or fanfare, going to the dentist is a big deal for Grace.  She is considered orally defensive.  Which means that sister doesn't open her mouth for anything.  She hates, hates, hates having her teeth brushed.  It typically takes 3 people to do and I pray that her brothers are not traumatized by all the screaming and crying.  It is funny when she has a loose tooth because she won't let you touch it.  And I'm afraid to put my fingers in her mouth.  So usually, we find out she lost a tooth because there's all of the sudden a gap there when she wakes up or school sends either the tooth or a note home. 

We had been on waiting lists for two years at the dental clinics at both local children's hospitals.  I kept telling Mark that we needed to find a dentist that specialized in special needs kids.  Well, we finally did.  A friend of mine who has a son with autism recommended the dentist she takes her son Sammy to.  So I called and explained Grace and her oral defensiveness and they scheduled an appointment for us.

I was pretty nervous because I hate to see Grace upset.  But I knew that we needed to try and take her.  She can't tell us if anything in her mouth hurts and I was beginning to be concerned about cavities because of how difficult it is to brush her teeth.  Also, my dear friend Ana came with us and that made all the difference in the appointment for both me and Grace.

We took Grace to see Dr. Carolyn Loughlin.  The whole appointment was amazing.  All of the staff were so great with us.  They all understood that she had multiple special needs and was scared out of her mind.  They talked to her the whole time, even though they knew she couldn't talk.  It did end up taking four of us to hold her down for the exam and she cried through most of it.  But after a while, Grace must have realized that they weren't going to hurt her because she stopped fighting and opened her mouth on her own.  I'm not going to lie.  I was bawling.  I was so proud of her!  I was equally impressed with the care and attention she got from the staff.  I can't say enough good things about this dentist's office.

After the evaluation, Dr. Loughlin said she hoped that Grace would become less and less scared at each visit until she was voluntarily getting her teeth cleaned.  I am hopeful that will happen with time because this year was the first year she had her annual physical check up without crying.  So I think that bringing Grace to this dentist will help her with her reluctance to open her mouth.

I cannot recommend this office and dentist enough.  If we didn't already love the dentist we take John and Luke to, I would be switching them to her also.  If you are looking for a good pediatric dentist for your special needs child, I urge you to call Dr. Loughlin's office.  You can find her website here at healthy young smiles. 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

thanksgiving 2014...

I'm a week late in posting about our Thanksgiving, but wanted to make sure I made note of it here.  We had a great time.  As usual, we traveled to Mark's hometown in West Virginia to celebrate with his extended family.  I think the final count was around  50 people who came during the day.  His sister and husband are amazing.  I'm not sure how they do it, but they do it so well and my boys never want to leave their house. 

Luke said the blessing.  He volunteered and then said he was nervous.  So Mark's mom stood with him.  He did a great job expressing his thanks and asking God to bless the food.  

 The annual cousins picture.  We were missing Mitchell who was in a hockey tournament and Brandon who is five and didn't want to be in the picture.  But we got Uncle Jack's butt in the background, so it's all good...

Every year we stop at the same fast food restaurant to eat, use the bathrooms and have the boys run up and down this hill.  Literally, they look forward to getting out and getting some exercise.  It cracks me up because I know that pet owner's stop here for that same reason...

It snowed at our house while we were in West Virginia.  The boys couldn't wait to come home and play in it.  Luke got out his snow pants, winter jacket, waterproof gloves and hat.  While John only thew on a beanie, mid weight jacket and gloves over his shorts and t-shirt.  They are such opposites when it comes to temperature.

We had such a great visit with Mark's family.  I'm so thankful that we have this tradition of getting together with his entire family every year.  It's traditions like this that fill my heart with joy at the holidays.  Since we travel every year, we tend to skip over Thanksgiving in our house but visiting with family and friends helps to remind us of what we are thankful for each year.  Hope your Thanksgiving was full of laughter, family and thankfulness.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

national adoption month...

Did you know that November was National Adoption Month?  I have heard about this for years since we are a family that was formed through adoption, but never really paid too much attention to what it meant.  Celebrating National Adoption Month is based on raising awareness for the need for foster and adoptive parents here in the US.  It's roots go back to 1976 and you can read more about it here.

It's been interesting to hear people's reactions to the fact that our children were adopted.  Many people do not know what to say or how to broach the topic of adoption.  It's not actually something I bring up very often with people.  It's not that I am hiding or ashamed of adoption, it's just that is occurred in the past and I don't think about it daily.  My husband have been incredibly blessed by adoption and in my speaking bio I say that 'I have three children through the miracle of international adoption'.

As with anything that has politically correct language surrounding it, there are landmines.  We do not always use the correct phrase or words when talking about a topic that is new to us.  I think it is our responsibility to educate people on how a sensitive topic should be talked about.  So, I give people the benefit of the doubt when talking about adoption.  But if I've corrected you and given you a preferred phrase or word to use, I'm not as forgiving when you say the wrong thing in the future. 

Recently, I was talking with the mother of a school friend Luke's and A mentioned that her sister and husband had adopted a sibling group.  Then she went on to say that she couldn't understand a mother 'giving their child away'.  That verbiage is a pretty big no-no in the adoption community.  Many people are adamant that it sends the wrong message to say a child was given away versus the mother made an adoption plan.  I'm not nearly as insulted as some with the use of this language if I can discern that your heart is in the right place and you are not inferring that my children were discarded by their birth parents. 

She explained that her sister adopted right around the time A miscarried and was mourning the loss of a baby she desperately wanted.  We chatted about adoption as a choice for a different life for a child and that sometimes this was the best decision for the mom and child.  Since my children were internationally adopted, I couldn't comment on the foster to adopt process her sister went through.  She ended our conversation saying that now that she wasn't mourning she could understand how adoption is a preferred choice for some mothers.  It was a great chance for me to see the 'other' side of how people view adoption.  And I was so happy to hear that her sister, husband and 3 kids were doing great as a family.

A few months ago, my son John came home one day and said 'when we were playing, N mentioned that his mom had said 'Luke and I weren't really brothers'.  First, I was shocked that a mother would tell her son that and that the son would repeat it to my son.  Second, I know that N's mother doesn't like me so I wasn't surprised that she was talking poorly about my family but I was surprised that adoption came up in such a negative light.  I don't know the situation surrounding why N and his mother were talking about my family but she was speaking the truth.  My children are not biological siblings, we adopted them all separately.  But when we adopted them they became siblings and we experience all the same stuff that biologically related children do.  My prayer from the beginning for my children has been that God would knit their hearts together as brothers and I can see the answer to that prayer on a daily basis.

This gave me a chance to talk with John and Luke about the fact that in truth they were not born brothers but when God put them in our family they became brothers.  John said he knew that but didn't feel like talking about it to N, so he just let it go.  I had a harder time letting it go and it kept knocking around in my brain for a few weeks.  I finally decided not to approach this friend's mom for two reasons.  First, it gave us a chance to talk as a family about adoption and we had some good dialog around what's appropriate to say and not say.  Secondly, given the fact that she doesn't like me to start, I was pretty sure she wouldn't be open to me educating her on adoption.

I've had some incredibly stupid comments made towards me and my children and had some wonderfully thought provoking conversations with total strangers.  It's interesting what people will say apparently without thought or knowledge on a topic.

Just like the word retarded is an insult to me every time you use it, saying negative things about adoption out of ignorance or malice can hurt my kids.  Here's a video made by pastor Jesse Butterworh that compares adoption to a boob job in terms of what's appropriate to say. 

I think it's hilarious and hope you did too.  And yes, I've had people say all that stuff to me...


Thursday, November 13, 2014

grace is a butterfly...

When the kids were little, I bought custom signs to hang in their rooms with their names, an adjective about them and an elephant.  They said, 'John you are awesome' with a picture of an elephant, 'Luke you are incredible' with the picture of a giraffe and 'Grace you are amazing' with the picture of a butterfly.  Every night at bedtime, we would say these things to our children and have them say it to each other.  We are big believers in the power of the spoken word and planting positive thoughts in the ground of our children's fertile brains.

At night we would say our prayers and good nights, and Luke would say 'John you are awesome and Grace you are a butterfly'.  Every night.  One of us would correct him and say Grace you are amazing.  I think Luke continued to do this because I thought it was so cute.

I'm sorry to say the habit of speaking these words into my children at bed time has lapsed and weeks will go by without anyone saying it.  A few nights ago, Luke said 'Goodnight Grace.  You are a butterfly.'  Which caused me to tear up at the sweet memory of those long ago nights.

It also caused me to tear up because I've been struggling lately with some of the realities of having a total care special needs child like Grace.  It's not always hard but sometimes it is.  Recently, sometimes seems to be more frequent than not.  Plus, as you know, life continues and struggles in other areas are always present.  I was telling a friend the other day that I think it would be easier if I could handle one struggle before another one came, but that's not  the life we live in this broken world.

As I was thinking about Luke's comment about Grace being a butterfly, my mind wandered to the transformation that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. Which brought to mind one of my favorite bible verses, Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I love this verse, because it speaks of change, renewing and God's perfect will.  The Message puts it this way:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I find myself changed through our daughter and her special needs.  It's not always pretty and it's not always easy to be changed from the inside out.  Sometimes it's hard to accept that the God of the universe loves Grace more than I do and that her disabilities are His perfect plan and will for her life.  But that is what His word says.

Believing His word to be true I place it all before Him.  My hopes and my fears, my tears and my doubts, my joy and my anger, my dreams and my broken plans.  He knows all this about me and still He loves me.  He renews me.  He changes me from the inside out.  As a result of that renewal, my faith is stronger and my heart is fuller.

Accepting this to be truth and love, allows me to change on the inside.  It allows me to be transformed into the person God created me to be.  Allowing God to work in me, brings me one day closer to becoming a butterfly, just like Grace.

This picture is from an after school walk the other day.  The weather was so nice, the kids and I took a walk after they got off the bus.  Grace wouldn't put elmo down so he came too.  She carried him the whole way, which was impressive because she usually doesn't use her hands to hold anything.  Which is a small glimpse of progress and a gift from God for this mama.


Friday, November 7, 2014

november so far...

My camera is broken.  I'm so sad about it too. Grace pulled it off the counter and broke my zoom lens this summer.  Then a week later she pulled it off the stroller handle and the flash broke.  It's been a few months without my camera and I really miss it.  Even though my phone takes great pictures, I miss using a real camera.  Here are some recent-ish pictures of the kids.

This is how they dressed for their school pictures.  John said, 'They only photograph your top half so I'm wearing shorts on the bottom.'  Plus, he can't wear shorts to school starting on November 1st.

Our first fire of the season!   We've had some really strange weather and have only had one fire so far, but I'm going to have Mark build one tonight (even if I have to open up the windows).

The boys have been playing basketball after school.  Well, John plays basketball and Luke hangs from the backboard.  He wants to climb up on top and sit on top of the back board.  I hope he's not able to do that.

I got this picture from Grace's teacher today.  She attended a Veteran's Day Parade with her class.  I love getting pictures of her smiling during the day.  She goes to such an amazing school.

For the past three months I've been eating clean, which means (for me) eating real food without a lot of additives.  I'm also not eating sugar, grains or dairy.  I do this about 90% of the time and really love the way I feel.  I made this recipe this week, and it was amazing.  Even my boys ate it.

We can't stop listening to this song.  We love T Swift!

I'm slowly reading this book.  I usually have 3 or 4 books that I'm reading at a time.  I'm savoring this one in between bible study and our small group study book.  It is good.

My friend and I are going here soon.  I've wanted to try this for a while and finally found a friend who will go with me.  It's a little bit outside of my comfort zone but I can't wait to try it.

Because it is getting cold, I'm wishing I was here with my husband.  We dream of living at the beach and hope to make that a reality sooner rather than later.  But as the weather turns cold, I dream of going to exotic islands and swimming in clear blue waters with my sweetie.  I know that this will never happen right now, based on our season of life.  But I think dreaming keeps us alive and can ignite our souls.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

halloween 2014...

My boys had a half day on halloween, so I picked them up for an afternoon of fun.  We went out to lunch, walked around our favorite gardens, got hot chocolate and coffee and then came home.  The weather was amazing so, I got some pictures of them in the 'pumpkin patch'.  These boys are so cute they kept posing and asking me to take their picture.

 Just like last year, there was a lot of discussion about costumes.  We set a narrow limit on what our boys can be, so they are typically superheros, action figures or ninjas.  John picks something new every year and Luke has been spiderman every year.  This year Luke decided he was going to be c3po, which made me a little sad but it's his choice.  Well, when we went to the store Luke picked spidey again (I silently cheered!), John is a ninja and Grace has butterfly wings on because she needed a costume for her school parade.   Here are some pictures of my crew...


Grace stayed home with me and 'helped' hand out candy.  One of the kids said 'I like your sound effects.' because Grace was vocalizing her happy noise.  And I replied, 'oh that's my daughter, she's disabled and is happy'.  As soon as I said it, I felt bad because he looked super upset and apologized to me.  Here's how she was laying on the stairs as she was 'talking'...

I'm so happy it's November.  I'm taking all my fall-ish decorations down today and putting up some Christmas-y stuff.  I may or may not have made my Christmas Holiday playlist too.

Don't forget to vote today!


Friday, October 31, 2014

day 31: some final thoughts on order...

I find myself with mixed emotions as this daily writing challenge ends.  To be honest, I struggled with the daily blogging and had to sometimes write 2-3 posts at a time due to my schedule.  I did however, enjoy exploring this topic of order and sharing my thoughts.

In the end, I think my desire for order is being fed by a desire to simplify.  To slow down and really be present with my family and friends.  To intentionally simplify is a practice that I don't have perfect right now, but it is a journey that I find myself on.

As a start, we are simplifying our possessions and sorting through things we no longer need or use.  We are being more mindful of screen time, a topic I intended to cover in this series and didn't.  We are intentionally opening our home and ourselves to others, so that we can practice true, authentic community.

We are also a family that lives with disability on a daily basis, which means sometimes order is not possible.  We have hit some bumps in the road that result in us needing to regroup or adjust what order means to us as a family.  We are also learning as we navigate this path of life what works and doesn't work in terms of simplifying. 

I do a ton of reading, and right now most of the books I am drawn to have the theme of simplifying in one form or another.  So, I'm thinking that this is a lesson I need to focus on and truly find what order looks like for me and my family.

One of the books I've been enjoying is called Almost Amish, One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life, by Nancy Sleeth.  This is her second book and she walks through how we can learn from and adopt practices from the Amish way of life.

Another book that I just picked up and look forward to reading is Hands Free Mama, A guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters, by Rachel Macy Stafford.  It has mixed reviews on amazon but her blog seems to be highly liked.

I try to order my life so that my relationship with God is first, my family comes second and anything else comes third.  I think that by simplifying things I will be able to focus my time and attention where it needs to go.

In honor of today being Halloween, I'm adding a flash back picture to 2009 of my little munchkins.

I can't believe that November starts tomorrow!  I just read on instagram today that there are 55 days until Christmas.  Which means that our year is flying by at warp speed.  I'm hoping to be more intentional, thoughtful and present during the next two months.  I think this 31 day reminder to focus on order has been a good one for me.

Hope you all have enjoyed my series.  I will not be posting daily in the coming months but plan on 2-3 posts a week on some very specific topics.  Thanks for reading my series.