Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Warm Welcome

As friends enter our home each season they will find the entrance has changed with the season. I love changing this area every month or so since it is the first impression people get when visiting us.

We keep the same picture up, which I never tire of and the table, which when turned sideways allows the leaves to come up and the table can be used for entertaining. The other items I currently have on the table are decorations for the month of February. The wreath and holder were half-price Christmas items I bought at Target. I love the deep, saturated colors in the wreath. The large picture on the table is of David on his first Valentine's day. I love the sweetness and innocence reflected in this picture. I also placed my bowl of potpourri and lights on the table. I love to place items with a variety of heights and basically uncluttered.

So often we decorate and leave things as they are. Let's face it, who can afford to completely change each month? But a little change like this keeps the creativity going and is very affordable. Also the little wicker chair next to the table was a prop for my photography. I made my own cushion to match the trim and placed a little bear with a hometown shirt on him.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Update on IEP

I attended another IEP meeting this morning—only an hour, which is much better than the usual two- to three-hour meetings that are more common. David will be taken out of LD science and placed into an advanced science class. This will be a more hands on class, since he learns kinesthetically—this is wonderful news. The only reason he was in the Learning Disabled class was behavioral issues and not that the class size was smaller than the 32 students in regular science classes. The new class will have few students and more girls (which he already eats lunch with on Fridays.)

I also broached the subject of ESY (extended school year), which he has had for the last three years. I took my request in writing so that they knew this was an issue that I am serious about. This is not a typical summer school, but usually teamwork-related outdoor activities—because his IEP goals relate to behavior and social skills. They hemmed and hawed and are now going to take my request to the head of special education.

While I was at the school waiting in the office for the meeting to start, a grandmother came in complaining. She raises her grandson who was sent out of the classroom yesterday then received a suspension due to smart mouthing the teacher and fellow students. The woman was telling the teacher and secretary, in a raised voice, that it was illegal since he can't be punished for the same thing twice. She would really have a problem with me since I believe the student should then be made to work all day at home on the day of their suspension.

When the teacher tried to expain that the student had severe anger issues the grandmother responded with "well, don't we all?" I thought, "yes we do, but does that make it right?" When the teacher tried to direct her to the head of guidance and to introduce them, the woman said "I don't know him." The woman could not have been in the guidance director's office for more than a full minute when she stormed out.

Peter and Pam Wright
of Wrightslaw
This woman isn't helping her grandson in two ways is creating obstacles for him to overcome: by minimizing and excusing the behavior she is encouraging it but also she hasn't taken the time to learn education law and then spouts off about his rights. I have found that firmness and knowledge about the true rights are more effective. I even attended a full day seminar last fall with Wrightslaw, special education attorneys who empower parents to become advocates for their children.

Organizing for School Meetings

Having attended many school meetings, for my own son and also as moral support with other parents for their children, I have found that the way you present yourself can determine how seriously they will take you. Even before my son started school I learned that I needed to keep all his records handy. (One doctor's office misplaced my son's birth records even though I provided them copies three different times.)

Filing System: Before
I have used a rather large notebook and took the notebook to meetings and doctor's appointments. I have often been able to supply a report before the school official was able to locate it in David's records.

I have also demanded that they include reports from doctors and testing that they do not require. The additional testing we had done helped get him services that would not have been offered so readily otherwise. I attend the meetings as if I am paid to be there, dressed nicely for the meeting and coming ready with files, paper and pen. But, my folder has become increasingly full to overflowing.

So I headed to out to find a filing box big enough to leave room for growth, but small enough to carry comfortably. After looking at several stores I hit the jackpot at Target. My new box is pretty (and oh how I love pretty things). It has handles on the side for easy carrying and even came with pretty multi-colored folders inside. We saw no price on the box or any of the other boxes on the shelf. In fact the price was not even on the shelf. When we tried to check-out, the employees couldn't come up with the price either. So they offered the box to us at $5.99! I had seen the folders alone for this price, so I snapped it up quickly.

I have spent the last two weeks organizing this new system, including a spreadsheet with the dates and a description of each document. I have printed this spreadsheet to include in the front of my box for even quicker retrieval. In fact, I am now ready for my meeting today at the school. I feel my attitude about these meetings has benefited me, they tend to take me (and my son) more seriously, and this has allowed him to get better services more quickly.

Filing System: After
On the other hand, I have been with another parent who attends the meeting when it is convenient. She missed an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) because her husband had taken the day off, so they went to the gym and afterwards went out to lunch together.

She called me all in a panic saying they had held the meeting without her and she was not happy because they weren't going to provide the services the mother wanted. She wanted me to intervene and get the school to schedule another meeting. I had to explain that I would go with her to the school and talk to the guidance counselor to see if we could straighten out some of the issues.

As we began to talk, I found that this was not the first meeting she had missed. At this meeting she was dressed in sweats and her general appearance was haphazard. The teacher we spoke with stated that she continued to send home notes that were never responded to. I had to sit the mom down and explain that the school was perfectly within its rights and would not be scheduling another IEP and in the future she needed to take these meetings more seriously.

If her husband was home the day of the IEP that would have been perfect for both of them to be involved. The school and she needed to work together and not as an adversaries. The school was really meeting the students needs, but mom wanted more than the daughter needed. Needless to say that was the last that I heard from the mother. I had already suspected this since her attendance and input into our support group was very low. She never did attend another support group meeting and never responded to our repeated calls to her.

So I will head out this morning with my new pretty box and fight for the needs of my son.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Game Plan

I laughed, I cried then I laughed, I cried. Disney's The Game Plan took me on a roller coaster of emotions. I even found myself laughing and crying at the same time.

Scene from Game Plan

This is a very family-oriented movie, showing how even a hard core, self centered athlete's life can change when he becomes a father. I knew the general outline of the film—a man finds out he's a father when his little girl lands on his door step. However, I expected the typical movie setup of the man becoming a father with a one-night stand. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the child was the result of a marriage. The marriage didn't work and they went their separate ways, the husband being totally unaware that he was to become a father. Not only does the father become enchanted with his daughter, but so is everyone else. This movie will "bedazzle" you, just watch and see.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Teaching Manners?

We went out to eat on Saturday following our errands. Shortly after we arrived, another family came in with the mother on her cell phone. She was with her husband and two daughters, but she might as well of been alone for all the interaction she had with them. Her husband ordered the food since the cell phone was still attached to her ear. Throughout the entire meal I watched her, since my seat looked directly as hers. She didn't appear to treat this as an emergency or necessary phone call. Laughing occasionally and talking, she showed much more interest in the person on the other end of her phone than with those she was actually with. Once when one of the girls reached across the table she slapped her hand, due to bad manners? When we left, they were also getting ready to leave, still with the phone conversation going on.

I feel sorry for the message that this mother is sending to her girls. The girls acted like this was normal, as did the husband. I love the ability that my cell phone gives me since I can be reached anytime the school needs me, but most of the times I wish they had never been invented.

We Are Very Lucky

Saturday we were finally able to deliver our goodie basket to the homeless shelter. It really made an impression on our son as he saw person after person entering the shelter. The workers were very upbeat and smiling at all who entered. After handing over our donation we were invited to have pizza. We decided against this, since we didn't want to take food from the mouths of so many in need. One worker told us there had been a steady stream coming in since they had opened more than an hour earlier. As we were leaving we saw a mother with a young girl about four years old entering. What a powerful message our son received.

The rest of the night he went around and told us what he was thankful for. He was grateful that we had a warm home, beds, food and blankets. He even stated he wanted to adopt one of the kids so that we could share with them. We explained that their parents love them as much as we love him, they just don't have the money to provide for them.

We then went to visit Mrs. Walker, who is still weak, but doing so much better.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

John 15:12

My men

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

—John 15:12

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Internet Wedding Planner

Abigail & Joe
We received a wedding invitation in the mail this week and I was amazed by the changes since I was a bride. We were married on May 17, 1986. For the mathematically challenged, that's 21 years ago.

This invitation didn't have the little RSVP card you filled out and dropped in the mail, this had a web site listed on the little card. They used the web site to be able to plan their wedding. They entered information about themselves, were able to list where they are registered at (things from which may then be ordered online); they listed the local hotels (which you may then book online), and you can RSVP online. This really made it very easy for us. We were able to decide quickly on a gift and I didn't even misplace the RSVP card.

The proposal
The bride and groom knew each other when they lived in our area but didn't date each other at the time. After they moved out of state, they began to date, fell in love, and you know the rest. We were very surprised and pleased and can't wait to see them begin their life together.

Congratulations Abigail and Joe!

P.S. David can't wait to kiss the bride!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Yesterday morning at the breakfast table, I told David that I would pick him up from school then we would be taking the items we had gathered for the homeless to the shelter. Last week we pulled out unused blankets, pillows, games, hotel shampoos and soaps to donate. This was the day we would deliver our goodie basket.

But, to our dismay David took a decidedly dim view of this. "I don't want to go" was his response, not the response I had hoped for or expected. The conversation went much like this for several minutes, "Why do I have to go?" We then realized that for some reason he thought this was a punishment. After explaining that this is a calling that we have as Christians and reminding him of the good Samaritan and how we are suppose to help our neighbors his attitude changed. He willing accepted our plans.

When Rich and I picked him up from school he was back to not wanting to go, cutting into play time is really rough. But, he quickly got back into the mood. They say no good deed goes unpunished and in this case it was true. I had checked the shelter's web-site to make sure we would be there when they were open and to get ideas of what we should donate. However, after getting there with our basket of goodies we found the doors firmly locked with a note saying that due to budget cuts the hours of the shelter had to be cut considerably. We plan on going back on Saturday to deliver our basket and my husband Rich, who designs web sites for our church and a few businesses, will be offering his service for free to the shelter to help keep their site up to date.

We then went to visit our friend Mrs. Walker, who recently came home from the hospital, but they were not at home. We arrived home to find that friends had called and invited us to dinner. If we had been not been running these errands we would have been sitting down at the table and missed this time of fellowship with friends. So what started out as us trying to give to others God turned to benefit us!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Romantic Touch

Gift from a friend
Several years ago a friend gave me a wonderful and versatile gift. It's very simple, beautiful and inexpensive to make.

All you need is a small decorative bowl; place some potpourri in it (mine has red); and add a small string of Christmas lights.

I move this item to different locations throughout our home. Sometimes it's in the bedroom. Right now it's in our living room. As the lights heat up, it brings out the beautiful scent of the potpourri. It is easy enough to change the colors with the season, lilac for Easter or burnt orange and brown for fall.

An Update on Mrs. Walker

If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that we have a dear friend, Mrs. Walker, who has been in the hospital and rehab center to regain her strength since 2 days after Christmas. Great news! Mrs. Walker is supposed to come home this morning. Please continue to pray for her, for her daughter Peg, and for her son-in-law Dave.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Special Needs Friendly Vacations

Cinderella's Castle, Disneyworld
As any parent of a special needs child knows, taking a vacation can be a recipe for disaster. The two issues that most impact our ability to enjoy our time out and about as a family are ADHD and Sensory Integration Disorder. The best way I can explain our son's sensory issue to others is this:

Imagine that you are driving with the windows down and the music blaring at just the right level to sing along above the sound of the wind. You park in front of your house and go inside for the night. Then the next day you get into your car turning the key in the ignition and that music now seems extremely loud. The sound level hasn't changed and your ears have not changed, it's your perception that has changed. People with sensory issues don't have an impairment with their senses, it's how the brain perceives the input.

So why on earth would we take a child like this to Disney World? This past year was actually our third visit, but the first time we stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach resort. It worked well for us since we were able to explore the parks each day based on how crowded the park was, then we could return to the park again in the evening or just relax by one of the seven resort pools.

One benefit we took advantage of was a "handicap pass." We took our son's medical records to guest services at the first park of our stay and were issued a pass that allowed us to skip ahead of the long lines for our entire stay. Instead of waiting the 1 to 2 hours, we were able to enter by way of the FastPass or handicap gate—cutting our wait time to just minutes in most cases. This pass works at all the theme parks, however it is not accepted at the waterparks.

After a friend had explained this benefit I checked other parks and found that Paramount's Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens both offer this type of pass. So, if you are planning a vacation to a theme park and have a family member with health issues, you might want to contact the theme park in advance to see if they have a program similiar to these. One of the parks I contacted even offered the handicap ticket and one caregiver's ticket at half price. I think it's wonderful that parks are recognizing that not all "handicaps" are visible at first glance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Living in the 50s


Have you ever walked into a room and felt you had entered a different time zone? Well, our main bathroom was like that—green and black tile half way up the wall, all the way around the bathroom.

While the tile makes it very practical and easy to clean I still wanted to bring the look into this century. So I had to find a way to draw the attention away from the 50's look and give it some character.

So I started by choosing evergreen, black and royal purple—yes, I said purple.


I had purchased some peacock masks many years ago and had them mounted and framed. I thought that they would be perfect in this room. I rag-rolled the entire top part of the walls, used purple towels and a purple mat.

The final touch was a floral arrangement of peacock feathers in a back vase. Presto! Everyone who enters the room comments on how much they love the walls. I love that it has a bit of whimsy and fun and we could all use a little of that in our lives.

Monday, January 21, 2008

35th Anniversary

One saved from abortion.

Tomorrow will mark the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the case that would end so many lives. As I stated in my post last week The Least of These, I truly believe the only way to change people's minds and hearts is through the message of Jesus Christ. I know this made an impact on Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey). Norma McCorvey is the woman who for 35 years has been at the center of this controversial court decision. I met Norma just over 10 years ago at a prolife event. I heard her speak about how ironically God had used a child who never gave up on her to get her to go to church. This little girl was her neighbor who after continually asking and getting a "no" answer never gave up on Ms. McCorvey. Oh, the child-like faith that doesn't falter under a little rejection.

Click for Operation Save America
Rev. Flip Benham
baptizing Norma McCorvey

God also brought the Prolife group "Operation Rescue" now known as "Operation Save America" and its leader Flip Benham to work next door to the abortion clinic that Norma worked at. I have also had the privilege of meeting Flip Benham several times. I have never seen Flip without his Bible in his hand, ready to share the Gospel with the workers and the women who need the love and forgiveness that only Jesus can provide. Norma, as one pro-lifer wrote, "The poster child for abortion just jumped off the poster and into the arms of Jesus Christ" was baptized and has been working for the prolife cause since her conversion.

I hope in all of this we as Christians have learned that we must be a part of the political world and bring our beliefs into our world view. If Christians had done this 35 years ago and stood up to be counted, so much suffering might have been prevented. I am old enough to remember being in elementary school and hearing no uproar over the court's decision.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Praise The Lord

Psalm 113:2-3
"Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Company's Coming" Cake

Dump cake ingredients

Yesterday we got a phone call from company asking if they could drop by shortly. But, what to make in a short time, that wouldn't mess up the kitchen (since we don't have a dishwasher.) I pulled out my mom's "dump cake" recipe. This is a great recipe for company, quick with little clean up and if you buy the right ingredients even diabetics can eat it! I also tend to make this when making a meal for a couple since it is easy to use the same amount of ingredients and make two smaller cakes—one to share and one to keep.

All you need is:

  • 2 cans pie filling (I use Comstock no sugar added since it has Splenda)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I use Splenda)
  • 1/3 can of water to dissolve the sugar/Splenda
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 2 sticks of butter

The finished product

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 9 X 13 pan with non-stick spray. In the pan, place in order: pie filling, sugar and water. Sprinkle yellow cake mix on top. Slice butter and place on top. Bake at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes until it browns on top.

This tastes great with Apple or Cherry pie filling. If using Peach pie filling you should replace the yellow cake mix with butter pecan cake mix.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Snow Came Down

I have never been one that liked actually being in the snow. Watching it fall—making a pristine covering that takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary is more to my taste. I know this can be rough on my son who would really like a mom who will roll around in the snow until her toes freeze off. The dampness that settles into my joints and bones can leave me in such pain that I would spend the entire night in tears due to the pain.

I was born with a dislocated hip, which was not diagnosed until I was two years old and had troubles walking. Our landlord Mr. Ricker "just happened" to be a Shriner and he was the one who recognized what the doctors had failed to see. The interesting thing is J.D. Ricker was not in the medical field, he owned a plumbing and heating company!

Mr. Ricker took us to another Shriner who got us an appointment at the Greenville, South Carolina, location. At the time we lived in Greeneville, Tennessee, so this was quite a trek. The doctors there agreed with the diagnoses and I was admitted into Shriners Hospital.

For those of you that only know the Shriners as the men in the funny hats and little cars in parades, they mean so much more to me and the more than 835,000 children they have helped free of charge since 1922 (I was not their first patient contrary to popular opinion.)

For two years I spent time in surgery, body casts, and leg braces. I have few memories of this time, however, I do have vivid memories of traveling up to the Philadelphia Shriners hospital when I was older for check-ups and a two-week hospital stay due to the likelihood of more surgery. They often had movies, and clowns that came in to entertain us.

I remember this not as a place of fear but as a place of caring people. I have to admit several nighttime raids with a couple of nurses into the kitchen to take goodies back into the ward. I'm sure looking back they had the full permission of the kitchen, but it was quite an adventure for a fourth grader.

As Christians, of course, these "just so happens" really don't just happen. We are held in God's tender loving care and He brings people into our lives who we need or who need us. Shriners has now expanded into 22 hospitals and burn centers. If you know a child that may need medical attention in the area of orthopaedic conditions, burn injuries, spinal cord rehabilitation or cleft lip and palate repair, I would recommend that they go to You could also go to their site to make a donation.

Looking at me you would never know that I had such huge issues or that doctors didn't hold out much hope that I would walk normally. As Ephesians 3:20 says "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Skipping Classes

We found out on Monday night that David had skipped two classes on Friday. His one-on-one aid was not there that day because she was sick, so he took the chance to spend the last two classes in a conference room in the office. Now, why no one noticed that he was there and questioned him for two classes bothers me even though he does spend time there often. So the school's punishment for his missing those two classes was a day's suspension (lets give him more time out of class).

Yesterday was the day he was to serve it and serve it he did. My philosophy is to make suspensions so miserable that he is eager to return to the relatively lesser work load at school. He was made to get up at usual time which was followed by a full day of all work, no play, and no television. I normally shop for groceries for the following week on Friday, but changed it to yesterday so he could lug all the bags in. This was followed by the school work that needed to be completed, cleaning, and laundry.

Overall, even though he is doing a lot of the work, it means lots more work for me also. Keeping him on track and in line is more work than just doing it myself. Will this result in no more suspensions? I doubt it since when he is in the heat of the moment he doesn't seem to think about the consequences and this is not his first suspension. But, if we make it easy I can guarantee there would be many more suspensions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Least of These

Matthew 25:40 tells us "And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

A familiar verse to most of us. We feel good when we donate canned goods to the needy or put a few dollars into the benevolence fund at church, but does this really fill the mandate that Jesus has given us. I believe this Thomas Merton quote is more in keeping with the real meaning behind this verse: It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God"s will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will for yourself.

Ouch, that hurt. While waiting for the school bus with my son yesterday morning he tried to convince me to warm up the car and drive him to the stop because it was so cold. I used the 15 or so minutes of waiting outside to remind him that people are living and dying because they have no warm home or car to retreat to. So, this week's project with him is to scour the house and get all those blankets and warm clothing that haven't been used recently to take to a homeless shelter.

But, the least of these are not just the poor. The least of these are those without a voice. I am strongly pro-life, but reject being placed in the same camp as many others calling themselves the same. The young women entering abortion clinics today are the generation raised with abortion on demand. Some may have had no personal contact with Christians until the day they go to enter an abortion clinic and hear shouts and words of anger and condemnation rained upon them. We should show the love of God and that there is a loving alternative. It is a shame on the name of Christ when the abortionists show more love than the protesting Christians outside. The only way we are going to change hearts is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have found that people with mental health issues are actually shunned in many churches. I worked for a pastor who in a sermon spoke about how no matter how busy he was when a mentally retarded man in our congregation called he made the time to talk to him and to help him. As his secretary I knew the truth—he avoided the calls like the plague. The next time the man called and the pastor tried to run out I reminded him about his sermon, he took the call. I have had less understanding from previous churches about my son's mental health issues than I have received outside the church. Multiple times we had been told that if we didn't sit in the class with him he wasn't allowed to attend Sunday school or junior church. That was the only break I got all week from a child who has bi-polar disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD and sensory integration dysfunction. Often if someone had just sat next to him that would have calmed him, we had told them this and were ignored.

After getting my son on the bus and returning home I found another unlikely least of these being discussed on the news—Britney Spears. What? you may ask, am I crazy or what? The reporter was talking to one of the photographers who is constantly on her designer heels asking why they didn't just leave this tortured woman alone. His answer was "because people want to see it." But why would we not consider this woman as a least of these? MONEY. As Christians, are we no better at seeing the very real need that makes her a least of these than the unsaved world that says she has everything. She has a big house and all the people that can make money off her surrounding her, but I don 't see any evidence of the love of Christ in her. I also don't see anyone trying to reach her. I admit I was convicted of the fact that I have never prayed for her or her little boys who are no less precious than my own son.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Is A Blog?

When our friends were over the other night one of our friends asked "what is a blog and why do people do it?" This is a simple and complex set of questions. A blog is a weblog (simple) but the essence of a blog is so much more. In fact, as I explained to her, it is anything you want it to be (complex).

I have found blogs that have only recipes, blogs about political issues, photograph blogs, or they can be like mine—a mix of a who I am.

I am a Christian, wife, mother, photographer, sister and friend with interests that cover all these areas in my life plus more. I have experience that was learned the hard way. One of my hopes is to help others who may be starting on the same journey to learn from my mistakes and successes.

I love that this is a non-threatening way to learn from and also help others. Often if a friend or relative gives advice and it hasn't worked for me the comment may follow with "you just didn't do it long enough" or "you must not have done it right." Because it worked so well in their life it must work for everyone—NOT.

I hear this from others when I check their blogs. I enjoy seeing the creativity that is out there that otherwise would go without notice. But also many of the blogs that I visit have younger children and I love being reminded of those times.

So ... my question to you is, do you have a blog and if so why do you blog? If you only read blogs, what are you looking for in a blog? I thought I would ask others so I could let my friend know why others blog.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Friends, Food and Fun

Saturday night found us with a kitchen full of friends. We invited two couples who over the last two years have brought an abundance of fellowship into our lives. We spent most of the time in the kitchen, putting everyone to work making their own pizzas. Now that's real friendship, people who are willing to work for their supper! The dough was ready and waiting for their arrival, all they needed to do was add their favorite toppings—fresh grated mozzerella cheese, fresh sliced pepperoni, sausage, bacon, peppers, olives and mushrooms on the list of delicious ingredients. Everyone had a great time, even though it was a little confusing with two adult Dave's and our son David along with my husband whose middle name is David.

An update for those who have been praying for Mrs. Walker

Mrs. Walker has been slowly regaining her strength for the last few days. She has trouble remembering that her daughter Peg (one of our pizza makers) has been a faithful visitor twice a day since the beginning of her stay there. Please continue to pray for Mrs. Walker and for Peg and Dave as they minister to her needs during this time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Making of Our Family: Part 3

For the last two days I have been telling the story of how we became a family. Today's post is the final post in this series.

The morning following David's birth was gray and stormy. I arrived at the hospital not knowing if his birth mother would have changed her mind and want to parent this child I had already fallen in love with. Upon arriving at the hospital room I found a very exhausted mother. She stated that David had not slept at all—each time she would try to cuddle him he would push, scratch, and cry. This had convinced her that the adoption plan she had already made was the right decision. We took turns holding our little bundle.

By early afternoon his birth mother went outside, leaving me in the room alone, a nurse came in and demanded to take my temperature. Since I was wearing a bracelet she thought I was the one who had given birth. Trying to explain to her that it wasn't my temperature she needed, she stuck the thermometer into my mouth. After telling me how well I was doing and my temperature was good I finally was able to explain that she may not want to write it on the chart since I was the adoptive mother. She had a sense of humor and laughed when I told her that was what I was trying to tell her. LOL! I explained where the birth mother was, so that she would need to come back.

We were able to take lots of pictures with all of us together and they are a proud part of our son's baby book. Finally, at 8 pm we were able to leave the hospital, driving the birth mother with us—since the hospital couldn't release the baby to us. Because the storm was knocking out electricity in our area and flooding caused several streets to closed, we called her to let her know when we got home. When it was time for all of us to collapse at the end of long day the only place David would sleep and not cry was snuggled right in the middle of my chest.

Several days later when we checked on the birth mother she was very emotional and felt her decision was the right one. But, she couldn't remember what David looked like so we invited her and her daughter over. When they left we sent them home with a video of everyone holding the baby. We were to send them pictures the following day. I'm sure these images are as special to her as they are to us. David is very fortunate in that they even attended his first birthday party.

We are fortunate to have a birth mother that we could build a healthy relationship with. I love our open adoption and am happy that he can see her when he feels the need and know that he does have a half sibling. He did ask once about her and we were able to arrange for them to see each other. That was six years ago and it seems to have satisfied his curiosity. But, when David was four we had another birth mother come to ask that we adopt her daughter. She even contacted the agency directly and stated she only wanted us to adopt her daughter. I had to explain that we were concerned about the amount of involvement the birth mother wanted in our lives. She wanted to name the child, pick her up and take her out when she wanted to, and make decisions such as schooling. This is not open adoption. We suggested that they place the little girl in another state to prevent these issues. She was placed out of state and from the agency and the birth mother's family I have found that she is doing well. Our adoption is more open than most, but it works well for all of us.

[The Making of Our Family: Part 1]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 2]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 3]

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Making of Our Family: Part 2

This is the second installment of our family's adoption story

We had no future contact with the young mother until a phone call four months later—in the month of April. She asked if we still wanted to adopt her baby. Since the conversation we had in January had never really involved us adopting her baby, we were a little shell-shocked. I covered the phone and asked my husband Rich. His immediate answer was YES! So the following day we began the process that normally takes months or years, but would take us one month ... one month for us to become parents. After making our decision to adopt the baby we found that our child would be a son. Since we had filed our our paperwork months ahead of time and attended the mandatory classes, at least we didn't have to start at ground zero.

During this time we continued to pray that God would clearly reveal His will. We also prayed for the young mother, who was making a heart-wrenching decision. We wanted her to know that we would support her decision even if she chose to keep this child. Amazingly enough, our adoption had no glitches or problems. So we continued to prepare both physically for our son and emotionally for the adoption. We were aware that at any time his birth mother could change her mind leaving us with crushed dreams and broken hearts.

The agency kept reminding us that she really wanted to place the baby in the adoptive home at birth, this is usually discouraged by agencies since birth parents can not legally relinquish their rights for several weeks. The laws in each state are different. So we were told that we should just consider ourselves babysitting until after the adoption was final.

As we prepared for our decision, David's birth mother prepared for hers. We met several times and spoke often on the phone during this month. We started to form a bond that has allowed David to see that we truly care for his birth family. We were very privileged that his birth mother wanted us to be a part of his life from the moment of his birth, asking us to attend the birth and even taking a part in it.

When she went into labor she telephoned our home, reaching my husband, who then called me to say we needed to get to the hospital. We reached the hospital in the early afternoon and stayed with his birth mother. We all spoke of our desires for the future of this child, the way God had brought us together, how my husband and I met and fell in love and her personal history that would never have been conveyed in the agencies paperwork. Our son's birth mother's family were not at the hospital, but her mother did come in the evening after David's birth. Finally at 7:02 pm David made his entrance into the world, with me cutting the umbilical cord (very symbolic.)

When he cried for the first time the nurse asked me what his name would be, when I told her, David stopped crying instantly. She said she had never seen that. After I gave David his first bath and he fell to sleep I went back into his birth mother's room, where the nurses were discussing if he should room in or not. Every eye in the room went to me. I felt it was important for his birth mother to have this time if she wanted to, so I told them so. At about 10 pm we went home, emotionally exhausted and very hungry since our last meal had been breakfast. Would the decision to encourage him to room-in make the whole adoption fall through? We didn't know, but we felt she needed time to bond with him and not feel pressure from us

Final installment tomorrow

[The Making of Our Family: Part 1]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 2]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 3]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Making of Our Family: Part 1

Before the adoption of our son David, for nine years we were a couple that desperately wanted to become a family. It was very difficult as we saw friends and family welcome their precious babies and not know if we would welcome our own. After consulting a specialist who found no reason for our inability to have a child, we decided to pursue adoption.

Now you have to remember during this time courts were removing adopted children from the only homes they knew to place them with their birth families. So adoption was not a particularly popular decision. We put our trust in God and filled out the paperwork for a Christian agency in our area, then stuck it in a drawer. We had just moved and wanted to get settled first. However, unbeknownst to us, God had already begun our family, He just hadn't let us in on the secret.

At the same time a young mother of a five-year old daughter discovered that a night at a party had resulted in a new life. She had already had one abortion and had felt guilt and remorse over her actions (these were her words, not mine). She decided that she would not abort this child, however, those around her were making that decision very difficult. She and her daughter lived with her parents and they were not prepared to raise another child. Her friends felt that she should either have the baby and keep it or abort the child. She wanted to meet with someone in a none-pressure atmosphere where her questions could be answered.

Rich and I had earlier offered to open our home to a young woman in a crisis pregnancy, she later found that she wasn't pregnant and luckily re-examined her life and made some changes. We were now asked by one of Rich's co-workers to meet with her friend, a young mother who was now pregnant. We only met her in order to help her explore the options open to her. If she did want to keep the baby we would put her in touch with some of contacts that would allow her to keep her family together. She quickly explained that she had already decided to make an adoption plan for her baby—due to medical and emotional issues. During our first meeting, in January 1995, she explained that she didn't believe in teaching a child a religion. She felt that when a child turns 18 years old the child can decide what to believe. I, on the other hand, explained that was like letting a child decide what 1 plus 1 is. We believe there is an absolute—one God, the Creator of the universe. She left the house that night to explore her options....

Tomorrow I will continue the story

[The Making of Our Family: Part 1]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 2]
[The Making of Our Family: Part 3]

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Help! Mom

This morning my son decided to pack his lunch, the first time this year. He excitedly made up a sandwich and put a couple goodies in the bag. As I began to clean the kitchen after getting him off to school, I saw the little sack on the counter. Decision time—to take the lunch to school or let him deal the consequences of forgetting it. This wasn't as big a decision since I had given him $2.00 for a drink, since a lunch with milk costs just $1.65 at his school, he has more than enough to eat properly. At the beginning of the school year I placed $10.00 in his account in the cafeteria in case of emergencies. The only problem though was that when he realized he had this spare account money at school he began to use that money for his lunches and use the daily lunch money I gave him each day for soft drinks and snacks. I found this out only after I got a notice that he owed money to the school. I explained that the account was in case he forgot his lunch money and that now he would have to rebuild the account with the leftover change that he was given each day.

Today, the school called and asked if he had left his lunch at home. When I explained that it was here, they requested that I bring it down. I told them that he had enough money with him to buy lunch and he would need to do so. They asked if I was not too busy to please bring it by. I told them, no, I wasn't too busy, but that I would not be bringing it, since I feel David needs to learn that the whole world doesn't stop when he forgets his lunch. I want to teach my son the life lessons now. Responsibility doesn't just happen—it must be taught.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another Way to Build a Family

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The words to this children's rhyme are familiar but not very true. Words do hurt. Perhaps the words that hurt the most are the words spoken in times of great change—the times we are most in need of loving support from our family and friends. We don't intend to say hurtful things; we just aren't prepared for certain events because we haven't been taught how to respond when it happens. We need to be prepared to demonstrate true Christian love when a friend is at a major crossroads in her life.

After I informed people of my intention to adopt a child, the first words spoken to me ranged from very supportive and encouraging to damaging and sometimes cruel. Some people asked "Aren't you afraid the real parents will take the baby back?" Others said smugly, "If God wanted you to have children, He would have given you children. Since He didn't it means you would be a bad parent." Many asked. "Haven't you heard about all the adoptions that don't work out?"

When people mention my son's real parents, they are usually talking about his birth parents. I consider both sets of parents real—birth and adoptive. When people ask about what could happen in the future, I remind them that no parent is guaranteed tomorrow. All our children are on loan from God. To say that only good parents produce offspring is so absurd. If that were true there would be no abortion or child abuse. God sees fit to place children in families in many different ways. Adoption is one of those ways, and it is blessed by God. (2 Samuel 7; John 1:12; Romans 8:16-17)

The first words one should say to an adoptive couple after hearing of their intention to asopt should be something supportive. "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you" would be a good start. Remember, adoption is just another way to build a family. It's no more or less joyous than giving birth to a long-awaited child.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Visit to a Friend

In this picture you will see my son David with Mildred Walker. "Grandma Walker" is a lovely older woman who suffers from dementia. She lives with her daughter Peg and son-in-law Dave. Two days after Christmas she became so weak that the doctor sent her to the hospital for evaluation. After several days of treatment for an infection and dehydration she was still too weak to go home so was placed in a rehab center to regain her strength. This has been very hard on her, each time her daughter visits she cries and when her daughter leaves she cries to go home. Yesterday was the first day she has shown signs of progress in regaining her strength.

Peg and Dave are wonderful Christians who are dearly loved. They truly practice their faith, they have suffered many trials throughout their lives and their loving spirit has helped them use the lessons learned to help others deal with their own trials. I know this from personal experience. When we met them, we were going through a very deep valley in our lives and they took us into their hearts and ministered to us.

Our friendship with "grandma" Walker has taught our son to be more understanding of the issues of old age. At first he found it very confusing when we would have to say our names when seeing her each time. Since she could see us he couldn't understand why we had to tell her who we were. We explained that she just wasn't able to remember us and that we should not be hurt by this. We went to visit her on Saturday and David picked one of his favorite stuffed animals, a stuffed eagle, to give to her. He also picked The Hungry Caterpillar to take to read to her. When he got there he got embarrassed, so he left it for Peg to read to her later. He chose this book since she had not been eating well and wanted to encourage her.

Please pray for Mildred Walker, Peg and Dave. Peg is spending many hours each day to make sure her mother has the care she needs. Please also pray for those in the care center who have no one to visit or look out for them.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Indoor Activities

With the weather so cold outside, it has been hard for our son to get his energy out, and energy he has! I remember trying almost everything when he was younger to keep him busy and have some fun in the process. One of my finds was the book Great Books to Read and Fun Things to do with Them by MOPs. They take one easy-to-read children's book a month and suggest fun crafts and cooking activities to accompany the theme of the book. Books such as The Snowy Day, Where The Wild Things Are and Guess How Much I Love You are included in this handy little book.

Great Books to Read
and Fun Things to do
with Them

The activities are not only fun, but easy and inexpensive. I love that the craft activities are "decorating outside the lines" where you can let the child express his creativity and not just follow a set look that must be completed. Before each recipe or craft there is a list of things that are needed and ingredients, making it easy to prepare before beginning. It is very frustrating, especially with a young child, to begin a project and finding that you are missing something and can't complete the project.

After seeing this book on my shelf last night and pulling it to take another look at it, I find that now that my son is enjoy cooking this might be a good book to find some quick and easy recipes. This is one reason I just can't get rid of a book, you never know when you might be able to use it again.

After checking the the MOPS website and, it appears this little treasure trove of a book is no longer in print, however it can be purchased used here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Choosing A Preschool

To some parents January is too early to start thinking of a preschool for the fall, but to find the right preschool for your child you will need to do your research and make a decision in many cases as early as February. Most preschools and private schools will begin closed registration in January (registration for families currently enrolled) and sometime in February they begin open registration.

At the time of enrollment you will usually need the enrollment fee and any books/supplies fees and in some cases the full first month's tuition. This adds up quickly! The preschools and private schools I have dealt with (and this is in the hundreds) all have a non-refundable enrollment fee, so you'll want to make the right decision before filling out that check. I have gone from a parent looking for a preschool for my four-year-old and making many mistakes to becoming a secretary at a preschool to finally, for six years, a preschool photographer. With this experience I have been behind the scenes and seen both good and bad preschools and private schools. I have seen teachers and directors that treat the children as loving as they would treat their own children, but this is not as common as they would like us to believe.

Below I have listed some of the ways to help a parent or guardian make a wise decision—though this will not guarantee a perfect fit for a child these tips may help you make a more informed decision.

  1. Call first and find out some basics—there is no reason to tour a school if the tuition is twice as much as you can afford.

  2. Make an appointment to tour the school and bring a list of precise questions—instead of "do all your teachers have degrees?" you should word it "do all your teachers have teaching degrees?" I made this mistake when I was told yes and once my son started to attend and I became friends with some of the teachers I found that one had an accounting degree and another had a degree in poultry. I don't need my four-year-old to have a teacher who is an accountant for her to teach my son his 1-2-3's and I still don't know what a degree in poultry is. This was a Christian school and I know the administrator knew what I was asking, but chose to mislead me.

  3. Bring your child and another person (spouse or friend) who has a keen insight and who may pick up on something that might be a concern. Sometimes a second visit to the school with a friend can would be wise.

  4. Make sure that you don't get hypnotized with the decor and gadgets. I have often seen slogans like "we love our kids" on the walls, but that sentiment never reached the hearts of the workers. Many have lots of gadgets—computer classes or the ability to log in at work and watch on web cam. I have been to schools that have a room full of computers and have never seen a child on any of the computers after going into the center at least 20 times and all day long.

  5. Make sure you know what you are "buying" when you are told "we have computer classes and dance classes available" that probably means there is an additional fee for these classes. If you are told, "we are holding our classes to 10 students," and that is one of your concerns you may want to see if current classes are limited to that. Ask about "substitute" teachers, some smaller schools—and yes even Christian—do not have substitutes and will lump more children than is allowed by state-mandated limits.

  6. Don't be intimidated into making a quick decision "because we only have one spot left." This may be true, but you can be placed on a waiting list since not all students who are enrolled will attend. Don't let anyone make you feel stupid for asking any questions that are a concern for you.

  7. Have someone watch your child once day and check out the school from the outside during recess or free play time and when the parents are picking up their children. It is best for the staff to be spread out and watching the children during these times. Often though you will see the teachers all gathered together with little or no attention paid to the children. During these unstructured times, accidents are more likely to happen.

  8. Talk to the teachers, find out how long they've taught and also how long they've been at this school. After talking to many teachers, if nine out of ten are new teachers to the school you may want to find out why there is such a high turnover rate. In six years I have been to some schools that have virtually no turnover and on the flip side been to other schools that each year when I return I know only one or two teachers out of twelve. This can happen when a new administrator is hired or this may be an ongoing problem so you may have to ask some hard questions.

  9. Check out the school with the local government. Find out if they have lots of violations for health codes or complaints from parents. It may not be a concern if they have a complaint and it was unfounded. But if the school is getting five or six complaints each school year, I would be concerned.

  10. Once you have made a decision, go ahead and enroll. Don't wait until summer just in case something comes up. This may put you in the position of not getting the school of your choice.

  11. When your child does start at the school be careful to allow the teacher to teach. I have seen parents who felt there was something wrong so they refused to leave their children in class without them until they were asked to leave by the teacher a half hour into class every day. Your child and the other children shouldn't be cheated out of instruction time, if you are that sure something is wrong, it is better to remove your child from that class or teacher.

If I knew then what I know now my son would have had a better start in his academic career. But, I learned quickly and within the first two months took my son out of the private Christian school and had him homeschooled by a friend. This was a wonderful decision that came after I realized his teacher did not recognize that he was quicker than the other students in her class. After the first eight weeks of school this teacher came to me informing me that David was not ready for kindergarten and should be placed in the preschool program. When I questioned her about this she stated that he knew none of his "letters." When I pointed at different letters and asked him what they were, he identified each one perfectly. I then asked him to show me different letters and he once again was correct each time. She answered that "yes, the first two times he would answer right, but the third time he couldn't answer." I then turned to my five-year-old and asked him to explain to her why that was. He then, as serious as could be, said "if I've told her twice and she still can't get it, why should I tell her again?" We then told her we understood that many in the class needed that repetition, but that David caught on very quickly. And we explained to David that he would have to understand that not everyone was as quick and he would have to deal with this and answer the same questions over and over again. There would be other areas in life that he would be slower and others would have to "wait for him."

Remember: The right school for your best friend's child may not be the right school for your child. This is a very personal decision that must be made with both your head and your heart. This is an exciting time for both you and your child. Rejoice!

Happy New Year

We celebrated the end of 2007 with church friends. This is the way we have celebrated for the last three years, 2006 we celebrated with friends from our new church while 2005 and 2007 we enjoyed the fellowship of friends from our old church. I can't think of a better way to start the new year than among friends updating each other on what has occurred during the last year and looking forward to what God has in store for us. There is always plenty of food, fun and kids. Each year the kids get bigger and this year we had the privilege to meet a wonderful little girl, Ameera. It is very comforting to be able to take our son and not have to worry about what the adults will do that is not appropriate and also know that all the adults watch over everyone else's children.

Ameera is the only child not in the picture above, she had already gone to sleep. As you can see by the bags under our son's eyes (in the blue hat), David was up well past his bed time.

Now comes the process of taking down and storing all our Christmas decorations. At the same time I'll be taking out Valentine's Day decorations. My son loves to decorate our house with me every holiday.