Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Is National Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and over on Adeye blog, No Greater Joy Mom, she has invited any adoptive family to link up with her and declare that our lives are richer, lovelier and blessed by the Lord thru adoption.  Praise God!  I would have to agree with her 100%.

As a young adult, I had never thought on adoption much.  I know this sounds strange but I had only thought about adoption in terms of families that could not conceive children on their own, adopting babies from young mothers that had chosen to give up their children to adoption.   Back then, adoption was not talked about a lot.  I only knew a few people that had ever adopted or were adopted.  When I speak with people now days about adoption, most still don’t know much about the children in foster care waiting to be adopted, embryo adoption, or adoption of children from other countries.   It is talked about much more in the last few years than ever before.  Some in part because of celebrity’s adopting but I believe more people are knowledgeable about the plight of the orphan, especially in the churches across the nation, because of the many wonderful adoptive families that keep sharing and blogging about their lives and families, Orphan Sunday and National Adoption Awareness Month.  This is so encouraging and exciting.  To see the body of Christ rise up and support a child or see the wave of God calling families to adopt in churches or sign up for foster care just blesses my heart.  Anyone now days, can” google” the large amount of families on the internet fundraising to bring children home from other countries or to fund the cost to carry adopted embryos.  Glory to God.  I pray nightly that God would rise up a Christian army to adopt the orphans of the world.

Tim and I first talked about adoption while doing our training for foster care.  We knew it was a possibility that a child, that we had in our care,  would become available for adoption at some point.  We talked about what we would do.  Little did we know that within our second year of fostering that would happen.   Very soon after beginning foster care, we saw the overwhelming amount of children needing permanency.   So many children needing a Dad and Mom to love them,  a family to share God with them, love, support, direct, encourage and always be there for them.  There were just so many.  We knew we could not just help one or two.  There were just so many.  So we stayed in prayer about it always, to do the will of God and that He would bring to us, the children that were meant to be with us, as a part of our family.  To be honest, we never intended in the beginning, to have as many children as we do.  It is just the way God brought them into our lives.  Now we have learned, we just want to serve God however He wants in this area.  To never say we are done.  To never say we will never take a child with this or that.  We have learned that He calls us to the children He wants in our home.  Children that often stretch us and grow us, that we learn so much from and never knew we needed in our lives so much.  We have learned that God is faithful and He will always provide what we need, when we need it, for the family He has created here.

By our second year of doing foster care, we felt God had called us to children with special needs or that were medically fragile.  He called us to children that were harder to place because of their medical care or scary diagnosis.  Over the 9 ½ years of doing foster care, our first go around, we adopted five times and retired.  Our lives were full, blessed, busy, hard at times, and never boring.   I am humbled to the core that the Lord has entrusted Tim and I to raise these children.  We have seen daily miracles.  We have seen God provide in miraculous ways for us and always meet every need.  He has poured strength into us when we felt like we had no more to give.  Our lives have been nothing short of amazing because of adoption. 

Those who visit here regularly know that Tim and I made the choice last year to reopen for foster care and see if God wanted us to raise more children.  Even though we are both pushing 50, I had a very deep desire to raise more children I could not shake.  Even though many of our children will be spending all their lives with us, our retirement years were looking a little boring.  :)  I would get on my favorite internet adoption sites or read my favorite blogs (mostly large adoptive families) and would see the need was still so big.   Tim and I sought Gods face on this very important decision for over a year before reopening.  Glory to God it has blessed us mightily once again.   I will not lie…taking in children that have been through so much is not always easy.  But neither was Jesus choice to carry the cross and be crucified for us.  Sacrifice is not easy.  Adoption is not always easy.  BUT…it is totally worth it.  If Jesus gave His whole life for us and we are to give our whole life to Him.  He can do with it what HE wishes and some of what we are called to do might not be all easy… but the rewards are huge.  To witness a child blossom into a relaxed and happy child.  To see them put weight on and have a warm bed to sleep in.  To watch them overcome bad habits and behaviors and replace them with good.  To see them learn to give and receive love.  To see them give their lives to the Lord!  There is no greater joy.  No greater blessing in all the world to me, than to see these children heal, progress, be a part of our family and live for the Lord. 

Yes, I will always advocate for the orphan.  I will always talk peoples ear off about adoption and how great our God is!  We are blessed beyond measure and our cup over flows, just as the Lord has promised!

I ask you to please take this month and pray fervently to the Lord what your roll should be in providing for the orphans of this world.  You may very well be surprised at what He calls you to do!  It might be to adopt!  It might be to help fund someone else’s adoption!  It might be to donate a meal, clothing or help to an adoptive family!  It might be to choose an orphan from the many adoption websites and pray for them daily, till there forever family finds them and brings them home!  You will never regret the time and money spent in service to our God.

Just a few sites to get you started.  ;)
Adopt US Kids

Psalms 10:17  Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
18  To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Mixed Emotions of Foster care and Adoption

When we retired from foster care, in 2006, I was through.  I was exhausted.  Tim and I could not stay in it any longer.  We could not bring ourselves to go through, the years it took to navigate, even one more case from beginning to end.  At that time, we had just finished our last adoptions and tried to close.  I say tried to, as we kept telling DFCS we were closed and they kept calling anyways. 

We had worked with the system, in foster care and adoption, for almost 10 years and were beyond burnt out.  Our county had some very bad people at the top making all of the major decisions concerning children's lives, it was an emotional roller-coaster.  Tim and I both said we would NEVER go back.  Never go back to...the cases that seemed to go on forever, bringing more and more emotional harm to a child.  To the outrageous decisions of those in authority.  To the children sent back home, time and time again, just to see the same children enter into foster care, over and over again.  Every time they came back into care, they were even more lost and damaged.  Don't get me wrong.  There was so much good we saw as well.  There were several good cases with great outcomes and we did enjoy the children but over all, we could not go thru one more case or bare hearing the other foster parents share of theirs.  It was all just to hard to hear and know about anymore.

There is no good way to handle abuse and neglect of a child.  We live in such a wicked, sinful, fallen world.  The system that was created to work and protect children does not always function properly.  The workers are so over worked and under funded.  The children so broken.  The families...their stories so horrible.  I can not grasp substance abuse and addiction, as by the grace of God, I have never had to live with it in my life.  All I can say is, it must be horrible.  DFCS does not just take in children for no reason.  These children are from the hardest of places.  The most deplorable of circumstances, in which intervention had to take place.  The parents of these children, have a mountain of obstacles to overcome, to get their children back.  When the system works...when the parents grab the help given and overcome addiction, learn to parent and maintain a stable environment, it is a happy and wonderful thing to see.  But...  Foster care is messy and when a parent can not or does not want to change or receive the help offered...a case finely comes to is a sad thing.  Sad for the children to never be with the parents God placed them with.  I feel sad for the biological parents.  I think of my children that we have adopted.  I think of their parents often.  I know they made poor choices.  I know most of them were terribly addicted to something that had a grip they could not over come.  I think of them and pray for them.  For salvation.  I think of them on my children's birthdays, mothers day, fathers day, and all the holidays.  I had met most of the biological parents of my adopted children and once in a while I will see their parents in my children...a laugh...a glance, a smile. 

I struggled with who I was when we retired in 2006.  We had been foster parents for almost a decade and I had not lead a very "normal" life in a long time.  By 2010 I seriously could not shake the desire to have more children.  I have always struggled with what my husband calls "babyitis".  Off and on over the years I would have these very strong maternal emotions kick in.  Usually, if I would pray and suppress them for a while, they would diminish and go away for a season.  I began to pray fervently about adoption again.  By 2012 I was asking Tim to please join me in prayer about it.  To ask God if we were supposed to just care for the children we adopted and had most of those children will spend the rest of their lives in our care.  Or were we supposed to forgo the retirement type years, adopt, and raise another child or children.  Tim is very analytical.  He is a guy so was looking at budget, housing space, longevity of our lives.  I am a jump in kind of girl and we will figure it all out as we go along.  I trust God.  I have went thru many hard things in my life, to have this complete trust in Him.  He has proved Himself time and time again to be faithful.  So I believe with all my heart if God calls us to raise a child, He will not only provide but have a plan for that child's life.  What we decided was to do foster care again.  We prayed that God would bring to us the children that would fit well into our home and that He wanted to be with us.  If any of these children had termination of parental rights happen, while in our care...we would know we were to adopt them.

"B" and his brother "T" have been in our home since February.  Sadly, their case has come to that point.  The point that the state has no other choice but to terminate the rights of their parents.  At some point I plan to write a post sharing "in very general terms" their whole story from beginning to end.  So people going into foster care can see how some cases progress and what happens at times.  For now, I can not do that.  I can not even share their sweet faces in an open forum.  But I can say, that court for them was last week and the judge ruled for DFCS to start the paper work for termination.  From what I understand, that will take a month to do and then it will be passed to the DFCS lawyer and will take about another three months to be processed, filed and to get an adoption date.  Truly, I have learned it will all happen when it happens and not to count on any certain time frame.  I have also learned anything can happen and sometimes does, so to hang on loosely and trust God in His plan for us all.  Adoption is not adoption until the day we sign papers.  

We as a family, of course have such mixed emotions.  At this point it would be hard to imagine life without them here in our home.  We LOVE these two little boys.  They are very bonded to and love us.  They call Tim and I, mom and dad and even though they have had some very intense behaviors, they have come so far and try to please us.  Even when my heart does not want to root for the parent to get them these cases...I pray for them and do.  I pray for them to succeed, even though I know it would cause me pain if they go, because I am a parent and fall short at times.  I would never want anyone praying for me to fail at this very important job of raising children.  How could I hope their biological mom fails.  Sadly and with huge repercussions she has.  Repercussions that will forever change all of our lives.  She had chance after chance.  She had complete support and help, in every possible area offered to to her, from as many  sources that could be found to help her...for free... But time is now up, with not one thing on her case plan ever even started.  Not one.  She is still addicted to drugs and will not except the helping hand offered her.  We recently found out she is also with child again.  What mixed emotions I have.  I could just cry for joy that the boys will have stability and a life with us.  We love them.  I also feel like crying for the deep sorrow in my heart for their mom.  A family is about to die.  Their family.  These last few visits they will all have together.  They will not see her again till 18 and then only if they wish to see her.

The boys came back from a visit.  I was getting "B" ready for supper.  I put him in his high chair and I  noticed he had his tiny hand clenched tight.  I unfolded his little hand and in it was a tiny little candy heart.  One of those made from pressed sugar.  He must have had it in his hand just like that over an hour.  It was melting apart and sticky from his moist little hand.   He didn't want to let it go so I could put a spoon in his hand to eat.  These were my thoughts...Did mom just give them candy and he was saving this one?  Did she press this little heart in his hand and tell him to remember she loved him?  Just tears and tears as I washed it from his hand.  Foster care and adoption is so very sad at times...

Revelation 21:4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Some Thoughts On Foster Care, This Time Around

When Tim and I started doing foster care in 1996, it was much different than it is today, in a lot of ways.  Back then, in our area, so many foster parents would not take children of other ethnic backgrounds.  It is sad but true.  We did foster care for nine and a half years, back then and there were just a few families, that I knew of, that embraced all children that were offered to them.  A lot has happened in our small North Georgia town since then.  We actually have rush hour traffic in the mornings, at lunch time and at 5:00 now.  We have had a huge influx of people from all over the United States move here, as well as many from Mexico.  Our town has grown and changed a lot.  Since reopening for foster care, in the fall of 2013, I can see that most of the families that now do foster care, take in any child no matter what their ethnic back round.  This blesses my heart so much.  Glory to God.

When we started doing foster care, many years ago, people were in foster care for many different reasons but many wanted infants.  Many people were in foster care hoping to adopt and grow their families.  They were hoping to get a baby.  Back then, infants did not come into care often.  When they did, they were usually part of a large sibling group.  The single infants that did come into care were drug exposed, special needs or both and most people, back then, did not want to take them.  I can honestly say, that now, most of the foster families I know, take in drug exposed infants.  This also is so wonderful, as sadly, there is a large amount of drug exposed infants that come into care now days.  Actually, there are so many drug exposed infants that come into care, they are having trouble finding homes for them all at times.  As the population has grown here in North Georgia, so has the drug problem.  We get regular e-mails from DFCS's all over North Georgia, asking for placements of children and infants, as there is just not enough foster homes for them all.  When a home can not be found, a case worker stays at a hotel, with the children, till placement can be found.  I have never seen so many drug exposed infants come into care in my life.  This is a very bad problem and makes me so sad.  Most of these children have medical issues from the mothers drug abuse.  I am very concerned about this.  I see many foster homes taking in these infants/children and eventually adopting to the point they have to close because they have reached the legal limit of children in order to still do foster care.   I am so happy these children are getting permanent homes but see the desperate need for foster/adoptive homes to replace the ones adopting themselves out of working with the system.  So many children.  So many infants...I really would like to do more.  I wish I could take them all.

We actually did respite for a three month old last week.  We did this for many reasons.  One was to help a precious, hard working foster family, that was going on vacation.  I was praying that taking her baby for the week, would help her not to worry about him while she was gone.  He is a precious soul and very special to her heart.  I cleared my schedule for the week, as much as possible, so we could do our best for him and enjoy him, while he was here.  He has refux/nursing troubles as well as other things going on. 

Another reason why we took him, for the week, was to see if we could possibly do another baby at this time, permanently.  God is so good and gave me the strength and energy to care for everyone this week but I soon learned I can not do another child long term at this time.  The toddlers are still so needy.  They want me and only me most of the time.  Baby "K", even though she is a gem, needs me to work with her a little all day long, to encourage her to use her body and progress.  Of course then there were all the needs of my older children.  There was just not enough hours in the day or enough of me to go around, to do the extra things in life that show love and those nurturing moments were just not getting done.  It was a good week.  We really enjoyed baby "R" being at our home.  We REALLY miss him.  He is a special little treasure.  Babies are always fun.  But I learned that until the toddlers mature a bit and baby "K" progresses a bit more, my hands are full of wonder things.   I am truly so happy and content in life right now.

Actually, where I am, this part of foster care is the wonderful part.  The kids have been here a while (The boys nine months and baby "K" five months)  and are progressing and getting settled.  Most of the hard days and appointments are behind us, that happen when taking in a child.  This is the up side of foster care.  To receive a child into our home, that has not only gone thru the trauma of being removed from everything they ever knew, but often have gone thru neglect or abuse as well...and then... thru God, time, love and stability, start to relax, grow and change into happy children.  This is amazingly rewarding.  It is something I will never tire of.  Who would not want to witness daily progress and miracles?

In all fairness and to paint the true picture of it all though...The down side of it all, is that daily we are in the trenches of helping these children process and over come or learn to deal with, all they have went thru.  Often their behaviors are overwhelming and very hard to deal with.  Sometimes a child will have day after day of tantrums and crying.  Nights of screaming with  no way to comfort them.  Children that lash out at everyone in the family by biting, hitting, pinching, kicking.  ("B" recently sent "T" to the emergency room for stitches.)  Sometimes there is sexual acting out, even done by toddlers, that have been thru the unthinkable.  (I am just being honest here)  Sometimes we think all the harder stuff is in the past, only to have it all come back again in full force, by having a visit or by an unknown trigger. 

Also, there is the system to work with, which is also very trying at times.  We have to work in close contact with case workers.  We have a lot of appointments, from visitations for each child.  (often weekly)  To the many therapy, doctors, counseling and other appointments that come with this life. 

Foster care is tough, there is no doubt about it.  It always was and still is but from my experience, in our area, in the past and now, I can see that the deep core of foster care has not changed.  Children are still taken into custody, out of terrible circumstances, in need of families that will stick with them and help them heal.  While their parents get the help they need or reject it.  But a lot of the things surrounding the core of foster care, has changed so much in our area, from the amount of children taken into care.  (There are many more than there used to be.)   To the amount of terminations happening.  (There are more than there used to be.  Largely because Meth is so hard of an addiction to quit.)   Also, I have seen a huge change in the willingness, of this new generation of foster homes, to lovingly receive and adopt the children that are placed with them.  Praise God!  All of these children need stable, loving and often permanent homes.  I have also seen that DFC's in our area are much easier and better to work with than in the past.  Foster parents seem to truly be appreciated more by them and that makes our hard job feel even better at times.  To know we are valued.  Not that this is why we do it, but it helps.  I also see that foster parents, in general, are more open to different placements, in my opinion, this is because of the harder times we are in.   The children coming into care, are of more varied ethnic or mixed backgrounds and many, because of the parents addiction to drugs,  have special needs.

Foster Care, even though it is ever changing, is still a great way to serve the Lord.  To help society.  To care for the orphans of this world.  The need is huge nation wide.  Please encourage anyone you can to do foster care.  It will change the world for a child and bless your life more than you could ever imagine.

Matthew 18:2-6King James Version (KJV)  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,  And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Williams Faithful Dog Will

When our son William was eight years old, he came to me one day and asked if he could have a dog of his own.  I was taken aback as he had never expressed any kind of desire to have one.  He was a boy of few words back then and could not express himself fully.

I explained to him the huge responsibility of having his own dog.  He would have to house break it.  That meant getting up all hours of the night if it needed to potty.  He would have to love it, spend time with it, teach it, and care for it, every day for the rest of its life.

Then I went on about the cost.  If he wanted a dog, he would have to pay for it.  He would have to pay the pound fee and pay to have it fixed.  He would have to buy the food every month, a crate and all the things dogs need.  William said he had been thinking about it for a long time and really wanted one.  I never discourage the children from having pets.  I believe when the children are mature enough to have them, a pet teaches them more than I could, about life, responsibility, love, compassion and loss.

I told him if his dad said yes, he could have one.  We drove by Tim's work and William asked his dad.  His dad went thru the whole speech I had just given him.  Then his dad said the words I did not think he would say.  He said if you have counted the cost, are willing to take on this responsibility and can afford it, you may.  I was amazed to see William had counted the cost and had enough  money.  Back then he used to raise silkie chickens and pigeons and sell them, as he was saving up for a VW bug.  He was frugal and stingy but ready to part with the cost, to buy and have a dog, for a companion.

Next thing I knew we were on our way to the pound.  On the way there he described to me exactly the dog he wanted and what it looked like.  I told him that we never know what will be at the humane society but could keep checking back till he found the dog for him.

When we got to the pound there was cage after cage of large dogs and a large litter of dash-hound puppies.  He slowly looked at every dog and the litter of puppies and said he did not see his dog there.  I tried to steer him toward the tiny dash-hound puppies but he has always been a child that knows his mind and said he did not mind waiting to find his dog.

On our way out he described the kind of dog he wanted to the director.  A very fluffy, smallish dog, with lots of energy.   He left our phone number so she could call us if any dogs came in that looked like it.  As we turned around and were about to leave, a lady came in with a little dog in her arms.  She walked straight up to the director and said she had just adopted this dog earlier this it home and bathed it and realized she would rather have one of the dash-hound puppies.  She asked if she could exchange it.  The director said yes and took the very fluffy dog from her arms and walked into the back area and put the dog in a kennel.  William didn't take his eyes off that dog and followed the director back.  He asked if he could hold her.  He looked at me and said...This is my dog!  I asked if he was sure and he said yes. 

So we filled out the paper work and went to pay the adoption fee.  I told William to get his wallet out and the director he paying for this himself.  I said yes and so she said he only had to pay half of  the adoption fee. 

William named his little female puppy Will, after himself!  So funny what kids do.  That week, in the news paper, under the pound dogs of the week, up for adoption, was a picture of Williams puppy and its female litter mate.  So I guess the litter mate had gotten adopted as well as we did not see her there that day.
William asked me to cut the picture out of the news paper and put it in a frame.  It has been displayed in his room every since.  His dog is the one on the right.
William and Will were a perfect match. 
He house broke her on his own.
Standing outside all hours of the night to wait for her to potty. 

He showered her with special beds, healthy more expensive food, and lots of love.

They spent just about every day, all day long together.  He did his home schooling with her either on his lap or she was by his feet. 

If he left to go outside, she faithfully would sit at the door till he returned. 
They were the best of friends.

She has not been an inexpensive dog. 
She had a very tender tummy and had to be hospitalized several times because she ate something, she should not have, that fell from the table before William could get to it.  She has had to have several surgeries over the course of her life but William never complained. 
He just paid for it, loved on her and took care of her and in return, she was so loving, playful and loyal.
I enjoyed grooming her.
I always wanted to do a traditional Schnauzer cut on her but William had his own ideas every time.  He wanted her beard, ear hair and tail hair long and silky.  He liked the hair on the legs left longer too, sometimes shaved into poodle pom poms in the summer months.  
Reading together.
Good company while building with legos.

About a year ago his dog started to have no appetite and would get sick on her food.  We have had lots of blood work and tests done over the last year to no avail.  Always sent home with an appetite stimulant and advice on what to feed her.  Her weight kept slowly dropping.  William started cooking for her as that is all she would eat.  On September 7th we once again took Will in to the vets office as she was not doing well.  This time, what the vet told us, was such a shock and so unexpected.  That Williams dog, Will, had a huge tumor in her abdomen attached to many vital organs and it was inoperable.  We were told she had maybe days to a few weeks to live.  It was very sad news for me but even harder to see my tender hearted William bare the news.    

One of the hardest things to deal with in life is loss but grief is the worst.  To love deeply and not hold anything back and then bare the loss of that love physically here on earth, heart aching pain.  There is no easy way to navigate it.  No easy way to get thru it.  No easy way to bare it.  We were not created originally to feel sorrow.  It was a perfect creation and world till sin entered into it.  At that point everything changed.  So loss hurts.

Today Williams dog died.  I praise God that he had the gift of loving such a wonderful dog.  I am so happy he has all those years of happy memories as he grew up with her in his life.
The day he found out she was so sick.
I am also so grateful that God gave William 50 more days, from the time of diagnosis, with her, to spoil and love on her, as her body failed.  He gently and lovingly has cooked for her five times a day so she could eat smaller meals more often.  He has carried her out to potty and back into the house.  He has given her countless baths and done lots of laundry as her systems have failed.  He has taken those days and just sat with her on his lap enjoy her and helping her die.  Today, he and his Papa dug a whole in the earth to place her body.  What a hard thing.  She was worth it.  She was a great dog and will be missed so much.

Thank you God in heaven for Williams dog Will, for the 10 wonderful years she faithfully was his companion and friend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Birthday "T"

It is so hard to believe that you and your big brother have been here eight months already!  It is an honor to have you here for your birthday.  We are so blessed, to get to share the birthday that you turn two years old, with you!

In the past eight months you have learned, grown and matured so much! 
The day after you arrived.  Your first nap here.

You were so behind and so angry at the world when you arrived.  You had every right.  I can't even imagine the things you have been thru and seen in your short life.  The few things I was told by DFCS made me so sad and then angry.

What a miracle it has been to watch you change from that withdrawn and tantruming little guy, to this very happy and normal two year old. 
You love puzzles!

You make me laugh every day with the things you say and do.  You have bonded nicely into our family and love to be sang to and rocked every day, as you fall asleep for your nap.  
You fell asleep on William while watching a movie together.
If I run my fingers thru your thick curls, you are asleep in just a few moments.  You are cuddly and love to be held.  Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are your favorite songs.  You ask all of us to sing them all day long.  You have a bit of temper with that red hint to your hair!  But it is quickly gone and your bright smile returns once again.

We took you to Chuckie Cheese this year for your birthday as we don't know if you will be with us for another birthday and we wanted it to be special. 
You knew that this was your special day and that we were there for you!

Aunt "S" made you a Cookie Monster cake! 
Thank you Aunt "S" for your kindness to the children, in blessing them with a special cake for their birthdays.  "T" loves Sesame Street and that cake made his day, as well as the dinosaur you and Uncle "B" gave him. 
He has been feeding it almost non-stop!

Jeremiah 17:7-8  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

May the One True and Only God in heaven...Maker of heaven and earth and all that is therein...make sure there are Christian mentors in your life, your whole life thru...May you be greatly used of God, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to all you  meet and May God bless you and keep you all the days of your life.


Dad, mom, Stephen, Antonio, William, Carolyn, Zeke, Elizabeth, "B" and baby "K"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hypoplasia of the Corpus Callosum

Baby "K" came to live with us in the beginning of June as a foster placement.  The only thing we were told is that she was born to a mom that used meth heavily thru her pregnancy.  That she was born three weeks early.  That she spent two weeks in the hospital detoxing and that she had reflux, trouble nursing and maybe some vision issues.  In a very short time of her being here, I could see she had a lot of other serious things going on, bless her heart.

She is as sweet as a baby can be.  She is actually the best baby we have ever had.  She is happy and content.   We love her dearly.  I have been doing therapy with her, on my own, since she came, thinking if she just had a little help, she would progress and catch up.  When she turned three months old I realized that we needed to seriously look into a possible cause and diagnosis to explain the issues she is having.  Not that I am a parent that likes to put a label on a child but if we know exactly what her diagnosis are, we can help her progress better and insurance will pay for more therapy and equipment, if she has a concrete diagnosis they can't argue with.  So we started down the long road of going to specialists and running tests.  Crossing things off the list and adding more to check out.  Many times one appointment leads to one or two more.  She is very worth it.

We are still in the middle of appointments and tests but I wanted to share with you what we have found out to date and what she is doing.  This is not only an update for family, friends and for people considering doing foster care but for people out there whose child has been given this diagnosis and would like to compare notes and glean, information So this is going to be a very long and boring post many people may wish to skip.  :)

When baby "K" came,  the first red flag I noticed, was her very low muscle tone.  This is called Hypotonia.  I was very concerned about this, as it was so low, that when I dressed and bathed her, her joints would pop, creak and slide in and out of place.   My husband and I also have to be very careful when we handle her, as she is very floppy and her arms and legs move into unnatural positions and can easily get hurt, if we do not constantly pull her arms into a more natural place when changing diapers, feeding her and playing with her.

This tone is so low throughout her whole body, it is effecting her ability to urinate, have a bowel moment, swallow safely, keep her tongue in her mouth, keep her formula down, and progress to meet expected milestones.  I have been working hard with her daily since she has been here, patterning her how to roll over and she rolled over at four and a half months and still can't do it regularly.  She only started cooing at three months old and has not done that consistently or dailyShe just started to coo at me when I talk to her a few days ago at five months, one week old.  She can hold her head up now for short periods and pick her head up while on her stomach for about 10 minutes.  She can sit in the Bumbo chair or be in her jumper now for about 15 minutes without fatiguing.  

She is still struggling with her eye sight.  She only acknowledged light and dark till three months old.  Then started to be able to track large objects in a distance, with light behind them, like a person walking by but it was very delayed and slow.  Then, at four months old, she started looking toward our faces and smiling.  She does look at our eyes some but mostly slightly above our face, kind of at our fore head.  Now at five months two weeks, she can track an object if I wiggle it but have to move it very slowly and she does not follow it smoothly and tracks very delayed.  We are grateful she has some vision!

So far we have taken her for evaluations in Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy and she easily qualified for all of them. I actually had her evaluated as soon as she arrived as I saw the tone issues she had and knew from past children with this, that she would need to get started in therapy right away.  I am so glad I did that, as she is still not receiving therapy yet three months after qualifying because of paper work with government insurance taking so long to approve it.  So in the mean time, I am still working with her here at home. 

We took her to a pediatric ophthalmologist and her eyes and optic nerves looked perfect, Glory to God!  He said she either had Delayed Visual Maturation where her vision is just very delayed in maturing. OR... Cortical Vision Impairment where her eyes and optic nerves are perfect but her brain is not interpreting what she is seeing properly.  From what I have read, people with CVI can have holes in their vision like looking thru Swiss cheese, have only peripheral, only tunnel vision or a mix of it all. On top of that, they also see as if looking thru a Kaleidoscope.  They can learn to use the vision they have by viewing things very close up, so they have less clutter in their field of vision for reading or eating.  They also can learn to see in familiar environments but when out in public, with so many things changing all the time and so much clutter in their visual fields, they are legally blind and have no depth perception and need help.  So we are waiting to see what the verdict is on that.  She also has Strabismus.  That is where the eyes don't line up in the same direction.  Hers both are outward.  She may need surgery to correct it.

She was also sent for an MRI.  The MRI was scheduled to see if she had birth trama (an area of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation during delivery) that is causing her low tone, eye issues and any number of other things she has going on.  There are many things that could cause these issues such as a syndrome.  So we needed to start somewhere to get answers.

What was found out is that she has a very Thin Corpus Callosum.  The proper medical term would be Hypoplasia of the Corpus Callosum.  The Corpus Callosum is the bridge, consisting of over 200 million nerves, that the two halves of the brain comunicate thru.  So her bridge is very small and the two halves of her brain are not able to communicate properly in a lot of areas.  I guess like trying to meet the electrical needs of a large city on a small country towns lines.

From what I have gleaned from hours and hours on line, is that HCC and other Corpus Callosum issues are a wait and see thing.  No one knows the full potential of each child with it.  It effect everyone differently.  All the way from mild to profound.  This is a hard thing to hear, for loving parents that want to know what level their child will function at in the future.  Or for those that find out while pregnant, and are trying to decide whether they should continue with the pregnancy...  :(

To make this whole thing even harder to understand...some adults have had MRIs and found out that they were missing either part or all of the Corpus Callosum and are fine or have had just mild struggles their whole life and didnt know why till the MRI was done.  Others...need total care in all areas their whole lives.  Wow...there is just so much we don't know or understand about the human body and how it functions.  

The good news is that this condition will not get worse.  So the level a child is at, they will not get worse or regress because of this.  Many of the children that have this though, also have a syndrome and that can cause issues.  Also, a child born with this, can develop seizures any time in their life.   

A good thing is, that God made our brains so amazingly well, that through lots of therapy, the brain halves can be taught to work together and either use another path, make a new one or do without to get a task done such as co-coordinating walking.  A whole new area of the brain can take over to compensate.  So huge delays in development are expected with this diagnosis but progress in many can happen.

So what do we know?  That baby "K" has HCC for sure.  That she does indeed  have many huge issues from it.  That Glory to God she is progressing, just very, very slowly.  This is very encouraging!  That she also has some vision issues going on that could complicate her progress.  That she is cute and sweet and we love her so much!  We are going to do all we can for her as long as she lives with us!

What do we still need to find out?  Does she have a syndrome that this is part of or is this from drug exposure?  We need to find out her exact diagnosis with her eyes and how well she can see so we can add vision therapy if needed.  If she has any abnormalities in her urinary tract causing her the issues she is having. (urinating only once every 8-12 hours or so or is this from low tone.

I guess I have not really clerified anything for anyone, as the diagnosis can be so different in everyone.  But as I did my research on the internet, there is a ton of information out there on people either missing some or all of the Corpus Callosum but hardly anything out there on people with a thin or Hypoplastic one.  I have read countless blogs on babies, children and adults with missing or partial missing CC's but hardly any stories of children with HCC like baby "K".  I just wanted to see what those children were like when they were born, how they functioned and how they progressed.  Just like any parent wants to read about when facing this.  So I thought I would write this post and try to put in all "K" can do and at what age, what things she has going on medically and the road we are taking to unravel it all.  Maybe it will be helpful, encouraging or comforting for others.

If you have read thru this far, thank you so much for hanging in there with this lengthy post and please keep baby "K" in your prayers.

May the Lord God in heaven, hold all of us but especially children with special needs, in the palm of His mighty hand.  May healing and health flow from the shed blood of Jesus Christ upon these children.  May we all be shown the best course of action, for our lives, to reach out and be the hands and feet of Christ toward them all.

2 Corinthians 5:7   (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)




Monday, October 6, 2014

Life in General and Fall Plans

As I hung the calendar for October up, I have many thoughts running thru my head.  One being... where in the world has this year gone???  Really, I have been so busy, it is just flying by.  Every year, as I have aged, seems to go by faster and faster.  Since the toddlers arrived in February, I have just lost all track of time.  My life is joyful, hard at times and just swallowed up in child care and appointments.  I was filling out my home school attendance record for September and saw I only had one weekday, in the whole month, I did not have to be anywhere last month.  All of the other days, I had at least one or more appointments.  No wonder I have been so tired lately.  October has several empty days.  Here's hoping they stay that way!  

Tim has been home for a month now but Chick-Fil-A is done with their remodel.  He is there helping to put it all back together right now as I write.  Tim goes back to a "normal work schedule" tomorrow morning.  :(  Even though he was not home much in the month he was off, it was nice to have him sleep next to me till morning every day.  He always gets up and is gone by 3:00 a.m.  So having him here every morning has been really nice.  He is a workaholic and was gone to other stores, making a lot of phone calls  and busy doing paper work much of the month.  He did help me, by going to several appointments with me.  Having an extra set of hands and spending some time together was nice.  I don't like him to shave but Chick-fil-A has a strict dress code on facial hair, mustache only.  So for the whole month he did not shave.  We all loved it!  He also looks really good in a short goatee.

We will all miss Tim but it will be very nice to get back into our normal routine again.  When Tim was home, if he slept in, I allowed the kids to do so as well.  I did it so the house would be quiet for Tim.  I, as quietly as I could, got up with the baby and toddlers when they woke up and just let everyone else sleep.  When we do that, it throws the whole entire days schedule off.  It is harder to get in chores, Antonio's care, schooling and meals in a timely manor.  So even though we enjoyed Tim being here a bit more, it will be good to crack down and get our household in order.

The weather has been much cooler lately.  Absolutely gorgeous for being outside.  This means we will be taking several days off from schooling for fall clean up and getting the farm ready for winter.  A deep cleaning in the barn and all the stalls is in order.  We do it every year.  We already trimmed all the goats hooves, dewormed and bred them for spring milk.  We will be stocking up on hay and making sure every animal will be warm and dry for the winter months.  When Tim was home for the month, he did give me three mornings off by watching all the "littles", so the "middles and I could attack the gardens and yard that have been so neglected thru the summer.
Yes, I am totally embarrassed.  These are my raised beds.  I knew better than to plant anything this year because of the challenging needs and behaviors of the toddlers.  I knew they needed me every moment and then baby "K" came along and nothing much has gotten done outside at all.  We did have a few tomato plants a friend gave us.  We got tomatoes from them all summer. 
On the back of the raised beds I usually grow cucumbers or beans.  Carolyn and Zeke are unwinding all the morning glory vines that took over.
We took one full truck bed load down to the compost heap.  It is not totally cleaned up yet but we put a huge dent in it all. I won't even show you the rest of the gardening area!

I am also going to attempt a fall cleaning in the house on rainy days this fall or once the weather turns to cold to be outside.  I feel like doing a huge purging again of all we do not need or use, to try to simplify our lives a bit, in the area of clutter.

Now that the intense summer heat is all but gone, fall festivals and outdoor events abound in this area. We normally don't go anywhere on Sabbath.  We don't buy, sell, or trade if at all possible but their was a free Health Fair at our local Home Depo.  So we packed lunches and ventured out to enjoy the beautiful fall weather enjoying all the displays at the Health Fair.

The fire department was there with their trucks, giving out things and talking about fire safety.  We saw Uncle "B".  He works for the fire department!
So were the first responders and the ambulances.  The gas company with their trucks were there talking about safety.  The wrecker service was there, the forestry department talking about forest fires.  Insurance companies were there and Home Depo had free activities for the children.  There was so much to see and the children were allowed to climb in and on all the equipment.  "B" even sat on a police motorcycle and that made his day!

If you have followed my blog very long, many people know of Carolyn's deep seeded fear of clowns and people in costumes.   All of her life, since she was a baby, she has always shook and cried when a clown came around or a mascot of a company or team.  It has been an ongoing issue she just could not conquer.  Just last month, at Chucky Cheese for "B"'s birthday, Chucky Cheese came out to see the children and she literally dove under a table, nearly knocking everything off of it.
She will try to climb up me or anyone in the family if one comes near, tears just streaming down her face.  When we were at the Childrens Hospital, for baby "K"'s MRI a week ago, the hospital clowns came by.  They interacted with the rest of my children, doing their funny routine.  All of my children loved it but Carolyn.  She stayed glued to my side peeking around my arm.   One very kind woman clown, saw her and blew bubbles toward her from a distance.  I could see she was trying to help her over come this.  Before they left, she walked up to Carolyn, not looking at her and reached her hand toward Carolyn giving her a postcard with her picture on it.   It must have really helped Carolyn because on the day we went to the Health Fair, I told her that there are always these mascots walking around.  She said she was going to do well and give one a "high five." I have heard her say this before many times but to not dowse her enthusiasm, I said "Good I will take a picture and put it on the blog if you do!"  She was scared at first but but slowly walked up to the Chick-Fil-A cow and gave him a high five!  Tim had told her it would be there and who would be inside.  She did great.  Later on we were at the forestry tent looking at the bulldozers they put out fires with and Smokey the Bear came up and Carolyn let it hug her and then smiled big and agreed to have her pictrue take with him.  Her smile says it all.  I have never seen this smile before.  She was so pleased with herself!
At the end of the Health Fair they always do a emergency simulation.  They do it every year.  They have a wrecked car in the parking lot and some actors get in and they do a wreck scenario from start to finish.  They start with the sound of a wreck on the loud speakers over head and then the 911 call and the police and ambulance come and they all simulate what their jobs would be.
They use the jaws of life on the car and bring in the Life Force helicopter

It gives me an oppertunity to talk with the children about what to do in the case of an accident and see that the police, firemen and ambulance workers are not scary and just doing their jobs to help. 

It was a lovely outing and we all had a great time.  I love all the seasons we have here in the North Georgia Mountains.  Fall is very refreshing and welcomed after a hot summer.

Psalm 67:6  Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.