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On Edward

Two weeks ago, I write a sweet little post on My Louis. A few days later, I shared a huge update about Nasko living as a missionary.

After composing these posts, I told myself I needed to write about Edward next, just to make things fair (lest my children read this in ten years and think I was playing favorites!).

In true attention-seeking, adorable-Edward fashion, the child gave me PLENTY of material to use in his post. So here is a bit about our past month with Edward:

Special needs adoption blog.

For a couple weeks, we noticed Edward was making strange motions with his head and neck. Chance mentioned it to me, and I just assumed Edward needed a visit with the chiropractor. But as I began to observe him, the motions became more and more pronounced. Eventually, they were interfering with Edward’s daily functions.

I attempted to schedule an appointment with Edward’s pediatrician and neurologist, but no one seemed too concerned about what I was describing. Finally, I captured a brief movie of the tics and posted it on my Facebook page.

Everyone there was concerned!

Within a couple hours, Edward and I were checked into the ER, having blood work done. The doctors could not find an immediate cause for these tics, but agreed they did not appear to be seizures.

They discharged us with a neurology appointment (which got pushed back to late November!!) and the suggestion of more sleep and less stress for Edward.

Since THAT was rather unlikely here, Chance and I continued with our plans and headed to Houston, TX for a work conference and a few days away. Louis and Edward did marvelously as they bounced between grandparents and my best friend. Edward’s tics did become more severe, but they didn’t seem to bother him much.

Last Thursday, as Chance and I were boarding our flight to come home, Edward’s teacher called me. I stepped out of line and took the phone call. His teacher reported Edward fell off a merry-go-round type toy while on their field trip to the park. His left leg went under the equipment and got stuck briefly.

His teacher said it was impossible to tell if Edward had actually been injured, or if he was just trying to gain sympathy and attention (that’s our Edward!). His teacher finally decided he should call us, just so we’d know the full story.

My parents were at our house, so I quickly shared the info with them. Their job was to keep Edward comfortable and determine if I needed to take him to Prompt Care later.

Edward seemed ok — as long as no one attempted to move him; he sat completely still on the couch for five hours until we arrived home. He screamed when we carried him to the bathroom or attempted to straighten his left leg.

I decided a Prompt Care trip was necessary.

The walk-in clinic took one look at him and sent us to the ER for a pediatric radiologist. Edward’s injured leg is his under-developed left leg — the one with the limb difference. We needed a specialist to read his x-rays.

So after hours (and hours) of waiting in the ER, Edward had x-rays taken. His femur had a clean and very pronounced break. So much for needing a specialist — I’m pretty sure I could have spotted that break!

Special needs adoption blog.

At that point, the doctors began discussing a cast. There was much debate on whether he would need both legs casted (to stabilize the broken one) or just the left leg. One student assured me he’d probably just have his left thigh and his waist in a cast.

You can imagine my SHOCK the next day when Edward came out of surgery looking like this:

Special needs adoption blog.

Oy vey.

In true Edward fashion, he woke up thrilled with the cast, as it gained him much attention from nurses and other hospital patrons. We were eventually discharged and sent home to figure out life with an immobile child who weighs half as much as I do.

Edward will probably need to wear this cast for three to four weeks. Then the doctors said they’d just put a cast on his full left leg, but after the last time, I’m not sure I believe them!

As you can see, Edward has given us plenty of writing material these past few weeks. And sadly, I don’t see that changing anytime soon!

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Your Moments Defined – Less Like Scars

This blog was not born out of a defining moment in my life or my husband’s life; It was born when we made an intentional decision to turn our tragedy into Our Moments Defined.

I know many of you have done the same. Tragedy and heartache have come your way, but you’ve sought the Father and have redefined those moments.

I want to share your stories through regular guest posts. Today’s guest post is by Andrea Stunz. You can find her blog here.

 

We got home from the doctor and it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. We tried to wrap our brains around this new normal that had been forced on us by the unlucky draw of genetics. Scoliosis would change how our daughter and our family navigated life for the next several years.

As a young girl, I vividly recall watching my older sister wear a Milwaukee brace (chin to hip) and the discomfort and limitations she endured. For our oldest daughter, I was grateful that she had a somewhat less intrusive contraption (chest to hip) but it was confining all the same.

Our oldest daughter, Tori, was diagnosed with Scoliosis when she was in the 5th grade. I was very familiar with this genetic disease since it runs through our family like an unwanted tradition.

Special needs, adoption blog.

She was to wear the brace for 23 hours every day. The night we got home from her brace fitting, she enjoyed a few more minutes of freedom before I strapped her into the plastic and metal prison. I hugged her stiff body tight, told her I was sorry she had to do this and assured her she wouldn’t do it alone. I then went to my bed with the image of her lying flat in her bed weighing heavy on my heart and felt heaps of mom guilt as I curled up and made myself comfortable. From our separate beds on opposite ends of the hallway, we silently wept ourselves to sleep.

The days with her constant companion would become, for the most part, manageable. She would quickly learn how to contort her arms in such a way that she could unstrap and strap herself in and out. I never understood how she did that. If there ever was an example of how resilient and adaptable our human hearts and bodies are, this would be a good one.

To cope, we found humor where we could. This scripture was one of Tori’s favorites. We twisted it a little (pun intended) to bring a smile – we think God was okay with it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your ‘back’ straight.”  ~Proverbs 3:5-6 

The next year and a half would include church camps, birthday parties and family vacations and hot South Texas summers. She would choose wisely how she spent her one hour of freedom each day but would otherwise watch from the sidelines.

During Christmas break of her 7th-grade year she was having serious trouble breathing. Her pediatrician found no cause. At her scheduled back doctor appointment, he would inform us that her brace was pressing on her lungs. She’d had a massive growth spurt and the curve had increased to 49 degrees and the brace was doing more harm than good. We rejoiced that she was brace-free but we waited for the impending spinal fusion surgery.

Special needs, adoption blog.

Tori would go through surgery well with her upper curve being corrected to 19 degrees (from 49). She developed a staph infection resulting in more surgery, another hospital stay, a pic line, daily home nurse visits and round the clock antibiotic infusions.

This experience affected how we navigated marriage, parenting, and our lives. Our youngest, now 17, still remembers that we didn’t make it to her preschool graduation ceremony. Scoliosis made a significant impact on us individually and as a family. It was up to us to decide whether we let this moment define us or whether we would define it.

Naturally, I prayed that Tori would not have to endure the medieval torture device, major surgery, and complications. But God knew better. He always does.

Scoliosis may have weakened Tori’s spine but it strengthened her heart and character. Scoliosis didn’t define her or our family but it was a defining moment for us all.


“And in your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like character.” ~Sara Groves, Less Like Scars

A 6th-grade boy who sat behind her in class asked her what was sticking out of her back. She said, “It’s a back brace because I have Scoliosis.” He excitedly asked, “Oh no! Are you going to die?” She calmly replied, “No. My back is just crooked.” That’s my girl!

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…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

 

Special needs, adoption blog.

Andrea is a stumbling pilgrim and gatherer of stories. Stories about Jesus and how He gave His life for me, sustains me and redeems me… even though…

(Find more of Andrea’s words here.)

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My Adopted, Special Needs Son – A Missionary #prayfornasko

My special needs, broken, hurting son. A missionary.

Special needs adoption blog.

It’s almost more than my heart can take.

I’ve never imagined Nasko as one who brings the light to the darkness. I’ve always seen our role in bringing him light, but I had not allowed myself to recognize the glory God could bring to Himself through Nasko.

Special needs adoption blog.

Our oldest son, Nasko, moved into a group home for kids with special needs this summer. My (now) ten-year-old baby boy lives three hours away, where he is struggling with the permanency of this situation. He is acting out, harming caregivers, pushing boundaries, and testing limits. In other words, he’s settling in.

When he moved into the home, Chance and I specifically prayed that there might be at least one staff member in his school who would come alongside him and remind him of what Jesus has done for him. We also prayed that in his group home, there might be just one specific staff member to do the same.

Within the first week of Nasko moving in, a sweet member of management for the home emailed me. She gave me a quick update on how he was doing when she saw him for a meeting and ended her letter by reminding me he “truly is one of God’s special children.”

Special needs adoption blog.

We were so thankful for an answered prayer.

Then we received another email. This message literally brought Chance and me to our knees in thanksgiving as we cried and realized God’s goodness.

Ginger, my name is [withheld] and [I am an employee at Nasko’s school]. I have fought back messaging you to maintain my professional boundaries but I’m throwing that all aside. 

I have to tell you, Nasko has won many hearts at our school, more than any kid I have seen. Everyone adores him and we can tell how loved he is by family and friends. 

I know, because I too follow Christ, that he is a young man surrounded by prayer. There is something different about him that the staff is seeing. They don’t know it, but Christ is present in our school when Nasko is there. 

In many ways, Nasko is a missionary to [our school]. I have walked the halls and been in classrooms praying for students and staff and for whatever reason God has sent Nasko who is making a big impact with us. 

I can’t imagine daily what you are dealing with having Nasko away from home and I apologize if me contacting you making this more awkward but thank you for sharing him, he is truly a treasure.

 

As we prepared to place Nasko in a group home, I wrestled with God. Why on earth would He bring us to this point? We were faithful. We adopted the boy He spoke into our family.

Special needs adoption blog.

Now we were (seemingly) giving up on our child. Nasko, though it was not his fault, has brought tremendous amounts of pain and suffering to our family. I cannot count the number of times I have cried out, “God, where is Your plan?”

And here it is.

Special needs adoption blog.

Here it is, but not completely, as I believe we are just beginning to witness Nasko’s impact on this world.

But here is the beginning. My son – a child who harms animals, bites in self-defense, and is attracted to pain and abuse – is living as a missionary.

God, here is Your plan. I am beginning to see it now.

 

Do you mind sharing this message with others who might be struggling to see God’s plan? I also am beginning to see how the encouragement of our family is part of God’s plan for bringing Nasko into our lives. Thank you for continuing to #prayfornasko at 6:12 P.M. every day

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My Louis

I have so, so much to say after taking a month away from blogging; that month gave me the time and space to rest, to heal, and to think. I enjoyed a time of recharging and listening, rather than speaking.

But for now, I’m just going to dive back in with a few stories about My Louis’ first ever day of school.

The title of this post is somewhat deceiving. While Louis is MY son and MY little boy, that’s not what I am portraying by calling him “My Louis.” Louis actually believes “My Louis” is his name.

It began when someone would ask him, “Who’s that?” about a member of our family. He always responded with, “My mama. My taty. My Nasko. My Edward.”

“And who are you?”

“My Louis.”

Yesterday, as we rolled into preschool, his teacher asked what his name was. Of course, my boy answered in a voice dripping with preciousness, “My Louis.”

Special needs adoption blog.

I was so proud of Louis when I dropped him off. He could barely wait to begin playing with all the toys and meeting all his new friends. He is familiar with the drop-off process since we take him to the church nursery every week. There were no tears, and hardly a “Bye Mama.”

After drop off, I went grocery shopping and read part of a book. I think I am going to like having both boys in morning preschool classes a couple times per week!

But when it was time to pick up Louis, I went into the church where his preschool is held. The children were all sitting nicely in a row, wearing oversized backpacks, waiting for their parents.

Except for My Louis.

I looked for him, but couldn’t find him! I was slightly panicked. Did his teachers lose him on the first day? Where could he have gone? But finally one of his teachers pointed down the hallway. There was another mom with her teeny, tiny twin babies. She was collecting her preschooler as well. I finally spotted My Louis. He was leaning into the babies’ stroller, rubbing one child’s cheek, and whispering softly to him.

That’s My Louis!

His teacher smiled and came over to tell me that we have the absolute sweetest little boy.

Special needs adoption blog.

And she’s right.

As Louis progresses through his first year of preschool, I cannot wait to hear about all the books he reads, the games he plays, and the skills he learns. But I hope and pray he maintains every little bit of his sweetness.

Special needs adoption blog.

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Your Moments Defined – Our Blond Pigtails

This blog was not born out of a defining moment in my life or my husband’s life; It was born when we made an intentional decision to turn our tragedy into Our Moments Defined.

I know many of you have done the same. Tragedy and heartache have come your way, but you’ve sought the Father and have redefined those moments.

I want to share your stories through regular guest posts. Today’s guest post is by Courtney Westlake. You can find her blog here.

Courtney has become a very dear friend to me. We first met when her daughter needed a Developmental Therapist (that was me!). We’ve built our friendship over writing and blogging, business ideas and special needs parenting. 

 

When my husband, Evan, and I found out we were adding a little girl to our family, joining her big brother Connor, we saw pigtails.

We envisioned a little girl toddling around the house chasing her brother with blond pigtails bouncing on the sides of her head.

But on the afternoon of Brenna’s birth, that image of pigtails was ripped from our minds. There was complete shock in the delivery room when Brenna was born; Evan almost fainted at the sight of her, and the medical staff frantically called for a neonatologist.

special needs adoption blog

Brenna was covered in plaques that were so thick they almost looked like armor, which were split by deep cutting fissures. Her eyelids were flipped inside out, her fingers and toes were short and clenched, and you could barely make out her ears. Brenna was rushed to the nearby NICU and diagnosed with a very rare, very severe genetic skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis.

Essentially, what this means is that her skin has trouble doing the jobs for her body that skin typically does. It doesn’t hold in moisture, it doesn’t keep germs out of her body – so she can get skin infections very easily – and her skin has a difficult time regulating her body temperature. She can’t physically sweat, so high temperatures are dangerous for her, and she gets cold very easily.

Brenna’s body recognizes this error in her genetics, so it tries to make up for that error – by making more and more skin. She makes skin 10 times faster than we do, and she can’t shed it quickly enough, leaving her with an appearance of a severe sunburn all over her body.

And, interestingly enough, another effect of making too much skin is that this kills off her hair follicles. When she was born, we could see clumps of dark hair grown into her thick plates of skin, but as those original plaques of skin began to peel off, they took her hair with them.

special needs adoption blog

However, as Brenna got older, little strands of white-blond hair began to emerge from her scalp around the back of her head and has continued to grow in, little by little each month and each year, with small tufts on top and longer around the back.

One evening when Brenna was two years old, I prepared as usual for her post-bath routine while Evan completed his scalp care. He was taking longer than usual to finish up bath time, and just as I was about to ask if he was almost done, he called out to me from the bathroom with a laugh: “Look at this!”

As I entered the bathroom, I peered into the tub to see him gently twisting tiny curly hairs near the base of Brenna’s neck.

Special needs adoption blog

And there they were: our blond pigtails.

We laughed, and we took pictures, and we exclaimed to Brenna how beautiful her hair looked as she proudly patted her head. Suddenly, fashioning pigtails into our daughter’s hair became so much more special than we ever imagined.

We often have expectations about what our lives will be like, what our families will look like, and who our children will be.

Sometimes, when something is different than we anticipated or hoped for, it leaves us disappointed, confused or even grieving a kind of loss. Too often, we see things for what they aren’t – how something doesn’t look, how something didn’t happen.

When Evan and I first thought about our daughter’s pigtails, the thought certainly didn’t cross our mind that she may not be able to grow much hair. And there was a time that we mourned the loss of her hair, along with the loss of many other things we expected about adding a little girl to our family.

Yet, that one evening, when two tiny twists of hair emerged on her head to form pigtails, it wasn’t the kind of pigtails we imagined…. It was so much more beautiful.

Through these challenging years of raising Brenna and Connor, motherhood for me has become a journey of letting go of my own expectations so that I can truly understand and accept who my children are as God created them. Motherhood means the privilege and joy of discovering the child that has been gifted to me and getting to encourage and bring out the best version of who that child is, rather than pushing them to become the person I might have envisioned them to be.

What an incredible opportunity we have to get to know our children as they grow up, to learn who they are as God created them – with such unique talents, abilities, and purpose – and help guide them toward Him.

Motherhood doesn’t usually end up like what we had planned, but when we can see the beautiful in the unexpected and in the different, we can start to celebrate the joy of what is, instead of mourning what isn’t.

I found that when I began letting go of the loss of my own expectations and plans, it was then that I was able to begin more fully living in the extraordinary life that God has planned for me… like the incredible beauty of tiny twisty pigtails.

 

 

special needs adoption blog

Courtney Westlake is the author of newly released book A Different Beautiful. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. Her writing has been published on sites such as the Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Yahoo Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Your Moments Defined – No Longer Satisfied with Crumbs

 

This blog was not born out of a defining moment in my life or my husband’s life; It was born when we made an intentional decision to turn our tragedy into Our Moments Defined.

I know many of you have done the same. Tragedy and heartache have come your way, but you’ve sought the Father and have redefined those moments.

I want to share your stories through regular guest posts. Today’s guest post is by Terri Gorton Fullerton You can find her blog here.

I have gotten to know Terri through her writings in an online writing group. She has become a mother-figure in our group. I know you will learn from her wisdom just as I have.

 

A person doesn’t settle for crumbs unless she is starving, scared or ashamed.

I grew up in the terror of domestic violence. Survival became a fortress. It helped me endure as a child but it also became a prison.

I settled in relationships, conversations and circumstances that were not life giving.

Eating “beneath the table”as an adult  seemed safe, like a fort my brothers and I built as children. Instead of tattered quilts and sheets pulled off from beds, shame and fear draped the sides. Lies clamped the self-protective blankets and held them in place.

Crumbs fail to feed our God-given hunger.

I settled for crumbs because I believed the clamoring lies.

You don’t deserve anything else.

There is no room for you at the table.

You are not worthy to sit with the others.

You will never get out.

No one wants you there.

It’s not safe.

When I started to hear the compassionate whisper of truth, the enemy turned up his volume of lies.

Isn’t this always the case?

I had a choice to make. Do I believe the lies that feel true or do I believe the truth that seems like a lie?

Christ squatted down and met me beneath the table because we have a loving God who meets us where we are.

He didn’t give me bigger crumbs. He didn’t shame me. He cupped my face and asked me to trust him. He extended his hand of grace and helped me to stand. He led me out because our faith is not deepened in our forts of safety.

That presence created a hunger that initially opened a deep wound.

Longing and desire felt wrong. It was excruciating. I squirmed. I looked down. I fidgeted with my shirt and twirled my wedding ring, yet he led me to a place at the table.

He sat me in community with others.

Fiery white anxiety shot through my body. It was uncomfortable. I wanted to bolt. Yet crumbs failed to sustain me for too long.

It is exactly where He knew I needed to be.  With his faithful love, God has created a new thing in me. Today I have my identity in Christ and embrace his truth about me.

He doesn’t just save room me at his table he provides a feast!

It’s far more than I could have ever asked or imagined.

If you’ve settled for crumbs in any area, please hear me. God doesn’t desire that you settle for crumbs. He’s gently leading you to a place at the table.

Will you join me?

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Terri is a wife, mom, Bible study teacher and mentor.  God’s creation and His Word nourish her soul. She loves stories of redemption and things that are funny. She longs to encourage others to find hope and freedom.  She is a freelance writer and is working on her first book. She is contributing writer at The Glorious Table 

She also shares posts at Life Letter Cafe and The Huffington Post.

 

Follow her on TwitterPinterest, and Instagram

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The Grandfather Clock – Family Farmhouse Renovation

To me, the chimes of our grandfather clock symbolize life.

As a child, my grandmother taught me the rhythm and pattern of the clock. From a young age, I would lay in her guest bed, counting the dongs of the hour and deciding if Grandma would think five dongs was late enough to get up and make pancakes.

Weekly, my grandma wound the clock. If for some reason it stopped working, she quickly had it serviced. She counted on the chimes of that clock. They were a constant in her home. She loved to hear its sound.

When Grandma passed away almost two years ago, the clock stopped chiming. No one was living in the house, so no one thought to wind the grandfather clock. Grandma’s house was eerily quiet when I’d drop in to check things over or gather her junk mail.

We began renovations on the family farmhouse almost a year after she passed. The house was no longer quiet, but the clock still did not chime. It remained silent in the dining room — the very last room we renovated. No one gave much thought to the clock for six months as plaster was repaired and cabinets were installed.

When we moved into my grandmother’s farmhouse, we moved the fifth and sixth generation of my family into the home. It was built by my great-great grandparents in 1885. My children can’t even comprehend how rare it is to live and love within walls containing such family history.

The day we settled our belongings into the home and began to add to the history, the dining room was still untouched. For weeks, the grandfather clock sat in our hallway. It was crammed into an inconvenient space with a table for eight and all the matching chairs. Plaster dust covered the clock, but there was no sense in cleaning it until the renovations were complete.

Farmhouse renovations on a special needs adoption blog.

Despite its condition and unlikely location, on our first full day in the farmhouse the grandfather clock began to chime. I stopped unpacking a box of belongings and realized moving the clock to the hallway must have activated the tired chimes. The melody of the timepiece brought along memories and emotions from my childhood.

To me, the sound of the clock symbolized life.

It had been silent following my grandmother’s passing. The house was empty. There was no one for whom to keep time.

Now though, my grandmother’s legacies were running through the house, trying to find their favorite toys amidst the chaos. The farmhouse was once again filled with life. There was a reason to announce the time.

As we inhabit this house of history and legacy, I think a lot about that grandfather clock. It chimes every fifteen minutes to remind me life fills this home. It also serves as a source of accountability as I listen to it keep time. Am I loving in a way that pleases God and builds his legacy in my family, as my ancestors did? How have I filled my time since the last time I heard the clock sing?

1885 farmhouse renovation on special needs adoption blog.

To me, the grandfather clock symbolizes life; it reminds me to live.

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What’s new with the Newinghams?

Our summer has been busy, but good. I feel as though we’ve filled almost every minute since Nasko was placed. It’s been good to stay busy, but we are just about exhausted.

We’ve done multiple (4? 5?) Vacation Bible Schools for Chance’s job with Lifegate in Africa. SO much money and awareness have been raised this summer, but if I have to learn the motions to another theme song……..

Last week, we spent the entire week at church camp. We brought a babysitter with us, so I could teach a daily bible class and Chance was the featured missionary for the week. There were 60+ 5th and 6th graders (Lord have mercy) but overall things went very well!

Special needs adoption blog.

I was reminded how much I love to study the bible and share its truth with kids. Additionally, my boys both want to live at church camp, so I’d say we did something right! Our babysitter was ok with returning to modern conveniences like air conditioning though!

Special needs adoption blog.

In addition to being busy in real life, I’ve been super busy online! I am writing four posts for BumbyBox (Post One) (Post Two just went live yesterday and contains cute pictures of my boys).

I’ve gained two clients for the social media marketing I’ve been doing. And I was hired by my friend Courtney to run her book’s launch team. (Buy her book. Not just because she pays me to say that. Because it’s legit good. Buy it.)

Special needs adoption blog.

I also took over the social media accounts for Lifegate in Africa. (If you haven’t hopped over and liked our Facebook page, could you just go ahead and do that now? Kthanks. Sometimes I talk about the four/five VBSes we’ve done this summer. You don’t want to miss that.)

In addition to working, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be traveling for the rest of 2016. Chance and I are taking a late 10-year anniversary trip (destination is still TBD, so if you have suggestions, we’re all ears! This week we are leaning towards Portland or Seattle). We have only spent two nights away from our kids since Nasko came home over four years ago. His PTSD kept us close to home. This trip is long overdue.

I’m working on scheduling a trip to Sierra Leone this fall/winter to get some stuff done for Lifegate, and really to just go visit my BFF in Africa. Girls trip, but Africa-style!

Chance is traveling for work this fall as well and has invited me along. (He’s just so nice.) Next week, we all have to go to Indy for a couple days. Just Chance and I will hit Dallas together in September and the whole family will go to Kentucky in November.

Then in December we shall sleep. :—)

Just this week I’ve had many moments of feeling sad and overwhelmed that my sweet Nasko doesn’t live here anymore. Can you all just remember us in your prayers? When you pray for Nasko at 6:12, maybe sneak in a prayer for Nasko’s parents too. He’s doing well and loving school; it’s Chance and me who are struggling the most!

Our farmhouse is almost ready to be shared with you all! This does not mean that I have enough guest beds for everyone, but I do plan to share pictures of each room along with some history about the house VERY soon. My mom, aunt, and I are gathering the old house photos next week. Then I should be ready. Be sure to follow me on Instagram as I’ll be sharing the most house photos there and here on the blog.

With the same amount of importance as Nasko’s transition and all our travel plans, I present to you…….. what I am currently reading: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.

Confession time: I have never read Harry Potter. I just need to do it. I keep digging in my heels. For my birthday this year my brother and sister-in-law (huge Harry P. fans) bought me a three-book set of novels they enjoyed. Cool. Ok. APPARENTLY THEY ARE WRITTEN BY J. K. ROWLING UNDER HER PSEUDONYM. I feel like they were tricking me and trying to edge me closer to HP. Well. It might be working. The books are well-written but easy reads. They have been perfect for our crazy summer schedule. Alright fine. I’m adding HP to my reading list now…

I’m getting my haircut today (watch my Facebook page for before/after photos) and my cousin is bringing her three-month-old foster daughter here for me to hold all the live long day. Tonight is our last night of VBS for the summer.

It’s going to be a good Friday! Hopefully your day includes self-care, songs with motions, and a snuggly baby as well. Or maybe a nap. Definitely a nap.

That’s what’s new with the Newinghams. What’s new with you?

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I was in love…

It was my first day fulfilling the required observation hours as a Child Development major. Early in my college career, professors began assigning my classmates and me to classrooms full of sticky-handed children. With our degree, we had the opportunity to be teachers, so of course we needed hands-on experience – even if that meant our hands would also be sticky by the end of the day!

I remember being so nervous as I walked into my observation classroom. I loved kids. I interacted well with kids. It wasn’t the kids that scared me, it was the teacher. 

Would she like me? Would she see me as a nuisance? Would she be a teacher I looked up to?

As I entered the room, Mrs. G (her name was too long and had too many consonants for her speech-delayed kindergarteners) was stooped over, helping a pixie-cut blond girl. The girl was nearing tears as she attempted to understand her math homework. Mrs. G draped her arm around the sweet girl’s shoulder and asked if maybe it was time to take a break and move on to the next activity. The girl sniffed, composed herself, then was assigned the task of gathering the class on the carpet.

The class didn’t just walk directly to the carpet. Mrs. G and her student-helper called out categories of children to make this transition (if you have a dog at home, if your shoes are untied, if your hair is parted). Once they arrived to the carpet, the children were encouraged to sit in specific ways (boys on the blue squares with their legs crossed or girls on the green circles with their legs straight).

As Mrs. G spotted me in the doorway, she winked but redirected her attention to her students. It was time to practice early literacy skills. I pulled up a child-sized chair and watched as the children interacted through hand motions and movements; they chopped words, sounded them out, and clapped compound words together. The formerly tear-filled student smiled brightly as she used the “magic fairy wand” to dismiss her friends to recess, counting them by twos as she went.

The students (as kindergarteners do) tripped over each other and struggled to stand in line until Mrs. G called out a back-and-forth rhyming cheer to regain the class’ attention and focus. She sent the children out the door imitating arctic animals before turning to introduce herself to me.

I was in love… 

Special needs adoption blog.

For the next two weeks, I am writing on BumbyBox’s blog. Click here to read the rest of this post.

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He’s never going to look the same. He is still beautiful.

He is never going to look quite the same as the other kids.

A Different Beautiful book review - Courtney Westlake

His spine twists and turns. His leg is shorter and under-developed. His growth is stunted. He’s half the height of kids his age.

He looks different.

My friend Courtney has a daughter who looks even more different than my sweet Edward. Brenna’s skin doesn’t shed at the proper speed, and her body perpetually looks as though it is covered in a severe sunburn.

Brenna is still beautiful.

Edward is still beautiful. He doesn’t look like everyone else; he is a different beautiful.

A Different Beautiful book review - Courtney Westlake

Today, Brenna’s mom is releasing a book with the reminder of this message. It’s all about redefining what our society sees as beautiful. Our kids may lack hair or height, but if we take a hard look at what beauty truly is, we will find it everywhere around us.

Courtney says this about beauty:

The truest beauty that God intentionally and lovingly created for us is not only seen but also felt. The most dazzling beauty in this world is not found in magazines or even seen in the mirror. It is felt deep within our souls, and it is released to those around us in the forms of love, kindness, compassion, and generosity.

Maybe, as a society, we’ve been thinking about beauty in the wrong way. We look to those who seemingly have perfect bodies and symmetrical features. We seek perfection on the exterior, but what if beauty truly cannot be seen just by viewing the cover of a magazine or a photo on the internet. What if we allowed ourselves to see the beauty, even in someone who doesn’t look “just right”?

That different beautiful is found in the uniqueness God has bestowed on every single one of us and the gifts he has placed within us to be shared with the world, if we choose to trust in Him and tell His story with our lives and gifts.

I’ve thought about the fact that he’ll probably never join the track and field team. I know his limp and his limb deficiencies will slow him down for the rest of his life. I am aware of the stares and the whispered questions about his stature and his gait.

But for those who take the time to get to know Edward (it doesn’t take long), they realize what he lacks in height, he makes up for in personality.

A Different Beautiful book review - Courtney Westlake

He’s outgoing. He’s friendly. He’s caring and compassionate. He seeks attention and love, but quickly shares it back to everyone he encounters.

Anyone who goes beyond their initial judgment of his appearance soon learns of a sweet boy. He may lack in height, but he does not lack in love.

Courtney’s book, A Different Beautiful, reminds each of us to look beyond our first impressions of physical appearance and limitations to see the true beauty from within.

But when we can see the beautiful in the unexpected, we learn to find joy and celebration in what is, instead of mourning what isn’t.

Brenna’s story and Courtney’s book caused me to take a hard look at how I define beautiful for my son’s life. It’s also pushed me to reevaluate my first impressions and reactions when I meet someone who looks “different.” I’m praying the message of redefining beauty in our society goes far and wide, as we all need a reminder of what beauty truly is.

There is a whole new kind of beautiful to be discovered when we stop closing our eyes and our hearts to what is unfamiliar or unexpected.

A Different Beautiful book review - Courtney Westlake

You can grab a copy of Courtney’s book through her website here. I recommend it to anyone, as we all need reminded of the message contained within its pages.

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