*Parenting

Summer – Our Plans and a Blogging Break

Summer

It’s heeeeeeeere.

Not necessarily weather-wise (this month has been so dreary and cold in IL), but my kids are now home from school. It’s summer break.

AHHHHHHHH.

Ok. Now that I have that out of my system, I thought I’d share what we’re doing this summer.

Traveling

Summer is our busy season with Lifegate in Africa. We use church camps and Vacation Bible School programs to share the mission with children and their families. We want kids to learn about the people in Sierra Leone, but we also want to expose them to the vocation of full-time missionaries as well.

Because of this desire to educate the children, our family spends much of our summer where the children are! We’re spending five or six weeks on the road this year! We have three weeks of church camp and at least two weeks (one more is still a maybe) of Vacation Bible Schools planned. At each of these, we show photos and videos of life in Sierra Leone. We help the children understand the differences and the similarities between us and the people who live on the other side of the world. We teach them games and useful language phrases (ex. “my brother is a monkey”). We attempt to bridge the gap and build empathy so that the next generation will care about those who are living, suffering, surviving, and experiencing oppression.

During a few of the weeks we are gone, we are actually able to give another missionary a retreat by allowing her to use our home and drive our vehicle. We’re honored to be serving God with ALL we have this summer.

Education

Because I believe learning happens every day, summer break does not mean the learning stops at our house.

I still have all of my homeschool curriculums in addition to a new workbook for each of the boys. Yesterday we started practicing writing, tracing, cutting, and coloring. We’re also going to focus on fun learning – like playing games. There’s so many great turn-taking and sportsmanship skills to be learned (especially for competitive boys!) by just playing a board game. Board games are great for taking along on all our travels too.

Interestingly enough (and because God knows what he is doing) my boys are developmentally about the same level. Recently we have fielded even more questions about whether or not they are twins. Most days, it totally feels like they are. This makes teaching them a little easier over the summer.

Reading

I still have a goal of at least reading 75 books by the end of the year. I’m more on track with reading 100 at this point, and I don’t see that slowing down too much. Reading is one of the best ways for me to relax, and with having the boys home every day, well, I see the need for relaxing even more…

The boys are already diving into their summer reading as well. When we are home, we plan to visit the library at least weekly. As we travel, we hope to tour and visit a few new libraries as well!

The boys’ attention spans are lengthening, so we’ve been reading up to four longer books in one sitting. I’d love to start reading chapter books to them this summer. (I’m looking for suggestions on what to read to them!)

Don’t forget to check out my summer reading suggestions here.

Writing

This is our last summer before both my boys are in school every day (what? when did this happen?!). I had a million great goals for my own writing and blogging this year, but then I looked at my boys and realized those goals could wait until they aren’t home. This summer, my focus is my boys.

And for this reason, I plan to take a small break from blogging. It’s not that I won’t be publishing posts occasionally, but we’re busy and you’re busy… It’s ok for me to step back for a few months.

I plan to focus the summer on writing for myself. I have dreams of a book (and an idea for one) that I hope will flow from me this fall. Before then though, I want to journal. I want to refine my voice and give space to my internal feelings. I want to fill up my creativity bucket before pouring from it.

I decided to have my boys journal this summer as well. They’re each getting a blank notebook and have to write and draw reflections about each day. I’m sure these journals will be comical as yesterday’s entry from Edward was all about eating hash browns for breakfast. Livin’ it up in the summer of 2017 with the Newinghams!

So, in short, we have big summer plans.

I’d also like to lose ten pounds, maintain a spotless house, and take up running (ha). But, you know, one thing at a time.

And just because you know I cannot remain silent, be sure to follow me on social media. My favorite place to hang out these days in on Instagram stories. You can find me on Facebook as well.

From the Newinghams, “Have a happy summer!”

Five Things I Want You to Know on Mother’s Day – To the Women who had Miscarriages

I was so happy. I sat in church and locked eyes with my husband. We exchanged a smile over a secret only the two of us shared.

But then, the next Sunday, tears sprung to my eyes before the first notes of worship even began. I hugged a few close friends but shied away from everyone else.

As the singing of our church service began, I sank into my seat. I was broken hearted.

I had experienced loss. I had miscarried a baby.

I’ve been through this experience five different times over the span of eight years now. I am more in-tune to the emotional signs of loss than the average member of our congregation, but even with my watchful eye, I know many other women slip through my radar and suffer their losses in silence.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

Sweet girl at church, maybe you have experienced a miscarriage as well. Whether you’ve shared your loss or kept it silent, I have some things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day. Whether you sit in my pew, attend my congregation, or live miles away, this message is for you:

1. You are not alone.

Even if you’ve kept your loss private, you are not suffering alone. You may look around the room and see babies in seemingly everyone’s arms, but even the church is not free of heartache.

The most recent statistics state that 15-20% of all pregnancies end in loss.

Our scars are not visible, but many of the women sharing your pew have felt the heartbreak of infant loss as well.

2. Others want to love you.

If you choose to share your losses — and I recommend you eventually do — let the church body surround you with love. Let us bring you meals or bake you cookies. Accept our gifts – even if you don’t believe you need them. These gifts are a physical representation of God’s love for you.

After one of my miscarriages, a friend brought me a pair of fleece pajamas. Every time I slid my legs into those fuzzy pants, I felt the love and support of my friend.

Do not isolate completely, as the whispers of Satan can become shouts in our times of solitude.

3. Grief takes time.

Grieving the loss of an infant is not the same as grieving the passing of your grandfather. He was given the opportunity to live a full life. You have memories with him.

Grieving a baby you never met is unique. You lack the memories and shared experiences, but still posses the pain. You mourn what could have been as opposed to what was.

It’s ok to seem fine one day and struggle again the next.

After my second miscarriage, I took a few days to grieve and then returned back to work. One of my clients announced her due date that next week – it was the same date as the baby I had just lost. Following the announcement, I took a couple more days off of work. My heart was not ready; I wanted to be happy at the announcement of new life, but my wound was too fresh.

Trust your body and your heart as you mourn. Take a day. Take a month. Take what you need. Your grief is as unique as the baby you cry over.

4. God does love you, but Satan hates your family.

You chose to create a family and bring a child into this world. You planned to raise this baby in the church and according to God’s Word. God is not punishing you for any unfaithfulness in your past or anything you have done wrong. God loves you. He desires to give you good things.

But.

But Satan is present and powerful. He hates the idea of a family grounded in truth. He stops at nothing to harm and destroy.

These are facts of the world we live in, but dear friends, don’t allow Satan to win.

Do not allow this trial to breed bitterness or anger against God. Seek wise counsel and help if you need someone to preach and re-preach God’s promises and goodness over you.

Soak up the truth of how God loves you as you continue to read your bible during your grief. Remind yourself of the hope of heaven as you grieve for what sin has taken from you.

5. You were the best mama for your baby.

My babies typically perished between six and ten weeks gestation. For every one of those weeks, I was a good mama for my babies. I kept them safe. I nourished them. I loved them unconditionally.

These losses are not something I wanted. Quite the opposite. I would have done anything to keep them alive.

This is true for you as well, Mama. I don’t doubt your devotion to your children — no matter how long they lived on this earth. You were such a good mama.

If God grants you another babe, you will be a good mama again, no doubt. You will be the best mama for that baby. God made that specific child with you in mind.

 

These are the five things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day – whether you attend my congregation or not, whether your loss is recent or long ago.

Sister, even if your children are not still with us here on this earth, this Mother’s Day is for you. I’m sorry for your loss, but your baby was blessed by your love – no matter how short or how long s/he lived. Sweet girl, sweet mama, Happy Mother’s Day.

photo credit: Darrin Ralph

To the Girl at Church who has Suffered Loss – A Mother’s Day Message for Women who have Miscarried Babies

I was so happy. I sat in church and locked eyes with my husband. We exchanged smiles over a secret only the two of us shared.

But then, the next Sunday, tears sprung to my eyes before the first notes of worship even began. I hugged a few close friends but shied away from everyone else.

As the singing of our church service began, I sank into my seat. I was broken hearted.

I had experienced loss. I had miscarried a baby.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

Sweet girl at church, maybe you have experienced a miscarriage as well. Whether you’ve shared your loss or kept it silent, I have some things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day Sunday. Whether you sit in my pew, attend my congregation, or live miles away, this message is for you:

photo credit: Darrin Ralph

1. You are not alone.

Even if you’ve kept your loss private, you are not suffering alone. You may look around the room and see babies in seemingly everyone’s arms, but even the church is not free of heartache.

The most recent statistics state that 15-20% of all pregnancies end in loss.

Our scars are not visible, but many of the women sharing your pew have felt the heartbreak of infant loss as well.

 

2. Others want to love you.

If you choose to share your losses — and I recommend you eventually do — let the church body surround you with love. Let us bring you meals or bake you cookies. Accept our gifts – even if you don’t believe you need them. These gifts are a physical representation of God’s love for you.

After one of my miscarriages, a friend brought me a pair of fleece pajamas. Every time I slid my legs into those fuzzy pants, I felt the love and support of a friend.

Do not isolate completely, as the whispers of Satan can become shouts in our times of solitude.

 

3. Grief takes time.

Grieving the loss of an infant is not the same as grieving the passing of your grandfather. He was given the opportunity to live a full life. You have memories with him.

Grieving a baby you never met is unique. You lack the memories and shared experiences, but still posses the pain. You mourn what could have been as opposed to what was.

It’s ok to seem fine one day and struggle again the next.

After my second miscarriage, I took a few days to grieve and then returned back to work. One of my clients announced her due date that next week – it was the same date as the baby I had just lost. Following the announcement, I took a couple more days off of work. My heart was not ready; I wanted to be happy at the announcement of new life, but my wound was too fresh.

Trust your body and your heart as you mourn. Take a day. Take a month. Take what you need. Your grief is as unique as the baby you cry over.

 

4. God does love you, but Satan hates your family.

You chose to create a family and bring a child into this world. You planned to raise this baby in the church and according to God’s Word. God is not punishing you for any unfaithfulness in your past or anything you have done wrong. God loves you. He desires to give you good things.

But.

But Satan is present and powerful. He hates the idea of a family grounded in truth. He stops at nothing to harm and destroy.

These are facts of the world we live in, but dear friends, don’t allow Satan to win.

Do not allow this trial to breed bitterness or anger against God. Seek wise counsel and help if you need someone to preach and re-preach God’s promises and goodness over you.

Soak up the truth of how God loves you as you continue to read your bible during your grief. Remind yourself of the hope of heaven as you grieve for what sin has taken from you.

 

5. You were the best mama for your baby.

My babies typically perished between six and ten weeks gestation. For every one of those weeks, I was a good mama for my babies. I kept them safe. I nourished them. I loved them unconditionally.

These losses are not something I wanted. Quite the opposite. I would have done anything to keep them alive.

This is true for you as well, Mama. I don’t doubt your devotion to your children — no matter how long they lived on this earth. You were such a good mama.

If God grants you another babe, you will be a good mama again, no doubt. You will be the best mama for that baby. God made that specific child with you in mind. 

 

These are the things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day – whether you attend my congregation or not, whether your loss was recent or long ago.

Sister, even if your children are not still with us on this earth, this Mother’s Day is for you. I’m sorry for your loss, but your baby was blessed by your love – no matter how short or how long your child lived.

Sweet girl, sweet mama, Happy Mother’s Day.

[Many mamas of infant loss suffer in silence; please pass this along to a mama who needs to hear it on this Mother’s Day.]

Five Friday Faves – The Mother’s Day Edition

I am SO ready to share five things that I’m loving this week. In fact, I had to work hard to narrow my list down to just five things.

And this week, I am sharing five things that could all be acceptable as gifts for Mother’s Day.

Ahem.

If you are reading this and you are a man, let’s just stop for one moment.

Did your wife send you this link?

Lean in close. I have a secret for you.

SHE WANTS YOU TO BUY HER SOMETHING FROM THIS LIST.

Also, Mother’s Day is May 14. All day. FYI.

Get to shopping.

 

So here’s my Mother’s Day suggestions this year (remember, my links don’t cost you anything extra, but they help support me. I made a whopping $3.87 last month. I promise not to forget the little people):

Amope Foot File

Don’t be scared. Don’t run away. Our feet need loving too.

My husband bought me this right before he went on a missions trip to Africa this spring. He knew I would need some pampering, so he purchased this wet-dry foot file for me to use.

Oh, my heavens. My feet have never been more smooth.

It’s almost sandal weather. It’s time to love your feet again, ladies.

 

Along those same lines of pampering…

Surpahs Bath Pillow

I like to read in the bathtub, but seriously. Whoever designed tubs was thinking about dunking our filthy children, not leaning back with a novel.

This pillow though, it’s only $11.00 and it saves my back!

 

If you give a mouse a cookie… If you give a mama a bath pillow, she’s gonna need a new book to go with it!

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I rarely read physical books, as I prefer ebooks. Friends told me I HAD to get the physical copy of this one though, and I’m so glad I did. The design and the layout are beautiful and inspiring.

Erin’s story was encouraging as well. She has traveled through many seasons that women can relate to. She is a great story-teller with an appropriate view of God’s involvement in her hard times. She has made it her message and platform to chase a slower pace of life – don’t we all need that?

 

After all the pampering, I suppose there might need to be something a bit more practical…

External Battery Charger

I have attended two different women’s conferences this month; one thing I shared with mamas at both conferences was my external battery charger.

We moms are on our phones quite a bit. We need to check in and keep up. But if we’re away from the house for too long, our phone batteries go dead.

I love having an external battery pack. I just plug into it and stick the charger and my phone into my purse. I still have my phone with me, but it’s not going dead!

This is a super practical gift for moms!

 

And finally, a gift that might not even cost you a dollar!

Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs

My friend Kathy McClelland is having a giveaway on her blog this week for a book called “Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs.” If you are the mama of a special needs kiddo, this book sounds so encouraging. It’s indexed and laid out as a reference guide, rather than a coherent story.

The book includes biblical promises for situations such as:

When you’re having trouble accepting your situation…

When you blame yourself for what has happened…

When you start to doubt that progress is possible…

When your heart breaks for your child…

Click here to enter to win one of the books Kathy is giving away (giveaway ends Sunday) or head over here to just purchase the book for five dollars!

 

Happy Shopping, men. I just gave you some stellar ideas for the mothers in your life. And ladies, there’s nothing saying you can’t just buy your own presents just in case… ahem.

 

This Is Attachment

My son, Edward, comes from a place of trauma. For the first three years of his life, he attempted to attach to caregivers who rotated in and out of his life on 8-hour shifts. He endured countless surgeries and hospital stays, not knowing who would be present to support him when he awoke from anesthesia.

He used charm and his adorable eyelashes to gain attention and acceptance. Being cute has gained him more love and attention than his peers.

Until he nervously toddled into my arms the first day we met, he had not known the stability of unconditional, ever-present love.

Edward has a few behavioral issues he confines to our home. He’s comfortable here, so it’s where he can truly let his guard down.

In our home is where he’s the most frustrating and disobedient. But it’s also where he requires the most reassurance.

You see, Edward is waiting for my 8-hour shift to end. He cannot possibly understand staffing and schedules and rotating shifts. He is not privy to the knowledge of labor laws and vacation time.

All he knows is caregivers always leave.

Did he upset them? Were they mad at him? Where did they go? And, most importantly, are they coming back?

This week, Edward’s behavior frustrated me. He blatantly disobeyed me and committed a repeat offense. He’s five, so it’s expected, but I’ve also employed every parenting technique I know on this offense. None are working.

So, I got angry. I yelled and took away privileges.

He cried. And screamed. He threw a forty-five-minute fit repeatedly announcing the injustice of it all.

But near the end of his tirade, he choked back a sob, stood at the top of our stairs, and declared, “Mama, I want you.”

Yes, his behavior was disappointing. Yes, I lost my cool and let him know exactly how this made me feel. He cried injustice and pushed me away.

Until he needed me.

To an outsider, his request might seem backward. Wouldn’t he want to remain far from the source of his discipline?

But not my boy who lived a thousand injustices before he could even walk.

Not my boy who has never known love to continue, to fight, and to remain.

My boy wants to lay his head on me. He wants to feel my chest rise and fall. He wants to know I’m not leaving. He wants me to kiss his thick hair as he cries. He wants my legs to intertwine with his as we sit together on the floor.

Edward wants the reassurance my 8-hour shift isn’t ending, just because he is imperfect. He needs to know I’m not walking out, even when I get upset with him.

You see, this is attachment. Children who have survived the 8-hour shift changes or multiple foster homes live in constant fear of abandonment and loss. They push love away and then pull it close.

This is attachment. This is the reality that adoptive and foster families live every day. Even infants who are separated from their first parents at birth experience loss. They too struggle to attach.

My Edward is further along in his attachment journey than many trauma survivors ever will be. He can verbalize when he’s done pushing me away and when he’s ready to pull me close. Not all kids can do so.

Do you know an adoptive or foster family? Will you pray for them right now as they work to love their children even as they are being pushed away?

And adoptive/foster families, I see you. I understand. You’re not alone. Keep fighting the good fight. Keep pulling them close even when they try to push you away.

This is attachment.

Five Friday Faves

Forget the Frock

While many people rush out to buy their children button-down shirts and frilly dresses for Easter Sunday, that idea never settled well with me.

Forget the Frock is a movement I became aware of a few years ago. Forget the Frock (#forgetthefrock) is all about putting our money to a better use. Instead of purchasing those frilly clothes our kids hate, you donate the money to a charity or organization. You can have your children wear hand-me-downs or clothes from the resale shop, or you can purchase t-shirts for your whole family to support a cause.

My family usually wears our clothing from Sierra Leone, Africa and donates money towards a specific project taking place there. Other options might be donating to an adoptive family (I have friends needing support here) and wearing jeans and old t-shirts.

Yes, the “frock”, the fancy clothes, look great in photos (well, other people’s photos as is evidenced below), but the donations have the possibility of changing lives.

Our family loves the movement and would love for you to join us. Learn more about Forget the Frock.

Create Hope Cuffs

An online friend of mine has started a business of designing and creating unique bracelet cuffs. She offered me one and asked what I would want on it, as personalization is part of her business.

I knew instantly.

When Nasko was at home, I would grow frustrated with his seeming lack of progress. His behaviors would revert and I would feel hopeless. One night, I decided to add up the number of days our sweet boy lived before he came into our safe and nurturing home.

One thousand nine hundred and ninety-five.

That’s what we were undoing with every act of discipline or unconditional love. When he rejected our hugs or ignored our rules, I trained my mind to return to that number.

1,995 days.

That’s how long he was treated poorly and did not know the love of a mother. Those are the days we are redeeming.

Danielle wants to honor all of those who have children who spent time in orphanages or foster care. Check out Create Hope Cuffs and use MOMENTS20 code for 20% percent off and order a cuff to remind you of the days you are redeeming. (You can also use the coupon for ANY phrase or cuff!)

P.S. This would make a great adoption gift for a mama!

P.P.S. Your purchase helps bring literacy to the people of rural Swaziland, Africa. LOVE.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

I first learned of Jamie Ivey seven or eight years ago as we were deep in the adoption process. I was searching for blogs to follow and mamas to learn from.

I’ve continued to follow Jamie through a variety of life stages, but she seems to have found her calling these days — podcasting!

Her podcast is called, “The Happy Hour,” and the premise is simple; Jamie brings on guests and shares their stories to encourage other women.

I look forward to her program every week as I love to learn what other women are doing with their God-given talents. I also get so many book recommendations from this podcast!

Fish in a Tree


Oh, my goodness. This book. It’s a Young Adult book, but it shares a message of differences and inclusion that every adult needs to learn and relearn.

The main character, Ally, is a sixth grader who doesn’t fit in at all. She has moved frequently, and on top of that, she can’t read. The book follows her school-year journey to a diagnosis of dyslexia, but bigger yet, a discovery that we all have things that make us different.

The author, Lynda Hunt, without labeling or giving diagnoses, creates characters with signs of autism and ADHD. She also includes victims of abuse and racism.

I fell in love with Ally’s substitute teacher and his unique ways of bringing a class of difference together. Every educator could learn from his example.

Fitness Blender

Chance and I decided we probably need to start working out… We’ve both gained a little weight through our stressful changes with Nasko, so, you know, it was time.

A couple years ago (probably when I should have started working out) my friend Sarah turned me onto a couple on YouTube. They have a channel where they share high-quality fitness videos. The couple is honestly adorable (especially as they bicker) and they seem so real.

They make working out not so awful.

I still feel like I’m dying though.

But check them out. Misery loves company.

 

So, how about you? What are your favorite things in your life right now?

When my child drew a family portrait that didn’t include his brother

When my child drew a family portrait that didn’t include his brother:

It’s cute. There are heads and bodies and even arms and legs. My preschooler drew a picture of our family.

But this darling expression of his creativity hurt my heart in ways a family portrait never should — it didn’t include his oldest brother.

Edward loves to draw pictures. He usually sticks to horses and unicorns (he draws a mean Princess Luna), but a month or so ago, he changed his focus to drawing people.

One day, he stood at our art easel for a long time with his medium of choice — a black erasable marker.

I watched his creative process without giving suggestions or input. I allowed him freedom of expression without critique.

But his finished product was not without sorrow in my heart.

Edward, in his five-year-old innocence, drew a portrait of the people who live in our home. He looked for a typical family unit and created that on paper. He didn’t draw his brother because his brother does not live in our home.

———

Our oldest son moved into a group home over six months ago.

He was adopted from a country that is famous for its abuse and torture towards orphans. He is of Roma descent and is believed to be incapable of learning or developing.

Nasko’s past trauma coupled with his autism and Tourette’s diagnoses caused him to be unsafe in our home. For his safety, and the safety of his brothers, we chose to place him in a group home for children with special needs.

———

Last night as I was cooking dinner, Nasko FaceTimed us from his iPad. He calls us frequently (97 times one Saturday) and just wants to know what we are up to. He regularly requests to see different things around our farm – from the cats to the playroom to our van key fob.

As I was chopping and preparing to cook supper, I decided not to answer Nasko’s phone call; I would call him back after we ate. Louis heard the phone buzzing though, and said, “Is that Nasko? I want to talk to Nasko!”

I answered the call and handed Louis the phone.

As I turned back to supper preparations, I became engrossed in what I was doing. At least ten minutes went by and I realized I needed my phone to double-check a recipe. Now, where was my phone?

I remembered Nasko’s phone call and wiped my hands on the towel. I needed to find Louis.

I followed the sound of his sweet voice and found him in the middle of our playroom. He wore a smile that lit up his entire face. He was holding the phone and telling Nasko all about the train track he built that afternoon.
When I got closer, I could see that Nasko was leaning in, listening and observing.

My sons were having a conversation.

——

Our family doesn’t look like the average family on your block. From skin color to traumatic backgrounds to special needs, we aren’t easily captured in a preschooler’s family portrait.

But I would not trade the value of raising a typically-developing son who can hold a ten-minute, give-and-take conversation with his brother – a boy who was said to be incapable of learning or developing.

The family portrait hanging in my kitchen has four people, but my heart – and the hearts of all my sons – do include all five members of our nontraditional family.

Farmhouse Renovation, Before and After Photos – The Playroom

The playroom was the hardest room for me to redecorate when we inherited my family’s 1885 farmhouse.

This room has previously slept family members such as my great-grandparents, my mom, and my aunt. But most recently, it served as “the dormitory” – the place my cousins and I slept and played when we came to visit Grandma.

I made many memories in this room. It was difficult for me to picture it with completely different furniture and an entirely different purpose.

Also, there are four floor-to-ceiling windows, a built-in vanity, a radiator, and a closet – there’s not all that much wall space left!

Thankfully, with the help of a designer, we have created a perfect playroom for my rambunctious boys.

The before/after photos:

This picture showcases three of the windows in the room. These windows form the polygonal tower that is common in a Queen Anne Victorian style home.

Now that triangular section of the room holds a loveseat and recliner – in case any adults might want to visit a room FULL of toys.

My goal with this room was to make it cozy, inviting, organized, and fun.

We achieved these goals by including comfy seating, painting the walls with bright colors, sectioning off portions of the room for different activities, and including more bold decor throughout the space!

(I mean, where else could I decorate with a rug that resembles grass?!)

Somehow I did not get a “before” photo of this corner, but with the sensory swing and the wall of children’s books, the “after” photo is worth sharing!

This vanity was left from when my mother and aunt were little girls. I loved it, but it just didn’t make much sense for all my little boys!

With a few alterations, it has become a desk and play surface!

The surface is perfect for puzzles and farm animals!

 

The bookcase between the radiator and the door held many of the treasures I remember playing with as a child.

That same location now holds Louis’, Edward’s, and Nasko’s treasures.

We chose to redo the flooring (the previous floor had many cracked tiles) but we wanted to maintain a smooth playing surface. Louis LOVES to build wooden train tracks that cover the entire room or race his Hot Wheels on the wood floor.

To prove this point, I leave you with a photo of the room on a more typical day (not on a day when I was taking fancy-schmancy photos for my blog!):

My sweet little family has already enjoyed hours of play in this room. We have many more hours to come…

 

To read more about the farmhouse my family inherited and renovated, click here. Other rooms I have written about are found here:

Louis’ Bedroom 

Edward’s Bedroom

Let Us Be That For Each Other – Encountering Special Needs in Public

As a mom of children with special needs, I have learned to let my pride fall and apologize quickly. When my son calls a stranger fat or my other child licks our neighbor’s ankle, I am humbled and often embarrassed.

A few weeks ago, we took our sons out to eat. The restaurant was having a fundraising night (unbeknownst to us) for one of the local school districts. The store was packed and children abounded. We bought our sandwiches and even supported the local school. We ate, and our boys expelled their energy in the playplace.

As my husband and I sat after the meal, we unpacked parenting and the lives we’re living. Soon, a gentleman and his son appeared at the table behind us.

From the moment I saw the boy, I knew.

There wasn’t anything about his appearance that might trigger this knowledge, but watching his interactions and his demeanor, I saw my sons in him.

I saw that this boy was special.

His father was struggling to keep the boy close. The child was overstimulated by the large number of patrons and the busyness of the restaurant. Within an instant, the boy appeared at my side.

He hurriedly nabbed the card game from my sons’ meal. The young man opened the game and began to examine every piece. His presence was near and he leaned against my arm as he bombarded me with one hundred questions.

I smiled.

He was close in age to my oldest son and had similar social boundaries. I delighted in this boy’s presence.

His dad, on the other hand, was mortified. He quickly apologized and pulled the boy away. He returned the game and hung his head.

I nodded and reassured him everything was fine.

Soon the boy was seated. He spoke fast and loud as he inquired about everything in his surroundings. His father seemed exasperated and tired.

The boy grew bored of his father and turned back towards me. He began to show me the letters he knew in sign language.

He obviously had no idea I had studied sign language in college.

The next thing I knew, the boy was practically in my lap, and I was teaching him to sign “sea turtle” and “rabbit.” Again, his father was stressed. He apologized profusely and pulled the boy away again.

But the boy would not be dissuaded. Chance and I spent the rest of our meal talking with the boy, practicing sign language, and encouraging him to try the fruit in his cup. At one point, this sweet child peppered my arm with kisses.

As my own children grew tired, and it was time to pack up, tears flowed from my eyes. Chance saw me and nodded in agreement. He knew what I was thinking.

Chance stood and walked over to the boy’s father. He shook the man’s hand and thanked him for sharing his son with us.

Chance thanked the man for letting us love his son. He explained to the man about our oldest son. Our son lives in a group home because the actions that accompany his autistic diagnosis have led him to be unsafe. We have spent years on the side of apologies and attempts to keep him within the confines of social boundaries.

We, too, have dreaded taking our son in public for fear of the public’s reaction.

But along the way, we have met warm and forgiving people. We have been accepted and loved. Our son has been engaged and encouraged by strangers.

More often than not, our son’s hugs have been received with open arms and his inquiring utterances have been answered with grace.

That day in Chick-fil-a, we were given the opportunity to be that for another child with special needs.

The tears came to my eyes because until you have a child who pushes boundaries and forces apologies, there is no way of understanding the kindness of strangers who accept your children for who they are.

To the tired father in Chick-fil-a, I want to be that for you.

Dear readers, let us all be that for each other.

Let us be forgiving and kind as children explore and question. Let us be the village of support parents need as they struggle through bringing their special kids into public.

Let us be loving, accepting, gracious, and kind. Let us be that for each other.

 

[Please feel free to share pass this message along as we all need reminded of how to interact with those who have special needs. They are a blessing.]

Five Years Home – Nasko, #prayfornasko

Five years ago, a plane touched down in Chicago, IL. It contained one passenger who would impact thousands, but most importantly, that passenger changed me.

I had high hopes when we adopted Nasko from Bulgaria. He responded positively when we taught him sign language on our trip to visit him in his orphanage. He seemed to need extra love and instruction, but progress was imminent.

It has taken me much of these past five years, but I can finally say, progress isn’t the goal.

Nasko came home and achieved. He developed, grew, and attained. We watched him explore and learn.

He gained language at a rapid rate. His little mind never stopped. He was constantly increasing his knowledge of the world around him.

He was progressing.

Then, about a year and a half following his adoption, Nasko’s progress slowed. He began retelling the stories of his orphanage. He would act out the abuse he had suffered. He trusted us with his story.

His anxiety heightened when his baby brother was born. Nasko wasn’t so much an over-protective brother as he was confused by the differences in the treatment our sons had received. Fear crept in as he questioned Louis’ safety and his parents’ intentions.

Five years ago, I could not have imagined the journey Nasko’s fear would take us on.

As he grew, Nasko’s fear translated (and still translates) to danger. When he felt afraid, he caused danger for those around him. I was raising three boys and attempting to keep each of them safe, while essentially allowing a terrorist to live in my home and eat my food.

A cute terrorist, but a terrorist nonetheless.

He was living in fear, which had also stopped his developmental progress. His skills and his behavior spiraled backward as he put our other children in danger.

Adrenaline was all that was keeping me going. Anxiety wrecked me and depression plagued me. I felt inadequate. I had obviously failed. And where was God?

On year ago, I wailed in an office with my counselor and my husband realizing I could not go on living the way we were. We decided I needed to spend some time away. I booked a trip to spend thirteen days in Florida.

My body was physically crashing. My soul was spiritually crushed. Something had to change.

When I received the go-ahead from my counselor and my husband, I traveled down to Florida looking for relaxation, and most of all, looking for God.

Thankfully, he showed up.

It took nine days before I stopped panicking at the sight of a paring knife on the counter – ours at home were in a locked box, but it only took two days before God reminded me to abide in him.

Be with him. Study the words he has given. Rest in him. Trust his plan and his forgiveness.

Abide.

That reminder (and many hours of counseling) allowed me to realign my goals. Progress isn’t the goal. Abiding in the creator of my special Bulgarian boy – that’s the goal.

Nasko continues to harm others and just yesterday he harmed himself to the point of requiring a trip to the ER. His behavior isn’t progressing in the way I want it to.

Nasko may never learn to read. His words may grow more garbled and less clear. His fear may never lessen, but my God, he remains the same.

God remains.

He is good. He is for me. He cares. Abiding in him and resting in his peace, that is the goal.

Five years ago, a boy who changed my life, walked off a plane and into my arms. Five years ago, God brought us a boy who would go on to impact so many of you as well. I know his story has inspired adoptions, changed how the public views orphans, and educated many on special needs.

Five years ago, a plane touched down in Chicago, IL. It contained one passenger who would impact thousands, but most importantly, that passenger changed me.

Happy adoption day to my sweet son who has taught me and the world so much. I still pray for progress, but meanwhile, I’m abiding.