Friday, December 28, 2012

The Beauty of Special Needs Parenting

Being Liam's mom is teaching me so many things...

I am learning to enjoy life more.  The day to day.  The people.  The small things.  I appreciate it all in a new way.

I am learning to view everyone I come across as a person.  Not a disability.  Not a label.  But a person.  Someone's child.  Beautiful in God's eyes.  As important as I am.

I am learning to examine my views of "success."  What does it really mean after all?  An education?  A career?  Relationships are really what life is all about and Liam already has that art mastered.

I am learning to accept myself and others, flaws and all.  Liam is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  And that is O.K.  God says so.

I am learning to let go of some things I thought were important in exchange for things I now think are more important.  Priorities can shift and change through different seasons of life.

I am learning to be more fully myself and less the person I think I should be.  There can be so much pressure to fit a square peg into a round hole.  And all the while, God created me to be uniquely me, not another someone else.

I could go on and on.  But you get the picture.  There is beauty in people with disabilities.  And perhaps this is one of the greatest beauties of all - their ability to open our eyes to things we previously were blind to.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday

1. Celebrating Christmas with our extended family
2. Spending the night at my parents' house Christmas Eve
3. Gatlinburg lights at Christmas
4. Watching the boys' excitement on Christmas morning
5. Ordering Jesus' Birthday Presents with the tithe from our year-end bonus

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thankful Thursday

1. Christmas cookies in the mail (thank you, Williams family!)
2. Beginning to trust Scout the puppy (a little bit) not to destroy (as many) things
3. The joy of thinking out and planning gifts for others
4. The satisfaction of a clean house

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Special Needs Adoption: Making an Informed Decision

Loopy after his last surgery

People often say, "I don't know how you do it!  I could never adopt a child with special needs."  And I don't argue.  Because it may be true.  I am not naive enough to think this life is for everyone.  But I also  believe in allowing God room to work in your life.  And in order to allow God room to work, you have to step out in faith sometimes.  That's what this post is about: balancing being realistic and being faithful.

In order to be both a realistic and faithful, you must honestly consider the facts of your current & future life circumstances.  If you already have 7 kids at home with busy schedules, adopting a child who needs to be run around to a lot of therapy and doctor's appointments may not be the smartest move.  On the other hand, if you love the chaos and running around town, you might welcome the extra challenge a child with special needs brings.

If you have 7 kids but live a pretty simple life, adopting a child with special needs might just provide that child with a LOT of extra loving support AND provide your other children with the opportunity to love like Jesus loves.  On the other hand, if you want your life to stay really simple, adopting a child with special needs might complicate things a little too much for your liking.

But maybe, having no children with special needs, you (like me) have no idea what all to consider when making this decision.  Here are some ideas:
  • Will this child likely need a lot of medical care?  If so, you should know that all insurance companies are required to cover the needs of adopted children.  However, it is also worth considering the costs of things that are not usually covered.  For example, some heart surgery can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and is not completely covered by insurance.  For us, we have an awesome insurance company and Liam has medicaid (due to his special needs, unrelated to our income) that covers the rest.  Many children with special needs will be eligible for medicaid.  Asking around your community, you should be able to find some parents of children with special needs who can give you an idea of what services are provided in your area.  Don't worry about offending them - I have found other parents of special needs kids to be eager to help!

  • Will this child likely need a lot of therapy appointments?  Can we realistically fit them into our schedule?  What kind of services does medicaid provide in my state?  Liam currently receives 6-7 therapy sessions each week.  They are all covered by a combination of private insurance, our public school district, and medicaid (even his aqua-therapy and hippo-therapy!).   Four of them are in our home, but we must drive 30-45 minutes to get to aqua-therapy and hippo-therapy.  In addition to preschool, playdates, church, Liam's extra doctor's appointments, etc., this makes for a very busy schedule.
  • What are the requirements of your other children?  Children with special needs do have some extra requirements.  We have to do therapy exercises with Liam daily.  He must be carried and or pushed in the stroller more than a child his age normally would.  He needs extra medications and his hearing aids require upkeep.  When you weigh how things like this might effect the kids you already have, also consider the good that can come out of having a sibling with special needs.  I have another post coming up about that.  However, this is something that is very personal and a decision you have to make yourself and there are 
  • How is your mental health and that of your partner?  This may seem like a silly question, but raising a child with special needs is not for the faint of heart.  If you struggle with anxiety and/or depression or have another diagnosed mental condition, adopting a child with special needs might just send you over the edge.  I am pretty stable emotionally, but I really struggled with depression that first year and eventually ended up in individual therapy and hiring a weekly housekeeper to regain my sanity.

  • Aquatherapy

  • How is your marriage and your support system?  If your marriage is rocky, you should be aware of the statistic that 90% of marriages fail when a couple is raising a child with special needs.  It's a scary number, but you should also know it has only brought my husband and I closer as we have worked together to care for Liam.  We have an amazing church in which we have found wonderful babysitters, as well as other adoptive families and people who just plain love us.  If you are going to adopt a child with special needs, trust me, you will need a strong support system!
  • How is your energy level?  If you're struggling to get everything done already, you probably do not need to add another child to your family, especially one with special needs.  I need a nap several times a week to keep up with it all!
  • Which medical conditions are you most comfortable with?  When you fill out your adoption paperwork, there is typically a checklist you fill out with medical conditions you are willing to consider.  Take the time to do a little research before you fill out the form.  It will come in handy as you look at various waiting children to have an idea of what their medical conditions entail.  Always view the child's medical record before viewing their adorable pictures, when possible!  And ALWAYS have a pediatrician familiar with international adoption review each child's file to give you a better understanding of what the child will require.  You can find one online to send records to.  Personally, we were more comfortable adopting a young child with moderate special needs than we were adopting an older child who had no known medical needs, but would be more likely to have attachment issues.  You may feel the exact opposite way - some are more comfortable with emotional needs, some with minor needs, some with moderate needs, and some with severe needs.

  • These are the issues that come to mind, but feel free to comment if you have specific questions about what to consider with special needs adoption!  

    Now, to the good part.  After giving you a long list of sobering things to consider, what I really want you to know is this: "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

    It boils down to this.  Consider everything on my list realistically but leave a little extra room for God to work.  We got a little more than we bargained for with Liam when it comes to his special needs, but I would not change it because he has brought us closer to God and to other people who are walking this journey with us.  We are being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d as individuals by parenting a child with special needs, but it brings us to our knees, and that is a GOOD thing.  So don't let these challenges scare you away!  Remember: "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Free Online Advent Devotional

    Sorry I'm posting this a little late in the season, but I want to share about a wonderful and FREE advent devotional.  Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts (one of my favorite books ever) offers this devotional for free download here: Advent Devotional.  Go check it out and enjoy her beautiful writing - I promise it will draw you nearer to your Blessed Savior this Christmas!

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Liam's First Hippo-therapy Session

    Can I just tell you how excited I am that Liam started hippo-therapy?  First of all, Liam LOVES horses!  Every time he gets a pony ride at a festival, he grins from ear to ear.  Second of all, I LOVE horses and rode daily until about 10 years ago.  So it was nice to be back on a farm after all these years.  The staff is awesome and even let Shep ride the pony for a few minutes when Liam was done.  And did I mention this is covered by insurance?  Wow.  Thank you, God.

    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Liam starting hippo-therapy (and loving it)
    2. Freedom in Christ
    3. Shep still likes to hold my hand
    4. 4 of us curled up in our bed reading books
    5. Making "stone soup" with Shep & Liam - Liam beginning to pretend play

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    I Heart 4

    With a certain character from a new favorite book, The Grinch
    Shep & his friend Ethan at Christmasville
    Very excited about his first funny face pancake at IHOP

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Whoo Whoo Whoo Turned 4?

    A camping themed party 
    Complete with hot dogs & s'mores around the bonfire, of course
    Don't forget the presents
    Especially his first bike
    Whoo Whoo?
    Shep, that's who!

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Shep finally beginning to sing songs with me
    2. Doing the Truth in the Tinsel advent devotions/crafts with the boys for the first time this year
    3. Feeling loved by our church
    4. Being done with my Master's program after 6 long, hard years
    5. Being "just" a Stay-At-Home Mama

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Christmas music on the radio
    2. The joy of giving Shep his first bike for his birthday
    3. Scout the dog - I love his snuggly softness
    4. Feeling at home in this town (after nearly 2 years)
    5. MOPS (Mothers Of PreschoolerS)

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Shep's excitement over decorating the tree with us
    2. Christmas crafting to Christmas music
    3. A husband who puts the lights on the tree for me because I hate that part
    4. IHOP pancakes for breakfast
    5. Liam's adenoid removal went off without a hitch

    And, it goes without saying, I am thankful today is THANKSGIVING!!!

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Shep Turns FOUR!

    Four years ago today

    You have grown by leaps and bounds this year.  No more chubby toddler cheeks for you.  You are a long, lean climbing machine.  You climb anything and everything you can manage (and even some you can't, which means you get hurt a lot), including the tree you have affectionately nicknamed your "family tree."  You love to play in the yard.  Scout is your constant companion.

    You are talking a lot these days.  But I wouldn't call it incessant - just a lot.  You can be quiet at times, too.  And shy around new people.  I would say you are pretty much in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale (just like Mama).

    You are full of questions, particularly about how things work and/or go together.  Pipes fascinate you and you always want to know where they lead.  You love to build with the couch cushions.  You are our little engineer (just like Daddy).

    You gave up your daily nap several months ago, which has led to some increased frustration for you, especially because you are a very determined little boy when you set out to do something.  Tantrums are now a several-times-a-day occurance for you.  Your tantrums always include crying, whining, and sometimes throwing yourself on the floor and or/throwing things.  But it doesn't take long before you are your silly self again.

    You go to preschool from 9-12 Tuesday and Thursday and your teachers are Mrs. Karen and Mrs. Jonna.  You have a few little friends there you talk about, which is new this year.  None of them are girls.  You are ALL boy in every sense of the word.

    Once upon a time in Kindermusik 

    You took swimming lessons earlier this year and go swimming at the Y every Friday while Liam is in aquatherapy.  You took your last Kindermusik class over the summer (Mama was a little sad after 3 years of classes).  You are taking art classes right now.  At home, you are beginning to develop an interest in fine motor activities like crafts and puzzles.  You also love to be read to.  But if you have a choice, you still would rather run around or wrestle someone than sit still.

    Happy Birthday, Big Boy!  We love you!

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Enjoying a Veggie Tales Christmas movie with Shep
    2. A dear new friend who can relate to parenting a child with special needs
    3. Leftover Halloween candy
    4. Reading a book I choose to read (not one for school)
    5. Liam starting hippotherapy (therapy on horseback)

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Christmas Bucket List

    1. Make a Santa Beard Christmas countdown
    2. Make a gingerbread house (from a kit)
    3. Bake Christmas cookies and deliver to neighbors
    4. Make handprint ornaments
    5. Get our tree from a "cut-your-own" farm and decorate it together
    6. Go to our local transportation museum for a trainride with Santa
    7. Get pictures with the mall Santa
    8. Watch Christmas movies together
    9. Read Christmas books every day
    10. Do Advent devotions with the Jesus Storybook Bible each morning at breakfast
    11. Make bow print art
    12. Make & play with a Nativity Felt Board
    13. Minivan Express night
    14. Truth in the Tinsel family devotions/crafts
    15. Make Fingerprint candy cane art
    16. Make Christmas tree footprint art
    17. Make Angel Handprint art
    18. Make Thumbprint Reindeer art
    19. Do Baby Jesus craft
    20. Make a Handprint cut-out Christmas wreath
    21. Various printable Christmas coloring pages and printable activities like this
    22. Go shop for Christmas presents and enjoy the festivities at the Southern Christmas show
    23. Visit Billy Graham Library to see the live nativity
    24. Fill an Operation Christmas child shoebox

    Will that keep us busy?  Yes, I think so.  But I am certainly allowing the flexibility to toss out some of these if we can't fit them all in.  After all, we want our Advent season to be peaceful and allow time to remember what it is all about.  My hope is that these activities will create excitement around Christ's birth and the gift that he is to us - the BEST gift of all.  Enjoy this blessed season!

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Breakfast with friends
    2. A lazy Sunday afternoon and evening
    3. Feeling heat warming the room
    4. Registering for Graduation (after 6 long years of grad school)
    5. Blondie Bars from Trader Joe's.  SO GOOD.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Do I Love Them the Same?

    I think people wonder this sometimes.  I think so because I wondered it myself at one time.  Would I ever love Liam as much as I loved Shep?  What I felt for Shep was so fierce.  

    After climbing up into the Chick-Fil-A play place recently to rescue a screaming Liam, Shep admitted he and two other little boys were pretending Liam was "the monster" and had been hitting him.  Even though I know little boys are violent and the "monster" game is typical at the play place, my blood began to boil as I imagined Liam's terror.  

    How dare anyone treat my baby that way - even my other baby!  As horrific as this experience was, it is times like these that I recognize my love for Liam (and my love for Shep, for that matter, because I restrained myself from seriously injuring him).

    No, I do not love my boys the same way.  But I wonder if any mother does.  Her first baby is always her first baby.  And her second baby is always her second baby.  My babies are as different as night and day and so is my love for them.  None of us love our children in exactly the same ways or for exactly the same reasons.  The important thing is not how we love them, but that we love them.

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    To Warm Your Heart

    A blogger I follow did a wonderful post introducing some families who have adopted children with special needs.  It is a beautiful post and really shows what a blessing these children are to their families.   I know you know Liam is a blessing to us, but I want people to know we are not the only crazy people out there who adopt a child with special needs.  Go see for yourself - I promise it will make you smile.

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Spray Paint Love

    Sometimes I get on a "kick."  My most recent kick: spray painting.  It's addictive.  

    Really addictive.

    I started with small items like a kids' step stool, picture frames, lamp shade, clip board for my command station, lamp and shade, and clothespins for kids' art display.

    Then I got trigger happy dreamed bigger.

    I painted the magazine rack, an outdoor wood chair, our dining room table, two bookshelves, and a cabinet.

    And now I am done.  For now.  Well... until I notice something else that needs a little color, that is.  

    Here is some advice if you want to get trigger happy yourself:

    Don't worry about sanding furniture first.  You can use spray primer if you feel you need it, but most things turned out fine with just spray paint - no sanding, no priming.  Only really high use things (like our table, which gets use three times a day) may need sanding, spraying, then a coat of polyurethane.  But, all in all, much easier and quicker than painting furniture (and other things) the old-fashioned way.   

    My favorite spray paint colors are "Robin's Egg" from Michael's and "Avocado" from Lowe's.  Michael's seems to have the best selection of colors, although their spray paint is a little more expensive than Lowe's.  I have heard paint stores (like Sherwin Williams) have a good selection, too.  Happy spraying!

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Making a paperchain with Shep to count down to his birthday
    3. Starbucks on a crisp Fall morning
    4. Cozying up in a hand-me-down "house coat" from Mom
    5. Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    Beach Bums

    Last month we were blessed by a week at the beach.  It was so peaceful for the four of us.  Just what we needed to re-connect with each other and unplug from "the real world."    Thank you, Aunt Laine & Uncle Sam!

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Leaves falling, bright and beautiful
    2. The way the October light shines down through our trees
    3. Carrot spice muffins, baked with Chef Shep
    4. Hope & joy restored to me
    5. The best husband in the world

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Waking Up

    Tonight Shep killed his first fly.  He smashed it with an instrument he was holding and proudly exclaimed, "Look, I killed it!  I saved my whole life!"

    We laughed, of course, but now it occurs to me: that is me.  That is you.  That is all of humanity.

    I am balancing motherhood and graduate school!  I am such a good wife!  Look at what I cooked today!  Wow, we brought our baby all the way from Africa!  I saved my whole life!

    When Billy told Shep he was proud of him for killing the fly for Mama, Shep's response was "What are you gonna give me?"

    Isn't that us, too?  God, I'm so good, don't I deserve something for it?  This promotion...a baby...a bigger house...a more romantic spouse...etc., etc.?

    It's sad that it takes a loss to shake me out of my spiritual slumber.  To wake me up to my brokenness, my need for God and the fact that I deserve nothing from Him.  And I need nothing BUT HIM.  

    "He gives and takes away.  My heart will choose to say, "'Lord, blessed be Your Name.'"

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Dear June Baby

    During the day, it's children laughing and go, go, go 
    and no room for you in my head.

    It's not until these times, when the house is dark and quiet, 
    that the tears spring hot and the thoughts run wild.

    My body has never felt so empty.  Or so much like a failure.

    How could this happen?  Where did we go wrong?

    All questions with no answers - round and round in circles I go.

    I just want it all to be over.  But then again, I don't.  

    When the bleeding stops, when the grief subsides, 
    you will be gone forever.

    Nothing but a memory of our June Baby who never was.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Friends and family, loving us through our sadness
    2. Your prayers - we feel them
    3. God's comfort
    4. We lost the baby earlier rather than later
    5. Our two living, breathing miracles

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012


    Today was the first day I felt not-at-all-pregnant.  
    All symptoms gone.  Nothing is sore.  Nothing is bigger.  I'm just me again.  And I miss you.

    It's not that I feel sad for you, Sweet Baby Who Will Never Feel Pain or Sorrow.  
    You are sleeping to the sound of the angel choir by now, snug in Nanny's soft arms. 

    It's that I feel sad for those of us who waited for you, prayed for you, 
    rejoiced with the news of you, could hardly believe you were real.
    It's all the hopes and dreams that will not be.  

    Saturday, October 6, 2012


    Once I gave birth to life.
    Every contraction one step closer to joy overflowing.

    Today I give birth to death.
    Every contraction confirming my fear: it is finished.

    AND YET, "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil for You are with me."

    I am painfully aware in this moment, maybe in a first-ever kind of way:
    "this world in its present form is passing away."

    And the truth is we are ALL passing away, even from the moment of conception.
    Some of us just reach our destination a little sooner than others.

    And while I mourn this loss with a heap of grief, it will be with a side of joy.
    Because it is not really over.

    Christ has defeated the grave.
    And death. is. not. the. end.

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Amen.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Smell of beef tips in crockpot
    2. A compliment from a supervisor
    3. Love my wedding rings
    4. Plaster walls
    5. The way Billy enjoys my cooking

    Thursday, September 27, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    1. Cooking with Shep
    2. Time alone in Starbucks
    3. Nap today when I really needed it
    4. News of two friends pregnant
    5. Christmas and birthday shopping for the boys

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Natural Playground

    At a local children's nature museum, we discovered they have built a new "Natural Playground." How genius is that?! 

    Shep spent 2 hours pushing around a little Radio Flyer wheelbarrow (yep, already ordered him one for Christmas) collecting all sorts of things.  And Liam enjoyed the big scary woods a little closer to the safety of Mama.  

    I told Billy about it and we have now added "Natural Playground" to our list of home projects.  I would much rather stare out the window at functional natural beauty than a collection of plastic playsets, amen?!