Wednesday, June 30

The rest of the story

What, you figure there's more to the story than just a crazy Meredith and her wonderfully and equally crazy husband Michael??

Yes, of course there is!

Today, in about 2 hours, a little boy and his mom will begin an adventure. That adventure involves 13 hours of driving to a place they've never been, to greet people they've never met, and to get that little boy settled in with his pseudo family for the next month.

And so the next adventure begins... Tomorrow I will get to meet Lyndi for the first time and get acquainted with Patrick! He will be staying with us while Lyndi, Bill, and Jordan (big brother) go to Ukraine to adopt 15 yr old Freddie. We are looking forward to getting to know Patrick and are glad for the ability to help the Shupp family out in this way.

Life is about to get just a little bit crazier, but hey- we can deal with just about anything for a month... right? :)

The new crew:
Emma (7, Ds)
Kristopher (6)
Patrick (6, Ds)
Brianna (4, Ds)
James (3, Ds)
Micah (3, Ds)
Lynae (9 mos)

And... even with an extra kiddo in the house... I promise to blog more about our activities this month so that Lyndi can see what her little man is up to during his time with the Cornish crew :)

(ps, yes, our social workers and even their supervisors are all in the know about our arrangements and are supportive of our keeping Patrick for this time :) ).

Tuesday, June 29

The 'hose' for a shower head

doesn't work very well as a rope swing.

In case you were wondering... Kristopher found out for us.

I'd rather be called Crazy

than Disobedient.

More details later. For now, I'm clearing out the house a bit :)

Monday, June 28

Diaper Heaven!

I've been exploring diaper options for Emma here lately since she's hit 40lbs and has all-but-outgrown the Overnights size 6 that she has been wearing.

I don't really have anything great to share about that, BUT... I got on Amazon.com and discovered some GREAT diaper deals!

Now, please understand that I have five, yes five children in diapers right now and only ONE of them might be coming out of the diapers any time in the near future (Brianna). So, savings on diapers is HUGE around here!!

I don't know how long this has been available, but you can "subscribe and save" on Amazon by choosing to have an item delivered at monthly, 2, 3, or 6 month intervals. You generally save 15% by choosing this option. Right now, however, there is a 30% savings! That is ON TOP of sale prices :)

Since there are some great sales right now, I chose to do 2 boxes (with the 30% off for the subscription) and the sale price. I subscribed to receive 2 boxes every 2 months as well. I can change the subscription at any time.

What kind of deals did I find? I'd be happy to share!

For Lynae, that breaks out from most everything except Huggies, I found Huggies Little Movers (nicer ones than I usually buy, I generally stick to Snug and Dry) and got 124 size 3 diapers for $17. (original price $40)

For Emma, I ordered Goodnights size S/M 27 diapers for $12.25. (original price $20)

For Brianna, I found regular Pull Ups, 44 for $7.75 (original price $20)

I didn't order anything for the boys because I am well stocked for them at the moment!

Grand total- $37 for a month supply of overnight diapers for Emma, and all of Brianna's and Lynae's diapers for a month! Savings? $43 :)
(each month- and I ordered 2 months worth, so saved $86 just in this order!)

Go take a look and see what you might find! Don't be afraid to look at "more expensive" diapers than you're used to ordering, because they may have a better sale, making them actually cost LESS!

PS- it's significantly less than even Sam's Club or BJ's prices that I've seen
PPS- I broke down and ordered Overnights for Emma- 3 cases of 48 for $35 total (regular $20 each, savings of $25) AND- Shipping is FREE for subscribed items, which meant a savings of $140 on all the diapers for all the kids. Total savings today on actual items: $110 plus $140 on shipping!)

Tuesday, June 22

My new perch

Now that ESY is finished and we're all just "home for the summer" for the next 6 or 7 weeks or so it is time to push potty training into higher gear.

I've been getting ready... Right now we have 2 small potties and a seat that fits onto the big toilet all in the guest room. We also have a seat in the kids' bathroom because we still use that toilet during bath time and running to get the little seat when faced with a wet child needing to go and potentially soiling the bath water and multiple other children.... well, it was worth the $8 :)

This morning I put Emma on the big toilet and Brianna and James on the little ones and...

Brianna peed and pooped, and EMMA peed and pooped!

Now I need to find one more 'generic' potty so all 4 can spend some quality time in the bathroom. Everything I keep finding is shaped like an animal or sings songs or... And I really don't need a competition over who gets which toilet! :) Don't they make any kids' potty seats that are just a seat and a little 'dump' bucket with a lid that closes (so the kids don't play in it when one gets up and the kid next to them is still sitting)?

And my own new perch is NOT in the bathroom, but rather at the end of the couch where I can see (and hear) into the restroom and still see the rest of the kids out and playing. I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time there...

Monday, June 21

Happy Father's Day!

Yeah, I missed it. Father's day was yesterday and though I didn't post HERE... I also didn't completely forget that it was Father's day!

The kids all made Daddy cards with stickers and crayons and Kristopher even wrote him a note on his. Then we went to church in the morning and after that we grabbed lunch and went out to the wildlife refuge to look for gators. No gators... but it was relaxing anyway :) We got home late in the afternoon. I made some chicken and steamed corn on the cob and then baths and BED for all the kids. It was a quick night!

Happy Father's Day (a day late!)

Friday, June 18

Getting ready

I stood in my bathroom, the double sliding door blinds open to the playroom just through the bedroom and watched the kids through the large mirror in front of me. A little girl with long blond hair and big serious eyes walked up behind me and looked at me through the mirror. My straightener beeped signaling that it was hot and I put up some of my hair to get it out of the way to straighten the bottom layers. Brianna watched in fascination as I pulled the hot iron across my hair and told her it was hot, mommy was doing my hair, I was going out tonight, Grandma and Grandpa were coming... conversation rolling off my tongue. I worked through all my hair, chatting with her the entire time and finally finished. I put thirty seconds of care into my face (I'm not a big fan of makeup) and brushed my teeth. Then I turned to my sweet little girl that had watched with wonderment the entire time I prepared for the wedding we'd be attending tonight and said to her, "there, all done, does Mommy look pretty now?"

To which she responded "no." And left the room.

Another mother-daughter moment securely stored in memory, but not quite ending how I thought it would.

Diets...

Not the kind that adults go on to lose weight... we don't believe in those here (LOL). But, rather, the kind that just refers to the type, quantity, and frequency of food going into the mouth :)

Here, at present, we have MANY different diets happening!

  • Mike does, in fact, like to watch his weight and eat healthy.
  • I, well, I don't mind and I do it because it's healthy, but I don't generally watch my weight.
  • Emma, she needs direct supervision and can't have the 'extra calorie' stuff that we might slide in there very often because she now gains weight very easily. In fact, she is almost 40 lbs now, and has gained 6 of those in just the past few months.
  • Kristopher, he does fine with weight and eating, but does need encouragement to eat things that he doesn't like. We stay away from too much sugar with him or he has difficulty with paying attention and impulse control. But that's really not all that difficult to deal with.
  • Brianna eats like a birdie and just recently has begun (again) to accept that dinner is dinner, and she needs to eat. She gets supplemental drinks because she eats so poorly, and we're happy to get one good meal in a day and two skimpy ones with a snack thrown in there. Her diet is modified to gain weight.
  • James is on primarily Pediasure and gets 4 cans of that over his 3 meals during the day. He's now eating 3-6 oz of babyfood with lunch and dinner (stage 3 whoot whoot!) but not much of anything that I cook for dinner. He'll also eat some cheerios or puffs when offered. He has difficulty with chewing and weight gain so his diet is modified to gain weight too.
  • Micah drinks soy milk mixed with rice cereal because of aspiration issues and is also eating 8-10 oz of babyfood with lunch and dinner (stage 3 too!). He has issues with aspirating when swallowing and with chewing, and his diet is modified to maintain weight and head off huge weight gains since he's on the upper-side of a healthy weight-for-frame.
  • Lynae is still breastfeeding primarily but now has about 3 oz of babyfood (stage 2 and 3) with lunch and dinner, and loves the little puffs, Ritz crackers, and often small bits of whatever we're having for dinner. Her intake has quickly increased and her diet changes weekly.
So... making dinner, I modify every meal! I make something for Mike and I, Emma, Kristopher, and Brianna. Then I modify it because Emma can't have bread and shouldn't have too high of calories. I add calories to Brianna's and often give her a smaller portion which we make her actually EAT, and then something else to supplement so we don't have to fight the entire meal with her. I make drinks for the boys, mix Brianna's supplement in her drink (AFTER dinner), and get babyfood going times 3.

This could make meal time pretty difficult. Or, it could make it just a little more creative :)

Do you modify meals? If so... how do you modify and for what purpose? Any good recipes or ideas to share??

Thursday, June 17

Making a list

Getting ready for the National Ds conference in Orlando next month! I realize it's a bit early... but I've never had to pack for EIGHT before! The last few trips I've done last minute packing and left the house a mess and been up until all hours the night before... This time my attempt is to ALSO have a clean house (so we can come back here with friends!) and to get sleep the night before :)

We shall see...

What are your travel essentials?? What things do you love for hotel stays and day trips?

Monday, June 14

They did WHAT?

Most of Emma's newest tricks aren't ones we allow (hitting, spitting, etc.) BUT she is doing one thing which I think is pretty darn great :). Emma can now WALK PRETTY WELL holding on to just one hand! She still wants to 'spin and sit' when we do this, but... with Mommy (who I'm thinking must be more firm that anyone else...) she CAN DO IT! :)

Kristopher just finished reading a book. For the first time. And HE READ EVERY WORD. He's really just taken off with reading and we're very proud of him! He likes to read stories to the other kids now, and can go and read his magazine (Highlights' High Five is a great little magazine!) and the directions on games... it's a whole new world!

Brianna has a nice STRONG stubborn streak, but she is really accepting discipline and is coming around to doing things the first time she's asked to. She is also initiating all kinds of games with the other kids, like singing "ring around the rosy" and such with them. Brianna is able to pull up and down her own pullups without any help, and can put on a skirt by herself, or remove shorts or a skirt. Those are all biggies in my book!

James is now... walking! Not everywhere, not all the time, but about three or four times each hour he's standing up and walking across a room! He's able to stop, adjust, and keep going, and has even occasionally bent down or changed directions mid-stride :). He's also taking 100% of his calories by MOUTH (he has a mic-key button too) and has been for 4 full weeks!

Micah is PLAYING! He's really interacting more with the Brianna-led games and is starting to play more with the toys that are available to him. We think he has some hearing issues going on right now because he's had fluid on his ears, so we're hopeful that language and listening might still be opening up to him as we conquer some more of the giants in his path to learning. We also fear the H. Pylor isn't completely gone :( But, playing is good regardless!!

Lynae, oh my. She is standing, clapping, waving bye bye, saying mama (at the top of her lungs for some time now), Dada, bye bye. She's cruising and laughing eating cheerios and babyfood and generally going way too fast for this momma who had so much time to enjoy each stage of the last 4 kids' development :)

Hi!

What a weekend!

This past week Kristopher had Summer CHAOS at Park Avenue and had a BLAST! This is his first year he can fully participate because he's now going in to FIRST GRADE! YIKES!

Wednesday was a family night and we brought all the kids to the church. The 5 older kids each went on a horse ride, and I have pic's of most of them on it-- I didn't have the camera and I think we missed one!

We also went on a family Hay Ride through the church property. The kids all sat and just looked and watched. I don't know that the little ones 'got it' as far as what the big deal is, but they enjoyed not having carseats and going :) They sat great!

There were all kinds of bouncy houses that Kristopher had a good time on and the other kids were VERY well behaved and enjoyed people watching and visiting with friends there.

On Friday Kristopher sang some songs on stage during their final production and just Michael went up to watch. It started at bedtime so wasn't really very practical for us all to go to. Plus, we'd "used up" our babysitting time (the amount we wanted to leave the kids for-- not the amount that grandparents WOULD stay) during the week by going OUT BY OURSELVES on Thursday night!

Yep, we did! It's been a month since James moved in and it was time for a little adult time without a cute little blond boy in tow! So we waited until just about bed time and Mike and I went to Orlando for a quick bite to eat and to pick up some things he needed for work then came back home. The drive was relaxing and it's always nice to just sit and talk without any interruptions :).

Saturday we worked all morning on moving furniture around the house :). We've had Lynae in a crib in our room for the last month, and in a playpen and bassinet before that. James has been using Lynae's crib, so rather than assemble and disassemble 2 cribs, we put James' crib in our room temporarily for Lynae. Now that we were moving her to the guest room, we decided to swap out cribs... but quickly found that the new 'tent' for James wouldn't fit on his crib. We still decided to go ahead and move multiple cribs around just because Micah's crib is the only one that doesn't "sleigh" at the top and the space in the guest room for Lynae's crib was pretty tight. So... Micah now has James' crib, Lynae has Micah's, and James still has Lynae's crib. I guess at least he's had that consistency!

Now Lynae's set up in the guest room along with a queen bed (yes, we'll still have guests!) and the bookcase, 'school' cabinet, bean bag chairs and a dresser with extra diapers in it. It's quite a useful room :). Not only is she now on her own turf, but the guest bed is quite handy for those midnight visits that we continue to have... which we're working AWAY FROM (hence the bedroom change!). Lynae just wasn't doing so well with the idea that when she woke at night and was hungry and could SEE me, that she still couldn't nurse. Go figure. We'll see if this helps!

Saturday night Mike and I watched a movie that was hilarious and yet some parts of it we just looked at each other and thought- I can't believe they put that in there. Hmm... Still not so sure how I feel about that one. Enjoyed the time with my husband, though. Two evenings this week we were able to spend some good time together :).

Sunday was church, lunch, naps, and some picking up around the house. We had my parents over for dinner. They've been out of town for 10 days and came with stories and gifts (and NO pictures of family??) :). It was fun to relax one more evening. I like having the down-time to spend with family sometimes!

Monday is here already, and today's PT was great for James. I'll share more about the ways the kids are each improving in another post, but let me say that I really like this PT :) . She is encouraging to him, gets right on his level, leads him where she wants him to be without him realizing that she's leading, but will also take his 'learning opportunities' when he shows great interest in something and turn her therapy in that direction to work on skills using what he's interested in at the time. I think it's going to be a great summer for him working with her. Emma will also begin working with her in 2 weeks and will go every-other week for the summer. And, let me just say, there was very little baby talk at this session, so that is good :) . Maybe it was a fluke. Or, maybe she reads my blog? Or... I have no idea. But I enjoyed the session and James did too :)

Tomorrow brings ESY for Emma (day 9 of 12). She's been getting these lovely notes home every day just about that say Emma was hitting a lot today. Emma keeps spitting. Emma has been throing things. Emma is kicking the other students. Emma is... I finally called the school today and spoke to the teacher's voicemail. How is it that she has none of these behaviors at home more than once in a blue moon? She must feel she's getting away with it there... So even though there are only 4 days left, I hope to get a call from her teacher to address the behaviors before it's allowed to continue another 4 days. *sigh* In a way, I'm amazed because who'd have ever thought that this little girl would exert her independence in this way? Yes, she's growing and changing. And giving me pains because of it :).

I've been spending a lot more time in the Word lately, a lot more time in prayer. And I'm always reminded at just how FAITHFUL a God we serve. How loving He is, and how He can bring all things together for the Glory of His Kingdom. And remember that, I will, because even when we feel like darkness is overcoming a situation, it is an opportunity for God to shine.

A few weeks ago Brad, our senior high youth pastor, spoke on a Sunday morning about brokenness. He said the fastest way to the throne is through brokenness. To be broken about a situation that tears your heart and tears God's heart is the heart of Christ. He also said this-- Sometimes the things we see as set-backs are really set-ups. They're a moment where we feel like things aren't going our way and we have the opportunity to make a choice. Take charge, or Let God. When things aren't going our way is the biggest opportunity we have to let that faith have feet- and to walk it out. Let the set-backs of life be used as set-ups for God to do great things!

Wednesday, June 9

P.S.

NO, the person doing babytalk is not my new babysitter :D :D

(And... is that her SISTER that is suggesting it?? LOL)

Finding God's Heart of Adoption

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for our church newsletter. It was published in the most recent issue and I thought I'd share it here as well :)

Finding God’s Heart of Adoption by Meredith Cornish

If one hand is empty, someone must be missing.

This has become my mantra over the past few weeks as we’re integrating a 6th child into our busy little family. James is 3 years old and was born with Down syndrome as well as some complications from prematurity. He’s a sweet little blond haired, blue eyed prince who at first glance you’d never know wasn’t born to Michael and I. He fits right in with Kristopher, Brianna and Lynae, our three biological children, and in fact could pass for Brianna’s twin brother since they only differ in age by 7 months. James isn’t the first that we hear this about, though, since our other two adopted children, Emma and Micah, also look so much like the rest of the crew that we are often asked which children are biological and which are adopted. Micah and James are just one month apart.

God first spoke to our hearts about special needs adoption when we were dating, but neither Michael nor I felt we really knew we’d be able to do it until several years later. We wondered if God might bring us that direction, but were waiting for that yes from Him. Our yes came when Brianna was 2 months old and we received confirmation that she had an extra 21st chromosome, also known as Down syndrome. God had not only placed her into our family, but He created her perfectly and for His purposes within my womb. A clearer calling we couldn’t have asked for!

When Brianna was 2 years old we brought Emma and Micah home from Ukraine. We’d learned of the plight of orphans abroad with special needs and we sought out God’s heart for our family and followed His path. Children in Eastern Europe with Down syndrome were not given proper medical treatment for heart defects, were often malnourished, and had a life expectancy of less than 10 years. We put our yes on the table and He not only brought two little ones into our open arms, but fully financed it as well. Both children were severely malnourished and Emma’s heart was quickly declared inoperable once we returned home with them. God strengthened our family, our faith, and gave Emma a stronger testimony of God’s healing hand than I may ever know. She had that heart surgery and she is not only alive, but thriving!

With four little ones age 6 and under our hands were just as full as our hearts. Between diapers, dishes, laundry, school meetings, and doctor’s appointments I enjoyed playing on the floor, building puzzles, and helping the kids to work on their next skill goals. The reward at the end of each day was well worth it, as we saw Emma and Micah thrive and grow and learn and respond. Brianna and Kristopher took to them quickly and there was no question that God brought each of our children into our home with a purpose.

A year and a half later Lynae was born to us and the miracle of birth joined the miracle of adoption. Our family’s make-up continued to change but each child was an added blessing.

With a 3 month old baby, 4 other little ones, and a husband in Kenya serving on a mission trip for a week, God brought James into our lives when we least expected it. Michael and I had each given our yes to God both individually and as a family, knowing that God was calling, but we didn’t know what His plans might be for that. Just 2 months later we were introduced to the little boy that is to become our 6th child. Born here in the US, yet without a family able to care for him, James is another of the 1.7 million orphans in the world today. I like to think of it as 1,699,997. If only it worked that way… if there were no more children being orphaned…

Last weekend James came for his first visit in our home and I marveled at how big our God is. With ease he slipped right in to the family routine and we loved every minute of it. On Sunday when we prepared to bring him back to his foster home he started getting sick and throwing up. He spiked a fever. Driving 2 ½ hours to his home I worried and glanced in the rear view mirror as I pulled off of the interstate to pat his back, rub his leg, and wipe his little face after another episode of an upset stomach. I handed his little sick body over to his foster mom and drove home in a torrential downpour- my spirits not much higher. We’d had a great weekend, but I had to bring him back… and even more so, to hand him over when he didn’t feel well.

Though I know from our first adoption that falling in love with a child takes only a few moments, I was reminded how quickly James became ‘mine’ when I woke the next morning and was saddened by his empty high chair, the lonely toothbrush left in the holder and the carseat that never was filled that day. I waited anxiously to know how he’d done through the night and each part of the next day. I felt like I’d sent my child to a babysitter, though I know he was well cared for by his foster mom who had raised him since birth. Can you love an adopted child the same as a child born to you? Without a doubt!

Today I look back at the last 2 ½ years and the plan that God laid out for our family. I look at Kristopher and Brianna, now 6 and 4 years old, and at the journey we have had together as a family. They were the beginning, and God used each of them for great purposes already! I look at Emma and Micah, ages 7 and 3, and how far God has brought them from the orphan’s bed- alone, severely malnourished, and fighting for life- into a loving home where they are thriving by God’s grace. I look at Lynae and the gift she is to us all and how I look forward to seeing her grow in spirit and in stature. I can’t wait to see what God’s plans are for each of them. And I think of James, still an orphan but with a family that loves him and one day soon we can say that he’s our son.

God's prompting isn't always clear, and it doesn't always make sense to the ways of this world, but it is always the best path to take! His provision is endless and His grace is sweet. If you ever question just how big of a God we serve, step out in faith and trust that He will care for you and you, too, will see the miracles He works in everyday life!

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” . James 1:27

What would you do?

If you had someone "important" in your child's life that was wanting to talk 'baby talk' to them? For instance... Saying "aww, won' you cawm ere? Tand up! Tand up! Ood Boy! Did woo huwt yow wittle woesies?"

I'm not sure whether I should say something or not. I know I WANT to... just not sure how to say it without it coming across as being rude! LOL The person that's doing this is new to our lives but a semi long-term part of life, and hasn't interacted with my kids before. Everything else about her is GREAT! But... I'm thinking that James (he's the one with her) might not even understand what she's saying because she's not talking to him like he gets it! :) I've 'modeled', but so far that didn't work. We'll keep trying that one though.

I'm really not even sure if this person knows she's doing it? Hmm...

A wonderful success story!

I posted the original story here over a year ago. This is where "our" Misha, whom we met but did not adopt since a family was coming for him, was living when he finally got to come home! He's now known as Micah Malone and I hope one day to hold him and hug him again. The girls' institution spoken of is where Sasha *is* (I hold great hope that 2 years later she is still alive there...). Please continue to pray, but also to rejoice that God's love is working miracles in this place! I hope you will be encouraged!

Return to Romaniv

Posted Jun 09 in Articles by Barry Rodriguez

It was a beautiful summer day. A well-worn CD of Ukrainian worship songs played over the van’s stereo system as we drove through the sparsely populated countryside. My heart was filled with anticipation. This would be my first trip to the Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage since visiting more than one year ago.

Back in April 2009, when I saw the orphanage for the first time (click here to read about that experience), Mission to Ukraine had only been making their weekly visits for a year.

I was shocked to see so much color on Romaniv’s property.

Although it was obvious that MTU’s presence was having a huge impact on the boys, the orphanage was still a terrible, hellish place run by negligent caretakers and filled with the stench of squalor. As we drove towards the orphanage this time, I wondered what, if anything, had changed.

As we got close to Romaniv, Oksana turned to me and said, “Get ready. There is a big surprise waiting for you there!”

“A surprise?” I thought. “What in the world could she mean?”

I pondered this as we pulled up to the orphanage. We unloaded the van and started walking to the classroom building. That was when I did my first double take.

Flowers. Lots of flowers! Large, pink blossoms interspersed with yellow and red. Row after row of pretty blue blossoms lining the path.

But that wasn’t all. There were painted, rainbow colored benches. Between the buildings there were picnic tables with bright green canopies above them.

Brand new desks (not cheap!) are a symbol of something much more profound going on beneath the surface.

This property, which once looked like an abandoned lot, now teemed with color and life. I was shocked.

But then we went inside, and my shock turned to utter amazement. There, on the floor of the once empty classroom was a semicircle of bright green and yellow desks. The walls that used to have only old wooden benches were now home to colorfully painted bookshelves overflowing with toys.

The smell wasn’t bad at all. The boys were clean and dressed. And as they sat down to begin their weekly class, I heard something I never would have expected… silence.

When Mission to Ukraine started coming to the orphanage two years ago it was literally impossible for these boys to even form a line. They were out of control. Filthy.

Now, here they were sitting quietly, raising their hands when they wanted to participate, learning about the seasons and doing the motions to their favorite songs. They took turns playing games, followed along as they learned a story from the Bible and jumped in with shouts of joy when it was time for their favorite pastime: making bracelets out of beads.

Playing games with a beach ball!

I sat with a couple of the boys and thought about how different everything was from just one year ago. The joy, the life, the energy… it was all so surprising and new. Then, during a break in the lesson, I heard the most shocking thing of all.

“We didn’t buy any of this,” Oksana told me. “The desks, the bookshelves, the flowers… It was all bought by the orphanage’s administration.”

Hearing this took my breath away. This is the same administration that initially resisted the idea of MTU coming to visit once a week. These are the people who once rolled their eyes and told the MTU folks, “You’re wasting your time… these boys are hopeless. They’re like animals.”

In the course of two years, Mission to Ukraine’s stubborn persistence and never-ending love for these boys has led to a radical transformation in the lives of not just the children, but their caretakers as well. For the first time in this orphanage’s history, the staff is beginning to invest in the lives of these boys… to do more than the bare minimum.

Beading is the boys’ favorite hobby.

The kingdom of God, like a steady breeze, has been blowing away the smoke and the shadows in this place once filled only with hopelessness.

As we drove away from the orphanage, I thought about the beauty of what I had just seen.

In Matthew 25, Jesus implored his disciples to care for “the least of these.” In just about every way I can think of, these boys fit that description completely. The men and women of Mission to Ukraine have been following that call for two years, and their efforts are beginning to bear tremendous fruits.

But my thoughts then drifted to the bigger picture.

The truth is, all this transformation at Romaniv is only a glimmer of light in a much greater sea of darkness. Within the very same region of Ukraine is an orphanage for disabled girls. But the administration of that orphanage will not even let the staff of MTU come to visit. Their hearts are hardened and only God’s direct intervention will begin to soften them.

And then there are the systemic injustices that make orphanages like Romaniv necessary in the first place; deep cultural stigmas attached to parents of disabled children, a broken governmental support system, widespread poverty…

Hope in the most unlikely of places…

There is much work to do if we ever want to see an end to the hopeless conditions once found at Romaniv. There are many more walls to smash down before the kingdom can truly shine here in Ukraine.

But until that day comes, you and I can be confident of one thing… the staff of Mission to Ukraine will be here in Zhytomyr: hugging a girl with Down syndrome, wiping the chin of a boy with cerebral palsy, helping a girl with muscular dystrophy sit up straight in her chair and tying a beaded bracelet for a boy at Romaniv.

They’ll be here because they’ve tasted the kingdom of God. They’ll be here because they’ve seen the hope of the gospel.

And they’ll be here because to their God, nothing is impossible…

Tuesday, June 8

I came across this today

And I wanted to share it I love reading about actual "studies" done about our kids that are often left out of the studies... you know... the typical ones?

Down Syndrome, Autism, and the Impact on Families


Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/thinplaces/2010/06/down-syndrome-autism-and-the-impact-on-families.html#ixzz0qGRW54GI

Our son William is a sensitive child. Lights, noises, textures. He responds immediately and intensely. So on Saturday morning, when my mother inadvertently opened a picture book that included a light and a buzzing sound, William wailed. And wailed. And wailed.

He was still wailing, in my arms, when Penny came into the room. She had been reading on her own, but the sound of her brother crying brought her downstairs. She hugged him and said, "It's okay, William. Don't cry. I'll keep you safe."

For years, it has been assumed that having a sibling or a child with a disability has a negative impact on the family. Studies in the 1970's and 1980's claimed that siblings of children with Down syndrome had more behavioral problems than their peers. And for years, families with children on the autism spectrum have been told that they have an 80% likelihood of divorcing.

Turns out they're wrong. On both accounts.

Dr. Brian Skotko and Susan Levine published a paper in the American Journal of Medical Genetics after studying over 3,000 siblings of individuals with Down syndrome. They concluded, "having a sibling with Down Syndrome is a privileged experience. The individuals we have encountered experienced both positive and negative feelings in their sibling relationships, but the positive emotions most often outweighed the negative ones. When they are older, most brothers and sisters describe their life's journey as one filled with rich meaning and pride."

As for the autism statistics, a recent study debunked the 80% divorce statistic, and demonstrated instead that 64% of children with autism remain with both parents throughout their lives. 65% of typically-developing children remain with both parents. Just in case it isn't already clear: there's no difference.

In both cases, parents and siblings readily admit that having a family member with a disability is challenging. Skotko and Levine list some of the questions asked by siblings about Down syndrome, including "How long is their life expectancy? Can people with DS have normal jobs? Will she be different? Why does my sister make weird noises?" And parents interviewed for the study on autism also attest to the challenges they face.

Apparently, in the past, medical professionals and the public in general have assumed that challenges lead to conflict and negative relationships. But these studies demonstrate that challenges can lead to compassion. In the case of the siblings with Down syndrome, they reported greater empathy, less conflict, and more warmth in their relationships than those of families with typically-developing siblings.

I've long suspected that Penny and William will be great blessings to one another. She already looks for ways to take care of him--running to get his giraffe and blankie when he cries, holding his hand in the stroller, yelling at him when she thinks he's doing something dangerous. He returns the favor, particularly when it comes to food. Whenever he requests something of me, he concludes by saying, "And one for Penny!" It's not a ploy. He always brings the additional item to her. I can imagine these same patterns played out as they get older. And I am confident that they will both, throughout their lives, look for ways to care for one another, comfort each other when they cry, and keep each other safe.


Sunday, June 6

No surprise.

Someone wise told me today that a situation may seem big, and a decision hard, but

THIS IS NOT A SURPRISE TO GOD.


And I'm very grateful for that perspective.

Saturday, June 5

Little Blessings

The last few days I've taken what has been referred to me as "mental health days" LOL. My heart is heavy, my mind is full, and I haven't wanted to focus on the things that I know need to be done.

So Friday, when our sitter came to help with the kids so I could do laundry or dishes or get them in the pool and do therapy...

Well, it was overcast and the pool was COLD from rain the night before. And I didn't feel like doing anything around the house. So, we let the kids play in the kiddie pool and then we got them all dressed and met Mike at a local diner (Moonlight, if you're wondering... and YES, all 9 of us fit!) and had lunch. I must say, though our sitter didn't have much of a tough job that day... It was great to still have her come and help me be motivated enough to let the kids play then get them out to eat. It was great to not have to worry over each fuss and to nurse the baby while they played with her. It was a nice little break instead of a time to 'get things done.'

And today, along those same lines, we decided to pack up the crew and head out to Black Point, a nature drive. Our goal is always to find gators, (and one we did) but moreso it's just a quiet drive where the kids enjoy looking out the windows, finding birds, and, often, just taking a nap ;). So drive, we did, and then we headed over to Orlando to go to an outdoor mall there.

At the end of a long and relaxing day just wandering around at the shopping center we finished picking up the things Mike needed for work and decided to get a quick, inexpensive supper. With that, we realized that we could go NOWHERE or we'd be dumped on. It was about to pour.

So we ducked under an overhang and Mike went to check whether the closest restaurant had the ability to accommodate our large crew including the quad stroller. Sure enough, it did. We went in, sat down (after taking a little while to 'make things work') and picked up the menu. Only then did we realize that this restaurant was NOT the type of menu pricing that we were expecting. In fact, everything was about twice what we were planning to spend for dinner. We'd already ordered drinks and the skies were rumbling, so our choices weren't that great. In the end, we decided to just go ahead and order two meals (they are pretty large anyway) and it was easy enough to split them among the 3 kids and Mike and I. The meal would be more costly and less filling than our other choices would have been- if the weather hadn't turned bad- but we'd survive and it would be dinner...

The little blessing came when my dinner was delivered... slightly burnt. I said nothing. But the waiter, as he brought it to me, said "this one was overcooked, so they're already making you another and it's on the house. Go ahead and begin your meal and when it's finished I'll bring it out to you.

And so, this 'a bit expensive' dinner for one night that might not quite be filling enough... became a FULL dinner for all 5 of us AND a FULL dinner to bring home. We didn't even need to touch the extra meal. It will be lunch one day this week for 2 or 3 people. No, that doesn't completely offset that we spent more on this dinner than we would have, but it's another dinner that we don't have to buy, so it helps!

Sometimes, despite the many storms in life, God uses little things to let us know that He still cares, that He is still sovereign, and that if He cares about such little details as the cost of dinner, or leftovers to bring home, certainly He also has the big things worked out too.

Thank you, those who have been praying for me. Your prayers are felt and appreciated. I feel much more peace than I thought I would, though there are still so many unknowns. I'm happy to be waiting in the grasp of Christ's embrace to know what plans He has in the coming days. He is sovereign, and in the process as well as in the end, it's ALL for Him.

Friday, June 4

Prayers

Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

I am struggling with some very big decisions as is the entire leadership of Reece's Rainbow. Decisions that will have far and wide impact to the organization as a whole.

That's all I can share without disclosing anything that isn't appropriate for me to share, but I would certainly appreciate your prayers for the leadership and decisions coming up.

THANK YOU!!

Tuesday, June 1

Kristopherisms

Today Kristopher said:
Did you know that if you love someone, you should adopt?
Me: Adopt the person?
K: Adopt a child.
Me: So if you love a child you should adopt them?
K: No, if you love ANYONE you should adopt a child.
Me: So...
K: Like this, mom, if you love a person and then you say you love them then you should adopt a child.
Me: Just any person? You don't adopt the person you love?
K: Right, and if you love anything, like, a frog
Me: Then you adopt a frog?
K: NO! You adopt a CHILD, because you love a FROG.
Me: Why do you think you should adopt a child if you love a frog??
K: Because this heart toy says on one side "Got Love?" and on the other side it says "Adopt a Child"!

The CBC Of Brevard (the agency that is contracted by the state for foster care adoptions in our area) is doing a good job with their advertising, I guess. It's a stress-ball from our adoption 'goodie bag' on our last day of MAPP classes!

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Boys WILL BE BOYS!

Yesterday morning Kristopher went to the church with Mike and Grandpa. They had a huge trebuchet (aka pumpkin launcher) that they needed to move-- it's been a long time since it was used on Halloween! So during that time, Mike said to Kristopher "Look, there's a dead rat." And sure enough there was. What Mike DIDN'T expect, was for his 6 yr old to walk right over to the rat and PICK IT UP and bring it over to Mike to inspect.

Yes, boys will be boys. (and YES he washed his hands MANY TIMES after that!)

The Magic Feather!

James found his Magic Feather!


http://mynormalfamily.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/james-magic-feather/

It's only 8:30??

It's 8:30 am and last night-- we SLEPT! FINALLY!

Lynae, for about a month now, hasn't been sleeping really well. She never has gotten off of the every 3-5 hours nursing at night, which isn't the end of the world, but the last 3 nights she was up about every hour all night long needing to be comforted to get back to sleep. She's in the "stand up but not sit down" mode at the moment, so she crawls to the side of the crib and stands up and screams until I lay her back down.

Last night I was pretty sure she'd be up all night but at some point you just give up on having a full night's sleep and figure you're happy the child is sleeping at all... maybe then she won't be overtired and crabby when she's awake at 2am and instead just awake to be awake. Doesn't help that she's had on again off again low grade fevers from Saturday night until Monday. No idea what from, possibly cutting some teeth as oragel seemed to help somewhat.

Anyway, last night she fell asleep at about 6:15 and slept pretty much straight through until 9:45. Of course... that's when I was getting ready to go to bed. But she was up for about an hour then went back to sleep and slept until... 4AM! :) YAY! Then she nursed and went back to sleep until 6:30. WHEW, what a good feeling to have slept some last night! Yes, if you add it up it was only from 11pm-4, then 4:30-5:45 (because *I* had to get up even if she didn't...). But that's MUCH more sleep than I've gotten the last few nights so I'll take what I can get. Either way there are lots of little people here depending on me for their care and playtime in the morning so I have to be ready to go :).

Emma started summer school today, ESY technically. I'd never heard back from the department of transportation about her bussing. Not sure if I posted about it before, but I was originally told she couldn't be bussed because she is on a McKay scholarship during the school year. The McKay allows her to attend the school she is at with all 4 other kids even though there is one other 'closer' school that she could go to (but that doesn't also have a preschool). So... since we are 4.1 miles from her school, and the McKay will only bus her if she's up to 4 miles from the school... they were having issues.

I get that- for the school year. But her school is the ONLY school hosting summer school. If Emma attended the 'closer' school during the school year, she WOULD be being bussed to her current school for summer school. They eventually gave in :)

Then I got a call from transportation saying that they couldn't come down our street, and can I get her to the closest cross street... almost 1/2 mile away. Our street is a dead end with both a cul-de-sac and a 't' that the bus could easily turn around in. I lived in this house as a child and was bussed from 2 doors down most of my school years. The bus would be fine! I let them know that and she hung up saying that she and her supervisor would be getting in a car to drive down here and 'see' if it would work and they'd get back to me.

I never heard back.

I also got a 'bus form' returned to me- a photocopy of it- on the last day of school. So I looked it over- and there was NO bus number, no stop location, no anything filled out!

So this morning I had Lynae up and dressed and in the carseat, Emma on my hip, backpack on my back and her sack of diapers and wipes in a sack, and I was ready to walk out the door to drive Emma to school when... the bus pulled up! So, apparently the bus is coming to our front door. Good of them to tell me? Oh well... There was really no way that I could take the 'wait and see' approach and then find out the bus wasn't coming and have to load up all 6 kids at that point because Mike was going to be leaving for work, and drive them all to the school and unload them all because they wouldn't be expecting us by car and coming out to meet me to get her... It just wasn't an option!

Nor was walking 1/2 a mile down the road at 6:45 with 6 kids every morning, or at 1:30 in the afternoon (the middle of nap time and of the predictable summertime rains).

So... they're bussing her from the house. And I'm very glad about that!

It's sure to be a productive day today if it's only 8:30 and we've already gotten a lot done!! :) It helps to have slept! :)