Friday, November 29

Happy Adoption Day, Aleksa! (And... her background story!)

On January 23, 2008 we met a tiny 5 yr old little girl called Sasha, who we planned to name Aleksa Faith, in a mental institution in Ukraine.  That day she truly became the daughter of our hearts, the one we had dreamed of for 5 months prior as we planned for her adoption.



On January 27, 2008, we said goodbye through unshed tears, as our hopes to bring her in to our family were shattered.  We felt buried in the deepest pit we have ever faced. Though she was alive, the loss felt like a death, or worse, a lifetime sentence for her.  There was nothing we could do to change it.  The institution director said that he didn't want to have an adoption from his institution, that she faced no discrimination in her sheltered environment, and that he didn't trust that anyone would truly DESIRE to parent a child with significant special needs.  He thought our motives impure.

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On September 17, 2010, while I sat in the Orlando airport waiting to fly to Ukraine on a week long mission trip, I received an email from a stranger named Alla: (edited excerpts follow)
Hello Meredith!
You do not know me, I do not know you.  But Jesus knows us both! My name is Alla.  I`m a Christian and live in Ukraine, in the city of Zhitomir, close to Kiev.  I have a ministry for orphans, they are about 1000.  We have 9 orphanages in Zhitomirskaya oblast where we tell kids and workers about Jesus.  In 2 orphanages we have Sunday School, and we are able to come each week.  If it's God`s will we want to start Sunday School in the next orphanage this year.  There are girls with mental problems there.  

Two of the orphanages there are children with Down syndrome.  We go there regularly, as the Lord provides the money for it.  We sing songs for the kids, do a puppet show, and our brothers preach the Gospel to workers and say to kids very simple things about God.  We have some saved workers there.  Praise the Lord!
 
At orphanages there are 2 workers for 35-40 kids.  It is very hard for them to care for these kids.  Many of the kids live like animals, eat, sleep and watch TV.  Nobody teaches them, plays with them, etc.They just sit on bench all day long.  Many of the kids can not speak, and they eat candy with the paper still on it.They wear dirty and worn out clothes.  They do not have any toys.

Many of these kids die having never seen their mom with nobody to hug them or kiss them like a child.  Many of them are very skinny because they can not eat.
...
I found Joy McClain on FaceBook. (**MEREDITH'S NOTE, from Nov 2013: please visit www.facebook.com/findscheri and share the info as the McClains try to locate their missing daughter! Back to the email:)   I liked her profile and what she said about her family. I sent her an invitation to be friends.  At this time I did not know she adopted kids with Down syndrome.  When I found it, I was in shock! I was interested in it.  How does she teach them and etc.  Need to be a Hero to do it!  Joy recommended I talk to you and said you also adopted kids with Down syndrome.  It is great!  Praise the Lord!  Joy gave me address your blog, and there I found your e-mail.

God bless you in your ministry, and give you the power, wisdom, love and everything you need to take care of these kids!
You are Hero! May God bless you!

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In the hour that followed that initial email, we exchanged several more emails... and her sentiment of Hero... quickly became MINE, to her.

(after an initial "hello" and some info about the ministry we were doing in Ukraine...)
Alla, It is surprising to me that you say Zhytomir region, because I have been there.  My husband and I tried to adopt a girl from the orphanage for older special needs children, she has Down syndrome.  Her name is Sasha and she lives in Pugachovka in Zhytomir.  We loved her and played with her 3 times but the director of the facility said people cannot want disabled children or love them or give them a home.  He said there must be other reasons we want her.  

You can see from our blog that the reason we wanted her is because she is loved by Jesus and He called us to love the orphans.  My daughter Brianna was born to me when I was 23 and she has Down syndrome.  After her birth we knew we were to take care of other disabled children also.
...
Do you know this orphanage for disabled girls in Pugachovka?  I would love to know if the child we had tried to adopt is still there and if she is ok, and would be interested to know if the director is still the same person or if it is different. 

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She returned my email with an excerpt that said this:
Yes, I know the orphanage in Pugachovka. It is one of the orphanages where we minister. It is surprising for me that you know this orphanage.  We have saying in Ukraine.  The earth is round.  It means, you can meet any person at any place of the world.
  Yes, I can tell you about the girl Sasha if you send me her picture.  We visited this orphanage some weeks ago.  I can tell you if she is there.  Maybe i saw her, but I do not know the names of all of the kids.  If you will send a picture, I can tell you.

I sent her a photo that I pulled off of my blog, saved to my phone, and forwarded to her.  Here is her reply:
I`m sorry but we did not see her this time.  All the children were outside.  I think this girl is in one building all time where most of the hard children are kept, or those that are sick.  We call this place isolation.  We could not come inside of this building.  Maybe she was there, but I can not tell you.  I attached a picture.  I`m not sure she is Sasha, but maybe you can recognize her.  You can see her from one side, she is in a green sweater.  We took this picture a year ago.  


YES, that is Sasha!

Alla met up with me at the Down Syndrome Conference in Kiev that week and I gave her the one small photo I'd brought with me and told her the story of Sasha, the story of Emma and Micah (who we adopted when we were denied Sasha's adoption), Lynae, who was just 1 year old, and James, whose adoption had been finalized just 2 weeks before the trip.  I shared with her God's transformation of our family, especially Emma's miracle of life saving surgery and complete HEALING after she was in such bad shape.

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Shortly after arriving home from that trip to Ukraine, on September 30th, Alla and her team had gone back to the institution, talked to the director, and he said to them "Tell them to come and we will talk."  She also sent us a photo of Aleksa taken that day.


At that point we hadn't even considered the idea that we would adopt her as well as Wesley (a 5 yr old boy with CP whose paperwork for adoption accompanied me on the mission trip and had already been submitted).  An 8 yr old from an institution was a much different 'game plan' than any we'd come up with on our own.  We had a whole lot of praying to do...

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Building on faith and little else, we looked at our paperwork and found that our homestudy, written in a way so that if James' adoption had not been finalized, there would be no question that our Ukraine adoption was still able to be finalized... approved us for two children.   Our application for immigration approval, though we were just at the borderline income for adopting one child internationally and our petition was for just one child... approved us for two children.  We called our social worker to ask for his guidance and his input and he told us to go and see what God had planned.

We also began fundraising because if we were to adopt Aleksa, it would cost an additional $15,000... money we didn't have.

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On October 15, 2010, our second dossier was finished being put together, the paperwork chase complete.  Our petition for Sasha-Aleksa began its flight overseas and arrived just one month after we first heard from Alla.

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Over $3,000 was raised so that IF we could adopt Aleksa, we would have the finances to do it. We secured a loan for the additional $12,000 that we would need and made plans to have it available on our return trip when we would pick up the children if we were able to have a successful court decision for Aleksa.

November 9th, less than a month later, we held Aleksa in our arms again, this time with the assurance from the director that he stood with us and would agree to her adoption!




God is the perfecter of our faith, and brings all things together for the good of those who are called by His purpose!

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On November 29th, Michael and I stood before the judge, 3 years ago today, and Sasha was named an orphan-no-more.  Aleksa Faith Cornish, DAUGHTER of Michael and Meredith Cornish, SISTER to 6 little ones waiting at home (and Wesley's adoption would be held 3 days later at a different Ukrainian court, making 8 children).

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Today is the 3rd anniversary of Aleksa's adoption day!

There was a waiting time before we could take her home with us, and in that time we completed Wesley's court, then we flew home for one week.  Chris Harm flew back to Ukraine with me to brave the snow and culture gap and help me bring two orphans-no-more in to our family, through a 24 hour day of air travel over the ocean.

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And finally... on December 17, 2010, exactly 3 months to the day after Alla's first email to me and our conversation while I sat in the Orlando airport, Chris and I took Aleksa by the hands and climbed in to the taxi with our adoption facilitator, Yana, and we drove down the dirt road from the mental institution.


We then spent Christmas 'stranded' in Ukraine because of one last signature we couldn't receive, and finally... on December 29, 2010, we brought our family of 10 together for the very first time.



Alla, Oksana, Aleksa, and Misha  Also known as "Bible Orphan Ministry" visiting with us on Christmas Day 2010

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Sometimes God spells out His promises to us and His plans for us so we can walk by them and know them ahead of time.  Sometimes He reveals His plans and purposes in such a way that there can be NO MISTAKING HIS HAND on our lives.

God's work did not end there, and in a financial sense, God met and provided for our every need, bringing together gifts, grants, and money that we scrimped and saved to be PAID IN FULL on our loan just 3 months after our return home.

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The last 3 years have brought trials of all kinds and many we never would have imagined "walking ourselves in to."  However, through Faith we know that God's plans are being worked out.  It won't always be easy, but being at the center of His will is ALWAYS where we want to be.

Happy Adoption Day, Aleksa.  You are our loved and cherished DAUGHTER, and we are thankful for God's work in our lives through you and your testimony, and God's work in your life through the transformation you have made in to the beautiful and sweet young lady you are becoming!




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Alla, Misha, and Oksana continue to minister to those we cannot reach from here.  Their ministry "Bible Orphan Ministry" reaches hundreds of orphans each month including many with special needs, as well as children about to age-out of the orphanage and begin life on their own.  They continue to minister in the institution that Aleksa lived in for over 3 years.  Please visit their blog and FaceBook page and follow along prayerfully with them as they faithfully bring God's Love to those with special needs and many more in Ukrainian orphanages and institutions.  If God leads you to donate, they do special projects throughout the year.  Currently they are raising funds to bring more helping hands in to a boys' institution (similar to Aleksa's institution for girls with mental disabilities).  The intent of my post is to share Aleksa's story and to celebrate her, however I would also like to highlight the priceless work of the Kingdom that this faithful group is doing. 

http://bibleorphanministry.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bible-Orphan-Ministry/174276439251104 

Thursday, November 28

28 Unconventional Ways Our Special Needs Family is Thankful

28. Feeding tube supplies delivered to the door.

27. Brianna lost a tooth last week and was able to tell me she swallowed it. She’ll be singing “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” this year.

26. The mornings I sleep until the alarm goes off, even if I was up multiple times during the night.  It’s nice to be in bed that extra time. 

25. I had a dream where Aleksa was talking to me in sentences. It was awesome.

24. We thought of something that each of the kids would enjoy as a Christmas gift. For a nonverbal child with little desire to ‘play’, this can be a daunting task!

23. The days Wesley doesn't reflux.

22. Emma can completely remove her shoes, orthotics, socks, pants, and pull up and deposit the pull up in the bathroom trash can. And when she was dry or we are about to leave and she wasn’t supposed to take everything off, she can put her diaper, pants, and socks back on and her orthotics at least on her feet (though she cannot do the velcro).

21. Days the kids try new skills.  Success or not.

20. Our children love music and we can have wild dance parties without anything more than a radio or Pandora station.

19. We went out on a date two weeks ago. Wonderfully refreshing!

18. A good friend shipped me a box of elastic waist pants for the boys that should fit them by the end of this winter. Another friend brought some clothes for Delaina next fall. What a blessing hand me downs are!

17. We are 22 weeks in to this school year. 14 to go!

16. Trampolines. They are a wonderful invention.

15. Swings. Another excellent way for kids to run off steam without running down their parents.

14. The excitement of blankets and comforters. Just the idea of cooler weather is exciting!

13. Friendships that last through change.

12. Stores that employ people with differences. They make my heart happy.

11. TOPS soccer, our new found family activity that everyone is enjoying!

10. Medications that balance people out. Balance is good.

9. Air conditioning, even in November.

8. Everyone is healthy. Let us never neglect to be thankful for that!

7. A table large enough to seat us all together for Thanksgiving dinner and every day.

6. Digital calendars so we always know where we need to be… and where we’ve been.

5. Neurologists and opthalmologists and cardiologists and gastroenterologists and orthopedists and orthodontists and otolaryngologists and anesthesiologists and pediatricians and psychiatrists and physiatrists and physical therapists and speech therapists and occupational therapists and ER physicians and endocrinologists and dentists and hemotologists and ALL their nurses and staff. The list goes on…

4. The blessing of our neurotypical children. And the blessing of our non-neurootypical children.

3. My husband, seeking God with us, and for us.

2. Michael’s job and his provision for our family.

1. Our God who sent His only Son to come to the Earth and be separated from Him through death on the cross then reconstruction in His resurrection from the dead. Jesus conquered Hell, death, and the grave! Through Jesus our sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life. There is no greater thing to be thankful for then the salvation of our soul and the knowledge that the God of the Universe knows each of us and our children by name.

Thursday, November 21

What he didn't know about me

Tonight I left the house at 7:15 to go to the grocery store. I drove past the store where you pay 25 cents for a cart and you bag your own groceries. I drove past the store where you can buy everything from clothing to lawn chemicals as well as your meat and potatoes. I went to the store where I know there are people working that have disabilities.

After filling my grocery cart to the brim with the coming week’s meal items as well as a majority of what will become our family’s Thanksgiving dinner next week, I pulled my cart up to the checkout counter. The person in front of me was paying for their items and I began to unload. A young man came over and asked if he could unload the rest of my groceries, a second stood at the counter ringing everything up, and a third man, John*, stood at the end of the aisle waiting to put the groceries into bags then into the waiting second cart.

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 If I was on a bicycle (obviously this is a hypothetical situation :) ) and riding along the road and found myself in the path of a bunch of cyclists that are in a race, my personal fast pace would likely look like I was just strolling along slowly in comparison to the cyclists going twice as fast as I was. It’s not that I was riding slowly (remember, this is hypothetical!), it’s simply that they are very fast at what they are doing.

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 The last week or so I’ve had several conversations with friends and therapists about life skills, job training, adult workforces for people with disabilities, and the NEED for acceptance, self esteem, and being part of the workforce that most people have. With or without disabilities.

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 Back at the grocery store, man #1 quickly unloads my entire cart. Man #2 scans as many groceries as he can fit on the end part of the carousel area. John begins bagging groceries. He looks through, finds the canned items and puts them carefully in a bag then into the cart. He finds the cold items and puts them together. He grabs the items in glass jars and bags them then puts them in the cart.

 The cashier stands there and watches him. He puts two things in a bag. The first man walks away. John continues to put things logically into the bags and carefully into the cart.

 He’s not moving slowly. He’s just moving at a pace that’s normal for him. He’s working through his thought process, carefully completing a job he was well trained to do.

 Unless you compare him to the cashier.

 Then, you think he must be moving at a snail’s pace as he methodically goes about his job and carefully packs the groceries away.

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 Tonight as the last of my groceries was put into my cart, I thanked John for his work. I pointed out a place where that last bag he held would fit without squashing any bread, eggs, or fruit. He offered to bring my groceries to the car, and as always I declined. Then he turned back to his work.

 The cashier handed me the receipt, and he said to me, “I’m sorry it took so long… working slow tonight.”

 All sorts of thoughts ran through my head as I walked out to my car. John needs a job like this. He did very well at his job. He’s not a marathon runner or riding in a bicycle race. He’s going about at a pace that’s fast for him, and that, compared to someone else on another checkout aisle, wouldn’t have seemed very slow at all. And yet, he was being looked at as if he’s slowly ambling along.

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 Have you been at that cashier line lately? Have you had that person that appeared to be working at a snail’s pace put your groceries into the bags? Have you given them grace?

 What the cashier didn’t know about me is that I am proud of John. What he didn’t know about me is that in about 20 years, I will be the proud parent of six adults, much like John. What he didn’t know about me is that no matter the hurry I may have been in, I was willing to wait on John.

 What he didn’t know about me is that tonight when I left the house at 7:15 to go to the grocery store I drove past the store where you pay 25 cents for a cart and you bag your own groceries, past the store where you can buy everything from clothing to lawn chemicals as well as your meat and potatoes, and I went to the store where I know there are people working that have disabilities. And I was HAPPY to have John carefully help me check out.

 *name has been changed to respect privacy

Monday, November 18

Change is Good

I’m not very good at routines.

I’m finding my son may very much take after his mother in this regard.  He doesn’t appear to be very good at doing the same thing for too many hours/days/weeks in a row, and would much rather change things up on a regular basis.  He needs something to excite him to go to the next thing.

I rearrange furniture a lot.  I change up the style of ‘meal planning’ we do because even that gets boring if you do one type of planning for too long.  I move the kids’ bedrooms around, I change the “cling stickers” on the kids’ bedroom walls.  I repurpose rooms and just about every space in our home has seen at least one or two if not five or more revisions since we moved here 7 ½ years ago.  I like change.  I get ‘stuck in a rut’ with routines and I feel like I’m suffocating, unenergized, and unable to get up the enthusiasm about life to continue doing the same thing on a daily basis.

That all probably sounds crazy to people who tell me “children with intellectual disabilities THRIVE on routine and on knowing what to expect.  They do best when they have predictability to their day and to their environment."

Well, I guess I wouldn’t be a very good parent to a child with intellectual disabilities.  :)  Anyway, that’s a total side note to the purpose of this note.  

Kristopher needs change.  

You see, the morning went like this “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”

I’ll let you leave it up to your own devices to figure out whether it was him, me, or both of us that sounded like that, but THAT is what our house sounded like this morning.

Then I pulled up FaceBook (with those 9 friends I’ve stayed connected to, no worries, you’re not missing anything as I’m only posting on The Cornish Family still as of this moment… subject to CHANGE, of course..!) and I saw a post by one of my very sweet friends that suggested a new way of homeschooling.  It described very much what we do with Kris already.  I must admit, I was pretty down on myself and on how to motivate for homeschooling as well.

After a while I went to go tell Kris that his attitude is not Christ-like and he needed to stop and spend some time in prayer to figure out what he was going to do about it.  Then, I realized I should have been wagging that finger (figuratively, of course) at myself and I went and did the same.

I realized that my own struggles are things that he also struggles with, and that he’s ‘stuck’ in this rut of schooling.  He’s on week 22 and he’s ready for a change.  Not a break from work, because then he’d never want to restart again (though we are going to take next week off for Thanksgiving and hope and pray that the week after that restarts ok!).  

We are a ‘remove privileges’ kind of family.  You earn ‘em, you keep ‘em, you don’t earn ‘em, they disappear.  Unfortunately for Kris, the last couple weeks in regard to his decision making skills and his school work (two separate issues) he’s been struggling.  That means he’s not had several of the privileges that he previously enjoyed.  Namely: electronics.  

Today I started the Grace Game.  In general it was an effort to positively change his attitude.  

Last night he was excited about it.  He even was going to help keep ‘tallies’ on other people in the family, catching everyone “doing good, showing grace.”  (There are no negative tallies and no taking-away tallies, so I thought it would be positive!) The game lasted about 60 minutes.  In that time he grumbled, complained, and was overall NOT showing anyone grace nor attempting a positive attitude.  The game stopped. He wasn’t there to keep track of other people’s “good” while being a BEAR to everyone else!  He was the reason they were earning extra points for showing grace “when it’s not deserved!”

Strike 1 for mom.

Time for reinforcement.  This morning he lost his “up” time, which is the ability to stay up later than regular bed time. After all, if you cannot behave, you must need more sleep, therefore you cannot stay up after the regular bed time.  Makes sense to me.

So that’s when my last resort thought came, you know, the one above where I said “hey, buddy, put some prayer on those lips and figure out your day.”

The one where I followed my own advice and did the same.

The one where I realized he needed more than a game.  He needed a lecture, a few consequences for his actions and some time in isolation.  

No, no, no… that’s not what we headed to.

I realized I needed to change up his subjects.  Change up his chores.  Give him a little freedom.  Loosen the reigns and tighten them in other areas.  Give him some choices.  Let him rearrange the furniture in his own head…

New routine + New opportunity to earn electronics + New schedule for chores = New attitude + New gusto to get it done + New factor of kindness toward other people

Let’s hope this lasts.  

Then again, I know it won’t.  Because in a few weeks, he’ll need to paint the bathroom green.


Friday, November 15

Plans for the future, for hope

I often find myself working to figure out what’s next, and the last several months have been without exception. In the past I have thought this was a deficit most times because those little moments that I could have captured and made memories that I didn’t.

In praying on this today I realized that it’s not always bad. As we look toward the future, planning and thinking ahead is a natural and helpful part of that life-experience. When God calls us out on a limb He doesn’t always give us all the details, but sometimes He also calls us to plan and to prepare.

 Mike and I have been in a state of “we’re not sure what you’re up to, God” since the beginning of 2013. We’ve been given directives “do this.” “Now do this.” And we’ve felt a pretty firm calling each time we’ve made a big step. None of those steps, however, had much “future” involved in them, and where we thought they did, we were wrong. We are secure in God’s timing, and secure that God has and is and will continue to direct our path. In that we are grateful, because we won’t wander aimlessly as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

 In the last few weeks God’s planted the next seed for us. The seed of preparation. Of searching. Of being ready for Him to do big things. Then, the potential “big things” sprouted out from a place we weren’t looking. 

 Now we continue to prepare- prepare our hearts, our children, our home. Prepare so that if this big thing is what God has for us, we will be ready and able to immediately follow Him. We don’t yet know if this big thing is the one He’s told us to prepare for and we are thankful that it is not just Michael and myself that would make that decision, but a calling to us and to another group of people as well. It IS, however, in line with what God has confirmed in our hearts and in our ministry within the past months, it answers many questions of “how??” that we had in reference to God’s call, and it appears on the outside to be exactly the type of opportunity for ministry that He has been setting us up for over the last months and years.

We ask that as we prepare, as we pray, as we wrap our hearts and minds around this big thing, that you also pray for us. We don’t feel comfortable giving details unless/until it becomes a reality, so please bear with us in that. We do know that God is BIG, He is sovereign, and where He is moving in our lives is exactly where we want to be. So with that in mind, we ask you to pray specifically that we will hear God clearly in this situation and that He will speak just as clearly to the team of people who are also praying for the specific calling.

Jeremiah 29:11 ““For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.””

Tuesday, November 12

Why I brought out the crystal dishes

I packed up our plain ceramic dishes, plastic plates, and even half of our children’s plastic plates last month.  I also promised myself to serve drinks in glass or crystal cups to adults at our table.  It is time to take a risk.

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In Matthew chapter 25 the story is told where a man is going away on a journey.  To his three servants he gave each an amount of money to care for.  To one he gave 5 thousand, to the second he gave 2 thousand, and to the third he gave 1 thousand dollars.  The first two doubled their master’s investments and brought great wealth back to him.  Here is the account of the third: 

(Matthew 25:24-30, The Message)
 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

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Before we were married I was given a set of Princess House Crystal dishes. They sat untouched from the time that we had children until about one month ago.  For those you don’t know our family timeline, we have been married for over 12 years and have had children for the last 9 ½.  

We moved twice since we became parents and the crystal has been packed up then unpacked each time, and each time was stowed away in the china cabinet, unseen.  They collected dust for almost 10 years.

We have a lot of kids, I told myself, and several that are still little and could break things as well as children with disabilities that are going to need to be much older than a typical child before they outgrow that phase of clumsiness and are able to be around glass without the concern of breakage.  (ßThose are probably severe understatements!)  It made sense to save the crystal for a day in the future that we could enjoy it with more ease and not run the risk of something breaking.  We just brought it out for special occasions.

Last month I had a realization.  We are saving our best for the future, while “getting by” today.

My rationalization won out for the last 9 ½ years, and the crystal stayed in the china cabinet, unused, unseen, and the glasses on the shelf, untouched.  The plastic plates and tumblers won out. 

But no more.

We have often saved what is ‘our best’ for it to be enjoyed when we entertain guests and strangers.  We hoped in the future to have our family get to a place where we could use the nice dishes with no risk.   

I realize, though, that setting a table for my husband and family is not ‘just us’ but it is a privilege and a blessing. 

When we choose to set aside what we have that is good and hide it away knowing that some day it will be useful to show that we have it and have taken good care of it, it becomes useless, and even more so, it is not good stewardship.

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I think this applies to us emotionally and spiritually just as much as it does physically in our investments and risks.  We hide away some things rather than risk that in sharing we could be hurt.  In loving we could be rejected.  In helping we could be taken advantage of.  We save things, even from those we know the best and love the most, because of a fear of the risk involved.  The time that we would lose.  And what if it doesn’t do any good anyway?

When we decide to respect and acknowledge that there is a necessity of safety that we cannot ignore, but that there is still a risk that is reasonable that we can take to encourage, help, share, or otherwise serve others, then we begin to give our best.  Until we get to that point, we continue to “get by” today and save our best for some unknown future that may never come.  It's time to risk it.  It's time to bring out our best for our family and for others.


Here’s my disclaimer:  We respect and acknowledge that there is a necessity of safety that we cannot and will not ignore with some children and they continue to use bowls and plates made of indestructible materials.  We do, however, live with the ‘risk’ that giving our best today may mean that something breaks and cannot be used in the future.  By taking that risk knowingly we are also discarding the ability to discipline the children that accidentally break it.  That’s part of the deal.



Wednesday, November 6

Videos!

Here are a few videos from the week and one from a few weeks ago.  A little look at the kids "in action" :).

First the older one, of some of the kids playing while passing the time at the therapy center.  Other kids are out of the room working with OT and PT.



Here are James and Micah in the trampoline.  James likes to attempt to pull Micah down, and they both giggle their heads off. 



This one is Micah and Delaina.  Delaina is sure she's supposed to be sitting on Micah's lap, but he's not as sure about that idea.  Then when he gets the idea, he's a snuggle just as much.




Last is Wesley during his hyperactive evening time tonight , when he attempts to get as mobile as possible, stretch, crawl, sit, whatever he can attempt to get his body to do! :)


Sunday, November 3

Orphan Sunday 2013

Today is Orphan Sunday, and a day when many people are called from the pews to the altar as God speaks through their pastor about adoption, fostering, and orphan care. They step up and say “I will go!” and press on toward the vision of smiling babies and energetic toddlers, happy children and well-adjusted teenagers. What they don’t picture is that the challenges that come with a child don’t just turn off. You cannot love the trauma out of a child. You can love a child through their trauma, though.

Most of our daily struggles are not a result of our children having Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. They are not because of hearing loss or vision or mobility difficulties. Our daily struggles are with the results of trauma: early abuse, neglect, starvation, prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, and lack of bonding during early childhood.

When adoption is looked upon with only the star struck moments highlighted, it’s easy to overlook the difficult times and to think that everything is always sunshine and rainbows.

Don’t get me wrong- adoption is a blessing to both sides. What a joy and challenge it is to raise children that God brought in to our family through less conventional ways than “just” giving birth! What a privilege to be allowed to parent children that have needs that we strive to meet. What a blessing to a child to have a forever home- a family that loves them just as flesh and blood.

Adoption doesn’t end with the finish line of paperwork and the placement of a child in your home, though. Adoption is a commitment to the love and provision of another human being until they are an adult and able to take on their own responsibilities (or in our case, a lifetime commitment). It’s not something to take lightly or something that will end when a fad passes.

Adoption is a gift, a wonderful bond that God ordained and called us to. He also called us to love on, pray for, provide for, serve, and otherwise take care of those who are without family, without hope, and without Jesus.

Let me encourage you, today, to take this Orphan Sunday as a day to look at your life and seek PRAYERFULLY what God has for you. What is your role in orphan care? If it is adoption, walk in to it knowing that it will be the biggest blessing and the biggest challenge that you will ever embrace.

Saturday, November 2

Buddy Walk and TOPS Soccer!

Today was yet another busy but great day!

We started off the day at midnight... or does that count as yesterday? :)

We prepped all their clothes, set up extra clothes for the day, got breakfast stuff and meds as prepped as we could, set up drinks and snacks, and...  and generally tried to make this morning's preparation go smoothly.  IT WORKED! :)

We had everyone up, dressed, fed, shoes on, hair brushed, glasses on, medicines done, to the bathroom for a second time, the wheelchair switched out for the stroller, and Wesley showered (he spits up pretty much every morning), then we were out the door for the third time (um... we still have that "oh, right... we forgot _______" even with the best of planning ahead of time...)  by 9:30am.

A thirty minute drive to the park, then we met up with Elizabeth (Meredith's sister) and her two boys, Meredith's parents, and many friends, neighbors, and strangers that we enjoyed the morning with!  A 1-mile walk along the river in beautiful weather and only the threat of rain at about 11:40 made for a great time!

Of course things couldn't go off without a hitch... so right after the 1-mile walk, we found a shaded area and put out a blanket and... discovered that Wesley's feeding bag had POPPED.  Yes, there was formula everywhere, pooled all in the cooler and dripping out of it as well.  Thankfully we had a water bag with us as well, but it only held less than half of the formula.  With the help from my dad, we dumped the water, poured the formula over to the new bag, dumped a bottle of water in to a cup and filled the bottle with formula, then set the bag aside in the grass to come back to later when we had a second empty water bottle available.  WHEW.  Twenty minutes of craziness to get that all done and cleaned up and then grab some food for the kids (and adults) and snack a little.  That was the one crazy hitch of the morning... then the impending rain that was threatening as we were enjoying some of the vendor booths :).

And... I got NO team picture from the Buddy Walk this year! :(  We even talked about it before the walk but were about to leave and... well, afterward with the feeding pump issue and the impending rain we just didn't think about it again!

Micah
We headed out around 12:15 and got directions to the soccer fields in Viera where we were looking forward to our first ever TOPS soccer gathering.  When we pulled up we quickly found that not only was rain still threatening, but the temperature had DROPPED about 15 degrees, and what was a comfortable morning in shorts and t-shirts was now a COLD afternoon with rainy wind blowing crazily!  I walked out to the field to meet the people running the event and just get an idea of what was going on, knowing that most of the kids would be curled up in a ball with this weather and nothing but a t-shirt and sport shorts on!

What I found was two super-organized leaders and I never did get a count on the teen workers!  We did go grab everyone out of the car as the mist let up and the sun came back out a little bit.  Before we'd even really decided to bring all 9 kids out to the field, one of the coaches and 4 volunteers showed up at the front of my van and offered to take the kids they were working with.

Brianna
I can't say that I have EVER experienced an event like this one where the volunteers, the leaders, and the overall set up of the event was so seamlessly organized that we, as a family of 11, could give literally less than 24 hour notice that we would like to come and WATCH and instead be met by a team willing and ready to let the kids participate immediately!  We were highly impressed!

James
Aside from the behaviors of our children not being the best-- Micah basically tried to run away the entire time to get the workers to chase him, Aleksa tried to sit on people's lap and hang on them in an inappropriately affectionate way the entire time, and James decided to hang in a more literal sense when they would take both his hands and run with him between 2 volunteers, looking for the sensory input WAY more than he was interested in listening or obeying.  Then there was Emma... who we searched for without finding for a minute, but based on the organization of the program there was not any sense of panic... and she was soon located at the top of the bleachers with her buddy... Not where we were looking, exactly! LOL


Kristopher and Lynae
Kristopher and Lynae took a couple balls and played around, ran, a couple of the volunteers went and played with them a few times, and they had a great time as well!  Delaina hung out in the stroller with Wesley for the first half, but once the volunteers had been encouraged to put some boundaries on the kids, we felt like we could back up a bit and let them PLAY.  Wesley and Delaina came out on to our laps (we didn't think to have Wesley's wheelchair since our primary goal for the day was the Buddy walk and the soccer idea was a last minute thought!), and Wesley and I made a new little friend.  A four yr old little boy with Spina Bifida was hanging out on the ground with his braces on his feet, and his cesostomy tube that he eventually 'showed off' to Wesley (then Wes grinned as I showed the little boy Welsey's matching g-tube and our little friend gasped that he had one too!).


Kristopher and Lynae
By 3:30 we were home, and Kristopher was excited to be met in the driveway by his friend that lives across the street.  We lost the two of them to MineCraft and things like "did you spawn those in my house?? They're killing me!" keep coming out of their mouths as the little girls watch them building houses and banging on dragon looking things breathing fire...

Emma
Now for the Mexican Lasagna in the crock pot for dinner and a RELAXING evening here at home.  Everyone had a great day, and most of them enjoyed it with the questionable exception of our one child who cannot deal with change very well, and who the whole "going off with a stranger" may have been too much (even though we were right there).  She is now showing "the dark side" of her personality and has spent quite a bit of the last hour hanging out in an area where she can be in the same room with everyone but can't physically interact with them.
Aleksa

It's a balancing act, trying new things and trying to let all of our children experience fun activities and yet knowing what the after effects of activities like this will be for some of our kids that just don't adapt well to changes. We continue to work out the struggles, and to prepare for them ahead of time, and today was no exception.

All in all, it was a great day and we look forward to future TOPS gatherings in the coming weeks!

Friday, November 1

It's FALL! :)

These are all out of order, but here are some pictures from October :)

Emma, Delaina, Lynae, Brianna, and Aleksa at the pumpkin patch!


James, Wesley, and Micah at the pumpkin patch, with siblings behind them as well.


Emma, Delaina, Lynae, Kristopher, and Brianna at the pumpkin patch.


Checking out he pumpkin deemed "Chunky"- Delaina


Lynae and "Chunky"


James touching "Chunky" the pumpkin.


Emma checking out the pumpkin.


Brianna giving "Chunky" a hug.


Aleksa and "Chunky".


Micah, unsure about "Chunky" and Michael and Meredith in the background.


Brianna and Lynae enjoying the pumpkin.


At a Harvest Festival on a big bounce house slide- Micah.


Brianna on the slide.


Lynae finishing up the bounce house slide.


Kristopher ready to go down the slide.

Delaina, James, and Emma waiting for the 'sliders'.


Emma, Aleksa, and Wesley enjoying the outdoors!

Delaina lounging.


Watching Monsters University on Halloween- Delaina picking up the popcorn she spilled (yes... she still ate it...)


Watching Monsters University on Halloween.


Watching Monsters University on Halloween.


Back at the pumpkin patch (yes, just out of order...)  Brianna, Lynae, Aleksa, Emma, Kristopher, and Lynae and Micah in the background.


Brianna, Lynae, Emma, and Aleksa with Micah, Wesley, and James in the background... and me trying to bring up the camera on my phone.


Lynae, Aleksa, and Brianna.


Front to back, Emma, Delaina, Lynae, Kristopher, and Brianna.


Delaina looking at the little pumpkins.


Delaina.