It’s been a while……over a year in fact…….and my family has been through some major changes. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3, ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’. We have been through many seasons over the last 14 months, just as God said we would throughout that Bible passage. The life Dave and I have shared these past 20 years have had good years, bad years and years that are a little bit boring. This past year, we were witness to all three types of years in one! A first……and one that I hope will not be repeated in the near future 🙂
When I think of the people who read this blog, I always imagine that there are so many others out there who are walking out similar paths. People who homeschool, people who have lots of sweet, delicious babies, people who foster or adopt (or both!), and people who just love reading about the joys and struggles of trying to lead a Christian life. Whatever the circumstances are for those that read my rambling entries, I pray that the last year has served you well, that God has blessed you all abundantly, and that whatever trials you faced, you trusted God to help you overcome them. Here is what my family has been up to:
We grew…..and grew……and then we shrank…..and then shrank some more. The last time I posted, we were a family of 7. DJ was 18, Casey was 17, Coconut was 5, Kiwi was 3, and baby Cocoa Bean was 1. We welcomed a precious baby girl in April of last year……sweet little Blue Bell, who brought us to 8. Others came, bringing us to 9 at one time, and others left, including Kiwi, which has brought us back to 7……whew! Sometimes it’s hard to keep up! For now, until Blue Bell’s adoption is finalized, we will remain a family of 7. Only God knows if we will add to our brood or happily raise the 5 cherubs we have been entrusted with so far.
Our address has changed, again. Turns out that the home we thought needed a little TLC, really needed a major overhaul. We totally rebuilt the deck, re-landscaped, pulled down old wallpaper, and painted. However, there were so many other things that needed doing that we could not justify pouring more time into a rental that was not our own. Rotting subfloors, a pool that leaks, costing hundreds of dollars in water bills, crazy heating problems, a swaying chimney, a broken oven that didn’t get fixed for 69 days…….those things were bad……but the final straw was the rats. Let me just say, Kat didn’t go into the garage at night by herself. The exterminators could never get rid of them because the owner wouldn’t fix the rotten wood that allowed them free access. That’s when we said, ‘Enough!”
God is good and He is faithful. After weathering that storm, he brought us to the house we are living in now. We vowed that we would not settle on a house that needed any type of work, save for painting a few rooms. That is exactly what we found. A children’s wonderland with a swing set, trampoline, and 3 acres of woods as a backyard. 5 bedrooms to accommodate our bio children, adopted children and foster children. Finally, a homeschool room! We haven’t had the pleasure of a room allocated just for doing our work for over 5 years……what a treat! To say that we are stunned by God’s blessings is an understatement……and a remarkable ending to a terrible ordeal.
Dave and I are amazing, as usual, because God has blessed our marriage beyond anything I could ever hope for. He is my true soul mate, I his helpmeet, and we are a team. That doesn’t mean that we don’t ever have a desire to knock each other out :-), it just means that we are in it for the long haul, no matter what. The last year proved to be one of our hardest yet, but with God’s grace we have stood together with a solidarity that only our Lord can provide. While I would never ask for such trials, it has proved our love to each other and strengthened our marriage.
DJ is 20 now. (This is where I give a deep sigh, wipe the tear from my cheek, and shake my head in disbelief that my baby is now 20 years old!) He is now an accomplished tech in the cable world, following in his father’s footsteps and doing very well for himself. It is such a joy for us to see him flourishing. The workforce is not without its challenges though, so we pray for him as he walks with those who do not believe, and those who actually call him out for his beliefs. It is a slippery slope working in the world while trying not to become a part of it. Thankfully, DJ still seeks out advice and wishes to follow the Christian path. As a mother, its hard to see your baby up against such trials, but he is making good work of it.
Casey is now 18 (again with the sigh). She is driving (gulp), just got her very first car (double gulp), and has graduated from our homeschool. After discovering that her dream of becoming a nurse is not exactly what God wants her to do, she is choosing to take a ‘gap year’. The definition of gap year sums up her quest and reasoning of such a year quite nicely: a gap year is an experiential semester or year ‘on,’ typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. Yep, that pretty much does it. Casey is an amazing girl, my right-hand actually, and has so much potential……if she only could see it in herself!
In a separate blog post, we will finally introduce you to our beloved Coconut!! His adoption is official, he is all ours, with our last name, and there are so many days that I just stare at him and marvel that the journey is finally over! He is a thriving 6 year old who loves dinosaurs, playing outside, sleepovers in Casey’s room, working around the house with Daddy, drawing skeletons for DJ, and sitting in Mama’s lap. He is an amazing big brother to Cocoa Bean and Blue Bell and he is finishing up Kindergarten in our homeschool. Our first ever foster child, and now first ever adopted child, is probably one of the sweetest children we have ever known. The delays are still there, but he is catching up…….praise God! There will be more on him soon.
There was much tragedy, heartbreak, and life lessons in Kiwi’s departure. Her situation rapidly deteriorated after we moved last year (and the arrival of Blue Bell), and once her brother came back to live with us, and then subsequently left again, her placement with us ended abruptly. We were saddened by her departure and the whole situation, but the turmoil and devastation that was caused to the rest of the family was too great to continue fostering the two of them. In hindsight and with an eye on future placements, it is best to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, what we are qualified to deal with, and what harm can be caused by lack of knowledge. If we had to do it all over again, we would have insisted that something was wrong and there were simply things we could not offer them…….such as a house without other young children. We pray for them, we love them, but they were never meant to be ours. There will be posts in the future about our experiences during that situation, so perhaps it can help other foster parents who are trying to help these types of children.
Cocoa Bean is now 2 years old, wearing 5T clothing (he’s huge!), and is still Mama’s baby. However, in the summer of last year, right at about 18 months of age, our bright, happy, joyful baby began to get quieter and quieter. He stopped babbling and saying his few words. He could still sign, but only after we signed something, never initiating it. He would sit off to himself and rock, twirl around and around when he was excited, he would eat pinecones and outside debris like they were cookies, he would never make eye contact nor give affection. It slowly drove me so crazy that I was beside myself with concern and fear. One night while lying in bed, Dave and I talked about all of the research I had done. I pulled up this test I had found online and as Dave and I finished answering the questions he turned and told me it was time to face the truth……..Cocoa Bean was most likely Autistic. We held each other for a long time that night, mainly as I cried and wept for this baby that we had devoted ourselves to. Now, we had to devote ourselves to finding out what was wrong and a quest for a solution.
It took months of appointments with various types of doctors and specialists, but in the end, they confirmed what we had feared. He is super young, so he only has a preliminary diagnosis, which gives him the room to grow and perhaps prove that he doesn’t have it. However, they assured me that they were 75% positive. I threw myself into research, which is my niche, and started working with him. That, along with speech therapy and occupational therapy, he has come a long way. We look upon him as God’s child, in His own image, and we try to meet Cocoa Bean where he is developmentally…….but, I will not lie……it is still painful to think about and talk about. Yet, we will be by his side every step of the way with God’s grace, and Cocoa Bean will have the best life we can muster. I have enough research to write a book, so I will be posting on his journey as well.
On a positive note, he is still delicious 🙂 His adoption should be finalized any day now, which is an answer to our constant prayers. He has just recently started to give genuine hugs……something that we could have only dreamed of a few months ago. After suffering from severe sleep apnea, and recovering from the corrective surgery for such, he is eating more foods and talking more. As a matter of fact, his newest accomplishments are a little bit freaky……one day, he recited the alphabet. Then he knew all of the letters by name when we held up magnet letters or flash cards. The sounds of the letters came next, then colors, numbers, shapes and then he started reciting whole movies. The child cannot use expressive language very well, but could probably recite the phone book if you read it to him! What a gift at only 2 ears and 4 months old!
Finally, there is sweet little Blue Bell. She was such a tiny thing when I picked her up from the hospital at 7 days old. I’ll never forget the day the hospital released her……I was so mad at them because they wouldn’t let me come and visit her the previous days because I was ‘just a foster mom’. I wanted so badly for her to know that she was wanted and loved and cared for. When I finally laid eyes on her, she took my breath away. She was so sickly and weak. She had zero fat, like a preemie baby would look, except that she was full term. Her cries were sounds of pain and her body flexed and twisted when you held her close. Casey and I were so scared for her, but we put our brave faces on as I dressed her and got her things ready to go. The doctor came in to council me on her treatment plan and told me flatly, “Don’t think your adopting a baby who is going to be normal, she’s a drug baby and she’s going to have serious problems”. I responded with, “Got it. Now, give me the baby because she still needs love, she still needs nurturing, and she still has parents whose rights haven’t been terminated”. Many people do not understand that we are not in this to adopt or ‘steal’ children from their biological parents. Until parents give up (like Coconut’s and Cocoa Bean’s) or go to jail, we not only nurture their children, we do our best to build them up and minister to them about God’s grace and healing. Jesus teaches us to love everyone, regardless of past mistakes and circumstances. We did our very best to motivate and support Blue Bells parents over the last year, so that she could eventually go home…….but in the end, drugs stole them away. Now, we can only pray for them.
A year later, she is a fat little dumplin’ who will scream the house down when she’s hungry, smiles the moment she wakes up, and squeals with laughter as she discovers this big beautiful world around her. The physical therapy is going very well and long gone is the fragile flower that kept me up night after night worrying over whether she would be ok. It was a long and strenuous journey, both for her and for us, but she is a miraculous testament to God’s healing and tender care. We pray that the case will be in adoption soon, and that we will forever be able to call her daughter.
So, if you made it this far, that’s our last year in a nutshell. Full of blessings and hope, and loads of new experiences…..both good and bad. We are so happy to be back in my hometown, close to my parents and family, and back to our home church……we have missed them all so much! Finally, I am glad to be back blogging!