Monday, February 28, 2011

Adoption does not make me look glamorous

I have written a post about adoption and how it seems some couples adopt to gain a "brown baby accessory". Today, I write to explain how my life has changed since going from three kids to five; and becoming an inter-racial family with special needs kids. It has not transformed me into the glamorous A. Jolie. But... I would say I am a better woman because of it.

BEFORE: I used to buy gymboree, carters, gap and old navy. New, in the box, never opened.
TODAY: I buy resale, thrift store and garage sale clothing. The kids sport hand me downs. I don't think they look much different though, since I have scored some great finds and brand names on the bargain shopping trips. And we have been blessed with some great hand me downs too!

BEFORE: We would go out together as a family and people would smile and comment about our beautiful family, or our well behaved children.
TODAY: We go out and people say "Are all these kids yours? You sure have your hands full!"
Or they just stare.

BEFORE: We would enjoy going on fun outings like the movie theater or the science museum.
TODAY: We stay around home a lot more or split up the family. It's just a lot of chaos and work to chase around the young ones and some of us have very short attention spans.

BEFORE: I would go get my hair cut and colored at a professional salon every six weeks or so.
TODAY: It's been over a year since I colored my hair and six months since my last hair cut (which is a long time for someone with a short style!) I also cut J's hair and the kids. I recently botched C's haircut and she was treated to a salon cut, so much better!

BEFORE: We would all go to church and everyone was well behaved and quiet.
TODAY: I miss most of worship having to sit in the hallway with a loud, wiggly, or disobedient child.

BEFORE: I did not like confrontation.
TODAY: I have learned to speak up for myself and my children. Their rights are important to me, no matter what.

BEFORE: The house was somewhat peaceful and calm, most of the time.
TODAY: There is never a dull moment and it's only quiet on a rare occasion.

BEFORE: The kids had more room in the mini-van.
TODAY: The van is full, and if a family trip to Costco, Walmart or hardware store is planned, we have to consider every purchase, just to be sure it can make it home!

BEFORE: I would let little things annoy me.
TODAY: I let the little things go. I try to think "Is this really worth the effort to make a deal over this?" Sometimes they still annoy me. I pray more. I bite my tongue. I count to ten A LOT.

BEFORE: I had a social life.
TODAY: We rarely get invited to dinner. Our first dinner invitation in many months resulted in:
one broken window curtain rod, a spilled root beer, and a p*op accident on the bedroom carpet. We will see if we get invited over again!

BEFORE: I knew nothing of how the special education system worked. I didn't know how to care for many special needs.
TODAY: I know a lot, and am learning more everyday.

BEFORE: We could go grocery shopping and spend $100 on four days of groceries.
TODAY: We go grocery shopping and spend just under $200 on four days of groceries.

BEFORE: It bothered me to have people stare or make comments, especially regarding my sons' ethnicity.
TODAY: I find humor in little things. During our dinner out, S. was referred to by our friend's son as "that black kid who p*oped in my bedroom".
I found it endearing!

BEFORE: Our house was clean, with no stains on the carpet or couch, and it smelled nice. I had time to cook and bake. We had time to play more, read more, and work on projects.
TODAY: Our house is not clean, there are stains on the carpet and couch, and it smells a bit off. (with a scented candle burning to mask the odor!) I don't bake, and the meals I cook are simpler. I don't find as much time to play, read and work on projects, although I have a lot of desire and ambition to do so.

BEFORE: I had a self centered, "it's all about me" lifestyle and mindset.
TODAY: I rarely have time to even think about myself. I live for others, God and my family. And I am happier because of it.

Make A Wish

We got some good news today. Our S. is qualified to receive a Make A Wish! It took quite a while and a lot of advocating for him, but it is starting to come together. Our doctor was able to speak with the MAW chapter person, and she explained to the doctor what criteria does qualify. It was decided that having the VP shunt does qualify him for a wish.

If there is any question if having a shunt is considered a having life-threatening condition, read this:

Hydrocephalus is almost always treated successfully with surgical placement of a shunt or an ETV; but rarely does either treatment last a lifetime without complications. A critical aspect of managing hydrocephalus is being well informed and staying vigilant about potential life-threatening complications. Most problems associated with shunting or ETV occur weeks or even years after the surgery. When things are going well, it is easy to forget about hydrocephalus and having a shunt or an ETV. We encourage you to stay alert and informed.

Knowing what symptoms to watch for will help you become more at ease. Although the early symptoms of shunt malfunction or infection in children—fever, vomiting and irritability—are similar to many childhood illnesses, you will learn to determine the symptoms associated with shunt failure in a particular individual. Adults tend to exhibit the symptoms they experienced before treatment when there is a problem. If you have any doubt about symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact a doctor. If you suspect there is a problem with the shunt, you are wise to have it checked by the neurosurgeon rather than ignore it. It is better to have a false alarm checked than to leave it unattended. Remember, although shunt complications can be very serious and become life threatening, they can be treated successfully when they are discovered early.

An estimated 50% of shunts fail within two years and 20-50% of ETVs close up within five years. Either treatment can fail at any time. Infections are less common, but still not infrequent. Be informed and vigilant. Be prepared to act quickly. Mere hours can mean the difference between a resolvable complication and brain damage or even death, especially in children.

I am so thankful for the time Make A Wish took to work on behalf of S. They didn't just dismiss him at the first stage of the application. They really cared and made many phone calls to get things sorted out.

Now we will have S's paperwork sent to two local MAW volunteers who will be meeting with our family and S. They will talk with him and try to see what his most heartfelt wish is. This will be complicated, since the whole concept is not really understood by a 3 year old. Once we asked him if he could have anything in the whole world, what would it be? He said, "a cookie!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

S. update

S. in Jan. 2011

S. at the hospital in April 2008

We are preparing for S.'s yearly MRI and craniofacial clinic at the nearby children's hospital. During that time, we will discover how well his VP shunt is working, see how large his Chiari is, and come up with a plan for facial/neurological surgery. S. was born with an opening in his skull, between his eyes above his nose. When he came to our care, he was receiving medical services from a doctor in CA. Now that he is adopted by us and on our insurance, he is seen by a team of doctors in WA. And apparently doctors and surgeons do things differently all the time in rare cases like S'. And if you ask them, they will tell you that their way is the RIGHT way.

S. had a "patch job" in his opening. The neurosurgeon used some form of medical cement and pushed it into the hole to close things up. This left S. will a strange looking scar, but much better than the large bump full of CSF fluid that was there before. The team here want to redo things. They want to remove this patch, do a bone graft from S's hip bone, and reconstruct his face. We feel this is for the best, but are nervous about it at the same time.

Now, we have decided to refer S. to Make A Wish. I contacted our local chapter, found out what conditions qualified, and sent the local contact person S's doctor's info. We waited and waited to hear back. I bugged a little. Waited more. Then asked if MAW would contact our pediatrician instead, thinking he'd be less busy. We finally heard back that our doctor wrote he DID NOT QUALIFY. Huh? I called their office to find out why. A day later his nurse called with their explanation. Basically, they don't really understand MAW's definitions for eligibility. I argued a bit about why S. should qualify, but felt it might be better to wait to hear back from the children's hospital. They have all his information and have dealt with MAW quite a bit. I contacted the social worker who sees us every visit and found out that we must have given MAW the wrong fax number. The local chapter and hospital are now communicating so it's another wait to see what happens. S's wish, by the way, is a safe play ground to play on. I really hope he gets his wish. He's been through a lot in his short little life. And will be enduring much more in the near future.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Big things coming

We have been slowly healing and getting some closure with the failed adoption of Mercy. We all truly believe what happened was for the best. We still have sadness in our hearts for her sake, but are thankful she is in a loving and happy home in her own country.

During this time of prayer, reflecting and contemplating, both J. and I have decided we would like to become foster parents. We have hosted children from Haiti in our home before. It was such a blessing to the entire family. We feel like fostering through the state will be quite similar to that experience, yet with more support.

I started the training classes. Although I have taken them several years ago, I needed to retake them. Also, when I took the classes it was solely for the purpose of adoption. After the classes were over, we decided to adopt from Haiti instead. Now, our intent is fostering, not adoption. I am taking a lot of information home and finding it very interesting and helpful. I have learned a lot of tools that pertain to parenting our adopted and bio kids too.

Through experience we have learned that keeping the kids in birth order works best for us, so we put on our application that we want to care for a child birth to age 3. Infants would be ideal, since a child under one can sleep in our room which is quite large.

We are in the process of getting our home ready. When S. started outgrowing his baby things, we sold most of them at a fundraiser garage sale. Now we are starting again from the ground up. We need a crib, bedding, clothes, car seat. We do have our house somewhat childproofed, but we need to get a few more things for our license; a larger fire extinguisher, a few more outlet covers and locks, and a wood stove barrier/fence.

Since J. is CPR/1st aid/BBP certified through work, I am the only one who needs to retake these classes. It's only one day and the state covers all fees for all who take it, even older siblings! So I signed up with L. and C. too, in March.

We need to get our children and pets' vaccination records, our well water tested and our wood-stove cleaned and examined. We also need to fill out a bunch more paperwork.

We are excited and busy getting things ready. Once the application is filed, we have 90 days to complete everything. The pressure is on!

Monday, February 14, 2011


C. and her cousin last summer

I am challenging K. to do more memory work during homeschool. I found this poem in the Children's Book of Virtues that I really like:

Beautiful faces are they that wear
The light of a pleasant spirit there;

Beautiful hands are they that do
Deeds that are noble, good and true;

Beautiful feet are they that go
Swiftly to lighten another's woe.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I have had a lot of dreams lately. I have not been sleeping well for a while now. I grind my teeth at night. I had a night guard but the dog got ahold of it the one time I forgot to put it away in the case. So until I get around to making a new one, I do without. And my body pays for it!

I have a recurring dream about pregnancy. I am not sure why. I am not able to have more biological children. Five abdominal surgeries has left me with a lot of scar tissue and I had decided to have a tubal ligation after K. was born.

My good friend recently had a baby, so I am wondering if this is why I am dreaming. Who knows. For fun, I looked up pregnancy in this dream dictionary.
By the way, if you ever dream about porta potties, this is what it could mean:

Porta Potty

To see or use a porta potty in your dream, indicates that you need to express your feelings more openly. Don't hold back your emotions. You need to let yourself go.

Here's what is said about pregnancy:


To dream that you are pregnant, symbolizes an aspect of yourself or some aspect of your personal life that is growing and developing. You may not be ready to talk about it or act on it. Being pregnant in your dream may also represent the birth of a new idea, direction, project or goal. Alternatively, if you are trying to get pregnant, then the dream may be a wish fulfillment. If you are not trying to get pregnant, but dream that you are, then it symbolizes fear of new responsibilities.

To dream that you are pregnant with the baby dying inside of you, suggests that a project you had put a lot of effort into is falling apart and slowly deteriorating. Nothing is working out the way you had anticipated.

If you are really pregnant and have this dream, then it represents your anxieties about the pregnancy. If you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, then your dreams tend to be about tiny creatures, fuzzy animals, flowers, fruit and water. In the second trimester, dreams will reflect anxieties about being a good mother and concerns about possible complications with the birth. Dreams of giving birth to a non-human baby are also common during this period of the pregnancy. Finally, in the third trimester, dreams consists of your own mother. As your body changes and grows, dreams of whales, elephants and dinosaurs and other larger animals may also start appearing at this stage of pregnancy.

So all these dreams has got me thinking. What could they mean, if anything?
Empathy for my pregnant (she has a beautiful little girl now) friend?
Desire to have another baby?
New directions, projects or exciting things happening soon? I hope so.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My baby

My youngest daughter is turning eight. I can't believe how fast time flies.
K. is a wonderful little lady.
She is kind, compassionate, and loveable.
She makes friends easily and is very social.
She is a Daddy's girl and can't fall asleep without saying bedtime prayers with him.
She loves art, animals, playing outside or with friends.
She is petite and lovely,
brave and adventurous.
I am a little sad to see her grow.
But I love to see how she has grown.
Happy Birthday K!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Need help

I have a friend who has been through some really hard things. She has lost a lot in her young life and now is struggling to get by as a single mother of two. Soon she will lose her apartment and will be homeless. She is receiving some help from the state, but the wait list for housing assistance is currently 3 years long. She has a few options and has a few months to figure out a solution to her problem, but I can see it is causing a lot of stress for her, which is understandable.

Our family is trying to think of ways to help. We have five acres AND a covered parking space for an RV or trailer. We thought she might be able to live in a trailer with her boys on our property temporarily and give her a chance to get back on her feet. BUT we don't have a trailer. And no one really has money to buy one.

If you know of someone selling an older nicer RV or trailer locally, will you let us know? Or if you have one you could lend or give (will be during the summer months), contact us? If you have space to rent for 3 people for under $300 a month contact me? Or if you want to give financially to my friend, let me know too. If you could pray about this situation I would appreciate it much.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18

Special Needs Adoption

We have two adopted children who have twenty months difference in age. One was placed in our home at 12 weeks old, has had several neuro-surgeries, has special needs and is considered "disabled". The other was referred to us at one year old and was brought home at 35 months of age. He was considered healthy and typically developing when he got home. Now can you guess which child is more challenging to care for?

What are considered special needs?

"Special needs" describes several categories: disabilities, race, age, sibling status, and at-risk.

Disabilities include mental, physical and emotional disabilities and disorders which can range from mild to severe. Behavioral problems are part of the emotional disabilities group.

Minority Race. Some agencies consider minority race alone to be a special need, especially when the child is male, and other agencies do not. This does not mean that being a member of a certain racial group or gender is a disability. It means that, at this time, we have not recruited enough families to adopt our waiting minority race children, and especially the boys. In all racial groups, males outnumber females, sometimes by as much as three to one.

Age. The age limit at which a child is considered to have special needs differs from one state to another and may differ according to the race of the child. In general, a child over age 5-8 years may be considered an older child.

"At-risk" children. An an "at-risk" child is one who, while currently healthy, is at risk of developing learning, emotional, behavioral or physical disabilities in the future. Babies exposed to drugs, abuse, neglect, and those with genetic pre-dispositions to mental illness and physical disabilities are called "at-risk."

Our son E. is by far our most challenging child to parent right now. Although S. was born with an opening in his skull, developed hydrocephalus, has a VP shunt and has had two brain surgeries; I would not really consider his daily care difficult. E. has been home for nearly two years now. He would not be considered a special needs child but it's becoming more apparent that his needs take up more of our time and energy than his little brother's.

We have seen how far E. has come in a short period of time, but we are also realizing that his past has effected who he is. We are wondering if he would benefit from therapy. We are looking into that and reading more about attachment. I found this checklist online and surprisingly we circled 18 from this list:

Circle the items if they are frequently or often true.
  • My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children.
  • My child can't keep friends for an age-appropriate length of time.
  • My child doesn't do as well in school as my child could do even with a little more effort.
  • My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me, in which case my child can be affectionate and engaging.
  • My child argues for long periods of time, often about meaningless or silly things.
  • My child has a large need to control everything.
  • My child is hyper-vigilant.
  • My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren't really bad or a problem when caught doing something
  • My child does dangerous things such as runs away, jumps out of windows, or other potentially harmful actions. My child seems oblivious to the fact that my child may be hurt.
  • My child deliberately breaks or ruins his things or other's things.
  • My child doesn't seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong.
  • My child is impulsive. My child seems unable or unwilling to stop doing something my child wants to do.
  • My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals.
  • My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unbelievable, unusual, or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things.
  • My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked.
  • My child doesn't seem to learn from mistakes, consequences, or punishments (my child continues the behavior despite the consequences).
  • My child makes false reports of abuse or neglect. My child tries to get sympathy from others, or tries to get us in trouble, by telling others that I don't feed, or don't provide the basic necessities.
  • My child seems not to experience pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort.
  • My child does not usually ask for things. My child demands things.
  • My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth.
  • My child is quite bossy with other children and adults.
  • My child hoards, sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw sugar, non-food items, package mixes, baker's chocolate, etc.)
  • My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contract with my child.
  • My child has extended temper tantrums.
  • My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking.
  • My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant attention).
  • My child acts cute or charming to get others to do what my child wants.
  • My child is overly friendly with strangers.
  • My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire.
  • My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this).
  • My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life.
  • My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life.
  • My child was adopted after the age of twelve months.

If you find that more than a few items (more than five or so) have been circled, your child may be experiencing difficulties that require professional assistance. If, in addition to several items being marked, any of the last three items is check, your child may be experiencing attachment related problems.

So where do we go from here? Does that mean E. has RAD? Or just "attachment issues"?

When we started the adoption process, we had to fill our paperwork explaining what kind of child we preferred. This was so difficult for us, to say "yes we are comfortable to adopt a child with hearing problems but no, not a child with CP"? We were scared of special needs at the time, so we just circled those issues that were correctable. After God placed several people in our lives and we began hosting several special kids with severe medical needs, we realized that caring for kids with special needs is a blessing, not a burden.

I hope that more people would be open to adopting special needs children. S. has been such a wonderful addition to our family. I can't imagine life without his sweet smile, his cheerful little personality and his spunky energy in our home. I also think adoptive families should be aware and educated. They should consider EVERY child who have experienced some sort of trauma (even at a young age) a special needs child. Even though the agency lists them as "healthy" or "normal", these kids have issues. They need special care and attention, some even more than children with medical needs.