Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014

Where did the year go???  Seriously.  Actually, where have the last 14 years gone??  I remember Y2K and all the fuss, and someone turning out all the lights at midnight, just to be funny.  And now it's about to be 2015.  15!!!!!  I also remember when 2015 was considered the very distant future when we all might live like the Jetsons.  But here we are, still driving cars and cooking food and doing laundry.  Granted we have much more technology, but overall, life isn't really that different.  Except that now I am 35, married, with 3 kids and a dog!  Crazy.
Anyway, 2014.  Some highlights as they come to me, not necessarily in chronological order.

1.  Surgeries, three of them.  CI number 2, followed by a bunch of tests leading up to an adenoidectomy and then the pharyngeal flap just a few months ago.  It was a long year medically.  But the outcome has been terrific.  James's hearing is very good, his comprehension amazing, and his speech is finally progressing.  Surgery stinks, and James still talks about them and how he doesn't like them.  I reassure him that surgery is finished and we move on until the next time he remembers.  It was all worth it though.

2.  Homeschool.  We finished up kindergarten and second grade and I reevaluated what I was doing for this school year.  I backed off a LOT on formal curriculum.  We read a LOT of books, about all sorts of things.  If I can breed kids who love to read, everything else will come.  Well, let's make that kids who love to read AND who know all their math facts!  Liana is my mini-me-bookworm.  She devours books well above her grade level.  But make the child write more than one sentence and her hand is going to fall off.  Or so she thinks.  Aedan is slowly becoming a more willing reader, now that we have found books that keep his attention.  James is still working on learning the alphabet, but he's about 75% there.  He loves to look at books, though, and he enjoys me reading to him.  He will get there.  He still has in-home therapy as well as private speech.  But we are contemplating sending him to school in the fall, if not sooner.  We'll see.  Emotionally and developmentally he is still pretty far behind his six years.

3.  Sports.  Aedan played Upward basketball and enjoyed it.  Then we had two seasons of baseball, spring and fall.  My boy loves his baseball.  And he's good.  That's not just me being a biased mom.  He really is a natural ball player.  We did have a bitter disappointment at not making the tournament team, and there was great outrage both in our house and in many other parents as well who felt he deserved a spot.  He graduated to kid pitch in the fall season.  Kid pitch. is. rough.  Lots of walks, lots of strike outs.  Not a lot of hitting or scoring most of the time.  But he had a lot of fun and is ready to play again.  Liana played her first season of Tball, and was surely the most enthusiastic child on the field at every game.  Both of them certainly inherited their father's athletic ability, thank the Lord!  Tball doesn't run in the fall, so she only got one season in.  And because her birthday is one week past the cut-off, we will suffer through enjoy one more round with her before she can go to coach pitch.  James wasn't quite ready for organized sports, but I think we will let him try in the spring.  He keeps asking for his turn for a game!

4.  Dogs.  Our Swiper, who we had for almost 9 years, met his Maker this spring when he ran out of the house and into the street.  I enjoyed several glorious canine free months.  And now we have a beast of a puppy named Shadow.  Overall she's a very good dog, but she's a puppy.  A very rambunctious puppy.  But she has a nice ferocious bark that makes me feel safer when Jason goes to work in the middle of the night.  The kids love her, and she loves them.  Oh, and she snores.  Loudly.

5.  Adoptions.  So many children were adopted this year by families I know personally and practically personally thanks to Facebook.  They came from China, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and Texas.  Also, super good friends of ours started the process to adopt a little boy from the Philippines.  God is so good.  Every 6 weeks our church lets the orphan ministry run an insert in the bulletin featuring a child/children in need of a family.  Jetlee was my April insert child.  I desperately wanted a family to come forward for him.  He reminds me so much of James.  I almost exploded when my dear friend texted me after church on Easter Sunday and asked what they needed to do to adopt him.  In a few months, my little Filipino will have a fellow Filipino living just 5 minutes away!!  I love love LOVE seeing kids brought into families.  In case you don't know, ORPHANS NEED FAMILIES.  Maybe 2015 will be the year you hear God speaking to YOU about adoption or foster care!

6.  Vacation.  We took our first family vacation this year and drove to Texas.  We visited our framily who also has adopted deaf kiddos.  It was glorious.  You can read about it here.  The plan is for them to come here this year.  But if they can't, I see another road trip in our 2015 future.

7.  Church.  We love our church.  We love our pastors.  But the church and the pastors are just people.  And people can let you down, frustrate you, and disappoint you.  They can also leave you.  We had a lot of frustrating moments this year, and a lot of change.  Two pastors have left since September.  I'm not a fan of change.  Or of being upset with people I respect and trust.  But it happens.  And we remember that we need to keep our focus on God, and trust HIM with our lives and with our church.  He knows what He is doing, even when we can't see it and don't like it.  No church is perfect; no pastor or leader is perfect.  We had such an awful experience 10 years ago, and I think that makes us more cynical and likely to distrust.  So we are working through that, and waiting to see what God is going to do next.  We still love our church.  And our pastors.  Especially ones who still buy your ice cream even after you scared the pants off of them in the DQ drive-thru. :)

8.  Work.  Jason's work, to be specific.  We hate it.  Hate. It.  We are grateful for it, for sure.  But the hours are awful.  The treatment of workers is awful.  Working for free is awful.  We are praying for a new job to come during this time of voluntary layoff.  And if it doesn't, we will still be thankful.  Jason will still do his best to please God at this job.  But we will still hate it!

So that's about it.  It was a good year overall.  I'm having a hard time remembering that tomorrow is January 1st again.  I don't do the whole resolutions thing, because I always plan to do stuff and never actually do.  But I do have things I want to work on this year, and with the Lord's help, I will!  Thanks for following our life and reading all my ramblings.  Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

One Year Hearing

The week of James's surgery was also his "heariversary."  He is officially one year hearing.  Typically, audiologists and SLPs/AVTs will tell you to measure how your child is doing based on their hearing age.  So, are they doing things language-wise that a child of that age would do?  I think it's safe to say that James is doing at least that well, probably more so.  I couldn't even begin to count all the spoken words he knows.  Colors, numbers, most of the alphabet, food, animals, places, common items and verbs, and simple directions make up most of his vocabulary.  Much of what I say to him in a day is only spoken.  If he clearly doesn't understand, then I will sign.  Or if it's something new or not typical vocabulary, then I will sign that too.  Truly, though, he astounds me on a regular basis with the things that he understands.  At least once a week he will understand something that I did not expect him to, or know that he knew.  And three times  in the last few weeks he has overheard a conversation and recognized some of the words.  Two of the times he did not understand the usage of the word, but that's English!  But he identified the word and asked what we were talking about.  Last night at church he was busy coloring and not even facing the interpreter, but he knew when the person praying said amen.
He is becoming more interested in conversations that don't directly involve him, and he is really coming along in his expressive language.  Even though he understands quite a bit of spoken language, his primary form of expression is still signing.  He has been consistently stringing 3 or 4 words together, and telling more stories of things that have happened, or conversations we've had.  The other day when he woke up and saw it was raining, he told me it was raining and that I would need my windshield wipers in the car.  Then he told the dog to be quiet because Aedan was still sleeping.  On Wednesday night in his prayer he talked about wanting a cookie in his class and not liking the snack I brought him.  None of those in so many words, of course, but quite clearly nonetheless.  He is also starting to relay messages, something that he never was able to do before.  Granted, they sometimes take some decoding, but he is getting the idea.
He does have a good number of words that he speaks on a regular basis, and some of them are starting to become clearer.  His favorite things to say are mine, I do, love you, no, please help me, and puppy.  Water, shower, Liana, Aedan, Shadow, what happened, mommy, daddy, please have..., banana, milk, movie are some of the other words he says just about every day.  We are almost 4 weeks out from his surgery, and I am starting to hear a difference in some of the sounds he can make.  He will return to speech next week, and I'm excited to hear what his therapist says.
I love ASL.  I think it's a beautiful language, and I'm thankful that the Lord gifted me with the ability to learn it.  But I have to be honest.  I'm equally thankful for the gift of hearing that CIs give to my son.  This is all extra amazing because he was implanted so late, and is profoundly deaf.  Until one year ago, he had absolutely no access to sound, so his brain has had to develop all these pathways for language.  He should not be doing as well as he is, according to the experts.  But God is able.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orphan Sunday - What YOU can do.

It's my favorite Sunday today -  Orphan Sunday!  I have about 600 thoughts in my head of things I want to say, but I'm sure most of you won't stick around that long, so I'll try to keep it brief. :)

When we start talking about orphan care, most people think we mean adoption.  And yes, adoption is a huge and vital part of orphan care.  But it's not the only part.  I'll get to adoption in a bit, but let's talk about what you can do for orphans besides adoption.

1.  PRAY.  Everyone can do this, even young children.  (Little detour here, while speaking of children.    If you have kids, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE educate them about orphans!!!!!  Keep it age appropriate, obviously, but kids need to know from a young age that orphans are out there, and that they NEED US.  If you don't personally know anyone who has adopted, this might feel awkward at first, but it's so so so important.  Ok, moving on.)  Pray for the Lord to speak to people's hearts about orphan care.  Pray for orphans who wait, many with little to no hope of ever having a family.  Pray for families who are adopting; it's a grueling process.  Pray for families who have adopted.  Life isn't all sunshine and roses just because you give a child love and a family.  Pray for the kids who have been adopted.  They have lost so much, and many have suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect.  Suddenly having a family doesn't make all that go away.  Pray for them to find healing in Christ.  Pray for kids in foster care.  They too have lost and suffered.  Pray for foster parents.  They deal with the same issues as adoptive parents, and then some.  Pray for orphanage workers.  The list can go on and on.  You better get started!

2.  GIVE.  Adoption is expensive.  Find someone who is adopting and give toward their costs.  Find an orphanage and donate to it.  Or ask what they need and collect those items.  Get your friends and family involved.  If you need help finding a place to support, I can put you in touch with someone working in Haiti, the Philippines, Guatemala, China, Mexico, or Africa.  You can also give to organizations such as Show Hope, Lifesong For Orphans, Samaritan's Purse, Compassion International, etc.  Which leads me to ...

3.  SPONSOR.  Truly, I could write a whole book about why everyone should sponsor.  Not everyone should adopt or foster.  Not everyone can (more on that soon!), but just about everyone reading this can and should sponsor a child.  For $30-$40 per month (depending on the organization you choose to sponsor with) you can provide good food, clean water (I could write another book about that), medical care, education, and the gospel.  Nowhere in America can your money go so far!  Not only that, but you give a child HOPE.  Hope for the future.  Hope for their family.  Hope for a life without poverty.  Hope in the knowledge that someone cares about them.  You can literally save their life and change the whole direction of their future.  And they send you letters and draw you pictures!  Please, visit compassion.com, feedthechildren.org, or samaritanspurse.org.  See the faces.  See the hopelessness that poverty creates.  See the difference you can make with such a little bit of your abundance.  I promise you won't regret it.

4.  FOSTER.  Foster care is scary to me, I just have be honest.  The things children have suffered that send them into foster care in the first place, coupled with equally abusive foster parents and a system that is flawed beyond belief make me want to RUN far, far away.  But those are the very reasons that good foster parents are desperately needed.  Fostering is not something to be entered into lightly, and in some regards I think it's even harder than outright adopting a child.  But children need a chance.  They need that same hope that impoverished children get from sponsorship.  They need adults who will show them that they are loved, that they are valued, and that they have a purpose and they CAN succeed.  Maybe you're like me and terrified of fostering.  Or maybe you've never even considered it as a possibility.  I just want to encourage you to pray about.  The need is so great, and it's not going away.

5.  ADOPT.  I've saved the best for last.  Not because the first 4 are less needed, less important.  On the contrary, they are just as important.  Not everyone can adopt.  And not every child can be adopted.  So we need all manner of orphan care.  But I've seen what adoption does for a child.  I've seen it in my own child, and in so many others.  For those who can't be adopted, maybe because their country is closed, or because they are not legally free for adoption, we must do whatever else we can to care for them.  But for those who are free for adoption, for those who wait, for those who long for a family, for those who face life in an adult mental institution but are yet children, for those who will die without medical care we take for granted, for those who will age out and become a statistic: they need to be adopted.  The problem isn't that God has called too few families to adopt.  It can't be. God's heart is FOR the orphan.  The problem is that too few people are willing.  Too few will even consider it.  And of those who do consider it, too few will go through with it.  Sadly, I know many people who would love nothing more than to adopt a child (or several!), but circumstances beyond their control make that impossible at this time.  But even worse is the fact that many (dare I say most) of us are perfectly able to adopt.  "But I'm not called."  Have you even asked?  Because I find it hard to believe that a God who would go to the lengths He did to adopt us would say NO to someone wanting/willing to adopt.  And if He does say no, then I'm very sure He is saying YES to one of the previous four options.  "I can't afford it."  If we are talking about the actual cost of adoption, you're probably right.  Not many people I know have thousands of dollars just sitting around.  But God will always provide for what He asks you to do.  Always.  If you're talking about the cost of adding a child to your family, well, only you know if that's really true.  It may very well be.  This is a tough economy we live in, and many families are genuinely struggling.  "_______________ (Insert your own excuse here."  I could list several more frequently heard objections to adoption, but I'll not waste my time.  Just think about it.  Begin to pray about it.  See where God leads you.  You might be surprised.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways you can care for the orphan.  Find a way.  Do something.  Don't wait any longer.  They've waited long enough.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trust God

I haven't blogged in a quite a while, so this might be a long post.  Sorry!  It also includes a book review, so bear with me.

I recently read the book Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin.  (Given to me free for review by Bethany House.)  I've only read a few of her books, but I really enjoy her as an author.  She brings the Old Testament to life in a way that makes me want to go and read books that people aren't usually clamoring to read, like Zechariah, Nehemiah, and Ezra.  Keepers of the Covenant was no exception.  Beginning with the events in the book of Esther, but from the perspective of the Jews instead of Esther, and continuing on to the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from Babylon, one cannot miss the major theme running throughout the book of Trust God.  All of the characters in the story had to trust God through various difficult situations, and He always proved himself faithful, even through very painful experiences.  In my own life right now I have a number of things about which I need to remind myself, Trust God.  Reading this book helped strengthen my faith, reminding me that God can be trusted, even when circumstances seem to say otherwise.

Trust God.  Easier said than done sometimes, right?  Our experiences don't always lead us to believe God is even trustworthy.  But He is.  Always.  It's not always clear at the moment, especially the most painful, difficult moments.  We can't see the whole picture.  We can't know all there is to know about God's perfect plan.  But we can trust him nonetheless.  Right now this is challenging me in several situations in my life.  For starters, Jason has a very frustrating job.  He works terrible hours, many of those hours being unpaid.  He has to wake up at 1am or 2am most days, and sometimes doesn't get home until 3pm or 4pm, occasionally even later.  Needless to say, he's pretty exhausted all the time, and goes to bed quite early.  Add in our (my) crazy schedule, and it's not very pretty some days.  Don't get me wrong, we are grateful he has a job, and that it is sufficient for our needs.  But it's h.a.r.d.  And we've been praying for some time now that he would find a new job.  Soon.  In the meantime, we are trusting in God's plan in keeping him in this job for the time being, and he is doing his best to share the gospel with the guys he works with.
In my everyday life, I have this "I can do it all myself" mentality.  Even though I know I clearly can do nothing on my own!!  I fail miserably everyday, but I while I tell God I need his help in the morning before I get up, and at the end of the day after innumerable disasters, rarely do I actually ask for (and  accept!!) his help in the heat of the moment.  So many times I've thought, "But I don't feel helped."  And yet the Bible promises that the Lord is our helper.  Over and over again, he promises to help us.  So if I don't feel helped, either I haven't actually asked (maybe I think I have, in a roundabout sort of way), or I'm not recognizing the help He is offering, or I see it but I reject it in favor of my own stubborn pride.  In none of those options am I trusting God to help me with the right now.  I find it relatively easy to trust God in the face of some big, impossible problem.  But in the never-ending laundry-arguing children-lack of patience-homeschool-dinner-lack of patience-therapies-dishes-work-lack of patience-hecticness that is my life?  Not so much.  (Did I mention my lack of patience??)  But God promises to help me.  So this is me, renewing my trust in God to help me through the everyday.
And then there's James.  There are things I worry about with all three of my children, but James has the longest list!  Let me say first that he is doing SO well.  He has come such a long way this year, thanks in no small part to his 4 wonderful therapists.  He can understand so much of what is spoken to him, without any sign.  Sometimes I am surprised by words he understands that I wasn't expecting him to.  However, that's just at home, in our everyday vocabulary.  When he goes to church in his Wednesday night class with kindergarten and first graders, it's abundantly clear how far behind he still is in his language comprehension.  And here I mean in sign and in spoken language.  He's also still very delayed expressively.  Again, he's made huge gains, and we are so happy with his progress.  But compared to other 5 and 6 year olds, he just can't keep up.  And that's ok, but it can be so disheartening.  And it makes me question every decision.  And worry if he'll ever catch up.  And wonder if I should be doing something different with him.  And on and on go the questions and the worries.  But I have to trust God.  Just last week he had surgery to correct his insufficiently functioning palate, called VPI.  The surgery, called a pharyngeal flap, is supposed to help him with producing sounds necessary for spoken English.  But recovery has been a beast so far, and as of right now I'm not seeing any marked improvement.  He's not allowed back to speech for 4-6 weeks, either, so it might be a while.  But I worry that maybe we put him through this for nothing.  But he clearly wants to talk, and he works really hard.  So we had to try.  Without the surgery there was no way he would ever speak clearly.  So all I can do is trust God.  That's all I can do in all areas where he is concerned!  I have to remind myself that He made James, He knows James and all that he's capable of.  And while our goal is for him to catch up to his peers, it's ok if he never does.  Because God still has a plan for him, and I will teach James to follow it.  Speaking of, James recently started asking me to pray for him, and volunteering to pray for others who are sick or hurt.  So he knows that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, and that we should pray when we are hurt or sick. That might be about it so far, but I'd say that's a good start.  And this morning in church he was actually signing along with the interpreter during worship. :)
So the bottom line here tonight...TRUST GOD.  Will you join me in committing to trust God in everything??  I hope you will!

Monday, July 14, 2014

We are FrAMILY!!!

I believe in family.  I truly do.  I believe that having a strong, close, supportive family can make all the difference in a person's life.  (No, this is actually not a post about adoption.  Well, not entirely :))  But sometimes...sometimes one's family just doesn't get it.  (I'm talking extended family here, not mom, dad, and kids.)  They don't get the way you parent.  They don't get your kids and their special needs.  They don't get your values and standards for life.  They don't get your priorities, the way you handle your money, or the way you choose to educate your children.  And that's ok, because we all do things a little differently.  It doesn't mean you love each other any less, or that you are any less of a family.  But still, it can make things hard at times.  So when you find another family that gets it, really gets it, and you become close friends, those friends become your family too.  Or, framily, for those of you who are into cell phone commercials. :)
We just spent a wonderful week with one such family.  We drove for two days, about 1700 miles one way to get there, stayed for a week, then turned around and made the long trip again.  And it was worth every mile, every "can I have a piece of candy/gum/snack/turn on the iPad/watch another movie?", every dirty gas station bathroom, and every fast food meal.
Between our two families, we had 7 children ages 8, 6, 6, 5, 5, 2, and 2; 5 adopted, 4 from another country, 3 deaf, 2 with CIs, and one with mild hearing loss.  And wonder of wonders, it was glorious.  The children all loved each other from the very first day and played together like they've known each other their whole lives.  (They haven't, by the way!  My three had only met two of the others via videophone, and the other two have only been home a few months so they had only seen pictures of them.)  We had no major behavior issues, just normal kid stuff.  It wasn't even horribly chaotic.  And the best part - nobody had to interpret for anybody!!!  The hearing kids could sign and communicate freely with the deaf kiddos and no one was ever left out.  If you don't have a deaf child you probably will not appreciate the magnitude of this, and maybe someday I'll try and explain it to you.  But I promised myself I would not rant about the need for people in our life to learn to sign, so I will leave it at that.
Some of the highlights from our week:
1.  Going to an indoor playground since it was too hot to play at an outside one.
2.  The kids swimming in the little backyard pool and having a total blast.
3.  The oldest two going to a Rangers game with the dads.
4.  Going to a splashpad and playground (with an oil derrick in the background!)
5.  Meeting an Army sergeant at a restaurant.  He was super nice and gave James a hat and the patches right off of his uniform.  Totally made James's day.  Also gave all the kids an assortment of Army recruitment items.
6.  Taking Liana to the American Girl store in Dallas and seeing her giant smile the entire time we were in there.
7.  Going to a park in the middle of the city and letting the kids run.
8.  Staying up late every night talking after the kids (finally) went to sleep.
9.  The flies.  No, not the flies.
10.  Just being together.  And did I mention that nobody had to interpret for anybody???!!!

I would be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that didn't want to pick up right now and move there, just for number 10 alone.  I would be lying if I said we haven't talked about the possibility.  Only the Lord knows if we ever will or not, but I have to say, to see my son (and the other deaf kids) being able to play with kids his age and communicate in his language...

I'm dangerously close to ranting again, so I'll leave you with some pictures of our fun!
































Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Really Matters

It's almost 11pm and I should be sleeping. Instead, I'm eating cheese curls and (finally) writing this blog that's been rolling around in my head since Saturday. :) It all started after my son's 8th birthday party. (No, that's not true. Really, it started a few months ago when I was searching Pinterest and these crazy post-your-party-pictures-so-the-rest-of-us-can-feel-inadequate websites for ideas for the upcoming Nerf themed birthday. I found some really great ideas, which I used, and a whole lot of scrapbook-worthy photos, which I planned to take of my own successful celebration.) I uploaded all my pictures from the day and was quite distressed to see that I had very few of my own scrapbook-worthy shots. For one thing, the party was in our church gym and the lighting is terrible for pictures. So, since little boys with Nerf guns don't care to stand still for my camera, most of them turned out blurry. I also did not get any pre-party shots of everything set up so nicely before the chaos ensued. I don't even have a picture of Aedan with his (cup)cake!!  I  always get a picture of my kids with their cake before the party starts.  But, to be honest. the nerf disc bullet cupcake that the two older kids helped make just didn't meet my cake decorating standards, if you know what  I mean.  Aedan, however, thought they were amazing.  Which brings me to the point of this post.  As I was bemoaning my lack of perfect pictures, my hubby reminded me that the day was not about the pictures.  It was about celebrating an 8th birthday, and the birthday boy couldn't have been happier with how the day turned out.  I believe his exact words were, "That was the best birthday party ever!!"  And that, friends, is really what matters.  At least that's what I'll keep telling myself until Liana's birthday party in a few weeks. :)

The nerd disc bullet cupcakes

He is always happy to pose for the camera!

Everyone got a bullet holder with bullets and sunglasses (for safety).

Legos.  Lots and lots of legos.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Knowing God By Name - book review

Knowing God By Name by David Wilkerson was sent to me, free for review, by Chosen Books. This is not a book you read through quickly, so I am still working through it but I wanted to post my review anyway. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but it has by far exceeded any expectations I had. Many people have studied, written about, and preached about the names of God, and I thought this might be just a repetition of what I've heard before. However, this is just not the case. Wilkerson does an excellent job explaining the names of God, while relating them to our everyday lives. Every time I have picked up this book, it has spoken directly to circumstances in my life at that moment. Maybe that's because God is God in every circumstance, but Wilkerson's writing is encouraging, not preachy or too scholarly. This is a good book for anyone who wants to know God on a deeper level!

For Such A Time - book review

I reviewed the book, For Such A Time by Kate Breslin, which I received for free from Bethany House. I was very excited to see a WWII historical fiction novel as one of my choices of books, and this one did NOT disappoint!! A modern-day Esther, Hadassah Benjamin is put in a unique situation when she is rescued from a concentration camp by a Nazi officer, who believes there was an error that mistakenly sent Hadassah, who is Jewish but has falsified papers under the name Stella Muller, to Daschau. The officer is in charge of a Jewish ghetto, and readers get a firsthand look at conditions for Jewish people under Hitler's regime. Disturbing, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking, this book challenges anyone who might think that one person simply cannot make a difference in the face of evil. It also offers insight into the mind of a Nazi officer, who does not fully agree with Hitler's cruelty, but feels powerless to stand against it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would highly recommend it, even if historical fiction isn't your first love. I hope that Ms. Breslin continues to write fiction, as her debut in this genre was definitely a success.

Tide and Tempest - book review

I have been on a reading spree, so I have a few books to review at once here. As always, I received Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig, from Bethany House in exchange for my review. This was the conclusion to the Edge of Freedom trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two, and this one was no different. Plenty of action and intrigue kept the story moving, and me on the edge of my seat more often than not. All throughout I was pulling for Tillie and Captain Morgan to end up together, and I did find myself getting frustrated at all the assumptions and lack of communication that kept them apart, but I also know it was necessary to the story line. I would have liked to see a little more elaboration on their spiritual transformation. It seemed a little lame to me. It was almost like it was put in as an afterthought to make it qualify as a Christian novel. But otherwise I really enjoyed the book, and I look forward to more from Ms. Ludwig.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Draw of Kings - book review

I finally finished A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr. This book was given to me for a free review from Bethany Publishing. I was so excited to read this final chapter in The Staff and the Sword trilogy, even though I never got to read the middle book. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with this one. Maybe it was because I missed so much in the second book that I was often asking myself what they were talking about. Maybe it was because I don't have a battlefield understanding that I couldn't follow all the battle plans and descriptions. Or maybe it was trying to follow three or four simultaneous story lines that made the whole plot seem to drag. Whatever the cause, I have to say I was not terribly impressed with this book, which was surprising because I really enjoyed A Cast of Stones and had been looking forward to the rest of the series. I won't give up on Mr. Carr; hopefully I'll like his next book better than this one!

Friday, February 28, 2014

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Still Short

If you've ever had the unfortunate experience of not having enough money to pay your bills, then you understand the panic that threatens as the due date speeds ever closer.  Now multiply that need by about 11,000, and you can get an idea of where my dear friends, the Fergusons are in their adoption process right now.  This family that has been such a tremendous help and support to us in our adoption is at the very end of their journey, as they are scheduled to travel to China on Thursday to bring home these two beautiful treasures:

And they are still short about $11,000.  I know their faith is strong that the Lord is going to meet this seemingly impossible need, and I am standing right bedside them in faith.  But I am asking you, as their friends, or total strangers but brothers and sisters in Christ, WILL YOU HELP?????  They need to be fully funded by the end of business tomorrow in order to have the money necessary to travel on Thursday.  I know many of you gave during our birthday fundraiser in December, and I thank you all.  But if you didn't give then, or you can give more now, you would be a part in giving these two darlings the family they so deserve.  Maybe you can only give $5.  Give it.  It helps.  Maybe you can give more.  Let's stand together with this family and bring these babies home!!!  You can donate right here:  Ferguson Paypal.  Thank you for your generosity!!!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CI Number 2!

So here we are again, hanging out in the hospital after having a second cochlear implant put into James's other ear.  He's doing very well, much better than last time around!  There were no scary issues during surgery this time, thank you Jesus!  And he is not nearly as nauseous.  We are not giving him any morphine or other narcotics as they make him vomit.  So hopefully tylenol is sufficient to manage his pain through the night, and we can go home in the morning.
James won't actually get this processor for about 4 weeks, giving the ear time to heal.  In the meantime he will be able to continue to wear the first one.  And yes, he can hear with it on.  Take it off, and he is just as deaf as he was before.  Implants don't cure deafness.  Only God can do that!  But anyway, he is hearing pretty much everything that goes on around him.  If you're in another room, he might not hear you call him, although he does hear the microwave beep from the other room!  And if it's a very noisy place, he's not likely to notice if you call his name.  No, he doesn't say any words yet, but he knows a cow says moo and a pig says oink, along with some other animal sounds.  He tries to say "love you" (which is very cute) and "thank you" (if you prompt him).  He makes noise every waking moment of the day (at least that's how it feels some days), and he will sing, loudly, in the car when the radio is on.  Which is always. :)  He recognizes the phone ringing, the dog barking, and he knows if music comes on during a tv show.  He knows when you call his name, which is a glorious thing, especially when he starts to run in a grocery store!  We are working on learning letters, and he can identify a few of the sounds already.  For only 3 months in, he is doing very well.  And turning on his other "ear" should only help him progress even faster.  He doesn't understand speech yet, so we still sign, and will continue to do so.  No one knows how long it will take him to understand oral language, and maybe he never will.  Everyone is optimistic that he will, but if you haven't started to learn some signs yet, now is a great time!! :)


I had this big long post planned, and actually started, about why we decided to get CIs for James in the first place.  But I decided not to finish/post it at this time because A) I was mostly doing it just to voice my opinion on the matter, and B) I really don't want to start an argument or hurt anyone's feelings.  I could say that I'm not trying to change anyone's mind in this matter, but that would be a lie.  I like for people to agree with me, and I like it even more when they don't agree but I can convince them!  But unless someone is on the fence about the issue, I'm not likely to convince them of my point of view, any more than they will convince me of theirs.  So, if you really want to know the reasons behind our decision, I would be happy to tell you personally.  If you found this blog and are trying to make a decision, I will give you my opinion and you can do with it what you like!

All Things Hidden, Book Review

I recently finished the book, All Things Hidden, by Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse.  I have long been a big fan of Peterson, and I've never met one of her books I didn't like.   All Things Hidden was no exception!  Set in a different era than I usually read for historical fiction, I actually learned a great deal about Alaska and how it became established after the Great Depression.  Even though this was a more modern setting than I tend to prefer, the story line was interesting and the characters likable or hate-able (yes I just made up that word) as they were intended to be.  I did find the mental ramblings of one of the main characters to get a bit monotonous, but I could also relate to his being stuck on particular thoughts, especially those that were negative and not entirely accurate.  Being a romantic novel, the ending was satisfyingly predictable, but the story twists and turns were not boring in the least.  I enjoyed this book, and as always, I look forward to Peterson's next novel!

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All that being said, thinking about the title of the book, All Things Hidden, made me think about all the things that we tend to keep hidden.  Ok, that I tend to keep hidden.  Crazy thoughts, my perfectionist tendencies  obsessions, frustrations, and even good things like gratefulness for my husband and kids, appreciation for good friends, etc.  But God knows all things.  Nothing is hidden from him.  And he will bring things to light as he sees fit, in order to change my heart and my life.  While it may not always be pleasant or enjoyable, it is always necessary! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Year Home!!

I started this post as an end-of-the-year thing, but never finished it, so I'll just turn it into a One Year Home post instead!  Some of it will be about James, and some of it about the rest of us. (warning: it will be LONG!)

1.  One year ago yesterday we brought home a tiny little black haired boy who was clearly pretty scared and didn't understand what on earth had just happened.  He went through some grieving periods in the first several months, but overall he remained his happy self.  We really feel like he has bonded and attached to us quite nicely and without much difficulty.  Yes, there have been hard times, but compared to what could have been, the transition overall was smooth.  I credit that to the wonderful, loving foster family he had; his easy-going personality; and a whole lot of prayer!
In the beginning we had a whole slew of doctors' appointments, dental work, and various testing.  Once that all settled down, we focused on getting his services started through the school district and getting his first cochlear implant.  Over the summer he started therapy and he currently has 4 different therapies every week.  While it's hard to juggle all that, along with work and homeschooling, he really enjoys it all and is doing very well.  His vocabulary is continually growing and he is starting to string words together more consistently.  I would consider him to be much like a two year old in his expressive communication.  He'll get stuck on a word or phrase and say it over and over again, with no other information!!  But he is so much better than he was just a few months ago.  Counting is still a challenge, and so is identifying colors, but he'll get there. His drawing is improving and becoming more varied, he can put simple puzzles together, find hidden pictures, sort and match just about anything, ride a bike, hit a baseball, dress himself completely (minus buttons and snaps), and a host of other things.  He has many friends and wants to see them all everyday!  He gets pretty mad when I tell him we aren't seeing anyone today!!  He goes to Sunday School every week and is in the 4 year old class on Wednesdays.  He is the only one of the three kids who gets excited to go to work with me, and he does well playing with other kids there.  As far as hearing, we are coming up on the 3 month mark for hearing.  And he is doing incredibly well!  He consistently recognizes his name and will look when you call him (a glorious thing, I have to say!).  He knows when the phone rings and when the microwave dings.  He sings along every time the national anthem is on tv.  He is making so many more sounds, and is getting OOO, OH, and OW in addition to his normal AAAAAA.  He is learning to recognize animal sounds and imitate them.  I have very little doubt that this boy is going to be oral someday.  He is scheduled for the other ear to be implanted next month.

So now onto the rest of the things that happened in the last year!!

2.  We experienced a miracle in March when the Lord completely healed Jason's fractured back!  With all that was going on at the time, I don't think we gave proper praise to the Lord publicly, so we shall remedy that now.  Starting in the fall of 2012 Jason was having terrible back pain and was misdiagnosed for many months before his surgeon finally discovered a fracture in his spine.  He continued to work (his very physical job) despite the unbearable pain until January, just before we traveled to get James.  He was in constant pain but rarely complained.  My man is a trooper!  Anyway, at our church we have First Friday services each month, and last March we also had a special First Saturday service.  I had stayed home with the kids and Jason went to run sound.  He decided to go down for prayer when they were praying for healing and other needs.  Some men gathered around and prayed for him, and somewhere around 9:00 I got a phone call saying, "I think I've just been healed!  My back doesn't hurt and I can move!!"  Such a wonderful blessing, as we were looking at the real possibility of surgery to repair the spine.  After another 6 or 8 weeks of rehab, he was able to return to full duty at work, and has had no problems since!  God still heals, folks!!  If you are in need of a miracle, don't give up hope!!

3.  Aedan and I survived our first year of homeschool through PAcyber (which I hated, and did not go back to this year) and he did very well in everything.  We even finished all his work early!  Liana learned to read, thanks to Hooked on Phonics.  No kidding, it really does "work for me" like the old commercials said.  She also completed several kindergarten level workbooks.  This school year we are doing traditional homeschooling with Aedan in second grade and Liana in first.  We moved our homeschooling area from the dining room table to the kitchen, and everyone is moving along quite nicely.  We are blessed to have a few other homeschooling families to do things with, and get encouragement and ideas.  People always ask about James and school...right now he is still somewhat behind as far as school type things, but we are working on it!  We do not think he will be ready to start kindergarten this fall, though.  But he will still be eligible for therapy through the AIU through next school year, so we will continue our current therapies (He has a special ed teacher, a teacher of the deaf, and speech).  I do plan to homeschool him too, although I do consider sending him to the school for the deaf on occasion.  We will cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess!

4.  Aedan played coach-pitch baseball in the spring and the fall and was (I must say) very impressive.  He certainly did not get my athletic ability, thank the Lord!  His dream is to play professional baseball someday, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he did.  We talk often about the need to practice and work hard, but also the need to seek God's will for our lives and do what He has planned for us.  Aedan just really hopes that plan includes MLB!  Liana played soccer and then t-ball at the Y, and she loved both.  But we are encouraging her more toward t-ball again in the spring, when she can play for Plum, like Aedan does.  She's quite the little athlete herself, and can hit the ball really well.  She's already on me to buy her cleats for the spring!  James will technically be old enough for t-ball too, so we will see if he is ready for organized sports this year.

5.  We hit a rough patch in our marriage, which was not surprising given all the stress of adding a special needs child.  I felt very overwhelmed and discouraged for many months, and disengaged from my husband.  I'm not the most open person to begin with, but add stress and fatigue and I tend to shut down.  But, praise God, we are still together and learning how to keep our marriage strong.  I think that even though so many marriages are struggling, we don't like to talk about it and feel guilty and ashamed, which only compounds the problem.  If we were more willing to be open with our marital struggles, maybe more marriages would survive, strong and healthy for the long haul.  And rest assured, the same God who does miracles and heals bodies also can heal relationships!!

6.  Jason left Pepsi after 8 years and went to a company called AIM National Lease.  It's a trucking company, and he logs hundred of miles a week hauling insulation panels to different roofing companies and construction sites.  He still works long hours, but it's not a physical job like Pepsi, so no more injuries or chronic exhaustion!  And he enjoys it, which is always a good thing.  We are really thankful that the Lord opened this door when he did.


And there you have it, folks.  A recap of the last year, our first as a family of 5.  We are looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2014!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review Time!

Not a whole lot of reading has been happening around here lately, for various reasons.  Reading is my very favorite  pastime, and it pains me when it takes me more than a few days to get through a book.  Anyway, my latest free-for-review read from Bethany House was Pilgrimage by Lynn Austin.  If you recall, she is the author of another book I recently reviewed, Return to Me.  I was excited to read this nonfiction book by her, as I thoroughly enjoyed Return to Me.  Pilgrimage is an accounting of her journey to Israel and all that she learned along the way.  It reads almost like a journal as far as her personal thoughts and prayers, combined with vivid descriptions of the Holy Land that make you feel like you are right there.  One of the reasons I took so long to read it was the personal thoughts and spiritual reflections needed time to digest and process.  This isn't like a novel where you want to just run right through to see what happens.  And on more than one occasion, the things she talked about in the chapter I was reading were things God had already spoken to me about that day or very shortly before! Kind of uncanny, really!  Things like that make one very sure that God is trying to get a point across, you know?  I really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability with which she writes this book, and I look forward to reading more of her work.