Monday, September 28, 2009

Blessings in Unexpected Places

Last week we had another adventure that we never would have thought we would have, but once again the Lord turned it into a blessing. On Thursday Daniel went to Phoenix Children's to have his feeding tube placed. We had been anticipating this for quite some time. His GI doctor felt that since he has not gained weight in over a year and all the supplements that we have been giving him haven't made a difference it was time to take this step. The procedure is not difficult at all and takes very little time but it is incredibly nerve wracking for the mom and dad. Daniel was a trooper as usual and he came through the procedure just fine. We have incredible doctors that have treated us so well and have truly come along side us to find out what the underlying issues with Daniel's health are. All the staff at the hospital was fantastic as well and he was treated very well.

The amazing unexpected blessing in all of this came from the attending pediatrician. After surgery he came and talked with us in the recovery room and spent a great deal of time getting a full history from us. He wanted to know all about the things that we have already done to help him and what else we are doing currently. I mentioned that we have seen a geneticist and that we were waiting to find out if the insurance company would approve the tests that he ordered. To which he replied, oh we can take care of that we will just order them while he is inpatient and they will be covered automatically! What an amazing answer to prayer this is because I truly didn't believe that they were going to approve the tests since they are quite costly and we have already done so many other things already. Why was I surprised that my Lord would take care of this small detail as He has so many others in the past? But all I could do was thank Him and stand in awe of His many provisions for us. So the next day the doctor spoke with our geneticist and they worked it all out to get the tests ordered and the blood drawn and we will hopefully know something in around three months.

Daniel finished his stay in the hospital and we headed back up the hill on Saturday. What a blessing to know that our other children had been having the time of their lives with their Granny and that everything was well in hand at our house. We are already in a fairly good routine with Daniel's night time feedings through the tube. He has been doing extremely well with it and as the area around the incision heals he is slowly getting his energy and mobility back. He is anxious to get back to full speed, but I must admit it has been kind of nice for him to slow down a bit. Another hidden blessing in all of this, for mom that is :).

As Robert and I sat at the hospital together and tried our best to minister to our son I realized that there is no way that I would have the strength to accomplish any of this without the Lord. He has given both of us abilities that we never thought possible. But He also only gives us what we can handle. Being at the hospital we saw families in much more serious situations than ours and I realized that although Daniel has some issues and probably always will, they are manageable. I also know that even if they were more serious, the One who brought us through this experience would be there to bring us through whatever else might be around the corner. I'm so glad that I'm in His care and so is Daniel!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

36 ÷ 6 = 6 Things We Are Excited About

I was thinking the other day that we have just finished up our 6th week of school out of 36 total weeks. So there are six, six week sections to the year and there are six of us including the kiddos and me so I thought it would be fun to do a blog post every six weeks during the year where we each tell what we are excited about that we have studied so far! That way by the end of the year we will have 36 total things. If that made any sense at all...keep reading.

So far we have visited the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and we have begun to touch on Japan. We have also discussed Lincoln, People of different World Cultures, Missionary Stories of great intrigue as well as learning addition, language and fiction and non-fiction writing. We are on a roll and are having a blast with all of the new things we are discovering. Each of us has a thing of special interest to share so here goes...

James is excited about his new Teaching Textbooks math curriculum. In it he is reviewing much of what he has learned already, but he is also discovering the world of practical math. The other day he informed me that he will not be buying a car any time soon. To which I said, "Oh?? Why is that?" He replied that according to his math book it would be a poor investment to purchase a car unless you had the cash to do so. You see he is learning about interest payments as well as the depreciation of items. His conclusion is pay cash!! Did I mention I love this math program?? He is also learning about gross vs. net pay and that old Uncle Sam takes more than his fair share of your money when you enter the workforce. I guess working for mom and dad isn't such a bad thing huh James???

Peter is excited about our study of Australia. He learned while studying about the country that it was originally settled by prisoners sent there by Great Britain. Great Britain was looking for a way to get rid of some of the prison population in their country and so they shipped them off Down Under. Until they realized that perhaps they would actually like to live there as well and they stopped shipping convicts and began immigrating themselves. Peter also enjoyed learning more about the aborigines culture and discovering that he is quite good at aboriginal painting.

Emma was enthralled as were we all with our latest read aloud book entitled The Master Puppeteer. This was our first glimpse into the culture of Japan which we will dig deeper into this coming week. It is about a boy who is living in very poor conditions in Japan and ends up moving to the Hanaza Theater where he learns all the ins and outs of puppeteering. The awesome thing about this book that was so different from many books we have read was the mystery involved in the story. It was truly a page turner and we even finished it a week early just so that we could find out the ending.

Daniel even listened in on this particular read aloud and it kept his attention so much that he said it was one of his favorites as well. This is awesome because it was all on his own initiative to come and listen. We are making some progress I think!! His other love has been our brief study in their language book about President Lincoln. He created some very nice sentences describing the former President and he informed me that he was brave as well as honest!!

Ana was the first to come and tell me what she was excited about when I asked each of them to come up with something. She has been excited to learn some safety rules in our health book and what to do and not do when you come across a stranger. She informed me that you do not talk with strangers but it is okay to talk with a police officer and tell him or her where you live and what your phone number is. She has her address, phone number and both her daddy and my names down pat and feels confident she would be able to tell someone if she were ever to get separated from us. This is one of those things that I pray will never be necessary, but I'm thankful that she knows and is excited about remembering!

I have to admit, Peter stole my original idea about Australia :). I learned a lot during that study and the fact that it was settled by convicts was news to me. But I have also enjoyed learning about Antarctica as well. I didn't know that a treaty was signed regarding the continent that states that it can only be used peacefully, for research or tourism and no military presence is allowed there unless it is in a rescue type situation. It was fascinating to read about the different expeditions across the frozen land and to learn about the animals that inhabit it. Only a few animals spend their entire lives on the land of Antarctica. The largest is the wingless midge, a tiny fly that only measures 1/2 inch long. Who knew???

As you can tell we have been quite busy around here. We are marveling at all the possibilities that the year continues to hold in store for us. Stay tuned for the next update after we finish week 12!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Work and Rest

This was a busy weekend in our house and was filled with some new experiences, some necessary tasks and some sweet fellowship. We began the weekend by pulling all the weeds in the easement that goes around our front yard. Not the most thrilling way to start the weekend but a much needed task that was far overdue. Amazing that although it was hard work what a feeling of accomplishment that Robert, James and I felt when the task was complete. How nice it is now to pull into our driveway and not see three foot mammoths as our first greeting. As I was picking up the many piles I was thinking about Adam and Eve and how things were before the fall. What it must have been like to never have to pull any weeds and to just enjoy the sweetness of the garden. But alas no there is sin and therefore we must continue to work at the ground in order to enjoy the beauty.

So with our weeds carefully in the trash we set off for our next adventure to pick up our first Bountiful Basket. I recently joined a fruit and vegetable co-op and Saturday was our first pick up. What fun it was to pick up not only two baskets full of fruits and veggies but also a 32 pound box of fresh peaches. Wow did that ever fill up my counter space! Next Robert and I set about the task of processing the peaches. Having never canned before it was a new adventure in every sense of the word and boy was I ever glad for his help in the process. I would say for our first try we did fairly well...we managed to can 9 jars of jam, 6 jars of sliced peaches, plus I made a peach coffeecake, a peach cobbler and we flash froze two gallon sized bags of sliced peaches for smoothies. Boy were we ever whipped last night but what an awesome feeling to have done work that will bring joy to our tummies and nutrition as well. I am so thankful for all of the canning advice that I have received over the last couple of weeks from some very sweet friends who assured me that I could indeed master this skill. I'm happy to say that I feel I have and I'm excited to see what else we can "put up" for winter in the next few weeks. Robert says apples should definitely be next!!

Today was our day of rest as we travelled to Phoenix to our new church home. For a little over a month we have been visiting a family integrated church in Gilbert. We have felt the conviction for quite some time that we needed to worship together as a family and we were longing for like-minded fellowship. After the homeschool conference Robert especially felt that it was time to order our lives around the convictions that the Lord has placed on us and since there is no FIC church in our area we headed for the Valley. To our delight we have found a group of people at Heritage of Faith that are such a blessing to all of us. And the Lord provided an added bonus in the fact that some friends of ours who live in Phoenix have also begun to attend the same church. We have been so enjoying getting to know these families and not only worshipping but having time each week to truly get to know them during their weekly lunch fellowship time. Today we had a chance to meet with the elders at a question and answer session to find out a bit more about the vision of the church. We were both pleased to hear that their vision lines up so well with what we have purposed to do with our family. They are very focused on fathers leading and discipling their children and assisting them to do this in the most effective way possible. We feel as though the Lord has answered our prayer regarding a church home and we see in our children such a peace as they are beginning to make new friends.

Another blessing is the travel time that it takes to get to church. While this might seem like a hardship, it is really a blessed time of fellowship for Robert and me. We are able to really focus on each other for several hours each Sunday. We have time to share what touched us about the message as well as talk about hopes and dreams for the future. It allows us to have a true Sabbath, as we are not concerned with what is waiting to "do" at home after church since it truly does take up most of our day. We are excited to see how the Lord will use us through this church and we are so thankful for His provision.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some Days Are Like That

"I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there is gum in my hair..." this begins one of my very favorite books from childhood, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. I must say that today was one of those days that this book came to mind. Even down to the fact that I know I have the book somewhere but when I went to look for it tonight before coming the write this blog post I couldn't find it.

One of the things that I love about this book is that nothing truly awful happens to Alexander in this book but just the ordinary stuff of life that just isn't exactly the way he would like. That is how my day was today. Nothing truly horrible happened but the day just didn't go as I would have preferred. It was one of those days that I questioned several times just exactly what I was thinking homeschooling. Several of my children who shall remain nameless had less than stellar days at school. It was one of those painful days to watch as they struggled with just about everything that I through at them and it seemed as though we would never be finished with school. Then just when I thought that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, ie: Robert would be home soon, he called to say at 4:30 that he was still in Phoenix and that he wouldn't be home for several more hours. Ugh!!

I think that the Lord gives me these days every so often, well sometimes more often, to remind me that I have no business doing the things that He has called me to do...that is without Him. I realized today that in my own strength I can't do this job. It is only through Him that I have any capabilities at all. What is difficult though is that I try to do things in my own strength all the time. Even when I hear the Lord in my head trying to tell me that I can't and that He is there to help if I would only ask. Why am I so stubborn? Then I look into the eyes of one of my children and see the exact same stubborness and it drives me absolutely crazy. The Lord has a funny sense of humor doesn't He? I see in this child some of my same faults and I know that He is refining me through raising him. Perhaps we can learn to listen and obey Him more together.

Now at the end of the day, things are quiet and Robert is finally home. He even brought me Chipotle which was a super sweet thing to do. As I reflect on the day I realize that sometimes the biggest blessing of some days is when they are in fact complete, and I can look back and breath a sigh of relief that my children are all still alive and well and tucked into their beds. And I can look ahead with hope that tomorrow will be a better day, perhaps if I rely on the Lord more and me less.

As Alexander's mother said, "Some days are like that, even in Australia."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

How "ists" Can Be Blessings

Our lives the last few years have been filled with visits to A LOT of "ists". What is an "ist" you ask?? Well let me explain. We have in the last four and a half years visited: the dermatologist, optometrist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, pallate specialist, throat specialist, nutritionist, feeding specialist and yesterday the geneticist...wheeew! Robert and I were sitting in the geneticists office yesterday recounting all of the "ists" and what a journey it has been. A few of the early "ists" were for our daughter Ana who had some skin issues and needed glasses as well as James who definitely needed glasses. But the majority of the "ist" visits have been on a quest to understand and help our sweet son Daniel.

Even before we brought him home from Russia we had a feeling that we would have some medical issues to deal with. We had no idea the scope of what we were in for but we knew that the Lord planned for Daniel to be in our family and so we persevered to get him home. Since then we have pealed back the onion and discovered many things, Daniel has several diagnoses but the one that continues to allude us is what is causing him to still be only 36 pounds at the age of almost nine. We have tried liquid supplements, we have tried increasing his calories and nothing is working. So later this month we will be having a "g" tube or feeding tube put in which will hopefully allow him to absorb nutrients more efficiently and thus allow him to gain weight. However that does not answer the burning question of what is causing all of this in the first place. This is how we wound up at the geneticist's office. We were blessed to find a man who was very kind and spent almost two hours discussing with us Daniel's unique history and also doing a thorough physical exam. One of the kindest things though was that this man talked mostly to Daniel. He engaged him in conversation in part to find out his capabilities but he did it in such a way that Daniel felt important and that we were not just sitting there talking about him but that he was involved. Funny how something that could seem scary and unknown could turn out to be a blessing. God meets us where we are in every situation and pours out blessings. The doctor has some ideas about what might be causing his difficulties but we will have to wait for approval from the insurance company for genetic testing to see if he is correct in his assessment. For now we wait but with a new hope that we might get some answers concerning Daniel's condition.

The next blessing of the day was that my mom and her husband Brad met us there and watched the other children in the waiting room while we were in with the doctor. Being homeschoolers is a blessing in that you can go to appointments when you need to, but it is also challenging to have to have seven people trekking through various doctors offices. We are like a passing parade and it is not always easy. However in this instance it was a blessing. The children got to tell their grandparents all about their recent adventures to Disneyland. The grandparents got to spend time with the grandchildren and we got to focus on the doctor and Daniel. Everyone was blessed!

The final blessing of the day came after we came home last night. I figured after a day in very hot Phoenix going from place to place and doing not so enjoyable things perhaps we should have some fun. So we headed for the YMCA for a little swimming to end our day. While we were there I took Daniel down the water slide as I try to do whenever I'm swimming with them. He has almost drowned in the past coming out the end of the slide because he was too small to stand up. However last night when we went down together I tried to let him go a bit and see how he would do. He did okay so after we had gone down a few times and we were resting a bit he said to me. "Mom when I'm big I'm going to go down that slide by myself!" To which I responded why not try tonight?? He was a bit amazed that I would be so cavalier but he said..."Really??". I spoke with a kind lifeguard and he allowed me to stand at the bottom of the slide to see if he could do it. Well suffice it to say Daniel has learned a new skill! He did just fine and he must have worn out the path up the stairs and down the slide by the time we went home last night. Once again God blessed me with a glimpes of the fact that although Daniel is different from my other children and he is behind in his growth and may always be, he is making progress. God's timing is not our timing and His ways are not our ways but they are the BEST! I'm so thrilled that He chose me to be the mom of this special child and revel in whatever He chooses to do with his life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

By the Numbers

The Lord is a keeper of time. He has been impressing this fact on my heart lately by bringing to mind significant numbers in my life.

The first number is 20. This fall it will be 20 years that Robert and I have been a couple. We began our relationship at the age of 16 and eventhough we went through a lot of rough times in those first few years of our relationship we always stayed together. This is one of the things in my life that I am most proud of. I can't imagine walking this journey with any other man. Even though we were not walking with the Lord at the time I know in my heart that He meant for us to be together.

The next number is 10. This is not only the number of years that we have been parents but it is also the number that signifies the number of years that it has been since the Lord took hold of my heart. I began my journey towards following Him when I was pregnant with Emma. And though my faith journey has grown and changed over the 10 year period I feel as though I have been on His path for 10 years.

13 and 7 are the next numbers. These are the numbers that I sometimes have the hardest time getting my head around. Thirteen is the age of my son James and eventhough I have only been his mom for almost four years and he was nine when he came home there is just something that won't let me believe that I am the parent of a teenager. He is a young 13 which helps a bit knowing that I still do have time and that he probably won't leave the nest at the typical age however it is sobering to know that in just a few short years he could. Seven is the age of my youngest child Ana. This sometimes gets me more than the 13 because it all seems to be going so fast. Ana joined our family at age 2 and it just doesn't seem possible that she could already be a busy 1st grader and come up with such funny sayings and be getting soooooo very tall.

Then there comes the number 5 which is the number of years since we started our wild ride of adopting four of our five children. It seems like the blink of an eye some days and other days it seems as though that these four treasures have been with us all along. I ponder sometimes what it would have been like to have them each from birth and it saddens me that I missed so much of their early lives. But it is also a reminder of just how precious each and every day has been since they have been with us. How much we have all grown and changed in the last five years. How many things I have learned about myself and what God has allowed me to walk through. There are so many things that I would have never experienced if they had not been here. Some amazing like riding roller coasters at Disneyland with my three sons. Ones that the girls didn't want anything to do with. Or seeing them all learn to swim this summer at the YMCA and then use the skills that they have learned to swim in the Pacific. How much more fun it is to have five than just one and the adventures that are so much more exciting when they can share them with one another. Then there are the not so fun things that I've learned like fighting with insurance companies to get my son Daniel to the doctors that he needs to go to. Or the fact that I could probably be a pharmacist with all the medications that I have dispensed over the last five years. Or the scary thought of having to learn how to feed Daniel with a feeding tube that will be put in later in the month...and praying that it will help him to grow. Even these not so fun things have been a blessing though. I have done things that I never dreamed I would and seen love grow in this unique family that I am helping to raise. I have laughed and cried and I know that I am not the same person that I was five short years ago and I'm glad for it!

These are the numbers that I have in my heart this week. As I ponder them I know for sure that there will be more significant numbers as the years pass. It helps me know my Lord more when I think about the numbers because I know that just as they are significant to me they are significant to Him. He is a keeper of the vast Kingdom Calendar and my numbers fit into His plan in just the right order. For that I am thankful.