Saturday, July 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday/Saturday (7/11-12/14)

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Orphans - Update.  "Randall's" family is received travel dates, and made a WONDERFUL announcement!

Meet, "Brett!"

Brett 2013 (1)

Brett is a sweet little man with Cerebral Palsy.  This is not the first time he has appeared on the "My Family Found Me" pages of Reece's Rainbow.  In December 2012, a family met Brett and was near the point of bringing him home when they decided that they were not the best family to parent him.  Brett is nearly 7 years old, now, and the Feinlands have committed to bringing home both Randall and Brett.  Generous donors have contributed greatly to both Brett's individual grant and the Feinland's family grant fund.  In fact, at this point, they are only a few hundred dollars from being fully funded to bring both boys home!


Orphans - Still Waiting.  This is "Andruis."


He is 14 years old, and his profile says he has been institutionalized since he was seven years old.

So many families see money as their only obstacle in adopting a child with special needs from a foreign country.  But Andruis has a HUGE grant that would nearly fully fund his adoption.  Please pray that his family sees him and realizes that the only thing standing between them and their son is a mountain of paperwork - and that they get started SOON!


Vacation 2014 - Part 1 - Firsts.  This was a vacation of milestones for the boys. . .  it was Joshua's first trip to DisneyWorld and Daniel's arrival at finally being tall enough for all of the "big" rides.

First Ride on Dumbo
First Time on Rockin' Roller Coaster

First Time I Appeared in a Picture from This Vacation
(There is usually very little photographic evidence that I am ever on ANY vacation!)


Vacation - Part 2 - Cast of Characters.  

The first time Michael went to Walt Disney World was when we went together in 1996.  We have had
lunch with Pooh and his friends at the Crystal Palace every time we have visited since then.

Not every kid gets his picture taken with "the gang" all together.  Disney is very accommodating to guests with
special needs - something about which I've had a lot of questions and will address in a separate post.

The girls fought over Prince Charming.  (He pointed out that he was taken!)
The step-sisters each picked a man!

And Daniel wiped off his kiss as soon as she walked away!

Vacation - Part 3 - Life's a Beach!  We visited two water parks and Clearwater Beach.

Joshua as a mermaid - part one - courtesy of his sisters.
Joshua as a mermaid - part two - Anna gets full credit this time.
Our good friends who live in St. Petersburg met us one day at Disney and again on the beach.
The boys and Edward - with help from Edward's Dad, Jim - built this fortress.

The girls have been parasailing on previous visits to Clearwater Beach, but this year Daniel was finally big enough!

You can see Pier 60 in the background.  Michael, Joshua, and I were watching the action from there.
This awesome shot of a pelican that landed on the pier is actually also a distant shot of the kids parasailing!

Happy Birthday.  Today Joshua turns nine years old.  I will never forget the first year we celebrated his birthday.  After the cake and the presents, in his five-months-home-broken-English, he told me, still somewhat amazed, "I never had a Happy Birthday."  So today, for the third time in his life, Joshua will have a cake, and presents, and the thrill of today being HIS day.  We'll have lunch at Red Lobster, as SOMEONE has developed a strong fondness for crab legs, and we'll head out to the movies later.  A small party with his friends from school is in the works. . .

Just a little excited. . .

A 3/4 sized guitar is the right fit - I wish I would have gotten his face when he saw it!

Prayer Request.  A few weeks ago I asked you to pray for a Little Miss named Elizabeth.  Born prematurely on May 21st, she remains in the NICU.  Amazingly, blessedly, thanks to the prayers of so many and a staff of amazing doctors and nurses, Lizzie has had none of the issues that commonly plague preemies.  She is growing by leaps and bounds - already too big for preemie clothes - and doctors have said she's almost ready to come home.  If only she would eat. . .  Right now Lizzie has an NG tube (in her nose) through which she receives the bulk of her feedings.  They have tried breast feeding.  They have tried bottles.  They have lactation consultants and feeding specialists on board.  But Lizzie is a bit of a Princess and Her Royal Highness is only giving audience to feeds by mouth once or twice a day.  Doctors really want to see her taking all her nutrition by mouth before she comes home. . .  so, please, pray that Lizzie's development continues to stun and amaze and that she starts eating all on her own.

Friday, June 6, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (6/6/14)

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Orphans - Update #1.  "Randall's" family is getting closer to receiving travel dates, and their account is growing!  Two weeks ago I posted that his hopeful family needed to raise about $3,500 to "fully fund" his adoption, and today that amount is closer to $2,600.

However. . .

They are still hoping to bring two boys home when they travel this summer, and not just one.

News reports today included word that in one orphanage, in the Eastern part of this country, separatists terrorists were occupying an orphanage - living on the first floor while the children were crowded onto the second floor.  Human shields.  The weakest of the weak.  The most helpless.  Every day the future of the orphan in this country becomes more and more bleak. . .

One mom is working hard to help raise money for the other little boy "Randall's" intended family hopes to bring home. . .

Click HERE to find out more about that little man and how you can be entered to win this hard-to-find Elsa doll!


Orphans - Update #2.  Through her amazing talent for putting words and pictures together and rallying a community of faithful givers around a worthy cause, my friend Julia has been instrumental in helping to raise the funds for 600 orphans to attend a Christian summer camp this year.  Click HERE to read what she wrote about the last of the necessary funds being raised.


Shriners Day.  Today was one of Joshua's twice-annual scheduled (i.e. - we didn't make the appointment because of a break) Shriners days.  It's a pretty long day - we were at the hospital for six hours - and involves a check-up with his orthopedist, x-rays (to follow up on healing breaks), a bone density scan (to check the effectiveness of his treatment), an IV infusion (of the bisosphonates that increase his bone density), and - just for a good measure - a visit with Physical Therapy to adjust his wheelchair.  We tried to see the "brace guy," too - but he was gone for the day by the time we made it to his end of the hospital.  It was a VERY GOOD Shriners Day.  His amazing nurse got his IV in on the first "stick," and everything went smoothly.  X-rays show his broken femur to be healing - albeit SO VERY SLOWLY.  The bone density scan - which involves him lying motionless on an exam table for five minutes while the machine slowly scans every inch of his body - showed his density levels to be within an acceptable range and holding steady.  The sweetest part of the day, for me, what afterward. . .  we stopped, as we almost always do, at a fast food drive through for a snack on the long ride home.  Joshua has taken to the "blizzard/flurry/concrete" ice cream treats, and I got him his usual "cookies and cream."  As we were driving he said, "You're the best mom ever."  I asked why, and he said, "Because every time we come to Shriners you stop and get me ice cream."  I told him he'd done so well through all of his tests and procedures that he deserved a treat.  Ever humble, he agreed!


Shhh. . .  It's actually been more than a week since anyone in this house has asked to watch Frozen.  Though I still hear at least one of them singing the songs at some point every day. . . for a while there even MICHAEL was making references to it. . .


I Run 4.  Two weeks ago Joshua was paired with a runner through a program called "I Run for Michael."  (Click HERE for the IR4 site.)  IR4 is a forum that provides some inspiration and motivation for runners who dedicate their workouts and races to their assigned buddies - children with disabilities that prevent them from running and/or being able to fully participate in regular sports and physical activities.  I had heard of the program and knew that several of my friends had applied for runners for their children.  However, a woman stopped Joshua and me at the grocery store recently and told me about the program and asked me to please sign up for it, as there were more runners than buddies and these folks really wanted to be a part of something special.  

While runners might wait more than three months to be matched, Joshua was matched overnight!  The woman I spoke to ran for a buddy in ENGLAND!  In a funny coincidence - given all the runners waiting for buddies - Joshua was paired with a runner who actually lives in the suburbs of Chicago! She posts (in a private IR4 group online) words of encouragement and messages about her workouts to Joshua - we swap private messages as well - and Joshua and I share pictures of his successes and keep her updated on his progress.  If you run - or especially if you have a child who could be a "buddy" - consider visiting the IR4 site and registering.


Too funny.


Prayer Request.  This is Adam and his Momma, Jaclyn.

Adam came home from Eastern Europe last year.  He had untreated hydrocephalus and, sadly, was beyond the point where doctors could treat his condition.  Though his family sought out doctors who had hopes for Adam's future, their best efforts were not enough to correct years of neglect.  Adam went to heaven last Sunday - he was just seven years old.  His funeral is tomorrow.  Please pray for his family - especially his grieving brother and sisters.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (5/23/14)

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Orphans.  This is "Randall."  He will be 16 in February.

This young man - I mean, do you SEE the hint of peach fuzz on his upper lip? - deserves to be somebody's baby.  And, God willing, "Randall" will have that chance!  There is a family who has already traveled the international adoption route once before - bringing home two little men from Joshua's country - whose paperwork was submitted THURSDAY, and they are working hard to raise the last of the funds they need to bring "Randall" home.

The Feinland family is just a little less than $3,500 away from being "fully funded" for Randall's adoption.  Their adoption account needs to read $10,946.  (You can read their story and access their donation link HERE.)

However. . .

There is another little boy who waits.  And the Feinlands would love nothing more to bring home two more little men on this trip.  In order for that to happen, though, rather than raise another $3,500, they would need to raise another $10,000.

$10,000.  TWO lives redeemed instead of one.  Two boys in a forever family instead of one.  Two little men in a home with parents familiar with their needs, prepared to love them, guide them, seek the best in every kind of care these boys need.

Some other folks are trying to put together some fund raisers to help make this happen.

Can I stress how URGENT it is that these children be adopted as quickly as possible?  In Joshua's country there are now three regions where some, if not all, international adoptions have been halted.  Three regions. Dozens of orphanages. Countless children.


Orphans.  So - what are your plans for the summer?  In Joshua's country, many orphanages send their healthiest children away from the cities for the summer.  Where they go is not to be mistaken for summer camp.  While their surroundings may include beaches and forests and meadows, their accommodations are often the unmaintained remains of World War II era resort communities.  One adoptive family I know visited their son at a "summer camp" during their adoption process, and the children were locked inside the fence of a shadeless, grassless, cracked and ruined tennis court for playtime.

But it can be different.

My friend, Julia, has some wonderful friends overseas who are working on getting dozens and dozens of orphans to a REAL summer camp.  With songs and crafts and Bible stories and LOVE.  The governmental crisis in that country has caused even the poorest excuses for camps to be eliminated, and orphanage directors once reluctant to receive assistance from private or church-related groups are now eager to find summer activities for the orphans in their care.

So far - with an amazing "Mulligan Stew" fundraiser (click HERE for Julia's blog) - Julia has helped raise the funds for FIVE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN children to attend summer camp.  The need remains for 89 children.  Check out Julia's blog and all the great prizes that have been offered by many to help these children learn about Christ's love and experience a true summer vacation.


Guitar.  Joshua does not read my blog - so I can share this here.  I am SO EXCITED that we have found an activity for him to try.  We live in a rural area.  While there are activities like Special Olympics and Challenger sports nearby, those things are not readily available in our community.  And, honestly, every time I "get the ball rolling" in terms of making the right contacts and/or arranging to take Joshua to an adaptive sports event, he has a break that makes his participation impossible.  We offered piano lessons - both in the teacher's home and here at home - and while he loves to hear his siblings play and will tinker with the piano, he declined lessons.  Swimming - while excellent for Joshua's physical condition - leaves him uncomfortably cold and shivering in a matter of minutes.  (Truly - a hot tub on a 90 degree day would be about his speed.)  So, when we got a form from the local Park Board advertising a week-long "guitar camp," we asked the boys what they thought.  Joshua was the first to respond with an enthusiastic, "Yes!"  While both boys will take the class, with Daniel already in baseball, Tae Kwon Do, and piano, we don't intend to add guitar lessons to his schedule.  But in anticipation of finding Joshua "his thing," I searched online today for just the right guitar for a beginner who is on the small side and found a 3/4 scale, 34" guitar. . . the right size for a child aged 5-8 which, given Joshua's small stature is perfect.

Lauren 34" Student Guitar

Michael is much more knowledgeable about guitars than I am.  In fact, Daniel will use one of Michael's two guitars for the week of camp.  So before we shop, I'll let Michael do the real research and decision making.  But I am so very excited for Joshua's birthday, which is the weekend before "guitar camp."  He is going to be THRILLED.


School.  Normally, we would be going into Memorial Day weekend anticipating just a day or two more of school after the holiday.  With all of our accumulated snow days, the boys' last day of school was pushed back to June 6th.  There will be few "lazy" days of summer around here, as Vacation Bible School starts the following Monday, the girls and I leave for a church Youth Conference in mid-June, and then there are vacations, camps, weddings, guests from out-of-town, and lots of other stuff on the calendar.  August will be here before we can blink!


Thank You.  For all who prayed for my boys and sent good wishes on the occasion of their First Holy Communion, thank you!


Memorial Day.


Prayer Request.  Her name is Elizabeth.  She was born just 29.5 weeks into her Momma's pregnancy.  And she is PERFECT.  I have never put my hands on such an unbelievably tiny person.  She is the daughter of dear friends of ours, and she is doing amazingly well given her very early entrance into the world. Please pray that she "grows well on the outside" as she spends the next few months in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  And pray for peace for her Mommy and Daddy who must adjust to caring for their baby girl in a hospital 80 miles from home.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

God Bless These Boys. . .

Today Daniel and Joshua received their First Holy Communion.

There was a photographer at the church after Mass.  (These are just two "sneak peek" pictures she shared - there will be more later.)  I didn't get good pictures during the Mass - blurry - which is sad because both boys were readers during the Mass and did a wonderful job.

We had a party at home afterwards.  And even though 55-ish and mostly rainy didn't feel like a glorious spring day - it was, indeed, a GLORIOUS spring day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (5/2/14)

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Orphans.  This sweet girl has a huge grant fund of $15,000 donated by folks who desperately want to see "Silvie" find a forever family.  She will be five years old in August.

Silvie (1)


New Van.  Last March, Michael and I purchased a used van from a private seller.  From the beginning, the van was a true "money pit."  From repairing undisclosed problems to discovering many issues that had been patched/disguised in order to make the van look good for sale. . .  we soon regretted our purchase.  While the van was mechanically sound - as far as the engine/drive train was concerned - we were "nickled and dimed" by one issue after another and have spent much more on repairs than we anticipated when we bought what looked and test drove like a beautifully maintained vehicle.  When the power door on Joshua's side of the van broke a few weeks ago, we were faced with the necessity of another $600+ repair on a van with which now had almost 100,000 miles on it.  (We easily put 25,000 miles on our vans each year.) There were other small issues - each alone was manageable, but taken together, we wondered whether it was time to make a trade.  And then we found this at a local dealer - a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country with only 23,500 miles on it.

Not our van - but one that looks just like it.
The larger car payment is not my most favorite thing in the world - but when I figured what we'd spend in repairs/maintenance on the other van, in addition to its payment - this was really a wise purchase.  Michael asked if I was happy after I drove the new van home.  I told him I was not as much happy as content. Relieved.  For as much time as I spend behind the wheel, I feel much more comfortable in something newer, with fewer miles.  (Though I still and forever will miss my Saturn Relay.  I wish they hadn't quit making Saturns.)


Nigeria.  234 teenaged girls missing from their boarding school.  But it's not on the news. . . 

One suggestion is that these girls were kidnapped and forced into marriages by a group opposed to women receiving an education.  Read more about this story here.


Something Other Than God.  An atheist becomes Catholic.  I have plugged Jen Fulwiler's blog - Conversion Diary - for almost as long as I have blogged.  (She hosts this 7 Quick Takes format via her blog.)  Her book was released this week.  Reviews of her book are wonderful and I look forward to reading it.


Wishbone Day.  I don't participate in a great deal of "awareness" events or advocacy as far as Joshua's condition is concerned.  Joshua's condition is not what makes him special.  Being JOSHUA is what makes him special, and I don't generally like to draw extra attention to what makes him different.  However, May 6th is "Wishbone Day," a day meant to raise awareness for Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI/brittle bone disease).  While Joshua technically has Bruck Syndrome, the OI component is easily the most significant of his medical issues.  Joshua's classmates have started to notice his differences more:  "He broke his leg AGAIN?" and "How come he's so little?"  The comments are not said unkindly.  Joshua is well-liked and very much accepted by his classmates.  But I thought the time had come to explain to his friends a little more about what makes Joshua different, and when I saw this video, I thought it was the perfect solution.  I have asked Joshua's teacher to share it with his classmates on Tuesday - Wishbone Day.


Funny.  This made the girls and I laugh last night.


Prayer Request.  On Sunday, during the 10:00 a.m. Mass, my boys will make their First Holy Communion.  Both will be reading during the Mass.  Please pray for them!  As I coordinate the CCD (religious education) program at our parish, and I taught the second grade class for many years, I have been present at the First Holy Communion Mass for the last seventeen years.  I cry every year. . .

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”  The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”  Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”  John 6:48-58

Friday, April 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (4/25/14)

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Orphans.  Giving a shout out today to the Barnett Family.  When we were in the process of Joshua's adoption, I remember following their story as they adopted three little ones with Down Syndrome.  Now they are headed back, this time for two older children with Down Syndrome.


What I love about this family is that while Stephanie (Mom) is always very real in what she shares - meaning it's not all unicorns and rainbows - she shares the struggles honestly, too - there is little complaining.  (I need to learn from this woman!)  She shares struggles and asks for prayers, and she shares joys and praises God.  Yes, raising any family is hard.  Raising a large family where many of the children have special needs is even harder.  Even in her struggles, Stephanie puts a smile on my face, and I pray her family is quickly able to raise the necessary funds to bring these two sweet children into a very loving family.


He is Risen!  We had a wonderful Easter.  On Good Friday, the youth of our parish silently act out the Stations of the Cross, while our priest and a lector narrate the Lord's Passion and lead the congregation in prayer.  As she has been for a few years now, Rebecca played the role of St. Veronica.

Michael, Rebecca, and Anna all read at the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.  Easter Sunday was spent at Michael's brother's house - and it was nearly 80 degrees, which felt just wonderful. . .


Play Ball!  Daniel had a chilly season opener.  (He swore he wasn't cold and didn't want his sweatshirt - and as we left the field, me wrapped in a blanket - Michael reached over and felt Daniel's arms and they were WARM!)  He had a hit at every "at bat," including one hit well into left field.  Hoping that tomorrow's game is a bit warmer!


Beck.  Beck is doing well.  His personality is so different from Inca's - it's really fascinating to raise two dogs of the same breed (both are Golden Retriever/Black Lab mixes) and see how different they are.  We are taking private training sessions with a woman who lives on a farm.  I was amazed at how calm Beck was around all of her animals.

He also joined us for Daniel's ball game and patiently (and happily!) endured the admiration of all of the kids who came to meet him.


Still broke.  Joshua and I made the trip to Shriners on Tuesday.  Repeat x-rays actually looked worse to me than those taken last month, but Dr. Smith says he sees healing within the fractures.  Both he and the Occupational Therapist encouraged Joshua to take off the splint and work the leg in small increments when he can - simple bending and straightening while seated, while in the bath tub, etc.  Joshua's body - odd as this sounds, given his condition - tends to produce TOO MUCH new bone in response to a break, and all that extra bone forms a callus that rubs against his muscles and soft tissues.  It's not bad enough the break hurts - but the extra bone hurts, too!  As I'm typing this, I just got a call from the pharmacy that the meds ordered to try to halt this extra bone growth are in.  Joshua has taken them before, and while they work, they cause a lot of tummy troubles.  His doctors worked on a special "formula" to add some protection for his tummy, and we hope this will help get him some relief.


Good news!  Thank you to all who prayed for my kids' teacher who was in surgery last week.  She had a follow-up appointment with her doctor this week and it's all GOOD NEWS!  Pathology reports are benign and she is recovering well from surgery.


Prayer Request.  Something to chew on as you steal share your kids' Easter candy!