Sunday, December 7, 2014

Harris = seven

You are on a math kick so this title seemed appropriate. You have grown up so much this past year! Your feet smell and you officially have boy humor.  When I leave your room at night we have a tooting noise battle until I finally end it by going downstairs. No matter how many times we do this you still find it hilarious. Just thinking about it makes me chuckle because you laugh so hard.

You had stapled index cards together and told me I could write a book. I wrote a book about when you were born and drew a pic of you in a diaper. This was your reaction. Easy laughs. :)

You are still a tender hearted boy. Caroline sprained her ankle a few weeks ago and you prayed every night for God to heal her ankle until she got her boot off. God gave you an empathetic heart. You ask every night about Mrs. B's son and Rebecca, two people we pray for. You want to know the details of their health battles and you cringe sometimes when you hear but pray even more fervently. You care about people. I love that in you.

This is you on pajama day at school. 

You did a play that required you to stand next to the same person for awhile. You didn't really love who you were standing by because there was lots of jostling, I think. You asked your teacher if you could be moved but he said no because he thought you were the best person in the class to influence the other child's behavior for the better.  Your character is already speaking volumes! I'm so proud that you were able to focus on the job you were there to do and not be swayed by shenanigans. Sometimes I still get drawn into shenanigans so I appreciate that about you.

Harris, you've handled some unique situations at a tender age. You have a special needs brother 20 months younger than you and a sister with unique needs that is basically your twin. And a two yr old sibling. Every one else's needs are bigger and louder and get met first. I hate that so much but it happens out of necessity. God knew what your life would entail when he made you and he gave you an insight that I think is beyond your years. You get it. You understand what we are doing and why and you wait and you help. You know you are on Team Goolsby and you cheerfully do your part. While it hurts me for you, sometimes, I don't think this is hurting you. You are a social creature and love your time playing with your siblings. I cannot imagine you without Caroline by your side. You and your brothers play boy things and you enjoy being with them.

Walker actually wasn't about to hit you. He was doing a dance move. 

You were home one day when Walker's occupational therapist was working with him on food. You saw how she did it and got the concept of her approach. Now, at mealtime, you will play with him in the same way she does, engaging him in fun ways and pushing him to expand his food boundaries. It's working and it's awesome that you care enough to do it. That is a gifting for you, I think, to meet someone where they are and take them under your wing and help them expand their boundaries. You did it with Caroline too, when she needed it, and you know how to be gentle and fun and make it feel safe. 

They were taking turns kissing you. You pretended you didn't like it but you loved it. 

You are not too cool for a song with hand motions. 
Y'all are singing 'Our God is a great big God' at angel breakfast this year. I love this sweet and inncent worship! I told you tonight about Rebecca, who you pray for daily, getting her hospital room and house decorated and your response was that God was so cool to do all that. You really believe you serve a great big God and I pray you never lose that!

You are just fun to hang out with. You are smart and funny and have interesting things to say.  You're always thinking and wanting to discuss things.   After a morning of you hypothesizing and being right, you said, 'My brain is just always getting the right answer today!' You like to analyze situations and understand it from all angles. You want to understand the factors in a decision and the motivation behind people's behaviors. That is awesome because it will help you put yourself in other people's shoes and have compassion when that might not be the obvious first response.

You are a great big brother. You are tender with Hayes and go out of your way to help him. He is outrageously independent so he doesn't allow much but you do what you can.

You are responsible and organized. We went out of town for a few days and you packed yourself and two other kids. You remembered the jobs I assigned to you of getting a sound machine and toothbrushes for all kids the morning we left. You knew exactly where you put everything and handled it all on your own.

I spelled out something in all the ribbon on your gifts, because you are so practical. You loved it!

Currently, you love a show called The Daytripper,about a guy exploring small towns around texas. You eat, sleep and breathe Legos. You love to ride your bike as fast as you can. You enjoy following the rules. You like to rock out to your MP3 player. You love to play with your siblings and your all time favorite thing to do is go to Mimi and Kb's house, preferably if it's just you.

Here you are watching the Daytripper. 

While the fact that you are becoming a big boy is breaking my heart, it's also really fun. I don't just love you because you're my child; I like because you are you! It's a pleasure to be in your company. I enjoy hearing your thoughts and opinions. You are very interested in the world around you and love life so much that it is infectious. You are joyful, intelligent, and kind. That's the definition of awesome. I am so thankful to be your mommy! I am excited to see how God molds you this next year!

This is my verse to pray over you this year.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved usand offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Eph 5:1-2

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What is love?

Everyone is bobbing their head now, right? Baby don't hurt me......

Moving on, I'm doing a study with some girlfriends and we camped out in 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, love is kind, etc) for a few days and I've been beating myself up for not loving Caroline enough. I've been doing that for the past 18 months but it has intensified through this study.  Then, the boldest person in our group asked me the question everyone wants to ask but never does, 'Do you love her like you love your biological children?' Through tears, I answered no, not yet. Our relationship is deepening but not yet.

I was talking to Tom about it when I got home and processing some of our conversations. He brought up the point that he loves the boys in different ways and he isn't sure what that looks like yet for Caroline, as the relationship is still finding solid ground. It got me thinking. I love all of the boys differently too but never questioned it because my love for all of them is effortless. It's a given.

To love an adopted child is a choice, for most adoptive mamas I know. It is different. You never chose to love your biological children. It was innate. That doesn't mean the love you chose is less, however. I started breaking down some of the things that a mother's love does. In the Greek version of this passage, love was a verb used 15 times to show action. It was not an emotion showing itself through action. That is sticking with me. There are many times with Caroline that I choose to demonstrate love when I do not feel it and I always have this guilt attached. What I never considered until Tom and I talked is that I do that with the boys all the time, with NO guilt! 

For example, Caroline wants lots of physical affection, particularly when she first wakes up. I give that to her, gladly, but I am also thinking of what needs to be done to get everyone breakfast. Prior to my conversation with tom, I would have assumed guilt related to adoption about how I can't (or don't want to) cuddle together for three hours. Taking a step back, I see this happens with each child! Hayes is convinced he is superman and often wants to fly and crash land. I do it until my arms cannot bear the weight of his enormous toddler body. He flies, experiences turbulence, then crashes onto the couch. Every single time I end it first but he loves it. It's a bonding time and I've never associated my ending it before he did with not loving him enough. Frankly, I do not love swinging his 43 Lb body around. It's exhausting, I do it because it brings him joy. That is exactly why I do things Caroline wants but I assigned a negative connotation to that, for some reason.

Mamas, doing something purely for your child doesn't mean you love them less. It means you are putting your own agenda aside to love them in a way they can receive.

So. What is a mother's love.

A mother would die for her children, anytime, anywhere. 
Would I do that for Caroline? 

A mother chooses the best for her child even at personal sacrifice for herself.

A mother is a cheerleader, a safe place, a counselor, an advocate and a caregiver. A mother fixes meals, makes sure you do homework, gets you to your extracurriculars, arranges play dates, delights in your delight and hurts when you hurt. I am all of those for her. It does feel different. OF COURSE IT DOES! We just met 18 months ago! I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back. I want other adoptive moms to read this and give themselves some grace.

I get insanely annoyed with some of the boys' behaviors but I never once told myself I didn't love them enough. I love them oodles and I can still justifiably be driven crazy at some of the shenanigans. 

Mamas, we are loving our kids well even when it doesn't feel good. We kiss their faces with their crazy morning breath and take them to dr appts and tuck them in every night. We tell them they look beautiful and they know they are precious to us. We color together, paint nails, and applaud every achievement. We pack their favorite snacks and make sure they socks they like are clean. We are doing this thing already! 

There is so much freedom for me in understanding that different here doesn't mean less.  My relationship with Caroline will be different and why wouldn't it be?  My relationship with each boy is different; I just never dissected it. It didn't occur to me to do so. There is so much weight attached to this idea of adoption. I think I've assigned all my emotions/reactions to some adoption category and that's silly. Tom and I have attended great seminars, taken classes, read books, and watched dvd's about how to parent an adopted child. We are so educated in this that I think sometimes we got lost in the rhetoric and forget we are just people building relationship and that takes time. 

 I think moms are hard on themselves in general and adoptive moms have a whole other level to use to scrutinize themselves. So that particular relationship gets put under a microscope and every flaw is magnified and the enemy shouts condemnation in that. I think I've missed the forest for the trees in wanting so much to love Caroline well. I'm not doing it perfectly for her but I'm certainly not doing it perfectly for the boys, either.  I'm doing my best and she's precious to me. 

I want her in our family.
I would do this again, even knowing how hard it is.
I'm so thankful to be her mommy and call her my daughter. 
I love her more than my own life. 
That is a mother's love.
The end. 

The next time someone is brave enough to ask me that question I will have a different answer.


First off, I know this is a little ridiculous. Parents have much bigger worries for their children than mine. If you haven't already read this story, you'll be blessed by reading it.
A Miracle for Rebecca/

This little girl had life-changing, life-saving, rare, dangerous surgery yesterday and is starting the long recovery process, after over four years of constant pain and unanswered questions. PRAISE GOD, it went well! I don't know this family well but we have many mutual friends and I've followed their story. It is amazing to see their faith in the middle of real suffering.

In the grand scheme of things, my worries are much less significant and one part of me knows that. However, they're still there and the only way I know to start disarming them is to write about what God has already done.

The holidays are coming. Then February will be here in the blink of an eye and that means it's time to make decisions for school for next year. Walker is five. He turned five 8 days after the kindergarten cut-off so he will already be one of the oldest children in his class. I don't think holding him back is a viable option. He's smart and I think will welcome the academic challenge of it too.

However, the thought of sending that boy to real-live kindergarten terrifies me! I know what kindergarten is like, having had experience with it with the older two. They loved it, it was fun and a good experience for them but I see too well all the pitfalls where Walker could get stuck. The cafeteria is outrageously loud. There is lots of ambient noise in the classroom. There are numerous transitions to new rooms, with new teachers. The rooms are big. While there is structure, there is also more freedom and that's not good news for him. He's high functioning enough not to qualify for services through the school so it will be on the teacher to decide how to provide for him. Terrified is an understatement.

I'm writing this as I spent another car ride in tears realizing that I won't be dropping him off next year in the bubble of protection that is his current AMAZING pre-school. So, I need to remember God's provision for him already and pray and trust that there will be provision in the future. I need to list out every thing I remember about what's been done for him to help me in my unbelief.

First and most importantly, God changed him. I wrote about it here. He is still autistic but SO high functioning. He was most certainly NOT high functioning. One day, he couldn't answer a yes or no question or even understand what I was trying to communicate and the next day he could. This happened while Tom was praying at a men's retreat. Truly, God rescued him from this place in himself where he was unreachable. Today he is a funny, interactive, loving little boy.

When we go to get Hayes at school he's usually still sleeping. Walker likes to gently stroke his hair and sweetly talk him out of his sleep. He now wants to be a helper in a way that he NEVER did. When I came out from putting Hayes down for a nap the other day (a lengthy process) Walker had put away all groceries and was so proud of himself! These are all developmental stages Hayes is in now that Walker hadn't hit at three and a half and was not on the trajectory to ever get there. He was veering a different direction. God changed him and there is no doubt.

Also, the Holy Spirit told me to go be friends with my sweet friend Amanda.  She is the one that saw things in Walker I never understood and gave me tools to equip him and our family. I'm not sure I ever would have actually sought help for him because the professionals we'd seen at that point did not guide us down that path. A doctor gave me a handout on anger management and the director of the school he was at told me I should have him pick up rocks as a punishment. Amanda was a voice of reason. Amanda is also a blessing to me because she's such an awesome friend but this is about Walker.

Amanda is the one on the far right, looking like she's about to sprint away because she was. The full marathon started before the half and her race had already begun. I know that she would also like to point out that even though she isn't wearing an official race number she did, in fact, pay for the race.

Another way God provided for us is his wonderful school! He was not able to successfully be in any environment without us. Tom and I had started alternating going to church so we didn't have to take him and I rarely went to the gym because it was such a disaster. All social functions had to be at our house so he could stay in his room or we got a sitter so he didn't have to come with us. Once he entered his beloved Mrs. Marshall's class, all of that started changing. I think God gave her a deep love for him and he flourished! 1 John 4:18 says perfect love casts out fear and one of Walker's biggest issues is anxiety. While you cannot 'love away' all the issues of a child with autism, love goes so far in creating an environment where they can be successful. That confidence translated into other areas of his life and he's able to handle situations where he previously would have fallen to pieces. I can't imagine where he would be without his experience in "The Moose Class." His preschool in general has been a tremendous blessing to our entire family. That is certainly God's provision as well.

One of the therapists that comes to our home for Hayes has great insight into Walker and is a believer. She has spent hours talking with me about different ways to help him and is an awesome resource for me. My awesome friend Megan (far left in the pic above), the only other person I've ever felt led by the Holy Spirit to pursue friendship with, is equipped to be an advocate for him within the public school system, if we need that. She already talked me off the ledge this summer after an unsuccessful stint in summer camp renewed all my fear.

If he does go to the school H and C attend, there is a kindergarten teacher that would work with him. I developed a close relationship with Harris' teacher last year and found she has special education students integrated in to her class this year. I've not had a conversation about faith with her but she is clearly a woman of faith. It's present in all her interactions. She is very funny and constantly cracked jokes and Walker would love that. Harris told her he was getting a haircut after school and she told him bald would be a good look for him, which he still giggles about. She's playful and her class atmosphere is both highly nurturing and highly structured. Whether he will do that I don't know but God's grace in allowing me a glimpse into the heart of a public school teacher that would be willing to accommodate him is merciful. I know they exist.

Caroline is a provision for him, too. She has patience and tolerates his lack of social graces far more than most children would. She is a safe place for him to develop his skills. He trusts her. Why on earth she wanted to push the stroller I have no idea but she was so happy to be doing it!

I feel like the father in Mark 9:

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I believe, help me overcome my unbelief! I see God's provision for him. I believe he will continue to provide. And I am also terrified because I can't see the next step yet. 

For anyone that made it to the end of this post, thank you for reading it. It helps me to write it all down and I'm motivated to put it together coherently by the thought that people will read it. 

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
Luke 1:49

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Orphan Sunday

You Today is Orphan Sunday, a day to focus on the awareness of the plight of those who have no voice. Here are some statistics from Show Hope.

'1. There are roughly 400,000 children in the US foster care system. Of that number, approximately 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.1

Every child is created in the image of God and deserves to belong to a loving family! Starting in your own community, research ways that you can help meet the needs of children in foster care. If you are considering adoption, know that Show Hope is here to help! We provide adoption aid grants to families in the adoption process. The average Show Hope financial grant is $4,000.

2. Of the children waiting in foster care,30,000 age out every year, without families.2

One of the greatest needs for the children who age out of foster care is to connect with a loving mentor who will guide them through important decisions. If you have a small business that can provide vocational training or if you have experience with college applications and scholarships, this may be the perfect way for you to care for those who are aging out of the system! Contact your local Department of Human Services for more information about becoming a mentor.'

There are over 6,000 kids in Bexar County ready to be adopted today.

On top of that, babies are born daily that leave the hospital with foster parents. I know three children adopted that way! Of the children ready to be adopted today, I'm sure many, if not most, are older. Once a child hits five, their chances of being adopted drop dramatically. We brought home an almost six year old and it sickens me to think of the Caroline's languishing in foster care right now, without a true home.

Before we adopted, bringing an unknown child with a traumatic past into our home would have been terrifying. God knows that I am not strong and therefore didn't give me lots of time to agonize over the decision or I would have gone to worst case scenario. Instead, He dropped Caroline in our laps. 

She is not scary. She is probably the most civilized child we've got. She is tender with the boys. She helps out because her nature is to be helpful. She dotes on Hayes. She shares with Walker, tolerating his sometimes unreasonable demands. She and Harris are best friends.

The child that didn't know colors at almost age six is working above grade level at age seven! Her teacher was floored when I told her Caroline was adopted and had only been home for 15 months. She had no idea she wasn't our biological child, given every advantage since the womb.

Adoption has without a doubt been the hardest thing I've ever done. Like marriage and biological parenthood, it's shown a light on all my inadequacies and faults.  The idea that Tom and I are extra holy or patient is laughable. I am no better than any other mother. God didn't wait on me to be a great mom to start Caroline's healing and redemption. He just did it anyway and rained down grace like I didn't know existed.

Our family has been held so closely in God's grip through this and it's the only explanation as to why we are still standing on the other side, 18 months in. We've had people come out of the woodwork to help and truly unexplainable developments in Walker. As this unfolds, we see relationships put into place years ago to carry us through the last 18 months and beyond and it's overwhelming. 

Adoption is terrifying and insanely difficult but it's God's business. He will show up in astounding ways when you go about His business. 

It's hard and ugly and so is any other childbirth. This is hard and ugly in a different way but it is also beautiful and worth it. God fights your battle while we do the mundane of brushing teeth and checking homework. Without even noticing, we went from strangers to family.

The end of the story is: God wins.

We don't have to fear the fight because it was never our battle to begin with.

This is what adopting an 'older child' looks like. 

If adoption is on your heart, I pray this Sunday that fear doesn't hold you back. It is worth the risk. A child without a family is worth fighting our what-ifs.

Here are a few ways to be involved. 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress....

James 1:27

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Therapy works

I realized the other day that I'm fairly fluent in a world that was scary and overwhelming to me at one point. I wanted to write about some of my experiences with different therapies in case anyone else is as overwhelmed by this as I was. I wanted to share about Hayes because I suspect his situation is common. He doesn't have special needs. He is not on the spectrum. He's your basic two year old. He was delayed in one area and needed a little push and I'm not sure I would have known what to do if I hadn't done all this with Walker. Previously, I thought therapy was reserved for children with severe issues and Hayes doesn't fit that mold.

Hayes has been in speech therapy since March and he's doing great! Texas offers services though Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for kids 36 months and under. He'll turn three in February and I doubt he will qualify for services once he is done with ECI. He's well past developmental milestones for 30 months. He talks incessantly now and I attribute that to his therapy. 

At Hayes' 18 month check up, his speech was delayed. However, he is social and was very communicative in other ways, so his pedi wasn't concerned. Caroline had been home less than three months at that point and Walker was just starting to work with his developmental pediatrician. It was a triage situation in our house and Hayes didn't qualify yet. At his two year check he wasn't talking much more than he had been six months prior but was still so engaged in relationship that his pedi wasn't concerned. At that point, he was barely meeting the recommended guidelines for an 18 month old, so he was over six months delayed. I requested a referral to speech therapist and she gave me one. If I hadn't been down this road with Walker it would not have occurred to me to ask if it wasn't recommended. 

The options at that point were ECI or a private therapy clinic. ECI is cheaper and comes to your house but I thought a private therapy clinic might be easier to work with. A Facebook survey told me enough good things about Easter Seals (my ECI provider) that I called them and got going.  His therapist is great! She has an adult son on the autism spectrum so she'd been on the parent side of the occupational therapy. She thought Hayes' delays would be helped by different kinds of movements, similar to what we do for Walker with his occupational therapy. She gave me homework like read to him while swinging or have him kick a ball with his non-dominant foot. He immediately started talking. His first goal was to ask for two food items by name. I also wanted him to ask me to name pictures in a book rather than insistently pointing at them until I named it. He blew by those goals in a few weeks and I'd been working on them alone for months with no progress. He talks incessantly now so the focus has been on articulation. During his last session, we were working on a particular sound. It involved him saying it then getting the reward of me throwing him on the couch. He loved it. Also, his therapist noticed he speaks more clearly while hanging upside down. Working with Walker has made me a believer that all systems are integrated in more ways than I understand but Walker's issues are so global that it's more difficult to see what impacts what. Hayes is more straightforward so the cause and effect is clear. 

He gained virtually no language in six months and has an extensive vocabulary after six months of therapy. I am so thankful to have this help for him!  ECI focuses on equipping the parent so I'm engaged in the session the whole time and continue working with him throughout the week. It's been a great experience. It is a commitment but the progress has been so worth it!

Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Days of writing..or not

I have written posts but haven't posted them. I was starting to be concerned that this effort of writing down ways I'd seen God's goodness was going to come off like one long list of bragging about my life. That is not my intent at all. So I don't just yet if I'll keep going. I need to sit on it for a couple of days.
I'm still writing them for myself, though, and that is helpful to me.
I saw this verse this morning and it jumped out at me.

"May The Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ."
2 Thes 3:5

Exactly! I want to be guided I to a deeper understanding of both of these things. 

I heard Jen Hatmaker this weekend and she was AMAZING. Two things I took away from her were:

1) True disciples would walk so closely behind their rabbi that they would be covered in the dust from their feet. Oh.

2) Living in a way that shows Christ's love boils down to showing people 'You are dear to me.' The end. 
No strings attached.

For me, that starts with Caroline. 
There is so much to chew on from this weekend but those are my starting points.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day two-31 days

I'm writing about the same topic for 31 days and linking up here:

Caroline used to shut down when asked to clean her room. I took pics of where things went so she had references. No help, she had no idea where to start. Due to her background, she had trouble organizing visual input and was overwhelmed. We saw the same struggles in other areas of her life. She is a bright girl but her brain hadn't had the opportunity to wire in appropriate ways so she could interpret all the input she saw. She was completely overwhelmed. But look what happened today!

Her brain is healing. It's not about a clean room; it's about celebrating that she can see a problem, make a plan, and execute it. This is a breakthrough! 

I would love to take credit for that but it isn't mine to take. There were so many deficits to tackle and I started with the academic ones, then we became educated about some of the emotional ones but I hadn't progressed to neurological issues. I've focused on the first two with Caroline and the neurological with Walker, since he's more in need right now. It's been gnawing at me that I hadn't gotten her help yet in this area. God didn't wait on me to get my act together, though. Her healing has already started!
God is good. :)

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
Col 1:17

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Day one- God's goodness

I like to write. Even more, though, it's how I sort through life. We are encouraged numerous times in scripture to remember God's goodness and the way I do that is to write it down. So, a blogger has a series to write about one topic of your choosing for 31 days. For the month of October, I'm challenging myself to write each day how God has displayed his goodness that day.

In the spirit of flexibility, I'm going to repost what I already shared on Facebook about the way God has sent people to us and equipped our family to give Walker what he needs. Through a mom that adopted two of Caroline's siblings, I met his occupational therapist who has worked wonders and introduced us to other resources. His speech therapist, randomly assigned to me, also works at the school we were contemplating sending our kids to. She can advocate for him and know how to meet his needs better than anyone! That is a straight from God gift. The equine therapy he's starting has engaged him in ways I've not seen him before. He is remembering each horses name and calling them by their name. That's huge. He is overcoming sensory defensiveness and feeding them big, unpeeled carrots. I was shocked.

 I have a part time job with my previous employer. The only reason I have that is because I know a particular area of this company that not many other people know. This particular area isn't a spot where you wanted to stay long. It was merely a starting point to get your feet wet and go on to other things. But, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed and I also wasn't looking to advance my career much. I wanted a stable job and to hang out with my kids so I stayed in this spot longer than most do. It was not incredibly impressive. However, God used my lack of upward mobility to give me a skill set that is now valuable and provide a way to both fund our adoption and all these therapies, working with people I know and like on my own schedule. Truly, only God could orchestrate that. 

God is my provider!

If you want to see more 31 days topics, here's the link:

"Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness."
Psalm 145:7

Monday, September 8, 2014

Walker turns 5!

Walker, you are finally 5! You had to fill out a little form for school and when I asked you how old you were you said, 'I am STILLLLLL four.' You are so excited to turn five! I think this is the first year you've understood the significance of a birthday. Last year, you got excited about presents but this year you now understand that it signifies something with age, too.

You are growing into such a sweet boy. We re-did your room and you immediately gave me a big hug and said, 'Thank you mommy! I love it!' Sometimes you will pinch my cheek and say, 'You are the sweetest thing!' I don't know where you picked that up but it's very cute.

You have worked so hard the past several months. Since we got your diagnosis, we have been hitting the therapies intensely. It is taxing on you and I think it's scary, too. You are being pushed beyond your comfort zone in every session and in the homework we do each day.

One of your biggest issues is anxiety and you battle that bravely each day. I read a letter a mother wrote to her autistic child. He was a teen and could express himself more clearly. He had seen the wizard of oz and remarked that the cowardly lion must have autism. When his mother asked why, he said, 'Because he is scared all the time.' That breaks my heart for you because I see that in your behavior, though you don't always verbalize it. You met your new teacher the other day and things weren't going well. You were in the car, throwing yourself under the seats, screaming that you wouldn't go in. The more I talked to you about it, you completely shut down. I called your besties mom, begging to walk in with them, anticipating that I would have to carry you in screaming and/or boneless but at least you'd have companionship. I facebook stalked a teacher at your school and found a picture of your teacher and you were interested in looking at her. I have claimed a scripture for you, 'for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.' (2 Tim 1:7). I was praying. You let me talk to you about where her classroom was and what things you might do. Eventually you announced that it was time to go in! I was not going to miss the opportunity so in we went, even bypassing waiting for your friend. Sorry Melody!!! You did amazing. I know that on the inside you were so scared but you put on a brave face and did it. Later I asked you how you felt and you said, 'It was pretty scary.' Your scared can look like anger, defiance, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and many other things but I think it all boils down to anxiety. The great news about that is you weren't made to live that way and you are overcome your fears daily. You have many battles to fight but you are already victorious in that one. We just have to help you remember that. In my limited experience, the enemy attacks us where we are meant to be most glorious. I know that you will be a tremendous and brave man of God and we will not let that be stolen from you. You were given a spirit of power, love, and self-control and that is what you will grow into. 

Being your mommy has made me a better person. You've broadened my horizons. I used to measure success as achieving various milestones and now I see how inaccurate that is. It doesn't matter to me that you might not be the first to ride a bike or have 'first time obedience' in every circumstance. What makes my heart burst with pride is that you are overcoming so much! There is nothing noteworthy about doing something that comes easily but there is something extraordinary about persevering through obstacles. I envision you as carrying a backpack that's loaded with rocks while everyone else is carrying a backpack full of feathers. All the backpacks look the same but you are struggling under this weight that most people can't see to keep up with these other kids carrying around feathers. You are very bravely getting up each day and putting on your backpack. 

And your costumes. 
And your 'boy purse'. 
And your police hat.

Now that you are really talking, you've said some things that have made me laugh. You got a new bed and you were so excited about it. The first night I tucked you in there you said, 'Look at me! I'm gangham style!' What?!  You were upset about something and since we are always talking through emotions, I asked how you felt. You emphatically told me that you were the opposite of happy. Ha! I was trying to get you to eat watermelon and for some reason you told me it was frozen. Since you love a good game of pretend, in a nod to the movie, I suggested that an act of true love might thaw it for you. You just looked at me straight faced and said, 'Probably just the sun, mom.' As most people on the spectrum are, you are a literal thinker. I told you dinner was ready and there was a bowl of oatmeal with your name on it. You looked and looked and finally said, 'ummmmmm, I don't see it.' Whoops! I forget sometimes how you're going to interpret what I say. What is great about that is when you are old enough to understand God's promises to you, you'll believe them. Other people rationalize them away or for whatever reason discount the meaning but you won't do that. When God tells you you are a new creation, you'll believe it. And when you live your life operating from the core belief that Jesus came so that you may have life to the full and that you are chosen as a child of God, that's a game changer. Autism has stolen things from you and from our family. That's a fact. But I already see God redeeming that and restoring to you what the locusts have eaten and I know that when you are old enough to dive into scripture, God is going to take hold of you in a big way. You are poised to understand and take to heart truths that are much harder for neurotypical people to wrap their minds around. Now there will be a picture dump because you are a gold mine of awesome-ness for picture taking.

Just a regular day, playing in the backyard.
One more story about your progress. Recently we had a dinner party, with 12 kids coming over. Previously, you would slam your door when people came, stay in your room most of the evening, and if you came out there would be significant issues. That night, you met people at the door with the rest of the family. You greeted kids by name. One boy, about 12, who has been kind to you, you kissed on the cheek, grabbed by the hand, and invited him to come see your room! Until you called kids by name that night, I never noticed that you rarely do that. You stayed out of your room almost the entire evening and successfully played with numerous children. It was fun for you. That is amazing progress!!
You were climbing a mountain, obviously.

This is you waiting for the ice cream truck. This isn't even our yard.

This is you being you. 
You wanted to 'see how great you looked.'
This is what you insisted on wearing to meet your teacher. Glove and all.
You are a joy! You are now quick to smile and when you find something funny, you find it HYSTERICAL. You get that from your daddy, I think. When he gets tickled everyone else laughs too and your laughter is equally contagious. You can have your siblings giggling at something they didn't even find funny just because you got so much entertainment from it. You now want to engage with us and you have a funny sense of humor. Sort of a frat-boy level. Harris and Caroline had gone to a biology camp and were talking at dinner about the digestive and circulatory systems. You got a mischievous look on your face and said, 'let's talk about the diaper system!' We are still adjusting to the idea that you are engaged in conversation, so to hear you comment on the subject at hand, especially to make a joke, just warms our hearts. Even if it's about diapers. :)

Walker, I love you. I'm so proud of you. You are an amazing little boy with a bright future. 

You are facing trials most people don't face to be molded into a person of excellence, to be of fine character, as a light for God's kingdom. I'm so honored to be your mommy and excited to watch you grow. I love, love, love you, my sweet boy!!
Happy birthday, Walker!

Because you like to end things with a bow, this pic seemed appropriate.
'for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control'

2 Tim 1:7

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Family Pics!!

This is a seriously delayed post but I wanted to put our family pics in one spot (besides on our walls) and also tell you about the most awesome photographer! Let me set the stage. We had been on vacation, out of our routine, for 5 days. She showed up at 7, which is usually my kids' bedtime. There were TEN people to photograph. Ten. That's a tall order....right????

Walker was having an epic meltdown when she showed up and had difficulty recovering. She managed this.

Bam. That's everyone, sitting. Looking. But that's not all.

She gave us direction without being bossy and was very specific with the kids in a way they could understand. She has four kids and was a kindergarten teacher so she speaks your little people's language.

Those of you that know my kids.....does THIS ever happen???

Or this???

She posed Harris and Caroline but when it came time to work with little Hayes and Walker she understood it was best to just leave a creature in its natural habitat. Nailed it!

She also got good shots of our family and the all the groupings we wanted.

There were a few outtakes as well.

These are some of my faves. :)

Amber was a pleasure to work with and we will absolutely be using her again. I was so thrilled with how things went that I wanted to do a whole blog post about how great she was! She made what can be stressful into something fun and the results were great! She's based in New Braunfels but willing to travel, so contact her if you're interested!
Thank you Amber, for capturing our crazy family!