Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big News!

We got the word this morning that our paperwork finally cleared Florida's ICPC process! The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children is a set of regulations designed to protect children who are moving to pre-adoptive, foster, or corrective placements outside of their home state. It is absolutely necessary, but it is also a administrative nightmare. Our paperwork has had to cross several desks and has been scrutinized by the powers that be. The paperwork entered ICPC on May 17th and emerged today, June 28th, just shy of six weeks. In the grand scheme of things, this is really fast. We were told to anticipate 3-6 months. Still, it has felt like an eternity as we have been talking with our new daughters, and anxiously waiting to meet them and hold them for the first time.

The waiting is almost over! Arkansas ICPC now has to approve our paperwork and send it on to the girls' adoption specialist. As soon as she gets it, we'll hit the road and head to Arkansas to bring our girls home! My agenda for today has changed significantly!

  • Pick up our van from the shop where it was getting new brakes, new motor mounts, and a tune-up
  • Buy crossbars for the luggage rack on the van so we can install our car top luggage carrier
  • Wash the car top luggage carrier
  • Get the suitcases out of the attic
  • Locate our vacuum pack bags
  • Start informing friends and family that we're coming to town
  • Line up our housesitter
  • Put fresh sheets on the girls' beds
  • Make a welcome home banner for our housesitter to hang on our garage on homecoming day
  • Wrap up all work-related details that I can
  • Help Matt with his work-related details
This is one happy mommy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Blink of an Eye

In the blink of an eye, life can change forever. I got that truth smashed all up in my face yesterday.

Our friend the Whitmores came from Arkansas to spend the weekend with us. We enjoyed a fabulous Friday at SeaWorld, and decided we would spend Saturday at the beach. We loaded our van and their van with a cooler full of bottled water and snacks, and filled a laundry basket with towels. We were all set for a fun beach day. On the way, we stopped at Walmart to pick up a new bathing suit for Snapper, and to get a small grill to cook on at the beach, because the bottom just rusted out of our old one. We left Walmart and continued on our way. A few minutes down the road, we could see traffic slowing down and pulling over to drive on the shoulder. We could see broken glass and debris in the road, and figured there had been a car crash. As our turn came to pass the wreck, I looked up and saw a garbage truck on its side in the ditch on the wrong side of the road. And then I lost my breath because to the side of the garbage truck was a small, black car that was crunched and mangled, almost beyond recognition. It was still smoking and steaming, and a man stood on the side of the road, frantically waving at us. We pulled way off onto the shoulder and jumped out of our cars to see what we could do to help.

Once I was out of my van, I was able to get a better look at the crushed car. To my horror, I could see a small, blond head through the opening that had once been the front passenger window. The head was slumped forward and bleeding. It looked like a little boy, maybe 10 years old. The whole front of the car had been smashed into the passenger compartment. I knew there was no way that person could be alive. My heart clunked into the pit of my stomach. I was too horrified to even shed a tear. And then the head moved. Jim, the friend we were with, used to be a paramedic. Matt is an EMT. At one point in time, I was even a certified first responder. All the training kicked into gear and I knew we had to help. More people had pulled over to help at this point. One man began directing traffic. A woman began asking the truck driver questions about his home and family, and offered to call the man's wife. Two people ran up with first aid kits in hand. Jim and Karon began assisting the two people in the crushed car. I ran to my van for a load of towels and bottled water. The towels were used to stabilize the heads of the ladies in the crushed car. Matt attended to the driver of the trash truck. He was bruised and stunned, but otherwise okay. Another bystander called 911. Matt cleared debris out of the road. I gave directions for my kids and the Whitmore kids to stay in our cars and pray for the accident victims.

And then I realized that another car was involved, a car that no one else had even noticed. It was on the opposite side of the road, way off at the case of the shoulder, and a large portion of the driver's side had been shredded like tin foil. I hurried over to see if those people were okay. The people in that car were a man and his wife--Bob and Marilyn--probably in their early 60's. I brought them bottled water and talked to them to try to help them calm down, and to make sure they were okay. Marilyn was shaking like a leaf, and she kept complaining that her head hurt. I touched the back of her head, and found a goose egg the diameter of a baseball, sticking about an inch off her head. We surmised that she had been struck by flying debris that came through the shattered window. Her forehead was bruised too, from where she had struck the windshield. Bob was concerned about his wife, but I could tell that he was in pain, too. He vomited twice, which he insisted was an emotional reaction. That really worried me, because vomiting can be a symptom of head trauma and internal injuries. They called their son to come get them. I gently but firmly insisted that they wait for the paramedics to assess them, and I strongly recommended that go to the hospital by ambulance. I was really concerned about head injuries and internal bleeding. Marilyn asked me for aspirin, which I strongly denied, explaining that it could cause internal bleeding to become worse. I told her she should only sip water until she was cleared by the doctors to take anything else. I stayed with them, asking them questions and trying to help them remain calm until the medics arrived.

Though it was really only 10 minutes until the first emergency vehicle arrived--we were on a back road in the boonies--it felt like an eternity. While I was assisting Bob and Marilyn, Jim had taken charge of the people in the crushed car. The little boy turned out to be a tiny, elderly lady named Kathy. The driver of the car was Kathy's 51-year-old daughter, Debbie. Debbie was badly injured, but was able to talk to Jim. Jim got on the phone with the emergency dispatcher and ordered all units with extrication gear, and two life flight helicopters. It was that bad. Once all the emergency crews arrived on scene, I returned to my van and started to pray. The next 45 minutes unfolded like a horrible movie. Jim kept Karon and me informed via text message. It took 30 minutes for the crews to cut away enough of the car to free Kathy. Jim called Debbie's husband, Tom. The first helicopter landed on the road, maybe 25 yards away from where I was sitting in my van. When they got Kathy out, they started CPR. They went to work on Debbie's side of the car. Karon and I hung blankets over the windows of her van, in which all the kids were waiting. It was a good thing we did, because the helicopter medics brought Kathy right by us on their way to the chopper. She was not covered. They were using an oxygen bag to breathe for her and there were iv lines in her arms. The first tear escaped my eye as I saw that poor, broken woman. I asked the Holy Spirit to pray for me. I had no words. The second helicopter landed. Jim attended to the driver of the trash truck who sat in a daze, his back against a fence, watching the extrication. He is a young man, right around my age, with a wife and children. The first chopper took off. The helicopter medics from the second chopper brought Debbie by on a stretcher. She also had iv lines coming out of her, but she was breathing on her own. Her poor face was one massive bruise. The rest of her was covered with a white sheet. I don't think I breathed until her helicopter took off. And then the emergency personnel cleared us to leave. 

Once we arrived at the beach and the kids were joyfully playing in the waves, Matt, Jim, Karon and I were able to debrief about what each of us knew about the accident. The people I had helped had told me the story of what had happened. 

A northbound car had stopped to make a left turn across the oncoming lanes. Three cars slowed to a stop behind that car to wait. Bob and Marilyn were the last car in that line. Another car was coming up behind them, too fast to stop. She veered onto the very slanted shoulder and came safely to a stop just to the right of Bob and Marilyn. The trash truck was next. He was also traveling too fast to stop in time, and the weight of his load made it even worse. If he had veered right onto the shoulder, he would have hit the first car that had done that, and would most likely have rolled his truck into the trees. If he had stayed in his lane, he would have driven right over the top of the three stopped cars. He instinctively swerved into the oncoming lane, shredding the side of Bob and Marilyn's car before he hit Kathy and Debbie head on. The speed limit on that road is 45 mph. The flow of traffic was 55 mph when we were approaching the scene. The driver of the truck must not have realized the cars were stopped until the very last second, because his skid marks on the road weren't more than 10 feet long. That means he hit Kathy and Debbie at just about full speed. They left no skids on their side of the road at all, which means they were going full speed and never saw it coming. 

In a head on collision between a fully loaded garbage truck and a Nissan Maxima, the garbage truck will always be the decisive victor.

Both women survived the flight to the trauma center, and underwent extensive surgery. Kathy put up a valiant fight, surviving 36 hours before her injuries overcame her. Debbie woke up and was responsive yesterday morning. She is still on a ventilator in the ICU, and she has a long road ahead of her. Please pray for Debbie. This is a tough battle on its own, but when you add in the knowledge that your mother has just died, the climb becomes a much steeper one. Pray for Debbie's family, too. They are grieving the loss of Kathy while trying to stay strong for Debbie. And Debbie isn't out of the woods yet, either. Her injuries were extensive--multiple breaks to her legs, most likely broken hips, snapped arm, head trauma, and probably a host of internal injuries. That's what we know simply based on what we saw. We know it is far more complex even than that.

So many people have told me they are sorry I had to see that. I'm not sorry I had to see it. I am abundantly thankful. God had us be the first ones on the scene for a clear reason. Jim knew exactly what to do, and played an important role in saving Debbie's life. He gave Kathy an extra shot at survival. He was a calm, experienced voice to break the news to Debbie's husband, and to give him clear, accurate information. He was able to get the helicopters there 10 minutes earlier in a situation where every single second is critical. The rest of us were able to offer comfort and wise counsel to the other people involved in the accident, and to help prevent other vehicles from being involved. The kids were issued a sobering reminder of why Pepper still sits in a booster, why I insist on the seats not being reclined, why I don't allow Snapper to sit in the front seat, and why we wear seat belts. It was a good reminder to Matt and me not to take unnecessary risks when we drive, and that I should not put my feet on the dashboard when I am in the passenger seat. Yes, that accident will always stick with me in my memory. I will follow Debbie's progress from a distance and I will pray for her and her family. 

Most of all though, being a witness to all this will help me to appreciate life, to tell my family that I love them, and to remember that life can change forever in the blink of an eye.

If you want to see photos of the vehicles involved in the wreck, here's the link to the story in the newspaper.

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Additions Update

A sweet reader commented today that she's looking forward to hearing more about the new additions to our family. Because this blog is public, I will not be able to post any sort of photos or personal information about them until after the adoption is finalized, which will happen sometime this winter, likely around Valentine's Day. Even then, I may need to go private with the blog to protect their identity. I don't know...I haven't decided yet how I'll handle that. I'll be getting advice from our adoption attorney, as well as from the girls' case manager.

For now, though, I can give you an update on where we are in the process. For the last month we've been waiting for our paperwork to go through ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children). It's an ordeal, and can take as long as six months in the toughest cases. Arkansas ICPC was right on their game, and got their end of the work done in a record three days. Florida has not been so great...until today. The administrator who was handling our case has gone on indefinite medical leave. I feel really bad for him, and understand better now why he never returned our calls. Our case has been transferred to a different administrator, and she is awesome! She called our agency today to get our home study--the only piece that is missing from our file. Once the agency faxes it to her, she'll stamp "approved" on the file, sign it, and return it to Arkansas ICPC. Arkansas ICPC will give it to our case manager in Arkansas, and we'll get approved for our travel.

Right now we have a tentative travel date set for June 27th. This, of course, hinges on the completion of the paperwork. It looks pretty positive right now, though! We'll have our placement staffing and meet our girls the first week of July, if everything goes the way the girls' case team has laid it out for us. We hope to be pulling back into our driveway on July 12th, just in time for Pepper's birthday!

I wish I could post photos. I wish I could tell you about these amazing gifts that God has blessed us with. We've been talking on the phone a few times each week, and they are incredible! Such courage, and such joy! I can hardly wait to get my arms around them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Is Summer?

If you are a kid in our family, summer is...

  • Sleeping in every morning if you want to
  • Having a longer list of chores
  • Learning different tasks around the house
  • Reading for an hour every day to earn Wii and TV time
  • Spending very limited time on the Wii and TV
  • Eating popsicles at 9:00 in the morning
  • Helping Mommy bake a gluten free chocolate cake at 9:00 at night
  • Spending lots of time playing with the cats
  • Building blanket forts
  • Eating popsicles at lunchtime
  • Going to the pool...lots!
  • Meeting friends at the park
  • Spending hours drawing and writing stories at the little table in the living room
  • Morning swim team (Snapper) and afternoon swim lessons (Pepper)
  • Eating tomatoes and green beans fresh from the garden in the back yard
  • Riding the tire swing while the sprinklers are going
  • Riding bikes
  • Drawing with chalk in the driveway
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Writing letters and drawing pictures to mail to cousins in California and Washington
  • Writing letters and drawing pictures to mail to new sisters in Arkansas
  • Eating popsicles at 3:00 in the afternoon
  • Snacking on chilled watermelon all day
  • Talking on the phone with the new sisters in the evening
  • Doing crafts--friendship bracelets (Snapper) and paper/scissors/glue creations (Pepper)
  • Making playdough
  • Playing dress-up
  • Building with blocks and Legos
  • Having adventures with stuffed animals and dolls and plastic soldiers and dinosaurs
  • Spending hours reading Childcraft volumes and exploring the atlas
  • Eating popsicles. Lots of popsicles.
  • Staying up really late some nights, just because we don't have to get up early in the morning
  • Eating ice cream for dinner. Yes, we did that on Saturday! Nothing else...just ice cream.
  • Enjoying concentrated family time in the peace and quiet of our lovely home.
God is good. This mommy loves summer and having the kiddos home!

Monday, June 11, 2012

About A Boy

See this little boy? He is a month away from turning 6. He has accomplished a lot in the last few months. I've posted a lot about Snapper, but not a whole lot about this little Pepper. He's due a good post! Let me start by saying that he is smart, cute, silly, charming, compassionate, and sweet. 

Did I mention that he is really silly? Pepper loves to make funny faces. He also loves to dance around the house, shaking his butt. He tells goofy, pointless "jokes" that he makes up, and then he roars with laughter. He also says funny stuff that he doesn't intend to be funny. Take yesterday, for example...

Pepper (to our Pastor Dale): Hi Pastor Dale! I want to be hypnotized so I can show the world I'm medicated to Jesus!
Pastor Dale managed to keep a straight face when he figured out that Pepper thought he was saying, Hi Pastor Dale! I want to be baptized so I can show the world I'm dedicated to Jesus. 
I did NOT manage to keep a straight face!!! We're meeting with Pastor Dale next week to have him discuss baptism with Pepper. 

This little boy loves Jesus. Every night, without fail, Pepper wants Daddy to read the Bible to him. Matt invested in a Discover God Bible for Kids. It covers the major stories in the Bible, and has discussion questions for parents and kids that direct the kids back to how God's character is evident in the stories. Pepper absolutely loves it, and I don't think he has missed a night in the past 4 months. During our daily reading time, Pepper loves to take that Bible back out and reread the stories. He retains it, he absorbs it, and he thinks about it. Then, at random times, he will spout off a fountain of Bible knowledge, or make a really deep statement, or ask an extremely perceptive question.

He is smart, smart, smart! He is reading on a second grade reading level, and he devours picture books. He reads several of them a day, and when we have  our focused reading time together, he reads to me out of one of the Magic Treehouse books! 

He is artistic and creative. He loves to make books of his drawings. Each book is about 8 pages long, and is packed full of detailed artwork. When he "reads" the book to me, he has developed a complete story to go along with his illustrations. Though he doesn't like to write words in his books, the stories are complete, full of adventure, and run beautifully with his drawings. He spends hours building masterpieces with his Legos, Duplos, and the wood blocks my Grandpa Cox made for me.

This little boy is full of compassion. He is eagerly counting down the days until his new sisters come to live with us. We get to talk with them on the phone 3 or 4 times each week now, and he loves to talk with them. Every time he chats with one of them, he thinks of reassuring details to tell them.
There are lots of nice girls at our school who will be your friends.
Our mommy is a really great mommy, and she already loves you.
We're a very sweet family, so  you don't have to worry that we're mean.
When you come live with us, I'll share my toys with you.
My favorite color right now is orange, but since {J's} favorite color is orange too, I'll let her use the orange towels and cups.
If you get scared at night when you come live here, it's okay. I'll give you a hug and pray for you and you will feel better.
Here's a photo of Pepper talking on the phone for the first time with {H}, his new 6-year-old sister.

I'm just crazy about this little guy! I am SO THANKFUL that God chose to give him to me. I'm the luckiest woman in the world to get to be his mom.