Monday, April 29, 2013

The Stuff of Life

931. Listening to my husband talking about God with our kids after dinner
932. My network of blog friends...such great encouragement to me!
933. Doubling the recipe so I can put one casserole in the freezer for next week
934. Breakfast out with my husband
935. Almost 12 years of marriage and he's still my very best friend
936. My Daddy and step-momma enjoying a relaxing Hawaii cruise together
937. This week's forecast loaded with thunderstorms!!!!!
938. The wonderful fun of communicating regularly with my family in California and Oregon. Thank you God for Facebook!
939. Only 22 days of school left
940. A special brother/sister moment for Bubble and Pepper. These two kids look so much alike, even though they don't share any blood. Whenever a stranger hears our story and wants to see a photo of the kids, I ask them to guess which kids are bio and which are adopted. Almost without exception, they guess the Bubbles and Pepper are the bio kids. Tonight, those two kids were sitting at the table and they burst into laughter. In that moment, they could have been twins. It was uncanny, and I commented on it. My comment made their day. For 15 minutes after the fact, they kept poking each other and grinning, just enjoying the bond that is strengthening by the day. Almost 10 months since we jumped from two kids to five kids, and it is really feeling natural now. I love this!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Checking In

921. Having the library 1/4 mile from our house
922. Kids really enjoying getting new library books each week
923. An occupational therapist who knows what he's doing
924. Finally having detailed neurological reports on Bubbles and Sunny
925. Answers, even if the answers aren't what we wanted to hear
926. A B.A. in Child Development that helps me understand the developmental issues my girls are facing
927. An involved, proactive husband
928. Playful moments this morning with Sunny, resulting in this

929. That I am comfortable in my own skin. I like who I am! I know many women who do not, and it makes me so sad. It is this sense of security in who I am that enables me to post the above photos of myself for the whole world to see and laugh at!
930. Laughter. It truly is the best medicine!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Piper

*Warning: Proud mommy post! Not the bragging conceited type of pride. The from-the-bottom-of-my-heart-you've-done-so-well kind of pride in this child!

One year ago this precious little Piper girl was 6 years old and finishing kindergarten. She lived with her foster family in another state. They are wonderful people and loved her above and beyond the call of duty. But she was severely wounded in her soul. Her birth parents abused and neglected her, yet she loved them. They were the only parents she had known. I know they loved her too, but they didn't know how to be parents. They were too crippled by addiction and mental illness to do what they needed to do in order to get their kids back. One year ago this little girl was fresh out of her final visit with those parents. She was learning about adoption, and finding out that she wouldn't be able to live with her foster family forever. She was hurt, scared, and ill-equipped to handle the emotions that would render most adults useless. She was physically tiny for her age, and struggled with constant nasal drainage.

In July we brought her home to become a member of our family. We were impressed by her warm heart--a heart that was starving for love, consistent care, security, stability, and permanence. She did really well at adjusting to life with a new family, a new home, a new community--all in a new U.S. state. But school was rough. She did fine in kindergarten with her foster family, but she was not prepared for 1st grade in our state, which holds its students to higher standards than the state from which she came. PTSD, ADHD, and adjustment disorder affected her ability to learn. The first trimester was a nightmare for Piper. She struggled to keep her head above water. There were questions about whether she would pass 1st grade. She was that low. Her wonderful team at school partnered with me to develop an accommodation plan for her, which helped. Slowly, we began to see changes for the better.

In January we returned to her birth state and finalized her adoption in court. That gave us the freedom to begin treating her ADHD. It gave her the freedom to tell us everything about her past that she had been holding in until she knew for sure that this family was forever and that she would never have to see her birth family again. It all came out and we were horrified at what our daughter had been through. She was willing to do anything necessary to deal with the fear and pain. With the help of our amazing therapist, Piper valiantly fought the demons of her past and has experienced tremendous healing. She's a different kid. At the end of the second grading period, she had shown significant gains in school. She was still below grade level, but was on the right track.

This morning I had the final conference of the year with Piper's teacher. I was beyond delighted with the results!

901. Straight A's on her third report card. Y'ALL!!! She saw at least a 5% increase in every subject, with an 18% increase in Language Arts!
902. National 93rd percentile in math on her latest benchmark test!!!
903. National 60th percentile in reading on her latest benchmark test (up from 9th percentile in September)!!!
904. Solid skills in reading and phonics
905. A reading focus shift from decoding strategies to fluency!
906. A happy, content child who no longer loses focus and zones out in class
907. A bubbly, joyful child who regularly tells her teacher about how much she loves her forever family
908. Freedom from the fear that once stalked her mind and made it difficult to concentrate at school
909. A delightful pair of friends (Sarah and Mady) who the teacher tells me are the sweetest, most loving and solid kids in the class
910. That Piper is well-loved by every child in the class
911. A healthy body that has grown 5 inches and gained 5 pounds since July, and a drainage-free nose
912. Sleeping through the night with no bad dreams or bed wetting
913. No more signs of adjustment disorder or attachment problems
914. The ability to do things for herself: shower, fix a sandwich, tie her shoes, read a book, complete math homework, change her sheets, fold and put away her laundry, ride a 2-wheeler, etc.
915. Generous, spontaneous hugs and kisses without pulling away
916. Solid, sustained eye contact
917. Disappearance of food problems (hoarding and gorging)
918. Tears in the teacher's eyes as she described the transformation in this child over the school year
919. Adoption: a gift for Piper and for us.
920. Unconditional, unreserved promotion to 2nd grade!

I shake my head and marvel. Foster care adoption is not for the faint of heart. But the rewards SO OUTWEIGH THE DIFFICULTIES!!! I love this amazing little girl as though she had come from my own body. I am so proud of her strength, courage, and determination. I am proud of her achievement at school, because she has worked so hard for it. I am proud of her kindness and sensitivity. I am proud of how she has learned to love and trust again. I am proud to call myself her mom.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Pepper

*Warning: proud mommy post. Not bragging, just telling it as it is with the best kind of pride...the I'm proud of my sweet boy kind of pride! He's such a gift.

I love this little guy!
He's rapidly closing in on his 7th birthday, along with the end of 1st grade! He's 4'2" but still only weighs 44 pounds! His school pants are size 7 slim for length, but his underoos are size 3T. His foot is a size 2. His brain is a size extra large, and his heart? It's off the top of the percentile charts.

I had his parent/teacher conference today. His teacher this year is known for being prickly and not super sociable with the parents of her students. But that was not the case today! The whole conference was a glowing report of how much Mrs. B loves Pepper, how much he has grown academically this year, and what a delight he is to have in class. She showed me writing samples, his notebooks, and test scores. She told me stories about the astute comments he has made, and the funny things he has said. She told me how much she appreciates what a unique little person he is, and how she respects how different he is from most of his age mates. Pepper marches to his own beat, goes against the flow, and is not afraid to be himself. Just like Snapper! Mrs. B recognized the gem that my little buddy is, and she nurtured and challenged him all year. He will be promoted to 2nd grade with Mrs. B's great praise and high recommendation for a teacher who will continue to develop Pepper's potential.

Today I am thankful for...

891. Standardized math test scores that place Pepper in the 99th percentile nationwide
892. A reading grade level of 7.8
893. Passing the comprehensive phonics exam for 1st grade (100%) and 2nd grade (95%)
894. A teacher who recognizes his giftedness and has been putting gifted program standards in place for Pepper while we wait for all the paperwork and red tape that will award him official placement in the program
895. That Pepper has loved school this year after hating it last year
896. The gift of a brilliant mind
897. Big brown eyes and a sweet smile
898. His loving, generous, patient heart
899. His fabulous sense of humor
900. The amazing privilege of being Pepper's Mommy

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heart Full of Gratitude

871. Looking outside at the gray, blustery day, feeling all cold and grumbly, and then walking outside and remembering that gray and blustery in Florida does not necessarily mean cold.
872. Showers of spring blossoms riding the wind, making it look like it's snowing
873. The unfailing Mommy instinct that kicked in and told me to take Piper to the doctor yesterday on only Day 2 of a fever and a cough
874. A proactive doctor who didn't settle for Piper saying her chest didn't hurt, but made her breathe deeper and deeper (regardless of her tears) until he heard what I suspected he might hear...pneumonia
875. Modern medical technology that allowed our doctor to see Piper's x-rays before we could even get from the radiology unit at the hospital back to his office
876. That our doctor is sensitive to her trauma history and decided to try treating her at home rather than hospitalizing her
877. That powerful antibiotics are available to us and that they are not bothering her stomach as feared
878. Big improvement in Piper this morning! She's breathing much easier and her fever has come down quite a bit.
879. Good friends who overwhelmed me with texts offering help if we needed it
880. A decent night of sleep after a week of poor nights
881. Bubbles coming to me in the night after her nightmare, and then falling asleep in my arms. For a child who rarely acknowledges her fear or admits to needing comfort, this is a very special thing.
882. Friends and family who really pray for us
883. My two littlest girls enjoying my scrapbooks
884. The fun that is to be had with coffee filters, markers, and a spray bottle of water
885. Cooking a meal for a friend who had shoulder surgery this morning
886. Bubbles' occupational therapy evaluation this afternoon
887. Cousins from Oregon flying in tomorrow!!!
888. My Peaceful Music playlist on iTunes
889. The fun of planning a new look for this blog! I'm working on it today.
890. A new baby cousin who is currently in transit from womb to world in California. I can't wait to meet you, sweet little David! Congrats to your wonderful parents!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Little Things of Life

841. Designing a blog for our friends who are starting the adoption process
842. That Sunny's fever only lasted 2 days
843. The excitement of waiting for a new baby cousin who will be born no later than tomorrow!
844. A great first meeting with our local homeschooling moms' group
845. Open doors and windows at 6:00 a.m.
846. Balmy breezes carrying the scent of orange blossoms into my house from the orange grove across the street
847. Thick blossoms on our avocado tree, the promise of a rich harvest this fall
848. Fried potatoes and sausage for breakfast (thanks Matt!)
849. An A on Bubbles' spelling test from last week!
850. Lunches made the night before
851. My soft fleece robe
852. Fresh coffee in the pot
853. Children who enjoy helping me in the morning
854. Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothies made by Bubbles, all by herself!
855. Our girls' twin baby brothers now legally free for adoption, and placed in a wonderful, loving home! THIS ONE IS HUGE FOR ME. Since the girls' needs are too great and require so much of us, we're not in a place to adopt the boys. Believe me...Matt and I wrestled with this for several weeks. I am so thankful that the family they've been with since birth wants to adopt them. I have friends who are very close with that family and have told me how wonderful they are. I am tremendously relieved.
856. Only two months until the kids and I fly to California to visit family!!!
857. A big schooling decision finalized for Sunny for the fall...another relief
858. Matt and the kids biking to and from school in the gorgeous weather
859. Stopping at the local fruit stand to after school snacks
860. Watching Pepper devour three huge carrots!
861. Memories of my childhood pastor's sermon discussing how thankfulness is the antidote to discontent
862. Feeling my heart softening as I practice thankfulness, not just on my blog but in my conversations with my children
863. A huge stack of read library books to go back to the library
864. An invitation to stay with Matt's brother and his family while we're in Washington this summer
865. $40 of Kohl's cash waiting to be spent
866. A decent night of sleep after several poor nights in a row
867. The satisfaction I get from reading a good book. I would take reading a good book over watching a movie any day! In fact, if I never watched another movie in my life, I would be 100% content.
868. Both my kitties going crazy over a simple feather! Pure entertainment!
869. Watching Snapper make a conscious choice to turn her day around by adjusting her attitude
870. A fresh, new morning. A fresh day. A new start. I love the morning!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Week After Easter

821. Five beautiful children on Easter morning
822. The best family photo we have ever taken
823. A packed out church and a message of redemption and hope
824. A relaxed Easter afternoon with some of our best friends
825. No left over Easter candy because this year we filled Easter Eggs with pocket change!
826. Nine children counting their change on the front lawn
827. An evening stroll around our lake
828. The beautiful pair of osprey nesting in the pine tree by the lake
829. Pink and orange sunsets
830. Forgiveness
831. A full day of fun at Sea World with our friends
832. The massive grin on the face of a first-time roller coaster rider
833. The pure delight of the Blue Horizons dolphin show
834. Five kids asleep in the car on the way home
835. Piper and Sunny swimming independently at swim lessons
836. Snapper getting all the classes she wanted on her middle school schedule
837. Three weeks in a row of 100% on vocabulary tests for Bubbles
838. Sunny winning a basket at our school's basket night
839. The laughter that ensued when we discovered that Sunny had won a women's perfume and lotion basket...a very expensive scent, totally inappropriate for a 5-year-old!!! (I'll be buying her some Baby Soft perfume at Walgreens to make up for the disappointment)
840. A Saturday with nothing on the calendar!