Saturday, September 27, 2014

Licensed to Drive!

William with both of the vehicles he owns.
 William got his drivers license!

One of the things I have learned over the years is that you just never know.  I was told Elizabeth would never talk or walk and she does both.  I was told that Zeke had a very high chance of being HIV positive and he is not.  I was told Carolyn would probably never learn to read and she can and loves to write short stories.  God is so good.  He writes and fills the pages of our days that become the story of our life.  I have learned to pray, work hard with the children and to advocate for them but a lot of the time to just sit back and enjoy watching the miracles unfold.  We have witnessed so many.

When William was very young he was diagnosed with autism.

He never talked till he was 6 years old and then it was still not fluid and easy to understand.  He spent 16 years in speech therapy.
Yes the two above pictures are of William.  I never could bring myself to cut my boys hair till they are at least three or four.

He had major sensory issues with food consistencies.  He ate only a few foods and would gag and get sick on everything else.  He spent years in feeding therapy.
He never liked to wear shoes but once he discovered that cowboy boots didn't squeeze his feet, that is all he wore year round for years. 

He had so many sensory issues with clothing textures, temperature and weather changes.  It took him weeks to get used to wearing a coat in the winter and weeks to get him to not wear one when warmer weather came around. 

He struggled with noise from birth... Noise we did not consider to be bothersome or loud, really bothered him.  He spent 14 years in Occupational therapy. 

All of these things effected how he functioned physically so much, he lagged behind in meeting many of his milestones and it effected his ability to participate in social activities.  He spent years in Physical therapy.
William with eggs from his chickens.
William raised chickens and pigeons for many years.  He sold the eggs, baby pigeons and silkie chickens and saved up money over the years for his VW bug he eventually bought.
My dad gave William this tractor for his nineth birthday.  The mower wore out so my dad removed it and gave William this tractor and a wagon for doing barn chores and just driving around on the farm.
Home schooling was challenging. He has worked so hard to learn.  He is a hands on learner and says he learns by making a picture of what he needs to remember in his mind so he can recall it.
When William was 11 years old he came to Tim and I late one evening and said he felt he needed to be baptized right then.  So Tim took William down to my dads hot tub in the middle of a snow fall and baptized him.  A special memory.
Look at that beaming smile!
All of this being said...I always wanted the best for William but watched how he struggled in life with learning and just functioning.  I held my breath and prayed he would some day be able to go to college, get a job or drive a car.  We loved him fiercely for who he was and is but any parent always wants all that can be had for their child.
At a car show with his bug.

William also loves to work and is the most loving and obedient child I have ever had the privileged of raising. 
William with his dog Will

He always has a wonderful eager attitude and happy upbeat demeanor.  He has a great work ethic and is brilliantly creative. 
I have 100's of these silly pictures I could show you.  He is always doing something silly and saying quick mom take a picture of me.

He often sees what others don't or a solution to a project I am working on that I would never have thought of myself.  Anything that is hands on, he is so good at.  Like taking things apart and putting them together.
His stop animation (Lego bro 4 studio) is just wonderful.  To sit and take hundreds of pictures, moving his subjects a fraction of movement at a time and making it tell a story or idea is amazing.  He is just gifted with this kind of thing.  He was recently tested by our local school system and the side of his IQ that excluded language and writing was extremely high.

William loves the Lord and is an amazing young man.  I am so grateful to God that he is my son, that God has had his hand on Williams life and helps him daily.  That William has worked so hard to get where he is by the grace of God and has come so far.

Congratulations William on getting your drivers license!  May God keep you and those around you safe all the days of your life, as you drive the roads that take you where you need to go and into your very bright future.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Love and blessings,


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The New Mini Bus!!!

I wrote about an urgent need in our life a few weeks ago.  The grey van that had been perfect for our family and served us so faithfully, for many years, was no longer safe to transport Antonio in, in his new adult sized wheel chair.  Every time I had to go somewhere and take Antonio, I prayed we didn't get in a wreck, as I knew it was not safe but we had no other options, at all, to get him to his therapy and doctors appointments.  We prayed and prayed about how to get into something safe and as quickly as possible.

We had nowhere to pull funds from, in our budget, to buy anything.   We looked at loans and even if we could get a loan, the payment would have been over $800 dollars a month.  We just don't have that kind of extra money in our monthly budget, ever.  That is when we realized we could not meet this need on our own and needed help from God and friends.  We prayed and started the GoFundMe account.  Our local news paper did an article on our urgent need for Antonio and about our family.

We had been looking at mini buses on the internet for months.  We looked at buses all over the nation.  We knew we needed one that did not require a CDL to drive it and be very reliable.  One that was handicap assessable and had a good working lift.  One that would fit our whole family and have working heat and air-conditioning.  The buses we found, that fit those requirements, were around $36,000, older and had mileage over 120,000 and all of them were sold as is.  So we did not know how reliable they were or would be long term.

Then we found a mini bus in North Carolina.  It was a 2008 and only had 43,000 miles on it.   It met all of our needs and requirements and the place told us that they would sell it to us for 29,800.  They said we could have it checked out anywhere we wished to make sure it was safe and reliable and they had a three day return and ask no questions policy.  They also said they would give us $7000.00 trade in on our current van.  But one of the best features about this particular bus, to me was...this passenger seat.

In the past, every bus we had, had no passenger seat and if I drove, I had to yell back and forth with Tim to have a conversation.  My hearing is not great and it made for a frustrating time when we went places as a family.  No big deal but it is always nice to be able to talk with your spouse as you go places, especially if we hardly ever get to see each other and it is one of the only times we have to talk together.  For some reason this little bus is designed in a way that left the passenger seat in tacked so Tim and I could sit side by side and talk together as we go places.  :)

We were humbled and over whelmed with the outpouring of love and support from strangers, family and friends.  Not all people donated thru the GoFundMe.  We soon had $6000.00 in very kind and generous gifts.  Between the van trade in and the 6000.00 down we were able to get a loan for this mini bus and the payments are $440. a month.  Though this will make our budget much tighter, it is doable and we were able to get into something quickly to be safe for Antonio. Our goal is to do our best to try to pay it off early and not have a car payment again. 
It has a drivers and shotgun passenger seat...eight back seats and one wheel chair position.  It also has a flip down seat that holds two but cant be used when the wheel chair is in.  So we cant use that seat.  If we replace it with a single seat it would be usable with Antonio's wheel chair in.
I wanted to share this with everyone to keep everyone updated and to say a huge thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, to everyone who gave, passed this need along to others and prayed for us.  May the Lord God in heaven bless you all back 100 fold for your gifts and prayers.  They were felt deeply and excepted with a very grateful and humble heart.

2 Corinthians 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

Abundant Blessings,

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Happy Birthday "B" !!!

Yesterday was a very special day.  Our oldest foster toddler, "B", turned 3 years old!

I would love to share with you the story of how and why he and his brother came into care.  The hard life they had before coming here.  The huge miracle God has done in their lives.  How far they have come in just the short seven months they have been here.  I would love to share their sweet faces with you, in the pictures we have taken to remember the day.  I will have to wait.  We will both have to be patient and wait for a time that it is safe to share it all.  We will just know in our hearts, every day has been a gift and give glory to God for His amazing grace and mighty hand in theirs and our lives.

So today, I write to rejoice that the boys are here and to wish a very happy birthday, to a little boy that most likely never had a birthday celebration before.  A happy birthday to a little ball of energy, that is full of mischief and has a strong a little boy that has stolen our hearts....He had a wonderfully amazing day.

We don't usually do big things for the kids birthdays.  It is our tradition to take the birthday child out to eat, anywhere they wish to eat out at.  (within reason)  They may have soda to drink on their day and can pick out one thing they really want as a gift from a store. (again within budget and reason) We don't wrap it up.  They just tell us what they want and we get it for them.  A lot of thought goes into their choice.  We sing happy birthday to them and eat cake that evening after supper.  I try to do one party sometime in their life, at an age they can remember and enjoy it but most years we keep it low key and simple.

We feel that the boys had never experienced birthdays before because they had no idea how to open gifts, they did not know what cake was and the first few birthdays we had here, when we sang happy birthday, "B" shook as if terrified and cried when we sang.  Before they came here their basic needs were not even being met, let alone anything else.  So...Since we don't know anything of the boys past and I don't know for sure that the boys will be staying here. (Even though DFCS is filing for termination, one just never knows when working with the system.)  So, we decided to make a very special memory for him.  We saved back a little money from our food budget this month and took him to Chucky Cheese for his birthday.  It is an hour away.  It is a children's pizza place that has puppets singing on stage, some games like ski-ball and those tubes the kids play in.  A big deal for small children.  I have not been there since my Middles were little and we only went a few times ever with them. 

"B" was beside himself in awe.  He had such a wonderful time and is at just the right age.  I learned I can't easily chase toddlers in places like that anymore, so William kept up with "B" and Carolyn with "T".  Tim's parents met us there and we just sat, visited and let the children play till they were exhausted.  We spent three hours there.  

My dad had given "B" some money for his birthday so on the way home, we stopped by Toys R Us and let "B" pick out his gifts.  He choose a little play tent with Lightning McQueen on it, a match box car of Lightning McQueen and one of Mater.

When we got home, we fixed spaghetti for him, his favorite food.   My wonderful sister made his cake.  A Thomas the tank engine cake.  It was a great hit.  She always makes it gluten free so the other children can eat cake as well.  So thoughtful.  She is quite the artist.

To end the evening Tim and I let him and his brother watch a movie in their bedroom as they fell asleep. 

Happy, happy Birthday "B".  You mean so much to me.  I love your big strong hugs that choke me and your hard kisses.  I love your brilliance, activity and thirst to learn.   We all love you, you little ball of energy!  May the Lord God in heaven have His mighty hand on you, your whole life.  May you always have christian people in your life to guide you.  May you always live for God and be greatly used of Him all the days of your life.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Love, Daddy, mommy, Stephen, Antonio, William, Carolyn, Zeke, Elizabeth, "T" and baby "K"!  


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

19 Years and Loving You More Than Ever!

19 years ago today, Tim and I stood before God and man and made a promise.  To be one forever.  To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.  Forever.  Putting God first at the head of our home. 

Whoever wrote those words must have been very wise.  They must have lived a long time and tasted the seasons of life deeply.  They knew...When you are young and getting married, you often go into marriage feeling so in love, that you feel nothing will ever rock your world.  You feel that together, you can overcome anything life brings along.  You feel so in love with the person you marry, that you feel you could never be upset with them or that your love will carry you through anything...It was not long for us, like most marriages and those vows were tested and tried.  

Tim and I have went thru life together, over the last 19 years, with great joy and happiness but we have had more than our share, of very sad and hard times through the years.  With each terrible thing we went through, God was there and joyous times did return.  We came thru those times with new found wisdom about what really matters in life and lessons learned. 

Within the first few years Tim almost died.  I cared for him in every way as he became unable to do the simplest of care for himself.  No one should have to see their spouse on life support...God spared Tim's life and going thru that time only made me love and cherish him so much more.   I have never taken him for granted again.  Ever. 

The cost of those years, caused us to lose everything monetary, even our home.  The years of working our way out of medical debt and rebuilding our life has only taught us how blessed we are to have every day together and the people in our lives.  Things mean nothing when stacked against the value of life. 

Shortly after that season we buried a daughter together.  I can not even write about the pain of going through that time.  The pain of not only loosing Faith Anne, but the pain of seeing your spouse and children grieve and not being able to give any relief...We held each other thru some of the most painful days and nights imaginable.  God was there and our love for each other only became stronger, as we have went through that on going season of life together.

I went thru a few years of declining health, that left me unable to care for myself or drive.  Tim cared for my needs and carried the work load of our whole family, as God did a work in my body and brought me back to health.  It only made me admire and love Tim more deeply.  To see how devoted he is to us and how hard he works for us.  Tirelessly, giving of himself for us daily.

I remember refusing say the word "obey" in my marriage vows.  I never wanted to HAVE to obey anyone. (blushes)  Walking the road of marriage, we have together, has grown in me, a love that says wholeheartedly... I will follow God and obey Tim gladly, in anything he asks of me.  He has proved to be a true man of God.  I can trust that when he asks or tells me to do something, he prays and is following God.  I love him so much that I will do what he asks, to help him or please him, because he does the same for me. 

We have prayed over each other and for each other.  We have joined in prayer over our children as they have gone thru dangerous surgeries.  We have stood as a front before terrible comments made about us and our family, by extended family, strangers and friends.  We have endured loss of friends and family over doing what God has called us to do...From us embracing and adopting children of other ethnic backgrounds, to adopting a child that was born to an HIV positive mother.  Painful, painful times, when Tim and I felt we had no one but each other, encouraging each other and loving each other, when no one, not even extended family or the body of Christ seemed to.

The wedding vows. Words we don't think about much once we have said them, unless we go to a wedding but they are a promise made before God.  Not just words but a covenant to remember and live by when going thru hard times in a marriage.  Times when you feel like giving up.  When you feel like you can not go forward or move on.  Knowing you have God and your spouse, by your side, who promised to be there, through thick and thin, is a comfort.  You are one.

Building a lifetime together is at times hard, messy, sad and you may walk through the unimaginable...but...staying together and going thru those times together is a beautiful thing.  The layers of pain soothed by love.  The layers of hard work rewarded by reaching goals set together.  The faith in God, memories, joy, special traditions.  All of it, is the brick and mortar, of years and experiences, that build a strong marriage.

In our marriage there has also been plenty of times of joy and happiness.  Joy is easy to walk thru together and we have had an over abundance of those days as well.  Going thru the hard just makes the times of joy even more precious, enjoyed and relished.

Tim's and my marriage.  Being "one" forever and living thru this thing called life, has only made our faith in God unshakable, our marriage commitment even stronger, our love for each other even deeper.

I humbly and thankfully praise God now and always, that He brought Tim and I together.  I would choose to marry no other.  He is my best friend and I say today the same vows we said 19 years ago...but this time knowing the full implications and meaning of every word... I love you Tim Nichols and promise to have and to hold you, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.  Forever.  Putting God first at the head of our home.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Your loving wife,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Knocked On My Pa-tu-ki

Yup, you read that right...We had a lot happen this week and I will be blogging to share all about our week soon.  But...starting Friday night we had a 24 hour tummy bug go thru the family.  It unfortunately started with me!  Yes, me!  The one who usually never gets it!  The one who usually takes care of every one else, was down for the count.  Knocked on my pa-tu-ki.  Totally not able to function.  I have not had anything like this happen in a long while.

Tim did a great job holding down the fort, keeping well-children separated from sick-children and cleaning up after everyone.  But by Saturday evening poor Tim had it too.  By then I was at least able to slowly move around in the house to take over as Tim had no choice but to go to bed.  Needless to say, it was a long weekend and I can not wait for Monday. 

William, Zeke and baby K did not get it and I pray they do not as it was a really intense tummy flu.  Tim has Addisons Disease and he always gets things ten times worse and it takes him a very long time to recover.   He is very weak and still in bed but seems to be over the worst of it. 

Tim's Chick-Fil-A is closed for the month of September for a total remodel.  So Tim should be able to rest for the next few days and recover faster than if he had to return to work tomorrow.

The house has been sanitized and I am on my last load of laundry.  Whew...I hope that we never see the likes of it again.  With so many in our home, it really is a huge tiring ordeal.  God is so good and at least it was over with quickly.

May the One True and Only God, be with you through this fall and winter, keeping us all healthy and well.

3 John 1:2  Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stress and Focus

We, as a family, live a very blessed and happy life.  God is so good to us always.  Period.
Tim and Carolyn recently went to a wedding together.
I know that I write a lot about the happy and blessed life we have.  In all truth that is exactly the life we lead but also because that is the part of life I choose to dwell on.
Carolyn with her pony Millie.
The other side of it all is that our life can be incredibly stressful.  I do share a lot of that part of our life as well.  We never know when a huge spike of stress is headed our way.  It is hard enough in life to handle normal stress of everyday things happening beyond our control but add to that, many special needs children, the many health issues that come up and the worry... that if left unchecked, can consume me.  I could let it stifle me, make me sick and paralyze me.  I am not going to lie and say I have never started down this slippy, dangerous, road.  I am human and have and do let stress get to me sometimes but I wanted to share what helps me the most, in our daily stressful life and in times when stress gets turned up a notch.

Number One: Is definitely my faith in God.  Gods Word is very comforting to me and knowing that God loves not only me but those I love and our children so much more than I ever could, gives me peace.  Knowing that God knows the details of my life and the desires of my heart.  That nothing happens without God knowing and that He works all things together for good for us.  I know that fear is the opposite of faith.  So when I start to feel fear, I try to remind myself that God can handle this and will.  This is all a great comfort when trying to handle very stressful times and it builds my faith.   God's Word is truth, it is He Himself and I can trust in His promises for me, my family and my life.
A very bright rainbow that was over our farm for a good thirty minutes Wednesday evening.
Number Two: Is choice and focus.  We can choose, to an extent, what we want to focus on in our life.  Do I want to always focus on the bad?  Or try to find the good in a child or situation?   Do I want to feel fear, frustration and dread about something or choose to focus on any positives I can think of about the same situation?  When I start to feel myself being pessimistic I try to redirect myself and find something happy and upbeat to focus my thoughts on.  Snuggling with baby "K" is a great de-stresser.  So is reading to the toddlers or stopping to play a game with or watch a show with the other children.

Number Three: Is to take one day at a time.  Looking down the road to a serious surgery date or appointment can bring stress and anxiety.  Also, times when a child is going thru a season of daily trying behavior..  You know, the one you think they will never stop and makes you dread your day and the next day and the next and the next...Those are times that have taught me to live in the moment and take things one day at a time.  Sometimes on a particularity hard day or in a very bad situation, we have to take it a portion of the day at a time.  I do mean this literally.  When trying to handle a child's bad behavior or when a child is suffering, taking a portion of the day at a time, to focus on keeping positive, is all I can  handle.  Otherwise I would feel totally overwhelmed.  There is nothing harder than seeing the ones you love dearly suffer, be depressed or cry, when you can not do anything to relieve it.  Dropping all extras in our life, at those times and focusing on making the best of a short portion of a day, at a time, is best. 
My sweet William...His personal dog (Will), that is with him always, has been wasting away for about a year.  We have had her to the vet more times than I can count.  Yesterday, we were told she has a one pound, in-operable, tumor in her abdomen.  She is not suffering yet, so they sent her home saying she has a few days to maybe a few weeks to live.  We are all so sad but it is  hard to see William grieving and so sad.  I snapped this picture last night of them watching a show in his room.  Even though he smiled I can see the worry and sadness in his eyes. 
Number Four:  Is to talk to someone.  I talk to God all day long.  Yes, I pray with out ceasing.  Sometimes I need to pray without ceasing.  Also, my husband is my very, best, friend.  I can talk to him about anything and he is a great listener.  I trust his opinions and direction.  He has a way of gently defusing my negative emotions quickly.  I have a few other people close to me I feel I can talk to about things, when I get down, discouraged or need advice.  William, in particular, has very good discernment.  I often ask him his opinion when having a struggle in my spirit about things. 

Number five: Try to keep a sense of humor.  This really helps when the flu goes thru!  Or when dealing with behaviors in my children beyond my control.  Trying to keep things as light and happy as possible really helps.  There is definitely a time for grieving and sadness but in normal day to day life, my family looks to me to moderate the temperature of feelings in our home.  The happier and more upbeat I am, they will usually follow suit.  My children know I can be just as silly as they can and often dance with them to silly music. I chase the youngest thru the house for a ticklefest and make goofy jokes, rhymes or songs up to amuse them as we drive or play games.  Also, when I am feeling down...just being around children brings me such joy.  They do say the silliest things and do the cutest things.  They just melt me at times.
Pure Sweetness!

Number six is something I will mention but admit I rarely do.   That is to stop what you are doing and have "you" time.  Work on a hobby.  Pamper yourself. (Yah, not happening but I hear it works for some people.)  Or for me, it is just going for a walk or driving to a store alone, walking up and down the isles and reading labels.  Even researching on the internet things I need to know to help the kids is relaxing to me.   As knowledge makes somethings such as diagnosis, home therapy ideas and natural ways to treat things, so much less stressful. 

I am sure there is so much more, but to me, these are the ones that came right to mind.  Most of the time I have not only normal life going on... caring for and home schooling the children, running our home and keeping up with our small farm.  But also many appointments and therapies with lots of phone calls to schedule and followup on things.  Then many of our children's health issues I could get lost in worry about.  If you are trying to deal with something stressful or have a stressful life, try talking to God about it all.  I learned a long time ago I am not superwoman.  I can not carry everything that is in my life alone.  All of my strength and help comes from God and God alone.  Try praying and handing it all over to God and reading His Word for encouragement.  It does make a world of difference.  The other above listed coping suggestions really do help so much too.  We just relax, keep taking one step at a time and we get thru a day whether it is good or bad.

I am not perfect and have many times fallen into a puddle of tears on the floor when everything seems to go wrong at once.  Only to have God pick me up and carry me thru the day, as that is the only direction to go, so He mercifully carried me thru it.  Many times God has used friends and family to encourage me which heartwarmingly is a stress reducer.   God is so good.  So here I am again.  Grateful and blessed.   Encouraged by the outpouring of friends and family alike just when I need it.  All the glory to God!

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.