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Friday, August 31, 2012

"Love, Dad"

     My dad likes to talk.  The phrase "Stranger Danger" means nothing to him.  I constantly turn around in a restaurant or store to find him talking to strangers as if they care.  His conversation ranges from random facts about my brothers and me to the weather, current events, or even their clothing.  I have heard him tell a perfect stranger lady, "That's a nice blouse.  My wife has one just like it!"  Two nights ago John and I went to Newk's to eat with my parents and brother, and at the end of the meal my dad got up to get take home boxes.  Ten minutes later we all wondered where he had gone and looked over to see him talking with someone.   His mother once told a story about how when he was around 7 years old he walked down the road and befriended the elderly people who sat outside on their porches.  A few times he brought them home with him for dinner, until she asked him to stop the random dinner guests.  However, he talks much longer to people in person than on the phone, so I don't usually mind his phone conversations.  He leaves funny voice mail messages if I don't answer.  I'm not sure why my cute old dad leaves me voice mail messages as if I do not know he is the one calling from the fact that my phone tells me I've missed a call from him and I have a voice mail from him.  Really, it's hilarious and I love it.  Here's an example of one of his voice mails:

    "Hi Kelly, it's Dad.  I was just calling to check on you and see how you're doing.  I haven't heard from you in a few days and I just wanted to hear about what's going on with you guys. How's Jonah?  You always talk to Mom and I'm out of the loop, so anyways, call me when you get a chance.  Okay, bye. Love, Dad."

     This cracks me up every single time.  I replay it back just to hear his cute little handwritten letter style ending "Love, Dad." It's adorable.  I think if my dad was an old dude in church who didn't have a family, I would adopt him.  He's got that lovable goofiness quality that just says like a lost puppy, "Take me home with you." But once you get him home you'll realize he eats a lot and talks a lot, and doesn't know when to leave. In his honor, I have written below an "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" copycat.

     Now he's a grown man and all, and he's put on a few pounds since retiring from the Air Force, but I think he's cute in his own old chubby kind of way.  He's cuddly like I'd imagine a pet polar bear might be.  His hair is all silver and white now but he keeps a pretty good tan which makes his blue eyes stand out. When he laughs he has some sparkle to those eyes, even when he's laughing at his own jokes (which happens rather often).   Back to our phone conversations.  I call him back soon after hearing his little message and he goes through a little de-breifing about every member of our household.  He proceeds to tell me all about my prodigal-son type brother's latest shenanigans and how upset he is about him, then on to his latest workplace desk rearranging and moving and happenings, and then on to how late my mother is working (she's a school nurse, and they get over worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated much like school teachers), and then tells me about my other brother's most recent sarcasm and awkward social interaction.  I guess I should find all of this depressingly captivating and amazing, but the way he just sort of complains about it all makes me feel a little sorry for him.  Yes, one brother makes ridiculously immature choices and decisions.  Yes, Mom works hard.  Yes, the other brother is funny with his weird anti-social quirks.  No, we don't have to be upset about all of them. Sometimes it's OK to just say "It is what it is, and I love them all anyway."  I know that's just how he is though, and I love him and his funny conversations.  I know that when he worries about us it is his way of saying 'I love you.'  I hope that as Jonah grows I can trust God and not worry about him (much). 
     Now, I have to say that this excessive talking is only one part of his personality.  He is a giving, generous, loving, affectionate, complimentary, really sweet guy.  He started giving me Valentine's Day cards and presents when I was 10 years old.  He never forgets a holiday or birthday or a chance to show he cares.  Today he treated my mom and me to a "spa day" complete with 'Aromatherapy Massage, Manicure, and Pedicure' for her birthday.  He really is a wonderful dad, who just happens to have a little case of the chit-chats. 

If you give a Ketchel a glance,
he may ask you how you're doing.
If you tell him you're doing just fine,
he will tell you about his family.
Even if you don't ask to see pictures,
he'll pull out his phone and show you some.
If you cross your arms and nod your head,
he will just keep talking.
If you happen to pass by him again later on,
he'll ask you how you've been since you last saw him.
If you ask any question at all,
he'll spend the next twelve to twenty minutes answering in detail.
If you ask him for help on something,
he will gladly try his best to hook you up.
If you give him your phone number,
he probably won't call you unless you're related.
But if he sees you in public,
he will be happy to stop everything to catch up.
If you ask him how he's doing,
he will spend a long time answering you.
If you stay there to listen to him,
he may ask you how you're doing.

I love my daddy!

From my wedding day, October 4, 2008.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Car Accident 2 Years Ago

This is copied and pasted from the "Note" I wrote about it on facebook 3 weeks after it happened.  I had to pass the wreck location every single day on the way to work for the next two years, and I can honestly say that I thought about that wreck and thanked God for saving me at least half of the time I passed it.  Now that I won't pass it anymore I am keeping one of the pictures of my car and the name of the street sign on my phone to remind myself that I still have a purpose, or I very easily wouldn't be here.

I have to say on the front end of this, that since I am alive, much of this will be about Jesus, whom I am certain saved my soul, and positive saved my life in this body for a purpose about 3 weeks ago.

I am a first grade teacher and I love my job. I love children because that's just how God made me.  I love teaching, and I believe it is one of the gifts God created me to use for His glory.  I was on my way to work Monday morning, September 13, 2010. I had a typical morning where I get up at 5:30 to make my instant coffee and read my Bible and pray before I take a shower and get ready for work. I wore a cute sundress with sweater and sandals, and drove an adorable turquoise 2007 Toyota Yaris.  This car was my very first totally bought and paid for all-by-myself car, in my favorite color, and small enough to park easily anywhere I wanted and make u-turns at the drop of a hat, all using on average 28mpg.  I was not even half-way to my school when I was traveling South on a 6 lane road, and a 17 year old girl was traveling North.  She needed to take a left turn in front of me to go West down the small intersecting road to her school.  The traffic light was yellow for both of us.  That is the last thing I remember.  "Oh the light just turned yellow. I can make that." 

Approximately 30 minutes later I remember staring up at a woman in a blue uniform who was talking calmly and hooking me up to things.  My husband John, was calling my name, "Kelly, Kelly, hey, hey, wake up."  I remember feeling confused and trapped and sleepy.  Someone told me I was in a car accident.  I remember telling the ambulance lady, "I thank God for you." I think she said, "I thank God for you!"  I was in and out of consciousness on the way to the hospital, and do not remember the ambulance ride, or being taken inside.  The next thing I clearly remember is laying in the hospital with John sitting next to me.  The back of my head hurt because I was strapped down to a hard, plastic orange stretcher.  I think I said, "Well this sucks.  I had a lot to do today."  It's funny, now.  I feel like God was saying, "This will make you stronger.  You have a lot to do with your life still."

Because several kind people witnessed the accident and stopped to check on me, I can tell you what happened in the middle of the intersection.  Her Lexus SUV thing hit my car mostly on the front, more toward the driver side. I was going about 50mph, she had to be doing almost the same.  My air bag immediately deployed, and apparently knocked me unconscious and cut my lip.  My car spun several times before going off the road, down a short grassy embankment and landing in a parking lot.  I miraculously did not hit any of the 4 large concrete poles that my car went in between. I miraculously did not break a single bone in my body.  I miraculously was able to tell whoever opened my car door first "I am a teacher.  Call my school.  My kids need me.  Please make sure my kids have someone.  Call my school."  As an after thought, I told someone to call my husband.  I kept passing out in between phone calls.  Someone kindly called 911 and the police and ambulance were there quickly.  Later a witness e-mailed me, and when I told her I thought I was knocked out she said, "Yes, I'm sure you were knocked out.  I saw your head bouncing around in there a lot."  I guess as the car spun, my head just flopped from side to side.  The car was totaled.  Our insurance sent us a nice fat check for the car.  Another lady called to check on me and said that she had stopped and prayed with me. I am so thankful for these helpful people I don't remember. 

In the hospital they took many x-rays.  I passed out getting x-rays.  They tried to give me pain medicine through an IV, but then discovered the IV was not in my vein, because it burned and hurt as she pushed the stuff in and I almost screamed at her.  So she tried it with saline and it did the same thing, so she gave up and took the IV out.   I cried some when they wouldn't take me off the orange stretcher because it was hurting the back of my head.  When I got off of it, I could start to feel my back and neck hurting.  My legs had big bruises from where the front of my car had literally caved in on me.  My right hip had a large abrasion from the seat-belt. I didn't know seat-belts could cut you through 3 layers of clothing, but they can.  My chest hurt, and I realized in the hospital that I was not going to be able to go back to work the next day.  I also realized that I really want to have kids.

In the days to follow the accident, John had to help me do almost everything because the back and neck pain made me very immobile and weak.  Immediately my school family reached out and was sending me kind, positive, encouraging e-mails, they brought us dinner every night the first week.  It was close to a miracle that I got my job.  Now I knew that god had put me in such an awesome school because they could take care of my class while I was gone, and I didn't have to worry.  I was standing up so much at home because it hurt my back to sit down, that I went to school that Thursday, and walked around very slowly, and regretted being there by the end of the day when my neck and back hurt so bad.  I went to a doctor the next day and he gave me pain medicine. Lortab became my new best friend. I went to a chiropractor and they did all sorts of tests and x-rays to tell me that my back and neck were probably hurting a lot.  Then they "adjusted" me, which really just means, push down hard on my back to pop it, and turn my head to pop my neck.  It all felt good.  They gave me ice packs and told me to ice the neck and back for 20 minutes every hour.  It helped some.  I was able to go back to work on Monday, one week after the accident, for the whole week.

I had never been afraid of anything in my life.  The first two weeks after the accident, I had an intense fear of driving.  I fought back tears all the way to work, and slammed on my brakes at every yellow light.  I waited until almost no one was coming, and got honked at several times.  I had to repeat frequently, "The Lord is my protector, He is my healer, He is my strength.  Fear is not of the Lord. "  I hated driving. I was in John's Altima, which is only a little bigger than my Yaris. Thankfully, this summer we had kind of been given a car, an 02 Dodge Durango with a broken air conditioner.  John's helpful dad brought the Durango up from Alabama.  The Durango is an SUV, and I immediately fell in love with the bigger, safer feeling I got behind the wheel of that car.  But it's older, and it's big, and the doors are very heavy to pull shut. I decided to go off of my lortabs to see how my body still felt.  This last Sunday and Monday I took no pills. That Monday, when I left school, my back and neck hurt pretty badly.  In God's divine set up, one of our lovely first grade teachers is married to a lawyer, who actually used to handle accident and injury claims just like mine.  They invited us over to talk about everything.  It helped so much.  We had so much more knowledge and peace of mind when we left.  My back also hurt a lot.  I made an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor.  He prescribed me a steroid pack and a new pain killer that is not a narcotic.  I am feeling much better. I get to go to physical therapy next week.

Monday night I was able to go to the seminary's wives class that I had been going to, but had missed the Monday of the wreck and then missed the next Monday because I was doing make-up Parent teacher conferences.  In that class I was given exactly the verses I needed.

2 Corinthians 1: 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

The speaker, a sweet young youth pastor's wife, explained how God lets us experience some hardships so that we can comfort those who go through similar things.  I realized that I had never been able to understand fear, or serious pain, before this accident.  Now, I feel like I can relate.  Now, I feel like I have overcome.  God has been with me every step of the way.  I know my injuries, and whip lash pain are minor compared to the horrendous difficulties other people have, or I could have easily suffered form the extent of the accident.  I feel like Jesus just carried me through this.  My angels were all around me, protecting me, helping me.

Then, the verse that made me cry:

10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us

I realized, God saved me from a deadly wreck.  He will save me from future danger.  My hope is in Christ, because He will continue to deliver me from danger.

My fear has slowly dissipated since Monday.  Today, Friday, almost 3 weeks from the accident, I can say that driving felt almost normal again.  I have let this verse sink into me to relieve my fear.  I had a great day at school today.  We did a project that involved ice cream, so the kids had a great day too. :) My peace has finally returned.  I have many, many people's prayers to thank.  I am so grateful for the help and support and encouragement I have received from my husband and from my coworkers and a few new friends. 

God saved me for a purpose.  Maybe it was tell you that He loves you.  Jesus Christ died for you. 

He came to give you life, to give you a relationship with your creator.  I love you.  Jesus loves you more.  I'm here, and I'm alive and well.  Please know that any second, you can be living and breathing and planning your busy day, and then wake up in an ambulance.  You could also wake up in heaven, or hell.  Do you know where you would wake up if it wasn't earth?  If you don't know for sure, then please please please please please, ask me, ask someone, about Jesus Christ, because He is the only one who can save you.

I would have gone to heaven, because I trust Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  Where would you go if someone hit you tomorrow on your way to work? 

 My Car

The SUV that hit me

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our History (Part 2)

    I left "Our History (Part 1) with summer of 2010, moving to Memphis for John to attend seminary at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.  As I told people in Clarksville about our plans, I received a lot of surprise and negativity.  I heard several times, "It's really hard to get a job in Shelby County.  They have such great schools that they are really picky," things like that.  We honestly wondered if I would get a job. I thought this would be fine, I'd just work for Memphis City Schools instead.  John was a little concerned for my safety there, but I filled out hours of online application pages for both, and prayed God would be preparing a place for me there to teach somewhere.  I remember floating around my mother-in-law's pool that summer and praying about it.  I told God that I really wanted to continue to teach, because I felt like it was the career He called me to since I just love kids so much.  I told him I enjoyed 1st grade, and it was really tough to learn everything about 1st grade, so I would really like to teach 1st grade again and not have to change grade levels.  I felt complete peace that day, that no matter what happened, I was going to get a job there.  John was a little harder to convince.  
     We moved to Memphis in June, and for 3 weeks heard nothing from any of the school districts to which I had applied.  I was getting nervous about setting up a classroom in enough time, and John was getting nervous about me finding a job period.  Then, Shelby County Schools called me for a pre-interview.  This was interesting, kind of like a screening by this guy who then decides if you are good enough to send to principals for more interviews.  I thought it went well. I e-mailed that guy back every day for a week although he had said there were no openings at that time. One morning he called me and told me he had set up 3 interviews, 2 the next day, and one more the day after that.  I was overjoyed.  I ironed my clothes, texted friends and family, and prayed for the right words to say at each one.  Honestly, I'm a weirdo, and I enjoy interviews because I like being challenged and I like to talk about teaching because I take great delight in helping students to learn.  It's a little adrenaline rush walking into the room, shaking someone's hand, wondering how it's going to be.  I enjoyed all of my interviews and came home telling John happily after each one, "I think it went really well!  They acted like they liked me!"  After the third time of this, I remember he scoffed at me and said, "They can't all like you!  They can't all just go well!  I don't think you can read people very well." I indignantly insisted that they either liked me or were really good fakers.  
     Two days later, the original interview/screener guy called me and said, "I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"  I said, "Bad news. I want to end on a good note."  He said, "Two of the principals want to hire you."  I said, "What's the good news?"  He said, "Two of the principals want to hire you."  Hahahahaha!  I was confused, "Why is that bad?" He said: "Because now you have to pick one and tell the other one no." I almost cried.  It was an easy decision because only one school was hiring for 1st grade, and I knew that was where God wanted me.  I tell that NOT to toot my horn about interviewing well, but to give glory to God for being so incredibly faithful.  He called us to Memphis, and when we doubted most, he answered with not one, but two job offers as if to say, "Why do you doubt me? I want you here, and I will take care of you.  Trust me." This is a good reminder for right now. Here's some pics of my classroom there:


     Little did I know that I had landed the best job of the century in such a wonderful school full of thoughtful teachers, helpful staff, involved parents, and an administration that made you want to work hard, and showed their appreciation when you did. I truly feel blessed to have been able to work at the lovely Farmington Elementary School.  I could not have even guessed that teaching could be so pleasant.  Then, I was in a rough car accident a week after my birthday.  I'll just copy the facebook note I wrote on my next post to tell you about that.  Looking back, I learned so much from that wreck. I learned what fear felt like, so I could empathize with others who feared. I learned what back pain felt like, so I could pray more effectively for others who felt it constantly. I learned how impressive the teachers at my school were at reaching out to help me and my students when we needed it, so I could be a more active part of our team of teachers and understand the fact that we ALL teach ALL of the students in the school, not just our class. I learned how awesome my husband was at taking care of me when I really needed him, so I could appreciate and love him even more.  I learned how difficult it could be to exercise with pain so I could relate better to other people who struggle when they move. I learned to treasure life and my loved ones so much more than before so I could make it more of a priority to tell people "I love you" and then try to show it in my actions.  I learned to drive more safely. I learned how much I wanted to be a mommy, because if I had died that day, I think on the way to heaven I would have felt like I had missed something. I learned that this verse rings true in my heart today because of that accident and the subsequent pain and healing: 

  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. - 1 Peter 1:6-7   

 We went to St. Louis on Fall Break, not knowing then it would be our LAST trip as just us, a couple, no kids.
     It was so much fun going to the arch and The City Museum (not really a museum, more like a fun house for all ages).  Then we decided to become a "Friends Family" at the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home, and began taking a 15 year old girl for one weekend a month and on holiday trips.  She came home to Alabama with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we learned what House Parents did.  It's funny, we had no idea we would soon be called to be more involved in that ministry.  John and I had wanted to adopt and had always thought (in our little human plans) that we'd have babies and then start trying to adopt. However, when we moved to Memphis someone told us that there was a real need for foster parents because there were over one THOUSAND children every day going through the Department of Children's Services (DCS).  We took that information like an arrow straight to our hearts, and we both just knew that we were going to change our plans, and follow what we felt like God was asking us to do, and began the training to become foster parents.  We started PATH (Parents As Tender Healers) training through DCS in January, and our home was approved in early June.  The day after we were approved, we got a call about a little girl. I just happened to be hosting a youth girl's Bible study that evening as we received our first foster child.

     We only had her for a week, but we loved her.  We were sad to see her go until we met the very loving, friendly lady who got to keep her.  We knew that she was loved, and so we didn't worry about her.  Then we had to go to summer camp with the youth at church where John worked, so we had to turn down a call to take a sibling group of 3. I remember being upset that we couldn't take them, but I learned so much from David Platt, the speaker, that week at camp, that I soon realized it was a good thing we went.  On the drive home from the beach our social worker called us and asked if we would take a sibling group of 4. We told her we were only approved to take a sibling group of 3 or less, and she said it didn't matter.  We prayed for about a minute. LOL!  We were actually in different vans.  John got the call, then called me and said, "It's up to you."  Oh how funny that is now. I took a deep breath and called her back and said that if she couldn't find anyone else then we would take them so they wouldn't get split up, but that we wouldn't be back in Memphis for at least 3 hours because we were still driving home from the beach.  Well, sure enough, no one else would agree to take 4 kids aged 1, 2, 3, and 5 because that just sounds crazy!  They brought them to our house 30 minutes after we got home. 

 The oldest 3 kids.
The baby - 14 months and 14 pounds, wearing 6 mos clothes, at the doctor she was considered "Failure to Thrive." She was walking when they left! :)

     Those kids were our crash parenting course. We knew from the get-go that they were not adoptable and they had tons of family involved and trying to get them, and we had several meetings and court dates about it.  It was such a madhouse with 4 little kids!  Time-out was soon a happening place in our home! They came to live with us on July 4th weekend.  I found out I was pregnant a week after my birthday, so mid September.  July and August were pretty hectic for us, and John and I shared kid-care duties.  Unfortunately, when that first trimester constant nausea and fatigue took over in late September, poor John had to really work hard. I'll post about pregnancy though later. I was teaching first grade at FES, and John was taking a bunch of classes in seminary.  I took the little boy to school with me because he was in Kindergarten, and John took the 3 girls to daycare. I didn't feel good until around Thanksgiving.  Our life was jam packed! 

     They went to live with their grandmother's sister and her husband, who are doing well with them and have become their forever home now.   We cried like babies as we drove away from their new home that day in late December right before Christmas.  We cried because we loved them, and that was 6 months of our lives spent loving them, but we knew where they were was safe and loving, and we could visit, and we stayed in touch. The next day we were fine. I'll tell you more about those goofballs later. Christmas break was spent with our family, and just enjoying being pregnant. The second trimester was so much fun! 
     Then, I believe my last post caught you up with January and the arrival of the girls in January up through last week and their departure. It has been 4 days now, and our hearts are healing.  We have truly appreciated all of the love and prayers for us and the girls.  Life sure has gotten quiet for now... We are enjoying spending time with Jonah and our families before moving to Mississippi to be House Parents.  I'll explain that amazing story of God's provision soon. :) 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Hardest Goodbye

     Jonah and Madilyn both slept badly last night, so John and I are both tired.  It's Friday, the day DCS is supposed to arrange a time with us to come and get the girls, because tonight John is going to pick up the 24 foot Budget truck we need to load so that we can leave tomorrow.  As I look around my half-boxed apartment still covered in baby toys, laundry, and random diapering stations, my heart is heavy with the knowledge that today is the day these beautiful, sweet girls will leave.

     Let's go back to January 30th when we got them.  I was in school teaching 1st Grade and John just happened to check his e-mail at home, when he received a DCS letter asking for interested parents to call about two baby girls that were on the "Foster-to-Adopt" list, and needed a home that day to probably become their forever home.  John called me and left a message I got on my planning time when I called him back.  He told me about the e-mail and said he had been trying to call but couldn't get in touch.  He asked, "Do you want them?" ...

     Back to today, the girls' clothes were packed the night before in huge gray plastic tubs and taped shut.  They stand ominously in the living room, and I go wash bottles to send Madi with 5 clean ones ready to mix with hot water.  However, it's almost 9:30 and Mary hasn't woken up yet.  She usually just lies in her bed and cries when she wakes up, so we are wondering why we haven't heard from her yet. John goes to check on her, and says outside the door to her room, "This hallway smells like rotten potatoes.  It stinks." That's a bad sign.  I try to finish washing dishes, but Madi keeps crawling around my feet and trying to open the cabinet doors and drawers in the kitchen, and he comes back and says, "You're cleaning it up.  I did last time." That's worse. "Cleaning up what?" Then the wonderful news, "I don't know if it's poop or puke, but it's your turn."

  Flashback to January, "Of course I want them, but are you sure we can adopt them?" John and I had discussed that we would only do foster parenting for the ones DCS was sure we could adopt next, because we want to raise our adopted kids and our belly babies together.  We had just been foster parents to 4 kids for 6 months (more on that later), and we were taking a little break right in the middle of my second trimester, and had agreed to try to adopt next.  John has a soft spot for baby girls, and we had just found out that I was carrying a boy.  This would give us two girls!  We knew though that when DCS labeled kids "Foster-to-Adopt" there was always a chance their family would come forward and get custody, but usually it meant that DCS had exhausted all of their options and were now trying to get them a forever home.  We have felt called to adopt since before we met each other, and we had thought it would be now.  He told me their ages, 3 months and 13 months.  Just babies, sweet, helpless babies we could raise with our own.  I remember standing next to the window of my classroom because it was so hard to get service in that building. I put my hand on my belly like pregnant people do, wondering if these would be Jonah's sisters.  I asked, "Have you prayed about it? What do you think?" John said, "Yeah, I mean, I wanted to ask you first, but I want to do it. There's always a chance with any foster-to-adopt kids that we won't get to keep them, but this e-mail sounds like DCS has already tried to get in touch with their family.  They're in custody because the mother was on drugs when she went to the hospital to deliver the baby.  They were with an aunt, but she can't keep them anymore, and she's giving them up because she doesn't believe the mother will ever get her life together or get them back. What do you think? Should I call and try to get them?"  Taking a big leap of faith, I answered "Yes."

     Today I take off my rubber dish-washing gloves, (in retrospect, I should have just left them on), walk into Mary's room, and I'm greeted by a nasty smell and sight.  She is awake but silent because she knows something is wrong and I think she thought she would get in trouble.  She is covered in diarrhea.  It smells much worse in the bedroom, like just straight horse manure.  It's all over the bed, sheets, blanket, her clothes.  I curse diaper companies for not figuring out by now how to keep feces in a diaper.  We can put a man on the moon, and a rover on Mars, but we still haven't conquered baby crap.  We need to get someone to fix this problem.  I pick her up by the arm pits and carry her into the bathroom.  John runs out of the room gagging, almost tripping over Madi because now she has followed us in here.  He scoops her up and backs out of the room, "That is awful!" Jonah sits in the recliner, bobbing his little head around.  I holler, "Bring me some wipes!!!" I turned on the bathtub faucet and told Mary, "You are nasty, so you're going to take a bath, OK?" Her response is a nod, as if she understands, and then confirming, "Baaaa" (bath in babyspeak).  I tell her, "This sure is a gross way to say good-bye baby girl."  Then I realize I have no where to stash these disgusting wipes, so I call on John again, "Bring me a bag for this stuff!"  This time he hangs around about 2.4 seconds longer and asks if he can film this, realizing the hilarity of the disgusting situation. I decline this offer because I'm still in a t-shirt and underwear, and that's just not family-friendly. I finish wiping her off around the diaper, but when I have to open it and the liquid poo comes pouring out onto the bathroom floor, I gag and have to stand up and back away. This is parenting my friends! It's gross and real and physical.  I know God doesn't have to change our diapers, but he does have to help us clean up our lives.  I wonder if he ever gags at our horrendous messes.  Mary is safely in the bathtub, and I have to clean up the floor. I feel like this is dejavu because a few days ago I was cleaning vomit from the same spot.  John throws away the blanket, sheet, and her clothes.  I fully agree with this decision.  I give her a bath, then get her dressed, and her juice. I miss her, but not cleaning up those nasty messes!  She happily watches TV, a full-blown Dora fan, and I get ready to try to feed Madilyn (see previous post).  I mix up her baby oatmeal with cinnamon sugar and formula and add cinnamon applesauce.  She actually likes this quite a bit, and only fights me toward the end of the small bowl.  I give up when she does, and try to go back to washing dishes.  My eyes water as I think how typically ironic it is that we would find a food she likes the day she has to leave.  I often look upward when I pray, and I am thankful once again for the piece of Bible scripture wall art we have put up on the wall above the sink:

I choose to obey and the words become repetitious in my mind to give me strength.  I finish the verse in my head, "Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths." or is it "He will make your paths straight." ? I can't decide if this is a different verse or the same verse in a different version.  I like to use Bible Gateway and the app on my phone and read the same scripture in ESV, NIV, and the Message, to get 3 different perspectives and full understanding.  I don't have time to look it up right now, but it has calmed me down.  I don't understand this, but God does.  We're moving because we feel He's calling us to be House Parents.  We know that eventually now the girls are going to live with some family members who have applied for custody.  We are almost certain we'd never get to adopt them, no matter how long we foster them and stay in Memphis. I wish these family members had been contacted months ago so they could transition straight there.  I don't know why we were given little girls we thought we could keep only to have to give them back 7 months later. I don't know why we lost countless nights of sleep with Madilyn, or cleaned up nasty diapers with Mary, or got to teach Madi how to crawl, and now watch her pull herself up on the furniture and cruise around, or get to teach Mary to say "Tank Oooo" (thank you) and a handful of other cute words.  I don't know why yet we can't keep them forever, and see Madi learn to walk and Mary learn to read and watch Jonah say to someone proudly "She's my sister," but I have to trust His plan for them. We want to adopt children who have no family.  If these girls have family members who can take them and raise them in a safe and loving home, we have to accept that with peace.  I wish we could meet them...I pack their things and remember back to Winter when they first came over.

     Madilyn was in a pink snowsuit that cold afternoon, and looked like a little tiny angel.  Mary had a mischievous grin, but cried whenever John came near her or even walked in the room (that continued for about a month). We were so excited and happy to have them, thinking we could adopt them eventually. They were so small, soft and beautiful.

     I am having to take breaks from writing this because I keep crying and remembering, Trust. Trust. Trust. 

     Back to today, I pack them as quickly as I can, but still not before John calls and says, "The social worker is on her way." What happened to calling with a time to meet? Oh well. I throw some pants on and keep packing them.  All the clothes, toys, diapers, and random baby supplies fill up her car around their car seats.  John tells me anything else will have to be strapped to the roof.  John is alternating holding them and crying.  His parents walk in to help us move, and Nancy starts crying.  I can't hold it back. The last few bags had tears packed in with toys.  We held them, and cried, and lifted silent prayers for their safety and well-being.  Our voices were too shaky to say much.  As we buckled Mary in the car seat she began to cry, as if she understood.  This really hurt. She's so smart.  I pray she gets great teachers.  I hope she's crying because it's lunch time and she's hungry.  The social worker drives away, and John and I go sit in the closet and cry.  That was the hardest goodbye of our lives.  Here's a few of my favorite pictures of them:

It was hard having 3 kids under age 2.  
Really, really hard when I was home alone with them and trying to feed Jonah while Madi was screaming, but we loved them anyway.  
We pray for them constantly and have to keep trusting.  
Please join us in praying for these girls.
Also join us in trusting the Lord. 
If He can create Heaven, earth, humans, animals, and everything in between, who are we to question? 
Trust. Trust. Trust.

Madilyn refuses to eat

    *I started this last week, then everything got crazy with moving (I'll catch you up soon), so I wanted to finish this one before going further.

 This has been an ongoing problem since we got the girls on January 31.  Figuring out what this baby will and won't eat/drink has been a constant puzzle.  At 3 and half months old then, she had terrible acid reflux and was on prescription baby zantac, which had to be given twice a day, and she hated it and therefore spit up constantly and fought you while trying to give it to her.  Regardless of her zantac, she used to vomit every single day, sometimes more than once, sometimes half a bottle or a whole one.  She never seemed to care, just casually vomiting all over you and herself and the furniture.  While I am glad it didn't cause her pain, it was still very annoying and problematic, raising several questions.  Did she eat enough? Should I make her another bottle since she threw up the whole thing? Did I do something wrong? Will that stain ever come out of the couch? Do I have any clean shirts I can throw on now since we should have left the house five minutes ago? Do I have to give her a full bath or will a good baby-wipe-wipe-down be good enough for now? Thank God she only pukes about once a week or less now.  She started growing out of it when she was around 6-7 months old.  We also started introducing baby solids at that time, and feeding her "solids" (they aren't really solid, just a nasty sloppy mush before you start feeding the baby, and then as the feeding progresses the slobber you have on the spoon mixes with the already moist goo and only becomes sloppier) was absolutely disgusting. John and I literally fought over whose turn it was to feed her, bargaining and dealing "I'll feed her now if you change Mary's next 3 poopy diapers," or "If I feed her and she pukes, you have to clean it up."  Then for a while when we changed her formula she refused to even drink a whole bottle.  She is such a picky baby that she literally starved herself because she didn't like the way it tasted! We had to mix her new formula with her old formula to get her to drink it. Here's a window to our most recent feeding production tonight.

     We believe our parents are the ones to blame here because they give Madilyn little morsels of real people food (you know, actual solids like little pieces of biscuits, cornbread, cake, goldfish, teddy grahams, etc), and she wisely realizes it tastes far better than the bland gerber baby food mixed with more bland baby cereal to thicken it.  Now she has recently begun to refuse all of her baby food and will only eat mashed potatoes and pudding.  John got her KFC mashed potatoes and she loved them.  She did not like Popeye's and we think it may be the "cajun" flavoring.  Tonight he got some from Danver's, and this is how it went:

     Madi has been crawling around getting into everything, as usual, ever since they came home from daycare, but now she is getting irritated.  She screams randomly when she is mad, and then throws a full-blown fit, scream crying until you give her what she wants.  So John takes out half of the individual serving portion and scoops it into a little bowl and heats it up. I stick her in the bumbo (which is totally safe when used on the floor, the recall was for irresponsible parents who left kids up high in them and then fell out).  He sits down in front of her, and Mary sits next to him.  Jonah gets to lay on the floor and wiggle and stretch since she is confined for now.  She won't open her mouth to eat and just sits there whimpering with her mouth closed, waving her little hands as though blocking the spoon.  Lately she has found out that hitting the spoon and/or the bowl of food is quite fun and entertaining when the adult feeding her freaks out and has to clean it off her hands, the floor, the bumbo, and themselves while saying irrational things like, "If you don't quit that I'm never going to feed you again," or "You're so nasty I should just let you feed yourself."  Recalling this, I decide perhaps it will work if I sit behind her and hold her hands down out of the way.

     Now I'm sitting behind her, John's sitting in front of her, Mary is next to John, and we're all fully employed in getting Madilyn to eat.  She likes to be cheered on, so John scoops up a spoonful, waves it in the air and says in his sweetest, cutest baby voice, "Yaaaaaaaaaay!" He nudges Mary and she follows suit, "Yaaaaaaaaaaay!" She also claps, I raise Madilyn's hands in a victory V and when she smiles John quickly puts the bite in her mouth.  She seems to like it, and he gets in a few bites without all 3 of us having to encourage her.  Then Mary picks up a Sesame Street baby book and browses the bright pictures, and Madilyn's attention on her food has been lost.  We start the cheerleading squad back up, and now she eats again.  However, this only works through about 2/3 of the bowl, and then she just quits, not caring about our fervent efforts to make her happy.  Now she closes her mouth tightly with her lips rolled inward like an elderly angry person who has removed their false teeth. It is comical in retrospect, but irritating in the moment that she won't eat more and her mouth is so tightly closed that her eyes seem to bulge.  She is 10 months old but has an expression on her face like I have seen on a first grader who was refusing to come out from under a table when recess was over.  John and I have great motivation to get her to continue to eat because the more she eats, the longer she sleeps.  We're not sure if it's something we did wrong or if it's her, but she still wakes up multiple times throughout the night, sometimes wanting a bottle, sometimes just wanting to be held. We have tried to let her "cry it out," and it only results in her scream crying so long and hard that she vomits all over herself and then still scream cries for about an hour before she falls asleep.  We only tried on purpose once at home, but then it happened again on a road trip that I took alone with all 3 babies (more on that experience later). She has no self-soothing skills whatsoever.  We are working very hard with Jonah to prevent this.

     So, despite the fact that she is now obviously finished, we keep trying to feed her.  She turns her head rapidly side to side, and now mashed potatoes are on her cheeks.  John tries to wipe it off, and I get distracted, and she gets a little hand free.  Madi immediately uses her fist to smear the mashed potatoes on her face and now she starts wildly waving it to try to block the spoon from coming near her face.  Common sense says, "Stop feeding the baby who doesn't want to be fed." However, sleep deprived parents will try anything, and we continue to try to feed her.  Now she head bangs up and down and there are mashed potatoes on her forehead, and she begins to get really angry, and is about to cry.  John tries one more bite, and she starts crying.  This actually helps because when she opens her mouth for a big "Waaaaaaaaa!" he slips in a bite.  This works for a few more bites, until she cries with her mouth closed and then gags.  Since we don't want her to vomit, we finally surrender, and just decide to clean her up.

     She did this multiple times a week, and was also starting to refuse to eat at daycare also.  We told DCS about the problem, and we are praying that her new foster family is patient with her and figures out to get her to eat.  We miss her so much. We do not miss feeding her, or cleaning up vomit, but we miss all the moments in between.  Here are some pics from the night described above:

(Please excuse the mess of toys in the background)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our History (Part 1)

     If you are not close friends and family, you may have a little catching up to do on our lives to this point.  This will be the cliff notes version of our past.

     I was raised in a military family because my dad was in the Air Force. We moved a lot. I was born in Arkansas, then we went to Holland when I was 2, Germany age 3, South Dakota age 5, England age 7, Idaho age 12, then settling in Alabama at age 15, or starting 10th grade.  I think moving so much is what really hindered my school spirit, but also taught me to appreciate all types of people and cultures. I had a definite salvation experience when I was 5 at a VBS camp there in South Dakota.  I specifically remember the teacher having short dark curly hair, and taking me into a small room and asking me lots of questions, and telling me that if I became a Christian then Jesus would come to live in my heart and be the boss. Then my mom drilling me more at home later on. I had a very difficult time making friends in England at the British school I attended.  I remember in 3rd grade feeling very lonely all the time and sitting around at recess talking to God, and taking consolation in the fact that He was my friend. However, I didn't start reading my bible daily and digging into what it meant to honor God until we moved to Alabama and my family first attended Southside Baptist Church.  It was there I really became actively involved in loving Jesus and getting to know him personally because I had a wonderful man of God as my youth pastor, Randy Sims.  I also had some great Sunday school teachers and got know a few other young women following Jesus and had great support. I knew God was calling me to be a teacher, and I went to the University of Alabama in Huntsville for that purpose. I also wanted to do mission work with kids, but wasn't sure where or how to go, so I stayed in town and worked full time at the Boys and Girls Club downtown. When my education classes interfered with my hours at the Boys and Girls Club, I started working at a gym and teaching exercise classes.  I enjoyed teaching the Les Mills programs BodyPump, BodyCombat, BodyFlow, and BodyAttack. I was even a personal trainer for about a year. This is where our paths crossed.

     John was born in Huntsville Hospital and grew up living in the same house there in the small southern town of New Hope, Alabama. He played basketball, baseball, and football all throughout school and is a die hard Alabama football fan. He had a definite salvation experience at the age of twelve, however he unfortunately went the rest of my middle and high school time in and out of church for lack of discipleship and Christian male role models.  John spent two years playing college baseball before feeling called to the ministry at the age of 20.  He went on to get his Bachelor’s degree at Athens University where he felt like his ministry could be through coaching.  Instead of finishing his seminary degree at that time, he taught for the next 5 years, coaching football and baseball in middle and high schools, while working part-time or full time in youth ministry.  John worked out at the Riviera Fitness Center in Huntsville where I taught classes and was a personal trainer.  One of his friends was dating an instructor who knew me, and he asked her to introduce us. We met in January of 2008, and were married in October. 

     We had a stressful first year and a half as we were getting to know each other.  I was pretty stressed out after student teaching and working as a special education aide in Huntsville. Then we moved to Clarksville, and it was my first year of real teaching. I was staying at school until 8pm almost every night until February while John helped coach football and was feeling torn between coaching and seminary.  We prayed, fasted, and asked older Christians for guidance. It was February of 2010 when we definitely felt God leading John to finish seminary and go into a ministry position full time.  We stepped out on faith, quit our jobs, and moved to Memphis Tennessee that summer.  That brings you up to 2010, and is long enough for now.  I'll catch you up on the last 2 years later. 

     Here's some pictures of our first years, before kids!

                                          Dating, April 2008

                                    Engaged, September 2008

                                        Married, Oct 4, 2008

                            Around our 1st Christmas, in Gatlinburg

                                            Summer 2009
     For the rest of the story, here's part 2 and then you can also check out the "ABOUT" tab and the top. :) 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blogging Bandwagon

     If everyone else was jumping off a bridge I probably wouldn't do it. However, everyone else is writing on a blog, and I have decided to as well.  This is one bandwagon on which I think I will be glad to have jumped! I have always loved writing, but have been so busy the last few years that I really only wrote when I had to help John with his papers for seminary.  Fortunately, I believe that life is about to become slightly less busy, and I will have time to catch up on missed writing.  Some of my writing will jump around quite a bit on the timeline of our lives as I think of things. Mainly, I want to remember my time as a teacher, as a foster parent, and soon to be a house parent. Above all, I want to share what I believe God has done in our lives as He is leading us ever closer to Him.  I will start with a typical experience with the two girls we have right now for just a little while longer. I will have to change the names of our foster kids so that this blog can be public.

These family pictures were taken by a wonderful friend at seminary in early July. 

     Mary is 20 months, Madilyn is 10 months, and Jonah is 3 months. It is the beginning of August, back to school life is in full swing, and for the first time since I went to Kindergarten, I am strangely NOT going back to school. I am being a mommy instead, and we are preparing to move. John and I have been packing boxes all day, and John just picked up the girls from daycare because I was feeding Jonah.  Mary toddles in the door and immediately points to the TV and asks, "Dowa?" When I say, "No, no Dora" she counters with the baby sign language of raising a glass to her mouth followed by making a circle in front of her chest and says, "Joooooose? Peese?" This request is reasonable.  I put Jonah down in one of his favorite spots - the inside corner of our big cuddler recliner, and I pour 1/3 of her sippy cup full of juicy juice and fill the other 2/3 up with water. She smiles as she reaches for it and says loudly "Taaa Choo!" Her version of 'thank you' is sweet.  Meanwhile, Madilyn speed crawls over to where I have propped Jonah.  She pulls herself up on the end of the chair and stands there trying to reach his little feet.  She smacks her lips together saying "Meh Meh Meh Meh!" as he squirms just out of her reach. I really think she wants to taste his toes.  She does like to suck on John's toes, and she has realized that mine never taste good.  Jonah has just begun to have enough core strength to sort of rock himself forward a little, and it looks like he is studying her, but also wondering what she will do if she ever does manage to grab his foot.  John says, "Who pooped? It smells awful in here already!" That's nothing new. We go on the search, scooping up the girls and sniffing their behinds, and I am lucky enough to have hit the jackpot with Mary. "Shew! Stinky!" I tell her, and she repeats in her broken baby speech "Sue! Sinky!" mimicking my scrunched up nose. As I carry her back to the bedroom, Madilyn drops to her knees and crawl chases us to see what interesting thing we could be doing.  She finds one of her shoes on the way, and stops to chew on it. John has recently appropriately nicknamed her "BillyGoat Baby" and I don't even bother to take away the shoe.  When I lay Mary down on the top of the dresser we have turned into a changing table she says, "Biper!" I stick my nose inside my t-shirt to help block the smell and talk to her muffled through my shirt, "Yes, diaper. Stinky poopoo, we have to change your diaper." She points to the monkey decal on the wall and says "Oooo Oooo Oooo?" "Yes, monkeys say 'Oooo Oooo Ah Ah." Her diapers lately smell like a mix of old man halitosis bad breath and horse manuer.  I hide my nose inside my t-shirt. Such a deep conversation we're having as I feel Madilyn jerk on my pants to pull herself up to standing, leaning against my calves, and then open the drawers right in front of my legs, so the drawers hit my shins and won't open all the way. It only hurts a little.  Mary's diaper is changed and I slowly take the first step so Madilyn can let go and not fall, then they both follow me back to the kitchen.  Madilyn pulls out the baby food plastic containers from a low shelf and Mary pulls a knife out of the dishwasher. I take away the knife, put it back in the dishwasher, close it, grab the baby food from Madilyn, put it back on the shelf and bring them both out to the living room. Mary drinks her juice and finds a toy to play with.  Madilyn cruises along the edge of the entertainment center and slaps buttons on the DVD player, and the disc changer slot pops out.  She is furiously grabbing the plastic trays, as Jonah is toppling over to one side.  I set Jonah back up, and turn the DVD player off.  John put tape over the disc changer part, and suddenly Madilyn realizes she can't open it anymore.  Triumph! That was all in about five minutes.  That's our life right now. Yes, it is all one big paragraph because that's how fast it happens in real life, there is no nice punctuated break until we put them to bed.