About Elijah

Four years ago we were packing our bags and waiting anxiously for the final notice of our travel to China.  We did Christmas at home knowing we had a son across the ocean and we travelled early in the new year to meet him.

When we made the decision to open up our hearts and family to this little boy in a land far away we knew that he would come with many unknowns.  Many of those caused me some fear in the weeks leading up to our travel date. Would he grow to love us, could we be the parents he needs, would our other kids adjust well, would our family crumble into chaos and would this adoption be the proverbial  final straw that sends us all to the looney bin?  We moved forward with eager and trembling steps knowing that this is what God was leading us to do.  More specifically this was who God was leading us to.

When we brought him home he was six years old and had been through a lot. An abandonment as a toddler, two different orphanages, and five foster homes.  He has cerebral palsy that mostly affects both legs and his left arm.  He had just started walking and was able to walk a few steps.  We knew those things before we left Canada. What would be a wild card was his development and cognitive ability.  We were bringing him home regardless. This was a special needs adoption and we were under no illusions that things would be easy or free of surprises.

With CP there is such a wide range of ability level both physically and cognitively. I have known people who are completely unable to control their body but yet are very intelligent and their minds are unaffected.  Some may have minor physical limitations but their cognitive ability is severely impaired.  You just really don't know, and you certainly can't assume that someone with a severe physical disability has any intellectual impairment. We didn't know where our little guy would fall, but I've known a few kids with CP and they were all average intelligence.

When we met our little guy we were smitten.  A beautiful smile that lit up at the simplest of pleasures like bubbles or a buffet meal.  He babbled in mandarin and enjoyed being snuggled.  He seemed quite a bit younger than six years old.  Partly because he was the size of a Canadian three year old.

As the months and years at home followed it became apparent that not only was he developmentally delayed from bouts of malnutrition, lack of schooling and neglect but that something more organic was at play.  Both nurture and nature were affecting his abilities.  A year after adjusting to just being home he was enrolled into Kindergarten.  He loved it and continues to love going to school.  His EA, teachers and the other students are so good to him. The have worked so hard with him and always set the goals high.

Recently an educational psychologist did a full assessment of his intellectual ability and IQ.  It was put off for a few years in order to let him catch up a bit and learn English.  After realizing that this was about as caught up as he's going to get we finally got the assessment done.  Yesterday we got the report back and went over the results.

I can't say I was shocked, although my husband says he was.  I actually have mixed feelings about the results.  In one sense theres a bit of relief and in another sense there's some sadness.  I think it will give me more patience with him when I remind myself that he's not just being dense or difficult but that he really just can't get it.

Across every category he was "Extremely below average" and his percentile was 0.1%.  The actual number of his IQ did floor me for a second.  I'm not totally comfortable sharing the number but it is below an average person with Down Syndrome.  His expressive and receptive language at 10 years old is that of a two or three year old. So there we have it.

In a way that validates what I've noticed in trying to teach him certain things.  I don't want to hold him back or set the expectations too low but I also want to be realistic. Expecting too much just causes frustration for us and for him.   I think the EA at school may be relieved as well as they are going to stop pushing so hard with things like learning letters (which has been entirely unsuccessful after three years of effort) and start working more on life skills.

The thing about the assessment is that it doesn't take into account that he is so much more than a test score.  That number is a part of his disability but it isn't who he is.  It also doesn't score the areas where he does have intelligence.

Here are a few statements written in the assessment that helped soothe my aching Mommy heart. They reflect more accurately who this boy is. The boy we know and love.

"Elijah was observed to be a happy and friendly boy who enjoyed engaging with others"

"He was observed to be seated at a table colouring with a group of other children. I sat with the group and Elijah engaged with both me and myself and the other children. He enjoyed providing me with ideas about what I could draw."

"Elijah presented as a cheerful and happy boy"

"Elijah was cooperative throughout the duration of the assessment and completed all tasks required of him. He tried hard, even when the tasks were difficult for him. He demonstrated a positive attitude and confidence in his ability to attempt tasks."

Those observations very accurately describe my son.

He has struggles but he is more than that.

Here are some of the things he's really good at:

* Elijah is a very loving boy.  He regularly gives me spontaneous hugs and back rubs and says "I love you mom".

* He is very generous with compliments.  He basically tells everyone they are "cute" and tells me all the time "You're a good mom".

* He is polite.  He is always on point with his "please", "excuse me" and "thankyou".  He will patiently wait his turn and doesn't whine.

*He's an amazing big brother.  He's always looking out for the little ones and the first to warn me if something is amiss.  He is very affectionate, protective and playful with them.  Annie and Eli are good playmates right now.

*He has a good imagination and loves to play pretend.

* He follows directions and is compliant.  For a parent that must makes life easier.  He can even follow and succeed at directions with multiple steps as long as the message is clear and he understands the words.  I have a few children with ADHD so the ability of a child to hear, process and successfully follow multi step directions isn't something I take for granted.

*He enjoys simple things.  It doesn't take much for him to be happy and content.  Give him a bowl of popcorn or rice and he's happier than he is at Disneyland (unless you buy him popcorn or rice there).  He's really very easy to please.

* He's helpful.  The boy loves to be busy and feel useful. He's great at picking up toys or helping to set the table.  He's as happy as can be when he's doing chores that everyone else grumbles about.

* He is very sociable and enjoys being with other kids and participating in activities.

*He is very perceptive.  I think some of his ability to read a room, judge people's moods, and be hyper aware is a survival tactic he learned early in life. It's both a skill and a detriment as he can easily become frightened and very anxious if he feels someone is upset or there is potential danger. There's not getting much past him. If there's tension in a room or he's being excluded he's very aware of it.

*He is good at self care.  As much as his physical ability allows he is eager to do things himself.  He dresses himself for school. Takes himself to the bathroom.  Washes his face and brushes his teeth (although I still go over them afterwards to make sure it's done well). Get's his own pajamas on.

*Elijah is great at finding a way to do what he wants to do. His ability to make adaptions and work at things until he can do it is remarkable.  He's not a kid who is content to sit on the sidelines.  He wants to be involved and finds a way to do so.

*He's always the first to pray for whoever in the family is hurt or sick, before it even crosses my own mind to do so.  He's our little intercessor.

To be honest the hardest thing about parenting him has not been his disabilities but rather his past traumas and the damage they caused. He has a lot of deeply ingrained fear and when that is triggered he will fly into fight or flight mode quickly. It's like something primal deep inside him just takes over. It often involves high pitched screaming, raging, spitting and making himself as physically gross as possible. Often this happens at the worst possible times, and over the most ridiculous things (at least to us).  It's very hard to have patience with that. Thankfully as trust and security has slowly grown these episodes are less and less frequent.

He really is just one of the kids.  I don't think about his disabilities all that much because it's not at the forefront of our relationship as a mother and son.  The extra stuff required when parenting a child with physical and intellectual disability is just part of life.  It all seems pretty normal now. He is expected to behave himself, he is expected to obey, he is expected to be kind to his siblings. He has consequences if he isn't doing those things.  He is expected to tidy his room and do what is asked of him.  He isn't kept in some sort of separate "special" category.  He has his own personality, his own likes and dislikes.  He has friends and he loves his family well.

He's just Eli.  He's just our kid.

All our lives are richer because of this boy and his smile.


What your Church needs from you. A letter to the big, messy, adoptive family.

I wrote a blog post a while back called "What a big, messy, adoptive family needs from a church"

Today I'm going to reverse that title and write some thoughts on what a church needs from a big messy family like mine, or yours.  I often hear parents lamenting that they aren't getting what they need from others, or don't have community, or who isolate themselves because it just feels easier. There are many people talking about what special needs and adoptive families genuinely need from churches. What I don't see or hear a lot of is the opposite.  What our churches need from us.  Specifically those of us with big, complicated, non-typical sorts of famlies.

First of all I want to acknowledge that you are tired.  Not only that, but you may be utterly exhausted 100% of the time. You are busy caring for little ones with various demands and needs 24 hrs a day.  Nothing is ever easy. Just leaving the house to go buy some milk is a huge ordeal that expends an absurd amount of energy and requires many logistical challenges. There's just really not much left over to give. By "not much" I mean you may feel drained to the dregs by the end of each day, and then the night shift starts. At least that accurately describes my current state of being.

So, when someone suggests that the church needs something from us it may put our back up a little.  After all, shouldn't "the church" be serving me and my family? We have opened our homes and hearts to vulnerable children, shouldn't serving our own needs qualify as some sort of "ministry"? Is it really fair for the rest of the church to expect or need something from us?

Dear Mothers (and fathers) of children with special challenges, let me assure you that you are still a vital part of the body of Christ, that is being worked in and through your local church community.

In fact, just your willingness to get up and out the door, despite the fact you only had 4 hrs of sleep and a couple kids are on the verge of meltdowns, to meet in the homes of friends or to gather with the church on Sunday morning is a testament to others. People see your children. They see your big, messy, mismatched family and they see the gospel worked out in those chubby dimpled hands and crooked pony tails.

By just being willing to go, you put God's redemptive work on display, and are serving the church.  The church needs that reminder that the gospel is about a Father who sacrifices, pursues, gathers and heals the broken, hopeless and alone right in the murky stuff of real life.  So bring your kids with their snot, shaggy hair, challenging behaviours, and disabilities...come raw and real.  In a sense, our ragamuffin gaggle of kids is a perfect picture of the Church.  A people gathered from every tongue, tribe and nation (with all their imperfection) made into a family.  Family with one blood line of Christ.  Fully known and fully loved. Serve your church by showing up.

If you are a big, messy, adoptive family with a range of special needs and challenges (or just a big messy family) community is vital.  It's an absolute lifeline.  I wrote more about that in the post mentioned above. You need it.  Go find it.  If you can't find that community, create it.

Don't sit at home pouting that you have no supportive community when you aren't willing to go out and BE community to others.  The tricky thing about "community" is it requires something from you. It can't be one way. The Church was designed and created as a community. We weren't saved to be Lone Rangers, we were saved to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  It's in the complexity of relationships that we are challenged, refined and sanctified.  It is in loving others that we are filled.

If you are not actively serving, loving, and reaching out to others it isn't "community" it's "consumerism".  Churches full of consumers become ingrown, naval gazing, bitter cess pools that eventually fade into oblivion.  Thriving growing churches are filled with people willing to set aside their own preferences to seek out, and meet, the needs of others. They are filled with people willing to be vulnerable, honest and sacrificially invest in the lives of others. They are saturated with grace...because as we well know living in genuine community with a bunch of sinners saved by grace isn't without it's challenges.

That brings me to my next point.  Grace.

You need it.
My kids need it.
God knows I need it.

Do you realize that your church family needs it from you too? The Church is not an homogenous collective, it's made of up individual people.  People in need of just as much grace and kindness as you.

What your church needs from you is for you to be patient, gentle and gracious.  Maybe you belong to a church that has not had any experience with foster children, with "high risk" teens, with kids who have special needs and disabilities, or with children that come with trauma and baggage.

Maybe they don't know the "proper" PC terminology that the adoptive parent community prides itself on keeping updated. Chances are some kids and adults in your church will feel awkward around an older child in a wheelchair that drools and talks weird. Maybe they don't know how to engage, even if they want to. That's why they need you and your children there! Exposure. They will soon see past the wheelchair and get to know your child as an individual.

Not every one of the 30 children's dept. volunteers that take time out of their own week to teach your children and hold your crabby babies so that you can have a break, instinctively know how to best handle a child with attachment disorder, sensory processing disorder, Autism, developmental delays, FASD, or ADHD.
Maybe they don't even know what questions to ask.

This is where you come in.  You can serve your church by being gracious. You can serve your church by patiently, lovingly, and gently letting specific needs be known. Build relationships with others who look after your kids or teach Sunday School.  Have dialogue, follow up and ask if there were any challenges you need to be aware of or if they have any questions about your child. Choose your battles carefully and be slow to take up an offense. If there are needs that cannot be overlooked don't keep them quiet and then grow bitter when someone doesn't read your mind, know your child, and doesn't perform to your expectations.  Be a teacher, advocate for your child when needed, but don't demand perfection.  Don't expect people to meet needs you haven't bothered to make known.

Dear Special Needs Warrior Mama's, set aside your "rights" and your offence when something doesn't go exactly how you want it to. Set down your Mama Bear weapons. They may serve you well when advocating for education and medical care for your child out in the big mean world but this thing, this mission, the Church....it isn't about you.  Its' about Jesus. To be blunt - You can serve your church by getting over yourself. Take your eyes off your own struggles, fix them on Jesus, and then look around.  People all around you have exhausting, stressful, busy lives.  People around you are hurting.  People in your church have lost loved ones, are grieving broken relationships with adult children, are struggling with broken marraiges, have just received a devastating diagnosis. Then look beyond your church walls into an entire world that needs a message of hope and redemption.

I know, if you are an adoptive or foster parent, you probably already pride yourselves on your worldly "awareness". Maybe you carried your wee one, wreaking of stale urine and vomit, out of an institution in a far away land.  You have witnessed first hand how cruel the world can be and how filled with sadness it is. Don't let that experience turn into pride and warp how you treat others back at home.

Not everyone has stood where you have or seen what you have seen.

Please do continue to advocate for vulnerable kids, shine light on injustice and heartbreakingly cruel conditions children exist in. Please do encourage and challenge your church to be more involved... but please do it with grace and humility.  Especially if you haven't bothered to notice the hurting and wounded within your own church family, or if you can't be bothered to show up for weeks or months at a time....or if you haven't "had the time" to make a meal for a new mom, or send an encouraging text to someone who is lonely.  None of us is scoring a perfect 10 in this. I know I'm sure not.

Serve your Church by giving.  I'm not only talking about tithing, which is important, I'm also talking about being generous with money and time.  Are there families who are struggling financially in your church?  Are there other families trying to adopt but don't yet have the funds? Is someone in your church launching a ministry or going oversees? Is your church in need of a new sound board? See the needs outside your own home.  Be generous.  Even when you have a house full of mouths to feed and bills to pay.  Give what you can.  With joy.

Another way you can serve your church is by giving credit where it's due. They need encouragement too. Your pastor most certainly needs it.

No church is going to be perfect.  It's made up of people equally consumed with their own problems and lives.  We all have a bent towards selfishness and self preservation. In light of that reality, if the brothers and sisters in your church have loved you, served you and been generous to you thank God for that! He has used these people to bless you, encourage you and provide for you in times of need.  It may not seem like a lot, it may be lacking in certain areas, but remind yourself of how abundantly you have already been served by a Rescuer who laid down his life to give you yours.  God has lavished you with undeserved grace, and welcomed you as his child.  Remind yourself that he is working through his Church, as imperfect as they may be, and that you are still a part of that work.

We moms of many may not be able to sign up for a lot of extras, we may occasionally need to say "no" or step down from a ministry during a hectic season.  Our priority is the messy, hard, redemptive work happening in our own homes every single day.  Because of that we not only need supportive community but we need to be reminded to also BE supportive community.  Because one doesn't exist without the other.

Dear Moms of many.  Moms who are tired and weary.  Moms who spend as much of the night awake as you do asleep.  Moms who sit in waiting rooms while kids have surgeries, MRI's, and therapy.  Moms who have multiple  kids with IEP's and who dread phone calls from school.  Moms who get funny looks while out getting groceries.  Moms who dole out meds and take kids to psych appointments and counselling.  Moms who dread phone calls from social services.

 You still matter outside the walls of your own house.

The church needs you.
They need your family.
They are better because you are there.

Soli Deo Gloria,


This is Real Family

"Which ones are real siblings?"
"What happened to her real parents?"

Sometimes I forget that many people don't consider all my children to be "real siblings". Many people (including many in"the system") don't consider foster parents to be "real" parents either or our family to be a legitimate family.

 I understand why there are a lot of descriptive qualifiers included in our family but inside my house, in the monotony and simplicity of daily life none of them exist.  We are Mom and Dad, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  Every once in a while a prefix must be used in a conversation with a child regarding their family of origin, or to clarify for someone who wants to better understand how our family is constructed.

Biological, adopted, foster, adoptive, temporary, long term, permanent ward all have meaning but none of them make what we do less "real" they are not a part of our everyday language.  We don't categorize the children in our family.  We don't segregate or make those distinctions.  Whether I care for a child for 2 weeks or 20 years they are family.  While they are under this roof I strive to love that child as fiercely as any child born from my womb. Sometimes when people hear those qualifying prefixes they stop seeing a real family and imagine relationships that are forced or pretend.

The depth of the very real relationships within my home also do not negate the role that biological family/parent will always have. Even if that role has never actively been a part of the child's life. It is still something to be respected and honoured.

From my vantage point I see a pack of brothers and sisters doing what brothers and sisters do. I see a Mom and Dad doing what Moms and Dad's do.

I watch two sisters playing "ring around the rosie" over and over in my kitchen giggling hysterically as they fall to the ground together.

I see a big brother get down onto the floor on his belly to cheer on and coach a baby brother as he learns to crawl.

I break up yet another fight between a sister and a brother who are each convinced that the other has "ruined my world".  I take away the ipad and remind them that Minecraft is pretend and relationships are real.

I witness those same two siblings later in the day with their arm around each other as they play.

A two year old begs her teenage sister to make her "pretty", which means she wants big sister to put her makeup on her and do her hair.  She sits so patiently as she gets a makeover and then runs upstairs to announce "Princess!" She often asks for that same big sister to come tuck her into bed at night, or read her a book.

I get to see a little girl jump up on the lap of a Daddy she bears no physical resemblance to, wrap her arms around his neck and then ask for him to bounce her on his knee for a horsey ride.

As a Mom, I feed, nurture, soothe, change, wash, teach, train, comfort, scold, and remind. I do these things literally 24 hours a day. Never do I stop what I'm doing and remind myself that I'm not really parenting but only pretending.

These kids dote on each other, they tattle and bicker, they play, and they protect. Because they're family.  It's really not as complicated as the rest of the world wants to make it.

They may not all share DNA but they're siblings in every way that matters on a day to day basis.

I sometimes forget that much of the world doesn't always see foster families, or even adoptive families, as "real".  Then I read or hear something and it jars me back to the reality that others aren't looking through the same lenses I am. They haven't witnessed the truth that plays itself out inside my home every single day.

We may not all be related by blood but we are bound by our commitment to love each other, even when someone takes the last bowl full of popcorn, or wrecks our really awesome Lego creation. Even in the heart wrenching and painful things that come with being a foster family.

Being a "real family" is simple, even though being a foster family is complicated.  Every situation is different.  Some children have a long history and strong bond to biological parents.  Some children have never met their biological parents and came into foster care or their forever family at birth. Some children have regular visits with birth parents and will soon return to live with them. Some have never had a birth parent even request a visit and will remain with a foster family, maybe the only family they have known. Some will be adopted into a permanent family and some will sadly move from home to home.  As a foster parent I have been called "Auntie" and I have been called "Mommy".  That nuance of role didn't change how I loved them or mothered them.

We don't live in a world of ideals as foster parents.  We exist in murky greys, hard truths, and crawling through broken shards praying that God will take all these jagged pieces and make something beautiful.

There's something about uncertainty that forges deep bonds.  A gnawing awareness that time is short or that an unexpected phone call could turn all our lives upside down and leave us struggling to merely breathe gives love an urgency and an intentionality.  We know all too well that "later" and "maybe someday"  is a luxury we can't afford.  We linger, we savour, we pour in and pour out and give it all knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that when a child leaves they will carry those moments with them. We force ourselves to let go and pray it will be enough.

Could it be that people think strange (or impossible) something they just don't understand and haven't witnessed?

That's why it's a good thing for foster families and adoptive families to be seen and heard.
 When your church, your social circle, your community and your child's classroom has families like this and you see how very normal this family is...despite a mix of physical traits and complex histories... your mind and heart might just be stretched and challenged to regard this family as very "real".

 God brought each one of us together including my husband and myself.  Commitment and choosing love over selfishness keeps us here.  Love makes us a family.

{Roman rescuing Cece who climbed a short ways up a climbing wall and started to cry, too afraid to move or let go of the wall}  

{Brothers enjoying a summer swim}

{some sibling playground fun}

{Silas keeping little sister occupied on a rainy camping morning}

{Just a larger than average real family}


A Journal of infant loss - part 3

May 26, 2000
Samuel Wallis Burlando came to visit us at 8:04 pm.  God gave us over an hour to show our love to him, before he quietly slipped from Daddy's arms into Jesus arms.  We will always love you Samuel, our tiny precious son.

May 29, 2000

I'm so glad it's a long weekend. Mom and Dad just left this morning. Nathanael and I are alone now which is nice but I think we may find it hard now with no distractions. It's been so nice having my family here. By a miracle they made it in plenty of time to help me through labor and be there to witness Samuels short life. Praise God.  There were many other friends and family that got to see and hold him too. It's nice to have so much support and love shown to us.

My labor was an odd one. After we went to the hospital Thurs. night I had only dilated to 2cm. So they gave me something to help me sleep and we decided to try to go home and get some sleep. I was so stoned and I slept for about 2 hrs. I woke up in horrible pain. I was so drugged I couldn't walk, focus my eyes, or deal with the pain. I scared Nathanael pretty good I guess. We headed for the hospital puke bucket in hand. I spent the next 6 hrs puking my guts out and going through horrible contractions.

It turns out they gave me too high a dose of whatever it was they gave me. What an awful exhausting experience. Around 5am I decided to let them give me a small dose of morphine and something for the nausea. We both slept for a few hours until people started showing up. When I woke up I had no contractions which I had for days before. We tried to get more rest and my midwife said we'd wait till my family arrived from Canada before we tried to speed it up.

They arrived at 11 am so we spent the afternoon resting and walking trying to get the contractions going again. The midwife didn't come until 4pm then she started pitocin and broke my water an hour or two later. I went straight from nothing to excruciating contractions in minutes. It was definitely a lot harder than I ever imagined. I didn't think I would make it out alive.

They gave me an epidural near the end which was wonderful. I was able to relax between contractions and let things move very quickly. About 1/2 hr later (it seemed like minutes) I was told to push. After pushing for several contractions he came out in a gush of water. I had a lot of extra amniotic fluid. I think that's the reason I've been so uncomfortable though the pregnancy.

We spent a while with him and then the family came in and held him. Then he passed away. He was quite active for the first little while but quickly became very still and was getting very little oxygen as a result of the heart defect.

We spent a little time with him after he died but it was hard to see him once he was cold. The worst part was trying to dress him. The outfit my mother in law made him wasn't long enough but we thought we'd try it anyway. It was hard to get on him because it pulled over his head. We should have tried the preemie sleepers or waited for the gown that the hospital gave us later.  It didn't look good on him either but we didn't want to leave him naked.  The sweater was kind of big but it was sweet.  After trying to get his tiny stiff arms in the gown for a while I couldn't handle it anymore so Nathanael finished. I found out later he hated doing it too. I feel guilty for asking him to do it.

I held him unwrapped for a little longer then we said goodbye and went to another room. It was so hard leaving my baby all alone but I kind of wanted to escape too. I wanted to run back all night and find my baby but I knew I would only find the cold, stiff version of the baby that I wanted back in my arms. I still long to hold him again.

That hour went by so fast. I don't think I fully appreciated each minute like I should have. He had beautiful brown hair, tiny hands with all ten fingers. His feet were perfect and long. He was tall and thin. He was 2lbs 10 oz and 151/2 inches long. He had his Daddy's long legs.  He did have some deformities like double cleft lip which was shocking to see at first but now I love every bit of him. His ears were a little low and his neck was a little short. He had a perfectly shaped head full of beautiful hair.  My favourite part was his feet. I miss him and feel very empty now.

What an evening that was. In just a few hours I experienced the most pain I've ever felt in my life, the wonderful miracle of holding my first child and the heart wrenching agony of letting him go. The hospital, the nurses and my midwife were wonderful through the whole thing. Memorial Day weekend will have a whole new meaning for us from now on. I felt surprisingly numb that evening but gradually I'm having to face all the emotions. Especially now that my family is gone.


May 31, 2000

Saying goodbye has been a lot harder than I imagined it would be. The sadness is so intense I feel it will never go away. Every part of my body is longing for a baby it cannot have. It feels like my breast are crying. Milk runs down my empty belly as tears run down my cheeks. I feel my heart has been ripped out of my body, thrown on the ground and stepped on, leaving this big gaping hole and emptiness inside me. My mind fills with things I should have done. I should have loved him more, kissed him more, taken more pictures without being embarrassed of how he looked. I wish I could go back and relive that hour over again. I don't think I knew how much I would miss him once I said goodbye. I didn't know, at the time,  how beautiful he truly was. I'm thankful for the hour we had but it's not enough time to be his Mom. My breast ache and burn with no baby to feed. What good is a mother without her baby? I'm left with a hollow womb and empty arms.

Part 1

Part 2


A Journal of Infant Loss - Part 2

April 11, 2000

I'm feeling Samuel move with more strength everyday. Sometimes he makes my whole stomach move. I'm not feeling very well today. I'm coming down with a cold or something. It's such a sunny day that I should go out walking or something but all I feel like doing is taking a nap. I wonder how big you are right now? It would be cool to know how much you weighed.

April 16, 2000

I was reading "I'll hold you in Heaven" and it explained a lot of things like when life begins and a baby's eternal existence. Every baby conceived is a spiritual being at conception even if it doesn't have a life span outside the womb.  God knows the days of our lives and nothing comes as a surprise to him. My son may not know a normal life span, as we know it, but he still is a human being conceived in my body that will live eternally.  We don't get a chance to know him now but someday we will see all that he was created to be. After reading that book I have a deeper respect for the life inside me. He's not just some unfortunate freak of nature, he's a soul that I have the privilege and duty to care for. Its not a waste of time because he's not just a group of defective cells waiting to become nothing.

May 5, 2000
Friday I will be 30 weeks. I remember when that number seemed so far away. I've been feeling very pregnant lately. My doc. appointment last week measured my uterus at 31cm. I've been getting a lot of contractions the last few weeks and I've been very tired. My appetite has reduced dramatically.  That will help with the weight gain. I am now at 147.5 lbs.  I'm starting to wonder if the extra amniotic fluid situation is going to start. I felt so awful yesterday that I dreaded the thought of being pregnant for 2 more months.  Nathanael knew enough to let me whine and not try to be optimistic about it all.  I wonder if it's more fun being pregnant when you are busy planning for a baby and preparing a nursery. Maybe that distracts people from the physical discomfort. It's not much fun otherwise. Today I'm feeling better, I have more energy and I'm not as sore and achey. I do enjoy feeling Samuel move all the time now. In fact, he's thumping around in there right now. I wonder how I'll feel the next time I'm pregnant. It's really hard not to wish it were over with but I know I'll miss him so bad when I'm not pregnant anymore and I may even miss being pregnant. My reason to keep waiting, other than nature, is that the older he is the more chance he'll be born alive and by a miracle of God maybe even stick around a little while. For the chance at that I'd gladly suffer through a couple more months.

May 9, 2000
I'm so angry right now. I was just watching a bit of a talk show on TV. It was about young teenage girls trying to figure out who the father of their baby is. Some had more than 3 to choose from! None of them, including the mother, wanted the child. One mother has about as much maternal instinct for her 9 month old baby as a piece of wood. She was trying to find the father so she could give her daughter away to him.  Children should be our number one priority if we choose to have them.  It angers me so much that people are given the gift of a baby and have no concept of how valuable they are. Why does a slutty 14 year old have a healthy baby when she admits on television that she wishes she'd had an abortion? Why do people get babies who have so much more important things in their life like careers, new houses, expensive cars etc. and have an hour in the evening to parent? I know it's wrong to try to question the fairness of life but I can't help but feel hurt and angry. People can make babies who don't even want them, will hurt them, neglect them and be terrible parents. I can't even keep my own son that I love and want so badly it hurts. This world is so screwed up. I don't want to accept this. I don't feel like being strong right now. I usually try to remember God is in control and will get us through this etc. but right now I'm mad with grief. I want to scream and fight and ask God "WHY?!" I feel like I'm filled with such a strong rage that is just now showing it's ugly face.

May 19, 2000

Last weekend was Mothers Day, we went hiking at Twin Falls.  We had a good day and surprisingly I wasn't sad about it being Mothers Day. I am now 32 weeks. I've been having a lot of pain in my lower back and back in general. Still have a lot of contractions.

I love watching you move and feeling my whole belly quake when you move. I sometimes sit and watch my stomach as it rises and falls and changes shapes as you change positions. You are getting up into my ribs now which can be uncomfortable especially when it's combined with a contraction.

Mom and Dad might come down when I go into labor. If you can hold off a while and stay put until seeding is over. They will likely miss the delivery and Samuels short life but I'm glad they're coming. I still pray he'll be alive longer than we expected and maybe they'll get to see him while he's living.

{resting after a Mothers Day hike}

May 24, 2000

I'm 33 weeks on Friday. I'm having terrible contractions and backpain. I'm starting to convince myself that I'm in "pre-labor" or something. I called mom for advice and motherly comfort. She said I need to start writing down the contractions and keep track.

May 25, 2000

Went to work for an hour but left to to go see the midwife. I'm having contractions, one on top of the other and I'm dilated to 1cm.  I called Nathanael. We spent the afternoon waiting and trying to stay distracted and calm. We went in to the hospital at about 9 pm.

To be continued.....

Find Part 1 of the story here 


A journal of infant loss - part 1

16 years ago today I held my first child in my arms.  Today is also the anniversary of his death. 

He had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18 halfway through my pregnancy.  The term used by medical professionals to describe our son was "not compatible with life".  Those horrible words have been seared into my heart since that day.  I despise them because even though our sons life was short, it was still a life.  His life may not have been what every parent hopes for their child but he was definitely compatible with love.

This afternoon I dug out an old pregnancy journal that had been stuck away in storage and began to read it.  This is where it begins...

April 2, 2000

I bought this journal today because I want to record this pregnancy.  I want to be able to look back at this time in our lives and remember the time I spent with my baby. I am now 25wks pregnant.

I am feeling you moving all the time now.  Each week the thought of loosing you becomes more unbearable. Some days I think I've accepted it and seem ok with it. Others, like today I feel like I could break down at any moment. On those days an intense sadness grips my heart and a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness cloud over every aspect of my life. I long to be able to hold you and show you how much I love you.  All I can hope for at this point is the chance to see you alive. I don't know if that's too much to hope for or not.

{ Lord, please let us see our baby alive.  We've accepted the fact that he will be taken home to heaven early but please leave him with us for a moment }

Your Daddy got to feel you move recently. It's so nice for him to have a physical bond with you now. Although, I have been amazed at how much he loves you and feels connected to you even without ever knowing you, feeling you move, or seeing you (other than in ultrasounds). You're his son and he's been proud to call you that since we found out you were a boy.

We have your clothes all ready for you.  Grandma and Grandpa B made you a quilt and pajamas.  Grandma and Grandpa W made you a little sweater set.  They love you too.

When I feel you move, you feel so strong and innocent.  You have no idea that anything is terribly wrong with you or that there is supposed to be anything other than the womb you know as your whole world. I feel guilty preparing for your death when you are still so much alive.

April 3, 2000

I'm having a much better day today.  I have a burst of unexpected energy and rejuvenation. Maybe it's the sun.  I went for a long walk down to Office Max after work.  I bought some little cards and paper to put your foot prints on.  I bought you a little Beanie Lamb.  It's tiny and cute like you. Every baby needs a little stuffed animal whether you'll know about it or not.

I feel kind of silly sometimes. People might think I'm over reacting or getting too much stuff ready for you but that's what feels right. I want your life to be as significant and memorable as possible.

I still want to take pleasure in you and take pride in your existence. I almost feel ashamed of those feelings like I have lost the right to be a proud mother. I have already lost the innocence of knowing a normal pregnancy.  I don't know what it's like to prepare for a baby, to dream about the baby wiggling inside me, or wonder what his future will be, all the natural things that have become something unnatural and foreign to me.  I do not wait in anxious anticipation for delivery and a baby to nurse and cuddle.  I'm in uncharted territory but it feels normal to me now.  It's all I know. I long to know the joy everyone else feels during pregnancy.

                                                          to be continued....  (part 2)


Spring Catch up

It's been a while.
Someday my blog may be less neglected and more filled with life but this is not that season I expect.
For now it will just remain on life support.  If you have been patient enough to stay tuned...thankyou.

Life is crazy certifiably cray cray lately.  On the move 24 hours a day meeting one need after another, putting out the fires that come with parenting 7 children, as well as  keeping up with the endless supply of appointments, meals, homework, housework, laundry and child shuttling.  Some days it feels like I can't tread water fast enough to keep my head up, like any extra little thing might be what sinks the ship.  Like stomach flu.  Which we have had twice in our house in the last two months, along with a winter filled with an unusual amount of colds and flus.  I know this season of sleepless nights, spit up, spilled food, and not being able to shower with out strategy and the stars aligning, will end.  Babies and toddlers grow up fast. 

I don't want to be a whiner.  Just being real.  Life is feeling all different shades of "real" lately. Not bad.  Just real.  Relentlessly exhausting but also filled with love, blessings and joy.  

Even though I'm weary and I could sleep for a month straight....I love this life that God has given us and I love these little (and big) people that I get to be family with.  

Seasons change. The days and years rush past at an alarming rate. Spring with it's sunshine, rain, green leaves and grass is a welcome change.  

With Spring comes seeding season on the farm.  I didn't feel particularly ready to start what is a gruelling time of year for us.  We started and finished early this year and we all survived so that's a win.  The garden is also in now.

The Littles enjoyed visiting Daddy out in the tractor.  

Starting them young. 

We've had some gorgeous hot days already.  The girls were eager to have a picnic outside.

Spring also brought with it a few birthdays. Turbo Toddler turned two!  We had a small party at home but the kids insisted on dressing up, having a dance, and making the event special in every way they could think of.  (Note the new dining room behind the dancers! Loving it so much.  We only have a few finishing touches left in the addition/ renovation.  After a solid year of hard work we are enjoying the fruit of it.) 

Annie becoming one with the centre piece. 

Aili is still our resident party planner.  She also baked the cake.  

Seeding lentils. 

Roman, who turns 13 this summer, bought 10 piglets this spring.  His summer job is to take care of these guys and get them fattened up to sell in the fall. Hopefully after paying back his loan and for all the feed he'll turn a profit.  He's a boy that needs to be busy.  Creating some farm chores is a good way to work on virtues like consistency, dependability, responsibility, and to build a work ethic.  Not only that he is learning hands on about agriculture and what it takes to raise and grow food.  Animals need to be fed...even if you're tired or don't feel like it. 

He and his dad spent a week of evenings preparing for the pigs by building a nice big pen and a shelter, as well as setting up a for food and water.  So far none of the piggies have escaped.  

They enjoy the wallow pit that was made for them.  The mud protects them from the sun and keeps them cool.  It also seems to provide something for them to do as they dig and root and make it bigger.  They are pretty fun to just sit and watch.  They are eating like pigs and getting bigger by the day. 

Speaking of getting bigger by the day.  My littlest human baby is fattening up nicely as well.  He's delightfully delicious in his own way. He's now wearing size 12 month clothes and has rolls everywhere.  

Me and the Hubster on a rare trip to town alone.

Miss Cece was another spring birthday girl.  She requested a "princess party" so thanks to a dollar store table cloth, some paper plates and a crown the party was a success.  Once again we stuck to a small family party.  I've stopped even feeling bad about that.  They have enough siblings that every meal resembles a party....at least as far as the volume and numbers go. 

Well, the big kids are due to step off the bus any second and in the time it took to write the last two sentences Turbo Toddler climbed onto the kitchen counter where she opened a permanent marker and a pair of scissors.  So I'd best sign off.  

Goodnight internet pals. Thanks for joining me here again. 


Two months with our newest little Dude.

Hey internet friends.  It's been a while so I thought I'd catch up a little.  Last week we arrived home from a trip to visit my parents in Belize. It was a good adventure and lots of family memories were made as we spent time exploring the beautiful country of Belize.  I didn't have internet while we were away, and didn't take a computer, so I didn't blog at all about our trip.  I did post a whole whack of photos on my blog Facebook page though.  It you want to explore Belize through photos you are welcome to enjoy viewing our central American invasion. 

Flying and travelling anywhere with six children (including one toddler that despises sleep and change) is a character building adventure all in itself.  Overall it was a great trip and I know we will have an impressive photo album, lots of memories, and hearts filled with times spent together as a family.  Travelling is one thing we've always loved to do as a family.  We scrimp and save and prioritize to make it happen and feel very thankful that we have been fortunate (and brave) enough to have done many trips to various locations with our kids.  I really feel that experiencing other cultures, hearing (and learning) other languages, eating new foods, and seeing other parts of this amazing world God made is the best education. 

We were unable to take our newest little family member along with us.  It is never ideal to leave a newborn for two weeks, but then again nothing about fostercare or the need for it is ever ideal.  We rarely live in ideals.  The trip was planned and paid for when we agreed to bring this sweet boy into our home, and some good friends stepped in and loved him well while we were away.  He grew so much while we were gone, I hardly recognized the baby that was handed back to me.  He has certainly changed from being a scrawny newborn into a full fledged chunky baby.  He's got jowls, adorable huge cheeks, thigh rolls and is a big boy.  Even just the width around his chest and head seems big.  I wonder how long it will be until he is bigger than his petite 23 lb, 23 month old sister.  He's gaining on her quickly already! 

Lots has happened recently in regards to both our foster children's cases this year.  Unexpected changes, long prayed for relief, and fall on our knees in shock surprises.  It has been amazing, once again, to see God at work in these precious children's lives, in our families life, and in my own heart.  Having another baby in the house was not part of our short term, or long term plan.  It was unexpected, a bit scary, and our "yes" was a weak one.  I trusted that God would turn timid act of obedience into a joyful, gratitude filled, love for this child. He has most certainly done that.  What began as more of duty has morphed into our family feeling extremely blessed and so thankful for this adorable little chunk.  He is such a sweet baby.  He's had some tummy troubles but even in spite of that he's been a mostly content, easy natured baby who sleeps well at night.  Seriously, he only gets up once a night at around 4am.  He's a dream baby.  At over two months old he is now smiling and cooing and responding to all the attention he gets.

I'm so in love with this little guy.  I sit an look at his handsome little face and I'm completely smitten. I marvel at how beautifully he was created and wonder with a sense of awe what his life and purpose will be. I am overwhelmed by the great privilege it is to get to be the one to love and nurture this precious little life.  The word "legacy" is being pressed into my heart since the first day I met this sweet boy in the hospital.  There is so much weight to that word and I'm not sure what it really means in our context, but there's a coming together of past, present and future in this little boy.  So much brokeness, death and violence, loss and grief, bondage and despair birthed into hope for something better, prayers heard, new life and hope.  We get to have a front seat in this amazing story! He is the legacy of his birth family because their story isn't over yet either.  What a privilege and great responsibility to carry in my arms, and care for in my home, this precious child.

The whole household is smitten with this new little addition.  Even the former baby of the family has learned the word "baby" and is always eager to help find his pacifier, hold a bottle, or insist on holding him...even though he seems nearly as big as she is.  She's a tiny little Mama.  I hope these two will be best buds for years to come.  It's a busy, bustling, loud, and messy house....but there is never a shortage of love.


One week at home.

We survived our first week as a family of 9!
Despite some kids with fevers, a cold virus making it's rounds, a house still torn up with renovations, and vehicle troubles we're really not any worse for wear.  

In fact, this little guy has been a very sweet tempered and content baby, considering the issues he's coping with.   He merged into the household pretty seamlessly.  Maybe we're just getting used to having babies around.  He really has brought out the best in each of the other kids.  It's always a joy to see them so easily embrace a new little person in the house.  There is certainly no shortage of love or eager arms in this house. 

Annie, who is currently 20 months, had a rough first day learning to share Mommy and her bottles (which she had not long ago been weaned from) but it didn't take her long to decide she adores having a baby brother.  Most of my day is spent making sure she is not loving him with too much exuberance. The good news is she has decided to embrace the roll of big girl and has slept through the night a few times this week! 

 The 1 year old and newborn combination certainly keeps me on my toes. When Annie was a newborn I spent a lot of time just sitting in the rocking chair while she slept on me.  That's not so much an option this time.... there's much toddler mischief to be had while Mommy is busy with the baby! 

I have no idea how long Tiny Prince will be in our home but he has certainly stolen our hearts already.  He is a precious little boy who has had a rough start to life. 

He's doing really well right now though.  He's eating like a champ, pooping like he's trying to win a contest, and sleeping as well as can be expected at less than a month old.   He's having longer alert times, looking at our faces, and taking in the world around him.  

Good night friends, I'd better go try to get some sleep now.  Morning comes far too quickly these days. 



This year began a little differently than we anticipated.

We are only approved for one foster child.  We are not on the call list.  We had no plan to raise our kid count from six to seven.

Then out of the blue we got a phone call.  We were not at all prepared for what we would hear.  One of the children in our family had a new baby brother.

It felt like a completely unplanned, unexpected pregnancy....and then being told that the baby would arrive in two hours.

Our minds raced through all the reasons it felt impossible.

Our house renovations are crawling along, although we are making headway and enjoying some added space, the mess and work is far from over.

We have a trip to Belize planned and paid for next month.

We have a house full of excessive noise, boisterous energy, big personalities and various special needs.

We have a packed schedule filled with appointments and obligations.

I don't get much sleep.  Annie has been horrible sleeper and at 20 months has only slept through the night a couple times.  I have a couple other early birds and restless sleepers as well.

After many tears, quite a lot of arguing, panicked calls to friends and our pastor (who were wonderful enough to not only tolerate our crazy, but remind us of truth in the midst of it)....we said "no, not now.  We had to decide within a couple hours and it just wasn't enough time to come to any sort of wise, prayerful, and unified decision.

From what we understood he would be sent to an emergency foster home (since he had to be discharged from the hospital that same day) and then we would wait another week until the case worker was back from holidays and we could get more information.  That would buy us some time to get our ducks in a row....or get off the hook, depending on perspective.

This week we called and found out that little guy had been readmitted to hospital the day after he was discharged and there was no other foster family.  He has been a sick little guy for the past week.  After some chatting with the case worker, gaining as much information as we could, and going to visit this precious little boy....... we said "yes".

It's weak yes and a timid yes.

It's a trembling and unsure yes.

We know there are so many reasons why this is crazy, irrational, and illogical.  We know it will be hard.  Those things have swirled through my brain on repeat for a week now.

Even in those doubts I am reminded of truth.  The Gospel that has been pressed so far down into my self preserving heart starts to chip away at the fear.

As we prayed and reviewed our assets and limitations one huge factor is that we are equipped with an amazing church family.  Not only are we so well spiritually fed and cared for by our leadership, we are served and loved by our gospel community.  We know we will not walk this road alone.  We have support, help, encouragement and even people bold and loving enough to helps us with our own sin and struggles.

It's crazy to see how Jesus takes a group of people who come from extremely different backgrounds, a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures, make up every different demographic, who otherwise would have nothing in common and probably wouldn't even know each other, and makes them family.  He forms them into authentic grace saturated community.  Family that is committed to do life together ...through all the messy stuff of life and relationships.  Knowing we are not lone rangers doing this crazy life by ourselves makes all the difference.


As I sent out panicked texts to a friend immediately after getting the phone call, I was met with instant offers to help and even an offer to care for the baby while we go to Belize.  Within minutes the one biggest barrier I could think of at that moment was relieved and removed.  

Today I am stuck at home, two hours away from the hospital where baby is still residing, and two of my friends have spent time at the hospital holding this tiny boy.  

After two weeks of laying alone in a hospital bed, he is going to be loved with the full force of a community that knows what it is to be so generously loved by a merciful God.  Even on the days when I can't be there, I know someone will go and take my place.  I'm honestly just sitting back watching God's grace unfold and wrap around all of us.  

This little boy who's circumstances are so tragic, who is viewed by society as a social problem, who was born with so many strikes against him already... is now being treated like a Tiny Prince.  

Because that's the way the upside down Kingdom of God works.  Because that's what Jesus' people do. 

I'm praying that God will take our whispered yes and turn it into a thunderous testimony of God's redemptive mercy and goodness.   He writes good stories....and it will be our privilege to enter into this one. 

Soli Deo Gloria,