Friday, February 24, 2017

Kayaking on the Hillsborough River

Today Jon and I went kayaking on the Hillsborough River.  It's been about a year since I've gone kayaking so I felt a little rusty.  Plus the HR is a very dark river with lots and lots of gators.  BIG Gators....12 foot gators....My kayak is only 10 feet!!!  I love gators but not when they are bigger than the boat I'm in!  

 Do you see him?  Mostly his body was out of the water on the limb.  He was probably the biggest gator I've ever seen while kayaking.  His back was very wide.  Jon made fun of me because I "picked up the pace" to get far away from that big guy.

The pictures do not do his justice.  I was so nervous my stomach was hurting!

That's me rolling down the river LOL

I have gotten sunburnt on the water and it's the worst.  So I have a UV shirt and pants that I wear when I kayak with a swimsuit under (Not that I was planning on swimming at the Hillsborough River!)

Another big guy I've seen him before.

Look right above- can you see the snake?  A HUGE water moccasion.  There was a nest of them in some rocks in the middle of the river.

Fun day- got my heart rate up LOL

We're coming up on the one year mark since Jon's heart attack and heart surgery. This was a good way to celebrate!  He had a blast- me I was a bit more concerned.  I like to kayak on springs that are clear so if the kayak gets bumped-I know what bumped it!  LOL

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Happy 13th Birthday Sam!

Good morning from beautiful Florida!  It's just a little chilly today but gorgeous out~my front and back doors are open to the breeze.

We just had a birthday boy!  Sam turned 13 years old!  How can that possibly be?

Here's a cute video but you'll have to go to My Real Life By Yvonne FB page to watch it.
You have to cut and paste I'm sorry but it's precious

Sam with his Polar Pop on the Porch swing listening to "his Bro Gary"

For anyone who is new to my blog, Sam is the one who really changed our family's focus!  Here is the story.....

I was in my late 30's and we had Steve who was 8 years old.  We had lost twins 7 years before in a horrible way and I did not want to deal with any more pregnancies.  But then we realized if we were going to have another child we should do it then.  So we did some half hearted attempts at fertility drugs.  There was so much going on in my life-my career~lots of doubts if we should even think about taking the risks of another birth....  In fact my husband was interviewing for ministry jobs out of Florida.  We went for an interview in Branson MO and decided over the weekend to not accept the offer.  We had taken a few extra days off work and that Monday morning my husband made coffee.  All day I gagged....the next morning the same thing happened so I decided to take a test and it was positive!!!  Jon was jogging and I ran outside to tell him!  So it was settled LOL

The pregnancy was rough.  There were many odd problems from the get go.  From 15 weeks on I had issues with bleeding so I stayed on bed rest most of that time.  That was very very difficult for me.  Finally a lack of ammonic fluid and slowed growth  made my doctor decide to deliver him at almost 32 weeks.  Sam was breech so he was a scheduled c-section.  For two days ahead of time I was given steroid shots to help his lungs mature.  Those shots HURT!!! 

My doctor was very blunt with me-he was not sure Sam would survive because there were so many odd things going on.  Sam seldom moved which was nerve wracking after going through the late loss of twins.  So we went into the surgery with alot of unknowns and fears.  

Sam came out crying, what a happy sound!  He actually did really good at first and came off the vent after only 18 hours.  those shots worked! I got to hold him the next day and that's when he let me in on his secret.....

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(BTW this picture was taken as he opened his eyes and I was not staged!  I used to not be able to look at it without crying but not anymore, it's precious that I saw it first.  It's like he was sharing it with is mama!)
Somehow in all the commotion of his birth, no one noticed he was blind....  As I held him for the first time, he opened his little eyes.... and I saw nothing but whiteness.  Also I could tell his eyes were unusually small and misshapen.  Immediately I called for the NICU doctor, he basically told me I was over wrought and silly.....  Well Bless his heart....I handed Sam over to Jon and got in the man's face and yelled at him to get a specialist in NOW or I was going to sue him and the hospital and his mama....etc......  My husband was actually afraid I was going to hit the man LOL  There's actually a hilarious story about that incident.  Years later a couple started attending our church.  After a few weeks the lady asked me if Sam had been born in a certain hospital and I said YES.  She starts giggling and told me she was a nurse there in the NICU and that the nurses still talk about me to this day.  I start stammering out an apology and telling her sometimes I'm not a very good preacher's wife....  and she stopped me and told me that all the nurses were silently cheering me on because I stood up to the doctor!  BTW that doctor lost his license a few years after Sam......

Anyhow the specialist came that night and told us what we already knew that Sam was blind and probably had Peter's Anomaly.  the specialist had only read about PA but he was pretty sure Sam had it.  He was right....

Fast forward past all the shock and sorrow...Sam's first year was absolute hell.  He was in and out of the hospital, life flighted, on machines at was a rough year but we made it through.  Jon and I both broke down sobbing at his one year birthday party because we were so happy that he lived to make his birthday!  

Right after he turned one, we heard of another one year old  blind boy in China, through crazy miracles we adopted him.  Shad it turned out was only blind in one eye and had none of the other issues that Sam had.  

Then you know when he was 8 years old we learned about a little blind girl in Ukraine....again through some really crazy miracles we adopted Sarah  and another little  girl, Selah.  

I look back at Sam's arrival with absolute awe. A few years before he was born God spoke to me in an audible voice (at least to me) and told me I'd have a son named Samuel and he would change my life.  It happened at an intersection on my way to work.  I kid you not, believe me or think I'm crazy but I heard it.  During that season in my life I was in a deep deep valley and barely holding onto God.  but He was still holding me and His words came to pass in a way I would have never ever dreamed of!  

Sam's life has changed mine so much.  It changed my focus completely and made me a much better person.  Do I think God caused Sam to have disabilities to change me?  No I don't think that at all but God knew what was ahead for me.  But Sam's life did not just change my life, it changed my husband and oldest son's lives too.  And even more importantly it changed Shad's, Sarah's and Selah's lives completely!  I can promise you we would have never ever had the nerve to adopt three children with disabilities had it not been for our experience with Sam.  I've seen families who had never dealt with a disabled child that adopted kids with severe disabilities and been in awe of them.  That would have NOT been me!  It would not have even been on my radar!   I would have been too afraid to do it and I was too selfish.  

His life has also changed our focus in ministry.  We are very focused on orphan care and ministry.  Our church is focused on it also.  I'm not sure what our future ministry looks like but I know as long as I live, that will be a something I'm a part of!

After Sam was born I felt myself starting to question God and one day I literally had an epiphany in the hospital corridor.  I determined then and there not to question God and not to blame God.  Maybe some folks would disagree with me but I knew I could not let my heart become bitter.  Believe me after the twins' death I knew what bitterness was and I knew I did not want to go back to it!  God helped me never to sink into despair again.  Yes I cried as he got various diagnosis, and had operations or was sick but God gave me a grace that I did not have within myself to keep my heart from being bitter.  I am so thankful because I know ME!  I know how deep I can go because I did after the twins.  

Because God helped me not to let my heart grow bitter I've been able to move forward.  Now 13 years later there is really nothing I grieve about Sam's condition.  I have the hope of heaven and an eternity where my boy will be whole.  I enjoy Sam for who he is.  And having Sam has changed my life!  I think of ALL that I would have missed out on if I had not had Sam..... a whole lifetime of love from three other children....

I don't want to get political but this is why I am against abortion. There are many Sam's out there who are aborted because the parents are too short sighted to see beyond their fears.....

So where is Mr Sam at now?

At 13 years old, he walks, climbs stairs, is feeding himself about half of the time, he makes his needs known in his way since he is non verbal.  He loves his Jesus music, he loves his family and gives hugs and kisses.  

the ONLY bday picture I took!  Geez!  We had a great weekend with big brother home
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Here is Sam and Steve 13 years ago- Steve's first time with Sam, he was taking it all in.  We laugh and tell Steve that he was realizing his life had radically changed LOL
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Sam about 2 years old

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Sam in his PJs
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toys and cats
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he loves his Daddy Mommy and big brother- he tolerates everyone else LOL
but because he is so bonded some doctors have felt he was not autistic...but believe me he is!
He will go to the dining room table at 6 pm whether anyone else is there or not!  HE has a sense of time and order that is unreal.  
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He loved the lights on the cruise
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Little man
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His compliments to the chef:)  he loved the food and fell asleep!
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Sam and dad in Honduras.  
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Sam recently saw the movie Sing and absolutely loved it!
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Christmas 2010?
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Sam loves light up toys
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Steve holding Sam
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Steve holding Sam
Steve wouldn't put on Batman Pjs LOL
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I'm holding myself back from posting about 100 pictures.  I'm trying to give you an idea of his life.  He enjoys himself and loves his family.  He's had alot of challenges but we've all made it through.  I'm so thankful for his life, how it has touched mine and many others.  I wouldn't trade that boy for a million dollars:)

Happy Birthday Sam I love you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sarah JOY

Sarah Walking!

Sorry you have to go to the video-it wouldn't post here.

I thought I'd do an update on each kid since I was able to update the good news on Selah.

So Sarah turned 10 years old while we were on our Christmas cruise.  She loved the cruise and loved being in our room and not with the boys LOL.

Sarah is taking some steps on her own, her therapist is really happy with her progress.  Sarah tends to make strides then STOP for awhile.  Right now she is moving forward in all areas.

Sarah has always had to eat pureed food.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with her where she couldn't eat regular food but she was never taught how to eat normally as it was easier for her caregivers just to give her baby food.  When we were in the process of adopting her, the caregiver showed me how Sarah was fed.  It was almost like torture.  She was given huge spoons of mush until she gagged and then they would say she was full.  It was so upsetting to me to watch them cram mush into her mouth.  So obviously she has issues.

When she first came home she could only eat a small jar of baby food without gagging.  As she learned that we would feed her at HER pace, she began to eat more and more.  We began giving her whatever we were eating and would puree it.  After almost 5 years I"m on my second machine.  I love my Ninja blender!  Now she is to the point she can handle a few foods not pureed!  And even the ones we puree we make it a thicker paste.  She LOVES to eat! I do alot of crock pot meals and those usually are perfect to blend up.  For several years I had to really do mostly soups as she had to have the food thinner  but not anymore!  The great thing is she moves her food around and actually chews!  She's been chewing for at least a year but it wasn't consistent but it is now.  I puree almost everything we eat unless it just wouldn't work like pizza or sandwiches.  I keep some soups on hand but she mainly eats "real food" now.

She clearly says Mama and her new word is Dada!  She loves her Dada.  As with many non verbal kids, her receptive language- the language she understands is far more than what she can express.  She knows what to expect if i ask her if she wants to eat.  She'll crawl over to the dining table and get in her seat.  If we say it's bedtime she understands and walks (by holding our hand) to her room  When she gets in her bed, she lifts her hand up to hold our's and wants to pray.  We'll say AMEN and put her hand down and she'll put that little hand back up again to pray some more (or to keep us in her room)   Monthly we see and increase in her babbling.  The first year she was home she made no sound except for a little laugh.  She has come so far.

She plays with her toys.  Until the last 3-6 months she really had no interest in toys.  She has always been so very tactile defensive.  Most blind kids are but she was to the highest degree.  But that is changing.  she has a box of toys in the living room that she will actually get into and pull the toys out and hold them.  Just holding them is great and a step for her.  But now she will make noise with them (she has a couple of toys she shakes)  she has learned how to take the rings off of her stacking toys and she has a couple of stuffed toys she will hold.  It's so sweet to see her with her toys around her!

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she fell asleep playing!
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Oh how I love this picture!  

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this is funny- she likes to hold on to that bar.  Yes I know her seat belt strap was messed up.  As soon as I noticed I had her brother reach up and fix it.  She  is terrible about that!  

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She still has low Vitamin D so we try to go outside every day.  
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She actually is catching up to her age group in her size.  She is wearing size 8-10 clothes! (when we brought her home she wore 12 month size clothes!!- she was 5.5 years old)   Probably if she was not in diapers still she wouldn't be able to wear a size 8 pants though!  I'd hoped she was "on the chart" but at her yearly check up she is still not even on the chart for a child of 10 (9 & 3/4 at check up)   But all her labs were perfect except for the vitamin D.  We're now giving her drops to see if that will get it up.  

And YES I know she needs a haircut!  We both have an appointment this weekend!!!   

Sarah is happy-always.  She loves to be with me or her daddy.  When she hears him come in, she reaches for him.  She is just precious and full of love.  I will never understand how she can be so loving and so eager to be loved after seeing where she came from.  Many children can never can get passed the neglect and lack of emotional care.  I don't know how she did.....she is unique and just perfect:)   Even if she'd had struggles emotionally I would have loved her please don't get me wrong but to have her be so loving is a blessing.  Sometimes at night we'll be on the couch watching TV or reading and she'll be sitting beside me and I'll feel her little hand come out for so sweet and trusting.  (Actually that's EVERY night!!!  LOL)   I love that baby!

In homeschool we are working on practical skills- all the ones above and also helping to dress herself.  She has learned how to pull her shirt down if I put it on her head.  We are also learning how to get in and out of the tub- that's a bit harder but she's getting the idea.  Believe me that is a skill we want her to learn as she is big enough now to make our backs hurt!!!  We are also working on her feeding herself- she has the concept.....

So that's Sarah's update:)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No Longer Persistent Vegetative Status!

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We have HUGE news!   Our neurologist has confirmed what we've believed for awhile.  Selah is no longer diagnosed as being in a Persistent Vegetative Status (PVS)!    She has been UPgraded to Minimally Conscious(MC)!   This is a great big deal as many children like Selah do not progress forward.  It is slow but she is very aware of her surrounding and we believe she recognizes people.

She follows people with her eyes and turns her head to her name most of the time.  She watches tv.  she lets us know if she dislikes something with a scowl and tears too.  there is no doubt if she dislikes things-it is quite clear.

The neurologist was quite pleased with her progress as well as her overall health.

We were told (ie hit over the head) time and time again that she would never ever come out of the coma and have any other diagnosis.  Of course she may never progress any further given her age and other factors but she has come a long way.

We are grateful to God and for your many prayers!

Please still pray for Angela ( my last blog) that a family will step forward in the next few days for her!!!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Please pray for Angela

I'm still praying for a family for our sponsored child Angela!  She only has a few weeks to be eligible for adoption.

Here is how it works For aging out kids an i600a application needs to be received by USCIS before her 16th birthday. Homestudy can go in later. The i600a is the non child specific and is a better choice for aging out kids because it gives you more time on different steps than sending the i600.

I will help!  She has a $10,000 grant on Reece's Rainbow.  I pledge $1,000 (at least) personally  at travel time for a family if they would step forward.

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This was me with Angela in Ukraine in 2012  We had already been sponsering her for a few months.  You can see Jon with Selah lying against him.  I think he was holding Sarah.  Victoria who got adopted is facing the camera.

This is her at Christmas with the doll we were able to buy for her.  She is doing much better in the new orphanage.  For her the war was a blessing because she was moved.  She is still tiny.  This girl will be 16 years old next month.  Please please pray that a family will step forward!  I will do everything I can to help them.  Please share this!!!!
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She has a sweet calm spirit like Sarah- in fact she looks alot like Sarah to me.  I love her and am so worried about her!!!!

Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

Well 2016 is almost over....  It's been quite a ride for our family.  This year started out with me having a large lumpectomy (turned out ok)   Then Jon having his heart attack and open heart surgery(which also turned out ok)! All of that just left us a bit stressed.  We've had many good things happen this year and even in the rough patches God was faithful.....BUT I'm hoping 2017 will be an easier year.  Looking to the future is scary for me- I'll be honest.  But we have no choice-the future is headed our way LOL I'm glad that the same God who has been with us will continue to be with us!

For our Christmas this year we went on a family cruise.  It was a great time to spend with each other with no outside interference.   (no phones!!! except for mine to make sure Selah was ok)   It was great to take a week and eat every meal together and spend alot of quality time together.  We had discussed it and the boys would rather do this over presents.  We got a few little things but this was our big present:)

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ok I have issues with petting zoos and zoos in general but these animals were rescues and seemed very content and happy
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We went to Hondurans
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Mexico two different places

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I swear Steve looks like a missionary LOL

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We celebrated Sarah's 10th birthday!  she had a new dress :)
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Just a few of the over 1,000 pictures we took LOL

I actually did not but one thing for our trip.  I wondered if i could do it but i had to buy Shad a pair of shoes.  But other than that-I didn't buy anything not even a toothbrush!    Obviously we did buy a few things at each stop.  I got this picture and a coconut for $15 in Honduras.

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We took tours at each stop but independent not using the boat tours.  In Honduras I had a friend's relative that has a tour service and we scheduled with her (if you want her info PM me)  Everywhere else we just picked up someone at the dock.  We were happy with the tours- all between $100-$150 for a several hours tour- just our family in a van.  The cost if we scheduled through the boat would have been around $100 per person!!!  We did the same thing in the Bahamas.  Now we did pay for Steve & Shad to go to the Mayan Ruins in Mexico through a tour through the cruise company.  It was expensive but we really couldn't take the little kids plus both of us have seen Mayan ruins before and we wanted them to see them too.  Plus it was safer since we weren't with them    Of course if you take a boat arranged tour then you have no risk of being left behind at the stop LOL  I've heard of people not making it back for the ship's sailing!  If you take their tours then they promise to wait for you!!!

Anyhow we had a great time, lots of memories-nothing could be sweeter to have time together.  It was alot of work with the little ones but they had a absolute blast.  the waves were high (in my opinion) and Sarah slept so good.  She has issues with not sleeping but every night she fell asleep as soon as we put her to bed.  Shad has his own sleeping issues-occasionally he sleep walks.....he did right out of his cabin!  Luckily he woke up as soon as the door closed.  (they both see a sleep doctor!!!!)   the seas were rough and I had the patch but basically felt like I had vertigo the whole time.  I wasn't quite nauseated, but it was always close at hand.  I loved being on land!    Love cruises for the sake of going to a bunch of new places.  Jon and I  already have another one scheduled for Cuba in 2017!!!   We are getting an inside (no window) room and have a credit so it is only going to be about $200!  I'm excited but hope I don't have vertigo again!!!!  

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I'm taking a picture of our picture taken by the ship- it looks a bit off and at an angle

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Home in time for Christmas

Selah and her beloved Rose!
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Selah is doing great.  She stayed home with her nurses while we were gone and had a really good week.  She remains completely stable.  Her doctors all rave at her condition.  She basically only sees  a pulmonologist and a neurologist and a gastrologist each once a year because she is so stable.  I believe it is mostly due to her team of nurses who care for her as if she were their child or grandchild.  All three have been with her now almost 4 years.  We are very happy with her care.  We know we are blessed with these women.  We appreciate them so very much.

Well I pray all of you have a good 2017!  I pray we do too!!!!  No surprises would be nice and no medical emergencies!