Looking at His future

We had our mid-year parent teacher conference for Wild Man last week. I knew by the marks on his papers things were not going great in the traditional classroom. As a mother of a child who has autism, these meetings are dreaded. I know he is not on the same level as the other children his age, I know that he is falling behind, and that bothers me.

As I chatted with his speech therapist and his autism teacher before going into the meeting I addressed my concerns. They both shared stories about my little guy that brought smiles to their faces and told me it was natural to be concerned but he was really doing great. When his teacher was ready we walked in together and sat down. His teacher went over his test scores which were extremely low. She explained that he does not do well with timed test which was part of the problem but the test are mandatory so she had to give them to him. She then explained that even though it does not show up on the written test my Wild Man has grown leaps and bounds in class. He is starting to use full sentences, he is holding a pencil, he is engaging with other students, he is setting in his seat for at least 10 minutes at a time, he is making friends, and he is making eye contact here and there. All wonderful new skills for my son but all things that standard testing do not look at. I was excited to hear he was doing so well, relieved in many ways.

But I still questioned things like his spelling words, he has spelled one correct out of the last sixty. Only one. Math is a struggle. And homework when he does have it is a nightmare. I don’t want him passed just to be passed. I also don’t want him overlooked. He falls in the middle. He is doing to well to be in the autism room full time but he is not up to level with the regular class. He is somewhere in between. I am thankful he has an aide to help him through the day.

As we discussed plans for the remainder of the year one of his therapists said they wanted to help give him his best possible life. His best possible life. That phrase hit me hard.

As a mom I have thought about all of my kids futures. I see them all doing things like going off to college, getting jobs, moving out, getting married and starting a family. With Wild Man I want these things as well but I also know they may not be a reality. He may never go off to college or hold a traditional 40 hour a week job. He may be with us for our life time. If something happens to myself and my husband who will care for him? There are so many questions and concerns I have about his future, I worry but I can’t let it consume me.

He is in good hands right now at his school. They understand my concerns and they are working on goals they feel he can reach. They genuinely care about him and his education. I could not ask for a better staff of teachers and therapists to be working with him. he has been blessed with wonderful teachers since his preschool days. We will take this one day at a time. I have a life time to worry about his future, for now I will enjoy my silly, loving, crazy little boy. We will get through this together just as I promised him the first time I held him. After all autism is not who he is, autism is just a small part of what makes him my son. My wonderfully, sweet, amazing, brilliant son. I am so lucky to be his momma.

Education and Autism

Let me start off by saying fair/equal education should be available for ALL children. It’s that simple. No child (or their parent) should have to fight for an education that many take for granted. However, if you have a child with special needs I will warn you it’s a fight. Every. Single. Day.

I will say that where we live now seems to have a better system in place then where we once lived. But it’s still a struggle. All I want, all any decent parent wants, is for their son or daughter to succeed. That starts at home and at school.

My wild man is almost seven. He attends a public school. In order for his needs to be met we have an IEP in place (some states call it a 504) Basically it is a plan that lays out my sons strengths and weaknesses. His plan gives him scheduled speech times and OT times durning school. His plan also calls for an aid to help get him on task throughout the day. Sounds perfect right? I thought so at first.

Last year he was in an autism/special needs classroom. The class size was eight children and eight aids plus the teacher. There was a calming room, sensory toys and tools, and even an OT room. He’s teacher taught him to hold a pencil and he finally was able to write his name. He was excited to go to school. He loved his class and peers. It was perfect and he was doing amazing. To amazing according to the school. At the end of the year it was agreed (I went along with it thinking they knew what they were talking about) that he would be placed in a normal classroom for his first grade year.

Normal, an odd word in the land of autism. Nothing about our lives or wild man is normal. Why oh why did I think this would work. The first few weeks went okay. I think he was excited to be back at school. But as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months he slowly started hating going to school. One of the things that aggregate him (okay me) is that he is now expected to do spelling test. I know, I know all kids have to take spelling test. I get that. But he is still working on forming letters, how is he suppose to spell a word if he does not know all the letters to the word? In the last six weeks he has managed to get one word correct. One. One out of sixty. The word was frog. When he showed me his paper he beamed with pride. Look momma I did good. Frog ribbit ribbit. The nine red X’s did not phase him. But they crushed me. Another his personal aid has four other students. How is she suppose to care for my son’s needs when she has four other kids? Thank you budget cuts. He has sensory issues so he eats only a few foods. Two of those being peanut butter and Stage two peas, yes the baby food peas. Well he can’t take peanut butter because someone in the other class has a peanut allergy. As far as the peas, a boy in his class called him a baby for eating baby food so those are now out as well.

He is lost and I don’t know what to do. Part of me was so excited to hear he was doing so well at the end of last year, but part of me worried that he would get over looked and left behind in a regular classroom. My fear as become his reality. He hates going to school now. And even though he can’t articulate why he hates it I have a feeling I know why.

So, I started looking for a new school. And I thought I had found one. It was a private school so the classroom sizes were small and they worked on an individual plan based program virus the whole class learning the same thing. It seemed to be the perfect school, until I was told how much it would cost. One year over 12,000 dollars. Wow. We are a one income family currently with six little ones in the house. There is no way we can afford that kind of tuition or justify it. That’s when it hit me, we need public schools that specialize in special needs. Why should it cost so much more for them to receive a descent education?

It’s time for better education for my son and all the other children who have autism, or Down syndrome, or any special need. Why should they get left behind or overlooked? Why should their disability be a magnet for educators or providers to charge more for their services? Have you looked at the cost for some of the sensory products or equipment for those with special needs? It’s insane. What’s a mom to do?

We fight. Day in day out. We become the face the principal and staff at the school dread to see. We make sure our concerns are being heard and that they are being met. We become moms like Maya DiMeo off of Speechless. We go in demanding and we don’t back down. Ooooh good you’re here...again

The fact is I would love for my son to be what society defines as normal. I think all special needs parents feel that from time to time. It’s natural for us to want our children to fit in. But the reality is he is not. He was made to stand out. No matter how hard he tries or how much I pray he will never be “normal” and that’s ok. God made him in His image so my son is exactly how he is suppose to be. He may learn different,act different, and talk different but different does not make his less. As his mom it is my job to make sure everyone sees that.

I will fight for you, for your education, for your independence, and for you to be excepted. Mostly I will fight so others can see you the way I see you. My brilliant, creative, funny and loving son. Don’t worry wild man, momma’s got this!

Mamaw’s Chair

My brother and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house when we were growing up. They lived just up the holler (up the road for you city folk) which make it easy to see them everyday. We spent our evenings there until mom and dad made it in from work and during school breaks they also watched us during the day. Most of my childhood memories come from that house. Many of those memories are centered around a chair. An old spinning leopard print chair.

For as long as I can remember the chair has been part of our family. From what I can remember my grandmothers brother, my great uncle, gave her the chair. After a few years my grandmother wanted to replace the worn out upholstery. Her brother offered to take it to where he worked and replace the fabric for her with some that the shop was trying to get off their shelf. The end result a leopard print chair that matched absolutely nothing.

My brother and I would spend hours spinning in that chair. I can remember many times we would be in the chair and our grandma was yell in and tell us, You better not be spinning in my chair. You know someone could fall off and get hurt. All the while our grandpa was the one spinning us faster trying not to laugh. Good times. Precious memories. As the years went by grandpa replaced the legs as they wore out. With four different legs the chair did not set level making the spinning even more exciting to my younger self. Keep in mind this was our entertainment, there were no IPhones back then.

After my grandparents passed away the chair ended up at my parents house and when I got married the chair moved in with me. And just like my brother and I, my daughter and son enjoyed countless hours spinning in the chair and using it to make the best living room forts.

Fast forward to three years ago and we were now we are foster parents/ parents to four new little loves that also loved this chair. The forty plus years of childhood spinning had caught up to the chair. And one day while wild man and Diva were playing the back broke completely off. My heart sank and I cried for days. I could not bear to throw the chair out but we could not find anyone willing to repair the chair. So I covered it and placed it in our garage.

The chair moved with us when we came to Tennessee. Everyday I would see it in the black plastic in our garage. After we were all settled in I called around looking for a furniture repair shop. A few could do the upholstery work but not the repair while others could do the repair but not the upholstery. I was being to think my grandmas chair would never be again. Then I found a man named Jack. He told me that he would be more than happy to reupholster the chair and that he was sure his good buddy could repair it. I was excited. So early in December I dropped the chair off to his shop. I gave him the background story and he said he would try to match the fabric. I knew that would be a long shot so I told him if he could not to just do a soft black, grandma always wished it would have been plain to match her other furniture. I was not surprised when he called and said he could not find the print anywhere. Sad but not surprised. He went with a solid black and it was ready to be picked up.

So a few days ago I made my way over to his shop and picked up my grandmas chair. When I walked in and saw it I cried. It was beautiful. He had not found the print to match but he had found the original legs. He loved the story behind the chair and even kept what he could of the leopard print so that I could make a pillow or something with it. I could not thank him enough for saving the chair for me.

I brought it home and it now has a new place in my living room.

I know it’s not the leopard print that it once was but I do believe grandma would be pleased with how it turned out. It still stands out and will now be able to withstand many more years of children giggling while they spin around. And who knows maybe one day down the road my future grandchildren will smile as they recall the good times they had at grandmas spinning in her old chair just as I do. To many this is just a chair, but to me it’s memories, it’s a piece of my grandmother. It’s love and laughter. It’s part of my childhood. I am so thankful to have it back. Me and Sadie girl in Mamaw Sadie’s chairThe next generation of spinners

Then Jesus moments

Hello my friends. I hope the New Year is treating you all kind. So far it’s been good to me.

I was excited to get to back to church as the new year unfolded. I had surgery on my back in November and between the recovery and holidays I had not been able to go. (No worries the kids and I still got our Jesus on with songs and praise here at the house. They love “Jesus music”) I hate missing church and was thrilled to be back surrounded by fellow believers.

The message was out of John. A message that I have heard many times over the years. Short version: Jesus is away teaching when He receives word that his friend Lazarus had fallen ill. By the time Jesus made it back to his friend, Lazarus was died. Then Jesus spoke “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus did. (You can read John 11 1-44 for the full scripture text)

That’s the power of Jesus. That’s the beauty of miracles.

What are your Then Jesus moments? This was the question our Pastor asked. And I have pondered the answer to this question for over a week. Have I even had a Then Jesus moment? The answer is yes. Many actually. They might not be as big as Lazarus rising from the dead, but they have saved my life in more ways than one.

The night my husband (now ex-husband) tried to end my life comes to mind. In the mist of the attack I begged for my life, he laughed and said he could throw me over the banister and everyone would assume I had fallen down the steps. I dangled over the staircase with thoughts of my children and family racing through my head Then Jesus spoke to me and said “You are not alone I have you.” As I felt Gods presence I found myself back on the floor. He had changed his mind about throwing me over.

After my divorce I focused on my two children. I had no interest in finding someone. I would not put myself or my kids in a position to be hurt again. Then Jesus brought Todd into my life. He made me smile again, laugh again, and love again. Things I thought I would never do again. For the first time in years I felt safe, loved and wanted.

Then Jesus placed us on the journey of foster care. Our world has changed in so many ways not only by the children we have been blessed to adopt but also with the children that were with us for just a season. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to things I did not expect. My older children have grown in the process as well. They take their roles as Big Sissy and Big Bubby very serious, it warms my heart just thinking about it.

With our children we have experienced Then Jesus moments countless times. From car accidents to illnesses, college acceptances letters to working IEP’s, from autism diagnosis to RAD diagnosis, and everything in between. The fact is Then Jesus moments happen all the time, we just need to recognize them. They may be moments were you decide what job to take, or how many kids to adopt. They may be moments where you get to make an unplanned trip back home to see your mamaw. You get to sing with her and she asks about all the kids. The following week you get the call she’s gone. They may be moments of healing from illness, or cancer, or pain. They may be moments your autistic son says I love mom. They may be moments of all your kids get along. Then Jesus moments happen everyday everywhere. We have to open our eyes and see more of what is going on around us.

We may not all of moments like Lazarus, and that’s okay. Our moments make us who we are who God wants us to be. Take a few minutes (or days) and think about all the Then Jesus moments in your life. I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face.

Thank you Jesus for all of my Then Jesus moments. You have been with me through my darkest nights and brightest days. Your unending love brings me comfort when I can’t make sense of this world. Thank you for believing in me and providing me comfort when I need it the most. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next.

Love and prayers always

Christmas Break

The last few days have been crazy. I have barely had time to go to the bathroom let alone write a blog with all of my little loves home for Christmas break. It’s been busy but so many memories have been made.

Our school district has been on break since December 20th and the kiddos return to school on January 8th. In talking with friends and family back home our break is insanely long compared to many of theirs. We started our break off by visiting my parents. My husband was on call for Christmas so I loaded our six little loves up and headed back to the comfort of the West Virginia hills and my momma’s house. The kids were excited to see their grandparents and to see big bubby aka our oldest son (he opted to stay in WV when we moved) It was nice catching up on things and hanging out with them.

Christmas Eve our oldest daughter showed up at my moms and we spent the evening with my mom’s side of the family. For as long as I can remember my grandparents have always hosted a Christmas party on Christmas Eve for the family. The last few years have been hard since papaw passed away and I knew this year would be even harder with Mamaw’s passing a few months ago. They loved Christmas and seeing everyone together. So we knew they would want the tradition to continue. The food was placed on the tables and the room began to fill with laugher and a hum that comes with a large family. Although there was a sadness with the absence of my grandparents (and others that have passed away) the amount of love that filled the room was unmeasurable. I’m sure they were looking down and were pleased. My grandparents with my parents aka Santa and Mrs Clause

Christmas morning our little loves gathered around the Christmas tree and waited patiently, well as patient as children under seven can, to open gifts and have breakfast. My husband surprised us by driving up so he could be with us Christmas morning. After breakfast and presents we headed to my in-laws and celebrated some more. After opening gifts we gathered around the table to some of my mother in laws homemade lasagna. It was so yummy. We spent a few more hours hanging out before loading up the van and heading back home.

Four hours later we arrived home and had another round of Christmas. Our house looks like Toys R Us exploded but I love it.

This week has been laidback. We have filled our days with pajama parties and building living forts. Sleepy days and cold days. Sure we have had the occasional sibling argument, okay at least three a day, and yes I agreed to fast food for lunch on Friday and ended up going to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Little Caesars because no one could agree on what to eat (I know it’s crazy but I also know I’m not the only mom to do this to keep the peace or to keep my/her sanity) but its Christmas break. It’s all good.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. May God bless you in 2018.

20 Things about our Large Family

With six under the age of seven and two young adults (who are still my babies) you tend to have lists. This is one of those lists:

20. Your once spotless house is now well lived in. Very well lived in.

19. Alone time with your husband is classified as…. ha ha jokes on you there is no alone time.

18. The amount of homework in the evenings is ridiculous (I will never survive when they all hit middle school)

17. Even though you have a toy room you somehow have toys in every room in the house.

16. Getting anywhere,such as school or church, on time is considered a victory.

15. If your phone is missing look to see which child is no longer the playing with the others and go to their room. There you will find both child and phone.

14. Bedtime snuggles and “mommy I’s love you’s” are the best.

13. You will hear “This is the worst day ever” by at least one of the little loves daily.

12. You find food in the strangest places such as toy boxes or in the clean towels.

11. Someone will always complain about what’s for dinner and refuse to eat. FYI keep cereal in the pantry.

10. Bath time equals floor will be mopped due to the insane about of water splashed around.

9. You watch the clock in the evenings until your adult child(ren) call to let you know they have made it home from work/college.

8. The TV is always on Disney or Sprout…ALWAYS.

7. Someone is always crying because someone else is not sharing.

6. Words such as fart, poopyhead, and stupid are bad bad words and the little loves race to tell you who said it (so they can say it and giggle)

5. You think to yourself “Was it THIS crazy with my old ones?”

4. You are convinced that you’re a horrible mom at least a hundred times a day and worry if you are doing a good job.

3. You give good behavior stars if they go potty (extra stars if the actually hit the toilet)

2. They can pick on each other and fight with each other all day long, but no one else can. Mess with one you mess with them all.

1. You remind yourself they are only this small for a short while and sigh. Then you Thank God that He picked you to love this beautiful chaos.

Hello Again Beautiful

Have you ever thought how different things may be if Joseph would have said no when the angel told him about Mary? What if instead of him stepping up and becoming a father to Mary’s child he walked away? What if he would have told the angel “Find someone else. I’m not ready for this.”

What if… that question has crossed my mind more than once as a foster parent. I have spent many nights crying about those what if questions. Every time we had to turn away a child or sibling group because we did not have the room or because we were not equipped to handle their medical needs. I questioned what would happen to him or her. I questioned what their life would be like.

Even with the children that have came into our home I have questioned myself. What if we can’t connect with them? What if she never opens up to us? What if he never talks? What if I can’t give them what they need? We try our best to make the situation as comfortable as possible and we love them as our own for the week, month, or year they are with us. And as the time begins to pass you question what if they need a permanent home? What if the department asks us to adopt? What if a family member comes out of nowhere and wants them? And while your mind races with these questions somewhere a judge and a team a people who are not emotionally tied to this child are making decisions that will ultimately change the life for him or her.

Many times there is but one hello and one goodbye. We get the call we say yes and we say hello to a scared little one hours later. We love them, comfort them, pray with them, and cry with them only to have them removed and placed in their new forever homes. We are just a gateway to their new life. Most of these goodbyes are permanent. And that leaves you to question what if they miss us? What if it does not work out? What if they think we never loved them or wanted them? What if they never know just how much we truly did love them? What if their new home is worse than the one they came from? What if questions that never get answered.

We have been blessed to get a second chance with one of our little loves. A second hello if you want to call it that. Something I never thought would be possible. She became part of us the moment we saw her but we knew the plan is always to reunify with the parents. While she was here we loved her, prayed over her, and enjoyed our time with her. The day we had to say goodbye was hard. So so hard. I knew we would never see she again. But you see God had other plans.

Some time passed and we had calls come in, but none of them fit what we could take in. We questioned if we were really suppose to be do this here? We questioned if our time as foster parents was over. I decided to go on and have surgery on my back that I had been putting off. Then the call came in. She was coming back to us if we would take her.

What if we would have said no? Where would she be today?

Maybe God knew I needed to get my back fixed and He know I would not as long as she was here. Maybe He knew she would be loved at the other house so we made a way for it to happen. Maybe she is meant to be with us a little while longer. Things I may never know and the one thing I do know is none of these would be possible is we would have never stepped out in faith and said “God what if you used us in your plan?” What if we could take in one more?

God has a plan for all of us. For Mary it was to become the mother of our Savior. For Joseph it was to become the earthly father of our Lord and King. For others it’s to become a doctor or a lawyer, a cook or a bus driver. For some it’s to become a teacher to share their wisdom with young minds. Still others it’s to be a world renowned blogger sharing their personal stories of overcoming life struggles and being triumphant. And still others it’s about becoming caregivers or foster parents for those that God places in ours paths. We are not here by accident. The people we cross paths with are placed before us for a reason. We may not know all of the what if’s in life. But we know the one who does.

As for us we don’t know if we will have to say goodbye again. And while that is scary and in someways heartbreaking we are grateful for more time with her. We will treasure it and make more memories with her. We will love her and comfort her as if she is ours because in our hearts she is ours (just as every child that has been in our home has been) Whatever happens she will always be part of our hearts.

Thank you God for second hello’s. Thank you for your perfect timing. Thank you for trusting us once more.

And to you little love….. hello again beautiful we are so glad you are home. We have missed you so. ❤️

What do My Kids Need for Christmas?

Yes oh yes, it’s that time of year. It’s almost Christmas. I love this time of year. Our little loves become a little bit nicer to each other, the holiday baking of cookies and hard candy has started, family traditions are being passed down from one generation to the next, even the smell of this time of year makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And while I love all that Christmas entails it’s also that time of year where we tend to over spend on everything.

Being a mom I want to give my kids the very best. However my kids seem to want everything. Which is typical, but they really don’t need anything. It’s not like it was when I was growing up. I remember the excitement building the weeks coming up to Christmas. My brother and I would go through the big Sears catalog and circles and re-circle all of our must haves (it amazed me back then how one catalog contained everything I could possibly need it’s glossy pages) We would write letters to Santa and practically beg him to bring us a few things off our long lists. This of course all while promising Santa we would be kinder to each other if he would deliver the goods to our house.

When I became I mom I wanted my kids to have everything I didn’t growing up. When I became a foster mom that intensified. Many of the children that came to our home had nothing. You want to shower them with goodies and love, especially at Christmas, so they can “just be kids”. Seeing them in their jeans that are too small or shoes that don’t fit breaks my heart. So we over spend and justify it. And that’s okay.

Even after we adopted our little loves I find we still over do the gifts. We use the rewards system for good behaviors at our house. They earn stars for good manners, or completing homework without fussing, or helping with the laundry, theres a list of other things they can earn stars for. Once they hit a certain number of stars they can decide what level to cash them in. Each level has a different value so one child may cash in early and get a “prize” valued at 5 dollars while another may bank his or she stars and safe up to get a prize valued at 50 dollars. This system works great, but it means they received gifts all year round.

So when we asked what do you want for Christmas they had to think about it.

When their grandparents, aunts, and uncles asked I gave them a small list but asked them to keep the gifts to a minimum and asked them if they really wanted to get them something then they could put money into their college funds. Is that mean of me? I hope not. It’s not that I don’t want them to receive gifts it’s just we have so much stuff. With five under the age of seven we are not short on toys around here. Just looking around my living room I see Barbies, puzzles, cars and letter magnets. I understand that they are kids and people want to buy them things (I want to buy them things as well) but we decided not to go overboard this year. Instead of buying them a bunch of toys that will be played with for a few weeks then tossed in the toy box we plan on buying only a few gifts and putting money in their accounts so when they are ready for college they will have money in case they need it. Hopefully they will understand and appreciate it later on.

Besides Christmas should not be about how many gifts you receive or how much money you spend. Christmas should be about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should be about loved ones and family traditions. It should be joyous not stressful.

What are your children asking for? What are you planning on doing this Christmas? I would love to hear your thoughts.

From our beautiful chaos to yours don’t stress over the holiday stuff, The perfect gift was given over 2000 years ago. Remember the real reason for this season.

Beautiful Chaos Book Funding Link

hello everyone,

As many of you know I have sent off my first book to be published.  I am super excited and can’t wait to hear what people think about our journey through foster care and adoption.   We have hit a small problem however.  There were some fees I was not expecting and I am looking for people willing to help raise the money.  If we hit the goal I will select 7 people who have donated at random and they will receive an autographed copy of the book.   If you can’t donate that’s perfectly fine, please share the link and pray for this project.   I truly feel God intends to use this book to help others take that leap of faith and become foster parents/adoptive parents.  The link is below:

From our beautiful chaos to yours, thank you.  Together we can make this happen

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