Friday, January 19, 2018

The Story of the Van part 3

Part 3:  
We’re still in shock that we’ve been gifted this van. It’s kind of crazy. But there’s no doubt that God is behind this, and as one of the donors said, this van is from Him, and He’s been known to do crazy things in our lives.  I don’t know why these things continue to surprise us!
As is typical these days, we waited until the very last minute to get the new license plates for the big van.  But imagine our surprise when he came home with the “random” new plates, with the letters spelling:  HIM

Now the reminder of who gave us the gift is displayed on the front and the back of our van, a visual reminder that all the glory goes to HIM.
And the story doesn’t end there.  We were also blown away by the numbers on the plates. We quickly realized they reference a story in the bible that is a perfect correlation to this entire story. As a friend said, there are no coincidences.
Something tells us that the story of the van isn’t going to end here., and we’re just along for the ride!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Story of the Van, Part 2

We thought we had completed The Story of the Van, but much has happened since I posted the story!
Part 2: 
Before we bought the new big van, Jeremy and I each had a Toyota minivan. His was much older than mine, so we sold it when we bought the new van. The plan was for him to drive my minivan and I would drive the big van. But we quickly realized it was silly for me to drive the big van during the week during the day with only one kiddo home. Evenings and weekends (and snow days, for the love!) we use it a ton. But it’s a big van to drive with just one kid on board! Then Jeremy started driving it to work, but that was a waste of gas.  
Then a solution appeared in the form of a tiny Toyota Echo… a compact, itty-bitty car that Jeremy came across at work. For $600 and a little bit of work, he now proudly drives his teeny-tiny beater car to work, saving tons on gas. And I have my choice of which van I need during the week.  We continue to crack up about the Echo. It looks like it could almost drive up inside the big van!  They are quite a sight together. But truly that little car is such a blessing too, and a hilarious companion to the big van!
In fact, we’re brainstorming for names for the little car and the big van.  We've talked about David and Goliath or something like that… very open to ideas you’d like to pass along to us! Help us out!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The story of the van

Hello out there, it's been a long time. I have every intention of keeping up with my writing but life is going faster than I can keep up with these days!

So much has happened in the past 16 months since J came home, and since I last blogged - lots of good things and lots of really hard things.  But God continues to show up in unexpected, amazing ways and reminds us that we're on the right path.

We have an 8 passenger minivan. I love that van and it serves us well. But now with 5 growing kids and a wheelchair, walker, groceries, pool gear, extra friends etc....well, we're exploding out of it.

The biggest problem is that J cannot get in and out of it by himself. When he first came home at 39 pounds, this wasn't a huge deal. But now at 64 pounds (!!!), it ain't so easy. Lifting the wheelchair in and out multiple times a day is no fun either.  Lifting J is especially difficult because he can't bend his limbs around us or jump to help us like most kids can . He is unbending dead weight. We're also learning that with fractures and serial castings and surgeries, there are going to be times when he has casts on one or more of his limbs, which makes him heavier and more cumbersome.

It slowly crept up on us that we're gonna need a bigger van. One that has space for a wheelchair lift and a big family. But after doing lots of research, we realized how rare that is and how expensive they are. Most handicap accessible vans are minivans with the seats removed for the lift, which then doesn't come close to fitting all of us. Even most larger vans don't  have enough space for all of us once a lift is added. So we let the idea go and accepted that we just had to continue managing with the minivan.

Some time later,  we received a call from a friend who said that God had some money for us and it is to be used towards a van.

We were stunned.

It was enough money that we could start looking again and think about getting a loan to cover the remainder.  Wow, right!!!???

Shortly after, we received a check in the mail from another source for another lump sum, specifically to be used towards a van.

And not long after that, a third source informed us that they'd like to pay the remainder.

So we began to look in earnest. We had also learned that J is going to need major hip surgery this coming year, and a bigger van would be needed sooner rather than later.

We had a list of things we NEEDED in a van to meet our specific needs. Those needs narrowed it down to one very specific make and model of van.  We also had some things that would be nice to have but not necessary.

We hit a few dead ends...these specific vans are so rare that most of what we were finding were across the country and we were trying to figure out how to get them home. It felt stressful and complicated, and a friend reminded us that if it feels uncomfortable, then it's not from God. I also strongly felt like we were supposed to take a little break from looking, wait and then the right van would show up at the right time. I also felt the right van would be close to home.

So we stopped and waited again.

Out of the blue a few weeks later, we get a call about a van that had just been traded in and wasn't even in the system yet, but appeared to possibly be what we were looking for.

And it was. Y'all, it was everything.

-Ford Transit (because it has individual seats that we can take in/out rather than bench seats)
-long wheel base (to allow us to take out enough seats to add a lift and have flexibility in seating arrangements for when he has to have his legs propped in extension).
-midroof (taller than a normal van to allow headspace for a lift and headspace for us to move him around inside the van when he can't bear weight himself)
-running boards...we discovered with running boards he can kind of step into the van himself (when he's allowed and able to bear weight) with us just supporting his upper body rather than fully lifting him

It also had lots of "wants" that also help out tremendously:
-darker interior (because kids and dirt!)
-a color we like
-tow package to tow our little pop-up camper and Grandpa's boat (this is SUCH a gift to be able to tow these things!!!)
-even after a lift is added, we'll still have space for stuff and friends
-used but not too many miles and in great shape

So it was pretty much everything.

And guess where it was? Across the country? Across the state? Nope.  At a local dealership 30 minutes from our house.

AND it's in the same dealer group that Jeremy works for, so he got an employee discount.

AND the price was was a good deal and very doable with the funds we were gifted.

So y'all, we drove 30 minutes, only spent 45 minutes there on paperwork and paid CASH for this beauty that now sits in our driveway.

And He's also laughing along with us as I try to park and back up this beast. It's big and somewhat cumbersome to back up... In fact the sticker inside the door says "bus". LOL. But it drives surprisingly nice and fits our needs so perfectly.  We would have never guessed we'd end up with a vehicle like this, but we're also learning to embrace and love the crazy in our lives!

We are so so grateful. 

And to our three random donors, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your life-changing generosity.

God. Is. Good.

Friday, May 5, 2017


Goodness, it's been over 3 months since I've blogged. Proof that life is crazy around here! Today marks EIGHT MONTHS since we met our J-dog, as we affectionately call Joey. My mind spins to think about all that has happened in the past 8 months!

Adoption is about so much more than having a child join your family. It's about growing and stretching in faith and capacity, it's about learning hard lessons you didn't think you needed to learn. It's about adapting and letting go of expectations.

We've had to do all of that, and will continue to.  Having someone join our family doesn't begin and end in one day. It's a life-long process of learning about one another, slowly being knitted together as a family over time. Solving problems and learning that many things won't be fixed over night.  It's steps forward and steps back. There are moments of pure awe of how far he's come in a short time.  There's also moments of pure exhaustion and even questioning what on earth we've done. 

Lessons we're learning:
-Patience. Clearly God is not done with me yet in this arena. I am not a patient person. I see a problem, I want to fix it immediately. But I'm reluctantly learning that not all of our problems are going to have quick fixes. We're not going to have the perfect vehicle right now to fit all our needs. We're not going to have every part of our house be independently accessible to Joey. Heck, we're not even going to have a working lawn mower sometimes.  And THAT'S OKAY.

-We can't do everything all at once.  We can't address all of his physical needs at one time, it's a process. Thankfully, none of his needs are life-threatening, and he's lived with his body the way it is for 8 years. It's okay that we're not addressing everything all at once.  There are things we can do in the future to help improve his function and independence, but there's no huge rush.

-It's okay to take a break.  After more appointments with doctors and therapists than I can begin to count over the past 8 months, we've decided to mostly take the summer off.  There are a few follow-up appointments here and there, but we're intentionally choosing not to do any therapies, surgeries, serial castings, etc. for a few months. He needs a break, I need a break, we all need a break. He needs to feel the freedom of just being a kid. (Pray with us that he doesn't have any new breaks or developments that would require more appointments!)

-We can't make up for all that he's missed.  He's come a long way in learning that we're his family, but he's still trying to figure out what "forever" means. He's still coming to terms with all that he's lost. We get more and more stories about his life in China, some of it good, some not.  We get lots and lots of questions about why we came to get him, but why we can't get his foster brothers.  Why do we love him, why does God love him?  Regardless, he has to come to terms with the loss of all of it. He has had no choice in any of his circumstances. It's not an easy thing to wrap your brain and heart around, and it will be a part of him for the rest of his life. But we'll be beside him the whole way.

-There will never be enough time in the day!  I'm a do-er. I love to organize, clean and get projects done. But with 5 kids and their various needs, I don't get to everything I want to.  Most days we feel like we're spinning our wheels with cook-clean up-repeat, along with 1-3 loads of laundry thrown in for good measure.  I'm (reluctantly!) learning to let go of a lot of things. 

-This is our new normal.  Things have improved for sure from the really hard days, but things will never be as "easy" as they once were (not that things were easy with 4 kids, but definitely easier than 5!).  We're always tired! Let's just say, we both have picked up a coffee habit that we never had before. :)

-We won't ever have a perfect balance.  Before Joey came home, we confidently believed we would find a way for him to experience everything our other kids do. It's been a slow realization that there are some things he just cannot do.  He can't play on a swing set because he can't climb up the ladders or hold onto a regular swing. Most parks do not offer one piece of equipment for him. He can't play tag in the yard, he'll get hurt.  Sometimes we just have to tell him no when the other kids get to have a yes. Sometimes we say no to everyone, so that he's not left out. It's a really hard balance.  In fact, it's probably one of the hardest things we do each day, figuring out what he can/can't, should/shouldn't do and how that fits in with everyone else in the house.  Sometimes it's an enormous source of frustration for everyone, but it is what it is.

-Blessings. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in the hard things, but when I take a moment to realize all that we do have, I'm blown away, especially thinking about the blessings we've had in the last 8 months. 

We had an entirely new front deck and wheelchair accessible ramp built for him for his walker/wheelchair.  I never thought I'd be so excited about a ramp in my life! It's beautiful.  We use it every single day.



We were gifted a small grant from our county to buy him a ride-on toy that he can drive independently. You should see him zipping around our yard in this! Then we had an engineer from a local volunteer organization add on a front "bumper" to give his feet some more protection. So cool! The same grant paid for a swing that he is able to do... it's a huge hit for everyone.

Blessings to be found even at the grocery! Our store now has this cool cart with a handicap seat on the front, so he can ride while I shop!

Some volunteers from a local church volunteered to add a step to our back deck so he can get down to the lower part where the sandbox is. And they even brought us a meal! So sweet!

-Firsts are just as sweet. Although we missed his first tooth, first step, first word... there's still so many firsts we're getting to experience with him.  Like when the Tooth Fairy came for the first time. He was so confused about why we wanted him to put his tooth under his pillow, but boy was he happy with the money he found in the morning!

First time having Maggie and I visit him at school lunch!

According to him, his first time playing in a puddle (cast and all!).

First Fine Arts Night at school!

First trip to the Zoo!!

First train ride!

First Easter!

First movie at the theater!

-Focus.  Our kids are our number one focus... and what a blessing that is!  We are so incredibly honored to get to be the ones to feed them, dress them, read with them, hear about their days, wipe their tears, listen to their dreams.  Lucky, lucky, lucky we are.

-This is a season.  This time won't last forever.  They won't always need us this much (and surely we won't always have 4 kids in pull-ups at night!!!).  Someday I will go back to work, someday Jeremy and I will have time alone together again... and then we'll miss this time. So as hard as it is right now, we're also (mostly) content with where we are today.

At the end of the day, there's no regrets. I mean, how lucky are we that we get to walk through life along with these amazing little people!!! Truly, we are the lucky ones.  We're thankful that God is using us and stretching us in this way. We're thankful that our kids have one another for life.  And we're thankful for the lessons we're learning along the way

                                                    September 2016                                                  May 2016

The Energizer dogs... they just keep on living.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Then This Happened

Not only are custom wheelchairs expensive (this bad boy was $8,000+), but they take months to come in. Joey's cool custom wheelchair that was designed to address his unique needs came in beginning of January.  He was so proud of his chair and we were thankful to be out of limbo in that department. Or so we thought.

Then This Happened.

Our sweet boy just can't catch a break (haha). While playing on the trampoline 10 days ago, he broke his leg, both bones at the ankle. I knew immediately it was broken, he was shaking head-to-toe just like he was when he broke his arm.  We quickly realized we had to call 911, as we had no way to keep it stabilized in our van to get him to the hospital.  He was in so much pain, it was awful. It was traumatic for all of us. He was in pain, the other kids were scared and I lost any semblance of "calm and cool" mom. 

They put him in a full-leg, non-weight-bearing splint and sent him home. He can't bear any weight on that leg and he had to have support for his leg... which meant his brand, spanking new custom chair didn't work because it didn't have leg-extensions. They sent him home with NOTHING, so I spent the next day figuring out how to get  rental chair that met his new needs. 

We were too afraid to send him to school in the splint, he was in so much pain and completely immobile. So he stayed home with me as we waited for the cast.  His sweet classmates helped pass the time by sending home some adorable Get Well cards.

Watching and waiting for his siblings to come home.

This coincided with some really beautiful weather outside.
This is an outside boy, but he is limited in what he can do since he can't get out of his chair... bubbles did the trick for a little while.

When he saw his sisters playing in the mud, he wasn't to be left out.

Getting him in the van is really difficult with his leg fully extended, so he didn't leave the house for 6 days. When it came time to go the hospital for casting, it was tricky figuring out how to lift him in with my limited upper body strength and figuring out how to support his leg. This set-up with the pillows was his idea! It was painful for him (and me!) to get him settled in this spot, but we did it.

Casting was super stressful for this guy.  Thankfully, after much discussion, they agreed to put the cast on below the knee instead of above the knee as they typically do.  If it was above the knee, then we'd continue to struggle to get him in the van and he also couldn't ride the school bus in the rental wheelchair, so we were going to be in a transportation bind.  I'm so thankful that it's below the knee= we can use his custom chair for the bus and he can get his leg in the van easier. We just have to be very careful that he doesn't bear any weight on that leg at all, which means he relies on us for his every move.

Ready to get back to school.

 A cool lap desk from a friend...
just in time to help him do another first... homework!

The ortho doc wants to keep close tabs on the breaks to make sure they're healing properly, so we go back in a few days for new x-rays to see how it's doing.  We're very hopeful that they won't have to "manipulate" the bones to help them heal properly as they indicated could be a possibility. This poor kid has been through so much medical trauma, we need his healing to go as smoothly as possible.

He is weary. We are weary. When his arm was broken, we had to feed him and be his arms. Now that his leg is broken, he is completely wheelchair bound. We have to lift him on/off the toilet, into the bath, onto the couch, etc. Because his upper body has limited functioning even on the best of days, he cannot help us much at all. He's like lifting dead weight! We have to rotate his positions to make sure he doesn't get sore... it's exhausting. But we're so thankful he's HOME and getting care from his family rather than recovering in the orphanage.

Since this happened, he's been flooding us with memories of his injuries in China. He's been adamantly telling us of how he broke his other arm in China, how both legs were in casts and how he "broke" his 2 front teeth when he fell.  I don't know how much of it is true, but I believe he's probably had a lot of injuries in his life, he's such a fall risk and just so fragile.

This also has us discussing what we should and shouldn't let him do. The trampoline has been a topic of discussion since he came home... we really hate the thought of limiting him and keeping him out of activities the other kids are doing.  Plus his arm was broken when he tripped on his own feet... He so desperately wants to keep up with everyone else. Yet at the same time, seeing him go through this pain and suffering is awful. 

We've had so many unexpected complications in the 4.5 months since we've been home. It's so hard on him and on the rest of us. But this kid is so resilient and so BRAVE to just keep on keeping on every day- he's teaching us so much about perseverance and about living joyfully.  We'd appreciate prayers for healing and a longer stretch of no drama!