Bolus on the Go

We learned lots from our outing yesterday.  Specifically, that even with her increased energy from the feeds and being able to breathe so well, she is still recovering and fatigues easily.

Except during sacrament meeting.

(Note to self:  No more naps before Sacrament meeting.)

We also tried the feeding pump and backpack yesterday, which is super exciting, except that she is still too small and falls over backwards.  She’s almost big enough, and is interested, but she is going to have to get stronger before she can carry the backpack.

In the meantime, we have this old insulated lunchbox, and it is working perfectly.   All her emergency kit supplies are in the top section, and an extra tube-friendly onesie is in the front pocket just in case:

Then on the inside, we can fit extra formula, an extension just in case, and then what we need for her feeding and cleanup:  ice packs, food already mixed (we use Nourish, but add cream and apple juice), water for flushing the tube, the cup and syringe and a tiny bottle of dish soap.  Perfect.

I decided to feed her in nursery.  I couldn’t just feed her in the bathroom, that’s gross.  I couldn’t feed her in the mother’s room because it seems silly when she is all grown up.  Just feeding her in the hallway somewhere seems intrusive (even if she did spend most of Sacrament meeting pulling up her dress to show everyone her new tube).  I finally ended up in the nursery, which seemed to normalize it for her, help the other children see in a non-weird way, give the chance for her new teachers to get comfortable with her tube and her, and transition her back into normal activity without any drama.  By the time everyone else had already finished the cool puzzles while she was doing her feeding, she was ready to get down and get started!

Then I was able to sneak out easily to take it all back to the kitchen for cleaning up and packing it all away again.  That seemed to work alright.  It felt good to figure out practically how to get everything done and still function at church.  I went back to check on her after I cleaned up, and she was doing just fine.  She had already stolen the baby doll, and was wrapping her self up in some blanket and telling people she was a burrito.

It was lovely to see old and new friends this afternoon, and to receive their words of encouragement.  It is a lonely road, sometimes, with so many children or so many special needs, anyway, and not always having the ability to connect or invest in friendships the same way as before.  I really, really appreciate the kindness of those who greeted us today – and who were patient with my daughter repeatedly flashing the crowd.

One thing I wanted to clarify, now that I have had some sleep, was about a comment we saw many times on social media when she was coding and struggling with extubation and we weren’t sure she was going to pull through this time – and then she did, again.  So many people said:

God is good!

Or other similar comments.

While we undoubtedly agree, we did want to speak up and share a bit of our own faith system regarding this issue.

It’s also close to our heart because we know so many other special parents whose little ones didn’t pull through, or her cohorts that didn’t make it this long, and even others who lost their sweet children unexpectedly when they were as healthy as anything.

And because we live every day knowing – even on great days like today – that we don’t know how many days we have left.

So we couldn’t keep quiet on this one, and needed to express some thoughts.

One is that we do agree that Heavenly Father is “good”.  We do.  But our faith system isn’t a prosperity gospel kind of doctrine.  While we don’t think God wants bad things to happen to us, and we don’t believe God uses hard experiences just for the purpose of punishing us, we do think difficult experiences are part of the overall plan of experiencing mortality.

And mortality is part of the plan, no matter how good God is, and that means people die sometimes.

Because we are mortal.

God is good, but not because Kyrie lived.

God is good because of who God is (has become).

God would still be good if Kyrie had passed, no matter how tragic and awful that would have been for us.

And He would have grieved with us, we believe, just as He did when my father passed from cancer or when my mother was killed.

God wasn’t “good” when Kyrie survived, and “bad” when I got cancer.

God wasn’t “good” when Kyrie survived, but “bad” when He allowed free agency – the ability to choose – even when that meant her biological mother would choose to use drugs.  God wasn’t “bad” when the natural consequences of this mortal world we live in meant that a mother using drugs had negative consequences on the child she was carrying.  God wasn’t “bad” when Kyrie’s twin sister didn’t survive that day, that day when I held them on the ambulance that brought them from the jail when they were born.

God was good in those moments, too.  God remembered Kyrie – and her twin sister – in those moments, too.  He even remembered their mother, who made such horrific choices and yet came to that place through the traumas she herself had already endured.  He knew, and He was present, and He was still God.

When my mother was killed, He knew, and was He was present, and He wept with us.

When I had cancer, He knew, and He was present, and He used every resource to help us.

But sometimes you don’t survive cancer, like my father.

Sometimes you don’t survive a jeep and a semi smashing into your car, like my mother.

Sometimes little boys with a southern drawl and understated enthusiasm don’t make it, even when your mom knows better than anyone exactly what to do.

Sometimes little girls who can’t breathe have brains injured beyond functioning, or hearts that nearly explode, or bodies that are just too tired.

It’s awful.  It’s horrible.  It’s heart-breaking.

But it doesn’t make God bad.

And when we do beat cancer, and when little girls gulp for breath again, and when we survive against all odds, we are relieved and grateful and know to recognize the Holy One who provided a plan of happiness in the first place, the Divine One who ordained families as good and necessary for our eternal progression, the Only One who is a Perfect Parent – giving us life, letting us live it, and loving us anyway.

Giving us the ability to choose was the only way we could know what happiness truly is.  We can’t know the sweet without also knowing the bitter.  It’s also true that means natural consequences play out, and even that sometimes loved ones pass and little ones die young.

But He is still my Father and my God, regardless.

And “good”, even when life is really hard.

And when life is super hard, I don’t think it means He has abandoned us.  I think He sends us as much help and comfort as possible to help us endure horrific experiences because He does care so very much.

And when you care so very much, you do the same for others that He has done for you.

So when your daughter survives a stroke and endures all awful hard work of therapy, then you go sing a song to cheer on your favorite cowboy when it’s his turn.

And when your children had a scary week worrying about their baby sister in the hospital, then you give them all the support they need.

Even when that means sword fighting with biological parents.


And even when it means meeting with your biological maternal grandmother so she can know you are okay, and tell your mother in prison that you survived another surgery because of the drugs she used.


And maybe if your biological mother has to work, then you get super cool bubble wands and reassure you will see her on Saturday at the physical therapy swimming party.


And maybe if your mom said she wants to move two hours away to hide the boyfriend with warrants instead of visiting you, then you get the biggest princess bubble wand there is, plus a video call with your safe cousin to talk about new training bras because you are telling everyone in the world about it all week long.


So maybe we learn, together, by being angels for each other, that God is good, even when we are enduring extraordinary circumstances.


Maybe sometimes enduring hard things together is what it’s all about.


Maybe God, who is good, never meant for us to feel abandoneded or for other people’s bad choices to separate us from what is holy.

Maybe we are just learning that we are in this together, that we need each other, that friends and family are like an extra bolus in your gtube, giving you just enough strength to keep breathing through just one more day.

Homecoming Emergency Kit

We passed our test of full feeds for a whole twenty-four hours!  

And, once we could do it on our own without nurses, Kyrie stopped the fussing and started helping and relaxed considerably for her feeds.  We have it down, now!

We spent our time waiting for discharge by playing hide and seek.

Except she kept hiding in the same place, so the seeking part was never too hard.

We finally got her discharge papers, and we were relieved they came in the morning so the children could come home in the afternoon after a long week of being shuffled around.

Her discharge diagnoses:

  • Hypoxia
  • Pierre Robin Sequence
  • Failure to Thrive, Endogenous, secondary to medical condition
  • Gastronomy Tube Dependent 
  • Oropharyngeal Dysphagia
  • Ventricular Septal Defect, Recently Resolved
  • Cleft Palate, partially repaired (revisions scheduled)
  • Allergy to Baby Wipes

We have four follow-up appointments to keep: the pediatrician, the pulmonologist, the GI doctor, and always the ENT who continues working on the wonky mess of a structure of her throat.

We are also being sheduled back in Cincinnati, allegedly in October, but dates aren’t finalized yet because so many tests and doctors have to be coordinated there, but we will know soon.

In the meantime, she should be nearly perfect until the next procedures.

We are very excited to have a little girl who can breathe and eat for a while!

She was so excited to see her wagon ride ended at our car!

And then she was asleep before we even finished loading up her toys and puzzles and art supplies!

Her seat belt connects right at the corner where her gtube is, so we had to cover it to be sure she didn’t wiggle enough to pull on it.  Tucking her bear in just with a leg and an arm seemed to work in a way that didn’t bother her or compromise safety too much.

We were thrilled to pick up the other children, and they were so excited to see Kyrie!

We are so grateful to the families who took turns caring for the children this week!  They had so much fun!  They were so spoiled!  They also got special time with Nathan’s parents for part of each day, and that was good for everybody!  We missed the grandparents while they were away in Utah visiting Aunt Clarissa’s animal baby farm house and Aunt Alicia’s new little boy.

Once we got all the children to bed, after a very very very long supper full stories about all the adventures the children had this week, it was time to set up our emergency kit.

This has the tubes, tapes, and syringes we might need if her gtube ever comes out accidentally (or gets pulled out by little toddler hands).

It’s actually a big deal, because her stoma (the hole in her stomach) is so small it’s likely to close within fifteen minutes they said.

So we have to be ready, just in case, with a backup mic-key button, and even a ng tube we could throw in there if nothing else worked, until we could get her to the ER to have it replaced.

But if the hole closes, we would have to have surgery all over again.

So we have to be ready.

We pulled these emergency supplies together as instructed, and put them in the top part of a lunchbox we have.  Then we can fit her formula and current supplies in the regular part of the lunch bag to stay chilled when we leave the home.  That bag, and her own backpack to carry the pump when she needs to, will go with her anytime she leaves the house so that we have what we need  if something happens or if it’s time for a feeding while are out and about.

It’s like diaper bag 2.0, and means we still load our van with four machines and three backpacks of supplies anytime she leaves the house.

The progress, though, is that some of it just to be near her.  We don’t have to take it all inside everywhere with us all the time anymore, which is progress, I guess, but also just part of life with a complex little one.

Nathan and I also cleaned her stoma site again last night, for the first time by ourselves.  It was not hard, but we were anxious and Kyrie was not happy!  Cleaning under the tube doesn’t hurt, but she does have stitches under there so those area are tender and we don’t want to catch on them.  Plus it is still taped down.  It’s so tricksy!

We put her pajamas on backwards so that (maybe) she wouldn’t be able to get to it or mess with it in the night.  Hoping on that, Nathan and I both went to sleep and slept all night.  I feel so much better this morning!  I’m also stealing the children away today so Nathan can get some real rest after this hard week.

This weekend is my weekend off, thank goodness, so I get to go to meet my brother in Arkansas for the day.  My father’s mother’s family is having a reunion.  But get this: it’s a genealogy event!  How cool is that?

It will give us practice taking Kyrie out and doing her feeds on the go, which we are supposed to practice and know how to do before her follow-up appointment.

But then I don’t have to go back to work on Monday, I guess?  I got to work last night, exhausted, and the time clock said I was not an employee!  I panicked that maybe I was fired for being off work (a fear you have after being let go via text message while you are in the hospital with your daughter once before), but knew my boss knew what was going on.  So I went up to my office and tried to clock in on my computer, but could not get to Cerner or Kronos.  I had to call the company number, and they told me my FMLA was approved after all!   I will not get paid, but I cannot go back to work until the 24th and will not have any computer access until that day.  They told me to just go home and take care of my daughter!

I cried. I was so exhausted, and so relieved, and so glad to still have a job!   All my tears from the whole intense week just came pouring out of me.  I cried all the way home, and cried when I walked in the house and surprised Nathan and the children, and cried as the children jumped up cheering.

We really needed this.

I don’t know how we will do the time without pay.

But we are ready with everything we needed for Kyrie to come home.

And know why we were ready?

Because community.

Heavenly Father most often cares for people through other people, and people with big hearts and generous spirits helped us get through the last week.  

Because our children were safe and busy and happy (and stuffed full of treats) while we were in the hospital all week.

Because people were kind enough to share our fundraiser link, or share a few dollars, or donate sterile supplies they had extra, so that every single thing we needed for Kyrie to come home had arrived by last night – plus a new travel concentrator on its way tomorrow.  

I cried about that, too, that experience of walking Kyrie into the house and everything being here ready to care for her.

We are grateful, so grateful, for all the ways people helped (even the meal we got Thursday night so the grandparents had a bit of relief one evening).

Thank you.  Really.  Thank you so much.

Because sometimes what you need in an emergency, and to prevent an worse-er emergency, is just plain good people and simple tools to help you care for good people.

And sometimes, what you need is no more emergencies.

Like having a little girl who can breathe.

Like having a little girl who has a way to eat.

Like having a community of angels who help a family endure a crisis (or four years of crises).

Like having friends who give you you hope and courage and strength beyond what you could muster on your own.

Thank you for your help, and thank you for your prayers, and thank you for loving a little girl and her brothers and sisters.  And her parents, too.

Just thank you.

Happy Birthday, Mary!

This girl came with a smile that melted our hearts, especially when almost none of the other children started out with smiles.

That was the first time we met Mary, when I picked her up and brought her to the park where Nathan was waiting with Alex and Anber.

And, as I said the other day in Anber’s birthday post, we knew this girl was special when even Anber liked her right away!

We had two challenges to deal with right away: first, a little girl who couldn’t hear at all and had almost no language (English or sign), and second, a Mama who had to learn how to braid black hair.

Both were tackled easily, and she immediately responded to her efforts.  The foster mom before us had already done the work of getting her hearing aids, and I knew how to deal with those, and I asked a friend from church to come teach me about hair.  It was so helpful, and even though I had to start simple, we got this girl what she needed.

 

Besides access to language and good care of her hair and skin, the other basic need Mary had was for food.  She had not had much experience with regular meals, much less healthy ones, and it took her a very long time to adjust (and not hoard her food).

 

The other big thing for Mary was that she had not been exposed to much at all, outside of the environment from which she had come, and so it did not take much stimulation to complete intrigue her.  What a fun season this was, to show her the world!

 

As language came, and her understanding of our family culture, she even wanted to play piano.  This made me nervous because we weren’t sure how much she could really hear, and we didn’t want to push it on her, but she was determined and stubborn and wanted to try.  And so she did.

 

When we found out she would be staying with us long-term, though the plan was always for her to return to her family, we went ahead and made a special room for her with the colors she picked out:

 

And I started getting braver with her hair!

 

But we didn’t see her really light up until a few months after she had joined our family, and we took her to the Deaf children’s holiday party at TSHA.  She loved it!  It finally clicked in her little head that sign language meant something, and she started asking for words, and our little trash hoarder who had been homeless figured out how “crafting” could turn her trash into treasures.  This was a day that changed everything for Mary!

 

The only thing that could make that better?  Gingerbread houses, you guys?  Christmas was MADE for Mary, and she exploded with excitement in all things bright and shiny with yummy foods and crafts and extra treats!

 

She responded so much to music that Nathan began taking her with him to symphony, so she could experience more sounds:

 

And one funny day, Mary finally heard music – and started to dance.

 

That’s when she changed from a sullen, withdrawn, “cognitively delayed” girl into a bright and active little girl as smart as anything!  She blossomed with every bit of language she picked up, and with every new exposure, and with every positive interaction we created.

 

We even saw attachment start to grow, ever so slowly, and it was a beautiful thing to see.

And also hilarious, because Alex and Mary are two of the funniest kids I have ever met in my life.

 

But there was one thing that was not clicking for her:  she came to us about nine months before Anber and Alex’s adoption were finalized, and she was not impressed to still “just be a foster kid”.  She wanted to be adopted so badly!  She asked us almost every day, and it was difficult to keep explaining the difference to her, and that she wasn’t anywhere near termination.  But this princess was one tough cookie, and she just kept pushing forward.

 

And I started getting really good at braids!

 

And it was sweet Mary, with the big heart, who was so excited about new brothers when Kirk and Barrett came – and she could keep up with them!

 

Mary came to us when she was just barely six, and by the time she was seven, we were asked to consider keeping her as it was no longer looking like she was going to be able to go home.

We said yes.

 

Who could resist a princess that dresses up and brings flowers to the table, even when all she wants is pork-n-beans?

 

This was the last Saturday play date we had with the boys before they officially moved in for adoptive placement.  They were the only ones we hadn’t fostered first, and none of us was completely sure how that was going to go.  And Mary was mad that they “cut in line” for adoption, no matter how many times we reassured her that it didn’t change us being able to keep her!

This was also the day Kyrie was born.

None of us knew then what the next year would entail, or how hard it would be, or how close we would grow together as we endured as a family.

But I was getting really good at braids, and now could bead, too!

 

And we knew by then, too, that Mary was smart as a whip and super advanced, not cognitively delayed at all!

 

She was also super nurturing:

 

And brave as the boys:

 

And always made the other children feel special by eagerly asking, “Do you want to sit by me?!”

 

She was also a super creative girl, with an imagination like nothing else!

 

And then it was time for her first cochlear implant.

 

Nathan gave her a blessing:

 

And she didn’t even act scared!

 

And while we waited for her to heal, we worked on making memories enough to become a family.

 

Finally, it was activation day – the day she would get the outside part of her processor, and get to use her cochlear implant for the first time.

 

Baby Kyrie was there, and her awful snorting-breathing sound was one of the first things Mary got to hear.

But she could hear, and now wanted to learn violin also!

 

Not only did Mary become a part of our family, but she became an important part of our family.  While Anber may have been our first baby girl, Mary has the distinction of being our oldest girl – with all the rights (and bossiness) and privileges that come with that position.   Know what, though?  She is a really, really good sister.

 

She has a temper, though, and there was that one day in first grade when she got irritated about having to wait on new braids… and so she cut off all her braids so she could get new ones… except then her hair was too short!  I cried!   She cried!  Talk about mother-daughter bonding!

But we survived.  And slowly, her hair grew back in the midst of many more adventures.

 

 

And then, just when we almost had hair again, it was time to shave one side because she had done so well with the first implant they were ready to do the second one.

 

Not only that, but Kyrie was in crisis at palate repair, so we literally took Mary from the hospital for her surgery all the way to Cincinnati for Kyrie’s surgery.   She was such a trooper!   We had doctor’s orders to help her sleep all the way there, and not unwrap her head until we had arrived.   That’s some serious family love, right there, managing all that at once.

 

The way home from that trip was as good for her as it was difficult going up, though, because that’s when we found out – finally – officially, Mary was getting adopted.

She was so excited!  And it was such a special day!

And those are all the pictures we could not share before that day.

 

Mary is our precious daughter, so bright and funny and clever and crafty.  She loves caring for her siblings, wants to be a teacher, and is very excited to be the boss of our family.  We love her!

 

Happy birthday, Mary!  We are so glad you are part of our family!  We love you!

(And can’t believe you are NINE!)

 

 

Happy Birthday, Anber Bear!

Our first baby came to us four years ago, at 11 months old.

 

That’s her, sleeping with her eyes open, laying in the pack-n-play that first night when she came at 3 in the morning dressed only in an EMSA towel.

That’s her, sleeping in the pack-n-play, that first morning when I brought Alex in to meet her, when he leaned over with his little four year old self and shouted, “Where did you get that little brown baby?  At the gift shop?”

We loved this little girl!  While I had done babysitting all growing up, and had nieces and nephews and little cousins, and had taught all kinds of little classes, this was Nathan’s first experience with bottles and diapers any tiny snaps and zippers.  He worked so hard caring for her!

 

It was the start of our family, with little Alex (and his long red curls) and baby Anber!  They lived together with us for two years, while other children came and went, before we ever got Mary, and three years before we ever got Kirk and Barrett.

 

But we were smitten with that little bald baby!  She was almost four before she had any more hair than that!

We loved that little baby girl, even though she only screamed those first few months.  It took her a long time to trust us, but we got there.

 

It was Alex, of course, who taught her how to smile, who helped her relax, who showed her how to play and laugh and sing.

 

This was the beginning of our story as a family.

These are the pictures we could not share back then, back when her face had to be hidden from view while visits continued and we lived and breathed from court date to court date, back when her code name here was “Toddler” and her big brother was only known as “Five”.

 

She grew up so fast!

 

And loved music from the beginning.

And always helped Mama cook.

 

We loved her, this little one that landed on our doorstep one night at 3 in the morning.

 

She has always had a thing for big sunglasses.

 

And she has always been a good helper.

 

Even though now she is the middle child in the girls’ room, she will always be our first baby.

 

And even though she is super shy and doesn’t like very many people, she loved Mary from the very first day.  We knew Mary was a keeper when even Anber approved!

 

And remember that time when she wasn’t even three yet, and they tried to take her picture at preschool, and she punched the photographer in the face and broke his glasses “because he told me to smile”!?!

 

Yes, we loved this little girl, so much!

 

Also, she is crazy.  You guys may not know this, since she rarely speaks outside the home, but she is one of the most hilarious little creatures I have ever met.  These three together are a riot, and their smart wit and quick banter cracks us up!  They are so funny!

 

Also, she finally grew hair.  Almost.

 

And she’s a daddy’s girl.

 

We are so honored that she is a part of our family, and having her sealed to us for time and all eternity was one of the best days ever!

 

That’s when we got to meet Kirk and Barrett, finally:

 

And if we ever thought Alex and Anber were BFF’s, that was nothing like the love these two “twins” have for each other!  What adventures we have had watching these two grow up together!

 

This was our family!

 

Plus one more, and Anber was the first one to meet Kyrie, since they were biological siblings and the others were not finalized in their adoptions yet.  Anber got to meet Kyrie in the hospital in Oklahoma City, after the first life flight, when Kyrie was about three months old and still in the NICU after her first seven surgeries.

 

We didn’t tell her when we finally got to bring Kyrie home, but just surprised her by picking her up early from school.

 

Ever our wild child, she is always coming up with some creative scheme just like Papa:

 

And she was as glad as anyone when Kyrie and I finally came home from Cincinnati.

 

That’s how I got three daughters, and how my first baby became the middle child.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Anber!  I cannot believe you are five years old!

Dallas Temple

Our temple in Oklahoma City is about to close for renovations for two years, and during that time we will go all the way to Dallas for our temple worship.

Traveling through this weekend seemed the perfect opportunity to let the children check it out before ours closes!

This temple has a very unique design from some of the ones they have seen before, so that was special and gave us lots to discuss.

We are so excited, and prepared, and committed to continuing our temple worship even while our local temple is closed!

Thank you, Dallas!

Vacation Cancelled

Remember that time I was so proud of not letting the children drown in the ocean?

And making such good progress home, I thought we could make one more playground stop and then just push through and be home?

And then Anber got stung by a bee right in the corner of her eye, and by a wasp on her eyelid?

And then Alex got bit by a snake through his shoe?

And then Barrett fell in the mud, and Kirk tripped and fell off a slide, and Kyrie got stuck in the playground?

All in three minutes.

And now I’m done.

Many thanks to our NP for treatment help, and Nathan for talking to crying children while I played triage.

We are less than an hour from Dallas, so we will stop and rest for the night!

And everybody gets an ice pack.

It’s the coolest thing to happen since Krispy Kreme.

Beach Day

With some scary driving, closed roads, and unnerving flooding, we made enough detours to make it to the beach!

I researched and chose Sylvan Beach because it was less touristy and cleaner.  The sand was finer, with less seaweed, and an actual park so no trash.  It has an area blocked off for families, so it had smaller waves.  It was away from the boardwalk and all the tourist traps of shops and Ferris wheels, which we could do anytime.  We wanted pure beach, and ocean space contained enough it was safe for me to take six little bitty ones by myself.

It was beautiful, and quiet, and even had a giant playground next to the showers so they all stayed happy and busy while changing clothes again when we were finished.

They loved the beach so much!  They were so good, playing in a safe space on a hill in the sand, while I took them down to the water one at a time.  They have never seen anything like it, so needed to know what the sand was like and how the waves worked (and how strong the tide was) before I let them loose to play.

They did great!  Of all times for them to be “good” and follow directions, this was when I needed it most.  And they did it!  I have never been so proud!  Or relieved!  They stayed together and right where I asked, so everyone got a safe introduction before we played together in the foam.

Maybe I was overly cautious, but at the ocean with six babies by myself seemed a good time to play that card!

Kyrie was so intuitive about being careful, didn’t try to run away from me, and mostly was mad the ocean kept stealing her sand!  She kept screaming, “Stop it, ocean!” and then yelled at the seagulls for laughing at her.

They had so much fun!  I’m so glad we made it!  It was worth all of the hard work, just for these memories!

Thank you, Texas!  Forever memories! They have talked all the way back toward Dallas about how they are superheroes who can jump over waves.  I love these little ones, and am glad we are headed home with all six of them!

Sponsored Post: Krispy Kreme

Believe it or not, our children have never been to Krispy Kreme.

We just eat pretty healthy, have never lived very close to one that we were aware of, and treats like this are pretty rare.

Also, despite the fad and hype of the new place opening in Tulsa, we aren’t really fans of Hurts, because icing and coloring aren’t our favorite part of a doughnut, making it too much for most of us.

So it’s been a long time since we had doughnuts!

And if we are going to do doughnuts, we might as well do it big!

We got a whole private tour of the factory where the potato flour mix is prepared and packaged, and the machinery in the store front, and then free hot doughnuts the children got to help make!

In their pajamas!


It was, by far, the best field trip ever.

I’m pretty sure I saw Mary’s eyes actually roll back in her head.



Thank you, Krispy Kreme!  The kids had a blast with such a special treat!  We loved the experience of watching doughnuts being made and getting to eat them warm!  It was still too much sugar for Mama, but our bellhop friend at the hotel was glad we hadn’t finished them off!

Hurricanes of Love

Well, first off, of course there would be a big ole storm blowing in the week we arrive in Houston.

          A hurricane’s a-comin!

          (Golden Girls)

But it was “only” a tropical storm, and at the last minute turned east of us, so that all we got was a lot of wind and rain… but the children were right when they said it was nothing compared to what we endure all the time in Oklahoma!

The biggest concern for us, actually, was flooding, but it didn’t quite reach where we are.  The best plan for us was to just stay put!  We missed our beach day, obviously, so I felt bad about not taking the kids when we were so close on NASA day.  But really, my children just can’t successfully handle that much in a day, and it was better to end the day well.  That meant, though, no swimming at all yesterday, even here in the pool because of the storm, so we had a very long day of spontaneous activities mom could come up with off the top of her head in a hotel room, as if all the inertia I was fighting was just to keep them off the television.  They did watch Sesame Street in the morning, and a movie in the evening, so that seemed a fair balance.

We have so far stayed in our budget and eaten the food storage meals we brought with us, except we did use $8 from book money to buy street tacos yesterday as a treat, and they have supplemented snacks with treats from the conference or the hotel staff who are in love with them – which is a relief, and way better than getting kicked out for the chaos!  We are trying!  They are being so good!

The loudest and most chaotic we have been thus far was last night in the lobby when Mary got to meet her brother for the first time!

We found her brother a few months ago, but only found out yesterday that he lives near Houston, so I took a chance and invited (begged) him to come see her.

Know what he did?  He stepped up.  Big time.  He went and sold plasma for the gas money, and drove in to meet us.

I cried and cried.  Mary cried and cried.  We all cried and cried!

They are full siblings, meaning the same mom and dad, and the only two full siblings there are.  But we found out she also has a half sister in Oklahoma City, as well as a half brother who had a swimming accident that caused a stroke and he drowned when he was sixteen about ten years ago. 

Matthew.  His name  as Matthew.  And we got the sister’s name and contact information, and we got to call the aunt who adopted Big Brother when he was 2.   We also got tons of names and birth dates and genealogical information!   We told him she tested positive for the sickle cell trait, though she doesn’t have the disease because she is half white.  But it was information their half-sister needed, and explains some of what her sister’s baby has been experiencing.  So I gave them referral information that had been given to me, and that’s so great!

It was such a tender visit!

The other children were so patient, as we talked about how usually Mary is either waiting around every month while they visit their families or playing along but trying not to be intrusive.

Consistently, though, the biological families are so tolerant of all the children, so welcoming once they get to know them, as if they become grandparents and aunts and uncles to all of them.  This visit was no different, even as Mary became “Aunt Mary” for the first time… despite Kyrie’s attempts to “babysit” and “hold” the one year old who was bigger than her!

It was so wonderful, and Mary went to sleep with evening prayers about finding good family and family that looks like her.  It was precious, and there are no words.

In the meantime, Nathan has flown to Philadelphia for a production of his musical, Broadcast!!!

While we have all missed him very much on this trip, we are so excited for him and so proud of him!  

We wish we were there with him!  I would love to take the children to Philadelphia.  They even have a good hospital for Kyrie there!  But it was crazy timing, his production being the same we as our biggest presentations of the year.

I was glad, though, that he got a little respite for self-care after having the children so much on his own while I completed my residency last year.

And, for the same reason, this down time and play time has been very good for me and the children.

Plus, Philadelphia has a temple, so he got to go there and enjoy it without being rushed to trade caregiving times!

He is staying in the Branch President’s home there, and the production paid for his flight, so we are grateful for the provision given – and I sent a book to his host family because we really are so grateful, and that’s all I had to give them as a thank you.  City transportation is working for him since he has mad skills from living in New York City, and he got paid from copy work and the recent shows just before he left so he has food money.

What adventures we are having, with sufficient for our needs!

We are enjoying our working vacations, as it will be crunch time on our work for the group homes when we get back.  We also have five more books in editing, plus five more designed with the children that need to move forward ward.  And this Saturday is exciting because the American Library Association will announce the Book of the Year for 2016, and we are finalists in three categories, which is pretty rare!  So that’s exciting, and it means we get a little foil sticker on our book forever even if we don’t actually win.  

Our family love stickers!