Slimy Progress

I woke at 3am, startled, I assumed, because the baby never woke for her 11pm-midnight-ish feeding.  I ran to her room and felt her little cheek, and my heart stopped when it felt cold to me.  I put my fingers on her neck and felt for her pulse, while using my foot to try and turn the monitor where I could see it.  She suddenly startled, took a big gasp, and I watched her stats on the monitor go back up again.

That girl may be the death of me.

She kept sleeping after that, the little punk baby.

I could not sleep, however, and spent the next hour working on changing all my patients’ diagnoses to ICD-10 diagnoses from the old DSM-IV-TR diagnoses.  Because what else is there to do at 3 in the morning, when you can’t go back to sleep because your heart is pounding out of your chest?

Oh, there is getting back on your knees to thank your Father for a breathing baby.

And there is the amazing new tithing feature on the church website!  I love it so much!  I haven’t even been working long enough to have a paycheck to tithe, but was able to do my fast offering for me and my kids, and it was super easy!  It is so exciting, and I think will really help… especially me and Nathan, who have so many kids and so much equipment and so many different classes and callings (like every other couple in the church), that it is hard to keep up with an envelope to get it to the Bishop.  When I looked at my handy-dandy statement, I saw that I paid four times in April, and that was just because I had all the envelopes from February, March, April, and ready for May.   It’s hard work, keeping up with those envelopes, and being able to pay tithing online first thing when a paycheck comes, instead of having to go get cash from the ATM and get it into an envelope and remember it on Sunday and not lose it before you can find the Bishop… this is very exciting, and I am much relieved.  You would think something so simple would not be so hard, but now there really are no excuses.  I am grateful.

The baby finally woke around 430, ready to be changed and fed.  It’s one of the first few times she has slept all night starting from the 9pm bottle, and it was lovely.  I changed her, and fed her, and rocked her, and put her back down to sleep.  She woke fifteen minutes later, crying because she had wriggled around so much that one of her pajama legs had both feet stuck in it, and she couldn’t get them out.  I redressed her and she went back down easily.  She is so funny.  Hopefully she will sleep now until her speech-path breakfast appointment this morning.  She is eating rice cereal every morning now, and next week we will move her to an oatmeal cereal for breakfast.  All of her milk and her vegetables at lunch (carrots, peas, squash, and sweet potatoes so far) are thickened by rice throughout the day, so it will be good for her if we can add a different grain for breakfast to help give different nutrients than only rice all day long.  The rice is important, though, for her little upset tummy – a common thing with PRS babies – and she also has rice in every bottle to thicken them, since she can’t actually swallow liquids without choking.  She’s a messy eater still, the cleft palate adding even one more challenge to her eating, but she is trying hard and doing well and each day is better. I am so proud of her, and tell her she is working so hard.

Anber started piano lessons yesterday, since she can read anyway, and loved it.  She already was familiar with black keys and white keys, and already knew the low sounds and high sounds.  This helped her be oriented enough to make purposeful sounds, and she was delighted to succeed at doing so!  Going at a very slow pace on practicing some simple positioning things in the next year will really help with her occupational therapy and dexterity as well.  I am glad she is having fun with it.

Barrett is not ready yet because he cannot read and is still working on his letters, but he really wants to try.  We told him he could start when he could match all his letters and also only poop in the potty.  Those boys take longer to potty train than girls!  He consistently uses the potty during the daytime when he needs to, except for pooping – for which he runs and hides and uses his pull-up instead of the potty.  That’s why he was still in diapers at 3 1/2 years old when we got him, but we immediately switched him to pull-ups and that got him half-way trained.  He’s taking his time on the other half, so it’s a preschool world full of potty talk at our house.

Kirk is working miracles with his left hand.  His cerebral palsy is worse than it should be from not getting consistent physical therapy and other neurological treatments before he got here.  Since getting consistent therapy and treatments, he can now open his arm up all the way, use his hand to help hold things (if he concentrates), and is starting to use his fingers to hold a spoon for eating and other activities.  I give him piano lessons for his right hand, but also include his left hand in positioning and for showing his right hand what to do (I move his fingers and push them down).  It’s really doing some amazing things, the practice and music all together, and now he can even feel with that hand when things are hot or cold!  I am proud of him and his hard work, too!

Alex and Mary are both taking both piano and violin.  Mary is ahead on piano, but Alex is ahead on violin.  Mary has better positioning on piano with her long fingers, but requires more prompting.  Alex has to work very hard at it but does it consistently on his own.  It’s a big deal for Mary to be in music lessons, her digital ears brand new and still discerning sounds, and she struggles with understanding what rhythms are or why her music gets muddy when she plays all the keys at once instead of one at a time. Alex has an incredible ear and an astounding memory, so his tone on violin is pretty amazing and once he gets something right on piano he remembers it.  This is also very reflective of their personalities: Mary is sloppier, but better somehow that is easier for her, but she requires a lot of prompting to clean it up or complete the whole task; Alex is off-task but can do a really nearly perfect job when he focuses, and once he learns something, he has it by memory and doesn’t need help at all.

Nathan and I are doing well and loving every minute of being back in our routine with me home instead of at a different hospital every night (or in Ohio).  I feed the baby her breakfast cereal before getting to work, usually am able to feed her vegetables and rice for her early lunch, and then work again while she is sleeping.  He feeds her the afternoon bottle before he starts violin lessons, and then we pray she sleeps through those.  We share one later night of work and lessons, and his mom watches her for a couple hours on that day, and then I have a later day of work while he has no lessons, and get off earlier on the day he teaches later so that I can be with the baby and run the kids to therapy appointments. We are both home for dinner and scriptures and family prayer with the kids, and he says prayers with the boys while I do with the girls.  Depending on the baby’s last feeding, we either do our couple study in the hallway so we can sing and read the kids to sleep, or I sing to them while I feed the baby her last bottle.  Then we have a two hour window in the evenings when we can do paperwork, writing, or cleaning up from dinner – though the first graders are getting better and better at clearing the table and getting their dishes in the dishwasher, so it’s fun to see them grow in responsibility and feel the burden of working for so many start to lift a little as we are able to work together more.  They can even hang up their own clothes and fold things and put them away in drawers now!  Nathan and I only have to help Anber and Barrett with their clothes, but even they can do most of it as long as you stay with them to help as needed.  They are all growing up so fast!

I have been back at work long enough now to start getting paid again, excepting that I have to pay back the cost of keeping my health insurance while I wasn’t working.  It’s a huge pain and makes for one more hard month for our finances, but it was really kind of my office not to cancel my health insurance – especially with all this cancer drama.  Hopefully by the end of October, I will have all that paid back and will start getting normal paychecks again.

Some people the other day made a comment, not intending to be rude, I don’t think, but it was misinformed, about at least having income from the foster kids.  That’s a false thing, actually, and a misconception.  Even when they were foster kids with subsidies, that money is for their food and clothing and medicine and educational supplies.  It’s not enough to cover those things, and certainly is not an income source for paying the mortgage and utilities.  Biological parents are required to pay “child support” to the court, but it is a small amount and goes to the state and not to us.  The state gives us a subsidy of $15 a day for foster children, and so even just paying a babysitter while we take half of them to urgent care for ear infections from being out of allergy medicine costs almost a week of what they get in subsidy.  The state does have subsidies that make it easier for more people to be able to foster and assist in providing for the children, but it’s not an income source.  When you are actively fostering, it takes about $1200-$1500 per child to get new kids set up with everything they need when they come with nothing, and we had 85 kids in three years.  I promise that $15 a day doesn’t cover that.  Fostering is not an income source.

Now that Alex and Anber are adopted, they don’t have foster subsidies (some sibling groups get adoption subsidies, but Alex and Anber were not related).  Mary and Barrett are both adoptive placements (also not related), even though it’s not final yet, and so they don’t get foster subsidies anymore.  Kirk and Baby Girl are both on Social Security, so the state is paid instead of us.  We don’t get their social security payments. When they are adopted, they will be changed to Medicare so that all their medical issues can be provided for in general – more than Medicaid now – but still not details like the baby needing extra tubes and oxygen cords and monitor supplies or the stickers that hold the cannula on her face (and she only gets two cannulas, by the way, at all, which is harder almost than only four pulse ox cords a month, so we have to keep cleaning those and reusing them also).

We have to work really hard, just like any other family to provide for our children, and that includes being resourceful.  We sometimes can get free tickets or dinner vouches to places for the foster kids, but that will be finished now that they are all getting adopted.  There is a place called ChildShare, which has a clothing closet open on the second Saturday of every month, and we will still be able to utilize that even after the children are adopted… but what they have depends on what people donate to Tulsa area churches, and so it is sometimes more helpful than others.  They have been really good to our family, though, and that’s where we were able to get the baby cribs and swings and all the kind of stuff that we have, and I think one of the car seats.

Angels help, too.  We get lots of random doorbell rings with no one there.  Sometimes there is food, or fresh vegetables, or almond milk, or treats.  Last night it was a sack of new pajamas and school shirts.  Two friends from church picked up clothes for our kids at the local Wee Cycle event, and it made me cry.  Mary’s grandpa likes to buy her a new outfit every now and then, and that helps, and Kirk’s grandmother just sent him some new school shirts and a pair of shoes, so that was a great help.  None of the other kids have parents who are able to help or contribute or offer anything.

We are a family like any other family, doing our best to follow the family proclamation, so that we can raise our children physically and spiritually.  It says:

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

We are doing our best to “adapt” to the circumstances of our family.  Instead of focusing on Nathan’s physical challenges caused by oxygen and metabolic issues, or being irritated at my limitations on paying off my school loan debt obtained before I was baptized, we are instead grateful for my work and the program that helps me get it paid off, and his flexibility in writing and composing and teaching lessons so that we can together be sure our children are “reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity” in a family that is “established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”  Nathan presides over our family with strength and grace and a humble heart, and I am in boot camp to learn a whole lot about nurturing really fast.  We work together, as equal partners, sharing the responsibility of earning income for our family, doing laundry, keeping the dishes done, changing diapers, and running kids to appointments.  We make sure they say their prayers in the morning and the evenings, that we have family prayers, that our meals are eaten together, that we study our scriptures individually, as a couple, and with our children.  Our extended family of Nathan’s parents, our siblings, and my chosen “parents”, often lend support through grandparenting our children, making grown-up dates possible, showing up to fix things (like the sliding glass door that suddenly stopped opening up to the backyard), and loving us well so that we can love the children well.

Being a family is really hard work, and every day I learn a new reason why families are part of Heavenly Father’s plan. We often feel weak, mistaken, and exhausted.  We repent together and before God and with the children, and try again the next day.  We celebrate successes, like last night when the kids were good at school all day, and good at home all evening, and got their homework done, and finished their music lessons, all got their showers finished, and finished scripture study in time for us to have a treat of watching a Little House on the Prairie episode together as a family, increasing the love after a very rough start to the week.  We plead for help, seek counsel, and do our best.  We pray for them and pray for ourselves, now and for the future.  We enjoy the hilarious moments, soak in the beautiful moments, and just keep trying when it gets hard.

We can do it because we have a testimony that this is the plan of happiness, that’s why.

Even when the first preschooler is up at 6am, just when I thought I might get my morning shower without interruption, which I am learning is as false an idea as the concept of a hot meal while raising children.

But it’s okay.

Because I am happy in a way I never understood before, and in ways I never before thought possible.

Kids. Heh. They are slimy.

But I love them.  A lot.


About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


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