Meet the Teacher Night

Tonight was our local elementary Meet the Teacher night.

Even though we met last Thursday with special services, we didn’t hear back from them until tonight when we were emailed a half hour before it started, with special services telling us Mary would not be enrolled or assigned to a class.

She was heartbroken.

We clarified with her that the confusion is not about her, but about them learning how to help Deaf children, and not to worry because it will all get figured out just fine.

(Note: these issues are not about the state Deaf school or Wright or Northeast Elementary, but we cannot clarify what is going on or comment publicly until the issue is settled.)

To encourage her, we surprised the children with t-shirts as a show of support, and a way to include her as part of the team.

She went with us, as did Kyrie, to see inside the school and learn her way around.

We had to check in at the office first, and cautioned the children that it was not the time or place to discuss Mary’s story, and that no matter what, we are kind and good and polite and respectful.

Even when a child is still waiting to tell her story.

The children had a blast meeting their teachers and settling in!  It was so exciting!

Alex’s teacher was super soft and sweet, and patient with all his questions and seeking her out but also able to set limits to help him chillax.  I was relieved.

Kirk’s teacher was cherry and bright, and seemed a perfect match for him!

Barrett has met his match, too, with a good teacher who listened attentively to his story  but also redirected him back on task already.  Go teacher!

And Anber nearly met her teacher, but wasn’t having any of that – kudos to her teacher for not pushing it, but good luck to them both on Thursday.

She was excited about having a locker, though!

They were super excited to see the library, where Kyrie was busy yelling back at all the animals:

And they were even more excited about the gym!

We found what maybe is the Speech room, which was lovely but so ironic and made me cry:

Mary said:

But Mama! This means they want to be kind, they really do.  They just don’t know how, and we will help teach them.  

But it also means that intended or not, the experience is teaching Mary hard things about life and systems and the way the world works.

And how much it hurts when it doesn’t work well, or as promised.

She said:

There is only one other brown kid here, besides me and Anber, and they already don’t want me because I am Deaf.

They say I am welcome.  

But it doesn’t feel like welcome.  

We will teach them, Mama.

We will teach them like Ruby Bridges did.

I love this girl, and I am really proud of her.  She will continue to learn as the system learns.  She will feel welcomed when she is able to go to school, and see there are more brown skinned children even if not as many as in Tulsa.  She will make new friends, and teach them about sign language, and learn other things from them.  She will grow and learn in her own way, just like the others.

I am also proud of all six children, who were so good and patient while we were at the school for hours.  Meeting so many teachers takes ages!  But everyone was patient and waited their turn.  We were there for several hours, and the children were so amazing sitting in the hall and reading and waiting so long just so that I could have the individual experience with each child.   

Nathan did a great job keeping them together in the hallways, and carrying our Keeping Kyrie book to give to the teachers.  

Kyrie played all over each classroom, and was the only almost-naughty one, so we will see how long it takes her to get sick or if she can maintain all the way until Cincinnati, even with school starting.

I love our family, and we are doing our best, and I am so glad we were able to experience this evening together – and so touched by how the other children supported and encouraged Mary.  It was really lovely.  The plan of happiness, I say, even when life feels hard.

Haircuts!

We are school ready!  

And they gave suckers to all six children, so we are happy, too!  

In and out in six minutes, and hit the back to school sale for half off.  

That makes a happy mama!

Alex’s Talk

Yesterday Mary was sick, so Alex gave a substitute talk for her in primary:

 

When I feel the Holy Ghost I feel warm inside.

It makes me feel happy, and glad.

Sometimes he also wants me to feel sad, like if I made a bad choice.

I feel the Spirit when I help someone carry heavy boxes, or when I comfort someone who fell down or who got a blister.

I read my scriptures and say my prayers every day, and come to church on Sundays, and that helps me to feel the Spirit.

Yesterday our family went to the temple. It’s the house of God.

I’ve been inside the temple to be sealed, but now I can’t go inside again until I’m twelve.

But I still feel the Spirit when I walk around outside.

It makes me feel reverent.

When I make a bad choice, like when I’m not kind to Grandma and Granddad, or when I’m not following directions, I don’t feel as close to the Spirit.

When I make good choices, there are some consequences that are easy to see. Yesterday I made good choices and got my own bottle of pop.

It can be harder than that to notice the Spirit sometimes. When I’m acting silly, I may not be thinking about whether I am feeling the Spirit.

But I have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, so when I’m making good choices, the Spirit can always be with me.

Yesterday at the playground, my little sister Kyrie fell off a ladder and the Holy Ghost told me to go help her.

I am grateful for the church and the temple. I am grateful for how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. I love him.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Clothesing

This was my weekend off, and I needed it!  Excepting there was no resting, not when school starts this week and it’s time to check for school clothes.  

But that’s a lot, the bi-annual changeout of clothes for six children!

My plan was simple.  We spent last week just bringing the boxes in from the garage.  Then we spent the week washing everything again, and just making a giant pile in the living room.  Then we sorted it into girls and boys and sizes.   That way, we were ready this weekend, to go through everything.


I spread out the legos to keep them all occupied.  Then two at a time brought me all their hanging up clothes from the closet and tried on everything in their pile.  We passed on what was too little, got rid of anything worn out, and celebrated anything too small for Barrett or Kyrie because it meant we could get rid of it all together.


Anber was the most excited, because she finally reached size 6.  She had been dying for this because she knows when Mary was 6 was when we also had little Rose the same size, so Anber inherited whatever they grew out of – and has been waiting for it for three years.  They remember this kind of thing!


Alex, on the other hand, who struggles with clothing comfort because of autism, tries really hard to make his favorite clothes last as long as possible.


Mary tries every year to fit into my old junior high sweatshirts from the oversized 80’s.


Barrett had plenty because he gets double hand me downs from Alex and Kirk, and Kirk has whatever fits him plus what Alex has grown out of, so he is set.

And everyone has enough for school to start while it is still hot.

But Mary and Alex have no winter clothes at all (size 10/12), so tell us if you see any good deals or have anything you are passing on!  I think we are set otherwise, for the most part, even with shoes.

It’s a relief to have that done, even if we know their closets won’t always look this nice:


School supplies, check!

Backpacks, check!

School clothes, check!

Now, we just need haircuts for the boys and braids and beads for the girls.

And an interpreter for Mary.

(And holding our breath for Kirk’s new glasses to get here.)

We are almost ready!

Temple Adventures

We drive to Oklahoma City today, so that we could go to the temple one more time before it closes for remodeling (next month we will go to Kirtland and Nauvoo).


Temple worship is part of our faith tradition as Latter-day Saints, and in addition to our regular Sunday meetings locally.

It is because of temple ordinances, and the priesthood power by which they are done, that we are able to continue as a family even after death – instead of just “until death do us part” as civil ceremonies say.

We love each other, and don’t want death to be the end of us.

The temple is also a place for prayer, and pondering, and progressing in holiness through the covenants we make there and then practice keeping when we leave and go back home.

When I found a quiet place to sit by myself today, I opened the scriptures to find something – but accidentally Rilke-dipped myself right into this scripture as the pages fell open:


I love these verses!  This was in Doctrine and Covenants, a book of revelations from this restoration period in our history, but it is quoting Matthew 6 and Luke 12.  These are some of my favorites, and how I needed reminding of this today!


While we have seen this true in a hundred ways, the most obvious example is Kyrie.  When we adopted her, we promised we were capable of providing for her.  We didn’t know that day that she would rack up almost two million dollars of medical expenses in less than two years!  We have fought and appealed the limits of insurance, and witnessed the miracles as our community made up the rest – I don’t know how families without any insurance at all do it.

Well, sometimes those babies don’t make it.

Sometimes those families pay medical bills long after their little one has passed.

Even little things, like all the glasses Kirk goes through, or new braces on all of their feet, or another round of haircuts after Barrett chopped his bangs off with his new school scissors… it’s going to be okay.


Through all of that, we have had sufficient for our needs.

We were warned in a blessing, and when I was called to Chaplaincy, that it would be a hard year or so, and it has been.  Almost impossible.  Except the experience has strengthened our faith, drawn us closer together, and proven His promises to be true.

And we have been happy, in spite of it all.


Even when we experience normal first world problems, like knowing braces on teeth are about to be added to all the braces on legs around here.


Isn’t she beautiful?

Clothing six little ones, or feeding all eight of us, much less coming up with medical expenses or making up the money from time off work for all the hospitalizations – it is scary, sometimes, because we are weak and can’t see the answers – but we know they will come.

I read that today, too, the next verses that quote my patriarchal blessing:


Angels are sometimes those who have gone before us, and sometimes those who haven’t yet been born.

But most often, they are you and me, for each other.

Know what angels give my children?

Hugs. 

And lessons in grace, and mercy, and love.

Safe environments in which to play freely.

Social skills, lessons in conquering challenges, and natural consequences.

Like lessons in why we don’t kiss the skunks that live at the temple.


Angels are helping to raise my girls into strong women with fierce spirits and good boundaries, but hearts full of compassion and gratitude.

Angels are helping to raise my boys into wise and thoughtful young men, who are both strong and gentle, who are kind to others, and who serve others before themselves.


Angels surround us, temporally and spiritually, cheering us on as we experience the atonement increase our capacity to do good and grow closer to our Heavenly Father and each other.


 And the temple reminds us we are not alone.

We have each other.

And that’s the whole point.

Happiness.

Delightsome Days

I loved today.  And yesterday, for that matter.

Kirk got new braces this morning:

I got to cook for them all day,  and had plenty of helpers:


We got to sort and pack school supplies while Kyrie had her nap:

They are so excited!  I can’t believe how fast they are growing.  We have three third graders:

And two kindergarteners:

And one Cat in the Hat:

It is a relief to have all their school supplies, and have them all enrolled and ready to go.

Alex even got to see his PreK teacher!

We’ve had other surprises, like getting to use a gift card for pizza yesterday:

There’s a lot we don’t know, that would be easy to be anxious about.

We don’t know if the children will really all get to go to school together, because of special services programming.

We don’t know how we will come up with travel money for another surgery week all the way in Cincinnati, or pay bills for being off work again, or cover all the extra expenses while not being able to work.

We don’t know if I will get to keep my job for being off work again for Kyrie, and then also having to be in Utah to speak at the end of next month.

We don’t know where we will host the “bake sale” fundraiser a friend wants to throw us the evening of the 18th, or if anyone will come, or if anyone will participate.

We don’t know how Kyrie will do in surgery.

We don’t know what Kirk did with four pairs of new glasses.

We don’t know how to write eighty thousand books while running nonprofit group homes while having day jobs while caring for the children.

We do know, though, that we love each other.  We know our family is a source of happiness, even on days full of chaos and excitement.  We know we will miss the children when they go to school, but that it will be a glorious send off into the practice of mortality – even a necessary step of development.

We know who our Father is, and that He is our God, and that He will help us accomplish what He has asked us to do.

We know our power comes from the atonement, and from keeping temple covenants, and that our little efforts will be blessed beyond measure.

We know that this season of challenges has been used as seeds for a myriad of purposes, all of which are part of His design and so consecrated even though brought to pass through our small and simple efforts.

We know that the priesthood is real, and we know the words of our blessings are continuing to unfold, and we know we have been promised angels who will help and provide and protect and comfort us – and we know you are those angels.

I loved this day, and yesterday, my time with my family and time to rest and time to love.

I know every moment counts, and I am glad I haven’t missed a second of it.

Of that, I can be sure.

Today was delightful, and I was happy.

Wish Lists and Miracles

Our youngest boy, who is now five, has had a rough week since his last visit with biological family.  We used to be able to leave him in his own little spot or let him take an extra nap, and he would be able to calm down on his own – as long as no one was around to baby him or pay attention, since that was related to the underlying issue of family who gave him sugar (literally) for crying or acting upset.  That’s a hard behavior to extinguish!  

But this week, that just wasn’t cutting it, and his behavior was different than in the past.  So we talked to him about it, and he is old enough to use words this time.  He said that it wasn’t like before, where he was scared or having bad dreams or anxious because of thinking he might have to go back to his other family. 

This time, he said, its backwards. Like in the mirror.  This time I am just sad because I missed you all those hard years before I found you.  I didn’t have you when I was a baby like Kyrie is.

How heart-breaking is that?

Also, that’s straight up direct communication – and an authentic need for nurturing expressed, which is very different than extinguishing a behavior.

So we tried something new this week, and while a bit regressive developmentally, he was legitimately exploring it.  So when he expressed sadness for his little baby self, we did what we had to do: we swaddled him.

Nathan has swaddled him every night now at bedtime for a week, and the fits have stopped.  He is happy again, and we are having positive interactions, and he is much more grown up.  We have our Barrett back!

On the opposite extreme is our toddler who is no longer a baby,  and who will not cuddle unless it is her idea!

She will, however, act out her babyhood with her own dolls and pink hat.

Kyrie is doing well, as far as recovering from her gtube surgery.  She will have another follow up in a couple weeks, but we are on top of the granulation tissue.  Here is the BEST PLACE TO GET THE SOFTEST g-tube pads, for those asking where to get her some more.  These are our favorites!  

There are lots of sites we have tried online, and we still have some to sample that have been sent to us.  But so far, these are BY FAR the best.  They are so soft, and so smooth, and they edges aren’t too finished. It’s what is working for Kyrie, anyway. We love these the most. She goes through three to five a day, so we need lots!  Here she is with a Batman one, because she loves the Batman song (as learned from her brothers) and because my team at the hospital is called the “BAT” (Behavioral Assessment Team) team because we respond to emergencies.

Kirk’s book has been a huge hit, so he is super proud!  Mary’s book has just been approved, and we are excited to release hers.  We are needing books purchased as donations for waiting children whose families are not able to buy them, and right now have a matching grant that helps.  Thanks to those who are helping spread the word!

Alex and I have begun outlining his book on autism, and Anber and Barrett are still duking it out over which one is doing foster care and which one is doing adoption.  They are so funny!

If that hasn’t been fun enough, look at this text we just got from a friend!  We are on Audible now!


And then, and then, and then!

The first two volumes of my Book of Mormon commentaries dropped as eBooks on Amazon, iBooks, etc tonight!


That’s a lot of excitement these last few weeks!

If that were not exciting enough, our group home project is coming along… today we took the children to play at our old house while we measured the rooms exactly.  It’s so exciting to be moving forward!

Accomplishing such a big thing in the community really depends on the community, though.  We will be needing help with donations of twin beds, twin mattresses, kitchen items, and other things soon.  We will share a wish list in coming weeks, but please keep us in mind as you have those final garage sales and clean out your extra spaces as kids go off to college this fall!  We also need help with a day of service with some yard work and putting up a new wall in the house, if someone could help us organize that.

And then, quite unexpectedly, with all that good news came a bit of a scare. 

The hospital called and said Kyrie can’t wait and we need to be in Cincinnati by the first of September, which we were not expecting at all.

We thought we had two more months to raise those funds, and now need it faster than anything.  There’s no time for Nathan’s dinner theater fundraiser, and we are scrambling to see where to squeeze in the bake sale.  Nathan is working furiously right now as the children are in bed and I am at work, just to get the g-tube book editing finished and ready for publishing, but it may be too late for even that to help.  We have four weeks!  This is the month I only get $450 on both paychecks because of being off for Kyrie’s surgery, and now we have to come up with the travel money and be off work again – just weeks before I have to be off to speak to the chaplains and military leaders and authorities after conference in Salt Lake.  We just did an online fundraiser for gtube supplies and hate to ask again, though we might have to – any ideas on what else we can do?  We are trying so hard!  And everyone has helped us so much!

We even had these two boxes of gtube formula on our doorstep the other day, which will feed Kyrie for two weeks!

It’s amazing!  Her food cost about $200 a week, so this was a miracle to us!  Thank you!

From fundraisers to book sales to group home service, we are so grateful for so much support from so many.  It is your sharing and helping and serving and giving that is saving lives and changing the world, one child at a time.  Really.  Thank you.

We are a mess our family, creating more messes the more we try to help.

But consecration is messy.

Acting in faith is messy.

Giving all you have is messy.

But it’s worth it.

Every life, every family, every smile.

Promises and Provision

It is 2am, and I am cross-eyed and exhausted.

I woke this morning planning to swim with the children, but discovering a rainy day that left me slow and quilt-craving all day.  We spent the morning playing chess and doing puzzles until deciding that a rainy day was holiday enough to make homemade tacos.  Then I had to pull myself away from the house at two in the afternoon to work until 11pm tonight.

Now I have spent the last three hours approving edits on the final proofs of Mary’s book.  This is our next children’s book, and it’s her book about learning language.   It’s a tricksy thing to write a book about deafness and cochlear implants because of the clash between cultures, and a tricksier thing to write a book about that when you didn’t get into foster care until you were five but you aren’t writing a foster care story.  But I think we have pulled it off the best we can.

And it’s in Mary’s words, which is most important.

It’s her story, and no one can argue about that.

And she loves all the pictures of herself, naturally.

So finally, that one is finally done and ready for Nathan publishing.  Whew.

Cross that off the list, even while we wait for Kirk’s book to finally drop on Amazon.

The next book is Kyrie’s G-Tube book, just because the toddler books go more quickly, and I finished my part on that tonight and inserted the pictures Kyrie chose.

Now Nathan will edit it and also work on the cover art, and it will go for proofing next.

The children are just so excited now that Kirk’s book came out, which was somehow more real to them than Kyrie’s ABC book, and so now they are all clamoring for their turns.  We have each book outlined and in process, but we can only do one at a time!   But we are pushing through – partly because the demand is so high, and partly because I need my part of these books finished before the group home work starts snowballing.

Because I promised.

And because the children really, really, really want to tell their stories.

They are super excited, and uber adorable.

And I am in awe at the lives they are touching, and the children and families they are helping!

I am so grateful, after so many have helped us so much, to finally be able to have a turn helping others.

Oh!  Oh!  Oh!   And we have a huge opportunity for that!

We found out tonight that we received an offer from a sponsor who will MATCH all donations of books to children and families, and we have collaborated with several groups to receive these donations: The Parker Lee Project (sends medical supplies to children in need), Ronald McDonald House, foster and/or adoptive families, and special needs children and families.  This is amazing!  We have such a waiting list for children who want copies of our books but their families cannot get them because they are as overwhelmed by medical expenses as we are, and this will give us a way to send the books to these families for free… and for agencies like The Parker Lee Project and Ronald McDonald House and some local foster agencies to pass out the books as well.  When people donate books, 100% of the money will be used directly for donating books directly to these waiting children and families.  This is huge!  It’s a wonderful gift, and we are so grateful.

People giving to us so that we can give to others… it feels so very Acts chapter two, so very Zion-ish.

CLICK ON THE RED BOX on our book page to see how to donate, or share the link so that we can spread the word!

… and now, as ye are desirous … and are willing to bear one another’s burdens,
that they may be light;

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn;
yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,…

And now when the people had heard these words,
they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed:

This is the desire of our hearts.

~ Mosiah 18:8-11

 

Also sleep.  Sleep is good.  Even if tomorrow is on its way.