Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sum-Sum-Summertime


On our way to camp!
   The   Victory Junction Gang Camp  is a local camp started by Richard Petty to allow children with complicated medical needs to have the experience of going to camp.  Click on the link and you will see what a top rate camp it is.  It is like a Disney resort.  And they have so many sponsors and so many activities.  And it is all designed for disabled children.  There is a water park, horses, bowling alley, miniature golf, zip lining, hot air balloon, arts and crafts, a building full of automatic cars and games, fishing, and several other games and activities.  All kids are encouraged to participate in everything to the extent that they are comfortable.  

When Miciaiah's  social worker first recommended the camp, we were interested.  We had heard of the camp before because some of Canaan's friends had volunteered there.  They offer camp weeks for various special needs, with a different group of special needs at each camp.  As I started reading it over, I saw that there was a week for those on kidney dialysis, and a week for those with spina bifida, but they were different weeks.  Micaiah has so many diagnoses that I assumed they would not be able to take a case as complicated as his.  They also do not take any children with cognitive levels under the age of six, and that would also be a problem.  So I did not pursue it further, even though we all really wanted to have him go.

Then when we went for his monthly dialysis clinic, his nephrologist asked if he was going and I explained to her why not.  She told us that she was going to be there the whole time and would personally see that he was taken care of.  She encouraged us so much, that we did sign him up to go.  

I explained it to Micaiah the best I could.  But how to explain such a concept to him?  He had no context for understanding it.  We just had to trust that once he was there he would enjoy himself.  I showed him some videos of the camp online, and it was enough that he was very excited about going.  The picture above is us on the way to camp.
 


 Because of all the medical issues, the check in process takes about three hours.  And as much as they talk about camp "week", it is not a week.  It is three days and four nights.  It is a lot of preparation for such a short time.  Micaiah was very happy to be there, and enjoyed touring the various buildings and the whole afternoon.  He even enjoyed going to the dorm room, which was an awesome set up with a great group of counselors.   And then with a big smile he asked me, "We go home now?"  So, sigh... he didn't understand after all.  I told him we would be back Thursday morning to get him, and he looked a little horrified and his eyes filled with tears.  But we had to trust our instincts, and our doctors and friends who had experience with the camp.  Sure enough, when I called on Tuesday they told us he was having a blast and was one of the most popular kids at the camp.  And when we picked him up he was very happy, said he had a great time, and wants to go back again.



Here Micaiah is meeting the horses.  He did not feel comfortable in doing many of the activities like horse riding, but he enjoyed watching others do things, and he enjoyed meeting the horses.  He did go swimming, and he made several crafts, and caught three fish.



 Here he met Richard Petty and tried on his hat.  To the right behind him, the guy who looks like Godwin from Duck Dynasty... actually IS Godwin from Duck Dynasty.  He was visiting the camp that week, which many of the campers were delighted about, and my other kids were impressed about, and of course, Micaiah had no context whatsoever of knowing him from Adam.  But it was kind of cool nonetheless. 







 Kiki's 6th Birthday!



 Well Kiki really knew a lot about birthdays this year, and was really looking forward to her it!  She was very excited and seemed to understand that she is six now.



 Kiki's favorite animal is a lion, so Hannah threw this together for her.

















 For some reason, Levi has a real rapport with Kiki.  The both love to play with each other.  I guess they are both kind of on the same level and like to do the same things.  Maybe he doesn't feel intimidated by her.  Who knows why but they really like each other and it is sweet. 



 School's Out!



 Levi attended the Newcomers' School here in Greensboro from about February until school ended mid June.  There was a little ceremony for the kids.  Look at that proud smile as Levi accepts his certificate!  

All the children at the Newcomers' School are children who have been in the country for less than a year, and they are allowed to attend the school for one year in an effort to prepare them for transition to regular school.  The concentration is on learning English and American customs and school routines.  I was thoroughly impressed with the school and with the teachers, especially Levi's wonderful, insightful, compassionate, and caring teacher, Ms. Terrell.  She seemed to really understand the nuances of Levi and was able to give him the most ideal introduction to school that I could have hoped for.  Levi just loved her.  

Levi would qualify to go for the fall semester, except due to his special needs it was decided that he would be transitioned into a regular school with a class that will more directly address his special needs.  For those who are not aware, Levi had never attended school up until now.  He was given the best possible beginning to school, setting a foundation for building on in August when he starts school again.  We are very thankful. 







 Levi's teacher would keep him near her.  I know he took a lot of extra work, but she always took care of his extra needs like he was her own.  I know she did a lot of things for him that she did not have to do and went above and beyond the call of duty for him.  This is what real teachers are made of. 




 More Levi.  Hannah is showing Levi a little snake that the kids found in the back yard.  He had no fear and thought is was pretty cool.  It probably helped that none of my kids show any fear of any animals, snakes, lizards, frogs, and not even most bugs.  I'll give you three guesses where they got that from, and I'm not one of the guesses. 







 Levi LOVES all things water.  We discovered that the first time he saw a bathtub in the Ukraine.  I never saw such a delighted child over a bathtub full of water.  I could hardly get him to come out again!  I knew that once it got warm enough, he would love the pool we put up each year.  Well we finally got the pool up, but while we were putting it up, Kiki and Laz and Levi all played in some storage containers with a hose, and you would have thought they were at Wet N Wild.  They were having so much fun! 



 Not sure if you can see it, but Levi is just laughing and laughing while he splashed away.




 We always let the kids get in the pool as we start to fill it up, and they slide around, and smooth out the wrinkles on the bottom.  I love this photo; look at Isaac's shadow!



And my anticipation for seeing Levi get in the pool was well rewarded!  He was elated!  The first time he got in, he stayed in for probably four hours, and that's without any pool toys because I hadn't gotten them out yet.  He was all pruney and exhausted but he loved every minute of it.




 My happy little quirky guy. 




 And oh how we all miss Canaan!  But he still comes over regularly, and he was happy to jump into the pool and throw the kids in the air.



 

 




Micaiah has been improving quite a bit.  He is showing more interest (sometimes toleration) of the other kids.  He has become much more pleasant and is learning to be kind and polite.  I think he is feeling a lot better, and understanding more about being in a family.  He has started to show more motivation and cooperation and interest in learning to do things on his own.  These sound like small things, but they are really huge strides.  His previous behaviors were causing such frustration as I struggled to  know how to deal with them.  While there is still a long way to go with him, and his care continues, and will always continue, to be a lot of work, we are definitely seeing significant improvements in several areas.  I admit that part of it is in adjusting my own attitudes and expectations as well.  This is no small thing either.  When everything is so vastly different from what you expected and were prepared for, there is a great amount of adjustment in many ways  We appreciate your continued prayers for him and us.



 Before, Micaiah had no interest in being on the floor, or being with the younger kids.  He willingly sits with them now, and enjoys being in other places besides just his wheelchair.  I think he is learning that it is not so scary to get out of his chair.  His confidence is improving, and as a result, he is finding he can enjoy more things.



 While we had told the guys at his orphanage that he would Skype them once home, with all of his hospital stays and other situations, it is only this past week that we were able to set it up.  The boys there were delighted to talk with him and he talked to them for a long time.  I remembered all the boys and it made me smile to see them again.  Micaiah talked to them about many things, and from time to time would break into English without realizing it, and it was really funny. 






So with Canaan moving out, we had to make some room changes.  Canaan was in the room with Micaiah and Levi, but without Canaan there to supervise, we quickly found out that this was not an ideal situation.  So after much thought, we ended up moving Silas and Isaac and Laz from the forest room and down into the big bonus room with Levi.  Then we moved Micaiah into the forest room to have as his own.  This has worked out great.  For one thing, the presence of Isaac and Silas in Levi's room has caused him to calm down quite a bit at night and there have been no more night time antics.  He realizes there is accountability now, and he also can cue off of the Silas and Isaac for appropriate behavior.  Laz is happy to be in a big boy bed with the boys now.  And Micaiah was  thrilled to have a room to himself.  Now we can spread out and store his many medical supplies without worrying about anyone messing with them, and he can go up and go to bed early (as he likes) and start his dialysis and close the door and not be bothered.  It has worked out very well.  But now we see that there is a blank spot on the wall where the bunk beds were, so I may need to add a few animals over the summer!




 The built in shelves are great for storing his many supplies, and the drawers of the dresser are all filled with medical supplies as well.



 This is less than a month's worth of dialysis supplies.  As you can see, he can use the extra room!



And my Ruby loves to keep me company as I clean up everything each morning and set up dialysis for the next night.  She loves to curl up on the dialysis machine because it is warm.





I had to laugh as I looked at the answering machine and had to admit, 51 messages is not unusual for us anymore.  Between all the doctors and pharmacies leaving messages and schools leaving messages, I spend time almost every day returning calls, fighting with Blue Cross and the pharmacies, and arranging and rearranging our many appointments.  Just another day on the river in our house.


And speaking of upcoming appointments, Eden is scheduled for her next surgery July 9th, if I have not already mentioned it.  She has a very important surgery on her mouth.  I am apprehensive about it because it is so important and she has already been through so much.



So this is the summer so far at our house.  We have one more family birthday before we are done for birthdays for this year.  The IEP kids have been out of school for two weeks now and it is really a daily challenge to find enough things for them to do.  The first four are not a problem as I continue to homeschool them and can assign them things to do or give them activities, but the other four take a lot of one on one supervision and guidance.  I wish there were four of me to do all that I would like to do with them.  I still contend that summer vacation is one of the most ridiculous, counter-productive concepts in society today.  It is not good for education or for the child or for really much of anything at all.  We do it because that's how it's always been done, and that's never a good reason to do anything.  But this is how it is, and I have three school kids who would go back to school tomorrow if they could; they love school.  You can guess which of the four would just as soon stay home.  :-)    

Canaan and Candice have been married a month so far, and are loving being newlyweds.  I, as expected, am not nearly as thrilled to adjust to them being gone, but I am thankful they are so close by and so happy.  These things take time, and I will get used to it.  Maybe...  


..

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Wedding

The Preparations




 One thing I loved about this wedding was how Candice wanted it to involve the whole family.  From the proposal to the reception, the kids were involved.  While she certainly could have done some of these things more quickly herself, she wanted them all to be a part of it and remember being a part of it.  Here she has them painting the wood for the game booths.  They also helped with the make the decorations and flowers. 




 These will be fond memories.  All of us painting signs together for the big day.












 These are the signs I painted.






The Rehearsal




 It was a beautiful day.  We all met in our back yard to rehearse.







 I loved having a houseful of friends and family.



The Rehearsal Dinner




 Since the wedding had a carnival theme, we chose Darryl's for the rehearsal dinner.  Here Candice, Canaan, Candice's sister Nicole, and Canaan's friend Chris are all sitting in a Ferris wheel seat.




Silas, Kiki, Levi, Laz and Isaac.




Marcus (groomsman), Stephanie (Canaan's friend from his days at Moe's), Tyler (another Moe's friend and Stephanie's fiance), MK (Josh's fiancee), and Josh (the best man, again, met at Moe's).  




 Granny (Art's mother from Florida), Robert (Candice's father from California), Grandpa Buckley (Robert's dad), Maggie, Eden, and Regina (more later about Regina!)



 Grandpa and Grandma Thomas (my parents from Florida), me, and my sister Loron (from Ontario).



 Art, Micaiah, Harley and Marilyn (two of my sister's kids from Ontario.  We missed you Jess!)



 Darryl's is an eclectic restaurant.  In addition to the carnival type theme, there was also a jail theme going on.  Not sure how they relate, but they give tours for kids and the kids get to dress up as prisoners and be in jail.  There is a part of the restaurant where people can sit in jail to eat. 



 Eden was trying to make a sad face because she was in jail.







 The Wedding Morning





 They rented a U-Haul to bring everything up to the venue.




 The venue was a beautiful place in Stokesdale called the Longhouse.  The wedding was outside, and thankfully, the weather was perfect. 




 I made the 300 flags for the bunting out of scrap fabric I had in my garage.  I really wish I had had my camera when we were hanging it up because Hannah was up in the tree climbing all over it just like when she was a little girl. 






















 Getting Dressed




 Chris tied Silas's bow tie.  How sweet is this?




 My friend Regina.  Oh my.  What would I have done without her?  I mean seriously!  A few months ago as we were talking about wedding plans, we discussed how we really needed someone (or someones!) to help out with all the behind the scenes stuff and taking care of the kids etc.  With my special needs kids, and all the things needed to do for the reception, like putting out drinks, keeping food platters filled, etc., I just didn't see how I could do all of that and still see/enjoy the wedding, plus be able to talk with guests.  We bounced around a lot of ideas.  Then we had the idea that maybe if we could fly my friend Regina down from New York that she might be willing to help out.  

I met Regina online several years ago, right after we brought home Silas.  Her daughter has the same basic health issues as Silas, and she has been a few months ahead of Silas in treatments and surgeries all along.  We connected briefly about our kids, and then lost contact for a bit.  Then my other good friend Gina reintroduced us and we hit it off.  Regina is an awesome, funny, strong, compassionate, wise, gracious and wonderful woman.  She has 18 children, 9 adopted.  She can handle a houseful of people in her sleep with one hand tied behind her back.  But with a houseful of kids even busier than mine, would she be able and willing to come down and help out for the wedding?  She said yes!

And oh my, did she help.  I can't even list all the things she did for us.  It was so over and beyond all that I was hoping.  Not only did she help with the kids and the arrangements during the wedding and reception, she also did the girls' hair for the wedding, helped kids get dressed, put children on the potty numerous times, folded laundry, did dishes, conversed with family and friends when there just wasn't enough of me to go around, organized, supervised, took care of kids, encouraged me and gave me tips for my house, cooked, cleaned, ....where does it end?   I am just amazed and overwhelmed to have a friend who was willing to do so much for me.  If I had not had her, I can't even imagine how I could have done it all. Well I do know; I just couldn't have.  I am so thankful for her friendship.  I am thankful to her, and I am thankful to her husband and children who allowed her to come stay with us for six days!  
To the moon and back Regina Long!







 The Before Wedding Photos


 Marcus, Josh, Canaan, Tyler, Chris



Add Silas and the picture automatically becomes awesome. I love this one. 












 Kelly, Maggie, Candice, Nicole, Hannah









 Micaiah, Isaac, Silas, Eden, Candice, Kiki, Maggie, Levi, Laz






First Look

























 I didn't see this until I saw the photos later and was really touched.  When Canaan took Candice's hand, Candice asked Silas to come over and pray for them before the wedding. <3





 Methinks he approves!























































The Ceremony










 




































The flower girls tossed popcorn as they walked down the aisle.










And during the ceremony, Kiki stood there munching on it.





 

 Isaac took his job very seriously.





 Art officiated.  He took his job very seriously too.

















 




















































So of course there are some shots that I missed.  You can't be everywhere at once.  If anyone got a picture of Maggie and Silas coming down the aisle together, let me know.  I'd love a copy.





The Reception

























 



 Dancing








 
















































































































 

 Isaac doing the worm.

























   





  





  




 Eats


 

 Shaved ice truck was a hit!


 




















S'mores and hot dogs over the fire pit.


 










All the kids loved the "candy bar".  



Cupcakes from Maxi B's.  Fresh strawberry, vanilla, red velvet, and pink lemonade.



 Cutting the cake.







 

















 I'm framing this one!



















Candy cigarettes.





































































































Throwing the Bouquet









Well somebody was motivated!













































sigh....











When I saw this picture of me laughing, I was not surprised to see that I was talking to my friend Marilyn from Florida.















































I can't decide which version of this picture I like best!




Mr. and Mrs. Hadley coming from Florida was a surprise for Canaan and a treat for us all.  Our families have known each other since Canaan was a baby and Marilyn was my homeschooling mentor.  We lived in the same neighborhood and also went to the same church for a number of years. 




My twins.



"Mathematical!"







The supper ofchampions:  cupcakes, candy, watermelon on a stick and Coca-Cola.





Instead of rice or birdseed, we threw colorful sprinkles (aka jimmies).








A groomsman holding two cups full of sprinkles behind his back...






Canaan with two cups full of sprinkles in his pants.






And they lived happily ever after.

So happy for a wonderful day of family and friends, old and new, and love overflowing.  So happy to see my son so happy, and to gain a daughter that we all love.  Not so happy about the empty space in my house with them gone, but this is what we work for all these years, isn't it?  So blessed and honored and and privileged and thankful to God to be a part of it all.  


Luke 2:19 "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." 



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