Monday, December 31, 2007

Be Careful When God Kisses Your Hand

Public life can be very interesting when one of your children is missing body parts that people don't think can possibly be missing. Quickly we learned with our oldest daughter that questions and comments would arise, and, thankfully, we had 6 months or so to fumble through our answers as she was still learning English.

There were, of course, rude and insensitive questions. Those, thankfully, have died out, and I can only assume that as she grew older and more out spoken people became ashamed to ask such questions. However, there's one assumption that continues to drive me nuts, and that is the assumption that because I am a Christian I believe that "God made" my girls "that way."

First of all, I might ask, what exactly is "that way"? Of course, people debate over how much of our bodies are currently personalized design and how much is part of the greater design pattern that God set in motion when he created life. But even if you subscribe to the idea that God is personally designing each and every individual at the point of conception, then doesn't "that way" seem somewhat derogatory?

In addition to that, if I believe that life begins at conception, then how is a disability that forms after conception different than something that happens to a person's body after birth? And if I believe, in my far-out radical thinking, that my children existed in the eternal before their genetic material came into being then wouldn't any genetic disabilities, once again, be something that happened after creation?

There was a woman whom I "met" on an e-list who had a daughter with cleft hands -- hands that are missing three fingers with the remaining two forming a "v" shape. She loved to talk about how she would tell her daughter how special she was because God made her hands so special. That in itself bothers me because I don't like defining my girls life and purpose by their disabilities. But, she went even further. Those clefts were where God kissed her hands.

Okay, so did He nibble the fingers off when he kissed? Eek. I don't want him kissing me if that's the case! Or perhaps on the grand reunion day I should ask if he's eaten lunch before allowing myself a hug and kiss.

Another one that drives me nuts is when well meaning people tell my daughter that "God needed her arm in heaven." Was there something He couldn't reach on a really high shelf? Did He lose His? And, if so, wouldn't it have been better if He kept the arm of a really tall guy with long arms rather than a little girl? Considering the vast number of people missing various limbs, if you follow that thinking, then He's got himself quite a collection up there.

It amazes people, but we tell our daughters they have different bodies because, well, sometimes that happens.

Sometimes people are born with 1 arm
Sometimes people are born with two different length legs.
Sometimes people are born with 4 fingers and missing radial bones.
Sometimes people are born with arthrogryposis.
Sometimes people are born bald (but not my kids).
Sometimes people are born with blue eyes.
Sometimes people are born ornery (not naming any names).

It just happens. What you're born with or without is neither good nor bad, it's just simply the way it is. God allowed them to be born with the disabilities they have, yes, but he didn't create those disabilities. He's far too good to purposefully strike any innocent child with something that is such a great loss. But He didn't just stop with allowing the disabilities, He allowed them so He could use them to make something beautiful and good. So, now where people saw a thorn bush, a sweet myrtle tree will grow.

God did knit together our daughters in their birth mothers' wombs. He knit their delicate minds, their inquisitive thoughts, their insights, their humor, their gifts and talents. He created beautiful beings that were designed to glorify Him, then he placed them into a creation that was long ago corrupted by sin. That sin began to effect their lives before they were ever born. And, the pain from the corruption didn't stop with birth, it was compounded when they were abandoned and placed in state-run orphanages.

But then God redeemed what the corrupted creation had done to them and made it beautiful. He sent loving caregivers who prayed for them, and saw the eternal value He had created in them. Then He called us to be their parents and to nurture and love that eternal value until that, not the disability, began to show. In what was a beautiful act of creation, He turned those disabilities into monuments of His Glory, differences that they can be proud to display.

I just don't want to short-change my girls on the truth, because the truth is just so good, so much better than answering them with some kind of Hallmark sentiment that doesn't even begin to address the deeper questions.

In the book "Disabling America", author Greg Perry, born, inexplicably, with "a total of 3 fingers and 1 leg", describes his conversion to Christianity and his view of his handicap:

"Growing up, I was churched but never saved which is somewhat like going to public school but never getting an education. One night I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. What a waste my life would've been without Him: full of success on earth, overcoming perceived odds, all to be counted as loss in the end. When the children of fellow Christians ask me why my hands are the way they are, their parents tell them, "That's the way God made him." I gently correct those adults and say, "Actually, it's due to man's sin that these kinds of problems exist, but someday I'll have a new body." (That's a promise hat no governmental regulation can provide, especially those that offer people false salvation like the ADA)."

Now that's hope, and hope is much better, in my ever-humble (not!) opinion, than sentimentality.

Isaiah 61:3

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

More on the Bibles

According to Zondervan Publishers, the Average American owns nine Bibles and is actively in the market for more, while the average third-world village does not own a single Bible.

So, why would Zondervan be so concerned with us buying more Bibles -- unless of course it was so we could donate them. In that case wouldn't the $7 Bibles be better so we could donate more?

Hmmm... good question I might say....

Also, Look who now owns beliefnet, a website that is riddled with new age garbage (like Chicken Soup for th Soul) and other spirituality and has a bit of Biblical Christianity mixed in. I think of it as Oprah meets Barney Fife and Tim LaHaye.

Who do we want feeding our spiritual lives?

The B- I - B - L -E! That's the Book for ... Greater Profits?

The original scribes of the Bible may have been inspired by God. Their modern-day successors? They find inspiration in vacuum cleaners, polka-dot bedspreads and a slick, hot-pink Juicy Couture purse.

This all may sound a bit irreverent. But consider it from the Bible publisher's point of view: How do you sell a really old book that 91% of households already have?
-- LA Times


This may sound a bit irreverent, but are these guys nuts?

Apparently, the Bible marketers from Zondervan, have been sitting in what they call their "Bible Bunker" figuring out how to make God's word more marketable. They look at the latest trends in appliances, accessories and such and then transfer those styles into faux leather, and, voila, a new marketable Bible.

It certainly is thrilling to be a Christian in this country.

According to the L.A. Times, it is still possible to buy a standard, plain black Bible for a mere $7, but, then if that's all that people did, where would the Christian publishing industry be? Certainly not at the $770million dollar sales that Zondervan took in last year.

Of course, I'm willing to bet that the same number of people would have Bibles, the profit just wouldn't be so great. However, if your purpose is just to sell as many Bibles as possible, then its not the number of people who own (and read) Bibles that matter, it's the number of Bibles sold. Obviously, we, or perhaps they, are much better off when we buy the $35 stylized Bibles they sell.

The really funny thing is that there are people comparing these guys to Martin Luther and William Tyndale. They are making the Bible more accessible.

WOW! And, I thought that Tyndale and Luther made the Bible more accessible through translation, language and doctrine rather than by adding a snazzy cover or marketing to a niche crowd (like surfers...).

But, these bastions of inclusion, in an effort to make God's word "more accessible" have come up with many new Bibles including, (and no, I'm not kidding about this) a Bible for Sorority Rush. So, as you send your young daughter off to the life of drinking, sex and who-knows-what-else, they can carry a copy of the Bible in their sorority's colors -- but, apparently only if you're a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

"There is a line, because it's God's word," VP Scharp (Vice President of Bible Sales for Zondervan) told the LA Times. But then later he confessed, "It's hard to draw the line in any one place and say, 'We're never going to cross that." Apparently so.

The really crazy, or maybe possibly sad/funny or befuddling, thing is that these guys think that it's their marketing that's selling the Bible. It almost appears that they think God's Word would die out if they didn't market it in colors that co-ordinated with Jenni's new outfit or cool enough to be in the arms of a cool band member.

How much would you be willing to bet that the vast majority of Zondervan's sales are to people who already own a Bible? Why would you have to up the ante with some new marketing scheme unless you are selling Bibles to people who don't need another?

Are we really trusting these people with the precious Word of God?

But, in the words of Zondervan's own, I'll close my epistle of foolishness:

"If you put chocolate coating on an Oreo, it's a different cookie, and you ought to be able to charge more," Caminiti argues. "The packaging has to scream that this is something really new: First time! Fudge-dipped! Chocolate-coated!"

Todd Niemeyer, vice president of sales, chuckles and murmurs, "Smoke and mirrors."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good Food, Great Entertainment and a Bit of Mystery: Christmas Dinner at the Old Folks Home

For Christmas, our family went to visit my parents. My parents live in an extremely nice retirement community that consists of a section of villas (where they live), a clubhouse, and an additional building that's both independent living and a nursing home. The community boarders on a large state park.

All those factors combined make visiting Grandma and Grandpa a true adventure to my children, and this time it was even more so.

On Christmas eve, we were invited to a Christmas Brunch at the Independent Living Center. Since it was a potluck buffet brunch, my youngest son (who must have a hollow leg he eats so much) was especially excited. The more variety the better, in his opinion.

Our older son, however, is a different story.

First, of all, he's 11. That, in itself, says a lot. I've figured out that having an 11-year-old boy is probably the number one source of gray hair in our nation. Monday morning proved it.

The brunch was held in a beautiful dining room in the center. After navigating our youngest daughter through the sea of elderly people -- remember, she's driving her own wheelchair -- we arrived at our table. Tables had been reserved according to the number of guests people were bringing. Since there were 11 of us, there were two tables reserved for our group. We placed the three big kids at one table, and the rest of us sat at the other (yes, that was intentional on our part).

When it was time to start, the lady leading the brunch announced that the tables would be called by number. My three big kids looked for the number at their table.

Total terror filled their eyes (especially my youngest son). There was no number on the table. Certainly no number meant no brunch! Of course, they were going to the buffet when our table number was called, but that wasn't apparent to them.

There was no need for son #2 to fear, though, because the 11-year-old instantly slipped into his alter ego: Lawyer/social advocate.

"Hey! We don't have a number!," His voice rising above the din, "That's not fair! What are we supposed to do?!!!"

That fire was quickly put out by my husband. However, the family lawyer soon found another reason to raise the alarm. He has a severe food allergy to tree nuts and shell fish, and nothing on the table had ingredients listed.

"I can't eat any of this food because I don't know the ingredients!"

"I think you can safely assume there's no shellfish in any of it, " I replied, noting our current geographical location (a good thousand miles from the sea).

"Yes, but I don't know about nuts." He replied.

"Well, I know alot about nuts." I responded, but it went over his head.

After that, things went pretty swimmingly. Until the first nose bleed.

"Where's the bathroom?" the 11-year-old asked. So, Dad and he went off to find a bathroom. About 10 minutes later, when Dad's food had pretty much hit room temperature, they returned.

"We don't have any Vaseline for my nose" the 11-year-old told me (mom hint: Vaseline works great to prevent a nosebleed from returning).

"So," my husband said, " We'll be headed out again, I'm sure."

"Hey! What's this?" Asked the 11-year-old as he picked up a packet of papers left by his plate.

"We're going to have a carol sing." I replied, with a smile that I hoped would induce some enthusiasm.

His eyes widened as he flipped through the packet.

"Mom, there are 30 songs in here!"

"I'm sure we won't sing them all." I responded.

Just at that moment, the song leader got up.

"We'll start with number 1 and then work out way thru. We won't sing all the verses of all the songs, just verse 1 and 2. And, kids, when we get to "Up on the House Top" I expect you all to come up and lead the audience in the motions."

Nosebleed number two.

As they headed out, I heard the 11-year-old whisper to his dad.

"Can we leave before #12?"

"What's #12?"

"Up on the House Top."

This trip took a while because they also looked for the nurse's station to see if she had any Vaseline. They returned with a tube of lip therapy which my son claimed he couldn't use because he didn't have a Q-tip. The excitement just doesn't end.

Well, we managed to hide the 11-year old during Up on the Housetop, and our younger son and oldest daughter did enjoy leading the audience in the motions -- which was pretty good considering that they didn't know the motions. Our oldest daughter also played "The First Noel"on the piano for the crowd, making me a pretty proud mom.

The excitement came to a head, though, when we got back to my parents place. A body had been found in a field near their home! A 91-year-old man, after presumably arguing with his fiancee, took a walk in the state park. Taking a short cut home he must have fallen or something and passed away in the field. The mystery has yet to be completely solved, but the events certainly support the idea that weddings sure can be stressful.

Several weeks ago my husband came home from work and told us about a patron of his that shared his secret for a great Christmas dinner.

"I have Christmas dinner at the hospital -- it's great food at a great price!"

And, I have to say, we did have a great Christmas brunch at the old folks home. I enjoyed the shellfish-free food, learned that there are some kind of nationally known motions to "Up on the Housetop", learned the 2nd and 3rd verses to "Up on the Housetop" (although I wonder how Little Nell can have a good Christmas when her brother, Will, is getting a ball and whip), and we probably provided entertainment for a large number of people.

And, once again, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's House appears to be an adventure!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here's a little Christmas cheer!

Happy Honda Days

There is a trend that I am currently finding very amusing, and that trend is the idea of giving your spouse a new car for Christmas.

It all started with Lexus. Several years ago, the Lexus geniuses decided that convincing people to buy a Lexus as a Christmas present would boost sales. They even made a big red bow -- which I have been told costs an extra $500 to purchase.

I guess that they really are marketing geniuses because they are making a lot of money, and the idea has now spread. On the car front, I've seen both a I've seen a Honda (which I would much rather own than a Lexus anyway) commercial and a Cadillac commercial.

The real idiots are the guys who are falling for the marketing. Although, I have a suspicion that, deep down, most men know that buying a new car falls in the category of "gifts I really want but by for someone else." I, personally, don't know too many women who want a new car for Christmas, but maybe I don't travel in all the right circles. While I don't know for any certainty about any other women out there, I do know what my reaction to a new car as a Christmas gift would be:

"YOU BOUGHT ME WHAT????!!! How much did this set us back? Our other car worked fine! How much is the insurance on that thing? What kind of gas mileage does it get? I don't want a monthly car payment! "

And, those questions would not be asked in a friendly voice...

Of course, as one store says, "This Christmas, don't just give a gift... grant a wish."

So, since I would never wish for a Lexus, here is my Christmas wish list, perhaps it could all be granted:

1) Naturally Brown Hair
2) Free Plumbers
3) A grocery store that delivers for free
4) My three year old to have a softer voice
5) My three year old to stop freaking out over "buggies"
6) Self washing laundry
7) Self cooking dinners
8) For Cincinnati to get real snow rather than the rain/sleet/snow/ice/mud we get
9) For a humidity-free August
10) My House to grow level and stair free

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another Great Video

Here is a great song about adoption -- both as an adoptive parents and also how God adopts us into his family. What a great picture of love.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Deb Fixes the Myths of Therapy

Our oldest daughter came to our home, despite multiple handicaps and a life spent in an orphanage, completely able to keep up with her peers. She could dress herself, feed herself and even handle the bathroom on her own.

So, of course, nearly every medical professional, teacher and child "specialist" we met with encouraged us to place her in therapy.

"You know, she would be able to have free occupational therapy through the state -- part of the early intervention program. Your public schools would have to pay for it." One well meaning teacher told me.

"Why?" I asked. "She can do everything at an age appropriate level."

"Yes, but, it's free and would help."

Now, I should've asked, "Help with what?" but I just let it drop.

Another problem that occurred to people was the fact that our daughter spoke "Russian". That's in quotes because she actually spoke Ukrainian, which is a different language than Russian, but I could never convince people of that.

So, people kept telling me (despite the fact that she was picking up English so fast she was speaking in full sentences within a couple months of coming home) that she needed speech therapy. Of course, our insurance didn't agree, so they weren't willing to pay for it. I ended up calling our local public school to see what speech services were available for 3 year olds.

"Oh yes," the school system lady told me, "she certainly needs therapy! You need to enroll her in our preschool and then she'll get the services she needs."

"What services?" I asked.

"She can be a part of our class which has a focus on language development."

"So, all the kids have language problems?"

"Most of them."

Okay, so to learn English, I am supposed to take her away from her well-spoken older brothers and immerse her in a classroom full of kids who have language problems? Oh, that's logical!

Incidentally, 5 years later, our daughter took the Stanford Achievement test and tested at the 95th percentile and higher in her language abilities. Drat! I wish I had taken them up on that "speech therapy"! Maybe she'd actually be equal with her peer group rather than ahead of most of them.

Thankfully, our next daughter avoided all that junk, probably because her differences are not very noticeable to onlookers since it is just some missing hand and arm parts.

But our youngest, the one that can't walk, she's gotten the fullest treatment. Not just therapy, not just intervention, but a life that should be structured around therapy: therapeutic preschool.

Now, apparently, our daughter "should've" been fitted for her power chair at 18 months. She wasn't adopted until she was nearly three (what can I say, we're slackers), so she was already "behind schedule". So, to really help her catch up here was the plan:

1) Have her fitted for a 300 lb power chair that she can use no where except therapeutic preschool
2) Enroll her in therapeutic preschool so she can use the chair

Now, I love the idea of taking a child out of an institution, putting her into a family, and then placing her in an institution! That's just great for promoting healthy attachment!

Not all therapy is a hoax, of course, but I am just amazed at how quickly these professionals are willing to categorize my children. Our middle daughter provides another example. When she was originally assessed after her adoption, upon looking at her file, the first thing the occupational therapist said was,

"Well, she's from Kazakhstan so were definitely looking at fetal alcohol syndrome."

Not, "there's a chance for fetal alcohol syndrome" or "she's at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome" but, "she's got it". How's that for racial profiling?!

By the way, she doesn't have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Perhaps her birth family, who were Kazak, not Russian, were Muslim and didn't drink? I don't know, but I do know that I could've started years of therapy for a disability she didn't have because someone made a judgement about her based upon where she was born!

Intervention, where needed, is a good thing. Intervention, when inappropriately applied, robs my children of time they should be spending having a childhood.

Are my husband and I the only people that are really looking out for our girls?

Of course, any intervention we seek for them doesn't line our pockets or give us job security... so perhaps that's why we question more.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Space Pen of Occupational Therapy

Tonight we took a trip to the zoo for the annual "Festival of Lights". We had a good time (we got there before the crowds started showing up), and our youngest really enjoyed the elephants, as evidenced by her non-stop chatter about them for the rest of the evening.

But, here's what is amazing to me: she enjoyed the zoo without use of a power wheelchair.

According to the therapist fitting her for the powerchair, the zoo is one of those places that she just can't keep up with other kids. Now, grant it, the therapist is right that she couldn't maneuver the manual chair around the zoo. However, as I pointed out to her in our conversation, I don't want our 3 year old running around the zoo on her own.

Well, last night proved it! I really wonder if this lady's ever tried keeping track of 5 kids in a huge crowd? I don't want more independence at a place like the zoo, I want the opposite! Has she even considered why wagons are so highly popular among mothers of preschoolers? In order not to lose them, I need 2 of the 5 confined!

Since both my husband and I were there last night, we didn't take the wagon, just our daughter's wheelchair. Our 5-year-old walked and held someone's hand. The three big kids just walked. I did wonder what some medical people would think about our oldest daughter, with the prosthetic leg, walking around the hilly zoo -- even though she despises the thought of using a wheelchair.

Halfway through our evening, I burst out laughing.

"Even besides the fact that we'd lose her if she was driving an electric chair," I told my husband, "She could never do one here!"

"I know," he replied, "too many injuries!"

The previous night, during our Sharon Woods fiasco, we visited the nature center. Using her manual chair, our daughter managed to bruise the legs of at least 10 or 12 people by bumping into them. Of course, in the manual chair, I can just reach out and stop her, as can the person being bumped. In the power chair, if you don't have access to the stop button, you're not stopping her.

Also, the entire evening would have been longer with the wheelchair, no less. In stead of walking out the front door, flipping the wheelchair into the hatch of the van, and driving off, we would have had to:

1) Get all the kids in the van
2) Carry our daughter out to the van
3) Walk down the rest of the driveway
4) Undo the combination chain lock on the driveway gate (it wraps around the bottom of the gate to hold it shut so the dogs can't squeeze out)
5) Open the garage door
6) Turn on, unplug the the wheelchair
7) Drive it up to the back of the van
8) Open the platform on the back of the van
9) Drive it up on the platform
10) Lock it and cover it
11) Then go back and close the gate

The great thing would be reversing it all when we got home. Does this lady have any idea how much work it already is trying to get 5 kids and 2 adults out the door without lugging around a 300 lb wheelchair?

All this reminds me of the story of NASA's space pen. This past summer, while visiting Kitty Hawk, we had the opportunity to see the space pen.

Until I actually saw the space pen, I thought it must be an Internet myth. The story, of course is full of myth, but the idea is the same. Americans spent thousands of dollars developing an anti-gravity ink pen. The Russians used a pencil.

Are we that prone to making things more complex than they need be?

By the way, they have since discovered that a regular old ink pen works just as well in space as the "space pen", and I'm still convinced that a regular old manual chair works much better for a preschooler than a $35K power chair.

Call me crazy. (That was rhetorical.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Your Bathroom Just Only a Bathroom?

The other night my husband and I were watching television, and I learned that I lack any kind of real vision for my life. All my life I thought that my bathroom was nothing more than a room of necessity. But, according to commercial I saw, I'm wrong.

Your bathroom doesn't just need to be a bathroom!

According to the commercial, which was used being used to sell a "toilet wand" (no, it doesn't turn anything you point it at into a toilet -- although that would probably be more interesting.) and other cleaning "aids" by Clorox, the bathroom can be a room of imagination, dreaming and relaxation. All this fun, and they weren't even talking about reading a book on the john!

Of course, having been places where the toilet is little more than a hole in the floor, or a toilet in an alley with nothing surrounding it but buildings, I know that any American bathroom is a step up from most.

If the bathroom is any indication of vision and creativity, then I, along with most of the world's population, am in serious trouble. Currently, in our home, not only are we not clorox clean, but we don't even have serviceable plumbing. For three days straight, now, we've been waiting for our plumber to return to replace the mainline leading from the township's line to our house. Showering at the Y has been the least offensive of our activities. I don't think people who use toilet wands would be able to handle what we've had to do with our toilet paper.

Anybody out there got a plumber wand?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Google is Not God, Even Though It Appears Omnipotent

It was an innocent and thoughtful idea. We had been home all day, taking a Christmas break from school work, and not looking forward to a long evening since my husband was working late.

"Let's go someplace!" I told the children. "Some place fun."

The young ones bought into the idea.

"Yea! That would be great!"

My oldest was a bit concerned....

"This isn't going to be a field trip, is it?"

Really, my oldest is a nice child (being a paperboy and all), and his concern is legitimate and based on life experiences.

Last Christmas, we ended a three year Christmas tradition. The tradition is for me to purchase tickets to see whatever seasonal show is being produced by the Children's Theater downtown, and then never see it because I can't find a place to park.

The last year of the tradition, we left the house exactly 2 hours before the show was to start. The kids were dressed nicely (already annoying the oldest three -- my two boys and my tomboy daughter), and we happily went out the door. It takes only 15-20 minutes to drive downtown, so I was sure this would work.

Fast forward to 1 1/2 hours later.

I was sitting amid a sea of yellow school buses, completely stuck in traffic two blocks away from the theater, dangerously close to teaching my children an entirely new vocabulary that I really don't want them to know. I can't go anywhere because traffic isn't moving (the buses are dropping children off at the theater), and I can't drop anybody off because I'm the only licensed driver and everybody with me is under 10.

After nearly having a stroke, I pulled into the only garage with parking available. It was $15 to park for an hour, but it didn't matter any way, because after driving through the entire garage, I learned that there were no spots available. The lot guy forgot to put out the "full" sign. At that point, the show (which is only about 1/2 hour in length) was set to start in 5 minutes.

"Guys, I think we need to go home."

"Yea!! This field trip is boring."

"Mom," the oldest said, "Could we maybe just not take field trips anymore? Or at least not ones like this?"

And, so it was agreed. While I am good at teaching them some things, I am not good at field trips. In fact, when I taught school I hated field trips. Who, in their right mind, likes to go places with large groups of children?

Anyway, it was with this history in mind that we decided, after looking at an Enquirer article I found on line, to go to see the "Holiday in Lights" display at Sharon Woods. The article said that a van could get in for $7. So, I googled the location, grabbed some money and we headed out the door.

Fast forward 25 minutes. The vein in my forehead was starting to pop out. I got off the highway, like my directions said, but I didn't know which way to turn. The directions implied that I would only be able to go one way. So, I went right for a few miles, and couldn't find the road to "turn slightly left" on. Being a home school mom, I knew exactly where to go for help: the library (it doesn't hurt that my husband was working there).

"I'm calling because Google is not God, even though it thinks it's omnipotent."


"I'm lost and I need help."

He quickly found where we were on the Google maps/satellite. And, after three phone calls, two incorrect entrances, and about 1 hour after we left home, we got to Sharon Woods.

I pulled up to the guy taking money.

"That will be $12."

"$12??? The paper said $7!"

I scraped together $12 dollars and handed it to him.

"This better be one good light show for $12!"

"Uh... Merry Christmas and enjoy the show...."

Well, that's just the problem. As I pulled into the park, I realized that I wasn't going to enjoy the show! I mean, they're Christmas lights! Exactly how exciting can that be? The back of the van was a different story. There were "ohhs and ahhs" and squeals of excitement all around. At one point we drove down a hill into a light tunnel. Not exactly "The Beast" as far as I was concerned, but everyone behind me thought it was a thrill of a lifetime.

This isn't the first time that I've had this feeling. There have been many times where I remember something fun from my childhood and then do it with my kids only to find that it isn't fun at all. In fact, it's rather stupid. Take, for instance, The Mystery Mansion that Defied Gravity, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, Tourist Caves, or Putt-Putt Mountain in Gatlinburg:

"I paid twice as much to putt putt here as the other place so that I could do it on an artificial mountain? But it doesn't even feel like a mountain!"

It was then that I realized that these cheap thrills from my childhood where thrills for simply one reason: I wasn't the one paying for them!

After several minutes of the Holiday light "spectacular" it finally occurred to me that my $12 of enjoyment wasn't going to come from the light show, because a light show is nothing more than a bunch of Christmas lights. However, listening to them enjoy the light show and be awed by something so, well, not impressive, was where the fun was.

We got home later that evening. As I was complaining to my husband, he did a quick Google search. Apparently I had gotten directions to the Sharon Woods Golf Course. I still think that was google's fault and not mine.

However, the kicker was the info on the price. I had pulled up an Enquirer Article from the year 2000! Now, why that would be the top of the list for google's search engine, I don't know. But I guess it does go to show you should really look at the entire page when you get your information from the web!

Really Funny Video!

Click here to see a really funny video about home schooling!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Beautiful Heart

Sometimes I ponder what our oldest daughter's future would have been if we had not adopted her. While the information is always sketchy, there are some things that I do know for sure. One thing is that her caregivers were terribly worried that she would not be adopted before she turned 4. At age 4, the children are evaluated and sent to various orphanage boarding schools (rather than a baby house, which will house any baby). If there is any defect detected by this very subjective evaluation, the child is then sent to an institution for the disabled. There, she would face not only a future with no family, but with no education, near starvation and no stimulation at all. (See Abandoned to the State, Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages to get a taste of what life would be like -- these aren't photos that you would want a young child to view. ) Another thing I know is that although most people in the Former Soviet Union don't talk about it, enough have for people to know that this type of institution is far too common. Of course, even just one institution like that is far too many!

But, today, our dear little 8-year-old is not tied to a chair, or left sitting in a dark room or forced to lie in a bed all day (unless she gets in trouble, and then it wouldn't be all day, just for a while). Instead, she's out in our front yard, playing in the snow, pretending to be an Inuit foraging for food for herself and her sled dog team.

Minutes earlier she was inside, reading through a box of prayer cards that we had received from Operation Christmas Child.

"Mom, what's a refugee camp?"
"Why would we need to pray for children that are in a war? How can a child be in a war?"
"Why would a child have AIDS?"
"Why are there so many children living in sewers?"
"Why would children live in garbage dumps?"

Such hard questions to answer to a child who doesn't even really remember her life in an orphanage! All she remembers is the security of having our family, a family that is far from perfect, but much better than no family at all. In an odd twist though, she does know something about that part of her life... She'll tell people that she knows that she would have a different life in Ukraine. She does know that she would not be reading, swimming or playing the piano if she hadn't been adopted. She knows that she wouldn't know about Skyline Chili, Mexican food, or Cream of Wheat. She knows she wouldn't have her beloved service dog or a family that loves her.

Of course, that doesn't mean she's not a kid. She still disobeys, she still makes mistakes, like flushing when the plumber's working on the pipes, and she still has times where she covets what other people have. But, we never expected her to say, "Oh thank you, Mom and Dad, for rescuing me and giving me life!" any more than we expect our boys to say, "Thank you so much for birthing me and giving me life!"

Her musings, today, touched me because she does, obviously, feel a connection to suffering children. None of our other kids pay attention to those prayer cards. She studies them. She remembers to pray for them. She talks about them.

So, today I didn't ponder what her life would've been like if we hadn't adopted her, I pondered what my life would be like if we hadn't. Taking her suffering and making it mine has been one of the most defining and life changing things I've ever done -- and the most rewarding. On the day we met her, there was no question in either I or my husband's mind that this child was ours and that any of the details of her disabilities would pale in comparison to the joy of having her in our life. She sparkled like a jewel among all the adorable children in her orphanage, always a gleam in her eye. Although, I might say that sometimes that gleam is more of a spark than a gleam!

I've learned so much from her (the least of which is probably what I can do with 1 arm, making me much more efficient at many physical tasks!), that I can't even count the ways it's been a blessing. The courage that she showed during her hip surgery and recovery was far beyond anything that I could muster. Her ability to deal with the indignity of having to use a bed pan and have her parents dress her for weeks after her surgery astounded us. It was like the harder something was, the higher she rose. But, it's her unyielding belief that God is good and loves her unconditionally, despite what life has thrown at her that astounds me the most.

So today, as she innocently flipped through the cards, I was blessed once again by the fact that the Lord chose me to be the mother of such a beautiful little heart that sees past the pain and loss in her own life and desires to bless others.

Now, if only I could get her to clean her room with a good attitude!

More on the Wheelchair -- Will She Ever Stop? Probably Not!

I think the thing the bothers me most about this wheelchair controversy is that the medical professionals are assuming that they know what's best for our daughter not because they know her, but because of case studies and "research" done on the use of power chairs. However, they are blowing right past one aspect of arthrogryposis: the fact that you just don't know for certain how affected the muscles and joints are! While we know that her muscles and joints aren't working properly, we don't know what atrophy is from the arthrogryposis and what atrophy is from lying in a crib in an orphanage for 2 1/2 years. The fact of the matter is that she is significantly stronger than she was when we first adopted her. However, her Doctor is certain that all the atrophy she saw at the first visit was directly related to arthrogryposis! She totally dismissed the idea that any of it could be from life in an institution.

The other thing that's bothering me is that they are making it like she needs certain things in order to be whole. There is this idea that we need to provide the perfect house, the perfect van, the perfect wheelchair. No wonder pregnant people worry so much about if their child has a disability! I mean, I had no clue all the balls and chains that our culture had attached to the parents of special needs children until we adopted our youngest (mostly because we avoided the medical scene as much as possible --- something I'm so glad about now!).

So, here I am planning a future for her that includes following God where ever He leads, including marriage, higher education, and travel, and trying to decide when she should start learning to read, study Latin, and piano. Meanwhile, her doctor is talking about her needing "on going therapy for the rest of her life" in order to just function. Are we on two different planets or what? So, when does she get to be a kid? When does she get to be a student? An adult? A wife? A Mom? In between the "ongoing therapy sessions?"

In the end, I'm angry because they just keep trying to fix her, and I don't think she's broken! I think the we just need to assess where she's at and meet her there. If a manual chair works now, then use the manual chair. If she wants to crawl on the floor, let her crawl. If she wants to use the chair, let her use the chair, and if she wants to try to walk, help her walk. She's the one that's going to have to live life in her body, and, especially considering how well spoken she is, she lets us know what she needs!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Wheelchair Controversy

"I just don't understand how, as a parent, you wouldn't want your child to be able to keep up with other kids!" -- Therapist at Children's Hospital to me

If there is one thing I would do over, it would be the process of getting our youngest daughter a wheelchair. I do think that the professionals at the hospital really have her best interest at heart, but I also don't think that they know her or her life like I do. And, I'm really tired of medical professionals (hope I'm not offending anyone, because I do know lots and lots of good medical professionals) that say, "You know her best, so you know what's best for her.", but then turn around and tell me I don't know what she needs!

I've tried to figure out why I never got as frustrated with Doctors with my oldest daughter, and I realized it was because we hadn't really involved any doctors until recently, and then we very specifically chose what doctors and therapists would be involved. For instance, our oldest daughter has a wonderful physical therapist who not only pushes her, but inspires her. My daughter looks forward to seeing her and often talks about how "Barb will be so proud of me!"

However, I am just not on the same wave length with our youngest's doctors and therapists. The issue of controversy surrounds her wheelchair. Without ever testing her with a manual chair or even attempting any formal physical therapy, they decided she needs a 300lb power wheelchair. So, in the course of waiting for this behemoth to arrive at our home, my husband and I bought a manual wheelchair off the Internet.

It turns out that she can work the manual with no problem at all. In fact, she's so good that she can pop wheelies in it! Backward, forward, circles! Although her endurance is greatly improving, she can't go distances in the chair. Of course, she's three, so if she has a distance to go, then we push her.

Anyway, her skill with the manual led us to decide that a power chair was not necessary -- at this time. Down the road, when she needs more independence, it would make perfectly good sense. However, the power chair weighs 250-300 lbs, requires the addition of a lift to our van and we cannot take our eyes of her when she's in it (because she can hurt herself or someone else!). She cannot use the power chair in our home, at her preschool class or at Sunday school. We currently don't have a lift, so she couldn't take it anywhere anyway. And, of course, with 7 of us living in a small cape cod, storage is a big issue.

So, I ask again! What is the point of this chair!!???

Last month I called the hospital to talk to the therapist about putting the order on hold. However, she was on maternity leave so my called got bounced from person to person, and no one did anything about it. In the meantime, our insurance approved the chair.

Now, the problem. We don't want it.

So, after the therapy center found out from the medical supply company that we don't want it, I got another phone call.

Basically, they can't believe we don't want this chair. After a lengthy conversation, it comes down to the fact that she will use this chair a couple times a month, if that, for things like the zoo or the museum or taking a walk at the park.

So, saying she uses this chair 2x a month for the next 3 years (saying she's trained enough to take it into a classroom when she's in first grade at which point she will use it more regularly), that means that each time she uses the chair, it will cost approximately $449. So for $449 she can "feel like she's keeping up with her peers" those couple times a month. What???

Now, our insurance company is paying the majority of the chair, but we're still responsible for $3000 plus the money to put the lift on the back of the van (approximately $1000). The therapists are adamant that she needs this chair for her development.

Now, I'm not a therapist or early childhood development specialist, but, in the past year of being in our family, this child has:
1) Learned to speak English fluently
2) learned to count to 10
3) Learned to understand the concepts of zero, 1, 2,
4) Begun building with legos (the little ones, not the big ones!)
5) Become fully potty trained
6) Learned to dress/undress herself, with the exception of her shirt (no small feat for someone who can't bend her arms!)
7) Learned to recognize her name in print
8) Learned all the requisite animal sounds that American kids are supposed to learn
9) Learned to be silly and tell jokes
10) Learned to follow directions and obey
11) Learned how to work a manual wheelchair

And, I could continue the list. Now amazingly, she's done all this without a power chair.

But, here's what gets me. When I'm told something like, "I don't understand how, as a parent, you wouldn't want her to keep up with other kids." I just don't even know how to respond! Does this lady get it at all?? Heavens! I would cut off my own legs and give them to her if I could! Of course I want her to keep up with other kids! I live with the pain of her disability everyday, and if I could fix it I would! But that's just the point... I can't fix it. No one can! She's got to live with this for the rest of her life.

We're trying to create a life for her where she's not dependent on $35K wheelchairs, but has learned to manipulate her environment as much as possible on her own. I want her to be able to travel, to crawl out of a house in case of a fire, to be able to live independently if her power chair breaks down. If she's using a power chair from the start, I highly doubt she'll learn those things. In addition to that, we can't center our budget around a tool she'll use 1 or 2 times a month. I don't think that's fair to her (while we're at it, why don't we just teach her that our family revolves around her special needs!) or anyone else.

In addition to that, I feel guilty about the expense. Our country is so screwed up where health care is concerned, and here we are doing our bit! Our insurance company (and probably some county funds to boot!) are going to pay for this! I know I can't change the system, but I feel sick playing into it. In the meantime, it just seems like this over treating is getting worse and worse. Recently I learned that there are people talking about fitting infants with these things! Infants -- 4 or 5 months old!

In the meantime, we're watching our daughter get stronger and stronger everyday that she uses the manual chair. She's also been trying to stand and walk. Of course, the therapist pointed out that it won't interfere with any of that because she'll still be using the manual and scooting around the house and in classrooms. So, again, what's the point of this power chair?

The end of the story is that we're probably going to get the chair. The hospital staff are working with the county to access funds for the co-payment. And, while I do think she'll be using the chair in a few years, this creates another problem for us. The insurance will replace the chair every 5 years. So, by the time she is 8 or 9, she'll be ready for a new chair. However, we won't have access to those funds again, so we'll have to shell out the co-payment. Now, if we waited to fit her until she was 5 or 6, we'd at least have more time before we'd have to come up with money for the next co-payment, and she'd really use the chair the entire time we have it. From a financial side, as my husband pointed out, helping her go to college is good for her development too.

This has been so frustrating that I have wanted to find a park somewhere and just shout, "MY CHILD IS NOT JUST HER MEDICAL CONDITION! BEING UNABLE TO WALK DOES NOT DEFINE HER OR OUR FAMILY!" and "I'M NOT A BAD MOTHER JUST BECAUSE I THINK IT'S RIDICULOUS TO FIT A 3 YEAR OLD WITH A POWER CHAIR!" until I'm blue in the face. I'd probably end up in the loony bin, though, if I did.

Oh well. I think there are some therapists out there that would like me to be there.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Three Broken Glasses and Jelly on My Pants

Today I made a terrible mistake. I decided to leave my 5--year-old and 3-year-old at the table to finish lunch while I ran up stairs and quickly vacuumed the fine coating of dog hair that decorates every square inch of carpet in our house.
From these innocent pictures, you'd never believe the havoc these two can wreck. But, trust me. They know havoc wrecking like area plumbers know our main drain and laundry room (really well).

As I finished the last area of carpet, I heard my eight-year-old call to me.

"Mom, ***** broke a glass!"

Our 3-year-old has been known to break dishes. Since she can't bend her arms the easiest way for her to drink is with a straw. After some trial and error, we figured out that a coffee mug, because it's heavy and won't tip over, with a bendy straw works best. This worked well until the advent of her wheelchair, and then she got the idea that she wants to carry her dishes to the dishwasher. Normally, I would find that great, but since she's three, there's not enough lap for her to hold her dishes while she wheels.

She ends up wheeling and holding her dishes at the same time. The first problem this presents, of course, is if there is any food or drink left on her dishes. If there was at the table, that quickly changes as the food and drinks move from the plate and cups to the floor, wall, my clothes, the ceiling...

The other problem is that she will lose her grip on the dish as she's wheeling, and that's the worst time for her to lose her grip. The cup doesn't just fall, it gets launched across the room, as her arm (which is straight) is moving forward in a strong and swift movement at the precise moment that she loses her grip.

So, today, when our oldest daughter told me of the broken cup, I wasn't that surprised. Fortunately, coffee mugs usually don't shatter.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

I walked in the dining room to find our dining room tablecloth hanging off the table. There were broken dishes on the floor, salsa on the table, chairs, floor and wall. There was also salsa on our border collie. Both girls were crying. The dog was shaking and cowering.

It only took minutes to gather that the girls had been goofing around when they were supposed to be eating. The five-year-old had been pushing the three-year-old in her wheelchair (something she's not allowed to do, no less!) and the wheelchair got caught on the tablecloth, and pulled it and the dishes off the table.

Needless to say, I won't get mom-of-the year award for my reaction. Any person who has said that I'm a saint for adopting handicapped children would certainly revoke that honor if they saw me react to the salsa/milk/peanut butter and jelly/glass shards mess I was facing.

After my meltdown, I put both girls in separate rooms for time out. I was so angry I couldn't even look at them. My older three were great, and helped me get everything cleaned up. I think they were worried I might be sent off to an insane asylum if things didn't get fixed. No matter what their motivation, they were so helpful, but, sadly enough, my daughter cut her finger on a piece of glass (only adding to my anger toward the younger two!).

After it was all cleaned up(which took 45 minutes, and got my clothes nice and sticky), I sat down, and tried to focus my thoughts. I called the little girls together to talk to them. Still angry, I explained to them how their disobedience had caused me great pain, and it had hurt them. They like to pretend that under our table is a "Choo-choo train" and they had an assortment of toys that were ruined in the ordeal. We talked about sin and how our sin hurts other people and ourselves. We talked about forgiveness and how love stays the same no matter. It was a great heart-to-heart.

Then I asked them what they thought.

The three year old looked at me and said, "Look mom! We match! I got jelly on my shirt and you got it all over your pants!"

My five-year-old said, "Should I put shoes on now?" I had told her she had to wear shoes to protect her feet in case I missed any glass. "I'll get my pink boots. They'll protect my feet and they look great with my jeans."

I'm so glad this was a learning experience for us all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Finding the Right Job

Our oldest son has taken the leap into his first attempt at gainful employment. I say his first attempt, but that's not actually correct. He's had many unsuccessful attempts before now. Yard sales, art sales, and a dog walking business (but only small dogs and puppies, according to the flier) were, perhaps, his most profitable, and that was only due to the kindness of family and neighbors.

The Lemonade Stand was fairly successful -- as long as his younger siblings had some money.

"You cannot charge your brother $3.00 for a cup of lemonade!"

"But Mom," he responded, "He's willing to pay for it! He's the market and he's set the price."

"He's only set the price because he doesn't realize he can buy several gallons of lemonade for that price!" I felt powerful as I talked to him, kind of like a local delegate from the F.T.C.

"But he's my only customer! I'll never make money if I can't charge him more for each cup!"

"That's a marketing plan that's bound to fail." I replied, quite seriously. "You'll have to do better!"

Well, he did, and that eventually meant that I had to shut down the lemonade stand when I realized that his marketing plan was directly tied to our mailman's route, and that the poor guy was being asked to buy lemonade, at inflated prices, every day at 3:30.

Over the years he has tried to gain employment from us. That's been interesting!

"Mom, Dad, how about I do some work for you to earn money."

"You have to do your chores for free, buddy, sorry."

"No, I mean, like other work, like yardwork or cleaning the bathroom."

"Do you honestly think we'd hire you if we had money to pay someone to do our housework?"

Perhaps not the nicest reply, but quite realistic. It took several years for him to figure out that the reason we do all the work around here is because we don't have money to pay someone else to do it.

So, a couple months ago, he came running to me with a flier from our community press that said, "This paper was delivered by an adult, not a child! If you are over 10 and would like to be the one delivering this paper, please call the number below."

We made the call and set up the interview, and he was hired on the spot. I'd like to think it was his great interviewing skills. However, the fact that she came with all his paperwork already filled in, including letters to his subscribers, I have a feeling there just wasn't much competition.

So, when your 11-year-old gets a job, what does that mean for Mom? It means that every Wednesday morning, never stopped by rain, sleet nor snow, I am out driving him to various locations in our neighborhood. See, he can deliver the papers, but he can't carry all 55 of them at once. This has made for some interesting mornings, like today.

I have a cold, was tired and didn't want to get out of bed, but I did, just so he could get those wonderful papers to his readers before his father left for work. I was willing to drive him, but I wasn't willing to change out of my pajamas which were nice and warm and cozy on this cold winter morning. The pajamas are not anything special, just a flannel shirt and pants with duckies all over them.

"Akk! Mom you can't take me in that!" He responded as I was walking out the door, putting my coat on over my jammies.

"Look, all I do is sit in the car, read and slowly nurse a cup of tea. It really doesn't matter if I'm in my jammies. Nobody's going to see me."

"Hey," he said, pointing to the neighbor waving from across the street, "he just saw you... so did that car that just passed!"

"So..." I replied, not sure of the right comeback. Some of the humor of this is that neither of us is really awake when we go to deliver, and both of us are pretty grumpy.

"This is so embarrassing," he muttered as we headed out the door. I'm not sure what exactly was embarrassing: the fact that his mom wears flannel PJs with duckies on them, or that his mom was "going out in public" her pajamas.

It's been interesting to see how he interacts with the neighbors. For instance, one street over lives an elderly couple who must have had some kind of traumatic experience with a newspaper at some point in their lives. This particular paper is an optional pay paper, so anyone can receive the paper free of charge (the caveat is that you have a cute kid showing up at your door once a month to collect the "optional pay" of $2.50 plus tips -- kind of hard to say no).

The first time we were on the street, trying to figure out which houses he delivers too, the lady came out, got in her car, drove 5 houses down to where we were and yelled out the window of her car.

"We don't get that there paper at our house!!"

She then proceeded to follow him down the street to make sure he didn't accidentally deliver it to them. At the house before hers she yelled again.

"Now, just walk on past the next house! We don't get that paper!"

The next week, her husband came when we were there. I watched from the car as he told our son, "We don't get that there paper at our house!"

"I know, don't worry, I won't deliver it," he replied.

"Where's your mom?" He asked. Our son pointed to me, several houses down (not in my jammies that time), sitting in the car reading. What then ensued was a 15 minute discussion with the man about how they didn't get the paper, the depression was hard, war is terrible, and old age is not for wimps, although its better than the alternative. There's lots of stress with old age, apparently. Especially when people accidentally deliver a newspaper to you.

Collecting on that street was interesting, too. Once we were on the couple's radar (which they must have in order to know the moment we enter their street) , the husband came out and flagged me down.

"You know, ma'am, we won't be paying for that paper!"

"Geez," I thought, but wisely did not say, "You're kidding! You're not going to pay for a paper that you don't receive." I really wondered if this guy writes letters to credit card companies, cell phone companies and such just to verify that he is not paying them anything since he doesn't use their services!

Collecting from others was interesting as well. Most people do pay, and the interactions were great. There were a couple, though, that were a bit unusual. One was a very lengthy note that he got from someone just up the street from us. The note very angrily pointed out that they never asked for this paper, they didn't read the paper, and that they have no desire to get the paper and if he delivers again then they are going to press charges for trespassing. Wow! I think maybe she had a traumatic experience with a newspaper at sometime. But, take heart, the woman runs an in-home daycare, so it's good to know that she's helping to shape the hearts and minds of our next generation.

Overall, being the neighborhood paperboy has been a good thing. And, he looks really cute when he's carrying the bag around the area -- something I pointed out right before I took this picture. Apparently, 11-year-old boys don't like to be called cute, and that's why there's a sour look on his face. I guess we all learn when the oldest kid tries something new.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Einstein, Babies and Flashcards

I recently skimmed through a very interesting book entitled, "Einstein Didn't Use Flashcards" . The book was written by three women with doctorates in early childhood education and such related fields. The gist of the book is that parents should let their young children just play. Why in the world it would take a person with a PhD. to point out the obvious is beyond me. But I guess we've become such an expert based society that we can't even just let little kids play unless the experts tell us it's okay.

It reminds me of a visit I had with our middle daughter when we first brought her home from Kazakhstan. She was barely 2 years old and we had her assessed by almost every specialist known to man. During those evaluations we spent some time with an occupational therapist. Because our daughters hands and fingers are unusual in design, the therapist gave us home therapy.

Playing with legos
Playing with blocks
Playing with toys that have buttons
Playing in sand boxes
Playing with sewing cards
Playing with stacking cups
Playing with play dough

Each of these activities were written on a sheet of paper, and at the bottom, there was a warning.

"Warning: these activities are to be done only under adult supervision. Do not allow your child to engage in these therapies without the consent and guidance of a trained professional."

So, is the trained professional a therapist or a person who works for Lego or Playskool?

It's not unlike a recent article that I read about a new therapy used for children with ADHD: Green Therapy. No, this is not the green therapy involving marijuana. As I read the therapy description I realized that these ingenious experts had figured out that kids with high energy levels needed to spend time playing outside! Again, it takes an expert to figure that out??

At any rate, these three ladies wrote a great book (I only skimmed it because I have lived the birth -5 years enough times I'm kind of familiar with the territory), and I would recommend this book to any parent with a young child. There was so much that I agreed with, which, of course, from my perspective, is why it is such a good book!

This book inspired me to create a list of things that I have found to be very useful for raising a child from birth to age 5.

1) T.V. is not for infants and toddlers (no matter what Baby Einstein says!), and should only be commercial free for older kids

Only people trying to sell products are telling parents to put their infants and toddlers in front of the T.V. for any purpose. Reliable "experts" are not advising parents that because all the research has shown that you shouldn't set your kid in front of a T.V. set before age 2, and even then you should limit it to less than 1 hour a day. Ditch the Baby Einstein videos and wait until your kids are old enough to sit in front of the T.V. and watch something interesting. And, when they're old enough, put off commercial T.V. as long as possible. If you do PBS and only PBS, an amazing thing happens. First of all, they don't sit there and learn how to covet the latest toys being marketed (marketed by people who attend conference workshops entitled "how to override the parental veto, no less) to children, and, as a result, they are actually content with what they have! They'll still find out what's out there, but they won't sit there and be systematically programmed to covet it. Secondly, of course, they are actually learning something some of the time. And, thirdly, they will gradually lose interest and not want to really watch T.V.

We also don't get "National Geographic Kids" for the same reason. Every other page in that magazine is an ad for a new junkie breakfast cereal, movie, or video game. It's an education that I don't really want my kids to have (or to pay for!). You get a better magazine in "Ranger Rick" from the National Wildlife Federation.

3) The most interesting thing you can put in front of your baby is your face.

I would love to talk to the creators of Baby Einstein. Since it wasn't around when my boys were babies, I've tried to figure out how they turned out so smart. Or my daughters, who had next to no stimulation in impoverished orphanages. Trust me, there was no Baby Einstein there! Yet, they are all smart and excellent students.

Buy standard toys from toy stores, don't worry about colors in your babies sheets, plates, cups and utensils or the patterns in their bath towels. I mean, somehow humanity has moved forward for all these thousands of years without specialized toys for babies and toddlers!

When my boys were babies, their favorite toy was us. They were fascinated with our faces, fascinated without voices. They loved to be held and read to (even as infants), sung to, bounced on our knees etc. You and a few simple toys are much more valuable than anything else, and the baby gym produced by a smaller company is no less a toy than one designed by "Baby Einstein".

4) Anything that can be taught from educational computer software can be taught better from a book, or basic crayons and paper.

5) The less the toy the better the educational value

They get more out of boxes, dirt, bugs, blocks, lincoln logs, paper, crayons, scissors (watch the hair though) and other such toys than a leap pad. Honestly, I don't even call leap pads educational toys. They're fun, but your kid is much better off getting dirty by learning to explore his world and use his imagination.

6) Classes for kids under the age of 4 are ridiculous, take them only if you want to have fun with your kid not for any educational value.

Fun is the only value in them. I taught, for one semester, a piano class to 2 and 3 year olds. It was ridiculous. What took them 3 months to learn could be learned in a couple lessons when they turned 6 or 7. It can be fun to take a class with your toddler, but just don't expect them to learn anything that you couldn't have taught them.

7) Outside of the obvious things (such as prenatal nutrition and maternal health) you don't need to do anything with your fetus to help it develop.

The Mozart Effect has been debunked, and, well, your baby doesn't speak English, so it doesn't matter if you are talking to it, or to someone else. He/She just really doesn't know. So instead of worrying about "prenatal parenting", then just enjoy the fact you're going to have a baby! And, then, just enjoy your baby when he/she is born.

What's really sad about all this marketing is that its taking a culturally unhealthy childhood and extending it all the way back to infancy (or even prenatally)! Is the only time in life where people can just "be" when they're about to die?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rise Up and Walk!

The first time I ever really contemplated talking to our youngest daughter about her legs was when I was sitting in a crowded waiting area of the London Heathrow Airport, on my second trip to Ukraine in order to adopt her. All of a sudden, it hit me like a brick: Someday I am going to have to explain to her that she isn't going to walk like other children.

I tried to imagine what that would be like, and it filled me with so much sadness that I began to cry. People probably thought I was either mad a my husband, or upset I missed a flight. Or perhaps a bit miffed at the prices atHeathrow's duty-free shops. But whatever people thought, the reality of her disability hit me right then.

The thing is, that we've been through some similar things with our older daughters. It takes time for them to understand that their bodies are different. For instance, our middle daughter had been home for over 2 years, and was over 4 years old (and just really starting to learn how to count) when she made a mighty announcement at the dinner table.

"Oh my! ******* has only got 1 arm! There's only one, not two!"

We all just looked at her like she was a bit loopy.

"So," our oldest daughter replied nonchalantly, "It took you this long to figure it out, huh?"

Even with our oldest, we watched her go through the phases: thinking she would grow an arm, thinking that all children were born with a big leg and a little leg and that her little leg would start to grow at some point. She had even had the misunderstanding that we had an arm waiting for her at home when she left the orphanage. It's really hard to watch as they process the loss, especially as they don't begin to think of it in terms of a loss until they're older. Then, mix in the fact that it isn't a total loss because there is so much good that God redeems from disabilities, that in some facets it's actually a blessing, and it's just a lot for one little mind to process.

But what I should have remembered when I was in Heathrow Airport was that I didn't' know the future. I only have an understanding of what's happening now. In fact, according to I Corinthians 13, I only have a dim understanding of now, not even complete. So, there's no point in worrying how things will play out, when they never play out how you expect them to.

Take, for instance, our oldest daughter. From birth, it was expected she would never walk. She was born with absolutely no hip on her right side, a twisted hip on her left, no femur (thigh bone) on the right, and no fibulas (the smaller shin bone) in either leg. She's also missing a myriad of other bones that I won't bore you with, but suffice it to say, there was enough missing that she would never walk. She was also in a place where there was no medical intervention or therapy for her at all.

She was, however, in an orphanage where she was loved. The ladies who cared for her loved her, prayed for her, and decided that her best chance in life was to learn to adapt to herenvironment . So, they taught her, and she learned to do everything her peers did -- except to walk. Then one spring, only a couple months before we met her, her orphanage began preparations for the Easter program. She was told that she could sing in the program, but, since she couldn't walk, not dance.

That was enough for her. She was so miffed about not being able to dance in the program, she decided that that would never happen again. She created her own three-year-old physical therapy program that included lots of falling and bruising, I'm sure, but several weeks later was walking.

The orphanage staff in Ukraine told us that it was amazing she could walk, but since she was walking when we met her, it didn't really sink in. However, after arriving home and having many doctors tell us that, not only was it incredible that she could walk, but that they couldn't even give us a medical explanation for why she could walk, it began to really sink in!

So, I should've remembered that with our youngest daughter. However, she came home unable to walk, and her legs and body were limp with atrophy. For the first few months home she was so weak that her favorite position to play in was laying on her back on the floor. Doctor after doctor told us that the surgical options for helping her to walk were too extreme and we should just train her to using a wheelchair. There would be no walking in her future.

We began to work toward that goal, and since her doctor was recommending that we fit her for a power wheelchair, we began to work towards accommodating that. We had her feet surgically unclubbed so that she could wear shoes, but not thinking that she could ever bear weight or walk on them. Then a funny thing happened.

She began trying to stand and walk. While wearing her braces, she learned to balance on her feet while holding herself up on a step stool. Then she began trying to walk on her knees. Then she began trying to walk while holding our hands.


While this is a long way from walking, it is amazing nonetheless. And, I am reminded that we really don't know the future, and we really don't know what God will do. It's easy to forget that with God, all things are possible.

Each night when we tuck the girls in bed we pray, sing and read the Bible with them. Our daughter's favorite song is based on the miraculous healing Jesus worked through Peter and John, and every night she asks to sing it (and also a song about being quiet, which is really funny because she is never quiet, and she actually shouts the song).

"Peter and John went to pray.
They met a lame man on the way. (side note, I hate this line --what, was the guy boring?)
He held out his palm and he asked for some alms
And this is what Peter did say:

Silver and Gold have I none (amen to that brother!)
But such as I have I give thee
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Rise up and Walk!

And he went walking and leaping and praising God!
Walking and leaping and praising God!
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth

I'm left wondering if God is actually going to let us witness a miracle with our own eyes. But until then, I pray that we can be content with whatever His plan is to reveal his glory in her life.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Have Faith, It's All In Here and Other Christmas Tidings

Since all of the Christian Christmas Catalogues have arrived, one might think that I am out of blog-fodder until the after Christmas sales.

One would be wrong to think that. I have another venue, one of my favorites for diversifying my thinking: Christian Radio.

I was driving down the street this afternoon, and learned about the latest in Bible Technology. (For further study of new Bibles, see my blog entry: Amish Romance Novels and Other Great Perks When You Become a Christian.)

A company entitled Amazing Faith has produced a micro film, apparently encased in a very sepulchral coverlet, that contains the entire Bible. It is the size of a credit card -- but can only be used for heavenly purchases. I know that was a really bad joke.

Anyway, this handy dandy Bible is totally and completely portable, and almost readable. The caveat to the portability, though, is the need to have a microscope with you.

According to, "The Itty Bitty Bible™ can be read word for word using a standard compound microscope but... have faith, it's all in there." The Itty Bitty Bible can be yours for a mere $10 (plus shipping and handling).

Now, I'm really not sure what's worse: The concept behind the Itty Bitty Bible, or the sum total of what I heard on the radio today. See, if you want, you can pay the $10 and have an Itty Bitty Bible donated to one of our troops in Iraq. That way they can all carry the word of God with them, even though they can't read it (unless they also carry a microscope).

The DJ did point out the the idea was not to get the troops to actually read the Bible, but just to "have the word of God in their Hands."

Have we really reduced the Word of God to that? Have we really made it some kind of amulet or good-luck trinket? I mean, this DJ didn't even blink at the idea that this might be, well.... a little useless. I don't know about anyone else out there, but I have to say that I can sit and hold a Bible all day, but I unless I read it, it isn't going to do much for me or any other person in my life.

Well, if you're still looking for the perfect gift for someone, my intensive research on the "Itty Bitty Bible" led me to a blog called, "Say What?" where I also learned about a product called "The Green Prosperity Handkerchief". Now, the great thing here is that it's free! You can give your loved ones the gift of prosperity and it won't cost you a cent! According to Don Stewart, creator of the Faith Handkerchief, "Thousands of people around the world have used this Biblical point of contact prayer cloth to receive abundant blessings of financial prosperity."

However, he cautions you should read the instructions before using. That's wise, because using it just might not involve blowing your nose, as you would intuitively think it would. Or perhaps it is only for times when your snot is green like the cloth. You just can't be too careful.

I was thinking, though, that a good service project might be to buy 10,000 of these handkerchiefs and give them out in India. Just enough to really stimulate their economy. Then we can move on to another 3rd world nation. After we wipe out world poverty, then we might want to give some to our government so that we can get rid of the national debt. Anyone out there want to organize that?

This also reminded my husband of a perennial favorite of ours: the Jesus Pan. The face of Jesus is molded right into the pan. Therefore, it shows up on anything you cook in the pan. The add says it all, "Imagine serving heavenly hotcakes at the next church breakfast." I can only imagine.

All this talk of Christmas gifts got me reminiscing of Christmas years past. Last year's Christmas is just a blur to me because we returned from Ukraine only several days before. However, I vividly remember the Christmas before. It was the Christmas that a large family advocacy group launched their campaign to keep Christmas Christmas, rather than just the "holiday season." I watched the campaign with some amusement because I really couldn't believe that someone didn't have any better battles to fight than tying to keep a commercial based holiday associated with a gospel that it has nothing to do with. Boy that was a long and confusing sentence.

Anyway, I got the (what seemed like) thousands of forwarded emails about what stores I was supposed to boycott, and all the forwarded emails about the ones that complied with the family advocacy group's demands. But the most amusing part of it was at the end of the season, when I was forwarded the final letter of that season's campaign.

After being a thorn in the side of many retailers, and getting several of them to change their advertising the family advocacy group decided that Christmas was getting too commercial (no kidding!) and that members should make an effort not to buy so much next Christmas.

So, let me get this straight. You antagonize the retailers about their advertising and merchandise, boycott them, finally negotiate and get what you want, and then you withdraw your support from the them? Wow.

Well, that spirit of Christmas is still alive and well. The other day, my Mom (who most certainly must have realized that she was sending me blog fodder!) sent me a link to a rather disturbing video. Don't worry, it's not obscene (unless you consider getting the song stuck in your head as obscene).

I don't even know where to start with this, except that my first thought was that there was no "gentleness and respect" that Peter calls for in I Peter, unless of course, I misread "jabs and sarcasm" as "gentleness and respect." The song is called, "It's Called Christmas with a Capital C" and appears to be a comeback at the movement to remove Christ from the Christmas celebration. Of course, if we were going to be really honest with ourselves we'd admit that Christ came out of our national celebration of Christmas long ago. I, personally, have spent the past 11 years of parenting trying to make sure Christ is put back into what is really a secular, commercial holiday (albeit a fun one).

The song has one of the "Go Fish" members or someone telling really corny, and, in my opinion, rude jokes. The first one being, "Merry Christmas Mr. Lowenstien!" -- referring to the many years that the standard holiday greeting was "Merry Christmas" despite whom you were talking to. The thing is, did we all say "Merry Christmas" because everyone celebrated Christmas? No, we said "Merry Christmas" to everyone because, I think, we were only mixing with people like us, and, as the dominate block of Americans, only catering to ourselves.

Guess what? Things have changed, and most of us know and interact with people of all beliefs and cultural celebrations. So perhaps saying "Happy Holidays" is simply a way of showing respect?

Another conundrum from the video is how we are supposed to be "taking Christmas back" but then he goes on and on about how "Merry Christmas" was never about a religion but about something cultural. He called it, "something good for us as a nation." Well, there he said it himself! Christmas, on a national level, was never about Christ!

And, while I do believe that Christ intimidates people, but not in the way they sing of, I also know that if someone was telling me that I had to tell everybody, "Happy Ramadan" because that's what people should do, it would tick me off and make me not want to listen.

So, while I'm still trying to figure out who in the world is trying to stop them from saying Merry Christmas, I have to ponder what something like this would teach children -- who are Go Fish's primary audience.

Yes, we have a right to say "Merry Christmas", and, yes, anything that is good in the country is from the influence from Christianity. However, I fail to see why that would mean that I want to force people who aren't Christians to fit into my mold. I think Christ is more concerned with reconciling those people to Him than He is with them saying "Merry Christmas."

So, without further ado.... Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Big Ugly Dog and Forgiveness

Several years ago, I was the victim of a crime. The event was perpetrated by a dog, but the crime was really the ignorance of its owners. They bought a dog (in a city, where it is statistically likely to have been bred from fighting stock) that was known for its power, strength and aggression, and then they never bothered to put the dog in obedience training. Instead, fairly ignorant of dog behavior, they kept the 80+lb dog in their home, letting it interact with guests and children in their neighborhood.

I met the dog when it was only about 2 or 3 years old, and within seconds of the meeting it ripped my nose and lip nearly off. The owner drove me to the hospital where I had my face pieced back together by a plastic surgeon. I was terrified, my husband was terrified and my children (who stood next to me as the dog attacked) were terrified. I spent the next week drugged in order to cover the pain which was not only in my face but entire body which had bruises, scratches and teeth marks from the dog jumping on me. With that attack, nightmares, a constant sense of shock and fear became ingrained in me.

On the way to the hospital, I could barely talk and I was praying that my lips were still attached to my face. I also begged Jesus to just get me through this ordeal and help me to use it for his glory. I held the towel over my mouth (to catch the blood) and looked at the man who owned the dog.

"I just want you to know that I forgive you for letting this happen." I said, "I understand that things like this can happen and I just want you to know that I forgive you."

He responded with some apologies, and I thought that this was going to be some great thing that God would work for his glory. Well, it was, but not in the way I thought.

The next day the owner and his wife came over to see how I was. I was still drugged and terrified, and I appreciated their concern. But then, the owner said something that made it feel like the attack was happening all over again. He implied it was not his fault or the dog's fault.

"I don't know what happened. I mean I don't want to make this matter smaller than it is or anything, but this he's such a good dog that I just have to think that this was a playful nip that just went too far."

A playful nip that went too far???? I had over 54 stitches in my face!!!

On that day, I couldn't deal with the guy anymore, so I just smiled, told him I appreciated his visit and secretly hoped he would leave.

Several weeks later, though, I got a call from him. He had talked to his vet, and his vet had suggested that the dog (because he was such a great dog -- or perhaps because he helped to make the vet have a successful practice?) not be put down. Instead, they suggested dog therapy.

Yes, I know it's really really really stupid. But what came next was even more incredible.

"See," he told me, "Sometimes a dog can misinterpret your motions and think you are being aggressive. Your body language told our dog you were a threat, so he bite you."

Oh my, I thought, he's really telling me that this attack was my fault! Instead of the victim, I was the instigator!

Let me stop here and explain just what it feels like to have a crime committed against you, to be brutally attacked and then have the perpetrator suavely explain that it was your fault. There was nothing, nothing that could've hit harder. My face was still ripped up. I had a son who was showing symptoms of PTSD, it hurt to move my arms, I was scared to take walks outside, I was scared to go to the park, I was scared of my own dog, I couldn't sleep at night without nightmares .... and he sat there and told me that it was my fault! Even now as I write about it it raises up anger, guilt, fear and shame.

He went on to ask me for my blessing on his idea to forgo terminating the dog and putting it into therapy.

Obviously, I made it sincerely clear that I thought that was a irresponsible idea. Then I hung up the phone, and really let my husband know just how irresponsible and selfish I thought it was!

Over the course of the next few months I really processed all that had happened. I couldn't believe that that guy would value his dog's life over my face, the safety of his neighbors and wife, and all rational thought. That dog could've easily killed one of my children! Thank God it attacked me and not them! But, still, he did value that dog so much more than human life and health! To my knowledge that dog is still alive today. It did help that their home owners insurance (as well as the laws of Ohio) didn't agree that the attack was my fault! And, God did use this to his glory when we were compensated for the attack and able to pay off adoption debt.

However, there was another lesson in it that came to mind again the other day when I was reading in Colossians.

'But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." Colossians 1:22

I was thinking about what a tremendous gift this is. Christ suffered so much on our behalf, took our punishment for our sins and then just simply forgave us. For those of us that recognize the gift, it is the most wonderful thing. Similar in some ways to how I suffered through the dog attack, taking the brunt of the dog's aggression because of the owner's incompetence in dog behavior, training and handling. Then I forgave him -- something that should've been so freeing to him, and truly given by me as a valuable gift.

But just like the dog owner, there are people who don't recognize the gift. I forgave him. I'm glad I did. I'm glad that I chose to do what Christ wanted me to -- even though it fell on deaf ears. His actions showed that. My forgiveness didn't matter because he was certain that he (or his dog) had done nothing wrong. So, he threw it back in my face, almost to the point of trying to manipulate me with it.

I realized how much that is a picture of how people reject Christ. They take his forgiveness and throw it out. There is no gratitude for the blood that was shed, there is no sensitivity to the losses he faced, and there is no real acceptance of the forgiveness because they believe that they have done nothing wrong. Through this dog attack, I was able to have a tiny understanding of how Jesus feels at this rejection.

That perspective is another way that God redeemed it. Now when I look at the thin scar running across the top of my lip, or when I feel how my left nostril is blocked with scar tissue, it isn't a reminder of how I suffered. It's a reminder of the gift that Christ gave me when He took the punishment for my sin.

I also now understand that nothing, not even all the money an insurance company can throw at you, can replace the lost relationship that happens (even with a mere acquaintance) when a person refuses to accept forgiveness because they refuse to acknowledge the wrong that they've done.

I've wrestled with the question of whether or not I have truly forgiven him. Up until the night of the phone call, I felt that I had. But that phone call was so difficult to get past, that I do still question it. I can honestly say that I don't harass the guy, I don't gossip about him, I haven't made any mean websites about him, I pray for him and his family (especially their safety since they still have the dog), and I don't think mean thoughts about him. I actually don't think about him much at all. I still trust that God can redeem his way of thinking, and that God will righteously judge this incident as He will all others. So, from my human perspective I think I've come as close to forgiveness as I can, and my prayer is that I will continue to live in forgiveness towards him in whatever God calls me to.