Category Archives: fears

My other options

DSC_3087Sometimes, I get tired. Physically, emotionally, I’m human. I get too focused on details and laundry and just getting the kids through the day and in the bed so I can do it all again tomorrow.

Today, though, I have lifted my eyes and seen that even though the road I am traveling is not easy or simple, it is good, and it beats my other options.

I could have been single.  We could have stopped having kids and had a normal sized family. I could have spent the evening surfing the web in peace and quiet  last night instead of playing cards with our four biggest kids and telling jokes and dirtying dishes and being blessed with a houseful of laughter and love.

I had the option of not adopting kids. I could have stayed home 6 years ago instead of going to Kazakhstan to adopt a DSC_3106child I had never met and knew nothing about. If I had taken that option, I would have had a cleaner house today or a fatter bank account but Joshua would most likely be dead already.  I would not have received a little note from him this afternoon – “I love you mom” or made up a list of exciting activities he wants us to do this summer with him. It’s a great list – we’re going to the zoo, to the pool, bowling, to see the Snake Farm, then put flowers in food coloring and see what happens.  Then we’ll go to the beach at the lake and dig down in the dirt until and see how far we have to dig before the sand cools off enough that we can just lay there. The list also includes spending all day painting pictures, taking out library books, going fishing, eating popcorn at the movies, and getting Sonic drinks and drinking them in the car. He also plans to learn carpet ball and practice his soccer and learn more songs on the piano. This kid knows how to live. He’s teaching me.

DSC_3119We could have also opted out of taking Caleb as our own.  He would have been sent to a nursing home, according to his case worker at the time.  We had the option to walk away, but Caleb didn’t have many options himself.  It’s been three years since he came home. It’s been a hard road, lots of medical appointments, high risk surgery, difficult recovery, and probably more to come, but we’ve weathered it together and come out stronger for it.  I had an incredible conversation with him today about what he likes about  the pool and how he played with Joshua and Abbey yesterday and he was so cute, so happy.  It’s hard to believe how far he’s come in three years, and impossible to think about having taken the other option and walked away from this child. This kid knows how to enjoy life, and he is teaching me.

I had the option to miss all this blessing. Breathtaking.

Birthday Sabotage

It’s birthday season here. We have three birthdays in September, two in October, one in November.  This year we are scaling back on the birthday celebrations.  I had read in the past that birthdays are an emotional mine field for adopted people.  When a kid learns what birth actually is, and that on their day of birth they were with birth mother, it can obviously cause some strain.  Joshua has started this year with birthday sabotage.  He is not verbalizing clearly that this is hurtful to him, but he had problems with the other birthdays in the house.

Paul’s birthday came first, and we put Josh in charge of the handing out gifts.  He did ok – but it was also a Sunday, and we had a lunch celebration, so he was busy at church and didn’t have all day to think about it.  We had lunch at a restaurant, so there wasn’t a bunch of preparation at the house.  It also helped that Paul is the dad, and not in the same category that Joshua is in. Paul’s birthday went well.  He watched Nascar, we all ate Mexican food, had all his kids at home (Justin came home form Dallas for the occasion).   It was nice, and Joshua was his usual self.

Then came Abigail’s  birthday. It landed on a Thursday, and it was very low key.  I took her out for lunch, just the two of us, and we had dinner at the house and she received cards from her grandparents and gifts from her siblings.  Joshua was antsy, and threw a little  tantrum, but that’s not that unusual.   Abigail was a trooper.  It was a hard day for her, as her friends live overseas and she misses them and tantrums at your birthday are awkward.  Thankfully, there’s Skype.

Matthew’s party, however, did not go so well.  It was just the family at home, and we made a nice Italian dinner and picked up a cake from Jessicakes.  It was a later dinner than usual, and when Matt got home from school he asked if he could have the remote control and watch TV on a school day (usually, that’s a no).  Joshua watched Phineas and Ferb with Matt, and in retrospect that was not a good idea.  Vegging out on the couch watching TV seems to be like winding up a spring that has to then release massive energy for Joshua.  Also, there was too much  idle thinking time  for Joshua before the festivities began.  When everyone had gathered for dinner, Joshua  wouldn’t come.  He wouldn’t eat, and he started to tantrum. He grabbed at presents, he ran around the room, and we had to take him out of the situation.  Matt was unfazed; he lives here and knows these things happen, and he got the very best gift, a kindle Fire, so he was in 12 year old geek heaven anyways. I think it was hard for Joshua, but the rest of us didn’t get upset about it.

Joshua, since then, has brought up a few times that I am Matthew’s birth mother and his real mom too.  He’s talked at Caleb and told Caleb that’s there the “other mother” out there for both of them.  I was driving them to the public library when I overheard that conversation. I was able to interject that it isn’t as though birth mothers accidentally were separated from them.  They weren’t able to care for them, and God brought them to a family that was able to love and care for both of them.  Birthmothers are not coming back , and they have a mom and dad now.  Joshua has brought up Kazakhstan 3 times this week.   I am not in his head, but I think it’s the birthdays that have brought it to the front of his mind, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to process through again.  I am trying to find the balance between letting him talk and letting his feelings out in the open and not dwelling on the hurtful  past.

We are also thinking through how to handle it when his birthday arrives in January.  It is better to go low key, or have a big party? We’re still thinking on that one.  One idea we have is to have a Gotcha Day party, since his Gotcha Day (the day that he arrived home) is only a week different than his birthday.  We have some time to sort that through.


Adventures with Pepper the Neurotic Schnauzer

Can dogs be neurotic? Absolutely. Pepper is a great little dog; kind, loving, loyal, everything a dog should be, even if she’s not the sharpest tack in the drawer.  I do love my little dog Pepper, but that dog has issues.  Many issues; too many to discuss in  one blog post. The most significant problem is definitely  fear of thunder.

Before I had a smart phone to use to  check the weather , Pepper was the weather reporter around here.  If the dog is shaking and trying to crawl up your leg, there’s a thunderstorm in the area.  She would escalate to frantic running around the house and whining and barking.  She’s never run away in a panic, thankfully, but she has caused some problems.  We took her to the vet and the vet prescribed sedative for her, but in Texas, there’s often  not much warning when the weather is changing, and the storms can be over very quickly.  By the time the medicine got into her bloodstream, it was all usually over.  This was especially a problem in the middle of the night. When we ran out of the medicine the vet prescribed, we found out that benadryl works too, and so we tried giving her benadryl but it was too slow to be of use as well.

Pepper modeling the Thundershirt. Don’t judge.

Then there was the epic weather and laundry and Pepper  meltdown day about a year ago, that I wrote a blog about. A friend of mine, Sandra, read that blog and told me about the Thundershirt for dogs.  It’s this little coat thing that is supposed to help dogs with anxiety problems by applying pressure to their bodies, and it is can sometimes work right away! The advertisements said it works on 80% of dogs, so we figured it was worth a shot.  We ordered one, and waited for the next thunderstorm.

It took a long time for another thunderstorm to come up, since we are in a historic drought, but it finally came, and we were ready with our new dog Thundershirt, and with a handy bonkers  dog to go with  it.  I am happy to report that it works! Pepper was a little clingy but behaved very well, with no loopiness. This gave us the idea that maybe it would help with some of her other fears.  One of her other unfortunate phobias is big dogs.  That’s a real problem, because we have a big dog now, and Pepper will screech and bark and whine and carry on  like Sasha is tearing her limb from limb when Sasha is merely standing next to her.  Sasha thinks this behavior means,”Irritate that little dog some more!” and so Sasha will nose her around a little and that really makes Pepper crazy.  So we tried having Pepper wear the Thundershirt almost all the time, and do you know, it works.  Not 100%, but probably 75% less kookiness around our house.  Although this might be a problem, because now I have to look elsewhere for more blog material, we are grateful for a little peace and quiet.

round button chicken

miscellany monday at lowercase letters

Shootings, Disease, Worry, and Me

Went to bed last night thinking about my Abigail. To bring you up to date, I will tell you that she is in Ecuador and I am back in Texas. She has two bug bites from some nasty jungle insect that have become infected and she’s going to the doctor today for help, without me, but with Heather and Wanda. I laid in bed thinking through worst case scenarios.  What ifs, and you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve all done it; I’ve been here before too.  I prayed for her – and I fell asleep eventually.

Woke up this morning to the news of the Batman movie shooting.  Justin was thinking of going to that today, and I am telling you, he’s not going, not if I have anything to say about it.  No sir. Not until the fervor dies down and we see if there are going to be copycats. Wait for the DVD, maybe; that’s what I’m thinking.

On a related note, I am attempting to improve my health habits and I am eating mostly vegetarian (Engine 2!) and using my elliptical and walking and throwing kids at the swimming pool, but this morning I am sore and tired and lazy.  It is very frustrating that what is enjoyable is bad for me, but what I am supposed to do is miserable a whole lot of the time.  Caleb’s physical therapist was here at 8:00 and sitting on the floor with them  was a chore for me – I over did it yesterday and I am worn out.  I said out loud that I am NOT getting on that elliptical today and Alicia the PT set me straight – she told me to do it anyway. Use your arms more, set the level lower, turn on some music, watch some TV but don’t quit. Keep on going.  The way forward is forward!

Considering that I was looking at her and my son Caleb that can’t walk but keeps on trying, it did seem silly then to give up.  I can walk, I can try, and I can try again, and I got back on that elliptical and did over a mile while listening to music and half singing and just pushing through it. It does help to focus on the arms.  Alicia is right, as usual. I can really be a spoiled brat sometimes.

So now I actually feel a little better physically, but I am still checking my messages way too often to hear from Ecuador and how Abigail is doing.  I don’t even know when they will see the doctor, but I am checking nonetheless.  I feel a little like I am free-falling, and for me, that’s not a good feeling.  I do realize that people pay good money for that sort of thing, but I don’t.  That when it hit me; I am free-falling in a black hole of worry and I am clutching on to something, namely comfort and safety, that doesn’t exist.  I need to stop being an idiot and pull the rip cord of faith and let the most amazing God be my parachute.  It will make for a much better landing, don’t you think?

So I changed my mindset and started praising God – I am here singing “Indescribable” at the top of my lungs and have released my kids back to the God who they truly belong too, and I repent of my worry, which has never done any good but has caused a lot of senseless grief through the ages.  Instead of anticipating a disaster, I am now enjoying the view from my parachute.  I have an amazing daughter who is loving special needs kids in a third world orphanage.  She’s teaching a 6 year old little girl with cerebral palsy to eat with a bowl of jello and a spoon; she’s stroking the head of a blind, bed ridden child and talking to her and being a loving presence.  She’s serving the very ones that Jesus has his eye on day and night, and she’s getting some serious joy out of it.  She doesn’t want to come back here to the well fed and discontent.  She doesn’t want to be the well fed and discontent anymore.  Me neither.

photo credit: Abigail

Matthew 6: 27- 29  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Embracing who I am, and who I am not

Abigail did fantastic at piano recital yesterday;  I think it was her finest performance to date. She looked good too.  I did not have much to do with it. She paddled her own proverbial canoe.

It has been a crazy week. We had no time to consider what she would wear.  Friday, on the way from piano lessons to picking up Joshua at school, we had 15 minutes, total, to run into Kohl’s, and I had to buy shorts for Justin to wear to his new job that evening, so that’s all I could do. She and I split up – I ran for Justin’s shorts, and found the right thing by the grace of God, and she ran to find something to wear to recital. We met back up at the check out, and I glanced at her thing (“It’s cute. I prefer blue on you but get in line. Whatever.”)and she glanced I what I had grabbed(“He said navy blue, that’s too dark. Whatever”), we nodded, we paid, we ran for the door.

Part of the problem is,  our dog is very  sick. We’ve had a stomach virus run through the humans this week – Paul, Justin and Carolyn stayed well – and then Thursday Pepper got sick.  It’s yucky. It’s completely unrelated to the human illnesses.  We’ve been to the vet. She suffers from hemorrhagic gastritis.  Click on the link if you care for the details. It’s her third attack; we’re going to have to put her  on a prescription diet now. She should survive and Saturday afternoon she was able to bark some, so there’s reason to be optimistic. But it was scary, and we’ve had to tend to her and do a lot of laundry for all the sicknesses that we’ve had. I am tired. Emotionally and physically.

After the recital, Abigail and I ran for the car to go get Carolyn at the SAT testing center.  We were stuck in traffic – the recital was longer than we anticipated – and we were very thirsty.  I stopped at a Walgreens and we bought drinks.  The man in front of us in line complimented me on how nice Abigail’s hair looked.

When we got into the car, Abigail chortled and mentioned that the man complimented me, which is funny when she does all her own hair and clothing choices. I’ll be honest here.  I don’t do girl’s hair, I don’t have much fashion sense.  Abigail and Carolyn do my hair if it needs to look nice.  I felt bad for about 2 seconds, because I am a flawed perfectionist personality and think I should be able do every thing well. But then I asked her if she cares that I  don’t do hair and can’t sew and can’t pick out clothes real well. I can do a preschooler craft but that’s it.  I don’t knit. I only know one language. She said, “Oh no. We would hate that if you did.  How can we be our own people if the mom does everything?” So I exhaled and got over myself.

I don’t know if you’re like that too, but I need to not spend anymore time thinking about what I can’t do , and what I am not. I am ok just the way I am.  Jesus loved me before I ever did one thing in ministry for Him. He loves me now.  My dog loves me, and she doesn’t care that  I can’t help her. My husband and  my kids love me too.

Ticked off at Cerebral Palsy

I realize it doesn’t make any sense to be mad with CP.  But that’s where I’ve been the last 24 hours.

I was getting dressed for church and Paul headed in to get Caleb up and dressed, and he called out for assistance.  Caleb had gotten sick in his bed, and there was a mess.  He didn’t seem too unhappy, but he was stinky and sticky  and so I took off my church clothes,put on shorts and  a T shirt, and got to work cleaning.  I went upstairs to check on the big kids’ progress, and Abigail was in the bathroom looking puny too.  She had an upset stomach, but she didn’t end up throwing up.  She stayed home from church with Caleb and I. Paul headed out with the well children to church.

The washing machine was churning away, and, freshly scrubbed, Caleb was sitting at the kitchen table eating half a piece of dry toast when he erupted.  It scared the heck out of me. When he started to throw up, seated in his kitchen chair,  his arms and legs went stiff, straight out from his body, and his head flung back.  There was no way for the liquids to escape gravity and I was certain he was about to choke and aspirate right there. I was able to flip the chair forward faster than I would have been able to un-seat belt him. The mess was colossal, but who cares.  He escaped from that episode and we just sat there on the kitchen floor for a little bit.  Him, recovering from feeling bad, and me, freaked out about what could have, but didn’t,THANK YOU JESUS,  happen.

In retrospect, it makes sense that his body would do that. He stiffens more when he’s excited, whether it’s happy or sad excitement, and that’s just what happened.  He’s thankfully got a strong stomach – the only times he’s thrown up before have been in the hospital, recovering from surgery, and he’s been laying down or curled up on my lap on those occasions, so it wasn’t a problem.  I am so ticked off at CP.  It’s bad enough to have a stomach bug, but why does everything have to be so difficult for this kid?  Can we have the day off from stiffness and disability so we don’t choke ? Can’t he get a break here?

We didn’t feel like we could leave him with Carolyn and Abigail, so Paul stayed home with him while Matt played an afternoon game of soccer, and Matt scored a spectacular, into the air right over the goalie’s head, goal. Paul missed it; did I mention that I am ticked off at CP?

Caleb spent the day in just a diaper, to cut down on the cleaning, and when he sat at the table sipping sprite or  water, we left the seat belt off.  He has a big cushy mat in the back room where he stretches and exercises – probably 5 feet by 6 feet – and we hung out there most of the day.  It’s washable.  He had his happy moments and his whiny moments, but he didn’t explode again until bedtime.  This time he was sitting in the bathroom, and I was right next to him so I could push his head down when it shot back.

I am so grateful Paul was home and he had the sense to just haul stuff outside and hose it down. Love that problem solving engineer. We set Caleb up to sleep in our room, so we could have a sharp ear and eye on him.  He slept through the night and seems better.  Tried more dry toast tow hours ago and it’s still down. He stood up at the recliner  in the living room just now and asked for a Blues Ckues TV show, so he’s on the mend.  Me too.  No sense being mad about it.  I am counting my blessings that he’s getting better, and that we were here and able to care for him when he needed help.  Matt is pretty casual about Paul missing his goal. Matt says he  likes basketball better anyway.

All is well.
Stumbo Family Story

On the first of each month, bloggers who blog about CP can connect!  If you want more info about living with CP or would like to connect in yourself, here’s the link.

Abandonment and Loss

My Joshua deals with  fears and insecurities. I don’t blame him.  I saw where he came from;  I watched  him learn how to chew, to eat, to use a bottle at a year old.  Just like a newborn, he would stick out his tongue with the food on it, kick it around in his mouth, and we had to help him learn to swallow.  His little body couldn’t process food right away.  I am so thankful we have a family doctor who walked us through how to feed a starving person.  You can’t just feed them.  Their systems will be overwhelmed, and they could die.  You introduce foods slowly, you don’t give them milk, you don’t give fatty foods, you serve small amounts, you’re careful.  You’re patient.  That aspect of  helping Joshua  was more obvious, but the ongoing reality of helping him recover emotionally is more subtle, and more challenging. We still have to careful and patient, and  it’s harder to know how to proceed.

He used to be afraid that I would leave him.  He hasn’t brought that up in a year, and I am so grateful that his heart can be at rest, and so proud of him, for all he’s overcome.  This summer has had its challenges. One thing we dealt with was he  was afraid of the loss of our dog, Pepper.  He was driving me crazy.  He followed her around, he held  on to her, he wondered where she’d go when she left us.  What if Pepper gets lost?  What if she runs off when we’re not looking?  The whole idea of it is absurd.  Pepper has low vision, no interest in the outdoors,  and the laziest attitude EVER.  She wouldn’t leave, because that would require getting off the couch, and going outside where there is no air conditioning, and might interfere with her napping schedule.  She slipped out once when we were unloading groceries and fell asleep on the front lawn.  She’s not going anywhere, but Josh couldn’t be convinced of that. He was focused on the fictional loss of his dog.

So I had a bright idea of going out and buying a new ID tag for Pepper to wear.  Joshua was thrilled with this.  We drove over to Petsmart, and he picked out a nice tag for her.  We had it engraved before his very eyes, and then he brought it home and we put it on her collar.  Strangely, he feels better.  I think this is major progress.  He had a concern, we took concrete action, and he is learning that he doesn’t have to be passive.  He can do something. He’s quit, mostly, with the Pepper-is-leaving-me idea.  Progress!  Another step towards healing and wholeness.

I think we are all like that too.  We have our fears and we can just sit and stew and work ourselves into a panic. Or we can analyze why we feel that way and  can do something to change our situation.  We could  abandon the  lies and insecurities we deal with , and move forward towards wholeness ourselves.  That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”  The truth is, the family and the dog are not going to abandon Joshua, and now he is free to live in that truth.

Now, I am really praying for that dog to stay well and live a long life.   And I am super proud of my Josh and all the progress he is making.