Tuesday, April 29, 2014

49, 48, 46....Heavy Numbers Indeed!

Any idea what those numbers could signify?  I'll let you know at the end of this blog (yes, you may scroll down to find out!).

We are counting the days/hours until we fly away to the other side of the planet to bring Christy into our home forever.  Lots of contemplating things right now....how to pack things I use every day....how our trip will go....and firsts.

There will be lots of firsts - the first time Christy gets tucked in bed by her mommy, the first time she wakes up to a mommy and a daddy, the first time she flies in an airplane (oh my!), the first time she has siblings....and so many, many more.  I have no idea if she will appreciate all these first when they happen, but we know that they are so important!  I hope we get to see her light up in surprise frequently, like she did in this photo!

Right now I'm working on getting things all settled in my business so that it can run with little help from me for a few weeks.  I will still check emails and do some management from Bulgaria, but I certainly can't do any cutting or sewing while away.  I am all done cutting (thankfully as I was nearly blister range on my fingers and some of my knuckles are no happy about cutting lately!), but have a few small sewing projects to finish up.  I'm hoping I can get those done by Thursday!

I would like to ask for a few things that you could pray about for us.  First, that we make all our connections. We have two layovers both ways, and one is going to be on the tight side - in Philadelphia on our way home we have a 2 1/2 hour layover, but we have to go through immigration and  collect our check in luggage and go through customs before we can re-check out luggage and get to our flight.  This is barely enough time.  Thankfully we will be on the same flight technically and most of the fellow flyers from the first leg will also be going to the second flight, so it is unlikely that we will get left behind.  Secondly that we will remain healthy throughout the trip, especially Christy. Thirdly, that we will have a great time and that Christy's adjustment to us will go smoothly.  Fourthly, that everything/everyone  staying at home will be healthy and safe.  And lastly, that God will be glorified in our lives and that other will be inspired to save an orphan!

Speaking of saving orphans, it's been a long time since I advocated for any orphans.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you will remember when I was advocating!  I advocated for three little girls and two of them are now with their forever families!

Nastia (who we knew as Alexandra) was this precious tiny girl who had brittle bone disease.  She came home almost exactly a year ago.  She has had a wonderful time adjusting to having a family.  She talks very good English and even sings songs from Disney movies!  She has had two surgeries (not without complications, but she's doing great now) to correct the problems in her legs from multiple fractures that had not been properly set.  She now has rods in both legs to straighten and strengthen her legs in hope that someday she will be able to walk!

Gemma (her new name is a secret but they refer to her as "M" on their blog Carry Your Light) has also been home for a long time. She came home last summer.  While in many ways she is thriving in her forever family, her transition has been difficult and she is struggling with seizures that so far medications have not been able to control.  Her family is loving her and doing so well at trusting in Jesus for strength and giving Him the glory.  I'm sure they'd appreciate your prayers!

Kimberley is a little girl in South America that I was also advocating for, but she does not have a forever family yet.  Two Years...think back to what was happening in your life 2 years ago....our youngest, Carese was just a newborn 2 years ago...and yet two years have gone by and Kimberley still have no family working to bring her home.

And she is not alone - there are hundreds of children on Reece's Rainbow that are still waiting for families, and hundreds of thousands around the world waiting for families.  Please think about what you can do for an orphan today - advocate/share someone on your social network, donate to an orphan's adoption fund or to a family who is in the process of adoption, or come alongside a family who is or has adopted to support and encourage them!

So, what are those numbers?  Those are the weights of our three check in luggage!  There is a 50 pound limit, and we are trying to stay just under in case our scale is different from theirs.  We also have two carry on bags, two back packs and a car seat...we are going to be loaded!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two Years of using Essential Oils

Just over two years ago I found myself on bed rest and dealing with several health issues that just were not resolving through conventional medications and my doctors just couldn't offer me anything effective for these issues.  I had experimented off and on through the years with essential oils with varying degrees of effectiveness.  I had consistently been using Tea Tree oil (also known as Melaleuca Oil) and found that to be so useful in so many ways, and I loved the idea of essential oils in health and beauty items like shampoo, conditioner, lotions and soaps.

Through some Facebook posts I began to see that people were benefiting in so many ways from using a very high grade of essential oils, and these seemed to all point to Young Living Essential Oils.  So I took the plunge and signed up under Stacy MacDonald after doing some reading on her blog, The Common Scents Mom.

I received from Stacy a free Essential Oils Reference Book for signing up as well as ordering the Premium Starter Kit (these are even better now!).  I got the Home Diffuser, the Everyday Oil Collection (with 10 oils) and got started using the oils.

I'm editing this post to add that I just figured out that since I started using Young Living Oils I have not developed bronchitis once whereas before it was nearly a yearly thing for me!  That alone has saved me lots of money and the pain and discomfort of having to suffer through those miserable bouts of weeks of coughing! 

Here some of the oils I use regularly:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Peace and Calming blend the best.  I love the smell.  I used is almost constantly when I first got it as I was on bed rest due to high blood pressure during pregnancy.  When it came time to be induced, I wore a necklace diffuser and had Peace and Calming in that.  Every time a nurse came in the room in the hospital they would comment about how lovely the room smelled and how relaxing it was.  Several even went as far as to ask if they could just stay in my room for a while!  This same thing happened when I used it at Children's Hospital in Seattle when Esther had her tonsils removed and again last month when she had pneumonia!

Peppermint is one of my favorite oils. Great for colds and stuffy sinuses! I also use it to add to the Trim Healthy Mama chocolate Muffin-In-A-Mug recipe to make it a Chocolate Mint Muffin! YUM!!! You can also use this when making candy - candy canes, salt water taffy and similar foods! I also use it to make a super healthy chocolate candy - Virgin Coconut Oil + Cocoa Powder + Stevia (or other sweetener + YL Peppermint = Chocolate Mint Heaven!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  RC (I think "Respiratory Care" - at least that is how I remember it) is a blend of several oils, including three different eucalyptus oils and is awesome for respiratory illnesses.  I diffuse this in Esthers room whenever she has any type of cold since she is prone to pneumonia.  Since using this oil Esther has had way fewer trips to the doctor and has been able to weather several colds without getting sick!  I also rub this on her chest and back and on her feet at bedtime and other times throughout the day if she is breathing with effort.

Deep Relief is my go to for any muscle or joint pain.  I rub it wherever needed at bedtime (Daryls jokes that I smell like a chemical factory, but this one smells to good and pepperminty/winterminty).  Sometimes I use this along with Panaway too.

                           Panaway is a great one for my migraines!  It's also good for any pains anywhere and it smells so good!  This can also be great for joint problems like artheritus or ligament/cartilege damage.  I used this and Deep Relief tons when I injured my knee two years ago.  I know that this was a huge part of my being able to avoid having knee surgery!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thieves is indispensable in my home!  This one smells mostly of cinnamon, but is a blend of several oils based on a story of a group of thieves who would go into the home of people/families who had died of the plague and steal their belongings when no one else dared enter the home for fear of dying from the plague.  These thieves would use a blend of herbs that prevented them from contracting the plague!  I use the Thieves hand sanitizer (smells so much better than regular store brands) and is so much more effective at killing germs.  We use Thieves in our laundry for loads that have unpleasant odors.  This is the only thing I have ever found to effectively remove musty/moldy odors from kitchen towels and washclothes!  We also use it by adding it to the soapy water that we mop the kitchen with and it smells wonderful!  We also add it to a spray bottle of water plus dishwashing soap for spraying/cleaning kitchen surfaces.  This is one essential oil that I freak out about if we run out!

I have so many other oils now that I use when needed, but these are my favorite - and you can tell as I have so many bottles of them!  I have a tough time throwing out these cute little bottles.  When I get a new bottle, I will often pour some from the new bottle into an old bottle so I have two to have around the house.  This work great especially as I have about 4 oils/blends that I like to keep on a shelf in the little girls' room so I don't have to go find them at bedtime!

Recently Young Living improved their Premium Starter Kit - so much so that I am going to order one next month so I can get a second diffuser to use in our downstairs, and to save on the great assortment of oils included in this kit!

If you are interested in Young Living Oils, please contact me if you have questions, or use this link to enroll and order your Premium Starter Kit today!  See what a difference Young Living Oils can make in your life!

I have also started a Facebook Group called Scents and Scentsibility - Young Living Oils where I can share what is working for me and also what other people have found to be helpful in their lives!  I've set it up as a closed group so non-members can see who is in the group, but not the posts so we can share without exposing our deepest secrets to the world!  Just click on "join" to come and learn with me! Come check it out!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I know, Right?

I know, it's about time I get around to it!

It's been over 2 years since "11 blessings" was inaccurate, but I did change the title of the blog....

But now Christy has been our daughter for over 6 weeks and it's time to recognize that although she is not in our home, she is indeed in our family...in our hearts.

So to celebrate I finally took the plunge and got my own domain for my blog - www.thirteenblessings.com!

13blessings.com was already taken (it's a very interesting but boring blog), and so was the blogspot.com one so that pushed me into something that I had wanted to do for a long time!  Much easier to give this blog address in person, that is for sure "thirteen blessings dot com" all in words...Easy Peasy!

New name means new look, and we are going to be celebrating life around here, so I chose fireworks!  And I love purple, so this theme is perfect!

One more thing done to prepare for bringing Christy home....about a month until that happens!`

What do you think??

15 months ago today.....

I'm cross posting this from my adoption blog, A Seventh Sister....

Daryl gave me permission to look at more children who were up for adoption from Bulgaria on Reece's Rainbow.  I had already sent him links to several children, but so far none of them had stood out to us.

15 months ago today, early in the morning I saw that there were a couple of new little girls listed, and one of them had short dark hair was in an outfit that was blue and white - she really looked like a little boy!  Well, I just had to see what she'd look like in a more feminine color. So I used PhotoShop and changed the blue to lavender and added a little flower to her hair:

There, now she looked like a little girl! Then I sent the photo to Daryl, and told him that I had edited the photo...he replied that I could begin to look seriously into adopting Priscilla.  I was surprised, and he said I could ask him later what had convinced him that this was the little girl we should pursue.  I found out a few weeks later, when we were almost ready send in the paperwork and money to be committed to her and put her file on hold for us, that Daryl had decided she was the one because I had Photo-Shopped her!  God does use mysterious ways indeed!

Soon after we made inquiries into the possibilities of adopting "Priscilla" we were sent some updated photos and some videos, which only confirmed that we wanted to adopt this sweet little girl who so needed a home and proper love and care.

15 months is a long time to wait.  I'm sure that there has never been a human mother who has been pregnant for 15 months....and I thought 9 months was along time to wait to meet my newest child each time God has blessed us!

It is especially a long time to wait as we have held her in our arms, fed her meals, held her tight and made her laugh....it has been nearly 6 months since I last held her, last watched her eyes light up in surprise and delight.

When we started this process were saw that the average time of adopting from Bulgaria was around 12 - 14 months, but that it could be quicker.  Here we are 4 weeks overdue and over 2 weeks to go.  

You'd think that as the day draws near that we will fly away to have her in our arms forever, it would get easier, but it doesn't.  You'd think with my busy life the days would go by quickly, but they don't.  sure some days go be fast, but every morning and every evening I have this feeling of emptiness.  In some ways I think it is getting harder.  But God is giving me grace, and every time I start to feel bummed, something comes my way and makes the moments easier to bear.

This week I was able to forward our court decree so that we can add Christy to our medical insurance.  Today I made her very first medical appointment!  She will be going down to Seattle to be seen by the specialists at the UW Adoption Medical Clinic.  They work with the UW specialists and Seattle Children's Hospital to help international orphans get the testing the medical help they need as soon as they come home.

Today I remembered that I had purchased fabric to make her a raggedy blanket and a wrap for carrying her, so now I am looking forward to getting those done this week and next!  I also re-worked my packing list so make things more organized and easy to find!  Every day I do something to further prepare - like tonight - another meal is going in the freezer for the kids to use when we are away.  Step by step, resting on God's perfect timing!

Oh Christy, your mama is coming.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Christy Comes Home - Our Attachment Plan

Since I have not completed our adoption and have not really been super close to a family who has adopted (you know, close enough to see what the parents deal with daily as far as attachment issues goes), I really have no idea what we have in store for us when Christy comes home.

 We plan to work carefully to develop healthy attachment for her, which will start with our time in Bulgaria when it is just her and us.  Once we get home, we plan to take things slowly - only Daryl and I will feed her and take care of her basic needs.  I plan to hold her a lot and make good use of slings/carriers.

 I have read a couple of books and many articles/blog posts about attachment, but I know there is so much more to learn!  Children with Down Syndrome have a different psycho/emotional makeup, so attachment disorders can look different than those of a typically developing child, but again, every child is different.

When we visited Christy in October, she seemed to enjoy being with us, cuddling and playing.  For this to be real bonding would be ignorant...she just loved the attention and was happy to get it from any source.  We don't even expect her to remember us when we come to pick her up (but we did leave some books with our family members photos in them, so she might remember us, but we can not expect that).

From what I've seen in other families who have adopted children with Down Syndrome (and no, I do not know of any families in real life, but I interact with lots of families through Facebook and follow several blogs), these children struggle with appropriate affection - they are just as content to get hugs and kisses from complete strangers as they are getting them from their adoptive parents/siblings.  This can be a very long term problem.

So we are going to be working very hard in the first 6 months (and beyond) to create healthy bonding with Christy.  I plan to treat her as I would a newborn - and that is what I have read over and over again - no matter how old the adopted child, you need to start as though they are a newborn.  Think about how you cared for a newborn and do the same thing...you keep them near you/in your arms most of the time, you feed them yourself with close physical proximity (if not still in your arms), you snuggle with them and kiss them and show them love constantly.  And you limit other people's interaction with your baby.  You stay at home and concentrate on getting to know this new life.  I have even read that it is a good idea to go back to bottle feeding, wrapping/swaddling and such.  I plan to try this too (I've packed several types of bottles to try as she has swallowing issues and has problems with aspiration too).  Christy was never swaddled, never held while given a bottle, never rocked to sleep, never held during the long nights.  But she needs that, even though she is 3 1/2 years old!  Developmentally she is about 8 - 9 months, so in many ways she is still a baby, and that will make this easier (as in it would be weird/difficult to bottle feed/swaddle a 10 year old, but many families have found this to be helpful even with older children).

This means that we won't be allowing anyone outside out immediate family to hold her or show her physical affection until we see that she is learning to bond with us, and then it will be a purposeful expansion of her "close enough for affection" relationships.  From here I see it progressing from just Daryl and I, so adding our children, and then to others who regularly see her.  I know this makes if hard for close family who have prayed for us to bring her home and have loved her already.  But if you do not regularly see her, then it will be a long time before we will allow Christy to interact with you in a friendly/affectionate way.  We do not want to be mean or to offend anyone, but we need to do this for Christy's sake and for her safety, or she will go through life allowing anyone who shows her attention/affection to do just that, and reciprocating this behavior, and I'm sure you can see where that leads.

Also, just for your information, not all children who are adopted deal with attachment issues, but most do.  When you are talking exclusively about children with Down Syndrome and attachment disorders, the percentage of those children with attachment issues is far lower, but it does happen. Children with DS have a different makeup, especially in the phsycological and sociological realm.  This can lessen the impact of living without a family during their early years.

I hosted a poll on the Reece's Rainbow Facebook group (there's a lot of families there who have already adopted children with DS so it's a great place to get  this kind of information!

Here's what I polled about:

"If you have adopted a child with Down Syndrome have you had to deal with attachment disorder?"
The options were:
Not at all
We have dealt with indiscriminate affection
It has taken a long time, but we are making good progress
My child has RAD for sure
I have lost hope of ever developing healthy attachment in my chid
    Our child has not bonded well with us at all

    What you can't see here is that there were 10 who picked the first choice!  For some reason I can't get those poll answers to show up!  I guess you'll just have to take my word on it!  So children with DS can have attachment issues, but the majority are either minor or non-existent!  Plus, children who have DS and were never abandoned and have remained with their birth parents can have issues with indiscriminate affection - these children are just so much more affectionate most of the time - I have had hugs from complete strangers who have DS and were never adopted.  Their parents apologize, but I don't mind at all.  I think these kids/adults just have a better perception when it comes to others need for reassurance and affection!  There was a lot of discussion with that poll, and there seemed to be some agreement that their children from orphanages had fewer attachment problems than those who came out of a foster system - I found this very interesting!

    One amazing woman I have met through the adoption groups is Amanda U.  She has adopted 20 children - 12 from foster care here in the US, and now 8 from Bulgaria, making a total of 21 children.  She is doing an amazing job with these children and they are blossoming in her care!  She had this to say:

    " I adopted 6 children with Down Syndrome. 5 were from Bulgaria and 1 from US foster care. They were varying ages. NONE of them have RAD. There is some orphanage stuff with some of the kids at first, but that is called "smart enough to survive". . . if they didn't learn to get the attention of adults then they wouldn't have survived. Every one of them showed preference to us as their parents very quickly. Every one of them have attached. Every one of them knew that we were their "safe" people very quickly. Children with Down Syndrome are often outgoing and extra friendly. . . I think people tend to blame that on "attachment" when their children are adopted. My children are firmly attached. Anita is our only one that can be somewhat manipulative, but I think that is her personality and how orphanage life affected her. I think when kids come home, then you "cocoon". You work to get past any learned orphanage behaviors and try to remember what caused the behaviors. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think how you would act if you had lived through the same things they have. . . . Most of the time you realize you wouldn't do nearly as well as they do. Our little ones with DS are VERY resilient and such amazing kids"

    Pray for us, pray for her, that this bonding process will to quickly and that she will develop healthy. appropriate bonding.  Pray for her health.  Pray for my preparations for the trip so I will have packed all the right things/be able to find what we need in country.  Pray for my other children as this bonding process will be hard on them - they will all want to shower attention on her from the second they meet her!

    For further reading on this subject, please check out the following, especially if you are part of my life and will be a part of Christy's life (or a part of the life of any adoptive family!).

    Upside Down, Attachment  From an Adoptive Mother

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    To Go or Not to Go

    Something very rare is happening right now!  There are three movies that seem to be friendly to Christianity in theaters right now!  I was so excited when I first saw the previews for Noah, and then I heard rumors about The Son of God, and then more recently I was seeing things about a movie called "God's Not Dead."

    I have appreciated the opportunities in the past of going to a movie theater and watching wholesome, God glorifying movies, but they are rare!  So many movies try to make us think that they are biblical and/or God glorifying when in actuality they are an insult to the God I know and love, and are a slap in the face to Christians everywhere (like The Last Temptaion of Christ).

    Well, the movies to choose from in theaters now are all of the above!

    The Son of God is based on heretical beliefs, and is made with a heavy influence from New Age philosophy and present a twisted feel-good wimpy savior (non capitalization intended).   I was sad to see the Dove Awards actually recommends this film.  Sad indeed.  I am not a good movie reviewer, so here are some that I found helpful (and there were many "Christian" reviews that totally overlooked the blaring problems with this film):
    Questions to ask while watching The Son of God

    Noah was such a promising movie if you only watched the previews....but you are probably wondering who those children were...there were no children on the Ark, right?  And what's with all the explosions and fighting?  I thought it would be awesome, but have found out that it is offensive and just plain messed up.  It has little to nothing to do with the Biblical account of the flood - it shares the name of Noah, there is a boat, and there is a flood....pretty much everything else is totally messed up.  

    Here's quick rundown of what is wrong with this film:
    If you want to read a more in depth article (and highly entertaining review at that), check out Matt Walsh's review, but don't let his title fool you! 

    And lastly, I come to the movie I did watch this past weekend, God's Not Dead.  I really had no idea what we were going to see other than reading the brief synopsis, and seeing that many people whom I highly respect their opinions were recommending this film, it was our 29th anniversary and the other choices were just plain lame.  Boy, were we ever pleasantly surprised!  We really enjoyed the movie - it kept our attention throughout, and I've even describe it as keeping you on the edge of your seat.  It was very emotional, but that can make it difficult to critically view the movie.  There are some things that could have been done better (like a fuller presentation of the gospel, and a few little things that were not very realistic, but I'm not going to be a spoiler).  Some parts were predictable (pleasantly so), but others were shockingly not predictable.  

    Ken Ham wrote a review of this movie, and while much of what he says is true, I think he missed the point - God was not on trial, and the student was not trying to present the gospel, he was doing what the professor challenged him to do - at least give them a cause to doubt that God does not exist.  Yes, he didn't use lots of scripture to prove his points, but when talking to an atheist, basing every argument on scripture alone will not make a dent in their mindset - you have to use the world around us to show that scripture is true....even the Bible says that creation will reveal that there is a Creator to anyone who looks upon it!

    While I recommend bringing your unsaved friends to this movie, I don't think it will have a dramatic effect on someone who believes they are saved, who believes there is a God, as it doesn't really get to the real tenants of what true salvation is (see my post on this subject!), but it will encourage Christians to have an answer for the truth of God's word, and it will definitely be cause to ponder for atheists and those who are unsure if there is a God or not.  That said, bringing someone who might think they are saved but in reality are just playing along (this is a dangerous place to be) might be a good idea as it might give you the opportunity to present a true gospel message and the idea of living for Christ in everything we do.

    As my husband said when we were considering what movie to watch "which would you rather see on the big screen" - meaning action movies and exciting special effects are more impressive on the big screen, but we also discussed where to "throw your money" too.  Hollywood listens to where the money comes from.  DVD rentals just don't count as much as movie theater tickets do!  And then there is the watching a movie in the community context!  I enjoyed the responses in the theater to the elements in this movie - applause, gasps, and even people texting about the movie after the show!

    So there you have it - I have to get going on my day (it's sunny so I HAVE to paint something!), but I just had to put our my 2 cents on the movie options in theaters right now.  Use your time and money wisely, check out what others are saying about these movies and how Hollywood what movies are worth producing, and then make your voice heard!

    PS Pure Flix produced this movie and they have another one coming out soon that you might want to take a look at - Heaven is for Real, based on a true life story and the resulting book.  I have no idea about the movie or the book, but the trailer was really captivating!  If you know something about this movie/book, please comment!