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Thursday, October 26, 2017

I choose you

Hey D. We sure have been through a lot. These past few months have been some of our most challenging yet. You being wild and me being sad. The more you acted out the less patience I had. The less patience I had the more you acted out... and so the cycle went. 
But I realized something. 
It was more about me than it was you buddy. The cycle needed to change. It was the cycle that needed "disruption" not you.... not your life, family, and certainly not our love for one another. But you couldn't fix it. Because you are just 5 years old. You are fighting your own battles within your own mind. It had to be me. It couldn't be anyone else. I am the one with you all day. I am the one struggling to "mommy" you. I had to change. You would have fixed it if you could have. I know you would. Because you love your mommy and you hate to see her sad and mad. 
Your struggles are not going away D. You will always have DS, ADHD, and FAS. You didn't choose to have those things. I will provide you the therapies you need and the medications to help your impulsivity and trouble sleeping. But... I have to choose patience, kindness, control, perseverance, love. I get to choose. You didn't. 
So what do I do? When I am already doing so much? When my plate is full but my tank is empty?

I clean the plate and fill the tank.

I choose to cut out unnecessary stress
I choose to limit appointments
I choose to put my photography on hold
I choose to eat healthy
I choose to work out
I choose to take relaxing baths
I choose to have mommy pamper days
I choose to hug when I want to yell
I choose to laugh when I want to cry
I choose to break the cycle

Its working. I have never been happier, more optimistic, more patient, more satisfied, more in love. 

I hope you will make better choices too someday, D. But until you do, I will keep making my own good choices for both of us. 
Today, I choose you. 

Mommy and Dunham 2013

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Falling in love again...

I found myself in prayer and serious reflection after writing my last post about Dunham. I realized it simply wasn't fair. Dunham didn't ask to have Down Syndrome, FAS or ADHD. He didn't ask to be an orphan. He didn't ask to be a part of our family or have a mommy functioning at half her ability. Wait? What was that last part? Is it true? Am I only functioning as a 4 when I should and could be functioning as an 8? 9? In other words do I need to change ME? This realization gave me hope. It was good news! I realized that Dunham would not have a chance to meet his full potential if his biggest advocate was unhealthy, over weight, mildly depressed, ..... the list goes on! I have NOT been taking care of myself. I have gained 50lbs... 50! In the past five years. I never go to church, I dont spend time with friends, I dont exercise, heck I hardly shower! How in the world do I expect to be the best mom I can be when I am shuffling around like the walking dead? I had thought myself unworthy of time, attention, money. Well that is just crap! Maybe if I lost weight, got in shape, found fellowship and began to feel better about myself, Dunham's behaviors wouldnt seem so overwhelming! I would certainly have better coping skills. I think its safe to say diet and exercise effect everything! I need to limit my obligations and clear out some skeletons and dust off some cobwebs. It has been five years of babies! I have 6 children under 6. I deserve some me time and my kids need me to be at my best!

This realization encouraged me to flick the enemy in the eye and shush his lies that I was "undeserving, wasting time/money, too old, too sick?, bad mom, bad bad bad...... " lies! all lies!
Last Friday I joined a gym. 430am I am on the road, work out for an hour, get home before the family wakes and drink my coffee! I feel alive, renewed, refreshed!

The second realization I had is that no relationship is going to improve without effort. I began inviting Dunham to sit with me and taking time to "listen" to his needs. I recruited an OT to work with him along with ABA, PT and Speech. We celebrated his 5th Birthday and reflected on all of the progress he's made. We gave ourselves and Dunham, Grace. I realized as I fought for my son, that I loved him dearly! and right now he is good. He is happy. I am happy. I wish we could fast forward to the day Dunham stops throwing, hitting, yelling. But right now, in this season.... I am ok. Dunham is ok. and we are going to be just fine. <3

Friday, September 15, 2017

Quinning aint easy

Today is national "Have a glass of wine at noon if you are the parent of an adopted, special needs child day!" Because... Quinning aint easy ya'll!

 It has actually been a relatively good day. But reality is raising 5 special needs adopted children is a hot mess! I signed up for this hot mess, yes. I am mostly in LOVE with this hot mess! I would not change this hot mess. Those facts remain forever true. BUT..... It is not easy. To advertise that this life style is "easy" would be unfair and misleading. I am struggling. Not with day to day. But.... with decision making. What is the right thing to do!?!? This comes up daily with everything that has to do with my children. So.... Here it is. I have 6 incredible children. I actually have 8 but lets subtract the two adults.  I have 6 incredible Quinn kids at home. Five are what I would consider "typically" challenging. I mean they ARE kids after all! One, is exceptionally challenging. Lets talk about that little guy shall we....

Dunham. He is funny, sweet, loving, and.... he also has FAS and ADHD. He throws and destroys and hurts. It is amazing how much those two diagnosis change the personality of an otherwise typical DS child. He is tough. I don't think I've done a good job sharing with those that follow our family just how tough he is. When I say "tough" I honestly mean "catastrophic". That is a strong term. It is an honest term. I cannot express how much I LOVE D Man. How much I love all of my children! Every single one of them is an important and VITAL member of this family. I would gladly give my own life for any one of them. FACT.

It takes 2 adults to control Dunham. It takes 1 adult to care for the remaining 5. Depending on the 2 that are "controlling" Dunham.... they are not always effective. Mommy and Daddy + 1 Dunham =  a difficult but decent day. Mommy and Daddy + Dunham + 5 other Quinn's = :/ ehh..... lets just say we survive! Two ABA Therapists + 1 Dunham = hot mess! Aunt B and Cousin Jess + D man= survival on a short term basis. The truth is Dunham is damaged. :( Damage that occurred in utero. Damage that occurred because his biological parents have genetic issues and alcoholism. Damage that my husband, myself, his pediatrician, his physiatrist, his psychologist, his speech therapist, his occupational therapist and his physical therapist can NEVER un-do. Regardless of their love and willingness to do so. Damage that medications and ABA Therapy can do their best to try and  "control" but can NEVER remove from our little D Man's being. It is "permanent damage". It is the kind of "damage" that OBGYN's warn pregnant women about. It is the kind of "damage" that destroys marriages and families. It is the worst of the worst. I could try and express to you the fecal smearing, how he chokes instead of hugging, how he intentionally breaks things and smiles and laughs as he runs away, how his impulse control is so low that he will knowingly do what he knows he shouldn't because he simply cannot control himself, how he grabs women's breasts (or fat or his own penis) whenever in reach because he enjoys the sensory of "jiggling". How we have four locks on both exterior doors to prevent him from eloping. I could tell you about the black eye he gave Lettie or the goose egg he gave Bo throwing things, but it still wouldn't share with you the magnitude of our D Man.

My struggle? is this....
Are WE the BEST parents for Dunham?
Is THIS the BEST family for Dunham?
Is Dunham's behavior detrimental to the other children?
Is the stress from Dunham damaging to my marriage or other children?
Will the other children be permanently damaged by the physical, emotional, and mental ramifications of being in a home with a child that has THESE challenges?

THIS is the dilemma facing MANY families of "damaged" Internationally adopted children.
THIS is the dilemma facing families considering "disruption".

We want to do what is BEST for Dunham AND the other children.

Will sending Dunham to Public School give us the respite our family needs to move into the future?

We don't know the answer to these questions friends. We just don't. We are praying about them. We are consulting the people that play an important and daily/weekly roll in Dunham's life. We are seeking counsel and respite and advise. I cannot say the opinion of our online followers or long distance loved ones matter with any depth. Because they/you simply do not know the daily life/personality/struggles of Dunham or our family. We have wisely chosen to consult those that know our children best... Grand Parents, Therapists, Physicians, our older children and close family friends.

If I were able to PICK the PERFECT family for D it would not be one with 5 other young children. But WHAT then would it look like? Would another family love him as fiercely as we do? or anticipate his next move as quickly as we do? Would they have as much patience? or more? Would they know when he is tired he sucks his fingers and when he is thirsty he says "ink". Would they sing the "Dunham song" and clap while he danced? God doesn't make mistakes friends. He already knows Dunham's story. He has already written every single word. We ARE and WILL continue to play a very important role in Dunham's story. We are simply waiting to see if we are the forever story or the stepping stone. Nothing about this "wait" is easy. We trust Jesus. We want to be his forever mommy and daddy. We are praying for Divine Intervention. We ask that you pray with us... not for what sounds pretty or perfect but what is God's plan for D Man and that we will all have peace and understanding of God's perfect plan for him.

Is this a "bump in the road"? Is this a "pivotal turning point"? We simply do not know. We want to believe that Dunham will outgrow? these challenges. Parenting damaged children is tough. It isn't pretty. It isn't simple. It is tough. It is challenging. It is about sacrifice and humility. We will take whatever winds blow our way... We will take the bad with the good, the criticism with the applause. We will carry our son's cross and our own. We will face the unknown frightened and humbled. We praise you Jesus and we trust you. We love you. We know you. We want to be his forever mommy and daddy. But if we cannot, we pray for your peace, the peace that transcends all understanding.
Philippians 4:7

Monday, February 20, 2017

Abundant Love

 Gage was still running a fever today but we decided to bring him with to court. Our options were limited. On our way to the courthouse our facilitator told us that Annaleigh's parents wanted to meet us. We had about ten minutes to spare. We had never been able to meet any of our other children's parents! We were excited and eager to meet them, even if only for a few minutes.

We met up with them outside of Annaleigh's orphanage. I stepped out of our car just as my daughter's mother stepped out of hers. Her beautiful round belly proudly announcing she was carrying a child. Her eyes were the most beautiful seafoam blue I have ever seen. I will never forget them. She was beautiful! Her husband joined her outside their car. He was young and handsome and in many ways reminded me of my own husband when he was a few years younger and had less grey. Our facilitator joined us and the five of us stood. Silent. Our facilitator began speaking to them in Ukrainian as we curiously smiled and greeted one another. It was cold and Gage clung to my hand. I was speechless but my mind was racing. I wondered if Gage was too cold, if they liked us, if I should ask her questions, ..... She handed me a gift bag. I took it, smiled, and thanked her in Ukrainian. Our facilitator began telling her about us. Our other adopted children and our home in Florida.... I asked our facilitator to tell her we loved Annaleigh, and how smart and beautiful her daughter was and that I could see now that she had her daddy's dark eyes. She did and she began to cry. I wanted to reassure her and lift her burden, tell her thank you and let her know I would take care of Annaleigh and love her and I would give her a good life. Instead... I hugged her. I tried to tell her through that hug that I would love her daughter for  a lifetime, that I did not judge her, that I was sorry in this world we all had to endure these hardships. I told her through that hug that she was important to us and to her daughter and that we respected her and cared about her feelings and thoughts and traditions. She explained that she had named "Anna" after her grandmother. That they were born on the same day. We shared that we would keep that as part of Annaleigh's name and she was happy. Gage was confused about all the hugging so he tried to get in on it and give her a hug too. We all laughed! Our facilitator pointed out the time and the cold and we reluctantly had to say goodbye. We headed off to court and passed them on the narrow road as they pulled up to Building #2. Anna's building... Annaleigh's building. They were going to say their goodbyes. It was my turn to cry.

On our drive back, after court, I reflected on our meeting. I looked out the car window at the enormous decaying apartment buildings. Hundreds of people driving and walking. So many people in this world. Where we are, who we are, what happens to us..... so much of it is chance. Children with disabilities, children with Down Syndrome, are not accepted here in Ukraine. I remembered the disgust on the faces of Ukrainian woman that saw me in Kyiv with Edgar and Dunham a few years ago. I thought about life in Ukraine and how challenging it was. She was just a mom. She cannot change this entire country, the way they treat special needs, or public access to education, medical, or therapy. She cannot make others love her child or value her child. I thought about the baby growing in her tummy and how happy she must be for this new life. I smiled. I am happy for her. I am happy for me and for Annaleigh, for Papa Quinn and our entire family. To think I would have missed this if we had been too sad, too tired, too frightened to continue. To know why the name Anna had been so important to this journey. To see God's plan unfold, so perfect, so good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It all went wonderfully wrong.

It has been quite some time since I blogged. Mostly I update our "Growing Up Quinn-tuplets" Page on Facebook. We are currently in Ukraine. Just days before we traveled we found out the little girl we were fighting to get to was being adopted by a Canadian family. We were crushed. So very close. But too late. Her name was Tatyanka but from the moment we committed to adopting her I began calling her "Anna". Reece's Rainbow had her listed as "Chelsea". But for whatever reason I felt our daughters name would be Anna? I had never been particularly fond of the name Anna. It simply was. When we lost "Anna" we questioned whether we should even continue. We were confused, heartbroken. We decided to go anyway and see what child the Lord might lead us to. We were contacted just two days before we flew about a baby girl with DS and a heart condition that needed to be adopted quickly. We said YES! We found out her birth name was "Anna". We thought surely this is a sign that she is our daughter! Our spirits lifted we set out for Grandma and Grandpa's to drop off four of the kiddos and grab our plane to Ukraine! The evening before we left we found out "Anna" #2 was no longer available. Not to be deterred we continued to the airport. Mommy, Daddy, and Gage on a journey to discover the newest Quinn.

After arriving in Ukraine we met with our team. They told us about a new committee that was just assembled at the official adoption office. This new committee would review all cases before giving families permission to go to court to adopt their child/children. This committee had JUST been established and we were the first family our team would be submitting. (just our luck) This new committee could deny us even though we were already approved and after meeting our child.
They also told us about a baby girl with DS. She was 1.5 years old. The next morning we went to our appointment with the adoption officials and accepted a referral to visit this baby girl. We were exhausted but feeling optimistic about meeting her the next day. As we walked out of the office we stopped and asked "what is the little girls name? her birth name?" The official responded "Anna. A N N A." Marty and I looked at each other and laughed! Ok Anna #3 here we come!

The next morning we traveled to meet "Anna #3". The director was excited to see us and happily offered Gage chocolates. She asked if she could have copies of the pictures we had brought to show her of the other children. Although we spoke different languages it was clear to her that we were here for the right reasons and we understood that she truly cared for the children as well. We walked back outside into the freezing temps and across the street to a group of small buildings. They were old and looked more like sheds. In the back was a small building for sick children. "Anna" had been sick with some sort of cold/cough. We spoke briefly with the nurse about "Anna's" medical background and then it was time to meet our girl.

When they brought "Anna" into the room we instantly fell in love. Gage declared "My Baby!" She glanced up from the nanny's shoulder to investigate the new visitors and quickly and shyly retreated back to the nanny's shoulder with a hint of a pout. To most people this would be unremarkable but to an experienced adoption mom this spoke volumes! It meant "Anna" had bonded with her caregiver. That she COULD bond. That she reacted appropriately to strangers. This is exactly how a child should respond! The nanny laughed and smiled and so did I. A minute later I asked Gage if he would like to sit with Daddy so I could hold the baby. Gage agreed. I thanked him for being a good boy and reached for "Anna". She reached back. :D  My first thought was how healthy she felt. She was solid and had good posture. Her big beautiful brown eyes and long lashes looked at me curiously. That was it. She was mine. I knew instantly. Marty and I exchanged a knowing glance. That first visit lasted about 20 minutes and we scurried off to begin processing the appropriate paperwork to submit to the adoption officials and committee.

We chose the name "Annaleigh Faith" for our daughter. It seemed appropriate. My middle name and my oldest daughters middle name's are "Leigh". By adding the "leigh" we were able to personalize her original name while also preserving it. "Anna #3" seemed a bit impersonal. ;) We are currently waiting. Today the committee is suppose to meet to determine Annaleigh's future. This new process has added two weeks to our trip. The children back home are fond of their Grandparents, Aunts and Cousins. We miss them terribly! We call them over the computer and they seem content. But it is never easy being separated. So... we hold our breaths. We distract ourselves as best we can and try not to think about the possibility of the committee saying "no". We can tackle the challenges and speed bumps that arise. We can tolerate the disappointments with a minimal amount of complaining and whining. But there is one favor I ask of the Lord, let them say "yes". Let them say YES!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dear Anna,

Dear Anna,

Hello sweet girl. I know you have been waiting for me. I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. I know you have wondered where I was and why we haven't been together all this time. I will explain as you get older. For now will you accept me as I am? Will you trust that I love you and want whats best for you? Will you give me time to earn your trust and to explain one day when you are wiser?

Sweet, sweet Anna, will you forgive me when I am tired? Will you show your mama grace when she does not deserve it? You will. I know you will. It is written in your sweet sweet soul. Your smile, your eyes, everything about you is pure of heart. I see a little fire in that sweet smile. A fire that often stays buried but sometimes when you are just a little too tired, hungry, sick or frustrated.... Its ok sweet Anna, I too will show you grace.

Your papa and I love you so much! We have not forgotten your tight hugs and your big eyes. Papa did not forget you. He thought of you every day. He cried the day he recognized your beautiful face on Reece's Rainbow. We are coming sweet Anna, and we are bringing friends! Lots of friends! We are an Anna Army! yep your own army Anna! Every princess has an army. Yours just happens to be the BEST army!

We will have a good life together Anna. You will see.... Sometimes some of us get a rough start Anna. Life can be difficult sometimes. But we will be together Anna! We will face those hard times together now. Papa, Mama, and all your siblings. We will celebrate together and we will cry together. We will have good times and bad. But we will always, always, be together. Forever Anna. In Heaven and on earth. You are loved beyond measure.

Love,  Mama

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The greatest gift...

It is 2am. I woke up itching my fingers from my usual "washing dishes" induced eczema. My brain ceased the moment to send rushing ideas and thoughts my way as often it does when I am awake. I clung to this one thought... "what is the greatest gift I can give my children?"

I read an article yesterday that got me thinking. It was about a young elementary aged boy that had taken his life. His parents suspect bullying was the reason for his decision to end his life. The father made a plea for parents to take the extra time to talk with their children. Many people commented on bullying and how to prevent your child from being a bully or becoming a victim of one. All very good and true. But... was it enough? In a dark moment? Whether you are an adult or a child we have all gone through very dark days. We will lose loved ones and suffer tragedy and simply lose hope at some point. So what will carry us through those times? Will the love of a concerned parent be enough? What if there is no parent? What if the sadness is caused by the loss of ones parents. What if the source of sadness IS ones parents?? Will a book or program about bullying be enough? If a child or you or I... had no one? If we were alone in our suffering. What would be "enough" to carry us through? Certainly we want to give our children everything they need and much of what they want. We want them to be happy but more so we want them to be healthy physically and mentally. So on their darkest day, in their most desperate moments that are sure to come in this broken world. What will carry them through? Certainly it won't be xbox, money, a swing set or any other material thing. but... will the love of a parent or teacher? Will a program on bullying or a book about how to make friends? Would counseling or even medication be enough? I would imagine any surviving parent of a child or loved one that committed suicide, will tell you they loved the person. They likely suffer guilt on what they could have said or done to prevent it. But would their words truly have been enough? Some children and adults may have underlying mental health issues or chemical imbalances that only medication will resolve. But ALL of us will suffer some loss and devastation. How will we cope? How DO we cope?

The conclusion I kept coming back to was God. Any missionary will tell you the most faithful, prayerful, grateful people are the poorest, the sickest, the most desperate. Those that are suffering pray to God the most. He is there for us in our darkest hour. When the road seems to end abruptly and there is nothing left. He is good. He is faithful. He is worthy. He is love. So when you are stripped of ALL your worldly support. No friends, no family, no medication, no therapy...... where do you turn? If you were lying naked in a cell by yourself. Where would you turn? I know where I would turn. Desperate and out of solutions. I would turn to God. Always faithful, always with me. Forever and always.

So what is "the greatest gift I can give my children?" For me that answer is clear. Christ. If I am not here to comfort or guide them, I want them to turn to the Word not the world.  I want them to turn to the one true sovereign God. Faith is the one thing the world can never strip them of.