Welcome to Our Journey of Faith. My blog is a place where I share the joys and trials of living a faith-filled life as the mother of an extra large (12 children) homeschooling family, and my prayer is that it brings encouragement to others to live their lives as an adventure of faith, as well.
Last summer, Hosanna (14) began to show an interest in photography ... not a surprise, with 2 older siblings and a mama that LOVE to take pictures. So, we bought her a little Point & Shoot Digital for her birthday, right before our 6 week Road Trip. She took hundreds of pictures on the trip, and really enjoyed putting them on the computer, and highlighting some on her blog.
During Spring Sports this year, she began to ask if she could use Mama's Digital SLR. She wanted to move up from the Point & Shoot. So, we took turns with the camera all season. And, when Ben was running, I would usually have his camera, while Hosanna used mine.
At the State Track Meet this past weekend, though, I handed off the camera duties to Hosanna. And, she hardly put it down. She took over 500 pictures in 3 days, and some of them were QUITE good. So, I thought I would share them with you (and all of the Big Kids across the country, that couldn't be at the Track Meet).
If you've never done it, Sports Photography is VERY difficult. The athletes are constantly moving, which provides a great challenge for the photographer. And, when you want to be jumping up and down cheering, you have to stand still to take the pictures. Not to mention the fact that other athletes are getting in the way of your athlete ... with race officials also stepping in front of your camera quite regularly. But, Hosanna was up for the challenge, and got some GREAT pictures at the State Meet.
Friday was the absolutely rainiest track meet
I have ever been at. Seriously. And,
I've been a Track Mom for 11 years.
But ... God provided us with the most
spectacular rainbow. Wow! It literally
started and ended at the field. We
could see both ends of the rainbow.
It was WAY COOL!
When the rain left for a little while in the afternoon,
Mt. Rainier peaked it's top through the clouds.
In addition to the Relay Team, we had
boys running in other races, as well.
Braden placed 4th in the 400m.
Gibb placed 3rd in the Pole Vault.
Elijah ran the 110m and 300m Hurdles.
The 4 x 400m Relay
This is how close it was at the end of Leg #1.
Caleb is ready to hand-off to Gibb.
Gibb has 6 guys to pass ... and he does it!
Gibb hands-off to Ben.
Love the intensity and focus Ben has
even before the hand-off.
Ben takes off ... ready to pass anyone and everyone.
Ben powers past the last couple of guys,
and makes the 1st hand-off, to Braden.
Braden ... running hard ...
on the last stretch.
the Finish Line.
It couldn't get any closer.
Recent Pics from Another Meet
Hosanna took these pics at a meet a few weeks ago.
We were actually sitting way up in the stands,
but she took these with a telephoto lens.
I LOVE this picture. Wow!
(Mama used iSplash for the color editing.)
Gibb was "only" jumping 12' in this picture. He went on to set a school record that day of 14'9" (and his pole was only 14').
For those of you that like details and/or know the defining moments (and stresses) of a track meet ...
The 4x400m Relay Finals are the very last race ... of the 3 day State Track Meet. This is THE race to watch. The adrenaline is pumping ... the stress levels on HIGH. The relays bring about so much more stress than the individual races.
How will their hand-offs be?
Will they drop the baton?
(at least 6 batons were dropped over
the course of the 3 day meet)
Will there be any pushing/shoving
as they round the corners?
(after they no longer have
to stay in their own lanes)
On the last leg of this relay ...
in the last 150 yards meters of this race ... (a long, long time ago, when I ran track, the track was divided by "yards".)
4 of the umpires "threw a flag".
There had been a bit of pushing
as the boys rounded the last corner.
Who was at fault?
We all waited ... and waited ... and waited.
We had the picture that showed that
Braden was the first to cross the line,
but nothing was official.
The reader board was silent about our race.
The other 4x400 relay races were run.
The stadium started to clear out.
The other race participants were up
on the platforms, receiving their medals.
We waited ... and waited ... and waited ...
The announcer said,
"Will the Lynden coach please come to the tent?"
We sat in silence.
We knew that meant trouble.
We waited ... and waited ... and waited ...
Our boys went to the tent.
Our boys came out of the tent,
sorrow written all over their faces.
Ben sat on the ground in the infield,
and covered his face with his sweatshirt.
Papa and Mama were so sad for our boy.
45 minutes after the race,
rumors started to spread,
"No. They were NOT disqualified."
They were called to the platform.
The reader board announced the results.
Our boys WON!
They were 1st in State.
We hooted and hollered!
Then ... as we headed towards the Team Tent
to congratulate the boys, the coach approached.
"It isn't over yet."
There were appeals.
There were upset coaches.
We waited ... and waited ... and waited some more.
One of the recent things that I was accused of being was a "Drama Queen". This kind of shook me up, because that is certainly NOT how I have seen myself. I don't believe that I seek Drama, nor that I even like living in the midst of Drama.
However, as I said in my post last week about, "Who Am I?" ... I take any and all concerns seriously, and sought to determine whether or not this was a valid accusation.
Papa is the King of Drama
Mama is the Queen of Drama
Any Family with 17 people in it
is bound to have a bit of drama.
No way around it.
We do NOT live a boring life.
We are PASSIONATE people.
We are RELATIONAL people.
I admit it.
The Big D. Family
is sometimes known to have
What do you get if you put 17 preschoolers
together for more than an hour or so?
What do you get if you have 17 "tweens"
that spend a week at summer camp together?
What do you get if you put 17 teenagers together
for a week-long mission trip?
What do you get if you have 17 adults working
closely on a church or work project together?
Why would you expect a family
with 17 people to be any different?
I did some calculating ...
If you have 4 people in your family, than you have 12 individual relationships, with each family member relating individually to the other 3 family members.
4 people x 3 relationships = 12 relationships
Some people would think that a family of 8 would have twice as many relationships as a family of 4 (resulting in 24 relationships), and a family of 16 would have twice as many relationships as a family of 8 (resulting in 48 relationships).
Now ... 48 relationships is a LOT of relationships ... which can result in a LOT of drama.
When calculating relationships (and therefore drama possibilities) you can't use simple addition.
Calculating the number of relationships in a family takes multiplication. (And, in an extra-large family, it would appear to be more like Compound Interest and/or Exponential Growth.)
We have 17 people in our family.
Each of those 17 people has an individual relationship with the other 16 people in the family (not to mention all of the "small group" relationships, like: Papa & Mama, Big Kids, Young Ones, Boys, Girls, Twins, Married Kids, etc...).
I hope you watched the video on my post on Sunday, about Attachment Traumatized Parenting. While it was an "anonymous" letter ... a generic letter, of sorts ... it spoke the heart's cry of so very many parents ... it told the story of innumerable children who have placed a lock on their hearts and won't let anyone in.
Today, I would like to introduce you to 3 friends of mine (1 Real Life Friend and 2 Bloggy Friends). Each of these woman have parented an Attachment Traumatized Child for over 10 years. Each of these woman have poured out their hearts to their children. Each of these woman have been pushed away by their children ... over and over and over again. Each of their families have walked through unimaginable pain because of the choice that they made to adopt these hurting children (most adopted at very young ages, but traumatized none-the-less). Yet, they continue to love, despite the pain.
I am sharing their stories here, because I hope that you will pop over to their blogs and give them a bit of encouragement.
I am sharing their stories here, so that you can pray for them.
I am sharing their stories here, so that you can gain a better understanding of the challenges that are faced by families that are raising children with R.A.D. (Reactive Attachment Disorder), children with Mental Illness, children with P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), children with F.A.S. (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).
Do NOT go to their blogs ...
... if you are prone to judging people. They do not need your judgement.
... if you want to give them a pat little answer for all of their problems. They do not need any pat little answers.
This is SERIOUS stuff, and I would be crushed if any of my readers went to their blogs and brought more condemnation upon them.
However, I know that so many of you are Believers who will pray for them ... compassionate people who will encourage them ... that I am trusting you with their stories.
Sarah is the loving Mama of 16 children, only 2 of which are her biological children. Sarah and I met about 5 years ago (when we each had "just" 10 children). Sarah and Bob have opened their home to many, many children over the years ... foster children, medical needs children, adoptive children, healthy children, disabled children.
Sarah and Bob have walked a HARD walk for the past few years with one of their daughters. They have reached the end of their rope. It is no longer safe for S. to live in their home.
"S. (went) downstairs and made allegations ... S. said something horrific and completely inappropriate ... I felt the blood drain from my face ... I felt my hands go numb and I dropped my phone. This wasn't happening again. ...
I know this makes no sense. I know this is terrible to wonder what might have happened in her life that makes this trigger happen again and again. I wonder about other times things that have "happened", how much control she had or if she was disassociating and not realizing she was doing it. Like putting cleaner in my drink while I was pregnant or putting pennies in the strawberries and passing them out to the little kids ... Does she do things on purpose? Or does she not?
Either way we knew that we had to call her on-call therapist and have her removed from our home. ... I knew in my heart that it didn't really matter if S. was having some serious RAD behaviors or if she was delusional and in a state of psychosis ... either way this mental illness is killing her life.
It was at that moment that my heart broke for her. And when I sat in a state of shock realizing that I had hit my limit. I had to make swift decisions to protect the rest of the family, ones that would bring me to my current state of denial about our future with S. in our home. ...
It is hard to really think about things. It is hard to admit that I can't fix her nor can I help her more than we have tried. I feel that we have tried everything and that we have prayed for the kind of help she needs but accessing it isn't possible ... We love her desperately and that is why we made this decision. That does't mean that we aren't in one continuous state of denial about everything. Denial is the only place we can be at the moment so we can still function.
It's Mother's Day and I gave my child away ... Her needs are bigger than the limits I have. My love is limitless and she will always have that. But, I will no longer sacrifice the rest of the children, my marriage, and our family to help her.
I don't share S. situation to embarrass her or shame her. I share it because I want people to realize how much RAD affects and destroys children and families. I want you to pray for her, and I want you to pray for our family. And I want you to also be given permission to know your own limits. I truly believe that because I know my limits and am able to say "enough" that makes me a better mother, not a worse one."
I just found Marty's Blog a couple of months ago, but I have been drawn to her writing ... to her family ... to the pain that she walks through because of R.A.D. While Marty's family only has 5 children, and mine has a dozen, we are walking a very similar walk with our adopted children.
When you go to Marty's blog, you will notice that their family picture only has 4 children, not 5. That is because their oldest adopted daughter was unable to continue living in their home. While they did not disrupt the adoption, as we chose to do, their daughter B. went to live in a group home for s*xually abused children, after it was discovered that she had been abusing her younger siblings for many years. (You can read more about their family's story on the links on the sidebar of Marty's Blog.)
Marty wrote a post last week about being "Distraught". Here is an excerpt:
"I just yelled at my kid. In his face. To get his attention. Barely an eye blink reaction. Why is this so sad? Because I don't yell at my kids. Ever. If I raise my voice it gets their attention. As far as I know he wasn't yelled at before he came to us at 15 months. This is not a traumatic reality for him. So I yelled at M. out of the blue to get his attention. Shake him. Didn't phase him. One. Bit. Was it wrong? I don't think so. There is such a thing as righteous anger. And that's what I feel. Trying to reach deep into his soul and find a human being inside. I. Am. Mad. I don't show it with my temper or stomping or slamming doors. I wanted to see if there was an inkling of life inside this child. ...
I asked (his therapist) if I should give up on the relationship and try to prepare him for the world. I had asked her about putting him in public school. She said I had an obligation to keep M. from abusing other people ... She asked me if I wanted him to be married several times or have many female relationships or unknown totals of kids. Because if I give up he will never have a real relationship. And I felt hopeless. ...
I'm laying it all out here. My goal has always been to be transparent. Here you have it. You may judge me because I yelled. You may judge me for feeling hopeless. You may judge me because my younger two have taken so much from our family and I haven't been able to stop it. You may judge me for not believing God can transform M. I do still believe that. I just don't think it will be in our home with me as his mother. I think it is totally in his control. You may judge me because I'm airing family problems.
I'm tired. Weary. Heartbroken. I can't play these word manipulation games anymore and argue with his lies. He refuses to believe that what he lives by is a lie. I can't face the presence of evil in my home anymore.
I believe that what RAD kids steal from us is hope. And joy. ...
I want to do more than just survive. I'm just not sure it is possible."
I have been reading Dorothy's Blog for quite some time (probably close to a year and a half). Dorothy is the mother of 11 children, many of whom have hidden disabilities such as R.A.D., F.A.S., Autism, etc... Dorothy and her family have had a TOUGH year, as they moved from MN to CO and back to MN. While living in CO, the difficulties of living with hidden disabilities was magnified, as they had left the comfort and security of a community in MN that had loved and accepted each of their children. After a year in CO, they returned to the security of their old neighborhood.
Dorothy wrote a post this week about, "Living Openly As A Family With Hidden Disabilities". While she is not, today, living in "crisis mode" with one of her children (as the other moms are), I wanted to share her story to give a glimpse into how important it is for parents of traumatized children to be open, honest, transparent. I know that I have been judged for the transparency on my blog. I know that Sarah has been judged. And, I'm sure that Marty and Dorothy have also faced harsh judgement because of their transparency. But, is it really better for each of us to keep quiet ... to hide what happens behind the doors of our homes ... to pretend that life is a fairytale? I think not.
Here are a few excerpts ...
I blog today in order to offer a window into our life as a family with huge and often scary hidden disabilities. I didn't start here. In the beginning - the first five years or so of our journey into hidden disabilities - our challenges were very private ad managed alone at home. I was desperately lonely, as my world became smaller and narrower in order to accommodate my child's special needs in a way that wouldn't send him spiraling off into an uncontrollable frenzy of screaming and wall kicking. Our privacy was totally secure - but we had zero outside support because I had hidden it so well. Drat that.
Over the next four years we were blessed with many children who came with undiagnosed hidden disabilities and I realized that I had created an island environment where we could function, but very few outside people ever visited or knew what 'really' happened there. In some strange way, we were riding on the reputation our early years of parenting neurotypical kids had generated, even though our parenting had changed dramatically to meet our kids needs and we looked very little like that original family.
Since then I have been slowly back filling the ocean of space around us with words, openness, education, shared experience, and honesty. What once was an isolating ocean is being transformed into an oasis of life. A place where others can come to taste the hope and joy that parenting kids with disabilities can bring as well as offer a safe place for other parents to rest sore and tired hearts in the cool water of encouragement. Sometimes nothing more than hearing that another mom is struggling can give us hope for one more moment ... hour ... or day and we can press on in faith.
There is no question, my life isn't pretty or nice by the worlds standards - but I have a deep satisfaction that we are doing/being/loving exactly who and where we are supposed to be. Our lives are not wasted and our children are not a burden.
Dorothy's Blog often brings encouragement to my heart after "one of those days". I have learned so very much from her experiences, her education, her unending research into the what's, how's, why's of parenting children with hidden disabilities.
I often read Sarah, Marty, and Dorothy's blogs and realize that the challenges that they face with their children are much more difficult than our current walk with Little Miss. But, that does not diminish the fact that the rages we deal with ... the heart locked away as if in concrete ... the hateful words said ... are HARD.
I am very concerned about the long-term parenting of Little Miss, as I have watched the escalation of problems that Sarah has had with S. over the past 5 years. Little Miss' rages are increasing in frequency and in intensity. The physical strength that her little body produces during a rage is ... in one word ... SCARY. (How can a skinny little peanut produce such anger and strength?) The hitting, kicking, screaming, head pounding into Papa's chest ... for. two. hours. straight. ... are so sad to watch. The anger and yelling when we calmly pray for her are unnerving. Why, oh why, does she not want us to call out to the LORD on her behalf? Yet, we continue to pray. We continue to love. We continue to rely on the Lord's strength as we parent each and every one of our 12 children.
My heart breaks for Sarah and Marty and Dorothy ... and for their families. But, it also understands. I know the pain of parenting two children with RAD. I know the heartbreak of disrupting an adoption. I know the hopelessness ... the always wondering if this child will EVER know what it means to love and be loved. I am walking this walk right alongside my three friends, and it is a very difficult and lonely journey to walk. I am so thankful for these 3 friends, who have chosen to be transparent ... who have chosen to share their stories ... who are willing to walk through judgement from others, in order to let the truth be known.
Last week I wrote a post about "Who am I?" Obviously, I am a different woman than I was 3 years ago. No one could walk through the trials that Sarah, and Marty, and Dorothy and I have walked through without being changed. We all pray that the Lord will use our heartache ... our brokenness ... our trials ... for His glory ... His purposes ... His will.