Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Today I bring you pictures of this little cutie pie.

Never mind the ridiculously oversized undershirt.  I believe it's what all the little NICU babies are wearing.

He was so awake and alert for a whole hour!  It was almost like having a normal, full-term baby instead of a preemie.

He kept putting his head back so he could look up and around.

This made me so happy!  And I needed this bright spot today.

After several weeks with Victor's bradies getting fewer and farther in between, yesterday and today have been a step back with multiple bradies each day.  He self recovers fairly quickly and his oxygen needs remain low, but these episodes are never a good thing, especially as we look to get out of here in a few weeks.  Victor will have to go a week without bradies before we can go home.  To add insult to injury, we had several run-ins with a very rude nurse today.  It's possible that she's just having a bad day, or that I read her incorrectly, or that I rubbed her the wrong way or even that I did something wrong that I don't know.  Maybe we're both passive aggressive?  However, it's certainly not helping a large amount of homesickness and discouragement today.

So, prayer requests...

No more bradies!  This is prayer request Number 1.  Let's join together and claim this in prayer.  May the God who gave Victor breath when he could have died, breathe healing breaths into him today.

The OT was to come back from vacation yesterday.  At this point the nurses aren't sure her schedule for this coming week.  Please pray that we get the earliest possible appointment (what conflict could Victor and I possibly have when we're available all day, every day?).  Please pray that Victor is ready to begin eating.

A spirit of love and forgiveness.  While I don't want this nurse to ever be assigned to us again, I also want to be kind and gracious.  And I'm not good at speaking up for myself to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Please just pray this verse over me:
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

And I do have so much to be thankful for, a loving family at home that is doing well, a new Utah church (closer to my new apartment) and a refreshing morning there, spending time with Katrina this weekend, a growing baby boy (not only reaching the big 5-0 today, but weighing in at 5 lb. 1 oz., almost 5 lb. 2 oz.!) , wonderful nurses who have allowed me to interact with Victor in as many ways as I can and caring for both of us as if we're family, my mom and Mariana coming on the 6th, and knowing that we are near the end of our time here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happy anniversary

Today is my anniversary.  I don't know how many years it's been; my math is not that good.  The Good Doctor makes fun of me because I never know how many zeros to put on the end of my numbers.  He has to ask me questions like, "Is it closer to the cost of a car or a house?"  I don't know!  What do you think I am?  A car dealer?  A realtor?  Call them if you really need to know!  Anyway, I do know that it's more than 20 years.  I know that because my oldest is 18 and I know that it took several years for him to come along.  So we'll just say 20+ years.  If you need to know, it was 1991.  You do the math.

So, you ask, what am I doing to celebrate my 20+ years of marriage?  Well, I'm going to spend it with a very handsome guy with a receding hairline.  We're going to do a lot of snuggling.  I might even kiss his forehead, his chubby cheeks, and his lovable lips.  I don't think we'll go anywhere; rather, we'll stay in all day.  And I know he's going to have someone help choose the perfect outfit for him to wear, just for me.  We have the kind of understanding that people do when they've known each other for quite some time; I talk and he sleeps.  He might snore but I'm used to that.

Yeah, I love my date, too.
A wink for Mommy

And kids, you can be glad I'm not home; Dad and I might make you sit through some of our wedding DVD.  Again.

It's a good thing I'm not at home or I might have included a few photos of our wedding day, other than this one, the only one that I happen to have on my computer.

Just think 80s, permed hair, poofy sleeves, and a big bow on the butt.  It wasn't the 80s but it was close enough; the era still had a tight hold on us.  My daughter told me that will never come back in style.  I told her, just wait.

My favorite photo from our wedding day was not taken by our photographer.  It wasn't even taken by a friend at the wedding.  It was taken by a nurse.  And there's a story behind it.  Of course there is or I wouldn't be mentioning it, would I?

Growing up, we lived next to two adorable elderly ladies.  Florence and Laura were sisters and they were the sweetest women.  We moved away when I was in high school but we kept in touch.  By the time my wedding was approaching, Laura had died and Florence was in a nursing home.  She was invited to the wedding but was on oxygen and in failing health so the decision about her attendance was left to the last minute.  We assured her that if she couldn't come to the wedding, we would come to her.  Well, the weather forecast of 98 degrees and high humidity in an unairconditioned church did not seem conducive to her health so the decision was made that we would go to her after the ceremony.  We were the hit of the retirement community, walking in with full wedding attire.  I think every old woman, sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway, wanted to touch my dress and hold my hand as we walked by.  Florence, of course, was so happy to see us and kept the picture at her bedside for a long time after.  She also enjoyed retelling the story of how she found birdseed in her bed for weeks after, apparently it had fallen out of my hair when I leaned over to talk to her.  Remember, this was the time period just after they discovered that throwing rice killed the birds and just before wedding bubbles were invented.  So we had rice thrown at us.  Who thinks of these things, anyway?  I think it was supposed to insure that we were blessed with many children.  Hmmm, what do you know?  It worked.  Maybe that's why they don't throw birdseed anymore.

So, yes, I'm spending my anniversary with Victor this year.  And John is celebrating with seven children at home.

Victor is 4 lb. 15 oz., oh so close to the big 5-0!  36 weeks today, or 11 weeks old!

He was tortured by the eye doctor again this morning who had the very same report he had last week, and the week before that, and... No change, still Stage 1 ROP.  He did say that it's possible that we won't see any change until Victor is closer to his due date.  Even so, he plans to torment Victor again next week.  Please pray that his eyes miraculously mature this week.
The stink eye for the eye doctor.

If you can read this screen (Victor's on the right), then you can see that Victor loves to be held.  Such even blue (oxygen) and green (heartrate) lines and a nice, even yellow (respiration) pattern.  Straight lines are our friends.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Seeing red

Those of you who know us outside of The King Zoo and Funny Farm, know that we wear red Converse to all of our concerts.  Well, not quite all.  We don't always wear them for formal affairs like weddings and Christmas concerts.  Sometimes we do.

So do you know the story behind our red shoes?

Several of our children have been on stage at Allenberry Playhouse every season for the past seven years.  From the very beginning, we made certain that we got to know the people our kids were hanging out with.  At first it was selfish, I admit.  It's not easy to drop your children off with a bunch of strangers.  We figured if they knew us, and knew our children, they'd help keep an extra eye on them.  But it didn't take us long to realize what the life of an actor is like; most of the friends we were making were here for a show, maybe two, a season or two if they were lucky, and then they moved on.  They were essentially homeless, living with the stress of wondering where the next job would be, where they would go if nothing was lined up, and how they would make a living until the next audition and hopefully the next acting job.

From that time on, we made it our mission to make our home their home.  We took them homemade treats, we invited them over for meals, we sent care packages when they left, and in the rare and unfortunate event that they ended up in the hospital, we went visiting.  Of course, they made it easy.  Theater folks, like my daughter, brighten the room upon entering.  They are funny and know how to have a good time.  They are gracious and easy to please.  We have loved getting to know so many of them much better than "Hi, how are you?" and have great friendships all over the US because of the friendships made at Allenberry.

I've already shared how our friend, Katrina, went from Allenberry to Alaska to Utah and how her presence here is no coincidence.  We've visited many friends in NYC, traveled out of state to perform in the wedding of two theater friends, followed them to various theaters to see their shows, gotten backstage passes through their connections and even bumped into one on the Disney Cruise.  Since that's a fantastic story, it must be shared here.  We knew that when Todd left Allenberry, he was headed to a Disney cruise ship.  We didn't know which one or how long he was to be there.  Several years later, as we headed to the airport to embark on the first leg of our Disney cruise journey, we talked about whether or not he might still be there but figured not only was it unlikely that he still had that job, what were the chances of it being on this ship?  We got on the boat and prepared for the first safety drill.  As we put on our life vests and lined up along the side of the boat, someone said, "Hey, I know you."  Simultaneously John and I said, "Todd????"  Sure enough, he was still there, and still performing as _________.  If I told you, I'd have to kill you.  Or someone from Disney would come to Utah to kill me.  We had a nice lunch with him later in the week where we caught up with him, asked him a lot of questions, and heard him answer, "I can neither confirm nor deny" multiple times.  It's a charmed life.

Anywho, one day a little over a year ago, John and I were on property and one of our very dear friends who is also exceptionally talented (You know who you are, thank you very much) said, "Wait here.  I have something for you."  She came back with a very large box.  Inside that box we found seven smaller boxes, each containing a pair of red Converse sneakers.  You see, Converse are their thing and now, not only were they one of us, we were one of them.
Photos courtesy Ashley Strain

Not only did each pair fit perfectly, but because she knew that two of the kids already owned the Converse that they had worn in the Christmas show that year (who knew that elves wear red Converse?), she had bought them a size larger so they could grow into them.  She told us that the shoes were for all of us, for all we had done for her and her friends.  We were blown away!  We decided that we had to wear them for all concerts forevermore to remind us that a little love and kindness will go a long way.

And we also used them to announce that we were adopting again.

So when I received a package in the mail from this same friend, I'll admit I had a feeling I knew what was in that box.  Sure enough, she blessed us with a pair of red Converse for Victor.  Her note read, "I've sent a little gift for Victor.  I know that he has some growing to do before the little Converse booties fit him, and once they do he'll probably kick them off anyway, but I didn't want him to feel left out.  Now he has his own pair of red shoes."  I say he's going to wear them to every concert whether they're too big or not, whether he kicks them off or not!

And at 4 lb. 13 oz. I think Victor is well on his way to fitting into those booties.  Nothing new.  Still waiting to eat, learning to take nice, oxygen-filled breaths, and growing.  Each day is a day closer to home.  Please pray us home!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prayers felt, Part 2

Acts 2:42
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 15:30
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Ephesians 1:16
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your heartsthrough faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Yes, I believe in the power of prayer.  I have seen it at work.  

When Andrew was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with craniosynostosis and needed cranial reconstruction surgery.  While the surgery may have been old hat to the neurosurgeon/plastic surgeon team (we were told that Children's Hospital of Philadelphia performed at least one of these surgeries a week), it was new to us and the idea of allowing my son's skull to be removed, reshaped, and replaced was a tad bit scary.  Okay, that's an understatement.

I purchased a stamp that said "Handle with Prayer" and the Sunday before his surgery, we announced to the congregation what was happening that week.  We shared specific prayer requests, asked for continued prayer, and then said that anyone wanting a reminder to pray could come forward to have his hand stamped with the visual reminder.  Our first prayer request was obviously for Andrew's health and safety.  Secondly, I asked that I would be able to sleep the night before the surgery.  I'm somewhat of a sleep snob.  I need my bed, my pillow, and my house to get the best night's sleep.  I also need complete darkness and no noise.  And something to worry about?  Even a small anxiety could keep me up all night.  I knew I needed sleep that night to get through the upcoming days.

The first answer to the prayer came from a pastor friend at another church.  He knew about the surgery and had also shared it with his congregation that Sunday.  He called to say that one of the women in his church had a vision while praying and wanted to be certain he passed it along to us.  She said she saw Andrew on the operating table and above him there was an angel, prone, hovering, protecting.  That image got me through a lot in the next couple of days.  And the morning of the surgery?  I awoke from a very deep and restful sleep, ready for what that day would hold.

After 8 hours of surgery, we were told that all had gone well.  He spent another week in the hospital, struggling with lethargy and anemia.  He was sent home still not feeling the best but it was a new week, after all, and they needed the bed for new surgery patients.

That first week home was awful.  We realized that Andrew probably should not have been discharged and likely had needed another blood transfusion before coming home.  After a week of begging him to eat and moving only when forced to go from bed to sofa and back again, we were very concerned.  So you can imagine my surprise when, one afternoon, he not only got off the sofa but asked to go to MomMom's house.  I called my mom who was happy to oblige.  I can't remember exactly, but I think they went to McDonald's (at that point we were willing to give the kid whatever he would eat) and to a farm's petting zoo.

John came home a little while later and asked where Andrew was.  I said, "You're not going to believe this, but..." and told him the story.  He asked me what time and I told him it was around 2PM.  He then told me that he had been in a meeting with several pastors.  At the end of the meeting, one of the men asked if he could pray for Andrew.  The time of that prayer?  2:00.  At supper time, a woman from church came with her daughter to bring us a meal.  She asked about Andrew and I told her that he wasn't home and why.  She asked, "What time was that?"  When I told her she said, "I had this strong feeling that I needed to pray for Andrew so I gathered the kids around and we all prayed.  It was at 2:00."

Yes, I believe in the power of prayer.  Please keep praying.

Victor is doing so well.  The fact that I forgot to ask how much he weighs today tells you that it's no longer my biggest concern.  I do know that he was 4 lb. 10 oz. yesterday and looking so much like a miniature baby instead of a plastic corpse.  All of his nurse friends, when assigned to different babies, stop over to congratulate him on his big boy bed and to comment about his size.  We are looking forward to busting out of here but once again, saying good-bye will be difficult.  We have made so many good friends.

His need for oxygen goes down everyday.  I am so thankful to God for that!

He will see the eye doctor today or tomorrow.  Rather, the eye doctor will see him.  Please pray for complete healing here.

Victor is showing so many signs that he is ready to eat but we are waiting on the occupational therapist who is on vacation.  Pray for her first available appointment next week and that in this week of waiting, Victor would be preparing his suck-swallow-breathe so we can make fast and furious strides.

When I returned to Utah last weekend, it was difficult knowing that there were no more trips to break up my stay.  Each trip home, and the family's trip here, gave me something to look forward to.  However, I found out this week that my mom and Mariana are planning a trip out here the week of July 6.  I couldn't be happier.  I'm so excited to introduce Victor to his very special MomMom and for Mariana to see how much he has grown and gotten darker.  So many nurses have commented to me about Mariana and the times she held and sang to Victor.  He's ready to hear your songs again, Sweet Daughter!

And now, another poem by moi:

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't a bear.

Fuzzy Wuzzy had clean hair.

Fuzzy Wuzzy is more fuzzy,

Isn't he?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Prayers felt

Yesterday, someone wrote to me, "Do you feel my prayers?"  The answer is, "Absolutely, yes!"  The peace, the joy, the healing, are all from the prayers of so many of you.  Many, many thanks.

I think the first time I really felt the power of prayer was when I was the lone female counselor for a week long canoe trip.  Yes, you heard correctly.  It was the summer after my freshman year in college and I was working at a daycare for the summer.  This particular daycare was housed in and run by a church so for the week of Vacation Bible School each year, the daycare shut down.  I decided to volunteer my help for the week at Bethany Birches Camp in Vermont, where I had worked the previous two summers.  I expected to serve in the kitchen, or assist a counselor, but was shocked to be asked to co-lead the canoe camp.  As it turned out, they had a dozen or so teen guys sign up for the trip, and one lone female.  They had a male counselor but obviously couldn't send the group out with just one female.  So I was it.

I don't think I had ever even been in a canoe prior to this experience.  Keep in mind that I hate boats.  I get sea sick.  Granted, they need to be a little larger than a canoe for me to get sea sick, but the association kills me everytime I'm near water for a purpose other than swimming.  Besides that, my family had once been enjoying a lovely afternoon on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains when we witnessed a crash between two speed boats.  No cell phones back in the day and no 9-1-1 so we were the trauma response team until we could reach land.  This traumatic experience colored every future endeavor involving boats of any kind.

Yet here I was, about to row a canoe for a week, portage with a large pack on my back and a canoe over my head, and pretend that I had been doing this my whole life.  Thankfully the other counselor had been a mountain man for all of his life and he and his equally adventurous dog ran the show.

So, before embarking on my first an only week-long canoe trip, I asked some people to pray for me.  I memorized John 14:27 so I could put it on repeat in my brain:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

And I had a wonderful week!  I portaged like a trooper.  I survived a week of being wet and damp, and all of my belongings as well.  I did have the peace that passes all understanding and I most certainly felt the prayers of my family and friends.  I might have even toyed with some delusions of being slightly adventurous.

So, yes, please know, that we feel your prayers.  We know they are working.  Please don't stop even though the end is in sight.  Keep storming Heaven's gates to bring Big Vic home (Thanks, Nurse Amy, for the nickname).

Today the nurse practitioner told me that the inguinal hernia she noticed several weeks ago is gone.  This is good news since this would have needed surgery to repair.  He still has an umbilical hernia which may go away on its own or may need surgery down the road.

And now I get to hold him whenever I want!  I'll probably stick to the same schedule we've been doing because it works for both of us but it feels more normal to know that I can choose when to hold my son.

Victor is just feeding and growing.  Pray that we're out of here in three weeks!  And pray that these three things happen in tandem:

1.  Victor is released from the hospital
2.  We have a court hearing
3.  We (John, Victor, and I) are able to come home together

Monday, June 24, 2013

Praise the name of Jesus

"Praise you, Jesus...  Thank you, Jesus...  Lord you are everything... Thank you, Lord..."

I have not watched TV in months.  My first apartment out here didn't have one and I definitely didn't miss it.  My new apartment does have a TV but I'm not actually in the apartment that much and when I am, there are other things to do.  But last night I was in a hotel room near the Baltimore airport so I could more easily get to my early morning flight so with the TV in the hotel room I watched Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon.  I couldn't decide if I wanted to watch or not so when my hands got too sweaty in nervousness for him, I just had to look away.

I was struck by his example for the rest of us.  Nik does not hide his Christianity and freely tells people that he can do what he does because he knows where He'll be if something goes wrong.  Most of the rest of us are not gifted in such dangerous ways and our passions don't take us across the Grand Canyon on a little wire.  However, if we are completely surrendered and trusting, we will be taken out of our comfort zone.  So how can we get through?

Someone else in Nik's place might say something like, "You just have to go inside yourself; find your inner power, and focus."  But Nik knows the futility of that.  If we are totally honest, none of us has that kind of inner strength.  We fail others and ourselves all the time.  So just like Nik we get through each moment repeating, "Praise you, Jesus...  Thank you, Jesus...  Lord you are everything... Thank you, Lord..."  There is both power and peace in repeating the name of Jesus.

One of the lessons the four younger children and I learned from Mark Batterson's 40-Day Prayer Challenge was to praise Jesus and to thank Him for answered prayer, long before the prayer is answered.  So we started doing just that, we thanked God for the child He was bringing into our family.  We didn't know who it was.  We didn't know when it would be.  But our prayers became praises for the answer that was to come.

Often while I'm holding Victor I will thank Jesus and just repeat His name over and over.  One of the Sundays that I was home in PA, at the start of the church service we were encouraged to just call on the name of Jesus right then and there.  I lost it because it was exactly what I had been doing for Victor's healing and victory.

And wow!  What VICTORies he has gained this weekend!

Victor now weighs 4 lb. 8 oz. and just looks so much bigger!

He no longer gets caffeine to remind him to breathe, time to remember all by yourself, Victor!

He was weaned off of the high flow nasal cannula and now has low flow.  If he still needs oxygen at discharge, this is what he would come home with.  He still has moments of high satting and desatting but is tolerating this just as well as the high flow.

These things we had been told on the phone while I was home but one surprise was left for my return...

His preemie bed was sitting in the hallway, empty and ready for cleaning, when I arrived because Victor now has his very own big boy bed!  No more portholes.  No more top to pop.  No more bed warmer (although I really think I'd like a bed warmer for the cold winter months).

And we're to make a 2nd appointment with the occupational therapist so that we can begin feeding (although I think she's on vacation this week - boo!).

And great news on the legal side of things, too.  After passing ICPC in PA last week, we realized that it would likely be in our best interests to have Victor's adoption finalized in Utah.  The short story is that with PA's strict adoption laws, we would have a more difficult time (impossibility?) getting termination of birth father's rights.  So, we talked with an attorney in Utah who said he'd look into it.  Worst case scenario, John and I would have to return to Utah in 6 months after discharge for the adoption hearing but the lawyer said that depending on which judge we were assigned to, there was a possibility he would allow us to appear for a consent hearing in Utah prior to returning home.  This would mean that we would not need to return later.  We found out today that the judge we drew will allow this.  So, John will need to come out before we return home but we will not need to return in 6 months.  Please pray that the timing of everything works out so that we get our court date at the same time as Victor's discharge giving me an extra set of hands to haul Victor and our stuff through airports, or an extra driver if we go home the long way.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Mommy loves Victor

We have this little routine we do whenever I hold him.

"Mommy loves you.  Daddy loves you.  Andrew loves you.  Jesse loves you.  Mariana loves you.  Shoun loves you.  Isaac loves you.  Eden loves you.  HopeAnne loves you..."

"...And Jesus loves you so much, much more than we can ever love you.  He's here with you everyday, healing you, growing you, and making you big and strong."

I also tell him that his birthmother loves him and we talk about how much she loves him.  We pray for her everyday.

Victor's flow was turned down to 1 this morning.  Pray that this is successful.  So far he has done great, was even at 21% for most of our hold this morning.

His bed is now at a set temperature.  This is to wean him to keeping his own temperature and to move him to a big boy bed.  So far, so good.

4 lb. 6 oz. and counting...

And now I'm leaving on a jet plane...  Pray for both of us while I'm gone!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good Doctor's two cents on parenting

I once told the Good Doctor that I would be more than happy to be the primary parent to our infants and small children but that I would definitely be passing them off to him to raise as teens.  This was back in the day when he was a youth pastor.  While I wanted to partner with him in this endeavor, I spent too much time wanting to put my hands around their necks, shaking them, and asking, "What. Were. You. Thinking?"  Don't worry, I've never done it nor will I, but the fact remains that I was scared to death to take a child past middle school.

But then I had my own children.  I love, love, love the babies!  Yes, even the grub stage and since Andrew says Victor is pre-grub, I love even the pre-grubs.  The toddler years make me laugh (better than crying on most days) and preschoolers are so curious.  My middle schoolers, even though getting close to high school,  love this stage, too.  And my teens?  Yes, I've found that I love even this age.

When I had three young children, I attended a Sunday School class on parenting led by my father.  I remember him saying that he loved each stage as it came.  Must be genetic because I can now agree.

What changed?  I still don't think I want to go back to being a youth pastor's wife so I think it largely has to do with being able to raise them from little on up.  We've been very purposeful in our parenting to raise godly Christ-followers who can relate to a broken world, strive to follow God's path for their lives, and love those God puts in their path.  There is no entitlement, there is no selfishness, and there is no clamoring for the top in this model of parenting.  There is an emphasis on wisdom, servanthood, and community.

Part of being purposeful in our parenting has been looking at ways to usher our children into adulthood.  After those youth pastor years, the Good Doctor moved up to young adults.  Coupled with what we saw in some of the teens, now we were shocked by what has happened to 20 somethings who don't have drive or motivation.  It's so pervasive that some groups have raised the range for adolescence to include 20 somethings.

The Good Doctor, when deciding where to focus his dissertation energies, decided upon a topic we had been exploring since our children were little, how to usher how boys into godly manhood and how to usher our girls into godly womanhood.  Many cultures, possibly all but western cultures, have rites of passage so that their children know when they have moved from child to adult.  He recently shared some of his work and research in two guest posts on The Blog of Manly.  The second post, which can be read here, focuses on how we've chosen to do this.  For all who are parents, I encourage you to read this not for the sake of copying what we've done (although you are welcome to do so) but to begin to think about how you can do this for your children and what that will look like at various ages.

And while Victor has a long way to go to reach the first of these rites of passage, he's moving right along.

He has done so well at 1.5LPM!  His settings remain much the same as they were at 2.0.  In fact, for a period of time he had removed the cannula for his nose while hidden under his bed cover and while he had a few minor desats, nothing major.  Praise God and pray that he keeps this up.

And the best text I've received in a long time:  "PA gave verbal approval for ICPC."  Praise God!  We are now free to go home.  Well, whenever Victor is healthy enough for discharge.  No legal entities standing in our way.  Of course once we get home we have to start the post-placement visits and are looking at another six months til his adoption can be finalized, but we're not going to think about that right now.  Now we're focusing on going home and doing so before July 26!

Yesterday the nurse and I talked about all of the ways Victor has amazed in his two short months of life.  Go God!  And go, Victor!

I love how one friend keeps sending us a phrase from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, "Go, go, go Victor, you know what they say...."  Appropriate for Victor and appropriate for our family since some of our children have been in this on two different occasions now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prayers please

The title of this post was also the subject line of an email I recently sent to my prayer team and a few praying friends.  A prayer team, though a simple concept, was something that I had never thought of until moving to Mechanicsburg.  Each member of the pastoral staff has a team that surrounded them in prayer and the Good Doctor was encouraged to create the same.  Our lead pastor's wife also has a prayer team and suggested that the rest of the women behind the men have one as well.  So I did.

My team has changed and morphed through the years and I have gone through periods of monthly updates, moments of urgent requests, and dry spells when I forgot to send anything to my team.  I go to them with praises and prayer requests, big and small.  Decisions, fears, medical concerns, and requests for wisdom are all sent their way.

I have decided that a prayer team is something that everyone needs.  Maybe pastors and their families need a little more help than most, so that's why the concept started with them, but I see value for everyone.  I have encouraged my children to form a team but they're still warming to the idea.

Choose your team slowly and wisely.  It's not easy to ask someone to leave or to delete them from your updates; it's much easier to add someone.  Choose people with whom you can be real and tell anything.   If you can't start out by saying, "I'm discouraged," for fear someone will think less of you, then that's not a person to include.  If you feel like you can't admit your fears to someone, don't include that person, either.  If you can't be totally open and honest about medical issues, then choose someone else.  And it should be obvious, but confidentiality is a must.

I can honestly tell you that Victor would not be here if it weren't for the prayer support of both my team and the Good Doctor's team of warriors.  And I would not be sane if they weren't continually holding me up in prayer.

And thanks to prayer...

Victor is feeding and growing.  Feeds are given in 30 minutes now.  Sounds much more normal than the 2 hours in which they used to be given!  Feeds are increased on a regular basis.   He now weighs 4 lbs. 5 oz. which is exactly what HopeAnne weighed when we picked her up from the NICU seven years ago.  It's been a day of reminiscing.  If I were home I'd get some pictures of those early days for you.  I didn't know what to do with a baby that small, up to that point 6 lb. 14 oz. was the smallest baby in my house.  I was scared to death!  Little did I know.  I'm glad God prepares us in small steps for what is to come.  Praise God for Victor's growth and that he is tolerating these compacted feedings.

Looks like I was given some misinformation last week about Victor's last eye test.  He had his third exam today and I was there for both the exam and the report.  Victor still shows Stage 1 ROP and nothing has changed.  The good news is that nothing has gotten worse.  It was pretty traumatic for Victor and the stress was clearly evident all over his body so he was sound asleep for a long while after. Pray that this clears up completely and next week the doctor will see positive change.

They are going to try to wean him again on his oxygen flow, down to 1.5LPM today.  Pray that he tolerates it this time.  This has to be down to 1.0 before he can move to the next step in feeding.

Again today I am thanking God for the wonderful nurses who love on Victor, even when they are assigned to a different baby.  I love it when they pop over to take a peek and check up on him.  And it's good to know that he is well taken care of when I am not here.

I leave again for home on Friday afternoon.  Please pray for this time at home to celebrate Andrew's graduation with a party.  Judging from past experience, Friday morning will be the hardest as I hold Victor and say good-bye for a few days.  Pray for him during the time that I am not here.  I make the Good Doctor call the hospital for updates when I'm in PA; I can't handle asking about him when I'm not there.  I don't know why, but it's easier to hear it second-hand from John.  And pray that I can get all the baking and preparations done on Saturday for Sunday's party.  I am so thankful for my mom who got a good head start on all of this!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Losing control

The theme for the week seems to be remembering that I am not in control.  I think it started on Sunday when the church bulletin had this quote:
"God will do whatever is necessary to disrupt your false illusion of control and self-sufficiency."

I am a control freak.  Yes, I admit it.  I like to have my life organized as well as the lives of all those around me.  There can be some positives to being in control, like when you are in charge of a classroom of first graders or when you have three children under the age of 4.  However, the downside to needing control is obvious; it's impossible to always be in control.

Just when I thought I had my household under control, it was time to potty train someone and I found that I had no control over the bathroom habits of a little one.  Just when I thought I had everyone's health under control, our oldest son needed major surgery.  Just when I had the house of my dreams, God said it was time to move 2 hours away.  And just when I had a plan in my head for what our next child would look like and where he or she would come from, God sent me to Utah.  And just when things were familiar in Utah, I got a phone call that I needed to move from my apartment in just a few hours.

Now, switching apartments should seem like a very minor issue when compared to packing up and moving to Utah indefinitely, realizing that I don't have all that much to pack up, and considering my housing is a gift of which I am thankful beyond words.  But it was another lesson in giving up my control, going with the flow, and not being so uptight.  I'm learning.

And every time I go to the hospital I remember what giving up control can bring; this precious life that needed a home.

Thank you for praying for our time with the occupational therapist yesterday.  I just love our OT!  She is clearly very knowledgeable so when she asked if I'd like to attend a NICU parents' meeting at another hospital where she works, I immediately agreed.  Not only did it give me something to do yesterday afternoon, but I learned so much about preemies.

Victor passed his first OT session with flying colors.  He's definitely on the right path to eating on his own.  It's a long process which right now consists of learning what formula tastes like in tiny amounts dropped from a syringe, and practicing sucking on his new big-boy pacifier.  The real work will come when his nasal cannula flow is down to 1.0 LPM.

Speaking of which, for those who know, look at these numbers!

Victor has spent significant amounts of time at 21%, room air, during the last two days.  This is big news!  Within 24 hours he went from spending most of his day right at 24% to moving between 21% and 24%.

His weight is back up to 4 lbs.

Pray for continued steps in the right direction and no steps backward.

Pray that I learn to give up control and trust in God's plans.

Proverbs 16:9
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Acts of God's love

In recent years I have been interested in the book of Acts.  Of particular interest have been the early church and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  I have wondered about the American way of doing Church (Big C), and how that fits with the early church.  I recognize that it was a different time and culture but I've questioned if big buildings and programs are what God is really looking for.  I don't have an answer and I've observed that groups who try to recreate the Acts churches today tend to fizzle out after a few years.  Is there a way to do Church in America today according to Acts 2:42 - 47, being together and sharing everything in common?  Again, I don't know but I do believe that when the Body of Christ comes together to help, support, and encourage one another, it comes pretty close to having everything in common.  I've watched this time and time again as a member experiences loss or significant life change; the Body comes together, each person sharing his or her gift with the others.  Obviously our family has been experiencing this to the full these past few months. As I meet new people here in Utah, one of the first questions is about how the family at home is surviving.  They are always shocked to find out how many people have volunteered to help, and in how many ways they have done so.  A big thank you to all who have been the hands and feet of Christ to my family during this adoption process.

Because of my interest in the book of Acts, it has been a pleasant surprise to find that both my home church and my Utah church, are studying this book during the summer months.  No matter where I am on a Sunday morning, I'm hearing about the book of Acts.  I love that Acts is a demonstration of God's heart for His world, of not wanting anyone to perish.  I love the record of the unstoppable nature of the Holy Spirit and how both the church, and we as individuals can also be unstoppable when filled with that same Holy Spirit that came down at Pentecost.  I am challenged by the charge that we are to be witnesses in our own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  But I've been struck with something new as I'm studying Acts this summer, and as I've listened to several pastors preach through the book and that is the theme of acting.  I guess it shouldn't have come as a new idea to me, the book, after all, is called Acts.  But each time someone is called to DO, they listen and immediately GO.

Peter is a great example.  In Acts 9:32-43, he is in Lydda, healing and witnessing, and many turned to the Lord.  While there, he was called to go to Joppa where a beloved member of the fellowship had died.  They were asking him to raise her from the dead.  He could have said, "No, I'm busy here.  Don't you see the good I'm doing?  I can't leave and take a day's journey in each direction just for one person."  But he didn't.  He went, he raised Tabitha from the dead, and he saw many people turn to the Lord.  The question is asked of us as well, "When Jesus says, 'Please come at once,' will I leave the good work I'm doing to follow?"  But another way, "If I am not interruptible, will I see people turn to the Lord?"

Years ago, John and I were telling someone that we were considering adoption.  She said to me, "I could never raise someone else's problem."  Ouch.  How sad.  While she may not have been, nor will ever be, called to adopt, she is most assuredly called to reach out to someone's problem.  Rick Warren says it so well, "It's not about you."  I have two jobs here on earth; to love the Lord  with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself.  And we all know the story about who our neighbor is.

Many people have sent me messages about how they "get it"; this loving the least of these, and they come with personal testimonies of how individuals have heard the call, left the work they were doing, and went after the one.  Many of these stories are of adopting, but just as many are not.  They are all about stepping out in faith, trusting God, and serving in their own way, according to their passions and gifts.

So today I am praising God for all of the people who have surrounded us as we, for a time, have left the many for the one.  We are in the home stretch, the end is in sight.  It is humbling for me to be on the receiving end of this generosity and love and I can't wait to be home to once again serve those around me who are in need.

I also praise God for the many stories of people who are listening and are loving the least of these.  I wish I could share them here but many are private examples of living out God's love.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me.  Keep them coming.

It has been my goal to get this out in time for a specific prayer request so here goes:  Victor and I have an appointment with the occupational therapist at 11AM Mountain Time (1PM Eastern Time).  This will be his first bottle training session.  Please pray for Victor and this process!  This is a huge step in his journey home.  Being able to feed on his own, and gain weight, is one of the milestones he must cross before going home.  Pray that he will amaze and that he is a quick learner.  Pray for the suck/swallow/breathe process to be full and complete.  Pray for strength on his part to do this task.  We do know that he has a great latch and a great suck.  Now he just needs to do it with liquid!  And keep it down.  And stay awake for the process.  And keep breathing!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

This is dad

Happy Father's Day to one and all.  Since my family ate without me to celebrate Mother's Day.  I ate without them today to celebrate Father's Day.  It was only fair.  Not to mention necessary.

I found a gray hair this morning.  I'm blaming it on Victor but I'm claiming that I grew it in honor of the Good Doctor, to sympathize with him on Father's Day.  I pulled it out and tried to save it for him but I think the hair dryer blew it away.  Oh well.  I'm sure there will be more.

I also killed a spider all on my own this morning.  This was a gift to both my father and the father of my children who have both been called in to dispose of multi-legged creatures attempting to torment me.

In all seriousness, I am so thankful for wonderful Christian parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles (I can celebrate them all today, right?) who have taught me so much about self-sacrifice, service, and faith in God.  And when I talked to my dad on the phone today, it was he whole blessed me once again by telling me he supported what I'm doing, one hundred percent.  I love that my family has accepted my children regardless of who shares a bloodline and who doesn't.  That is the family of God.

But on to my tribute to the father of my children.  In honor of this special day, I decided to forego the Hallmark poem for an original.  Yes, I do write poetry, too.  Because I'm such a romantic.  So, for you, Good Doctor, on your day...

This is the house that God built.

This is the Dad that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who then got Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who next had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who owed me the next one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who told me it was time for another, whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who can’t tell adopted from other, who told me it was time for another, whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad who is unconditional love, who can’t tell adopted from other, who told me it was time for another, whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

This is the Dad, who is my husband, who is unconditional love, who can’t tell adopted from other, who told me it was time for another, whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

And one more verse?

This is the Dad who won’t be done til he’s dead, who is my husband, who is unconditional love, who can’t tell adopted from other, who told me it was time for another, whose heart broke for the one, who was smitten by fostering, who owed me the fifth one, because he wanted more schooling, who already had Laughter, who already had Drama, who had two sons, who landed the social work job that changed his mind, who once said, “No!” to my large family plans, that lives in the house that God built.

On to Victor...

Yesterday was a bit rougher than previous days.  He was feeling a little constipated (sorry, but it's true), he'd been poked and prodded all day, and his feeds were compacted to 45 min./feed instead of 60.  Success in the constipation realm meant that he lost some weight, down to 3 lbs. 14 oz.  By evening he was tolerating the compacted feeds better.  Praying for a great day today as we both miss his dad and siblings and for strong lungs that take big oxygen-filled breaths.  Praying we get home to PA sooner than expected!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This is amazing

This is the baby whose mother had a choice; the choice for life or death.

This is the baby whose mother chose life but when she started to bleed at just 25 weeks, feared he might not make it.

This is the baby the doctors said wouldn't cry when he was born but from whom his birthmother clearly heard a cry.

This is the baby who weighed just 1 lb. 13 oz. at birth.

This is the baby that some didn't think would live but for whom every member of the medical team fought to save.

This is the baby who had a family but whose family decided they just couldn't take him.

This is the baby who had no family for 12 days and whose birthmother despaired because she just wanted to know that he'd be loved.

This is the baby who looked like ET with chicken limbs and frog legs.

This is the baby for whom we prayed and for whose birth family we prayed, long before we knew who they were.

This is the baby that came through faith, trust and prayer.

This is the baby that the medical staff loved dearly, waiting for a family to come.

This is the baby that represents choice, fight, love, redemption, and miracles.

This is our baby, Victor Noah King.  Living.  Growing.  Amaze-ing.

He had a rougher night than normal with several apneic episodes so his flow was bumped back up to 2.0.  He just wasn't quite ready to be weaned down to 1.5.  Other than that, it's just another day of feeding and growing.  Pray for strong lungs.

Friday, June 14, 2013

This is hard

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philipians 4:4-7, 11-13

We had such a wonderful week together as a family.  Last night was hard as I knew what was coming. This morning was hard as we prayed together and then the van drove away.  Going to the hospital alone today was hard.  Getting updates about the states they were passing, in the opposite order from a week ago, was hard.  And I'll admit it, there are still a lot of tears.  And maybe, for a brief moment yesterday, I wondered if we were doing the right thing.  But just for a moment.  Because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God brought Victor Noah to us.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that each member of my family is right where we are supposed to be right now.

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt doesn't make it easy.  It doesn't mean that there won't be tears and good-byes.  It does mean that there is peace and there is contentment and there is joy.  Joy is not the same as happiness.  Am I happy right now?  No, I'm weary and I miss my family.  But I have joy because I know that God only has the best for me, and for my family, and for Victor.  And I am content to watch Him unfold each and every day according to His plan because I  know that it is infinitely better than anything I could orchestrate.

And as the nurse practitioner told me this morning when she gave me a hug, "Tomorrow will be better."  Yes, I do believe the tears will go away.  Next weekend I'll be home again.  It will involve another good-bye but there will also be joyful reunions.  Then more good-byes.  That's what life is like on this earth but there is joy when living with the hope that one day there will be no more good-byes.

Please pray with me that Victor continues to amaze and that he comes home well before his due date of July 26.

Victor's flow was turned down to 1.5 LPM this afternoon.  Pray that he tolerates this decrease.

Praise God that Victor now weighs 4 lbs. 1 oz.!  I was able to give him another bath today and our holds were very precious, especially as he looks at me with those big, bright eyes.

Pray for safety for my family as they travel home.  They'll be taking their time traveling east and will be visiting with several family members along the way.

Pray that I will fix my eyes on Jesus and have complete trust that He is both the author and perfecter of my faith.