Monday, July 30, 2012

The Missing Cat Mystery

4 What are your thoughts?

The Missing Cat Mystery: A story about kittens, cousins, and vacationing written by  my very own 6 year old! Ellie loves to write stories and I finally have "permission" to share something with you here on the blog. Please leave her a comment as she is anxious to hear what you all think about her story. If you get this via e-mail, stop by and leave her a message, will you? You are in for a treat with my newest "guest blogger."

Chapter 1
We get to see them

One day, I went with my cousins into the garage. What I saw was 3 little cats cuddling up with their mother! When I went out of the garage I saw Lexy treating the cats like stuffed animals. I told her to stop and she did. When I came back to the garage…Nina was just petting the cats. I got to pet them too.

Chapter 2
The Names

The next morning, me and my cousin Alyssa got to name the cats. I named the black cat Clowe. Then we found out that her name was actually Princess. Alyssa named the stripped one Zebra, and Alyssa named the last one Ginger. Their favorite place to play was under some wood.

Chapter 3
The Escape

Later that evening, Princess went into the woods. I tried to go after her but there were too many branches and poison Ivy. Later she came back and I was so happy to see her. I held her. I put her in my lap. I got to pet her. Alyssa wanted to hold her, I told her, “You could hold her later.”

Chapter 4
All Disappear

The next morning all the cats were gone. So I went back inside. After lunch, I saw one of the babies! But the other two were still gone. I looked in the woods. I found a string. I tried to throw it in to the woods but there were too many branches. I looked under cars. Under trailers. Then finally: I. Gave. Up.

Chapter 5
Came Back

The next morning when I woke up I found Princess! I was so happy, but where were the others? Then some wind blew, and out of the cabinet came…Ginger and Zebra.

Chapter 6
Good Bye

It was time to leave…I had to say goodbye. I felt like I was going to cry. I said, “I love you.” I said, “Good bye.” And I hoped some day…I could have my own cat…until we get a dog.

I kissed her… I hugged her. I sang to her until she fell asleep. Then I said good bye to her one more time.

True Story

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sharing photos 9

2 What are your thoughts?
I asked my mother-in-law if when she first got married she ever pictured her family would be this large after 35 years! The legacy of the Stumbo family is a blessing and I am honored to be a part of it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sharing pictures 6

0 What are your thoughts?
The cousins made up a game where they rolled on the sand and had competitions to see who could get dirtiest. Once they were covered with sand, they ran to the water to rinse off and repeated the process. They had a blast and thankfully my girls kept the hair off-limits!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adaptive Swim Class

0 What are your thoughts?
“I qui oh the way!”

At our first adaptive swim-class, Nichole repeats the line from one of her favorite Barbie movies, “I am the queen of the waves!”

Her speech is poor and she has a long way to go. But after a couple of laps around the pool, an older boy approaches us with a loud, “Oh, oh, oh!” All of a sudden, I feel grateful for Nichole’s speech and the fact that she can communicate with us. Most likely, she will speak fluently by the time she is the boy’s age. I feel myself tense as I do not know how to interact with the boy, so I ask him, “Can you sign and show me what you are saying?” But he responds with more “oh, oh, oh!”

When we first walked into the adaptive swim-class, I instantly felt overwhelmed by the different special needs swimming in the water. I held Nichole close to me and thought, we don’t belong here. My first instinct was to turn around. I felt scared, taken out of my comfort zone, yet surprised by my reaction. Don’t I have two children with special needs?  I can do this, I reminded myself, these are my people.

“Oh, oh, oh!” The boy continues. His mother comes over and explains he is singing us a song. As I swim away with Nichole, the woman begins to sing along with her son, he is delighted, claps his hands and hugs his mother. She smiles at him from a deep place so full of love that it is hard not to feel moved by the interaction. I  realize I have much to learn about disability.

I like Down syndrome. Down syndrome has changed me, it is familiar. Nichole and I swim in the pool, she is the queen of the waves, and I am a student, learning what it means to really embrace disabilities. Not only those that I am familiar with, but all of them. I am learning to look at the person, not the disability.

I come home and tell my husband, “We have it really easy when it comes to special needs.” I tell him how I felt, and how much I have to learn.

For the next class, Nina is signed up for the swim class too and we have permission to bring our oldest daughter. I prepare the girls telling them about the big boy that cannot talk. As soon as we enter the pool, we hear the unmistakable, “Oh, oh, oh!” The girls are not scared the way I was, they just get in the pool and have fun. When they swim by him, they wave and say hi.

My children have a greater acceptance of disability and of people that are different.  Sure, Nina has Cerebral Palsy, she knows she is different, but she is also open to those that have more challenges than she does, she find something good and positive and praises those qualities. Nichole is too busy being the queen of the waves, but I  wonder what she will think when she realizes that other people look at her as different. As for Ellie, her sisters are her sisters, they are normal. Every individual with a disability we encounter is a person – and perhaps they have a disability – but it does not matter because everyone has talents, gifts, and even abilities.  My children know what acceptance really looks like. I will follow their lead and look past the disability to see the person.

The adaptive swim-class is a place where kids with special needs learn how to swim. Nonetheless, it is a place where a scared mom continues to learn how to swim in the world of disability, acceptance, and unconditional love.

If you like this post, share it with your friends. And visit my writer's website where this was originally published!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sharing pictures 3

10 What are your thoughts?
It is not often that I am in the pictures with the girls, since I am usually behind the camera.

Having fun with self-portraits!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sharing pictures 1

0 What are your thoughts?
For the next few days (and since I can do this ahead of time) I will be sharing some of my favorite photos with you from our time away.

One of the best parts of family reunion is playing with cousins at the beach!

Loving the water!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Beast: A guest post

0 What are your thoughts?
I'm a glass half-full, goal driven type of person. Being the mom of a child with a significant developmental disability has given me plenty of opportunities for re-framing. I can spin with the best of them. Yes my son Aidan is non-verbal, but he has the most communicative eyes and a contagious giggle.  Sure he needs to learn how to walk, so we have him up on his feet any chance we get. Of course there are many medical professionals in our life, and I expect to work as a team and I'll always come prepared with questions.
See, life is hard but it's also good.
With all of Aidan's challenges, there's been only one Beast I vehemently want demolished: his seizures.
When Aidan was born I was told that kids with neurological issues are at higher risk for seizures. I was too busy working for every ounce of progress he made to give that a second thought. Then the Beast struck, silently at first. Aidan's hand would curiously shoot up into the air for brief moments, his eyes would type-writer back and forth. It took us two years to diagnosis him because of these subtleties.
I researched, asked questions, requested several medical opinions and then the Beast moved in on me. He comes flying out of my mouth in angry colorful words when Aidan's head lurches forward banging the hard surface in front of him; He braids through my shoulders when Aidan's face turns beet red; He settles into my stomach when I read of the long, dangerous road we're on. The Beast rears its ugly head as he steals Aidan's independence little by little. It's hard to see any beauty in that.
I'm a goal driven person so I won't be defeated and I will fight this Beast with everything I have.
And I love what I have; I have a community of people who have already been down this road; I have a knowledgable medical team; I have a brain that loves learning; I have plenty of experience with unknowns in Aidan's world.
I'm a glass half-full person with good things on my side, but is it enough?
I think of the ways we've triumphed in Aidan's life - coping with his educational challenges, deciding on mobility issues, creating communities that would include him - and I think this Beast is one more thing to gain victory over.
Then Aidan cuts his hand open, or propels himself to the floor, or nearly takes his eye out on his thermos when the Beast bites, and I wonder.
I suppose this is the middle place where I'm destined to live - grateful in our victories, fearful of our defeats, but always mindful of the treasure that outshines the Beast that lives in my son. ____________________________________________________
When Heather is not involved in the myriad of tasks required in raising a child with a disability, she can be found with her hands on her piano, her nose in a book, or her fingers at her keyboard blogging at http://teamaidan.wordpress. com/ Heather and Aidan have also enjoyed presenting at universities to students who will become the professionals working in disability-related fields.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Purpose Out of Brokeness: A guest post

0 What are your thoughts?

I was raised to live the American Dream, “to be and have the best of everything”.  I found a great husband, who had a great career and earned good money to support me.  I enjoyed several careers along the way while trying to live the American Dream, but there was something missing. 

My husband and I became the parents of James in 1984, when I was 24 years old.  We were expecting the perfect child and planned our lives accordingly.  However, 6 weeks before the due date, contractions started and all our dreams were shattered in a matter of hours.  James was born prematurely with severe bladder and kidney problems, as well as related breathing problems.  At five hours old, he was transported to Texas Children’s Hospital by ambulance, and he remained there until he was seven months old.  At 7 months old, we were finally able to bring James home with the assistance of 24-hour private duty nursing care that continued until he was 18 months old.  Shattered dreams grew into shattered lives that affect not just my husband, my son, and myself, but also our immediate family. 

Over the next 12 years, I placed my entire being towards keeping James alive while still reaching for the American Dream.  I tried to have a career in Real Estate Management and, although I succeeded, I wasn’t satisfied with life.  James was definitely alive and improving, although kidney failure, dialysis, and transplant always loomed in our lives, as well as the many trips to The Texas Medical Center. My marriage suffered greatly, but thank God and my wonderful, loving husband, it is preserved.

Sixteen years ago, James – who had been attending church every week with my parents – nagged me into attending one Sunday.  That Sunday was a turning point as I accepted Christ back into my life.  I learned through study and service that giving of myself to others was the meaning in life I had been searching for all those years.  Now, just one small hug from one of my “Treasures of JOY” gives me complete satisfaction and fulfillment for hours of preparation and work; it is never the money anymore. So at 53 years old, I now fully understand what I was created for.  I was created to be the mom to James, an Unexpected Treasure.  It may have taken me too many years to understand the gift, but in the end, I know he is priceless.  As James’ mom, I have learned my second purpose is to be the advocate for other Treasures.  This second purpose allows me to help other Treasures dream big and believe that God never makes a mistake; each Treasure needs to be all they can be for God’s plan. 

In James, I can see my purpose realized.  He loves everyone – unconditionally – and makes it his job to hug and love on as many people as possible each day. As long as James brings glory to the Almighty God through his love and his hugs, that is all the confirmation I need for my ministry.

JOYce Weatherford is the Executive Director of Treasures of JOY, a Special Needs Ministry founded in January 2011.  JOYce has been married to husband, Robert, for 29 years and they have one son James.  The birth of James changed the course of JOYce’s life from chasing the American dream to chasing after God, serving Treasures like her son.

Minister to Special Needs Families

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book review: The 60 Minute Money Workout

1 What are your thoughts?
The 60 Minute Money Workout by Ellie Kay is a practical guide to help you get your finances under control.

Kay helps you look at your finances not just for quick fixes now, but for the long haul. A great guide to help you understand the importance of having your finances under control, realizing that it takes time (only 60 minutes a week) to go over your spending, budget, savings, expenses, etc.

It is ironic that most of us do not spend enough time making sure our "money" is being well managed.

In order to live, we need to "make a living," right? Basically, we have a job, so we can have money, so we can afford food, clothing, housing and cover the expenses We live in a society where money speaks. They say that in order to know what your priorities are, just look at what you spend your money on. Isn't that true!

So we get a check, and we spend the money. Then we scratch our heads and think, "Where is all my money going?" Taking care of our finances should be a priority, and Ellie Kay does a phenomenal job helping you understand your finances, planning budgets, getting out of debt, even giving generously, and enjoy time with your family.

Great resource if you are wanting to become money-smart!

You can find out more about the book - like reading an excerpt - by clicking HERE.

I received this book for free by Waterbrook-Multnomah publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Wheels {Minivan Edition}

1 What are your thoughts?
If you read my last post you know that our minivan retired (engine went "bye-bye"). Replacing an engine is really expensive. If we had a nice van, maybe the cost of fixing it would be worth it, but when your van is not even worth as much as a new know it really was time for the minivan to rest in the junk yard, or be sold for scrap, or be fixed by it's people (Ford peeps) that can afford to replace the engine and resell it.

Yesterday, Andy and I drove to the car dealership where our Ford Windstar was towed and we looked around for a replacement. We did find something on-line, and they had not sold it yet. We did a test drive, we asked questions, and then we had to trust God because my husband is a stud but his car smarts don't really make the cut.

And so last night we drove out with a new minivan (new for us!) and I really like it!

And we are hoping that this one lasts longer than 3 years.

Presenting the Stumbo van (a Dodge Caravan, and this is a picture I found maybe I should not write such a statement as "presenting the Stumbo van" since, well, this is not the real thing sitting in my garage...oh get an idea)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day Woes {Retired Minivan Edition}

7 What are your thoughts?

We could have spent the 4th of July doing what most people do: go to parades, grill out, light sparklers. Instead, as we were driving back from spending a beautiful evening with friends, our minivan began to "make noises" while Ellie and Nina asked, "Why is it so bumpy on the road?" Soon the air conditioner stopped working and Andy realized we have no power, and we cannot accelerate any more than we can break (no, we do not own a Toyota.)

Thankfully, we were loosing power quickly and slowing down, and although this happened in the highway, it also happened right as we were coming to an exit ramp, which we took, and we continued to cruise along until we literally stopped right outside a hotel. 

The van was smoking, it smelled bad, and we were more than happy to get out of the car. We called our friends, we called a tow-truck company, and we realized most likely our van is retired.

This ordeal took us into the dark night, but on the good side, the girls did get to watch firework displays as we drove home. Our original plan was to have them go to bed and skip the fireworks, but wouldn't you know it, we still got to watch the show!

We are so thankful this did not happen as we were driving to go to our family reunions and retreat!

On another positive side, maybe we can get a vehicle that will be "friendlier" or somewhat more "handicap accessible."

What type of car do you drive? Do you love it? Is it a minivan? How do you fit 3 kids and 2 of them that need help with buckling and mobility? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Imperfect Child: A guest post

4 What are your thoughts?

My child is not perfect. Her body does not allow her to do all the things she wants to do. She was born with something called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. In layman's terms, it means she was born with contracted joints. What is a contracted joint you ask? It is a joint that is fixed or frozen and does not move. Most of her joints are affected.

She is unable to do most things for herself. She cannot dress or undress, use the bathroom without help, bathe herself, and sometimes due to the difficult surgeries she cannot feed herself. She uses a wheelchair. I often wonder how she tolerates the painful treatments, the rude stares and nasty comments. People talk to her as if she cannot understand. She understands just fine. It's her muscles that don't work, not her brain. I would be a mess if I had to live like she does. How would I handle the struggles she faces?

And yet, she wakes with a smile every day. She tells me how she is going to help me with housework as soon as she learns to walk. She tells her "brudders" to wait for her if they are going to play. She goes to school, learns, writes, and generally makes do with what she has been given. She does well in school and has lots of friends there. She never met a stranger, and makes friends everywhere she goes. She has a bubbly personality that seems to draw people in.

As a parent, you look forward to all the things you can teach your children as they grow up. You don't think:  What if I can't teach them? What if I never know the joy of seeing my child walk? Will it be ok? What if my child never learns to say those special words every Mama loves to hear? I love you…Will I manage? Will I learn to love her as she is?

Would you? If you do, you might find that even though parenting isn't as you pictured it, the person doing the learning isn't your child, it's YOU!

Our little ray of sunshine can't walk with her legs, but she takes us down many roads we may not have chosen to go on our own. She is the one doing the teaching. She leads us. Some of the many things we have learned is how to smile through adversity, to be kind to others no matter their treatment of you, to be brave when you would rather fall apart. I know I couldn't live like she does with her disabilities. I don't have the wisdom. I don't have the brave face. I don't have the never wavering smile. She is not my first child, but she is the first child to teach me so many hard lessons I never thought I needed to learn. Raising my imperfect child has taught me more than my college degree. It has taught me more than 40 years of life could teach me. The next time you are faced with a scary challenge, think about my imperfect girl. She never gives up. Ever. If she fails, she tries again, she tries harder, until she reaches her goals. In spite of all the adversity thrown her way, she just keeps on trucking. It's too bad we all can't be as imperfect as she is. Imagine what we could do if we were.

Tammy is a mother of ten children. All of them have various special needs. You can follow her blog HERE

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where I will be during July

0 What are your thoughts?
This July our family will be taking a much needed break. We have family reunions and Andy and I will be attending a pastor's retreat (I am really excited about the retreat, we NEED it!)

This is where I ask for your help. I am not going to be blogging as much - I will be doing some cross-posting from my writer's blog. - but instead, I would love to share your guest posts. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, if you have an adoption story to share, or if you have found beauty amongst brokenness or in unexpected places, would you let me know? I would love to share your story!

And also, would you pray for our family that this is a time of rest and a deep connection with God as we seek Him during our time off?

Thank you!



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