challenges


Hello!  I am so pleased to be introducing myself to you here at the Lots of Kids-Special Needs blog!  My name is Missy (MomZookeeper) and I live in central Kansas.  My dh is Brandon, and we have a house full!  We have 7 legally adopted children, all adopted from foster care.  We also have 1 informally adopted older daughter and 2 former foster sons who are still “ours at heart.”  All that brings us to a grand total of 10 so far (5 living at home still)!  AND we are already working on grandchildren!!!  We love our life, we are firm believers that God has created this family and continues to do surprising things here.

While dh and I are only in our early 30s, we have been doing what we do for over ten years now.  Currently, we homeschool 4 of the 5 children who are left at home.  Most likely, we will homeschool all 5 of them within the next year (we are leaving one of them in public school as we complete her adoption process).  Homeschooling 4 children with VERY different levels of ability and attention span can be quite interesting!

We have 3 children who are classified with “mental retardation” based on their IQ and school testing (which I despise) and have spent a significant amount of their time in special education at public schools. We also have 7 of the 8 kids who have significant attention problems, either diagnosed ADHD, ADD, or strong symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis.  We have worked with children who have learning disabilities, dyslexia, attachment issues, attention problems, and even more severe psychological and emotional disturbances.  We are also now dealing with transitioning some of our children with special needs into adulthood.  All of this, at my age, is a bit overwhelming, but I have learned a few things over the years.  I also find that it is so much easier to walk through difficulties and life in general when we have others with similar experiences to share it with.

Most of all, we rely very firmly upon our faith to carry us through.  My writing will probably always be tinged with the importance of my faith while I parent all of these children.  Were it not for my faith in a God who created all of these children and has brought them all into this family, I could NOT get up each day and do what I do.

So, I’m excited about sharing with everyone the “ups and downs” and “ins and outs” of life with all of these children!  I’m a bit eclectic in my approach to writing, writing whatever “the Spirit” leads!  🙂  I do enjoy hearing from readers, so please leave comments!

I will leave you with a list of my beautiful family members, and close for now!

  • Brandon (35) my dear husband
  • Missy (33) ME
  • Crystal (22) our informally adopted daughter, engaged to Shane, mommy to Cayson (3mths) and #2 on the way in May 2009
  • SueAnn (20) legally adopted in 2007 at 18, engaged to Gary, soon-to-be stepmommy to Tiana (2yrs) and Danny (1yr), and expecting baby #1 in May 2009 also!
  • Dean (18) adopted in 2001 at 10, currently in a juvenile correctional facility for trouble, LONG story of about 5 years of ups and downs with him, ADD, ODD, PTSD, CD, RAD, Bipolar, you name it?
  • Thomas (17) adopted with sister, SueAnn, in 2007 at 15, homeschooled, developmental disabilities, learning delays, ADHD, nervous tics (mostly resolved), and a very HAPPY, friendly, loving kid!
  • Corly (16) adopted with brother, Dean, in 2001 at 8, homeschooled, ADD, learning delays, and some emotional/psychological issues, a very hard-working, responsible young lady, learning to DRIVE and hold down a job and keep life all-together (not an easy task with severe ADD!).
  • Kevan (13) adopted in 1998 at 3yrs old, homeschooled, severe ADHD, developmental disabilities, learning delays, biological sibling with Thomas and SueAnn, attachment issues even after 10 years, but overall, a sweet boy, loving and sensitive, who just gets into a LOT of mischief!
  • Skylar (7) adopted in 2002 at 9mths old, homeschooled, attention problems (not diagnosed), a very smart and loving child whom we have had the joy of calling our baby for almost 7 years now!
  • Cary (6) recently adopted (will be final in 2009), public school 1st grader, blond-haired, blue-eyed cutie, she’s funny and lovable, yet a little scared and shy and still adjusting to being a member of such a large family!
  • Our two former foster sons, Cameron (3) and Issac (18 mths), now live back at home with their mommy and are doing well!  They both have some developmental delays, mostly fine motor skills, language and some gross motor skills.  They are thriving with the stability of being back home with mommy, though!  We’re blessed to have been a part of their lives.

Have a blessed Friday!

-MomZookeeper (aka Missy)

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Today should have been a typical morning. Well, honestly, our mornings are not really that typical. The fact that we have 8 kids–6 which go to school–make things hectic. Every June I am SOOO ready for summer, since the morning chaos can get to you. Then again, come September, I’m begging for the schools to take them back!

But I digress. Mornings are getting outfits together, making breakfasts, and doing all of the other stuff. Raif is a little more involved, as he has to get fiber (to help with *that* issue) and vitamins and such, all mixed into a bowl of cereal because if he even saw any of it, he’d get so worked up he’d gag and vomit. That on top of brushing hair, making sure we didn’t forget a permission slip, and looking for that stray shoe which was where it was supposed to be last night but somehow got lost between midnight and 7 a.m.

There are the occasional “issues.” Such as Monty *has* to be the first one ready. There is no race, but he has to or else the world is not right and he will be off all day. Paige has to make sure the dog is there, because…well, who knows. Ah, but those are the SN quirks, the mild spectrum stuff that is an annoyance but can be dealt with.

Every morning, we rush around. But, despite the madness, we manage to do it. Some days are a little easier than others. There are some hard days. Still, we do all right.

Today, however, the world caved in, all because of….Dora the Explorer.

The younger kids got up a bit earlier than the older ones, and they happily switched on the television to watch that cute Hispanic tot with the monkey as she consults her backpack and goes on adventures. No one realized that Raif hadn’t gotten up yet..until he came into the living room. He is not used to watching Dora. Mind you, he likes Dora. He *loves* Dora, but not first thing in the morning. That’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse time.

And so the war began. Raif screamed and cried, and started to hit. My youngest three are all girls, and they scream like it. You’d think they were being murdered for as loud as they can squeal. So, as Raif changed the channel, the girls screamed, the other kids yelled, Raif didn’t like the added noise. There was hitting and pinching and some hair-pulling. Jim and I quickly swooped in to break it up.

Now, I have to admit, I didn’t turn the channel right away. I mean, there has to come a time where Raif understands that other people have choices too, and you have to give and take. Maybe today was not the right day, but I decided to hold to our guns and not change the channel. So we had 10 minutes of crying and ranting and general upset before I gave in. The kids were upset, I was upset, and even though Raif got his way he was upset.

So, here I sit, wondering…did I do the right thing? We all know Raif has his routines, and this was one of them. I probably shouldn’t have just sprung a change on him without warning and expected him to deal with it. But, doesn’t life do that to us? Isn’t that something he has to be prepared for? On the other hand, my kids know Raif’s issues. Heck, they have their own issues. Shouldn’t they understand that this was his routine, especially considering they watch Dora several times throughout the day, not just in the morning?

Whatever the case, tomorrow Mickey will be on. One day was enough. I’ll take the “regular” chaos over the special-needs kind.

And June is just 6 weeks away.

For those of you who don’t know, I have four cousins with Fragile X. The oldest, James, passed away suddenly on April 2 at the age of 52. There was no funeral, no obituary, he just faded quietly into everyone’s memory.

The story is told that on the day my unmarried teenage mother brought me home from the hospital, James, then 19, scooped me out of my bassinet without a second thought. My Aunt Ginny nearly had a heart attack on the spot. All James could say was “she’s crying”. From that moment on, he was my friend and protector. History repeated itself with each one of my children. I couldn’t wait for them to meet the guys, but I especially couldn’t wait to see the look of joy on James’s face as he held yet another newborn or showed my preschooler a new litter of kittens. His love of children was so pure and uncomplicated. His views weren’t contaminated by the world. He never said “is this the last one?” or “you have too many kids”. He loved each of my children simply because they were children. He loved my adopted children as much as he loved my bio kids.

My aunt raised him at a time in which families were encourged to institutionalize their special needs kiddos. She chose not to.

James rarely left the house he was born in. When hurricane Rita threatened the Texas coast, we evacuated the entire family to our small farm house. It was three days of fun for everyone. James’s biggest thrill, though, was in meeting my husband (then my fiance). Eddie had come in from being on the road for over a week and just need some rest. James wanted to see the inside of Eddie’s big rig. He loved trucks. Eddie told him if he would let him get a few hours of sleep (in the truck) then he would take James for a ride. James said ok and ran and got a lawn chair. He sat and watched Eddie’s truck for four hours. Anytime I approached him to try to get him to come inside he put his finger to his lips and whispered “shhhh, Eddie’s sleeping”. Since that trip, every time I visited the guys, James’s first words were “where’s Eddie”. I guess I lost my place as his favorite person. My husband still beams when I tell that story.

The last time I talked to James was shortly after Aunt Ginny’s death in late January. He met me at the car and said sadly “mom died”. Then a huge smile crossed his face and he said “where’s Eddie”.

Two days after James died, I was notified that I had been awarded “Outstanding Parent of the Year” for my work in advocating for blind and visually impaired children. I was asked what my motivation was. I have worked with special needs kids since I was in Jr High. I attribute that to James, David, Chris, and Dee Don.

When I was pregnant with Kaelin, the doctor told me she was at an increased risk for Down’s Syndrome. I can remember sitting at my Aunt Ginny’s table crying. I looked at her and asked “how am I going to raise a special needs child?” She looked at me and laughed and said “the same way you would have raised a normal one”. Turns out, Kae didn’t have Down’s but she did have epilepsy and a myriad of other health issues. Then Ben and Logan were born with Retinoschisis. Then we adopted three more with special needs.

I’ve heard alot of people comment on the “purpose” special needs children. James didn’t invent a cure to cancer or establish world peace, but his life served a much higher purpose. He taught me the meaning of pure, wholehearted, unconditional love. It was a lesson that has been passed on to many through me and everyone else he came in contact with.

James’s purpose in this world was to love and to teach others to love not only their fellow man, but themselves as well. Aunt Ginny and I were talking just before her death and the topic of the boys came up. I told her how much I admired her for the way she raised them. She smiled at me and said “I was lucky, my boys never quit loving me. I have always been the center of their universe. Other moms have to give that up as their kids get older. I didn’t. My boys’ bodies may have grown, but their innocence stayed intact.”

So to my dear James… I love you, I miss you and for the last time EDDIE’S AT WORK. Rest in peace my friend. You will never be forgotten.