Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

One Christmas night so long ago,
A star shown down so all would know ~
That in a manger on that night,
A Savior was born,
Our guiding light.

Another year has passed, too quickly for us adults, but not fast enough for kids who look forward to the excitement of Christmas.

We  want to take this time to thank you for all you do for the Thornton family.  You help provide them with a home to live in, clothes to wear, books to read and even a few toys to play with.  We think often of where they would be if it wasn’t for all the people who love them and care for them. 

Because of your example they are  learning to be bright and shining lights to those around them as well.

We send our wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Marquel, Annie, Charlie and Chip
Mr. Thornton
Randy and Stephanie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Books - the Gift We Take for Granted

For Charlie's 3rd grade class Christmas party, the flier said "bring a wrapped book, new or used, to exchange with your classmates".  What an awesome idea, I thought!

Every night I read to Charlie before he goes to sleep.  Since February, we have read quite a stack of books that he insists we pile up on the stand beside his bed, alongside the stack of books that he has lined up to read in the future.  I explained that he could pick a book that we had already read as a class gift and his response surprised me.  "But I LIKE all my books", he said emphatically with a very worried look on his face.  He then surprised me further by stating that he wanted to re-read several of the books.  This is the boy who doesn't like to watch a movie twice because he has such an amazing memory that seeing it again is too boring.

"Our kids" have been given many boxes of books over the past five years, and those who give them probably want to clean out their bookshelves, not realizing what an awesome gift they are giving.  When Charlie objected to giving away a book, it nearly brought tears to my eyes.  I saw where his mom lived in the Projects of New Orleans, I knew that books were not a part of their chaotic life.

Books - reading to our babies, toddlers and kids, reading magazines, books, newspapers, the list goes on and on - and we take it so for granted.  Can you imagine life without them?  That is the way people in poverty live.

When writing my own book, I met an "internet friend" who has written a series of books, aimed mostly at youth, and I highly recommend checking them out.  Darryl has become one of my biggest fans and supporters - please check out his website  "The Faithwalker Series".

I have had the opportunity to read two new books this last week and I would love to share them with you.  Both of them were written by people we know, which makes them more special.

At church there is a young lady, Makayla, who is so adorable.  She has beautiful dark skin, curly hair that is always arranged so cute, and the most gorgeous smile.  She stands tall and self-assured and we would notice Marquel watching her intently.  Makayla asked Marquel to help her with the Pre-Kinder kids at Vacation Bible School last summer, and while Marquel decided she definitely was not interested in teaching, she enjoyed getting to know Makayla better.

A few weeks ago Makayla gave Marquel and Annie one of the first copies of a book she had written.  In the front she inscribed it "With love to two beautiful girls".  Marquel and Annie were so thrilled, they took it home and brought it back the next weekend;  both had read it.

When I finally had time to sit down and read it, it was if the book was written for them!  Makayla is an awesome young author, and if you have a young person in your life, please consider getting this book for them.  You can find it at - the title is "Voice of the Unborn" by Makayla Cook.  It was inspired by her own life, being adopted by loving and supportive parents.

Last spring Makayla was compelled to do something after the earthquake in Haiti.  She and her dad made a trip to volunteer at an orphanage, and they came home with a new little brother, a precocious little guy who is just adorable.  They recently made another trip to help rebuild the orphanage, and today they are stranded in Haiti as the airports have been closed due to political unrest and rioting.  Keep Makayla and her dad in your prayers for a safe return home.

The 2nd book I had the privilege or reading is quite different.  When I was getting ready to publish my own book, a lady at church offered me some very good advice.  Her husband was a retired pastor and had published a book, and she was well versed in the process.  I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Markwald, she was so friendly and helpful.  Last spring her husband passed away, and we became aware of his incredible life, growing up in prewar Germany and his service to his country.

Mrs. Markwald had spent many years accumulating notes as her husband would tell his memories in bits and pieces.  She finally convinced him that other people might be interested in his life story, and as she worked on the book, he would be by her side.  He did not live to see the book published, but I think he would be proud.  It is a very well written book, one that is hard to put down once you get started.  It is titled "Victory over Defeat: Memoirs of a German Soldier" by Marilyn Markwald, and I highly recommend it!

This weekend at church I couldn't wait to see Mrs. Markwald and tell her how much I enjoyed her book.  As we talked, she asked how "our kids" were doing.  I explained that it has been a very hard year.  Marquel, now 13, has had a very difficult time coming to terms with losing her mother, but we think we are making progress.  "I always keep you in my prayers", she said.  "I don't always know what specific things to ask for, but I ask for God to be with you."

I was so choked up, I couldn't respond expect to say "Thank you".  God knows the specifics.

When I was writing my book I knew it was not a great work of literature, it was simply a story that I felt needed to be told.  A stranger offered to read my book and write a review.  Her review wasn't exactly kind, and in the course of talking to her, she made the comment that her aunt was a librarian and that in her opinion, most books should never be written.  How sad for her, I thought to myself!

I hope you will consider getting these books as Christmas presents for someone special in your life.  If nothing else, do it in honor of 4 little kids who would never have had books to read or the opportunity to receive one inscribed to them personally!

Remind someone you know of the great gift of books that we take so for granted.
Merry Christmas!

Until next time . . .

From my friend, CS - she wrote:
Dear Stephanie-
I always enjoy reading your blogs but this one I especially enjoyed!
I LOVE to read and this blog brought tears to my eyes as I realized it is truly a gift I take for granted
and that there are people in the world that are not blessed with this amazing gift.
How WONDERFUL that Charlie loves his books!
Also, I am going to check out your friend's book "Victory over Defeat".
Thank you so much for sharing your blog with me.
I had to share this - I love hearing from all of you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Randy and I recently met with a reporter from the Hill Country Weekly.  Nicole is a very special person and we had a great time visiting with her about our journey with the Thornton family.  Her well written article was published on Thanksgiving Day.  

Click here to go to the article, then you can click on the picture for a larger view.

Thank you, Nicole for your caring and kindness. 

Be sure to check out Nicole's blog "Love You...Up to the Moon" as she chronicles her little niece's fight with cancer.

We want to take this opportunity to once again thank all of you for your support in this mission.  While we may wish that our “system” allowed Mr. Thornton to have a job, it doesn’t and we have to live with that reality.  Because he loves these kids so much and has a desire to see them break the bonds of poverty and live productive lives, we have the opportunity to help him in this mission.  By providing a home for them to live in, you have given them the opportunity to learn and grow and thrive. 

If you would like to help the Thornton’s have a Merry Christmas again this year, there are several ways you can help.  Tax-deductible monetary donations can be made to St. John - designated to the “Thornton Fund-Christmas.”  If you would prefer to do some shopping for Mr. Thornton or one of the kids, you can contact us for suggestions.

Have a great Thanksgiving Weekend!
Until next time...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids, Weather Fronts and Sensitive Ears

A while back when Charlie was out of control one morning, I turned on some classical music to see if it would help calm him down.  It didn't, and soon he was complaining "that music hurts my ears".

A few evenings ago we started on a home improvement project and we were using a Dremel saw, which makes a loud, high pitched noise.  The longer we had to use it, the louder Charlie got, humming, singing, chanting, louder and louder.  I knew it must be hurting his little ears.

While visiting with the Special Ed teacher at Charlie's school, she mentioned her room was always busier if a weather front was coming through. 

Yesterday morning Charlie keyed in on the news that there might be storms during the day.  I tried head off his apprehension by talking about what to do if he got scared at school.  First thing he did upon arriving home from school was pull up WeatherBug on his computer.  "Still shows storms," he commented.

As the evening progressed his noise level went up.  The constant humming, singing, chanting and noise making began to hurt my ears.  As the noise level went up, so did his level of defiance and disrespectful behavior.  Even his new pet turtle was hiding under a piece of lettuce floating in his bowl!  Thinking he was overly tired, I finally told him it was time to get into bed, but then he complained about the clock ticking too loudly (this is the same clock that has been in their room for 3 years!)

Randy left his council meeting early to come home and help Charlie calm down.  As he drove he could see thunderclouds and lightening in the East.  It was one of those "Ah-ha!!" moments.

Did the weather front and barometric pressure affect Charlie's ears?  Because he seemed more interested in the weather report, did he feel it coming?  With the front passing through, he woke up this morning calm and cooperative again.

Always something new to learn - next time we'll pay more attention to the weather forecast!

Until next time . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First Week of School

It has been a busy week and we are all tired!  I feel bad when I have to wake Charlie up at 6:00am in order to take his medicine that takes a while to start working.  He has done pretty well in his new school.  We hope it continues.  He makes friends easily and has an awesome teacher.

His first football game is Saturday morning and he has to be there at 7:00am!  He has had 2 scrimmages with other teams this week, and he really got a workout.  He is so good and so fast that he is playing Running Back on the offense and Safety on the defense.  Last night we noticed a little more team spirit, and found out after the game he had been appointed Team Captain. 

When Charlie came to live with us in February he was barely eating.  We had a "weigh in" every Monday morning to encourage him to gain.  One week he lost 4 ounces and was very upset that he had eaten some of Mr. Randy's "diet" popcorn.  He was convinced that it made him loose weight.  Over the last month he has gained 3 pounds!  Football has given him an appetite.

Saturday update:  Introducing the new Quarterback!  Randy heard one of the coaches say "We need to get it to the fastest guy as quickly as possible".  I guess that is Charlie!

He did extremely well at his first game.  They did not win the game, but Charlie made several key plays, both running the ball and chasing the opponent down to tackle him.  He played the whole game, offense and defense without a break.

We are getting into a comfortable routine now with Charlie.  His brother and sisters are not at our house this weekend (long story), and while he misses seeing them, we had a really nice day with him.  When he laughs his hearty, genuine laugh he is the cutest thing.  It is beginning to feel like he is truly ours and I can't imagine him not being here.

Marquel joined her 7th grade basketball team at ML King Academy in San Antonio.  She is very good.  At her first scrimmage with another school she scored 6 of the 18 points for her team.  We had to insist that she be allowed to play (practice is until 5:30 every school day).  She is good and it is a good thing for her to be involved in for many reasons.

Chip and Annie are doing great as well.  Annie gets lots of praise for stepping up to do chores around the house that used to be Marquel's responsibility.  She is a master escape artist when it comes to chores!  Chip is just cute and happy most of the time.

Thanks to all of you, this is possible for these kids.

Until next time . . .

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Activities

Randy's sister came to visit in June and Charlie went back to Nebraska with her for about 3 weeks.  Charlie was a little confused that there was no snow in Nebraska, where had it all gone since Christmas?!  He got to fly on a plane, go to the zoo, go swimming almost every day, and get lots of spoiling.

We met them in Oklahoma City for a cousins reunion and to bring Charlie home.  He thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon at the Science Museum.  He was a little annoyed that his vacation was over and was probably quite happy to get me on this Bed of Nails!

 While we were out of town, Marquel spent a long weekend with friends from church so that she could attend a Volleyball clinic.

Annie and Marquel's summer treat was going to Camp Chrysalis for a week.   They really enjoy hiking, swimming, canoeing, fishing and making new friends.

The last weekend of July was another cousins reunion, this time in Nebraska.  We took Charlie and Annie.  They are seasoned travelers now, and do fine on the long trips if they have enough movies, electronic games and most importantly - snacks. 

We left for Nebraska late in the afternoon, when Charlie's medicine is wearing off and his appetite returning.  He and Annie ate until all the sandwiches and snacks were gone!  At this point Annie always goes into panic mode worrying about what snacks we will have for the ride home.  I don't know if she will ever get over the fear that there may not be enough food, and always likes to know there is more waiting when she needs it.

Annie and Charlie made friends with new "cousins" in their new extended family.  Randy's great grandfather homesteaded in Nebraska, so we took the kids to theHomestead Museum where they learned about pioneer life and earned their Junior Ranger certificate.    

Charlie started football practice.  We felt this would be a therapeutic thing for him to learn to be a good teammate, learning respect for coaches and other kids, in addition to good exercise.  He seems to be a natural at it, and was assigned the Running Back position since he is so quick and agile.

I can't believe it is already August and time to think about getting ready for school again!  Time to try on all the school uniforms from last year to see what still fits and shop for new uniforms and a good pair of school shoes for each.  There are organizations that provide free "gently used" uniforms, however the rigmarole required to apply, the hours required and the miles driven did not prove very profitable.

A huge Thank You to Community in Schools for helping out with the school supplies again this year.  Please consider donating a few school supplies to this organization!  They have been a tremendous help to us and the kids over the last 5 years.

And a big Thank You for cash donations to help pay for the uniforms and shoes- you know who you are!

If you would like to help support this ongoing mission, Click Here. . .

Until next time. . .

Friday, August 6, 2010

5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching . . .

When Chip turned 5 years old on July 24th, it reminded us that the 5th anniversary of the storm was approaching.  Chip was only 4 weeks old when Katrina turned their world upside down. 

It has been great fun to watch him grow.  He is always smiling, singing and dancing.  I called him "Gumby" one day because he can move his body in any direction ~ but the kids don't know who Gumby is!

I hear some of the news channels advertising specials for the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  I am sure they will focus on positive; how New Orleans has rebounded to it's former vibrant life.

Lives have been changed forever, for better or for worse.  The experts say that Post Traumatic Stress never goes away, it only lays dormant and resurfaces at unexpected times.  For those who have not been able to return to their homes, life has had to start over in every way imaginable.

For Mr. Thornton it meant not only the loss of everything he owned, but also the loss of his income.  At the age of now 72, his income is minimal Social Security and SSI (Social Security Disability) due to an injury he sustained several years before Katrina.   SSI is a catch 22 for some people.  It provides a small amount of cash, but it does qualify him for Medicaid which combined with Medicare means that his medical bills are all paid for the most part.  It also pays him a small amount (less then $100 total each month) in benefits for the kids.  But, it denies him the right to hold any kind of job, even one that he could do with his disability. 

When Mrs. Thornton left and subsequently asked him to take care of her kids, he knew he did not have the income to take care of them.  Rent alone would take most of his SS and SSI checks, and he did not qualify for any rental assistance.  Then there is food and clothes and necessities for himself and four growing kids.

Because Mr. Thornton was willing to take in his wife's kids and because we knew his financial situation, we told him we would help in any way possible, although we had no idea how we would find a way.  We applied to every possible agency, but he did not qualify for one reason or another.  The only option he might have would be to give up his SSI and find a job.  Putting pen to paper quickly demonstrated how futile that option would be.

If he gave up the SSI, he would lose Medicaid and food stamps for himself and the kids.  Medical expenses for 4 kids who have various health and emotional problems is a huge benefit alone.  Food stamps certainly help, although it is not really enough to feed four growing kids.  Then there would be the cost of day care if he had to work while the kids were not in school.  It would take a great paying job with good health insurance benefits to offset what he would lose.  

Considering for a moment that he could find such a job, who would be willing to watch these four kids with emotional and developmental problems.  Having worked around day care providers, I knew that they would not do well in that situation and it would be an on-going problem to find someone to watch them.  He and the kids would be much better off with him at home to help them overcome these problems.

When we agreed to help him in any way that we could, we knew this would be a long term project.  Mr. Thornton will be 85 years old when Chip graduates from high school.  We have seen the toll that the stress has taken on him over the last 5 years.  We hope and pray that he will be around to see these kids grow up.

We would hate to see Marquel forced into a position of supporting or even supplementing the household income as she gets into high school.  We realize that worse things have happened to kids, but don't we really want her to be able to go to college and have a career that will give her the prospect of a bright future without the burden of being mother and income earner for the family? 

As this anniversary of Katrina comes and goes, my fear is that those who still struggle will be forgotten.  Mr. Thornton has been able to care for these kids and give them a good home due to the generosity of so many of you.  If it were not for all of you, where would he go?  He could probably fend for himself, but what about the kids, where would they be?

I wish I could remember who it was, someone who had come from a very poor background and made a good life for himself, said "it is great to tell people they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps - but first they must have a pair of boots". 

You are providing the boots.

Thank you to each and every one for all you do!

Until next time. . .


Thursday, July 1, 2010

A New Do. . .

Randy's sister, "Miss Debbie" came to visit for about 10 days.  The kids love Miss Debbie and she is fun to have around.  We are looking forward to the day when she and her husband bring their RV down for the winter.

While Deb was here she took Marquel to get a new hairdo at a real salon.  We happened to find the perfect place and she was pleased with the results.    Every woman feels better when they feel like their hair looks good, and it is time for Marquel to start learning how to do her own styling.

Annie and Marquel went to Camp Chrysalis on Sunday.   In the car the girls were talking about swimming at camp and that they would have to take a swim test if they wanted to go in the deep water.

When the kids talk among themselves and get excited the New Orleans accent takes over.  We have to laugh to ourselves as we listen to them.  As the girls talked about swimming at camp, Marquel said, "I told that lifeguard guy my mom told me not to be going in the deep water."  She was giggling as she continued, "That night I payed 'Dear Lord, I'm sorry, I had to do it'."

I had to turn my head so she wouldn't see me laughing.   We love to hear Marquel giggle and the little insight into her thoughts was enlightening.

A few months ago we were forced to find a new counselor for Marquel.  As she becomes a teenager, we feel we are in a race against time to help her work through the multitude of issues she faces.  Her new counselor suggested that because Marquel doesn't like long conversations, we use "bullet points" to get ideas across and to listen closely for little tidbits of information that will tell us how she is feeling or what she is thinking.  This was a "tidbit".

Marquel's new counselor has been awesome and since she does not take Medicaid, we appreciate the continued financial support we receive from so many of you.  We feel this precious girl needs every opportunity she can get to have a happy and productive life.

We continue to learn and realize how much we have yet to learn about how to help these kids through their layers of abuse, neglect and trauma.  At times it is very frustrating and we wonder if we are doing the right things.  Then we are rewarded with a hug from Annie or a genuine giggle from Marquel.  We sometimes wonder "why us" and then we say "thank you for these precious kids".

Thank you to all for your continued support.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May Birthdays and School Awards

May has been a very busy month.  Annie turned 11 on May 4th

 and Marquel turned 13 on May 19th.

There are only two weeks of school left and the girls are ready for summer vacation.

Last night the school had an award ceremony and they were insistent that Marquel should be there.  The awards were sponsored by the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.  They gave 5 awards for Most Improved Academic Skills, Most Improved Attendance, Best Citizenship, Perfect Attendance and Most Outstanding Student.

Marquel received the award for Most Improved Academic Skills!

What a remarkable achievement for a little girl who did not attend school before she came to San Antonio courtesy of Hurricane Katrina.  Her first school year in San Antonio was hit and miss as her mother did not appreciate education.  Repeating 3rd grade was a struggle.  In order to do a math problem we had to go back to 1st grade math and work up so that she could do each problem.  Weekends were spent doing Math and Math and more Math.

(Randy apologizes for the poor quality picture.  
We did not know about this until 3pm on Friday 
so he took the picture with his phone.) 

Thanks to great teachers, wonderful friends and her own desire to learn, she made it through.  I'll never forget walking into her school when the results were in for her 5th grade Math test.  Her teacher was beaming as she told me that Marquel had some good news for me.

I don't know that Marquel really understands what you all have done for her, but I want you all to know that your love and support have helped bring her from failing 3rd grade to the AB Honor Roll and awards such as Most Improved (we think she probably qualified for Perfect Attendance as well!).
People tell us what a wonderful thing we are doing, but we want you all to know that we could not do this without each and every one of you.  Everyone has their own talents to give;  time, money, or love and support, each of which helps us help them.

Until next time . . .

Stephanie & Randy & kids

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summer Planning

Only two months of school left! This year Annie has struggled with Math. We have worked on math every weekend and her teacher has given her extra tutoring after school, even driving her home! Now that is really going the extra mile.

Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer that Annie will pass her Math TAKS test the last week of April. She needs to pass this test in order to go to 5th grade next fall.

With summer approaching we are making plans already. Annie and Marquel will go to Camp Chrysalis again. They will be going on scholarship, for which we are really grateful. It is the highlight of their summer and they sing the songs and tell the stories they heard all year long. This experience with other Christian kids and counselors is invaluable to them.

Charlie will be spending a week or two with Randy’s sister, Miss Debbie. He is not yet mature enough to go to Camp Chrysalis.

Last summer we signed all four of the kids up for swimming lessons. They love to be in the water, and we felt they should at least know the basics of swimming. It was a huge hit. Annie has decided she wants to be on the Olympic team some day. They would all like to learn more about swimming this summer.

Charlie would like to be on a sport team. The next registration will be for football. It would be an excellent experience for him to learn a sport along with good sportsmanship and social skills.

The cost of swimming lessons is $50 per child. Football registration costs $170 for regular or $100 for flag, plus the cost of shoes and the transportation to games.

If you would like to sponsor or help sponsor one of the kids sports, please let me know. You may make a tax deductible donation to the Thornton Family Fund (click on the link and scroll down to Cash Donations to St. John Lutheran Church).

As always, your continued support is so very much appreciated!

Until next time. . .

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Boy and his Balloons

Charlie has been with us 6 weeks now. He seems to be settling into his new routine.

With fewer pouting episodes we are getting more school work done. We spend a lot of time on reading, reading comprehension and spelling, things he had fallen behind on.

I picture a little boy holding on tightly to a big bunch of helium filled balloons. He is desperately trying to keep control of these balloons, as they represent all the different aspects of his life.

He has given in to the constant struggle over eating. He now eats three meals a day with no fuss – he even offered to eat green beans today! We have started a chart to keep track of his weight, he gained 2 pounds last week. He is drinking more water and we can tell he feels much better. A balloon is let go.

He doesn’t make a fuss over bedtime. Now he wants to get his shower done so he can get to bed and listen to a chapter of “Pinocchio’s Quest”. Another battle we don’t have to fight and another balloon released.

We play a little game to go to sleep. He has to close his eyes (and his mouth!) and pretend that he is on a cloud. The cloud is soft and warm and helps him feel safe so he can go to sleep. Now he is asleep in minutes, he doesn’t get up numerous times to make sure we haven’t gone off and left him alone. Another balloon released.

The first few weeks he was easily bored and didn’t know what to do without his brother and sister to play with. Now we enjoy watching him play and entertain himself which is good for his imagination and his self confidence. He can easily spend an hour or even two outside playing without coming to check on us every few minutes. Two balloons released.

Letting me be in control of school time has been a big challenge. When he can’t do it his way in his time, he gets very upset. Slowly he has let go of more balloons and school time goes much easier for both of us.

When he feels like he is losing control he fights hard to keep it. During these times his “punishment” is to sit on my lap. While he kicks and struggles, he never struggles to get away. When he gives in, the “good attitude spider” tickles him until he can’t help but get the good attitude back. Then we often sit and talk. He is learning to verbalize about his thoughts and feelings, each time releasing more balloons as he unburdens himself of bad memories or worries. These can be very enlightening moments. More balloons released.

The balloons have to be released when he is ready and willing.  Only then can he really let go of the burden he is carrying.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts, prayers and encouraging emails. We appreciate it more than you know and we love to hear from you.

Until next time . . .


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Week #2 & 3 with Charlie

Week #2 of Charlie living with us was also Spring Break for the other kids. Since Randy had to be out of town a couple of days and I had to work, we decided to let Charlie spend some time at his father's house so he could play with his sisters and brother. We wondered if this would be beneficial to him, or a setback in his behavior.

Thursday morning I had to go take Chip and Charlie to their dentist appointment. Mr. Thornton was anxious to go do something with his friends and when I offered to take all the kids home with me, he jumped at the chance.

When we made this decision we knew that there were the other kids to think about. How would they feel about Charlie living with us and how would they react. Marquel seemed quite happy to have this burden off her shoulders. She had been held responsible for keeping Charlie under control, which of course she could not do. Annie was quite jealous and said she was bored at home. This did not surprise me, but I hoped that it would give Annie a chance to mature also. Annie is very dependent on Marquel as a mom and Charlie as a “partner in crime” when the hyperactivity takes over.

Thursday on the way home we stopped at our school in Bulverde to register Charlie for the fall, as it was the last day for registration. All the kids sat quietly in the office as we completed the paper work. A lady breezed into the office and on her way out she said, “I guess these are new students”. Her tone was not particularly friendly or welcoming, and she did not wait for a response as she exited the office.

Charlie enjoyed the weekend playing with his sisters and brother. There was no fussing when we took the others home on Sunday night. We wondered what the next week would bring.

Week #3
Monday Charlie cheerfully ate his breakfast and got busy with his school work. He was happy and cooperative. I had this week off from work, so it was nice to be able to spend the whole day with him. In the afternoon he helped Randy fix the tail light on the jeep and he was thrilled. It was a good day and I dared to think that this could continue.

The rest of the week did not go as well. When Charlie got frustrated because he had to do his school work my way and not his, he would throw his pencil and pout. I moved anything in his reach out of the way and let him sit and “think” until he got his good attitude back. It was an opportunity for me to get some house cleaning done!

At times he needed to curl up on my lap for a while. Then the “good attitude spider” comes out to tickle him until he gets his smile back. At one point he made plans on what he wanted to play with Annie the coming weekend, “If I don’t have to spend time sitting at the table.” I reminded him that he was the one in charge of acting right so he didn’t have to spend time “thinking”.

Bedtime is hard. His medication has worn off and hyperactivity has returned. He doesn’t want to go to sleep. He is convinced he doesn’t sleep at all most nights, and he doesn’t want to be alone. We have set up a very strict routine for bath time and bed time. He tries lots of different delay tactics, but he really doesn’t fuss too much about going to bed. We have a special Biblically based edition of Pinocchio, and we can read a chapter each night if he gets into bed on time. He really enjoys this time. Then we play a little game where he closes his eyes and imagines himself floating on a cloud and falling asleep. Within minutes he is sleeping.

Sunday night when we took the other kids home, Charlie wanted to stay and play. For the first time there were a few tears as we got into the car to leave their house. I got into the back seat and held him as we talked about why he was living with us. We don’t have to say a lot, he is smart enough to read between the lines and figure it out. In a few minutes he was fine and called his Father to tell him he wasn’t crying any more.

In some ways this was much harder than I expected, and yet in many ways he was doing better than I anticipated he would.  We wondered how long it would take for him to settle into this new routine.

Until next time . . .

Link to "Pinocchio's Quest" book on 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Charlie Comes To Live With Us - Week #1

For several months Charlie had been begging to come live with us.  On several occasions as I was tucking him into bed at his house, big tears would roll down his cheeks.  "Please can I come home with you, please?" 

Over the last month we had become increasingly worried about Charlie.  As much as Turk loves these kids, it is exhausting to keep up with four kids who have special emotional needs.  When we get tired and frustrated we say and do things we don't mean.  We could see it wearing on everyone in the house, and we suggested several times that Charlie come live with us as he was the major cause of the stress.

We knew that homework had been completely neglected.  With his ADHD and lack of maturity, he was unable to do it on his own and there was too much going on in the house for his father to help him with it.  He was falling behind in spelling and reading, no longer on the AB honor roll.

Friday, March 6th, the school called Randy about Charlie's behavior.  It had become increasingly worse over that week, and the normally very patient teacher had reached her limit.  Randy went to the school to get Charlie and took him to McDonald's.  As Charlie wolfed down his chicken sandwich he talked to Randy about his frustrations.  It was the first time he had been able to verbalize why he was so unhappy. 

Some wonderful friends had arranged a Will for Turk which included a Power of Attorney in the event that he could no longer take care of the kids, we could take over.  With the legal work in place, we decided it was time to step in on Charlie's behalf.  Turk didn't argue with us, which confirmed our suspicion that he was at his wits end.

Charlie came to our house that Friday knowing that he would be staying here.  Saturday morning I was sitting at my desk when he got up.  He came into the office and said "Miss Stephanie, am I being a good son so far?" 

By Sunday afternoon it was evident that reality was setting in.  When Randy asked him to wash his hands for lunch, he curled up in a corner pouting.  I took him into the bedroom away from the other kids.  I held him and talked to him.  For an hour and a half he kicked and screamed, "Leave me alone!"  Each time my answer was "I will never leave you alone."

Finally I said, "If I leave you alone who is going to take care of you?"

"Nobody" he screamed.

"Well, when you can show me that Mr. Nobody has a place for you to live, a bed for you to sleep in, food for you to eat and clothes for you to wear, then I will consider letting you live with Mr. Nobody."  This seemed to take a little steam out of his sails!

With both of us exhausted, he finally calmed down. 

The following week was harder than I anticipated.  I had decided to finish the year with home school in order to give him a chance to adjust.  Our hope is that he will have time to mature enough to be ready for 3rd grade in the fall.  He and I spent much of that first week sitting in the rocking chair until he could find a good attitude and we could do a little school work.  There were times when I wondered if we had made the right decision.

Finally, Friday came and he went with Randy to pick up the kids from school.  He proudly showed his teacher the 100 he had earned on his spelling test.  He enjoyed his sisters and brothers all weekend, which helped his overall mood.

We had made it through one week - stayed tuned for week #2!

Until next time ~


Friday, February 19, 2010

Long Overdue Update!

2010 has been a hectic year so far! 

January 15th was Charlie's 8th birthday.  His father had a party for him at their house. 

Birthdays always remind us of the first time we met the kids.  Charlie was 3 years old and so traumatized he was unable to talk.  He ran and ran and ran, seemingly trying to run off his trauma.  As the days progressed he found his voice, but it was in the form of argueing with his sister, along with kicking and hitting. 

Over the last 5 years we have begun to peel back the layers.  The trauma of the hurricane was only the top layer.  The traumas of abuse, neglect and abandonment by his mom are the bigger and deeper problems for Charlie.

We can look back and see how far he has come, and yet realize how far he has to go.  He will likely spend the rest of his life learning to overcome and cope.  He is amazingly smart, sometimes much older than his 8 years, and sometimes more like a toddler.  Every week we take the kids to counseling, a long trip and hours of time, but we feel we must do everything we can to help them. 

February 4th was a big day for Chip.  After 4 years of constant sinus infections we finally talked his doctor into a referral to a ENT specialist and he finally had his tonsils and adenoids removed.  Randy dropped Chip and I off at the hospital at 6:30 that morning, then went to get Turk and get the other kids off to school.  As we waited, Chip asked me several times, "Can we go home now?"  He entertained the other kids and parents waiting their turn by singing and dancing in his little hospital gown.

The doctor advised keeping Chip inside for at least a week, so he came home with us following his surgery.  He was a very good little patient.  He refused jello, ice cream and popsicles, wanting soft toast and cereal instead.  After a couple of days of refusing to eat or drink, we coaxed him with dimes for his cup.  Finally the threat of having to go back to the hospital if he did not drink some water did the trick.  We hope the sinus infections are a thing of the past, and we are sure he will feel better than he ever has.

A while back we tried a new gimic to encourage the kids with good grammer and manners by giving them a dime for their cup.  At the end of the month they can spend what they have earned.  Having money to spend is a big deal to the kids, so this gives them the opportunity to earn it while we try to help them learn good habits.  Each time they add a dime to their cup they have to recount how many they have.  Even if they have only a dollar or two at the end of the month, they have fun picking out some little toy at the dollar store.

With achievement test time approaching, we are spending every weekend with Annie working on Math.  Annie loves to read and learn, but somewhere there is a disconnect with Math problems, and it is now our challenge to figure out how to help her learn.  I'm not sure what we can do that her 2 math tutors at school can't do, but we keep working on it!

Marquel's counselor transferred to another position, so we have been forced to make the decision of finding a good counselor for her or give up on counseling.  Not willing to give up, we think we have found a great new counselor, but it will be self pay.  Do we give her the best we can, or search for another counselor who accepts Medicaid?  We chose to give her the best we could.  At the age of 12, we feel we are running out of time to make a big difference for her in her ability to cope with her disrupted life.  A new counselor will mean another trip into town and hours on the road, but how much is this precious girl worth? 

Once again we are so thankful for all of you willing to give us financial support for the kids and what they need.  We have been given a mission and to do less than we are able is just not acceptable.  If you want to know how you can help with a tax-deductible donation, click here.

Until next time. . .