We've had a great weekend catching up with family and friends!!! I love seeing them and always wish that we were closer! :( They are all so wonderful with the kids: so welcoming and open. And I love spending time with our newest member, my cousin's daughter born this spring.
Last night was a bit scary as Liam had another one of his "episodes" (Can read HERE if you don't know what I'm talking about.) We had had only one other since then, until now, BUT I think I MAY have an answer??? I think that he is an EXTREMELY heavy sleeper. My guess/hypothesis is that each time something has made him upset while sleeping: nightmare, upset stomach, whatever, and that when I went to pick him up to comfort him he was EXTREMELY hard to wake??? That is the ONLY thing I can figure out. I really don't think it's a seizure anymore, but I just don't know. He was more alert last night so I did not call 911, though I was highly tempted and being so tired went to my parents' room to get their opinion/help. I just was scared more than anything and didn't know what to do for sure. But we watched him and waited until he was "fine." And then he slept on the queen size bed between Braeden and I ! (Do you think I got much sleep????) Naw!
We're heading back tomorrow and I have some cute pics to upload. Hopefully tonight will be uneventful. :) Pleasant dreams!
If you are not familiar with the Riggs family.... check out their blog. They are a diverse family and full of love. They have 4 biological children, 2 children from Guatemala, and a beautiful daughter from Ethiopia. One of their Guatemalan children, Abby, was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. Bless her little heart. She is precious!
Abby has some pretty intensive chemo treatments 1-4 times per week for the next 5 MONTHS.... This means lots of time at the hospital, lots of time needing to be spent helping Abby.... a lot less time for making meals and cleaning houses, etc...
You can read more about what is going on at the Rigg's blog. For those of us who love this family and don't live close, it is hard not being able to do much.
But here is the perfect opportunity.If you are interested in sending or giving money for meals, that is welcomed. Either contact Amy to send the payment, or pay via paypal. (Directions on how to do this below) A few of these friends in OKC area are going to be making frozen meals at Supper Thyme to give to the family. (One meal to serve 7 is approximately $25) If you live local and are interested in delivering a frozen or refrigerated meal to them at the hospital, either message Amy at email@example.com or leave a comment at her blog.
Directions to give via paypal: Once you are logged into your account, click Send Money. In the "To" box, type in my email address - firstname.lastname@example.org Type in the amount, and then click services/other, and then click continue. Wah lah.
Would you also consider posting this on your blog to help us spread the word??? THANK YOU SO MUCH! This is what the church is all about. Taking care of our sister and brother in Christ in their time of need. Please continue to pray for this family as well as they all pull together to help Abby out. This puts so much stress on the entire family and they really need our prayers right now!
To be a foster parent you have to go through training/classes and background checks, and a homstudy. The classes give you an IDEA of the kiddos you could take in. As a foster parent, you can let the agency know what you are open to or willing to parent as far as ages, medical needs, past histories, etc. They may still call you for a child who is "outside" these parameters, just to see if you would be open and because they needed a placement and maybe thought you'd be a good one. They also may have NO information on a child other than their gender and age. You can say yes or no to any placement they call about. They do not normally take a no as being a bad thing, but more that you are thinking through what you can handle and/or are comfortable with and that's a good thing because it means that the children you do take in will be a better fit and will hopefully get all they need and deserve from you and others will hopefully find a family that's a good fit for them.
Foster kiddos come into placement for different reasons. Sometimes parents voluntarily put them in care due to their inability to parent at the time, but that's rare from what I've seen. Most of the time, children are removed from their parents due to unsafe environments which falls under many circumstances: drug use, prostitiution, neglect, abuse, etc. There are sometimes, though I haven't expereienced it myself, when children are removed for invalid circumstances and shouldn't have been at all. Many of my kiddos have actually come from other foster homes. Some were relatives and then they turned out to be a bad placement and the kids were removed from them, or they were removed from bad foster homes, or just foster homes which were not wanting or able to keep them any longer.
When a foster child is placed with a foster parent, their goal is to return them home. BUT for many this does not or will not happen. The parents still "want" them, but either are unable or unwilling to do what they need to do to change the situation that got the child/ren removed. Does that make sense??? They typically have 18 months in IL to get their act together and if they don't, then the state starts termination proceedings. Typically. This is a guideline though and if the state thinks that the parent hasn't had enough opportunity or is trying, it can be longer. My friend J's foster daughter has been with her for over 3 years and was with another foster home for a while prior to her coming to my friend, and they are just now starting termination.
IF they are heading toward termination, this means they begin to get things together for a court hearing to take the parent's rights away. IF the rights are terminated, then a foster parent has the option of adopting their foster child or helping them to transition to a new home as an adoptive placement there. Once in a while a relative will come forward who wants to adopt them, but normally if a foster parent has had this child/ren for a year or more, they are considered as a permanent placement first before other relatives as they have a bond with that family. Remember I said once in a while or typically for most of this, because this tends to be the norm, but does not mean it will go that way.
So... Braeden I got at birth, three days old, from the hospital. A friend of mine had his 2 year old brother and 1 year old sister in foster care at the time. She had had them a year so we were pretty sure they weren't going home, and she couldn't take a new baby on top of the two she had, so I talked to people about "wanting" him and was allowed to be his placement. His rights were eventually terminated because parents wouldn't do what they needed to do, and I was able to adopt him when he was 2 1/2.
Olivia came to me at 3 1/2 with her brother who was 6. He had some major issues and behaviorally I couldn't do it much longer. They ended up moving him and allowing her to stay with me. Mom wasn't doing what she needed, and then dropped out of the picture 8 months before her rights were terminated. We then found out that she did that because she was pregnant and didn't want the state to find out. It worked and she still has Olivia's now 2 year old sister at home. I adopted Olivia last September.
Then there's Liam (by the way, these names all have been changed from their birth names). He came to me at 9 months old, from another foster home. He was placed in the other foster home at 4-5 months old. His foster home did nothing with/for him at all and the caseworker wanted him removed. So he came to me at 9 months not knowing how to sit up, crawl, stand, nothing. Within a week he was doing it all! :) He has come far, but is still lagging developmentally in some areas. His mom recently signed surrender of her rights and we are pursuing termination of bio dad's rights at this time, moving toward my adoption of him hopefully within the next year. (Yes, year, the whole thing takes quite a while!)
In IL, the foster child/children are provided a medical card to meet their medical/dental needs, day care is paid for as long as you are working or in school, and you receive a monthly subsidy check of which a certain amount is to be used for clothing and allowance (toys,etc). If you adopt a child from foster care, either as their foster parent, or a parent with a homestudy looking to adopt a child in need of a home, these things come "with" the child and continue until they are 18. Also, adopting through foster care allows you a certain amount of money toward the adoption itself. For me, here in IL, this has meant no adoption costs whatsoever. It's not "free" per se, because someone IS paying for it, but it's subsidized and is paid for on behalf of the state for the child to find a forever family.
Foster children often come with "issues." They have just lost everything they have known. Even if it was a horrible situation they came from, it was their home, their family, their sense of "normal." They could have trouble with attachment, aggression, behaviors, emotional trouble, eating issues, sexual acting out, developmental delays, or they could just not understand how to live in a family. BUT, they all need so much that so many out there could give, even if only for a short time. They NEED love, stability, care, attention, concern, knowledge of what it's like to live in a family, and to see the eyes of a caregiver/parent light up when they walk in a room. They DESERVE it. These are the children often forgotten. The children who become victims time and again in this horrible system of foster care. Sometimes animals in our country have more "rights" and "protection" from abusers than these children do. Hard to believe, but it's true, check the laws. And yet, many of these children, because of their histories, drugs in their system at birth, horrors they've witnessed, even if adopted into a wonderful, loving home, can never truly escape these pasts. It may show up in hyperactivity and play itself out in a classroom where they are labeled a troublemaker. It could become a part of their personality in ways that are incredibly difficult to manage. Or it could just show itself in silent tears at night. But foster care is needed. Godd foster parents are desperately needed!!! So, if God is tugging at your heart, if you are thinking about it at all, at least give it a try, go to some classes, meet with some foster parents, see what you could give a child.
That's all. My two cents. :)
As you may or may not remember, I rented a PO Box so that I could give the address to Liam's birth mom. I hoped that even though I was going to be adopting him, that I could keep the lines of communication open to her to provide her with updates and pictures, and possibly even visits over the years. She was very receptive to this. She signed her rights away and I was unsure how long to go before checking the mailbox. From what I've been told (I've only met her very briefly once and have seen her twice outside the courthouse where she wouldn't even make eye contact with me), she is much like a child/teen in her thinking. She thinks that his being in the system and not being returned to her is not her fault, and she thinks that once Liam becomes 18 and a legal adult he will leave me and go to live with her.
I checked the post office box earlier last week. And there was a card.
I was both excited and happy that she is taking me up on this opportunity (I know that Liam will be so glad to know as he grows that she loves him so much) and yet I was scared and nervous at what I would find. She is "done" now. She doesn't have to answer to an agency or judge or worry about visits being lost, it's just her and I muddling through this new territory to both of us.
I opened the card which she must have somehow purchased just for him and there was a sweet note to him about how much she loves him and for him to "be good." :) There was also a folded piece of "school" paper, a note to me. It was hard to read, I have to be honest. Not because it was mean, it wasn't. Not because she was demanding anything, she wasn't. But because she referred to Liam as "my baby" (her baby) twice. It was hard. Isn't that so selfish of me!? I feel bad for even thinking that. But it felt as though she views me as babysitting for her until he's an adult. I think that's how she sees it. But, so what? So what! She is doing the best she can in this situation. This is so recent still for her and I can't imagine the pain of knowing your child will never be "yours" in the way you had hoped. He hasn't lived with her but for the first 4-5 months of his life. But she was consistent in her visits. She visited regularly, almost every week unless she was sick. I know she loves him dearly. I now must go forward, praying for her, praying for our relationship, for her and Liam's relationship, for her and God's relationship. I hope that I can be there for her and show her why I "do this", why I love her even though she may not love me so much, why I admire her for her choice to sign surrenders, why I asked to continue a relationship with her, why I "allow" her to visit Liam. I pray God softens my heart, makes it easier for me to read her letters, helps me to be there for her, uses me as a witness of His love for her. I pray...
Olivia - who was presented with a letter "To the Parents of Olivia ***". A letter letting me know that she is a candidate for our district's Learning Explorer's program. Our district's GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAM! It's possible she won't make it all the way, they still have to do IQ testing, but she is part way there. And whether or not she "makes it," I am so proud of her! Way to go honey!!!
After arriving home so late Sunday night, we were up bright and early to start the boys back in day care for the school year on Monday morning (Olivia was with me all week). I start back to work tomorrow. :( Kids start back to school Tuesday, so I've been in my classroom all week getting it ready. It's a lot of work. Especially since my classroom is taking a little refocusing this year and since I have a student teacher coming the first quarter of the year. I really needed to get a lot of the classroom things ready and straight in my mind prior to her beginning.
Tuesday I was with my friend J all day at a court house 45 min from here with her daughter's court case. That's another post in itself. Then dinners and evening time with the kids and posting on our trip at night.
Friday night J and her three girls, and my friend T and her two who are Braeden's bio brother and sister, came for cake and ice cream to celebrate Olivia's bday. We are doing large parties for years 5, 10, and 15 (or 16?) and cake and ice cream with them for the rest. So Braeden will have a large party in Feb when he turns 5! Then on the child's actual birth day they choose their dinner, drink, and dessert. For the cake and ice cream on Fri, Olivia choose High School Musical plates and such and a HSM chocolate cake with chocolate crackle ice cream.
Our gang!!! :) All through foster care!!!
On Olivia's actual birthday I took the kids to the zoo. We still had not gotten there this year which is not like us, and it was the perfect weather day to go. We had lots of fun!!! And since out "Thing" tshirts really are only funny when we all wear them together, we HAD to wear them today! We got lots of giggles and compliments, it was cute! :)
We ate lunch at McDonalds, shopped around, let Braeden build his own "lifesaver" (lightsaber), and then let the kids play in a water area they have. It was fun! :) The kids and I then had to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa which was very hard for them, but they are coming here for a week on the 29th for a surprise party for my dad's mom, so that was a consolation to them. (Still had big tears from Braeden and Olivia.) :)
We left to get to the airport by 3:30, plenty of time to return the rental car, change diapers on Liam, bathroom breaks for the rest of us, get something to eat for dinner, etc. BUT then our plane was DELAYED! We were to have a 2 hour connection in Atlanta on the way back. We ended up delayed until 7:20! This meant we once again had a 30 min connection, they were a little more cranky on this flight, mostly Liam, but he did end up sleeping the whole first flight. Braeden felt quite warm to me and I was pretty sure he had a fever! (When we got home I checked - 102!!!) No time for bathroom breaks on the connection, but the olders used the one on the plane. Braeden fell asleep on the second flight and I was completely embarrassed to see that he had SOAKED the SEAT!@! Oh my goodness! I had brought pullups for both he and Olivia, completely my fault I didn't have them put them on but I had planned to do it in Atlanta and when the connection time was cut didn't even think about doing it before our first flight. (Olivia on a side note wets the bed every night. She has ever since she came to live with me. Her previous home made a huge HORRIBLE deal out of it - she was only 3 then - and I have tried not to make it a big deal, though it's not fun.)
When we arrived at the final airport it was 10:30pm, 11:30pm Florida time. We were exhausted. I admit I didn't even think about finding a bathroom then as we saw our limo driver right away. We loaded into the limo, and the kids were on the "high" of the cool car again.
This lasted approximately 5 minutes, then they were OUT. And, once we arrived home I noticed that both Braeden AND Olivia had peed!!! I am so glad we were not on cloth seats!!! But still embarrassed. THEN, I was holding Liam who was extremely cranky from being woken and so so tired, went to climb out of the limo, in the dark, hit the curb wrong getting out, and completely twisted my ankle and fell like a rag doll! Liam rolled out of my arms and was screaming like you had killed him - he was fine, but I was not. The driver offered me his hand to help me up, but I couldn't stand. I was so embarrassed! I thought I was going to have to crawl to the house and wondered what I was going to do, but was finally able to stand and hobble up. I kept apologizing and thanking the driver for helping.
We finally made it in, changed clothes, gave Braeden Motrin, went to the bathroom, and HIT THE HAY!!!!
It was an exhausting, but wonderful and inspiring trip. I can't even find the right words to describe it.
Beyond all the things I've described, gktw also has a mini golf course we didn't get to, fishing which we had hoped to do but didn't get to, a room of movies to borrow while you're there, digital still and video cameras to borrow which they then download on a disk for you before you leave, and more. In our check out pack, we received the disk of the pictures they had taken throughout the week, some paperwork, and an amazing "passport" that is good for free admission for one year to TONS of amusement parks around the country, and some around the world!!! As long as you can get there, it's free! There are two nearby, Great America which Olivia and I did this summer so we may do next year as well, and KiddieLand which I went to when I was little, and so many more! Amazing! My only wish was that we lived closer so that we could volunteer to give some of what they have given us, back to so many others. What a beautiful experience!!!
Today is Olivia's SEVENTH birthday!!! I can't believe she's already seven! Where does the time go? I will never forget the looks of excitement and adventure on her and her brother's faces when they walked up the sidewalk to my house the day she came to live with me in March of 2005. She was 3 1/2 and oh so cute! :) Unfortunately her brother doesn't live with us now, you can read more about him in these posts: Brother 1 Brother 2 We haven't seen him since Oct of 2006. Not by our choice.
This amazing little girl became "mine" forever on Sept 20, 2007 and I am in amazement that God has given me such a wonder to inspire and guide me on this path of parenthood. To give you an example of some of her outlooks, even with all she has been through and goes through, yesterday she said to me, "Mom, I'm glad you're a mom who doesn't do all that bad stuff like smoking." She cracks me up, but she says little things like this often, letting me in a little at a time to all that she has been through and all that she thinks about and still trys to process.
Happy Birthday Princess Olivia! May this next year be even more amazing than the last!
We had originally thought about going to Gatorland today since it's a place we've always seen signs for, have never gone to, and was free while we were here. Sounded great, BUT we were exhausted. Instead, we opted for a day at the Village, spending time with the kids. :) We went to breakfast at the Gingerbread House, played in the Castle of Miracles, played at Amberville train station, ate lunch at the Ice Cream Parlor, then Grandma and Grandpa took the boys back to the villa to watch tv and hang out, while Olivia and I went to Julie's Safari Theater to watch Agency Cody Banks. We'd never seen it and it sounded like something she'd like.
Another amazing place at gktw. They are free, obviously, but also have a free concession stand which has: pop, popcorn, icees, soft pretzels, nachos, churros, and those tube things that you fill with powdered candy! We saw those all over the theme parks, and they're so expensive! I thought about getting one just to say I did, but didn't. Olivia chose to get popcorn and Sprite, and I had a White Cherry Icee! So fun! We were the only ones there for the first part, then a family of four joined us.
After the movie we went back to the villa for NAPTIME! Something we hadn't done all week! :) The kids and Grandma all fell asleep pretty quickly, so I thought I'd head to an outlet mall by myself for a bit and Grandpa said to go for it. :) I was going to go to the one labeled the biggest in Orlando, but after 45 minutes of driving to a place that SHOULD have taken 15-20, and I still wasn't there, I turned around and went to a small one near gktw. I only went to two stores, but got some GREAT deals at the second. I bought my friend J's 3 girls matching denim skirts for $1.99 each! And bought some things for the kids for next year. :)
When I returned the others had just left for the pool so I caught up with them there. Liam loved the frogs lining the outside of the pool and had fun putting his head in the stream of water spraying from his mouth! :)We then went back to change and then to the Gingerbread House for dinner. After dinner was a big surprise party for Mayor Clayton! :) Another great activity for the kids. They had superheroes out this time, gave away comics, had tshirts the kids could color, had snow cones and cotton candy and of course cake, face painting, dancing was rampant and Olivia went on the stage for one of them, and we yelled "Surprise" as Mayor Clayton made his appearance. Olivia still tells people that this party was her favorite part of the whole week! :)
After breakfast we met Barney and friends who came over to gktw from Universal. They were one group of characters that Liam loved. Braeden was hiding though. :) During this, however my mom walked behind them to go to the other side, hit the step of the "stage" wrong with her foot and fell hard. She was embarrassed, but we were just worried how she was. She ended up with a horrible bruise on her upper thigh and some extremely sore ribs, which are still bothering her now. I felt so bad for her.
After Barney we headed toward Universal for the day.
I have never been a huge Universal fan; I LOVE Disney. I went to Universal once before becoming a teacher and had a great time, but it seems so much like it is more for teens/adults so I hadn't thought about taking the kids there. Since we had the free pass I definately wanted to go. Let me tell you, Universal was AMAZING!!!
The rides/attractions were still primarily for older kids/teens/adults, but what knocked me over was the attitude and caring of EVERYONE there who saw our Make a Wish buttons and/or Olivia's gktw button.
First, my parents had reserved two electric carts for the day. Typically they get one and share it as they both have some issues with walking at times. Since this was later in the week, they had called and reserved two. Universal gave them to them for FREE when they saw their Make a Wish buttons!!! In addition, many workers stopped Olivia often and asked how her day was going, if she was having fun, etc. One went through all the things Olivia "got" from being the special person today. She said many picture stations would give her a free 5x7, we were not to wait in ANY lines including rides AND characters, etc. She went on to talk to us about how so many of the employees there volunteer at gktw and she has two children herself with special needs. At Disney, most of the rides we went on we went through the fast pass line, which meant very little wait. Here, they took you personally through the handicapped line with NO wait, literally. It was surreal.
Shortly after we spoke with her, I walked to the bathroom with Olivia and Braeden. On the way back to where the others were, we saw the Mystery Machine with all of the Scooby Doo characters in front. There was a HUGE line of people to see them. We stopped so Braeden could look at them, when "Fred" saw us and our "magic" buttons. He stopped the line of people and called Olivia and us over!!! They gushed over Olivia, Braeden was hiding behind me, and Fred came over, knelt down and talked to Braeden to try to get him to open up. It was too too sweet! Braeden was still plastered to me though so I got a great pic of them with Olivia and we moved on to give others their turn.Each of the two Universal parks do have GREAT kid areas with lots of fun kid rides! There are also some great shows for kids and water play areas and character meet and greets. There were a couple of other rides that Olivia and sometimes Braeden were just tall enough for. They both said they wanted to go on Spiderman at Islands of Adventure, so I took them. It was great, especially the no line, but the two who insisted they wouldn't be scared and REALLY wanted to go had their hands over their eyes most of the ride!!! :)
Here we met Curious George who Liam LOVES, he even got a stuffed one while we were here! :) He kept saying "Monkey, monkey" and making monkey sounds.
We began our day outside Julie's Safari Theater, for a chance to see the Disney characters who had come to the Village this morning. Outside the theater were Pluto, Belle, and Goofy! They loved all over Olivia, and the boys, but the boys were afraid! :) We then went inside the theater to see the head mice, Mickey and Minnie, themselves. It was lots of fun!
After the characters, we went into the Gingerbread House for breakfast. Then I took Braeden and Olivia to the Magic Kingdom for the day. Grandma and Grandpa were a little sore from all the walking and such, so I suggested they might like to stay and just spend the day at the Village with Liam, they all had a blast! And so did we!
It was a good day for a theme park! The day was not quite as hot as the last two had been, and with no lines it was great!
We went on lots of rides, made Braeden go on Splash Mountain :), he is not a rider like Olivia and I, and then were on our way to Toon Town. Olivia and Braeden saw the face painters and asked if they could get theirs painted. We never do that, a bit pricey, but as this was a special week, we went for it. Olivia was FREE!!! They said anyone from gktw was free! No idea, but such a great thing! She was also over the moon that she got to wear "lipstick!" :)
After the faces, we were near the large circus tent where they always have three lines to meet characters, with 3 characters in each. I asked the kids if they wanted to see some of the characters, knowing the lines were inside so it would be cool and not too hot. The one thing we were told with our Disney passes was that the "no line" policy did not apply to characters. That was fine, I completely understood. The kids were excited to see some charaters so we went in to see who was there. Today there were two lines, one was empty. One of the lines had Pluto, Goofy, and someone else (can't remember), and the other had three of the Princesses. I figured they'd (at least Olivia) be excited about the Princesses since we saw Pluto and Goofy that morning, but neither were interested in either. I asked who it was they wanted to see and they both practically yelled "Mickey!" I was so surprised, we saw them that morning, but I knew that his line was outside his "house" in Toon Town, so we headed that way.
On the way up the steps to the tent where he is, I said I wasn't sure about the line, so we would see what it was like and they could decide if they wanted to wait or not. I barely noticed an employee at the bottom of the stairs. At the top of the stairs I saw one of the biggest lines ever. I couldn't believe it. But I did let the kids know and ask them what they wanted to do. Just when we were about to leave, someone came up to us on the other side of the ropes and said oh, here's the Make a Wish family, come right this way. She took us directly to the front of the line, and ushered us in to see Mickey and Minnie ALL BY OURSELVES!!!! Wow!!! I was speechless. That was NOT expected in the least! Of course Braeden was around the corner and not wanting to see them once we were there! :) But Olivia was LOVING it!!! :)
We rode some more rides, made Braeden ride Splash Mountain a second time, and then rode Buzz Lightyear a second time since that was his favorite, and headed back to the Village. We were able to ride everything except maybe 3-4 things in the time we were there!!! (Oh, and I got 255,000 on Buzz! I love that ride! :) )
We all went to see Santa, but Liam of course wanted nothing to do with him unless I was holding him. :) After seeing Santa, the kids each were allowed to pick a gift from this HUGE section of brand new toys! Crazy! Liam got a little kids transformer police car, Braeden got a Star Wars figure set, and Olivia got a Furreal Monkey. They also got the Original Memory Game as a family gift!!!!
Our third day, Wednesday, came quickly.
This day we had grandpa along as well and had made reservations for all of us to start the day with a character breakfast at Seaworld with the Sesame Street characters. Liam, again, not so crazy about them. :) But did light up upon seeing Elmo! :)
After breakfast we headed into the park and had a lot of fun. If it wasn't so darn hot, I could see the kids loving all the things we didn't quite get to (they LOVE animals!), but we did quite a lot! :) We saw sharks, rode kiddie rides (with no wait!), ate ice cream (more discounts from amazing workers), and watched a wonderful Shamo show called Believe.
After, we went to feed Stingrays (they gave us a free tray of food for each child!). Braeden fed one ray, he and I jumped a million feet in the air as another came at us from the front! and that was that for the feeding! :) Olivia and Liam wanted nothing to do with it, and Braeden was done. Olivia asked me if she could give her tray to another child, so I had her give all three away and she was on cloud nine. She is a great giver!
Then we went to feed the dolphins. We got one free tray of food here which was three large fish. Each child fed one fish, but they were all so quick I got pics right after each one. :)
Mayor Clayton came and Olivia was excited and loving toward him, Braeden was off the wall and hiding from him, and Liam was loving every minute of it. He LOVED those bunnies!!! :)
We began the day with breakfast at Give Kids the World (gktw) at the Gingerbread House. Wonderful food and service again. Afterwards, a local horse program called Freedom Ride brought two horses to gktw for the kids to ride. Liam was too young, but Braeden and Olivia had a BLAST! The two pictures here of their ride were taken by a photographer at gktw. They had photograpers throughout the week at the special activities taking loads of pictures. At the end of your stay, each family receives a CD full of these pictures, as well as general pictures of the entire village. Amazing!!! Each of the three kids also received a cowboy hat after riding, can you say Braeden was excited!???
After horseback riding we went back to our villa and got dressed for swimming. We took the kids to the larger of the two pools at gktw. SO much fun!!! My eye was caught as we went in as there were two vending machines there. It surprised me since EVERYTHING at gktw is absolutely FREE. BUT, then I completely cracked up! The machine FULL of candy bars, chips, etc has a price tag of 25 CENTS EACH!!! I couldn't believe it!!! They so want this trip to be special and at no cost to the families who stay with them. They don't even have a "store" on property at all, though you can purchase small gifts and tshirts online.
Once we finished swimming and changed back to our clothes, grandma and I took the 3 kiddos to Disney's Hollywood Studios (formally MGM), and Animal Kingdom for the day.
We began at 3:30am on Monday, August 4th. We were picked up in the biggest limo I've ever seen and the kids were in awe. They did great getting up and ready and we watched Pippi Longstocking on the hour and a half drive to the airport. We barely made the plane. We had enough time to check in and run to the gate, but we did make it. We then had a connecting flight to catch in Atlanta which I was unsure about making as well, but God got us through and we ran to that gate just in time.
After arriving and picking up our rental car we drove to Give Kids the World Village. The most amazing place. It was founded by Henri Landwirth who was a child during the Holocaust and went through tremendous suffering during that time. He lost family and friends. He went on to come to America and eventually began Give Kids the World to help children suffering from life threatening illnesses come to a place where they were essentially the stars.
My parents drove from Clearwater to spend the week here with us as well and were waiting when we arrived. We went into the "House of Hearts" to check in and each of the kids were given a stuffed animal. Afterwards we drove to our villa for the week, a two-bedroom duplex.
A little while later Brandi and her three lovelies arrived. We got to know each other somewhat and then took her 3 and my older 2 out to explore. We went to the "Castle of Miracles" to play and ride the carousel first.
Then we HAD to check out the ice cream parlor!!! Sorry, but this picture was too priceless NOT to put on my blog.
How ironic that I captured this picture of Braeden and the now infamous phone!!! I told Braeden to leave it alone, Brandi assured me it was fine, and HE ERASED IT!!! I was completely embarrassed. I still can't believe how nice she was/is about it. (I am not so sad about the fact that the priceless picture of me she had taken was erased!)
It's hard to express the thanks I have for being able to meet Brandi and get to know her. Her blog constantly challenges and inspires me to walk God's plan for my life in the best way I can. We were able to share some of each other's stories and I wish we had had even more time. Her kids are precious and I hope that we can spend more time together in the future.
We took a couple pics before they left, and as Brandi expressed it perfectly, it shows two moms trying to spend time together with the kids. :)
After they left my parents and I took the kids to the "Gingerbread House" for dinner. Each of the places, but especially the Gingerbread House, humbled me to no end. There were volunteers all over the place helping to serve, clean, cater to the families, do anything they could to help the place run smoothly. Give Kids couldn't function without these volunteers. There were kids and adults, retirees, and boy scout troops. God's love and blessing was abundant in them! There were no short answers and hurried workers, but people willing to take your tray, get your drinks, fill you up with goodies and love alike.
After dinner we walked along the "Avenue of Angels" - the area around these wonderful buildings which have pavers inscripted with names of children and families who have come to this amazing place. A person from Discovery Cove was there with a sloth for the families and kids to see and ask questions of and touch. Braeden and Olivia LOVED it!
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What you should know about HIV
Other Awesome Blogs
• 50 million orphans in Africa
• Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS
• 16,000,000 have been orphaned by AIDS
• Every week, AIDS claims as many lives as American fatalities in the Vietnam War
• 854 million people do not have enough to eat
• Malnutrition is associated with the deaths of 5 million children under the age of five
• Every 2 seconds an orphan dies from malnutrition
Hence the title of my blog
Little did I know that the road would be so rocky
Little did I know that the trip would take so long
Little did I know that my heart could hurt so much
Little did I know that God is never wrong
Little did I know that love could be so powerful
Little did I know that a dream so far could go
Little did I know that God would place the right ones
Little did I know that my heart, so large, could grow
Little did I know that a dream has it’s own timing
Little did I know that this day would finally come
Little did I know that four souls would be sent to guide me
Little did I know that they would choose to call me mom
But God knew all along and He had a plan to follow
God knew all along that my dream would soon come true
God knew all along that we five should be together
God knew all along that I’d share it all with you