Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Story of Brighten Storie

Me, T (birth mom), Jessica and brand new Brighten

I have been trying to write this down since September, but haven't quite been able to find the words.

Now that Mother's Day is upon us again, the time seems right to tell this awesome God orchestrated least my side of it.

Last Summer I was contacted by Jojo's birth mother. She was expecting a baby and she didn't feel like she was in a good place to parent this child. Jojo would have a full biological sibling very soon.

I can't quite express the range of emotions that I went through when I heard that news! If I'm being totally honest, I actually toyed with the idea of adopting the new baby although I was not prepared to "start over" again so to speak. But gracious this would be Jojo's SIBLING.

I prayed a lot and God made the answer crystal clear. Biology doesn't make family, love does.

With so many families waiting to adopt a baby, I knew helping Jojo's mom find the perfect family for his sister was the right thing to do.

I thought this part would be easy. I attend a really big church and I feel like the families who don't have adoption as part of their story are in the minority! I truly thought that I would toss the info out there to a handful of people and BAM the obvious perfect family that had been right under my nose the whole time would appear. But God....

The baby was due in September....and it was August! So I was tasked with finding a Christ following family that was already paperwork ready to adopt, who lived near me (so Jojo and baby could know each other as they grow up), who was willing and able to up and go to Texas when it was baby time AND stay there for at least 2 weeks. And that was all the easy stuff. It also had to be a family who was wiling to "roll with" the craziness of this particular adoption situation.

Most adoptions take place through an agency and those are the people who walk you through all the paperwork, all the uncertainties, travel plans...everything. Well we didn't have time for all that, plus it would make the adoption significantly more expensive for the family that God chose to parent this baby. So it had to be a family who could find a way to TRUST GOD big time, and in a way to trust me as well.

And of course, God provided just that.

I had a handful of God fearing women who walked with me through these weeks, and I will be forever grateful to them. Because of them, I found my way to Jason and Jessica. We spoke on the phone about the craziness of the situation and they didn't seem too terrified, so we decided to meet for dinner a few days later. I knew after talking to them for a short time over Thai food that they were the ones. And the rest is history {which Brighten's mom has documented beautifully with tons of pictures in the posts below! When she refers to"C" that is me ;-)}

Brighten's Storie: Part One
Brighten's Storie: Part Two
Brighten's Storie: Part Three
Brighten's Storie: Part Four

So, this Mother's Day I feel compelled to tell our birth mom again how much we appreciate her. I can't imagine life without Jojo, and I can't imagine not being Brighten's "Auntie Grandma". You made the most selfless sacrifice not once, but twice, and we are forever changed because of your choice.

This is the letter I wrote to "T" three years ago for Mother's Day:

Dear Birth Mom: Happy Mother's Day

I just love the way God knits families together don't you?

Brighten on left. Jojo on right.

Brighten and Jojo meet.
Me, T and Jojo


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beauty from Ashes- A review of "The Lucky Few" by Heather Avis

In her first book “The Lucky Few”, Heather Avis takes us along on her journey through infertility, adoption and the unexpected gift of having not one but two children with designer chromosomes.
I consider Heather a friend, although we have never met in real life. The Down syndrome community is just awesome that way. So when I was given the opportunity to read her new book before its release I was elated and honored. I expected a book about Down syndrome, but what I read was so much more.

This book takes us on the bumpy but beautiful road that ultimately leads Heather and her husband Josh to the adoption of their seriously gorgeous children Macyn, Truly and August.
I was surprised to find in the first few chapters that this book really reads like a work of fiction, in a “I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next” kind of way. The way that God knit this family together is so crazy, but in a God crazy kind of way, that makes it a page turner from the Introduction to the Acknowledgements. 

This story is not just about Down syndrome any more than it is just about the very real struggle of infertility or the seriously risky business of adoption. It is about a woman who, like me, knew she always wanted to be a mom, and a great big God who she chose to trust, sometimes through tears and gritted teeth, every step of the way.

Change the names, add a few kids, take away the supportive and handsome husband and mix in foster care and this is my story. But the amazing thing about this book? It will become your story too. Because we all have those beauty from the ashes times in our lives. Yes, they all look different, but the end result is the same. If we choose to trust our God (who’s plans are often different than ours, but ALWAYS better) then we can all find ourselves in some of the most beautiful and hard places, where His light can truly shine. This is the place where He will be glorified and we will be blessed in the most unimaginable ways. 

“The Lucky Few” will be released on March 21st, World Down syndrome Day. Please visit to read Chapter 1 today! You can also pre-order the book and get access to other fun goodies. Also, be sure to follow @macymakesmyday on Instagram to meet the beautiful family whose journey created this amazing story.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

the story of zee

I have written bits and pieces of his story before, but because he was in foster care I could never tell it all. Now that he is all mine, I want to tell the whole story.

As many of you know, before I got the call about Jojo, I was taking classes to become a foster parent. About a year after Jojo was born, I began to feel God tugging at my heart to do the few things I had left to get licensed.

I remember one of the questions on the paperwork asked how many kids I would like to have. None. I wanted to have none more kids. BUT, I did want to be available just in case there was a child who came in to foster care who had Down syndrome. I knew enough about foster care to know that it is hard to place the "typical" kids, so I could only imagine how hard it might be to place a child with special needs.

I got licensed on a Friday. On Monday my friend Amanda from DHR called me.

You may not realize this, but there is a process for kids who are difficult to place. Once the county that the child is from has determined that they do not have foster parents who are willing (or able) to take the child, they contact the surrounding counties. If there is still no one, they send out a state wide email. If there is still no foster family, then the kids with behavioral issues, the older kids, the large sibling groups etc typically go to a group home. The kids with medical/special needs go to a nursing home. Zee was a state wide email. I can say with confidence that if I had not said yes, he would have ended up in a nursing home, and would likely not have lived.

As Amanda read Zee's LONG list of special need and medical needs(Down syndrome. Fully ventilator dependent. Tracheostomy. Gastrostomy. Ventilator dependent. Chronic respiratory failure. AV Canal. Tetrology of Fallot. Pulmonary Hypertension, Developmental delay. Hypothyroidism. Polyspleenia), many of which neither of us could pronounce, I felt sheer terror. But when she asked me if I was scared off yet, for some reason I said no. This is specifically what I signed up for, although I wasn't expecting it to look like this or happen so fast. I suggested that I go to the hospital and meet him, pray a whole lot, and we would go from there.

My friend Lisa happened to be in town when I met Zee for the first time. She said "you know if you meet him you won't be able to say no", and I knew that was true.

I was terrified and calm at the same time as I walked down the hall in the hospital to meet him.
June 24, 2014

There were 2 social workers, a couple of nurses and a doctor in the little room. I don't think any of them expected me to say yes to him. I could tell they were all a little shocked when I picked him right up (after snapping a few pics obviously) despite all the wires and machines he was attached to. We talked over his case and his medical needs. The plan at the time was they would wean him off the ventilator and he would come home with just the trach and gtube. He would need surgery eventually but right now he just needed someone to come to the hospital to hold him and bond with him. I said yes to that plan. Of course, like most plans, things turned out quite differently.

I could tell pretty quickly from visiting him that weaning off the vent wasn't going so well. It seemed that very little changed each time I saw him, until the day everything changed.

I got a call from the hospital saying Zee had coded and I needed to come right away. That was less than 3 weeks after the day we met.
August 11, 2014
I truly thought he was going to die that day. I felt so helpless because I could obviously do nothing for him. The other problem was, although they knew he would come in to foster care upon his release from the hospital, he wasn't in foster care yet. And his birth mom was still around. That meant that when there were decisions to be made about his care, she was the one they talked to. Helpless is the only word to describe it.

He manged to pull through and had his first heart surgery a few weeks later. They did a repair that would basically "hold him off" until he was big enough and strong enough to have his open heart surgery.

By the grace of God alone he was doing well enough by the end of September that they were ready to send him home, however, he was still on the ventilator and it didn't look like he would be coming off it any time soon. This meant that my mom and I (they require two caregivers) had to go through 6 weeks of training to learn all about caring for a child on a ventilator/trach.

We somehow managed to complete the training with the help of our village who take care of the other 3 kids and helped us with meals, and on November 24, 2014 Zee came home. He was 10 months old.
To be honest, the months that followed are a bit of a blur. I was so so happy to have him home, but his care was exhausting. The amount of supplies, the medications, the machines and the potential for emergencies were just overwhelming. Going anywhere was really hard and we had a lot of doctor appointments.

In May of 2015, his cardiologists did a test to look at his heart and decided he was ready for his open heart surgery. Although I wanted (selfishly) to wait until after the summer for the sake of Aidan and Ella Mae, we decided it was best to go ahead and get it done. He had his first open heart surgery in June of 2015. The first surgery wasn't as successful as they had hoped, and he was still having complications, so a second open heart surgery was necessary. In all we spent over a month in the hospital.

When I think back on that time, it strikes me that I never thought about the fact that as a foster parent I had no legal rights to this child at all. I put my life on hold for over a month to be there for him every day and night. My "own kids" summer was crap. All for a child who may not be forever mine one day. I am glad now that I was able to trust God and His sovereign plan for Zee during that time.

For about a month after his open heart surgeries, his care was pretty complicated. We had new meds that had to be delivered through a PIC line in addition to all his other stuff. BUT, he was no longer dependent on O2, and slowly but surely his little body began to heal and he got stronger and stronger.

The rest of 2015 was really amazing. He was finally able to sit up on his own. Learned to eat food like a boss. Learned to drink from a straw cup. He was able to take breaks from the ventilator eventually leading to him only needing it at night time. He was FINALLY able to be totally disconnected from machines during the day meaning we could walk freely around the house with him (that was a really big deal), go outside etc. He started to crawl in his own unique way! The progress he made in the months following his surgery were truly remarkable.

In early March 2016 we went before a judge for TPR court. This is when the rights of the parents are terminated. Everything went smoothly (which is awesome because that is rare) and TPR was granted! Then we just had to wait out the appeal process and pray towards adoption day.

May 10th, 2016 was the big day. A judge confirmed what I had known in my heart all along. He was mine. My son. "Just as if he had been born to you".

He got a new name that day.

Zee Emmanuel Clark.

Emmanuel means "God with us". God has changed us all through Zee's life. He has proven Himself faithful time and again. He has been our Provider and Zee's Healer. I am so glad I gave God my "yes" that day. I am so glad I trusted Him through the hard times.

Zee's life has taught me a great lesson. He had no one. Then God sent me. Even when he wasn't truly "mine" I was still there, loving him. Being his mom. It is the perfect picture of the Gospel. God pursues us, even if we don't want to be His. He is our Father, whether we claim Him as such or not. And when we do become forever His and trust Him to lead us, He will never leave us or fail us.

And now for the most important part of his story: all the moments you have missed.


Has Zee been his name all along?
No. That was his nickname from the beginning and it just stuck!

Will he always have the trach?
No. Not sure how long we will have it, but I am in no rush. He just needs to grow a little more so his airway can be larger and then we will get rid of it!

Why does he still have a gtube if he can eat and drink by mouth?
Good question. The best answer is because doctors are very hesitant to remove anything before they are 100% sure that they won't end up having to put it back in.

Will he ever be able to talk?
Yes! It will require a whole lot of work with our speech therapist, but I am confident it will happen someday.

Will he ever be all better?
Sort of. He will always have Down syndrome and his heart issues are something we will always have to follow. He will require additional surgeries as he grows. But I have confidence that will a lot of hard work he will walk, run, talk and do all the things that kids his own time.



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

today foster care sucks

Sometimes foster care looks like a healthy cute baby with no medicines, no machines, no health issues or special needs. Just an adorable infant who needs temporary love and care. But that has never happened to me.

For me, today, foster care sucks.

Foster care in my house right now? It looks like a teenager who has so much anger and hurt that she is hell bent on hurting those who are closest to her.

It looks like a little girl who just wants to go home.

It looks like more medicines and medical supplies and gtube feeds and machines.

My room literally smells like either rancid poop or gtube leaky formula yuck all the time. And this poop? It is weird. It gets on stuff and won't come off. And the smell takes days to go away. Weird poop.

For my forever kids foster care today looks like knowing there is major drama in the house but not knowing exactly what is going on. It looks like sharing everything. Sharing mom. Sharing toys, food, rooms. Everything. It is hard for them today.

Foster care on social media? It usually looks happy and fine. Why? Because we don't really want you to know how hard and awful it is sometimes. Because then you will never want to do it. And we need you to do it. We need more foster parents. Desperately.

Yes today foster care sucks. But you know what? We will push through the hard. Why? Because God said so. And He is the boss of me.



Friday, April 15, 2016

poop diapers and prom dresses

Three years ago today I got the call that would change the direction of my life.

Stephanie from the National Down syndrome Adoption Network called me to tell me I had been chosen by a birth mom. I am still blown away when I think back to that call. I was shocked. Excited. Scared. But God. He knew exactly what He was doing. He knew what His plan was way before He felt the need to inform me.

And He still does.

I find myself in such a strange place three little years later. A couple of weeks ago I got my first lesson on how to remove a weave. I have two 2 year olds. I have learned so much about caring for a medically fragile child that I am expecting my nursing degree to come in the mail anyday now. I have a crap ton of medical equipment in my house. I have 2 kids in elementary school, 1 in intermediate school and 1 in high school. I have 3 kids receiving early intervention therapies for special needs. Three in diapers. A Jojo who seems to be pre programmed to destroy all things he has access to. I just bought another car and it isn't for me. Zee's adoption will be final soon. Prom is happening tomorrow and it is a whole situation. Poop diapers. So many diapers.

I have fostered at least 10 kids in my home. Honestly I've sort of lost count. I have been able to use my voice to advocate for so many children who need permanent and temporary homes. I have talked to countless families who are considering adoption or foster care and have had the opportunity to inform and encourage them. God has done so much work on me and on my family and our faith in Him has grown.

Today I have 7 kids in my home ranging in age from 6 months to 18 years old.

This is what I have far:

God will most certainly give you more than you can handle.

But if you align yourself with Him and allow Him to work through you, He will do amazing things. Things that you could never do on your own. By trusting Him, you can do amazing gospel sized things that can impact so many people.

Who knows what the next three years will hold! My plan is to continue to trust Him to guide me as I point these kids towards Christ.

Because it is all for Him and His glory!



Friday, December 18, 2015

2015: the ups and the downs


What a year it has been for our ever changing family!

We started the year off still working on getting our bearings with Baby Zee who had only been home for a few weeks. It was like we had a mini hospital in our living room, and looking back on it now it was quite overwhelming to say the least. But, as the days went on, we all got more and more settled in to our new normal.

But God.

Those words always crack me up....but they are always good!

In March we got a call about a little boy with CP who needed a home for a while. I know not the first thing about a child with CP, so this was quite the learning experience. "C" was a hot mess and quite a handful!

While "C" was with us we found out that Zee would be ready for his open heart surgery sooner than we had originally anticipated which was very good news, but also very difficult as many decisions had to be made. We knew that "C" would have to go back to his family as soon as possible with an extended hospital stay looming in our future. Luckily God worked it all out and he went back home with a couple of weeks to spare before Zee's surgery was scheudled.

And just like that Summer and open heart surgery was upon us. We went in to the hospital on June 23rd, and did not leave for a month. That was a really hard time. Due to complications Zee had to have not only 1 but 2 open heart surgeries. But God proved himself to be the Healer of Zees little body, and we were finally home at the end of July.

Zee is doing so well now! He is off the ventilator totally during the day and just has it as a back up at night. He is eating a drinking by mouth and getting stronger each day. Papa says he has a lot of catching up to do and he is surely working on it! I have not adopted him yet...but I will as soon as they let me!

Jojo is a hot mess. He started walking just before he turned 2 and now spends the majority of his days seeking out new ways to destroy our house. He still doesn't have many words but he communicates just fine!

Ella Mae fell in love with horses this year....more importantly she became a Christ follower at Rock the Block after hearing her brother share his testimony. She is such an amazing help with the babies!

Aidan continues to be a soccer super star but also loves to play football in the back yard and is really good at that too! He has a heart like no one I have ever known and I continue to be amazed by this sweet boy God gave me.

Papa & Emmy....well....if you know them, you should send them a note or a card or give them a hug. They have been absolute rock stars over these last few years and have supported me like I couldn't even have imagined on this crazy foster care ride.

Just in the second half of this year alone, we have welcomed "Miss V" (who is still with us), "Jake" (another boy with CP), "Bitty Baby" (who was only with us for 2 days) and now we have "Baby Jesus" (nicknamed because we picked him up at the live nativity).

So we currently have 6 kids in our home. This year has been nuts, but it has been richly blessed. I will leave you with some pictures....because what better way is there to tell a story!? 

Hoping that your family is richly blessed in 2016!


Zee turned 1
We celebrated Papas 70th

Jojo and "C"

Ella Mae broke her arm and fell in love with horses
Zee's surgeries
Jojo walks!

Aidan sharing his baptism video and testimony at Rock the Block
Ella Mae became a Christ Follower!

Zee came home and Jojo turned 2!

Beach trip!

Ella Mae and "Miss V"

Aidan and "Jake"

Aidan and Ella Mae had their tonsils out

Zee is disconnected from his machines!
Bitty baby

Soccer star

Zee and "Baby Jesus"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sex, drugs and middle school...and heart palpitations.

Yall. I am freaking out.

My oldest child just started 5th grade. This will be his last year before the middle school and then high school years start. I am not ready. Not ready!

"You better have 'the talk' with him before he starts middle school"
"Trust me if they haven't heard it already they sure will in middle school"
"Middle school is when the kids start experimenting with the drugs and drinking"

These are the things I hear and I tell you they are keeping me up at night and giving me heart palpitations. I am not equipped for this. Puberty? Not ready. Drugs? Sex? What?!?! No! My kids are sweet innocent babies. Just look at this picture of them sleeping! It is not time for this. It just can't be. No.

As I have been losing much sleep lately due to the debilitating fear of my kids growing up (xanax helps), I have started to develop some scenarios in my mind that could allow me to avoid the changes that are a comin'. I would love wisdom from those who have gone through this valley of the shadow of death (that's how it feels ok) before me:

Scenario #1: Exactly how much trouble would I get in to IF I just took my kids out of school after 5th grade and home schooled them? And by "home school" I mean just keep them at home and not do any of the school because I just can't. Seriously how long would it take for "the man" to realize I wasn't actually schooling my kids? And what would the jail time for that be? Like 3 months? Totally do-able if you ask me.

Scenario #2: How old do you have to be to go to trade school and can you take those classes on-line?

Scenario #3: Can we just skip all the "middle" grades and just start studying for the GED? I feel like there are online classes you can take for that like if you were in prison or something so I wouldn't have to teach them but maybe by the time the cops show up at my door they will have gotten their GED and I can be all like "haha too late".

Scenario #4: Work hard over the next year to have a law passed that would require all students from 6-12th grade to wear a body camera like the police do. Then if some little jerk tries to get my kid to try some crazy synthetic drug that looks just like candy I can pop up in that school like a spider monkey and handle it on the spot. 

As I have been going over all this in my mind, I begin to think to myself that maybe it won't really be that bad because I have really good kids. I do. People compliment them all the time on their manners and how sweet and kind they are and then the voice inside my heads gets all pitchy and starts to scream  "yeah that is what they will say when they get interviewed by Dateline because my kids have started a heroin factory or joined the mafia FOR THE LOVE!!!!"

Although I am leaning hard towards scenario #1 or #4 right now, I realize they are all flawed to some degree because no matter what I do, my kids are going to grow up. They are going to be faced with temptations and challenges and they are going to make mistakes. I just plain can't prevent that from happening. Dangit.

So what can I do?

-I can point them to Christ. Not a religion or a habit of simply going to church whenever the doors are opened, but a real relationship with the true and Living God. Real faith. A real love for Jesus and the Gospel. A desire to share that great Gospel with others.

-I can pray for God to guide and protect them....and trust that He will.

-I can try my best to SHOW them what it looks like to follow Jesus with my life. They are always a good example.

-I can spend as much time as possible with them, as long as they will allow it. I will let them sleep in my bed (because I can) for as long as they want to....because they won't always want to. I will cherish these years and make the memories. I can be intentional about being their mom but also about making sure we have lots of fun.

These two sweet kids have my heart in a big way and some days I just love them so much it hurts. Some days I want to lock them in a closet .....but that is neither here nor there.

Some days I wonder why on earth God saw fit to entrust these people to me, but I am so grateful that He did. I know one day I will stand before Him and answer for how I raised them....and that is a pretty big deal to me.

Tiny baby Jesus help me to raise these kids in such a way that I do not end up in jail and none of us end up on Dateline....or please just let them never grow up. Amen.

Anyone else having heart palpitations?