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Sunday, November 28, 2010

In alphabetical Order: My kids

Amanda @ 16 years old
 I decided that it might be helpful to share a "little" something about each of my kids, and I don't want there to be hurt feelings, so I am going to go in alphabetical order. And if you happen to also claim one of these children as your own, don't be sad or jealous- just accept that I am also claiming them as my own! In other words- GET OVER IT!

Amanda Kate: Amanda is also known as Amanda Kate, Katie-Cat, Diva, Princess, Mandy, Mander (to John) and big sister to many. Amanda came knocking on my door in 2000 when she was just a little bitty thing at the end of Kindergarten. She had no front teeth, and dirty blond hair cut like a mushroom around her face. She and her first cousin knocked on my door with their skinned knees, dirty fingernails and mismatched clothes. Within days they were eating at my dinner table, playing with Emily's girls, and  by Easter of the next year, Amanda was in regular attendance at all family gatherings. The first time my grandmother, Bunna, laid eyes on her, she said "She is so beautiful. Does she ever smile?" Little Miss Amanda was too mature for her age, having watched her mom go through a rough battle with drug addiction. Family services had placed her with her loving and devoted Grandmother who turned out to be my neighbor two houses down. Amanda's grandma was kind enough to share her little angel with me. I was just twenty two at the time, but God knew I needed that kid. She became my sidekick and little buddy, attending church with me and every family function, always happy for my company, and always thankful for love and attention. Sometime between the ages of eight and nine on a trip to Florida, my aunt Pam asked me "when did she start calling you mom?" I could not recall, it just happened over time, as the trust and love between us developed.  In 2002, I married a man who had struggled on and off with his own drug addiction. Against my better judgment, I married someone who would continue to battle cocaine and alcohol. Amanda was there through all of it- four years, eleven months and twenty-one days, a little girl who KNEW drug addiction and knew what it could do to a relationship. Many times over she saved my life. Many days when I wanted to end my own life, I would think of her and that was one of the main reasons I kept going. I would not and could not hurt or abandon her- I couldn't. She was a ray of sunshine in my life and always will be. We have cried together in heartache and laughed together in good times. Today she is seventeen years old- and I can't believe it. I have photos and memories of this little angel- the "Muffins with Mom" breakfasts at her elementary school, taking her to get her learner's permit, letting her drive my car in church parking lots, playing countless pranks on our church friends, flying to Chicago for my cousin's wedding. Amanda, you have brought me much joy and my life will forever be richer because of you. And I am so glad you found your smile. It's beautiful!

Cody- Cody is one of my newest kids. I only met him early this past summer when he was getting ready for his senior year of high school. My niece Hannah had become his pal at school and soon he was hanging around our house. I noticed right away that Cody loves the Lord and is a hard worker. When Cody came around, it seemed like our household was more complete. He became like an older brother to our boys, and was always setting a good example for them in his conduct and character. Soon after Cody began hanging out with our family, he confided in Hannah how much he enjoyed being with our family, and eating dinner with us. He told her that his family rarely ate dinner together, and he liked that we laugh and cut up and eat meals together. Soon we learned that Cody didn't have a father figure, and could use some more family support. We gladly welcomed him into our flock. I was astonished to learn that such a great kid didn't have a father figure, but I quickly learned that he had respected and listened to coaches and pastors throughout his life and had followed their leading. Cody is always eager to listen to advice from Christian men and women. He has goals and wants to reach those goals, always striving to be better. We were very proud to watch Cody play football this year, and I am always thrilled to help him write a paper for one of his honors classes, (though I think his teachers are a little hard on him!) I honestly look at Cody and think if I could have a son of my own, I would want him to turn out just like this one.

Georgia: What can I say about Georgia?  I would have to start by saying that she has been one of the most delightful parts of my life in Dahlonega. I started dating her Daddy in 2008, and we married within six months. John didn't tell me right away that Georgia was not his biological daughter, he just told me that she was his "daughter." Georgia has red hair and freckles and a cute figure. She is affectionate, kind and genuine. She always tells me how she is feeling and cares about how I feel. At first I was concerned about how she would respond to me, but once we got to know each other, we became inseparable. We laugh at the same jokes, in fact we both find everything pretty hilarious. We sing and dance in the car like a pair who just escaped from a mental hospital. We love to play pranks on other people, and we have more inside jokes than I could ever count. Just a ride to or from church on a Sunday turns into an adventure with my Georgia. And she is turning into quite a fabulous teacher with the kids at church. She is a great role model for them, and is like a second set of hands for me with the boys in our home. I am so proud of Georgia because she has had to overcome many emotional riffs. As if being a teenager isn't hard enough, Georgia has had to face some complicated realities, but she has come out only stronger and better because of each one. She seems to smile brighter, laugh harder, and love deeper because of the challenges she has overcome. I can truthfully say that I look up to her- even though she is shorter than me!

Hannah: Hannah is the lovely daughter of my oldest sister, Emily. Hannah has always been very special to me because she came into my life when I was just fifteen years old. I still remember the day she was born, looking at her in the baby bassinet at the hospital and realizing that I already loved her so much. She has been a feisty little thing ever since she learned to talk, or maybe when she learned to point. When she was little she used to give us all assigned seats at dinner, or at a restaurant. She loves to be in charge of a group, which is natural leadership ability. When she was little, Hannah collected rocks and kept them in a big gawdy-looking box. Every chance she had, she would show off those rocks or plug in a microphone and sing me a song. Six months after John and I married, Hannah came to live with us, in order to try a smaller school system and have a change of scenery. We have gone from an aunt/niece relationship into one that is more like mother and daughter. She has seen my dark side! But in all of this, we have maintained a close bond and I know Hannah loves me as I love her. She is a neat, multi-talented girl with more gifts than I could count. She sings, writes songs, plays guitar, is creative, talented, warm, and articulate. She loves to help with cooking, or with the younger kids. One of the neatest things about Hannah is that she is "multi-denominational" when it comes to church. She attends a Presbyterian church on Sunday mornings, a Methodist church on Sunday nights, and a Baptist church for other events. Many adults are too ignorant or caught up in tradition to ever break out and try something like this! I am very blessed to have her in my home and my life.

Jeremiah- Jeremiah is the adorable five-year old prince who has come into our house and turned our lives upside down. Jeremiah and his biological brother (Peniel) came into our home in June 2010. I laughingly say that Jeremiah's feet never touch the ground because the girls are always toting him around. Jeremiah was four when he moved in with us, and he is a little small for his age. We have loved every minute of caring for this spunky and remarkable little one. He is eager to learn his numbers and letters and he writes on EVERYTHING.  There is even a drawing of an alien on the upholstery of my living room sofa. He talks constantly- in the bathtub, to the dogs, to strangers, to himself, in bed while he is sleeping, or walking along the road. He makes us laugh because he has an amazing sense of humor for a Kindergartner. He sings in the back seat of the car from his car seat until the other boys are irritated beyond words. And he loves with his whole heart and soul, very deeply. You can see the love in those big brown eyes when he holds your hands and says: "I yove you." God knew that I needed a little one at this time in my life. Oh, I love my big kids and teenagers! But God knew that my heart longed to take care of one that will let me pick out his clothes, tie his shoes, cut his sandwich into four sections! He is precious and so much fun!

Kaylyn- I claim Kaylyn even when she won't claim me! She (like Amanda) came into my life when she was very small. She came to the resource room on a Sunday morning complaining of a stomach ache. She didn't have a fever, but sat on my lap talking very quietly until the matter was resolved. You see, it was Mother's Day, and Kaylyn didn't know where her mother was. Her mom had disappeared months before, leaving her and two siblings with their dad. Kaylyn was the youngest, and was obviously very bonded to her mom until meth entered their lives. On that particular Sunday, the children were making Mother's Day cards, and Kaylyn, overcome with emotion, could not think of what to write on her card. "I can't make a card for my mom," she told me, "because I don't know where she is." Kay wasn't ready for a stand-in mom yet, but over the next couple of years, she learned that she could trust me. She and her siblings spent time in my home, and we went out to eat and shopping together. I loved to see the way Amanda ministered to her through this, relating her own stories of a mother's drug addiction. Kaylyn is a remarkable, tough, and forgiving young lady. She has turned her own grief around and learned to help other kids. She has a ready smile and a warm heart. She loves to help others and I proudly display the artwork she has made me that reads: "You would make a great mom."

Mitchell: Mitchell is my oldest step-son. When we first met, he was eight years old. He walked right over to me and tried to pull a mole off the side of my nose. He got as close as he possibly could, and when he realized it wasn't coming off my face, he sat back and stared. Finally he put his mouth up to my ear and whispered loudly: "I'm autistic."  For the next hour and a half, we played "Old Maid" and "Go Fish" and he showed me something strange and wicked that he can do with his finger. We have had a bumpy road, as Mitchell is learning about me, and I am learning about him. He is now almost twelve years old- practically a pre-teen. He teaches me something new every day, even when I'm not in the mood to be educated. He has a huge grin that always makes me wonder what he's up to, or if I should roll down the car windows right away. His mind is brilliant and mysterious - and he has a sweet and tender heart. He loves all animals, and is quick to correct me if I call the dog a "Dufus" or tell the cat to move his furry butt out of my way. Mitchell makes inventions out of all kinds of household objects and they are really fascinating!

Peniel: Peniel is the older of the two boys who joined our family in June 2010. I knew Peniel from my Pre-K launch class two summers before. I had assumed he had an undiagnosed behavior disorder back then, never realizing that a complicated family dynamic was causing him to act out. After he and Jeremiah moved in with us, I learned that Peniel is a warm, caring, thoughtful and very bright child. He went from barely passing the first grade last year to being an honor-roll student in second grade, described by his teacher as one of the best readers in her class. Peniel is full of potential, and it's all right below the surface, just waiting to be tapped into. With a loving home and loving teacher, he is blooming! I am so proud of him. He tells me that one day he wants to be an actor, and I can see that for him. I believe he can do anything he wants to do. One of my favorite things about Peniel is his laugh. When something strikes him as funny, he will break into the most heartfelt, open-mouthed chuckle that melts your heart. I just love to hear his laugh. I wish I could tape-record it and keep it handy for days when I am stressed out or sitting in traffic. His laugh reminds me that we all get a second chance, no matter what has happened to us. Nobody writes our story for us, we write it for ourselves. Peniel is a survivor, and he is teaching me every day what it means to be a winner.

Samuel- Samuel is the youngest of my step-sons, who was recently bumped from his position in the family when we added two more boys! He has handled it like a champ! Samuel is in the gifted program at school and has a vocabulary that makes me think we should already have his college fund in place. Samuel is more than academically bright, he is artistic, creative, and gentle. He sees things in a different way than most people. He has a definite opinion about everything, and won't hesitate to tell you about it. But that is part of Samuel's charm and what makes him special. He can look you in the eye and tell you that your outfit looks terrible, but then turn around and tell you that you are the best cook in the entire world. And he means it! When I first became Samuel's step-mom he was a little guy, so we have had plenty of time to get to know each other, but I know it's not easy to take on a step-mom, especially one with "so many rules. " But Samuel tells me that he loves my sweet tea, and back scratches, and I know he really means it!

Sarah: At the end of the alphabet is cute Miss Sarah Grace- Emily's youngest daughter. Though she doesn't live with me, or call me mom, she is included in the roll call at prayer time in the evenings. She came into this world with a sweet heart and an easy spirit. She has always had a squeaky little voice that makes me laugh, and when she was in preschool and I helped Emily take her to daycare a few times a week, she was so quiet that I would often wonder if she was still back there in her car seat. One day, I looked in the rear-view mirror and asked "Sarah, you still back there?" because she hadn't made a peep in miles. "Yeah," she answered, "I was just thinkin' about trains." And ever since that day, we have teased her about that because you never know what's going through her mind. She has the sweetest disposition, and agreeable personality. She will never ever run out of people who love her.

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