Monday, December 19, 2016

A Gift

      I think this is the longest I've gone without writing.....it's been impossible to do so in many ways.  There's so much to say, but I never feel I have the right words.  Sometimes silence is best.  But I love to look back and see where we were....what I was learning...what God was doing in our lives.  The last time I wrote things were so hopeful....we had seemingly turned a corner.  That's not to say we're hopeless now, but yes there have been days of feeling so.  I could never express how thankful I am that my hope is not found in the circumstances of my life, or my current feeling.  There are days when the despair weighs heavy, but it does not remain.  God is so faithful and His promises never fail.  Many verses have come to mind throughout these past months....some shared by encouraging friends and family, others as I've searched God's word for hope, and others return to my mind that I memorized long ago reminding me how important it is to hide His word in our hearts.  Even now as I type, I hear the words of Psalm 30 echo in my mind......"weeping may stay for the night, but JOY comes with the morning!"

Speaking of joy 😊..........

Yesterday was such a gift.  For the first few hours of the day, I honestly couldn't stop my eyes from filling up every few moments.  I could just sense that God was giving us this amazing gift....a glimmer of hope, a reminder of His good gifts to us, rest, joy, precious memories being made.  I was finally able to get some pictures of all the kids in their Christmas outfits.....and it may have been the most fun we've had taking pictures...challenging as always, but so much fun.  And somehow I was able to have a few moments to go through them and it inspired me to record some of our recent memories as we prepare for Christmas......


And at this point, I'll never get cards made and out in time....thank you so much to those who have thought of us, we love to receive your cards and updates.....for this year, again.....this is the best I can do.......Merry Christmas from the Cruse Family!

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The day after Thanksgiving is always a busy one here as we make Christmas crafts to decorate rooms, and then begin the adventure of decorating the house.  The kids are always giddy, and I am just as excited to watch them enjoy everything! 

It was serious business! 
Kyleigh joined in the fun this year!

And of course turned her snowman into a bracelet :)  She's obsessed! 


Levi and his final products
           Levi worked so hard on his crafts.  He sat there for the longest time, diligent and focused.  He was the only one to make all of the crafts I had planned for.  It was amazing to watch him!  This little boy is full of surprises :)  I wish his teachers at school could have seen him!

   
                Caleb worked hard too, but he just wanted to get to the decorating!  One of his favorites is hanging lights in his room and finding places for his creations to make his room festive and fun!  Oh, and decorating the tree of course.....and putting the train together...and....okay just about everything!  He talked about this day for the entire week prior :)

And so it began....
Kyleigh putting her first ornament on......
Then dropping it.....



and putting it on again.....x 3, she was too funny! 



              We let them each pick a new ornament each year so they were excited to show them off and find a special place on the tree for them.  Well....the boys were....Kyleigh was about done with the day at this point!


           Caleb was quite opposed to putting any of Keira's ornaments on the tree without her, so when she came home for a few hours one day, we made sure to enjoy some more decorating with her!


And of course the watching of Christmas movies began.....

         
         The past couple of years we've tried to visit the people at a local nursing home around the holidays.  Last year we brought them homemade ornaments and it was such a blessing to walk around and visit with them....to hear some of their stories, and to bring a smile to their faces.  We weren't quite sure what to make this year, so we're working on a variety of different crafts.  Here's Caleb hard at work during school time, making flowers.  It was quite a challenge, but he worked hard!  I think he'll agree it was worth it when he sees how happy it will make someone.



       This little lady is 18 months old now.....she's loving all the Christmas fun, and I'm continuing to love dressing her in all these cute things!  She's truly like a little doll!
                    

           
Though their meme so nicely bakes cookies with the kids each year, Caleb wanted a second round.... 


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           And, back to our sweet day yesterday....and these sweet faces that I love so much!


I thought I'd never get her to stand still, but she went right over, before anyone else and posed!  Weirdest thing.  It didn't last of course and before I knew it she was walking towards me and then backwards to the tree over and over in a fit of giggles.  

She brings so much joy to our lives......with just as much energy as the others and keeps up with them for sure!  Though she doesn't say much with her words yet, her personality says it all.  And when you have your siblings wrapped around your finger, all it takes is a loud shriek to get what you want!   

She won't leave her crib without her binky, babies and bunny blanket.....and they often tag along wherever else we go!  She's also still a mommy's girl....and though there are those rare occasions when I wish she would be okay with my leaving her with someone else for a few minutes, I truly love it.....and I'm cherishing these moments because they are gone so quickly.    


Thankfully this beautiful girl still lets me take her picture without giving me a hard time!  She woke up this morning to one of her favorite things....snow!  It brings her back....to good memories....and to being young....she was SO excited!  She had a Russian lesson first thing in the morning, another huge blessing, and then began helping me get everyone ready for pictures.  She's one of those people who can see a need and fill it without having to be asked....pretty rare if you ask me!  


The past few months have been a roller coaster.  As I look at these two precious daughters of mine, one of the things I wish the most is that I could have met the needs of one as I am meeting them for the other.  The affects of that not happening are just devastating....and while I wish that a couple of years full of love and constant reaffirming would take them away, it's just not that easy.  
The trauma endured is too much for anyone to bear, never mind a child, and one at such a vulnerable, difficult age.  We are trying to take it one day at a time....and a day like today was such a blessing and gift...to watch her enjoy herself, to feel loved....and peace.  I think she treasured it as much as I did.  


Yes, this pretty much sums up Caleb.  Before we could take any "real" pictures, he requested that he take some super hero pictures.  I love the way his personality comes through in his pictures! 


The past couple of months I have noticed so much maturing from this boy.  Just in the witty comments he's made, or his attention span in school....and of course the physical growth spurt that seems to happen each year at this time.  Lately he's been so much more serious about God in his life as well....it's so sweet to have spiritual conversations with him and see him understanding more and more.  Though with growth comes more independence as well as the ability to reason and challenge boundaries, I still see the same sweet heart in this boy that he's always had.  The tears that come when a sibling gets hurt as he sympathizes with them.....using his awana money to buy things for everyone in the family, or giving something to a friend because they didn't have one.  Those are the things that make me most proud as a mom! 


Levi also had his own ideas about what picture time should look like.  And from the moment I mentioned it, he made sure to remind me repeatedly that Fudge Pup needed to be included.  I love that he loves this dog so much, it is truly a special bond they share!!   


This boy is truly one of a kind!  I'm so thankful for him, for all that God has shown me through him, and for the joy he brings.  He continues to face so many challenges, yet this sweet smile remains.  School is proving to be increasingly difficult....it wasn't just the transition to something new...it's so much more....and though we are doing our best to find the right answers for him and his teachers are working so hard to advocate for him, my heart breaks for him as he struggles.  And then at our regular checkup for his feet we get the news that he will once again need casting....weekly....followed by surgery again.  And I just want to say ENOUGH!  But as with everything else, he will just go with the flow....taking whatever comes....blessing the doctors, nurses, patients waiting with his smiles, hellos, silliness....and teaching me as always.....








        They humored me for long enough and were more than ready to change again for the snow!



They had a blast!  Levi spent a great deal of his time shoveling the backyard :)  Forever a worker that boy!  Keira wanted to spend time with Kyleigh...I told her that I would take her but she told me that she wanted to experience it with her.  So sweet.  Caleb had a blast with his friends!  

When they'd had enough and the little ones were napping, Keira and Caleb gathered art supplies and worked on some Christmas surprises together.  I loved their excitement as they whispered and planned, thinking it was the greatest thing ever that I couldn't know what they were doing.  We all had dinner together and went to a Christmas show at night.....I truly couldn't have asked for a better day at a better time!  

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And though the seemingly perfect weekend ended on quite a different note....I am reminding myself that my understanding of these circumstances is so very limited.  I see one small piece of the puzzle and God sees the finished product.  So I am trying to be thankful....even in this....in what seems like the worst case scenario.  Because so far....no matter what I've experienced in life....God's ways have always, ALWAYS been for my good.....always been best.  Not easy, but for our good.  Isn't that what we try to tell our children.....we're doing this for your own good....we have your best interest at heart!  They surely don't see it that way in the moment....I'm trying to choose it in the moment! 
Please keep us in your prayers....especially these four sweet faces...... 



 "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." James 1:17  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Ready Or Not!


      I thought summer was busy and rather chaotic....and really I was more than ready to get back into a regular routine.  It's only a few days into the school year and I'm beginning to realize what should have been obvious....it's just a different kind of busy and chaos now!  However, after several challenging months where I was just barely keeping up with the day to day demands of life and taking care of my family, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  And I want to be sure to stop and take in all the gifts around me.  There is so much to be thankful for and reflect on....


      This lovely lady had a fun-filled summer which a lot of activities and excitement.  But one far outweighed all the rest.....being reunited with her best friend.  I hope to write a long over-due post on that soon!  They thoroughly enjoyed their sleepovers and adventures and it was certainly a blessing to witness!  Last school year ended with all of us going through some intense therapy into the early summer, and though we've had some setbacks, I'm so thankful to say that we ended the summer on an entirely different note.  Saying goodbye to Karina, along with starting a new school and experiencing actual try-outs to be a on a sports team was a combination that I feared, and at one time could have equaled disaster.  But this girl has been doing really well....excited, optimistic and working hard!  We were able to tour her new school together and I could sense her enthusiasm about this new start.  The nerves were there, but they didn't get the best of her....instead, she just bashfully took my hand as we walked in.  "I just want to," she explained.  I think it's safe to say, she was the only junior high student walking into orientation holding her mom's hand.  Maybe the only one in the world.  But what could have been extremely overwhelming for her, was instead a new challenge with new opportunities.  We laughed as we found ourselves lost and struggling to open her locker......no tears...no anxiety.  Her first day at soccer tryouts....dropping her off at a new school with new kids...not quite sure what to expect or how she'd do, and as we walked up she kept saying how nervous she was.  I came back early so I could get a glimpse....I was nervous for her, honestly.  I don't think I'd have half the courage she does about things, and in many ways it's still hard to let her go on her own....whereas most kids may be ready at this stage of life, I feel we still have so much time to make up for.  But again I was blown away by what I witnessed.....and the evidence of how far this kid has come.  She was walking with friends, talking and laughing.....I know, it sounds so typical....so expected.....but no, it's huge.  On the field she gave it her all....but she was aware....passing to others....playing her position.  When it was time to wrap up, the coach asked if someone could grab the flags.  Immediately, she ran to get them.  As we were leaving, she made it a point to say thank you and goodbye to her coach.  I could not have been more proud.  And then she shared that she finished second in the mile run.  So very proud of this girl.  Every kid is so different, and needs to be celebrated based on their own hard work and progress.  The light is so bright these days, and I think this sweet girl is finally getting a glimpse!  All as we celebrate her 2nd Gotcha day! God is so faithful.  "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6


    This sweet guy was all ready for his pictures after watching Keira and Levi have theirs taken....not only was he ready, he told me where he was going to stand and pose...in multiple locations!  He is such a character...and he has been sharing with everyone that he will be homeschooled until he is eighteen!  He is so funny.....he is truly such a social kid, and yet he is a home-body in many ways and loves getting to stay home and learn here.  I'll take it!  I was surprised by how excited he was to start school this year.  Maybe it's the opportunity to get some one on one time, or that I've been able to really cater to his interests...but either way, he's been enthusiastic and working hard!  It's always amazing to see the changes in his ability when we begin a new school year.  Despite the fact that we didn't do any actual school, aside from reading, during the summer, there's always some very obvious growth.  

 

   I was amazed at how little guidance he needed in constructing this water wheel.....where not so long ago he would have wanted me to do all the work, he was happy to take charge and figure it out.  


   I love to see him excited about what he's learning.....and to watch as he experiences new things.  It's so fun to see things through his eyes as well.  Often times he experiments even further in ways I would not have thought of.  Such a fun opportunity we have!  Not everything he's involved in has started up yet so we're just easing into the school year which is kind of nice.  He did, however, have his first soccer practice.....


        I love that he has picked up a love for soccer from his big sister.  It's so sweet to watch them get excited about something together.  But I also love that this little guy is his own person.  He has a mind of his own  I pray that he never loses that quality!



Oh this boy!  He truly is such a cutie....and one of the most loving little boys.  He has a way of charming everyone that really works in his favor once he starts showing his mischievous side.  He was excited to get on the bus for his first day....I'm always amazed at how unfazed he is to just go off on this adventure on his own.  And once again, this year, his backpack got the best of him....here is is literally trying to catch his balance because it was too heavy for him!  


Watching for the bus to come.....


It's so hard to not be able to know about his day....to really know, from his perspective.  But when I asked him how he liked school, he did say "more!"  So at least I know he was excited about it and eager to return :) 

We found out this summer that Levi has XYY syndrome.  I had been pushing for some answers, other than this generic "developmentally delayed" label he'd long since been given.  I knew there was more.  Not that it really changes anything, especially in this case because we are already doing what is suggested for this diagnosis.  But it just gives some clarity, and some answers.  Knowing nothing about his medical history has been challenging, but this....this is just who he is....it's not because of the choices someone else made as I had feared he may have FAS....it's not something that was inherited....it's just Levi.  It explains many of his struggles, and hopefully will give us the ability to gain additional services for him.  But there is SO much hope for this boy....he has such a bright future ahead of him.  His vocabulary is ever increasing, and most importantly, his desire to live life to the fullest and not let anything hold him back, keeps him moving forward!



As for this little one....she is such a love.....and a crazy lady!  She is into EVERYTHING and is determined to do everything that the others do.  No little baby for me, she's one of the big kids already.  You will typically find her doing something she's not supposed to do...namely the following....

Note her toothbrush lying on the floor.....she is completely obsessed with it.


We finally convinced her that chairs are for sitting, and she humored us for a few moments to read a story.  She sure makes life fun and interesting around here!  She is learning so much so fast....a little sponge watching everyone around her.  She's walking and practically running, has a few words and signs, loves to play with her babies, and is such a happy little girl.  She is so loved!!



Here we go, ready for another year!

    



     

  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Levi Turns Five!

         Five just seems like such a turning point age.....I can't believe this little guy is five!  He'll be starting kindergarten in just over a week, and does all he can to keep up with his big siblings.  He continues to be one of the most resilient, determined and loving people I know.  We are so very proud of him!


       This boy has so much personality.  He is such a character and loves to be silly.  One day Caleb went somewhere with Luke so when the rest of us got home Levi got out of the van and started calling Caleb’s name (which sounds like “daylo”, which just made the whole thing even cuter).  I reminded him that Caleb wasn’t with us and he proceeded to go over to the bushes in front of the house and move branches looking for Caleb and calling his name.  I’m pretty sure it was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but the rest of us were laughing hysterically.  He just revels in that.  He’s done it about two million times since in an effort to get the same reaction….anything for a laugh, just like his big brother.   

     Levi is also one of the friendliest people I know.  I pray that never changes.  It is one of the sweetest traits he has….because he sees everyone the same and he just loves.  We walked over to the library yesterday…just a few minute walk….a teenage boy was approaching on his bike and he didn’t look like he was about to even look in our direction….but Levi saw a person coming towards him that he needed to connect with and with much enthusiasm shouted hello….the boy instantly returned his hello with a big smile.  Seconds later, an older man on a bike approached and Levi again let out another big hello.  The man smiled and saluted him.  I wondered if we would have all just looked straight ahead and passed without acknowledgement had Levi not been there.  Even Caleb picked up on it and we had a sweet little conversation about what we could learn from Levi. 


    Levi’s birthday was a long time coming for him.  In May, he watched Caleb be showered with attention, special treatment, presents….a day all about him and his interests.  In June, it was Kyleigh.  “Me, my?” he’d ask and I’d reassure him that his turn would come!  July was Keira, and I think he was beginning to give up hope.  I was so excited to be able to tell him it was finally his day!  I worried a little that it may be too much for him….too much stimulation and he may end up not enjoying himself, but we kept it pretty low key while still fun for him, and I think he enjoyed it.  He seemed in a bit of a fog a lot of the day…I think it was a lot to take in….but his face when we sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his candles, I’ll never forget it.  He was so proud….just totally loving the love and attention being shown to him.    


He truly just loves machines, tools, working....if he keeps this up, he is going to be one of the hardest workers ever.  All he ever wants to do is help us and as soon as Luke says anything about a project or working, Levi is there with his tool bag ready to get busy!  So his birthday party theme was pretty much a no-brainer :) 


We had decided a while back that age five would be when we had their first "friends" birthday party.  Levi had a few special friends come and he was SO excited to see them!  As Luke tucked him in bed that night and asked if he enjoyed his special day, he said "friends, come back!!"  


              It was a little trickier to do a party with some restrictions, but we wanted to make sure Levi could eat everything at his party!  He's usually so limited, but he was able to enjoy whatever he saw this time.  I, however, am still learning and didn't totally think everything through.  I couldn't use regular frosting and then realized I wouldn't be able to use the colored icing etc. to write on a cake anyway, so I made these gluten free brownies and some cookies.  The plan was to decorate it like a cake, but with the frosting dilemma along with the fact that the brownies came out of the pan looking like this, I had to improvise.  Thankfully, pinterest and last year's "cake" that Luke came up with helped me to turn it into something that worked!


                                              Levi was smiling, so that's all that mattered!


            Obsessed with one of his gifts....see what I mean?  Always working!  And happy to be!


                   
                             And here's a few of our photos from his five-year-old-photo-shoot!



                                   This was Levi's choice for the next picture location.......


                                                    And then he'd clearly had enough.....


So we took a little break......


        Got really wet.....and then he entertained allowing me to take a few more....but only close ups so as not to see the soaked clothing below :)


Thank you God for this sweet boy and for all that he brings to our life....he is such a precious gift!
Happy 5th Birthday big boy!