Monday, January 23, 2017

About the Dog

Lots of people have asked questions about the dog, so I thought I’d share a little bit about our very special family member, Max.  Max joined Team Robinson in April 2014.  Before coming to live with us, Max was loved by friends of ours who felt like the farm and the family at our place would give him wide open spaces, abundant entertainment, and extravagant attention.  They were right!

Max is almost 4 years old now.  He’s a hairy and happy goldendoodle who has a very important job with Team Robinson.  Before I show you how adorable he is, I want to share a story about something that happened on Thursday at the airport and a few other long, rambling thoughts, if you don’t mind.

My story begins just after we survived security.  We all quickly put our shoes back on, headed down the escalator and elevator, and were waiting on the train to carry us to Terminal E.  Several people commented on Max and were surprised that we had him in the airport.   Most were kind and wanted to fawn over our handsome, furry, family member. One woman, though, turned to her companion and whispered something we couldn’t hear.  He responded to her loudly while rolling his eyes toward our Max, “That’s just a scam to get to travel with your dog.”  

I almost got angry, the kind of angry I get when people say things to or about my kids like, “What happened to her real parents?” or “Do you have any kids of your own?” but then I figured, maybe he just doesn’t understand disability and the supports available now for those with disabilities.  It’s possible that he doesn’t.  A few years ago, I didn’t either. 

Dean and I have been parenting children from places of harm for over 16 years now.  We’ve worked with many professionals over the years that have helped us learn what to do and what not to do to help children heal from the harm they experienced before coming to us.  I really don’t know what we would’ve done without the training and support of amazing social workers, physicians, and therapists who guided us through foster placements and forming a family through adoption.  Even today with so much training and many years of experience, we feel like we have a lot left to learn in order to do this job of rebuilding walls and lives well. 

Because of the joys and challenges of fostering and adoption, we’ve learned a lot about the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  One of the things we’ve learned is that the use of a service animal by a person with a disability is a right protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, a service animal has been trained to perform a specific task for the person with a disability.  People with disabilities can benefit from having a service animal in so many ways. A guide dog is trained to assist a person with visual impairments or who is blind, increasing their ability to move around safely.  A hearing dog is trained to alert someone who has hearing loss or is deaf of a sound.  A sensory signal dog is trained to assist a person with autism by alerting him or her of repetitive movements like hand flapping, spinning, or rocking or keeping an individual safe from danger.  A psychiatric service dog is trained to do things scan a room or turn on the lights, which may not seem like much but can really help someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Through the joys and challenges I mentioned before, we’ve also learned a lot about the profound and complex impact of trauma, abuse, and neglect on the development of children. Did you know that children who’ve experienced trauma, abuse, and neglect are also at risk of the trajectory of mental heath disability?  Fortunately there have been significant gains in the field of mental health treatment for children from places of harm, including the use of psychiatric service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs.   Emotional support animals and therapy dogs do not carry the same protections under the ADA, neither do they have to have special training.  However, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires airlines to allow both service dogs and emotional support animals, including therapy dogs, to travel with their handlers – even in the cabin of an aircraft. Because of this important piece of federal legislation, people with disabilities can travel with valuable support that can improve their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. 

Just for clarity, it’s important that you know, though, that you just can’t waltz onto an airplane with a dog – even a dog as awesome as Max.  Unless your dog is a service animal trained to perform a specific supportive task for a person with a disability, documentation of a mental health disability from a physician or licensed mental health professional is required by the airlines. 

I’m not going to go into all the hows and whys because of the obvious need to protect the privacy of my children, but our Max was able to legally travel with us on the airplane. He was a perfect gentleman throughout the flight, except for the moment when he broke the rules and climbed up into the seat with Wyatt.  I probably shouldn’t have snapped pictures of him and posted them on the internet, because he was supposed to sit on the floor throughout the flight.

Thanks for reading along about our Max.  We’re thankful for him and that he’s here with us in Honduras.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We are in Honduras

I can’t believe we are here in Honduras!!!  In my very best dreams, today couldn’t have gone better.  So many people teamed up to make today as smooth as possible, and we are beyond thankful. Everyone woke up at 3:00 in a good mood and cooperative.  My precious friend Andrea had picked up our luggage yesterday, so when 4:30 rolled around we just prayed, loaded up, and left.  We had first class transportation to the airport via our County Line Church bus, with Pastor Bill in the driver’s seat and dear friends who got up before the crack of dawn to ride with us to Atlanta. Our church family has loved us so well and it was awesome to see them just before leaving the country.

Our friends, Andrea and Kent, got to the airport with our luggage a few minutes before we did.  They had already notified Delta of the pending onslaught of people and stuff when we pulled up to the curb behind them. 

All the stuff was moved inside and tearful goodbyes were said, and then Dee Dee and Tree, our Delta check-in angels, did their thing.  They were amazing, and we were finished in no time.

The kids all sat on the floor like angel babies, weighing their things on an unused scale while we waited.  I kept glancing over there and thinking, “This is like a dream.” (I know that sounds like shameless bragging, and I’m sorta sorry, but I had so much anxiety about the potential chaos, and God was truly merciful, so I had to share in run-on sentence fashion.)

Delta gave us gate passes for my parents and Blake, which was a tremendous blessing.  Not only did we get to enjoy them longer, the extra hands made everything go smoothly.  I think all the other passengers were a little overwhelmed when the announcement was made that those who need extra time could board first.  It was a bit of a spectacle and not exactly comfortable, especially when people started taking pictures.  Fortunately all my people were well-behaved throughout the process.

The kids were so cute on the plane.  Only one little person yelled out, “Mommy, I spilled my drink all in my lap.”  Of course.  I'm thankful the cups are small and sprite is colorless. We all watched movies and napped, and I praise God for traveling mercies. 

Our flight landed here just after noon.  We stayed put until everyone had exited the plane and then made our way with all our stuff to passport control.  It was a little chaotic getting through with all the little people.  We sent Dean and the big kids through first so they could grab our luggage and boxes from baggage claim.  You should’ve seen the pile of personal items, pillows, carryons, suitcases, and boxes!! 

Customs went well.  I think they just wanted us to get our stuff and get out of the way.  We were getting excited about our quick and easy exit and then they approached us about Max.  It seems that there’s an inspection required by the agriculture department for dogs coming into country.  The kids were beginning to look droopy so we set the little kids against the wall and stood Olivia over them as a guard, while I went with Max to the agriculture office and Dean went with the luggage to the van. 

An hour later we were finally cleared to go.  It wouldn’t have taken so long but it seems that Max brought a plague of fleas into Honduras.  They found a flea on him.  One flea.  A plague, indeed.  We paid the plague of fleas fee of $35 and made our way through the crowd to the van, happy and excited to finally be here!

Our new friends Mike and Mark picked us up and carried us home to Siguatepeque. We arrived at our new home around 5:30 and headed out to the grocery and to Pizza Hut to pick up dinner.  The kids ran around this place for hours – literally running circles around the outside of our house – and are finally asleep on their pallets on the floor.  Tomorrow is set-up the house and find beds for all these kids day!

Thanks for reading along.  Your prayers, encouragement, love, and support are so appreciated!

The Final 48 Hours Before the Big Move

The final 48 was full of last minute errands, a few unexpected “incidents”, and intense speed packing.  Dean’s last day of work was Monday and mine was Tuesday.  I breezed out of the house this morning at 7:30 hollering directions for the day over my shoulder as I flew out the door, truly hoping I would come home to 13 sealed pieces of luggage and an organized house to leave behind.  

About 11:00 dear friends arrived for attempt two at wrestling our hog Pork Chop into a cattle trailer. FYI – Blake Robinson has now listed hog wrestling to his multi-talented resume. The Carlisles took one for the team and welcomed our Pork Chop to their little farm.  He’s one fine hog! 

Dean picked me up at my office at 4:30, and we headed for one last Walmart run. We pulled back into our driveway at 7:00 and the final countdown began.  We stayed up half the night trying to cover all the bases.  All was going pretty well until the Honey Incident happened.  I had bought sucky bags – you know, the bags you can vacuum the air out of – at the store and was thinking I could revisit one child’s suitcase and make more room.  I wish I hadn’t because I discovered the honey.  Looking back, I think I would rather have not known.  One of our precious ones had packed a canning jar of honey in her bag.  She loves this honey jar as much as Pooh Bear loves honey.  The only problem is said honey jar has a hole in the top and a little honey dipper poking out the top.  This little honey dipper made the very best drizzle stick ever all in the suitcase that it’s been packed in the past several weeks.  Nice!!

Wednesday morning rolled around a bit too early for those of us who stayed up all night long, but roll around it did.  One day left to get it all done.  Thankfully, so many showed up to help us finish up the packing and straighten up what we’re not taking.  At one point it got to be so overwhelming that friends came and took some of our kids away to play, and my dear friend Andrea swept me away for another last Walmart run.  This trip was for shoes for 3 children who somehow have no shoes one day before we leave the country.  I really don’t know what I would do without my friends and family.  I would probably lose my mind!! 

My parents, my Aunt Beth, my sister Heather and her kiddos drove down for the day and we finished up the night with some cousin time.  Watching the cousins together made me miss my sister Blake and her family so much!   All these kids are going to grow and change so much over the next few years, and it’s a little overwhelming to think about.

The teens and I made ONE MORE last Walmart run just before midnight.  I know it sounds terribly irresponsible of me to be tooling around with teenagers in the wee hours of the morning on the day of the big move, but meeting the needs of my people circumvents the anxiety of unmet needs.  And one of my people was anxious about the item of leaving the country unprepared, so off to Walmart we went.  Who needs sleep!!

Now it’s 2:00 and we leave at 4:30.  My parents and some of our kids are crashed on couches, looking frat-party-ish.  The bags are packed, everything is ready, and we can’t wait to see how God is going to work in us and through us in Honduras!

Thanks for reading along.  Your prayers, encouragement, love, and support are so appreciated!