Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Casting call!

Since the beginning of January, we have been blessed with the most kind and generous physical therapist. Vicki is a personal friend who has been working with Joseph on a weekly basis for the last two months, and her efforts have really made a difference. Several weeks ago, at Vicki's wise suggestion, we reached out to our surgeon at Joe DiMaggio to see if he felt Joseph would be a candidate for serial casting--a process in which his legs and feet are casted in a specific position in order to adjust them. The casts are changed out every two weeks for a total of six to eight weeks. To us, it certainly seemed to be worth a try, since it is less invasive than tenotomy surgery. Dr. C. responded that while he was skeptical about it making a long-term difference, he did not see any harm in trying. We were thrilled!

Last Thursday, we took Joseph to the office to begin the process. They opted to cast both feet because even though he had major correction to his left foot in China, they felt there is still some range to gain. Joseph was quite suspicious of his new accessories at first, but the nurses gave him some great colors to choose from, so that distracted him into loving the idea of Spiderman colors--red and blue. The girls in the office worked their magic, and we were on our way in about an hour. 

Joseph seemed to tolerate it relatively well. He had some discomfort that night, which was expected and alleviated with Advil, and he went to school on Friday without issue wearing homemade cast shoes (constructed of duct tape-covered socks) that I made for him. He wasn't really happy with my creations, so I made a point to locate some *real* cast shoes on Friday, and Jimmy kindly picked them up from the medical supply on Saturday.

Initially, Joey did okay with those, too, and even insisted on riding his bike. But then he cried when he realized that his feet were "too big and slippery." He was clearly beginning to process his new reality. Our son came into the house in tears, having somewhat of a meltdown, and lost his balance in the living room. He tried to correct himself, but kinda fell to the ground. When he did, Jimmy and I both thought we heard an audible crack. His crying escalated, and after that, he refused to bear weight on his right foot at all. He scooted around the house on his rear-end. 

The past few nights were ROUGH for him. He seemed to be in quite a bit of pain, so we gave him pain relievers each night and pulled him into our bed when he needed extra comforting. I'm not gonna sugar coat it either...it was ROUGH for us, too. I must admit that I didn't exactly handle it all gracefully at times. This parenting thing is a hard job, isn't it?? Not knowing what's right and what's wrong, and it figures that these things always seem to happen on a weekend. With a gut feeling that something was not right, I called Joe D. first thing Monday morning, and they didn't like it either. They squeezed us in this morning. 

The nurse removed the casts, and we could see right away that his right ankle was swollen. When asked where it hurt, Joseph poked his ankle and said, "the bone." They ushered us down to x-ray only to confirm that he was right, indeed. Joseph fractured his ankle. So now he's sporting a new green cast (nice pick for St. Patrick's Day!) to immobilize his break, which he will wear for two weeks. And then we will formulate a new plan. 

Jimmy and I are now concerned that maybe his anatomy can't handle the casting, and we may end up listening to the advice of the surgeons and proceed with tenotomy. We will be speaking with the surgeon tomorrow, and we will see. But at least there is peace in knowing that we tried.

It is such a HUGE relief to see him bear weight on his right foot without pain! And even more of a relief to see him happy once again. Fingers crossed that he does okay at school tomorrow. No one saw this one coming, poor kid. 

Welcome to Murphy's Law, son.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Oh, what an adventure we had...

Our trip to Legoland was first in discussion before Joseph's 6th birthday. We had decided that we really wanted him to have a family experience, rather than a big party. Especially on the heels of Christmas and all the gifts (and over-stimulation) that the season brought.

Though Joseph's birthday was on January 14th, we delayed the trip until the end of the month for several reasons. We did, however, celebrate his actual birthday very quietly at home with family...and cake, of course.

The build-up for the trip was insanely perfect! The kids were ready to burst with excitement by the time it was finally happening. They packed their suitcases pretty much all week long in anticipation, and couldn't wait until after school on Friday. Daddy rearranged our van seating to party mode, and we were on our way north after ten trips back into the house for the million things we'd forgotten.

Before we made our way to the hotel, we'd planned a little side trip to see friends who were visiting from Wisconsin and happened to be staying about 15 minutes from our destination...and they were leaving the next morning. What are the chances? We met Becky (the lovely mom pictured below and A.K.A. FullPlateMom in the blogosphere) on our adoption trip for Joseph. She was in China with her son, Cam, to adopt a beautiful little baby girl named Cate. It was so cool to see them again! But the icing on the cake (like...literally, Cate's 2nd birthday cake) was that we were able to meet her husband and their whole family of ten kids, including their precious little Tess (pictured with Mommy), who is a beautiful heart baby I've *known* and adored for a couple of years through Facebook. It was like meeting a real princess. Please add her to your prayers as she has an open-heart surgery at the end of the month.

After a lovely visit, we departed for the hotel. We had opted for a Hampton Inn that was in close proximity to the park, and we were glad we did. We checked in around 9:00 just in time for a late night snack and bedtime. The kids were amped up, but they also knew that the quicker they slept, the faster they'd get to Legoland. We managed to sleep in until 7:30 (that's late for us), headed to the lobby for breakfast, packed our bags, checked out, and then...

These three were over the moon. Joseph was skipping along (his sign of true joy), and all three of them were amazed by the mere entrance! We arrived about thirty minutes before opening time, (which must've felt like hours to the kids) and we were second in line. But it was worth the wait!

The first ride of the day was some crazy rollercoaster. Joseph wanted nothing to do with it, nor did I. So we watched...and we laughed as we imagined Charlie up there twisting and turning. Turns out he's a little daredevil in disguise...or at least I thought so until I took a closer look at his facial expressions. He told Jimmy and Madi that he wasn't screaming, he was saying "AHHHHHH" like you do for a doctor, but really, really loud.


After that, we made our way to the back of the park for a few more *little-kid friendly* rides and attractions like these:

And then, we hit the Driving School!  We nicknamed Charlie "Crash" because, oh my goodness, he ran into almost everything in his path. Hilarious. Joseph, on the other hand, managed to steer away from some very close calls. Impressive.  And Madi got her license in the big kid school. Naturally.

After that, we hit some other rides until the kids obviously needed a food and drink break. Waiting in line is hard work when you're little.

And then we went back at it:


We left the park at 5:30, half an hour before closing, to head back home. The kids were whooped, and so were their parents. But thank God for Daddy, who can drive in such exhausted condition and with an awful back-seat driver (me) to boot. Bye bye, Legoland (or as Joseph calls it "Lego-man"). I can't imagine a more awesome way to celebrate a Lego-loving little boy's first birthday with his family.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The first day

First, let me just state the obvious...I shed a lot of {joyful} tears this morning. Joseph has come so far, literally, and it humbles me that God made ME his Mama. I find it all quite overwhelming, and I am just so thankful to the One who has stitched our family together so beautifully. God is so good.

Last night, Madi was so excited to make lunches for the three of them. She is just such a terrific big sister. Those kids have their moments, for sure, but when it comes down to it, they are so close.

This morning after the usual 6 a.m. round of cartoons in our bed, Madi jumped out of bed excitedly and announced that it was Joseph's big day. She rousted him up and swept him away to get dressed for the occasion, in a First United Methodist tee shirt, of course.

The kids ate their breakfast together and, honestly, it was one of our more organized mornings to date! Likely because big sister took on such a big task to help me out and get them ready.

I took some pictures of the (silly) boys before we got in the car, and we made sure we had everything we needed for his first day. Yesterday, I had asked Joseph to make a choice...would he rather walk Charlie to his class first and then go to class himself, or did he prefer for Charlie to walk him into his classroom. Surprisingly to me, he chose the latter...he wanted his brother to deliver him to class. Melted my heart.

A friend, Julia, who had wished Joseph a good day had also suggested that he take an apple for the teacher. Joseph totally embraced this great idea, and I wish you could've seen his face when he marched in the classroom and handed Mrs. Bivins that apple. Actually, I wish you could've seen her face, too. So, so special. 

We took some more pictures, and my heart was overflowing...so were my eyes. We put his things in his cubby, and he found his way to his seat, right next to his friend, Henry. It was crystal clear that Joseph was so ready, and it felt so right. I kissed him goodbye for the morning, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

I hadn't been out of the building for ten minutes when my cell phone rang. It was the preschool Director (and friend), Peggie Nasin. She asked me if Joseph had ever had a nose bleed before. Interestingly enough, he had. For the first time in our presence, Joseph had a nose bleed over Christmas break at my parents' house. The wild part was that Joseph totally knew it was coming on, and guided me to the bathroom (with his head tilted back) for tissues. I had no idea until he produced blood on the tissue. This had obviously happened before in China, because our son knew exactly what to do. It stopped after a few minutes, and he went back to what he was doing. Our festivities were such a whirlwind (and we were hoping the incident was a fluke) that I never even thought to mention it to Peggie.

Anyway, once again, Joseph knew exactly what to do, and handled the situation like a champ. Peggie held him on her lap, while he applied pressure and stopped the bleeding. When I sent her a text later, she replied that he was doing great. In an odd way, I think this might've been a good thing. Right out of the gate, Joseph had an opportunity to show them just how responsible and self-sufficient he is, even under the duress of a language barrier!

Last week, Madi had asked Joseph what he wanted to be called at school, and he announced to all of us that his *new* name is Joey. I had to laugh today when my friend, Jen, commented that she'd asked her son, Beck, (Charlie and Joseph's buddy) if Joseph had a good first day. Beck responded, "Joseph told me today, I don't like the name Joseph, my name is Joey." He's staying true to his words!

When I picked him up, I confessed that I'd been tearful all day, and Mrs. Bivins said there were so many emotional moments for her, too. At one point, she found him sweetly watching over her shoulder, and she felt compelled to ask him for a hug. She got one.

At the day's end, Joseph emerged so proudly from the classroom with his stack of papers and lunchbox. He refused to hand anything over to me. In his true form, I am sure he'll squirrel away every single paper he's given, and that's just fine.  I am lucky that he even allowed me to photograph anything...but he was happy, really happy, so I guess he let me slide today...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Time for school.

Exactly one month before we arrived home with Joseph, I had posted on Facebook regarding an education plan for our son-to-be. I knew, at that time, a "plan" was all we could hope for, and no concrete decisions could be made until we knew him better and had explored all of our options.  

Since Joseph turns six next week, he should--technically--be enrolled into Kindergarten, but all along we felt very strongly about keeping him home for his first few months to adjust to his new surroundings. We believe that part of our plan worked out perfectly, as many of his transitional *kinks* have been worked out and he has adjusted more beautifully than we ever imagined. 

In November, Joseph and I toured the Kindergarten program at Banyan Creek Elementary School, where Madi attends school. I liked what I saw, but in my heart of hearts, I yearned for him to be at Charlie's preschool, First United Methodist Church, for so many reasons. One, he's been escorting his brother to school for three months now, and he feels completely comfortable there. And two, the schedule of M/W/F from 8:30 - 1:30 makes for a perfect transition into American schools. Most of all, I desperately wanted this child to have an opportunity to learn through play. He loves doing crafts, and looking at books, and all the things that preschool entails. I just knew that Joseph needed, and deserved, to experience Pre-K 4.

But there was one major hurdle...there were no available spots, and we would pretty much need a miracle for something to change. Three classes, ten children per class...the chances weren't great.

My faith never wavered though. I felt peace about it all, and I believed that God would work this out, somehow, according to His plan and that Joseph would land in the right place...the school where he is meant to be.

Then, in early December, it happened. I heard it from a close friend that a family at school would be moving out of the area at Christmas time. As that family's miracle came in the form of new employment for their daddy, our family's miracle came in that one lone spot opening up just for our son.

But it's even more special to us than that. Because the opening happens to be in Mrs. Bivins' class--the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Madi, the same Mrs. Bivins who taught Charlie last year, and the same Mrs. Bivins who loved on our sweet Daniel so much when he'd deliver and collect his big sister to and from school (I wrote about her in With an Open Heart!).

Joseph starts school tomorrow, and we are thrilled for him to begin this new and exciting chapter of his life. We are also overjoyed that Joseph and Charlie will get playground time together each day at school! 

Please, please say a prayer for him, if you would--that he is not anxious or upset and that he assimilates into his class without issue. We trust that this will be the best thing for him, and it's certainly the best place.  God knew.

Pictures to come...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebrating new life

 In His Holy dwelling,
we gathered in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

and brought our son, Joseph, to the baptismal fount of Jesus.

On the Feast of the Holy Family, exactly two years prior, the Holy Spirit had spoken to my heart, and I knew {knew} we were to adopt another child.  It felt incredibly overwhelming and full circle. A child was conceived in my heart on this very day, and here—two years later—our son is home and would be baptized into the light of Christ. 

We joined in chorus to sing the most beautiful Christmas songs on earth, and our ears heard an inspirational message of love, hope, and respect for each other, just as the Holy family's example had given. Monsignor Tom noted what a strong man Joseph was, and how our little Joseph traveled far to know Jesus, just as the Holy Family had traveled far to deliver their son into the world and the Wise Men had traveled from afar to meet Him.

The crown of Joseph's head was anointed with the same chrism 
that was once used for Kings.
I will never be able to sufficiently describe the look in our son's eyes as the Holy waters of purity were poured onto his forehead, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. I truly believe he felt it in his soul. He was completely engulfed by a sense of peace and calmness, and it was clear to all who witnessed. 

His beautiful Godmother wiped dry his forehead, and I wiped tears from my eyes
such a beautiful gift to behold.

The day before Joseph’s baptism, I called Carrie and asked if they would take up the gifts at Mass. They are such a special family, and we loved the idea. When it was time to bring up the gifts, Carrie and Doug, Joseph's Godparents, stepped out of the pew, and she said, “Come Joseph.” With that, we watched the three of them proceed to the back of the church. I had no idea that was coming, and it took my breath away, actually! What a gift...here I had imagined Carrie and her family with this task, and in her beautiful heart, she had planned to take the gifts up with her Godson. Joseph marched up the aisle holding a basket that was nearly his size. The expression on his face was priceless—one of sheer honor and importance.

Many friends, family members, and parishioners welcomed Joseph into the Catholic faith. We were even joined by a dear friend of a different faith who witnessed her very first baptism.

We are all born as God’s children, yes, but the sacrament of baptism transforms us—saves us—by bringing us into His family eternally. By the grace of God, we are all adopted through baptism, if you will. And until we are rescued and baptized into His family, we are all orphans, aren’t we? It is a blessing to bring our children to the light of Christ.
I recently read a quote that I fell in love with: “Choosing to defend the orphan through adoption is beautiful, and God uses the adoption experience not only to redeem one of his beloved children, but also to transform your heart in ways you cannot begin to imagine.”
Adopting our precious children has done exactly that—transformed our hearts, just as God transforms our hearts when He adopts us through baptism. And on the Feast Day that we honor the Holy family, and revere the earthly parents whose son gave us everlasting life through His saving grace, how meaningful that we were able to baptize Joseph into His family. What a special way to end one wondrous year and begin a new...with new life in Christ.
“In Love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 1:5