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Life with the cast.

On: Monday, November 3, 2014

Not going to lie: That first week with the spica cast was pretty tough. We were administering pain meds around the clock, not sleeping great, and poor Katee wasn't the happiest and was pretty demanding (can't blame her). It kinda felt like we brought home a new baby as the older two were out of sorts/adjusting to our new normal, meals were being brought (what a life-saver!), grandparents were coming to help . . . and it took me 10 minutes to awkwardly change her diaper. ha!

After that first week/week and a half Katee's pain was better and she's really done pretty well. I'm amazed at how quickly kids adapt. She still isn't sleeping (or eating) great, but her days have been good overall. We've tackled the dentist office, haircuts, story time, Bible study, church, and even Walmart (although once was enough for that!). Everything takes a bit more work and my days feel more demanding, but I truly am amazed at how content she has been in this cast.

We borrowed a special spica cast chair/table from a sweet family, but it didn't work well with how Katee was casted. However, we do use the top of the table over her wheelchair. This is how she eats and plays. It's worked really well. She spends hours a day playing with her Littlest Pet Shop animals, stickers, paints, etc. using this set-up.

This girl has been spoiled with presents too. The cape and mask are from a sweet blog reader and the rainbow shirt is from some faraway friends. (In fact, all this spoiling has caused Calla to want a body cast so she can "relax all day, watch extra TV, and get lots of presents". ha!)

I wasn't sure what this fall would look like as far as family activities, but it has worked just fine to do some special, seasonal things with Katee in her cast and wheelchair.
We've picked apples at the apple orchard, attended a fun fall festival, and had lots of park play dates.

Katee's cast comes off next Tuesday. She can't wait! Almost every morning she asks me if we are closer to getting her cast off. Today, we got out the calendar and counted the days and she did a little dance. The day is coming!

 I can't wait to snuggle her close again. I see pictures like the one above and it seems so strange to see her upright and on her feet. She will be stiff and sore coming out of that cast and will have to re-learn how to stand and walk. Because of her arthrogrypsosis, we have physical therapy scheduled twice a week starting the week after the cast comes off. Its really important that she starts using that joint to avoid stiffness.

It's not easy to see your child suffer or see her become frustrated with life's circumstances. But I do know that God is training me to look to and trust Him through this season. I've seen how He refreshes us all and provides encouragement in the midst of hard. For that I am so thankful.

The surgery.

On: Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thank you all so much for praying for Katee. It was an intense/exhausting week and we are glad to be on the other side of surgery (although it brings challenges of its own, for sure!). Honestly, Katee has handled all of this so much better than we/I anticipated and we give God all the glory for that.

We woke up a little after 5am Monday morning and drove the three hours to the hospital.
Katee walked right in with a smile, ready to face her surgery. (Seeing this picture now makes me miss her little walk!)

She was so good as we prepared for surgery and met with all the doctors and nurses. When one of the operating room nurses asked her if she wanted a cast on her hippo, she replied, "I don't trust you." Made me laugh. She did decide later that Hope the Hippo could have a little cast. Untitled
For past surgeries and castings Katee has had "happy juice" to ease the separation. This time, however, there wasn't time because the surgeon was ready for her. I was nervous about how the hand-off would go. Katee whimpered a little and told me she didn't want her surgery and that she wanted me to go with her . . . but when it was go-time, she timidly reached for the nurse and that was that. She was so brave. It's never ever easy to hand your child over for surgery no matter how large or small the surgery is.

It was a little over 5 hours before we saw Katee again. Thankfully, we got several updates while we waited. The surgeon said everything went very well and that while it was a difficult surgery, there were not any surprises. We are so thankful! He wants her to start therapy soon after the cast comes off in 5 weeks so that the hip doesn't get stiff.

It was so great to see our girl again! When she saw Ian and I walking toward her, she whispered in the tiniest voice, "I didn't even cry." I told her that is was ok to cry and that mommy and daddy loved her very much.

I pretty much spent the next two days and nights in her bed with her.

"Mommy, I want you sleep with me." How can you say no to that?! The first night she slept about 6 hours straight which was such an unexpected gift. The second night in the hospital wasn't nearly as restful, but I can't blame her one bit. She woke up and yelled/cried, "I want out of this bed!!!"

The days felt long and there were some hard hours of crying/frustration, but in between those times Katee watched lots of Dr. McStuffins, Paw Patrol, played with little toys, and talked with our visitors (so thankful for our aunts, uncles, and friends who stopped by to see us!).

 Daddy was a great help and comfort too; I was so thankful for his strength and encouragement through this ordeal.

The surgeon thought she might need to stay a third night, but our awesome nurse did all she could to get things moving so we could go home on Wednesday. I think we all knew Katee would be more comfortable at home.

This is the super cool carseat the hospital loaned us that works with her cast. She traveled home really well. It's hard to believe this is the same child who used to scream so much in the car. ;)

And now we are adjusting to life with "the cast." (My goodness that thing is heavy and awkward!!) Thankfully, Miss K is in pretty good hands and Ori and Calla love to help her. Life these days feels demanding and busy, but God is giving us strength and we have had amazing support and help. Thank you again for praying!

Three more sleeps.

On: Friday, October 3, 2014

I just tucked Katee into bed. Three more sleeps until her big hip surgery.

Yesterday we met with an absolutely amazing local family who went through this surgery with their five year old daughter, Molly, last year. While I found such encouragement and help from the mother, Molly blessed Katee with her pink hippo and a book called Hope the 'Hip' Hippo. Katee absolutely loves her new hippo and asked to read the book twice today. The book explains the surgery in a way a child can understand, but also emphasizes the good things about the process and the outcome. Community is amazing.

Here's Katee's conversation with me before bed tonight:
(While hugging Hope the hippo and in her adorable voice) "Mom, I have to have a surgery like Hope did. Hope was a little nervous about surgery. I am nervous like Hope for my surgery. First I will go to the hospital. I will go to sleep. When I wake up I will be sad because it will be owie."

"Yes, you will have a surgery like Hope. And it will help you walk better and feel better. It will be owie at first but mommy and daddy love you and will help you."

"Mom . . . will you pray for me?"

So we prayed to our great big God. Our God who is present. Our God who sees, knows and loves his children. We prayed that He would comfort Katee and give her peace. We prayed that the doctor would do a good job fixing her hip so she can walk and feel better.

She sweetly drifted off to sleep while quiet tears ran down my cheeks. I love this girl so very much and am so sad she has to endure pain and be in a body cast for several weeks. But I also loved that she asked me to pray for her; she has never requested prayer and I love to see her faith grow bit by bit.

       Will you join us in praying for Katee? Her surgery is scheduled on Monday around 10am. It should take 2-3 hours. The surgery is a left hip open reduction (needed to reduce the hip back into the socket), femoral osteotomy (they cut the femur so that the doctor can direct the ball back into the socket), and pelvic osteotomy (this is the cut in the "roof" over the hip ball so that the surgeon can take that bone above the ball which is very steep right now and make it "C" shaped like the other side). 

 I love that the verse Katee is learning for AWANA this week is Psalm 139:14: "I praise you! For I am fearfully and wonderfully made." It's true. Even on days like today when her legs don't seem to be working quite right and the falls and scrapes are plentiful (and a major surgery is approaching!) . . . I know she is created by God and is wonderfully made. I'm praying that she will be confident and content in the way she was formed and that God uses her for His glory.

The Salamander Room

On: Sunday, August 31, 2014

I researched quite a bit before choosing our curriculum for school. There is so much available and it seems like every family chooses something different. We are mainly using Sonlight this year, but I am stretching out the history and science portion over the next two years so that Calla can keep up with the content and I can school them together for those subjects. I was a little nervous about what this would look like, but I am enjoying it because it's allowed me to expand on the kids' interests. I've basically been taking a topic from our week of Sonlight and choosing a book from Five in a Row and "rowing" that book for several days. It's been so fun to combine these two curriculums.

Since my kids were really into frogs/amphibians, we rowed The Salamander Room this past week. Such a cute book!
In the book, a little boy finds a salamander in the woods, brings him home, and dreams about turning his room into a perfect home for the salamander. After reading the book, the kids helped me make a list of all the things a salamander needs to live. After compiling our list, we put together our own salamander room. Katee loves to sit and play with this scene.

We talked through the lifecycle of a salamander. Above is Calla's journal drawing. It made me smile.

For their sensory tub, we reviewed the frog's lifecycle. The tub was filled with water beads, foam lily pads, and toy frogs in different stages (eggs, tadpole, froglet, frog).

The highlight was probably the principal (aka Daddy) teaching art one evening: we made clay salamanders!

The kids are pretty proud of these. ;)

We did a little nature hunt/hike one morning and played in the river that evening. It was a fun-filled week of learning together!

As we have adjusted to homeschooling the past 3.5 weeks, I have felt even more lacking in the housekeeping department. Homeschooling can be messy. And did I mention it's time consuming? ;) Thankfully, Mr. Principal called a family meeting and we implemented a chore chart system (as well as a no-wrestling-during-the-day policy! ha!).

This has honestly relieved so much stress! I don't know why I didn't do something like this earlier. I guess I thought since I was the mom that I needed to "do it all". Other times I'd think, "It's easier/faster to just do it myself." It's been so helpful to hand off several of these daily responsibilities and the kids have responded very positively. I basically give them 3-4 jobs each day. Some jobs are competed after every meal, some jobs rotate between kids, and some stay the same each day. It's really been a good thing to share the responsibility around the home. My kitchen table and floor has never been cleaner... and the kids are learning life skills at the same time. ;)

(For those who are curious, I downloaded the cards many months ago when they were offered as a free download. You can purchase them here.)

Breezy Acres Academy

On: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We have had a really great summer! (Well, minus the few weeks we were plagued with hand foot and mouth disease--I'm still losing several finger nails from that terrible ordeal!) We enjoyed a week in Colorado with great friends, soccer camp, swimming lessons, extended weekend in Branson with my family, mornings at the lake, fun with friends, BBQs, etc. Someday I might blog about our summer, but today I have to document Ori starting Kindergarten. Such a big milestone for our boy.

We decided to homeschool Ori for Kindergarten. Today marks 2 weeks in already and it has been so much fun! He is thriving, asking many questions, and talking Daddy's ear off each evening about what he learned in school. Honestly, he makes homeschooling very easy (although a certain emotional three year old can make it challenging at times. ha!).

The girls are tagging along for most of what we are doing, and I am also adding in preschool activities for them. We are using Sonlight Core A for Kindergarten; it's literature based program and since my girls LOVE to be read to, it is working out quite nicely to keep them all together. (I knew there would be a pay off somewhere to having three children all 14 months apart. ;) )

Here is a glimpse into the first two weeks of school at Breezy Acres Academy:
Fingerpainting letter "F" for preschool while Ori learned how to write "F" correctly.

For history, we read about dinosaurs and then I sent the kids on a dinosaur dig.

They dug up the dinosaur skulls, brushed off the sand with a paintbrush, and matched the skull to the proper dinosaur fact card.

Dinosaur toss!

After learning about dinosaurs, we shifted our focus to learning how people lived long ago. Long ago, people made boats by stretching skins over a round wooden frame. This boat was called a coracle. The kids made a model coracle out of pipe cleaners and plastic bags . . . they were thrilled to watch their boats float around the pool.

We also built a shelter, as the early people did not live in one place all year, but built shelters from branches in the summer and lived in caves in the winter.

We have been learning about the different seasons in science. The kids did this series of paintings representing the four seasons. I love how they turned out!

The Lego rainbow was a hit as well (after reading about how a rainbow is formed).

We've also been learning about tadpoles and frogs. Ori can hardly contain his excitement when we get to work on our frog books. The boy loves frogs. When a zoo employee asked him what his favorite animal was at the zoo, his answer was, "The frogs!"

Another favorite science activity was creating a model of the earth out of Rice Krispies. DELICIOUS. The test to be able to eat your treat? Tell Mommy the layers of the earth: crust, mantle, core.

I think I'll stop with that, although I could share so much more. ;)  I am LOVING the conversations that come up throughout our days together as everything points to Christ. Homeschooling is a lot of work, but it has given intentionality to our days and I have been reminded how much I love to teach. We are excited to continue on this journey!

AMC Awareness Day: June 30, 2014

On: Monday, June 30, 2014

Today is arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) awareness day. Many of you know that AMC is the rare condition sweet Katee was born with. Before Katee's referral, I had never heard of AMC and was clueless as to what it was. In fact, I found the word pretty scary.

In honor of AMC awareness day, I thought I would share a few facts about arthrogryposis in hopes that your eyes would be opened to this condition and that you would see how incredible these kids truly are (especially if you are considering adoption!).

Arthrogyrposis means "multiple joint contractures present at birth". This condition causes some of Katee's joints to be contracted, or stiff and lacking normal range of motion. AMC only occurs in 1 out of every 300,000 births and is caused by an unborn baby not moving properly during fetal development.

Common joint contractures include clubbed feet, extended or flexed knees, dislocated hips, internally rotated shoulders, extended or flexed elbows, flexed wrists, and fingers fisted or extended.

Arthrogryposis is not progressive, meaning that it is as severe as it's going to get at birth. However, it is regressive in nature. This means that even after effective treatment, the contractures can re-occur. For example, Katee's feet will most likely go back into a clubbed position during a major growth spurt and we will need to cast them again in the future. Post-treatment bracing is important to prevent relapse, but even strict bracing cannot stop all relapses.

Arthrogyrposis can cause height and weight deficits. Children with AMC tend to be on the low end of the growth charts for weight (or in Katee's case, not on the chart at all!). As adults, they tend to be 4-8 inches shorter than familial height and weigh 10-20 pounds less than their peers.

While there is no cure for AMC, many people with arthrogyrposis will walk, but some will need a wheelchair for effective mobility. Those who walk may need braces or walkers/crutches.

Most children with AMC grow up to be independent and successful adults. I am already amazed by how Katee figures out ways to do things and get around.

We are so glad she is ours!!

To learn more about AMC:

Life givers. Life nurturers.

On: Sunday, May 11, 2014

Women are life givers. Life Nurturers. Those words describe the essence of motherhood.

As I read through the first 10 verses of Exodus 2 earlier this week, tears welled in my eyes. I clearly pictured women all over the world who are forced to make hard decisions regarding their children--Katee's birth mama included.

Pharaoh had ordered all the newborn Hebrew baby boys to be thrown into the Nile because he feared the Israelites would fight against them if war broke out. The passage tells of a woman who gave birth to a son. She lovingly hid him for three months, but then could not hide him any longer. She knew if she kept the child, he would die. However, if she made a basket and placed him in the Nile River, at least she wouldn't have to watch him die. And maybe, just maybe, he would be saved. I can't imagine the pain this birth mother experienced when she said goodbye to her beautiful baby boy and placed him in that basket. And then . . . God showed His mighty power. He had plans for this child that even Pharaoh's death orders could not thwart.

The baby was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh's daughter, who named him Moses. Moses's sister, who had been watching, offered to find a woman to nurse the baby. She found her mother (of course!) who was blessed to nurse her own baby for a season before taking him to Pharaoh's daughter for adoption.

The circumstances surrounding Moeses' birth were filled with loss and pain, and yet His adoption story is a perfect picture of the redemptive work our Heavenly Father does.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter saw the baby crying in the basket, about to drown, and in need of salvation, our Heavenly Father sees us lost in our own ways and in need of a Savior.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter rescued Moses from death, God sent Jesus to rescue us from death through the cross and resurrection.

Both stories end in adoption. It's redemption. Beauty in brokenness.

I am forever thankful that I am Katee's forever mama. God created us to be nurtured in loving families. However, on days like today (Mother's Day), I cannot help but hurt for Katee's first mom who could not keep her, yet gave her life. (I pictured her so well when I read that passage in Exodus and it tore at my heart.)

God is a protector and defender. Yes, he hears the cries of the weak and hurting children across the globe; they are not forgotten! But don't forget that He also hears the cries of the birth mothers who (for various reasons) could not raise their babies and carry that pain. And most importantly, don't forget that our powerful and faithful God promises to make all things--even the most difficult and trying--work for the good of those who love him.

I love having a front row seat to see healing take place in Katee's heart as she is grafted into our family. Her birth mom was her life giver, and I am honored to be her life nurturer.

God truly used Show Hope to draw Katee out of the water and give hope. It was through a partnership with them that Katee received amazing care at New Hope Healing Home in China. Show Hope also helped us financially so that we could afford to adopt. I encourage you to pray about sponsoring a child through Show Hope this Mother's Day. It's a gift that will transform a life and hopefully enable a child to enter a forever family.

It's a way to be a life giver. A life nurturer.