Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shout It From the Mountaintop!!!!!!

How do I even begin to put into words the pure joy I have felt the past few days.  KAHSAY IS WALKING!!!!  I had no idea if I would ever be able to say these words.  In October of 2012, we were given little hope that we could expect Kahsay to walk.  His MRI was extremely unique and the areas the damage effected would have great impact on his development in all areas.  While we always held tight to fact that we serve a GREAT BIG GOD, we still proceeded with caution. I often questioned how to live life with the confidence that God can perform miracles, but at the same time living in the reality that something I so desperately desired may not be in God's plan for Kahsay.  All I can say is God gave me a peace that I can't explain.  It was OK.  I trusted.  I was gonna be ok even if Kahsay never walked.  It was well with my soul.  I rejoiced in his progress and praised God for miracle after miracle in Kahsay's life.   

And then it happened...........with no warning.............God moved mountains!!!!  I guess I thought I would have been prepared.  He had been walking with his walker for some time, but was still unable to stand on his own.  He hated using the walkers provided by school because he did not like to use his hands.  I knew he had to use his hands in order to walk.  That particular moment I was trying to videotape him attempting to stand and jump. I had no idea God was going to perform the most amazing miracle I could imagine at that moment.  It seriously felt like God waved his magic wand and "poof" Kahsay could walk.  I can't explain the overwhelming joy, and excitement I felt (as you can tell from my high pitched annoying screams and then blubbering sobs).  

I am not kidding when I say I wish I could have shouted from the mountaintops that we serve a God that is bigger than any mountain we face.   I recently saw a quote that read "Sometimes God moves our mountains, and sometimes God says take another lap".  It reminds me of the lyrics to the song "It is Well- Through it all"

Here is the link to the video. You have to listen to it!!!

Verse 1
Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Verse 2
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well it is well with my soul 

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.

The times in my life when I have struggled the most with the mountains God has placed in my and other's lives is when I have taken my eyes off him.  My deepest moments of darkness were when Kahsay first came home and we were thrown into the storms of the medical/therapy world.  I allowed my mountains to swallow me because I took my eyes off of Him.  God will never leave us to deal with our mountains on our own.  He will either hold our hands every lap or dance with us when he moves the mountain.  How do we have the confidence God can move mountains yet live in the reality that sometimes it is not in His plan?  We keep our eyes on Him.  Only He can fill you with a peace that will allow you to testify "it is well, with my soul".  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Preparing for God's Journey

March 6, 2012 we received the call to become the parents to a 6 week old baby boy.  He was so beautiful with his dark skin and deep set eyes.  I took one look at him and knew I would go to the ends of the earth to bring him home.  I began dreaming of a little boy with curly hair running around with his three older sisters.

 We began preparing our hearts to do whatever we needed to embrace his culture and race.  We educated ourselves so that we would be ready to tackle any adoption question he would throw at us.  We were prepared for the months of cocooning that felt like eternity.  We knew it would be hard and it was.  What we did not prepare for was a doctor to look us in the eye and tell us our son had severe brain damage.  None of the adoption videos we watched prepared us to be thrown into the medical world where we see nine different specialists and feed our child through a tube.  No paragraph in our adoption book told us to be ready to deal with storing medicine, medical supplies, and large ugly therapy equipment.  We were not prepared.

I continued to get together with my adoption group knowing that I needed the support and a place to vent. I love, value, and need the women in this group.  They have supported and encouraged me in some of the hardest times of adoption.  However;  I found myself leaving the meetings feeling jealousy, anger, and self pity.  I attended an adoption conference that was AMAZING, but every seminar I found myself in just didn't seem to apply.  I would sit through them and hear these voices in my head say....
"Gotcha Day- who cares about his Gotcha Day, he will have no clue what is."
"Race Questions- he can't even see himself in a mirror....he will never know he is a different color than you."
"Birthparents- why worry about this if he will never comprehend what it means to be adopted."

I felt as if I was barely hanging on.  I felt like I was drowning.  How could I be completely honest without someone looking at me like I was horrible.  As I drifted deeper and deeper into a pit of "why me?", God led me to two women who like me were not prepared.  Who like me felt desperation for normalcy.  Who wanted to worry about the right hair products instead of the correct dose of medication to help our child function.  It was a safe place for me to vent, and express my jealousy and frustrations to people who have been there. Recently we went on a weekend together.  It was so uplifting.  We talked about everything from different g tubes, seizure meds, sleeping meds, walkers, therapies, school options, insurance, marriage, family, and God.  We shared out "realistic" dreams for our kids.  While each of our kids is different we understand how desperately each of us desires to see our child progress.  We also know the level of progression will be different and at a different pace.

This brings me to this video of my sweet Kahsay Crawling.  When I posted this I ached for my friends whose daughters are not crawling, let alone sitting up on their own.  I ached because I knew their heart would be so happy for us but would hurt for the things they desperately want their girls to do.  I hated knowing they may have cried tears of joy but also tears of mourning.  I know this because I have felt this.  However they have also taught me it is okay to have these feelings but if we do not look for the joy in our lives and circumstances then we are failing to see God's work in our lives.  He is faithful, constant, true, loving and powerful.  He is fighting for us everyday.  He has a perfect plan for Kahsay, Ruby and Sadie.  They are his beautiful children created and crafted by His hand.  They bring so much joy to our lives that we never could have prepared for.  While Kahsay, Ruby, and Sadie may not fit into the "normal" adoption textbook, I know full well they fit into God's plan perfectly.  They will and already have been life changers in ways I could only dream of. 

In October of 2012 I prepared myself for the worst.  I prepared my heart for a child who would never walk, talk, or eat on his own.  I have learned that when you follow a BIG, I mean REALLY BIG God, He will take you on journeys you never prepared for.  Journeys that will test you and take you to the point of desperation. Journeys  that will far exceed anything you could have dreamed up in your head.   Journeys that will make you realize preparing without His leading is useless.  Preparing for what we expect to happen is important but once we have prepared we need to rest in His hand knowing He has is already figured out.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Next Steps

On April 7 we were able to purchase a piece of equipment called the Upsee.  For those of you who do not know what that is you can find a video here.  All special needs equipment is very expensive.  I never dreamed we would order something like this that carries a price tag of $500.  After an aunt sent us a link on Facebook saying we should check it out, a cousin decided to make it possible by starting a fundraising page to help pay for it.  The amount we needed was raised in less than 24 hours and plenty more.  Jason and I were completely humbled by the love and generosity that was show by our family, friends, and even strangers.  We decided to start a separate account for Kahsay.  We will use the extra money we received to pay for upcoming therapy, equipment, or medical supplies that are not covered by insurance.

The Upsee will provide Kahsay the opportunity to stand up and experience the world with his hands.  Right now Kahsay is unable to stand unassisted without using his arms for support.  This makes it hard for him to use his hands and arms to explore.  I am so excited to take him to the Children's Museum and see if he will play in the sand table.  I can't wait for him to stand and touch his sister's faces.  It will be amazing to watch him use his legs to walk around like a normal developing child.  While we have faith that Kahsay will someday walk, we do not know how or when.

So....I now want to thank all of you who made this possible.  Thank you for loving my son and wanting him to experience life like other children.  We will not receive the Upsee until June 2 but I promise when you see the smile on his face when he uses it for the first time, it will be all you need to see to know your donation has made a huge difference in a little boys life.

For those of you who are always telling me Kahsay continues to be in your family prayers I am asking you to continue to pray.  Here are a few specifics:
1.  Pray for weight gain.  While he finally made it up to 19 lbs a few weeks ago, he got sick and is not down to 18 lbs 2 oz.  Again we work hard to slowly gain.  We are switching to a new feeding tube that will lock into place so we can be more successful with a continuous drip all night
2.  Please continue to pray for his mood.  When we are home he is happy and content.  It still can be frustrating to take him in public as he gets easily irritated and hard to handle.  The girls take the brunt of this as we often have to leave events early or not go.
3.  Please also pray as we will be attending feeding therapy again this summer.  We are hoping Kahsay will learn to handle some purees.  There are so many sensory issues along with his diagnosis of dysphagia that get in the way of successful eating for him.  Pray also for me to be disciplined with the home plan and for summer childcare for the girls to fall into place.
Thank you for your continued prayers.  We appreciate them more than you will ever know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turning 2 and New Traditions

HAPPY  2ND BIRTHDAY KAHSAY!!! You are our miracle!!!  While you have not made our lives easier, you have made our lives better than we could have ever expected.

I will admit birthday #2 was very difficult for me.  I did not expect to feel such joy and loss at the same time.  I am filled with joy when I see where we have come in a year and watch my son find his own joy in life. I love to see his smile and excitement for familiar songs and family member's voices.  I laugh when he thinks he can throw a tantrum in order to not do therapy.  He brings such beauty to our lives.
While I feel such joy, the loss I feel is also very real.  A day after his birthday I wrote to the ladies who have become my support system.  All of them also have adopted children with special needs.  Here is what I wrote:

Kahsay turned 2 on Wednesday. Most days I am able to marvel at his progress and plug along with his daily needs. Today I am struggling and wish he could do the typical 2 year old activities. I wish he would take out all my Tupperware, throw an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet, throw food on the floor, throw a tantrum in the store because he wants to help mommy push the cart, fight over toys with another toddler, and yes...even eat the tip off a marker or color all over the wall. Today I don't want to fight for insurance to refill his seizure meds or risk going 2 days without. I don't want to count ounces and calories to be sure he is getting enough to maybe gain an ounce after 1 1/2 years of being 18 lbs. i want him to sleep the entire night and not have to pat his butt for 40 minutes so he will fall asleep. I don't want to drive separately to my daughter's soccer game so I can leave when Kahsay becomes over stimulated. And I really don't want to feel guilty today that I didn't work on "therapy" skills. I think the number 2 just makes me realize that "catching" up is not reality. Sob fest done......just needed to get it off my chest.

I know I will forever have grief over the things Kahsay will never experience.  I know these feelings are normal and healthy.  I also know I love Kahsay for Kahsay.  I love that music drives him, I love that he can't sit still for even a minute, I love that he laughs over some of the oddest things,and  I can't get enough of his smile and cuddles at bedtime.  

I also know that a birthday for Kahsay will be celebrated differently than for his sisters.  He does not open presents or even notice they are there.  He can't eat cake or participate in little birthday games. While he may not be able to do typical birthday activities, he can celebrate.  I received great advice from the ladies in my special needs group.  We will give Kahsay his own traditions.  

I am thankful for this little life God has given to us.  I am hopeful that the next year will bring even more progress, and I am humbled to serve a God who provides all we need.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Long Overdue Update

I realize it has been a long time since I have written any posts about Kahsay's progress. Many people continue to ask us and ask how they can pray for Kahsay.  I find writing it in my blog is the easiest way to update people.  Since I really despise writing I will just do a list format.

1. Group Therapy:  We do this one time per week.  Kahsay is in the infant group because he is not mobile yet and because the chaos of a toddler group would make it extremely hard for him to stay regulated.  We are joined by two amazing therapists and 4-5 other parents with children.  Our focus for Kahsay is solely on teaching him to regulate himself in group settings.  He does not participate in many of the activities but just tries to take in his surroundings and attempt to join in the group activity for short periods.  I am learning so much on how to help Kahsay stay regulated (calm state) when being introduced to over stimulating environments.  He has progressed from crying the entire time to crying on and off.

2.  Home Therapy:  We have a therapist that comes to the house one time per week.  He works with Kahsay in areas of gross motor, fine motor, and self regulation.  He has been a true gift from God and I can't imagine where we would be without his support and love for Kahsay.

3.  Occupational Therapist Grad Student:  We did have an amazing OT student that was coming to help Kahsay one time per week.  It gave me a break and I had the satisfaction that he was in good hands and working on therapy.  She now is doing and internship to finish out her schooling and was moved out of Grand Rapids.  We miss her dearly and will attempt to find another.

Kahsay is still only on liquids with purees only when he is in the mood.  He is on a high calorie Pediasure and drinks it thickened through his bottle or g tube.

I am feeling ready to get him back into feeding therapy or try an intense feeding program where we stay overnight for a few days.  He still has an extremely sensitive gag reflex and hates any food that is textured.

Gross Motor:
1.  Kahsay can:
- Go from laying to sitting
- Go from sitting on a stool to standing with help.
2.  Kahsay is working on:
- trying to hold onto objects in hope he will be able to hold onto a walker.
- weight bearing on his hands so he can learn to creep and crawl which would be so important for walking someday.
3.  Kahsay's goals this year:
-  Go from sitting on the floor to standing
-  Walk with a walker a few steps independently
-  Hopefully creep and crawl.

Kahsay's special seat so he can sit up in shopping carts.  He thinks he is so big in it.

If you are not friends with me on Facebook, I thought I would add this video.  I could not figure out how to get it to load onto Blogger so I just linked it to Facebook.  Hopefully it works.

Kahsay standing.

Fine Motor:
1.  Kahsay can
-  hold some objects in his right hand firmly and bring them to his mouth
- use his left hand as a helper and with more purpose than a year ago.
2.  Kahsay is working on:
- exploring toys on his own.
- holding an object with his left hand
- finding toys on his own when he drops them.
- holding his own bottle.

- Kahsay had eye muscle surgery in November on both eyes.  Recovery was not too terrible.  We have seen some improvement with Kahsay's fine motor.  Since Kahsay is diagnosed with Cordical blindness, eye surgery does not cure his vision impairment.  Due to Kahsay's brain damage, his brain has a difficult time processing what he sees.  His vision can come and go depending on his environment, health or lack of sleep.  We notice at home he sees pretty well, but in environments where there is high stimulation he tends to only see what is right in front of him.  We pray this will continue to improve and work with an amazing specialist and vision therapist to help us.  This can improve but to what extent we do not know yet.

Kahsay just saw the Endocrinologist this week.  He still weighs just over 18 lbs.  He has weighed 18 lbs since October of 2012.  His specialists are concerned with his lack of weight gain and we are working on coming up with more options to help him gain weight.  Kahsay's body does not handle volume very well so adding any more ounces needs to be done over a long period of time. We have tried the night drip through his tube but he is so active it ends up coming out with Pediasure everywhere.   I am extremely frustrated by this.  At this point his height has grown slowly so the doctor does not want to pursue further growth hormone testing but does want to continue to keep tabs on Kahsay.  Please pray we are able to find the best feeding options for Kahsay.  I am not ready to give up his oral feedings but am willing to do so if the doctors feel feeding him through the g tube only will be our best option.  Maybe if he would stop moving for one second he would finally gain weight :).

Right now his seizures are under control with his medication.  We will have to have EEG's periodically but right now we have not seen any seizures.

As a family we can't imagine life without our little man.  He has definitely changed our lives.  His sisters still fight over him and everywhere we go people can't get enough of him.  Most of the time I do very well living in the present and just praising God for the progress we see.  If I am honest some days I over focus on the future and wonder how our life will look.  I can get caught up in the fact that we will need a babysitter for Kahsay the rest of his life.  He most likely will not ever be able to walk up a sledding hill by himself.  He may never know what a sunset looks like. We may never teach him to ride a two wheel bike or dive off the diving board.  He may never enjoy his sister's favorite meal of steak.  Will he be able to "hang" with kids his age and play creatively?  Will we need to make adjustments to our home that are handicap accessible?  When we have family game night, what will Kahsay's participation be?  When will he be able to handle being in large group settings without being overwhelmed?  And the list goes on and on.....  I know these are feelings I have to work through, and some of them may not even come to fruition.  Jason and I constantly remind ourselves that we serve a God that knows the answers to all of these.  His ways are higher so why even worry.

There.....long overdue progress report done!  Who knows when the next one will be :).


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Did You Know?


This is the question that makes me cringe every time.  I usually do everything I can to avoid being asked this question.  When I am asked, I usually answer with a quick, "no", and try to change subjects. I hate this question because I fear my answer will scare people away from adoption.  I hate this question because, I do not want anyone to ever think we are disappointed.

 Did we know Kahsay suffered a stroke in utero?  Did we know our child would carry the diagnonses of cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, dysphagia, cordical blindness, microcephaly, developmental delay, and so on.  Did we know our child would have a feeding tube and be able to qualify for many services due to his special needs?  Did we know our child would see 9 different specialists, attend numerous therapies, and have a team of special education teachers advocating for him?  Did we have any idea our child would need special equipment to move, stand, regulate himself, and even eat?  Did we know our child may never understand what it means to be adopted?

My answer to all of these questions is, no.  We did not know.  We met Kahsay two times before finally bringing him home.  We did not have any major concerns then and did not have any major concerns months after he came home.  He was only 5 months old when he came home.  He smiled, cried, pooped, slept, jumped, loved his bath, and did normal things a 5 month old would do.  The only concern I had was his flat head and lack of desire to play with toys.  He wore a helmet and attended therapy.  It wasn't until I began to see child after child graduate from therapy that I began to worry.  It wasn't until his therapist suggest we get his eyes checked that I began to worry.  I wasn't until the vision specialist suggested he get an MRI that I began to worry.  It wasn't until we sat with our pediatrician and listened to MRI results that I began to realize we had something to worry about.

Kahsay was 8 months old when we began to uncover the answers to his struggles.  Many have asked us if our agency lied to us or tried to hide anything.  We know without a shadow of a doubt that our agency had no idea of the severity of Kahsay's special needs.  They were amazing through our entire process.

I know my honest answer to this question may scare a few people away from adoption.  However I also know that God does not call everyone to adopt.  Adoption is not easy.  I know my answer to that question may scare those in the process of adoption, but I also know that those He calls He also equips.

 Did I know my child would bring friendships in my life that I can't imagine life without?  Did I know my child would give me a new appreciation for families who deal with the emotional, physical, and spiritual strains of raising a child with special needs? Did I know that my child would drastically change my walk with my Heavenly Father?  Did I know my child would bring thousands of people to their knees to pray? Did I know that my child would teach me that only in weakness are we strong?

My answer to these questions is no.  These are the questions I love to answer!! I love to testify that even though the answer is the same to all the questions at the beginning of this post, it is only because we serve an amazing God that I am filled with gratitude, peace, and a hope that is only from Him.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Understanding (Beware: Long Post)

The past few months have been filled with amazing progress for Kahsay.  While he still is such a tiny little peanut, he is getting stronger physically.  We are so excited with all of the new things he is trying to do.  

  • He will go from laying to sitting, and is even going from sitting on a stool to standing up.  
  • He is unable to stand unassisted but understands the command and rocks himself to a standing position.  
  • We are working on putting weight on his arms so he can stand up next to a piece of furniture.  We are at the beginning stages of this but I am excited to see his motivation. 
  • We will most likely be ordering leg braces to help stabilize his legs and ankles.  
  • At this point he still does not have the coordination or strength in his arms to pull himself up, but we are continuing to work toward that.  
  • He is starting to babble more and even use different vowel sounds.  We are working on putting one word names to his toys, commands, and activities.  
  • He has graduated from his first vision tracking movie and is ready for the next level!  We know he is ready because it can keep his attention for almost the entire 20 minutes.  
  • We still do not have the results of his growth disorder blood tests, but I am hoping no news is good news.  
  • We are learning that Kahsay limits the amount of food he will take orally and through the g tube.  He will NOT orally drink more than 5 ounces at a time.  He cannot handle more than 4-5 ounces through the g tube at a time. If we attempt more he gags, and becomes uncomfortable and sweaty.  This means we struggle everyday to get in the right amount of ounces.  The endocrinologist suggested we add fat without volume.  I have put off this change until we get the results of the blood test but am realizing the results most likely will not change the amount of calories he can handle.
So much of Kahsay's therapy is focused on motor development but recently many discussions have been centered around helping Kahsay adapt to new environments.  When he first came home we did everything to keep him home and in a familiar environment.  If we did take him out he stayed near us and we often left if he was agitated.  I removed myself from Bible study, Mom's group, church activities, school volunteer opportunities, and even play dates with friends.  As a family we took a year off from sport teams, and other activities that would put Kahsay in environments with too much stimulation.  

While this was needed and important for Kahsay for a period of time, it now is important and needed for us as a family to begin to be involved again in those activities.  Jason and I have not sat together in church in over a year.  We are constantly separated as a family so one of us can stay home with Kahsay.

A few weeks ago Kahsay attended his first group therapy session.  His therapist and I agreed the infant group would be best for him so his mood could remain regulated.  While the other three children played, laughed and performed, Kahsay cried and began to shut down.  I left feeling discouraged and worn out.  I just wanted one time to be the parent whose child was not crying during therapy.   My heart broke for Kahsay but selfishly was annoyed that he couldn't just pull it together this one time.     

The girls have often made comments about "crabby Kahsay" when we are out trying to do something as a family.  We have often left social gatherings, church activities, and even family functions early because Kahsay is agitated.

His therapists explained that when Kahsay is put in an environment that is unfamiliar and over stimulating his senses start to shut down.  I have noticed the few times recently when I put him in nursery and go to pick him up he is sitting in someone's lap and is lifeless and showing no emotion.  He completely shuts down and usually copes by not interacting at all or screaming.

 We now realize it is not in Kahsay's best interest to expect him to behave in new situations and it is not healthy for the girls to be taken away from normal activities.  We are working to find a balance in both of these scenarios.  Someday I hope he can join us in all our family outings but for now it is okay for him to remain in his "safe" place.  We have begun to introduce Kahsay to a few people that will be is constant caregivers besides family.  We hope to have Kahsay stay with a few of these people during church so Jason and I can enjoy a service together again.  We are okay leaving him with these caregivers or family when we go to large social gatherings or church activities that would prove to be too much for him.  We are learning it is the best way to love Kahsay and remain a healthy family.  

It is crazy how I always thought Kahsay's mobility would be the thing that keeps him from participating in "normal" kid activities.  I am thankful to be filled with such hope that he will someday walk and run with his sisters.  In the same way I also pray Kahsay is able to adjust to new environments with help from us and those who care for him and we are able to give him the best environment to help him grow and progress.