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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Time flies but...

  So, it's been just over 3 years since we went to Thailand and brought home our daughter. It's crazy to think it has been that long! Most days it feels like she has just always been with us. Then I will see one of her baby pictures from before she was with us and long to have been a part of her life during those 2 years all over again. She is perfect for our family. God is amazing - He plans families to come together in some crazy ways.
  You may be wondering why the "but" in the title. Well that's a part of a bigger story. I teach a 6th grade girls Sunday school class at our church. 2 weeks ago we asked these girls to write 3 things they wish we (the teachers) knew about them. We told them it could be anonymous or not that part was up to them. Some were silly, some were interesting, and some were hard. There was one that I just haven't been able to shake. Her note said:
   "I wish I knew my dad. I wish I had never been adopted"
  Wow, this was hard stuff for child. This is hard for me! I can't tell you how long I stared at her note because right there in front of me written by a sweet 11 year old girl were the very words I pray my daughter never feels in her heart. You guys I am afraid that my daughter will feel this way about us and there it was staring me in the face. If every adoptive parent was being honest those are words we all hope our kids don't feel. You see the difference in being told that by a defiant child/teen to your face and actually feeling that way are 2 different things. I fully expect her to say something to that point during her lifetime out of anger. This note was different. This little girl did not write that out of anger she wrote that because it is how she feels deep in her heart. I do not know her specific situation (because the note was anonymous) BUT I do know this - specifics may not matter. There is an overwhelming number of  adopted kids who feel this way and just don't say it out loud. Fast forward 6 years and that note could be written in my own daughter's handwriting. Even though it is one my fears that she will feel this way and an even bigger fear that she will feel this way and not tell us or anyone. This little girl reminded me of what I really need to be praying for... the courage to make safe spaces for our daughter to communicate in. To raise her knowing she can say the thoughts and feelings in those deep places in her heart and know that we will love her no matter what. To help her to know that those thoughts will hurt us but that they still need to be talked about because they hurt her too. I also pray for caring adults in her life that she can open up to. People we can trust to give her guidance when she shares her heart with them. As her mom I pray she does share her heart with trusted adults because I am not naive enough to think any of my children will share everything with me.
  So in honor of orphan Sunday let's all remember while it is a great thing for our churches to celebrate let's also leave room for the not so nice feelings. Let's leave room the child who feels "but I didn't want to be adopted". Let's room for the family that is exhausted because they are foster parents to children that come from some very hard places. If we only celebrate the happy side of adoption/foster care we are missing more than half the pictures. Let's be the safe place where the orphans and former orphans can be honest about how they really feel.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Medical updates

   I realize that mostly only family is interested in this post but it does get hard to repeat over and over so this is easier. Since Kannika became eligible for insurance after becoming a US citizen we have been to lots of doctors and she has had lots of tests done. Some of the tests told us exactly what we already knew and some of the tests gave us some surprises.
  I will start from the beginning. The first doctor we saw was the pediatric orthopedic surgeon for the obvious deformity in her leg. He ordered some x-rays and I thought he would tell us there was no bone involvement and refer us to a plastic surgeon. Well, I was surprised when he told us there were several things wrong with her leg. Starting at the foot and extending all the way up to her hip. If she wasn't my little girl I would have been more fascinated by what he was telling me. The nurse in me wanted to listen but the mom in me just kept hearing "we have to watch this and keep on eye on this". The obvious was her extra toe with lots of extra fatty tissue. That one was an easy one and she is scheduled for surgery Sept. 30th to get that taken off. She also has what is called a Z-foot which means instead of her foot bones forming like ours do (straight) hers form more of a Z inside of her foot. She also almost no spacing in between her growth plates (all of them) on the affected leg and the Dr. wasn't quite sure what that was going to mean. Her ankle bones are forming a bit crooked but he thinks that might but from the foot deformity (the extra toe and fatty tissue). He is hoping that will resolve after the surgery. She also has a "marking" on her tibia. The Dr. couldn't quite tell if it was a cyst or a whole or possibly a tumor forming. He is supposed to be looking at her MRI to determine what that is. Obviously as a mom my mind went straight to bone cancer but the nurse in me keeps telling me that is incredibly unlikely and I should wait for the Dr. to get the information off of the Thai MRI dvd. Moving up to her knees she is "knock-Kneed" on that side but he thinks it will straighten out after we fix her foot. She has a thicker femur on the affected side also and it is growing slightly curved also. She doesn't have much of a hip socket but that was another wait and see thing. Her affected leg is also longer and he said we have to watch it to see if it gets worse. So basically from the Orthopedic dr. it was A LOT of waiting but she is going to get her extra toe fixed so that is nice. She will be able to wear boots this winter. :)
  The next Dr. was the Urologist. She needed an ultrasound on her kidneys to make sure they are not affected by her extra tissue disorder. So far they are not which is excellent news! The urologist is also going to schedule surgery to remove some extra tissue and hopefully make her less likely to get infections in the future. We are hoping she can do it at the same time as the other surgery but we will see. 
  The next Dr. was the dermatologist. She has had a funny raised rash on her since we picked her up and her foster mom said it had always been there. We did find out that is also genetic and there is nothing we can do about it. It will actually thicken and get worse as she gets older and especially during puberty.
  She did also have blood work done for regular things like immunity to common diseases and testing for some other diseases. We haven't gotten the results for those back yet but I don't expect any surprises there. She has been pretty healthy for the almost 1 year that we have had her. 
  So to sum up she has surgery scheduled for Sept. 30th and everything else is a waiting game. I love her so much and sometimes my heart hurts for her with everything she has already gone through she has to have physical pain too but she is so strong. God definitely equipped her for her life. One very small example of her tough personality is she got her ears pierced last week and barely cried. She hasn't complained once since then about them and she loves to show them off.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Some days are tougher than others.

  Summer is here in Alaska and I could not be happier. I love having all 3 kids home during the day. I hate that school takes so much time. I mean really 8 hours for 5 days a week... don't get me started on that subject. However some days are better than others. Some days they play great together and no one cries (okay that hasn't actually happened yet but some days we almost make it with no tears). Some days they wake up crying and spend the rest of the day looking for reasons to make each other scream and cry. Most days fall somewhere in between into just happy normal summer days.
   I can for sure mark yesterday down as one of those not so great days. We decided to go to a playground close by to play with some friends for the day. We were having a great time until my son runs over to tell me Kannika pooped in the baby swing. I thought maybe he was overreacting but I took the wipes and paper towels and headed over. What I found was poop EVERYWHERE! She had smeared it on the swing and on the chain of the swing! So since we were pretty much the only people at the playground (thankfully!) I stripped her down and cleaned her up. Her dress was still wearable because she was sitting and it had bunched up her back... so glad  for that. Then I had to clean the swing and let me tell you that swing has never been cleaner. I didn't have spare underwear for her because she has been potty trained for 7 months. I also wasn't about to pack up and ruin everyone's day. So I had her sit next to me while everyone played. Kannika then proceeded to pee her pants 4 more times and once on her bedroom floor in the next 6 hours. I was just done by the time I went for my run at 8:30 that night. I was emotionally drained and actually at the point where I was just flat emotionally. That's never good when you are mom because moms can't check out. I was also ready to buy some diapers and pretend she hadn't been potty trained for over 6 months. 
   Somewhere along the course of my run though I remembered that she IS adopted. I don't often think of her as my adopted daughter she is just my daughter. She is just ours. I know that sounds crazy to people who haven't adopted but most days I forget. I forget that she has not always been with us. I forget that she had a whole other life that she was forced to leave behind. I forget that in her little toddler mind and for reasons she can't possibly understand she has been taken from people she loved.  Then days like yesterday happen and I remember that she is going to test me in ways my other children have never dreamed of testing me. So on my run as I remembered what she has been through I prayed asking for God to forgive me for forgetting because she certainly has not forgotten. I prayed for strength to be better. I prayed for God to whisper into her very soul that she is loved and she is good enough. As I put her to bed last night I looked her directly in her dark eyes and told her just those things. I also told her we are her family forever no matter what. No matter how many times she tests us we are not going anywhere and we not going to stop loving her. I prayed with her and asked God to fill her empty spaces in her heart. 
  People who haven't adopted may never understand why a day of regression in potty training would cause so many emotions. It's hard to explain that part except to say it's in her eyes. It's almost as if her eyes are challenging me, "do you love me now all covered in poop and pee?" "are you going to leave me just like everyone else has?" So as I wake her up today I will try to remember to look into her eyes and say "yes, I am still here because I will always be here"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Birthday and Finalizing

   This has been a very busy week. This week was Kannika's 3rd birthday and her first birthday with us. Then the very next day was her finalization in court. I've had so many thoughts and emotions the last few days and from what I've read in the 80 adoption books I've read even at 3 she has had many emotions also.
    Her birthday was exciting and wonderful to finally get to celebrate a birthday with her. By the end of the day she had definitely figured out that birthdays in her new home are pretty fun. She was in the bath with her sister and said "Happy Na (what she calls herself) day NOT happy Ha (what she calls Makayla) day". So it's safe to say she got the point of the day. We probably also celebrated a little more than normal because we missed 2 of her birthdays already. I found myself looking at her though during the day and thinking about her first mom. She most definitely knew what day it was half way around the world. That is not a day any mother will ever forget. I can't possibly put into words all the emotions of celebrating a birthday that another mother does not get to celebrate with her child. It's HARD! As Kannika grows older I am sure it will be hard for her too. I will probably never have her birthday party on her actual birthday just so she can have that day to grieve if she needs to. We will celebrate happily as a family like we did this year. Parties are to much pressure to be happy and pretend the day is not hurtful. I've read from so many adoptees that birthdays are hard that I just want to allow her the room to have a hard day.
   The second emotional part of our week was Kannika's court day. It's a step I have been looking forward to forever! We can finally give her our last name. It's quite the wonderful feeling to be able to write Kannika Nelson down. The judge was so sweet. He gave her a teddy bear from his wife's collection. He said he is doing it for all of the adoptions he presides over until the teddy bears are gone. Kannika loved getting to pick out her own teddy bear. She was so happy that day. She smiled a lot! She was giggling and laughing. I think she had some idea of what was going on. Of course, that may have been because we told her about a thousand times.  As the judge was telling us we were going to raise her like our own child and she would have all the rights of our biological children I was honored to be allowed to raise her. Still though in the back of my mind there was that sadness for the mom who isn't going to watch her little girl grow up. Her amazing little girl who has a bright smile and a wonderful laugh. Her little girl who is so incredibly smart and has some amazing problem solving skills. Seriously, if she can't figure out a toy or a remote control all I have to do is show her once and she gets it after that. She is incredibly advanced with her fine motor skills. Her little girl is such a precious gift and I pray that she knows that somewhere deep inside of her that just knows.
    In normal adoption news she is doing really well. She is getting a bit clingy which could just be normal for her age but I'm not so sure. I've had 2 other kids go through separation anxiety and her cries are different. There is a level of panic in her cry that I did not hear in the other 2. A cry that reminds me she has been (in her eyes) taken from people she loved before and that is still a very real fear for her and probably always will be. We went camping this last weekend and I got in the car to move it away from our campsite leaving her with our friend. She could see me the whole time and yet she panicked and I heard that cry again. I've heard it before or I might not recognize it. We heard it in Thailand at the hotel. It's an interesting thing though I can leave her in the church nursery and she fine because it's familiar. But all other times she is very attached to her mommy right now. This is a good sign because it means she has formed a bond on her side too not just on my side. As sad as it is it means she loves us and does not want to be taken away from us.
    Adoption is so hard! For every happy day there is always sadness that goes with it because no matter how much the culture romanticizes adoption there will be always be the fact that this is not plan A. It's just not. How I wish there was no need for adoption in this world. However, we live in a fallen world and until God restores it we will have pain.
  I was going to end the blog after the finalization since that would signal the end of the adoption but I decided to keep it open and still post some because our adoption journey doesn't really end with her getting our last name. It really is just the beginning of our journey as an adoptive family.

Monday, March 10, 2014

So many new things!

   Wow 6 months flew by! We have been home with our little Kannika for just over 6 months now. We just finished our 6 month post placement visit which means that within the next month we should be able to finalize the adoption in the US. I know this is just a formality but it's a pretty great one. We get to give her our last name and I am so excited to be almost done with the initial adoption phase. We still have to jump through hoops to apply for citizenship but at least she will be officially ours! I will probably cry when we finally get to change her name. I know our adoption journey will span her whole life but I am very excited to get this part of it over.
  She is adjusting so well. She is completely potty trained now, even at night time. She still has a few accidents but hasn't had enough for me to say she isn't potty trained. For the most part the accidents happen when she is not with us and I think it is more separation anxiety related than not being potty trained. She still has her random temper tantrums but she's also 2. Sometimes the tantrums are sibling related and sometimes they are language barrier related. Sometimes she gets mad because she wants to do something we told her not to do... you know normal 2 year old stuff. I rarely see the confused/sad look anymore. She is not waking up at night much anymore.  It is wonderful to see her happy, sassy, stubborn little personality coming out. I remember when we first came home and for the first 5 months I wondered if we would ever see her real personality or if she would always just mimic her siblings and us. I am happy to see that the real Kannika is emerging. She is not in her survival copy mode anymore. I am seeing the little girl we read about in the reports we received from the foster family.
  At her recent speech therapy appointment we discovered she attempts to say over 100 English words. They aren't perfect and sometimes we are the only ones that know what she is saying BUT I think that's amazing for 6 months. Sometimes I have to remind myself that she is new to all of us and this culture and remind myself to give her more grace. She is really doing that well that I have to remind myself she hasn't been here forever. I did not expect that but I credit that 100% to God and the many prayers of the people that love us. God created an amazing little girl in our little Thai princess.
  I often find myself looking at her and praying her mom will know someday how amazing her little girl is and how much we love her. I pray that as missionaries travel Thailand that she herself will find God. I tear up at the thought of this precious child's mother finding peace in God.
   On the medical side of things we have been told she does not have Proteus Syndrome (an overgrowth genetic disorder) which is what the Thai doctors originally diagnosed her with. She is in a clinical study out of the National Institute of Health that will hopefully help the doctors learn more about overgrowth syndromes and help us learn more about what is going on with her. Surgery time has still not been decided. We are waiting to talk to the geneticist and see if he can recommend someone. We want to be sure it's done right and all at once if possible since we will most likely have to travel out of state for the surgery. Since she is not in any pain and it is not affecting her development it is not urgent. We, of course, for her sake want it done but it's not something that has to happen right away. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Feeling more like family

  We have been home for 4 months now! I can't believe it's only been that long. I feel like Kannika has been a part of our family forever and somehow at the same time it feels like she just got here. We are so in love with our little girl and thank God every day for placing her in our family.
  The girls fight less now and Makayla is learning to kind to her little sister. However, now Kannika is learning to cry every time Makayla gets something that she wants. It's frustrating and fun to watch them interact. Gavin has been home for Christmas break this week and it has been fun to watch the 3 of them play together. I honestly just love seeing the 3 of them together. I smile a lot seeing them together. Kannika is definitely attaching well to mom and dad. She will often come up to me and put her arms up and say "mama". I LOVE it. She is seeing herself as "ours" now instead of separate from us. I have been watching her transition from a little girl observing a family to just being herself in our family. It's really been the last 2 weeks that I have noticed the change in  her.
  On the medical side of things still more waiting. We saw a geneticist last month. She confirmed what I already thought that she did not have but wants to do a lot more blood tests to see if there is a genetic condition that she does have or if she just has 2 very rare genetic conditions in the same little body. I am realizing it's a slow process and am just hoping she has surgery within the next year but it may be even longer. She's a tough little girl though and has adapted really well. She still isn't talking much but she gets her needs and wants across very well. She clearly says "no", "poo", "pee", "mama", and "da". She imitates a lot of words but doesn't say much on her own. She understands almost everything we say she just can't articulate it for herself yet.
  Christmas was such a fun time. There is nothing like watching children at Christmas. They are so full of wonder and amazement. Watching a toddler who has never experienced Christmas before is even better. Everything from the twinkly lights on the tree to the Christmas show at our church brought huge smiles to her face. She helped to remind me to be amazed. Take the time to stop and stare at the tree. She reminded me to be amazed at the Christmas story. She was excited every time she saw a picture of baby Jesus. My 4 year old daughter is the same way. She loves the story of Mary and Joseph and Jesus being born. It's so refreshing to see the true Christmas story through a small child's eyes. I feel so blessed to be given a chance to glimpse this season through my children's eyes.
Now for some pictures. :) The goofy sibling picture is first


This picture sums up her feelings about Christmas... lots of sitting and staring. Meeting Santa for the1st time even went well.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Every step of the way

   It's so amazing to see how God is leading us every step of the way! We have been home for just over 2 months now and things couldn't possibly be crazier or any better. The children are all transitioning very well. The girls have their good and bad days because they are so close in age (and girls) but they are mostly doing well. It's hard for both of the girls because they are both learning how to be in new roles in their family. Makayla used to be the baby and was home with me by herself when Gavin was in school. So she had all day to have mommy all to herself. Kannika is used to being the center of attention in her foster family. She was about 15 years younger than their daughter. So she had the attention of everyone in the house. She is also trying to figure out where she fits in our family. So there is bound to be tension between the two of them. I love to see them when they are playing together and just being sisters. It gives me a glimpse of when they will be best friends. 
  Another way God is forcing us to trust in HIM is with Kannika's medical issues. It's a long story and not one I will share here but God is providing. We had some cardiac tests done when she first came home and through literally an act of God Seattle Children's Hospital wrote off all the that we owed them from that visit. It was amazing. She does have all of her abdominal organs reversed, which while it is fascinating it is not a problem. God in His infinite wisdom created her with everything reversed so it all functions normally just opposite of everyone else. Her other medical issue is her "big" left side of her body. It is about twice the side of the right side from the bottom of her foot to about half way up her abdomen. It is causing her to walk in an odd position so she will need to get it fixed through surgery to prevent any effect on her hips and spine. She has a genetics appointment in November to determine if it is a genetic condition and to possibly find out if it will grow back when we get it taken off. I know that through all of this as each bill comes from each doctor it is going to be okay. I don't feel stressed about it. God has given me a piece about it from the beginning. I'm not thinking it will all be written off like the first one. We may be buried under medical bills for years but that's okay. God asked us to raise this little girl and that is what we are going to do. When I prayed about her the first time we saw her picture He didn't tell me to only take her if we could find insurance for her or if we knew we could pay for her medical bills. He said that she was our daughter. We will provide for all her needs and he will provide for our needs. He has also given me a new perspective on the word needs. I am not worried about tomorrow because I KNOW more than anything I've ever known that this was God's plan for our family. His plan is always perfect and while I can't see every step along the way I can see enough to make the next step. God is so good!