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 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

Friday, December 26, 2014

sweet feet

We have been busy addressing Joseph's right foot this month. For those who haven't met him and do not know his medical condition, he was born with clubbed feet. He was given one surgery in China to address his left foot, but nothing was done to correct his right foot, which turns in. But his biggest issue is that he walks on his toe with that foot. I have to tell you that nothing limits this child physically. He is, undoubtedly, the most physical one in our family (okay...well maybe a tie with Madi), and he amazes us with his sheer determination.

When we were in  China, we were given these pictures of Joseph that were taken after the surgery of his left foot. The look on his face and sadness in his eyes brought tears to us. Can you imagine these children enduring painful surgeries without the love of parents to help them through it? We thanked God when we found out that he went through this surgery at the same time as his best friend in the orphanage. We were (somewhat) relieved to know that--at least--Joseph and Emmett had each other to lean on.

On December 11th, Jimmy and I took Joseph for an evaluation with a well known surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, which is fairly local. This surgeon proposed an Achilles tendon lengthening surgery called z-plasty. In this case, a surgeon makes a z-shaped cut in the tendon, stretches it to a pre-specified length, and then sutures the tendon back together. This procedure allows the greatest control over the length and enlargement. We really liked this surgeon and we definitely felt confident in him.

Then, on December 17th, we drove across the state to Tampa for a second opinion and met with a surgeon at Shriner's Children's Hospital. He also recommended Achilles tendon lengthening surgery, but through a procedure called percutaneous tendon lengthening, where the surgeon makes several cuts in the tendon. The human body can repair these tears naturally with the production of more muscle tissue, which will add overall length to the tendon. But this type of surgery does not allow the surgeon to have much control over the degree of lengthening. 

Both hospitals took x-rays and verified that Joseph's hips and spine are in alignment (we learned that sometimes hip dysplasia is common in children with clubbed feet), so that was a praise-worthy discovery. After much contemplation, Jimmy and I agreed that we felt more comfortable being closer to home, and since similar surgeries were proposed, we were leaning towards the local surgeon. So much so that we scheduled surgery in early January at Joe DiMaggio.

But last Sunday, I reached out to our friend, Jen, in the physical therapy field. She was one of our *key* people who reviewed Joseph's file medically, and we value her input tremendously. She threw me for a loop when she strongly urged me to have an evaluation from someone in the physical therapy field. She simply wanted us to investigate an alternative method of correction and suggested that we take a look to see if there was a chance to avoid surgery from that perspective. Though we'd already set a course in motion, I agreed that I would talk to another friend, who is in the pediatric physical therapy field, and was also one of our reliable file reviewers for Joseph. I sent my friend an email, and let it rest.

The next morning, I woke in somewhat of a panic attack mentally preparing for this impending surgery for Joseph. Even though it seems to be a routine procedure, the thought of surgery is never easy for parents, is it?

We got ourselves ready and headed to the park with a group of friends. And guess who happened to show up? My friend and physical therapist who I'd been corresponding with via email! Can you believe? Tell me that's not the Holy Spirit in action! Vicki spent a good twenty minutes with Joseph, using all kinds of testing methods, and I was amazed at her assessment.

First of all, she could tell that Joseph's foot issues began in utero. She believes--wholeheartedly--that there is no reason to rush into surgery right now! She totally feels that his condition can be completely improved by retraining the brain. I swear his gait improved after the short time that she worked with him! Vicki taught me three exercises to begin right away at home, and I cannot even tell you how relieved I feel to at least give this a try. I seriously could have cried! I came home and called Jimmy. Then I sent an email to our surgeon of choice to cancel the surgery for now.

The phone rang about noon-time on Christmas Eve, and I was quite surprised to hear the upbeat voice of our surgeon on the other end! He was calling to say that he'd received our email. After I bent his ear for a good five minutes, he totally supported this decision to try. Does he think it will work? Not necessarily, but he was in agreement that it is not yet an urgent situation, and that we can always resort to surgery down the road if necessary. He even offered to write Joseph's prescription for PT!

Can I get an Amen on that?

So, for now, the Good Lord has thrown us a "Plan B" for our son. And we're gonna take it.

What a beautiful Christmas gift.  Thank you, sweet Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


It hadn't occurred to me...what the frenzy of gift-giving and receiving can do to the child like Joseph, who has not had many possessions or received many gifts, especially at one time. These children have never experienced such a deluge of presents in their lives and it can put them--literally--into a tailspin from the over-stimulation.

Thankfully, my friend, Carrie, who adopted two of Joseph's best buddies (you might remember my blogs about her and how we met), very recently shared about how they decided to stretch their family's gift-giving over the course of four days to make for a less overwhelming scenario. 

Call me a copycat, but we decided to try something similar. At Madi's urging, we agreed to let the kids do their gift exchange this morning, and it was beautiful. 

Joseph had desperately wanted Batman legos, and he got them from his sister. Big score and a smile a mile wide! And Charlie, he got Superman legos that he "always wanted."


Charlie and Joseph were so excited to give Madi the presents they chose for her. Can you tell?  She got a deck of Frozen Uno cards and a family game called Hedbandz. I think these will be great fun for bonding!

So...this is the most precious part. Last week, when the kids were in school and Joseph and I were heading home from morning drop-offs, Joseph became totally exasperated trying to tell me something. He was trying so very hard, and I thought I knew what he was getting at, so I asked him, "Are you saying you want to get a Christmas present for Madi and Charlie?"  He replied with his standard, "Ah," which means yes. He seemed so relieved that I knew. It brought the sting of tears to my eyes to see how happy he was at the idea of getting each of them a gift. Joseph loves them both so much, and he is such a sweet boy.

We headed over to CVS, since I needed a few other things, and I knew their gift selection wouldn't be too overwhelming for him. It didn't take us long to find the perfect gifts...whimsical tins of popcorn. He loved them! He picked out a Santa theme for Madi, and a Rudolph theme for Charlie. We took them home and, together, we wrapped them. And then, when Madi and Charlie got home from school, Joseph promptly--and proudly--told them what he'd done! Even though they knew in advance what they were getting, I was so proud of Madi and Charlie for being so excited and gracious with their brother's gifts this morning.

One of the best parts of our morning came after. Our dear friend and neighbor, Ruby, called and asked if the kids would want to go to the fire station to deliver cookies to the firefighters. It was such a great experience and what fun for Joseph to sit in a fire engine for the first time!


Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours! May it be filled with all of the peace and joy that the our Lord and Savior brings~

Saturday, December 6, 2014

O Christmas Tree

It's been more than a few years since we've purchased a real Christmas tree. Jimmy's parents had given us their artificial tree when Madi was little, and it carried us through about five years. Last year, the tree was on it's last limb, so we decided it was time to toss it. Could there be a more perfect season to venture back to a real tree than Joseph's first Christmas at home? I think not.

The Holy Spirit told me where to buy our Christmas tree this year. I know that sounds crazy to some of you, but it's true...He did. The lot we'd faithfully supported in the past had been gone for years, since the land had been built upon. But in the last week, I noticed a particular lot that I hadn't spotted before--a tent located in a grassy spot at a nearby church. Of all the places selling trees, I truly felt compelled to go to this particular place...even when forewarned by friends that Home Depot, Costco, and BJ's would have much less expensive trees. Something was telling me to go there....I needed to experience the Christmas spirit in it all, and what better way than to support a tree vendor that would help support a church?

So we packed ourselves in the car after dinner and headed over. It had been raining most of the afternoon, so it was no surprise that the lot was empty when we arrived.  The comforting scent of Frasier Fir that I'd longed for nearly knocked me over when I entered that tent. Oh how I've missed the smell of real Christmas trees!

The second we walked in, a familiar feeling came over me. Lo and behold, it was the vendor that we'd supported from the past--they had found a new location! I told them how we'd ended up there, and then they informed me that all of their trees had been blessed by the church's pastor! Now that's what I call a Christmas bonus!

Tammie, the lot manager, asked who the youngest in the group was, and then she presented Charlie with a bell to ring once we'd selected our tree. That way, Santa would know exactly which one was ours. They loved that this was Joseph's first Christmas in the U.S.A. and took delight in watching him run through the trees hiding from us. 

Madi and Jimmy spotted the perfect tree rather quickly. Too quickly for my liking, as I wanted to savor the experience of the hunt. But I did manage to sway them away from their find momentarily to cross to the other side of the lot for a photo op.

But then...they were right back at tree number one. And who could deny them? It was a beautiful tree! The boys rang the special bell that Charlie had been given, and Reggie came to prepare it for us. He chopped off a cross section of the trunk, and gave it to us as a memento so we can make a special tree ornament to remember Joseph's very first Christmas tree!

As we settled up and patiently waited for our new prize to be loaded up, I began to chat with Tammie some more. She had taken a picture of the kids, and told me that she would post it to their Facebook page. We laughed at the fact that we are both technically challenged in many ways, but we both shared a liking for Facebook. I mentioned to her that I have a page. Then she mentioned that she has a page, too...about her son...who'd passed away.

And there it was.

I knew, right then, that the Holy Spirit had connected us, and I knew exactly why we were meant to be at that lot. Two moms, with sons in Heaven, sharing our common faith and living the rest of our lives trying to honor our angels--those gifts from God who will always live in our hearts. We shared, briefly, about our boys, and then we exchanged a great big hug. I'd say it was a pretty magical night.