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Thursday, March 26, 2015

No-bake peanut butter caramel cookies

I was itching to make some cookies yesterday afternoon, but after a weekend of baking I was out of flour and cocoa, and nearly out of sugar too. 

went to look in my baking pantry, hoping for some inspiration on something I could make with what I had on hand and it hit me -- could I make a different kind of no bake cookie? The wheels were set on motion and I got to work. 

My first batch was interrupted by one little toddler who bit the other little toddler. They tasted delicious, but a distraction during the boiling process made for some rock hard cookies, so Mikey and I set to work during Max's rest time today for round two. 

Success! These are delicious. Chewy, sweet, a little bit salty, just the right balance of caramel and peanut butter. Did I mention they were a snap to make?

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups oats

Add butter, white sugar brown sugar, corn syrup and milk to large pot. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add peanut butter and stir until smooth. Add in oats. Spoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate until cooled. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Love and fear, from 9,000 miles away

Last March I sent my mom a message on Facebook. I'd been so worried about Michael and just had this feeling in my soul that something was wrong. I couldn't explain to her how I knew, but I knew. I asked her to begin praying.

I messaged our social worker and asked if she'd please try to get an update about how he was doing. We knew, though, that sometimes communication was tricky -- we'd waited six weeks for an update on him previously -- and we weren't sure when news would come. 

We'd known for awhile at that point where Michael was and while looking for blogs about the area, I'd come across Els van Teylingen's (the director of Amecet, the babies home Michael was at) blog. Every day until I had Michael in my arms, I would check, and check, and check for a possible mention of him or a glimpse of him in the background of a photo. 

So, as the days passed, I grew more and more worried. No news yet from the adoption agency. I kept checking and checking Els' blog, just hoping for a glimpse of him to put my mind at ease. 

And then this post came -- Robert has a new family! I read along, elated for Robert, who I'd known about for some time, and his parents. I remembered the day that Max came home to us and how elated we were. I rejoiced with them knowing their ache for their son was finally over! 

And as I got to the bottom of the post, my heart sank as I read these words and saw this photo:

 "Michel has been sick for a week now. High fevers, really high, and he get all tense and stiff, he cries, he might have pain. We have been gone to the clinic, treated him, but still the high fevers were there. We took him to the pediatrician, she changed the medication again, we had to do some more blood tests, but nothing came out of it. It is hard to see him so miserable. The staff is doing great with him, they are really trying to help him, holding him when he cries etc. Please pray for Michel, that the medication will work and that we will see his lovely smile again!!!"

I fell to my knees, and screamed and cried like I've never screamed and cried before, pleading with Jesus to protect my son, to get him in my arms as fast as humanly possible. I've never felt so terrified and so helpless in all my life. 

I spent the next few days in tears. Through Facebook, our church's social media site, and friends, hundreds upon hundreds of people had joined us in prayer for Michael. Our small group laid hands on us as they interceded on our behalf, each and every one begging God to protect this precious boy 9,000 miles away that I'd never met, but I loved more than life itself. 

I cried myself to sleep at night, fearing the worst for Michael, fearing I'd awake to news that he'd died, but one night I had a dream. I dreamt of Michael laying on that red cot sleeping, body still so weak and fragile, but three angels surrounding him, swords drawn and crossed over his body. I knew instantly when I awoke my precious son would be spared.

We waited for two more weeks after Els' blog post for an update. I got a message from the adoption agency (who talked to the lawyers in Uganda, who talked to Amecet) with two words -- "Michael's fine." No explanation about anything, but it was enough for me. Michael's fine.

As I write this tonight, another adoptive family is in Uganda, grappling with their son's unraveling health. Friends, I ask you to please join me in prayer for them, pray God's protection over their little one, pray God will open the doors needed to bring him home to the medical care he needs. 

To learn more about the amazing work Els and her team is doing, visit

Monday, March 2, 2015

Six Months Home

February 28 marked six months since Michael and I arrived in the States together. It's hard to believe we've only known each other for eight months and we've only been together as a family of four for just six months. It feels like he's always been here. 

The last eight months have brought a lot of new, both for Mikey and for us. This was the moment Michael and I met for the first time, June 23. I was trying hard to hold back the tears so I didn't scare him. Didn't work. 

And the day I arrived back to Soroti to get Michael, after an agonizing three weeks back in the States without him. We were both so ready to be together forever.

And the day we left Uganda for the States, to finally be united with Dan and Max, who had been waiting for us for five weeks. 

Michael has gotten to know his little brother, Max, and they've become two inseparable peas in a pod. 

He's gone to the zoo for the first time and conquered his fear of animals. He's even getting his very own dog soon. I never would have imagined that six months ago! You should have heard the screaming when he saw pictures of animals!


He's experienced his first snow. He wasn't real sure what to think about it and still isn't. Don't worry, kid. I don't like it either.

He's grown 4.5 inches and gained nearly 8 pounds. He's begun physical therapy and gets stronger and stronger with each passing day. He can now lift his head off the floor and his head control is continually improving. He can even move his legs reciprocally now -- yes, he's learning to take steps!!

Mikey's discovered some likes and dislikes. He loves to paint with Max and I. Car rides are one of his favorite activities. And Mickey Mouse Clubhouse makes him squeal with delight each time it begins. 

But he HATES when Mickey is over.

And most recently, we celebrated Michael's birth and six months together with our friends and family, Mickey Mouse Road Rally style, combining his love of Mickey and cars. 

Each day when I kiss those cheeks and I see that gorgeous smile, I thank God I am the woman he bestowed the responsibility of raising Michael too. There are so many people who love him dearly and I don't know why it was me God picked, but the honor is not lost on me. 

I can't wait to see what the next six months hold for our family. We love you so much, Mikey!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Living Room Progress

It's hard to believe it has only been three weeks since we moved in. Slowly, but surely we're getting things unpacked and the house feeling more and more like home. 

The main floor is most put together -- we had a party for Michael yesterday, so the pressure was on to get things presentable! The master bedroom is complete chaos still and the basement is filled with boxes, but if you never left the main floor, you'd really have no idea we just moved in. 

The living room isn't complete yet. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the IKEA Expedit bookcase that's under my gallery wall. What I'd really like is to replace it with a vintage buffet, but one thing at a time. I also need to settle on some curtains. Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along, especially since it's nearly all stuff I already had, with the exception of the cute little pigs. 

It's been amazing how much the house has changed our daily lives. It's so much easier with the boys. They have a playroom, their bedroom and a bathroom on the main floor, which has kept my living room tidier and been a back-saver because I'm not hauling them up and down the stairs all day. Another thing I'm loving is being able to see them in the living room while I prepare food in the kitchen. Amazing. 

Without further ado, here's the living room in progress. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Going Home

Y'all, we bought a house. The timing wasn't what we planned -- it's winter. In Nebraska. Michael has only been home a short time and we're still adjusting, both to being a family of four and getting into the groove with his therapies and financially still too. And we had a lease on our current home until August.

But the house we're in now (a rental) has gotten increasingly difficult for us. All the bedrooms are upstairs. The only bathroom is upstairs. The back door is down a flight of stairs on a tiny landing and it's difficult to get out; my dog has fallen down the second half of the flight twice this week and I frequently bang Michael's head when trying to get out. Our garage is on the opposite side of the said yard is covered with 12 inches of snow. Have I mentioned I have two toddlers I do bath and bedtime with alone? It's a lot of carrying babies up and down stairs, and I've had two back surgeries. We knew it was time to go, despite the drawbacks.

We scoured the MLS. Until recently, I had no idea how difficult it was to find a wheelchair-friendly house. We looked at 400+ listings online and finally called an agent when one matched our wish list. It was the first house we looked at and we immediately put in an offer. Unfortunately, the deal fell through.

After going back to looking, we found two more potential matches (three total out of HUNDREDS!); one was just too new for me and felt sad, the other is our adorable little cottage we'll be moving into in four days.

I am a home design junkie. In my late teens, I began hoarding issues of Cottage Living magazine and my love for home design only intensified when Pinterest came on the scene a few years ago.

Dan and I did have a condo of our own for eight years in South Carolina and I loved it; it was small and cozy, and after a few years of work, it looked and felt like home. For years though, I've dreamed of owning a house -- a place for my kiddos to grow up and someday return to as "home" and a yard for my doggy to run around wild; he's only ever known outside on a leash.

And after our unexpected turn of events, we have found ourselves the proud owners of this little cutie: 

It's a three bed, three bath home built in 1921. It's absolutely adorable, but woah buddy, someone went a little color crazy.

For a design junkie like me, honestly it's a little too finished, but the pros far outweighed the cons -- it's just a few blocks from where we live currently, it's within walking distance of one of our favorite parks, we love the neighborhood, and the modifications to make it wheelchair friendly are minimal (we're talking a ramp up two steps. That's it!).

Over the coming months, and probably years, Heart Knit Home will be the spot where I chronicle the changes our home, that I've dubbed Avonlea (because it doesn't have green gables...), undergoes.

2015 has a lot in store for this little house and our family. We're happy to have you along for the ride.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Michael's Story, Part 3

For years, I had the dream of adopting from China and their rules on depression treatment are strict, to put it mildly. When I got that message asking me about my depression history, my thoughts immediately went to the worst possible conclusion -- they're not going to let me adopt because of this little blip on the radar.

To explain my history of depression, I need to back up a bit -- to 2009, to be exact.

After a year of debilitating back pain from a herniated disc at L5-S1 and many failed treatment options, my surgeon and I made the decision it was time to pursue back surgery. I'd worked as an orthopedic medical transcriptionist for a couple of years and I knew the ins and outs, and the risks and benefits, of the surgery pretty well. I knew there was a chance it wouldn't help. Still I was not prepared for that possibility.

When you have a discectomy, they tell you in about six months you'll have a pretty good idea of what your new baseline is. At about the six month mark, I went on a trip to Singapore with my family and for much of the trip I was either laid up in bed or struggling to walk.

It was not what I imagined, and I felt like the world was crumbling. I was 27 years old and felt like I was elderly. It wasn't uncommon for me to have to cancel plans or even call into work because I couldn't sit at my desk all day. I was miserable.

After a couple of months of struggling through each day, I reached out to my primary care physician and asked for help.

Toward autumn of 2010, I was feeling much more optimistic about my future. I'd found a new pain management doctor and although my back wasn't perfect, I'd had a handful of helpful epidural steroid injections and things were looking up. I came off the anti-depressant and haven't looked back since.

In 2012, I had my second back surgery, a fusion at L5-S1, which I'm happy to report was successful and I feel like a new woman these days.

So, here we were, in late December 2013, aching to know more about sweet "Mason," and we'd hit another roadblock, but the worker at Bethany messaged once again and said "Okay, that makes sense. Please have your treating physician write a letter in support."

Thank God for the precious doctor who treated me! I'm no longer her patient, as we now live 1,200 miles away, but she spent her New Year's eve writing the best letter of support for our adoption and had it to me within days.

I sent it off in an email to Bethany as soon as it arrived -- and finally, almost two months after I first saw his face, I got this message in my email:

"Dear Daniel and Kelsey,

I just received notification from our Uganda team that your 2nd doctor's letter looks great for Uganda. Heather will be sending you information on Mason shortly."

Glory! Hallelujah! We were approved for Uganda!

The first full-length shot of Michael we ever saw

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Michael's Story, Part 2

Within hours I heard back from our social worker. "Mason" was in Uganda. We had ruled out Uganda in the decision making process due to a couple of factors, including my medical history and the time in-country. We were fairly certain that yes, we did qualify for South Africa, the country we'd decided on, but we probably wouldn't qualify for Uganda. So, with a bit of disappointment, we let it go.

A couple of weeks later, in late November, I got a message from our social worker saying I know you have decided on South Africa, but I took a look back at your application and I think we can approve you for Uganda after we get a letter from your doctor -- Are you still interested in "Mason?"

We tentatively said yes, we're interested, but can we know more about him? And we're met with a surprising, "We can't tell you more until you're approved." So I immediately got on the phone to my spine surgeon, begging for a letter stating that my back problems are essentially resolved as soon as humanly possible.

Many of you will remember how distraught I was about waiting for this letter last year. I'm guessing that's starting to make sense now! We waited and waited and waited. Finally the letter came and it was great. The doctor said he saw no reason I would be unable to parent a child with special needs. I scanned the letter the moment it arrived and sent it off to our social worker.

Christmas morning, waiting to hear about "Mason"

We hoped and prayed we'd hear something by Christmas. But Christmas passed and still no approval for Uganda. Finally, the day after Christmas we heard something -- "Kelsey, the letter from your surgeon looks great, but he mentioned a history of depression. Can you elaborate?"

My heart sank.