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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.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Michael's Story, Part 1

10 months ago I saw this picture for the first time:


It was smaller than what you see here, all pixelated and blurry, but something about that little face kept drawing me back over and over. It was just a few days after we submitted our preliminary application to our agency; we hadn't even been approved or signed a contract, but for every day for two weeks I went and looked at this beautiful little boy.

His profile was short with very little detail -- something to the extent of "Mason is an affectionate little boy who thrives on attention from adults. He has the diagnosis of cerebral palsy." That's it. Still, I couldn't get him out of my head.

I messaged my mom one cold November day. I said "Mom, I can't stop going to look at this little boy on Bethany Christian Service's waiting child list. I think he might be our son. Dan's going to kill me."

For those of you don't know my husband personally, I'll tell you this -- He's a planner. At the beginning of this adoption, just two weeks before this message to my mom, we had been thinking the process of adopting for the second time would take two or three years.

Dan had made an outline of how we were going to pay for our adoption, from saving to fundraisers to grants to a loan, and now there I was looking at a child who's waiting for a family. I didn't know a lot about waiting child adoption at that time, but I knew it'd go a lot faster than three years and throw a wrench into Dan's plan.

That afternoon I pulled "Mason's" profile up on my iPad and handed it to Dan and said "I've been thinking a lot about this guy. Would it be okay for me to ask for more info about him? No pressure. No obligation. Just more info." Dan surprised me by immediately saying "OK."

So, on November 25, 2013 I sent this message to our social worker "Is it possible to get any more info on a child on the "Waiting Children" page, such as where they're located, etc? Specifically, I'm wondering about “Mason."

Part 2 coming soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Welcome home, Michael Isaiah!

Dear friends and family,

I apologize for being nearly three weeks late with this update. Having two toddlers at home has proved busier than I expected. Yes, you read that right -- Michael is HOME!

Michael and I arrived in Omaha at 7:05 PM on August 28. We were met by my husband, Dan, and our 2-year-old, Max, along with my parents and friends from our church.

Waiting for Mommy and Michael

On Nebraska soil for the first time with my baby boy!

As you can see, mine and Max's reunion was joyous!

Michael and Daddy love

Brothers meeting for the first time

Getting everyone buckled in -- Max and I had to take a minute to play our favorite game, "Oh, no!"

Headed home, two babies in tow. Pure joy.

I want to thank you personally, each and every one of you, for the role you played in bringing Michael home to his family. I never could have imagined 10 months ago how this year would go -- God no doubt orchestrated this adoption from beginning to end. Thank you for being a part of our family's story. We're so grateful.

Michael's adoption story is coming soon. :)