Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Wow. What can I say about Paul? Its so funny because I was almost apprehensive about our being together again . . . he can be so quiet and distant and here I had invested myself so totally into Sam during the hospitalization and even immediate return home.

Paul is . . . remarkable is just lacking. He is a dichotomy. He's the caregiver, nurturer, advocate, bossy organizer and assistant. He's the clown who loves to elicit laughter. He's a prankster. I've found him to taunt and tease and have to admit that I have probably been too lenient in overlooking some things simply because I am amazed and relieved to see him reverting to being a little boy.

He is so open to love, to insights as to his foundation and life before in Ethiopia. I love him so fiercely. He regales us with tales (some of which are questionable in truth I may add) but I relish the details. We talk often of his Ethiopia Mama and Daddy. We talk of things that are far beyond the scope of what I would discuss with Mary, who is six months younger.

Paul and I talk of Sam and his emotional well-being and what we are facing as he is just realizing his physical limitations as the Wisconsin landscape emerges and awakens. We have to be supportive and yet not wallow in pity. He is worried that Sam will have too many challenges on the playground at school.

Paul is a student. He has an agenda . . . that boy. He yearns to learn with a fervor that astounds me. His fine motor skills allow him to write and draw with meticulous detail. He used to sing in the back of the van to himself often in Amharic and teach his sister words. Now he is singing in English. Just a few weeks back he was wanting to sing in Amharic and kept messing up - my heart lurched. I asked if he minded that he was forgetting and he just gazed at me with his "old soul" eyes and said . . . "No, I LOVE English." I admit my heart aches a little though at that thought.

Last week Paul and Mary had a patriotic musical program at school. We have been singing "Oh I love America" at the house for weeks but I when seeing my children march up on stage while playing their kazoos, and then seeing Paul with his drum . . . I cried. I was trying to shush the younger two sitting with us during the program to keep them from singing (laughing).

Paul can be such a tease. He is actually advanced in so many areas over Mary and at times will berate her schoolwork. Because of the accident we were allowed to advance them both a year in school and I believe without a doubt that Paul is in the place he needs to be . . . Mary I'm not convinced that another year of 5K wouldn't be most beneficial.

Paul's relationship with Julia is touching. She will often wake and stumble in the room to seek him out first before either Marty or I. I love it. Sam . . . well, that is sometimes a point of contention.

Paul will often care for Sam without my knowing. I have caught him carrying Sam up/down stairs to the basement or he will carry him out to the van before I even realize he's gone. He loves to help me cook and THAT is when I hear more stories of his Mom. When I am vacuuming, he will often hound me like a pesky fly . . . trying to take the attachments/unit from me.

And we talk of how we came to be here. I tell him that I love his Ethiopian family and that while I wish he had not known the pain of loss/separation that I am proud to be his Mama. I tell him of first learning of his existence and how we viewed our first photos of them (after we had already accepted their referral) and what we thought when we saw them. I told him that I saw him trying to smile but seeing fear and hope mixed. He sighed and said "I was scared." I tell him that I saw that and that my "mama heart" just ached to simply reach across the miles and pull him to me and whisper that it was going to be okay. And he melts against me with contentment. We talk often of his friends from both the orphanage and even before and he has stories and smiles.

Paul has selective hearing. He can be manipulative. He is normal. We just recently allowed them to even know we have a Wii gaming system (bought before travel to hopefully get us through a long homebound winter) and he's hooked. He is a competitor. He is as persistent in his requests to play as he is in schooling. We strictly monitor its time in use. The boys love it - the girls could care less. Paul will often look for things that Sam can play with one hand - always looking out for him . . . yet specifically choosing two-handed games when he is wanting distance. Paul is experiencing a growth spurt. He was wearing size 11 shoes when he arrived and is now needing his 1-1/2 shoes retired.

I never thought I'd be applying lotion and a hair pick each morning to my son's hair. This is one task that Paul used to insist he do himself and now it is something I am allowed to do with pleasure - no matter how late we are running. He realizes that I love being able to mother him in this way and I think he's enjoying giving up just an iota of responsibility as well.

His smile is quick and easy and ready. His eyes are windows of his being. He's so eager to please. I think of how we advocated for these boys and realize that the parent/child bond was forming before we met.

And I had brief moments of doubt about "older adoption" . . . especially when trying to be open to the situation and discern between legitimate issues and simple nay-saying. I still contend that their transition has been far easier than Julia's into our family - even with the accident.

Oh what I would have missed! Boys are really different - and coming from the perspective of having only sisters myself, then three daughters . . . I delight in my education for mothering my sons.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hi! - Samuel update

I'm sorry for neglecting posting. We (of course) have been so very busy and adjusting and simply . . . finding our way. We've had tremendous "highs" and oh-so devastating lows concerning coping and finding our way.

BUT . . . oh my goodness we are good. No, we are not good . . . we are super-fantastic!! We are joy-filled. We are celebrating life and family and love. We ARE family. We fuss and fight and share and console and tease and taunt and play. We SING.

And specifically there is Sam. I tell my children that I simply cannot mention his name without grinning and looking down just a mite and shaking my head. Sam is . . . SAM!! He has this infectious spirit that is both inspiring and frustrating. His volume control is most often set on sonic-boom level and I probably correct him for using his "outside voice" more often than all other things combined. He is lively. He is vivacious and funny and STUBBORN. I have photos that I will try to post as well as video.

Sam scoots around our house using his right arm and his bottom/upper legs. He has a gait and scampers often that resembles a crab on the beach . . . often going more sideways but able to maneuver. He often will urinate in the toilet by being lifted backwards on the seat and allowing his legs to rest on our elongated frames. His only current "dressings" are tube socks that help the moisturizing cream/lotion keep his significant skin grafts supple - we discovered that if we are lax then his skin becomes almost calloused and prone to discomfort.

Sam's left arm is still flaccid. We went specifically to address it last month and when the doctor pinched his upper arm (above where the extensive injury/amputation occurred) Sam promptly squealed and responded by pulling the doctor's rather prominent knuckle hair. I was mortified and highly amused at the same time. Our EMG scheduled for this week (to test nerve/muscle viability) has been postponed until April 1st. It is hard to decide what feeling he may have above that amputation site because Sam LOVES to squeal "ow" even when he cannot feel. There is definitely something more than damage below the amputation site and they think that maybe his brachial plexus (chest/shoulder) was injured.

Sam's manual wheelchair has been configured and is ready for delivery. We should receive it on 3/24/09. I am reminded once again of the goodness of God and the support of community. The MANUAL chair was over $3500 and the funds from the benefit will supply Sam a way to maneuver himself. The power wheelchair is still caught in . . . paperwork?? I've struggled these past months dealing with paperwork and things changing without notice.

We returned to the clinic earlier this month and Sam amazed especially Dr. Sato and his staff. He was removed of any restrictions concerning his hip and can weight-bear. We were given a prescription to assess and treat him for physical therapy again to begin to learn to knee-walk and even crawl to move closer to having prostheses.

And Sam has begun doing this himself. He loves a challenge.

We are still waiting to hear from Shriner's Hospital. We would prefer Sam be treated there as with this economy and the instability of employment - it could be detrimental to the continuum of care for Sam if we change carriers and possibly have his providers suddenly become "out of network" or even worse . . . get hit by a pre-existing clause for a period of time. We realize that Sam should be considered "disabled" but until his social security card arrives we cannot even apply. It should be here hopefully this week.

And of course there is the ostomy. We are fine with it. I have battled blow-outs and Sam unclamping it and such. The stoma has remained so very healthy and any hint of skin break-down has been resolved within a day . . . that only happened twice.

Sam is proud of his body, as are we. It is neat to be able to wave your "feet" at people when in a wheelchair. We don't call Sam's legs "stumps" . . . they are still his legs. We may refer to his leg below-the-knee as feet. We admire how the pigment is developing from both the graft donor sites and placement sites. One leg (the right) has MUCH more soft tissue and we marvel at how each leg is different and beautiful. Changing Sam's ostomy bag is a source of interest with his siblings and he gets great pleasure if he can pass gas during the process. He will often kiss the fingers of his left hand (lefty) when we are dressing or adjusting his Aquaplast splint. I have to watch him carefully in not wrenching or twisting that arm since he doesn't feel it well (if at all).

Sam is best buds during the day with his now 3-year-old sister Julia. They are cohorts when their older siblings are away. Julia acts as Sam's legs (or fetcher) and Sam in turn is Julia's mouthpiece (she is in speech therapy due to her being born with a cleft lip/palate). During their nap time, Julia sleeps in Paul's bed simply because they cannot stand to be separated. Once the school bus arrives, all bets are off as to if they will tolerate each other or not.

Life here is crazy and chaotic and wild and wonderful and an adventure. Parenting isn't for sissies (and I can be one at times) but goodness gracious we have come so very far and I cannot even begin to fathom as to where God will lead us from here.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Over on the caringbridge.org site for Samuel (where I have been posting of Sam's remarkable progress) we have had so many inquiries about the upcoming benefit being given for us by the Sullivan EMS. I can't scan the flyer to put in the format so I'm going to attempt here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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The Accident

It has been one week since our lives were altered by the accident. Horrific and tragic - yet I won't be using those descriptors again.

Because we have SAM! He's with us. His body has changed forever but he's still got the same spirit and I am seeing him emerge from his sadness and flickers of that little guy who could make me laugh and see red with regularity.

I have been described as strong and such and believe me, it is simply God and prayer. Sam is the one who has been so strong and he's not only fighting this setback, he's starting to shine. I can talk about when he gets new feet/legs and he'll look at me and give his head a shake of affirmation. He is still sad but at times I am too.

So am I mad at God? Heaven forbid, no! Haven't even thought of it. Where was God then? Right there. When I first realized I tried to grab Paul and Mary and get them up the hill to the house. We stopped on the driveway and held hands and I instructed them to pray. And we did. And we asked God to hold little Samuel. And He did.

During the long drive to the hospital (its about an hour) I was of course in shock and for the first part Marty and I drove in silence. I realized that it was grave and that we would very likely experience the horror of losing a child. I admitted that I didn't know what to pray. Sam's injuries were so severe that I felt selfish pleading with God not to take him from me. And yet I thought of Maria Sue Chapman and knew that I didn't care what - I wanted my son. And I was torn. How could he survive and yet, how could he ever function?

So I prayed specifically for Sam to know he was loved and to have peace and to realize he was being held in God's very hand. And that is exactly what happened.

Sam's injuries have altered his body permanently. We still do not know the exact extent - yet he is still our Sam. If I cannot look at his severed limbs and accept, then how can I ever ask for him to? And I have come to realize a couple of things this past week . . .

Sam is beautiful. His legs are beautiful, his arm is beautiful, his colostomy is as well. He is precious and although his legs are now "different" from many others, he is no less precious or loved or worthy. I saw his arm for the very first time today and as the area was being exposed I simply prayed that I could look at this area and see him simply as God did. I could look at his arm and then directly in his face and say . . . hey, it looks great! And I wasn't telling him a lie. He is gloriously and wonderfully made and this accident did not change that.

I live in Wisconsin so I have to put a Wisconsonite spin on it. This accident happened and to quote Brett Farve (during the recent trade request) . . . "it is what it is." I cannot change it. So as a Christian I can rant and wail and lament and lash out, or I can set my shoulders forward and step out in faith in this new direction. We had an accident and God stepped in a swooped up my child and carried us through to a place where Sam is able to begin the healing process.

This is an opportunity. We can either fold up and wither or we can choose to plant ourselves firmly right where we are and decide to aim for blossoming once again.

I have been enriched, embraced and enveloped in the body of Christ through this. How could I think about choosing otherwise?

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Samuel was injured today in an accident involving the tractor. He was airlifted from the park behind our house to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. We need prayers.

Currently he is still in surgery and will need many, many more. He has lost one leg below-the-knee and the other they are trying to save to the ankle. One arm is broken near the shoulder but the elbow is more critical - open fractures with tissue damage/missing.

His pelvis is also fractured on one side. His buttocks and back are injured and he needs a colostomy. If he continues to do well in surgery tonight that will be performed now.

His vitals are good. He was awake up until surgery where we were able to kiss him.

Please lift him up. He's such a precious, vivacious, mischievous guy.

Marty and I are good and feeling the prayers and have our faith to sustain. It is the other children (Paul especially and Mary) that I worry about - they are with their Uncle Mike and Aunt Sheryl at our house tonight . . . . all the kids are piled in bed together (Paul usually sleeps with Samuel).

We love you all. We appreciate the power of prayer. We have a caringbridge.org website titled samuelphillipson that does not require a password and will keep all the medical stuff there.

Blessings to all. We praise God that we are His children and that we are in such a place where Sam is being tended to so well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday morning

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. My first day as "under-the-weather Mom" and all four children were in my care. Mary and Paul do not have school on Fridays. I had originally planned to enroll Paul, Mary, and Sam in gymnastics today (enrollment started today and it fills up fast) as well as get Mary and Paul to school anywhere between 8-10 for pictures.

Well, the past two afternoons I had run a fever that responded fairly easily to Tylenol. I canceled plans to visit with Mike and Diane (and tribe) earlier this week for fear that I may be contagious. It is harvest time around here and I've been sniffing but it could be simply more residue in the air, especially as there is a field abutting our property.

I woke this morning at 1 a.m. and knew immediately the source for the fever. I had an ear infection. It hurt to place my head on the left side. If I moved my jaw in a certain manner I would gasp and grimace and try NOT to cry. Ugh!

So I head to the living room and try not to wake the boys (they are still on "light" sleep mode and feel entitled to waken anyone if they emerge during our sleep cycle). I tried various comfort measures, watched some programs I had TiVo'd, researched when the urgent care opened, and planned the logistics for attending the clinic and pharmacy with the kids.

I was on the road by 8. And I was tickled pink by how few times I had to verbally "corral" the kids. The waiting room had a large fish tank. I've been attempting to explain the concept of carving a pumpkin to the boys and there were enough "fake" examples at the clinic to detail. Sam did attempt (semi-successfully) to shuck a scarecrow decoration before I could curtail. That was our only time out.

We drew attention, my crew and I. The children held hands and were quiet and orderly in the halls. If anyone approached then Mary would launch into a diatribe . . .

"My name is Mary and I'm five years old. This is my sister Julia. These are my brothers Paul and Samuel. I'm five and Paul is five. Sam is three and Julia is two. Julia is from China and Paul and Sam are from Ethiopia. I'm from her!" while jutting a thumb in my direction.

My immediate reaction was to laugh which evoked more pain and sent me into a spasm which caused my nose to run. The staff winked and smiled in return. The children beamed.

We were led down the hallway and my vitals were obtained. Paul discovered the "sticker" bin and each child was able to claim one. We went to the largest examination room they had. Paul hesitated upon entering the room but I assured him that we were there for ME, not for him. He immediately began to relax (and explore).

I began to attempt to prepare him for having his blood drawn in the near future to obtain his titers for vaccinations and he explained to me that he had his blood drawn four times previously and had NOT cried. Even Samuel did not cry.

I told him that I didn't cry either, Mary did cry but would hold still, and Julia would fight like a tiger and require three adults to attempt to locate a suitable target. He laughed.

When the doctor arrived she confirmed my infection. Before we exited she asked how I coped. I told her senility played a factor. (Actually, I do remember calling my friend Coni in Memphis when I first learned we were expecting and telling her she'd have to prepare to travel frequently to Wisconsin to help me remember where I put the baby). I assured her that I was very human and subject to "grumpy Mama" mode as well as "angry Mama" to which my children laughed but confirmed.

We now headed to the pharmacy . . . Walgreens. Now I have gone on limited outings with the children since we arrived home with the boys. We've gone to McDonalds once, WalMart fairly frequently, church once, school, and that is it. I knew that Walgreens would not have large enough carts to assemble the little ones without fussing over who was in front/back so we were going on foot power alone.

And they were remarkable - really. I was told it would be 15 minutes (which was 25) and all of the six seats to wait were empty. I directed the kids to the four in a row and took mine facing them. I was still very uncomfortable but insistent on bottoms on the chair seats and no sliding, changing seats, and no being able to sit next to me (just another thing to cause a ruckus).

They chatted and sang - Mary in English and Paul in Amharic. Paul asked once to "go, go, go" and I found it hard to convey that we were waiting for a prescription. But our name was called and three of the staff came to the counter to comment on how marvelous they thought the children were. I was caught between being proud, being afraid to jinx the situation, and simply wanting pain relief.

Either way, I stopped at the cooler section for each child to choose a Propel with a twist-cap (clear liquid and lower possibility of spilling). I also bought a small tub of gummy worms (more like caterpillars as they were short).

When we got to the van I distributed the liquid refreshment as well as five gummies apiece. We drove home in contentment. Once home I admit that I utilized the DVD player for quiet time and went to our room to lie on my side with ear drops instilled.

No outbursts. No drama (well, except for a protest or two concerning who was picking the DVD. We rotate turns for choosing in descending age order. My children guard that right to pick closely and any monitoring or especially touching of the current selection available upstairs is cause for protest).

I am now pain-free, maybe uncomfortable but good. Marty is home. Our friend Marla came by for a visit and to catch up on how life goes in this early post-adoptive phase.

The girls wanted her to witness their bath. Julia didn't want me to brush her teeth or even tried to brush off my goodnight kiss for a request from Marla.

Good thing that I'm not more sensitive with age (and don't tell Marty I typed that - he doesn't read the blog). I survived my first not-feeling-so-hot day and mainly resorted to sugar and DVDs. Not bad I think.

Blessings -