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.