February was filled with snow and not much else! It was very beautiful and quite unexpected since, as most of you know, we don’t usually get this much snow each winter. The snow was fun to play in but there were many days when it was too cold and especially too windy to enjoy it.
Having so much snow meant it was difficult to get around even for drivers, but it was impossible for me to walk around town given the size of the drifts, the amount of ice and the huge piles of snow that had been pushed onto the sidewalk by the plow. It didn’t matter too much since I didn’t have anywhere to go; school was cancelled and most places around town were closed too. So we hunkered down and played games, built with legos, baked, watched t.v. and tried to not get on either other’s nerves too much.
Callie and Luke decorated some Valentine’s cookies. They had a great time and they were very messy. There were also many health codes violated. (see Luke licking his fingers below)
Andy does the majority of the cooking for our family and he makes both delicious and healthy food. Here he’s made me a salad and the kids a variety of tasty foods for lunch. Later he spent time with each of the kids as they made their very own homemade pizzas. He even makes the food look beautiful.
I know that many, many people felt as if 2016 was a doozy! And we’d have to say we agree!
You’d hardly believe it but in the course of three months time, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy (you can read about that here), my sister, Kristin, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my mom, Cindy, with Breast Cancer.
Can you imagine that?
This past summer my sister began experiencing vision difficulties; in particular she was having double vision. This symptom alone was puzzling (and annoying) and so she worked with her primary care doctor and eye doctor to determine a cause but they weren’t successful. Over time her vision problems improved but didn’t entirely resolve.
In early December Kristin mentioned to me, while visiting one day for lunch, that she was experiencing some numbness on one side of her body. She dismissed it as an injury or pinched nerve; but commented later that she could even feel it up her neck and into her head. We decided that didn’t sound as innocent as a pinched nerve.
A few days later, after her symptoms did not resolve, Kristin called her doctor and shared her symptoms; her doctor’s response, “Go directly to the ER.” So Kristin cancelled the hair appointment she was running late for and went straight to the emergency room where she met her husband, Brian. The rest of us prayed and tried our hardest not to text her too often and worry too much. While at the emergency room Kristin shared her symptoms with the doctors, who ordered a MRI of her brain. The neurologist on call that night (coincidentally the same neurologist I see) told her that the symptoms she is experiencing as well as the results of her MRI indicate that she has Multiple Sclerosis. Since that day Kristin has had several visits with her neurologist, further testing and imaging, and a confirmed diagnosis of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
Kristin has a great attitude about her diagnosis and continues to be upbeat. She is doing what she can to educate herself about the disease so that she can take care of herself in the best way possible. Of course a diagnosis of MS is frightening and worrisome, but Kristin has a great outlook. She also has a great support in her loving husband, Brian, who is taking care of her and living up to the his recent vows of commitment “in sickness and in health”.
Not long ago, her neurologist commented, “Wow! You guys are like the calmest couple ever! It makes meeting with you really easy.” Kristin attributes this to living life in such a way that you don’t give way to fear, instead trusting God, who has cared for us so well and will continue to do so. She also finds peace in believing that life on Earth is not everything, instead understanding that God has so much more in store for us.
Kristin is forming a team to walk in Bellingham on April 8th for the MS Walk. If you’d like to join her team and walk that day, she’d love it. Check out her MS team page here.
Shockingly the same day in December that my sister was diagnosed, my mom, Cindy, was informed that the results from a routine mammogram were not favorable and the doctors suspected that she had breast cancer. Further testing confirmed this suspicion.
What a week!
My mom spent much of December determining, with her doctors, what course of treatment would be the most effective in battling her cancer. One day in early December while we were all attempting to wrap our heads around these two new diagnosis, but before we really knew what it might mean for my sister or my mom, she said to me, “Can you imagine how panicked and fearful we might be if we did not have the beliefs that we do, if we did not have our hope in Jesus?” And that was just it, even though we’ve had times of sorrow and times of fear (or in my case mini tempertantrums because I can’t drive) we’ve all had a sense of peace about each of these health issues; Epilepsy, MS and Cancer.
After some testing, it was determined that my mom’s cancer was found early, giving her a good prognosis. My sweet mom has now undergone two surgeries; both lumpectomies. She is currently recovering from her most recent surgery and awaiting lab results that will determine the course of treatment as she moves forward; most likely 5-day-a-week radiation for a yet-undetermined number of weeks.
We know that a diagnosis such as cancer is scary and of course it is natural to feel anxiety or fear about the uncertainty it can bring, but my mom is doing her best to keep her eye on her recovery to wellness, trusting that God will walk with her each step of the way. We are so thankful that she has a loving, dedicated husband, my dad, who has been along side her each step of the way. And of course, my mom is doing just what all moms do, not worrying about herself as much as she is concerned about all of her children and grandchildren’s well-being. We love her so much.
I am doing very well, as far as my epilepsy is concerned and otherwise. My anticonvulsant medication is doing it’s job and I have been both seizure free and side-effect free for many months now. I am becoming increasingly excited to have the freedom to drive again, now only a little less than a month away.
It was a big year for us, filled with a lot of stress; both good and bad; much of which continues right into 2017. But we are looking ahead and praying for health and well being as we move forward. Of course we never know what we will face in life and so we must remember where our hope is found and treasure each day that we have together.
Thanks for following along.
Note: This post was shared with the permission of both my mom, Cindy, and my sister, Kristin.
It has been a few months since I have posted anything to the blog. It has been a slow few months at home but at the same time so much has happened. We have not been out of the house much due to illness (having a kindergarten student has exposed us to so much sickness this year). It is also very difficult for us to go places with my new diagnosis and subsequent inability to drive.
We spent the beginning of November staying close to home so that we wouldn’t pick up any new illnesses in order to keep Callie healthy for surgery.
On the 20th of November, Andy took the boys on what was originally supposed to be a special day for the boys and I in Seattle. We couldn’t figure out a way to keep Callie away from illness other than to keep her home and since I cannot drive right now, she and I stayed home to play together and the boys headed to Seattle.
Andy took Eli and Luke to the Pike Place Market, where they had donuts and later Mac and Cheese at Beecher’s. They loved spying all the tower cranes (apparently Seattle has the most of any city in the US right now). A big highlight of the day was riding on the South Lake Union Streetcar. The day culminated with the RaffiConcert at the Moore Theatre.
A few days later we were counting our blessings that everyone was healthy and heading to Seattle Children’s Hospital for Callie’s palate surgery and ear tube placement. Our experience there was really phenomenal this time and they took great care of Callie. Her surgery began early in the afternoon and lasted 5 hours! We finally got to see her at 9pm and she was sleeping peacefully. She handled everything very well.
We celebrated Callie’s third birthday with fun birthday decor, birthday gifts, a visit from Grandma and Grandpa and ice cream! Callie had a blast opening presents of her very own. Her favorite gift was a big book of stickers; and she went through them all by the day’s end.
In early December, a few weeks following surgery we took the family to find our Christmas tree. Grandma and Grandpa joined us on the hunt.
We were all hoping to have some snow this year since the last few years we haven’t had much (if any). So far we haven’t been disappointed. The boys love to play in the snow and Andy has been a trooper spending lots of time playing, pulling sleds and taking them sledding locally. Callie and I love the look of the snow but prefer to be inside watching.
We had a great Christmas celebrating together. We spent time with both sides of our family. We all had a fun time opening gifts, visiting with family and eating good food.
For each of our kids’ first Christmas’ we have purchased them their very own sleeping bag so that we can camp together in the summer. The boys got their sleeping bags when they were just babies and now that Callie is a part of our family she has one too. She has a little growing into it to do, but she seems to like it. :o)
Andy took the week off between Christmas and New Year so we headed to Seattle again as a family to do some exploring and to visit the Flight Museum. There was so much to see!
This January we didn’t get out much either, but we did have fun together at home.
I want to write a bit about how Callie is doing post surgery so that those of you who have followed along and prayed for our family during the past few months (and beyond) can hear about her progress.
Callie is doing exceptionally well following the surgery to close her palate and place tubes in her ears. We are, again, amazed at her resilience and her positive attitude.
Andy and Callie visited the audiologist, surgeon and ENT at Seattle Children’s on Monday December 5th and the report was fantastic; she is hearing well and healing well. We could have told you about the ‘hearing well’ part because the change has been astounding!
One of the immediate results of her surgery was that Callie went from having severe hearing loss to having normal hearing! It has been amazing to watch. We knew that Callie could hear very little because she wasn’t startling to loud sounds, she didn’t notice when someone walked into the room unless she could see them, she didn’t respond to her name, and she was not learning English(receptive language) at a rate that you’d expect for a child her age. We also knew she had severe hearing loss because she had an audiology exam in September and the results matched up with what we were noticing at home.
Each day it has been exciting to celebrate with her as she learns to make new sounds and attempt new words. Not only is she learning to speak new words and make new sounds; but she can hear us clearly and her receptive language has flourished. It is so awesome to be able to give Callie complex instructions in complete sentences; often without any signs at all and watch her carry out the task.
I have been trying to teach Callie that she can call for me when she needs me but she hasn’t been able to say “Mama” very clearly or loudly up until this point and she didn’t seem to understand the concept quite yet. Now she calls for me all day long! “Mama! Mama! Mama! Mommy! Mommy!”
Callie has learned to say “yeah” very clearly as well as “yes”. She is still working on saying “no” although she has her own version of “no” and can sign it very well as she rapidly shakes her head. The freedom to ask her yes or no questions has helped immensely.
Now she is repeating every thing we say and each day we hear more and more words that we hadn’t before! Many of these words aren’t very clear yet, but she is doing awesome none-the-less; especially considering that she is similar to a two-month-old in terms of hearing and language development!
Callie has learned to say “book” and she loves Old MacDonald had a farm so she signs along as we say each animal and then sings “eee-iii, eee-iii, eee-iii” throughout the day. She can say “bye” and “c-ya” fairly well and recently waved and said these things to each customer who left the Xi’an Noodle restaurant in Seattle when Andy took her out for lunch on follow-up appointment day. She can now say “cat” and “eat” very clearly. We also hear her own versions that resemble nigh-night, get it, uh-oh, banana, Eli, Luke, Mama, Dada (whom she calls Gaga), please, bath, house, hat, wash, down, up, teeth, truck, and more.
Now that she can hear, she is dancing to music all the time; which is quite adorable. She is also reading short books with us and understanding why we linger on the pages.
Callie has finished the 5 weeks of food restrictions and is back to eating normally (she is thrilled). And she can feed herself now which saves me a ton of time.
Later this week she will begin weekly speech therapy at WWU.
Thank you for praying for Callie and our family during this time.
Did you know that early this fall I was diagnosed with epilepsy?
Prior to our trip to China to bring Callie home, I began sleeping poorly with vivid and excessive dreaming and I was having frequent headaches, but I passed it off as stress related to the adoption process. In all likelihood, this was probably stress related, and as any adoptive parent can tell you, the last few weeks before meeting your child are full of stressful moments.
After returning from China I began to have some additional symptoms. Randomly I would have a strong sense of deja vu, but more intense than the fleeting sense of having been here or done that. It was like a dream state in my brain that felt very familiar and made me feel distant. It would be accompanied by a sense that I may lose consciousness, so I would usually sit or lay down, just in case. I did remain conscious and though I could hear and see what was happening around me, I was slow to respond and had a distant look in my eyes. I also became nauseous and had a strange pressure in my abdomen. As the feelings would subside; usually about a minute or two after they began, I would get a headache or a worsened headache and feel exhausted (even more so), like I needed to go right to sleep.
Eventually I became more bothered by these episodes and more curious about what might be happening, so I did what every person who wants to scare their socks off does, I googled my symptoms.
What I found surprised me. When I typed in my symptoms; deja vu, headaches, strange level of consciousness, etc. I found repeated websites describing epilepsy; focal seizures specifically of the temporal lobe. I even found some threads on an epilepsy website where people with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy detailed exactly what I was experiencing.
Ultimately I did go to see my doctor about these symptoms, mostly because the constant headache I’d been experiencing for nearly two months and the poor sleep was making my life a challenge. She was concerned and consulted a neurologist who recommended a brain MRI; it came back normal, which I am incredibly grateful for, since I know the doctors were looking for a possible brain tumor or other structural abnormalities in my brain.
A couple weeks went by and my symptoms seemed to resolve, until one morning, coincidentally the morning of my sister’s wedding, I walked outside to the car in the driveway and opened the back hatch to place some extra clothing and items for the kids in the back. I felt a super strong sense of deja vu come on; much stronger than ever before only this time I didn’t sit or lay down. It had been a few weeks since my last episode but I knew the routine so I leaned into the back of our SUV and figured I would wait until it passed. Only this time it was different. I remember thinking that my symptoms felt really intense and the next thing I knew I was waking up on the concrete of the driveway with a bloodied elbow and a bruised head. I’d lost consciousness and slumped out of the car onto the concrete (at least I am guessing that’s what happened); my fancy updo and my elbow broke my fall.
Surprisingly I felt okay afterwards, so I got up and walked into the house and announced to Andy what had happened (he was getting Callie ready for the wedding and unaware that anything was amiss). Then I called the on-call doctor who instructed me not to drive that day, told me I should probably get an EEG and if it happened again to call 911 or head straight to the ER, but otherwise to enjoy my sister’s wedding. So I did. We had a great time celebrating Kristin and Brian and I just kept that little loss of consciousness a secret from my sister so she wouldn’t have more on her mind that day.
I visited my doctor again the following week and as luck would have it, I had another episode right in her office. This time I maintained consciousness and was able to communicate a bit about what was happening . She was able to see what I was experiencing and set up an EEG; she was also able to get me into see the neurologist a month and a half earlier than their “next available appointment”.
After a bit of an emotional roller coaster (we think you might be having seizures, no we aren’t sure what is going on but think you are okay, oh wait…turns out you are having seizures!) my neurologist called me at home to inform me that my EEG did indicate that I was having seizures in my left temporal lobe, which was consistent with my symptoms. He diagnosed me with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. He explained his concerns: continued seizures, increasing in frequency and intensity, likelihood of loss of consciousness and risk of serious injury or death. We also discussed the course of action moving forward; medication and no driving for at least 6 months – per Washington State law.
By this point I’d had 50 or more seizures that I was aware of; and possibly more while I had been sleeping; waking me throughout the night.
Ultimately it is good to have a diagnosis (even though not the one I’d hoped for) and to be on medication that is addressing the problem. Epilepsy is a chronic disorder and likely something I will deal with for life; I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around that yet. For now I feel inconvenienced by not being able to drive anywhere. It takes a fair amount of coordination to plan for appointments and activities outside of the house.
I am very thankful for the way that it unfolded and that I was protected from serious injury when I lost consciousness in my driveway. I am thankful that I didn’t lose consciousness while I was driving, standing at the top of my stairs, alone at home, etc. I am thankful that these partial seizures didn’t inhibit my ability to care for my kids (they weren’t even aware anything was going on) and that the kids weren’t put into a difficult situation in the event I did lose consciousness when no other adult was home.
I am also thankful for the timing; which was clearly well planned by God. I think about the timing often. If I had been diagnosed with epilepsy prior to our adoption of Callie, would I have changed my thoughts on adding another child to the family? Would China’s Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption have accepted us as adoptive parents since their requirements read, “Both the husband and wife must be physically and mentally fit and must not have any of the following conditions … h. Severe diseases that require long-term treatment and that affect life expectancy, including malignant tumors, lupus, nephrosis, epilepsy…”? What if I began having seizures while we were in process for Callie, would that have changed the outcome, could we have missed our daughter? What if I had begun having seizures while we were in China away from familiar medical care? All of these questions lead me to believe, even more so, that God was holding me in the palm of His hand, protecting me and that Callie was meant to be our daughter and us her parents. And I am so thankful that the timing worked out the way it did.
For now the kids and I will be walking to our destinations around town in the coming months; to the library, to the donut shop, to school, to the park, to shops and stores downtown so please wave hello if you see us.
It has been 6 months since we first held Callie in our arms. Tomorrow will mark 6 months of her officially being a Koehn. We are so thankful that she is in our family. She is a spunky little ball of sunshine. She is full of joy and life and she laughs and giggles A LOT (even when she is being a stinker).
We are continually impressed with how well she has transitioned to life in our family; she has made it very easy on us. She has also made incredible growth in development. She has grown from size 12 month to 2T in 6 months too!
We’ve learned she loves bunnies and kitties. She is an excellent helper and always wants to help me put away laundry, dishes, shoes, coats, etc. and she readily helps me clean up toys. (Which is a HUGE difference from her brothers at this age!) She gets so excited to help me put things away and she is actually a help; she remembers where everything goes in the kitchen and what clothes go in which drawers, the only hinderance to her being when she cannot reach to put it away. She also loves to draw and color. She has learned that books aren’t for throwing and ripping(most of the time) and now will sit and look at pictures; her current favorite is Old MacDonald Had a Farm (the horse page is a hit). She loves to be outside and will run around squealing and giggling or ride along on her little scoot bike while her brothers zoom on their bikes. If she could she would spend much of her time at the park swinging on the swing.
She has powered through a bunch of developmental milestones since she has been home too and now behaves a lot like you’d expect a 2 year old might – temper tantrums and all. I never thought I would actually rejoice when my child started throwing fits about not getting their way; but this is so sweet because it means she is on track and that she is comfortable with us enough to show us how she really feels. She is working as hard as she can to learn to speak (which is pretty difficult when your palate hasn’t been repaired and you have significant hearing loss). She calls me “Mama” along with the sign for “Mom” and she calls Andy “Gaga”(we love that one) with the sign for “Dad”. She also says the boys names; Eli is “E-la” and Luke is the “k” sound. She has also learned many signs and to recognize even more that we sign to her. We love to watch her run and jump and climb. She readily gives us hugs and kisses too; watching her pucker her lips is down right adorable.
She has attached well to us and us to her as well. I remember well the days when she would easily have gone into anyone’s arms; she waved and smiled at anyone and everyone and she did not have a grasp on the fact that we were mom and dad; but not anymore. Recently while we swung into the post office to pick up some stamps another customer in line was being friendly and talking to Callie; but Callie stayed close and leaned away into my shoulder instead of reaching her arms out to be picked up by this stranger; it was a sweet reminder that she is learning I am her mom.
We are so thankful that God led us to Callie and that he made it clear to us that we were supposed to welcome her into our forever family; one look at the picture below and we knew. We are so thankful that she is our daughter! Happy 6 months home sweet girl!
We hope you all had a wonderful October. Ours was certainly mixed; we’ve spent much of the month with sickness in our house and we’ve had a few particularly disappointing occurrences. We are looking forward to November and December and celebrating a few exciting things; successful surgery for Callie (we hope!), Thanksgiving, Callie’s 3rd birthday (first with us) and Christmas. We may have to hold of on a few of these celebrations if Callie’s surgery goes forward as scheduled on November 22nd. Initially I was trying to avoid this time of year so that Callie could have a proper 3rd birthday rather than spend it recovering, but things may not work out that way.
Andy took the boys to the Model Railroad Show here in town at the beginning of the month. It is a yearly event that they enjoy attending. Callie and I sat this one out so she could nap and I could enjoy some quiet time.
Have I ever told you that Andy is a fantastic cook? He makes all of our dinners and he does the grocery shopping. He even brings me flowers every Friday when he comes home from grocery shopping! This first week of October he brought me red roses for my birthday and made me a special dinner of crab cakes, steak (not pictured) and a delicious salad with homemade dressing and homemade hollandaise sauce. It was really amazing and I am kind of wishing for more crab cakes as I type this.
I am glad we squeezed a little birthday celebrating in because the stomach flu hit our family hard and for the next five days we all took turns being very very ill. First Luke, then me, then Eli and finally Andy. Somehow Callie managed to escape the sickness; something we are so thankful for since she cannot communicate her illness to us well and she is so itty bitty.
We took the kids to a pumpkin patch just outside of our town, called Willetta Farms. We had a wonderful time. There was so much for the kids to do! We had fun racing rubber ducks, making our way through the corn maze, picking out pumpkins, exploring the blackberry thicket, eating pumpkin loaf and cider, going on a wagon ride pulled by beautiful draft horses, riding a horse, petting the bunnies, feeding the goats, etc. etc. The kids had a blast and it was so fun to play with them and to see them so happy!
Andy and I had a lovely evening out celebrating our friends Erik and Jane. It was such a beautiful wedding and it was fun to be dressed up and out for the evening. We had great company at our table for dinner and it was a lot of fun!
My sister Kristin works in town and so she joins us for lunch usually once a week. We love having her company. One day she came dressed in the same exact outfit I had put Callie in that morning; of course we had to take a photo. Now whenever Kristin comes Callie runs to her closet to get her boots out!
Eli has been playing soccer this fall and Andy has been his coach. Their last game had some lousy weather; pouring rain and wind but he still came home smiling!
Callie has been waiting a long time to have surgery to repair her palate and put tubes in her ears and we were so eager to help her move past this surgery. Unfortunately following the stomach flu we were hit by a bad head cold. Eli first, then Luke and the day of surgery I started feeling terrible. We’ve all had symptoms of varying degrees; Eli has had it the worst with a terrible persistent cough for almost two weeks. Luke had a mild version with a long lasting runny nose but not much coughing and I had a terrible two days of cold symptoms but then recovered with no cough at all.
Callie was not showing any signs of sickness and we’d been working really hard to keep the kids separated, sanitize the house, and wear masks when necessary in order to keep Callie healthy. The day of surgery we drove 3 long hours (traffic was lousy) to Seattle Children’s hospital. Callie woke up and wasn’t showing symptoms of sickness but as the morning went on she started to sound slightly congested. The anesthesiologist thought she might have heard some congestion in her lungs and so she cancelled surgery. It was disappointing to have to cancel but we don’t want Callie to be at risk during surgery or after while she is recovering so we will try again in a month and hope that she is completely healthy then!
Callie never really did get very sick, a few sniffles and a rare cough to clear some drainage, but nothing slowing her down. We went for a little bike ride around the neighborhood to enjoy the sunshine and fall color.
The kids helped us rake the leaves that had fallen from the large maple tree across the alley. They did such a great job and were so hard working. Then they had a wonderful time jumping, tossing and playing in the leaves.
Another totally awesome surprise this month was that as Luke has become proficient in potty use Callie decided that she is going to potty train too! She is non-verbal but still knows how to get her point across very well and now with some key ASL signs in her vocabulary we can communicate together about going potty. She is doing so well! Of course she had already realized that I give out M&Ms for motivation (Luke really needed motivation) so she quickly signs “all done”, then “more” “eat” “candy” when she is finished in the bathroom. Smart girl! Then she runs to the kitchen while squealing with joy! I could really squeal with the same joy about being done with diapers! Can you imagine???
On Halloween the kids and I, along with Aunt Sara, went downtown for some trick-or-treating. It was a lot of fun. The kids had a blast and the weather stayed dry. It was really nice to have this option to trick-or-treat at local businesses (all of whom were so friendly and welcoming) during the afternoon hours. This allowed us to stick with our evening routine and have kiddos in bed at their normal time – which is pretty important for their success the following day.
Hope you all had a wonderful October. We are looking forward to a (hopefully) healthier November and praying that Callie will be 100% healthy and ready for surgery on the 22nd. Thanks for following along!