Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Recap

In my Christmas letter last year, I think I mentioned something about hoping 2013 was a bit more calm than 2012 was.  I think we accomplished that task!  Whew!

We had a busy year, but still found lots of time to just BE a family.  Sean and I also found a chunk of time to take a no kids vacation with Mike and Sarah...and that vacation was so unreal...oh my gosh...it will be a vacation we will never forget.  We got away over spring break as well when we spent a week in Florida with the Knutsons.  It was Wesley and Cason's first time seeing the ocean and being at the Florida house.  Such special memories are always made on our Florida vacations. :)

Cason turned 2 at the beginning of the year.  TWO!!!  I can't even believe my baby is 2...and almost 3 now!  He is amazing...simply amazing.

Cason's story was featured in a video for Family Resources and shown at the annual Opening Doors Gala which we were honored to attend.  It's such a great organization...we just can't say enough about their staff and all they do for our community.  It's our pleasure to support them in any way we can.

Wesley completed his first year of preschool and Tate completed Kindergarten.  They both had great years and learned and grew so much!  It's amazing to watch your kiddos learn new things!  They both had wonderful teachers who worked wonders with them.  They were actually sad for the school year to end.

We spent the first couple weeks of summer spending lots of time with DeCooks...Tate and Ava had countless sleepovers.  We LOVE that our best friends are teachers and have the summers free to spend lots of time with.  It's pretty awesome. :)  Then, they kept Cason for 10 days while we vacationed!  They are amazing friends for sure!  Wesley got to spend that 10 days with his previous foster family whom he adores and Tate got to split his time between his Nana and Papa P's house and his Nana and Papa S and aunts and uncles in Muscatine.  The boys had a great time during that 10 days while we went to Florida for a couple of days before leaving for our 7 day cruise.  We cruised to Mexico, Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  We swam with dolphins and sting reys, we zip lined and climbed over 600 feet of waterfalls, we relaxed and ate way too much.  It was simply perfect.

We were so thrilled to be reunited with our boys upon our return and looked forward to the rest of the summer of just enjoying our time together before the school year started again for the big boys...and by big boys, I mean Sean too!  In August, he started graduate school to become a Nurse Practitioner.  It's proven to be a challenge for all of us, but we'll get into a groove.

With August brought 1st grade for Tate, Wesley's last year of preschool and Cason WALKING!!!!  He defied all odds and took off in August.  It was the highlight of my year for sure!  He is now RUNNING everywhere!  Tate turned SEVEN and Wesley turned FIVE!  It's still so unbelievable to me that in a couple of weeks, we will have a 3, 5 and 7 year old.  And they are all going to eat us out of house and home.   We had better win the lottery before they become teenagers so we can afford to live. Ha.

Cason's story was also featured again on Family Resources annual letter they send out to their donors and we have recently been asked if we would be willing to have United Way create a video which will feature Cason's story to be posted on their website.  That will take place in 2014.  He is becoming a little star!  Ha.

Wesley has had a couple of concerning lab results, but with some medication adjustments, we have been able to keep things on track with his health for the time being.  Blood draws continue to be a bit of a challenge as many of his veins have become calcified.  We have avoided a port though and hope that we will be able to avoid that for as long as possible and hopefully forever!  We pray that he stays healthy and again has another year of no hospital stays.

Sean starts his 2nd semester of school in a couple of weeks and we have lots of fun things planned for 2014!  Looking forward to all that is ahead!

We hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas and have a blessed 2014!  Much love to each of you!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Santa Came 2013

Don't mind my obnoxious voice in this video!  Ha.
The boys continue to be this excited about everything even today!
Watching your kids on Christmas is pretty much the best thing ever!

Tate named his teddy bear Snowflake and has been carrying him around all over and plans to snuggle with him in bed every night.  He's kind of large to carry everywhere, but Tate says he wants him to be wherever he is.  Oh my.  Wesley does whatever Tate does, so his gorilla (who he claims is also named Snowflake...we will have to come up with something more unique) has been in his arms too.  They have played Skylanders together, done lots of calculations on their new calculators and thoroughly enjoyed every single item they have received.  They have both said this is the "BEST CHRISTMAS EVER"! :)

We still have our Stewart side Christmas on Friday and they haven't received their gift from us yet that we have made a tradition of every year.  Our trip away for a couple of days to a hotel.  They don't know where we are going, but know we are going out of town.  We planned something super low key this year and are just going to Coralville for a night in a hotel with Mike, Sarah, Leah and Kayla and will go to the Children's Musuem at the mall.  They will swim and have a blast.  So excited!

Aside from our kitchen pipes being frozen when we woke up yesterday morning (we spent much of the day blow drying them and using a space heater on them and FINALLY this morning they thawed and we avoided them bursting!), we have had a great Christmas so far.  Sean is working today and the boys and I will head to my parents house for Christmas dinner and hanging out.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peakin Christmas 2013

We celebrated Christmas with the Peakin side of the family this weekend at our house.  I LOVED hosting our Christmas again this year!  I love these kiddos so much it hurts...and they love each other so much!

Let's just pretend that Cason is laughing really hard in this picture...okay?  Okay. ;)

The original Peakin Family. :) 

Nana and Papa P with all of their grandchildren.
Love it!

And Cason played in the snow for the first time this weekend!  As you can see, he loved it!  It took him a few minutes to warm up to the idea of wearing gloves, but he quickly grew accustomed to it when he pulled them off and felt the cold snow on his hands.
I must say, I was surprised at how much he loved the snow!
We ALL played in the snow with the kids for quite a while on Sunday.

And I am pretty much in love with this shot.  It's one of my favorite shots from the last several months I think.
Cason is crazy addicted to Sean...like cannot get enough of his Daddy when he's around.  I love seeing them together!  This picture makes my heart want to jump out of it's chest.

We had such a wonderful Christmas celebration with the Peakins! 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Cason's recent diagnosis...

Cason from the day we first got him (top left) over the course of the last 2 years until just a couple of weeks ago (bottom right)...

Have I talked much about Cason and what he has been through?  Honestly, my memory has become a blur since the addition of our 2 youngest!  Ha.  My brain is mush and I could have gotten into detail about this already and maybe I've left those of you who I don't know personally wondering!  This week was rough...we got some unexpected diagnosis and we were caught off guard.  Let's start from the beginning...

At 7 weeks of age, Cason suffered a severe brain injury as a result of being shaken.  He went untreated  for almost an entire day and became unresponsive.  He suffered seizures and a couple of strokes over the course of the next couple of days and it did not look likely that he would survive.  He was life flighted to IA City and treated there for a month.  He was deemed blind.  Over the course of the next month, he made a miraculous recovery, though he was left severely fragile do to his brain injury.  He started to regain his sight and was placed in the care of an incredible family who we love and are so grateful for.  They cared for him for almost 9 months and he made great strides.  His sight continued to improve and he started interacting more.  When we took him into our care with the hope of being able to adopt him, he was 11 months old and developmentally around 3 months of age.  He was happy all the while!

We got him a helmet and continued with the therapies he had been receiving since being released from the hospital...he continued to grow and develop and learn new things what seemed like every day!  His head growth has been a concern from the get go.  It simply wasn't growing.  He has microcephaly  and severe developmental delays and a traumatic brain injury.  Those were his diagnosis.  Due to his strokes, he had obvious weakness and tone on the left side of his body.  This has consistently improved over the last 2 years...it's actually amazing how much improvement he has shown in this area!

Doctors and therapists didn't know in the beginning if he would ever walk or talk or sit up or crawl...they didn't even know if he would LIVE, so the fact that he is walking and jabbering and definitely WILL talk is so incredible.  Aside from his consistent lack of head growth, I have had so much hope and been so impressed with everything he has overcome!  We are so proud of him!

Cason has many self stimulating behaviors...banging his head, spinning, shaking his head, licking, spinning toys, flailing his arms, etc.  These have progressively gotten worse as he's become more mobile and developed more.  It has been clear that he needed a certain type of educational instruction due to his unique behaviors and with him starting school in January (EEK!), we have been exploring these things a bit more.  So on Wednesday, he had an appointment with a Pediatric Neurologist from the CDD (Center for Development and Disabilities).  I went into that appointment with an expectation that it would go as all of our appointments often go.  We hear the same old, "Oh, he's made so many improvements!  Look at him walking and babbling...he's doing great!"  I was wrong...

I was not prepared for any diagnosis, let alone 2 unexpected ones and possibly 3 (pending xrays).  He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Cerebral Palsy...Spastic Left Hemipligia Cerebral Palsy to be specific.  Lastly, they believe he has Hip Dysplasia and so we took him to the hospital for xrays and have not yet heard.  Obviously the Hip Dysplasia is fixable and possibly could even correct itself, but the other 2 diagnosis shook me.

I know they are just words and those words don't change him, but they change things.  They just do.  You know, some of those things will be for the better...I do believe that these diagnosis will benefit Cason when it comes to school, but I have this icky feeling about the label.  I don't know, I just don't like it.  It is so upsetting to me.  It breaks my heart and as wrong as this sounds (hopefully this will change!), I feel like I lost a little bit of hope with those diagnosis.  We love Cason so much and just want him to be happy...and he IS!  He is SOOO HAPPY!

Selfishly, these diagnosis mean more appointments, new doctors, new therapists, etc.  We are busy with our boys' needs...all THREE of their needs.  I wouldn't change for a second having our 3 boys, but man, it's hard and busy and trying...emotionally, mentally, physically...did I mention emotionally?!  My heart is broken...and it breaks for them every day.  It does.  I love them so much and hurt for them so much.

We were already told about a treatment that our therapist wants him to get that will take us away for 2 weeks for an intense therapy...and we will do it.  We will do whatever we can for our boys.  We will sacrifice whatever we need to, but it's been 2 days and this has already been talked about...because he needed a diagnosis in order to undergo this special therapy...and now he has one.  So in 2 days, we are already researching the possibility of spending 2 weeks away to address his needs.  And we will GLADLY take part in any necessary therapy that will better him.  It doesn't change that it's overwhelming and trying and scary though.

I am still letting these diagnosis settle in...and I always feel like I am strong when it comes to these things, but this week I was shook to the core.  Not sure if it was in part because of my lack of preparation of even having a diagnosis or what, but I am struggling.  I will be okay, Cason will be amazing...he ALWAYS is.  I am sad for him though, and scared and worried and angry and feel almost like I am grieving.  Yet really, HE hasn't changed one bit.  I'll accept it and take the bull by the horns after it all sinks in...I guess it just hasn't all sunk in yet!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Wesley is 5!!!

We missed the first 39 months of Wesley's life.  We missed his birth, were not there to love on him when he was sick, to pray over him when he had his transplant, to care for him after his transplant.  We missed so much of his life, so much that was so important in his life.  I know that we weren't meant to be a part of all of that...I do believe that there is a reason we weren't there, that we weren't his Mommy and Daddy at that time, but it is hard to think that he went through all of that, our son, and we didn't know, we weren't there.

Wesley has been with us 21 months...it seems like he's been in our family for SO MUCH LONGER than that...forever really!

I look at him in awe every single day.  This boy is STRONG...he has to be...he had to be from the day he was born.  He is full of determination in all he does.  This will be so good and necessary for him in years to come...

Wesley is full of life and zest and spunk and energy.  He has a sparkle in his eye (and a bit of the devil in there as well, I think!)... lol

He is full of joy...no matter his circumstances, he is quick to smile and joke around.  He never slows down unless his body just won't let him go anymore and aside from a day here and there, we've only witnessed that happen to him once when he was very ill and in the hospital a little over a year ago.

He's a daredevil.  He won't let anything stop him from doing what he wants to do.  He is going to push the envelope his whole life, I have a feeling.  He is brave and courageous and we love that about him!

And he is a CHARMER!  All of his therapists and doctors and teachers are easily smitten by him.  He knows how to turn on the charm and we're CERTAIN this is going to be a problem for us as he grows up.  He likes the ladies ALREADY!  Yikes!  And look at him...I mean c'mon...with his charm and seriously good looks, the ladies are likely going to like him too!

He can cause a scene, that's for sure.  All he has to do is give that deep stare and unforgettable smile and people are looking.  Everywhere we go, he attracts attention...and he LOVES attention!

We adore him so much it hurts.  I look at him every single day and cannot believe he's ours.  My heart is so full to know that I have the special honor of being his mommy for the rest of his life and though my heart hurts at the thought of having missed so many pertinent things in his life, I know that I will never let a day go by ever again without praying for him, supporting him and loving him.  He was blessed to have a wonderful support system full of amazing people who love him so much for the several months before he came to be part of our family.  Though I will always wish I had been able to be a part of his life from the beginning, I know he was in incredible hands during that time, during his wait for his new kidney, his transplant and his recovery.  For some reason, we were not meant to be those people and we have to be okay with that.

And now he's 5.
He is amazing.
He has a long road ahead of him with many unknowns.
We know he will overcome any obstacles.
He is too determined not too.

Happy Birthday, Wesley!
Mommy and Daddy are so incredibly proud of you and amazed by you!  We love you far more than we could ever express!  We thank God every day that He chose us to be your Mommy and Daddy!  What a blessing you are to our family!!!