Friday, December 23, 2011

Dave's Surgery

It's been twelve days since Dave's surgery. It's been a roller coaster time. To summarize, Dave had about 5 inches removed from his small intestine to restore health lost due to Crohn's, along with having his gall bladder removed since he had gallstones. This is his third surgery. This time the incision was longer, he was in a hospital out of town b/c he chose a colo-rectal surgeon, and there were a couple extra things that happened post surgery that hindered a quicker recovery.

First, his pain wasn't fully managed from the epidural upon waking up from the surgery, and this affected his blood pressure. It took the rest of the day for them to get his pain under control. It was a little scary when the nurse told us they needed the doc's approval to up the epidural because the higher it goes, the greater the chance you can stop breathing. Upon that news I had to leave and go home for the evening. They said they were going to monitor him so that was somewhat of a comfort.

The increase made a huge difference and Dave was feeling much better by Day 2. Unfortunately he was struggling to get uninterrupted sleep not only from the nurses but his roommate, who kept his TV on nonstop, talked to any and every nurse and tech that came in, and talked incessantly to visitors, even to himself at night. Dave tried to make the best of it and doze when he could. He eventually got earplugs and that helped a lot.

The first couple days Dave was only able to swab his mouth with water, then he was given permission to have ice chips. On the third day they took an x-ray b/c the output from his NG tube was almost twice as much as his fluid intake. They thought the tube was in too far. The x-ray didn't show that it was, but by day 4 they concluded that they needed to adjust it, and after they did, the output reduced to the point that he could finally go on clear liquids. However, since the epidural was still in place (longer than the usual time), his bowel function didn't resume. Finally the epidural came out and "normal" recovery kicked in Friday night.

One surprising thing in comparison to other surgeries was that Dave had more energy and wasn't exhausted after doing his walks. The first day he was able to stand up, the second day he tried his first walk to the end of the hall, and by the third day he made it around the whole floor and was even doing laps.

True to Dave's nature, he kept the nurses laughing and told us some funny stories. One was that on the weekend, he "sneaked" out for a walk by himself. He was supposed to have a tech, but when they changed shifts, he figured that the new ones would assume he got permission to be out on his own and wouldn't say anything. He was right!

Things are going fine here at home. Yesterday he was more adventurous and tried french fries; he didn't have a very good night so I guess he's not quite ready for a full diet even though the doctors said he could have it. He didn't eat very many, but even so, his body wasn't prepared to handle them. Other than that, things have been going about as well as can be expected. The first two or three days home he couldn't get any motivation to do anything outside watching business news (of course the huge story about ATT and T-Mobile was going on, something he teaches about!), but the last day or so he's had an interest in reading, doing email, and other somewhat mild activities.

Thank you all for praying!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Long, O Lord?

This is a question I asked when Samantha was a baby and a toddler. How long would I be struggling with her behavior and special needs? Well, today as I read Psalm 3:3 "Consider and answer me, O Lord my God..." I knew that God had come to my rescue, that "he has dealt bountifully with me." (v.6)

Things are still hard, but in the midst of it all God keeps reminding me that we've come so far from where we were. Progress is steady and beautiful. Just a few days ago, I asked Samantha to apologize. She did, but reluctantly and with an edge to her voice. I asked her to do it again and she said it in a monotone, which for her was pretty good. To give some context, when she's been asked to apologize, she's either screamed she's sorry over and over, refused to say it, or tightened her chest and screeched it with clenched teeth. I had to wait till later and ask her again, and then she would barely say it. The beautiful thing about what happened the other day is that after she said she was sorry in a monotone, which I accepted, she came back to me a few minutes later and sincerely said, "I'm sorry, Mom." PROGRESS. ANSWER TO PRAYER!!!

You may be in a long hard situation that you wonder whether it will ever change. I want to encourage you today to keep trusting in God. Whether God changes the circumstances or not, you can know His love is steadfast and sure. He won't allow anything to ultimately harm you, that's His promise. I've learned to let go and say, "Lord, some things may never change. Samantha may always exhibit anxiety if not anything worse. But you will walk us through those situations and strengthen us through them. You have a plan for us."

The thing that keeps me going is stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, even as I face more hurdles on the horizon. One is Dave's third major abdominal surgery coming up. I have to admit it's a little scary, but I'm not dwelling on that. I'm counting my blessings, which are many:

Dave just went to Seoul as a keynote speaker for a major conference and as Katrina said was "an international superstar."

Ethan just interviewed for an internship in his field of study at State Farm.

Bryan is getting well connected to the music ministry opportunities in Nashville and is getting valuable experience for his future.

Katrina quoted Shakespeare's entire "To be or not to be" soliloquy to me last night, another evidence of what a great student she is: straight A's through high school so far!

I'm feeling better in general and able to function much more than I could a couple years ago.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What's in a Brain?

The main topic of my post today will be regarding Samantha's language development. But before I talk about that, I want to give an update on my hip and leg. Overall I've been doing much better since I got the second injection. I still have moments, but things aren't as chronic as they used to be; by that I mean I don't feel something all day long in varying degrees but rather I feel normal and then have flare-ups. I love my new vehicle, even tho I have to keep adjusting the seat b/c Katrina is driving it too! I haven't had to use extra cushions except on our trip out east.

So now, what's in a brain? Do you realize how many steps are involved in processing language? I've always loved language, and was particularly awestruck when I took my linguistics class for my master's. God has created the most amazing thing, and even more, He's created us with an amazing brain to "get it" - and we acquire it so naturally at an early age.

But as we know, although this is the norm, there are deviations with kids who can't get it. Before I go into Samantha's case, I just have to say I have such an appreciation for all the research and science and trained professionals who deal with these issues in kids. Like St. Jude, they know their stuff and are really amazing.

Samantha has sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, and probably an anxiety disorder as well, although that hasn't been officially diagnosed yet. Based on her age, her receptive and expressive language puts her highly at risk for
learning. On top of that, she has a memory problem, possibly from a condition at birth i.e. malnutrition, poor prenatal care, or whatever. So why is she functional at school at all, which she is? Because she's a borderline child that compensates using mostly visual cues, and she has the basic "ability" to learn. What does this mean?

It means she needs intervention NOW before she starts dropping off the charts academically. So far, school has been manageable. She's a year older than her classmates and although most tasks are challenging and she's gotten outside help from pull-out programs, she's been able to slowly progress. So, this summer we've done three things. We had her tutored twice a week, then started an intensive four day a week language therapy, and are also now taking her to a special reading class at ISU. Although all three have been helpful, I think the language therapy shows the most long term potential. Samantha has started speaking more naturally and age appropriately the last couple weeks. She doesn't hesitate so much to think of a word (which I end up supplying for her most of the time.)

All that to say, what's in a brain? Somehow these language experts have figured out a way to make the brain restructure itself so that a child who doesn't fit the norm becomes one who progresses more rapidly toward the norm. It's amazing. I don't know how they do it, but as I see promise, I'm glad we invested both time and money. If it does what I hope it will do, we'll be one step closer to the long term goal of not only getting through school but getting through life and connecting on a deeper level emotionally.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unbelief vs. Hope

I've been struggling with lack of faith regarding a current situation involving Samantha's language and auditory processing disorders. It's hard for me to trust God to help her overcome these obstacles, even though I've taken extra steps to get her help. Starting today, she's going to do an intense language/processing program at a local speech center. Next Monday she'll also be starting a special reading program at ISU.

My struggle is more one of inadequacy on my part, that I'm just not the kind of mother to give her support for the challenges she faces. It's been an emotional time for me, taking her to appointments and such; I see how far she has to go more clearly now than ever before, along with knowing how frustrated she becomes with things that don't come easily to her. My mother's heart wants to say, "Just leave the poor kid alone, she's been through enough." But I'm conflicted too because my mother's heart also wants to help her achieve her maximum potential. The missing element is a foundational trust in God that He can bring about changes that are real and lasting. Samantha has made slow progress in almost all areas of development, and then slipped back into lower levels.

As I read my summer Bible Study book this morning about Martha and her struggle of faith when Lazarus died, I could relate. Jesus has the power to do anything, but we only see things as they are and even though we hope He'll use His power to make things different, we don't really expect it.

One thing that hit me earlier this week is that when Ethan had leukemia, I made sure every detail was being attended to, not only with his health but with his schooling. If there was a problem that came up, I immediately contacted the doctor or teacher and dealt with it. I made sure to remind doctors of details they forgot. I was driven to ride things out till Ethan was fully restored. With Samantha I don't have that same drive; I resist jumping through hoops that might give her potential for change. In parenting I've worked really hard at accepting who she is rather than trying to make her something she's not. But this has left me virtually crippled to pursue the help she needs and hope for substantial change. May God give me the same drive, based on a faith that He's put her in this family for a reason and has great plans for her.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Should an age be established that is acceptable for a Christian young person to date? Should someone avoid dating till they are seriously considering marriage? Should independent dating or courtship with parental supervision be practiced?

Over the years I've pondered this question. I've had a hard time with the "they're too young" argument, mainly because some of the best marriages I know, including my godly maternal grandma's, were started at a fairly early age (my grandma was married at 16). It just so happens that my grandfather was formerly Amish, and it just so happens that the Amish, whom we regard as about the most conservative of all, have a pretty "loose" policy when it comes to dating. They allow their children to see each other in private, at night, normally in courting buggies. Of course they have been instructed how to properly behave, but nonetheless the possibility of indiscretion is there. No one, not even their parents, know they are dating until they announce their intentions to be married at a church service. Marriage soon follows. If they stop seeing each other, no one (supposedly) knows they were ever a couple.

Along with my grandparents, my husband's sister was married at sixteen, her daughter was married at seventeen, one of my brothers started dating his bride around 17, and my close friend and roommate from college starting dating her future husband at around age 15, give or take. All of these couples are very happily married today.

Culture plays a significant factor. The Amish culture, along with earlier marrying ages in general in past generations, made it more acceptable within Christian circles to start dating early, or at least earlier than it is now. Were kids more mature back then? I honestly don't know. Certainly in a more agrarian society kids were forced to carry more responsibility at an earlier age. Some of the strongest advocates of courtship these days would encourage it earlier than the norm for their children whom they've trained to be ready for marriage whenever God provides a suitable spouse.

In covering the first question regarding age, I've somewhat addressed the second regarding the purpose of dating, whether it should be only with marriage in view or otherwise. I think I'm coming to the conclusion that for the Christian family, it's not an either or but a both and. I think the starting point is this. If a Christian desires to date, that's an indication that God has put it in their heart to also desire marriage in the future. For those with whom this never works out after one or more relationships, they may discern God's will for them is to be single. For everyone else, they go through a process of discerning God's will in terms of who their life mate will be as they get to know the person they're dating more and more, and learn more about themselves as well. If they're really young, their purpose in dating should be to mature as a person and allow God to shape them into the person He wants them to be for their future mate. It should not be to make them feel good about themselves, although they will probably find this to be difficult. They may end up marrying the person they're dating, but not likely given all the steps that lie before them as they progress toward adulthood.

The third question then is courtship vs. independent dating. There may be different definitions of courtship, but let's just use the old school one of being chaperoned at first and having the expectation of possible or even probable marriage. I think the conclusion that I'm coming to is that a combination of both independent dating and family involvement is necessary for healthy relationships to exist in young couples. So I would definitely reject the Amish model! Parents need to give their children permission and limits when they're still under their authority, just as with everything else. At the same time, I think children need to be given a certain amount of independence and freedom when the parents deem them mature enough to have it, and if they get hurt, they get hurt. God will bring good out of it either way. Hopefully they'll have the assurance of their parents' love and view them as their first "fallback" if something really painful happens. If it becomes obvious to the parents that the relationship isn't going to be a healthy one, they may have to exercise tough love, but again, that's part of the way God will bring good into the situation.

On the positive side, if dating someone is going well, then hopefully there will be freedom on both sides for parents and kids to relate to one another and get to know and care for each other. This doesn't mean the daters are pressured to make decisions about how far the relationship should go, just because they've "met the parents." Think about it. Normally if Christian children develop long term friendships while still at home, involved parents get to know those friends and sometimes their families. The ideal would be for Christian students who go to college to continue a close relationship with their parents and if they enter into a dating relationship, to give at least a little information about who they're dating and how things are going. Parents need to not stifle their children at this age, regarding any decisions being made, but at the same time, wise children will continue to honor their parents' wisdom. Parents need to realize that their children are changing (hopefully for the better!), and not caution them too much based on the way they were as little kids. Rather, they can encourage the strengths they've always seen in them and support them in finding the person God provides for them.

So, no - age is not the main determinant. Yes - marriage should be the goal in dating, but not necessarily with each particular person that is dated; i.e. the young person should be seeking for God to make them ready for marriage whether it be with the one they are currently seeing or not. And yes and no, parents should be actively involved while children are under their authority, while at the same time giving more and more freedom until the child is no longer accountable to them; children should keep in touch, realizing that if they do marry, their mate will be a part of their extended family if they are to have a God-honoring marriage.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Write or Not to Write

I just came across something online which featured a well known scholar saying that publishing via the web has multiplied his readership way beyond what it originally would have been. He said not many will pay the full price for a book when there are cheaper means available. Through building a website, he was gaining readers from what appeared to be his own publishing house.

When I was younger, being a writer meant something. It was only done by an elite few and much status came with it. Today, it seems ordinary, even for those who've published "real" books. Someone recently asked me if I'd ever considered writing as a career. It happened to be someone I greatly respect who has his doctorate and is becoming fairly well known in his field of expertise (not my husband, although that description applies to him as well).

I've never given "real" writing much thought, but after some of the reading I've done, I've definitely thought I could do it as well if not better than others. This is not to brag, only to make the point that standards for authorship are decreasing. I guess real bonafide publishers are getting desperate with all the readers they're losing to cyberspace.

I suppose the main reason I haven't even given it a first attempt is that I don't have a topic that I feel I could write about well. There doesn't seem to be anything original I could contribute to the wealth of literature available. Ecclesiastes makes the point that everything under the sun has been done already.

I wonder if that's the case for something I was musing with my husband about the other day. I was speculating about the length of time it takes to text compared to speaking in person. He said I should do a study and get my doctorate in communications. Maybe I should. After all, I was able to edit HIS dissertation without knowing anything about what he was writing about, and he received feedback that it was one of the best written dissertations in the field. Mind you, this was economics, where good writing isn't the main focus. I also read through his two hard cover publications in which he was chief editor. I made it more readable for all of the 50 or so people who ended up reading it.

Well, I may be bordering on bragging now and I can make no excuse. That's one of the reasons I shouldn't write. I also have a tendency to be sarcastic and sassy. A high school teacher liked one of the assignments I did that had sarcastic humor in it. I guess it's a gift. But not one I should be proud of. So for the time being, I'll keep my typewriter tucked away on the shelf.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Note: after writing this I started reading the next chapter and Francis addressed the issue I wrote about: I've included a quote at the end.

I've been reading this book on my Kindle. The main theme is that because God is so big and awesome, we should be motivated to move out into the world and serve Him in radical ways. Once again, an author rails on the church for not doing its job.

Well, not the churches I know. So I guess in my case he's preaching to the choir. The churches I know are actively involved in serving in so many ways, spanning crisis pregnancy/pro-life/adoption to buying a well for Africa to helping the poor in New York City and Chicago to sending missionaries to every continent. Individuals within the church are actively supporting and serving in many ways themselves.

The truth is, we can always do better. There's no excuse for sitting around trying to build up our own castles. We should always be looking for more radical ways to serve to the point of suffering, and not shrink back. But let's not blame the church as a whole and make everyone feel guilty. Let's build one another up and as Paul does in his letters, encourage believers to press on, grow, and glorify God more and more.

I'm not saying I don't like this book in general, just not the blaming part. We need church leaders to motivate us and I think Francis has a lot of good things to say that do just that. So would I recommend this book? Of course. It's solid truth in terms of who God is and what we're called to do in light of the gospel. Hey, I like this guy. Who can't help but be drawn to a younger more hipsterish preacher who's a surfer and takes a radical step by leaving a huge congregation and starting a new ministry to the poor in LA? So don't avoid the book based on this post; read it for yourself and see what you think.

In the chapter following his challenge to the church, Francis quotes John Piper and then says "My fear in writing the previous chapter is that it only evokes in you fear and guilt. Personal experience has taught me that actions driven by fear and guilt are not an antidote to lukewarm, selfish, comfortable living. I hope you realize instead that the answer is love."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Severe/profound language expressive and receptive disorder

This was the bottom line evaluation of the speech pathologist at Unit 5 for Samantha. But let me clarify a little. Samantha is doing okay in school, is functional in all areas as long as she has visual props (i.e. doing math w/ numerals in front of her). In all the other Unit 5 testing that was given by two other professionals, she fell w/in the average range overall, but had very low scores for tasks that required listening w/o visuals. She also had problems with memory, but not enough to affect her overall performance. She would have been deemed ineligible for services based on that, but the speech pathology results moved her into being significantly at risk. Interestingly, the other tests were based on grade level, and the speech test was based on age.

This could have been caught earlier when she was at Easter Seals for sensory processing therapy. She was tested at four years of age by a green employee and passed, much to my shock. I knew Samantha couldn't understand or communicate well, but the testing didn't render her eligible for help. So I was left to try my best to fill in the gaps I knew were there.

The meeting was on Wednesday, and then yesterday I got her report card. They don't do grade reporting yet, just Excellent, Satisfactory, etc. She's starting to drop, so although she could have been getting help before, I'm thankful that at this crucial time before third grade things are in motion for her to get extra help at school. Along with the pull-outs for reading and phonics, they'll be adding speech. She'll also get a small amount of help from Unit 5, but most of it will come from Trinity's speech teacher along w/ an IEP for the classroom.

All that said, we still need to go deeper and have her tested for auditory processing. If we find she has a disorder for that, we will likely seek help outside the school so she can function better in all of life. However, being the smart cookie that she is, when she can't think of a word, she works really hard to explain herself w/ other language. She also asks what things mean when she's confused. So I'm pleased that she's making efforts to compensate on her own; this is huge and shows that she has amazing potential. She just has to get beyond being shy with others. At home, she compensates, but for the most part doesn't do that in other settings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

bulging disc (again)

I saw a pain specialist today that works w/ some of the best neurosurgeons in the state, from the research I did. He looked at my MRI and said even tho the bulging disc is minimal he feels it's the main source of my pain. I have an injection scheduled for next Friday. He says it should give lasting relief. I don't want to get my hopes up too much but it sounds very promising. The doctor said the SI joint is likely only causing around 20 percent if any of my trouble, but the injection will address that too if it's part of the problem.

This is the first time a medical doctor has looked at my MRI and acknowledged a bulging disc. I've had two out of three chiropractors mention it, one of which thought it was the source of my pain. That was the guy in Peoria who told me he couldn't treat me b/c of the travel. My current chiropractor saw it but didn't think it was the main source of my pain, altho his adjustments have helped me somewhat.