Tuesday, October 30, 2012

7 years ago (already!)

7 years ago today, we got our first glimpse of a little boy, one we had flown halfway around the world to meet.   Meeting him would forever change our world.

Seeing Yang Fu Tao, to be named Ryan Joseph FuTao Kassebaum, for the first time, as we wait for ‘formal’ introductions (a true formality since he was the only boy in the group!)

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We traveled with 5 other families, and 3 of them met their daughters in the same hotel room.  It was quite crowded and a bit noisy.  I’m not sure who cried more—the babies or the parents! 

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The babies were all dressed alike.  My memories of that day are very vivid, and yet as I look at the pictures it feels like another lifetime.  I feel fortunate to still be in touch with most of our travel families, and I remember them especially fondly this time of year. 

Brent traveled with us to get Ryan, and seeing the two of them hang out together warmed my heart.  At 16, Brent was an incredible big brother, patient and loving at a time when most guys would much rather not be having a baby around in their house.  To this day, Brent and Ry have the most amazing relationship!  I love to see them say hi when they’ve been apart for a long time.  And Ryan is SO MUCH like Brent that I frequently (at least once a day!) call him Brent, and we often call him Brent 2.0.  Smile

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The travel group:

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And ‘Ryan’s harem,’ otherwise known as the babies of our travel group:

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He was clearly not happy to be there…

But he’s generally a happy young man now!


Thanks for rocking our world, Ryan!  You are a true blessing, and we are forever grateful God has chosen us to be your family.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Yesterday Logan turned 8.  He bounced his way through the day, alternately whining that things were going too slow and quivering with excitement that presents were coming.  Because we had some unavoidable things on the calendar, the big ‘celebration’ would happen at dinner. Plus, we needed to keep things somewhat low key:  Ryan, Logan, and Jim are all sick.  Sad smile  (Lord have mercy on me!!)   My parents joined us for dinner of Logan’s choice:  lasagna, rolls, and green salad, with ice cream cake for dessert.  Once he finished eating, he begged to be excused so he could open gifts.  It was easy to grant his request.  Smile


We moved to the living room and he started opening presents.  He opened the first one, and was excited but a bit puzzled.  Hailey handed him the 2nd present to open.  He did.  You could see him shaking with excitement.   I told him that the present in his hands was from Grandma and Grandpa…and we waited.  After waiting a minute for him to say "Thank you” and getting nothing, someone prompted him with “What do you say?”  Immediately, his voice shaking with the thrill of it all, he responded: “What is it??”  We all cracked up.  He was so eager to have presents that he hadn’t figured out what the gift even was…just that he had presents!  Goofball.  (He got a LeapPad 2.  He LOVES it.  It’s just perfect for his developmental age, and there are tons of educational—like math concepts and phonics—games that he will play for hours.  Win all the way)

End result?  The gifts were a hit.  The company was delightful. DSC_0016 Emily made it home for the weekend, and that was a special treat.   The cake was delicious and fun (even if it didn’t look professional and wasn’t a soccer ball, as requested.)   What’s not to like about an ice cream cake with chocolate cake, mint ice cream, vanilla ice cream frosting, and hot fudge decoration? 


Here’s to many, many more, young man.  You have blessed our lives with laughter and fun, and challenged us to grow beyond what we ever believed possible.   Your smile lights up the room and your laughter is contagious.  We are SO grateful that God put us together! 

Monday, October 15, 2012


Somehow I thought I would just put together a quick post summarizing my time at the symposium on Saturday.  Not gonna happen.  No way…no how.  There’s simply too much to process, too much to think through, too much to synthesize in such a short time.  And when you add to it the fact that I have felt under the weather the last day or 2 (not sick, just under the weather.  Fortunately, today I started feeling much more normal.  Smile ), well, it all adds up to ‘later, gator.’ 

I can say that the time was mostly well spent.  Some of the presentations were incredibly helpful, full of useful information and encouragement.  Some of the others were too ‘school/classroom focused’ to be of much use to me.  But…that’s how it goes.  I have a long list of things to research and ideas to attempt to integrate into our day. 

I wish I could say that I came away totally convinced that someday (hopefully SOON!) we would begin to get a handle on executive functions.  I didn’t.  It appears that children who are deaf/hard of hearing struggle with executive function for most of their lives.  It is our prayer that as some of the things I learned this weekend are applied in our day, in our home, in our routine, we will begin to see growth.  Already tonight Jim and I had a conversation about some behaviors we see that aren’t disruptive but that clearly demonstrate  lack of inhibitory control (the ability to inhibit an incorrect behavior and apply a correct one) and how we hope to enlist others in directing the behavior more appropriately  We’ll see if we can get others in our world on board.  I hope so!  We can NOT do this alone.  It’s important that he learn these things.  After all, who exactly wants to hire someone who isn’t focused, can’t follow through, has no filters on what they say, or isn’t able to initiate a project??

Through it all, I am yet again grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).  I get to start with a fresh slate, and so does Logan.  Starting fresh every day gives me hope that some day we truly will get there.  After all, we are all works in progress!

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  (Ecc 3:11, emphasis mine)

Friday, October 12, 2012

executive functions

Ever heard that term?  It has to do with higher order processing in the brain, and it’s responsible for things like:

  • Working memory and recall (holding facts in mind while manipulation information; accessing facts stored in long-term memory)
  • Activation, arousal, and effort (getting started; paying attention; finishing work)
  • Controlling emotions (ability to tolerate frustration; thinking before acting or speaking)
  • Internalizing language (using ‘self-talk’ to control one’s behavior and direct future actions)
  • Complex problem solving (taking an issue apart, analyzing the pieces, reconstituting and organizing it into new ideas)
  • Shifting, inhibiting (changing activities; stopping existing activities; stopping and thinking before speaking or acting)
  • Organizing/planning ahead (organizing time, projects, materials, and possessions)
  • Monitoring (self-monitoring and prompting)

It’s one of those places where we see clearly the developmental delays Logan has. Executive functions are a struggle for him.  All day…every day.   Frankly, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult life must be for him, being unable to hear clearly and dealing with delays in all of those areas.  It’s no wonder we’re all frequently frustrated!

Tomorrow, I am headed to Seattle Children’s for an all day symposium on “Executive Functions in Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children.”  Sponsored by the  Childhood Communication Center and hosted by Logan’s FABULOUS ENT (ear/nose/throat doctor), it is another amazing opportunity for us (me!) to learn more methods to help Logan.  A couple years ago I attended a different symposium on literacy and language development in deaf/hard of hearing children, and it was fantastic.   I have to be there at 8AM tomorrow, but that’s okay.  It’s a good thing I’m a morning person.  New tools for our box!!  Each item helps, and we’re seeing slow but steady improvement in our guy.  (He even picked up a book and read me some words yesterday!!)

I’m sure there will be fascinating things learned tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to it, and I’m certain that I will post exciting new knowledge and insights soon.  Smile

Sunday, October 7, 2012

challenges and perseverance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”   James 1:2-4

DSC_0007Those verses have been running through my mind the last few days.  I realized just how true they are yesterday when I was out washing my car.  I was on the far side, away from our new neighbors and their house, but I could still hear them. I don’t think they knew I was outside.  (At least I hope they didn’t!)  Logan came out and headed across the cul-de-sac to see Howard.  Howard is 82, and he adores both little guys.  They go over to his house and help him work in his yard.  They rake with him, pull weeds with him, and generally enjoy his company.  He, in turn, enjoys theirs.  So much so, in fact, that when Howard turned 80 a few years ago, Ryan and Logan were invited to his surprise party.  We were not.  Jim went along to chaperone the small guests.  Smile

Anyway,  after Logan headed over, I heard the new neighbors talking among themselves.  They have lived here since late June, and we’ve only seen them once or twice.  It’s too bad, because they have a darling  daughter who is the boys’ age!  My first meeting with them was under less than auspicious circumstances—they had come over to check out their new house (3 days before closing!) without telling the sellers.  They set off the alarm, which brought the neighborhood security, and then they had the audacity to be upset that they couldn’t get into ‘their’ house.  When it was pointed out to them that it still, in fact, belonged to the people who were moving out (for 3 more days, until closing), they got angry.  That first meeting wasn’t pretty.  Since then, I’ve seen them maybe twice.  Logan and Ryan introduced themselves one weekend, but that’s it.  As they watched Logan head toward Howard’s, I heard snatches of the conversation:  “Why would someone choose to parent a child like that?” and “I wonder what’s REALLY wrong with him?” are the ones that stick in my mind.  Angry, I was ready to step out and confront them when I realized something.  I’ve been that person.  I’ve wondered those things before.

I suspect that Logan’s differences are part of the reason we don’t see their 2nd grader out front.  I can hear her in the backyard.  It’s their loss.  In the 4  1/2 years we’ve had the privilege of being Logan’s parents, we have learned tremendous amounts about rejection, assumptions, and prejudice.  He is a delightful child, with challenges galore.  Yes, he can be hard to understand.  Yes, he’s not very coordinated.  Yes, he blurts out everything that comes to his mind without applying any filters.   (There are no longer ANY secrets around here.  Need proof?  Ask the Sunday School teacher.  Or the small group babysitter.  Or the speech therapist or the horse therapist.  Or the clerk at wherever we shopped last. Disappointed smile)   Yes, he has difficulty hearing.  Yes, he has control issues.  Yes, he challenges me as mom regularly. Those are the hard things.  They are frustrating.  They are challenging…for all of us.   They are also the refining things about parenting (or being a sibling to) this child.

Because of Logan, we have learned compassion.  We know what it is to see a child rejected because he wears hearing aids.  We see the hurt others inflect with their words.  And we watch our much more carefully!  Often it’s unintentional, but far too frequently the words are chosen deliberately.  We have seen the joy of accomplishment in a new light.  We don’t take success for granted.  We see what it is to struggle with concepts and work long and hard for mastery.  We see the frustration when mastery doesn’t come, or when it does come but memory issues hinder the recall.  We see the elation in a job well done.  We see the dedication and thoughtfulness of a child who is gifted differently.  And we are learning to appreciate these things. 

Those who know me know that I have been upfront about Logan’s adoption.  It’s been hard.  It’s been challenging.  It’s been an exercise in perseverance.  Some days I feel like a massive failure.  I don’t see progress for him.  There are days part of me wants to throw in the towel.  But I know that God is faithful, and that He gave us this child for a reason.  Yes, Logan has a home and a family; access to much needed medical care and therapy.  But his parents and his siblings have had lessons in humility.  In the depth of our faith.  In considering this trial to be pure joy.  And you know what?  As a result of sticking with it, of persevering, we are starting to see the gifts.  Maturity is one.  A changed heart is another.  We have a greater understanding and compassion for other parents with special needs children.  On the good days, we count our blessings.  On the bad days we have to dig deeper to find the blessings, but they are richer, somehow.  In spite of the challenges, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Logan has been God’s way of maturing us as parents and as people.  I’m ready for the refining of my character to move from 60 grit sandpaper in that power sander to something finer, but only God knows when I’ll be ready for that.  In the meantime, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14)

Doing that, I can’t fail.  That knowledge is incredibly freeing!

*Yes, that’s an OLD picture of Logan.  When our computer died last month, I lost all my current pictures.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose everything, but for now the last several months are gone.  Hopefully they’ll be retrievable soon.  In the meantime, you’ll have to be content with a picture of Logan from last Christmas!