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July 2007

It's been almost four weeks since we began on this adventure to bring Jude to Iowa City to have his clubfoot corrected at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital. We left home only a day and a half after arriving home from China, I don't even think I quite got UNpacked before I repacked for this trip! I had contacted the Ronald McDonald house in Iowa City about staying there during Jude's treatment, and was told to call them the day we would be arriving, as they cannot accept reservations. Since there would be so MANY of us staying, we could only fit in a suite (as opposed to a regular room), and those were quite a bit harder to come by. So we left home, not quite sure where we would be staying once we arrived, but knowing that the RMH would take care of us by either housing us there, or finding us a local hotel who would offer us reduced rates until the RMH could make room for us. We split the trip up into two 7 hour driving days and spent the night on the way up here in lovely Paducah, Kentucky. Of course, the kids were thrilled we would be staying at a hotel where they could jump on the beds and swim in the pool. Jude did amazingly well, he never really had an issue with the car seat like I imagined he would. And it didn't take him long to start to enjoy the Baby Song DVDs we play in the car for the girls, much to the boys' chagrin ;) The next day was a bit more arduous after a not-quite-so-restful night's sleep. But we arrived safely in Iowa City and were told by the RMH that we would be staying at the Comfort Suites in Coralville. The wonderful news was that this hotel was brand new and had a 100 ft. waterslide! The boys were thrilled and made it into their suits and into the pool in no time.

Jude had his first appointment with Dr. Ponseti on July 2 at 9:00. I was so nervous, I felt like I was meeting the president! Dr. Ponseti is such an amazing man and I have so much respect and admiration for how he has devoted his life to making life better for countless children who are born with clubfoot. Our meeting went well, and he gave Jude a thorough once over. We were grateful to hear that Jude's clubfoot is 'moderate', completely correctable, and that he has no additional issues. He estimated that Jude would need 6-7 casts and wasted no time in getting Jude into his first set of casts. Jude did cry and I had been prepared for what the day would be like with the help of some wonderful online buddies whose children had also been treated by Dr. Ponseti (thanks Jenny and Joyce!) I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Jude did with the casts, he didn't seem nearly as bothered with them as I had feared, and it didn't take him too long to figure out how to get around in them as easily as he had without.

Unfortunately, July 3rd (my birthday) brought with it a most unwelcome birthday gift, I woke up with a very painful case of strep throat. I was so grateful that Chris was still there, so he could take the kids to the pool while I slept in, waiting for the Motrin to kick in. While he was at the pool, he had the pleasure of meeting the hotel owners, Lisa and Lincoln. Lisa had recognized Jude in his inconspicuous casts, since a good friend of hers, Sarah, had given her the heads up that we would be heading to Iowa City for Jude's treatment. Now this is where the "God thing" comes into it because just a week before I didn't even know Sarah. She is an avid reader of MyAdoptionWebsite since she is on an adoption journey of her own. When she read on Jude's site that we would be in Iowa City, she emailed me, offering her help in any way she could, even though she no longer lived here. She got in touch with her church here and had several wonderful ladies here praying for us. She sent me a list of fun things to do here and phone numbers of people who would be willing to help out, or just get together for a visit. I had not had time to get back to her before we left, but she had said that she had some great friends who had a hotel who would love to have us there if it would help us out. Well, you might have guessed, these were THE friends. Seems that God wanted us to be at the Comfort Suites one way or another. And meeting Lincoln and Lisa was such a blessing. They have four beautiful kids, all around the ages of our kids, and Chris and I both really enjoyed getting a chance to meet them.

Chris left the next day (after a series of fiascos with Delta NOT getting Chris' flight out and me having to drive the 2 1/2 hour round trip to the airport way too many times) and we were all sad for him to leave. No one sadder than me, I don't think, as I was beginning to fully understand that this meant that I was in charge of ALL of the kids. Alone. And I was still feeling quite sick. Yeah, you get the picture, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself ;) By Jude's appointment on Friday I was feeling much better, thanks to some antibiotics (thanks Connie!!) and things were looking up. Jude's casting didn't go quite as well since by this point, he knew the casting was uncomfortable, at best. He started to cry as soon as they came at him to cut the old cast off, even though this part is completely painless. During the casting he got quite agitated and would not be appeased by any of the toys offered to him by the ever-patient Ponseti staff. As soon as we were done with Jude's casting, we headed back to the hotel to check out and leave for Omaha, NE to visit the Nowlin clan. When I got up to the check out at the hotel I was told that Lincoln had 'taken care of everything' and that we had not been charged anything for our time there. I was speechless. We had been there already close to a week. Chris and I had never felt God's hand reaching into our lives in such a generous way from such an unexpected place and we were blown away. Thank you Lisa and Lincoln, you guys are AWESOME :)

Our drive to Omaha was uneventful (in a very good way!) and we were all so excited to finally arrive at the Nowlin abode. They moved from Altus to Omaha three years ago and we have not been able to make our way up to visit until now. Once we got close, I was busy looking for an address, but should have just been looking for the house that has that Chenoa 'touch' instead. I spotted it way before I could read the street number, Chenoa and Tom have done a fantastic job redoing their house, it's adorable. The kids ran around like crazy people for awhile, while I tried to get things unpacked with a very heavy plaster-laden boy on my hip. The bad thing about moving around withOUT a husband and a with a newly adopted child is that the two don't mix! Jude refused to be put down (and I really couldn't blame him) but yet I had to get all the kids' stuff out of the car and into the house. It didn't go well. In fact, I didn't really unpack during the whole week that we were there.

Chenoa and I had a great time hanging out, during the very few times that we were not being beckoned by one of our kids to do their bidding. Her husband Tom was away during the first half of our stay there and she and I found ourselves knee deep in laundry and rubble much of the time. Good thing God has blessed her with an amazing dose of hospitality and patience, because with our family there, she definitely needed it! Especially after Asher announced to us all that he wasn't feeling well by vomiting profusely in her hallway. Seems Asher was coming down with strep throat also. Now let me tell you, if you think cleaning up throw up is misery, try doing it with a screaming toddler in the next room who is just dying to get to you. At that moment I was thinking that cleaning up vomit in sweet silence might not be such a bad thing ;) Jude didn't want to have anything to do with Miss Chenoa (he hasn't fallen in love with her like my other boys' have YET) so he was not happy having to watch me from afar. In spite of Asher's illness (strep throat confirmed by a very late night emergency room visit) we were able to have a great time in Omaha. We did some of our usual bargain-hunting, visited the Omaha Zoo, and spent a very memorable evening at a place called The Pizza Machine. It is like a Chuck E. Cheese times 100. Huge buffet: icees, tacos, nachos, pizza, cookies, and ice cream galore. Carnival rides INside. Bumper cars. Flashing lights that have the potential to cause epileptic seizures. Kiddie heaven. An Isabelle nightmare, in other words.

Jude's feet before his first cast

Dr. Ponseti putting on Jude's first cast

Jude's feet after the first cast was removed

After Jude's second cast

After Jude's third cast

After Jude's fourth cast

After fifth cast

Enjoying his first time in a swing

Great times with awesome friends in Omaha

Hanging out at the pool with some great new friends

Having a 'blast' at the Johnson County Fair

Dr. Morcuende applying Jude's sixth cast
She went nuts. Definitely an overdose of stimulation for her little system. I think I lost her a half dozen times, she was just running around like a maniac. It was craziness. Thankfully we were able to leave there as a family intact and with smiles on our faces.

By Wednesday Asher was feeling a bit better from his antibiotic so the girls, Jude and I made the trip from Omaha to Iowa City for Jude's third casting, letting Dalton and Asher stay and play in Omaha. We left very early as I wanted to be sure that we would not be late for Jude's appointment. We arrived in enough time to take a quick trip to Target for some Motrin for Jude and some popcorn for the girls. When she was cutting off Jude's cast, Nurse Maria told me that Dr. Morcuende would be taking over Jude's treatment for several reasons, one being that Jude is a bit more difficult to cast since he's a feisty 17 month old, and most children are casted as infants and Dr. Ponseti is 93! Dr. Morcuende has been working with Dr. Ponseti for 6 years and works with him on many cases. Dr. Ponseti will still be checking Jude's casts and following his progress at each visit. The casting went well, with Dr. Ponseti and Morcuende noting that Jude's left foot is a bit stiffer than the right and is not responding as well as the other foot to the casting. Jude, as predicted, cried through the entire casting process, eventually crying himself to sleep. I must admit, as a mother who wimps out at immunizations for her kids, this has been difficult. Jude cries "Mama, mama" the entire time. Of course, I know this casting is the easiest, most painless and most successful way to treat his feet. But it doesn't make my heart hurt any less when I hear his cry. He fell asleep quickly when I put him in the car, as did the girls, and they didn't wake up until I pulled the car into a McDonald's parking lot in Des Moines, on our way back to Omaha. We arrived back at the Nowlins just in time to go to watch Zach's baseball game and spend some time at the park. Jude had his first experience in a swing and absolutely loved it. I was reminded again what a blessing adoption is as I watched our new son radiate happiness in simple, newfound joys.

The rest of our time in Omaha was great, punctuated with a few miserably humbling moments: Isabelle tinkling on Chenoa's beautiful leather couch and an unnamed *someone* not quite making it to the toilet in time in the middle of the night. And by the time we left Dalton had been diagnosed with strep and Isabelle was showing symptoms. But Tom and Chenoa made us all feel so 'at home'... it was a fantastic time we feel blessed to have been able to share during our time up here, and a reminder of why we love the Nowlins so much: they're inspiring as fellow believers, incredible friends and they PUT UP with all of us!!

On Saturday it was time for us to head back to Iowa City. We were all sad to be leaving Omaha, but we were all so glad for the time we had been able to spend on our mini-vacation at Camp Nowlin :) On the drive back to Iowa City I called the Ronald McDonald house to see if they had a suite available for us, and was surprised to hear that they did. We got settled in on Sunday and as soon as the kids realized we had a little mini-apartment at our disposal, they freaked. They ran around like we were in a castle :) Asher asked how long we'd be staying and I told him probably two weeks. He looked sad and I asked him if two weeks was too long. He replied, "No, it's not long ENOUGH!" Kids... you gotta love their perspective!

Our time at the RMH has been great. Lots of incredibly kind people who work here and/or are staying here while their little ones are being treated at the U of I Children's Hospital. I have met four other Ponseti families who are staying here and I've learned a lot since three of the four families were treated unsuccessfully by other doctors before coming to Iowa City. I have met countless other families at the hospital with similar stories. It is a shame that so many children have to go through so much unnecessary pain at the hands of inexperienced doctors. It is a reminder of how blessed we are to NOT have had to endure some misguided treatment before coming to the best! God had His hand on us, guiding us here, there is no doubt. I need to remind myself of all I have to be grateful for during this time, not what I am missing (if only it were that easy ;))

Jude's treatment has been going well. He was casted with his sixth cast yesterday and, unfortunately, the castings are becoming more and more unpleasant for him. By unpleasant I mean difficult to endure. Jude knows now what is going on and cried yesterday as soon as he spotted the nurse. It was humorous to us, but I know it was stressful for him, knowing what was coming. The good news is that Jude's right foot, although not quite where it needs to be yet, might be ready for the tenotomy on Monday. A tenotomy is when the heel cord is nicked so that the foot will be able to lay flat on the floor, once the casts are off. Right now his feet point down, like a ballerina, because his heel cords are so tight. We have scheduled the tenotomy for the 30th and I am saying my prayers that it all comes together on that date, so we don't have to come back for another casting. Chris will be flying up on Monday so we can drive home on Tuesday. Home. HOME! I am LOVING the sound of that word!! Jude's last cast will stay on for 3 1/2 weeks to allow his heel cord to completely heal. Then he will wear special shoes with a bar in between for 22 hours/ day, until his feet relearn where they are supposed to be, probably 3-6 months. It's amazing, as soon as those casts come off, his little feet want to go back to their original position!

I will be updating once again when we are home and settled. I'll also be posting to our blog again... soon I promise! I have lots of cute pics of everyone during our time here, so stay tuned!

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