Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What a busy, but great week we have had here! There is much to share. On Wednesday, during exercise time, Jonathan tried many more things on his own without holding on to my hands. He was able to do the balance board, walking on the tape line on floor, balancing on both feet and one foot at a time, all without holding on. He was so determined to try to do some of these things on his own, and I was so encouraged. We went swimming for an hour after that and had a wonderful time playing in the pool. We got a lot of exercise in that day. But then, he spent the evening worrying and crying about having to stand up with the children’s choir and sing one song during the mission service we had at church. He had zero confidence and zero motivation to participate in any form or fashion. The whole evening was like this, even until he went to bed. It’s amazing how encouraged I can be about his progress one minute, and how quickly his mood can change and I can become completely discouraged. We seem to be flip-flopping quite frequently like this. On Thursday we were able to get our schoolwork done and spend the rest of the day at Grandma and Grandpa Smith’s house in Ft. Worth. It was very good to just hang out with some of our family for the day. On Friday evening, we went to a dinner at our church which included hearing from the missionaries that had come for the mission conference. While we were there, we visited with one missionary couple who told us that they had prayed for Jonathan in South Asia when they heard about his illness. All of us, including Jonathan, think that is the coolest part of this experience that people all over the world have prayed for us. It is a humbling thought. Saturday was Dad’s birthday, so we spent the day hanging out with him and taking him out to dinner that evening. On Sunday, Sarah and Jonathan’s choir sang in the service and we finished out the mission conference at our church that day. Jonathan is still doing well in Sunday school, handbells and choir. Sunday marked a very great achievement for Jonathan – he successfully made it for 3 weeks without setting off the bed wetting alarm! He is now officially finished using it and he is very proud of this accomplishment. As of today, we have made it two extra nights doing just fine without it. We are so thankful for this answer to prayer that God has given us. This week has been extremely busy for us so far. On Monday, we spent the afternoon preparing to give our Dad a surprise 40th birthday party. Jonathan did a great job keeping it a secret too. His idea for his gift to his Dad was to take his walker, decorate it and give it to him to use since he no longer needs it. I thought that was a wonderful idea! So we put a big 40 on the front with some streamers and balloons and he gave it to him at his party. We had lots of friends and family there to celebrate with us and we had a great time. On Tuesday, our family had the opportunity to sing and tell our miracle story in the chapel service at The Criswell College where Grandpa Cooper is a VP. Many of those people there have also spent the year praying for us, and it was a neat opportunity for us to share with them the answer to their prayers. We sang several songs, and each one of us had the opportunity to share about our part in this experience. I asked Jonathan some questions and he shared his answers with everyone. The girls both shared about how they felt and handled the situation. They were such a blessing to listen to. Lamar and I both shared from our hearts, we showed a powerpoint of pictures from the journey, and we ended our time by singing a song called, “How Great is Our God.” Many of our family were present and we all briefly relived this very moving experience that we have shared together. We had a chance to visit with many of the students and faculty and heard words of encouragement and many miracles that have happened in others lives. It is amazing how many miracles happen all around us that we don’t even realize. God is alive and working in our world today – there is no doubt about it. So needless to say, Tuesday was a very emotionally charged day for our family. Because of chapel yesterday, we moved therapy to this afternoon. Jonathan got to swing on another new swing and he seemed to enjoy it a lot. It is a platform swing, just a flat board that he got on and swung several different ways. First, he got on his hands and knees, then he stood up on his knees, then placed each leg up, one at a time, and balanced while he was swinging. Not only did he really enjoy it, but he balanced very well while swinging. He walked across the mats again and practiced getting up off the ground while on the mats. Doing anything on those exercise mats makes everything quite a bit harder. He balanced on the balance line, on both feet and on one foot at a time, he did lots of jumping on both feet as well as one foot at a time, and he walked with the moon shoes on again. The therapy office is really not very big, so the therapists all share the space with each other. There always seems to be a little child who is in the same space as Jonathan, and most of them are usually learning how to eat. They all seem to enjoy having him there and he loves being able to help keep them from getting upset with what they are doing. He is a great distraction! His therapist did comment today that Jonathan seemed a little more unstable than he has been. She seemed to attribute it to being busy over the last couple of days. His Sunday School teacher also made the same comment about him being unsteady on Sunday as well. I’m not sure what all that means, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Jonathan is doing great in so many ways, but we are now dealing with many emotional issues with him. He cries very easily about almost anything these days. It is hard to know just how to handle this with him positively. We talk about it a lot with him and are working on dealing with issues instead of crying about them. He is very sensitive to sad things as well. After listening to me talk in chapel, and listening to me cry as I told parts of the story, he lost it when I started to sing, and cried for a while. I know this is a delicate part of his healing process, and one that is going to need a lot of prayer. So with that said, I would ask you to specifically pray for Jonathan’s emotional healing. Pray that he will learn to work through things that he can handle on his own without crying. Pray that he will gain confidence in his ability to do things on his own and that his desire to handle these things on his own will increase. Pray that we will be patient, sensitive, and loving with him as he journeys through this part of the healing process. Pray for increased strength in his ankles, his legs and his hips. Pray for his balance, that it would increase, as well as his stability and stamina. Continue to pray for his weight gain and his eating. Pray that we will be able to help him eat healthy and that we will know how to help him maintain a good weight. Pray that he will continue to have success with his bladder control at night. Continue to pray believing for healing of his vision, his diabetes, and his brain. Pray that God will continue to give us opportunities to share with others what He has done in our lives. Thank you for continuing to pray us through each step of this journey. We are so grateful for your constant support in keeping up with Jonathan’s progress and faithfully praying for each of the needs we have. May God abundantly bless each of you, our faithful friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

We have had another good week here. Jonathan continues to improve every day. Last Wednesday, Jonathan was able to go to Awanas on his own and he passed two sections in his book. That means he said 4 verses and all of the books of the Bible! He almost started to cry when I was leaving, but one of our homeschool Moms, who is his listener, talked to him all the way to his room and helped take his mind off of crying. He did a great job and we were very proud of him. On Thursday, we went out to dinner and then took a walk around the mall. Jonathan is still being able to tell us when he is full and then he will stop eating. He does this mostly when we go out to eat because I don’t fix as much food at home, but he has also done it at home at least once. We are very thrilled each time he tells us he is full. That is such a wonderful answer to prayer! Jonathan was able to walk around the mall for over an hour without getting too fatigued. He was pretty confident that he could walk around the whole mall without getting tired, and he was very willing to try that night. We continue to do our own therapy at home. Jonathan is getting better and better with his balance, his jumping, and his walking. He is a real trooper and never complains about having to do his exercises. Our weekend was pretty slow and low key. On Saturday, while Dad was doing the yard and Mom was cleaning out the garage, Jonathan found his scooter and decided he would give it a try. He was able to ride it around the garage without any problem, and he only lost his balance once. That was pretty exciting for him. He use to ride his scooter a lot, as well as his bike, and even though he can’t ride his bike yet, he can ride his scooter now. A couple of days later, he was back out in the garage riding while Elizabeth watched him. This is a special accomplishment for Jonathan. On Sunday, Jonathan did all the things he usually does on his own. Jonathan has some wonderful kids in his Sunday School class. They are all very sweet to him and take every opportunity to help him with anything he needs. It has been such a blessing to watch the children respond to him in such a kind, gentle way. Sunday night marked the second full week of success with the bladder alarm! He has one more week to fully complete it and then he will try going without it. He is very proud and very much looking forward to not having to use that at night. Another wonderful answer to prayer! Jonathan is still doing very well in school. Some days can be tougher than others, and Monday was one of those days. We went to bed late on Sunday night, got up late, and that just threw off the entire day. One of the big things we are working through with Jonathan is his emotions. He has a tendency to cry very quickly if something is too difficult for him, or if he is away from any of us too long, especially Mom. We are trying to work on helping him respond differently, and trying to handle things on his own more. It is a very slow process. On Friday evening, after coming back from the mall with his Dad, he started to cry because he was having trouble getting his shoes and socks off. When his Daddy asked him why that upset him, Jonathan told him, “No one else has trouble with that.” I can only imagine how frustrating it is for him to try to understand why things that are so easy for others, and that he use to be able to do, are so hard for him now. But we will continue to work on this and pray that God will bring complete emotional healing in His time. Today was therapy, and Jonathan got to do some new things. He got to swing on a mushroom swing, which is just a ball that you sit on and cross your ankles to swing. You have to use quite a lot of leg muscles to keep your ankles crossed and keep yourself on top of this little ball you are sitting on. It was pretty tough, but he did a pretty good job. After that, he got to swing from a trapeze swing. He was almost able to hold himself on it for 10 seconds. In the room where they use these swings, the floor is covered with exercise mats. That is a completely different surface to walk on, so he got to practice walking on the mats. He did an excellent job walking across the mats. After that, he did some of his ball exercises and then he got to try walking with some moon boots. This is like walking on a trampoline. The shoes are huge which means he really had to pick his feet up just to get one foot in front of the other without tripping over the shoe. He did incredibly well with the moon boots! He didn’t trip once, and walked through the office twice with no trouble at all. He also had to step up and down on a small, medium and large step, alternating feet. He has more trouble stepping up and down with his right leg, and this exercise really challenged that right leg. The longer he worked at it, the better he got. By the end, he was able to really lift that right leg up on the tall step and push himself up on it very well. He practiced walking on a straight line on the floor (same as walking on the balance beam, only without the beam), jumping with two feet, and jumping on just one foot. Jumping on one foot is pretty tough for him, but he can jump with two feet without anyone holding on to him. He is still balancing with his feet in front of each other between 10-20 seconds with each foot. That is such a great improvement! Overall, he is doing a phenomenal job in his therapy.
Thanks so much for keeping up with Jonathan’s progress. God has been so very good to allow us to see specific improvements in Jonathan’s progress. It is so encouraging and we are so thankful for every one of them. Continue to pray for increased strength in his legs, hips, and ankles. The braces are working very well this time. Jonathan will even offer to wear them instead of always having to be told to wear them, which is great. Continue to pray that his feet will straighten and that he will be able to walk on them correctly. I’m not seeing as much correction in his feet as I would like, so please continue to pray for that. Pray for his emotional healing as well as his memory and ability to understand and do well in school. Pray for healing of his vision as well. Pray that we will be able to finish this last week of using the monitor and continue to maintain without it. Continue to pray for his eating, weight gain and normal blood sugars. Also, pray that he will remain in good health. Jonathan has had a cough and some congestion this last week, but I don’t know if it is a cold or maybe allergies. We are so thankful for your continued prayers and support. Jonathan has many things left to accomplish, and your prayers are a constant encouragement and help as he works toward those goals. Your prayers are a constant support to the rest of us too as we walk this road with Jonathan and help him with each step he takes. We love you all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jonathan is just doing awesome! God has been so good to let us see some new things over this past week that have really encouraged us. Last Wednesday was the first day back at Awanas. Jonathan was able to finish his book over the summer so he could start the new one for this year. He was really pumped and ready to go back to Awanas. We talked quite a bit about him going by himself. This means he would have to go upstairs, downstairs, back upstairs and back downstairs for an hour and a half without me or one of his sisters. He really seemed ready to tackle the challenge – until we got there and he actually got ready to do it. Then he started to cry. There are two very sweet Moms who work in his class that were there and ready to help him with whatever he needed, but it’s that separation anxiety that I haven’t had to deal with since he was 2-3 that seems to have crept back into his life. I was able to walk upstairs with him and get him settled in his class and get him to stop crying, and he seemed fine when I left him. That’s when I left and went to my car and cried for a while. For some reason, that just broke my heart. It was always very hard for me to leave him crying when he was a toddler, and that feeling came back all over again when it happened last week. But I knew that the Lord would give him the strength to make it through the evening, and I know this is good therapy for him as well. Sometimes those things are easier for me to handle than others, and last week must have been one of those “other” times for me. I checked on him about a half hour later and he was doing fine. He made it until the end and met us downstairs in the lobby, just like he was supposed to. He got his new book and has been working on 4 Scriptures and the books of the Bible to say at class tomorrow. We finally ran into our first road block with school on Friday. We started a new chapter in math on place values, and everything I said just seemed to bounce off his forehead. So I am having to back track on our skills and work up to where he needs to be at this grade level, which is okay. It just may take us a little longer to get through things, and we may not get through as much as we normally would. We are trying to use a little magnifying glass with his reading, and it seems to help him some. But overall, he is doing pretty well. We had a wonderful opportunity on Sunday morning to go to Mrs. Criswell’s Sunday School class at First Baptist Dallas. Both of Jonathan’s grandparents belong to her class, so it was really a family ordeal. Both the services at First Baptist, as well as Mrs. Criswell’s class, are aired on KCBI radio. There were many, many times when we would hear Jonathan’s name mentioned in prayer by this class, and this church, over the radio. We had many people share with us that they heard about Jonathan over the radio, and that they were praying for him. I can’t begin to tell you how much hope and encouragement that brought to us. So Sunday, we had the opportunity to visit the class, to share with them and sing for them, and to thank them personally for their faithful prayers for Jonathan. It was a great blessing for our entire family. Later on that evening, Jonathan went to handbells, choir and CIA again, all by himself with Sarah. He continues to do such a great job with these challenges and we are so very proud of him. One of the most encouraging things that happened over the weekend was while we were eating out at lunch on Saturday. We were eating Chinese food and for the very first time since Jonathan has been out of the hospital, he looked at me, with food still on his plate and said, “Mom, I’m full.” I have been waiting to hear him say that for such a long time! Up to this point, he seemed to just eat non-stop, if we would let him. He always seemed to be hungry and never seemed to know when to stop. On Sunday at lunch, we were out again with our family, and I thought how great that would be if he continued to respond that way. But I actually thought it was probably just a random thing that happened. No sooner did I have that thought, when Jonathan looked at me, with half a plate of French fries (his favorite thing in the whole wide world) and said, “Mom, I’m full again.” Praise the Lord! It happened again – this time with French fries still left! Even this evening, he was able to stop eating at dinner when he was full, without finishing all his food. I am so encouraged. I have prayed with much concern about his weight gain and that God would touch that part of his brain that would help him control his eating. We are all just thrilled to see God working in this part of his life. We are trying to work on his activity level between meals because it seems to help keep his sugar within normal range when he is more active. We are consistently doing therapy at home every day except his regular therapy day, which was today. Ms. Heather worked him hard again. She even made his right leg shake again today. She had him walk up and down a couple flight of stairs, putting one foot on each step, both up and down. He did great. He also did his exercises on the ball, some balancing on the balance beam and balance board, and he is doing incredibly well balancing standing with his feet in front of each other. She had him try pushing himself with his feet on a wide skateboard, going forward and backward. That was much harder than it looked, he found out. She also had him try to do the crab walk, which was pretty tough for him also. Overall, he did a great job, as usual. Another very encouraging thing is that we are seeing him initiate some activity on his own. Most of it has been getting up and going to play video games either on his own or with his sisters. There have actually been periods of about an hour and a half where he has been busy with them and not hanging out with Mom. Tonight, he went upstairs, on his own, by himself and played the game alone. We had to send one of the girls up to check on him and he was fine. One more thing to share is that Jonathan is now on his second week of using the night time monitor without setting off the alarm. He seems to wake up and tell me when he needs to go, which is usually once during the night, then he wakes up dry in the morning. So we are definitely making progress in this area as well. What an encouragement this week has been for us!
Thank you so much for your continued prayers for Jonathan. God reminds us daily of His faithfulness to hear and answer those prayers. Continue to pray for his legs. Pray for strength, specifically in his hips, knees, ankles and feet. Pray for stronger, more defined balance. Continue to pray for his eating, his weight and his diabetes. Please continue to pray for his mental and emotional healing. Pray that he will continue to initiate activity on his own, as well as be able to handle more things on his own – especially being away from Mom. Pray for continued success with his bladder control. Pray that his mind will be able to comprehend his school work. Pray for healing of his vision and that we would be able to find just the right tools that will help him to see better and help him in school. Also, pray that the Lord will continue to provide Jonathan and our family opportunities to sing and be a witness to others of God’s amazing grace, healing and work in our family. We love to be able to share with others what God has done for us. Psalm 98:1 - O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. How great is our God!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

We had such a great camping trip this past weekend! We headed out on Thursday afternoon and got to Tyler State Park about 4 pm. We got everything set up and started to cook our first dinner. Right before we sat down to eat, a couple of ladies came by and asked us if we were from Louisiana. She then shared with us that they had lost everything in the hurricane and that they had bought their campers on a credit card just to have some place to stay. There were about 10-15 of their family staying in 4 campers and they had a few changes of clothes to wear, some soft drinks and chips to eat, and that was about it. So we got out all our hot dogs and hamburgers and cooked them up. We grabbed as much stuff as we could and took the food to them so that they would be able to eat that evening. We were able to share with them where to go the following day to get some assistance with food and gas. God has used so many of you to provide for our needs this year, so it was an awesome experience for our family to be able to help provide for someone else’s needs. Jonathan brought his scream machine and rode it around some with the girls on their bikes. Before going to bed that evening, we had some Jump 5 music playing in the camper. All of our kids love to sing and dance to Jump 5 music. Jonathan has always had his own unique style of dancing and he never hesitated to dance for anyone who was willing to watch. While Jonathan slept during those weeks he was in the coma, everyone who came and talk to him told him that they were waiting for him to wake up and sing and dance again. Well, that night, in the camper, Jonathan joined his sisters in dancing to the music. It was the first time we have seen him dance since he got sick. It was that same, unique, Jonathan dance, only maybe a little bit less dramatic. It was such a wonderful blessing! Friday, we spent most of the day on our own until the other families joined us around dinner time. We swam in the lake every day and had a wonderful time with all the other children that were there. On Saturday, Jonathan and his good friend Hannah spent their time at the lake diving for shells and collecting lots of them. On Sunday, after eating lunch together, they sorted through their shells and then they went on a walk together up and down the street. Hannah has been Jonathan’s good friend for several years and she has held the most unwavering faith in God for Jonathan’s complete healing from the very beginning of his illness. We are grateful that Jonathan has such a good friend in her and we all love Hannah and her family. It has been exactly two months since we camped the very first time. The difference in Jonathan this time, compared to our first trip, is phenomenal. His mobility is so much better and we saw him initiate activity on his own a number of times. We still have to push him to do most of his activity and interaction, but we saw little improvements in this area over the weekend. Before we left on Monday, our family walked a small nature trail together, and Jonathan was able to walk the entire trail without any trouble. He only lost his balance and fell once the entire weekend, and that is really good for having to walk on such uneven ground. We were all sad to leave, and we are all looking forward to the next trip. It was a nice time for us to get away, and we are thankful for the time to do so. Jonathan is doing very well with his braces. He wears them some every day, mostly when we know we are going to be doing some walking. He had therapy today and did a great job. He walked on the treadmill for 15 minutes, at least half of the time at 2 mph. He did some squats, then went back up to the office and did his ball exercises, some step ups and downs on several different size steps, then he jumped off of a couple of the different size steps, and walked on the balance beam. His therapist is going to set some new goals for him. He is doing such a great job. We are very proud of him. We have started back to school today and all of the kids continue to do very well with their school work. It takes quite a bit of time to work with Jonathan, but he is a trooper and never complains about how long it takes him to get his work done. The girls are very good about working on their own while I have to spend much of my time with him. They are also very good about helping him do things while I work with them on their school work. Jonathan’s biggest challenge is being able to read his papers, especially when the print is not very large. We are also working on improving his writing and remembering how to write several letters and numbers correctly. Overall, he is retaining the skills we are working on, so I feel he is doing pretty well. The kids start Awana tomorrow night at church. The plan is for Jonathan to go by himself, which will require him to go to 4 different places for 1 ½ hours. We talked about it today and he said he could do it. He seems to be excited about getting started again. I am a little concerned, just because he changes places every half hour, and both of the girls will be in their own classes. I think this will be good for his independence and I know there will be many of his friends who will be glad to help and make sure he is okay. So tomorrow, we take on yet another new challenge.
Please continue to pray for Jonathan. Pray for him tomorrow as he attempts this new challenge on his own. Pray that I will not worry about him. Pray that this will be a good experience and will build his confidence in himself and what he can do on his own. Pray that he will continue to improve in his independence. Pray that he will learn how to deal with things emotionally that cause him frustration. He has a tendency to get frustrated and begin to cry instead of asking for help. Pray that each day will bring more mental and physical stability. Pray that the braces will do the part of straightening his feet and causing him to walk properly. Pray for continued strength in his hips, legs, ankles and feet. Continue to pray for the bed wetting issue. He does great for several nights in a row and then he has an accident and we feel like we have to start over. One night during the camping trip, he actually slept all night without having to get up to go, and he woke up completely dry. So please continue to pray for success for him with this. Continue to pray for his diabetes and his eating to level out. When his activity level is up, his blood sugar is down, so pray for increased physical activity, and that most of it will become self initiated. Also, please pray for healing of his vision. Pray that God will provide us with the information, tools and people who can help us get what we need to help him in this area. There are still so many things to pray for. We are grateful that you continue to keep up with Jonathan’s progress and that you continue to faithfully pray for him and his needs. God continues to hear and answer our prayers every day. His faithfulness is great!