Thursday, November 21, 2013

1 Year Anniversary

Well, today marks the one year anniversary of Ava Jane's Congenital Heart Defect Diagnosis. I'll never forget how that evening felt when we found out, we were scared and completely out of our comfort zone; we were reeling from the news. Nothing could have prepared me to hear those words from Dr. Abraham. I have been re-reading my blog posts from that time in our life, and realized I didn't quite write it correctly. Dr. Abraham looked at both Adam and I and said, in his very Indian accent, "she have problem, she need surgery." He said it very matter of factly and assuredly, without question it was gonna happen, we just had to figure out when. I had trouble looking at her "perfect" little body, that seemed healthy (aside from the breathing problems that RSV was causing), but understanding and fully processing the words, "she have problem, she need surgery" were so foreign, so scary, they really were so shocking.

But now, a full year from the original diagnosis and surgery, she's doing great! It's amazing what 365 days can do. She's gone from the 3% to the 75%, from being behind and a bit slow developmentally to right on target. She's gone from 3 blood pressure meds every 8 hours down to NONE! She's walking now, as of 3 weeks ago. She is all over the place and enjoying her new found freedom of going where she wants to, when she wants to, and you will definitely hear from her if you try to get in her way! And just in case you missed it in her birthday post, we finally got the call from the Cardiology Clinic that "Ava Jane has normal, female chromosomal formation." What a praise that is, and it's nice to finally have closure on the question of whether or not she had Turner's Syndrome. We are so thankful for that great news!

Today, she's an active little one year old who is quickly going from a baby to a little girl.
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She's certainly found her voice, the one that I thought might be permanently effected, the one that I couldn't hear for 4 days after they took her off the ventilator. That was by far the most helpless I ever felt, she was crying, big crocodile tears, but you couldn't hear a thing because her vocal chords had been separated, that was horrifying to watch since she couldn't be held yet either, I had no way to comfort her!
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She loves playing with her brothers and trying to keep up with all of them.
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I'm so thankful for her little life, for how well she's doing now, and for all the doctors who have used their God-given, life-saving skills on her and treated her back to health! I'm overwhelmed and oh so thankful for the blessing of her this holiday, for the life she has and the years I look forward to having with her! I love this little girl, she brings such delight to all of us and we are so grateful to have her in our family.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

More Scars

Ava Jane is just a year old so identifying our similarities is a little more difficult then it will hopefully be in the future when she's older, but there is definitely one thing we have in common, its scars. Her's were much more serious and certainly life threatening while mine all occurred in extremely dramatic ways. Mine happened in 1998 and 2001, long before blogging was a reality of mine. As I've been thinking and thanking the Lord for Ava Jane's life and His provision for her as the one year anniversary of her congenital heart problem was diagnosed and surgery took place, He has reminded me of how He protected me so many years ago. These experiences are all part of God's story in Me so I thought I'd share the stories of my own scars with y'all.

In 1998 I was a cheerleader and our squad was preparing for National's in Orlando, Florida. We'd had quite the hardship in that out of 12, almost all of us had had some kind of minor or major accidents from shin splints to broken noses, wrist surgery to sprained ankles. We were within a few weeks of leaving for the competition and we were pulling many extra practices when it happened, one early morning before school. We were in a tight "V" formation and doing full squad tumbling. It came to the point when we all threw our back handspring and "whack" that's when it happened. It was not a compound fracture but it was pretty bad! I had what looked like two elbows, which is.not.normal and never good! I was in a good deal of pain and because of how bad it looked, they immediately called 911. Ultimately I ended up with 2 broken bones, in the O.R., having 2 plates and 12 screws put into my right arm bones. After a year and having many problems, they ended up removing all the metal and doing scar revision on both scars.

Gotta love those 90's glasses huh?!
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We did great and ended up in second place even with all the injuries and set backs. I think the main thing that I learned from that difficult experience was perseverance. We were all pressed to our limits yet, we hung in there and gave it our all the entire time. Even in our suffering, as we gathered as a squad with our families and others from Walnut Valley, praying together that God would bless our efforts, He answered and we were thrilled to have gotten the experience of seeing Him heal and help us all the way to National Competition in Orlando.
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My other scars are too numerous to count. These happened the day I was headed home for the summer after finishing up my freshman year of college. My good friend, Kambry's Mom was having a portion of her lung removed and I was hoping to be there to sit with her during the surgery. But I was tired. I'd been up since 4:30am studying for my last final, then with Adam's help, we'd packed up my entire dorm room then I was headed toward Little Rock. I was on I-40 with my cruise set on 70 mph when my eyelids closed and I fell asleep. That's not a good combination! Next thing I knew when I woke up to gravel and rocks hitting my fender wells, I was off the interstate and almost off the shoulder. I over corrected and that's all I remember. I flipped my 4x4, 2 door Blazer three complete times. I rolled from one side of the interstate to the other and God, in His sovereignty had me land in the ONLY spot along that corridor of road construction where there wasn't a concrete barricade. I'd blown out every piece of glass in the car, broke off the back two axels, knocked off tires, and completely totaled the vehicle. My head had drug the ground during each rotation, my left arm was badly lacerated, I had a half-dollar size amount of hair ripped out of the top left side of my head and I had glass stuck all over my body. I couldn't feel my fingers or toes so they put me in a C-collar and loaded me in the ambulance...I don't remember that ride or much about being in the hospital.

Thankfully I had my Pi Phi license plate on the back of my vehicle and a guy named Blake Rutherford stopped because his sister Martha was also a Pi Phi and he thought he might know whoever was in the car. The rest of this story I can't recall myself because I suffered a concussion, I'm solely going off what others tell me happened. Blake didn't know me and I, to this day, have still not met him, but I owe him a great deal of gratitude. He somehow found my purse amidst all the debris and chaos of my car and called my Mom. When she answered and he said, "Ma'am, my name is Blake Rutherford, your daughter has been in a terrible accident and is headed to Johnson County Hospital", she didn't think he was serious. She says that she heard lots of people and cars in the background and she thought I'd pulled over with a group and we were pulling some kind of a prank, but for those of you who know me, I'm not a prankster. When he stated, "this is not a joke, its for real" my Mom and Dad (who were eating lunch) threw their food away walked out the door and headed straight to Clarksville. If Blake hadn't have called my parents they would have not known about the accident because the police said that since I was over 18 years old it was a breach of confidentiality, really? What the heck?! I was in desperate need, in the worst situation and they needed to know about it, so "thank you Blake for making that call to them"!

I was all alone and scared to death, I literally thought I was gonna die or be paralyzed. When they put me in the MRI machine I was so scared that the only way I could keep myself calm was to sing "Amazing Grace" simply because that was the only song I could remember at the time. It was one of the most scary times of my life. I'll never forget the relief I finally felt when my Uncle Jerry, who lives in Alma, arrived at the hospital. He was the first of family to arrive. I'm pretty sure I went into hysterics at that point and I kept saying "I'm so sorry" over and over and over again. One other funny thing I kept requesting from people was a "Dr. Pepper and a Cocker Spaniel", I'm not sure what kind of combination that is, but I kept asking for it! That morphine did crazy stuff in my mind, I did.not.like.it!

Amazingly I was only kept in the hospital one night. The feeling came back into my extremities and they said it was probably due to all the trauma my neck and head took as it drug the asphalt. Incredibly, all I had was a bald spot and a ton of jagged stitches on my left tricep down to my elbow and hand. God had been so gracious, he literally SAVED.MY.LIFE!

Here's what I saw after being released...
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My Uncle Jerry, Dad and Cousin Brett went back to the scene and helped get my car and ALL (literally ALL) of my belongings secured. It had been pouring down rain so everything was muddy, or covered in axel grease and had the oh so memorable and distinct smell of hot asphalt since the road had just been laid.
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It's worth noting, that in this last picture, my hair was "dyed" red from all the blood loss, in this picture you can tell that my hair was two-tone, and that was even after a shampoo. To this day I cannot stand the smell of burning asphalt, it sends me into flashbacks every time.
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As I stood there that day, after having been discharged from the hospital and seeing all the damage first hand, it was ironic that the scrap yard where my car had been taken was right beside a business that sold headstones for burial plots. As we stood there praising God for keeping me safe and for sparing my life, the headstones were there reminding me of what could have been. Thank the Lord, I have been given another twelve years, I've had the opportunity to marry my best friend, have four of the most precious children and had many chances to share God's story of saving my life.

So scars, they're not pretty to look at, especially mine, which for some reason I scar keloidally which means they are very raised and red (or now, they are pink in color). After seeing three cosmetic surgeons, all said the same thing, that there really wasn't anything to do surgically except to do some injections to see if the scars might flatten out a bit. So every few weeks I would go and get corticosteroid injections and they'd have to go up and down each individual scar injecting the medicine; it was very painful and not fun at all, but I do have to say the scars are mostly flat now. I've had all kinds of weird answers to the question, "what's on your arm?" People have asked if I was attacked by an animal, did I have a bad case of poison ivy, what's that purple stuff on your elbow (it is asphalt that is permanently "tattooed"). Each time it comes up I've used the opportunity to tell God's story of saving my life. According to the policeman who worked the accident, "there's no reason why she's still alive"...well, yes, Mr. Policeman, there is, His name is God and He had a story to tell! I'm thankful to be here and to be able to tell it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Peyton's 7th Birthday

Today was Peyton's birthday. He got to do something he's never done before, go to deer camp and shoot a gun. To say he was excited is quite the understatement. He had a blast picking out his camo attire and for days he's been wanting to wear it around the house. He, Adam and my Dad headed down there last night and he was beyond giddy!
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The deer camp is in Bald Knob and takes about an hour to get there; he could hardly wait. He loved spending the night there and being one of the "guys".
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Here's a view of part of the property...
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They didn't get a deer this time but they did see several. He had a great time shooting the 22 caliber rifle...he's been asking us to get him his own, all day long!
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Once the boys got back from the woods, we enjoyed a "delicious" meal that he requested, grilled hotdogs and cheese dip, that was simple enough! Then we celebrated with a cookie cake and watching the new 101 Dalmations.
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Adam and I had the kids sit on the rug and we all shared "what I like about Peyton". Lawson said, "I love to jump on the trampoline with him and ride bikes" and "he always helps me tie my shoes." Emerson, who has quite the shoe fetish said, "he helps me put on my shoes" which is HUGE to him (and a help to me!) Adam told Peyton how proud he was of how many verses he'd memorized this past year, and seeing his diligence in trying to apply God's word to his life. The thing that sticks out the most to me about Peyton this past year is his willingness to take initiative, to empty and take out the trash without being asked and to pull out the vacuum cleaner and vacuum the entire house again, without being asked. We've seen him learning how to be responsible and how to help out when he sees something that needs to be done. We can hardly believe that this little guy is 7 years old, we have been so blessed and can't wait to see what this next year holds for him!

Happy Birthday Bud, we love you so much!!
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Practicing Thankfulness...

Practicing thankfulness is such a good thing to learn to do. And it's something we're trying to instill in our kiddos. When I look around me and stop and truly take in all that God has blessed me with, it's inspiring, overwhelming, challenging and convicting. Thinking of people who worry about where their next meal is going to come from or where they'll lay their head at night; not being able to sleep because they don't feel safe or realizing that they have no one, NOT.ONE.PERSON who loves them, are things I CANNOT identify with, thanks be to God! And it reminds me of just how thankful and grateful I am and how much more thankful I need to be, on a continuous basis. God has blessed me with loving parents, a husband who honors and cares for me, children who are healthy and growing, a home to live in and decorate, a car to drive, food in not just one refrigerator but TWO and friends who love and care for me! The list goes on and on. As I've sat and pondered different things that I'm thankful for, and put pen to paper, it has led me to be more content as I've thought of what I DO have and not what I DON'T.

In the past we've done a "thankful turkey" where we wrote what we were thankful for on the feathers, but this year we're implementing a "thankful tree". We've done our "thankful leaves" around the dinner table at night because that's a time when our entire family is usually all together and has time to talk and share (amidst the chaos of mealtime with young ones of course!)

My Mom and I made this "tree" by going out into the woods and cutting down 2 good size branches, then she took a flower bucket from Sam's and used plaster of paris which is like concrete but fairly light, and voila, its made for quite a sturdy tree! Then we just wrapped the bucket in burlap and tied it with twine. I took my colored paper up to our church and used their cutter to make all my leaves. So really it wasn't that hard to make, just took a little time.

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Some of you have heard of Resurrection Eggs, but have you heard of Thanksliving Treasures? Something else we've used the last couple of years in preparing for the holiday is Family Life's Thanksliving Treasures. I was really disappointed to find out that these have been discontinued and are no longer in print but I wanted to go ahead and share it with y'all anyway. It's been such a great tool to teach our kids the history of Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it. It's a box that looks like a treasure chest, so that in itself makes it fun for my boys! There's pictures and objects for them to hold and a devotional guide to talk through. There is very interesting historical facts as well as Bible verses and great biblical application questions that are broken up according to kids ages. They also provided creative ideas to celebrate Thanksgiving which I really appreciated. I've enjoyed using this tool and seeing (and hearing) my kids be able to articulate more specifics on what Thanksgiving is.
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And as I think of things and people I'm thankful for, these little people come to mind...oh how I love them!
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They test me, they try me, I get exhausted and tired, but when push comes to shove, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm thankful for the chaos, I'm thankful for the noise, I'm grateful for the constant questions and the never ending "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy", because with all of that comes the fact that they're alive, thriving, engaging with people and learning how to be in relationship with others. I am truly thankful for my "quivering" quiver, as I so lovingly like to call it. I have been blessed beyond measure and I am so grateful!

So, thankfulness, it takes practice, it takes stopping and realizing what you do have and not focusing on what you don't. It creates contentment as you stop and realize all the many blessings that God's given you. I LOVE the holiday season, and Thanksgiving is a great way to roll into Christmas, as we thank God for His provision and sacrifice in the gift of His Son as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Peyton's Batty 7th Birthday!

Every year, when it comes time to celebrate a birthday, I ask each child what kind of birthday party they'd like to have. Well this year was no different, but when I asked Peyton and his response was "a brown bat party Mom" I truly cringed! How in the world was I gonna pull off a bat party, and not just any bat, "a brown bat"? Really, thanks Kratt Brothers?! I had no clue. I set to looking on pinterest, and that was NO help at all, so then I started googling bat information and that led me to many a conversation with people I would NEVER normally talk to, like a bat conservationalist in Florida, three different exterminators here in Central Arkansas, and several people at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. This became quite the feat as I began the party planning process. Thankfully, I finally found the Witt Stephen's Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center and my party planning took off! And while I'm on it, let me just say, that they have a monthly program for kids ages 4-8 one Saturday a month, called Lil' Wild Ones that is on all kinds of animals from squirrels to birds, bats to bald eagles, I would highly recommend it!

With halloween having just occurred, I didn't want the party to look halloweeny, so I decided to just use the colors black and lime green. Here's what the party table looked like. Peyton thought that the bat brownies (iced with royal icing) were "awesome" and I too must say I thought they turned out really cute!
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Here's two of my most favorite party helper-setter-uppers!
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And there's the birthday boy, who's technically not 7 just yet, but he's fast approaching it!
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Oh how I love him!
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Some of his closest friends gathered with us to help celebrate...
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Can you tell they were having a good time?
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Emerson and Ava Jane did too! Ava Jane enjoyed many handfuls of MnM's which she thought were just wonderful!!
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We started the party in the Education room where one of the Game and Fish Commission Educators talked about bats; how they help humans and how we in turn can help them. Here's several interesting facts: a single brown bat can catch up to 1,200 mosquito sized insects in an hour; while others mammals glide, bats are the only ones that are capable of continuous flight; some bats live alone while others live in caves with 1,000's of bats. The brown bat, which is Peyton's all time favorite bat, and a native here to Arkansas, can live in a twelve inch area with over 1400 bats, that's how tiny they are! Most bats eat insects and bugs but there are those that feed on fruit, fish and even blood. The vampire bat has such sharp teeth that it can pierce an animals (or humans) skin without them even feeling it! And of course there's the fact that bats carry rabies, which makes their bites potentially dangerous.

After the speaker, there was an Arkansas Game and Fish video about all the different types of wildlife in the Natural State, which I must say was quite interesting, dare I say that even the adults found it interesting? From there it was time for the Nature Center Bingo game or "scavenger hunt". If you've never been to the Witt Stephen's Nature Center, I must tell you, it is so well done. The kids had a blast.
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Once everyone had finished up their scavenger hunt we headed outside to sing and have cupcakes.
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It's hard to believe that this little guy is getting so big...truly the time has flown and he's been such a tremendous joy and blessing to our entire family. We're incredibly thankful for both the young man that he's becoming and for getting to see character qualities that we've been praying would develop in him. We praise God for Peyton Thomas Head, we love you so much!
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CARTI: Festival of Trees

This past week was filled with wonderful events that all benefited CARTI. CARTI, is THE cancer treatment facility that provides hope and he...