Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Season of Giving

My kids and I share something in common, we all have birthdays within a month of Christmas. This means that we get a lot of stuff all at once and it can be hard to find a standout gift for us. This year I received lots of fun presents for my birthday: gift cards, cash, an awesome camera from my husband, tons of cards, calls and well wishes. I felt very loved this year.

As you all know it is the time of year where we are trying to find something special for our loved ones and often times people need nothing and don't want more junk cluttering up there space but you want to do something so they know you care. Here are two awesome gifts I received for my birthday this year that may just help you think of your own awesome ideas for a few of the people on your list.

First, let me say that one of the reasons I LOVED both of these was they were completely unexpected but given from the heart.

My very dear friend Annika is a stay-at-home mom on a budget. I love that she prioritizes staying home with her beautiful daughter over society's push to have us all believe we must compete financially with the "Jones." Annika is kind, funny, generous, honest and a really great mom. She is one of those friends that you count yourself lucky to have. She never gossips, doesn't participate in competitive woman drama and tells you straight up if you cross a line. I love people like that!

For my birthday this year Annika surprised me with a copy of "Joy of Cooking". It is the perfect gift for me. She knew I did not have it because a few months ago I wanted a copy a bread recipe and she told me it was from "Joy" and I told her I didn't own that cookbook. She remembered.

Now what you also must know is that I love cookbooks. I read them like novels and as you can see I have been reading this one at night before sleep. The tip here is to take the time to find out what a person enjoys, what they do not have and what they would actually use when buying a gift. I know it is tempting to buy what you find on sale or what matches your taste but really if you are going to give a gift, and you actually like the person, take the extra time to make it about them.

The second really standout gift this year was from my mother-in-law's neighbor Dianne. I have only met Dianne a few times but she is one of those people who never meets a stranger. Jack took to her right away too and he is the kid that takes a long time to warm up to people. This summer while I was struggling with my own health stuff and dealing with Grace's hip dysplasia, Dianne sent a very sweet and encouraging card. I was completely surprised when I received this in the mail from Dianne for my birthday.

Dianne made a card with 34 positive things that describe how she sees me. What a great gift! This is a wonderful gift for any holiday and is perfect for mother's day, birthdays, Christmas, get well soons, or just a random note to let someone know you are thinking of them. I mean really folks, who wouldn't like to hear the nice things people think about you. I am totally stealing this idea. And as you know, I had a rough year and did not handle it as gracefully as I would have liked and this gift was a very sweet reminder that along with my bag of bad habits and less than ideal personality traits, there are a few good things that people see in me too. I am going to hang this on the wall in my closet so that I can see it each morning as I get ready this year.

I hope these gifts from my generous friends will inspire you to get creative during this year's giving season.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blessed this Christmas

Yesterday as I drove Grace to her orthopedic appointment tears welled up in my eyes. Hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, I carried a load of anxiety. You could feel the tension in the air. I knew tears were about to fall but I needed to be strong. Whenever I am overly weak in a moment where strength is required, I think of the saying, "put on your big girl panties." This always makes me smile because I think of putting on one of those big pairs of satin undies that go up to your bellybutton that I am sure all of our grandmothers wore when we were kids. The thought helped dry my wet eyes but I needed more. I could not cry in front of Grace's surgeon again. And so I started to pray and this is what I said to God.

Dear God, you have shown me so much grace and I am grateful. I know you have already raised me from ashes. You have given me a life of plenty, of more than I could have ever hoped for. I know I don't deserve to ask for anything ever again. I know. And I know that my sweet girl is lucky. She was born into a place where she is safe and loved and the world is hers for the taking. You have given her so much. We are thankful. Lord, I am grateful and I know our one problem is so small compared to what so many other children and mothers face. I know. Grace has bad hips and we have access to the best care and money to pay for that care while there are mothers in this world with perfectly healthy babies that die because they do not have food or basic medicine. I know. So I come humbly God before you to ask for your favor to heal my sweet girl's hips. If that is not the case Lord, help us to have peaceful hearts and strength as we move through the next few hours and months. Thank you God and help me to be a strong mama today. Amen.

I have said many prayers since this journey started with Grace but none quite so truthful as the one I said yesterday. Christian arrived at the appointment as Grace and I were walking in and together we waited, took x-rays with a screaming Grace, and waited some more.

Finally our surgeon came in with a smile and told us that the x-rays looked great. Grace's hips look like normal hips. She can be out of the brace during waking hours and only needs to wear the brace at night and during naps. We hugged Grace, we kissed each other, we smiled and we were thankful.

As we sat down to dinner an hour later with our little family all in our chairs in our breakfast nook, we took a moment to thank God for this blessing. Thank you God for showing Grace your favor. We are grateful.

Our journey with the hips doesn't end here. In three months we return for additional x-rays and discussion about next steps. We will return for check-ups until Grace stops growing. Depending on Grace's growth and progress out of the brace we may still have surgeries to face. Regardless, we are going to turn our faces to the sun and move forward.

Today Grace has been trying to crawl. She is managing to move herself across the room and even rolled over from her back to her tummy for the first time in her life. We are so excited to see her develop and learn. We are thankful and happy and blessed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Snowy Morning

Y'all, it is cold outside! Today is one of those cold, snowy Colorado days that makes me want to stay home and snuggle with my babies.

While Gracie napped this morning Jack found some loose change and we talked about pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters. Jack is most impressed with the penny.

We then setup the wooden railway on the living room floor. This SUV barely missed a major collision.

Once Gracie woke up, we headed outside to play. Getting three people ready to play in the snow was way more worked than I thought but it was worth it.

Gracie had fun watching Jack play.

Jack had fun "swimming" in the snow.

We warmed up with hot chocolate and a tea party in Grace's room.

Jack thought he would nap under Grace's bed until...

Grace decided she wanted to join him.

So long everyone. Stay warm!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Year

First, thank you all for your prayers. Grace's doctor's appointment that was originally planned for today will actually be next Tuesday, December 6. We are hoping she will move to the brace only at night but know that other options are on the table depending on the x-rays. I will update on Grace next week.

So today is my Birthday. It has been a happy day. Having small children around makes all special days even more joyous. I mean look at these faces.

What a year! A new person was born. My toddler became a kid. I barely slept. I cried and worried and prayed. But most of all I made it and am better for it.

One big thing that happened for me personally this year was a "smack in the face" self-awareness journey. I grew up this year in ways I didn't even realize I needed to grow. But the big secret is that I am happier than I have ever been. I see the beauty in my life. And while I see my many shortcomings more clearly I also see that how I approach each day is my choice.

My goal for this year is to be my best self. I know that sounds all self-righteous and dramatic but I don't mean it that way. I just want to be filled with joy. I have spent many years making decisions based on my insecurities and trying to please people who likely weren't even concerned with me. So when I say my best self I mean I want to live my life without the burden of worrying what others think, but instead make the best effort to be kind, to give back, to think good thoughts, to not pass judgement, to not gossip, to not relish the drama that so easily invades female relationships. I want to be free and good and just. A lofty goal I know but we only have one life and I think it is time to start doing this one better.

So as Jack would say, Happy Dirthday to Momma. It is a new year for me and I am counting on it to be a good one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The end of October

The last week or so has been a lot of fun at the Driver house. After having Christian on a business trip to Australia for the first three weeks of October, we have spent the last few weeks trying to get back to normal. Here is a bit of what we have done.

Grace discovered balloons.

Jack found the mother load of "teeny soccer balls" a.k.a. Airsoft gun pellets at the park and created a game of some sort using my Gladware. He kept telling me not to take pictures. I think he may have been on a secret mission.

Jack discovered Play-Doh.

We had the first snow of the year and Christian and Jack built a snowman.

We all went trick-or-treating. Jack was in love with Halloween...

and the candy!

Grace learned to sit and scoot in her brace.

We are having a blast with these kiddos and I am so excited for Christmas. I just may have to dig the tree out early this year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Update

I have started writing an update on Grace (and the rest of us) about 10 times. I just can't seem to figure out what to say. I know this is because people expect me to feel happy and relieved by Grace's last doctor's appointment but I don't so I have hesitated to talk about it. I feel a little raw and I am not in a place where I want others' opinions or judgements and putting your business out on the internet is kind of begging for judgement.

So the update on Grace. She had an appointment with the pediatric orthopedic surgeon on October 4. Her x-rays look good and show that her hip has improved. The problem with hip x-rays on a baby is that there is a lot of cartilage and it can be hard to see what is going on. The best view is with an arthrogram which requires Grace to go under and isn't really a good option at this point. Her last arthrogram at the six week cast change in June did show improvement. The prognosis is that Grace is off the map with the traditional course of treatment. This is basically because the treatment (the cast) did not work to repair her right hip. This is why she spent an additional eight weeks in a brace leading up to the October 4 appointment.

So while the x-ray looks good our surgeon believes the best course of action is to have Grace spend eight more weeks full-time in the brace. The next appointment is November 29 (my 34th birthday). As a side note, and this is where you can see my crazy in full view, even years are always better for me than odd years. As in being 29 sucked! Being 30 was awesome. At 31 I had Jack and I loved him but felt miserable. At 32 I loved being a mom and had so much fun. At 33 hip dysplasia with Grace and a ton of personal growth that has been good but painful. So 34 is going to be good, right!?

Anyway, back to Grace. She is on week three of this eight week timeframe. She is doing very well with her confinement but I can see she is ready to move. She can now sit up on her own, roll over from her tummy to her back, and her fine motor skills are continuing to be refined. She really is just a fabulously happy girl and we all love her.

Jack is in love with Grace which is so sweet. He is doing great too. He talks all of the time and can speak in full sentences. He loves to climb and run and jump. He is a very active kid and loves life. Jack hasn't met a truck he doesn't like and enjoys riding his balance bike all over the neighborhood. Jack is my little guy and I love this age. He is sassy and difficult at times but he is so fun to play with and talk to. He has the sweetest nature and is a terrific kid.

Christian and I are doing well. We are both ready to see Grace in the brace only part-time so that she can start scooting around. Despite the difficulty with Grace's health and the challenge of having a newborn over this last year, we are really a happy family. We have fun. We play hard and our love for each other is deep. We are a team and this foundation feels more solid than ever. We are good. We just want to be done with hip dysplasia.

So that brings me full circle back to the start of this post. I am not relieved by Grace's last doctor's visit. The truth is that I was really disappointed. I believed that Grace would go to only wearing her brace part-time and it felt like a kick in the stomach when I heard she would still be in the brace full-time. I am grateful that the outcome wasn't surgery, but I also know that is still an option depending on how things look at the end of November. As Grace's mom, I am really not going to feel satisfaction until there is complete healing. I just wanted different news. I will keep you updated as the time passes.

Happy fall everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where's My Peace?

Right now I am really struggling to find peace. This feeling comes in waves and right now I am getting pounded with feelings of worry, anxiety and doubt. I am not sure why my peace flows in and out like the tide. Many weeks I feel strong, capable and full of joy but then the darkness starts to creep in and I feel as if I am being pulled under by the overbearing current.

Last week we met with Gracie's surgeon. We didn't receive any new news. We are still using the brace full-time and waiting for the eight week timeframe to end. Her next appointment is October 4 when we find out if the right hip has fully corrected itself or if additional intervention is needed. If her hip is healed we move to wearing the brace for nights and naps only. If her hip shows improvement we may stick with the brace full-time for a few more months. If things are the same, Grace will likely have another surgery and be in a spica cast for six to 12 weeks.

Grace turns eight months old next week and has been in some type of brace, harness or cast since she was two months old. I want freedom and healing for her. Sometimes I cannot sleep worrying about a lack of healing and what this would mean for our sweet girl.

I know I have asked for a lot of prayer over the last six months but I am asking again. Please pray for Grace's healing, specifically for her right hip to have full healing by the October 4 appointment. And if you can spare a little extra prayer, please pray that I find peace during this time so that I am rested and mentally present as I mother my sweet babies.

Thanks again for the love and support!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Please Pass the Whine

Everyone has a vice. Some people smoke, others overeat, gossip, or bite their nails. Imperfection is part of being human and I accept this. What I do not accept is giving in to our vices. Shouldn't we try to change those things that are less than desirable about ourselves?

I have been struggling with one of my major vices this summer. It isn't that I am giving into it more. Really, I am just more annoyed at myself when this issue comes up. So what is my major vice? Whining and complaining. Whining is a truly awful behavior. Whining makes those around you have to share in your discontent. Also, I think whining demonstrates a lack of gratitude.

I am not sure where my habit of whining and complaining started. There is bound to be some root to this annoying behavior but for the life of me I cannot find the source. All I know is that I am all grown up now and it is time to stop it for goodness sake.

This year has been a tough one but because it has been challenging it has also created in me a greater sense of humbleness and gratitude. Life is hard sometimes. What this year has made me see is that when my life was virtually problem free I still always found something to complain about. It makes me embarrassed to look back at that and it makes me sad that it took my sweet child having a health issue to reflect on my poor behavior.

A bit about gratitude. I don't talk about this to make anyone (my parents) feel bad. However, I do come from humble beginnings. Money was always an issue and life was rife with challenges. I always believed that my hard work and determination lead me to an adulthood that was advantaged. Now I believe something different. I do think hard work and determination were part of it but I also see that I had many positive doors open that lead me down a path that resulted in a beautiful life. One of those major doors was my truly beautiful husband. He has taught me so much and provided an amazing life that I could not even have dreamed of as a child. He has forgiven my faults and loved me in spite of self-defeating tendencies. I have a safe home, everything I need and most of what I want. My life is so sweet.

My big lesson this summer is that whining in the face of such a blessed life is disrespectful. It is disrespectful to my husband, it is disrespectful to others who don't have so many blessing, but mostly it is disrespectful to myself. It gets in the way of living a life full of joy. It is disrespectful to me because my life could easily have turned out so much worse. I am grateful and I want my words and actions to reflect that. I want my mothering to reflect that. I want to raise grateful children.

Now for the hard part. Habits are hard to break! Awareness is the first step but changing behavior is a challenge. So here is my plan. Every time I whine or complain I am going to keep a tab (a distinguishing mark on my calendar). At the end of the week I am going to count up the marks and do something for penitence. My idea is that I will in some way give to someone in need. For example, send a note to lift someone's spirits, make a donation, give to charity, or volunteer. Maybe I will leave a sweet note for Christian or take coffee to one of my tired mommy friends. I will try and be creative but the hope is that this will bring awareness to the amount of complaining I do and help to stop it. Hopefully the good deeds will continue even if the behavior stops. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two of my favorite recipes

When I am feeling stressed I like to eat. Thankfully between nursing Grace and a thyroid that cannot regulate, I seem to not be gaining weight even though I eat like I linebacker. Now before you hate me for saying that you should also know that this means that I cannot sleep and am exhausted most of the time so don't be jealous, just be happy for me that I can eat my way through 2011's unending craziness.

I thought I would share two of my favorite recipes, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - Provided by my neighbor and friend Pam VanDenburg

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas mashed up
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup "other stuff" - oats, nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.

Mix the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, salt and baking soda) in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a second bowl (butter, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and bananas). Combine the wet and dry ingredients. I always add a little milk to make it more moist, maybe 1/4 of a cup. Then fold in the chocolate chips and "other stuff".

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a greased 12 cup muffin pan.

I let Jack mix the dry ingredients. He really loves helping out. Also, I grease the pan by putting Crisco on a paper towel and rubbing it in each muffin cup. This works every time. My favorite "other stuff" is 1/2 cup of oats and 1/4 cup of raisins. Jack eats these muffins well most of the time.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies - provide by my Mother-in-Law, Anne Wiggins (this is Christian's favorite cookie)

Cream Together:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar

Add and beat together:
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add and stir:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes

This is a favorite at our house. The only change I made from Anne's original recipe was to go from 1 cup of shortening to half shortening and half butter. I found another recipe that used all butter before I got Anne's recipe and all butter just made the cookies run together on the cookie sheet. I like adding a bit of butter because it gives a nice flavor. Play around and see what you prefer.

Hope you all enjoy the recipes. Happy eating!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Big Question Mark

Today I am forcing myself to update our blog. I am in a space where I don't want to talk about it and I always want to talk about everything. This means I am not in so good a place.

Grace is out of her cast. Thankfully we are able to bath her and change her diaper and she loves life outside of the cast. Also, thankfully Grace's left hip (the one that was the worst to start with) is healed. The hip looks great and should not have any additional issues.

However, Grace's right hip is not healed. We are devastated. This week we met with Grace's surgeon and the hip is not set as well as she would like. Apparently there is something in the joint, maybe tissue, maybe something else. No one really seems to know what the specific issue with her hip is, but they do know it is not like it should be. This means Grace will spend 8 weeks full-time in a brace. Thankfully after a week she has adjusted to the brace and seems comfortable. After the 8 weeks we will see if she has grown and her hip has corrected itself. If not, we may be looking at an open reduction which is a much more complex surgery. Also, this means she would likely spend 6 to 12 weeks back in a spica cast.

To say that I am heartbroken is an understatement. But, the reality is that this is not about me. It is about Grace. Grace is a very special child. She has a sweetness about her that I have never possessed. She is gentle and patient and tough. She is an amazing person. I can see that already. I worry however that putting her through this challenge with her hips may change that sweet innocence. I worry that experiencing vast physical pain due to additional surgeries will destroy her gentle spirit. I do not want Grace's childhood defined by pain, casts, and physical limitations.

Right now we just wait. We wait for 6 more weeks of brace time. I will keep you updated on our sweet girl's progress. Please continue to pray for her healing and that our family is fortified throughout this time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Six Months

July has been a long, hot month! An update on us: Grace turned six months old, her cast comes off August 9th (hallelujah!) and the rest of us are just waiting for that date to get here.

I thought I would do a little recap of our last six months and its highs and lows. Let's start with the lows so that we can finish on a high note.

The Lows:
- Jack got the worst stomach flu two weeks after Grace is born. This broke my heart but thankfully my mother-in-law was in town to help. Then of course Christian and I got the same virus.
- Grace was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The harness did not work to treat Grace's hips. Grace had surgery and spent six weeks in a cast. Grace had another surgery and we are now at week four in that cast. Yes, a total of 10 weeks down with 2 more to go.
- Our dog died. Twelve and a half year old Radley broke his hip and we found out he had bone cancer. We miss Radley.
- Our grill caught fire. The firemen arrived to put out the fire and afterward said, "We don't know how your house did not burn down." The hand of God is my only answer. A little side note here. During this time a lot of people have told me that God would not give us more than we can handle. I really believe in the grill fire moment God knew that my house burning down would have been just a bit too much for me to handle. Thank you God. I am always grateful for our lovely home but now I am especially so.
- Postpartum Thyroiditis. I developed this after birthing Jack. With Jack my thyroid was slow and after nine months of feeling awful I was able to use medication to regulate my thyroid. After Grace my thyroid was fast until about a month ago. This meant that I spent about five months being crazy. Seriously crazy. I could not sleep. I was starving all the time. I could not stop losing weight. And I had out of control anxiety during an already anxious time. Thankfully this time has passed.

The Highs:
- We had Grace. My sweet girl and one of the few loves of my life. My heart is so full with the love I feel for my little family.
- Christian got a promotion.
- Christian's mom, my mom and my brother all came out to spend a week with us. They all came at separate times so we had three full weeks of help.
- Jack started going poopy on the potty. Unless you have had a child this one will be lost on you.
- Grace gets out of her cast in two weeks. At the cast change her hips looked like they were on the path to healing. I believe Grace is healed. Something in my heart over the last few weeks changed and I feel that she is already healed. I can't explain it; I just feel it. My rational brain still tells me to brace myself for bad news but I feel peace about her hips.
- We are so blessed. So much of our life is easy and full and privileged.
- We have been surrounded with prayer and love during this time.

For full disclosure I must say that this has been one of the hardest times of my life. Most days I am strong but some days I am oh so weak. This has been a time of extreme stress and exhaustion. However, I feel blessed with growth over the last few months. I have changed; my heart has changed. I see my world differently. I say this with total humbleness but I think I am a better person than I was a few months ago. I am more grateful and see my blessing much more clearly now.

What a crazy, busy, hard but wonderful life. Happy six months sweet Grace. We are so happy to have you here!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Gonna Be A Hot One!

Sitting in The Children's Hospital waiting room is a humbling experience. This is especially true when your child is only getting a cast change. As Christian and I waited for Grace's procedure to be completed, we saw many families sitting along side us waiting for news from the doctors. After observing a couple of families being called back into the conference room to talk to the doctor, Christian said to me, "I don't ever want to be called into the conference room." I agree. They don't call you in there for good news.

I know it isn't good to let someone else's pain create gratitude but that is how I felt sitting there. I was flooded with an enormous feeling of gratefulness for the health of my family and empathy for those other families who aren't so lucky.

Grace's procedure on Thursday went great. The only hiccup was a two hour delay past her scheduled surgery start time. Even though Grace hadn't eaten for hours she stayed perfectly calm. She really is a chilled out kid. If I had not birthed this child, I would think that she didn't belong to me.

The surgeon had said to me a few times after meeting with Grace that this was the beginning of a long relationship. I have not known how to take this and finally asked the question that I wanted to know. Did she tell everyone with hip dysplasia this or did she see something unique with Grace's case that led her to say that. Thankfully, this is a routine statement and not a reflection of Grace's specific case. Regardless of how the cast works Grace will return at least once a year throughout her childhood to monitor her progress.

After the surgery when the doctor came out to talk with us she had good news. Grace's left hip that prior to casting would fall out of the socket stayed in when she removed the cast. This is good news. It means the cast is working. Our doctor did not try and pop the hip out of socket but did pull Grace's leg down and the hip stayed in place. Hallelujah!

Also, I am sure they tell all parents this who have children with casts in decent shape but our surgeon said that Grace's cast was one of the cleanest she has ever seen. I needed to hear this. All of my crazy, OCD cast care worked. It provided validation that we are doing a good job in this tough situation.

Grace will remain in her current cast for six weeks. I will be calling on Tuesday to schedule the appointment to remove her cast and we will be counting down the days. After her cast is removed she will be placed in a rhino brace full-time for at least two weeks. We will be able to remove this for washing and diaper changes. She will then be weaned off the brace over a few months.

Our biggest challenges of the next six weeks are keeping Grace cool and Jack entertained. It is going to be a long, hot summer.

Overall I feel very blessed. We are all hanging in there and looking forward to the end of this. Please continue to pray that Grace's hips heal and that when we are finished with this course of action, we will be done. Or as we said when we were leaving the operating room area on Thursday, we don't ever want to have to be back there again.

Thank you all for loving our family and keeping us in your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Time for a Change

This Thursday Gracie goes in for her cast change procedure. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. I am so happy to have survived the first half of her time in a cast. I am very nervous about her being put under again. And I am scared about the next six weeks in a cast.

Thankfully Grace's procedure on Thursday should not involve any cutting. She will be placed under general anesthesia, her old cast will be removed, dye will be inserted in her hips with a needle and a new cast will be placed on her. She will remain in that cast for six weeks.

Before Grace's first surgery several mothers who had gone through the hip dysplasia and spica cast experience told me that while it was very hard, it was not nearly as scary as they thought it would be. I have to agree. It has been a tough six weeks but it was survivable. We had many sleepless nights, lots of overwhelming potty issues, worries about the heat, worries about her comfort and of course many worries about her healing. Add to that our dog dying and a grill fire that damaged our garage and you can say that we have had a rough six weeks. With that said, we made it through with minimal tears on my part and mostly a sense of peace and an openness to hear God's message and lessons.

It was not easy though! This is a tough experience and I never want to have to put Grace through this again. That is why I am asking for prayers for two specific things. First, please pray that on Thursday Grace will have a safe surgical procedure with no complications or issues. Second, please pray that her hips will be healed at the end of this process and she will not need additional surgeries or casts.

Thank you all for the love!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Daddy Day

Happy Daddy Day is Jack's interpretation of Happy Father's Day. This was his greeting for Christian this morning. These two kids of ours are just so cute and fun. However, they are also a ton of work. That is why it is so important to remember our parents on Mother's and Father's Day.

Christian is an amazing dad. I believe being a dad is Christian's calling in life. For many years I did not want children but Christian always knew it was part of his purpose. Being a dad just comes natural to him. Whereas being a mom is like high school Calculus for me. I can get it done but I have to study really hard and work my tail off to be good at it.

Jack adores his dad. It is so cute to watch our babies with Christian. He does such a good job playing with them and taking care of them. I feel so very blessed to have found this man to raise our babies with.

My favorite things about Christian, the things I am most grateful for at this point in our marriage, are that he is a great dad, provider and friend. When I was younger and dumber I would likely have said that romance and a sense of humor were the most important qualities in a mate. While Christian has those qualities too, I now know those are way down on the list when you are knee deep in diapers and doctor bills.

The last few months have been challenging for us. It seems life keeps throwing us curve balls. We are trying to be still and find the lessons in all our hard times. The one thing I know for sure through all of the craziness is that I am so thankful for our strong marriage and Christian's ability to parent our children. He is a good catch. That is for sure.

Happy Father's Day Christian! I love you for so many reasons but watching you love our children makes me so proud and my heart so full.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grace's Sweet Smile

I need to blog about Jack. I am working on one all about my sweet boy, his love of trucks and his super funny personality. But I really just want to talk about Grace. Maybe it is because she is newer or maybe she just has more stuff going on right now. I have talked a lot about Grace's surgery and hip dysplasia but not very much about HER as a person.

This girl is just amazing. I know she is only 4 and 1/2 months old but really she just seems older to me. I feel like I have known her forever. She is an old soul and seems to have so much wisdom although she can't even talk. No, I am not crazy. She really has a peace about her that makes me more peaceful. She makes me want to be a better person.

Grace loves kisses. We do this sweet thing where I pretend to smell her armpits and say shoo-wee and she giggles. Her little armpits are so ticklish and the whole gig really entertains me. Even in her cast she smiles and laughs and is a pretty chilled out baby. She really only cries when she has gas (which who can blame her), needs a diaper change, wakes up alone in her room or is overtired. Otherwise she just kind of hangs out and watches the rest of us like she is just happy being a part of the party.

Grace is focusing on her fine motor skills recently and loves playing with her toys. We even bought a special spica cast chair/table that allows her to sit up and play. She loves sitting and playing. She especially loves it when Jack comes over to play with her. I think having a big brother is going to make her tough which is always a good quality in a girl.

I think Grace may be more Christian's child in the same way Jack is more mine. Jack has always been a little ornery and sassy although he has a sweet and empathic nature. Grace on the other hand is more laid back. She doesn't sweat the small stuff. She just has Christian's nature. I can tell this already and boy am I thankful. I don't think we could take three people with my personality in this house.

I may be wrong about Grace. It is hard to tell at this age. But I bet I am right. I know these babies better than anyone and love them to pieces.

This Friday Grace goes back to the doctor for a x-ray. If all is well we wait another three weeks until her next surgery and cast change. Our prayer is her hips will still be in the correct position and healing. If not, I think they will pull her out of the cast and we will have to start all over. This would not be good. Please pray that our sweet girl is healing.

I love these babies!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Radley (Dec 8 1998 - May 29 2011)

I don't blog, I don't really bookface but I got to get something off my mind before my heart explodes, so here goes...

Ole Rads, our 12 year old lab, passed away peacefully yesterday from bone cancer. Ironically or cruelly, I haven't decided yet, he had bone cancer in the exact spot where my daughter couldn't connect her bones together at birth. I missed the signs of his pain and I am sorry that when he needed me the most I was too busy to care for him before it was too late; that is my only regret from having Radley. He was uncontrollable at times, maddening a lot, but unforgettable to those that met him. His cup always runneth over and that is what I will miss the most.

Thanks for keeping my family safe and keeping the Nazi's at bay
Thanks for greeting me with a smile everyday
Thanks for leading me to my wife
Thanks for loving my son
Thanks for keeping my floors free from food, and sometimes countertops and tables too
Thanks for being a friend when I thought I had none
Thanks for keeping April's cold toes warm, a job I will reluctantly take on now
Thanks for leading when I could not
Thanks for teaching me to play everyday
Thanks for your last lesson, to stop and smell the roses, and pay attention to the ones you love

Rest in peace bud and we'll throw the ball around soon


Sunday, May 29, 2011

I can do all things...

I may look back on this time in my life and think, "whoa that was rough" or I may look back and think "that is the summer I finally grew up."

Please don't take this post as whining. Please, because I am not whining. I just feel like things are too much today. Our 12 1/2 year-old chocolate lab, Radley, hurt his back leg yesterday and is likely not going to recover. This is so heartbreaking. I have never had a family dog before and as Christian recently pointed out, I have spent a third of my life with Radley. He was one of my first conversations with Christian. I worked at Christian's office in Georgia for a few weeks the summer before I graduated from college. We were walking in from lunch one day with a big group of people and Christian had pictures of his dog. I asked the dog's name and Christian said Radley which started a conversation about our mutual favorite book of all time, "To Kill A Mockingbird." Who knows where I would be today if there were no Radley to get me talking to the love of my life.

I am trying not to be selfish and ask: why us? why now? how much more? Part of me is scared to think about it because truly in spite of this rough patch, we are so very blessed. And part of me already knows the answer: Why not me?

Last night Grace had a rough night. I probably only got three hours of total sleep. And Christian slept on the couch with Radley because he could make it up the stairs. It just seems like things are really hard right now. I know that we are not promised an easy time but I feel like I am being tested to my core. I actually feel at peace most of the time. I am holding my own through this and can feel God working to keep me strong. But then I have moments, like right now, where I just feel weary. I am just not sure I am strong enough to walk through this.

I know that time will pass. Grace will get better. We will mourn our dog. Life will feel normal again. But the walking through it, now that is the tough part.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13

Monday, May 23, 2011

Grace Post Surgery

Well is has been an interesting week. Grace's surgery went very well. We were terrified going into it and Christian and I had a very long two hours while we waited for her procedure to end. The surgeon was able to position Grace's hips in a cast. She did have to cut Grace's muscle on her left leg in order to allow room for her joint to go into the socket. Now Grace will spend six weeks in a spica cast. After the six weeks she will have an additional surgery and cast change with six more weeks in a cast. The goal is for her bones to grow around that hip joint so that the joint no longer pops out of position. If this happens Grace will not need additional surgeries. We are praying her bones will grow and heal properly. We ask that you join us in this prayer.

The cast care is interesting. There is really just a small opening in which to handle the diapering busy. We have had a few blow outs and it has not been fun to clean up. This has not yet sent me over the edge but I did have a big fit yesterday after an especially nasty poop. I mean really the bathroom stuff is not fun.

Also, sleep is a challenge. So far her longest stretch since the surgery has been three hours. This makes for a tired momma and a tired Grace. Thankfully Christian is home with us for now to help with Jack and keep the household running.

Overall we are good. Thanks to friends and family we are being supported with meals, surprise cookies, cards, emails, texts, and lots of prayers. I have so much peace through this process which is not my normal nature so I know I am being prayed through this time.

Grace really is her normal, sweet and happy self. I knew the day after the surgery when she was smiling and laughing at me that she would be okay. Jack is a little confused but is hanging in there. Overall my family is doing well and we are very aware of our blessings. We do have such a great life and are not losing sight of that during this stressful and exhausting time. This too shall pass.

Thank you all for your love and support.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Details on Grace

I haven't blogged over the last week or so primarily because I have found myself in an insecure and dark place. While I have enjoyed my time with Christian, Jack and Grace, the pending surgery is always on my mind. Based on my experiences I know that when I am most insecure, I am also more likely to be snarky and mean. I didn't want to put that energy out into the world for others to read and absorb.

I am feeling stronger now and have come to accept that we are going to have to walk through this challenge with Grace's health. We cannot go around it or avoid it. I am her Mother and will be there every step of the way.

I feel so blessed to have a solid support of family and friends who have offered help with everything from watching Jack, to bringing food, to prayers and cards and words of support. I am so grateful and feel your love!

I wanted to share the details of Grace's procedure on Thursday and the path we are looking at over the next few months and possibly years. On Thursday morning Grace will go into surgery at The Children's Hospital. This first surgery is called a closed reduction. Grace will be placed under general anesthesia (thankfully because she is breastfed she will only have to go four hours without eating prior to surgery) and I will be able to stay with her until she is put under. I am nervous about my ability to be tough through that process but I want to be there for her. The surgery should only last 50 minutes.

The first step is to do an arthrogram. This is where dye is placed in each hip joint with a needle so that an X-ray will show what is going on inside and around the hip joint more clearly. The purpose is to determine if there is tissue in the joints. If so, they will wake Grace up and she will have a more serious surgery in a few months. This is not what we want. However, if the joints are clear of tissue they will use the dye to place the hip joints in the best possible position prior to casting. If they go this route she will also have an adductor tenotomy. An adductor tenotomy is where they cut each groin muscle to allow the hip socket to be more relaxed for better results while in the cast. Before she wakes up she will be placed in a spica cast. I am very nervous about her care while in the cast.

After being in the cast for six weeks, Grace will go back in for an additional surgery. She will be placed under anesthesia again and another arthrogram will be preformed to determine the progress of her healing. She will be placed in a new spica cast and will remain in the cast for an additional six weeks. After a total of 12 weeks Grace will be removed from the cast and will be placed in a brace for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

My prayer is that she will be casted this week and will not need more invasive surgeries. The surgeon did warn us that there is a 50% chance Grace will need the more invasive surgery in a few months. She also warned us that depending on how Grace's body heals and develops she may need additional surgeries throughout her childhood (hence the dark place I sometimes find myself in). Regardless Grace will have to return to the doctor regularly throughout her childhood to monitor her growth and development with the risk of her having to have surgery if the results are not good.

This is not a life threatening illness and for that I am abundantly grateful. However, it is a life altering condition. If we do not fix this now Grace will likely develop arthritis in her hips during her teen years and would likely need hip replacements early in life. Not repairing this would make it hard for her to ever carry a pregnancy or manage as an adult without chronic pain. It is important that we address and repair this condition now.

I have so much fear right now. Fear that she will have horrible side effects to the anesthesia. Fear that she will not get better and will have to live her life in pain. Fear about caring for her with a body cast. Fear of being too exhausted to function. I am full of worry even though I know worry is fruitless.

The one fear I have about myself is that I will fail my family through this process. I am so scared I will not be strong enough to handle this challenge. I don't want to disappoint the three people who love me the most.

There are two conversations with my mother that I keep remembering. The first happened a few years ago. We were talking about travel and my mother said to me, "You aren't scared of anything. You will travel anywhere in the world without worry." I interrupted her then with a laugh and told her that I am always terrified when I travel alone to strange cities and have to rent a car and find my hotel and meet with people. I have always been so intimidated to do new things and meet new people but apparently she didn't see this. And I see now that doing something in the face of fear does not make me weak. It makes me brave.

The second conversation happened on this Mother's Day. I was thanking her for taking care of us as children because I know she did not have an easy time and I told her she was so tough. My mom said to me, "April, you are so much tougher than I ever was." My mom believes in me. She thinks I can do and handle whatever is thrown my way. These things offer me encouragement. I think during this time I have to find my strength through the faith others have in me. Also a friend sent some good insight. She offered that God would not give us more than we can handle and he must trust that I am strong enough to handle this.

So here we go. Please pray for my sweet family. I do love my life so much. God did not pull me out of a tough upbringing and drag me through my tumultuous twenties to leave me broken in my thirties. This I must believe.

Thank you all for the encouragement.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Worst Case Scenario

This morning I woke up thinking the worst case scenario at today's doctor appointment with Grace would be 12 weeks in a body cast. Well, this afternoon our reality is that is now the best case scenario.

Sometime in the next week or so Grace will go into surgery. Depending on what the doctor sees she will either come out with a cast on (best case) or she will be woken up and we will wait 6 weeks or so until she grows a bit more and she will have a more serious surgery and then be placed in a cast for 12 weeks. Either way she will spend at least 3 months in a body case.

The good news is we have a week off with no braces. I can snuggle with Grace and bath her as often as I like. We are focusing on resting and enjoying our time together before this next hard part begins. I will add more details and thoughts later. For now, I am just trying to get my head up for some air.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet Grace

Yesterday Grace had her weekly visit to the Children's Hospital. It was not good news. I am so confused because what I heard today does not match what I heard last week. So here is our newest prognosis. The harness did not work and BOTH hips are popping out. She is in a Rhino Cruiser brace for the week and she will meet with the doctor next Tuesday. If by some miracle her hips start to improve she may stay in the brace. If not, she will need surgery.

In this case, surgery does not mean cutting. At least not at this point. She will have a procedure done by a surgeon where she is under anesthesia, dye will be injected in her hips, the hips will be positioned in her sockets and she will be placed in a cast. After six weeks in the cast she will be put under again and be placed in a new cast. She will wear the cast a total of twelve weeks.

The good news: We know what the path is now and can prepare ourselves mentally. Also, her brace this week does not cover as much of her skin and will give the sores caused by the other harness time to heal prior to casting.

The bad news: The possible side effects of anesthesia and twelve weeks in a cast during the summer. Thank God we do not live in the south right now. That heat would put us over the edge.

So where am I on all of this?

"I ain't complaining but I'm tired so I'm just saying what I think"

I am mad, sad and scared. I am mad that over the last four weeks the information I have received seems inconsistent. I am mad that this was found late. A nurse in the hospital thought there was an issue when she was born. The pediatrician disagreed. We would be finished with this all by now if the doctor had addressed the problem at birth.

I am sad that sweet Grace has to deal with this. I am sad that my precious little Jack has to take second place to Grace's medical needs. I am sad that it is harder to snuggle with my sweet girl. I am just sad.

I am scared to death. Grace is eleven pounds and that is just too small to be put to sleep. I am so scared she will have complications from the anesthesia. I am also scared about how I am going to care for her. I am scared about how I will keep her comfortable and clean. I am scared about how she will sleep and how I can be present for Jack when I am exhausted.

It is going to be a hard summer. I will say that I am humbled through this. There are other mothers dealing with much harder circumstances. My life is blessed and I have not forgotten the great privilege with which I live. But this is my baby and I want her healthy!

I am sure there is some lesson I am supposed to learn from all of this but right now I just want to fast forward to when it is over.

My prayer is sweet Grace will come out of this healthy and healed, and also that sweet grace will carry me and my family through the next few months.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cautiously Optimistic

Today Grace had her weekly doctor's appointment. I went into the appointment cautiously optimistic. After last week my hopes were not high that the harness had started to work. Well, much to my surprise when Sue, our physicians assistant, evaluated Grace she felt Grace's left hip trying to stay in the socket more. Sue decided we would wait until next week to do a follow up ultrasound. At that point Grace will have been in her harness for four weeks. Surgery is not out of the picture, but it is also less eminent.

I sit here humbled by the power of prayer. All around this country people are praying for Grace and I feel those prayers working in her life. I also think some of you out there must be praying for me because I have much more peace about our situation.

I have spent some time thinking about why this hit me so hard emotionally last week. Why did this bring me to my knees? I am still not certain of the answer but have an idea. I was only prepared to have Grace in her harness. I thought our biggest struggle would be how to dress her and keep poop off the darn thing. I just hadn't even imagined we could be looking at a surgery. It really knocked the wind out of me when that became a possibility.

I do feel so blessed. My children are healthy. Hip dysplasia is manageable and we have the resources to ensure Grace will receive the best possible care. Also, I have enormous gratitude for the amazing family and friends who have told us just to ask if we need anything. We have a very blessed life and I do not want to lose sight of that.

Next week's doctor's visit will be stressful. Grace will have an ultrasound and we will know more about what we are dealing with. If the ultrasound shows good results we will continue with the harness. If not, we will try a different type of brace to see if we can get better results. Please pray that the harness will continue to work. Pray specifically that Grace's left hip improves over the next week.

I have a hopeful heart and remain cautiously optimistic.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Surrender All

Yesterday I found myself sobbing on my knees begging God to heal sweet Grace.

At Monday's doctor visit we were told Grace would have two more weeks in the harness and if things didn't start to look better she would need closed reduction surgery and be placed in a spica cast. Then yesterday I started reading and became extremely discouraged. It hit me hard that this sweet, tiny baby -my sweet, tiny baby - has a long road ahead of her. I felt so helpless. I am her mother. She trusts me. I do not have the power to control her healing and it breaks my heart.

So there I am on my knees, crying, trying to pray, feeling helpless and I remember hearing Oprah say on a show I watched a few days ago on her new OWN channel, that when you find yourself lost with no good options it is time to surrender. I am not good at giving up control and most of my biggest struggles come from trying to control other people and various situations. Some may even say I can be manipulative. The gist is that I want to feel like I have the power to make things turn out like I think they should. Well, life doesn't really work that way.

But in that moment, tear stained face with snot running everywhere, I decided surrender was my only real option. I can make sure this sweet child has the best possible care but I cannot control whether that care works. So I turned it over to God. I surrendered.

Today I took Grace back to The Children's Hospital because yesterday her foot kept slipping out of her harness. We met with a different person and he explained Grace's condition in a way that made me more hopeful. He walked me through the different levels of hip dysplasia and said that with the condition of her left hip he wouldn't be surprised if it took up to five weeks to see improvement with the harness. Somehow my surrendering allowed me to see Grace's prognosis in a different light. I now have hope that we can correct this without multiple surgeries. There is still time for the harness to do its job.

I believe in the power of prayer. That is why I constantly ask for prayer. My life is a testimony of prayer's power. So now I pray in a state of surrender and wait.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why blog?

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. Lately, I have a lot to process. Motherhood. Faith. Sacrifice. Love. I think a blog may be a good place to share this crazy journey with family and friends. I warn you though that I have strong and abundant opinions and if you are easily offended, this may not be the blog for you. Right now on my journey I am in a crisis of faith, a struggle with my child's health, raising a two-year-old and a two-month-old, and trying to find a happy heart through it all.
I plan to use this as a forum to keep updates on the little ones but also offer my thoughts on whatever else is on my mind. By the way I stink at technology so bare with me as I make this blog pretty.