Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What a Merry Christmas!

Here are some photos from our Christmas. We had a beautiful holiday.

It began at home. On December 23 (our Christmas Eve) we had some friends over for our traditional lasagna dinner. We also celebrated Jesus's Birthday with cupcakes. The kids opened a few presents and we read The Night Before Christmas and left some cookies out for Santa. After they were in bed, Dan and I went to a candlelight Christmas Eve service, while Bekah stayed to watch the kids.

In the morning we opened up gifts from Santa and looked in our stockings. Drew got his red T-rex that he's been talking about ever since he saw it in Costco a month ago. He also got an excavator. Ava got a new kitchen, complete with burners that light up and make noise. They both enjoyed looking through their stockings. Ava was excited to get candy and opened up each piece, but didn't eat any of it. We also opened all of our gifts to each other. I think it's so neat how the kids would love to just play with the first thing they opened the rest of the morning and we have to convince them to open the rest of their presents. We read the Christmas Story from the Bible and enjoyed our breakfast of homemade apple coffee cake and fruit. Then we started packing up to get ready for the six hour drive to Grandma's house. We made it to SoCal by 6:45pm and joined the crew here for their Christmas Eve dinner and presents, and celebrated my sister's 19th birthday. The next morning we had another Christmas with my mom, dad, sister and brother. Then we headed to GG's house for Christmas dinner and more presents! The rest of the time has been spent playing with our new toys. We hope your Christmas was just as merry!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Story

A few weeks ago, I was at the dreaded UCD hospital pharmacy picking up Drew's medication. It's the only pharmacy in our area that will make it. Anyway, as I'm standing in line, I noticed these parents and their newborn daughter in line. They looked tired. More than just "I've got a new baby" tired. I thought to myself that maybe they were being discharged from the NICU and were on their way home. Apparently their medication wasn't ready and they went to sit down right next to where I was standing. The mom was on her cell phone and I distinctly heard the words "heart murmur" and "congestive heart failure." I was pretty sure she was talking about the baby, but I wasn't trying to I had my prescription filled and started to walk out of the pharmacy. I wanted to say something to her, but what? Plus she wasn't talking to me, I just happened to hear her. And she was still on the phone, I didn't want to interrupt her. As I started walking outside I just felt like God was telling me to go back in there. I even stood still and thought "God, do you want me to go back in?" And I knew the answer.

So I happened to have a notepad and pen in my purse (this never happens) so I wrote down the blog address for Hearts of Hope and my email address. As I went back in, she was off the phone. I told her that I had heard some of what she said and asked if her daughter had a heart problem. She said she wasn't sure. I told her that my son was born with a heart defect and gave her the paper. I told her if she ever wanted to email me I'd be happy to talk with her. She asked how Drew was and I told her he's great, he's had a couple of heart surgeries, but he's happy and mostly healthy. I could tell that scared her. I didn't realize how new this diagnosis was to her.

As I left that day I felt good that I had reached out to someone, and that she was appreciative. I mean, she could've totally said "how dare you listen to my conversation!" But she didn't. I haven't heard from her since. I asked Valerie the other day if she'd heard from anyone new looking into our group and she hadn't. And I thought, well, even if I never hear from her at least she had someone on that day who cared about her. Maybe that helped a little bit.

Today we had to stop by the pharmacy to pick up some medication before we leave for my mom's house tomorrow. And you would not believe it, but the same woman was there! I didn't recognize her, but she recognized me. She said she was sorry she had not contacted me, but things had been hectic. She said she had looked at the website and was meaning to write to me. I told her not to worry about it, that I just wanted her to know that there were people who understand that she could talk to if she ever wanted to. She shared with me that she didn't even know what her daughter had that day. They had just found out and were shocked and confused. And she thanked me for taking the time to talk to her.

And I feel blessed. I am so glad that I was able to help someone else out, even if it's only to let them know they are not alone. The very fact that she remembered me means that our exchange was meaningful to her. As we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating the birth of Christ. And the most important thing he told us to do was to love one another. This Christmas season I am so grateful that through our trials and suffering we have been able to show Christ's love to others. Because without going through those things, I wouldn't have been able to do that.

Merry Christmas.
May you experience the true meaning of Christmas this year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Today we had to come up with some sort of activity to get us through a whole day of self-imposed lockdown. So I decided to bake some cookies with the kids. We made some sugar cookies and decorated them and also made some chocolate chip cookies. We plan on bringing them to Grandma's house when we make the trek down to Southern California on Christmas Eve. Here's some cute pictures of our morning.

Can you tell which ones Ava decorated?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Since we got the new date for the cath I have decided that we're not taking anymore chances with getting sick. We are all finally well (knock on wood) and I am working really hard at trying to keep us that way, at least until January 2. So luckily both my mom's groups are taking breaks until the first week of January. We are all staying at home. Seriously, no taking the kids to the gym, to the grocery store, to church, anywhere where other children and their germs might be lurking. Except preschool.

I know, that's crazy, everyone's kids get sick at preschool. But Drew's class is very small, he's one of only 9 kids. And the teachers and director are great and are so careful about sickness and letting me know what's going on with the other kids. And I'm staying with him for the first half hour or so, so I can observe for myself and make sure I don't see any signs of illness. I know it sounds crazy, but I just don't want him to miss everything. We were at the mall the other day and he wanted to play in the play area (aka germ incubation zone) and of course I wouldn't let him. He really wanted to and he was crying, and it just broke my heart. It's not fair, but I have to be careful. And this week he had Cookies and Carols, where the whole preschool performs Christmas songs for the parents, and tomorrow is the Happy Birthday Jesus party. How can I make him miss that? I can't. So I will do what I can to keep him healthy without completely living in a bubble. I realize that no matter how careful I am, he may get sick anyway. But I have to at least try.

Anyway, we went to Cookies and Carols tonight and Drew looked so cute. He stood up on the stage with the other kids and...well that's pretty much it. The kid did not sing a word! But I was proud of him for sticking it out and staying up with his class. When we got home he performed the entire program in front of our Christmas tree! I videoed both "performances" and if I can figure out how to download it from the camera I will post it here later.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Date

UCSF called this afternoon. The new date for Drew's heart catheterization is January 2. That is technically after the holidays, but just barely. I think it will work well for us because I was worried that he'd get better and then just get sick again, but this way he probably won't have a lot of time or opportunity. We will have a break from preschool and our mom's groups so I think he will have less of an opportunity to be around potentially sick kids. Hopefully we will rid our house of all the sickness before then.


I was going to separate these into a couple of posts, but that would be more work so I'm condensing. First, last week we built a gingerbread house together. It turned out to be fun and not too crazy. I placed the icing and the kids stuck the candy in wherever they wanted. I think we may have to make this a Christmas tradition.

Today Drew reminded ME to have my quiet time. Last week I tried something new. Since Drew doesn't take a nap anymore, the only time I have to read the Bible each day is when Ava is asleep and I usually have Drew watch a video while I sneak in a few minutes of reading. Last week we sat on the couch together and I had him look through his Children's Bible while I read my Bible, then read him some stories out of his when I was finished. Well today during Ava's nap I was getting ready to fold the never-ending pile of laundry when Drew came out of his room holding his Bible. "Mom, I want you to get your Bible and when you're done you can read to me." How cute is that?

Also in the my-kids-are-more-spiritual-than-me department, during dinner tonight we were halfway through when Ava reminded us in her sweet voice to pray. She folded her little hands and shouted at us to "pay, pay!" So we did and then she shouted "A Mey!"

Lastly, due to our constant state of sickness our lifegroup had to be cancelled tonight because no one wants to come to our germ-infested house. I don't blame them. But we used the opportunity to load the kids into the car and look at Christmas lights around our neighborhood. It was so much fun! The kids were absolutely ecstatic to see the lights. They were both shouting. Ava was saying "lights, lights!" and "Santa!" and "Tree!" Drew was saying "Look at that house mommy!" "I see snowflakes!" "Look, REINDEER! Do you see them?" It was really amazing to see and hear their total and complete joy. I was so thankful to be there in that moment. And the best part is, this was just our neighborhood. Tomorrow we are going to the Candy Cane Lane of Sacramento. I am going to have to bring my video camera!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heart Catheterization Postponed

Drew has an ear infection. He is on antibiotics and we thought they may choose to do the cath anyway since it is not an URI. But we chatted with Dr. Parrish this morning, and they would like to postpone the cath for at least two weeks, so that Drew can completely heal from his sickness. There are two reasons for this.
1. We don't want to stress his system further when it is already stressed due to illness
2. Being sick might interfere with the very measurements they are looking for during the cath.

We have not rescheduled the cath yet, but it's looking like it will be January. I am feeling kind of ambivalent about the postponement. I guess it is for the best if he is not feeling well, and I am still recovering from my stomach virus, and it looks like Ava may be coming down with something as well. But its kind of hard to get prepared for the procedure and then have to wait, knowing that we'll have to get ourselves prepared all over again.

Thanks for thinking of us and praying for us and we'll let you know once it's rescheduled.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Parties and Viruses

Well, we had our annual Holiday Party this Saturday and it went great! We had lots of friends here, we made tasty appetizers (bacon-wrapped smokies, artichoke dip, brie crostini, and tomato basil squares) and some special drinks (sparkling stars and crimson sippers). The ornament exchange was successful and I think everyone had a good time.

We were excited that we had all avoided Ava's stomach bug since we thought we would have been sick by then. As we were getting ready for the party on Saturday Dan and I both noticed our stomachs didn't feel great, but I attributed it to our "practice" drinks we had tried that morning. Then Drew came home from his friend's house with a fever. He'd been coughing since Monday, but so far with no other symptoms. It felt like it was all about to fall apart. But, we gave Drew some motrin and he seemed back to normal when he woke up from his nap. Dan and I both felt fine in time for the party.

Sunday evening was our church holiday party. Everyone was fine all day Sunday. I was in charge of making green beans for 130 people. Thank goodness I had some friends step in and help me out with that! The party at church was very nice and included a traditional chicken dinner and entertainment from the kids--Drew refused to sing on stage. :( We left church full and happy and feeling blessed.

Then I woke up this morning with thoughts of going to the gym, maybe wrapping a few Christmas presents. Before I even got out of bed I knew that wasn't going to happen. I ran to the bathroom and began my first of many trips there today. Let me just say, if you can help it, try not to throw up baked potatoes. And Drew is sick again today. He had a fever and already took a nap this morning. Dan has him at the doctor's office right now.

In the midst of all of this UCSF called with the info on Drew's cath which is suppose to be on Wednesday. He was scheduled as the second case of the day and we are to check in at 9:30, with no food or drink past 6 a.m. We let them know he has been sick and we will call them back after we hear from the doctor. We may have to postpone the cath. We'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The best laid plans...

What a long day we have had! Everyone in the Himmelberger household is exhausted!

So, today was Drew's big appointment with the craniofacial team at UCD. And I wasn't looking forward to it. I knew it would be long, I didn't think Drew would cooperate and I thought they would have unpleasant news for us. But I made a little plan and figured out a way for me to be ok with it. The plan was that Dan would come with me both for moral support and so I didn't have to bear the total responsibility for answering the questions of a dozen doctors and reciting a medical history that can be mind-boggling. A friend of mine was going to watch Ava so that we could both go to the appointment. I got myself all ready last night. I loaded the diaper bag, set out everyone's clothes, packed toys and snacks to occupy Drew, even got the coffee maker all ready to go. We set the alarm and everything was going according to plan, when Dan interrupted my shower with this news: "Ava just threw up." What? That was NOT part of the plan. And then she threw up again. And pretty much the rest of the day. So obviously all my plans went out the window. I have to say I was pretty discouraged this morning, almost to the point of tears. I really didn't want to go at all and I especially didn't want to go by myself.

But, for a day that started out pretty crappy, it turned out pretty good. My son is amazing. We sat in the same room for 4 and a half hours and saw 12 doctors. He was so good! I almost cried watching him. I told him I was so proud of him for being so patient, for listening to the doctors, for being able to calm himself down, and just being so darn cute and sweet for so long in such difficult circumstances. Seriously, what three-year old can sit in a room for that long and not have a total melt-down?

I was expecting less than good news from the doctors, but they all seemed to be impressed with how well he was doing. At one point Drew had to have his ear canals cleaned with this metal instrument, while sitting in a chair kind of like a dental chair, and had to hold really still. He let them do the first ear, but wasn't ready to let them do the second ear. One of the doctors said if he couldn't hold still she'd have to wrap him (like swaddling), and I knew he wouldn't like that. So I told him, you have to hold still and if you can't they are going to wrap you like a baby. Can you hold still? And he said "yes mommy." Then my sweet, sweet boy started taking deep, cleansing breaths and he held perfectly still the rest of the time! I was so proud of him, being able to soothe himself and do what he had to do. And the doctors were so impressed! I even heard them talking in the hallway about how he did better than the five-year olds they see and how cute he was with his deep breaths.

Three hours into the appointment he had a hearing test, where he had to sit in this tiny room with headphones on and listen for more than half an hour. Every time he heard a beep he was suppose to pick up a toy and put it in a bucket. And I sat there watching him, thinking what kid does this? He is sitting here, following the directions of a stranger, not playing with the toys they way he would want to, not throwing the toys off the table because he is done with these people, but quietly listening for beeps. Every once in a while the audiologist would remind him to wait until he heard the sound to put the toy in and he would look at me and say "I have to listen."

So the basic news is his hearing is fine, his speech is fine, his palate is fine, his teeth are fine, his head shape is fine. The geneticist was impressed that Drew can recognize all his letters (she didn't even know he knows the sounds they all make too) and she did recommend we get an x-ray of his cervical spine. We'll see the panel again in another year or two, and we may see the speech pathologist for another evaluation in about six months.

On the way home I told Drew that he did such a good job that we could do whatever he wanted the rest of the day. We could go to the park with his friends, watch movies, bake cookies, go to the toy store...He picked toy store. We were about half way there when I looked back and he was asleep in his carseat! He must have been exhausted! So I took him home and let him sleep for a few hours. Then I woke him up and said let's go to the toy store! He picked a Mickey Mouse Christmas video to bring home and spent a lot of time looking at dinosaurs, cars & books.

Not only do I have the best son, I have the best husband. He took care of Ava all day while she either slept on him or puked on him and didn't complain about it at all! He is such a good daddy. Poor Ava could barely keep any water down and by the time she went to bed tonight the only thing she had eaten all day was a banana. Needless to say I have been trying to keep her and Drew apart since we don't want him getting sick before his cath next week. I bought some clorox anywhere spray and have cleaned all the toys Ava likes, all the toys Drew likes, the tables, the chairs, the remotes, etc. I also had Dan mop the floor with bleach to kill any germs that might be lurking. We may still all end up puking, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

After much cajoling from Drew, we decided to get our tree last weekend. The kid is so into Christmas! We saw a tree at someone else's house and he said sadly, "We don't have a tree..." That's because it was still November! Anyway, we went with our friends, the Quayles, on Friday morning. After trying out a place in Natomas, we ended up in Dixon at Silveyville Farms. It's a cut your own tree place, but they also have fresh cut trees available, plus free cider & popcorn, sleigh rides, a Christmas playland, etc. The kids had a great time, and the highlight seemed to be the lollipops they got from the sleigh operator (not Santa). We found the perfect tree (a little skinnier than we got last year) and we even picked up a tiny tree for the kids. The idea was to let them touch and play with the little tree so that they would leave the big tree alone. So far so good.

Then on Saturday morning we decorated the trees. It was a lot of fun! We listened to Christmas music and the kids looked through all the ornaments. They picked their favorites to put on their small tree and helped with placement of the ornaments on the big tree. Drew helped Dan put the lights up too. He really is getting to be such a good helper. Drew wanted to put candy canes on his tree so I bought him some. Not a great idea. Ava has munched on most of them, leaving the sticky, slimy, staining canes in various locations on our white carpet. But the trees do look beautiful and the kids love them!