Sunday, March 29, 2009

Max's Miracles-The Cowboy Way

We had the opportunity this weekend to see the daily life of a real cowboy! This awesome event was set up by an amazing family whose 5-year-old son has had 8 heart surgeries so far. They live on a ranch and have opened their property to families of sick children. They have a big train that runs around their property and lots of animals to pet, and on Saturday they had two big bounce houses and carnival games as well.

We started the day at Wheeler Ranch and Feed where the Quota Club had organized the Cowboy Way. The whole thing was very well organized and we were split into groups and given cowboy hats. Our group started at the 4-H lamb station where the kids got to pet baby lambs. They were so cute! Then we went into the stable and got to feed the horses. We watched a horse being shoed and they gave each kid a horseshoe to take home. Next was the petting zoo that had baby bunnies and baby chickens and baby goats. There was a big tom turkey walking around and gobbling at everyone. There were horseback rides and buggy rides, a roping station complete with a roping lesson and a rope to take home and barrel racing where the kids each got a horse show ribbon. They also provided lunch for everyone before giving us a hayride over to Max's Miracle Ranch.

We had so much fun! It was a perfect day, warm but not hot with just a slight breeze. The kids loved every part of it and so did we. We had about ten families from Hearts of Hope attend and it was nice to spend some time together doing something fun. I can't wait for the next event at the Miracle Ranch!

Kid Stuff

On Monday...
Ava had dance class. They are practicing for their recital in June. It is so precious!

Then on Wednesday, Drew had a t-ball game. They are already showing improvement since the first game. It is so fun to watch them play!

That's what we've been up to lately! Lots of kids activities, lots of fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last Weekend-Auntie, T-ball and the Kings

We have been so busy lately, I haven't had time to post anything.

Last weekend my sister and her boyfriend came to visit us on her spring break. The kids love hanging out with Auntie and Marshall and were so excited to see them. But they came on a busy weekend and we had Drew's opening ceremony and parade for T-ball as well as his first game on Saturday. We had to be at the school ready to begin the parade at 8:15, and of course our beautiful warm weather was gone! We were freezing! But the boys looked so adorable in their Scrappers uniforms. Once the parade finally started we got to follow a firetruck through the streets to the ball field. And once again I was reminded of how far we've come since last year. Drew wouldn't have been able to walk the quarter mile to the field last year. But last weekend he walked the whole way! He did get a little bit tired and hung in the back some of the time, but he did it. I was so proud of him!

Drew's first T-ball game was adorable! But sadly, my camera ran out of batteries right before the game started. :( It was clear that our team was new to the sport, but they all had fun anyway! It rained on us a little bit during the game so we had to huddle together under a blanket. At Drew's first at bat he hit the ball, then stood there for a while until we all yelled "Run!" then he ran towards third base, before finally making his way to first. So cute! We had some kids who just ran across the field, some who chased the ball they hit and some who just walked off the field in the middle of the game because they were tired. We are looking forward to the rest of the games and learning the sport!

Later that night we had free tickets to a Kings game with our support group, Hearts of Hope. We had tickets donated by the Kings, an invitation to stick around after the game and meet a player, and they provided shirts and goody bags for all the kids. It was a pretty good game even though the Kings lost. Ava liked shouting "defense!" and Drew just had a good time watching the game, and the dancers, and the half-time show. He even got to go on the court and shoot a free throw after the game.

Jason Thompson sitting with the kids

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Gifts and Challenges of a Congenital Heart Defect

This post is part of a blog carnival I am participating in. To learn more about it visit Adventures of a Funky Heart.

Drew, 3 weeks old, 2 weeks post-op still on the ventilator

When Drew was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, I would have bristled at the idea that there were any "gifts" that came along with our very serious, very scary diagnosis. At the time it was the challenges that consumed me. The day after he was born we were thrown into the world of congenital heart defects against our will. For those of you who don't know this world includes worry, heartache, desperation and chaos. It requires strength, endurance, faith and communication. It just might break you. It will definitely expose your weaknesses and who you really are.

This past summer Drew underwent his third open-heart surgery. We spent six weeks in the hospital due a sternal wound infection that wouldn't give up. While we were there we were put to the test once again. One of the things that is so difficult about being in the hospital for an extended period of time is that the place is so depressing. No matter what is going on with your own child, there are parents who are hurting and you can see it on their faces. You run into them in the hallways, in the playroom, in the parent sleep room. There are kids in the rooms next to you who are coding, or screaming during an IV poke. It makes you realize how very fragile life is and how things can change in an instant. It's inescapable.

I think the biggest challenge that we face as a result of CHD's is uncertainty. We don't know what the future holds for our son. We don't know if he will need another surgery next year, or not for 20 years. We don't know if the virus that is making him sick right now will get better on it's own or require a hospitalization. We just don't know...

Now that we've been in this very exclusive club for five years and have endured three open-heart surgeries, two heart catheterizations, and too many hospitalizations to count I can see the gifts more clearly. For every challenge we have faced there is a corresponding gift. Those sad, depressed parents we meet in the hospital? Turns out they really understand the thoughts and feelings that we are experiencing, because they have lived through it too. And when no one else can understand why I'm calling the on-call cardiologist over a fever of 101 all I have to do is call another heart mom to tell me I'm doing the right thing. We can turn to each other and share our fears over our own children, or others in the community. We educate and support each other. We cry together.

The uncerainty of life with a child with CHD can cripple you if you let it. Or it can teach you to treasure every moment and celebrate every milestone. Life just seems a little clearer to me now. I know what things are important, what things really matter, and what things are actually trivial annoyances. I celebrate the little things, like my son being able to walk around the zoo instead of sitting in the stroller the way he used to before surgery. That he has the energy to play sports. That he woke up this morning.

This journey has also strengthened my marriage. Going through difficult times together forced us to communicate our needs to each other, to offer support to each other and to cling to one another while the whole world spun out of control around us. It has also strengthened my faith. I may not understand why this has happened, but I do know that God is using it for good.

Would I trade all the gifts, all the good things that have come of this diagnosis if I could take away the hurt and suffering that my son has had to endure? Yes I think I would. But I know that I can't do that and these experiences are what shape me into who I am today. I believe I am a better person and have learned a lot about myself and about life through these experiences. And for that I am grateful.

Drew, 4 1/2 years old, 5 days post-op

Drew, feeling pretty good at 2 weeks post-op

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Please Pray for Moriah

There is a sweet baby girl who I have gotten to know through her blog. She has spent most of her life in the hospital and just recently celebrated her first birthday at Stanford. She has been battling some sort of infection and the doctors have not been able to figure out what the source is. She is on some heavy duty antibiotics (the same ones Drew was on when he was fighting his wound infection). Right now they are stumped and don't know what to do. Her family is asking for prayer. Please pray for wisdom and guidance for the doctors, for peace that passes understanding for her parents, and for complete healing for Moriah.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be all glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever."
~Ephesians 3:20

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beautiful Day

It's another sunny March day here in beautiful Northern California. My thermometer says it is 85 outside right now and Drew is out in the backyard kicking his soccer ball into the goal. Ava is supposed to be taking a nap, but I can still hear her talking in there. Sadly, she only sleeps about every other day now, but she still goes and lays in her bed. It's only a matter of time before she says goodbye to napping completely. I am supposed to be cleaning the house to get it ready for life group tonight, but I'm tired. Maybe after a little rest, I'll have the energy to go straighten up.

This morning I brought the kids with me to the gym and ran for the first time since the race. I did 5 miles and it felt fine. After my last half marathon it was at least a couple of weeks before I ran again, so I'm hoping to just get right back on the horse this time and continue my training. After my run, the kids and I went out to the pool at the gym. They had fun splashing around and Drew kept himself busy chatting up every lady on her way to aqua aerobics!

After lunch I had to go register Drew for kindergarten at his new school. He got into our first choice elementary school (yay!) and I had to submit all the paperwork today. His kindergarten assessment is May 19th and the first day of school is August 24th. I have a feeling it's going to go by really quickly. Anyone who's been through the Kinder assessment, email me and tell me what we need to study for!

The only other thing we've got going on is T-ball and it's taking up a lot of our time! We got the uniforms yesterday and I can't wait to see Drew all dressed up for a game. Opening Day is this Saturday and he has his first game that day as well. Dan has been asked to be assistant coach and he agreed. Isn't that cute?! When we first found out we were having a boy Dan shared with me that he was looking forward to coaching his teams, then five years flew by and now it's happening.

I just love my family!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Fun Weekend

This post is about me. Not the kids. So if you're looking for something about them, with cute photos, you'll have to come back later. Sorry Mom!

Anyway, I had a fabulous weekend!

It started with a mini-reunion with some of my sorority sisters and former roommates. Three of us got together for dinner on Saturday night, and I don't think I've seen them since I graduated 9 years ago. In that time, we've all had to grow up more quickly than our peers due to medical complications. Lindsey's husband had a brain tumor and was treated at Stanford. He recently had a scan and is tumor free! Kristina is still fighting her battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed last May with stage 3 cancer and has been taking aggressive steps in her fight against the disease. Kristina is still undergoing radiation and will likely start oral chemo once that's finished. But it was truly inspiring to be around her and hear that she's not going to let this get her down. She has a very positive attitude and is spending her time doing things that she loves, being with people she cares about. She's going to win this fight! And she even let us try on her wig!

While we did spend some time talking about serious things, we also got to reminisce about our time in the house and all the funny antics we got into. Kristina and I were roommates in the dorms freshman year and she used to make us eggs on her hotplate in the mornings. Lindsey was my roommate in the house junior year, there were three of us in one room! But she scored because Melissa and I had boyfriends that we spent most of our time with, so she practically had the room to herself! Anyway, it was great reconnecting with them, and I hope we can do it again soon!

Andrea, Lindsey, Kristina

Lindsey with Kristina's hair

Andrea with Kristina's hair

The next morning was my Shamrock'n half marathon. When my dad and I got up at 6:00 it was a little rainy and cold outside. I was not sure I wanted to run 13 miles in the rain and was wondering where our beautiful weather went overnight. We got dressed in layers and headed out anyway. We got to Raley Field a little past 7 and were set to run at 8:10. I spent a good twenty minutes in line for the bathroom, while my dad just walked into the men's room. I will never understand why they don't build twice as many women's facilities as men's!

Once we got down to the start it wasn't raining, but looked kind of like it could at any time. It ended up being perfect weather for running, except it was a tiny bit windy. The race was really well organized and fun! My goal was 2 hours ten minutes, which would be a ten minute mile pace. I figured I might not be able to keep that up the whole 13 miles, but I wanted to be faster than 2:20. I ended up at 2:14 exactly so I was happy with my time. But I did have to walk a few times near the end, which was a bit disappointing. The finish was on Raley field and they showed the finish line on the jumbotron. Pretty cool! Got my shamrock finisher's medal, and my snack bag and headed home to warm up! Then we went out to a celebratory breakfast/lunch, sat in the spa for a while, then got a pedicure to fix up my sad feet. The calf massage felt wonderful!

Me and my Dad, trying to stay warm before the race

Mile 10 mile marker

Just finished-we made it!

My sweet family came to see us finish

Me and my dad- we're tough!

My feet post-race, pre-pedicure
I have a bruise on the top of my left foot, and a black toenail, on the right side I'm about to lose my second toenail. Gross, I know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our big girl

Ava has been so much fun lately. She has really gotten into playing dress-up and in choosing her own clothes. She likes to do everything herself, including doing her own buttons and zippers. I'm proud that she is so self-sufficient, but it can make getting ready in a hurry almost impossible.

Our little princess

My new favorite photo-what a cute family I have!

Ava dressed herself in a Santa hat and Christmas shirt

Ava also hit another milestone recently. She began climbing out of her crib. I'm surprised she hasn't done it sooner, she has been climbing into her crib for a long time. Sadly, it seems her naps are coming to an end. About half the time she falls asleep and the other half she is awake in her crib, talking, singing, and playing. So, since she probably not going to be taking naps for much longer and she is now climbing out of her crib, we decided to get her a big girl bed! She has been sleeping in it since Sunday night and she has transitioned really well. She has not gotten up out of her bed at all and goes right to sleep each night. We are so proud of her! I still need to find bedding that matches her room, but for now she's happy in Drew's old blue ensemble.

Tiny girl in a big bed

Ava loves her big girl bed!