Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Next Big Thing

I started this 3 years ago or more, when one of Abby’s specialists started asking us, “When’s the next big thing?”  He meant surgery, of course, and I hated how the “big things” in our lives were Abby’s surgeries.  

That night, I used the chalk board on our coffee table (really a repurposed toy chest) to write The Next Big Thing.  Then I listed all of the fun things we were looking forward to and their dates.  This practice has stuck with us, and the kids love it!  They get excited to see their birthday on there, or that a special event they are involved in made the board.  It keeps our focus on all of the fun things we have going on instead of drifting toward the negatives.  

I updated the board today.  As you can see, we have lots to look forward to in the next 2 months!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Time Saver!!

So, I try to be a Pinterest mom.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it turns out more like this.  

(Just ask me about the nail polish cookies sometime!) 😆😆😆

I recently learned about Paperless Post, and guys, I think I found a way to make my life easier!!  This company has the CUTEST e-cards and invitations!  You can add your own pictures to many of them and the editing is very simple.  Here are a few cute ones that I found: 
(great name too, right?!)

(fun Harry Potter card)

(my Ninja boy would like this and you can actually put your child's face in as the ninja!)

And man, I wish I'd found Paperless Post before Abby's cooking party!  Check out this PERFECT invitation that would have saved me so much time!

I love the cookie envelopes that go with this one.  Check them out here.

Many of the designs are free and others can be created by purchasing coins.  Each card you send out is a certain number of coins depending on the complexity of the card.  (Ie: photo cards will cost more per card you send out than a card without a personalized photo).  But when you compare this to the amount we pay each year on Christmas cards...this is a BARGAIN!!

I think the thing I like best is that it cuts down so much on time and money spent printing cards and mailing them.  With Matt working at our church, we give out A LOT of Christmas cards!  While I will still send out some Christmas cards this year, I'm planning to send Paperless Post e-cards to some and possibly transition over to all e-cards next year.  I've already started working on my Paperless Post design, but no sneak peeks on that one!  :)

So check out Paperless Post and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated by Paperless Post in exchange for my honest opinions.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Letter to My Daughter

My dear, sweet, Abby Joy,

What. A. Year!  This time last year, we honestly weren't sure if you would be here for your 8th birthday.  What a mighty God we have who has healed you and allowed you to flourish in the last 6 months!!  You have come such a long way, and we are so grateful.

While you started out your 7th year a bit rough and pretty limited in what you could do, in April you returned to school and were able to finally join your 1st grade class in person! 

You finished out the year LOVING every second of school, and then started the summer with an amazing trip to Alaska! 

Your favorite memories of the trip a meeting the sled dog puppies and going to Kids Club on the ship.

We had an awesome summer and played so hard!  You participated in a theater camp and a camp through Therapeutic Recreation.  It was so good to see you playing again.

Your second grade year has started out great and you are loving your teacher.  Of course, your awesome one-on-one is by your side every step of the way!  We sure do love Mrs. D.!

This year, you are taking dance lessons, piano lessons, and swim lessons!  You are busy and loving it!  We have been amazed at how well you are doing with your swimming, and so quickly!  You haven't had much of a chance to get in the water with all of your surgeries, so we are thankful you are enjoying yourself.

Thankfully, you have had a nice break from surgeries to allow your body to heal and recover from all of the trauma it had.  While you still don't enjoy the blood work you have to get, we are so thankful that the infections have stayed away!

I am so proud to call you my daughter and am amazed that God chose me to be your mom.  My favorite thing about you is your laugh.  It is pure and without restraint, and oh, so contagious!!  You love fiercely and aren't afraid to show it.  Despite the challenges you have had, you truly are a joyful little girl.  I am so thankful for your life!

8 is going to be GREAT!  I love you, Sweetness!


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cooking Up Some Fun!

Abby had her 8th birthday party at a local cooking school today, and it was SO much fun!  The party was a Chop Jr. theme, so the group was split into 2 teams and they worked together to create an appetizer, main course, and dessert from a basket of ingredients.  They could add additional ingredients, but all of the ones in the basket had to be included.  Judges decided which team won each round.

Her great group of cousins and friends from school and church

Learning how to use a knife properly

Abby peeled an apple

cutting up turkey

stirring the baked apples and adding cinnamon

shredding chicken for the main course

cooking the chicken and cream sauce

cutting up spring onions

You can't go wrong with cheese!

Team 1 with their dessert creations!

Time to sing "Happy Birthday!"  The girls each got to decorate their own cupcake.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed the whipped cream!

While the girls were decorating cupcakes, Matt and I wrote awards for each girl based on their cooking.  (Best decorator, the Stirring Award, etc.)  Each girl got an award and a spoon, spatula, whisk, and chocolate chip cookie recipe as party favors.

It was such a fun party and I think everyone had a great time!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

School Update

Now that we are nearly ending our first month of school, I figured it was time for an update:

Caleb is slowly transitioning to middle school.  The first few weeks were a big adjustment, because lockers, combinations, dressing out for PE, navigating hallways, and an open lunch time are all very new and different.  After a few before and after school practice sessions for his locker, he is feeling good about it.  (Good thing for him that his school is one of my schools, so I could help him out before and after!) 

He has at least one friend in every class, which isn't always the case in middle school.  He is happy about that and really likes several of his teachers.  He is enjoying "Nest," as they call it, which is where students can eat lunch anytime during this one block of time and can also go to various clubs and activities around the school.  He is able to hang out with his cousin during Nest and has already joined the Aquarium Club and Best Buddies. 

Best Buddies is a wonderful organization that partners up children with special needs with a typical peer.  On the first day of the club, Caleb was able to meet with guy who is typically not one to socialize. They hung out in the quiet room and played Uno.  The teacher said she was thrilled that Caleb was able to bring him out of his shell a bit.  Caleb is really excited to be part of this club, and his heart for kids with special needs is shining through!

The most challenging subject seems to be math, for a variety of reasons.  We are plugging away at it and trying to get him to see the importance of daily practice--even when you don't have homework to do!  Matt and I weren't big fans of math growing up either, so I'm not surprised that this is tough for Caleb.  I think a tutor will be in his future, because he is already testing my math skills here!  
Abby is loving second grade!  We are thrilled with how well she is doing right now (when you have a medically fragile kid, you learn to live in the "right now") and many people have commented on her energy and spunk!  Her teacher is great and she has the same wonderful one-on-one, so life is good. 

She was a little upset in the beginning that none of her friends from past years were in her class this year, but she has quickly made some new friends.  There are some really sweet girls with her and I think it's great for Abby to be pushed out of her comfort zone a bit. She tends to rely on what she knows and is sometimes reluctant to step out (with the life she has had, I can't say that I blame her), so it's great that she has some new buddies.

Abby got bit by the reading bug this summer, and she has found several series of chapter books she likes.  She has been reading a lot of Captain Underpants and Ivy and Bean books.  I'm thankful to have another reader in the family, because it makes weekly book logs painless!
I am continuing with my part time position with the ESOL department.  I spent a good portion of the summer working with a group of classroom teachers to develop SIOP lessons to improve the academic language of all students through listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  I hit the ground running when school started by working to get the lessons distributed and aligning what we did with a county-wide program called Learning-Focused.  I will continue to provide staff development for classroom teachers at the county and school level, as well as teaching SIOP classes throughout the year and continuing to create SIOP lessons to be used in the classroom.  Oh, and I have 6 schools where I monitor students who do not receive ESOL services!  Do I sound busy?  Yes I am!  :)

I am also thrilled to be able to finally volunteer in Abby's class on Wednesday afternoons.  The past few years, Abby's health has kept me from committing to volunteer, but her current stability is allowing it!  Yay!  I will be working with small groups of students on various skills, based on what her teacher needs.  It is very helpful to be a teacher, because I am much more familiar with the curriculum and standards than your typical volunteer!  I am also hoping to be able to help out with special events at Caleb's school this year as well.

Matt is over halfway done with seminary now!  He is pursuing a master's of religion and pastoral counseling, which extended his degree timeline a bit from his original master's of pastoral counseling.  He takes 8 week modules, which allows him to do 2 classes a semester. For the most part, he is enjoying his classes--despite the many late nights of reading and writing papers! 

We are all in school in one way or another, and we are all back in the groove of getting up early and going to bed early.  We are enjoying the start of fall and are ready for cooler days and sweatshirts!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Living in the Right Now

My Facebook memories showed me a video of Abby from 5 years ago today.  It's a sweet little clip of her nearly 3 year old self yelling, "No more tubie!!!" and showing me the band-aid that covers where her gtube was. 

I remember that day so well.  We went to a feeding clinic appointment hoping that we would get the okay to pull the tube, since she hadn't used it in over three months, but figuring we would need to come back for a separate appointment to do it.  I was ecstatic when the GI told us he could take it out right then!  This was momentous because it was the first day in Abby's little life that she was officially free of all medical devices.  I cried many happy tears that day.

When that video was taken, we didn't know that she would be getting that tube surgically put back in just a little over a year later, thanks to a major jaw surgery that would make her completely tube dependent for many months.  We had no idea how far she would regress in eating by mouth, and how every surgery put us 10 more steps back.  We weren't aware that she would have a tube indefinitely, due to having so many surgeries and the need for a high calorie diet.  We couldn't have known that her little body would use so many calories just to breathe that she would burn more than she was able to eat.

How could we?  We were living in the right now. 

We were just thankful that at that moment, Abby was eating 100% by mouth and was g-tube free.

I used to try to plan for every tiny detail of our future.  401k?  ✔  House to raise a family in?   ✔  Enough money stashed away for unplanned expenses?   ✔  Stocked shelves full of water and food for emergencies?   ✔  It would drive Matt crazy to be that completely planned out, because...let's face it...we are polar opposites when it comes to that kind of thing!  I'd like to think that we have rubbed off on each other a bit in the last 14 years of marriage, so I'm a bit more relaxed and he is (maybe??) a bit more organized.  Lol!

Now, I'd be lying if I said that I don't still have a planner's mindset.  It is my type A personality.  However, God has used having a child who is medically fragile to remind us time and time again that we need to be thankful for the right now. 

Right now, Abby is doing wonderfully and is only needing bipap once during the day and overnight.

Right now, her respiratory rates are back to her baseline.

Right now, she does not require any surgeries and can enjoy her fall and winter surgery-free.

Right now, her infection markers are stable and the Keflex is doing its job.

Right now, pulmonary functioning is close to where it was before she became septic and her chest wall collapsed.

I'm not naive enough to think that all of this will continue to be so wonderful in the future!  We have certainly had our share of negative medical reports and we deal with them as they come...sometimes with more joy than others, if I'm honest!  But God has been teaching me through Abby that worrying so much about what could be is futile.  If I knew 8 years ago just how much we would go through, I'm not sure I would have made it.  But God gives us just enough grace for the moment, and He has brought us through every difficult time.  Every anxious thought has been met with, Julie, just be thankful for the right now!

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

So what are you thankful for right now?   What are you learning about living in the right now?  What has God been teaching you about being anxious about tomorrow?  I would love to hear it!

Saturday, September 22, 2018