Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas photos

I've been wanting to post a little more on our Christmas traditions - but have spent time doing them instead of writing.  I asked each person at the beginning of December to name one thing that they wanted to be sure that we did this month.  We've done all of them, but mine.  We can still do that one.

Eliana - She was really too small to make a wish for this year, though several of her siblings were willing to make one for her.  *grin*  I am thankful for a healthy, happy, curious little girl that we all think is just the cutest!

Daniel - Make and decorate cookies.  Daniel is learning to like spreads (like frosting) and adding sprinkles.  Just recently he even started to eat them (instead of just adding them).  He takes great joy and pride in his work.  I am thankful for his beautiful smile and happy heart.

Isaiah - Make a gingerbread house.  We make the pre-packaged houses with lots of candy and frosting.  The children all enjoy making their own designs and are happy to share the decorating of a house or two as well.  I am thankful that Isaiah is willing to share and work with his brothers in making a beautiful house.  (The 3 younger boys worked together.)

Joshua - New ornaments (photos in an earlier post).  This is a tradition that is special to me as it has been passed down from my family.  I love that my children treasure it too.  I am thankful for Joshua's tender heart and desire to preserve traditions that are meaningful.

Rebecca - Give toys to the underprivileged.  She held her own toy drive - making signs and distributing them door to door in our neighborhood.  We delivered them to a local shelter.  I am thankful for her sweet and generous heart.

Christopher - Lights on the tree (I think he didn't want to think too hard on this one!)  I love how he enjoys sharing things with Eliana.  It warms my heart to see him with his sister.  He really enjoys playing with her.  I am thankful that he enjoys spending time with her.

Me - Handprints on the tree skirt.  Hopefully we will get to that soon.

Roger - Visit a "Journey to Bethlehem" (photos in an earlier post)

Here are some random Christmas photos.  Enjoy!

Christmas Eve service at church.  Rebecca was an angel in the play.  I was home with Daniel and Eliana who were not feeling 100%. 


Eliana with her new stocking - almost as big as her.

Daniel was so happy to get a new tie in his stocking.  He wears one of Roger's ties every day.

Our little pirate - happy with his new loot.

Joshua has been wanting  pajamas with foot - and was thrilled to get some!

A set of face paints was a gift Rebecca was excited to receive.  Unfortunately, none of her brothers were willing to be painted.  So, she experimented on me, her Daddy, and herself. 

This guy is hard to get a picture of - he prefers to be behind the camera instead of in front of it.  He enjoyed some of our new games and spent a lot of the day working a new puzzle of lighthouses of America.

Not my favorite picture - but one of Roger and I - holding ornaments that Rebecca made for us.

We have had a blessed Christmas season.  We have enjoyed reading Bartholomew's Passage together as a family and studying the Christmas story.  We are thankful for so many things - a precious Savior tops the list.

A quick health update:

*Daniel seems to be much better.  He did get sick once yesterday, but we think it was a fluke as it had been more then 24 hours since his long sick spell.  He is energetic, eating and just happy to be out of the  "sick room". 

*Eliana is improving, though still very congested in the mornings and coughing some (and it's in her chest).  The more critical part though is her eating.  She is still not eating well at all.  We would love for you to join us in praying that her appetite would pick up and that she would be able to eat again.  It is taking a long time for her to eat one bottle and she frequently does not finish it either.

*My foot is improving too.  I'm able to walk around while wearing the lovely blue boot.  I can't complain about pain either.  I'm thankful not to be scooting and crawling.  :-)

We have a fun night planned for tomorrow - New Year's Eve - and I'll share more of that later.  I hope you all have a blessed one too!



Thursday, December 27, 2007

What a day!

It's been quite a day around here.  We awoke to find Eliana with blood all over her face, hands, clothes and bed linens.  :(  We determined that she had a bloody nose at some point during the night, but obviously just dealt with it herself.  I was surprised since she has runny nose and we had the  humidifier going.  I guess it could have been worse.  After cleaning her up, her nose started bleeding again.  It did on and off for a little while as I tried to clean her and just get it stopped.  Thankfully it didn't happen again during the day.

Roger went back to work today, but went in a little later to help get us all settled before he left.  I was very thankful for this!  I stayed in my pjs and just went downstairs where I stayed - on the couch - for the rest of the day.  It was hard to just sit when I can see soooo many things that need to be done.  My older two children were very helpful.  Rebecca even planned and made "bag lunches for the boys" with chicken nuggets, homemade fries, a small toy and more.  She pretended that they had gone through a drive-through to pick up their order.  :-)  Isn't she a fun sister?!  Christopher fixed me a fun lunch tray.  I had lots of helpers with Eliana since I can't pick her up or carry her.  We just stayed in the family room for the day.

Things were a little chaotic around here.  I miss having some routine and the boys seemed to need to burn off lots of energy!  LOL  I hope tomorrow will be a little better.

Eliana is still feeling a little crummy - congested, runny nose, some coughing and not eating as well, though today was better.  She plays well, and is such a little delight even when she isn't feeling 100%.  I'm hoping that this will pass soon.  The younger boys have all had it and it seemed to linger for awhile. 

My foot is doing alright.  I have been trying to wear the lovely boot more.  One of my friends pointed out that hopping really wasn't a good idea in case I slipped and came down on that foot again.  I think it may help to protect it some from the children when they forgot not to touch or step on it.  I'm thankful that I'm strong enough to get around and lift myself from crawling/scooting when I need to.  I don't have crutches and may look into the possibility - or may just tough it out for a little longer.

Daniel, our 3yo, has been sort of cranky and out of sorts.  He had a VERY hard time going to sleep.  He kept crying and saying various things hurt -  his finger, his lip, etc.  Finally, he threw up.  Roger was with him (I was with Eliana) and helped him.  He then got sick several more times.  Poor little guy!

Eliana is having a hard time sleeping too.  I've been trying to get her to sleep for quite awhile.  She just ate some and fell asleep, but woke back up.  I'm listening to see if she'll put herself to sleep or needs me to hold her.  Daniel is up again crying - and probably sick.  I'm glad that it's just 2 children that need attention tonight! 

We would love prayers for health.  I would especially ask prayers for Eliana not to get what Daniel has.  I don't want her to have that on top of what she already is dealing with.  I think it would be too much. 

I thought our days after Christmas would be filled with games, books, some cleaning/decluttering and even some craft projects.  Guess we'll have to do those another time.  I'm looking forward to some days of nothing - boring - no drama.  :-)  I hope I don't sound as though I'm complaining.  I'm choosing to be thankful through all of this, as we are really all doing well despite some health issues.  I'm thankful that all of the things are short-term and not life-threatening.  I'm thankful that we have all of our basic needs met.  I'm thankful for my family and the many ways we are blessed. 

I am thankful that we can draw together in prayer and praise to the One who loves us and sent His precious son.

With love,


PS  I'll hopefully add some Christmas photos tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Surprise - A New Shoe!

I am not one that has many pairs of shoes.  I'm guessing I have far fewer than "average".  I have very narrow feet which makes finding shoes that fit very difficult!  I know the couple of places around here that carry shoes in narrows.  Then they are expensive to boot.  Well, that just ends up meaning that I have a few pairs that fit well and I wear them until they are worn out.

I have gotten gift cards for past holidays which I've spent on shoes.  This is a treat, as I don't often buy shoes for myself unless necessary due to the cost.  I didn't expect a new shoe this Christmas.  I really didn't expect the way that I'd get it either.

I just wanted to take a moment to share a small bit of our Christmas.  We started the morning with the children playing upstairs until we were all ready to go down.  Since Eliana and I had a hard night (she had a lot of trouble sleeping), they let us sleep a little in the morning.  Before we went down, Rebecca recited the Christmas story from Luke 2.  I love this passage and remember memorizing it each year when I was a girl.  I told Rebecca about this and she loves having this tradition continue.

When we went down, we first took our traditional picture on the steps.  I love this picture each year of all of our children - in their new Christmas pajamas - in various states of cooperation.  :-)  Breakfast was in the oven (thanks to Roger!) - a traditional breakfast casserole of sausage and eggs.  Our children love this breakfast.  Having traditions is fun and meaningful.  It gives our family a variety of ways in which we say "We are the Nelsens and this is what we do."  It isn't stiff or a "have to do", but more of a remembering of the past and a celebrating of the present. 

When we finished the photo I went to pick up Eliana.  We were planning to open stockings and then have breakfast.  I was just a step or two from the bottom.  As I went down, my socked foot slipped on the wooden floor.  I don't remember too much except trying to protect our sweet baby.  I do remember my foot twisting in a most unnatural position.  Both my ankle and toes on my right foot were twisted up under me.  Someone took Eliana and the children were crowded around me.  I couldn't help it and just started crying.  It hurt!  After sitting for a moment, I began to feel like I was going to pass out.  I did let them know as I didn't want it to frighten them.  Someone (it's all kind of fuzzy) gave me some water.  Thankfully I didn't pass out. 

I was helped off the floor and into a chair.  My ankle started swelling.  As the morning wore on, I found I had a swollen "ball" on the front of my foot just where it bends.  My toes were also swelling and starting to bruise.  Due to the pain, I thought I'd see if the orthopaedics office was open - they weren't.  We then started trying to treat it at home as best we could - ice, elevation and staying off of it!  Yes, I spent the entire day in a chair watching everything around me.  Sweet Roger did all of the things that I normally do from helping the children, to cooking and more. 

I posted on my homeschool board for advice on how to know if a bone was broken.  Several of my friends encouraged me to get it checked out.  I also talked with my SIL who gave me tips on how to treat it.  I just didn't want to go to the ER on Christmas!  I figured I was "messing" things up enough with my drama and didn't want to take away from the day if it wasn't needed.  I thought that anything that was going on could probably wait.  The odd thing to me was that my foot felt numb.  I thought it was due to the ice and elevation.  As we stopped doing some of this, the numbness continued and stayed throughout the day.

By late in the evening, some friends convinced me to go to the doctor the following day and Roger agreed.  He called in the morning to find which office could accomodate us.  By late morning we were visiting the orthopaedics office. 

We met with an PA who examined my foot and asked some questions.  She told me that they could do an x-ray, but that the treatment would probably be the same with or without the x-ray.  Since it didn't seem to matter, we decided to forego the x-ray (which was actually an answer to prayer for me).  I'm being treated for a stress fracture in my foot.  I was given this lovely boot to wear.  My new shoe for Christmas!

I'm to wear it for about 3 weeks until I improve.  (I don't have to wear it at home when I am relaxing or resting my foot!)  I will also go back in a week to check to see how things are doing with my foot.  I had hoped that having the boot would mean that I could walk.  (I've been hopping or crawling or scooting around on my bottom - gotta love those wood floors!)  Well, I tried at the office and ... OUCH!  I hopped out wearing my boot.

I know it will get better, but will just take some time.  For now, my foot is numb most of the time (kind of like it is asleep) which we were told is due to nerve damage that occured when I fell. 

This shoe isn't a present I would have chosen, but I'm really alright with it too.  It is a small difficulty and will pass.  I hope that I'll be able to learn from this time, from this pain and from the need for help through much of my day.  I know there are lessons there for me and I'm hoping my head and heart are ready for them.  I can be quite stubborn at times and really would like to get the lesson the first time.  ;-) 

We would love prayers for our sweet Eliana.  She is congested and coughing.  (Same thing several of our other children have had.)  It has made it hard for her to sleep - and even harder for her to eat.  Today was the worst day in quite a long, long time.  I've hesitated using the tube as I want her to be able to get it out!  (We need to go several months without the tube before we'll be approved to get it out.)  I  know that if tomorrow is like today, that I will probably have to use it.  Please pray that Eliana would get better and be able to eat.  I'm also concerned that this may develop into something else for her and am praying that it would just run its course soon and she would have no lingering yuckiness from it.  It's just not fun seeing her miserable either.  She has been a real trooper through it all too.  She is such a sweetheart!

I need to go crawl up to bed.  ;-)  I will write more about Christmas and post pictures too soon I hope.  We had a wonderful day and I'm thankful for our time together.  We have worked to keep things simple - well, as simple as Christmas with six children can be.  I'm thankful to be able to celebrate Christ's birth with our precious family!

Merry Christmas to all of you!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Birthday Photos

There were so many that it was hard to choose just a few.  Here is a glimpse into our sweet Eliana's first birthday party.

She had fun opening her gifts - and had a LOT of help!

Can you see what her shirt says?  "I love my life."  I thought this was just perfect for our sweetie!

Next is the best part - eating the cake.  She tried some but didn't "eat" a lot of it.  She did seem to like the chocolate frosting though.  She definitely liked playing in it. 

What fun it was to celebrate our Eliana.  Thank you God for blessing us with this adorable little girl. 

I wanted to update on some of our medical/therapy appointments this week. 

Eliana's appt with her pediatrician went well.  Our ped is such a delight and it's just nice to see her.  We finally got a picture of her with Eliana too.  Eliana is growing taller, but unfortunately not gaining weight.  We are going to work to give her more food each day to increase calories.  I'm not concerned about her weight (yet).  I think it's due to the volume we are giving her (and it's been the same amount for quite some time) and also due to recent illnesses (having diarrhea for weeks can't be helpful in trying to gain weight!).  She is still on the typically developing growth chart for both height and weight though.  Way to go little girl!

Daniel's dental appointment also went well.  We were in and out in less than 30 minutes which is nice.  He did cry during some of it, but was able to pull himself together and finish it well.  He was cooperative and I was proud of him.  Given some of his sensory issues, I wasn't sure how the dentist visit would go.  The dentist we see is wonderful - very calm and patient with the children (and I have one that has definitely tested that fully!). 

Therapy today for both Eliana and Daniel.  Daniel LOVES going to therapy.  He has been talking about it since we were there last week.  Today he was taken into a sensory play room.  He was so overwhelmed that he couldn't do any of it at first.  I told his therapist (OT) that this was typical behavior when in a new place.  He did eventually play at a sand table and then some on a swing which he seemed to like.  It seems that he avoids some things so as not to have the sensory input.  I know this may make no sense - it honestly doesn't make tons of sense to me.  Most (or all) of us have some sensory issues (bothered by noises, light, certain textures, etc.), but most of us can adapt and not have it affect our quality of life.  For some, they need help in learning to work through it.  That's what we are doing with Daniel.

Daniel also tried some foods.  He spread frosting on a cookie and then added sprinkles.  He tried it (which surprised me since he had a fit over sprinkles on his ice cream just a couple of weeks ago).  His first comment was "ouch".  He did keep trying it though.  He seems to like spreading things and we are going to try this with other food items.  Cream cheese is next on the list.  He also tried some jelly on a graham cracker.  This is a first - the jelly.  This is a step toward a pb&j!

Eliana also had feeding therapy.  She is improving - though it is slow.  Her OT noted that she seemed to like textures (graham crackers) better than the pureed baby foods.  She didn't make quite as big a mess today - but enough to get a bath when she got home.  :-)

Eliana also had physical therapy today.  She was tired and it was more work for her than she  wanted to put into it.  Her PT noted that she is doing better with her standing.  We learned some new exercises to do with her too.

On other fronts, I am trying to declutter the boys room.  What a mess!!!  I'm hoping to remove quite a bit from their rooms so that there is less to make a mess with.  We'll see if I can get through it before they make another mess in there.

Eliana has finally fallen asleep in my arms so I'm going to head to bed soon too.  Even though we are having a busy week with lots of appointments, it has been a good week.  I'm thankful for much.  I find myself often thinking back to a year ago.  We were still in the hospital - and it was hard.  It's so nice to holding my sweet girl in my own home now.

Many of my dear friends on the Five in a Row board wished Eliana a Happy Birthday!  You can read those  Birthday Wishes.  So many notes of people who have prayed for us - and their children too!!!  It was a sweet thing to have so many people rejoicing  and celebrating with us.  I loved what one friend had to say.

"Happy, happy birthday to the little girl who has driven all to our knees in prayer and who has caused every one of us to lift up our arms in praise!"

Have a blessed day as you celebrate the One who loves you so much!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Birthday Picture and a look at our week.

I wanted to add a photo for y'all to see.  I'm still working on the slide show - and getting more birthday photos uploaded.  It's late though and will have to wait until tomorrow.  We have a somewhat busy week ahead.

Tuesday - Daniel has his first dental appointment early in the morning.  Later in the day Eliana has her 1yo check-up.  She will also be getting the synagis shot at this appointment.  My two youngest boys have music class in the afternoon, though we may be missing it.  Isaiah was sleeping - a lot - this afternoon.  When he woke up, he was feverish.  I sure hope this is something that ends quickly - and doesn't get shared!  He will definitely not be going and I'm not sure if I'll take Daniel or not.  Joshua and Rebecca have play practice for the Christmas Eve story at church in the evening. 

Wednesday - Feeding therapy for both Daniel and Eliana.  Daniel really enjoyed his visit last week and has been talking about going back every day.  I hope he'll make progress.  We are seeing some progress - small steps - but in the right direction!  We also have physical therapy the same day.  It's a long day and a tough day to get much schooling done. 

Thursday - More dental appointments for my two oldest.  Then we will be done for 6 months with dental visits!  The next round of appts will be on the same day.  :-) 

Friday - Nothing!!!  Yippee!  This might be a good day to work on gingerbread houses.  (LOL, yes right after all of our visits to the dentist.)  Or some holiday baking - we've done none this year.  I'm not a huge cook though so that isn't so surprising.  I did see a really fun (and easy looking) recipe on my friend Nikki's blog.  I'm hoping to try that out tomorrow - or maybe one other day this week.

Well, I'm headed to bed as that 8:30 appointment is going to be early!  Here is a picture of our princess on her birthday.  I'll post more later this week.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Eliana Joy!!!

Our sweet baby girl is 1 year old today!  Oh, how can it be that she is already a year old?!  In some ways it seems too fast - but in other ways this has been a long year.  It's been a year of many trials - and also delights.  I can say that today was filled with nothing but delight!  Rejoicing and celebrating our precious daughter!

I spent much of the day looking back over pictures of the last year.  I'm hoping to post a slideshow soon.  (I'm about halfway done with it now.)  I had wondered if looking back and remembering would make me feel sad.  It didn't.  I can clearly see God's hand on her - on me - and on our family through all that has happened this year.  I'm not saying that this year was easy or without pain, but this is a much easier place on the path.

My daughter - like her mother - would find herself remembering what 'exactly" we were doing a year ago.  When Eliana was born and when they came to meet her, how long she stayed in the NICU and when she was thankfully able to come home. 

I had pondered having a large party today - to really celebrate this precious life!  I wanted to include soooo many people that have supported us over the last year.  (I would want to include so many of my friends and family that live far away!)  I pondered about what the event would be - and realized that a small gathering would really be what was best for Eliana.  She is a little intimidated by crowds and this party should be about what makes her feel good - celebrated - and loved!

So we spent much of the day in our normal activities.  Roger and the children ran errands this afternoon and Rebecca spent a long time decorating for the party.  She did a beautiful job with streamers, balloons and more.  The younger boys worked on making cards - very large cards - from poster board!  They were adorable.  Isaiah as he was thinking of what he wanted to say asked Roger to write it out for him.  At first he wanted to say that this was her "first day of being old".  LOL  Then he decided that old was not what it was - it was just the "first day of being one". 

We invited some dear friends over for dinner and a party.  We watched Eliana open presents.  Not surprisingly she loved the crinkly paper - and her siblings loved helping her with the gifts.  It was humorous to me to see the older children also enjoying her toys and gifts. 

After dinner, we had birthday cake.  We sang to Eliana and then turned down the lights so she would notice her candle.  After cutting and serving cake, we gave her a large piece of yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  She stuck her hand right in it and seemed to enjoy the feel of it.  After she played in it awhile, I put her hand to her mouth so she could taste the frosting.  She seemed to like it - though did not dive in like her older siblings.  She ate a little bit of the cake that I fed to her - and put a lot of the frosting all over her face, hands and arms.  She put her hands in her mouth so she got more frosting that way too.

She had a bath when she was done with her cake, drank from her bottle and then fell asleep while the rest of us played a game.  It was a peaceful ending to her day.

Eliana - It's hard to believe you are ONE!  You are my baby, how can it be that you are already one year old.  I thank God for blessing our family with you!  You delight us with your smiles, laughter and love.  We enjoy you so very much and you never lack for companions.  I have learned a lot from you.  I look forward to many more years of loving you sweet girl.  Love,  Mommy

Having Eliana has brought me to my knees, caused me to turn to God, and taught me much.  I am thankful for the lessons I've learned on love, trials, courage, fear, strength, pain, and prayer.   I am blessed to know so many people have loved and prayed for our precious girl - and our entire family.  I'm humbled to know that God has used my words to encourage others.  I'm so very glad that Eliana is our daughter.  She brings joy to our days and love to our hearts. 

Happy Birthday sweet girl.



PS  I'll try to post photos tomorrow. 

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last Day of Normal

For a long while this is how I referred to this date last year.  It was in my thoughts as I pondered all of the unexpected changes.  It sounds awful to say it, so I kept most of those thoughts to myself.  Last year I spent this day doing things that I loved - things that I thought in many ways defined who I was or what type of Mommy I was to my children.

We went to a field trip to an Art Museum with our homeschool group.  I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and to do something fun with our friends.  I love field trips.  Before Eliana was born we typically went on one field trip a week.  I loved being able to do this hands-on learning.  We explored so many different things and a great variety of our state in our quest to explore and learn in creative and memorable ways. 

I remember on this day feeling some stress about the impending birth.  I've had my babies with midwives in the past and due to the difficulties of this particular pregnancy and changes in office policy (midwives weren't allowed to deliver any longer), I had not seen one.  I began to worry about what it would be like to deliver with a doctor.  When I shared this with some of my friends I remember one reassuring me that birth was probably not imminent since I wasn't "ready".  LOL  Little did we know I'd be in the hospital the next day.  (Though not delivering for 2 more days.)

After our field trip we went to a park for a picnic.  It was a gorgeous day and we spent several hours there with our friends having fun.  It was relaxing and was the type of day I loved being able to have with my children.

I was looking forward to welcoming a new child - we didn't yet know if it was a boy or a girl as we love the surprise at the very end.  I had thoughts of a peaceful Christmas holding a newborn and watching my children play with their new sibling.  I imagined holding, loving and nursing my baby as I had done with all of my others.  I had no fears of adjusting to a new child - I expected him/her to just fit in with our life and our routines and that little would change about how we lived our lives.

Little did I know that in less than 24 hours, my world would be shaken.  I became sick very early in the morning on Friday.  Very sick.  I had an appointment with the OB, but called to cancel as I was so sick that I knew that I could not physically make it to the office without getting sick on the ride there.  As the day wore on, I got worse and worse until I called Roger and told him to come home.  I talked with my midwife and she told me I needed to come in.  I knew I was dehydrated and very sick - and also starting to have contractions.  This was not the peaceful birth I had wanted.  I also did not realize that it was a foreshadow of things to come.

When I met with my favorite OB, he checked me out and then called the hospital to admit me.  I asked him to please come deliver my baby.  He couldn't and assured me that I'd like the OB on call.  It was a doctor I'd met before.  She seemed fine - but not the ones that I knew well.   (I'd been seen there for 5 pregnancies and due to my HG had been seen weekly - or more - for most of my pregnancy.)  I was admitted for being severely dehydrated and for having contractions.  After several hours and several bags of fluid, they were just starting to get me rehydrated, but the contractions I had been having were doing nothing to progress my labor. 

I guess I could write more of the birth story, though I'm not sure anyone wants to read it.  Well, there were some amazing blessings so perhaps I will share - though a little later.  God definitely met me in ways that I had not expected - one of them being the OB on call who was a precious gift from Him!

With this start to labor on early Friday morning - and delivery on Saturday morning - that left Thursday 14 December as the last "normal" day of my pregnancy.  When Eliana was born and the troubles started - congenital heart defect, breathing difficulties, feeding difficulties, NICU and more - I felt my dreams slipping away.  No, I felt like they were shattered.  I had a precious new baby girl - that I was not able to care for in all of the ways I knew how to parent - and it was a frightening time.

As the months wore on, and the difficulties mounted, I found myself crying often.  I cried out to God and there were times when I wondered if He were even listening to me.  I knew He was there, but it didn't always feel like He was.  We had many long talks into the wee hours as I was up most of the day and night trying to feed our little girl.

I had friends tell me that we would find a "new normal" - which I knew in my head, but didn't want.  I wanted my old vision of normal.  I fought hard to hold onto what I had - and what I thought I wanted.  It's hard to admit how much I struggled, though if you have read here for awhile, you've seen it anyway.  I wanted a healthy baby - not to be going to a variety of doctors and specialists several times a week.  I wanted to nurse my baby as I had with all of my others - not to be dealing with bottles, tubes and a feeding pump.  I wanted to go on outings and enjoy my family in a variety of settings - not be confined to my house so that my precious baby wouldn't be exposed to any life-threatening germs.  I wanted things to be the way that I wanted them.  I wanted my normal. 

Well, it's been almost a year and we have found a new normal.  Things are much easier now, though not without difficulty.  I can honestly say that we all love and enjoy Eliana so very much!  She is a delight to our family and I can not imagine our lives without her!  I'm so very thankful that God blessed us with this precious girl!  I have found new strength and comfort in God's arms.  I've learned that it is much easier to just let go and surrender to His will than to fight it.  (Though I imagine it's a lesson I'll have to learn over and over again.) 

I have learned that life is not about getting what I want.  I've learned that God has not promised us an easy life - nor do we "deserve" good things just because we have faith.  I believe that God sometimes calls us to do hard things so that we can learn how to trust Him.  I believe that God allows trials so that we can learn about His strength and His power.  I believe that we need to take risks in faith - sometimes choosing to do things that would make us uncomfortable - so that we can see God's hands at work in our lives. 

I've learned that having this special little girl has forever changed me.  My heart is much softer - and feels so fragile at times.  I feel very vulnerable and find myself tearing up so easily over so many things.  This is not "like me".  Though one of my sweet friends (who also has a child with DS)  has assured me that she also feels this way - vulnerable.  It isn't that it is wrong - but just different - and not necessarily comfortable either.

Though others may not think it - I think I'm incredibly blessed.  I would not have chosen this path - I've said that before.  But having walked this road, I would also never go back now.  I am thankful for the lessons I've learned.  I'm thankful for friends and family that have stood with us, cried with me, prayed with us and just loved on our family.  I'm thankful for God holding me when I couldn't walk and teaching me lessons I didn't want to learn.  I'm thankful for a new normal in our lives and that I can put to rest the idea of the "last day of normal".  Yes, things are different, but so much better and richer for having Eliana in our lives.

As we approach Eliana's birthday - in 2 days - I find myself reflecting on what things were like "a year ago".  We are preparing to celebrate the life of our delightful baby daughter.  I've had a friend share that this day may be hard as it also marks the anniversary of a day that was very difficult.  I'm praying that whatever God has for me to learn - that I'll be ready to learn it. 

One year ago, I was happy, content and feeling very blessed.  This year has been filled with many challenges - things I would not have chosen to experience.  These things have changed me, shaped me and helped me to grow in new ways.  Though it has taken time and many difficult steps to get here - I can say that today I feel the same way - happy, content and very blessed. 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  James 1:17



Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Traditions can be so much fun!  I love having things that are special to "our family".  Things that are part of the fabric of our lives together.  Many of our traditions center around the holidays and Christmas is no exception.

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed with all that Christmas can entail and not wanting to do so much this year.  I want to keep it simple, make fun memories and not have the stress of so many things to do and things to buy.  I asked each member of our family to list one thing that they wanted to be sure we did this Christmas season.  That is the list we are focusing on!  We've done some of them and have some yet to do.  Here is a little bit of what is going on at our house.


One of the traditions my family had when I was growing up was that my Mom gave my sister and I an ornament each year.  When we grew up and had our own Christmas trees, then we had a set of ornaments and memories collected from over the years.

I started this tradition with our family after Roger and I got married.  We collected ornaments from trips we took before we had children.  When Christopher was born, he received his first ornament that Christmas.  Each year I have searched for an ornament that was special.  I looked for something that signified a special event or memory for that child or reflected an interest, hobby or talent.  It's a tradition that has become a sweet one for all of us.  When I asked my children to name at least one thing that they wanted to be sure we did this Christmas - receiving new ornaments was on the list!  It warms my heart when I hear that the traditions that are meaningful to me are also the ones my children treasure.

I started late with my shopping this year (I've hardly done any at all!).  This was important to me though and so last week I hit the stores with great hopes that I would find just the right ornament for each of my precious children.  It took several trips, but I found ornaments for all of them at various Hallmark stores.  I've always written their name on the ornament and/or the box it came in.  Sometimes I would write a little note.  As we unpacked the ornaments, I thought I should write a note to them each year.  I should share why I picked the ornament and what it signified to me.  I also included a prayer for them.  (Eliana was sleeping when we gave out the ornaments to the children.)

For Christopher - "Do Yourself  Flavor" to represent his love of cooking and creative/adventurous spirit in the kitchen.  My prayer is that his spirit would reflect the fruits/spice of God in his heart.  (See photo below with Isaiah)

For Rebecca - Gingerbread men that she decorated.  I bought this as it reminded me of her sweet heart, her creativity in making things and her enjoyment of cooking/baking.  My prayers is that her love for God would grow stronger and stronger.

For  Joshua - Beagle Scouts.  It reminded me of a memorable camping trip and his enjoyment of things outdoors.  It is also my prayer that he would grow in his ability to lead and serve and that he would learn to use his gifts to God's glory.

For Isaiah - What Christmas is All About.  I saw this one in the catalog and found that it was sold out in the store.  I thought I would just look elsewhere.  I tried one more store that evening with no luck.

The following morning I started calling stores.  I called all in my city and none had the ornament.  I looked at ebay and found that they were already going for high prices (more than double the asking price).  I knew that this wasn't a good sign.  I decided to try calling neighboring towns.  I received the same answer at store after store.  One lady even told me that she thought all the stores were sold out.  I then checked the on-line Hallmark store and it too was sold out.  *sigh* 

As you can probably guess, I *really* wanted this ornament.  I want to share one of my sweetest memories from last Christmas.  Our sweet Eliana was born early - 8 days before Christmas.  The shock of her medical difficulties, founding out she has Down syndrome, a stay in the NICU and feeding struggles had left me raw, exhausted and weary.  It was not the Christmas I had envisioned or expected. 

On Christmas, our then 5yo son Isaiah called us all to gather around.  He is a dramatic little boy with a vivid imagination so when he told us that he had a story to tell, none of us knew what to expect.  We all gathered and when he had our full attention, he began to tell the Christmas story.  It was a sweet and unexpected blessing to hear this beautiful story from our son.  This coupled with his pronouncement that this "is the best Christmas ever" were balm to my hurting heart.

So when I saw this ornament of Linus telling the Christmas story, I just wanted it for Isaiah.  I continued to call and finally found a store that said that they had just found this ornament in the back.  I asked her to hold it for me and told her I would come get it.  I thanked God with sweet tears of joy.  I knew that I didn't "have" to have this ornament and nobody would know that it was missing.  It was a blessing though to have God orchestrate this small blessing for me.

Isaiah loves the ornament and carries it around listening to the story.  It is my prayer that this story would always be on his heart.

Daniel - Oh What Fun! is a perfect description of this delightful little boy!  He brings joy, laughter and smiles to our days.  I pray that he would find his joy in knowing God.

Eliana - She had to have something special too.  What a first year she has had.  All of the baby ornaments which were so cute, also had "Baby's First Christmas" on them.  Obviously this wouldn't work.  I wanted something with a heart on it.  My sweet friend Rebecca found a lovely Willow Tree angel holding a heart - Angel of the Heart.  Eliana has shown strength, joy and love in the midst of trials.  The heart reminds me of her healed one and the incredible privilege we have of loving this beautiful girl.  I pray that she would know the joy of giving her heart completely to God.

Journey to Bethlehem

This was Roger's choice - and strongly echoed by several of the children.  We visit a local church which hosts a reenactment of the Christmas story.  It is wonderful!  We have done this for a number of years and it is such a neat way to have the story come to life.  It's very popular and we typically have a long wait.  This year we brought some games which helped to pass the time.  It was worth the wait as the experience of going back in time is very special.

Christmas Tree Skirt

This is one of my favorites - and the one that I added to the list.  I have tried to have the children paint their handprints on the tree skirt each year.  I am pretty sure we have missed a year or two since we started.  I love seeing the hands grow - and the number of hands too.  My younger children like putting their hands in the prints and comparing them to an older sibling.  I love the reminder of the tiny hands that I once held in mine.

I hope that by writing these memories and prayers that my children will know how deeply they are loved and prayed for each day.  I pray that this would help them to remember and treasure our times together.  I pray that God would use these times and traditions to knit our hearts closer to each other and closer to Him.  I'm thankful for this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus!




Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Praise on Eliana!

Just wanted to share some encouragment with y'all.  Today was Eliana's therapy day.  We've missed a lot of them over the last month between salmonella, Thanksgiving and then the bug she had last week.  I'm thankful she felt well enough to attend - and thankful for the good news we heard!

Feeding therapy was this morning.  She is eating very well by bottle now.  She had some tougher times when she was sick, but seems to have bounced back.  We are trying to give her solid foods once a day.  This is the focus of her feeding therapy now.  It is more effort for her to eat - and also just to learn the skills.  She needs to figure out how to use her muscles in her mouth to accomplish all of this.  (Isn't it amazing all of the skills we just take for granted?!)  Today though her OT said that she thought she was improving and doing better with swallowing.  I know it will come - it's just small steps along the way.

I'm supposed to be letting her play with her food more - and make a mess with it.  That is a real challenge for me.  I do want her playing in her birthday cake though so we are trying. 

I have scheduled a feeding therapy appt for Daniel for next week too.  He has a variety of food issues - and basically doesn't eat all that well in terms of variety.  I'm hoping that perhaps she'll have some tips for us to help him.  I know I haven't spent the time that I probably needed to over the last year.  I am not feeling guilt over that though.  I did what I needed to in focusing on Eliana (and with our peds blessing who knew all of this).  Now that things are calming down with her though, it is his turn.  Daniel is a healthy growing boy and I want him to be able to eat and enjoy more foods.  (Not to mention this would make meals much easier and more enjoyable.).  We will need for him to have a physical and referral before this can happen.  We are meeting with our beloved ped next week for this appt - the day prior to when we have his therapy scheduled.  I hope it will all work out.

This afternoon we had physical therapy.  I love that this happens at home!  It was fun to have Eliana showing off her new crawling skills.  She has really improved and gets around pretty well - except on our wood floors which are a bit of a trick for her because they are slippery. 

After working with her and noting her new skills, the PT plotted Eliana's development and not only is she ON the curve still - she has RISEN on the curve!!!  She has been hovering on the bottom of the curve and today she measured at the 10th percentile!  Yippee!!!  I'm thrilled to see her having success and being so proud of her accomplishments too.

As Miss Susan (our PT) was looking at the chart, Isaiah asked her when Eliana would crawl.  I told him that we couldn't know that yet.  Miss Susan said we can't know, but we can look at the data on what she has down so far and use that to try to figure it out since she has been pretty steady on the curve.  Well, based on that she is predicting walking between 15 and 18 months.  This is very exciting to me - though I know it is no guarantee!

To put this in perspective - 2 years old is a more typical or average time for learning to walk for many children with Down syndrome.  They learn the skills, but it just takes more time for them to master them. 

I think for many moms of children with special needs that this is a whole new spectrum of things to feel guilty about - have I done enough?  Did I wait too long?  Did I not try enough?  What if I'd done this instead?  All of the therapies and interventions can be mind-boggling and trying to follow up and keep up with everything can feel overwhelming at times.  I'm trying to not fall into that - though I am sure that I'll have plenty of times for that in the future as I have had already in the past. 

Conversely, I think that much of Eliana's success has to do with her - and not with anything that I have done as I don't think I'm as diligent as I should be in practicing everything.

I'm continuing to learn about trusting God.  Trusting that He knows His plans for Eliana and for our family.  He believes that our family is the best place for Eliana!  What a blessing for all of us! 

I'm thankful that despite all that she has been through - she continues to thrive.  I'm thankful for these moments of success.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn and love a precious little girl that teaches me constantly about love, trust and faith.



Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Rebecca!

Well, I'm late in writing.  It's been two weeks now.  My little girl is 12 years old.  She is growing into a lady right before my eyes.  Yet, she will always be my little girl.  What an amazing gift to me - our whole family - and many others as well.

I remember shortly before finding out I was pregnant with her that I had a vision that I was going to have a little girl.  I believed during my entire pregnancy that she was a girl  even though we didn't find out with an ultrasound.  Late in the pregnancy the thought crossed my mind that it could be a BOY - and I was shocked.  It was then I realized how deeply I believed.  Even my mom believed me!  When Rebecca was born she showed up at the hospital with beautiful pink things she had made and even a baby doll.  I jokingly asked her what she had done with the blue things.  She told me that I was so sure it was a girl, that she had only made pink things!  Good thing I was right as we had a loooooong wait until we saw pink again.

Rebecca has always been a delight.  She is sweet and a little on the shy side.  She is warm and friendly when she gets to know you, but it is a challenge for her to be a new situation.  She is funny and active.  She is also athletic.  She has played soccer since she was 4yo and still loves the sport.  I enjoy watching her play - she is a  good, competitive team member.  She enjoys being outside and doesn't mind a little dirt.

Rebecca loves to learn about many things.  She is willing to take the initiative to learn new things.  She loves to read and will often have her nose in a book - even when we are away from home!

Reading at the American Girl place.

Rebecca is a delight to teach!  She is willing to try new things.  She works to complete her assignments without being asked.  She also frequently helps her younger brothers and joins in with their fun activities.  She likes drama, dressing up and acting out a variety of things. Our homeschool is so much more fun with her in it! 

This is a book she made for Isaiah to help him learn to read. 

Rebecca loves to play with dolls and has a terrific imagination.  One of the memories I'll always treasure is our trip to the American Girl place in Chicago.  I just love spending time with her!  I love that she is mature and dependable, but also still innocent in many ways.   

 This is a new bed for her dolls that she was thrilled to receive from her Grandparents for her birthday. 

I can't stop without mentioning her tender heart.  She amazes me.  She is quick to forgive and also quick to ask for forgiveness.  She is constantly looking for ways to help and serve others.  She will often plan surprises or kind deeds for me as well as her siblings.  I've had numerous breakfasts in bed - and even a "queen's breakfast" with flowers, a royal chair and of course delicious food.  She has begun to really enjoy cooking and often takes on new projects and blessed us all with the results.

She helps things to run so much more smoothly in our house due to her selfless nature.  I am grateful to her - and so are her brothers (and her Dad too of course!).  Just the other night she told me that she was interested in earning money.  I asked what she wanted to do with the money.  She told me that she would like to earn money to buy gifts for children that don't have any this Christmas.  This is a sweet example of her heart - not just thinking of good things, but actually thinking of ways to get things done. 

I learn a lot from my precious daughter.  She is a wonderful daughter, sister and friend.  I thank God for the opportunity to be her mom.  I can't imagine a greater blessing.  Rebecca has enriched my life, taught me about love and given so much of herself in so many ways.  She tells me that when she grows up she wants to be a Mom.  I am touched that she sees this job of being a mom as a blessing.  I am confident that she will be a fantastic mother - she has so many good skills now!

This is an older picture from a Girls week-end away with some friends.  It was over a year ago, but a time of sweet memories.

For over 12 years now our family has been blessed by this beautiful girl.  Rebecca is indeed a gift from God!

With a grateful heart,


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Giving Thanks

This is one of the many posts I've been meaning to write about - and just haven't found the time.  I'm not sure if I'm not managing my time as well or if I'm just going in so many different directions.  I find myself wanting schedules and routine - and at the same wanting flexibility and freedom.  I've learned a lot this year about letting go of my expectations and trying to make better choices.  So, even though I want more order, maybe I'll tackle this one later.  :-) 

Giving thanks ... it's something I need to practice more often.  It's a great way to exercise my mind, my heart and my attitude.  When I focus on things that I'm thankful for, then I have far less room to be grumpy or discontent.  You'd think I could have mastered this lesson, but I'm pretty sure it's one that I'll have to keep working on my whole life.  I'm so glad that God is patient with me - and I'm trying to learn to be more patient with my children! 

I have much to be thankful for and wanted to list some of them.  We spent more time on Thanksgiving activites this year than we typically do.  We did some craft projects and activities that my children really enjoyed.  I'm glad I took time off of "serious school" to have this fun with them.  We painted with popcorn, read stories about the Pilgrims, make turkey crafts and more.  Here are a few pictures.


We spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of NC with my parents and my sister's family.  This is our typical tradition, though we missed it last year as we waited on the birth of our newest little blessing.  It was fun playing with the cousins and just having time to talk.  I love being able to be with my family and make memories together.  I'm thankful that we are able to do this - and thankful that we all enjoy being together!

I'm thankful for laughter.  My children are often the source of moments of joy!  Our little Daniel is such a funny guy.  He spent much of this holiday week-end wearing this hat and being a little "Uncle Sam" and just being silly.  He enjoys laughter - and being the cause of it. 

I am thankful for the freedoms we have - one of them being able to share our faith, our values and our heritage.  It's hard to know sometimes what is sinking in - or even if anything is on those days when everyone is acting in ways that are anything but godly.  (Me included.) 

One of the conversations my Mom had with Isaiah was so sweet and I thought I'd share it.

My Mom:  Isaiah, what do you want to get for Christmas?

Isaiah:  Nana, don't you know that Christmas isn't about getting - it's about giving.

(Me thinking - wow!  He really does get it!)

This was especially touching to me as my Isaiah does LOVE gifts.  He loves to give and receive them.  It definitely speaks to his heart.  I love knowing that it isn't just greed behind the enjoyment - he understands.  My Mom went on to explain that in order for her to enjoy giving - that someone has to be the one that gets something.  ;-)

I am thankful that my husband likes to play with our children.  He doesn't mind looking or acting silly (sword-fighting outside in his jammies) in order to laugh and have fun!  I'm thankful that he values this time and doesn't mind letting go of some projects in order to spend time  with our children.  (BTW, he is alright with this picture being posted.)

 I am thankful that my children adore their little sister.  Sometimes I hear people wondering how siblings accept a sister/brother with disabilities.  I think for our children they don't see her limitations - they only see their sister who is loved very deeply.  It's one of the many times that I think we have a lot we can learn from children!

I am thankful for friends and family.  I have truly been blessed over and over again by them this year.  I have always known I was blessed, but this year has shown me a depth I have not experienced in the past.

Mostly, I am thankful for a God who knows me - and loves me so deeply in spite of all of my flaws.  I am thankful for One who was willing to give up His son so that I might have a life with him forever.  I'm thankful for a Father who is patient, loving and filled with joy and laughter.  I'm thankful to serve a God who is good - all the time.  I am thankful that this blessing is not just for me - but for all of us.  He wants us each to know Him and to know His love.  I'm thankful for God!

With a thankful  heart,