Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving is such a special holiday for me... I think because it is the start of the holiday season, and thus, the start of some fun family traditions.  We started a few new things with Andrew this year, and I am getting super excited for Christmas!

We got up this morning and drove to my grandma's.  My mom and Jim were there, along with my aunt, uncles and cousins.  The second we walked in the door Kolton had Andrew acting silly!  Andrew imitated everything the kids did!

Andrew just loves his cousins, and they had so much fun together.

Andrew with Kolton, Kelsie and Kendra

It has always been a tradition that my grandma give an ornament to each grandchild every Thanksgiving.  We always look forward to seeing what our ornament for the year will be!
Here they are under the tree!
Andrew loved his special Thomas ornament.  It had James and Percy, too!  His 3 favorite engines.

We had a delicious feast!  My aunt made a yummy turkey and all the trimmings.  She also makes the best pies- there were 5 of them in all!
Craig gets the honor of carving the turkey!
Andrew and I enjoying ice cream oreo pie!  (There was also pumpkin and apple!)  We got out each pie one by one, and left some time in between so we could sample all three!  We were so stuffed!

Another tradition we started this year with the kids is doing a Christmas craft.  My mom and I brought along the items to make a Santa face.  The kids had so much fun being creative, and my grandma enjoyed sitting at the table with us.  She loves crafting and had a huge basket of extra supplies for us to go through!
Andrew enjoyed the craft too.  His teacher at school says that art time is his favorite thing.  They rotate through stations and he always wants to do the art station twice!

My aunt and uncle bought a game for the kids to open and Andrew wanted in on it!  He mostly just wanted to mess it up!  Ha!
Look at that face!  You can just tell he's thinking about being naughty!

After a wonderful day with our family, we loaded up and headed back home (luckily we only live 40 minutes away!)  Our little family had some special new traditions to start this year.
I finished putting up the last of my Christmas decorations, and was so excited to get out our family's advent calendar.  I love it because each square has a pocket.  This year I am planning to write out something fun for us to do each day together and put them in the pockets.  So every day we'll see what's inside and we'll do the activity.  I plan to write things around and look at Christmas lights, bake Christmas cookies, drink hot chocolate, read a Christmas book or watch a Christmas movie or do a craft.  I am so excited for someday when Andrew can help me make up the activities to do!
My family has always had the tradition of going to a Christmas movie on Thanksgiving, or the day after.  We decided to continue this with Andrew by watching one at home.  We cuddled up in our jammies and watched The Polar Express together.  It was the first time Andrew had ever seen it, and he watched the whole thing all the way through without blinking!  Ha!  He loved it!

We talked about Santa bringing the bell and the first gift of Christmas, so after the movie I told Andrew to check under the tree because Santa might have stopped by.  His face was priceless.  He looked so excited and he ran straight to the tree...

  Andrew's first gift of Christmas!

The Polar Express always makes me cry at the end, and as this new tradition unfolded before my eyes I couldn't help but get emotional.  Andrew opened the gift with such joy on his face.  He just makes everything so much more fun.  I just love being a family and doing special things together.

If you don't know about the Elf on the Shelf, you are in for a treat.  It is the neatest tradition and I couldn't wait to start it with Andrew.  He is at a perfect age to understand more about Santa.
The story tells of Santa's little elf who comes into our home to report to Santa.  He watches if Andrew is "naughty or nice" (Ha!) and also listens to what he wants for Christmas.  Then he reports back to Santa.  The fun part is, every morning when Andrew wakes up, the elf is hiding in a different spot in the room!  So we get to search and look for the elf.  We are going to make it a tradition that Santa's elf comes every year on Thanksgiving night, so when Andrew wakes up in the morning he'll get to find him for the first time of the season!
 The story that comes with it is great because it explains why the elf doesn't "talk" and it says that if you touch the elf the "magic" might go away.  It does a really good job of explaining it to kids so they understand how it all works.  Andrew listened intently to the whole story and kept looking up and smiling at daddy reading it.

We put him up on the TV armoire before Andrew went to bed and he waved night night!
When he wakes up in the morning, Santa's elf will be here...
Right beside Andrew's stocking.
This is going to be so much fun!  (I think I'm almost having as much fun as Andrew!)

We hope your family had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Something to be Thankful For...

Isn't it amazing to look back and think that all of our days were planned for us, before we were even born?  That every moment of our lives was perfectly orchestrated so every piece would weave together into the life we have today.  As I reflect upon my life, all I can do is be thankful and praise God for the beautiful life He's provided for me.  And I am thankful that He's opened my eyes to see the needs of others, as a perfect reminder of how blessed I truly am.

Many times we question why certain things happen at certain times.  We don't understand hurt, loss and pain.  We cling to the hope that "there is a reason for everything" and that someday we will come to know why.  That the purpose will become clear.  There are still many things I do not understand, but I am now able to reverse my thinking and find some reason to be thankful for the hard times.
For 27 years, this was the most important man in my life.  My father is the true description of a hero.  Maybe he wasn't famous (although sometimes I think he was, at least in the town I grew up in!  I don't meet many people there who didn't know him!) but he was the world to me.  At times I feel cheated that dad never met Andrew.  That he isn't still around to see me be a mother.  But I know he'd be proud.  Everyday I try to live to make my dad proud, and I know he's watching me and smiling.  I realize now that I was actually blessed to have a father who I can call my hero.  For so many that isn't the case.  True, our time together was shorter than I would have liked, but those 27 years gave me a lifetime worth of memories and things to be thankful for.

And I don't call it a coincidence that my dad left this Earth just one month after I married the man of my dreams.

 Dad walked me down the aisle, and into Craig's loving arms.  It was almost as if he needed to wait until he knew I would be taken care of.  He knew Craig was that man for me.  Craig is like dad in so many ways.  I'm so thankful.

I like to believe that dad picked Andrew out just for us.  That he worked together with God, to create this perfect little person to bless our lives beyond belief.  I know dad met Andrew in heaven before he sent him to us.  Andrew was dad's little way to continue to teach me so many things in life.

Andrew, my precious little miracle.  You have taught me so many things.  In three short years I have learned more than I ever thought possible.  I am so thankful you were brought into your daddy's and my life.  You are on this Earth for a very special purpose, and it is my prayer every day that you will find happiness in this life and that all your dreams will come true.  Your daddy and I will be there every step of the way, cheering you on.

This is one of our very favorite early pictures of Andrew in the NICU.  This was taken a few days before his open heart surgery and is one of very few pictures we have of him before his scar.  It is so odd for me to look at this picture and not see that mark.  That beautiful scar that is such a symbol of who Andrew is.  The constant reminder to us of how blessed and grateful we are for his life.  The scar that has opened our eyes to the world around us.  To see beyond the surface and to know what it truly means to have faith...and hope.

Andrew had a slow start in life.  Things didn't come easy for him (they still don't always).  He didn't walk until he was 21 months old...

But I'm so thankful he can walk...

He makes unbelievable messes...
But I'm so thankful he can...
(and even more thankful that he can feed himself now!)
It took almost three years before he learned how to do it.  But he learned. 

I'm so thankful for the support our family and friends have offered to us.  They are God's way of placing people in our lives to help us through those tough times.

I'm beyond thankful for my mother.  I honestly don't know how I'd survive without her.  From the moment dad left this life, my mom became my only parent.  That was such a scary thought to me.  Not a day goes by that I don't talk to my mom.  Whether it is to ask her a "cooking question" or just tell her something funny Andrew did, she is always there for me.  She will drop everything at a moment's notice to be there for me, and I am so thankful.

While it isn't always easy to take the hard times life has offered us, and try to find something is a little easier to find that in the midst of those hard times...there's always something to be thankful for.

"I will thank you Lord, with all my heart;  I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.  I will be filled with joy because of You.  I will sing praises to Your name, O most High."  Psalm 9:1-2

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heartfelt Blogger Award

My good friend Stef nominated me for the Heartfelt Blogger Award.  I am so honored that she believes my updates are heartfelt and inspiring.  Honestly, I am just a mom like so many others, who has just experienced the joys of having a little blessing brought into their life.  Through my blog, I try to share my feelings and experiences in a way that glorifies God.  We have so many people out there praying for our precious son, and who look at our family and wonder how we could go through what we do.  But the truth is, this journey has simply opened our eyes.  There are so many more who have it worse than we do.

Why was my little one chosen to be born with a congential heart defect?  The truth is, I don't know.  Do I wish it wouldn't have happened?  Sometimes.  But I also don't question God, and I certainly don't think of it as a punishment anymore.  Did I used to?

Honestly, yes.  

Many of you who have followed us for a while know that it took us almost 2 years to conceive.  We went through months of infertility treatments and we finally conceived Andrew through IVF.  This whole time I was teaching in an inner city school, where I always felt I made a difference.  Many of the kids were from underprivileged homes, where school was the only safe experience of their day.  However, during this time of infertility, I became angry.  Angry that I wasn't able to conceive a baby, who I knew I could bless with a happy home and childhood.  Why were these mothers in my school able to conceive child after child, many times from different fathers, and have healthy children?   

It didn't seem fair.

After we found out Andrew had a heart defect when I was 20 week pregnant, I grew even more upset about this.  A mom of a child in my class was pregnant at the same time, and a little farther along than me.  I often saw her dragging her many children to and from school while belittling them, with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth (no offense here, I am just trying to illustrate the feelings this gave me...and I mean, who smokes when they are pregnant?  Seriously).  No father was in the picture.  Her son was born healthy, and when she brought him in to school I couldn't help but be envious.  How could I possibly be envious of this woman?  Her son was born healthy.  And I desperately wanted that for my son.

After Andrew was born, I quickly came to the realization why God had chosen to give Andrew to us, and that woman's son to her.  Andrew couldn't have survived in that family.  He needed us.  God gave us the honor of being his mommy and daddy.  I felt so ashamed.  Ashamed that I had questioned God's intentions.  The truth was, I was the teacher who could make a difference in an underprivileged child's life, but I was the mommy whose child made a difference in mine.

And it was a beautiful thing.

Never again have I questioned God or felt envious of others with healthy children.  My Andrew is my God given miracle.  And I am beyond blessed that He chose me to receive this ultimate "award."
The Chosen One

I had a dream the other night
It came to me so clear
I stood before the throne of God
Afraid to come near
God said to me “I hear your prayers”
There are answers you can’t find
I’ve asked you here to talk to me
And help to ease your mind
I said, “Well, yes God, I am upset
About my special one
This punishment is awfully harsh
What have we ever done?”
God looked at me and shook his head
and said you’ve got it wrong
I sent this special child to you
because you are so strong!
I searched and searched to find someone
With love so rare and true
A parent so unselfish
That could give this special care
I try and save my special gifts
Like those you’re speaking of
For special kinds of parents
I call the “Chosen Ones”
Of all the ones to choose from
Think this I have done
A parent who deserves the best
An honor you have won. 

-Author Unknown 
Part of the Heartfelt Blogger Award is for me to nominate another blog that inspires me.  After Andrew was born we joined a support group for heart families.  We have met some amazing people through this group.  One family in particular.

This is the Johnson family.

My heart and my thoughts have been with them lately as they have faced many challenges in their lives and through each and every one, they seek God and trust Him, which often times would be hard for me to do in their situation.

Their precious daughter, Ava, was born with a congenital heart defect as well.  Her story is so powerful and the description of a true miracle, as they almost lost her early on.  She had 3 open heart surgeries very early in her life.  Jessica expressed her thoughts and feelings with God-breathed words on Ava's caring bridge site as people around the world joined to pray for Ava.

Well, this is Ava today
Jessica was generous enough to offer to watch Andrew last year for me while I worked part time.  This was the biggest blessing to our family.  Andrew grew to love the Johnson family and Ava became his little best friend.
They had so much fun playing together, and we were forever grateful for this gift that Jessica gave us-caring and loving on our son and treating him like part of their family.
Aren't they adorable?
Last December Jessica gave birth to their second miracle- a little boy who was born healthy as can be.  This is your picture of a "perfect family."  Jessica and Josiah are wonderful parents with a love for God that is very evident in their actions and words.  They are happy, in love, and love their children more than anything.
This is Ava teaching Andrew what to do! Lol!

Late in the spring Jessica gave us some devastating news...her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called sarcoma.   He has undergone several rounds of chemo and has traveled to find doctors who specialize in this area, because there just isn't much known about his particular type of cancer.

The latest news is that there just isn't much more they can do.  I am just heart broken for this little family.  Through everything, Jessica lays her heart out on her blog, and it just inspires me.  To be a better wife, mother and lover of God.

Please visit their blog and encourage them.  I know they could use your prayers this holiday season.

While our family so appreciates the support, love and prayers for Andrew, we ask that you also would open your eyes to the many other families we have met and have grown to love on our journey as a heart family.  There are so many children fighting.  Families fighting.  Let's all join together in praying for them, too.

"When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you."  Isaiah 43:2

Friday, November 20, 2009


I am missing my little man tonight.  I have to take a class this weekend to renew my teaching license, and daddy had a basketball game, so Ga Ga picked Andrew up from school and took him to her house to sleepover.  He had a ball with Ga Ga and Papa tonight.  I miss him so much I can hardly stand it!  It felt so odd coming home to an empty house tonight.  Thank goodness I know he's in the best hands and having so much fun and getting spoiled to pieces!

Reading the paper like daddy.

Bless Ga Ga's heart for sending me these pictures tonight, along with a little narrative of everything they've done!

He reminds me so much of my dad here, too.  Dad used to love to sit and read the paper.  Andrew is studying it so closely!
Ga Ga made his favorite supper, spaghetti.  She said he tried to eat it with this big spoon!  Ha!  He loves to get in the utensil drawer at her house.  It is the first place he goes...maybe because I don't let him have access to ours at home!  Ha!

This just cracks me up.  Look at his little foot sticking out! LOL!  Ga Ga bought him this new special Cars book with the DVD.  Spoiled boy!  His favorite part of the movie is the tractor tipping!  He wants to watch that part over and over...
Andrew loves to read and study brochures...this one is from a Thomas train set.  He'll sit and study each and every picture so carefully.  It is so sweet, like he's really reading it!
He and Papa cuddled on the couch and watched "Touchdown!" (aka "Football").  Papa bought him some Curious George fruit snacks, too.  Did I mention he was SPOILED??

He loves taking baths at Ga Ga's house.  He always loves to splash Ga Ga (probably because she lets him!) and then he'll smile and chuckle at her...stinker!
They had a busy night, and now he's crashed and all tucked in.  I talked to him on the phone tonight and he said "I love you, Mama."  The most precious words on the planet.  I love this little guy so much.  Oh how I miss him and wish I could kiss his little cheeks right now!  Thanks Mom and Jim for taking such good care of him and spoiling him silly!

The long awaited lung scan results are in... The doctors weren't super happy about the flow to his left lung being 69%- they want it as close to equal as it can get.  So, looks like we're headed for the cath lab.  The good news?  We can wait until after the holidays.  They said January or the first week in February if we wanted to wait until after his birthday...but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I'd like to get it over with before his birthday so we can enjoy his special day and not have to worry about going to Iowa the plan is January 15.  We'll head to Iowa City the 14th for pre-op appointments and he'll be first case Friday morning.  It actually worked out great because that Monday is MLK Day, so I'll hopefully be able to spend an extra day at home with him before he goes back to school.

We appreciate your prayers for a successful cath.  Dr. D will attempt to balloon those stubborn stents one last time to hopefully buy him more time before his next open heart surgery.  Let's pray he can work his magic once again!  We believe he's a miracle worker... and we know God has a hand in it, too.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:3) 

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