"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three... and a HALF!

Today is Jaden's half birthday. He is now closer to four than he is to three. Three seemed old to me. But four... that's... wow. That's old! :)

We are so proud of our big boy... who now several times a day tells us that he's "big and tall... like Daddy!"

He puts his shoes on by himself (completely aware of the difference between his left foot and right foot), wipes his bottom by himself (TMI??) :) -- gets himself in and out of the car by himself (we do the buckling in), helps look out for Brandon like a big brother should -- and is very excited to be starting preschool in less than a month.

July was a rough month for us, and even though I had family surrounding me to help me while Cody was unable to be home, I still had a lot of time spent with just me and the boys. Mornings, evenings, bath/shower times, trips to the grocery store, etc. Jaden was "the man" of the house. I was so proud of him. There were times he acted out and showed his frustration over missing Cody - but those times usually came when other people were around, and he was looking for attention. When it was just the three of us at home in our cozy little cottage, he was incredibly sweet, supportive and helpful.

His habits, likes, dislikes...

*Goes to bed at 8:00 and usually wakes up around 6:30.
*Likes to eat yogurt in the recliner in the mornings while watching Max & Ruby and Team Umizoomi
*Likes it when we record Bubble Guppies on the DVR so that he can watch it before bed at night. (Bubble Guppies is on during the day when we're not home... so yes... I'm actually recording shows for my three year old).
*Does not like to sleep under the covers in his bed... he has to sleep ON TOP of the covers, and he is very adamant about that. He also insists that we always have his ceiling fan on in his room while he sleeps.
*Still adores his blanky but luckily only wants it at night or when he's tired. He has a "tag" on the blanky that doesn't even look like a tag anymore. He has to hold on to that part when he's cuddling with it, and he calls it his "part." "Where's my part at??" -- and then he will search the whole blanky until he finds that tag. In fact, when he gets out of bed in the morning he strategically places "his part" right on top of his pillow so he knows exactly where to grab it when he gets home.
*Still loves anything with buttons to push, especially garage doors. This has been going on for two years now. I'm ready for it to end. It's an obsession.
*Likes to ride his little three wheeler around in circles on the driveway and get it going as fast as he can. We will definitely need to get him a big kids bike by next spring.
*Loves noodles.
*Still loves music and drums. My dad has his old drum set, set up in the basement at their house. Jaden loves going to their house to play with it.
*Is not quick to try new things. He has to study an activity for a long time before deciding that he will try it.
*Does not like to swing. But loves slides.
*Is great to Brandon except when they want the same toy. He's protective, loving, talks to him all the time and truly enjoys being with him. In fact neither one of them really likes to be without the other now. He's always sure to give Brandon a hug and kiss before they go to bed.
*Is shy with people until he gets to know them a little.
*Talks constantly. Constantly. Non-stop. He is never quiet. Brandon doesn't say much yet, and I think it's because he can never get a word in.
*Is learning more and more about prayer, God and what it all means. I think he understands as much as he can at three years old. He knows he will get to live with God in Heaven one day, tells us that God is in his heart and always with him, and gives God all the credit whenever a sickness or an "owie" goes away.
*He's still a pretty good eater, but his appetite fluctuates from day to day.
*Prefers white milk over chocolate.
*LOVES to laugh.
*Likes to read books to himself -- by making up the stories as he turns the pages.
*Is excited for football and basketball season. He makes me proud. He's going to bleed purple and gold just like his Mama.
*Is incredibly sensitive and smart.

We love you SO MUCH Jaden -- and we are so very proud of you!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Because of a Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino...

I took the boys and myself to church this morning on my own. Cody still isn't doing real well so we left him home to sleep. After dropping the boys off in their Sunday school rooms, I went to the cappuccino counter and looked for my usual French Vanilla to drink during the service. There wasn't any French Vanilla sitting out on the counter... but there was a Pumpkin Spice. I'd never tried that kind of cappuccino before, but the name made me happy so I grabbed it and went into the service to sit down.

I took a sip of my new drink... and was in heaven.

I'm ready for the dog days of summer to pass us by. I know it's not right to wish time away, but we've had a rough go of it lately, and our family needs a change. A change in the form of a new season... to say goodbye to muggy, sticky, sweaty weather. To welcome in crisp temperatures, pumpkin scents, football tailgates and leaves falling off the trees. I want to walk my kids around the block after supper, and point out to them all the new colors that the new seasons can bring. I want to make a leaf pile in our yard and take pictures of them jumping in it. I want to remind them that this is the good stuff life's made of... that the simple pleasures surrounding us are the ways that God shows us daily how much he loves us. I want to come home from work - take off my dress pants - and put on a sweatshirt. I want to go to Hobby Lobby, pick out some fall flowers, and plant them in spots throughout my house. I want to surround our deck with pumpkins big and small - make a vase out of a hallowed out pumpkin - and throw "Autumn Sunset" back into my Scentsy pot. I want to browse the Internet for the best pumpkin desserts, light pumpkin scented candles, wear purple on Fridays and hear questions of, "What time is kick off?" I want to feel the excitement of each upcoming Saturday's game and walk around 23rd Street and College St. on Homecoming weekend. I want to carve another UNI football pumpkin for the third year in a row. Could it be we've started our own tradition?

I want my hair to stop looking frizzy from humidity.

I want to open Jaden's new preschool back pack every Tuesday and Thursday and see what worksheets or letters from "school" he's brought home. I can't believe the phrase "school year" actually has meaning for our family now. I want to take the boys back to the Pumpkin Patch. Jaden's been asking to go. I want to watch Brandon experience "fall" for the first time... he was too little to enjoy it last year.

Fall has always been and will always be my favorite time of year. I could use a dose of one of my "favorite things" right about now.

I know it's only July 24... but I had a Pumpkin Spice cappuccino this morning... and it was really really good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Been a Rough One...

Life has been... hard... the last couple of weeks. Tiring. Stressful. Frustrating. Hectic. Busy. Not fun. I have been waiting to jot any of it down into a blog post because if I would have tried to write this at any point in the last two weeks, I wouldn't have had a positive way to wrap up the entry. Now... I feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel again.

I'm going to put our life in a timeline -- daily bullet points. Be prepared... this is rather lengthy. But I write this blog not only for the outside readers, but also as a diary for myself. A keepsake to read years down the road. So here goes...

It all started with...

*Wednesday July 6 -- Jaden has finished one round of antibiotics and is still coughing horribly. His fever continues to come and go. He is always cranky, often crying, refusing to eat even his favorite foods and not sleeping well. We take him into his pediatrician for a 3:30 appointment. In one hour in her office his temperature goes from 99 to 100, and his chest doesn't sound good. After sending us on our way with a nebulizer machine and instructions to do breathing treatments every four hours for a week -- we are also instructed to head to the hospital and get a chest x-ray. We are told we will be waiting no longer than 30 minutes for the results as it has been listed as top priority. They do the x-ray at 5:30, and at 6:30 we still don't have results, and the doctor on call to read us the results has not responded to three attempts at contacting him. At this point Jaden has been sitting in doctor's waiting rooms for three hours with a fever, not feeling good and no food to eat. Torture. I finally left -- telling the nurse at the desk that I couldn't make my sick son wait any longer and that the doctor could call me with the results. Three hours later we got a phone call from the doctor apologizing that he didn't have his pager charged (comforting) -- and that Jaden does indeed have pneumonia.

*Thursday July 7 -- Cody calls me at work in the afternoon telling me he took himself to the doctor. (He had not been feeling "right" for a couple of weeks and it was definitely getting worse). They did blood tests, and the results that they gave Cody right away was that something was definitely wrong with his pancreas. They told him to come back the next day to meet with his regular doctor and to do more tests. I of course immediately start researching the pancreas and problems that can occur and start freaking myself out. (At this point my dad tries to tell me "do not put the cart in front of the horse.")

*Friday July 8 -- I attend Cody's scheduled doctor's appointment with him. The doctor asks him all of his symptoms, draws us a very sketchy diagram and explains to us how the gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, liver, etc. all function and how a problem in one can cause problems in others. He rules out some things based on Cody's blood work, orders a repeat to the blood tests already performed -- and a CT scan. At this point the doctor tells me that as Cody's wife I will not be going back to work that day and that I need to inform my boss. Comforting. Especially when my research the day before spoke a lot about pancreatic cancer, and our doctor has just ordered a CT scan because he wants to check for tumors/masses. We head to Sartrori Hospital and wait for the CT scan when Cody receives a call from the doctor that his second round of blood work shows horrible enzyme levels from his pancreas. One number that is supposed to read at around 400 was at 4,000. Yikes. I don't have a clue what that means, but I know it can't be good. He also tells us that regardless of what the CT scan shows, Cody will immediately be admitted to the hospital. Cody does the CT scan, and before we can hear the results we have to take him to Covenant to be admitted. While in the car, his doctor calls and gives us the first piece of good news -- no masses/tumors showed up on the CT scan. At this point they are diagnosing Cody with pancreatitis. A fixable illness, but something that can become incredibly serious if not dealt with in a timely manner. Cody gets admitted Friday night with the orders that he is not allowed to eat or drink anything for a couple of days to give his pancreas time to settle down. We also are told that we will get to see a GI specialist. They did an ultrasound Friday night to check for stones in that area. They put him on an IV filled with fluids, and there he sat. (Or laid).

*Saturday July 9 -- Results of the ultrasound show no stones at all. It is now a complete mystery as to why Cody has pancreatitis. He is not an alcoholic, his cholesterol levels are good, there are no masses and no stones. The doctors continue to ask us if he drinks a lot and we continually tell them that is not an issue. At all. So they decide to start Cody on a soft diet Saturday afternoon and by Saturday night are giving him complete meals. We questioned this, but they insisted. And being as how they are the doctors... I trusted them.

*Sunday July 10 (they day we were supposed to leave on a mini family vacation) -- Deanne (Cody's mom) has spoken to her cousin who had pancreatitis and was hospitalized for a couple of months since it was not taken care of the first time he had it checked. We speak with the doctor about this, and we ask again to see a specialist (that they have not let us see yet). The doctor on Sunday assures us that a specialist is not needed, there's nothing he would do that the doctor hadn't already done, that he will make us an out patient appointment with the specialist in a couple of weeks -- and discharges Cody. At this point Cody's enzyme levels are better (he hadn't really been eating so things had settled down) -- but they still aren't normal.

*Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday -- Cody continue to feels horrible, and it's getting worse.

*Tuesday July 12 -- That evening after putting the boys to bed, Cody's pain is so bad that it is radiating from the pancreatic area up to his chest and down his left arm. He is short of breath and can barely function. He drives himself to the ER at 9:30 that night, and I arrive shortly after once my mom got to our house to stay with the boys. They immediately do an EKG to check his heart, which was good thank goodness. They start him on an IV again, check his blood and once again find that his pancreas is not doing well. At 1:00 in the morning he is once again admitted to the hospital.

*Wednesday July 13 -- A new doctor comes to visit him, tells Cody that he is back on a no foods/no liquids diet, and that they need to take things much slower this time. He tells him to expect at least two-three days in the hospital on an IV. By this point, we are incredibly frustrated and want answers.

*Thursday July 14 -- Another new doctor shows up, apologizes to Cody that things weren't handled correctly the first time around and promises to get the ball rolling. She schedules a gallbladder function test for him later that day. This test is to show them if the gallbladder is actually doing what it's supposed to do or not. They do the test, get the results and find out that Cody's gallbladder is only functioning at 9%. We are told the surgeon and specialist will be in later that evening to meet with us and that Cody's gallbladder will most likely be taken out on Friday. The surgeon and specialist (finally we get to meet an actual specialist) show up Thursday evening and inform us that there's one more test they want to run before committing to take the gallbladder out. This test requires them to put Cody slightly under and insert a scope down his throat to make sure there aren't other problems that an ultrasound/CT scan can't see. Again we are frustrated as to why all of these tests weren't done in the first place.

*Friday July 15 -- I leave work early to arrive in time for the scope test that was scheduled to begin at 5:00 in the evening. While we are sitting there waiting I get a phone call from daycare that Brandon is wheezing really badly. I call my mom who picks him up from daycare and immediately takes him to convenient care. Jaden was finally back to his normal self, and now I have another child needing a chest x-ray. I was tired, frustrated and asking... "what next?" The scope test reveals nothing except what we already knew -- everything inside Cody is badly inflamed and the gall bladder needs to come out. We are told we will be meeting with the surgeon Friday night/Saturday morning. Brandon's chest x-rays don't show pneumonia but he is put on antibiotics for bronchitis.

*Saturday July 16 -- The surgeon shows up very early in the morning and tells Cody that they won't be performing the surgery until Monday or Tuesday because things are so bad inside of him that doing the surgery over the weekend could cause horrible infection. They want to give it more time to settle down and continue checking his pancreatic enzyme levels. Hearing that we had to wait another three/four days for surgery broke our spirit... especially Cody's.

*Sunday July 17 -- Nothing new except an improvement in his enzyme levels. Sunday night the surgeon shows up and tells Cody he is on the surgical schedule for noon on Monday and that if all goes well he will get released on Tuesday.

*Monday July 18 -- Finally surgery day. It's weird to be excited about surgery, but we were so ready to do this because we had believed all along based on family history that this is what needed to happen to make him feel better. The surgery was scheduled for noon, but we sat in the pre-op room from 11:30 to 1:30 before they finally came to take him in. The surgery was a success, and they did not find anything surprising -- just a really bad gallbladder. Cody woke up in some pain, but can immediately tell the difference after having the surgery. The areas inside him that had been uncomfortable and painful for so long... don't hurt anymore. This was wonderful news to hear from him. We are assured that discharge should be Tuesday.

*Tuesday July 19 -- Cody still continues to feel better than he has in a long time. His biggest problem now is that they haven't been giving him the right allergy medicine that he is use to taking at home so he can barely breathe because he is so stuffed up! The doctor and surgeon have come in and given him the okay to go home. It has been a long journey, and it will continue to take a while for everything to return to normal. They have warned Cody that pancreatitis is something that takes a while to recover from, and Cody has hardly eaten for a week and a half so he will need some time to recover... but at least we're on our way up instead of down. He has been told he can go back to work in a supervisor role on Thursday and return to landscaping duties on Monday. He is able to lift the boys, as his incisions are so small that there is no real weight restriction.

We could not have gotten through the last couple of weeks without our family. I was pulled in so many different directions, and I might have buckled under the circumstances if our parents and friends hadn't been there to provide daycare, meals, grass cutting, conversations of reassurance and overall support. I was always on the go -- back and forth between daycare, work, home, the hospital and anywhere else I needed to be. But our family was just as busy as I was -- busy taking care of us, and we are lucky we have them. There have been a lot of hours spent sitting within white walls of a very small hospital room waiting for doctors to show up who can never say when they're actually going to show up. We have come out of this with our sanity intact and have already found some silver linings. I truly believe we are put through times like this to teach us something. It was an extreme way to teach us some valuable lessons, but sometimes God has to beat our heads against brick walls to make us wake up, open our eyes and see things the right way. We have already had discussions about some lifestyle changes that if they weren't being made now, could have caused even worse circumstances down the road. I have a brand new appreciation and compassion for single moms. I am more patient with my kids than I was two weeks ago. The curtain and curtain rod in my bedroom falling in a pile on my bedroom floor because the boys were getting too rowdy just didn't seem like that much of an inconvenience. We have learned to be proactive when dealing with doctors -- to push for what we know is right and to demand answers. Hopefully it will be a long time before I have to advocate for my family in a hospital setting again, but it will undoubtedly happen at some point. Now I know what I need to do when that time comes. I have gained more confidence in my mothering skills than I ever used to have. And my faith is stronger now -- not because He healed Cody -- but because he sustained us through this. It seemed only fitting that this song was on the radio this morning when I drove to work this morning...

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things...

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe...

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights 
Are what it takes to know You're near
And what if the trials of this life...
Are Your mercies in disguise?

And what if trials of this life -
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Thanks to all who prayed, left comments on Facebook, approached me at church to ask how we were holding up, sent texts and emails... and offered any kind of help you thought you could provide. We have an awesome family, and we live in a pretty kick-butt community, too. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Vacation" Day...

This past week we were supposed to head out on a mini "vacation." A vacation that got cancelled due to hospitalizations and pneumonia. (More on that in a separate entry). But I still decided to take those days off work. And even though being home ended up being more stressful than our normal routine of work and daycare... I did have one enjoyable day with my two littles.

I recently discovered a wooden park just two minutes from our house and very close to our new daycare. And even though I think it could use another slide or two and some other updates... it was still a giant maze for my kids to run through. That's all they really need... a place to run and climb. I did decide that we won't go back without Daddy though. It was hard for me to keep up with Brandon. He still needs somebody to be at the top of a slide and at the bottom of a slide when he comes down -- and well -- although I like to think of myself as a "super" mom most of the time... I still haven't found a way to be in two places at once.

After a trip to the Waverly playground McDonald's (which the boys had a great time at) -- we took naps and then headed to "The Falls" for the first time this summer. It was cool. It was rainy. But our cousin Ella was there and we wanted the three kids to have some time to play together. After some hiccups when we first got there... the boys ended up having a great time. Brandon has no problem jumping into cold water. But even he was a little uncertain at times...

And Jaden went down this elephant slide right away, but fell off of the steps the second time he tried -- which ended in a giant scratch down his back and ended his fun for a little while.

At this point, we almost decided to just go home and try again on a much much warmer day. But then I had the idea to try the lazy river. We put each child in a tube, and myself, my mom and Deanne walked beside the tubes as the kids floated the lazy river. And they LOVED it! We must have floated around that thing over and over again for half an hour. When it was time to get out of the river, everybody got back into the pool and had some fun. But watching the kids shiver made this a much shorter trip to the pool than I was hoping for. It was a fun experience -- but one we won't repeat until we get another HOT day!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fun with Collages...

I have discovered the joys of Picasa. I am having way too much fun creating photo collages through this program, and it is so quick and easy. I love technology. This is going to make blogging even more fun for me. And for the grandparents out there who read this... you should be able to click on these collages and set them as desktop backgrounds for your computer. Have fun! (More to come, I'm sure).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Today we celebrate our Independence Day...

If tomorrow all the things were gone
I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again
With just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars
to be living here today
'Cuz the flag still stands for freedom
and they can't take that away...

...Every time I hear this song, it gets me just a little bit. As I headed to the grocery store for some last minute supplies the evening before the 4th, this song came on the radio. And I might have sat in my car in the parking lot for just a little bit longer before heading into the store... just so I could listen a bit more. The older I get, the more I appreciate the fact that God put me here - that I get to raise my family here. Years ago, I nannied for a family that sent their daddy off to Iraq when his little girl was just eight months old. I was there with them when he said goodbye to his baby -- who was barely crawling at the time. And then I was there at the Waterloo airport to welcome him home and to watch him say a new hello to this little girl who had blossomed into a toddler and had started walking in his absence. Those were two amazing moments - memories - that remain imprinted on my heart. We are blessed here.

SO... I planned to make the most of our our extended 4th of July weekend. And we packed about as much into those three days as possible. It started Saturday with the conclusion that we needed an entirely new tub/shower. Our old tub was leaking through a crack at the bottom, and our basement carpet was getting pretty wet. Getting a new tub/shower meant having to take OUT the window in our bathroom to get everything to fit right. So we headed off to Lowe's with Tim and Deanne (Tim the handyman!) -- to pick out our new stuff. After that and a quick stop at convenient care to get Jaden some meds for his nasty cough -- we returned home and started the yard work. I offered to mow the lawn again - for the only the second time ever - and Cody planted some new flowers in the new decoration I found for our deck at a garage sale. I was pretty excited about this purchase...

In addition to all the labor and errands we ran that day, the boys and I spent a lot of time outside. I may be 26 years old... but I still can have fun with some chalk...

Saturday night ended with some cuddle time with the boys... and then some Dairy Queen for Cody and me on the deck after we put them to bed. It was a busy day, but very productive. I love this picture with Brandon's hand up to his face!

Sunday Cody took the boys to Aplington for most of the day so that I could get some stuff done around the house. I had some more errands to run and some baking to do...

"Pretzel Sparklers..."

...and brownie ice cream sandwiches... yum!

When the boys returned Sunday evening we went to work on getting my dad's present ready for his birthday -- which also happens to fall on the 4th of July. Now, the man has everything... and when he wants something, he goes out and buys it himself -- which makes it increasingly harder and harder to find a good gift for him. But he is putting a new bathroom in his basement that will connect with the "Panther Pit" -- so we decided to make him a new purple and gold decoration for that bathroom...

...I wish we had video of us trying to get Brandon to put his hand perfectly on the canvas. Jaden was a pro at it... but Brandon... not so much. It was like wrestling a wild animal.

Monday was the big day -- Independence Day -- party day at our house -- Dad's birthday -- and bathroom remodel day. Some might say we were crazy for remodeling our bathroom the same day we were hosting a party... I just say that we're motivated. Although I did have about an hour-long panic attack early in the day and threatened cancelling the party. This is what our house looked like exactly one hour prior to guests arriving...

...But after a very quick cleanup, it looked more like this...

..A big thanks to Cody and Tim for their hard work, Deanne for helping keep me sane and my parents for watching the boys at their house during the afternoon and giving them a place to nap. It was a team effort.

We had a great "party" at our house filled with swimming, soccer, batting practice, good food, good chatter and laughter and even a few sparklers at the end.

To me, this picture says Iowa. A patriotic swim suit on a John Deere tractor... love it.

Brandon absolutely had a blast. The minute we put him in the pool, he shrieked, splashed, jumped up and down, laughed... he was in and out of that pool for a couple of hours. And even after the party ended and it was time for bed... he was still wanting to party. He is a hoot.

Jaden loves playing with his t-ball set. Thank you James and Cassi for fielding the balls for him. (And yes -- he is a lefty!)

James and Cassi had some fun competitive soccer going on...

Brandon took a break from swimming and jumped into the sand box. He was caked with sand, but the good news was that when he was done in the sand we were able to throw him right back in the pool to rinse him off! ;)

After a long days work remodeling, Cody manned the grill. That's where he's happiest. And we had quite the assortment of meat -- ribs, pork chops, chicken, steak, brats...

...And Tim went to work cutting up the ribs. Those two work pretty well together... ;)

Working in the prosthetics industry, I get a little nervous about the typical 4th of July shenanigans -- sparklers, fire crackers, etc. I know all the warnings, I've heard the horror stories, and I know what can happen. But -- I decided to purchase just a few sparklers for Ella and Jaden to enjoy. I was a little hesitant about it, but you're only a kid once, right?

...We had a great 4th of July. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the company was pretty darn good, too. We feel very thankful that we all live close by so we can enjoy these special days together. Holidays wouldn't be the same without our family! Happy birthday America!

In closing, a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies! It's a little cheesy, but it gives me goosebumps every time... :)
"In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night!" We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" 
~ Independence Day