Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fresh Picked Goodness!

We picked this yummy gourmet salad mix and baby spinach to sell to some people at Joel's work. It was so peaceful in the garden this morning and I felt so happy to be out there picking lettuce and enjoying Joel's company. The radishes are also getting big enough to pick.
The whole garden is growing so fast with the hot weather we have had for the past few days. It's really exciting to watch our little sprouts grow into such big, robust plants.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our Heart Girl

As many of you know, my five year old daughter has a congenital heart defect. When we adopted her she was on a China special needs list with our adoption agency. We knew she had heart problems but the severity of her condition was unknown.

Armed with a 6 month old echocardiogram with results translated roughly from Chinese to English, we consulted with a pediatric cardiologist to help us make the decision to accept the referral or not (truth be told I had no doubt she was my daughter but I knew I was supposed to do my “homework”). While being realistic, the doc encouraged us at the same time to not let her heart condition stop us from considering adoption. I remember him saying that the heart is the “work horse” of the internal organs. It can give it all it's got and then take a little more. He explained from the limited information what he thought the condition was and the possible courses of action, i.e., medication, surgery, or perhaps she would only need to be monitored periodically.

Obviously we made the decision to adopt our daughter (a very cool story in itself that I will share another time) and made an appointment to see the cardiologist about a month after she arrived home. In the meantime we prayed for our precious little girl and hoped for the best.

When Joel brought her home she appeared to be healthy but was very small (she was 27 months old but wearing 12-18 month size clothing). She was spunky, curious and very, very active. I truly thought we had nothing to worry about.

We took her to the pediatrician (who is the wife of N’s cardiologist) a few days after her arrival. We were quickly jolted into reality when she listened to N’s heart. First the concerned frown, then more listening, then feeling for the feeble to nonexistent pulses in her groin and on her very pale feet. I felt my heart leap within me then race as my palms grew sweaty. I looked from N to Joel to the doctor and back again with fear in my eyes. After a thorough exam the doc stated that N’s heart condition appeared to be quite serious and she was going to call her husband to make an appointment for the next day (this is no small feat given that he is typically booked about 4-6 months in advance—it was a good thing she could pull a few strings). I was so thankful that God had led us to this husband and wife team who could provide the best care for our little girl.

As weird as it sounds our first appointment with the cardiologist was actually fun because Dr. W is one of the coolest docs I’ve ever met. He walked into the exam room cracking jokes and wearing red Converse high tops and a crazy tie. His warm bedside manner with N put her at ease which was incredible since anyone in a doctor’s office was public enemy #1 as far as she was concerned. As newbie parents we greatly appreciated his willingness to sit for a very long time explaining what he saw on the echo and drawing copious diagrams.

It turned out that N had three main issues with her heart that combined together were very serious. The technical terms are quite impressive, let me rattle them off for you, it makes me feel so very smart…
Moderate coarctation of the aorta (her aortic arch is narrow and twisted into a kind of question mark), a bicuspid aortic valve (her valve opened like a very constricted eyelid rather than the typical 3-leaflet valve opening), and the coup de gras, severe subaortic stenosis (a tissue blockage below her aortic valve). All of which resulted in reduced blood flow to her lower extremities and a very “swooshy” sounding heart murmur. It’s the kind of murmur that always seems to impress the medical professionals who typically say something like, “Wow, that’s quite a murmur”.

N. was scheduled for an angiogram in less than a month to determine whether or not she needed open heart surgery. I worried, I prayed and then I got down to the business of getting to know my new little girl. Before we knew it the day had arrived. We spent the night before giving N all the extra love and attention that we could. I think I was storing up memories, just in case. It might seem morbid to some but I wanted to know that if the worst happened over the course of the next few days, that we had done all in our power to know and love her.

Here is a picture of N before the angiogram.
After the angiogram we heard what we did not want to hear. She definitely needed surgery and they wanted to do it the next day. They would widen the opening of the two-leaflet valve and take out as much of the tissue blockage below the valve as they could. They felt that the coarctation might improve on its own with the increased blood flow.

What followed was one of the most miserable days of my life trying to comfort and entertain a very upset, very hungry and thirsty two year old who wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything before the surgery. If that wasn’t hard enough, I was also 7 ½ months pregnant with recently diagnosed gestational diabetes. We called my parents to be with us for support and two elders from our church came to pray with us.

It is difficult to describe how I felt the next day when we walked down the long hallway that led to the operating rooms. At the double doors I relinquished my baby girl to the nurses and as I watched them take her away my arms felt so empty, my throat burned, my heart ached. I leaned my head against Joel and started to cry for the first time since this whole ordeal began.

I honestly don’t remember how long she was in surgery, except that it felt like forever. In between making small talk with my parents and staring blankly at magazines, I tried not to picture my daughter lying on a table with her chest wide open. I had unfortunately watched far too many medical dramas for my own good. My imagination ran wild.

Everything went according to plan and we soon saw her recovering in the PICU. Nothing can truly prepare you to see your child covered with tubes and wires from head to toe. As a parent you feel so helpless, you want to DO something yet there is nothing to do but watch and pray with a strength and peace that are not your own.

N. recovered amazingly fast. She surprised everyone when four days post surgery she was discharged directly from the PICU. The nurses commented that they couldn’t remember the last time they had been able to discharge a patient, usually they went back down to the peds floor first.

She only wanted to eat cheerios. Comfort food, you know.
Here's a smile!

On our last day at the hospital N had to prove her strength by taking a short walk. When we reached the double doors at the end of the hall and went through she kicked up her heels with sheer joy as if to say “I’m free at last!”. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and the nurse and I could not stop laughing.

Since her surgery, N has grown much taller, although she is still very petite for her age, and she continues to be energetic and active. She has had regular checkups with her cardiologist every six months and until our most recent visit in May, everything looked fine. The doc did another echocardiogram and I could tell that something was different this time by the look on his face and the length of time he spent looking at multiple views of her heart. He explained his concerns and then said he wasn’t absolutely sure that there was a serious problem and there certainly was no need to be overly concerned. She was not exhibiting any outward symptoms of cardiac distress. Of course, being a mom, my mind jumped immediately to panic mode so my memory of his explanation is a bit blurry. The gist of it is that there still may be a problem with the coarctation of the aorta and that we need to get an MRI to find out exactly what is going on.

The MRI is scheduled for this coming Monday at 10 am. If you think of us we sure would appreciate your prayers. Especially for a very hungry, thirsty (she has to be NPO before the MRI) and anxious 5 year old who still hates going to the doctor. Can’t really blame her though, can you?


Thanks friends,

Jen

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Apparently there is an outcry among my many blog stalkers (all two of you) to post current pictures of the house. I have hesitated to do so up to this point because it would require me to make an effort to pick up all the clutter that grows exponentially every time I turn around. However, just to please you, I will take you on a virtual tour. Buckle up.

The Good (what I wish the house looked like for more than five minutes):


The Bad (what it looked like before I cleaned up for pictures):

The Ugly (what I didn't even bother to clean up and the projects that need to be done):



There you go. Are you happy now? You should be, you made me clean my house. Well, some of it.

Jen

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood

So we had to move out to the country to witness our first drug bust. Very weird.

One evening a few weeks ago we heard sirens while we were eating dinner and so of course we dropped everything and ran out to the front porch to take a look.

Well, we don't hear sirens every day out here, what would you do?

We saw a pickup stop abruptly in the middle of the road, then the driver took off running behind a single wide mobile home. Seconds later a police car pulled up, then the officer and his K9 companion (I am really not well versed in cop-speak. What do you call them? K9 unit? Plain old dog? I'm floundering here.) went running full-speed ahead after him. It was difficult to see what happened next because it seemed that every police car and fire engine in the county was obscuring our view. The next thing we saw was the paramedics wheeling a gurney toward the back of the house. Dog and man must have met and I'm assuming it wasn't pretty.

I really don't know any details other than the man was busted for drugs and he was renting the trailer from the nice older gentleman living in the brick house next door.

And that's it for the juicy gossip and cheap thrills. We went back inside and finished our dinner. The end.

So now I'm left with this overwhelming urge to get background checks done on all the neighbors. Can such a thing be done and would it be considered bad form, being new to the neighborhood and all? ;0)

Jen

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Inspiring Blogs

There are a few blogs that have been inspiring me lately. They are written by christian women who are living life intentionally, living with purpose and passion. Golightly Place and Walk Slowly, Live Wildly have given much food for thought about living creatively, healthy eating, and environmental issues. My spiritual inspiration has come from Bring the Rain written by a blogger who has experienced the deepest grief imaginable, the loss of a child, yet in her sorrow she displays the grace and love of our Lord so beautifully. Living Learning and Loving Simply has a great post about being sick of our own pride and self-righteousness, a wake up call to be sure.

What blogs have touched you lately? It doesn't even have to be a blog, it could be a book, a song, a movie, anything really that is inspiring change or making you think. Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!

Jen

Friday, June 13, 2008

Perfect Summer Day

What a wonderful day we have had, the kind that memories are made of. I had a gloriously lazy morning reading a book in the hammock while the kids ran through the sprinkler. Then we had a simple picnic lunch in the back yard. In the afternoon we laid on the couch watching "Enchanted" and much to our surprise Joel came home early from work. We spent the evening sitting around the fire pit roasting marshmallows and eating s'mores. The kids wished on the first star, we sang our night-night songs, said our prayers and carried our sleepy little ones to bed. It's at times like these that I'm so intensely grateful for the gift of our family. These were the simple pleasures that I prayed and cried and longed for through nearly five years of infertility. To have the dream fulfilled is very sweet indeed.
He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 113:9

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Shelfari

Check this out! I have my very own, very cute virtual bookshelf to share with you! I thought this was so fun and if you want to add one to your blog just click the little button below the shelf (scroll down, it's on the left). I found it on one of my favorite blogs here.
Enjoy your summer reading!

Jen

Monday, June 9, 2008

Musings

School's out for the summer!!! I'm excited but also feeling the pressure of the next three months stretching ahead of me and the fear of wasting it. I didn't get off to the greatest start either. I couldn't accomplish anything more yesterday than the basics: laundry, dishes, feed the kids, repeat... It is more difficult than one might think to switch gears from working part time to having unlimited time at home. Not that I'm complaining but maybe I should have worked out a game plan. I was so focused on surviving the move out to the farm that summer snuck up on me. I'm not without ideas however. My mind is awash with ideas but where do I start?
I know for sure that I want to finish my daughter's baby book (she's five years old) and at least start my son's baby book (he's almost three). I need to enroll my kids in swimming lessons; I can't put that off any longer. But there's so much more I want to do. Lose weight. Get in shape. Eat healthier. Plant an herb garden. Make cheese. Yes, I actually said "make cheese". Is that weird? I just read an article in Mother Earth magazine about how easy it really is and I was rather taken with the idea! I have been fascinated lately with learning to live life simply.
This is a recent development to be sure, likely coming from this transition from suburban life to farm life. It also comes from my increasing awareness over the past few years of how my life impacts the environment, from the clothes I wear to the food I buy that has been premade, packaged and shipped hundreds of miles. I'm not saying that I've somehow perfected this area of my life but I am learning and little by little implementing some new ideas. Ideas like buying locally, buying handmade and buying secondhand. Now for my disclaimer, should those of you who know me personally cry "hypocrite"! This is a major work in progess! It all sounds great but I find that it takes a lot more planning and thought than the way I'm accustomed to living. As intimidating as it seems though, I'm taking the plunge into the world of "green" living and not because it has become oh so trendy. I truly believe that God wants us to care for the planet, people and animals He has given us.
I desire to live more consciously in all areas of my life and not just let life run me over. I want to rekindle my relationship with Jesus, be a better wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter and citizen of this planet. I don't expect to ever be perfect, I'm not trying to set myself up for failure here, but at least I'm willing to try. I just know that it's time to do more than live in survival mode like I have been for the past three years. As wonderful as it was to adopt our daughter and give birth to our son these blessed events brought more challenge and stress than I thought possible. We have been through my daughter's heart and eye surgeries and attachment disorder (technically on the mild end of the spectrum but difficult nonetheless), I went back to work and we have moved twice. That's a lot of change and stress for anybody! It's time now for me to lift my head out of the trenches and see some sky, to live a little.
Today I'm going to start with something that was not on the list. Have fun with my kids. We don't have to do or go or be anything today. We have danced to The Wiggles, drawn pictures, and played games. Today, we are just going to "be".

Jen
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