Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Update from Rochester

John and I, the girls, and my mom and dad have all been here in Rochester, MN since Monday afternoon.  We are working on day four of appointments this week, after Mom and Dad spent about three days in appointments two weeks ago.  Here's what we know so far about Dad's condition:

The problems that Dad is experiencing--difficulty with processes or sequences, flat emotions, no energy for social interactions, weight loss of more than 60 pounds in the last 6 months, and other bowel and bladder issues, are NOT a result of the heart attacks that he had.  Various tests have been done and we have now finished up with the cardiologist.  There is scarring and some damage that was done to the heart, but the cardiologist felt that those issues were separate from the other, more pressing problems that Dad is experiencing.  His heart is not functioning well, but it does not seem to be a cause of the other problems--the cardiologist felt that the problems had an underlying neurological root.

As well, the endocrinologist found several "worrisome" lumps on Dad's thyroid and biopsied them on Tuesday.  He found that one lump was not a problem and the other did contain "abnormal" cells but they will wait to look at that again for 2-3 months.  So, we have essentially finished up with the endocrinologist. 

Dad did see a gastroenterologist on Tuesday and they have ordered a colonoscopy as well as an endoscopy, those (yucky, no-fun but necessary) tests will be performed next week.  However the gastroenterologist also felt that there was something neurological behind the weight loss, especially--they will do those tests just to make sure that there isn't anything physically obstructing his body from absorbing his food.

Another area Dad was seen in was psychiatry.  This doctor also felt that Dad's problems were NOT depression, but had a neurological basis.  Depression had been a previous diagnosis in the past months, Dad was even on some medication at one point, but this psychiatrist did not feel that was accurate.  However, he left a caveat in his report saying that if neurology couldn't find anything, he would take a closer look at Dad's condition again. 

We were thankful to at least have several areas ruled out, and all seemed to be leading up to the important meeting with the neurologist yesterday afternoon.  Mom went with Dad into the appointment, which was about an hour and a half long.  The doctor put Dad through quite the "tests"--draw a clock for me, it's twenty after 11, touch your right ear with your left hand, do this math problem, remember these four things (then asked him about the 4 things 10 minutes later), take off your shoes, stand on one foot, etc.  Dad actually performed very well in all of those things and cooperated well.

The conclusions at the end of the appointment were that this neurologist felt that Dad clearly does NOT have Alzheimer's disease.  He said that even patients with early-onset Alzheimer's could not have done the tests that Dad could do.  So, there must be something else going on.  This morning we are waiting for Dad to finish a two hour test of thinking and memory skills, and a PET scan has been scheduled for this afternoon.  This is a heavy-duty radiation test where they will add glucose to the radiation and watch how every cell in his body responds to the glucose.  There has been a mention of potential frontal lobe deterioration or damage in his brain, though likely it is not related to his heart attacks.  Hopefully the next few tests will tell a bit more.

So, though we may not be finding anything treatable, it is very good to know that this is not Alzheimer's, and that they are getting closer and closer to finding out what is wrong.  As well,  I think it is a matter of peace of mind for my mom and our whole family to know that we are doing all we can for Dad. 

After today's appointments, John and I will drive to visit his mom in Winthrop, MN, and Mom and Dad will head home.  Next week they will have to return for appointments on Thursday and Friday, but we don't know if that will be the last trip.  The internist who is overseeing Dad's entire case will eventually compile everything together that has been amassed from all of the various doctors and tests.  That appointment has not been scheduled yet so there is certainly more to come.

Thank you all so much for your prayers.  I am very thankful that we are here, in the States.  These issues with my dad were not even on our radar screen when we were feeling led to come back to the States but I am so very glad that we are here.  The Lord knew! And, I have really enjoyed my time with Mom and Dad at Mayo as well.  Mom booked a hotel with a fun pool and has been taking us out to eat all the time, so we're trying to enjoy the time together as best we can under the circumstances!  Mom had great fun buying (too many) Christmas gifts for the girls and last night we found a fun scrapbook store where she could browse for her favorite hobby.  I'm so thankful we can be together! 

We're trusting the Lord for whatever the future holds.  His path for each of us is unique but we can be assured that He is walking with us and loves us dearly, so much so that His only precious Son humbled Himself to be born into this world, lived, died and rose again to purchase our redemption.  Praise Him for His glorious grace!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Milk and Cookies

So....it's Christmas.  I should be packing.  Or washing dishes.  Or cleaning up the disaster-that-was-formerly-known-as-the-girls'-room.  Or finishing some holiday baking.  Or cleaning out the refrigerator.  (you get the idea).

But, I'm taking a moment to sit this afternoon and thought I'd seize the moment and post some pictures!

Yay for pictures!

This is a flashback to our fall music class, titled "Milk and Cookies" that I taught to my girls, my two nieces, and our friends' two girls.  We had a class of seven and the girls LOVED having Music Time each Friday morning.  I enjoyed it too!  (Though they may have enjoyed seeing their friends as much as the music!)

We used some Kindermusik curriculum and instruments that my mom passed on to me.  Such fun!  Here's a glimpse:

 Dancing to some music--the girls loved to dance around the big table!

 Doing some fun activities with jingle bells.  "Bells are ringing, listen to them ringing..."

 "I'm a little Teapot" was part of this particular week's line-up of activities!

 There was always a story time--here we are reading "Zin, zin, zin, a Violin!"  Fun!

We finished our last day by having some lunch together--corn chowder in bread bowls, and of course some milk and cookies! 

I'm so thankful that we could have such a fun experience with music this fall!  The girls (all coming from musical family) already did so well the the basics like keeping a steady beat, matching pitch, and things like that.  My only challenge was keeping them on task--it was so fun to be together with friends that sometimes they forgot they were also in class!  But the overall time together was very good.  We enjoyed it!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Contemplating Christmas

I just have to say it:  It's very strange being in the States for Christmas.  I feel a little displaced.  Shouldn't I be hosting about 10 outreach parties, baking up a storm, and planning our family Christmas and Clara Anne's birthday celebration?

Instead I am being bombarded with advertisements, feeling the pressure to do a bunch of Christmas shopping, and not sure how Christmas is going to play out for us this year.

Now, don't get me wrong, Christmas in Asia wasn't always easy.  The first year we lived overseas, we were in the hospital preparing for the birth of this little sweetie:


It was wonderful and precious to become parents on Christmas Day, 2004, but not exactly a tradition we wanted to keep up every year thereafter!  :)

Our second year we hosted so many outreach parties, including two on Christmas day, that by the time the 26th rolled around we were dead tired and John got almost deathly sick.  He was about as bad as I've ever seen him with the flu.  All of my plans for starting new Christmas traditions were scrapped in favor of tea and toast. 

By our third year overseas, we had talked a bit more about what we hoped Christmas would be for our family and come up with the start of some traditions.  We also had teammates by that point and so started some traditions with them, like this one, gathering together for a special Christmas worship service and carol sing:

As time went on, we did develop some of our own traditions that our girls love.  A special joy this year was unpacking all of the Christmas items and the girls squealing in delight as they remembered our Jesse tree, the cross-stitched Advent calendar, the wooden nativity set, etc.  We loved celebrating Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve and then reserving the 25th as Clara Anne's special birthday celebration. 


So, why does it feel so different this year?  One reason relates to my dad's health and my parents' situation.  We just are not sure what will be happening in the next weeks.  We are eagerly anticipating the appointment at Mayo Clinic on the 14th but what will happen after that is almost impossible to predict.  Also, we will not be in our own home.  We will be at my parents' home, which is even better than being at home!--but it will feel different.  The girls have already asked if we can take along our Jesse tree and some other special items; we'll plan to do that and continue some of our traditions that way.

I also feel, though, that there is more rush-rush-bustle-hurry in the States at Christmas than I had experienced overseas.  There's more pressure to buy, buy, BUY and even though we don't want Christmas to be just about buying things, it's hard to know how to deal with all of it exactly.  I trust this will be something we learn better how to manage when we've been here longer.  For now, our plan is to give the girls each one (nicer) gift which we will shop for together, plus a few small things in their stockings.  We'll see how it all turns out!

For the moment, I am trying to savor special Advent readings and Christmas stories, enjoy the lights and music of the season, and spend extra time in the Word as we contemplate the miracle of Immanuel.  Though I'm not doing lots of baking, and I only had one outreach party, I am thankful to be here this Christmas.  It will be a gift beyond price to be with my parents in this difficult time, and it is a joy to see my girls continuing to grow in their love for Jesus and their desire to know Him more as we read our Jesse tree Scriptures, learn Christmas carols, and remind ourselves of the truth that Love came down at Christmas. 

How about you?  What Christmas traditions are you looking forward to celebrating?   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Life, New Hope

We have some good news to share from our home tonight!  Yes, finally some good news!  I haven't taken much time to blog recently, as we've been preoccupied with life, home school, some wonderful church outreach events, and most notably my father's rapid decline with Alzheimer's disease.  In the last month he has just gone downhill so fast, we've all been surprised and shocked.  He is mostly staying in bed, is having trouble grooming himself, and has continued to lose weight, among other concerning problems. 

But, after persevering through yet another several rounds of communication with various doctors, my mother has asked their local doctor to refer my dad to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  And, miracle of miracles, they already have an appointment!  Apparently there is lots of paperwork involved and various circumstances can take place that would prevent this happening so quickly, but we are so very THANKFUL that this appointment is scheduled, and only a few weeks away, at that.  Dad's case is very unusual for Alzheimer's and so the doctors at Mayo will do a very thorough examination and try to put together the whole picture of what is happening with his health. 

Praise the Lord!  There may be a new gleam of hope for my Dad physically.  I am so thankful!

And, we have a story of new life to share with you as well.  Tonight, as the girls were getting ready for bed, I was upstairs when Chloe suddenly came running up the stairs, crying.  At first I couldn't understand exactly what she was saying, but then it came out.  "I am scared about my life," she said, "if I will go to heaven when I die."  John was right there with me and began to gently talk with her.  She admitted that lately at night she has been afraid that there will be a fire in our house (we did a fire drill recently--taught the girls what to do in case of a fire, since we live in a different house now) and she will die.  She felt anxious about whether or not she would go to heaven and had been thinking about it at nighttime recently.

John had noticed that lately during family devotions Chloe was really paying close attention, and so tonight he just simply and clearly explained the gospel to her again.  She was listening intently and was able to answer his questions as he probed gently to get an idea of her understanding.  After a long time of discussion, she prayed, John prayed for her, I prayed, and Clara Anne prayed for her too.  It was such a sweet, sweet time--the longing and prayers of many years for our precious Chloe Rachelle!

Isn't the Lord good to us?  Isn't He so gracious to show us again the beauty and simplicity of the gospel message, so simple that a five year old can understand it, be drawn to it, and become His follower through it?  Oh, how my heart is rejoicing in my good and gracious Lord and His plan for my dear Chloe!

But you don't have to take my word for it!  Look at these joyful faces afterwards!



(Christin's happy INside, really, she is!  :)

Thank you, Lord, for your amazing work in Chloe.  I pray that she would love you more each day, and that she would grow in wisdom and stature, in godliness and the fruit of the spirit.  I pray that she would walk with you all the days of her life, that she would trust and obey you no matter what she may face.  Thank you that you have worked in her by your grace alone, and that you will sustain and nurture her infant faith to maturity.  I pray that she will find her joy, her rest, her comfort, and her purpose in you alone.  Thank you Jesus!  Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Retreat!

This weekend I had the joy and privilege of participating in a women's retreat sponsored by my wonderful home church.  It was a first for me--though I've been to plenty of meetings and get-aways during our life overseas, this was the first time that I had been able to join in on something quite like this.  The retreat is over a Friday night and all day Saturday, with a speaker chosen to lead several sessions and then plenty of time built in for fellowship, fun, time in the Word, and even free time to take a walk, take a nap, or whatever you liked.  I enjoyed the mix of scheduled and unscheduled time.

I've written before about how important I feel it is to occasionally get away and retreat, but this was the first time I was able to do it in a corporate setting.  Of course, the experience of it was extremely different than a solitary retreat, but the idea is still the same--getting away from normal life and responsibilities for a brief period of time so that we can hear more clearly from the Lord and focus on His word in a different way.

The planning team had done a wonderful job, and thought of so many special details that made me feel so spoiled!  Lovely, crafty decorations, delicious foods, small gift bags placed on our beds, a wonderful packet to take home--it was all so beautifully done.  I was impressed!

I really enjoyed the teaching that was presented throughout the weekend.  The main theme was "Clinging to God's Promises" and the woman who taught has lived this truth as her husband is struggling with an incurable disease.  She had much wisdom to share that hit close to home as I think about the fears that are threatening our family right now.  She also helpfully provided a chart of many, many Scriptural promises and I hope to spend some time meditating through that list this week.

One wonderful benefit of the retreat was the opportunity to have significant, uninterrupted conversations with women whom I don't see very often.  There are only so many people I can speak with on Sunday morning after church, and there are some women whom I interact with much more frequently, but this was a chance to meet some new friends, connect with others whom I wanted to get to know better, and have significant conversations with several women whom I greatly respect.  I approached the retreat wanting to be intentional about conversations...not just chatting but asking "heart" questions and being willing to share myself as well.  It was just wonderful to have the chance to do this!  I got very little sleep, it's true, but I don't regret it one bit!  I'm thankful!

One reason I think those conversations are so important is because as I look back over how the Lord has worked in my life, sometimes He did significant work in me--changed a direction, convicted me of a sin, helped me see a situation clearly--simply through a very brief word spoken by a Christian sister.  Can any of you relate to this?  I could give a lot of examples but I won't go into long stories here...but the point is that I do remember specific conversations that the Lord used to change me, though those conversations may have even taken place in a casual setting, not a formal mentoring relationship or small group setting. 

So, I'm so very thankful that this weekend provided an opportunity to be with sisters in the Lord, enjoy great teaching and thinking on God's word, encourage one another, worship together, and rejoice in what He is doing in one another.  I took my camera, but was too busy talking (and listening) the whole weekend to take any pictures!  But, I'm thankful for the chance to go, for my husband who stayed and held down the home fort (quite well, I might add!), and for those that planned and really worked hard so that we could be treated to such a great retreat.  Thank you Lord!

And now, the challenge is to let the things I am learning impact me as I begin a new week and normal responsibilities again.  We'll be back at home schooling again tomorrow, working on character and habit training with the girls, and all of the other normal stuff that is part of daily life.  I came back from the retreat with a fresh conviction about persevering in training my girls in godly habits and responses.  We need a little refresher course, I think!  Things like "NO whining" and obeying right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart, and also learning to clean up our messes when we make them...we'll keep on working to make those standards a reality again this week!  I'm thankful for His new mercies and will be looking for them again tomorrow morning. 

If you've never had the chance to go on a corporate retreat like this, may I encourage you to consider it?  Or, if it's simply not available (like for me when I was overseas), set aside a half a day and spend that time yourself with the Lord.  It's worth it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Facing our Fears

Clara Anne, my sensitive, perceptive, imaginative, and lovely almost seven year old, has been battling fear recently.  We have been having a hard time putting her to bed at night, because she keeps on saying that she is scared.  She has been getting out of her bed and coming to ask us to pray for her, sometimes two or three times before she will fall asleep.  Sometimes she is crying already just a moment or two after we've left the room.

As we've talked with her, we've tried to find the reason for her fears.  Her answers have varied:  she doesn't like sleeping in the basement (it's too dark, she says, though we have a night light for them in the bathroom), she feels lonely being on a different floor from Mommy and Daddy, she feels alone in her bed (despite the fact that she is sharing with her sister), generally it's been things like this.  One night we had a rather longer discussion where she tried to give me her theological reasons for being scared.  It went something like this: "Mommy, when it's morning I feel gayful (yes, her word :) and joyful because it is light and sunny, but at night I feel so small, just like a little girl, and like maybe God isn't with me anymore."  When I asked, "Clara, why do you feel God isn't with you?  He promised to always be with you!", she said, "But Mommy, before there was anything, it was all dark.  God wasn't there when it was totally dark before the world was created."

I quickly corrected this theological error (No, Clara Anne, God WAS there, He just had not created anything yet!  He was there in the darkness too, forever.) but she seemed unconvinced.  Clara Anne was feeling the fear that we can all feel sometimes, especially the fear of not being able to change how we feel about something.  In her mind, if she feels scared, she's scared, and there's nothing she can do about it.

I can relate, as I've been fighting my own fears lately about my dad and his condition--Alzheimer's disease that seems to be progressing quickly.  There are so many unknowns as we look at the future, and there are certainly lots of things to worry about.  Fear is threatening to choke me, to steal my joy, and to reach its tentacles into every moment.  What will happen to Dad?  When will he need more help than my mom can give?  How will he get that help?  How expensive will that be?  Do I need to be with them or do I stay here and try to support from a distance?  What if something happens to Mom in the meantime?  Can they stay in their house?  The questions just go on and on...it can be so easy to fear.

But, we've been giving Clara Anne some very specific advice to face her fears, advice that we are reminding ourselves of as well!  One: she HAS to fight against fear.  She cannot allow her mind to get fearful and scared and then just give in to it, crying and making things worse.  We have repeatedly encouraged her to fight back with Scripture.  We are always memorizing Bible verses, so she can have a review each night as she seeks to put her mind on things above and not give in to fear. 

A second strategy for fighting fear is to be thankful.  When we are actively using our minds to thank God for what He has done, it gets us thinking the right way again.  Thankfulness and fear cannot coexist!  It's always a good exercise for me to force myself to list the things I am thankful for--I have to remind myself of God's goodness and faithfulness by being thankful, and this just chases the fear away.  We've told Clara Anne: "If you start to feel afraid, say 'NO!' to that fear and start to think of everything you're thankful for!  Make a list in your mind and praise God for your blessings!"

And, finally, spending time in the Word is really key as we face our fears.  We now are allowing Clara Anne to have a reading light on for 10 minutes after we turn out the light and she reads her Bible for that time.  She loves this and since we started allowing the light and Bible reading, she is sleeping much better.  She hasn't been up at all during the night this week and we are thankful that she is going to bed without quite so much drama.

Fighting against fear is so key for us as Christians.  Our lives can sometimes seem to be spinning out of control, but in reality the Lord holds all things in His powerful hands.  The "what-ifs" and unknowns can be daunting, but I am so thankful that He is in control of past, present, and future, and He can be trusted.  I do not need to fear, my Savior will give me all that I need, for my good and His glory.  I hope Clara Anne is learning some valuable lessons as she fights her fears as well.  I'm thankful that she is sleeping better and hopeful that she is putting down a marker in her own life:  Don't fear!  Trust God!  He is trustworthy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Brief

A few newsworthy notes tonight:

As we are still processing through my dad's Alzheimer's diagnosis, some decisions have been made for the immediate future, at least.  Mom and Dad will continue to stay in their home in Iowa, where they have excellent support from their church and community, Dad still knows his way around, and Mom has some income from her piano students.  We feel this is a wise course of action for now and though I'd love to have them here in Louisville, there isn't any real immediate need.  They are well-cared for there and their daily life is blessedly routine and familiar, something my dad needs a lot of these days.  I am thankful for that. 

Chloe and I have been back to the doctor again.  During her recent appendectomy, it was discovered that Chloe had a "twist" in her bowels at one point which caused her appendix to be located on her left side rather than her right.  This was unusual but "a conversation for another day" said the doctor.  Well, "another day" arrived last week as we visited Dr. F at her office.  She shared with me that Chloe's condition, called a malrotation, is potentially quite serious and can be fatal.  Though Chloe was asymptomatic, she felt it was necessary for Chloe to have a Upper GI test done to determine the extent of the malrotation and the potential dangers--essentially, to see whether Chloe needed surgery to fix this problem or not.  So, we spent a large part of Thursday at outpatient radiology and Chloe cheerfully and willingly drank the "special milkshake"  (some of you know just how "special" it is) and they xrayed her insides every hour or so to see how the barium was progressing.  Thankfully, though she is diagnosed with malrotation, it is "functional malrotation" and there is no need for surgery at this point, PTL!  We are very thankful for this!  We have one more follow-up appointment to discuss potential warning signs of future problems, but hopefully that will be the end of the story.

The girls and I continue to keep on in home schooling and are making some nice progress.  I feel like this is the year Clara Anne is going to "take off" in her reading ability and we've been having fun with our math, memory verses, reading time, handwriting, and playtime as well.  John will be starting History soon with the girls and I am trying to be consistent in getting Clara Anne to practice the piano.  Our most anticipated time each week, though, is our Music Time--we have four other little girlie friends that come over on Friday mornings and I am teaching them a music curriculum that I borrowed from my mom.  These girls are doing great!  Everyone can keep a steady beat--even the 3 year olds!--and last week we had such fun with rhythm instruments.  It's been a special part of our week!

We have some neighbors who live just up the road that are members of our church and we are now doing a date night swap with them.  They have four boys and our girls think it's great to play with boys once in awhile too!  So, Tuesday nights are fun for everyone as the kids get some quality playtime and the adults get an evening out every other week.  We're thankful for new friends and playmates!

Our neighbors next door are an interesting couple--he is an astrophysicist and she is an artist.  Last week she invited us to to come over and let the girls make a small clay figure which she will fire in her kiln after they have dried.  The girls had a great time working with the clay and we had a fun time getting to know our neighbor better too. 

Small groups have begun at our church for the fall, and we were asked to co-lead with some friends of ours.  We are excited to be a part of this ministry!  We've only had one meeting but I am already thankful for this group.  We're looking forward to learning and growing together this year.

And, the last bullet point for you: I foolishly and impulsively decided to get a flu shot on Saturday.  Why did I do it?!  I had never had one, and hadn't even researched it much, but suddenly decided I should have it done.  Within six hours I had a temp of 102 and was absolutely miserable.  Thankfully that fever broke after about 12 hours but then I felt like I had been pummelled by some invisible hands.  My shoulder muscles are still sore but I feel generally much better.  Let's hope it actually prevents me from getting the full-blown flu later on!

Well, I titled this "In Brief" and it hasn't been, really!  Hope you enjoyed the update from our family, though, and hope your week is off to a great start! 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Difficult News

My heart is grieving tonight.  I have some difficult news to share, and I hate to do it through a blog, but this may be the easiest way to let everyone know about my dad's situation.

We have known for quite some time that something was seriously wrong with my dad.  After his heart attack in December of 2010, he was recovering at a normal pace for a few months and then suddenly seemed to take a turn for the worse.  He began to lose weight at an unhealthy rate. He started having trouble sleeping.  He became stressed and anxious about daily decisions.  When I came back to the States in May for my mom's surgery, my dad did not seem himself at all.  He was very quiet, seemed to have a very difficult time making decisions about simple things (should we order a pizza or eat in the hospital cafeteria?), was very slow in his response times if he was asked a question, and often would respond with, "Well, I don't know" or "It's hard to say" or some other unclear answer. 

When our whole family moved back to the States in late June my dad was clearly not better.  He had had to stop working because of some of these problems.  He lacked energy, was still not sleeping well, seemed to get anxious about "little" things (like being convinced that the milk was spoiled, no matter the date on the carton) and was having difficulty knowing what to say in social situations. 

Mom and Dad tried to get to the bottom of why he wasn't feeling well.  Several months of making many trips to a variety of doctors yielded little fruit.  The cardiologist said his heart looked pretty good, actually, had healed up pretty well from the heart attack.  The family doctor ran a bunch of tests and said there weren't any real red flags.  The psychiatrist offered low doses of antidepressants and said it might take some time to see their effect.  The behavioral health specialist offered advice on sleeping better but didn't see any real issues.  An endocrinologist evaluated some issues with Dad's thyroid and but didn't seem too alarmed.

All of that changed on Thursday.  My mom, convinced that something was truly seriously wrong, persevered through all these appointments and finally the family doctor referred Dad to a doctor in Sioux Falls.  Thursday they met with this doctor for over 3 hours and the conclusion was something none of us wanted to hear: Alzheimer's disease. 

Dr. W, who saw Dad on Thursday, was absolutely convinced of this diagnosis.  He did extensive testing, asked Mom to fill out a very comprehensive form, and in his conclusions, he felt that the disease had been approaching Dad for some time.  As he explained the effects of this terrible disease, he said that it is evident that Dad is a very intelligent man, with all Dad's years of teaching language arts, coaching sports, singing, and caring for my Mom and her health problems, but now his brain is not working properly anymore.  Dad did not seem to comprehend the diagnosis.  When Dr. W looked him full in the face and said "Jim, you have Alzheimer's disease,"  Dad just sort of smiled at him.  I think he knows in his head that this isn't good but he has no ability to think through all that this means. 

When the doctor shared this with my mom, he spoke straight: "I think you have 18 months."  Obviously this is only his prediction, but he made it based on looking at the rate at which the disease has progressed so far.  He also warned my mom that her life was about to be changed drastically, that she would be responsible for Dad's care and was going to need help, and how important it would be for my dad to have routine and structure in daily life.

The initial shock is over now, but my heart is still grieving.  Before this news, we were still hopeful that Dad would get better.  That he'd regain some energy and vitality again and seem more like himself.  That he'd make some silly joke or bad pun and we'd all groan at him.  That he'd have interest in life again and give me the sports report every time I talked with him.  That he'd be back at church again, serving drinks at the potluck meals and volunteering to lead the men's early morning Bible study. 

Now I am facing the reality that I may not see Dad get "better"--on this earth, anyway.  That we may have already had our last significant conversation.  That he may slip away from us more and more.  That he may one day not know me, his daughter.

But that is where we have Hope.  For this life is not all there is, and Praise Jesus, these fallen and corrupted bodies won't be ours forever.  We will have new bodies, be new, sinless creatures, and we'll have all the time in eternity for conversations of significance. 

The gospel gives us hope for the future.  We want to give my dad the best care possible.  I feel a longing to be with him as much as possible.  I'm not sure how that's going to work out, yet, but I am thankful to be on this side of the ocean where at least togetherness is a little more feasible.  So though our hearts are grieving, we are thankful.  Surely the Lord has us in His precious care.  He knows us and has laid down His life for us.  In that we rejoice and are glad, and I am thankful for my Dad's faith in Jesus.  I pray that the Lord will sustain us as we look to the future.

We would appreciate your prayers for our family.  Thanks for reading, and thanks for praying. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recent Happenings

It's the start of a new week, banana oatmeal raisin muffins are cooling on my counter, the laundry is folded and put away and the kitchen is clean.  What better time to write a little update? 

We've had two weeks of school now and it's going surprisingly well.  I have been pleased and a little relieved that Clara Anne seems very glad to be in school, and willingly and excitedly follows my leadership on when and what we are studying.  Last year I felt there were so many times where I was ready to do school but she was not...for whatever reasons (she was busy playing, she had just started a new craft project, she was tired, etc).  This year that has been almost a non-issue, well, so far anyway.  She's been happy to spend pretty much the whole morning on school activities and that's been a blessing for us all.  I was never concerned about Chloe, she is such an eager learner and is blossoming under the extra attention, but I wasn't sure how Christin would fit into the mix.  Thankfully, so far she has participated in the things that we do all together and then happily wanders away when I'm working with the other girls.  She seems to like the structure too.  I think all of the girls (and me too!) are so glad to be on a bit of routine again that it just feels great to be back in school!

I continue to be amazed at the pace of life in America.  It is VERY easy to pack every evening full with activities of all sorts...not to mention the parks we could go to, the zoo, the science museum, the library, and on and on.  I've had to say "no" to some things already that I would have really liked to have done but that were just too much.  I am trying to faithfully put my priorities in line and figure out exactly how that means I spend my time.  It is a challenge! 

Tonight I chose to get some things done around the house in order to be better prepared for tomorrow, so that we can start school in the morning without much delay and tasks hanging over us.  But, it meant that I didn't have time to exercise.  And, it was 11pm when I started writing this so I'd better not go on too long!  Still trying to figure out how everything fits in!  Exercise will ideally happen right after the girls go to bed, but of course that limits my computer time or anything else I wanted to accomplish in the evening.  But tomorrow is another day, I'll try to get it in then!

We are so enjoying being a part of our local church.  It has been a great blessing to my soul to be a part of the worship services, as well as the fellowship that takes place afterwards.  Our family seems to always be some of the last to leave!  On Wednesday night we were there for the prayer service, which started at 6:30.  We didn't get home until 9pm!  It's such a gift, though, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of local church life.  We have wonderful pastors and I have felt very refreshed, encouraged, and strengthened by the teaching of the Word.

The girls are doing well in general with life in the States.  Recently our friend Robert (whom we knew from Asia and helped to come here to study) had finished his degree plus a one year internship and returned to Asia.  We hosted him for a few meals before he left and on the final night, Clara Anne particularly had a hard time saying goodbye.  She just kept hugging him and clinging to him!  She said later that she just wished she could go back with him and be with her friends there again.  We reminded her that if she did that, she would have to leave her friends here.  Such is cross-cultural life; our hearts are in two places at once!

We have enjoyed some time at local parks, a family bike ride where we rode Asia-fashion down to Riverfront park, the blue blue blue skies and cool temps of fall, and the girls have loved our porch swing which is a great spot to sit and read aloud in the mornings.  It is such a blessing to have clean air!  We've even had the windows open!  I am thankful.

John is thoroughly enjoying his classes, reading, and interaction with others on the subjects they're studying.  It's a ton of work, no doubt about that, and he has to be very disciplined with his time, but he is excited about his course of study.  It's been great to see him really thriving!

Well, the hour is already late so I'll just leave you with this family picture with Robert, the night before he left.  We miss you already, Robert!  We hope someday the Lord will allow us to live on the same continent for longer than just a few weeks!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Home School Happiness

Two days of home school are behind us, and things are going quite well!  We are gradually getting back into a good routine and getting used to how to make life work for us here in the States.  The girls seem to really enjoy "doing school" and though we've only had two days, were already reminding me this morning what came next in the morning line-up.  We are going to love that space downstairs that we've got set aside for school; it's bright, comfortable, and spacious which is simply a gracious gift from the Lord.  We're thankful for it!

I'm so thankful to be finished unpacking; and Clara Anne is too!  Last Saturday she said to me, "Mommy, I'm so glad you're done unpacking, now we can spend more time together."  There was a little "ouch" in that statement when she said it, but she's right!  I'm so glad we've made it through the season of "girls, please play quietly in the other room and don't fight, Mommy needs to finish this!  And don't touch that stack of stuff!" and now can focus on doing school together.  Of course it helps to be in a bit of routine, even these two days have felt so refreshing!  And, it's been fun to enjoy some steamed milk (for the girls) and a homemade latte (for me) while we read aloud.  Wow, who knew school could be so fun?!

Pictures to come of my happy home schoolers! 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

By Request

I have some very happy news for you all.  Tonight, this VERY evening, I finished the last bit of the unpacking!  Yes, it's true, the sorting and organizing and putting away of the homeschool/craft materials that had been hanging over me for a very long time now are all DONE!  Decisions about where to put things, how best to organize the space in a large walk-in closet downstairs and use the storage containers we already had are finally made.  I had not intended for this to take so long, but I got interrupted several times in the doing of this project, including almost all of last week at the hospital with Chloe.  But, I am so thankful that tonight I can say we are totally finished unpacking!  There are still two closets (in the master bath and our bedroom) that are only loosely organized, but that can easily wait or be tackled in a hour or two sometime.  The big projects are done now, which is such a relief since we need that space downstairs to start home schooling next week!

I finished up my home school ordering last night and am getting very excited about this year and the things we're going to do.  One caution I keep giving myself, though, is not to overbook our family.  It seems really easy in the States where there are so many fun options of things to do, to plan so much "fun stuff" that everyone is running ragged.  I am determined to have more time at home than out, more routines than not, and generally some time and space to create a learning environment where the girls are rested, happy, and secure.  I want to give them my best time every day.  Tonight we talked about a small project that we are starting tomorrow called "Family Service Opportunities"--a nice name for chores.  When we lived in Asia I had picture chore cards that I laid on the table in the morning, and they had to complete the tasks that the picture represented (a picture of their jammies to remind them to put away their jammies, a picture of their toothbrushes to remind them to brush their teeth) and then hand the stack of pictures to me to receive their points for the day.  (That was to keep them on task as well as to prevent the cards from getting scattered all over the house!)  The girls have asked for those pictures again so we will take all new pictures, have them laminated, and put them on a ring so that they can each have their own set to remind them what to do.  In this house they'll have a few more opportunities for service since our beloved Lou isn't working for us anymore!

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, talking about settling in and finishing up the unpacking.  My dear friend Sandra emailed me recently and asked me a few questions about life and adjustment to the States, and I thought I'd answer her questions here--she asked such thoughtful and interesting questions!  So here goes!

1. Would you crate again?
To be perfectly honest, no.  In this case we were so very thankful that the investment of furniture and household goods that we already owned was able to come back with us to the States, and the value of having those items did still far outweigh the difficulties of the crating experience, so I'm glad for that.  But the incredibly long, complicated and expensive process that it took to get those things here is not something we would like to repeat in our lifetime.  At this point, our feeling is that if/when the Lord leads us back overseas, we will NOT take these things with us but will find some way to live more simply there.  But that is also difficult, obviously, with children and home schooling and just the basic need for furniture, kitchen utensils, clothes, etc.  It's not easy to move internationally, crating or no, but I just don't think we will go through this particular process again.

2. When you were going through the things you stored 7 years ago, what was the best thing you kept?
Probably all of the memorabilia from our earlier lives...I had an old hatbox filled with the letters we wrote each other while we were dating, there were various scrapbooks, photo albums and things like that.  I am also glad I didn't get rid of my huge collection of operatic cd's, now we can easily put them on our ipod and enjoy them still.  When we first moved overseas the ipod didn't even exist, and we certainly weren't going to use luggage space for a ton of opera cds!  But now I'm really glad we have them.

3. What made you say, "Why did we store this?"
Hmm, let's see, I know there were things we threw away or gave away...probably some superflous things like I had a whole Mary Kay manicure set because I used to really enjoy doing my nails.  Ha!  Those days are long gone, and I should have just given up on the manicure set while the polish was still usable!  Also, we had a lot of financial records...I guess they say you should keep those things for 7 years, but that had come and gone so it was time to get rid of those records as well.  For example, bills and correspondence relating to our college loans, which we paid off several years ago.  Time to throw that stuff away!

4. What colors did you paint your new home?
Some lovely colors!  It's really fun!  I found a great taupe-y brown that I liked called "Au Lait Ole" which of course sounded great to me and my love for coffee!  It looks like a very creamy coffee color.  We used it as the main color in the kitchen, living area, hallway, and stairs leading downstairs. 

Then, we painted three walls--two adjoining ones in the kitchen, and one opposite the front door in the living area--a very vivid, dark red.  It is beautiful!  When we first started putting it on it looked so very red, I wasn't sure if I liked it, but now I really do.  It's very striking.  The Au Lait Ole color had two other colors on the paint chip with it, in the same family, one a "coffee with a little less cream" color (slightly darker), and then the darkest one a chocolate brown.  Oooh, I love the chocolate brown!  We have a tiny half-bath on the main floor where we used the chocolate brown, and then the medium color is in our bedroom.  It goes great with the cedar bedroom set we had shipped over, as well as my "cheap-o but still looks nice" duvet cover and pillow shams which are darker brown with a blue accent.  Also, we painted the main bathroom upstairs a dark blue, "Baritone Blue" to go with our white and blue shower curtain that we already had.  We painted before the shower curtain arrived, and thankfully, it matches just fine!  So, we painted all of the main floor except John's office space. 

On the lower level, the girls' domain, we painted their big room a pretty, vivid lavender color, called "Imperial Lavender" and it is!  It was a bit bright upon first finishing it, but now with their furniture in the room and their bright quilts it looks very nice.  The family room/home school area in the other part of the downstairs we were not going to paint, but then we found some leftover, old paint stored under the stairs downstairs and stirred it up very thoroughly, and used that to just give it a fresh coat.  It is an antique white.  Whew!  We enjoy painting, but that was lots of work!

5. What's the best part of being in America? 
Blue skies and family!  No doubt about it.  I love that we have been able to see our family and I can pick up the phone and call them anytime without figuring out the time difference and how much it's going to cost me.  That is such a blessing.  The fresh air has been wonderful too!  And, many of the conveniences that feel truly convenient to me...fresh veggies washed and cut that you can steam in the bag, a dishwasher, being able to run errands with my own car, and being able to make myself understood very easily is a big plus too!  No language barrier!  Oh and I almost forgot--the favorite feature in my kitchen is the automatic ice maker!  It's an older frig, no ice or water in the door, but it has an automatic ice maker!  I love it--ice is always being made, and not by me!  Ice was always a hassle in our home in Asia, so I think this is fantastic!

6. What's been the toughest aspect of being in America?
The pace of life seems so much faster here.  There are so many great things to see and do and go and people to be with and activities to enjoy and...the list goes on.  I am hoping that things will slow down, but this transition has been rough.  It was a full two months (mid June to mid August) that I got my clothes out of a suitcase each morning and there were lots and lots of times where I wasted time looking for something that I knew I had just seen somewhere!  I don't enjoy living in chaos, I like having everything in its place, and so this was a big challenge for me.  And probably we've all experienced it...life gets crazy, there's no routine or structure, who knows what will happen each day...and time with the Lord gets pushed aside because we're too busy or too tired or whatever excuse we have.  So keeping my priorities straight--the Lord, my husband, my children, then other tasks--has been very difficult.  We're all looking forward now to a more "settled" fall semester; maybe we'll still feel pretty busy but at least things are in the same place from day to day!  My kids know where their toys are and how and where to put their jammies away and we have food in the cupboards and aren't forced to eat out all the time!  (I actually got tired of eating out when we first moved.  It's true.  I never thought it could happen, but it did.)  That's a true blessing!

7. You said that your Asian cooking supplies made it to the states. What types of things did you carry back from the East?
I took my wok, my set of knives, my notebook with over 30 recipes written down to make our favorites, and then some specialty food items: la pi (a type of noodle made from sweet potatoes), dried xiang gu (those yummy mushrooms), dried mu er (the black wood ear mushrooms), our favorite instant tea (I don't drink it every morning, trying to conserve!), dried red peppers, the kind we like in suan la tudou si, some star anise, some mouth-numbing hua jiao, our very favorite deep fried stuffed dried red peppers, and then some liquids: dark soy sauce, my beloved wei da mei soy sauce, and I think that's it!  We had to take all of this in our check-in luggage because we weren't allowed to put food or medicine in the crate, and so we had a list prepared if they would ask us in customs if we had food items.  Thankfully, they didn't ask so didn't need to look things over, which was a relief because at that moment the time was getting short before our next flight.  I have already used several items and cooked some basic things...I love having my wok and the knives, good knives are so expensive in the States so I'm thankful for my well-worn but still wonderfully useful set.  I think I will use the wok, knives, and wei da mei the most. 

8. What aspects from life in the East do you find yourself infusing into daily life in the West? I am surpised at how much Asianese I have spoken here!  I have met a lot of Asians already and have enjoyed speaking with them in their language, and they have seemed to enjoy it too!  I am thankful for this and hope to continue relationships with several of the ones that I have met.  Also, here's a very practical thing: I am not at all fazed to wear the same clothes a few days in a row, especially if I've mostly been at home and they aren't really sweaty or dirty.  I did this all the time in Asia but I think (I'm guessing, anyway) that the American way is still to have a lot of clothes and always change everything every day.  I think I have way less clothes than the average American woman (for better or worse!).  Of course I like to look nice but I don't want to get too concerned about clothes either.  We also eat more vegetables now than we did when we lived in America before, partly because we're used to it!  It's so easy to stir-fry up some vegetables and add some rice for a great meal.  Though I bought the cheaper, "long grain" rice instead of jasmine or basmati and it really tastes so very mediocre.  Edible, but not tasty at all.  I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet for the tastier rice next time!

Two other notes of culture and adjustment:  I am trying my hand at couponing/trying to buy groceries on sale and save money.  We get the Sunday paper and its coupons now and I've been watching the ads and comparing prices for about 4-5 weeks now, and I'm so surprised that many of my favorite foods that I loved to make from scratch are actually more expensive to make in the States than to buy.  I thought for sure that from-scratch cooking would be the way to save money in the States but I am totally wrong.  I can buy a cookie mix on sale for much less than it would cost me to buy the chocolate chips to go into a batch of cookies.  I priced out my granola, but it is a budget-buster: honey is quite expensive, the dried fruit is expensive, even the oatmeal is much higher than I remembered!  I could get a box of granola cereal on sale for less than making it myself!  So it's going to be interesting to make those decisions...do I make things we really love from scratch?  Just occasionally, as a special treat, or is it something that we love and no matter what, I am going to make?  Hmmm, questions for consideration.  I really had no idea how much it was going to cost to feed our family and so we're still trying to figure some of those things out.  Lately I've been buying things on sale, using coupons when I can, and most meals I'm hitting right at about $5 per meal.  Does that seem good or not, fellow couponers?  Maybe as I get more into the flow of couponing I will find I can do it for cheaper.

The other thing to get used to is that our new place is almost all carpet.  I am not used to carpet.  I view it suspiciously; when we first moved in my girls were running around in bare feet and their feet were black after an hour or two.  Truly.  We tried to think of any other explanation, but it really was the carpet.  YIKES!  Since I wanted to be able to go barefoot in my own home, we rented a cleaner and went over it thoroughly, but I feel like it's still dirty.  I vacuum regularly, but not daily, so it's hard to know how dirty it truly is.  But, I'm making peace with the carpet.  It does have its advantages so I'm trying to appreciate it (and just not think about what might be hiding in those absorbent fibers!)

Ok, this may have been the longest post I've ever written.  And you made it to the end, wowza!  Thanks for the questions, Sandra, and thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Home from the Hospital!


Chloe and I are home from the hospital!  Woo-hoo!  She was dismissed shortly before noon yesterday and we made it home just in time to eat a delicious pasta lunch provided kindly by some friends from our church.  These first two pictures were taken while we were still at the hospital, though--check out that awesome playroom!

I mentioned before (maybe) that we were put on the oncology floor because they were out of rooms when Chloe came out of surgery early Wednesday morning.  As I spoke with several nurses about the condition of most kids on our floor, it was just heartbreaking to realize that many of them are in the hospital for 30-60 days.  The children specifically in our hallway were there for bone marrow transplants as last-ditch efforts to beat cancer.  They could not come out of their rooms and only one parent at a time could go in.  They live for that time in almost complete isolation and because they have no immunity, they feel absolutely terrible.  One nurse told me she has seen 16 year olds with bedsores because they don't want to get up, they don't want anyone to bother them, they want the lights off and the room quiet and just to be left alone.  It is not a fun treatment, but it is endured in the hope of saving those lives.  But remember, they're just children.  For a child to be going through an experience like that is simply heartwrenching.

In light of all of that, I was so impressed with all that the hospital provided to try and make the experience a bit better for the kids.  There was a lovely family lounge with a variety of toys and a working kitchen to help life feel more "normal."  There was a patients-only playroom with TONS of toys where NO medical treatment could take place--a safe place to play.  Chloe enjoyed it for a brief moment before we were released yesterday, especially that red tricycle!  There was a nourishment room with popsicles, graham crackers, etc that I could get for Chloe whenever she needed them.  A music therapist and art therapist made regular rounds.  Everything was brightly painted and clean and comfortable.  A child life specialist came by and asked what Chloe would like to play with--would she like to do beads, or play with clay, or do a sand art, it was amazing!  One morning "Jarret's Joy Cart" came by. . . this is a ministry started by a little boy who had cancer and had a vision to provide toys for children who were sick like he was.  So now the cart (fully stocked with super-fun toys, it looked like a toy shop on wheels!) makes the rounds occasionally and the patients can choose something.  All of those things are meant to make a potentially unbearable time more bearable.  Being there was a good reminder to me that Chloe's illness, though sudden and somewhat shocking, was truly a very small thing compared to what a lot of those kids were facing. 

Our life and hospital experience in Asia was so different.  Not just the cleanliness and external factors (decorations and amenities) but especially the underlying compassion that seemed to motivate the nurses and doctors that helped us.  I understand that hospitals are big business, but honestly I felt that they were genuinely concerned for Chloe and interested in her health and well-being.  That level of caring for the patient as an individual feels so unusual after the experiences in hospitals that I had in Asia.  I am sure that many of the nurses we encountered this week were Christians, but I am also sure that odds are, many also were not.  But there is something to be very thankful for in American culture that there are still some remnants of Christian values underlying our medical care so that people are treated with dignity, kindness and respect, attempting to help the sick recover.  Good medical care of this kind surely reflects the Lord's compassionate heart.   This kind of attitude from doctors and nurses is a true blessing from Him!  I felt we were very blessed through this experience!


Well, enough pontificating!  Here's Chloe enjoying the tricycle and her new stuffed pony from the B family:

 And here we are, Chloe's all showered up (though that iodine smell is hard to get off!) and wearing normal clothes, ready to head home.  Chloe actually wanted to stay and play longer in the play room but Mama was ready to go!
 Chloe loved the new coloring book (Care Bears!) from another B family, and wanted to prove to you that she is home and enjoying life again...
 despite the owies on her tummy! 
Thank you all for praying for her!  We are so thankful for such a quick recovery and though she was having just a bit of pain today, truly she is SO much better.  Just now she came upstairs as I was writing this and was crying, afraid that somehow she would get sick like this in the future and it would happen again that she would need her appendix out.  Sweet girl!  We assured her that once her appendix was gone, it was really and truly gone!  We're thankful for that!

And, here's hoping for a "normal" week this week!  (Does such a thing exist?)  Well, whatever comes, I am trusting that it comes to me through the hands of my loving Father and is all for my good.  Trusting Him but glad to have last week behind us, too!  Thank you Lord for watching over Chloe and healing her!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweetheart Report

It's Friday at noon (I can hardly believe it!  We've been here since Tuesday evening!) and I thought I'd give a quick report on how Chloe is doing.  Or maybe I should just show you:
Better, don't you think?  She's making progress!  This is the best she's looked since we got here...sitting up, smiling, even showing interest in playing with a few small toys.  She's taking some good steps toward recovery in the bathroom (if you know what I mean) and has been fever free, but now needs to be willing to drink more normally and depend on the IV less.  It looks like we'll probably be released tomorrow, if all goes well.  I'm hopeful!  We'll still have some pain/weakness issues to deal with at home but I'm thankful that she's doing at least somewhat better.  Great to see that sweet smile again!  Thank you Lord for your healing hand!  And thanks to all of you for your prayers...He is answering!




Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Pretty Pathetic Picture

 Our sweet Chloe Rachelle, recovering from an emergency appendectomy earlier today.

Chloe hadn't been feeling well the last few days.  She was listless, tired, laid around, complained that she wanted to throw up and then couldn't, finally did throw up and then felt better, but then didn't have much appetite or energy.  Yesterday morning (Tuesday) she woke up very early, crying in pain saying that her tummy hurt.  I could tell she was feverish and so just gave her tylenol and a few sips of ice water, and she went back to sleep again.  When she got up she seemed better, even ate a bit, but yesterday afternoon she woke up from her nap crying again and saying how much her tummy hurt.  I was thinking that she probably had a stomach bug, but did dare to give her more pain medication by mouth and had her lie down to rest again.  She was bummed to miss the first day of the girls' new PE class--a Rodeo-themed motor skills class at SBTS.  But there was no way she could go, so I set her up with a blanket and a movie with Daddy at home and took the other girls.

When we got home about 5:45, it was clear that Chloe was worse.  She seemed to be in a lot of pain, and when I asked her if her tummy hurt all over (still thinking stomach bug or stress or who knows what) she said very clearly, "It hurts right here" and pointed to her belly button.  Suddenly all the pieces fell into place.  I remembered our dear friend Samantha and how she exhibited very similar symptoms before having an appendectomy.  I remembered our friend Kevin and how he had very similar symptoms before his appendectomy.  (both of those incidents occuring inside the country where we used to live!)  So I rushed back to where John was studying and said, "I think Chloe has appendicitis!"  He immediately came out and began to look online and everything confirmed that this was a distinct possibility.

I threw together some take-along food for supper and packed a few other things and we got everybody in the car, on our way to the hospital.  Chloe was in so much pain as we drove, was moaning, groaning, crying, and then screaming in pain.  We pulled up to emergency and John quickly carried her in while I went to park the car.

The next 7 hours were a blur of waiting, telling our story again and again, filling out paperwork and trying various tests to determine the problem.  We were hopeful all evening that it would just turn out to be a virus, or maybe strep, or some other random thing, but as the night wore on they kept saying that things weren't conclusive yet so we needed to do one more test.  So she had a blood test, a urine test, examinations by several doctors, an x-ray, and finally a CT scan.  After the ER doctors read the CT scan they felt it still was not absolutely conclusive and so put the decision in the hands of the pediatric surgeon.  Dr. F came to our room to tell us that as she looked at the CT scan, she suspected appendicitis.  She was not absolutely sure, but she had seen enough cases of it to know that something not good was going on in Chloe's belly and almost everything else that it could be was ruled out.  Just like that, they were prepping Chloe for surgery.  When the decision was made they acted fast!

So about 1:45 this morning John carried a zonked-out Christin and I helped a stumbling-with-sleepiness Clara Anne up to the 8th floor surgical unit.  The anesthesiologist gave her some pain medication and said to me in a sidelong whisper, "It'll take 2-3 minutes."  2 minutes later he asked Chloe if the pain was much better.  Bless her heart, she had been pretty miserable all night, not often crying with the pain, trying to be brave but sometimes just truly hurting.  When he asked her that, she said, only a little better, so he said, "ok, I'll go get some more."  He turned to do that and in that next minute the pain meds kicked in, she relaxed, and fell asleep.  Poor dear!  Of course it was the middle of the night and she had been so uncomfortable, it must have just been a relief to be free of the pain for that moment!  Chloe fell asleep in that moment and didn't wake up until much later today!

At that point, John took the two other girlies home and I tried to get comfortable on a short sofa in the surgical waiting area.  They did call me several times to let me know how the surgery was going, which was helpful.  It was "acute advanced appendicitis" but without a rupture that the surgeon could see, so that was good news.  One interesting thing in Chloe's case is that her bowels have a congenital abnormality (that we had no idea about, it has not affected her until this moment) meaning that at one point her bowels twist the "wrong" way and so her appendix was actually on her left side!  The doctor got Chloe's bowels cleaned out first and then could feel an obvious mass on her left side, and they were able to take it out laprascopically.  What a crazy, strange thing!  But I'm so thankful that they found it and got it out.  The surgery was finished about 4, and she was able to get settled in her room about 5am. 

Chloe slept the major part of today but did perk up a bit towards supper time.  She ate a popsicle while watching a Strawberry Shortcake movie (what could be better?!) and then asked for seconds and then thirds!  We got her sitting up in a chair a bit and even a little sponge bath too.  She's been a champ.  The hospital has a little smiley-face guide that you can show the nurses to tell them your pain level, and last night she kept choosing the most frowny face to say that the pain hurt the worst.  But today thankfully she's been at "no pain" or "hurts a little bit" most of the day.  Very thankful for that!

I have to say again how impressed I am with American hospitals and health care.  I have met such caring nurses and doctors, who know their stuff and are committed to giving your child a great care experience.  We are thankful for good medical care!  The Lord is gracious!

So, rejoice with us tonight that the Lord preserved Chloe's life and holds her in His hand.  That's always true, of course, but a physical/medical need is such a great reminder.  I've said it before in relation to my mom's surgery, but it's still true: we are not God.  We cannot, finally, save ourselves physically or especially spiritually.  Our bodies are weak and frail and will eventually fail us unless Jesus returns first.  And yet He has given such gracious gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and experience to doctors and nurses who are able to use things like laprascopic techology to perform a surgery that was necessary to Chloe's life--without it, she could have died.  We saw the Lord's grace in many ways throughout this situation and are so thankful that Chloe came through ok.  Obviously Jesus is helping her, she's been such a trooper!  Here's a few more pictures:
 With a new "confetti bear" that was a gift in the ER last night!
 Clara Anne and Christin didn't mind hanging around the hospital too much--we watched the Tinkerbell movie last night about 11:30 and they thought it was great!  Today they got to watch Sesame Street which was a treat.
Well, there you have it.  I will be staying here at the hospital with Chloe for 2-3 days, she will need to be able to eat a bit, go to the bathroom, and be fever-free for 24 hours before she can leave.  So, it's the hospital life for us for a few more days!  I'm very thankful that we can be here, though, with such great medical care, a clean and comfortable room, and unlimited popsicles and slushies!  It'll probably be a week before Chloe feels better, so our home school start date of the 29th will be moved a week later, but that's a benefit of home schooling, to have that freedom and flexibility.  Thanks for your prayers for Chloe's recovery--now she has something in common with Samantha, Uncle Kevin, and let's not forget Madeleine!  Praising Jesus for His care tonight.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

So thankful

Lots and lots has happened since I last posted!  My blog has unfortunately fallen to the bottom of the "important-must get done" list, but tonight I thought I'd take five minutes and hit the highlights (if I have any readers left!)! 

Our crate did come from China finally on August 4.  It arrived without further incident and we had a great crew of people here to help us unload (including our next door neighbors who had just moved in themselves!).  All the stuff was off the truck in an hour and we were very glad to be reunited with our things again!  A few things were broken, some furniture was dinged up somewhat, but the vast majority arrived safely.  Thank you Lord!

We unpacked for two solid days, and by the end of that time things were livable in our main living space--beds set up, furniture in the right places, the kitchen functional, etc.  But at that point we had to put things on hold since John needed to prepare for his class, then only four days away.  He put in some long days and late nights to get ready, then participated in the three day class.  Now that's behind him, so we've had some more time to get unpacked this week.  Great progress has been made, thank you Lord!  I still have one major area to organize--my home school and craft materials--but the rest of the house is coming together nicely.  We actually had numerous guests this week, which was really enjoyable to host people in our new place!  But, soon we need to start our home school year and so I will be working hard this coming week to prepare, organize my materials, order a few final things, and get the girls excited and motivated about school since we've had a summer of craziness.

Transitions are always challenging, and this one has been particularly so.  I could give you quite a long list of the things that have been difficult, but that might sound like complaining and I truly don't want to complain.  It has been wonderful to see the Lord provide just what we've needed just at the right time.  Our apartment location could not be better, we are really loving the space and color and arrangement of our new place, we're close to school and church and lots of ministry opportunities, and it's truly been a blessing to be meeting people in the community.  This week we got the cupboards stocked a bit more and I feel like the kitchen is really working well for me and is enjoyable to keep up.  We still haven't had anything like a "normal routine" (well, you know, except that every day is different and most nights we get to bed too late!) but that is coming soon, I hope. 

So, tonight I choose to be thankful.  The Lord has been so gracious and good to us.  Here we are, three healthy precious girls under our roof, with a lovely place to live and even our furniture that made it from overseas.  We have friends and family that are dear to us.  We have a wonderful church community that we love.  It's been such a journey to get here, and we're not "there" yet, but I am so thankful for where we are tonight.  Thank you Lord!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Moved In! Sort of...

Well, it's still only "moved in...sort of" because though we are now moved into our new apartment, we are still waiting for our crate to arrive from Asia.  But, the happy thing is that all of our possessions on the American side, yes, that's right, everything that we own in America is now in ONE location, 225 Crescent Hill Place #113.  Happy day!

We successfully made the trip down to Louisville on the 15-16th, and have spent the last week and a half living at my brother and sister-in-law's house, enjoying some great conversations with them (usually late at night, ha!), seeing our girls play together happily, and then doing a ton of moving tasks like getting our phone and internet set up, choosing paint and beginning the painting process, organizing, sorting, trying to find things that are buried in the luggage somewhere, cleaning. . . all those things that go along with getting to a new place.  It's been a joy to be back at our home church again and reconnect with friends. 

I am more than ready to be settled.  We've been living out of suitcases for about 6 weeks now and life has been in transition for much longer than that.  But, though we're still in the midst of the mess, there's a light at the end of the tunnel because it looks like our crate will be arriving on Monday!  So yes, that will be a ton more work of unpacking, putting together furniture, organizing and finding a place for everything, but it will be SO good to have our stuff safely delivered.  It's been quite the process with this crate.  We were surprised that after our very thorough and complete list was submitted to the Asian customs, they wanted to open the crate anyway.  (Perhaps a moneymaking scheme, since they charged us a fee to do so?  Who knows...)  But then, when it arrived at the port of Los Angeles the US government had ordered an x-ray exam of the contents, called a "non-invasive scan" for another $200, and then decided that wasn't enough.  The last step was that they did a full examination of the contents of the crate and then charged us another $1600 for that process.  Yikes!  This is in addition to the regular fees that applied for the actual shipping of the crate!  We learned later that this is not unusual.  Household items, like ours, are often shipped by drug or weapons smugglers--sofas with drugs or other illegal items sewn inside, cars whose gas tanks have been filled with drugs, things like that.  So, I am thankful the government is doing its job, and also since we had nothing to fear from an exam like that--you know, they found out that box 49 really did include one wooden cutting board, 50 pieces of silverware, and a set of knives--it would be no problem to get the crate released. 

So, now it's been released, put on a train, and will arrive in Louisville by Saturday, hopefully.  A cartage company here will pick up the crate, put it on the back of the truck, and deliver it on Monday morning, if all goes well and according to plan.  All I can say is, if it truly turns out that we will be unloading those items on Monday, hallelujah!  It has seemed many times in this process like it may NOT happen, so if it actually DOES happen we will rejoice greatly!

So for today I've got paint under my fingernails, creaky knees from crawling around on the floor doing the trim while John does the rolling part of the painting, enjoying the freshly painted, colorful walls, and thanking the Lord for how He's provided thus far.  We have had so many timely provisions in the last week--offers of help for childcare just when we needed it, a ladder and other supplies for the painting to borrow so we didn't have to buy, the schedule working out so we could finish painting before the crate comes, even a 10% off coupon to Lowe's that helped us purchase our paint, some rugs, and a beautiful porch swing very inexpensively!  Praise the Lord! 

One thing that is very humbling about about being in such transition is that I have been the one who is always needing help.  I have no well-equipped kitchen to offer a meal or a tasty snack.  I am not able to offer to watch someone else's kids or bring a salad to the potluck.  But people have been offering me this kind of help, and it has been truly helpful.  So though it humbles me to accept, or even to ask for help, I am thankful for those that the Lord has put around us this week to help us get a lot done and be ready for our crate to arrive.  It is always exhausting to move, and this international move has been quite the process.  But the Lord is faithful and we will get settled one day!

Thanking Him tonight for His provision, His blessing, and this new place to live.  The girls are sleeping on the floor and John and I are sleeping on a futon, but we're in our new place!  That's a testament to His grace.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moving Day!...sort of

It's only moving day...sort of since we have had several of these big days lately!  But, we are thankful for the Lord's faithfulness, protection and care as we have transitioned back to the States in the last few weeks.  It seems almost unbelievable that we've only been back a little over two weeks, so much has happened!  All has gone well (busy, but well!) and we are now ready to begin our move to Louisville. 

We rented a van through a local shop, attached a hitch to it and have a U-Haul trailer behind, and this afternoon, after lunch at Pizza Ranch (of course!) we'll begin the drive to Louisville.  We are taking my parents with us on this adventure!  They'll get to see our new place, visit my brother Mark and Beth who are already settled in Louisville, and then will help us by returning the van to the Rock Valley area next week.  We plan to all stay with Mark and Beth and their girls when we first arrive in Louisville, and hope that we will soon get word about our belongings that we shipped from overseas.  The crate was supposed to arrive in Los Angeles two days ago, but so far we haven't heard any word yet!  I am still holding it loosely in my thinking, if we see those things again, it will be by the Lord's sheer grace!

So, we'd appreciate your prayers as we travel today and tomorrow, and as we begin the moving process again.  One day, we will be settled!  I'm looking forward to that, but also seeking to enjoy the process and be thankful for all the Jesus has done for us as we go.  It's His grace that has brought us this far!   We're excited for the next step in the journey!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Recent Quotables

On Sunday morning, a friend told me that she had asked Clara Anne if she was excited to be in America now.  Clara Anne said, "Yes, well you know, I lived in China my whole life!  Seven years!  Well, actually 6 years but I was in mommy's tummy before that.  But I am happy to be in America.  There I was a foreigner but here I'm just normal."

There's some raw truth to that statement!  Clara Anne seems to really enjoy making friends with anybody because everyone can speak English.  I think we're going to see her become more outgoing.

Tonight we were coming home from playing at the park and I was helping Chloe get her seat belt buckled.  As I reached across her, she started squeezing my upper arm again and again.  "Mommy, you're so soft," she said in an admiring voice, then added, "and wobbly!"  Ha!  There's some truth to that statement too!  Gotta get life settled down a bit so we can exercise again!  I think I have my exercise clothes but not sure where my shoes are and have no idea where the dvd got packed.  It's here somewhere!

Christin, upon waking up in the wee hours last night, screamed bloody murder.  As I ran to her bedside to ask what could possibly be wrong to make her scream like that, she said, "I want to read books!"  "No Christin, it's the middle of the night.  We cannot read books."  "I want to talk."  Nope, that's not going to happen either, Christin!  I know you have some jet lag, but it's still the middle of the night!  The funny part was, then she settled right back down and slept until 8:30 this morning.  PTL!  Everyone's sleeping much better, except John.  He's been staying up late packing and then waking up early anyway.  Hoping for a better night tonight!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

First moments, in pictures

 Let's take a look at some pictures from our almost complete first week back in the US!  Ok!  Above, just moments after arriving at my parents' home.  The girls were hungry and devoured bowls of cheerios (as you can see from Christin drinking the milk to the last delicious drop!).  Grandpa was happy to have us all safely arrived!
 Finding toys...this Melissa and Doug castle was left behind last time we visited the States and the girls were so excited to find it again!
 Grandma willingly read a story with all three girls crowding her!
 We've had lots of time outside, including the girls eating lunch on the lawn.  Isn't it so pretty and green?!
 Don't believe what anyone says, jet lag is REAL.  Christin passed out on the couch and would not wake up for anything!
 Clara Anne conked out in the middle of the living room floor.  Yes, it was piled high with boxes.  Did we mention there's been a lot of moving, sorting, organizing, and packing going on around here lately?
 Grandma and Grandpa went all out and bought gifts for everyone's birthdays...at once!  The Little People Farm is a huge hit! 
 Enjoying the backyard SO much...the girls have had such fun running in and out, and in and out of the house, enjoying the freedom to do so!  No one is scared of the grass this time (Christin had just a few moments of uncertainty but got used to the feel of the grass on her feet really quickly) and everyone has loved being outside, me too!  It is so refreshing to the soul and body.  Tonight we sat on the deck to eat Blue Bunny ice cream and saw a hummingbird, several other types of birds, watched the moon rise and the sky streak with pink, and felt the evening hush descend.  How great is our God and how his creation reflects His beauty and glory!  I even enjoyed an hour of deadheading flowers today...something I hated to do as an immature teenager who didn't like to "waste" time in the garden.  My perspective has changed so much!  I feel like I'm just soaking up the natural beauty and reveling in it, weeds, mosquitos and all.
 The girls were so curious to see if there was anything in the mailbox.  And there was!  A birthday card for Chloe came from Aunt Sarah.  How excited she was!  Thanks, Auntie Sarah!
 Grandma and Grandpa like to take bike rides in the evening, and the girls each got a ride!  They thought it was great.
 We've had some fabulous feasts already, including grilled hamburgers, sweet corn, fresh garden lettuce, a roast beef dinner, and a Mexican chowder tonight with chips and guacamole.  Wonderful!
 Ok, keeping it real...this mess has occupied the majority of our last week.  There's been unpacking of our 8 suitcases, finding and sorting through all the belongings that we had left here for the last 8 years (MUCH more than I remembered), shopping for clothes for the next year at Rock Valley's fabulous consignment shops which "happened" to be putting everything on clearance this week so the already low prices were now 50% off, sorting that stuff, arranging dental and doctor appointments, making plans to rent a van and trailer in order to move to Louisville, going through mail that has piled up for us here, etc etc etc.  And of course there's jet lag to get over, meals to make, dishes to wash, children to keep occupied, and the usual daily stuff.  I am not sure why I had the idea that in the midst of the most major transition of our lives I thought that we would get to Rock Valley and just relax!  But, we're taking it a day at a time.  Most of our stuff is now packed up again and ready to be loaded for Louisville.  And though my heart sinks a little at the thought of unpacking and organizing and finding a place for everything again, at least we plan to stay put in Louisville for awhile.  I think that keeping a cheerful heart in the midst of this mess and boxes and life in upheaval has been my biggest challenge!  Jesus, make me more like you through this!  Please!
By His grace, here we are.  My parents made this sign for us and so on the 4th of July, we put on our red, white and blue (such that we could manage) in order to take a picture out front with the sign.  We are so thankful that we can be here, that we ARE here safely and well.  It's been a blessing to be with my parents and I hope we've been a blessing to them already too (despite the noise, mess, and rapid consumption of their food that comes from having 5 extra people around!).  We're thankful for His grace and mercy bringing us this far, and trust that He will continue to guide and protect as we make the transition to Louisville in a few weeks.