Monday, February 21, 2011

Bittersweet Awareness

Throwing up our "4's" for 4 years! 

I planned to write a post this past weekend as my husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. The two of us lovebirds have a tradition of going back to the La Costa Resort & Spa every year for our anniversary and staying for an evening as we did the night we got married on February 17th, 2007. This trip was a bit bittersweet because as we were packing to leave I got a text message from a friend asking me to pray for a little boy named Travis. My friend explained that this little boy was about to go into a CT scan after going into cardiac arrest the day before. Travis was 16 months old. My friend quickly sent me the blog so that I could follow the story of Travis and so I did. I jumped on the computer and was in tears immediately. I got on my knees and my daughter and I began praying for this family I had never met. I sent out a mass text message asking for prayer for this little boy that touched my heart the moment the blog page loaded.

In the next few hours, the unspeakable happened and Travis was pronounced brain dead. My heart sank. This little boy was going home to his creator so soon... Talk about a whirlwind of emotions.. I just found out about this little boy and my heart was already invested in his story... a little background.. Travis was born October 23, 2009 with a Congenital Heart Defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS. The short explanation is that Travis was born with only half of a heart. Since Travis's birth he has gone through a series of 4 surgeries, 3 cath lab procedures and many other tests. February 18, one day after his 4th surgery his heart stopped beating for 2 hours, while the medical team administered CPR for 2 hours while they hooked up the ECMO (heart/lung bypass). Although his blood gas levels were good throughout CPR he was declared brain dead on February 19.

I sat there in shock and wanted to help this family in some way. Come to find out they live in my community only a few streets away from me and they also have an adorable daughter also named Addison born on November 14, 2010. I am now helping organize meals to bring to them over the next month with my wonderful church backing me up. I can't help but wish there was something more I could do for them.

I got a response from my mass text from a friend and she wrote me something that really touched my heart. I even posted it on the family's blog page. It was a quote by Randy Alcorn. "Those who believe in Christ could more accurately call our present existence the beforelife rather than calling Heaven the afterlife. Life doesn't merely continue in Heaven; it emerges at last to it's intended fullness."

I know that no human words would give them comfort at this time. I just encouraged them to hold each other, and their beautiful little 4 month old girl and look to Him... I am continuing to pray for their family that peace will surpass all understanding... I also wanted to encourage them to not stop their blogging. Travis' story has touched many people and Travis' life will be etched on many hearts. Come to find out, the family selflessly donated Travis' kidneys to a little boy in need in L.A. His legacy will live on. You can follow Travis' story by visiting They are still looking for help in forms of gift cards to help defray costs of the celebration of life and also for the parent's loss of work. If you, as I was, feel compelled to help this family please comment on this post and I will get in touch with you and let you know how.

Another way I felt I could help this family was by educating myself on this heart condition and helping bring awareness to others. I had never heard of HLHS. Reading more about it on her blog brought me to another blog and another blog that also were families touched by this condition. Although HLHS is not as common, come to find out CHD (Congenital heart defects) is actually INCREDIBLY common and I had NO idea. Here are just a few facts on CHD.

CHD Facts
  • Congenital heart defects (CHDs) occur when a baby's heart fails to form properly during early pregnancy. In most cases, the cause is unknown, although scientists feel both genetic and environmental factors play a role.Some environmental factors that increase the risk of CHDs include the mother’s use of cocaine, alcohol or certain medications while pregnant. Some maternal medical conditions – such as diabetes – may also increase risk.
  • CHDs are the most common birth defect – and the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.
  • CHDs occur more often than Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome or hearing loss – and kill twice as many children as childhood cancer.
  • It is estimated that 40,000 babies with CHDs are born in the United States each year – that’s one in every 100 babies.
  • Although some babies will be diagnosed at birth, newborns are not routinely screened for CHDs – and pregnant women are not routinely tested for CHDs.
  • There are approximately 35 different types of congenital heart defects. HLHS being the most difficult to "treat".
  • Some CHDs may be treated with surgery, medicine and/or devices, such as artificial valves and pacemakers. In the last 25 years, advances in the treatment of heart defects have enabled half a million U.S. children with serious CHDs to survive into adulthood.
  • Many cases of sudden cardiac death in young athletes are caused by undiagnosed CHDs and childhood-onset heart disease.
  • Early detection is critical to the successful treatment of CHDs. Some heart defects can be detected by a routine ultrasound – but the most effective prenatal test is an echocardiogram performed by a Pediatric Cardiologist.

My family has even had their share with a child with CHD. My little cousin happened to be born with a rare heart condition and just last year was named the New Hampshire Children's Miracle Network's Champion Child. For Caleb's amazing story you can check out this link below. Caleb is now almost 5 years old, but my uncle and aunt still approach each day with guarded optimism as they put it. So is the life I realize of any parent of a CHD child.

Caleb's Story

In reading Travis' story, I mentioned I also bounced to other blogs. I found one that stood out to me and one of this mother's posts was incredible and really put into words why CHD awareness is so important. I encourage you to read it...

Hope for Baby Bennett

I'm leaving this post very bittersweet. Although I did have an incredible weekend celebrating with my amazing husband that the Lord has given me for the past 4 years, the weekend couldn't help but be in the shadow of mourning this little boy... I got home from our weekend and hugged my kids a little tighter and gave them extra kisses. I can't imagine the pain the family is in now home to a quiet house, without a 16 month old in it. I think most of us forget how blessed we are to have children without any medical issues. Here I was frustrated just last week over my son getting yet another congested nose. Definitely puts your world in perspective knowing that something like this is going on just down the road...

I close with this Psalm...

 "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 ♥

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brand New

Wow, it's been a while since I sat down to throw some of my thoughts in a post. Don't worry, I have not abandoned my journey... and I'm definitely not back on Facebook. ☺

The last few weeks have been filled with excitement and also have begged me to grow once again as I've reached a new stage when it comes to parenting. On Wednesday, February 2nd Sawyer took his first steps at 10 months old. Sadly, I was at a parenting class and missed these first steps, but my husband was more than thrilled to finally see one of his "firsts." Bittersweet. Since then, he has taken more steps... stands alone frequently and is way too fast at crawling in my opinion. I'm fairly certain his big sister would agree. Addyson has had to adjust to this new, very quick, little brother and outbursts of "helllpppp, mommy helppppp" are nicely scattered all throughout my day now. Whenever Sawyer turns in her direction she knows she has about five to ten seconds, if she is lucky, to try and defend her tower of blocks, her tea party or tiny dinosaur figurines before little brother is there to join her with a big smile on his face and usually his idea at playing is just a tad different than hers. I'm going to just say it now, boys are so different than girls!

With a fast approaching three year old on my hands I've had my share of difficulties over the past few months, but at the same time she absolutely never ceases to entertain me. Addyson is the perfect mix of a girly girl tomboy. I think this picture sums her personality up perfectly. Insisting on wearing her cheetah print top and tutu while playing in the dirt with two swords. She definitely has a mind of her own and knows what she likes.

I've realized quickly that this whole parenting thing is quite a job that I have been given. Raising them up is hard enough, never mind raising them up to be polite, well-behaved, thinkers with personal responsibility. So I have been seeking counsel in forms of a parenting class (like I mentioned), my moms group at my church, several books, the Bible, and of course my own mom. I can assure you this list is not in the order of importance.  Someone said, "I think you know if you did a good job raising your kids if they come back to you for parenting advice." I chuckled when I heard that because I do go to my mom and dad for parenting advice already.

I've been gaining lots of insight and getting a lot out of each of these avenues. One lesson that greatly stood out to me was from the mom class at my church. The speaker was an older man and as I walked in, I immediately wondered what he would have to say to a group of young moms. How could he relate? I quickly found out and not only left with a fabulous amount of notes, I also did my share of crying as well. Okay, a quick side note... I don't know about you other moms out there, but since I had my kids I have had several things change. One being that I now need glasses for distance, especially driving at night. Another being that I have all of a sudden had an influx of cavities, which I suppose can be more related to my new diet Coke obsession, but I still will blame my kids because it started during pregnancy. lol. Lastly, I have turned into an absolute cry baby. Not about things that upset me, but anything that has to do with kids! Kids singing, stories about kids, I am not doing this justice, but let me just tell you I pretty much need to bring tissues with me wherever I go and a stash of mascara because it is quite ridiculous.

Okay, so this speaker went on and the topic was Stuff I Wish I Knew As A Young Parent. Hmmm. Okay, this could be good. Oh and it was! These are just a few of the things he went over that hit me hard.

*Time is short, learn to enjoy where you are at.
*Your child is a gift from God, not a problem to be fixed or a project to be developed.
*There are NO perfect parents.
*We can't model perfection because we aren't perfect, but we can model growth.
*Pray for your children and pray for yourself to be the mother God wants us to be.
*Tell your children that you thank God for them.
*Challenge your children to think by asking simple questions.
*The most important thing in parenting is the relationship.
*YOU are the most important person in your child's life, don't leave this up to someone else.
*When we blow it with our children, ask for forgiveness.

These ideas were the ones that stood out to me the most. Amazingly enough I think many of these ideas can be applied to your life no matter if you have children or not. Marriages or friendships also come to mind. If we just switch all the words in that list to husband, wife or friend...most of the same principles apply. Interesting isn't it?

For myself I think the bullets that made the most impact were the first and the last. I remember immediately after having Addyson that every one I spoke to gave me the same phrase. "It goes by so fast." I never really understood this at the time. Nothing seems fast when you are up several times a night, living on no sleep. And I had two very easy babies. I can't imagine how it would have been to have a baby with colic or reflux. I'm sure those parents couldn't wait for that time to go by. But, looking back and it has only been a short time I realized that I can already see what those "grown ups" were telling me. I'm watching my daughter grow up so fast and my son seems to be doing things even quicker than she did. I know I have plenty of days where I'm so exhausted by the constant discipline and have been guilty of wanting to just figure out a way to "fix" this defiant time. Obviously it is good to want to work to grow my parenting skills and raise up my children in the proper way, but I also need to remember in my fits of frustration that someday I'm going to look back and wish I had this time with my kids again. I want to learn to ENJOY my kids in every stage of their growing up.

Wonderful, now the tears are dropping onto the keyboard. I tell ya, I'm not joking about this crying stuff!

The other thing that I mentioned that really stood out to me was the idea of when we blow it with our kids, asking them for forgiveness. Notice I said when we blow it, because as mentioned, there are NO perfect parents, spouses, friends, etc.The idea of humbling ourselves even to our children really speaks volumes to me and what a lesson for your kids to learn. Teaching them to forgive and to ask for forgiveness by seeing their own parents do the same. I love that.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen other moms and thought to myself that she must really know something I don't know... because they seem like the perfect parent when in reality they are probably doing the very same thing to someone else. I think it is good for us to smack ourselves sometimes and realize we are NOT perfect and never will be. Not one of us. Not even that one person or parent that seems on the outside that they do have it all together. We are all going to make our fair share of mistakes with these gifts we have been given. Whether they be children, spouses, or friends.

If everyday we woke up and strived to do something a little better than the day before, I think it would work wonders. It's important for us to remember it's never too late to start fresh... to be someone new.. whether as a parent, a spouse or a friend. There's a song by Taylor Swift, and yes, I admit at 28 I do like listening to Taylor Swift, please someone tell me I'm not the only one. haha. Anyways, there is a song on her newest album that talks about the idea that who we are is not what we've done. Who we are is not where we've been. It's never too late to be brand new.

I'm going to end this post with a quote that has always inspired me.  In the great words of Rick Warren, "we are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it." I think everyone can probably gather a different meaning from this quote and I can even say it has held different meanings to me at different times in my life. Today this quote rings true for my parenting style. I don't have to be a prisoner of my old parenting style. I can choose today to make it brand new. ♥