Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 ~ Sealed With a Kiss ~

~ Sealed With a Kiss ~
Some would say our family has endured much this year. However; Christ has been both our Refuge and our Rock throughout. He has manifested Himself in ways we, at times, find difficult to put into words. He has allowed us to experience great tribulation as well as great joy! The year started with Phillip travelling every week for nearly four months. The weekly goodbyes were difficult. God saw fit to end that and allow a new job in Seattle. Then my best friend experienced a mini-stroke and Christ reminded me just how dear my husband truly is. A month later, we welcomed our sweet Justus in the world. He was born with Down syndrome and a heart condition. We count it such honor and joy to have this special boy within our family. The months passed and we had the opportunity to say one last goodbye to Grandma Bender before she passed in August. My children listened around her hospital bed as their grandfather told old family tales, a blessing in the face of loss. We will see her once again: for she was a believer. August also brought with it a need for me to have gallbladder surgery. I was thankful to say goodbye to the gallbladder attacks. September was the month that our sweet Justus had open heart surgery. That brought our family closer together in ways that cannot be expressed. There is nothing like facing the possible loss of a baby that will drive you and your loved ones to your knees in prayer. After nine days in the CICU, "Butter" as Justus has come to be known - was able to go home with a heart that could now allow him to thrive. The Lord worked in a mighty way in many peoples' lives through this time. Justus has truly been a vehicle for the Lord's blessings in so many ways and he is not yet eight months old. This year is coming to an end and yet is the beginning in so many ways. We are truly thankful for His provision, leading, and care for our family's health needs.
May we not forget the lessons learned this year.
Thank you Jesus for all you have wrought.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!!

Today is our fourteenth anniversary! Just seems like yesterday that I said "I do". What an adventure we have been on thus far. I am so thankful that Christ saw fit to bring us together. We are best friends and so much more. I love you Phillip with all that I have, forever more...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Baby is Seven Months Old Today

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Family Pictures 2009

Our friend, Jenny, came over to our home on Sunday afternoon and was able to capture some beautiful images of our family. We love her work. She always makes us look so good! :) Thank you Jenny for your time and care! We love them!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Well, we are all doing great. We are finding our way back to a schedule and are enjoying getting back into the swing of things. I almost forgot how much of a blessing it is to be in the midst of fellowshipping, etc.
Phillip is busy with work, boys have been doing terrific in school with various projects and presentations while they work hard on scripture memorization. Their scripture memorization puts mine to shame; as they have full chapters memorized. Isaac is currently working on what's called "Adopt a Tree" project in which he picks a tree and does a full blown presentation on it. So FUN!!!! Remember those when you were in school? Gabe has received nothing less than 100% on all his tests/quizzes. Smarty pants. Ethan is a whiz at reading and his cursive is just beautiful! Chloe is talking better every week and is currently toying around with potty training. Ellie - well, she is just a sweet little mama to Justus and kisses him often. Justus is doing great! He isn't sitting on his own yet - but we'll get there. He starts physical therapy next month.

With that said, let me share a poem Isaac wrote yesterday in school: (I was impressed as this is his very own creation)

The Green Beret
Make way! Make way!
For the Green Beret!
They're marching today
In the green array.
Stand strong! Stand strong!
No wrong! No wrong!
Is the leader's song
As they're marching along.
For when you fight
In enemy sight.
You must be bright
and quick as a light.
Make way! Make way!
For the Green Beret!
They're marching today
In the green array.
-Isaac Browning, age 11

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Trip to Yuma

Taz playing in the "sponge - pit"

At the ladies retreat. What a blast we had!
Some wild and crazy ladies of Faith Baptist Church!

Hmmm... you think he's having a good time?

Whoah! What a face, Chloe! We were at a place called "Jump Up"

Gabriel - swimming.

Isaac - swimming.

Welcoming home some soldiers... what an honor that was... and ... HOT!!!


A very sweet lady of Faith Baptist who prays for our son ... and she didn't even know us. She was happy to have met the little one she had been praying for.

:) I love this pic. April holding my sweet Butter.

Men - with babies...

Proud as peacocks! These men deserve our thanks!

This is how close to Mexico the city of Yuma is: see the border fence? SO COOL!

This above pic is hilarious! When driving to Yuma we saw this pretty looking lake thing. We drive to go see it and NO ONE was there except some crazy fisherman. Well, we stepped out and literally lost our breath. It was soooo HUMID, and SMELLED! I guess this "SALTON SEA" is so polluted that fish just die and wash up on shore. Click on image and you will see Isaac's funny face. We all were finally begging Phillip to get back in car!! Too much heat, stink and flies. DISGUSTO!!!

Okay... I'm playing catch up. Here are a spattering of images that we took on our trip to Yuma, Arizona. We went and visited some good friends - The Goetsch family that have just recently moved there themselves. Pastor Goetsch is doing a fantastic job as the new Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Yuma. While there we got to go swimming, meander through the town, see soldiers fly in from being deployed, enjoy wonderful fellowship and just have a great time all around. I was also able to go to a ladies retreat with some of them. We went to Palm Springs and heard some wonderful messages as well as enjoy April's playing the piano. It was a fun trip. One that I won't forget and look back on and smile everytime. Enjoy these pics. There are ALOT more on our Facebook account.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

See Ya Later

Yup... that's what I heard today. Justus had a cardiology appointment today. While I knew it would probably be a good report, nothing prepared me for hearing that he was doing so well that we would not need to be back for another six months! I was so astonished. I started to cry. I could not believe that just shy of six weeks ago we had a very sick little boy on our hands, and now... well he is doing great! He is 95% on the Down Syndrome growth chart. (Yes, they have a seperate growth chart for DS) He also has gained nearly 2 pounds in one month! Can you believe it? Wow! Get this: She also stated that many children who need cardiac surgeries right now can't get them because the ICU's in the area are overloaded with Swine Flu - so there is no room. So God not only had the surgery itself in His hands but also the timing of the surgery was all taken care of. I am so thankful. I feel as if a ton of bricks has been lifted from my shoulders. I can't say it enough: Thank you Lord . . . thank you . . . thank you . . . thank you . . .

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some Hospital Pictures

after surgery

Pastor Houston holding Butter prior to surgery. He was at the hospital before us at 6am!
Butter's chest prior to surgery. No scar . . . but now he has a cool scar to brag about!

On his way to Ronald McDonald House the day prior to surgery.

Daddy and Justus on pre-op day!
*I always forget that Blogger uploads images backwards*
Anyhow, here are some pictures that I thought I would share from being in the hospital. Justus, (aka: Butter) is doing great. Everyday brings with it a brighter smile and a step towards our "normal" routine. He has been a little out of his norm when it comes to sleeping: sleeps for 20 min. to an hour and then awakes, but I think that will go away with time.
I LOVE - LOVE - LOVE being home! My three older boys are doing great in school. The girls are being wonderful helps in making messes, and Butter continues to happily nurse as all the controlled chaos unleashes around him. Awwwweeeee .... lovin' it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Home... Sweet Home

Yes, we are home. This posting comes late due to some issues with our wireless router - so I apologize for that. We were discharged on Saturday and decided to spend the night at the Ronald McDonald house to just be sure everything was okay. We liked that we were right next to the hospital just in case "Butter" took another unexpected turn. Justus aka; Butter, was really cranky all day on Saturday - he also had an allergic reaction to some meds. they gave him for pain. We got to the RM house and were able to finally get him settled. He then slept solidly all night and only woke to nurse and fall back asleep! My heart sang! Nothing like watching your sweet infant who has endured so much sleep peacefully next to you. I was relieved.
For now - I will keep it short and just say we are home. Justus is still trying to settle into being back to himself. We take great care in the way we hold him - b/c his sternum is still healing. He goes and sees the cardiologist tomorrow and then the pediatrician next week. We also have to keep all illness away the best we can. But all in all... he is home - and that is AWESOME!!!!
We praise Christ for it all!
Soon I hope to write more of how this all has shaped our family and refined our faith. You cannot walk the halls of Children's Hospital and keep your faith and the hope it offers to yourself. You just can't. If you can ... I would question your faith or at least your desire to be used of God. I hope that I never forget. I hope to never go through anything like that again, but can be thankful for what it has wrought in my heart. Watching children fight for their life and the parents who love them so fervently strikes a deep desire to offer hope and peace. I am happy to be home - but still see the faces of some who are still there, and find myself of heavy heart praying ... praying ... praying.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Road Bump

Justus will not be coming home today. He is now dehydrated and is not wanting to eat. There is blood in his stool and a high potassium level in his body. If he doesn't eat another feeding tube will be placed. Please pray for him to eat and for him to become hydrated. Thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coming Home

Yes, you read it correctly!!!! We have been okayed for discharge tomorrow. Praise the Lord! We will stay at the Ronald McDonald house through Friday night and be home Saturday! So thankful, happy, relieved, etc. etc.
One happy mama here! Thank you for all your prayer!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Full Day

Today was a busy day. Justus has had a great day. He got alot of lines removed and drugs stopped. That is excellent news. He is now clear to move to acute care. We are just awaiting a bed. It is a busy time on the floor right now. So now Justus continues to try and re-learn how to nurse. We are having a difficult time. We will get through it. He is also having to rid his fluid level - he has more fluid in his lungs. This is a bit normal after open heart surgery. We just don't want it to continue to build or else it may cause problems. Overall - Justus is doing great! Thank you to all who have prayed for our son!

I have also gotten to know a young lady named Alecs who has a five week old boy named David who is in the CICU battling for his little life. He is critically ill awaiting a heart transplant. This morning he almost passed. They were very close to putting him back on life support. If they put him on life support he gets his name removed from the list awaiting a heart. His oxygen saturation levels were in the 30% range all night last night. I prayed with his mother and when we re-entered his room we could see on the monitor his levels were rising. Praise be to God! That said - he desperately needs a miracle. His father is in Istanbul pastoring and cannot re-enter the states. His mom is here at the hospital and only has her mother and father here in town. If you think of them could you please pray for peace and perhaps a miracle for David? Thank you.
I know God's hand has been in all of this. I know this is one of the reasons why our son, Justus, had such a difficult time on Sunday. It may have been a setback for Justus - but it was God's providence that allowed us to meet and pray with Alecs while in the waiting room during my son's fight to recover from fever. I KNOW that is why this all happened. She knows it too. She refers to Phillip and I as family to the other nurses and staff. She is thankful to our Lord for the support from our Pastor as well. Think of it moms... if you were watching your infant son struggling for life and all the while standing by his bedside alone! I am honored that Christ has allowed me to come alongside her and hold her hand. Her family is precious to us. Sunday night I wept and asked God why my son was going through so much - He didn't have to give me an explanation or show me why - but He has. Alecs met Justus today. She held his hand and said thank you. She said to my little "Butter" that if he had not been there she would not have gotten to know all of us (Phillip, myself and Pastor). This is all to God's glory. Not of myself, nor anyone else. This is just how Christ works. To offer her encouragement when she needs it most. He truly never forsakes....
Thank you for your prayer on behalf of David, Alecs, Caden, and Justus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off the Ventilator

Just a quick update: Justus is off the ventilator!!!! :-)
Daddy is currently holding him. His blood gas looks great! Fever staying down with Tylenol. He is still on feeding tube. His chest tubes are out! Praying that this continues to be the trend. Thank you for all your prayer! We are so very thankful! Can't wait till little "Butter" is all better.

Justus Update

Justus is being prepared for coming off the ventilator. This is a long process that involves turning off his morphine and stopping his feedings via feeding tube. Please pray that this process goes successfully. Also - his core temp. is a little higher this morning than last night or yesterday. Please pray against fever. Thank you. We will update later today if ventilator removal went through or not.
Also - yesterday we had the opportunity to meet a sweet little boy named Caden who has Down Syndrome and is fighting Leukemia. He is two years old. Precious. He and his mom are here from Alaska and are separated from their family due to costs of airline tickets. We immediately felt a bond with them. I would ask that you pray for sweet Caden. He is absolutely beautiful. You can see pictures of him on my Facebook wall. We sat and prayed with him and his mom for healing.
I am thankful that through our storm - God allows us to feel encouragement by loving and getting to know others as they face their own storms. May Christ receive all glory.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our boy...

Just a quick update. I sit at the Ronald McDonald house after a difficult night. What a blessing the house has been - a refuge. I am on my way to go and make the short walk to the hospital. Phillip thought it would be good if I got some sleep last night. Justus had another difficult day yesterday (actually not till evening). He had been doing well after second surgery corrected the unravelled stitches in the sternum. Then around 5pm or so - I walked in his room after visiting with my other kiddos and noticed that he was having a very difficult time breathing. His eyes were rolled back in his head and his feet and hands were blue. He spiked a fever and reached a heartbeat of 200 b/m. A team was called in to try and cool him off with ice (horrible to watch). Then that didn't work and they decided to put him back on ventilator, in hopes to allow him to rest.
Please, please - pray.
My heart is aching for Justus. I so desire that he gets better. I know Christ has a plan - even through all of this. That is what I grasp onto. I am sorry if this is to transparent. I truly have nothing left within myself, but... to pray. To grasp onto the FACT that Christ is in control - even when the doctors are unsure.
May Christ receive all glory that may come from this.
During the time they were re-intubating Justus - we prayed fervently in the waiting area. There were a group of Russian women next to us. When we were praying - I noticed they were quiet. We said our "amens" and lifted our eyes to see them as they had been praying alongside us for my son. How humbling. We spoke and discovered that these ladies were there from a Ukraine church to help comfort a lady named Alex. Alex has a five week old son who underwent open heart surgery two weeks ago. He needs a heart transplant - and is waiting. Alex and I hugged. We all fell to our knees and wept as we all prayed for David - her son. Alex's husband is a missionary and is unable to get back into the states. If you think of it, please pray for her and David - as well as the husband. How difficult that must be.
Thank you for all of your prayer. As in the words of my friend, Katie, after her daughter experienced some complication after her surgery:
"It seems God wants to keep us on our knees a bit longer."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Heart of Justus...

Our sweet little four month old Justus underwent open heart surgery last Thursday to correct a condition known as TOF. The surgery went well and by Friday morning Justus was on target for coming off the ventilator while in the CICU (cardiac ICU) in Seattle. In order to come off the ventilator the staff cuts all pain meds. to see if child can breathe on his own (sounds barbaric - given that he had just had his little chest open the day prior). They turned off his morphine and was allowed to wake on his own. As the day progressed I noticed that he was in a considerable amount of pain. My stomach was in knots. His little chest also started to make horrible clicking sounds... and they continued to get louder as the day moved on. Later that night you could not only hear the clicking, but feel his bone moving in his chest when he breathed - as if the sternum was apart and rubbing against itself. He spiked a fever that night at midnight. I - was scared. There was absolutely nothing I could do as I watched. I continually cried out to God to fix this, that is all I could do, just ask Christ to intervene. . . He did.
That next morning the surgeons performed their rounds. Upon discovery of Justus - the surgeon immediately scheduled him for another surgery. My husband's suspicions were right. Justus' sternum had separated and was rubbing upon itself. I broke down in tears. It was hard the first time letting him go, and it did not become easier. There was also a fear of infection, which could translate to bad. Justus was readied for the surgery, and our friends and family were called - my husband asked all to pray.
During all this... dare I say ... I asked why? Why did God allow such a thing to occur? Why? I could not understand. Was it somehow my fault? Was Justus not ready for surgery and we were just pushy? Why would this happen to him? Why all the pain for my sweet little baby?
The answer would come...
Justus came out of the second surgery and was doing great. He even looked better. His little countenance was not grimacing any longer. I felt a huge amount of relief seeing that he was feeling better. Then family visited and I got to see and hold and kiss on all of my sweet little children. Ohhhh... how I miss them. It was then that I got the answer to my question that I had been repeating within my heart all through the night... my husband wrote of it on Facebook and so I just copied it to here:

"Why Lord? We often wonder why things happen in our lives. Charrissa and I have certainly been challenged with that as of late. Today we had family and Pastor visiting us at the hospital. After they left the nurse (Eileen) was speaking with my wife... about how wonderful it was to see such love and support from our family and friends. She commented on our children.This conversation lead to a discussion where my wife was able to share the gospel of Christ to our fantastic nurse. She was so very interested in our story and our story IS our Saviour. Oh how the love of Christ manifested is such a testimony to others. (John 13:35). Funny thing is,she was only seeing the tip of the iceberg for she could not see the hundreds of people that have been coming boldly to the throne of grace on our behalf and seeking God's face for our little one. We are so thankful for the love of Christ manifested!As the conversation continued with Eileen, they happened to be speaking about the providence of God, sharing stories of how God's hand has been on our son and the many stories of how we see Him at work. During this conversation, they began talking about the many extra bottles of milk that we had a heart to donate or give to someone who was in need.As the nurse was researching, online, a place to give the milk another nurse came in, to which Eileen asked if she knew of a good place to donate the milk. The nurse broke down in tears and stated how there was another nurse who is adopting a child and is looking for milk to feed her new little one. When it was agreed the extra would go to the other nurse in need, the nurse said to my wife and Eileen, "This is nothing short of the providence of God."
I would be shorting the story if I did not tell you that the nurse who was weeping and speaking of the providence of God was a nurse that we had a VERY difficult time with during the season of battle that we were having last night. How gracious of our Lord to allow us an opportunity to love on her and encourage her."

This has been a roller coaster of a ride for our family. However, that being said - I could not imagine the ride without Christ being at the controls. That He would allow us to be apart of bringing glory to His name in sharing the gospel to one soul - is simply humbling. I can honestly say that my heart is comforted to know that although Justus is still "recovering" there is already a victory. A seed has been planted. . . I pray it would find roots and grow.

To those who have been in prayer: I, nor my family, can thank you enough. It is the most humbling thing to have people pray for you and encourage you. Our sweet baby is such a gift. He has been used of God to teach many lessons - and yet only four months old.

I will continue to update as I have time. Justus is doing well. He continues to battle fever here and there. We are praying that he does not have an underlying infection. We will get the cultures back on Monday or Tuesday. If you think of it, could you please pray against infection as well? Thank you so much!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Just a quick update. (I am better about posting updates via Facebook - just easier and quicker)
Justus is scheduled for open heart surgery September 17th at Seattle Children's Hospital. He has a full day of pre-ops the day prior. Very mixed feelings here. Hopeful and excited to have this behind us and no longer over our heads - BUT .... this is my sweet little baby facing such a BIG surgery and that makes me weep. Being very honest here. Then my Lord reminds me through scripture (esp. Psalms) that Justus is in His hands. That is a comfort. I love my son - fervently. I am so thankful for his little life being entrusted to Phillip and I, as I am all of my children.
Updates may be spotty - but I will try. Thank you in advance for your prayer - and support.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remembering Grams

My dear, sweet grandmother (Frieda Bender) passed away and went to be with our Lord and Saviour on Saturday, August 22nd 2009. She was a woman of which I look to with great admiration. A very hard and industrious worker, she helped run a local gas station that my grandfather owned. She took joy in cooking wonderful meals for her family. I especially remember the pineapple rice salad (white rice, whipped cream and pineapple) as well as her chocolate meringue pie. Grandma was one who loved life. She drove right up until her stroke made it impossible. She was 89 years old! I love her. I love how she lived, and how she was so beautiful at the time of her death. Her mind was still so sharp at the time she passed. These pictures were taken just two weeks prior to her death. She knew who all her great grandchildren were by name. Both her life and the process of her death were very inspiring. I know my children will not forget their great-grandmother. I know they will remember how the physicians spoke early on of letting her die by not feeding her - yet the Lord allowed a much easier transition into eternity, much more dignified. I know that speaks volumes to my family. God, by allowing her to live one month past her stroke - allowed my relationship with my father to be restored, allowed my grandmother to hold the hands of her little great grandkids running around her room, and allowed me to witness how - when we trust Christ - He truly cares for His own, even upon taking you home. He did not forsake my grandmother at the time she most needed Him. I am so very thankful for that.
We will be travelling back this week for the service and to remember her with other family members and friends.
Psalm 30:5b "....weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Just a quick note to let you all know what we have been up to and how we have been. This last week was ... crazy! Monday Justus had a cardiology appointment. Wednesday brought a yearly eye exam for Isaac and dental exams for five of our kiddos with it, and then Thursday was a surgery for me. Hectic.
Justus is doing great. His saturation levels (oxygen) were in the 90's. Which is outstanding. His EKG was great. His echo cardiogram went well also. There was a bit of a change in the pressure gradient regarding his lungs. This is an indicator that his lungs are working a bit harder. This is to be expected with children who have Down Syndrome. They typically are sick more often - creating an opportunity for the lungs to develop pulmonary disease which creates a stiffening of the lungs. This is why the specialists recommend having the open heart surgery prior to the child's first birthday - trying to beat that. The change in pressure gradient paired with Justus having had two minor blue baby spells equates to his little body telling us it is time for surgery. The cardiologist is suggesting late September or early October for the surgery. Wow! It's already upon us! We are praying for Justus to not be sick during this time. If he is sick at the time of surgery they will cancel and postpone for six weeks. I am not "looking forward" to the surgery - but am anxious to get done and out of the way. Make sense? We have decided to go with Seattle Children's Hospital for various reasons. Please - I ask on behalf of my sweet baby boy - if you think of him, please pray for the surgery to take place without illness delaying it, please pray for the surgeons to have steady hands and wisdom; and please pray for a smooth and swift recovery.
Isaac's eye appointment went well. There are no changes in his retina from last time. (a small spot was noticed behind his eye - but does not seem to be affecting his sight) We praise the Lord for this wonderful news. He is not "out of the woods" yet. The doctor is wanting these yearly exams to take place until he is out of his teenage years. For those of you who do not know - they are continually checking for Stargardt's Disease. He may or may not have it. Several years ago at a regular eye exam the doc. noticed pigment spots in his retina - thus the yearly exams now. Phillip and I have peace and know that with everything else: the Lord has this in His control as well.
Kids did great at the dentist - which by the way - is the coolest dentist's office EVER for kids. It's like Disneyland - for teeth!
My surgery went well also. I am healing nicely - just a little sore. I had my gallbladder removed on Thursday due to some horrible attacks from a stone that had lodged and blocked a duct. I am thankful that it went well and I am on the road to recovery. My hubby took AWESOME care of me.
Crazy. Yes. However, I am confident that the Lord has designed these things to take place right now for many reasons I won't get into. I love my Lord for allowing these trials and I will praise Him for them. Sound weird? Maybe so, but I can only trust in Him. I can have peace - or fret. I can find joy - or stress. I have gone back and forth, but have found refuge in my Saviour.
Love you all - and I am so thankful for your prayer and support!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Browning Bootcamp

This was Ethan when he was a baby. Yeah... we start training them early in physical fitness.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Justus Cooing

Sorry this is sideways. I am not computer savvy. Justus is now cooing and melting my heart in the process. He is doing great. I stand amazed at how my Lord just knew I NEEDED this sweet little boy in my life.

He has a cardiology appointment on Monday. We are praying for great, outstanding reports. (maybe even a miraculous healing of his little heart)

He starts physical therapy soon. He scores like a four month old in everything except gross motor skills - this is really impressive.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

How About Some Gum?

Chloe has this thing about rifling through my diaper bag and sneaking any goodies she can find.
Well, she found some gum and helped herself. I thought she was being good. Well, this is what you get when you have a quiet one year old! Not only did she find the gum she ate TEN pieces! I found her and immediately couldn't speak. I just froze and could not believe what I was seeing! My whole entryway smelled like orange blast! So, I decided to take some pics. The picture of her smiling is in response to me finally letting out a giggle. Ohhhhh..... Chloe!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Family Updates

Just a real quick update on the happenings within our family. We have had several inquiries about both Justus and my grandmother's health. Justus is doing great. He seems to keep battling congestion, but we are told this is to be expected. Due to him having Down Syndrome he is more susceptible to colds and infections. I usually find myself having to suction out his nose in the mornings using a nasal aspirator and saline solution. His cough is clearing up. He continues to gain weight. He had his eight week checkup a little while ago and I was delighted to see that he had made all of his milestones thus far. He is smiling, cooing, watching you as you move your face, turning to the sound of your voice, and even laughs once in awhile during his sleep. This has been so enjoyable for me to see him doing so well, despite his DS and TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot). God is so good to teach us of the "non - differences" in the face of "differences". (if that makes sense!) One thing I have run into is that Justus is getting so good at nursing now that he totally dislikes the bottle. I am thankful he is such a good nurser, but am finding that I may have to work with him to be able to do both. I want him to be prepared for bottle feedings during his hospital stay. I find this ironic, since DS babies are expected to be very good at nursing. Our family is learning to not place those expectations that hold low standards on our sweet Justus.

My grandmother is also doing great! We praise the Lord for this. She is eating on her own and is currently learning how to wield her own spoon! Albeit, she eats very little. I am so thankful that she continues to show improvement. We just had the opportunity to visit her again and we were able to have full conversations with her! We looked through old photos and laughed at some funny memories. It was great to spend time with my father as well. Pictures follow soon.

Life continues to go along at a bit of a rabbit's pace, but our God is good to us and allows us the tools and ability to keep up. Only in His strength. Everyone is enjoying these warm summer days. The kids are having a blast racing their bikes through the neighborhood. We continue to have all the kids (minus Chloe and Justus) in swimming lessons. They LOVE it! The boys will start soccer next month. We always look forward to our Saturday morning games as a family (and of course the coffee runs prior to the games). Phillip is doing a wonderful job as an employee for King County. He has been riding his bike to work, which is a bit better on our wallets and helps with some exercise. I have been busy with various things: making hair pretties for friends, nursing Justus, organizing closets, nursing Justus, teaching Chloe her numbers, nursing Justus, gardening, nursing Justus, helping to run this crazy household and of course - nursing Justus. As you can read - nursing Justus is a full time job. He is an industrious little eater. That's alright with me - as one of my most fervent desires and prayers while he was in the NICU was that I could just hold my baby and nurse him. Boy, has God answered that one!!! (little giggle)
Our family is busy, no doubt. But.... we enjoy one another so much that it is just a joy to have such a large and boisterous crew. We look forward to what God continues to do within our home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Forty - Two Pounds O' Fun

As you know, we were in Easter Washington during the fourth of July visiting both my Grandmother and Father. My prior post describes how we went to make a surprise visit and ended up being there the day my Grandmother had a pretty significant stroke. Well, after going to the hospital on the fourth, we decided to take the kids cherry picking. We drove around looking for U-Pick signs for cherries. We found a farm in Naches. As soon as we got out of our car, We thought - "What were we thinking?" It was soooo hot outside, 100 degrees. There was a little shade, but not enough. The farmer and his wife were so gracious and kind. They gave us ice cold bottled waters and attached our buckets and sent us on our way! I have to say, it was a blast! We had a great time picking... and eating... a whole lotta cherries. Both Ellie and Chloe were adorable. They ate more cherries than they picked and put in their baskets. The farmer had a little pump house next to the trees that was ice cold inside. Phillip and I took turns sitting in there with Justus cooling off. What do you get when you and five kiddos are picking cherries? Forty two pounds of sweetness! Yes... FORTY TWO POUNDS of cherries! Needless to say our freezer is full of pitted cherries ready for pies. By the way... you see in the pics. that we got two different types of cherries: Lapin and Rainier - both are so delicious.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Providential Visit

My sweet husband approached me a couple of weeks ago about taking time during the fourth of July weekend to go and visit my Grandmother and Father who live in Eastern Washington. This meant alot to me for two reasons: 1) usually we go to his sister's home and have a delightful time - this has become a routine every fourth. 2) My Grandmother and Father have never met Chloe or Justus. This visit was one I looked forward to with anticipation of warm weather and sharing memories with Grandma. I also LOVE seeing my children near their Great-Grandmother. Just something about that visual picture that I don't think I will easily forget. Well, we decided we would just show up into town, get a room and surprise both of them. We arrived Friday evening and spent some time driving around town and enjoying some early fireworks while sitting at a Sonics for the first time! The weather was also so beautiful and HOT! It was 100 degrees while we were there - and I LOVED IT! (I grew up in Eastern Washington and have fond memories of being outdoors in the heat) That next morning we received a call from my Dad saying Grandma had a severe stroke that morning. We went to the hospital and my Dad started to cry stating he was so happy we were there. We could see that Grandma's left side was unable to move and that she was pretty feeble. She was in and out of consciousness. The on-call doctor came in the room and asked Grandma if she could hear him, she answered "yes". I was thrilled! This meant she could not only hear, but respond. He backed up a couple of feet after his questions to her and started to discuss "options" with my Dad. She had not yet shown signs of swallowing, so he told Dad that if she didn't that he would have to decide on whether or not to put a feeding tube in. I thought, WAIT - whether or not???!!!???? To deny someone of eating used to be called starving someone, but I guess if that person happens to be old and unable to entirely care for themselves it is now called humane death???!!!??? Didn't this doctor just get my Grandmother to respond to him? Now he was discussing options of death only two feet from her bedside?
Dad and I had a very brief discussion that hour after the doctor left the room and I said that I would always be a proponent of life. I left it at that, realizing Dad was overwhelmed with emotion. I noted in my mind that this was a priority of prayer. So did my husband.
That next morning I received a phone call stating that Grandma wanted to talk to me. She heard my voice on the phone and even responded to my questions!! I was so super excited to go and see her. Phillip and I just teared up thanking our God all the while. We got to the hospital and guess what.... she was swallowing water, just a bit - BUT - she was showing improvement! She was able to see all of her great-grandchildren and talk a little with some of them. One very tender moment occurred when she held Justus' hand - my throat felt tight with emotion as I put my own hand and covered them both and gave a gentle squeeze. Justus is named after my Grandfather - how fitting that she held onto his hand so tightly.
The same doctor came in and was yet again talking the same talk. I could not believe it! After he left my father and I had a candid conversation. I will just say that I think our visit helped him to be encouraged in the right way, however; I covet your prayers for my Grandmother. I am hoping that Phillip and I can be used of God in this situation to help sustain my Grandmother's life. Life, young or old, is precious and is only for the Lord to decide when it should pass. I am so very thankful that the Lord put on Phillip's heart to make a long overdue visit at such a time as this...
I praise the Lord that he has placed so many things in our life as of late that would prepare us for this... that would help us understand how precious life is, even when others in the world may not value it..

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sweet Little Justus

Just some updated pictures of our Little Man. He is six weeks old and growing ... growing ... growing...
It is so sweet to watch him sleep in my arms. He smiles as he snoozes and I wonder what he must be thinking. He is very alert and loves to listen to his Daddy sing silly songs. He nurses better and better as each week progresses. He is a whopping 9 lbs. 10 oz. and ever growing. He continues to have little bouts of congestion, but we are told this is to be expected. His little heart is doing good, and he has not had any "blue baby" spells. (BIG YAY!!!)
Our Lord is so good to answer even the tiniest of prayer ... of which continues to assure me that our family is serving an ever present God.
My husband is being so thoughtful and kind to see that I get some rest - as the last several weeks have been a bit exhausting. I feel much better thanks to him.
I always feel compelled to illustrate my deepest desire when I make a post:
That is how truly thankful I am to Christ. He has comforted me in ways I could never convey to anyone else, because only He knows my thoughts, my heart and the things I struggle with. It is daily that I have experienced His provision in some intimate way. This is where my hope resides in everything: Justus' health, our family's needs, my children's salvation, etc. I cannot express all that Jesus does and provides for us. The fears that can often grip my spirit fade away as I hand them off to Christ in trade with the peace that He offers.
There I said it... and I hope it makes sense! :-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our Home

Everything is going well in our home. School is winding down. Chloe and Ellie are taking their roles as "Mama's helpers" to a new level. Phillip is enjoying his job. I am enjoying getting back into the swing of things. Justus is doing well. He is getting over his little cold and just seems a bit congested in the mornings and evenings. He is gaining weight and is even starting to outgrow some outfits. I am thankful for all the prayer on his behalf. I know God hears them and is answering. I am having a bit of an issue with what I think may be an ulcer. Every once in awhile I experience some horrible upper abdominal pain. I may need to go to the doctor to really get down to the bottom of it. I really don't enjoy going to the doctor's office. It will be interesting, nonetheless, to see what is going on with me.

I will continue to update all with our life's "goings ons." Have a beautiful day!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Justus Update

Justus had a cardiology appointment today. He had an EKG done as well as weight check and oxygen saturation levels checked. . . and everything looked great! What does that all mean? Well, an EKG measures the electrical output of your heart. This indicates how hard the heart is working which can also indicate if the heart may be getting bigger due to too much work. The heart is a muscle and the harder it works the bigger it may get - which is not good. Justus' heart is a little bigger on the right side, due to his heart defect. The doctors are looking for a rise in electrical output to indicate if it is getting larger - but today the EKG measured the same as last time - so that is GREAT! The weight check is an indicator at how Justus is thriving. If there isn't a significant weight gain then there may be a problem - but Justus weighed in at 9lbs 1oz. which is AWESOME! The oxygen saturation levels tells the doctors how rich in oxygen his blood is - 100 is the number most would come back with. Justus had a range set in the NICU for 75 - 90% due to his heart condition which allows some de-oxygenated blood to travel through his body, which in turn drops his sat. levels. If his sat. levels would show a big drop at a visit it would be a sign that his heart is working too hard to deliver oxygen to his organs. . . but. . . his levels were 94% today - which is TERRIFIC! He didn't have an echo cardiogram today, but will at his next visit - which just shows the docs. a picture of his heart and how the valves are holding up.
Justus had an excellent report today and can wait a whole month until his next cardiology appt. He is expected to undergo his open heart surgery within this year.
Right now, he is battling a bit of a cold. Perhaps if you think of it - you could pray that this cold would go away. We appreciate all the prayer and know Justus is doing well because of our Lord being in control. Justus is a sweet little blessing that we are so thankful for!