Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's been awhile...

I know...I know...what's been keeping me away, you ask...you name it, I answer.  From health, to fatigue, to sheer insanity...and everything in between...my late-night blogging sessions had to go.  I've thought about you all a great deal, though, and have been storing away all sorts of things I want to share with you once I have the opportunity. It's a ride, after all...so you can imagine how many pit stops we make along the way!  I'll just leave you to hold me accountable on those other stories...tonight I'll just give you a peek into our journey these past couple weeks.

I mentioned at the end of my last post that Zoe had seemed a little on the decline lately...well, that was 2 weeks ago...and she continued to worsen daily. We stayed in continual contact with Dr. Edens, who was fairly certain it was indeed a viral infection of some sort. We had a few hours, here and there, in which she was somewhat content, but for the most part, she was miserable in every way. She was coughing more, breathing heavier, struggling with sleep at night but would randomly fall asleep sitting up during the day, very irritable, and could barely hold her own head up most of the time. Needless to say, our lives were operating at a dangerously high stress level because a situation like this one affects the family, at large...not just one or two people. 


Finally, last Sunday, I contacted the doctor and said I was no longer comfortable waiting this thing out.  We'd been relying on my intuition as to her decline, and frankly, I needed to not make the call any longer...even if there was nothing wrong...I needed someone else to tell me that. He said we could come see him the next morning, so that's what we did. 


Of course, as is mandated in the child code, Zoe woke up happy...laughing, even...seriously. But...we had the appointment...we were going. Never fails...make the appointment, go to the appointment, spend the rest of the time explaining to the doctor how they've really not been acting this way ANY MOMENT of the past 2 weeks. Should've made the appointment 2 weeks ago. Thankfully, Dr. Edens still checked her out and even decided to run some follow-up tests to make sure she was okay.


The echo showed that her heart was enlarged again...much like it was when we first got home from China. (It had gone down considerably by the time we had the first cath done.) This basically means the heart has started working extra hard again...so it grows...which also means that leaking valve has gone back to pouring, and not just oozing. (My words, not his.) The fluid around the heart and liver has also returned...which is actually the cause for the overworked heart. This means her body has developed a resistance to the medicine we put her on, and we'd have to increase her dosage to jump-start the reduction once more. He said it's actually pretty common for this to happen...just wish we had known that a couple weeks prior...but everything looks different on Zoe than it would most any other children...it's a guessing game, to some degree. They also did some blood work to check for some infections. There were some positive findings and some that were concerning. All in all, she definitely has an infection of some kind in addition to the heart condition. Initially, they believed it to be mono. No joke. I was floored. Poor kid can't catch a break anywhere. Once the tests all came back, they said it wasn't mono but a viral infection much like it. 


Incidentally, her sat was 85, which is great...and she was down to 18 lbs. The weight was pretty surprising because she eats pretty well all the time, but I'm learning not to think about "normal"...there's nothing typical about Zoe.


Within 12 hours of changing the dosage, we again saw a dramatic change in her demeanor and health. We are so grateful we made the adjustment when we did...so thankful the extra fluid won't be a problem when we go back up for her follow-up cath this next Wednesday.


FYI: Zane is doing SO much better with sleeping...he's not nearly as distressed now that we've gotten into a bedtime routine that he's very eager to go through each night. It has helped tremendously. 


We've had quite a few stand-off's...the twins and I...now that health and fears have gotten somewhat under control...it has opened the door to some "training" opportunities. I'll just tell you what I told a friend of mine this week. We're definitely out of the 'honeymoon phase'...what the Z's failed to realize is that, contrary to the health and fear uncertainties where I feel like a fish out of water, this test of wills...this phase of consistency, obedience, and will power...well, this is where I live and feel most "at home." Oh honey...now you're in my realm of parenting...slap a crown on my head and call me Queen Momma because the Carr Castle will be not be overthrown by the rebels. Poor prisoners...never knew what hit 'em! They just stood there...staring at me...like..."who do you think you are???" But eventually, they saw the wisdom in accepting choice A, B, or C...instead of choice...nothing. All is well and right in the kingdom.


We've had many memorable moments this last week...lots of laughter...lots of tears...but we're all stretching and growing as we try to bend and not break...as the Father leads...some of us (ahem...) are more stubborn than others. I'll let you fill in the blank there...be gentle. 



Friday, April 12, 2013

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

We had a special treat this week.

In the midst of our normal chaos...normal is such a relative term...actually there's nothing normal about any of my relatives. Everybody has their "thing"...we pride ourselves on the fact that there's not a normal one in the bunch! Ok...now where was I...oh yes...a treat!

I've mentioned quite a few times in earlier posts about our sweet angel in China who cared for our kiddos for a good while last year, has provided us with valuable information on their situation, and even was able to give us the personal tour of their little home while we were in country. Love our "Bekah Jie Jie"...and this week we were able to have a long conversation via FB and a wonderful Skype conversation the following day...oh, it did my heart good...and the kiddos too!

We've been experiencing quite a few up's and down's with both kids...but specifically Zane, in regard to sleeping. It came as quite a shock to see how terrified he was about going to sleep. In China, he didn't always like it, but he never seemed scared at all. We now realize it was because we were in the room with him. Oh boy. He also has become much whinier and discontent.  Although we can emphasize with these issues, we are also very cognizant of not enhancing these fears but rather patiently teaching him the skill of falling asleep on his own with a confidence that we will be there when he wakes up...mouthful...even harder to do than to say!  You can imagine the difficulty in navigating the muddy waters of toddler-world, adoptive child bonding, unknown and seemingly irrational fears, stress over lost independence and control over activities, and sorrow over lost friends and "family" left behind.

Zoe's muddy waters look a little like this: similar sorrow over friends left behind, adoptive family bonding, extreme weakness and irritability stemming from her extreme heart condition and the effect it's had on the rest of her body, princess mentality when it comes to interaction with Zane and her parents :), and lack of trust with new family members due to the constant influx of caregivers in China...she knows who we are but is basically expecting us to leave.

We needed some help. SO...we reached out to our angel again. What an answer to prayer.

We found out we were indeed on track with Zoe...she prefers to be called Queen Zoe...great...we've got another one...including yours truly...takes one to know one.  The biggest help with Zoe, however, has been the docs explaining how significantly her health is influencing her behavior. Therefore, we spent most of our time talking about the little man.

It was comforting, on some level, to know that he wasn't just acting this way because of us...it's always been a struggle for him. He does have a lot of fears when it comes to bedtime...in spite of his adventurous spirit the other 12 hours of the day...just like any normal toddler. Poor little man...we thought he was just "pitching a fit."  We were surprised to hear that a caregiver always slept in the room with the children...not that it was a bad thing...just a surprise...no wonder he always wanted us to stay. She said he would beg the worker not to leave him even though they never left. Basically everything we were doing to give him comfort were the very things he feared. Send in the nomination. GQ Parents want to learn from the best. Mark it down...you knew me when...

The next night we had a sweet time skyping with Bekah Jie Jie! The kids weren't sure what to do at first with seeing their old friend and hearing Chinese again! It was so cute...the silence lasted all of 3.2 seconds...then the jabbering began. Loved seeing them rattle on and on about everything that's been happening at their new home. Zane told her all about his doctor visit and how he was brave, but Zoe cried...not true...brother bullying has already begun. He told about our dog and how he likes him but is still a little scared of him. They compared pandas with Bekah. He likes his new house and room. He said he got an "owie" on the trampoline, and he loves his mommy, daddy, brothers, and sisters. That's about it...but it's a good start.

I'm SO grateful I reached out to Rebekah on behalf on our kiddos...so grateful for FB and Skype providing real-time overseas communication...so utterly thankful for a forgiving and compassionate Father who fills in the gaps over and over again with His forgetful and self-absorbed daughter.

And if I'm being completely transparent...and at this point, why not...I'm immensely thankful that door swings open every day at 3:42:24 with reinforcements. :)







"We don't want to lose this window..."

It seems as though our little princess has a new lease on life...and I guess from a practical standpoint, she does!

Zoe went from laying in my arms most of the day to running away from her big brother, Bryce...laughing and screaming all the way. Mostly we do the same snatch and run scenario all day long...she steals the remote from him while he pretends to not see her...he "notices" and starts trying to get it back. Too bad I can't show you some of the great videos we've captured...but that would take someone far more tech-savvy than I...so you'll have to use your imagination. I'm so thankful that our big kids are fully engaging with our little ones...it's making a huge difference during this transition time.

Anyway, I wanted to give you a quick update on little Z. Dr. Edens wanted us to drop in and see him while we were already up at the U this past Monday for Zane. She is back up to 20 lbs., and her sats were 81...woo hoo! (It was pretty funny to see the nurse's reaction when I shouted that exact phrase...because they'd typically be hospitalizing a patient for such low numbers...and then to watch her face when I said her number was 51 before the cath...shock and awe, baby...shock and awe.)

Dr E said she was looking really good...even the liver seemed to be getting back where it should be...which apparently is a good sign. :) He mentioned that he and the other "big wigs" have been chatting about Zoe, and they felt it best to move up her follow-up cath to 4 weeks instead of 8. "We don't want to miss this window of opportunity for surgery." This doesn't mean that it's a definite that the pressures will be low enough for her to have the surgery...just that they want to catch her little body on the "upswing" as opposed to the body leveling out and beginning to deteriorate again into heart failure. We've only put a small bandaid when a full body cast is needed. (That's my own interp...don't blame the medical profession.)

We had her 2nd cath scheduled for the last week in May...now it's been moved up to May 1st...the day after her 3rd birthday. This time we'll be able to fit everything in on 1 day and will likely not need to stay the night at all...let alone in the PICU. Super excited about that.

They've also scheduled us to meet with the surgical team the following Monday, May 6th, to discuss the cath, her status, and the plan of action...with surgery potentially being as soon as that same week. Selfishly, I'm praying they'll wait until the following week because my niece, Heather, is getting married that Saturday, and I've never missed any family member's wedding. This will also be the first...and likely only time this year...that I'll be able to see my family. Obviously, if it's what they deem necessary, we'll go with it...but like I said, selfishly, I'm hoping to spend the day with the Wagenschutz Circus! :) The twins would never be the same...

Incidentally, Zane weighed in at 27 lbs...so he's bulking up fast! Must be "cookin' with peanut oil"! If you don't get that reference, we should just probably end our friendship right here. No hard feelings. Just walk away...and we'll both be "happy, happy, happy!" 

Lastly, we've been concerned about Zoe these 
past few days. She's back to falling asleep at the drop of a hat, won't do anything all day, barely eats, and is just extra fussy. We've dropped the dairy for both kids because we've been told that it's pretty common for Asian kiddos to be lactose intolerant. We're hoping that helps to some degree, but the doc is pretty convinced she likely caught a viral bug of some sort. Great. We're back to quarantine.  

Regardless, we're praying for yet another miracle on May 1st.  We're also thankful, yet again, for the strength, faith, and endurance to face another day with our family of 8. I'm often startled to think..."Good grief...I have 6 kids...Duggars, we need to talk."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I should've known...

There is no "easy" button...I just should've known. 

"Zane should just need some plastic surgery to fix his ear and side cleft...that's it!" In case you're wondering, I really am that naive. 


I remember one time when my kids were much smaller, a sweet girl came up to me after church and asked if I had a few minutes to chat. I made the time as she stressed the urgency of the matter. She then went on to apologize for/explain why she'd been treating me badly, for snubbing me in the hallways, and for avoiding me the previous few months. I didn't know what to say...I just sat there until she finished. I accepted her apology, of course, but had to admit...I hadn't noticed. EEK! I'm apparently the most clueless person on the planet...as opposed to the gal that asked how my Chinese kids would know they were adopted! But listen...I grew up with all boys and a mom who was very private and didn't broadcast her woes or dislikes. You're going to have to hit me with a 2x4 if you want me to grasp your displeasure with me...if not, I'll just chalk up your mean look to some bad sushi! In addition, I won't tell you I'm fine if I'm not...so feel free not to ask. I guess we're even.


So imagine my shock when we got the letter detailing Zane's initial evaluation at the U. It showed the 2 appointments we expected with the ear guy and cleft doc, but it also included an amendment that read something like this, "These appointments may take much longer than anticipated. You should also plan to see the following doctors..."...and it listed many more that hadn't even been on my radar. Thanks Santa...apparently "somebody's" been on the naughty list.


Nevertheless, we pulled up our bootstraps and set off for another long day at the hospital. Boy, were they not lying...although you have to appreciate their thorough treatment of our little guy. They cover every base...and the ones they didn't cover will be calling us to set up an appointment next week. No joke. The only comical moment was when we'd been there for about 3 hours, had seen numerous specialists, and Chris said, "Are we almost finished?" Dude. We hadn't even seen the doctor we'd been scheduled to see first!


Zane was a champ though...outside of running up and down the halls yelling...in Chinese, mind you..."Barney's on!"...because he just wouldn't want anyone to miss it!!!  We thought he'd have a heart attack...because that's the only specialist he's not seeing...when Dora came on! Wow. He's all in...ya gotta love it!


We saw the dental dude first. Chris held him in his lap, facing him, and then laid him back onto the doc's knees. Through some pretty amazing charades by his oscar-winning mother, little man understood to open his mouth, stick out his tongue, and not bite the poor man given the task of fishing around inside his mouth. Win-win. Favorite moment: they gave both of the kids new toothbrushes. Zane used his for a fork/shovel for his pumpkin/chocolate chip muffin. Word.


The jaw lady...you're just going to have to forgive all the slang...I had to compartmentalize for my own sanity...so the jaw lady had interesting news. She said it wasn't as bad as she'd thought it would be but that surgery would definitely need to be done on his right jaw. This wasn't surprising to us, except that she said we might be able to get away with only one surgery...we were told it would be multiple...if we waited a while. If we did a surgery now, we would definitely be looking at several surgeries as he grew because the right side wouldn't grow along with the left. Better to wait for the left to just about be finished growing...then do the surgery to line everything back up. Clueless Wonder (that'd be me) was again shocked to hear that they'd have to take bone from his rib to rebuild the jaw. ICK...and UGH...and COOL...all rolled into a nice little nugget of joy.


They also had us go to a hearing specialist which Chris said was a joke. Picture it. Daddy, holding Zane, the Chinese escape artist, while they test his hearing. "Ok Zane, when you hear 3 clicks, press your button." Yea...sure...no problem. He's CHINESE...we're currently working on "More" and "All done." Next.


The speech therapist was able to get a little bit more down on paper as all he was looking for was consonant sounds. Go ahead, Mr. Zane, jabber away while this nice man tries to write down every sound you make...in the Chinese language. At least they had a picture book so we could point to the house, for instance, and say "house"...Zane would repeat the word...the doc would make a note. Unless Zane knew how to explain the pic in Chinese...then we were out of luck. We did have a few laughs though...that counts for something.


They even took pictures of little man...even that was not without its humor...warped humor...but still humor.


The cleft doc was the longest appointment as we talked through every possibility, both problem and procedure. I'll try to highlight. She thinks she can fix the side cleft, no problem, closing up that side of the mouth to match the other, with a small "z" shaped scar that would mirror the crease of the mouth. She thought it best to wait 6 months or so, just to give us some more bonding time...and there's no need to rush. We talked about the jaw some more and the benefits to waiting on that surgery too. They were all very intrigued that Zane seems to have an ear canal leading down to the ear "nub"...they're just not sure where it's coming from...ear drum or dead space. They'd have to do some imaging to decipher all that's going on there, but Zane has to be sedated to do that. With over an hour-long testing to his face and head, there's just no possibility of him remaining calm and still without it. The doctor is also concerned about causing him any unnecessary pain as they fish around in there as well as avoiding any further damage to what seems to be a damaged nerve on the right side of his face.


The doc also wants us to see a neuro guy due to the malformation of Zane's skull. It's not super noticeable at first glance but had immediately caused concern the first time we felt it. They also recommend we see a geneticist because they are thinking he has some sort of genetic disorder that would've caused all these things to the right side of his body. In addition to the obvious, his eye, nose, and cheek are also affected. Don't ask me what it's called. I only remember McDonald's. Whatever it is sounded like "golden arches"...McDonald's. That's all I've got. Anyway, it would behoove us to know if this is the cause...not because it would alter his treatment now in any way...but so we would be familiar with the cause and likely progression of the disorder. Regardless, we shall have to wait for those new doctors to call us to schedule.


Lastly, we saw the ear doc...the one we thought would be the only one we'd need! Psych.


We were in and out of this visit so quick our head was spinning...but it was still a good visit. He explained to us that he was the last step in this whole surgical rotation...which was surprising to me initially, although it's understandable. We also found out that the nub of skin on Zane's right side actually has quite the potential for reconstruction. He even has that "well" just above the ear lobe...so they wouldn't need as much bone from the rib...again. Good news. They still don't know what's happening in there to even know whether he has any hearing on that side...or if it's even a possibility...which is another reason for the imaging I mentioned earlier. It was surprising to hear that he'd want to wait as long as possible...typically until around age 8...to do the ear surgery. Dr. Henstrom explained they wanted to wait until the left ear was basically fully grown...which usually is around 8...so they could shape the new ear to match the left one. Fascinating stuff.


There you have it. The specialists we didn't see that day will likely be on our next rotation, including therapy...for the mother. 


Update on Little Miss tomorrow...stay tuned.




Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Things that make me smile

You'll have to just take me at my word on this...it's been one of those days...the past 3 days.  So I thought I'd remind myself of some of the funnier moments these past couple weeks...you might as well listen in.

{I probably shouldn't bring up the time the anesthesiologist thought Renee and I were a "couple," but I have to remind you of that incredibly awkward moment to lay the foundation for this comment. We gathered two different times with our friends and family that weekend due to Peyton's birthday and Easter. It seems like every time we were together, someone would bring it up in the conversation...including myself when Chris was being particularly annoying to his sweet, innocent wife...I may or may not have said that I was gonna have "my wife" smack him for me! I SAID MAY NOT too...calm down! So if you're offended, go with "may not." Regardless, the best comment was handed to me on a silver platter...in the midst of yet another group chuckle, one of my older children piped up with, "But how would he think you two could have an ASIAN baby anyway?!?"

Silence. Full gut laughter. Younger children saying, "Why is that funny???" Now double over and hold your breath laughter. That was our moment. I know...highly inappropriate...send complaint letters to the sleep fairy who hasn't visited our home in quite some time...even though I've written some amazing notes. Maybe this is why Chris is trying to work his schedule out to go with us for the next heart cath...settle the rumors and all.}  Ok..moving on...

[As you know, we're under strict orders to limit our visitors to the house...along with limiting our adventures out of the house...just to try and give the kiddos some stability, as well as limit their confusion about who's actually part of their family. Throw in the risk of catching a bug of any kind for Zoe, and we've seen very few unfamiliar faces. However, shortly after we returned home from China, I got into a conversation with someone...honestly I can't remember who it was at this point...so your identity is sealed...we were just talking through some of the adoption particulars.

At one point, the gal said, "So will you tell them they're adopted when they get older?" Even as I type that, I've got a little giggle going on here. No joke. I just sat there staring at the most clueless human being that's ever walked the earth. HAHAHA. That's awful...I know...shame on me. Holding back some of the best one-liners I've ever heard (in my head, of course), I just replied, "I'm pretty sure they'll figure it out on their own"...which I thought would make the gods of sarcasm proud...except I got no response...just crickets. Then a fatal..."How?" I'm sorry, but I just burst out laughing. Couldn't help it. How will my children ever stop being sarcastic and making fun of each other if I'm the example?!? But c'mon people?!? They're CHINESE!!!]

<As you know, I began referring to our Chinese kiddos as "the twins" before we went over to China. They'll share a room, be in the same grade due to birthdays/school cut-offs, and let's just get this on the table...they'll sure look like twins in our family! So how ironic...or just plain comical...that God would indeed give me twins, for all practical purposes?!? They have to have matching everything...they have to do everything at the same time...they don't like me to carry one, if not the other...my lap just isn't big enough (well, not yet...it will be soon, considering all the sweets I've been throwing down)...if one is in a different room, you hear about it...loudly. Funny, God...real funny. For some reason, the popular parenting phrase, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit!" keeps rolling around in my head.>

~I've realized, much to my joy, that I could really have some fun with the Chinese language. I've learned a few phrases/words here and there...very few...but enough to use when necessary. It's also pretty funny to hear Zane and Zoe combining English and Chinese as they interact with us. For example, I'd bought Zoe some jammies that said, "I love Mom!" on them. When I first told her what they said, she kept repeating it and smiling with raptured joy at the saint of a mother God had given her. :) But once she started feeling better, she would shout, as she threw her head back in laughter, "Bai Yow I love Momma!" (I'm sure I spelled that wrong but humor me.) Since we heard it non-stop those first couple days in China, we knew the first part meant, "I don't want!" Yea..."I don't want to say 'I love Momma'!" Fantastic. I've already created another little smart aleck Carr kid. Yippee for me! :) Anyway, we have found ourselves mixing phrases just like the kids are doing...using some Chinese to get their attention, then switching to English when we don't know the right words. Even singing 'Jesus Loves Me' involves Chinese words until you unmistakably hear, "...the Bible tells me so."

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when we were in the hospital for Zoe's heart cath...Renee was sitting with Zoe so I could make a bathroom run. When I got back, she sent me on a mission to find some graham crackers for the princess...as she had finished her last pack, heaven forbid.  I went, I saw, I conquered...although it took me some time...I'm not the girl to send scouring through the PICU to find anything, trust me! When I finally burst in the room, I threw up my hands and exclaimed, "TA-DA!" I thought that was pretty self-explanatory, but Renee responded, "Oh...is that the word for cracker?" Ummm...nope...just ta-da! Look what I found! Here it is! Are you serious? Am I on Candid Camera?!? I don't speak "doctor" lingo...but I've got this toddler thing down! Needless to say, that little episode gave me quite a few laughs as I teased Renee mercilessly afterward. You'd think I'd be sweet to her after all she's done for us throughout this adoption/medical journey...nope...sorry...I'm not that girl. :) I continued to say English words to her and then would say, "That's 'noodles' in Chinese..." and so on...~

It was awesome. :) Yes, I'm easily amused. Yes, it's usually at the cost of someone else's mistake. No wonder my kids are so whacked out.

Ah well...back to reality...thanks for sharing these few giggles with me! Next post will be about our day of docs for Mr. Zane this time. Let the fun begin. (Renee...that means "go put your head in the freezer" in Chinese.) Until next time...




Thursday, April 4, 2013

Things I'm Thankful for Today...other days too, but I forgot to mention it before!

I've once again failed to let you in on/remind you of some more gratitude moments over this past week...so here goes... :)

1)  I told you that Zoe's oxygen went from 52 to 82 almost immediately following the balloon procedure...and that her pressures went down from a dangerous 5 to a 2.5! This was the news I shared that was shocking the doctors.  What I also failed to mention was what they found in the repeated echo.  It bears mentioning that the follow-up echo was remarkably better than the first. She just laid there...only getting mildly upset when we had to take away her fluffy pillow...yea, my kid for sure. Because she laid there so well, we were able to get a much better picture of what's going on in her little ticker...well it's actually a big ticker...but you get the point.  Dr. Eden came back with good news! The heart seems to functioning much better than when we first arrived in the states...this would be the overall pumping capacity...WOO HOO! AAAAND...the valve that was basically "pouring" instead of moderating it's flow...it was leaking significantly less than prior to the balloon procedure!!! DOUBLE BONUS!

2)  Hope this doesn't sound too morbid to anyone, but I'm so grateful nothing bad happened with Zoe last Thursday. It was Peyton's birthday, as you know, and I'm just so glad Zoe pulled through on that day of all days...so Peyton wouldn't have a lingering sadness associated with her day. Obviously, we are thrilled for Zoe's sake, too...but we have 5 other children as well...who are no less valuable than Zoe, just because she has critical needs. Interestingly enough, I mentioned this concern to the doctor on Thursday as we waited for results...it was one of the first things Peyton talked about with me once we returned home. 

3)  It is yet another unbelievable miracle to see Zoe running...in her own "hobble like a new walker" way...through the house...laughing. She loves stealing stuff from her big brother Bryce so he will yell, "HEY!" and start trying to get her. She has the best screaming/cackling laugh!!! It leaves you both concerned and overjoyed all at the same time...but mostly thrilled! She's having a blast but to the kids, it seems like she's holding her breath while she's cracking up! (FYI: she's not holding her breath so don't be calling the docs on me!!! We spend enough time with them.  Pretty sure we'll be spending Christmas together.)

4)  After getting complete clearance from Dr. Edens, we were all able to spend Easter together at Harmony Bible Church...so refreshing and uplifting to be back with our church family who have walked every step of this journey right along with us...and prayed Zoe right through this moment. We love all of you! We had a built-in exit strategy for Zane, but he did great! Not a peep! Uncle Steve (my awesome brother who came to visit this past weekend) defended the north of the pew...Bryce held strong at the south. Short of tapping a poor boy seated in front of us...multiple times...he was golden. Zoe just sat on my lap eating cookies and answering all the questions on the kids handout! :) Everyone in the church was so gracious and understanding...allowing us to slip in and out of the service without doing a meet and greet with our sickness/infection-avoiding kiddos.  Hopefully soon, you'll see both Zane and Zoe skipping through the church on their way to class!

5)  I had taken the time to schedule some family pictures right after we got home.  Our friend, Brandy, came to the house and improvised a small studio in our living room! It was comical, at best...you don't want to know what the worst would be. If you would...too bad...and you're a meanie. Brandy was incredibly patient with our family of 8!  Regardless, imagine my surprise when we got the picture file yesterday, and the pictures are so sweet! I'd still like to have fixed my hair more and such...blah blah blah...but I'm so grateful we have these. The candids are my favorite. I'll try to get some to share with the world soon.

6)  Renee once again stepped in and saved the day...offering to host a small birthday party for Peyton. (Well...she graciously agreed to my bold request...3 days prior!) We've been very careful to guard our guest intake at the house as it's too confusing initially for Zane and Zoe to have people coming and going. (My brother even stayed at a hotel to help in this situation.)  The girls swam, competed in the Amazing Race (thanks to Jodi Yaley who put it all together), and ate all sorts of yumminess! The Z's took their naps in some pack 'n' plays after they surprisingly donned swim diapers and life vests so they could play with a bucket of water and squirt guns near the pool. Everybody had a great time.  

7)  We also shared Easter lunch with the extended Davis clan and their "adopted" football players from Iowa Wesleyan and the Helton crew from Indiana...pretty sure there were 27 in all...Renee is Super Woman, I tell you. All 17 kids had an Easter egg hunt...even had to find their baskets, that contained all sorts of goodies! Important note: Steve Davis could be the National Egg Hider...I'm sure there's a position for that...as my kids alone left 6 eggs unfound!  Impressive. Based on the way Zane was throwing down the jelly beans, we learned 2 things...he clearly had not had very much candy before...and we would need to be secret-service-level vigilant about how much he'd get in the future.

8)  When you're quarantined at home with 2 napping toddlers, no one will judge how many cookies or pieces of Dr. Pepper cake you eat...unless it's your kids who are looking for a snack.  It's the little things.

9)  Based on the way Zane and Zoe interact with our family, and new friends, and even strangers, they were clearly loved and nurtured at their home in China. I cannot express in words how overwhelmingly blessed they were. I've heard story after story about the difficulty adoptive families have while trying to love on their adopted kiddos. Our kids completely expect it because they're used to it. This has been such a tremendous blessing.

10)  When the day has been especially trying, God will remind me once again of the miracle it is that these 2 are sitting here at our table...that He has made them a part of our family...that He has allowed us to be a part of their stories.  It is a constant reminder that He has adopted us as His children...He's brought us into His family...He has allowed us to be part of His redemptive story. Dude.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Everybody loves a balloon

When we last met, our hero of the story was the balloon...well, not really...it was what God did with a balloon...but for the sake of today's visual aid, we will focus on the balloon. I obviously don't know what kind of balloon was inserted into Zoe's pulmonary artery...it's not like the doc came out and gave me some options to choose from, but I'd like to think there's a white one in there, with a big blue star in the middle...Go Cowboys!!! :) (Takes my mind off Jerry Jones and everything that's happened since he took over our team...guess I should be happy for Romo...maybe just not the Cowboys...sigh...) Anywho...for the sake of argument, just go ahead and picture your favorite kind, color, shape, and size. (I recognize I've now lost a portion of my ginormous audience by referencing the 'Boys...such is life.)

Now you're asking yourself, "How many tangents can this girl take?!?" Many, my friend...many. At any given time of day, I could easily have 7-10 different conversations going...the most repeated phrase in my vocabulary is, "Now what was I saying before you said that?" Wish I could say it was old age...

Balloon! We're back.  As I laid awake in the hospital room last Thursday night, I began to think about that balloon in Zoe's chest. It amazed me to think something so simple like a balloon could save a life...astounding. 

Incidentally, I had some procedures of my own done today up at the U...some even involved our hero of the day, Mr. Balloon! Let's just say, we won't be doing any visual aids for that story.  As a matter of fact, that'll be the last reference to it at all...many innocent balloons were harmed in the making of that film...just sayin'...but at least it did get me thinking back to our hero! Another side note, as I contemplated my own misery today, I thought of my hubby who was back home watching 5 of our kiddos while I was away doing fun stuff with doctors...wonder which of us was having a worse day! Come to find out, it may have been Daddy...as he was prepping to have some fun bath time, Zane shut and locked the bathroom door. Awesome. After a frantic and unsuccessful search for a screwdriver to remove the handle, Mr. Universe went all Chuck Norris on the door. Twins were just fine...door frame, not so much. Never a dull moment.

And we're back...balloon...stay focused, for Pete's sake. It hit me like a ton of bricks that my life was kind of like a balloon...not the small kind I had today that would kill an asthmatic...but the really stretchy kind...the kind that is able to be shaped into all sorts of exciting thing. I began to think of God as the ultimate balloon artist, so to speak. He is very familiar with the balloon...knows just how much air it can hold...knows just how to hold it so it won't accidentally pop...is able to twist and form the balloon into anything he chooses...even when it doesn't make sense what he's doing with all the initial twists and shaping, it always turns out just the way he designed it to be...so cool.

So the Father takes this flimsy balloon, and he stretches it this way and that to make sure it's ready to withstand the pressure He's about to insert. This isn't comfortable for the balloon, but it's necessary for sustained growth. 

Then He begins to blow...lightly at first...just a little air...a picture of a little girl who needs a family. It's ever so small a wind, but even then the balloon is unsure about what's happening. 

Another child...a boy...the cheeks fill with His sweet breath, and He blows again. It feels like it's too much, yet the force is strong...the grip on the neck of the balloon feels steady. 

As months go by, more air is added to the balloon...slowly...sometimes it feels as though no expansion is happening at all...sometimes it feels as though the artist is releasing some of that precious air, one burst at a time.  

Months of agonizing paperwork...He continues to blow...it feels as though it's too much air...but He knows there's way more possibilities for this balloon...He knows this balloon.  

He draws hard from the lungs and blows...emails and calls say she won't survive the winter...it's going to break! Stop!!! Don't blow it up anymore! What good is a broken balloon?!? But the artist knows...even when it seems like it will burst from the pressure, this balloon can stretch much further...and it must, in order to be the exact creation He's got planned.

He wets his lip and gives the balloon several short bursts of air in a row...phone call comes announcing a travel date, remodel isn't complete, needed surgery postponed...and still he blows. The balloon is shocked that it's not breaking...it feels like it's breaking...it feels like it might give way any minute...but the artist is holding tight so no air escapes.

As He blows long and deep, the expansion continues...she's too sick...you can't take them home...we think she had a heart attack...must get out sooner...blow, blow, blow...

The walls of the balloon are taunt...stretched any further, it surely will explode. Who could blame it...how much can one balloon take? Yet, it doesn't break...the artist designed it to withstand great pressure...as long as it's safely held in His hands.  A lost hope, a grim reality, a futile attempt to blow itself up or to simply give up all together. And yet, He blows. Doesn't He realize the balloon will burst at any second??? He must see that, but He seems to understand something the balloon doesn't. He saw the end result...even before He breathed that first breath. He knows exactly what He wants this balloon to look like...even when it's so confusing to the balloon itself. 

Every time the balloon relaxes itself in the artist hands, something beautiful and amazing happens. It's nothing like what the balloon thought it would be...it's so much better...so, so much better. At times, it really feels like it might break...any extra pressure might send the balloon flying from the artist's hand, all the air escaping as it flies aimlessly around the room...until it finally lands, completely void of any air at all. 

The pressure is great...His grip is greater. And the balloon expands, taking in the sweet air of the Creator...even though the stretching and expanding is uncomfortable, the artist knows exactly what to do to make the balloon be all He designed it to be. 

After a tremendous burst of breath, He ties it off...knowing that the shaping and structuring of the balloon is key...with each twist and turn, the balloon is really questioning this whole design thing...surely she could easily make a quick shape that would be just as good as the artist. But with the flash of His hand and a passion in His eye, He begins to shape the balloon to the image He'd had planned all along...never forcing the balloon to take the shape of His design...but continually guiding and shaping as the balloon submits to His skilled and graceful hands.

I'm a balloon...apparently I'm still expanding. May I be grateful to be in the hands of the master designer because He knows, above all else, how much pressure this balloon can stand...and what He'll do with this balloon once the pressure is complete. What a display we'll see on that day!!! Balloon bouquets at their finest!