Friday, November 18, 2011

Heart of Dixie

God granted me more blessings than most when he planted my roots into such a beautiful garden of a family. Each member embodys unique characteristics, but all together they are quite balanced and compliment each other. Members of both my mom and dad's sides are filled with such special and unique people. As I look back on my formitive years, each played a role in shaping my life. A few of the flowers in my garden have long stood out in particular.. tall and strong, like sunflowers, these members have set the bar high. My mom's father, my Papaw, has always been one of these figures for me and my sisters.

Although our military life meant growing up all over the world, our family roots were always deeply dug into the characteristic red clay of the Deep South. I have vivid memories of childhood visits to Alabama and Georgia... summers spent running in the fields of home grown veggies, chasing lightening bugs or hiding under the table while listening to older ladies playing bridge and drinking tea. Our life in Northwest Florida certainly mixes in some southern influence with the laid back "beach life" culture, but it is still quite in contrast to the rural "back home" we know exists only a few hours north of us. In recent years I have not been back as often to certain familiar settings that once felt like home. This week, however, my mother and I made a trip back up to the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama to see my grandparents after we got news that my Papaw suffered a stroke and was experiencing other life threatening turns in his health. It was a hard drive as we had such heavy hearts thinking about the impact my grandfather has made in all our lives and how greatly missed he will be when his time here on Earth is through. Yet, I feel some peace knowing how full his life has been and I can only hope he knows how much he is loved and appreciated.

During our stay, my mom was thankful to be there with her sister, her brother, and their parents - all under one roof. They have such beautiful memories and experiences, collectively bonding them together. It is just sad that sometimes it takes difficult circumstances to pull us back together. I was happy to hold my grandfather's hand and feel embraced by the love of their home. I am glad he decided to leave the hospital, stop the invasive procedures and just go home to where he feels comfortable and loved. He is certainly effected by the stroke and other health problems he is suffering but his general demeanor was quite himself during our stay. He could not form very many clear sentences but seemed receptively to understand most of what was being said to him. I was suprised when he was looking at pictures of my children and all of a sudden was able to clearly ask me about Samuel. It was like a cloud lifted for a moment and he had more control of his speech.

We had to return home late yesterday. As we began our drive back I decided to stop for a few pictures of my mom's small hometown and later to capture some of the roadside beauty found along the back roads of Alabama. My first pictures were outside the home of Helen Keller. Helen Keller's birthplace and childhood home is not far down the road from my grandparent's home where my mother grew up. I remember watching outdoor plays of the Helen Keller story portrayed behind the home. I never really thought much about the significance of that small town girl and how she overcame the great personal challenges of her disabilties while inspiring others. I know the significance was not lost on my mother as we pulled up and she pointed out the well where Helen first learned from her teacher how to say the word for water. It made me further thankful for the services and therapy that Samuel has been able to receive. In many ways, this small town Alabama child's life played quite a role in why those services are more readily available now and why there is hope for a quality of life for all children.

Driving home, I was amazed to see so much cotton growing. It is November, afterall and was 34 degrees when we first got on the road after stopping halfway for the night. To glance quickly out the car window at these fields you would think you were seeing snow.. I guess that is about as close as I am going get to snow this year.

Views from Tuscumbia and on the way home..

Overall, I left a big piece of my heart in Dixie today. I am especially thankful for the family up in that area who are always so supportive of my grandparents. I am praying for continued faith and peace for my grandparents while taking life one day at a time. I am also praying for healing for Sam as he is getting over yet another bad double ear, sinus and eye infection. I look forward to Thanksgiving this coming week. We have much to be thankful for this year.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Halloween 2011

We had a fun Halloween week this year. It was packed with school, church and neighborhood activities! Here are some of the highlights:

Ladybug, Ladybug.. Fly Away Home..

Literacy Day and 50's Day gave the children a chance to dress up..

DUCK, DUCK.. GOOSE! This little duckie was content to watch from the sidelines..

Some Create-A-Costume Fun:
Preschool Moms going as shapes gave Halloween an educational angle...

Trunk or Treating
Almost more fun for those handing out treats and decorating their cars..

We hosted a Pre-Trick or Treating Open House for our friends:

And Finally..Our Dorothy, Black Cat and little Duckie hit the streets for some loot..

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Abundant Harvest

October has been overflowing with activity. After Sam's appointments in Atlanta, we made it home just in time to attend a little boy's first birthday party. This was Sam's first playdate, actually. It was my friend's son who was turning 1 and everything was done in a rubber duckie theme. It was nice that there were not tons of children at this friends and family party, as Sam was wide-eyed and overwhelmed just watching the kids playing around the room. It was so nice to see him interacting with children closer to his own age. (rare for us as we are so careful about exposing him to illness or stress.)

It was such a fun party! His mom had planned out every tiny duckie detail right down to a live duck encounter on the back porch. Although it was hard for me to digest how much smaller and less developed Sam is than most of these children (and most were at least 6-9 months younger), I realized how much of his behaviors are also the same. He loved watching the duck and could not get enough of the bubbles flying through the air. He was excited about trying out other types of toys. He was incredibly tired after the party, but overall this was an experience I will not forget. It helped break the ice for me to start planning more playdates in the future. He can learn alot from peers his own age and I think he had a really great time.

The next big part to our October month was a high risk appointment for me with the perinatalogist in Pensacola. They do show that there is some fluid in the kidneys and it is considered hydronephrosis but apparently this is the most common abnormality for an ultrasound to show and it usually remedies itself before delivery, especially with boys. They were not overly concerned. There are cases of it being a sign of something more concerning that might require surgery or indicate a larger problem but they have said this does not seem likely in my case. SO.. for now we wait and watch. He is otherwise looking great on the ultrasounds and moving alot.

Not fully knowing the origin of things for Sammy makes it hard to know anything for worrying about this baby. I hope the fluid in the kidneys turns out to be nothing and I know it was made all the more concerning to me just because of what we have experienced with Samuel. The next decision will have to be about whether we feel comfortable delivering here locally, knowing how we feel about the NICU's decision-making on Sam's case. I think it will come down to whether we see other signs or reasons to believe this baby could have a difficult delivery. For now things are going fine.

In the last couple weeks, Sofie had an ear infection and Sam fought some kind of illness all his own... but he got through it. He has had a few more brady events than usual but overall he has done well. We are noticing much more sleeping in a 24 hour period and I am not sure whether to attribute that to the efforts we are making on so many developmental levels or if it is something new. His nurse thinks we need another sleep study as we have been advises many times in the past. They can't do it locally so I guess I have put it off out of inconvenience but apparently one day she was watching his heart rates and sats closer than usual following a few events, when she noticed a trend of oxygen saturation drops and rises in his sleep. The mito Drs wanted us to change our 02 protocol to delivering aid if he is below 95% whereas we had used 91% before. The problem is that he tends to fight the cannula dropping his sats more in the process out of anger so, is it really worthwhile? This is something we need to consider.

I will have to post about Halloween in another post as it is getting rather late, but I do want to share some cute pictures of the kids at the local pumpkin patch choosing out their pumpkins. Sam slept all day in prep for this hour long activity and was left quite exhausted, ruining his Physical Therapy session later that day, but it was so wonderful to watch my kiddos enjoying the beautiful cool fall weather surrounding this abundant harvest of pumpkins. A year ago I would never have believed Sam would have been able to sit and stand amongst all the pumpkins. Thank you, Lord for this day.

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24