Monday, June 30, 2008

Update #5 on Erin

Erin had a rough night last night. Her heart rate dropped really low so the nurse put a heart monitor on her. It still was not back up to normal this morning so a cardiologist has been called in to examine her. Because of the heart issues, her doctor has ordered her to remain on the IV until they can figure out what's causing her heart rate to keep dropping. So, it doesn't look like she'll be leaving tomorrow or Wednesday after all, which is both good and bad. Good because we still don't know what's wrong with her and bad because she was looking forward to getting back to normal.

This heart issue has me worried. I talked to Erin last night on the phone and her spirits were up and other than her weak voice, she sounded like herself. This morning when I called she sounded worn out and a little depressed. I think being cooped up in the hospital is beginning to take its toll on her, especially since she didn't get to see Kaylee yesterday and wasn't sure what testing she was going to have done today. Hopefully Paul and/or Beth will bring Kaylee up to see her today. She said Kaylee was all smiles on Saturday when she saw Erin, and it really brightened her mood. I am just scared that something is terribly wrong with her and no one has figured it out. Just when it seems her situation is progressing, this happens and we're back to square one, only heart issues are more severe.

I beg you to keep praying as it is difficult for me to remain positive on the phone when all I really want to do is see her. I keep asking my mom to take a picture of her and email me, but she keeps "forgetting" her camera. Like I said, I have a feeling my mom isn't being totally honest with me because she doesn't want me to worry more than I am, but I can't help it.

*I am thankful the nurses routinely check vital signs, even through the night when patients are sleeping, and told the doctor of her findings. I am thankful that I can go to the Lord in prayer on behalf of Erin, and that He knows what's wrong with her and if/when she'll get better. I am thankful that the Lord is in control of this ENTIRE situation (from Kaylee to Paul to my mom to everyone caring for Erin). I am thankful for my bible to remind me of those truths.*

Update #1
Update #2
Update #3
Update #4

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update #4 on Erin

Erin is doing okay. She went off the intravenous steroid and started an oral steroid yesterday for her lupus (although she hasn’t officially received a diagnosis, they are treating it as such). So far she can’t really tell a difference but it’s probably because the stronger intravenous steroid is still in her blood system.

She also began physical and occupational therapy on Friday. She has lost so much weight (about 15 pounds) from a combination of not eating or exercising her major muscle groups and just laying in bed. My mom walks with her when she comes to visit to try to strengthen her muscles and lungs, but Erin is so weak that she has to stop to rest often. She can only make it a distance of about 7 feet before she has to stop, and only gets about 30 feet before she has to turn around and go back to her bed.

Paul, her husband, flew in from Iraq today so he came to see her for about 3 hours. She was excited to see him and he’ll be able to stay for 2 weeks. Erin got the okay to see Kaylee on Friday but Paul’s mom (Beth) doesn’t drive and doesn’t have a license so poor Erin had to wait until yesterday. She was so depressed on Friday after receiving the good news that she could see Kaylee, but Beth and Paul’s dad had already picked up Kaylee from my mom and Beth didn’t have a ride to the hospital. My mom was upset because if Kaylee was still with her, she would have brought her up as soon as Erin called to tell her the news. Regardless, Erin got to hold her a little bit (she is very weak so it was hard for her to hold the wiggle worm!) but at least she got to see her. Erin said she looks like she’s gained 5 pounds, but I think that’s because Erin hasn’t seen her in a week.

The doctor did not come in at all yesterday but tonight he told Erin she was going off the IV tomorrow. He wants to see how well she eats/drinks on her own. If she does okay, the earliest she’ll be released is Tuesday, but probably Wednesday. She needs to regain some strength. Even her voice sounds weak, and with my bad hearing, we’ve had a time trying to talk to each other. I know she gets annoyed with me always saying “What?”, but that’s par for the course with me! :0

I received some more emails this weekend and I thank you for your support and prayers. My friend Chelsea is going to hopefully get up to the hospital for a visit. Chelsea, let me know how she looks. I have a feeling my mom is not being 100% honest with me so I don’t worry too much!

That’s the latest update. Pray Erin regains some strength, eats some food, and does well on the oral steroid. Also pray the results would come in from all of her blood tests, biopsies, and scans so we can get some more definitive answers. The not knowing has been more difficult to handle because the doctors don’t really know what to treat for.

*I am thankful for friends who care for me and my family as much as their own. I am more thankful for the friendship of one particular person over the last 15 years (you know who you are!) and for her love of Christ. I saw Jesus in her, and I hope others see Jesus in me as a result.*

Update #1
Update #2
Update #3

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Update #3 on Erin

Sorry for not updating sooner but I really had no news to share until last night when I spoke to my mom.

Erin is still about the same. While my mom was visiting yesterday, the internal medicine doctor (who is overseeing the entire team of doctors caring for Erin) came in to say he was releasing the infectious disease doctors and adding an oncologist. He does not believe Erin has cancer of any type, but he wanted some tests run to simply rule it out. Makes sense and we (my mom, sis, and I) feel better knowing that EVERY possible test has been done to figure out what’s wrong with her.

So, more biopsies this morning of her lymph nodes (when she had the CT scan the other day, they found some that were enlarged but still within the “normal” range) and more waiting for results. However, the rheumatologist (specializes in Rheumatoid Arthritis) came in last night and said he is about 75% sure Erin has lupus. The preliminary tests all point in that direction, but again, more blood tests are needed and hence, more waiting for results. In the meantime, she was put back on a steroid and today her fever is gone.

That is the latest news on her. Kaylee is taking a bottle well and has been sleeping through the night. She is going to visit with her other grandparents over the weekend so hopefully her routine won’t be too jolted by being in a different environment.

Again, thank you for the prayers and emails (sorry I haven't responded personally to each of them, but I do appreciate them)! Please continue to pray, especially as we are so close to finally knowing what is causing the fevers.

Update #1
Update #2

Scholarship Luncheon

My luncheon was awesome. It was held at a private banquet room located inside the State fairgrounds in Columbia. From the moment TJ, Th, and I walked into the building, we were treated like royalty, and although it was nice, I was very embarrassed by it. I do not like to be in the spot light and felt very uncomfortable. We were given name tags (Th felt so grown up writing his own name tag!) and immediately escorted to meet Senator Hayes, Radio, and Coach Jones (of the hit movie, Radio).

We mingled a bit, found our seats at our reserved table with Senator Hayes (which were right up front!), and the program began. Radio gave the blessing and we were ushered out the door to the buffet line. The food was wonderful, but unfortunately I don’t know what we ate other than the “basic” names- mixed veggies, baked chicken, squash casserole, potato salad, beef tips, dinner rolls, and of course dessert. I chose the chocolate cake (chocolate, of course!) and Th had a piece of pie. I don’t know what TJ ate because Th sat between us and I was talking to the Senator and the Executive Director of my county’s Board of Disabilities for most of the meal. Thankfully TJ attended with me to help with Th. TJ also sat next to another Senator, Marion Carnell, and they talked for quite a bit.

After eating, the presentations began. There was another member of the SC House of Representatives in attendance, and he awarded a scholarship to someone from his district. Then it was Senator Hayes’ turn to introduce me, and I had to go up. I avoided making a speech by not going by the microphone and simply shook the Senator’s hand for a picture.

As much as I know what was said is true, the entire time I just felt like I didn’t deserve any of it- the luncheon, the recognition, the money. Basically, Senator Hayes contacted my university because he wanted to award a scholarship to someone in the field of human services (A.K.A. Special Education). I do not know who recommended me (although it’s been driving me crazy!), but someone on faculty nominated me and I was selected. I do not know who I was up against or why I won, but I do know that this scholarship is a blessing from God. Back to the nomination- whoever nominated me knows my background- the many years of coaching Special Olympics (4 years in Ohio and another 4 years in California), and of my starting the aquatics program in California. Not that I had forgotten any of it, but since moving here, where there is no aquatics program, Special Olympics has only been a fond memory for both TJ and I.

At the luncheon, the Exec. Director of the Board of Disabilities (initials M.P.) wants me (and of course TJ!) to start an aquatics program in our county. I am more than willing, and definitely excited, especially as I will be finishing school next May and need something to do with my time since I won’t be studying! LOL! TJ and I have always said that we want our children to give back to their communities, and Special Olympics is one way for them to do so. They can come with us to practices and swim meets, especially Th. I told her we are more than willing, we just need the city (and county) to support us. I am not one to give up when faced with a road block, but at the same time, I am not as zealous as I once was. How sad- I can’t believe I just wrote that! Shame on me! If I am not willing to fight for those with disabilities, then I have obviously chosen the wrong career! Scratch that last statement and let me rephrase- at the present time, I do not have the time needed to fight city and county leaders. However, in the spring time I will, but hopefully it won’t come to that (although I have plenty of experience from my time in California). M.P. is going to be contacting me after she talks to some people she knows involved with Special Olympics. We’ll see what happens. I sort of felt like that part of my life was over, but who knows, maybe I was simply on a sabbatical while I finished school and God is resurrecting it after all. I hope so, especially after this luncheon because so many fond memories were brought back to my mind, sharing stories and telling the ways TJ and I literally started the program from the ground up. Plus, we keep in contact with 3 families that were involved with the team, and it’s still going strong today, nearly 10 years later. Because of our hard work, determination, and God’s blessing, there are athletes involved today that we never met and probably never will, but we have greatly influenced their lives for the better. That is truly a success story, and I am very proud of the impact we had on that community and the legacy we left behind!

Radio and Coach Jones were the guest speakers, and they spoke after I was presented with my scholarship. Radio talked about his relationship with Coach Jones today, and Coach Jones talked about how he first met Radio and how their relationship has evolved. I was touched because he kept saying it was a part of God’s plan, although he didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was using him to break boundaries and stigmas for people with disabilities. He also explained how the movie came about, and it was such an honor and privilege to meet them both. As an aside, our pastor grew up in the same town, and Coach Jones was his football coach at one time. It was so neat to meet them and I was greatly encouraged by both of them.

The luncheon ended shortly after that and we took some pictures with Senator Hayes and of course Radio and Coach Jones.

Us and Senator Wes Hayes


Us with Radio and Coach Jones

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Update #2 on Erin

Erin is about the same. Still running a high fever despite being on a different antibiotic. She had her biopsy taken from two different places on her arm and has stitches at both places. She said they don't hurt but she's been on Tylenol for her fever so I think that may be masking some of the pain. She also had a CT scan done last night and received the results today. Thankfully my mom was there when the doctor came in so she could ask questions.

Everything on the scan looked good (mainly her lymph nodes were checked to rule out lymphoma) but he saw that her lungs are beginning to collapse from the bottom up because they are not filling to capacity. The doctor explained that when a person breaths while standing and walking around, the lungs are able to fully expand. But, when a person is sitting or laying for extended amounts of time, the lungs cannot get as much air as needed and carbon dioxide builds up. So, Erin will now be placed on oxygen while she is in her room in order to replace the carbon dioxide. It won't be continuous, but rather she has to do 10 breathing treatments per day.

The doctor also said they are waiting for the doctor where she lives to fax them information from her chart, and not to expect the results of any of the tests they performed yesterday until Thursday or Friday at the earliest. In the meantime she is to rest in her room.

The Red Cross was notified and the paperwork has been approved for her husband Paul to come from Iraq to be with Erin. He was able to phone her room last night and she told him not to come until the doctors at least know what's wrong with her, which I think was a smart move. We are praying whatever is wrong is something simple and once the doctors figure it out, it can be easily treated. Plus, I know if Paul does come home, it will be harder for the both of them when he has to leave again.

That's the latest news on Erin. I appreciate the prayers and emails I have received. Please continue to pray and I will continue to update.

Update #1

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I had my scholarship luncheon today but I will post about that at a later time. I am still fighting my cold and I feel like I have been hit in the head by a truck. I am heading to bed!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

Erin, my sis, has been running a fever of 103 or higher since mid-May. She has gone to a doctor close to her home (NOT a military doctor- a private physician) several times, has had some testing done (i.e. an ultrasound on her kidneys and liver and other blood work) and has had no relief. She is weak and very tired. This past Friday my mom flew down to drive Erin and Kaylee back to Ohio so Erin could have help with the baby. Sunday morning she was so weak she could barely lift her head off the pillow. My mom took her temperature and her fever was 104, so my mom rushed her to the hospital.

Because of her low blood pressure and high fever, she was seen immediately in the Emergency Room and was admitted to the Critical Care Unit (CCU) last night. At first she was going to be admitted to the ICU but because her blood pressure stabilized, they moved her up one level. She was given fluids for dehydration and an antibiotic to help reduce the fever. She was doing better until about 10pm when her eyes started swelling. They are still swollen today, and the doctor thinks it is a reaction to the antibiotic. She was taken off the antibiotic and the fever returned. She ran a high fever all night.

Since she is in the CCU, she has been unable to see, hold, or feed Kaylee. This has been very difficult for both of them, and also my dad and brother (who have been babysitting!). Like T.G., Kaylee refuses to take a bottle and cries for her mommy. My mom said Kaylee finally drank a little bit of formula this afternoon, but this is the first she has really eaten since Sunday morning. Erin is very worried about Kaylee (of course!), and found it difficult to sleep last night. I, too, found it difficult to sleep because I know what my mom and everyone else is going through with the bottle issues! I am just thankful Kaylee finally took a little bit of formula today.

My sis will be in the hospital indefinitely. Along with the fever, she has a rash that started on her chest and has since spread to her arms and legs. A dermatologist came in this morning to look at it, and will be back sometime today to do a biopsy. Erin was told that it would be like a pin-prick, but my mom said the doctor decided to actually cut part of the rash out to look under the microscope. This will be very painful and require stitches to heal. She has had X-rays, blood tests, and an MRI performed so far in search of a diagnosis. An infectious disease doctor also came in to ask some questions and examine her, so hopefully she will find out the cause of her ailments soon. No one has really said anything.

My mom (and Erin and I) are upset that her primary care doctor (at home) that she has been seeing has not taken her high fevers seriously, but that is another story. For now, please pray for some answers as well as for strength for Kaylee as she is away from Erin, my mom as she cares for Kaylee and my sis at the hospital, and my dad and my brother as they help with babysitting. I wish I could go and help them, but I can’t, so also pray for my anxiety to lessen with being so far away.

I will update more as I find out more.


*I am thankful that my mom was insistent on bringing Erin back to Ohio rather than leaving her alone to care for Kaylee. I am thankful for the hospital staff who is caring for her, and I am thankful for the opportunity to go to the Lord in prayer on behalf of Erin.*

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Life in General

I added some new links to my blog list. I've been reading them for a while, just haven't added them until now. Check them out when you can!
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Not much going on here. I'm sick, along with Ta and T.G. We went to Carowinds on Friday, a birthday party yesterday, and spent the afternoon hanging a chalkboard that TJ made me for my birthday. Yes, my birthday is in January. Yes, he finished it in June, only 5 months later. He still needs to build a frame around it and we joked that the frame will be my anniversary gift. . . next year.

The kids and I are doing some fun things this week. Tuesday is my luncheon with the senator. I am excited yet nervous, especially because I am battling a cold. TJ is coming with me, and I decided to bring Th with us, too. This is a rare opportunity and I want him to experience it with us. I have a sitter coming to stay the day with Ta and T.G. I am nervous because I have to get up in front of a bunch of people I don't know to accept the scholarship, and I have to say a few words of thanks. TJ has been joking that I need to prepare a speech just in case, but when I asked the senator's secretary, she just said a "few words" would be fine.

Wednesday we are going to our local county museum for lunch and a hands-on presentation of African music. The kids will get to make their own musical instruments to bring home. There are other exhibits at the museum, and a nature walk that we will go on after lunch.

We are also going to see a movie on Thursday. Th has only been to the movie theater once, and Ta has never gone. I have a sitter coming to stay with T.G., and Th's friend is joining us at the theater. The local cinema does a summer movie program where admission is free and popcorn and drinks only cost $1. I figure even if the kids don't sit through the entire movie, I'm not out a ton of money.

On another subject, I have to share this funny story. With all of our children, TJ and I had names picked out before we even knew what we were having. However, that is not the case with this one! We just cannot agree on anything, and it is beginning to affect our neighbors and children. My neighbor suggested the name Toucan Sam (boy) or Toucan Samantha (girl). Here's Ta's suggestion:

Ta: Mommy, what we are going to name the new baby?

Me: I don't know, honey.

Ta: How about Taco?

Me: Taco? That's different. You like Taco?

Ta: Yes. I really want the new baby's name to be Taco.

I was surprised that he understood the whole 'T' theme at the age of 3. I laughed so hard, and he is adamant on naming the baby Taco. He's going to be so disappointed!

*I'm thankful I live in a city that has so much to offer its residents, and children who have creative minds.*

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Parker Reese Foundation

I know I don't have a long list of "followers" but for those of you who do read my blog on a regular basis, you know I am passionate about advocating for those with special needs, hence my career choice. I received this email from my friend Jess, whose daughter Parker was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) in utero and passed away shortly after birth in 2006, regarding the organization founded to honor Parker and support others who receive a diagnosis of CDH.

I am posting the email below because I firmly believe that the Lord is using Jess and her husband Ashley in a mighty way. They have responded to their daughter's death in such an amazing way that only God can receive the glory. Despite their own pain and grief, they founded the Parker Reese Foundation to offer hope to those who are facing the same despair and uncertainty they themselves experienced. It is awe-inspiring and I want to help in whatever way that I can, especially with spreading the word.

At my ultrasound last month, I questioned the technician about the location of the heart, lungs, intestines, and other organs of our new baby because of my new found knowledge of CDH. It is not a well-known birth defect but according to Children's Hospital Boston, it occurs 1 out of every 2,500 births. This is more frequently than spina bifida, a more well-known birth defect receiving more funds for research, which occurs 7 out of every 10,000 births (Spina Bifida Association). Awareness is the first step in helping families who receive a CDH diagnosis.

Visit their website to see pictures of Parker's House, the house Jess and Ashley have renovated for families to use while their child is in the hospital. The house is awesome and truly a blessing to those who need it.
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If you are like me, you receive many requests for charitable contributions each year. You want to be generous but few of us have the resources to respond adequately to each one. It takes some thought to narrow down the list of causes to a few where you can make a difference. In January we founded an organization where we know we are making a difference in congenital diaphragmatic hernia awareness. This organization is The Parker Reese Foundation created in memory of our daughter after she lost her battle to congenital diaphragmatic hernia in May 2006.

The Parker Reese Foundation exists to fight the congenital diaphragmatic hernia birth defect. We are committed to funding research, advocating public awareness, supporting parents, children, family members and friends facing the diagnosis or who have been diagnosed with the congenital diaphragmatic hernia birth defect. We will carry out this mission by supporting the medical community, encouraging and funding research efforts to find a cause and to effectively treat those diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, sponsoring public awareness campaigns and supporting all who seek our organization.

We are asking you to please help support our mission by making a tax exempt donation today. Every dollar you send will help families who have been or will be diagnosed with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Please go to our website at http://www.theparkerreesefoundation.com/ to donate through Paypal or you can mail a check to Post Office Box 2199, Elizabethtown, NC 28337.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Your contribution is truly an investment in the future of families affected by congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

Sincerely Yours,
Jessica Singletary
President

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crazy

I think I have lost my mind. Actually, I know I did briefly yesterday. I only hope today is better.


I have not had the time nor energy to clean my house since mid-May. I mean really clean. I vacuum and pick up clutter and toys, and scrubbed the bathrooms a couple of times in the last month, but that's it. Last week at VBS a friend of mine offered to bring her two boys over (ages 10 and 12) and the three of them would clean my house as a gift to me. It is a very nice gesture, and TJ and I discussed it, and I we decided it would be better if I dropped the kids off at her house for a few hours and came home to clean without any disruptions or distractions.


I talked to my friend and she is insistent on cleaning for me. She doesn't want me scrubbing bathrooms or floors with my belly (it's not that big yet!). I haven't gotten back to her yet. I just don't know what I'm going to do with my kids while they are here. The benefit to having them come (besides them doing the work!) is that they can do it in about 2 hours. My whole house. It takes me 2 days to do the same thing.

I finally couldn't stand the mess or dust any longer and since we didn't have plans yesterday, I decided I would spend the day cleaning. Boy, what a great idea. In theory. Want to know what I accomplished? I dusted my living room and the kids' rooms and vacuumed upstairs. I also scrubbed the floors by hand in the kids' bathroom and the half bath downstairs. That's it! I cleaned the kids' bath and the downstairs bath the night before, so those are clean, as well. But, I am very disappointed that I wasn't able to accomplish more. I was just so tired and I have noticed that I am having contractions on a regular basis (that's another issue). I would clean for about 10 minutes and then have to go sit down. Plus, the kids fight when they are given too much unsupervised play, so I was also acting as referee for most of the day.


I had a breakdown at lunch when TJ came home because I'm not kidding, I had just finished cleaning up the playroom and the boys were in there with the couch cushions on the floor jumping from the couch onto the cushions. T.G. was pulling all the puzzles out of the drawers and there were pieces everywhere. All my hard work was down the tubes! It was very discouraging to see, especially because it had taken me all morning to do such simple tasks.

I still have a to-do list that includes dusting our bedroom, cleaning our bathroom, dusting the dining room, and scrubbing down the kitchen (counters, cabinets, appliances, floors). The kitchen itself will take me all day because I get so tired and have to stop when I have contractions, so that will have to wait until another day.


So, that is why I lost my mind. I thought I could clean my house while pregnant and caring for 3 small kids. Who am I kidding?

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Now, about the contractions. When I was pregnant with T.G., I started having strong contractions at 35 weeks. They were to the point TJ called his mom and she came out here to stay with the kids. I had them all day, and it didn't matter what I did, they did not stop. I called the doctor on-call (it was a Sunday) and was told to monitor them and not go to the hospital until they were 4-5 minutes apart. Well, if you know me, I have very irregular contractions and Ta was almost born in the car because the doc on-call that day said it didn't sound like true labor.


Anyway, the contractions did eventually stop but T.G. was born 5 days later. Again, the doc on-call that night was going to send me home from the hospital because I was dilating (I was at 5cm), but my cervix was not changing. Thankfully a very nice nurse talked the doc into letting me stay since the labor/delivery unit was not full, and T.G. was born about 3 hours later. If I had gone home, I would have probably delivered her there because the doc was being hard-headed and not listening to me. I have not gone full-term yet, and he couldn't get past the fact that I was barely 36 weeks gestation.


So, having a history of early deliveries, I am going to say that I think this baby will be early, too. I will honestly be surprised if I make it to 36 weeks, especially after almost having T.G. at 35 weeks. Also, I do not remember having such strong contractions at such an early point in time, so I mentioned this to the doc at my appointment on Monday. He agreed that it's not a good sign, and is caused by too much activity and not getting off my feet, but like I explained, I have 3 kids under 5. I can't just lay around- they are not old enough to fend for themselves (as much as I would like them to be able to!).


I have to take it slow. Rest when I can. Sit with my feet up when possible. Cleaning was probably not the best idea, but again, if I don't do it, it won't get done. TJ doesn't have enough hours in the day to do all he needs to do, and I can't add cleaning to his already long honey-do list. I would take my friend up on her offer but I need to figure out something to do with my kids while they're here. My kids like to play with her boys, and will be a distraction to them.

Well, we're off to the pool. I have some friends joining us for lunch, and the kids are VERY excited. They woke up and put their swim suits on first thing this morning! It should be a better day today because we'll be out of the house doing something we all love to do!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Father's Day

Father’s Day was nice. TJ was feeling ill and that allowed me an opportunity to prepare the night before so the morning wasn’t as hectic while we got ready for church in addition to our Father’s Day festivities. I was able to get the table set for breakfast, his gifts ready to give to him, and the food thawed for me to make Sunday morning. I was up late Saturday night, but the relatively stress-free morning was worth the effort!

I woke early with the kids as they rarely sleep past 6:45am. Sunday was no exception and we were up by 6:30am. I was able to grab a quick shower before heading downstairs to prepare breakfast. Ta loves to watch me cook, so he stood on a chair as I fried bacon and potatoes to add to our breakfast burritos. TJ came down about 7:45am, just as breakfast was almost ready (hmm, do you think he knew it was time to eat?) and we ate before he was able to open his presents.

About his gifts. I have been waiting for about a month for this day to arrive. I thought of the perfect present for him, and I was so excited to give it to him. The other gifts all revolved around his main gift, so I had him guess what the theme was as he opened the smaller gifts first. The kids gave him a framed picture taken at the Wilds. I gave him a book autographed by one of the authors we heard speak at the Wilds. Can you guess what the “big” gift was? A trip to the Wilds for a Men’s Retreat on purity.

We received the pamphlet detailing the retreat a few months ago. TJ commented he’d like to go, but it is on Halloween weekend and by then the new baby will be here. He didn’t want to leave me alone with 4 kids for a weekend, but as I thought about it, I realized how much he wanted to attend the conference. The man leading it is an awesome speaker as he’s visited our church a few times and we hear him almost every time we go to the Wilds. He is very funny, yet committed to doing the Lord’s work, and a wonderful teacher and preacher.

I contacted my friend Joanna to see if she’d be interested in sending her husband with TJ, and it worked out. So, TJ and Patrick are attending the conference together. Plus, we splurged and the men are staying in the Lodge, which is in the main part of the camp, rather than the cabins we normally stay in. Don’t get me wrong, the cabins are awesome, but this was a special occasion and I wanted to go “all out” for this.

TJ was/is very excited, and I am excited for him. I hope he learns a lot during the trip, which I know he will, and come home refreshed and relaxed after some time away.


After opening gifts, we got ready for church and left. After church, we came home, changed clothes, ate lunch, and left to go to TJ’s dad’s house for the afternoon. We swam in the pool, took a hike in the woods on a scavenger hunt, and had a good time seeing family. TJ has a strange sense of humor, much different than mine, so while we were on our nature hike, he thought it would be funny to take pictures doing strange things. His sister agreed, so then the task began: what strange pictures could we get? I am including a few for you to see. It was funny as they trekked off the trail trying to “capture” the moment. They were hoping their dad would pull the pictures up on the computer, but that didn’t happen, so their idea sort of fizzled out until TJ and I got home and saw them for ourselves. One picture in particular made us laugh really hard- you’ll see. . .


Hiding in the trees. . .



Because it's normal to sunbathe in the middle of the forest. . .



Kissing a "squirrel". . .


My fearless hunter!

Friday, June 13, 2008

200

This is my 200th post! I can't believe it took me so long to reach this "milestone", but I guess because I'm so busy it's taken me longer than most.

Hmm, that seems to be my theme song. It took me 7 years to complete an Associates Degree, and I've been working on finishing the remaining courses for my Bachelor's Degree for 4 years now (will complete it next year, for a total of 5 years). Oh well, I guess better late than never! I'm digressing.


*The kids on the Blue Team


*The kids on the Green Team

So, VBS ended today. I am exhausted. It was an awesome week; I'm sad to see it come to an end, but I am so tired that I can't stop yawning. I tried to nap but my house has been neglected more than usual all week and my mind was filled with all that I need to do while TJ is home to help with the kids. No Carowinds today- too much piddly stuff to do here. We don't dare go tomorrow because of the crowds. Oh well, maybe next Friday we'll make it there. Again, I've digressed!


*Participating in a Gospel presentation

VBS was very spiritually challenging. I feel like I wasn't able to share everything I wanted in such a short time (a week really isn't that long) but the kids had fun, my helpers had fun, and the week wasn't a total flop. It took me a few days to get a routine down with the boys so I didn't have to direct their every move, and once that was established, it made the day go more smoothly. In the beginning of the week I thought I was crazy for offering to teach 17 3rd/4th grade boys for 3 1/2 hours per day. But, by the end of the week, I am ready to do it again next year, and I actually think I prefer the boys over the girls. There's just something about all the rowdiness that I like- their excitement and energy goes a long way.


*Listening to the day's Bible lesson

Of course, don't get me wrong, I had my moments. Wednesday was a rough day for a couple of boys. I actually had to speak to some parents about behavior, but the rest of the week was fine and incident-free. Actually, much to my surprise, I overhead some of the boys talking and saying how I was the best teacher, and 2 moms told me in private how much fun their boys' were having and how nice their teacher was. That made me feel good, especially after the day we had on Wednesday with negative attitudes.


*Cody, my helper, dressed up as Noah during the Great Flood

All-in-all, I am happy I volunteered for VBS and even happier that all of my decorations, paintings, etc. are being donated to another church for use during their VBS. At least my hard work wasn't a waste!



*Some of the boys during Morning Service


*Some of the boys during Craft time

Monday, June 9, 2008

Vacation Bible School

VBS- Day 0

Here are some pictures of my classroom while we were decorating yesterday.

Before we started. . .



One of my helpers, Cody (Mark's son), hanging a decoration. . .



My wonderful husband helped us decorate. Without him, the room would not have turned out as awesome as it did because I don't do ladders (I am afraid of heights). Here is TJ hanging vines from the ceiling. . .




TJ, Cody, and Thad (another helper) working hard. . .



The finished room. The picture doesn't show it, but there is a dinosaur nest at the base of the tree on the left. My helpers gathered sticks, weeds, and rocks in order to build it. There is also a real tree in the opposite corner of the room that my youth workers built another nest in. They found a stray dinosaur so they put him in there. It turned out great!

**************************************************

VBS- Day 1

I had 15 boys in class today. It was less than I expected, but we still had a great time! Today's lesson was on Creation, and the boys really got into it! The boys are split into 2 teams, and the teams compete against each other for points. They earn points for various things, such as memorizing Scripture, bringing their Bible to class, bringing a friend, good behavior, etc. They love the competition and it helps with behavior control because bad behavior takes points away from their team. Here are some pictures from our Bible lesson today. I had them practice their Bible verse by writing it in shaving cream. Each team raced against the other to write the entire verse out first. Both teams earned candy and had a great time learning Scripture!



Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fun in the Sun!

It has been so hot here this past week, and it doesn't appear next week is going to bring any relief. To get relief from the heat, we have been keeping cool in various ways. On Wednesday we went to a place in Charlotte called Monkey Joe's, and the kids (and I!) had a blast. It's awesome! It's an indoor inflatable playground. There is a toddler area for kids 3 and under, but of course T.G. wanted to be with her brothers on the big stuff, so I had to climb up the inflatables with her so she could play, too. It was fun, just hard work with me being pregnant and having to carry her up the steps and stuff. My friend had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy Monday afternoon, so I had her little boy with us so my friend could rest and recuperate. We packed a lunch and ate it in the car, and then went back inside to play. Overall, we spent about 3 hours playing.

Thursday another friend of mine came over and we hung out at the pool together. It was gorgeous! The water was refreshing, the sun was hot, and the company was fabulous! I enjoyed spending some one-on-one time with this particular friend because we haven't had a chance in such a long time! We used to get together alone fairly regularly, but with hectic schedules, it's become more difficult.

Yesterday we went to Carowinds for the afternoon after TJ got off work. During the summer, his work schedule changes and he gets off at 11:30AM on Fridays. We ate a quick lunch at home and then headed to the park. There were no lines so the kids got to go on several of the rides, some even 2 or 3 times in a row. Then, we headed over to the water park to cool off. TJ took the boys on some water slides while I played with T.G. We left about 4:3oPM to head home. The kids were exhausted (so was Mom!) from not getting a nap and were asleep for the night by 7:30PM. They haven't gone to sleep that early in a very long time!

We have been in a drought for almost a year, and our city has water restrictions in place. We are only able to water on Saturdays. So, since our pool is usually busy on the weekends, we got out a Spiderman Slip-N-Slide that Th got for his birthday last year. Today was the first time its been used, and the kids had such a good time. TJ joined them this evening, and I would have too, except I don't think the new baby would appreciate me running and sliding on my belly! LOL!The kids were outside playing at 7:45AM and stayed out pretty much all day. Again, T.G. and Ta were asleep by 8PM tonight because of all the fun they've had the last few days. I am attaching pictures from today's events, as well as the final Noah's Ark mural I painted for VBS and a picture of T.G. and her baby (she goes EVERYWHERE with this baby and blanket- I mean EVERYWHERE!) .

*I am thankful for opportunities to spend time together at home as a family.*



Thursday, June 5, 2008

My Sis

I just want to write about how proud I am of my sister. She amazes me more and more! Not only is she caring for her infant daughter as a single mom while her husband is deployed to Iraq, she is growing and maturing in her walk with the Lord, and what a blessing and encouragement to me it is to witness this growth.

She has been attending a church near her home for a couple of weeks now. The church is similar to mine in doctrine and beliefs, and they have very similar programs for the youth. This past Sunday, she not only attended the morning service, but she braved a horrible thunderstorm in order to go back for the evening service. Not only that, but she doesn't know anyone in the church yet so she goes alone. Why is she doing this? Because she has learned the importance of "training up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

TJ and I have been praying for her, as well as other family members, for so long. It is easy to get discouraged, especially when we have been praying for such a long time. Not that we thought our prayers were useless or that God didn't hear them, but still, waiting on the Lord is difficult. However, He has allowed us to see the fruits of our labor, and it cheers my heart immensely. Besides just going to church, she is in a GOOD church, and that makes all the difference in the world. She has met some people, and the pastor personally thanked her for coming last Sunday evening despite the storm, saying she was an encouragement to him. My heart is just a little lighter these days as God continues to work in her life. Finding a church is difficult, but going all alone is even more difficult, and I commend her for doing what is right rather than what is comfortable. Too bad more people in this world don't do the same!

*I am thankful that my sister is attending church, attempting to raise her daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord.*

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Prayers for an Anxious Heart

As Vacation Bible School approaches in less than a week, I feel so ill-prepared and it's my own fault. Yes, I have prepared the materials and decorations and incentives for learning Scripture and good behavior (candy, books, pencils, and other rewards), but I have been lacking in prayer. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have been praying, but the overwhelming sense of responsibility has recently hit me and I feel like I haven't prayed enough.

When I say 'responsibility', I don't mean in the physical sense, I mean more in terms of spiritually. I will be in charge of approximately 35 third and fourth grade boys for an entire week. Some of these boys may not attend church. Some may not come from a loving home. For others, this may be the most attention they will receive all summer until school begins again and their teacher is there to pick up the pieces from their shattered home life. My attitude and demeanor can greatly influence how receptive these boys are to the Gospel. If I am having a bad day, my bad attitude could negatively impact their view of Christians. That is scary to me! Actions speak louder than words, and there is a verse that I read today that really supports this thought- "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:14, 24, 26).

I guess what I'm getting at is that I hope I not only share my faith by my words, but that my actions support it. Not just today. Not just next week. But always. I know people who claim to know Christ and be a Christian, but their lifestyle says otherwise. They live as they please, don't go to church, or when they do go to church, it is for the wrong reason (a tradition at Christmas). It is people like this who give Christians a bad name, and I want to stay away from that. Christ has done some miraculous changes in my heart, and I pray my lifestyle reflects those changes. They haven't been easy, and in fact, have caused strained relationships because other people feel I have changed too much.

Oh well. Their loss. My gain. Now that I understand the fear of the Lord, I fully realize Who I will be answering to when my physical life comes to an end and why it is important to live life for the Lord. They, on the other hand, do not understand this or choose to ignore it. I feel sorry for them because "we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Of course, this judgement is only for those who are saved. Non-Christians have a different judgement, one that condemns them to an eternity in Hell (Revelation 20:11-15).

So back to VBS. Like I said, today I fully realized the responsibility I have been given, and I pray I carry out the Lord's work to His honor and glory.

*I am thankful for my Bible because Scripture is used to teach me, rebuke me, correct me, and train me for righteousness.*

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stir Crazy

Ta and T.G. were both sick over the weekend. Ta started running a fever on Thursday night, and didn't get better until Saturday. T.G. started running a fever Saturday, and even vomited Saturday night. Thankfully I was able to find a substitute to teach Sunday School for us yesterday since we had to stay home.

It's been a rough few nights of sleeping. Ta has been waking and coming in our room, and if he's not quiet about it, he wakes Th, too. Last night it was the four of us all crammed together in our bed. I got so frustrated with being kicked in the belly, (Ta refused to sleep with his head on the pillow- he was sleeping the other direction) I finally got up and went in his bed. I have probably only been getting about 5 hours of sleep per night, and I woke up this morning with a killer headache. I am hoping a shower, some coffee, and some Tylenol will help.

We were supposed to go over to a friend's house this morning to play, but she had to cancel because she's been battling headaches the past couple of days. So, I'm not sure what we'll do today. As crazy as this may sound, I don't really feel like going to the pool. It is so much work to get everyone ready! Plus, we are having some friends over on Thursday to go swimming, so I am hoping the kids can wait until then. We went swimming 3 days last week, and I literally have to get everything together the night before in order to keep from losing my mind the day of because the kids get so excited.

I was thinking of going to the park, but we're going tomorrow with the MOMS Club to meet/greet potential new members. I don't want to wear off the novelty, although Th has been begging to go to one particular park in town that we have not been to since he was almost 2. Now that Ta can ride his bike by himself pretty well, I may load up the bikes and head over there so they can play and ride a bit before lunch and before the main heat of the day. We'll see how my head feels after my shower. I just know we can't stay home all day- we did that yesterday because T.G. was sick, and the kids, especially the boys, are going crazy with being home!

Have a great day!