Thursday, December 16, 2010

The last day of being 3!

Gracie is out of her MRI and did very well with anesthesia. We have not heard the results yet--Curtis was just talking about the fabulous LIFE performance at church when one of the groups sang a song to Philipians 4:6-7--Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I can't really say we are anxious--we quite obviously don't want Gracie to have any brain issues--her little body is already enduring so much. I don't believe that means we are anxious. We are actually having a nice time snuggling with our daughter today. Right now Curtis and Gracie are making pla-doh cookies, watching Cat in the Hat, and eating ice cream--doesn't sound so bad, does it? She is feeling much, much better--her fever is gone, she still has that rotten ole headache, and is walking, talking, and acting pretty normal. No matter what is going on in her brain, it doesn't seem to be affecting her motor skills or cognative abilities. Now anyways.

We should hear some results soon. They also tested her for RSV and influenza, and a variety of bacterial stuff. She, of course, has everyone wrapped around her finger! The doctors and nurses LOVE her...she's quite famous around this neck of the woods.

We did just get some visitors--our friend, Betty, from church is a couple of floors above us and is reported to be doing much better. Her husband, Dave, and Bill and Aimee, stopped in for a chat. It was so good to see some friends!

We will not be coming home today, but there is hope for tomorrow. We will await the results of the tests and if things look good, we could be on our way to celebrate Gracie's 4th birthday at home! Curtis and I realized she has either been in the hospital or just a day home for every birthday--what's up with that??

I will let you know when I hear anything and if there are any plans to follow! Thank you so much for praying for our family. We are blessed!


back in the hospital

I only have a couple of minutes, but want to share that Gracie has been admitted to the hospital in Rochester. She had an appointment with her rheumatologist yesterday afternoon--while there she spiked a fever and had a horrific headache. He sent us to the emergency room. After several hours of tests and various doctors, it was decided to keep her for observation and testing. The headaches are quiet concerning. In September, she had a headache that sent us to the ER as well. At that time, she was demonstrating some stroke-like symptoms. Her cardiologist referred us on to neurology, who decided to look into further if it happened again. Well, yesterday was the day! How God knew we needed to be at this facility!!

She really gave me a great scare yesterday--she was completely out of it for hours, many hours. Then she started vomiting blood. Why, oh why, does she need so many struggles?

She is having an MRI right now. Why doesn't it get any easier to watch your child be put to sleep? I hate that part of any surgery...big or small. I know she's in good hands, but to relinquish that control and leave the room is always tough. Don't they know I could help??

Concerns are this...stroke, meningitis, an infection, or an abcess. She has had headaches off and on for over a week--I probably should have brought her in earlier, but when nothing was done last time, I guess I just blew it off a bit.

Tomorrow is Gracie's 4th birthday--we are so hoping we can all be home! A terrific birthday present would be for this head "stuff" to just be nothing!

I better run...I'll try to update later!

Thanks for your prayers for sweet Gracie!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

a change of heart

I've been learning lots about my heart...and how unlike Christ it actually is. The lessons I continue to learn through this gift God has given me called adoption completely blow my mind! A month ago I had a commitment to share my story with a group of adoptive parents, some already have their children home with them and some are in the midst of the process. Anyways, I was super excited about this...until the day arrived. As I spent four hours in the car driving to the location, God began to prepare my heart. I talked outloud with Him because I was alone (imagine that) times smiling, at times getting a little loud, but most of the drive I was talking through tears to the One who always listens, who always stays true to His promise--the One I adore, the One I seek, the One in whom I placed my trust and my life. I thought, in my own wisdom that I would talk about Ephesians 1...God adopting us into His family and the parallels that earthly adoption would align with. Don't get me wrong, there are some nice parallels--God chose me, we chose Selah. I was broken and in need of saving. Selah was broken and in need of saving. God loves me so much that He forgives my sinfulness and and sees the beauty, rather than the ugliness that so often is my mirrored image.

That's where the difference lies--right there! I thought I loved well. I loved my other children well--those that were born to me, sweet Gracie who came to me without a tiny infant, helpless and not tainted by the world. But Selah...I love Selah...when she conforms to my desires, when her behaviors are appropriate and kind, when I am feeling patient and kindhearted, when I get enough sleep. Seriously? My love has been so conditional--it's completely humiliating to admit, but until I was able to admit this to myself and to God, I was stuck. I can make a list of all the reasons that I was entitled to these feelings, but in reality I have absolutely no business even making an excuse for my attitude.

God amazes me! Completely amazes me! It's times like this that convince me more and more that He is so present with me--only He can change my heart. Others can speak to me, can give advice, can help, but only God can change a heart. Many, many times it's through the voices of His people that we are changed, but the credit is always His. It's in those quiet, seemingly dark times that so often we are overcome with His light. That day, in my car...a change began. He has given me a new love for my daughter. Am I still frustrated? To be perfectly honest, I haven't been since that day. Have the behaviors changed? Maybe a bit--that's not the point--they will. It's my perspective that has. I am called to love as He loves and that is without condition. Love can not depend on circumstance or it is not love at all.

Selah is a delight, she is created by God in His image. She, like me, needs a Savior because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It's so much fun listening to hear recite all of her Bible verses--she knows quite a few and they are so meaningful to her. I asked her what her favorite verse was for our Christmas card and she replied "Joshua 1:5--I will never leave you nor forsake you." She has lived 8 years of life left and forsaken--she is no longer. My eyes are all wet just thinking of the magnitude of that answer. All she wants, all she desires is to know that she is not going to be left or forsaken. Whether she understands the love of God or not, she needs to know that love from her parents first and we pray she sees Christ through us fullfilling that promise to her.

The rest of the Opps are doing well. Derek recovered well from his accident--thank you so much for praying for him and for all the kind words. Gracie is doing OK--her blood counts are going in the wrong direction and she needs to have some pretty major oral surgery in the next few weeks. Connor is busy with basketball and Breuklyn is swimming. We celebrated Selah's birthday on Sunday--what a fun day we had! And tomorrow is the big event--Selah and Gracie are both having their first birthday parties ever with friends!! We will be constructing gingerbread houses with 20 kids--should make for some fun photo opps! I will try to update this more often--actually I don't even know if anyone is still checking in. No matter, I love having a journal for my kids!

Have a terrific night!



Monday, October 18, 2010

the dreaded phone call

Late Friday night...actually, really early Saturday morning, around 1:30 am, we received the phone call that parents dread coming from their teenagers. "Dad, I had an accident and there's blood all over". Phone died. Frantically, we rushed out the door, cell phones in hand, I called 911, Curtis tried to reach Derek again and again--finally he did and sort of had a location. We knew he was within 15 minutes of home, but didn't know where. We started driving, Derek called again and said he would try to walk to the road. At this point, we thought he went into the ditch somewhere. Finally, we connected with him and found him on the side of the road. He had fallen asleep and drove into a large ravine. My heart sunk. We could barely see the car from the road, it was that far away and Derek was a bloody mess, his face nearly unrecognizable because of the blood. We brought him to the emergency room.

It was obvious he had a broken nose. Other than that, we awaited some tests. They came back with multiple fractures to the face. Our hospital is so small, they decided to send him to the Mayo Clinic by ambulance. Another journey to the hospital--this time not for Gracie either. We spent several hours there in the trauma room W-3, they looked at him from head to toe. He did sustain multiple fractures to the face--at least 8 from what this non-doctor could read on the report. Both eye orbits are fractures at the bottom, his nose is broken in several places, his cheekbone, and four bones of his jaw. Most of the facial bones will just heal on their own, but the nose and jaw will require surgery in a couple of weeks when the swelling subsides. Overall, he is fortunate, completely fortunate. According to our hospital and Mayo, many, many professionals have told us how lucky he is. We don't believe in luck, rather in a mighty God who somehow cushioned his ride.

Yesterday was to be a tough day for him. He felt pretty well actually. His face doesn't look like the sweet Derek that it did on Friday night when he left our home, but it will. He spent yesterday with many friends...some right here in Charles City...and his new friends at his new home at Dordt, all of them with Derek by phone, email, prayers. The support system we have here is just amazing! Not only Derek's, but our entire family's. I tell my kids all the time, if you have one true friend, you are blessed. We feel so abundantly blessed by our friendships we have--our kids were all taken care of, dinner on our table when we arrived home, prayers be offered up on our behalf, rides, phone calls, emails...amazing!

I keep thinking of the verse in James that tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverence. Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. To witness our 18 year-old's attitude of joy despite the trial--I'm amazed. He has not had a pity party for himself at all, but is not going to waste this lesson. We believe with everything inside of us that God has a plan for Derek's life. He is supposed to be here to accomplish something for HIM. Trials develop perseverence, which develops I love to see these words for my son.

Throughout the unknowns of Friday night and Saturday morning, we all carried that peace that passes all understanding--we feel so blessed by that gift that can only come from the One who created Derek, the One who created us for a purpose. His power is so magnificent He calms the seas, He placed the stars in the sky, He commands all over all--He also had His hand on a little red Taurus with one of our greatest treasures in it--we give Him the praise and the glory. And the scars Derek may have, the pain he is carrying, it is not wasted, it is not in vain...but rather a reminder of what He has done in Derek's life.

This Monday, I am so thankful for my son. I'm also so thankful for the reminder of Who is in charge and freedom that goes along with that. And the joy...oh the JOY!!

Have a terrific day!

Friday, October 15, 2010


I have been trying to post a comment on your blog, but it isn't letting me for some reason! I so want you to know that my family is praying for yours!! Please email me sometime at This is the only way I know how to get ahold of you :)!!

Your family is amazing--sweet Sarah is such a little trooper with the perfect parents God hand-chose!!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Gracie update

I have been rather vague about what is going on in Gracie's life because, to be perfectly honest, noone really knows! That is...noone here on this earth knows! We take great confidence in Psalm 139 knowing that the One who made her, who created her inmost beings...He knows! He knows each fiber of her being, He knows her days---not only the number of them, but what they are filled with. Right now, today...this filled with laughter, with Charlie Brown, with making eggs, with filling the bellies of our local is a good day.

These past months, however, have had some very interesting, painful days for Gracie. She is battling through some severe leg pain, now some arm pain, and also has had an episode which initially appeared to be a stroke. We are still awaiting answers for what is taking over her little body, but in the meantime...we are enjoying today. When I say she is battling intense pain, that is true, but it is not all the time. She may go days with none that she complains of anyways, then have a day where she cannot function at all. When her legs hurt, she cannot walk...she just sobs. In the past two days, her left arm is also hurting.

We seriously see God's hand ALL THE TIME in her life. He has continued to bless our family with the best caregivers and doctors, here in Charles City and at the Mayo Clinic. The doctor that is overseeing these new symptoms is seriously one of the kindest people I have ever met. He so wants answers and he so wants the answers to be treatable and fixable. It is so puzzling to him as he rules out one thing after another. We spent a considerable amount of time with him last week. All involved do not think this is directly related to her heart disease. At this point, he is thinking she may have an issue with her bone marrow. Obviously, our minds race to does his. The good thing--the simple bloodwork they took is not showing anything too out of whack, but 20% of the time, it is not a red flag. The next step for Gracie is to meet with an orthopedist, just to make sure they are like-minded when pursuing this next avenue of diagnosis.

Our family has amazing peace. In my heart, I do not think she has leukemia. She has something...that I know. Throughout these last four years, Gracie has had many, many issues. Her heart is not good. Yet, she has never had pain until these last months--at her young age, she should not be in pain. As her mom, this is what breaks my heart. I know God made her perfectly...heart and all. I just plead for Him to take away her pain...that is the part I do not understand. I know we live in a broken world with sin and pain and heartache--but, a child in pain is too much to bear.

The silver lining--most of the time...she feels just fine. She runs and plays and gets into mischief. There are times I'm pulling my own hair out because she is so incredibly normal...naughty!! She is taking dance with my dear friend, she just went to her first princess birthday party, she loves, loves, LOVES feeding the duck and going down the biggest slides at the park. Her life is so full! Her spirit is so free and amazing! She's doing things I never dreamed she's be doing...talking up a storm, telling stories, joking around, enjoying life. I, in no way, want this post to sound's just real life. And sometimes, real life is just hard. When the tough stuff happens, we are learning to just completely treasure all that is good, realizing that it's all always comes.

Our neurology appointment was cancelled on Friday morning due to a sick doctor. It is now scheduled, along with a cardiology appointment and bloodwork for October 29, unless there is a cancellation. We have the benefit of being able to drop everything and head north, so we may be there next week--we shall see. She is scheduled to see the best of the best--for that we are grateful. I will try to update when we hear anything. Know that we appreciate your prayers!

Have a super day!!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Where did the summer go??

Oh my goodness, it's Labor Day! It's just so hard to believe summer is over--it's been a good one, that's for sure. Since I've been about the worst blogger in the world, I understand if there is noone left reading! As far as journaling my kids' lives, this is it, so I will continue on and give them at least a little glimpse into our lives as I see it.

We have been a busy crew, that's for sure! Summer started out with a graduation...Derek's. How fun to watch him receive his diploma and be rewarded with his amazing efforts. Derek has been such a joy to raise--as we have dreaded sending him on his way, we are completely excited to watch the next chapter of his life be revealed. We also take seriously God's promise that all of Derek's days were written before one of them came to be. God has a perfect plan for this young man's life--how blessed we are to have a front row seat!! Derek spent his mornings watching Gracie for me and his afternoons were spent working on his tan, I mean lifeguarding, at the city pool. He found a new passion--SOCCER--and was able to play on a team that ventured to the Iowa Games in July. What fun they had kicking that white ball around. And he ran...and ran...and ran. He also found lots of time to spend with his friends, one darling one in particular!!

Connor also had a terrific summer playing golf and baseball. He put the bat to the ball in some pretty intense heat! Our summer was warm and every time I heard the complaints about how hot a particular child was watching baseball, I just had to remind her of all of the clothes Connor had to wear...she became quiet. Then Connor joined the soccer team that Derek was on and also took advantage of an opportunity to run with the XC team in Colorado. He was going from one thing to the next--fitting in a job at the pool and also lots of time with his friends, again a pretty sweet one in particular! And he ran...but not much!

Breuklyn spent lots of time with her furry beasts--even adding another to her horse family. Curtis decided to bring home an old, FREE horse. Wouldn't you know it--he's my favorite. He barely moves! She worked so hard preparing for fair this year, entering her horses, horse tack she had made and wouldn't you know it--her CUPCAKES made it to State Fair! She also was on the swim team and RAN...and ran. She also found lots of time to hang out with friends, go to the pool, do what 7th graders do.

Selah had a pretty great summer. It seems like her episodes are fewer than what they once were--perhaps we are headed in the right direction. She just loves to go to the pool and play outside--there is no need to fill up her schedule right now with activities--she really just needs to be home as much as possible. She gets plenty of out time just going with us to all of the games and activities--her time will come to have a crazy schedule. It's just not now. Since she spent so many years in an orphanage, she really never learned how to play. She now plays! That is hear her role-play, playing house, playing the mom, feeding and dressing her nearly 10 years old, it seems like she is much, much younger, but that's OK. She needs to go back a bit and find some joy in some things she missed along the way. Right now, Selah and Gracie are watching Veggie Tales, playing with the doll house as she acts out the roles--it's good to see, good to hear.

Gracie's summer was mostly great. She continues to battle some pretty intense leg and foot pain. We really do not have answers yet, but hopefully someone will figure out something. She has to endure so much that any suffering just seems over-the-top for her. Heart disease is rather pain-free, so this has thrown us for a loop. There are times she will cry for 6 hours in excruciating pain--we cannot find relief when this happens. Most days are good. She may have pain, but can deal with it...but those other days are awful. Gracie also had an episode a week ago that has left us a bit puzzled and afraid. She is fine now, no effects at all, but at the time it appeared to be a stroke. The CAT scan came back normal, but she will seeing a neurologist in two weeks.

We did manage a pretty amazing ROAD TRIP this summer. We spent one night on Michigan Avenue in Chicago shopping with our five kids...and it was fun! Really fun! So fun noone wanted to leave (when I say shopping, I mean we walked right past all of my favorite stores with drool running down my face and went into stores like Puma, Nike, Disney, Penguin, Banana Republic, no Crabtree and Evelyn). We left Chicago much, much later than planned and drove through the night to Niagara Falls. I was so insistant on getting this amazing suite overlooking the fireworks on Niagara Falls, spending way too much money and we checked into our hotel at 5:30 am, missing everything!! Niagara Falls didn't disappoint this tired mama though--it was fantastic!! We enjoyed that day so very much. We then drove to Mentor, Ohio where Curtis and the three older kids went fishing on Lake Erie and brought home 23 giant walleye--delicious souvenier, that's for sure! After fishing, we spent four days at Cedar Point riding all of the record setting roller coasters and went home! Sweet time, sweet memories!

Now it's back to school, back to work for me, off to college--we have someone in every school this year--college, high school, middle school, elementary, and one at home--kind of fun, huh? As we say good-bye to summer, 2010, we smile! It was a good one!

Monday, July 5, 2010

still here!

I apologize to anyone who is still checking in on our family--I have been horrible about updating this blog. I have started a post several times and just do not have the words. We are having a terrific summer...yet are struggling with some stuff with Gracie...I just can't put this all into words yet--our hearts are still sort of raw with all that is going on in her little body. I promise I will share more when I am able.

What I am learning is this...when our world seems to be crumbling around us, God continues to bless us. We are having so many incredible days with our family--we are making so many memories to last a lifetime. As follower of THE MOST HIGH, we do not only live by circumstance, but with hope, with joy, with love!

My time right now is very little on the computer...I have a little girl who is calling my name--I better run!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I have a GRADUATE...

an adult...really? We have had a crazy few weeks around here--this blog has certainly been taking a backseat to LIFE! So many changes lie ahead for Derek--in a few months he'll be packing his car and ours to head to Dordt College to study pre-med biology and continue his running career with track and cross country. We are so proud of his accomplishments and his character. He has been and continues to be a joy to parent. I've had so much fun with him these past few days as he has been my only "big kid" home. We've played some serious bean bag toss, sat in the sun, been amused at Gracie's continuous antics, and just enjoyed some sweet mom/son time together. I haven't shed a tear yet over graduation...and I don't think I will. Isn't this what our goal in parenting is? To give our children wings! I'm sure the day we drop him off at Dordt will be a bit different, for I will miss him something terrible. He's just a great guy! Today, I just rejoice in the past 18 grateful for this tremendous blessing in my life!!

What a blessing to work at the post-graduation party on Sunday night!! It was a blast watching Derek and his friends dancing and laughing and just being! He and his friends are so like-minded, they have lived out their high school years with such dignity and morality--as I miss my own son, I will miss these kids who are like my own as well! This summer MUST be filled with friendships, good times, sunshine, and future memories.

I really need to get on my other computer--the one with pictures!! For some reason, that computer is slow on the internet, but great with photos--this computer is quick, but doesn't hold my tens of thousands of pictures.

Have a great day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

a brief update...

Thank you for the emails...I do think some of them are going to Connor first--for some reason when I started this blog, his email is the one that is on the "dashboard". My email is I'm so completely clueless with computers--not sure how to change it.

Anyways, Gracie is doing pretty well. Her foot/leg pain is daily at this point...sometimes excruciating, sometimes pretty manageable. We are just giving her motrin or tylenol to alleviate the pain. Her bone scan likely was normal because I have heard nothing back, nor have I called to begin more testing. The pediatrician we have at Mayo is hesitant to give Gracie more meds anyways because of her heart, so if we can get by with this for a bit, we will do so.

We are noticing some shortness of breath, decreased activity level, more sleep. When she runs across our yard, she is done for. She can play and play for hours, but any running or walking just wears her out. She can go upstairs and need to be carried back down...not normal for a 3 year-old, that's for sure. There has also been a couple of mornings that we have a hard time warming up her little body.

We are having fun watching her learn, listening to her sweet voice. She's a happy little girl, full of spunk and sass! She gives big, wet, long kisses, cuddles lots, and loves to role-play. She's always playing with her babies, who happen to look a lot like Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, she loves being read to, watching movies, and just hangin' with her mommy.

We also aren't really all that concerned about potty training or pacifiers! All those things that we rushed our other children out of are really no concern at this point for Gracie. She sometimes wears her big girl panties (her favorites are boys briefs because that's the only toy story ones we could find) but most of the time asks for a diaper. Big deal? Nope. Our house has never been messier or dustier...big deal? Nope. She doesn't know her ABCs and cannot count to 10...big deal? Nope. We just desire for her to enjoy life, to know she is treasured beyond measure. We love to experience the vast amount of joy she experiences--it's so hard to describe the feeling we have with her of holding onto each moment, not knowing if some of these days won't be around for long. I feel like I'm actually sucking her in, trying to freeze different moments. She told me last week..." Me get big, me pway watch? Ok? You watch? OK? " Will she get big? I don't know. Will she play soccer? not likely. Crushed dreams at 31/2--tough one to take...I sobbed. Then we went outside and played soccer...not crushed dreams--but possibilities. We have not given up hope for a future with Gracie...not in the least, yet we also have been hit with a brick of reality these past couple of months. It seems like we are on the fence right now--hoping and praying for life, yet living and breathing only for today. Maybe that's the way we should be living anyways...who knows?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where's Waldo??

Notice who's peeking out her sweet little face in Derek's prom pics!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Livin' the good life!!

We most certainly are!! Although we have lots going through our minds concerning Gracie, life at the Opps is rather fun. We are getting ready for Derek's graduation...oh, man, I'm going to miss this kid! He is/has always been a delight to parent. He has such a sweet, kind-hearted spirit that is full of adventure and home, he's often the life of the party. One night he was out with friends at dinnertime and we realized how quiet our family was without him. He adores his sisters--all three of them! Sweet Gracie has him wrapped around her tiny little finger and she knows it. Mom and Dad might say "no" once in awhile, but Derek--NEVER! We are threatening him big know, that day where he brings his kids over to our house so we can babysit--oh my...we will DELIGHT in giving them everything. No? What's that? Derek is having a blast with his track season, enjoying his friends, making many memories these last weeks of his high school time.

Connor has started golf and he loves it! He has been golfing rain or shine, cold or warm, sometimes it's pretty dark out and he's still missing. He had his first high school meet on Monday and is looking to improve his score next time. It wasn't his best day, but he's had some pretty amazing days leading up to it. He, too, is just so much fun! I love parenting high school boys--there is no drama...or not much drama, anyways. Connor and his friends spend lots of time over here, empty our snack box often, laugh LOUDLY, and just have so much fun.

Breuklyn has been back at the barn...which means I've been spending many of my days at the barn as well. One of my friends was out with her kids the other day and stated that she would've pictured me last of anyone to be out with these furry beasts. She's so right. I don't like animals up close and personal. I'm pretty much freaked out by anything alive and non-human. God is smiling, maybe belly-laughing when He watches what goes on in that barn. I'm pretty sure every hose is a snack, everything fuzzy is a mouse, disgusted by poop on my sandals...He must laugh. I love nothing more than watching Breuklyn's hair in the wind as her horse is running through the field with her on his bare back...she is gorgeous out there--exactly what she was made to do. I'm still sort of freaked out, but am stomping around there pushing heavy horse butts out of the way, throwing bales of hay, and yeah...stepping in poo!

Selah is doing beautifully! This is only God. We have been so clueless as to how to parent her unique needs...He has completely intervened. Her heart has changed so much in the past couple of months--it blows my mind. Not only is she falling in love with her family...we have fallen head over heels in love with her. She fits perfectly. Oh, how I enjoy listening to her read. She has so much expression, especially when she doesn't think anyone can hear her. We turn the monitor on when her and Gracie play first for safety reasons, now just to hear their giggles, to hear them role-play...they are so incredibly tight. True sisters in every sense of the word. Thank you for praying for our daughter--God indeed is filling her up!

And Gracie...despite the bad news of a couple of weeks ago, she is doing super well. She talks and talks and talks and talks... Just a few months ago, she could say very, very little. Today, I sent my friend Sara, her speech therapist, a text that said She won't shut up! THanks :) It's true...she talks from the time she gets up until she goes to bed...her little mouth is always moving. She giggles with everything inside of her. What a little honey she is.

Life is's amazing actually. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is hard that we forget just how beautiful our life actually is. The past couple of weeks have been difficult--we can't help but think of what is to come. But today--sheer bliss!

Oh yeah--and Connor is 15--am I really typing that? 15 years of awesomeness!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

feet and knees

Just a little update on Gracie. We have spent a large portion of our week at the Mayo Clinic once again to try to figure out Gracie's foot pain. In my not-doctor mind, I was thinking the surgery might take care of the foot pain as well, yet the doctors are convinced the foot pain is it's own issue. Foot and leg pain can often be an indicator of something matter--we just need to find out how to alleviate the pain.

So on Wednesday, we headed north. Gracie and I met with a pedicatric rheumatologist. Her symptoms do, somewhat, align themselves with rheumatoid arthritis. Before making a diagnosis and starting a treatment plan other possibilities need to be weeded out. This past week she had intensive xrays and a complete bone scan. Yesterday we went for the bone scan--they had to place an IV, which is so scary for Gracie. She screamed and screamed...miserable, scared, just sick of the pokes. They called in pediatric then, Gracie and I were both a mess. This is the most difficult things about parenting Gracie--watching her suffer. She's up at nights lots with horrible foot pain...and now knee pain. Then the many pokes. She walks into any medical office and declares, "no pokes, no owies, dus dawk, k?" (just talk) She so, so anxious about needles...and I don't blame her. They poke, and poke, and poke. She has no idea, nor can she conceive the idea that the pokes are for her benefit. I want to be her rescuer when this is happening, but instead I'm the one holding her down. It just stinks.

Yesterday, however, when the pokes were done, when the bone scan was complete, the technician allowed Gracie to perform an MRI on her Woody doll, who is actually her Nino doll, which actually is Derek...clear as mud? Anyways she strapped him to the table, pushed the buttons to slide him through the tunnel, closing the top really close to his little round nose. Then she told him...sweetly, yet firmly..."no wiggle woes, Nino." She held onto his head and his hand and put her face really close to his. Then she pushed the button to slide him on out. When the machine stopped, she gently picked him up, sat on the stool, and rocked him, kissing his little brown hat, and telling him that she loved him. That's what mommies do!

We are very uncertain about Gracie's future...what it's going to look like, how long it's going to be...yet we are convinced and KNOW THAT WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW Who is holding onto her future. When we are dealing with the tears...hers and ours...we know that in a moment there will be joy, there will be smiles, there will be laughter, for we know, without a doubt He is holding onto us.

Besides the foot and knee pain, Gracie is doing really well. She feels terrific, she has a lot of energy, she's talking up a storm.

Better to dye some eggs!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

that's what faith can do

I've seen dreams that move a mountain,
Hope that doesn't ever end, even when the sky is falling.
I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered,
Broken hearts become brand new.
That's what faith can do!

Words by Kutless

Yesterday, after driving home from Rochester with tears flowing freely, this song came blaring through my car speakers--exactly what I needed to hear.

I will back up. On Monday, I received a very disturbing phone call from Gracie's cardiologist. He told me they had a "meeting of the minds" concerning Gracie's surgery that was on the schedule for this morning. After much discussion and review of her previous tests and previous surgeries, they ALL (2 surgeons and 8 pediatric cardiologists) were in agreement that it was too risky for Gracie to have this surgery. She not only falls into the high risk category, but is in every high risk category they have a category for apparently. Her cardiologist told me to bring her up yesterday, run her through the 8 appointments on her schedule and a final decision would be made.

We still had hope. This surgery has been the one that we were told could possibly give her a somewhat normal life, not a long life, but a much longer life. The key word is possibly. The doctors do not feel confident at all that she would survive the surgery, much yet the years following the surgery. If the surgery wouldn't be successful, there would be nothing left to try for her.

All that to surgery.

Without the surgery, her ventricle will likely wear out in it's own time. It's a lose, lose situation. From a wordly perspective.

I praise God for another perspective! It wasn't doctors 3 years ago that healed Gracie's valve. Even Gracie's surgeon yesterday told me "Gracie's life is a miracle. She shouldn't be here today." That's what we are holding onto. Not one thing in Gracie has changed since Monday's phone call, since last fall's scheduling of surgery. She is the same--all of her tests were good (for Gracie), she gets to stay home, rather than be in the hospital right now fighting for her life. I was told yesterday to just enjoy my family, enjoy being together--that's what we will do. And pray...we will continue to seek the Lord, we will continue to trust Him with her life and that means trusting Him to give her as many days as He has planned. If He does take her home to Himself at a young age, we will continue to trust Him, we will continue to praise Him for allowing us to parent such an amazing child.

We've had a lot to process these past couple of days. Yesterday, it was as if our hopes were crushed. Today, I am so comforted by the fact that my hope does not lie in man, but in God, who loves Gracie more than I possibly can. He loves my family and His plan ultimately is a good one.

Praising through tears!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break

We had a fabulous week with our family! All seven of us spent the week at the Wisconsin Dells, sitting by the pool, enjoying the waterslides, just being together. Gracie felt better each and every day. Not only better, but braver!! By the end of the week, she was putting her whole head under water and going down the baby slides solo--super cute!

Half of our small town decided to spend spring break in the Dells, so Connor and Breuklyn were able to join up with some friends during the days. The weather was incredible!! We even sat outside and tanned a bit...that doesn't happen in this area much in March.

Derek turned 18 on Thursday, so we decided to spend a night in Minneapolis and shop on we did!! We opened and closed the mall, closed down IKEA--quite a day. By the end of the day, Gracie was sleeping, we were moving her from mall to car to Ikea to car...she didn't blink...she was exhausted!!

Then last night, a bunch of Derek's friends surprised him with a party...definitely a great spring break.

As for Selah, many of you have emailed me...thanks for the suggestions and the prayers. She has had a terrific month!! She is trying so hard to break some of the behaviors. One night, after a little episode, I walked into her room and she was sitting on her bed praying out loud, asking God to help her stop doing naughty things. She had tears rolling down her did I. I just know, with everything inside of me, that He is doing amazing things in her heart.

We are blessed!

I will try to update this blog on Wednesday night after Gracie's pre-op appointments. Thanks for praying for our family!


Last Monday, Derek crossed the finish line FIRST in the mile at his first indoor track meet of the year...super exciting!! I don't think I've screamed louder or jumped higher in quite some time--it was a blast. This week we get to watch him on Monday and excited!
The photo is a senior picture from Cooper Images and Design--cute, huh?

Monday, March 15, 2010

3 years ago...

It was three years ago tomorrow that we turned off ECMO, or Gracie's "machine" heart and lungs, ready to hold her for the very last time, ready to rock our sweet baby girl into her eternal home. Three years ago that our family gathered around her hospital bed, kissed her good-bye, felt raw emotion...a sadness that completely washed over us, thinking of a world without our Gracie. It is as it was yesterday.

It was three years ago that we witnessed a miracle! Life, determined by man's intelligence, man's experience, was to be over. Yet God!! He, and He alone, determines our days...Gracie's day to enter His kingdom was not three years ago on March 16, 2007!! We praise Him for three years that we didn't believe we would have. Isn't this how we should live our lives? Three years ago, my heart longed for another heartbeat, another hour, another day with our daughter. We didn't dare dream of three years with her...yet that is what we were given--how great is our God!!

I cannot tell you the comfort that brings our family as we approach yet another surgery next week. We know, WITHOUT A DOUBT IN OUR MINDS, that it is God who will determine Gracie's days. He gives and He takes away--blessed be the name of the Lord! We pray, with such expectancy, that He is going to do mighty things next week in sweet Gracie's body. Perhaps this little battle with pneumonia was a reminder that His hand is on our daughter...we need not fear, yet trust His heart.

I will say, however, that amidst the peace, we are somewhat weary. I think we can have both...and it's OK. We know in our hearts that Gracie is going to be just fine. Yet, how we dread to watch her helpless and afraid. It is so difficult to face the unknowns--this surgery is not one that is an obvious choice for Gracie. We have been given two options--to operate and give her the best chance at a longer life, or to not operate and give her several years, allowing her ventricle to just wear out in it's own time. At first it was obvious, we want Gracie to have a long life. Don't we all want that for our kids? None of us decide to parent, hoping for just a couple of good years, do we? As we get closer to the surgery, we do realize the risks involved, we do know her heart is not a perfect fit for the procedure that will be done for her.

For us to go back three years and remember the circumstances, to remember the heartache, to remember being constantly on the edge of difficult as it is, it is what will carry us these next weeks. When the news was so bad, we literally couldn't breathe or hold down our food...the peace of God was more real to us than ever before. Peace amidst the storm. He carried us, He breathed for us, He moved our feet one step in front of the other.

Back then, I didn't feel comfortable sharing completely what was going on...mainly to protect our children. They were reading the journal...for me to publish that Gracie only had 30% chance of surviving the surgery, then 5% chance of surving the surgery, then a miracle would be her only way of surviving ECMO being shut would have crushed them. We continued to tell them we serve a God of miracles--that is what they prayed for, that is what they KNEW would happen, and that is what we witnessed. We are not facing those odds with this surgery--Gracie is much stronger, the doctors and surgeon know her heart much better, and she has survived the unsurvivable.

We have 10 days before the chaos begins!! That means we have lots to do! We get to enjoy getting Gracie out of bed in the morning--it's almost a fight to get to her when all of the kids are up and home. She is so happy and snuggly in the morning. We also get to read at least 30 stories to her--1 for her nap and 2 for her bedtime. We will likely watch Toy Story and Toy Story 2 ten times each. Gracie usually can watch about 15 minutes, then the rest of the kids are glued and she is off doing something else. Usually, Curtis and I will walk in and it's our senior who is watching the kid movie and no kids around!! Gracie will go through possibly 15 identities--she takes on the role of whoever she is "into" at the time. After the cruise, she wouldn't respond to Gracie, but only Donald Duck. We had to call her Donald for at least 10 days!! Now she is Baby Woody from Toy Story. Not only Gracie gets a new identity, but our entire family does!! Last week, she was yelling "Hot Girl" from her crib in the morning. She had been calling me "girl" because I am now Bo Peep from Toy Story and she didn't know her name. So she's yelling, "hot girl" and I'm making sure everyone knows it. I had Curtis listening to the monitor, was all too excited to tell the kids, then she corrected me, "hat girl"...not hot girl. Bummer. It was a serious blow to my ego! She's hilarious.

We are also going to spend a few days at the Wisconsin Dells this week as the kids are on spring break. It will be fun to just be together with no distractions.

Today, I'm especially excited because I get to see Derek run in his first track meet of the season. Woohooo!!

Life is is precious and to be cherished...every minute of every day, we should make the most of it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

sick baby girl

Our little Gracie has pneumonia and is feeling pretty crummy. On Monday she woke up with a cough. With her heart and lung issues, a cough is always scary for our family. I brought her to the doctor and he thought she had a mild case of bronchitis, which she did. He put her on some aggressive antibiotics and sent us on our way. My gut told me it was more than that...during the night on Monday night, she was up coughing all night long. I brought her in for a Xray, then to the doctor, and she had developed pneumonia. Since Gracie basically only is making use of one lung appropriately, pneumonia is one of our greatest fears--at one time her cardiologist told us that pneumonia is fatal for Gracie. She is much, much stronger now, however, and is actually doing as well as could be expected.

She continues to cough lots and has horrible foot pain. We aren't sure what that is all about, but it has been an issue for quite some time, seemingly worse when she's not feeling great. Tonight, she has been in complete agonizing pain...she cannot sleep, she screams, and is unconsolable. If you know Gracie, that is simply out of character--she handles pain well, is almost always very pleasant.

As I was rocking her tonight, my heart was, and still is, breaking. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why this sweet little girl has to endure so much pain. We pray and we pray and we pray, yet she suffers. I know it doesn't help to question the whys...she was created beautifully and amazingly...but why the pain? Why the hurt? She is so innocent. I just don't get it. doesn't help to question the whys, yet they are still there, at the front of my mind and all over my heart. And to think that in 2 short weeks, once again her body will be opened up, followed by a very long, painful recovery. She's three years old, has done nothing simply doesn't make sense in my human mind.

Yet God. He has allowed this...for some reason, for some great plan...He has allowed this to happen. He knows the answer to my questions, He calms my heart, and He gives Gracie relief. He has given her breath, He has given her a sweet, sweet spirit who radiates joy, He has given her so many who love her dearly. He has given her perhaps the most fabulous brothers and sisters possible. So...while I sit here in my self-pity and daughter-pity (I just made that up), I can know that He knows. I can sit here with the assurance that the pain is temporary, His glory is everlasting. Every once in awhile, like tonight, right now, I can be hit with the realization that He knows my mother's heart in watching her little girl suffer. As He has watched His Son.

Yet God.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thanks, Accidental Advocate!!

My first award in like a million years--so exciting! Actually, with my completely lacking computer skills, I'm not even sure how this is done! Please check out my friend Lynn at She's an amazing mom who writes with passion and purpose!

I guess I get to pass it on to another blog and DRUMROLL PLEASE, the award is going to Jean at She's a mom to many kids--her biological children are mostly grown and she and her husband have brought home two girls from China, who are the ages of Selah and Gracie--we actually were fortunate enough to meet and become real people friends!! Their story doesn't end there--check it out for yourself--you will be blessed!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Living our fear...

AND IT'S OK! When adopting Selah, I was rather hesitant. I had read and read and read stories of adopting older institutionalized children. Fear of the unknown overtook my heart and my mind--in no way would I even consider adopting a child over the age of 5. But then came that list...

We prayed over each child on the list--I set the papers off to the side of the children in which I was certain we couldn't parent--off to the side went the file on He Fubai. A few of the children needed several surgeries--with Gracie's many hospital stays and level of care, we knew the timing wasn't right to bring home another child who would keep me away from home. Then there was He Fubai--pretty healthy, a sad face, and SEVEN years old. What if we brought home a child that would disrupt our already busy lives? What if the child was destructive, or worse--violent? Disrupt birth order? I had read that was not recommended, sometimes not allowed.
Yet Curtis. He would question my heart. He would question my motives. He would remind me that we didn't need another child, but a child needed us. "Which of these children won't be chosen?" he would ask. He Fubai would make it back into our pile.

Well, many of my greatest fears have come true. We are dealing with significant issues with Selah...some days are good, some are OK, some are horrific. We are living my fear.

And you know what?

It's OK!

Our marriage has never been stronger, our other children are doing beautifully, our family unit is tight, loving, and committed to one another. We are just fine.

The love I see my children pouring out for a child who doesn't love's quite amazing to see. Our kids are learning to love IN SPITE OF the love because HE loves.

So...if you are considering adopting an older child and you are as freaked out as I was, know this...even if your worst fears come true, He will provide all you need...more than that, He will love through you and you will be OK!

I have started this post, deleted this post, rewrote this post, published this post, deleted this post...I never want anyone to think badly of Selah. She is a lovely little girl with a completely broken heart that can only be fixed by Jesus. We love her dearly and rejoice in every smile, every bit of progress, every hug. She is a treasure!!

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and theives do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


We had a fabulous trip!! How sweet it was to share 12 dinners, 12 breakfasts, and several other "meals" with all seven of us...minus cell phones. How we enjoyed playing on the beach, sitting in the sun, just being together for 6 days--beautiful time with priceless memories etched on our hearts.

It truly was GRACIE'S TRIP!! At first, we thought...Gracie may not even remember this trip, how can we make it hers?? Well, first of all, she has never had more attention EVER. All of the kids doted on her, we spent our days and nights as a family choosing what Gracie would like best. To think this little sweetie is going under the knife in one short month inspired each of us to appreciate this beautiful time. We had planned on renting jet skis and leaving Gracie with the childcare center. When it came down to it, none of the kids wanted to do anything without her...instead we spent that day at the beach playing in the blue water and soft sand.

The food was fabulous--did I mention we ate? And ate, and ate, and ate? Our older three kids are quite adventurous with food--how they loved trying everything! We pretty much loved having the freedom to approach any restaurant, any food booth and grab whatever we wanted. I'm certain our family added a few pounds before we had to go home.

Our family is humbled by the generosity of the Make-A-Wish foundation and will be lifelong supporters. We are so grateful for having these memories with Gracie!
Enjoy the photos!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bon Voyage!!!

We are leaving our hotel shortly to board the ship!! So stinkin' exciting!!! I couldn't sleep at all last night and headed to the hotel lobby early this morning to post pics of Gracie and her bags at the airport. Wouldn't you know it--I couldn't get my laptop connected to the internet. She was ALL business yesterday walking through the airport with her backpack and wheeled suitcase. We ran to Target the night before so we would have the perfect stroller and she wouldn't hear of it!

We've had a great two days with our family just getting here! We closed down the Mall of America on Friday night, filled our bellies with ribs, slept a bit, then began our day of travel. Our flights were delayed a couple of hours, so we spent most of the day at the airport. How grateful we are for technology! The boys and Breuklyn camped out at a little internet hotspot with their gadgets and Gracie and Selah watched movies on our laptop. I'm wondering what parents did back in "the day"?

As the rest of the family was snoozing this morning, I woke up with such joy in my heart. Not only do we have this opportunity for a fabulous vacation with our family, we have been so blessed by our new "make-a-wish" family. Again, our journey with Gracie has blessed us with so many new friends. The three fabulous women who have shared their time with us, those who we will never meet, but give so generously...treasures, that's for sure! On the plane yesterday, a family walked in behind us--their little boy had on a Make-A-Wish tshirt and they noticed the backpack Curtis was carrying. After visiting a bit, we found out we only live 30 minutes from each other--we spent a little time in the airport here in Orlando, exchanged information, and talked of getting together when we return--another blessing!

I will try to get some photos on here soon, that is if my computer is working!!

Have a fabulous Valentine's Day and Happy Chinese New Year!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Surgery scheduled...

At our last cardiology appointment in Rochester, Gracie's surgeon told us to call his office and set something up for March--that seemed a long ways off in November. I put off that call until last week, then put off thinking about it much until today. For some strange reason I have been dreaming about Gracie's surgery LOTS...sometimes old surgery memories are puzzled together with her future surgery. Each time this comes up, God prepares my heart in many different ways. Sometimes, I believe He allows me numbness or denial and sometimes He give me His word to prepare for what's coming.

Anyways, Gracie is scheduled for her Modified Fontan operation on March 25. She will have a full day on the 24th--lots of bloodwork, lots of tests--then early on the 25th we will hand her over to men and women who are now quite familiar with her heart and even her personality.

Until that day...we have lots of fun to fit in!! We are enjoying playing LOTS! Gracie loves to play with Breuklyn's old Fisher Price dollhouse--it consumes us. I'm a bit OCD with the dollhouse, I'll admit it. I like to have the proper furniture in the correct rooms--seriously, have you ever seen a dining room table in the bathroom? Gracie PLAYS...she's not about organizing AT ALL. She's mostly about each of the moms having her own babies, then naming them so uniquely. We always have a Nino (Derek), Ana (Connor), Booboo (Breuklyn), Lala (Selah), and a ME (Gracie). I do treasure her giggles as she tries to make Lala really naughty jumping on the bed, and Nino crashing the van into the wall. How fun!

The Opps are definitely pumped for Gracie's Make-A-Wish trip! We are constantly on the Disney website, checking out the cruise, dreaming about being warm for five days!! Even Gracie, when she sees the website starts cheering..."Pooh boat, Pooh boat!" Pooh won't be making an appearance--we are trying very hard to flip her interest to Mickey and Toy Story!! We have a month!

Until March 25, we also have many basketball games, a couple of swim meets, the first track meet of the year, spring break, Derek's birthday, some sledding, many morning of sharing coffee (Gracie's is hot chocolate), lots of bedtime stories, at least 50 games of Memory...lots to do!

I'm not on a computer with photos, so I will try to add some later. Have an awesome day!