A view into the life of a family who encountered a different future than expected, but has become all the richer for it.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Feeling Blessed

Have you ever stopped to look at your life and sighed and thought, "I'm so blessed"? Well, I've been thinking that lately. I love my life. I know it has been filled with bumps along the way, but overall I wouldn't want anything different. I wouldn't want less kids or different kids. I wouldn't want a different husband or parents or in-laws. I wouldn't want to live in a different location or have a different history. All I can say is ... I just love my life! So, let me tell a little of what my wonderful life has held lately!

To see my two oldest girls starting to play together is something that makes my heart glad! It's not that they didn't try to play together before, it's just that Natalie is finally old enough to keep up with her big sister! I got a laugh the other day from Natalie shouting, "No!" at Elyssa. Of course, Elyssa shouted, "No!" back and it was an on-going deal for a few minutes. It was quite funny to see them chasing each other around doing that. In the long run, that isn't something I want them to get into the habit of doing, but I had to let it go on for a minute or two to just relish the moment of Natalie starting to come into her own. Before long, Natalie will out-weigh Elyssa and will be the one pushing her around!

One thing that I've already noticed about Natalie is that she is way more sensitive than Elyssa. It doesn't take much in the way of discipline for Natalie. You can just look at her seriously and say her name in a very low tone of voice and it makes her bottom lip quiver. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from wanting to smile because it catches me off-guard how sensitive she is. I feel thankful that she is easier to keep in line since her older sister seems to try to push the limits.

This afternoon, Mark and I had to take Natalie to Springhill Hospital to get some blood work done to find out why her tummy stays chronically sick. I was really dreading this event. The only thing that was going to be nice about this outing is that we were actually going to have some alone time with Natalie, which doesn't happen very often. As much as I hated to admit it, I was right about how awful the lab experience was. I had to hold Natalie in my lap while two technicians held Natalie's arm. They ended up having to stick both arms with those needles that they twist around in your arm once you are stuck. She was screaming bloody-murder, fighting tooth and nail to get away from all of us. I almost started crying at one point. It was terrible. I blew in her face to keep her cool and tried to calm her with my voice. I don't think either really worked. The bad part of it all was that they didn't get the first drop of blood and we have to do this all over again another day this week. Yuck!

After the hospital horror show, we went out to eat on a gift card we had for Red Lobster. It was so nice to be able to eat out and for Natalie to have our undivided attention. This special time seemed to calm Natalie right down after such a traumatic experience at the hospital. After dinner, Natalie and I held hands while we walked in the parking lot back to the car. Right then I felt so thankful for the opportunity to be a mom. Even though being a mom is difficult at times, you are rewarded for your efforts with little moments of sweet affection and love. You somehow know that even though you will have to experience many more difficult things with your children, you will always love them and want to do everything you can for them.

What a wonderful picture of our Father's love for us. Even though life with us is difficult so many times, He still wants so much for us! He still has an unconditional love for us that we will never understand. I'm so thankful that He gives us children to have some sort of understanding of what He feels for us. What a blessing!

PS - We took a few pictures after coming home from our outing with Natalie. Elyssa is such a goofball! When Mark went to take my picture with my mom, she stood up on the coffee table behind us and put rabbit ears on both me and my mom! What a cute little girl Elyssa is! She certainly makes us laugh! All we kept asking each other is, "Where did she learn to do that???" None of us had taught her that! The things kids pick up is amazing!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Water Day

Today was such a fun day. We were visited this morning by my parents and my niece, Gracie. Wow, she has really grown up! I hate we haven't seen her more recently. She has matured so quickly. Unfortunately, I haven't seen many people lately because of being confined to the house with Victoria. Anyway, Elyssa and Natalie really enjoyed playing with her.

Later in the afternoon, I put out a little sprinkler-deal that I bought just a few days ago and the girls really enjoyed playing in the water for a little while. Elyssa ran right out in the water with no hesitation, while Natalie wasn't sure what she thought about it. Actually, she cried at first. Elyssa kept trying to convince her that it was okay, but it took some coaxing to get Natalie anywhere near the sprinkler.

I must say that seeing the girls in their bathing suits brought back fond memories of my childhood. I remember seeing home movies of me and my sister in our bathing suits when we were that small. We would watch the movies as teenagers on my dad's reel-to-reel movie projector. We would shine the movies up on the wall and watch our pop-bellied-selves play in our old above-ground swimming pool. Those days were bliss. I loved watching my girls play with such abandon today. What a great time in their lives!

We have also been blessed recently with a Little Tykes 8-in-1 Playground (Thanks Chad and Danielle!). The girls have loved playing with that, too! Natalie especially loves the door! She gets such joy out of opening and closing the door. How fun when you can be entertained by so little. I got another video of the girls playing in their "playground." What cuties!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dump

Yesterday I had something interesting happen to me. Let me explain.

We were given a great Little Tykes vanity for the girls (Thanks, Rebecca!). It is just like new. When I picked up Elyssa from Mom's Day Out, I had just picked up the vanity from a friend. It was in the back of the van, but the girls had not seen it yet. I told Elyssa that I had a surprise for her and Natalie, so she was very excited. Once I got everyone out of the van at home, I told Elyssa and Natalie to run to their bedroom and wait for me to bring the "surprise" to their room. They quickly scurried to their room.

I got the vanity out of the back of the van and proceeded to head to the laundry room door from the garage, where Natalie had come back to meet me. She's a curious little toddler right now! She and I walked toward their bedroom. Upon approaching the hallway, I noticed that Elyssa was sitting on her little potty looking at a magazine. This usually means she is pooping. She didn't even see me pass by with the vanity. I set the vanity up in her room and then took a little bag back to her in the bathroom where she was. The bag was filled with the play hairdryer, lipstick, comb and other items that went with the vanity. When she saw it she said, "Mommy, I'm so excited! I love you!" She then got off of the potty to hug my leg. I told her that if she was excited about that little bag, then she would be really excited about what was in her room. I got her bottom wiped off, pulled her pants back up and let her go to her room to be amazed by their new toy. When she got to her room I heard her say, "Natalie, look!" They began playing away!

While they were beginning their initial play with the vanity, I took the red tray out of Elyssa's potty that was filled with her pee and poop and poured some water in it from the faucet. This is something I normally do right before I dump its contents into the "big" toilet for flushing. Right after I had filled the tray with a little water I heard, what sounded like to me, the vanity tumping over. All I could think of was that the vanity had fallen over on Natalie or Elyssa. My initial reaction was to quickly dump the tray out in the potty and run to the bedroom. After I dumped the tray, I darted to the bedroom to save my children from harm, I, all of the sudden, realized that the hole I dumped the poop into was not the "big" potty. In fact, it was the training potty! So, the dung had no where to go but splat right onto the floor because I was holding the tray that it would've normally gone into, when it's in its place. I couldn't believe what I had done! I don't know what made me think that I could dump the "dump" out in that little potty, but it was my first reaction. After I realized that the vanity had not fallen at all, I headed back to the bathroom to look at the damage. For the next 30 minutes, I was trying to sanitize the floor where I had dumped the pee and poop. Oh, joy!

Oh well, instead of the "poop hitting the fan," ... it hit the floor!

PS - Here is a cute photo of Victoria from today!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Talk To Me

Well, I promised a video of Victoria "talking" and here it is. It's a longer video (60 seconds) because you cannot rush these things. However, she is a very obedient child. I told her to "talk," say "hi," wave "bye," and smile. She did every single thing I asked her to do. Wow! She even gave me a little smile toward the end of the video. I hope you enjoy it!

I also posted some lyrics to a song I wrote for Victoria several weeks ago. It's called, "She Is God's Child." I was able to do a very rough (and quick) demo of it, thanks to Ryan, at church the other day. I'm not the most talented piano player, so just bear with me! Also, keep in mind that I've not hardly sung ANYTHING in the past few months due to my crazy life. I'm a bit out of shape vocally. I've got to pull out my o'l warm up and workout Cd's to get into vocal shape before I start teaching Commercial Voice in the fall at college! It's amazing how crisis in your life sucks any extra time out of your schedule for things like singing (beyond the singing I do with my kids)! Hope you enjoy the song! It blessed me, so I hope it blesses you!

PS - I did change a few of the lyrics and the printed version below is the updated version. You'll hear me sing a few different lines on the recording so just ignore those. Click on the following link to hear the song: http://www.box.net/shared/c0wbjciccg

© 2008 Heather Messick

Her little face is not the same
As yours and mine they say
But God took the time to fashion her
In such a special way
She may not learn just like I do
Or play the way I play
But she was made especially
For me to know one day

That God is good
And He is kind
She always is
Right there on His mind

She is God's child
Crafted and made by Him
She is God's child
Her life magnifies Him
She is God's child
Let our praise begin
And thank Him
For she is God's child

Her life came no surprise to Him
He knew that she'd be here
This span of time was made for her
So there should be no fear
Whatever struggles come her way
The Lord will see her through
He'll hold her hand and guide her steps
Each day He will be true

'Cause He is good
And He is kind
She always is
Right there on His mind


Who’s to say her little life
Wasn’t meant to be this way?
To show the world the Savior’s hand
Now we can join and say


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Catching Up

The past few days have been busy with visits from several friends. We wish to post some photos of our recent visitors.

My life-long friend, Allison, came to visit me Saturday. She had attended Victoria's heart-surgery at UAB, but I didn't think to get her picture back then. She drove into town Saturday to be with her mom. Just recently her mom, Shirley (who has commented to several of my blogs), found out that she has cancer. I was glad to see Allison again, but I know we both hated the reasons for which she had to come into town. Please say a prayer for Mrs. Shirley when you think about it. I know Allison would appreciate it so much.

Next, we had a visit (on the same day) by Jan. She was so sweet and brought a toddler bed for Elyssa. We are so thankful for it. With our growing family, it came just in time. Here is a photo of Elyssa sleeping in her bed the first night. She LOVES her new bed. She has been great about staying in it. We, also, actually moved Natalie into Elyssa's room, so they are roomies now! So far, things have been going pretty good! I do have to admit that at their nap time yesterday something quite funny happened. Natalie kept standing up in the crib, jabbering to Elyssa about who knows what. I had to get onto them several times and tell them to go to sleep. Once, I came in and Elyssa's exact words were (as she sat up in her bed emphatically), "Mommy, this is crazy!" She proceeded to tell me that Natalie didn't want to go to sleep. It gave me a good chuckle! What a drama queen!

On Sunday, we were brought some yummy Chicken Spaghetti by Judy, Susanna and Meredith. Elyssa LOVED Meredith's visit! She had to show Meredith her new bed. I took their picture laying in the bed together. They are hilarious in this photo. They both shot their eyes over at each other at the same time. What cuties!

Finally, Jason and Amy brought us dinner tonight (Tuesday) and we had an absolute blast with them. We had asked them to stay and eat with us. They brought their kids with them and Elyssa and Natalie had a wonderful time playing with them. Emily, Abby and Jackson enjoyed playing with the girls, too. It was cute to see Abby being the "mommy" to Elyssa. Abby put her in her bed, fixed her hair and just had a great time playing with her. Here is a cute Vacation Bible School song that all of the kids sang to in our living room. I'm telling you, it was a night of variety! What a blessing to have such wonderful friends! In this video, Elyssa is playing on the guitar that she made in Mom's Day Out today. You get down, girl!

Last, but not least, you have to see how Victoria is doing. She is moving like a wild woman! She's very active! I just think this is a sign that she will be one of those church members who run up and down the aisles. Watch out Pastor Ed! She might give you a real run for your preaching!
We even caught a little smile of Victoria's on camera recently. We are so thankful for how she has been recovering. I'm hoping, soon, to catch some of her cooing on video to post. That is the new cute thing she is starting to do.

We continue to be so thankful for the friends and family that God has placed in our lives. If you were to calculate our wealth based on all of the special people in our lives, then we are very rich, indeed!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Growing Up

Do you ever stop and realize that you are like your parents now? In other words, you are the parent (if you have children of your own) and not the little kid anymore? Some of you may think I'm a little wacked out. Of course, we parents should all know this by now, right? What I mean is, I look at Elyssa and Natalie and think, "That use to be me!" I use to be their age living fancy-free. I had no cares in the world. I didn't worry about where my next meal would come from or where I would sleep. I was young and just having fun. My whole life was ahead of me.

I remember playing with matchbox cars in the dirt in the front of my parents house. I remember making forts in the woods behind their house. I remember playing cops and robbers with the guy across the street. We use to think it was so unfair that he would be the robber on a motorcycle racing through the trails we had made in the woods while my sister, brother and me would be cops chasing him on our little bicycles. We never caught him. Surprised?

Time is racing on, isn't it? I can only imagine what my parents felt when they were my age raising three kids. I wonder if they ever pondered back on the childhood of their parents and thought about what it must've been like for them. It's weird how we all start out as babies, then kids and then grow up only to get old. I was asking Mark tonight if he ever had thought about this and he started singing, "The Circle Of Life." I just shook my head and laughed. I'm too deep for my own good sometimes.

Anyway, I have looked at Elyssa lately and noticed her little baby legs turning into little girl legs. She is changing right before my eyes. She also says such "big-girl" things now. I see her older cousin, Meagan, in her.

And, now, I can finally get Natalie to sit on the potty for a little while. Soon, (hopefully) she will be potty-trained and she will no longer be considered the "baby." I'll just watch in amazement as she starts talking and feeding herself better and changing into a full-blown toddler.

Pretty soon the only baby in the house will be Victoria and I'm sure our time with her will fly by, too. I will cherish our "baby days" with her because I know unless God chooses otherwise, she will be our last little munchkin.

The time of childbearing years are most likely over and we will move into our next phase of life. Am I glad? Probably not. I guess having kids makes me feel younger than I am. I've enjoyed every pregnancy experience, except for the worry that came with Victoria's pregnancy. Having children has definitely made my life more complete. It's been a huge blessing. Some of you with teenagers are saying, "You just wait! You will eat those words when they turn 13!" I hope I don't eat those words no matter how many feminine napkins and tampons I have to buy, or how much zit medicine we might go through. Maybe the mood swings won't get to me too much and maybe the bickering will be to a minimum. I think Victoria will help keep Elyssa and Natalie straight and hopefully, she will be the one to remind me what a joy children are.

May I never really grow "old" and may my heart and mind stay as young as my girl's are now!

PS - I got a cute video of Natalie sitting on the potty today. I found a great bag that seems to keep her occupied. She loves putting things into it and taking them right back out. It's great when it takes so little to entertain them, isn't it?

PSS - Here is a video of Natalie doing some new things. She "winks" and has learned a few other things from her teachers at Mom's Day Out. She has a great golf swing and also does the "Chicken Dance."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Learning Something New

I think I've learned something new about myself. Yes, through the process of my pregnancy with Victoria, her birth and all of the chaos surrounding her heart surgery I have had time to learn something interesting about myself. I couldn't put my finger on it until today, though.

Today was kind of a bummer day. Nothing in particular happened. The girls went to Mom's Day Out while I stayed home with Victoria. I just felt "down" and I didn't really know why. I mean, I guess I've gotten "use to" this routine of always staying at home, unless I get relief to run to the store. It just gets old sometimes.

I was also feeling overwhelmed today. Overwhelmed by all of the household chores piling up. There were piles of clothes to wash, piles of dishes to wash and put away ... you name it, it needed to be done. Chasing two little ones around along with caring for a new recovering baby is a big task and the housework gets shoved to the side, I'm afraid. I think I've been feeling overwhelmed for several days now, but it really hit me today. When I get to the point I was at today, I feel myself shutting down. It almost is hard to put forth effort to do any of the things I see that need to be done, because by the time I do that little bit, other things will have multiplied (because of the girls making new messes), leaving me in more of a predicament than I was in before. I never seem to get "caught up." Ever been there?

Thankfully, my mom came over mid-morning and without me having to ask, she began helping me. I think she knew I was swamped. I'm sure she could tell by looking at me that I was on the verge of "looneyville." I was thankful to have the help. We put away countless articles of clothing, washed several loads of clothes, put away dishes and washed dishes. It turned out to be a productive day.

In the midst of doing all of the chores with my mom, in my quiet state of working, I realized what I think is wrong with me. I realized why I'm feeling "down." See, we've had so much attention given to us for such a long time and now to be home ... there are not as many calls, emails, visits, etc. Now that Victoria is recovering well, I guess people assume that we don't need to be contacted as much. Don't get me wrong. It's not that we do need to be contacted like before. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that I've learned something important about myself. I realized today that I am way more of a "people-person" than I ever thought I was. I use to think I was re-charged by solitude in my younger years. I'm realizing now that I'm re-charged by socializing and being "real" with people. That is probably why this blog has been so important for me. It's been a way I can release my emotions and vent my feelings to a cyber-space of friends who encourage me and keep in contact with me. Being house-bound has made me realize that I can be house-bound if I have to be, but I really do enjoy my friendships outside of the home.

During this entire process, I've felt a closeness with so many people that I may have not had an opportunity to experience otherwise. It's been great to know so many people are concerned and lifting us up during such a trying time. I think now that some of that has faded and we have all gone back to our "normal" lives (we still don't quite know what "normal life" is yet), I miss being in daily contact with so many folks. I know things will not always be as they were and I surely don't expect it to continue to be that way, I just find it interesting that I've learned this funny thing about myself.

During a crisis, I find it so refreshing to see people stop the business of their lives to remove their "masks" and reveal a very "real" side of themselves to comfort the person in distress. You never wish for the crisis, but I must say ... a crisis brings out the best in a lot of us. It brings out a side that might otherwise be hidden by the fast pace of life. A crisis causes you to stop and re-think the value of the person in the crisis and the value of the friendship you have with that person. After things are "okay," everyone tends to go on with "normal" life activities and we all begin again the rat race we were in before.

I'm not blogging all of this for more phone calls, emails or comments. Please know that. I'm just having a moment of revelation. I know I've been the person not in the crisis before, offering help to the person that is in need. Then, after the horrible event is over in that person's life, I've thought they were okay and that they didn't really need me anymore. I guess I'm realizing that it's nice for me to stay "real" just a little bit longer and not rush so quickly into the craziness of life before I have to.

A crisis is more of a blessing than I once thought it to be. Although we don't initially want to, maybe more of us need to enter into one. It's in the crisis that you have an opportunity to give or receive love a little more than we normally might tend to do. It's in the crisis that you realize how thankful you really are. And, it's in the crisis that you slow down or even stop long enough to let your walls down to reveal that a wonderfully vulnerable person is under the facade.

It's also in the crisis that you really call out to God in a way you never have before. You seek His face more diligently and you realize that it's sad that it took such a life-changing event to push you into that place. After the crisis is over, you realize that you miss everything that came with it and you never want your life to be the same again.

Crisis anyone?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Messed-up Middle Children

Natalie and I are the middle children amongst our siblings. "They" say middle children are messed up, right? So, I guess we are pees in a pod.

Natalie and I got to have more time together today because Mark took Elyssa on their first "Daddy-Daughter Date." They went to Chick-Fil-A and Elyssa especially enjoyed playing on the playground there. While they were away, I took some photos of me and Natalie together and wanted to post them on the blog today.

I still say that Natalie is the "milk-man baby." I don't think she looks like me or Mark. I guess the combination of us both was so potent that she came out with her own good looks! What do you think about those eyes?

PS - On a totally different note, for those of you who wonder about Victoria's sleeping habits, she is doing very well. I've had several people ask, so I wanted to post something regarding that. She is on a regular 3-hour feeding schedule during the day and sleeps from about 10pm until 6am or 6:30am. In a week or so, I will probably back up her last feeding of the night a little more. I believe she will tolerate getting even more sleep at night just fine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Star Is Born

I took this video of the girls the day before yesterday. They were playing in Elyssa's room. They really enjoy their Dora house, which was a great gift from a friend. You can tell who the boss is between the two girls. Elyssa! Natalie enjoys her big sister reading to her and occasionally has a little input to the conversation. If you listen closely, Natalie interjects something into Elyssa's story, after which I say, "Natalie ... what was that???" She tooted, if you don't figure it out on your own! The funniest part is that after I asked her that question, she actually started looking around trying to see what it was!

I had Elyssa serenade me. She did her version of "Get Down" that she learned in Sunday School at church.

She also does her version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." You gotta love it when they repeat lyrics because they don't really know all the words to the song!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Down Syndrome

I read this explanation of Down Syndrome on a website and wanted to share it with you. This makes it very easy to understand for those of you who don't know a lot about it.

What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is not a disease, but it is a genetic condition that affects the 21st chromosome. Instead of having two 21st chromosomes, people with Down syndrome have three. Even though people with Down syndrome have a lot of things in common, they are just as unique and individual as anybody else. Down syndrome occurs in one in every 733 live births. More than 350,000 Americans today have Down syndrome. The opportunities for people who have Down syndrome are increasing every day! More and more people with Down syndrome are graduating high school, going to college, working full-time jobs, and living independent lives. The cause of Down syndrome is unknown. While the chances of having a child with Down syndrome increases after the maternal age of 35, 80% of all children with Down syndrome are born to mothers under the age of 35. (I was 35 when I had my daughter with Down syndrome.) The vast majority of cases of Down syndrome are random occurrences that are not inherited. There is a rare type of Down syndrome called Translocation Down syndrome that is sometimes inherited by one of the parents, however it is still only a small percentage of Translocation cases that are actually inherited.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Little Miracle

Hi. My name is Victoria Jayne and my mommy and daddy tell me that I'm a miracle. They don't think I understand them when they talk to me, but I do. I see them when they smile at me and tell me that they love me. They tell me that they are amazed that I am doing so well. I hear them thank someone named "God" for taking care of me when I was sick. I think I know who He is. He made me all better. I'm thankful for what He did for me, too.

All my band-aids fell off of my boo-boo and I thought you might like to see my scar. The doctor told my parents that as I grow that my scar will not grow with me. In fact, it may only be a few inches tall when I get to be a big girl. Then you will hardly notice it at all. Isn't that great?

I want to thank all of you for praying for me. My mommy and daddy were so worried about me when my heart wasn't working right. I remember them crying for me. I heard them say that they asked all of you to pray for me and I am so thankful you did. God heard your prayers and did something amazing in my little body.

Thank you for loving me and my family!

Happy Father's Day!

Today is a special day. Father's Day. This day we recognize our husbands and father's for what wonderful men they are. We take a few moments to reflect on everything they have poured into our lives and to thank them for the sacrifices they have made over the years for us. I have three special men in my life to which I dedicate this post.

You are such a wonderful father. You stepped into this role naturally. I still remember the nervousness we had when Elyssa first arrived. It seems just like yesterday. Well, I guess it almost was! She is only going to be three next month! You have had a lot of experiences as a dad since three years ago. You went through three pregnancies with me hardly to ever miss one of my OBGYN appointments. You went through three labor and birth experiences with me, being such a great coach while I was in so much pain. Even then you were showing what love you had for me and for your children to come. We've also gone through so many doctor visits, tubes in ears, specialist visits, heart surgery ... you name it! You've been there through it all with crazy o'l me! Thank you for just "being there" and not making me face any of what has come our way alone. You always made yourself just as vulnerable as I did. You were "open" and that means a lot.

To see you hold and love on your three girls is always such a thrill for me. You have always tried your best to provide for them and protect them. They know you love them. You make that evident. In everything you do, you are always thinking of your family. You try to think ahead of how things will affect us and our future.

You are a godly man with such a tender heart for people. Your girls could not ask for a better dad and role model. You are a gift to them.

You are a gift to me. I know we are not without disagreements at times, but to know that you will always be there for me is a great comfort. Your commitment to me and your children is such a blessing. A lot of men these days walk out on that kind of commitment because it is sometimes hard. You have stepped up to the plate and given our marriage and your children your all. We thank you for sharing your life with us.

We love you!

Thank you for being such a wonderful father to me. You taught me that character is much more important than anything else. You have always been a man of character and people see someone they want to be in you.

You were always a godly leader and made sure we were in church and were learning about the Lord. Because of you, I'm now married to a pastor and love working in the church. What a legacy to leave behind! My children will know the Lord because of you and even their children's children.

I want you to know how proud I am of you in everything you have accomplished in your life. Sometimes you may think you wish you would've done more, but in my eyes you've done everything. You have been a wonderful husband and father. What more do you need to do? Things of this world will pass away, but what you have invested into your family will continue to live on as we pour into our families what we have learned from you. You are the best and I could not be more thankful to have you as a father.

Thank you for loving my three girls. They always have so much fun with you. It means a great deal to us that you stayed with Elyssa and Natalie when we were at UAB for those weeks. It was a huge comfort to know that our girls were being cared for by such wonderful grandparents. I know they enjoyed that time with you even though they missed us, too.

Thank you for everything you do and for just being "you." I love you, Daddy. Happy Father's Day!

DAD: (my second dad!)
Thank you so much for accepting me into your family. You have been so wonderful to me. It means so much to me that you have always shown so much love to me.

I will never forget all three of my girl's births. You have always given me such a big hug after everything is over. We always seem to cry then. That has been a special time for me and a great memory. I especially will never forget the birth of Victoria when we brought all of our family in the room to see her for the first time. You all were surrounding my bed and I told everyone that she did have Down Syndrome and heart defects. We all cried together, but you said that we would love her no matter what. There was never a question that her Granddaddy would love her! For that matter, we knew we would all love and accept her.

Thank you for all of the ways you have shown love to us. You and mom bless us in so many ways and we could not be more thankful. You are so giving and loving. You never have to doubt that we feel your love. We pray that you feel as much love from us.

Thanks for being a great Granddaddy to my three girls. They love you and think you are great!

We love you so much and hope you feel so very special this Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Looking Better All The Time!

Here are a few great, recent photos of Victoria. She is looking better and better each day. Her left eye is much improved and I'm really praying that whatever has been going on with that eye has resolved itself permanently.

We are a little nervous because it seems Victoria is finding her fingers on her left hand. She hasn't actually started sucking on them, but she gums them from time to time. She has never seemed real interested in a pacifier, so she may go for her fingers. We kinda hope not, but we'll see!
Victoria's progress continues to amaze us. God has truly done marvelous things in her life and we feel so thankful to be a part of His plan.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Pump Or Not To Pump - Part Deux

I had always wanted to write "To Pump Or Not To Pump - Part Deux" while at UAB,but never got to. I'm sure some of you were anxiously awaiting the sequel! I actually took photos for the post and just didn't get around to writing it, so here goes! Better late than never!

While at UAB, I mentioned pumping all during the day to maintain my milk supply for Victoria. I thought you might find some photos of the rooms I went to interesting. It was a very nice set up for those of us who had to utilize the rooms so frequently. This place became somewhat of a second home for me while Victoria was in such critical condition.

Just down the hallway from the RNICU (the first unit that Victoria was in) was the Lactation Center. Once you entered the center you had to sign-in. I would write down my name and the time I entered the center for their records. I would then proceed to one of the two rooms set up for pumping moms. There was a lock on the door to which you had to punch in a code.

Upon entering the room, you would see two curtains hanging from the ceiling that could be pulled to conceal the pumping mom in her chair by her pump. As you sat in the chair having the life sucked out of you, you would stare at one of two things in front of your face ... your pump or a huge picture of a baby nursing. Looking at pictures like that are supposed to stimulate your milk supply. Isn't that interesting? I'm assuming it worked for me because my milk supply never dropped. In fact, I had a huge bag in the freezer of small bottles of milk. The nurses that cared for Victoria always commented on my milk supply doing so well.

Just so you get the feeling of being in my shoes, I took several pictures of what I saw as I sat in my chair.

Right in front of me I saw my pump which sat on top of a file cabinet-type piece of furniture.

Then looking a little downward, I saw the tubes running from my pump to the breast shields.

Next, looking completely down at my chest, I saw what looked to be a get-up from a Madonna concert. Enough said. Let the pictures show all!

As I look back on our experiences at UAB, I have to say that my favorite comical post was the one concerning pumping. For such a stressful time, it was definitely some much needed comic relief. I mean, you have to find the rainbows during the rain storms of life and for me, the rainbow was more of a suction device that could be used for torture in medieval times.

Who's to say that rainbows are always something that will initially make you laugh or smile? Our rainbows might be masked by pain or discomfort. You just endure the pain and you find something funny there.

Pump on!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Adventures In Grossland

As a single person about 6 years back and even now being married, I've always joked about gross things. It's been a part of my personality. People look at me on the outside and think I'm all "prim and proper" and then they hear crazy stuff come out of my mouth. They laugh hysterically because they are shocked by my dry-humor comments. They don't expect a little southern girl to make jokes about the potty or funny bodily functions.

I must admit that I get this trait honestly. Somehow I picked this up from my simple family life. My parents didn't talk that way, per say, it's just that we had an open home life and talked about a lot of funny things. I'm glad I was raised that way. We didn't try to be anything we were not. We just laughed at life and enjoyed the humor in how God created things. He has to have a sense of humor, so why don't we?

Being a mother now, I definitely have to have a sense of humor about bodily functions and such. I mean, all day long I'm looking at "poo" and "pee" and the biggest boogers of all time. If someone had a video camera on me when having to clean all three of my girls umbilical chords until they fell off, I'd be one of those people who gagged through the entire process. I'd probably win the AFV million dollar prize! You have to laugh at some point or else you go crazy. And, now with Victoria's surgery under my belt, I've seen more blood than I thought I ever wanted to and more tubes and wires in weird places of the body than I ever cared to see. I guess I thought I'd stop being grossed out after all my crazy experiences with my kids. But, I don't.

You wonder sometimes if your kids have a clue that you don't really care for catching their puke, constantly wiping poop off their bottoms or picking their boogers. I guess they might think you are some super hero with an immunity to being grossed out. Wouldn't that be nice? But, in reality, their gross bodily functions are like our kryptonite. Those gross things almost cripple us. We are within inches of being brought to our knees by an overwhelming sense of nausea. But, thankfully, the Lord comes to our rescue. He reminds us, once again, that as mothers we have been gifted and equipped to handle even the most awful of situations. We can, again, rise to the occasion and do our job like no one else can.

Now as I close, let me go wipe the poop off of Victoria's bottom that so explosively entered her diaper while I was writing this blog. Call me Wonder Woman, I guess! Now where is my invisible jet ....

PS - I caught a little smile on Victoria's face today. I think this smile was a fore-warning of the explosion of poop that was to be in my near future. Those dratted poops!

Monday, June 9, 2008

She Is God's Child

Here is a song I wrote about Victoria. I can picture Elyssa (or me) singing this in church with a slide show of all Victoria has gone through so far in her short life. My prayer is that this song would be a testimony of how there is value in every life. No matter if the life begins with struggles, God ordains that life. And, we (and Victoria) are ministers to the fact that He gives "gifts" to certain people. Those gifts are special children that help us to see His glory fully and know that He is a good God.

Copyright 2008 Heather Messick

Her little face is not the same
As yours and mine they say
But God took the time to fashion her
In such a special way
She may not learn just like I do
Or play the way I play
But she was made especially
For me to know one day

That God is good
And He is kind
She always was
Right there on His mind

She is God's child
Crafted and made by Him
She is God's child
Her life magnifies Him
She is God's child
Let our praise begin
And thank Him
For she is God's child

Her life came no surprise to Him
He knew that she'd be here
This span of time was made for her
So there should be no fear
Whatever struggles come her way
The Lord will see her through
He'll hold her hand and guide her steps
Her days He always knew

'Cause He is good
And He is kind
She always was
Right there on His mind

Who's to say her little life
Wasn't meant to be this way
To show the world the Savior's hand
Now we can join and say

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Officially Grossed Out

Okay, I'm officially grossed out. Let me tell you why.

Victoria has always sounded a little stopped up in the mask of her face, even before surgery. I was never able to really suck anything out of it with a bulb syringe, even though I had tried. I mentioned in an earlier post about a lactation consultant telling me that I could squirt a few drops of breast milk in Victoria's nose and massage it to help suck her boogers out. Well, it has really been working. It's been working so well that I've gotten grossed out quite a few times. Last night was one of those times. Mark and I were both in the living room and while feeding Victoria I stopped for a few minutes to try to suck out her nose. She had been sounding quite stopped up and I didn't want her to go to bed for the night that way. Well, amongst the few smaller treasures I found were several HUGE boogers. They were so big that I cannot believe they came out of her nose! They were bigger than what I've seen in an adult-size nose (not that I make it a habit of looking at adult-size boogers!). I don't mean to get to graphic in my description, but it was awful. I thought I was going to be sick.

I've been trying to look up online if Down Syndrome babies might struggle with this because of smaller nasal passages, but haven't found anything yet. Surely, Victoria's smaller passages has something to do with what is coming out of her nose. I must say, I've never encountered anything like this with my other children and it alarms me quite a bit.

Even in the midst of getting some quite large plugs of mucus out of Victoria's nose, I can still hear more in there when she is breathing. That blows my mind. I cannot believe that she could have more, but from the sounds of it ... there is. I believe I might talk to my pediatrician about this and see if there is a better way to remove all of this mucus. At UAB they had a suction tube and it worked well, but the tube was too small to get large pieces out. Maybe there is something like a larger suction tube that they can direct me to that will help give a better flowing suction to help relieve her sinuses. It makes me sad to think that she has more of these large plugs in her nose. No wonder she has had trouble breathing in the past! There were plenty of obstructions from what I've seen so far. Maybe Mama can help her little Victoria breathe better soon!

PS - Sorry to gross anyone out. This is a very real part of Victoria's life, although it's very yucky. So, pray that we can get her cleaned out well so she can breathe easier! You can hear how stopped up Victoria is in this video. What sounds like snoring is more mucus plugs that I need to get out. Poor girl!

PSS - In doing a search for this particular topic today, I came across another blog of a mom who has a little girl with Downs. Their little girl is so cute. I thought I'd share her blog with you. I can picture Victoria growing up to be like their little girl. The blog address is: http://thebalsisfamily.blogspot.com/

PSSS - Today Elyssa and Natalie wore the dresses that Mrs. Syble gave them to church. Natalie didn't really cooperate for the photo, however. You get the idea, though! Cute dresses!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mush-Pot - Part II

We were visited by two special friends today.

Ricky brought us lunch. He has been a great friend to us and to our girls for several years now. Here is his picture with the girls.

Mrs. Syble brought the girls matching dresses (which they will wear on this Sunday). Mrs. Syble is like a third grandmother to our girls and they love her tons!

On another totally different note, it's interesting getting the mail these days. We are starting to receive notices from Blue Cross telling us all they have paid out to USA Children's and Women's Hospital, UAB and the doctors involved in Victoria's surgery. It's a little overwhelming to see the large dollar amounts that have accumulated during Victoria's illness. When you are in a medical crisis there isn't a lot of time to think about how much things cost, like a jet ride to UAB, for your baby. You just know her life depends on it and you agree to whatever the doctors say needs to be done. We are truly blessed to have insurance with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. We know that many parents who go through similar circumstances may not have that blessing. We have also been blessed by the Rileigh & Raylee "Angel Ride" Foundation. This foundation provides financial support for families who have to travel and stay out of town to receive medical care for their child. We have also been blessed by numerous family members and friends. We praise the Lord for His awesome provision!

Last but not least, I end this post with two video clips. Watch them in order. The second video is a continuation of the first one. I believe Elyssa will bring a smile to your face! She did mine!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fun Day

Today at Mom's Day Out they had a Father/Daughter Breakfast in honor of Father's Day. Mark went with Elyssa and here are a few pictures from the breakfast.

Okay, so who do you think this munchkin looks like? The mama or the daddy?

Today at MDO it was also Water Day! Here is Elyssa enjoying the activities! You can tell by the video she was a little afraid on the water slide.

While Mark was able to be with Elyssa at some of the MDO events today, I could not be present. I had to take Natalie and Victoria to the eye doctor. Natalie may have some problems focusing her eyes on things right now, but it looks like the doctor will wait until she is a year old to re-acess her condition, unless it seems to get worse during the year. If you wanna know what it was like to be with her at the eye doctor, or even for the past few days (because she also has a lot of teeth coming in, too!!), look at the following video. This is Natalie crying tonight. Just multiply what you hear on my room monitor by , like, 1,000 and that will give you a good idea of the screaming that we all had to endure during her doctor visit. You would've thought the doctor was torturing her when in actuality, he wasn't even touching her and wanted her to only look at the light he was holding in his hand. I can imagine he thought, "What in the heck kind of child is this??? She has totally flipped out!!"

Victoria seems to still have blocked tear-ducts. Hopefully, that will improve over the next month or so. Her left eye is getting so red from the irritation of the constant draining. She also has "jiggly eyes" since her surgery. At least, Mark and I haven't noticed this until after her surgery. They will keep an eye on this and check on it again later. Hopefully, she will outgrow this condition.

We continue to be blessed with meals and thoughtful gifts from people. We cannot say enough how blessed we have been. God has been so good to us and has taken care of us in wonderful ways!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tear-Jerker Moment

I just came across this video on my camera. I didn't even realize anyone filmed this clip. It was me holding Victoria the morning she was being taken from the RNICU unit back for open-heart surgery at UAB. It was such an emotional time for me. As I held her, I began weeping. You can hear and see me start to cry. Watching this video tonight brought tears to my eyes again. I can remember what awful feelings I had in this moment. Knowing my child was about to be taken back for such a serious surgery was so difficult to handle. It was moments after this video was taken that she was moved into a portable pod and wheeled over to the surgical unit. This was the last chance I had to hold her before her surgery.

My, what God has done since this video was taken! This clip will always remind me what we went through with Victoria and what God brought her through.

Thank you, Lord, for such a powerful memory!

The Singer - Part II

My dad took this video of Elyssa and Natalie at our home while Mark, Victoria and I were at UAB. I thought it would add to the previous "The Singer" post. Maybe these will make you smile today!

The Singer

Here are a few videos of Elyssa singing. She is too cute!

This first video is of her singing a song off of a "God Rocks" DVD. All of the songs from the "God Rocks" DVDs are straight from Scripture. She is singing about the fruit of the Spirit in this little clip.

This second video is of Elyssa singing another song from a "God Rocks" Christmas DVD. She is singing the verse "Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given. And the government will be on His shoulders." Sometimes she will get on the keyboard at home and play her heart out while singing this song. I love it!

Corn - Part II

Here is a video of Natalie eating her corn on the cob from a few nights ago. Get ready to laugh. It's hilarious!

Elyssa also had a big belly from eating corn! Here she is showing off her abs!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Six More Weeks

Six more weeks ... that is the magic number! Victoria had her first appointment with her local cardiologist, Dr. David Mayer, and he wants her out of commission for six more weeks to continue her recovery. So, it looks like we will not be taking her out to any public places for a while longer. I'm up to the challenge, though. I've survived this long and I can do it for six more weeks. Piece of cake ... I think!

Dr. Mayer said that Victoria's heart echo today looked great. He said there is very little leakage, which is amazing. Of course, he will watch that as she grows to make sure none of that increases. He wrote down the three defects that were found and repaired in Victoria's heart once her surgery began. Here they are:

1. Endocardial Cushion Defect
2. Atrial Septal Defect
3. Double Outlet Right Ventricle

I'll let you look those up on your own to get the details of what each of those entails. I did find out, however, that the Double Outlet Right Ventricle was not something that Dr. Mayer or the other cardiologist in Birmingham knew about prior to her surgery. Neither of them saw that on the heart echos that were performed. So, that defect was a surprise to the surgeon, Dr. Knott-Craig, as well.

We are still amazed at what God has done in little Victoria's heart and how he has used these intelligent men to help bring healing to her body. We are so thankful for each of them and how they have blessed our lives by blessing our baby.

Dr. Mayer said that he will not need to see Victoria for six weeks. Next week I can discontinue the diuretic but will continue the Captopril (for her blood pressure). She is also taking a thyroid medication. He told me that if she has any fever to call immediately. He said, if she does run fever at any point, to expect to have to take her to the emergency room for immediate tests and blood work to be done to make sure there is no onset of infection. Any medical needs that she has for the next six weeks I am to run through their office to make sure she is on the up and up.

Please continue to pray for complete healing for Victoria. We still have a long road to walk with her recovery, but we are closer than we've been before. Even after I can take her to church with me, I can see myself wanting to be conservative with even letting others hold her at first. We have to be so careful with her right now because of her sternum healing. I wouldn't want someone to pick her up under her arms (which is a "no-no") and injure her in any way. She is still really fragile. I'm sure that with time, I'll be more comfortable with others looking after her for me, but I will take those baby steps much later.

Victoria's weight today was 8 lbs 2 oz. She has gained a few ounces since last week, so we are thankful. Unfortunately, her eye infection is returning. Pray that the drops that I have for her work quickly to resolve that infection.

I have posted a picture today of Dr. David Mayer along with two of his nurses, Kathy and Rachael. They have all been such a huge support for us and we are very thankful for them!

We are thankful, again, for all of the love, support and prayers from all of you! We have been blessed beyond measure during this interesting time in our lives!