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, July 28, 2008

"Messick!!!"

Natalie has been a little slow in saying words that we understand. Don't get me wrong, she talks ALL the time. She is "jibber-jabbering" though. You can understand how we got excited tonight when she repeated us saying "Messick" pretty clearly. We were in the van coming home from "Comedy Night" at our church (YES...we have comedians come in and do shows each summer for a few nights!!!). Mark asked her to say "Messick" and she did. It was so cute that we all clapped and cheered for her. So, all the way home that is what we had her saying. When we got in the house, we decided to video her. Wouldn't you know she got all shy!! She and Elyssa are total opposites. In the video, Elyssa is climbing on my head or doing whatever she can to get in the shot. Natalie is crying trying to get away from the camera. Go figure. Enjoy the video!

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Ahhh...she finally says "Messick" in this next clip!

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The following video is of my nightly ritual with Natalie. "The brushing of the teeth!" It's always a terrible experience for both of us. Maybe you will get a laugh from it. Maybe one day, she and I will too!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Picture Day

Today was picture day for the girls, especially Elyssa and Victoria. Elyssa had her 3-year-old photos and Victoria had her first EVER professional photos at Colonial Photography.

Elyssa did wonderful, of course! She is such a pro at this now. She's been having photos done since she was 3 months old and gets better with each session. Actually, today, Mr. John kept commenting on Elyssa being a "little model." She struck more poses than I've ever seen a girl her age strike on their own. She was so cute! She had a great smile and I am excited to see her proofs. They should be great! By the way, isn't this dress so cute? My sister, Shana, made it for Elyssa's 3rd birthday!

Next came Victoria. She had been smiling well at home but she didn't give us many smiles today. We went ahead and took photos but may have to try again with her. She may have been in awe of a new place.

Mr. John, the photographer and owner of Colonial Photography, gave us an extra-special blessing today. He told me that he, Erin and Belinda (the other employees there) wanted to give Victoria a Baby Plan. This would include her sitting fees and 4 photos for each session at her first year's photos! I was so surprised that I almost cried. That was something that meant a whole lot to me as documenting all of my girl's lives has been a hobby of mine. I'm a sucker for photo albums and such, so this was such a wonderful gift and very much appreciated! I look forward to looking back on Victoria's first year through the pictures that Mr. John takes of her. I'm sure that each photo will remind me of the miracles that God has worked in her life.

Mark arrived home shortly after lunch. Boy, was it nice to have him back home since he was away speaking at a Children's Camp this week!

After the girls awoke from their naps, we drove to Dauphin Island's Sea Lab with my dad. The girls LOVED it! What a great get-away for an afternoon! Who knew that you could find such fun things to do in your own town? You'll have to forgive Natalie's appearance in this photo. She was really not wanting to take a picture at the time! She wanted "down" so she could see all the cool fish swimming around!

Here are a few videos of cool things we saw there! God surely created magnificent creatures!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's In A Name?

Some of you may wonder how we came up with Victoria's name. It's an interesting story.

I was eleven weeks pregnant when I had my first ultrasound with Victoria. The date was Monday, September, 17, 2007. My OBGYN had gotten a new ultrasound machine and wanted me to come in to help her tech train on it. She had scheduled several of us pregnant women to come in that day and I was the second woman they did an ultrasound on. Mark was out of town speaking at a conference in Georgia so my mom went with me to my appointment that day. We took Elyssa and Natalie with us, as well. Of course, this was the infamous visit where I was told that something didn't look right with the baby. My feelings were all confused and mixed up. I didn't know what to think or feel. I immediately called Mark in Georgia and gave him the news. I was crying when I told him the findings of the ultrasound. It was hard for him to hear this type of news being so far away, but God was such a refuge for him.

While speaking at the conference at Sherwood Baptist Church, he became re-aquainted with Victoria McBride. Victoria had worked at First Baptist North Mobile when attending the University of Mobile. She now serves as the assistant to one of the pastors there at Sherwood. During those first few days, Mark couldn't get the name "Victoria" out of his head. God kept bringing that name to mind when thinking of the news of our unborn baby's health situation. When we talked on the phone Wednesday of that same week, Mark told me of the name Victoria. We knew by looking it up, that it meant "victorious." I felt total peace about this name and agreed with Mark's decision to name our "problematic" baby Victoria.

God had a neat way of confirming Victoria's name to me that same day. I had gone to choir rehearsal that night and before leaving the church for home, I stopped by the bathroom. While using the facilities (yes, I was using the bathroom!!), I looked up to see a new roll of toilet paper that had not been unwrapped yet sitting on the shelf in front of me. While still in it's wrapper, it had something printed on it in bright blue letters. It was the name "Victoria." I almost flipped out right there in the restroom! That was too much of a coincidence. I knew that was a confirmation! As crazy as it seemed, I knew I had received a sign from God about Victoria's name in the bathroom!

The next confirmation that God gave me was that same night a few moments later. As I pulled out of the parking lot of the church to the exit lane, I was stopped at the traffic light. While sitting at the light I looked to my left. There is a Krystal located there. I noticed on their sign at the very top it had the word, "victory," all by itself. I almost flipped out again! I know I said out-loud in my car, "No way!" I couldn't believe what I had just seen. God was showing me again that this little baby was going to be a bundle of victory.

A few weeks later, I began looking through my baby name book for middle names. I looked for all the "spiritual" names like Hannah, Grace, Faith, etc. I wasn't "struck" by any of them. Then, I remembered that Mark has a wonderful aunt named Jane. I looked up Jane. It meant "God is gracious." So, this name made it on my list. As Mark looked over my list that same night, I heard him mention that he wondered what the name would mean if you spelled it Jayne. Our pastor's wife had died about a month before in a terrible accident and her middle name was Jayne. We remember thinking that Jayne was so pretty and Tammy was such a beloved woman of God. It wasn't until several weeks later that we actually looked up what Jayne meant. To our surprise, it meant "victory." We believe that God was all over that name, too! So, from then on our new baby's name was Victoria Jayne.

As we prayed for Victoria Jayne through my pregnancy, her birth and recent heart surgery, God always reminded us that she was and is His "victorious victory."
We serve a good God who shows His hand at every turn. How can we not praise Him?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So Proud

Today I feel so proud of Elyssa and Victoria. Let me tell you why.

This morning I took Victoria with me to Springhill Hospital. I met with Eileen, the lactation consultant. I had wanted to get a good idea of what Victoria was taking in when she was nursing. Well, my little special girl ate a little over 3 ounces this morning while nursing! That is usually what she would eat if I pumped and fed her from a bottle. I was SO encouraged! I am now feeling pretty comfortable about how she is nursing and may start being brave enough to let her nurse while we are out without worrying about pumping before I run my errands. Besides her getting a little distracted at times, she did very well in her nursing session at the hospital. Thanks to Eileen for letting me come and weigh Victoria!

Early this afternoon I took Elyssa for her very first dental appointment. I had been telling her what to expect for several days so I was hoping we would have a good experience there. Upon arriving we signed in, filled out paperwork and waited for a few extra minutes in the waiting area. She was very well behaved and made several friends in the lobby. Everyone thought she was so cute! One lady even gave her two quarters so she could buy two prizes out of their toy machines. She later got up in that lady's lap and you would've thought she was her grandma the way she hugged on her. It was really sweet.

When she was called back, she was a big girl and followed Amber (the hygienist) right back to her chair. She climbed up in the chair and sat there like such a big girl! She never once asked me to sit with her. Amber put on her bib and the questions began. Elyssa would ask, "What are you doing? What is that?" Amber explained everything she was doing and what every instrument did.

Elyssa let Amber count her teeth, clean her teeth and scrape her teeth. I was SO proud of how well she did. I was amazed! Amber was too! There was no crying, whimpering or anything closely related to that. It was an awesome experience for Elyssa and she loved all of the prizes she got while at Dr. Court's office. She will definitely look forward to going back in six months and we are excited because her teeth look GREAT! Thanks Amber and Dr. Court!

Today has been a wonderful day and a blessing from the Lord! Thanks to God for His awesome surprises in our lives!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boldly Overwhelmed

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you feel your body wanting to scream? Some of you are shouting out a "hallelujah" about right now! For your entertainment, let me go through some of my list of "to do's" so you'll know why I'm feeling so crazy present day.

First of all, school will be starting soon for Elyssa and I'm having to purchase school supplies for her. (I cannot believe she is actually starting 3K!) I've still not finished that shopping. Also, I start teaching Commercial Voice soon at UM and need to get myself organized for that. This is a matter of just typing up some paperwork for my records, but it still involves me setting aside time to do it. On top of these things, we will be starting therapy programs soon with Victoria. Don't even ask me how this will fit into our lives! Being that we will meet with a person from Early Intervention weekly, I know this will involve more of our time for those appointments. Plus, they will be teaching me things that I need to do with Victoria during each day's activities to help further her development. Again, another time issue. PLUS, KidGrid (our church's family worship service) is starting back and I lead the praise team for that. I've got to lay out set lists, get my singers scheduled and also get music to them to start preparing for our first rehearsal.

I could go on and on, but I know you don't want to hear ALL of my woes. Basically, I'm feeling a little pulled in every direction and sometimes I feel myself on the verge of going nuts. I start asking myself, "Okay ... how do I keep up a house and manage things at home with everything going on in my life? Also, where is time for ME?" And, unfortunately, I've come to the realization that I will not be able to keep my house as clean and tidy as I would like to for a while, probably. Having three young kids in the house kinda thwarts that dream.

I can now surrender and boldly admit that I cannot keep up. That is where I am in my life today. I will try to do my best at everything on my plate, but my "ah ha" moment today tells me that it will not be possible for me to do everything as perfect as I would like. There is no use in beating myself up about it. Any "Amen's" from the choir yet? Anyone been there before?

So, I will live my life doing as much as I can to complete all of my tasks but I will definitely have to ... "Search for the Lord and for His strength and continually seek Him." (1 Chronicles 16:11) On the overwhelming days, I will pray Psalm 28:7. "The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. " Let us all burst out in songs of thanksgiving, having faith that God will give us what we need exactly when we need it. On the crazy school days, let us look to Him and rely on His strength.

Okay everyone, let's say it together - "Hallepenya!"

PS - Victoria had her checkup with her pediatrician today. She now weighs 10lbs, which is a huge praise! She had 4 shots, which was no fun, but, overall, it was a great visit. We love Dr. Faye!

PSS - My doctor still insisted yesterday at my appointment that I did have something viral, so I will just wait out my cold junk. I can tell that things are getting better, so that is good. He did have the lab draw some blood and they will check my thyroid since I've been experiencing some episodes of fatigue. Hopefully, it will be negative. I'm sure with everything going on, my "tiredness" has just caught up with me.

PSSS - Here is the cutest video of Elyssa singing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Those of us with extra-stressful days, might sing the song like this ... "carry, carry, carry me home!" You gotta love how kids sings songs!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

First Sunday At Church

Today was a special day because it was Victoria's first day to attend a church service with me. I took a picture of Victoria in her dress before we left the house. She looked so cute! We went to the 2nd service (10:30am) and sat on one of the back rows. It was great to see so many people, although I did try to be careful about getting too close. So many people were so sweet to let me know how they had been praying for us and Victoria. I will be trying to slowly get Victoria into church life with me. I know she will come to love everyone there as much as Mark and I do!

Here is a picture of Natalie in her church dress from today. Her Aunt Karen actually bought this dress originally for Elyssa. Natalie gets all of the hand-me-downs, but she still looks cute!

Elyssa got this dress from her Grandmother and Granddaddy for her birthday. She looks awful pretty!

Yesterday, Christine, from Early Intervention, came to evaluate Victoria. She looked at her motor skills and other things via a little test booklet she had and gave her different ratings. Victoria is a little behind where she should be, but that is understandable. I mean, it's not like she wasn't out of commission for about 4 weeks at UAB having her chest cut on! Also, the weeks before that, she was not functioning at her full potential because of her heart issues. Christine said that this week we will probably have a visit from another lady at Early Intervention who will go over the plan for Victoria. Christine believes that Victoria will need physical therapy. I'm sure that will be the first thing we start up with her. She believes that once we get Victoria going on her plan that she will really amaze us. She already recognized how active that Victoria was and said that will definitely play in her favor.

The girls fell asleep in the van today on the way back home from church. Mark wanted me to take a picture. Awe! How cute! They even have their heads both leaning the same way!

Victoria fell asleep in her bouncy seat while I was pumping and look what was in her mouth! Yikes! I heard her sucking on something a little, but sometimes she sucks on her own tongue. I didn't expect to see her finger in there! Hopefully, she'll forget that she found that finger! We don't need another finger-sucker in our household!

On another note, say a prayer for me. I went to the doctor about 2 weeks ago complaining of congestion in my chest. The doctor didn't hear anything and said it was probably viral, which means no antibiotics. Since my visit, I have still had a yucky cough with lots of feelings of congestion still in my chest. I can feel it so I know it's there. I will make an appointment tomorrow and insist on a chest x-ray. I dread the thought, but what if he tells me I have walking pneumonia or something crazy like that?? Hopefully, this can be treated with simple antibiotics. I cannot afford to leave Mark in a lurch if I need more serious treatment. So, pray for a simple treatment and quick recovery for me.

Blessings to all of you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy 3rd Birthday, Elyssa!

Welp, we officially have a 3-year-old in our house! Elyssa turned 3 today! We had a little birthday party Saturday that actually got bigger than we expected. We started out just inviting family (which would've been a total of 13 people) and then decided to invite a few of Elyssa's friends from her class. Somehow, we ended up with between 30 and 40 people over here and had a blast. We could've invited many more people but we had to stop somewhere. Rats!

We were blessed to borrow two water inflatable slides and the kids had a great time on those. We already had a little pool from last year that ended up being a grass pond by the time all the kids stepped from the grass into it. It was pretty gross! We, also, recently bought a cheap little kid-sprinkler and had it turned on for the kids to run through.

The kids stayed outside playing, pretty much, the entire time, which kept my house from getting too horribly dirty. They had a picnic on the lawn for their lunch time.

After lunch Elyssa opened her gifts. She got lots of bubbles and sidewalk chalk, which she absolutely loves! Then, she got some clothing items, a cute backpack (which is just in time for her to start 3-year-old kindergarten!) and two dresses. I'm sure there are other cute things, too, that I'm leaving out. She was really blessed with some fun things!

Her biggest present was the Barbie Jeep that several of us family members went in together to get her. She was nervous about it at first, but then really had a fun time in it.

We had to stop the "play" time for a few minutes to sing "Happy Birthday" and present Elyssa her Dora cake. She blew out her candle wonderfully and really enjoyed her cake!

My sister was in town this past week and we were blessed to have her family join us for the party. Here is a picture of "the girls" from my family (excluding Mandy...she was sick and we missed her horribly). My parents and brother and his little girl came, as well.

Mark's parents and Mark's brother's family joined us, too. We missed David, Karen and Kyle, but know they were with us "in spirit" in California!

I told Mark the party was a really fun time for me. It was the best to watch my kids play with everyone. What a blessing to have such awesome friends and family! We love you all!

Happy birthday to my "big" little girl! We love you, Elyssa!

PS - You've just gotta see Victoria touching my face and talking to me! We just took this video this afternoon and it's rather dark in the room, but you'll get the idea. How sweet!

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PSS - I got a call from Early Intervention today. Someone will come on Saturday to evaluate Victoria. From that evaluation, they will decide if she needs physical therapy or any other types of therapy at this point. We pray that this meeting is very productive and that from it Victoria gets all she needs to be the best she can be!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ouch!

Natalie, our 18-month-old, has seemed to inherited a very sensitive body. She has had the hardest time with her skin most all of her little life. The doctors attributed this to eczema early on, but I'm wondering if she doesn't have some allergic reactions going on also.

Not long ago she was battling, what seemed to be, a sick tummy. I started wondering if this wasn't the result of some food allergies. Her diapers were always so bad that her bottom was staying terribly red. Being that she had extra-sensitive skin, this was especially hard on her bottom. Diaper changes were always traumatic for her.

The past few days I've noticed that her legs and arms have broken out more than normal. It hurts me to look at Natalie. I cannot help but feel frustrated that surely there is more going on than eczema but we are just not sure what yet.

I plan to take her to the hospital lab this week to try to obtain blood work again. We tried the week before last with no success. That was such a traumatic experience for Natalie that we decided to give her a few days off before trying again. Maybe this time, they will get the blood they need on the first try. We hope that from this blood work Natalie's doctor can rule out a few more things and help us get to the bottom of everything.

Pray for our little Natalie! She is a trooper, but we sure want her to be free of these skin problems for good. Poor thing!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One Life

I was actually feeling well enough tonight, after the allergy episode this morning, to attend the 33 Miles concert at my church. That was my original plan, so I'm glad the Bennadryl kicked in enough to get me back to normal, for the most part.

It was a great concert. Sitting in the audience brought back a flood of emotions. As I looked onstage at my friend, Chris, I was reminded of my love for music. I could still feel myself having desires to sing and minister through music as I use to. Having kids has changed things somewhat. It's not that I don't still have desires for those things, it's just that my desires are pushed to the background now. They don't get the same attention as they once did.

When I was single, I could give however many concerts I wanted, travel and really do so much more. As a wife and mom, I am "tied down." (But, that is a great thing! Don't get me wrong!) I cannot just pick up and do whatever without first thinking of my husband and children. I have to think of others before myself. There is much planning involved. Being a mom has taught me an important lesson. Nothing is about me. It's all about my kids and husband and what I need to do for them. I exist, but not like before. My existence is not for me.

B.C. (Before children), it was all about me fulfilling my musical dreams or going after ministry opportunities full on. A.C. (After children), my schedule is planned around doctor visits or the routines of my girls. Do my girls have any idea that their mommy is a musician with a huge desire to minister through those talents? I'm sure not. But, the thing I hope they do know is that their mommy is always there for them. I hope they somehow see Jesus in me as we go through our days together. In the most minute of tasks (such as potty training, eating, learning to sleep well in their OWN beds, etc.), I hope they are brought closer to a relationship with the Lord because of me and their dad.

As I sat through the concert tonight, I thought (as tears strolled down my face), "I miss this." I knew I missed the "feeling" of being in front of people, sharing my musical gifts. I missed that whole "life" and felt myself battling these weird feelings inside as I listened to the great music. But, as 33 Miles sang "One Life," I realized that God has given me one life to live for Him. He has given me this moment with my husband and children. I will not always have the opportunities I have now to train them and raise them up to know the Lord. This is such an important time even though I'm not living in the lime-light. I'm in front of no crowds as I am couped up in this house with my three girls. Only the Lord sees how I'm living in front of them. He is my audience and I want more than anything to have His applause in how I perform.

So, tonight I'm challenged to reminded myself every moment, that what I do right now does matter. It may not be the most fun at times and it may not receive the highest praise right away, but it's important, nonetheless. There are other things I could and would like to be doing, at times, but I sacrifice those desires for a higher calling. My higher calling is harder than anything I've ever done in my life. There is no job that I've ever had, with a normal paying salary, that is harder than raising three kids under the age of 3. This beats any challenge I've ever had, but it's doubly rewarding. When I look back on my life, I want to one day say that is was worth it all. I want to feel so much satisfaction from the end result of my sacrifice. I pray that my husband will love me more and more each day and that my girls will be about the Lord's work.

May the Lord remind us all that this life is temporary and we'd better make the most of every moment we have. May we live this "one day" not for us, but for Him!

My Crazy Body

Okay, does your body change massively after having three kids or what?? It must, because I had an allergic reaction early this morning to something! This is my second episode in my entire life. My first was when I took some pain medication when I came home from the hospital with Victoria. I didn't have to go to the emergency room this morning because I had some liquid Bennadryl on hand. My eye-lids were swollen and even my ears were red and swollen. I saw some rashy places on my arms and upper legs also. I still haven't quite figured out what caused this.

We had a birthday party for Elyssa yesterday and I am wondering if the food-coloring in the cake got to me. I also took off my toe-nail polish late last night and wonder if the liquid remover could be the culprit. I have a feeling I will have to eventually take a trip to an allergist to get to the bottom of things. Yeah!

Today I was planning to take Victoria to church with me for the first time in her life. My plans were foiled! Oh well! Thank goodness that the Bennadryl is working and I feel much better (although I've been knocked out most of the day!).


Anyone else out there that developed some allergies after having kids? This is very interesting to me since I've never had anything like this happen to me before in my life!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Release Me!

Yesterday I took Victoria to the Cardiologist because I was concerned about a little "blueness" I had seen in her hands and feet the two days prior. She was due to see Dr. Mayer about a week-and-a-half later, but I didn't want to wait that long to get her checked out because of my concerns. I thought I would feel better if I could see her stats and know for sure that everything was okay. Thankfully, everything was okay. Dr. Mayer said that she could've been cold or was maybe sitting or laying in a position that cut off some blood flow. He also said that Down Syndrome babies tend to have some "blueness" in their hands and feet from time to time and it was nothing connected to her previous heart condition. I was glad to know that she was fine. They went ahead and did a heart echo, which Dr. Mayer said looked, "beautiful!" He said her leakage was still very mild. He was very pleased with everything He saw. He will not need to see Victoria again for 3 months.

He also released Victoria to go out into the "wild" with me! I can finally take her shopping or running errands with me. I'll finally feel like I have a little bit of a life. Of course, I'll have to plan a little better since I still need to pump even if I'm away from the house. That will be a little bit of a pain, but maybe my errands will be small ones for a while and I can make it back to the house by feeding times.

We will also be able to take her to church with us. It will be nice to finally get to go back to church! The doctor still wants me to be careful about her having too much close contact with other kids, so I'll probably not put her into the nursery right away. That is probably for my peace of mind since she also still cannot be picked up under her arms because of her heart surgery and mending sternum. I'm sure soon enough I'll be ready to hand her over. I'm just not to that point yet. I "threw" my other two kids into the nursery pretty quickly, but it's different with this little one. She is much more delicate right now. I guess I'm a little protective of her, too. I think that's understandable with all she has gone through.

I'm so thankful for how well she has done in her recovery. I still stand very amazed at the roller coaster we have been on the past few months. God has certainly brought us and Victoria through a ton. He has been so good and we praise Him for showing His mighty hand in our lives. We will never get over what all He has done for us and our special gift. We are so undeserving of His favor, but we are thankful always for His grace.