Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adventures in Alaska - Day 1

When Brian told me that the Anchor and Brother James Keen had called him to be their revival helper, I was stunned.  My initial reaction was fear.  How would I handle two toddlers on my own for 7 days?!  However, much to my surprise, the Lord opened up all kinds of doors (and hearts) to allow me to go with Brian to Alaska for what-ended-up-being 9 spectacular days.

Day 1 was a whirlwind. We spent much of the night packing and making sure everything was in order both for us and for our kids.  Mimi was able to take a week off from work to keep the boys at our house.  We left the morning of Daniel's 2nd birthday, and it was bittersweet.  I wasn't nearly as sad as I imagined I'd be, but it was strange leaving him on such a precious day.  However, what I had in store was very worth it!

We boarded our plane in Nashville and headed to Minneapolis.  I realize that I'm not much of a traveler because 1) I was fascinated to find a dvd/tv screen in front of me on the plane, and 2) I was amazed by the amazing stores in the airports.  Seriously, I couldn't even get pictures of it all!

I'd never seen one of these on a plane before!

The coolest bookstore we've ever seen.

As goofy as it was, we had to pose as Vikings.

My sister works at the Spirit of the Red Horse
in the Nashville Airport.
So, it was fitting I take a picture
in front of the one in Minneapolis.

The flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage was quite long.  6 hours to be exact.  My rear end was so tired.  As was I.  The jet lag was excruciating, and I don't even know how to explain it.  The 4 hour time difference was tough, but seeing Brother James for the first time in the airport was refreshing.  It was so nice seeing a familiar face.  Then James drove us to his home in Anchorage, and this was the view...

Just driving down the road,
and this is what you see.
No big deal.

When we got to the Keen's home, it was so precious.  I can't explain it, but I felt so at home in their home.  We didn't know this family all that well, but God had begun weaving our hearts together in years past.  Yet this was our first chance to seriously "meet" them.  Their children had welcome cards waiting for us.  They met us with giant smiles and fresh faces.  They were so excited to have us.  And because it was already late, we simply went for a walk around their neighborhood.  If that walk had been all we would see, I would have been delighted.  Their children and the amazing views were already imprinted in my mind. 

At Cheney Lake Park,
right down the road from the house.
Snow-capped mountains!

Sweet and Spunky Anna

Intelligent and Incomparable Josiah

Humorous and Humble Micah

Amazing Grace

Thanks for the warning.

Just a Little Walk with James.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Samuel Turns 11 Months Old!

Wow!  Sweet Samuel has grown up extremely too fast...  While we realize we've "babied" him in some ways, we're quickly learning that Samuel is no longer a baby.  He's becoming quite the little boy!

In his 11th Month, Samuel:
Weighed about 18 pounds.
Was so short.  :)
Had the cutest chubby legs.
Wore a size 3 in shoes...
  only because his feet were wide.
Wore a size 12 months in clothes...
  but needed size 6-9 months in pants.
Said the words:  da-da, uh-oh
Only had two teeth.
Made many new friends at the Ministers' School.
Liked meeting his buddy, Lincoln.
Still scooting and not crawling...
Loved pulling up to stand.
Had his first taste of ice cream!
Went to the Fontanel Mansion with his parents
   on their 4th Anniversary!
Was "strolled" over a swimming pool!
Fell asleep often in his jumperoo.
Loved to play and read with big brother.
Made HILARIOUS faces!
Started liking television.
Had surgery to remove the skin tag.
Did extremely well.
Recovery was rough...
Cried until he fell asleep in Daddy's arms,
   with the help of 2 doses of pain meds.
Went home and played following surgery.
Had stitches and tape to cover his incision.
Didn't seem to be bothered at all.
Celebrated Daniel's 2nd birthday!
Slept through most of the party.
Finally somewhat switched to sippy cups.
Began getting some whole milk in his cups.
Kissed Mommy and Daddy the morning they left
   for their 8 day trip to Alaska.
Spent the next 8 days with his Mimi.

Some of Samuel's Favorite Things:

Food(s):  Yogurt
Toy(s):  Balls, Jumperoo
Snack:  Puffs
Saying(s): da-da, uh-oh
Thing to Do:  Standing Up

Proof that Sweet Samuel DOES make messes!

My first taste of Chick-fil-A ice cream!

At the Fontanel Mansion on Mommy
and Daddy's 4th Anniversary

Riding on the tour bus to the Mansion

Strolling over the Fontanel's swimming pool

Playing with Daniel

Eating my snacks

Surgery Day at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital

At Daniel's 2nd Birthday Bash

The morning Mommy and Daddy left for Alaska

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Terribly Yet Terrifically TWO

Daniel turned two on April 20th, and while Mommy and Daddy had to leave that morning for Alaska while he was sleeping, you cannot imagine our excitement for our sweet baby to make it to big boy status!

In his 24th month, Daniel:
Weighed 28 pounds; in 50th percentile.
Wore size 24 month and 2T clothes.
Wore size 8 in shoes!
Got souvenirs from Hawaii!
Lined all of his toys up...
Played with his friend, Bekah, often.
Took naps while riding on Mom's back in the Beco.
Helped celebrate Mom and Daddy's 4th Anniversary...
Mostly, just ate their chocolate cake!
Enjoyed making messes...
Pulled out every single item in Mommy's shelves.
Liked reading books with Samuel.
Spent time with family when Samuel had surgery.
Played with beans on rainy days.
Went to his first Easter egg hunt with Mimi.
Helped Mommy and Daddy pack for their Alaska trip.
Spent a LOT of time at Hobby Lobby...
   while Mommy planned his birthday party.
Had a Trucks, Trains, & Planes party!
Loved the tracks his parents spray-painted in the yard.
Had his first cupcake BEFORE anyone arrived.
Lots of his friends came and played with him.
Ate a hot dog and chips...  and 2 more cupcakes.
Got TONS of Thomas toys and items.
His favorite gift was definitely his Dinosaur Train from Addy.
Said bye-bye to Mommy and Daddy for a while.
They left on his 2nd birthday while he was sleeping...
Spent 8 days with his Mimi and Samuel!

Some of Daniel's Favorite Things:
Food(s):  Spaghetti, Peaches
Toy(s):  Talking Thomas trains, Bash (logging loco train), Stickers
Show(s):  Thomas, Caillou, Bob the Builder
Snack:  Puffs, Pretzels
Song: This Little Light of Mine
Saying(s): What's that?  Where are you?  Where going?  What doing?
Color: Blue (he says everything is "blue)
Thing to Do:  Swinging and Dancing

SUPER excited over his car line!

"Look, Mommy!" were his exact words.

Reading with little brother before bath.

"I swingin," he says.

Taking Thomas through the beans...

Upon arrival for his 2nd birthday party...

Cupcake 1 of 3 for the birthday boy!

Thank you, Addy, for the Dinosaur Train.

Sleeping away when Mommy and Daddy left for Alaska
the morning of his 2nd birthday.  :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daniel's 2nd Birthday Bash Decor

Those of you who know me, know that I'm a "sucker" for birthday party decorations.  I'm not as nuts about the parties themselves, just the details.  So, Daniel's 2nd birthday party was no exception.  I promised myself it wouldn't be a "big" as his first due to so many obligations and our busy schedule, but I couldn't help it... 

Daniel loves trains.  I mean, he absolutely would spend his whole day everyday playing with trains, and most of the time, he does.  I wanted his party to impress him!  I found the most adorable Trucks, Trains, and Planes scrapbook paper and designed the whole party around it.  Here are a few pictures of the details:

The train tracks
We surprised Daniel with his own train tracks, spray-painted into the yard.  The tracks led the way to the party in our back yard.

The birthday boy
Upon his arrival, Daniel was so excited over the tracks that he just stood and stared.  He soon got the clue to take off down the tracks!

The back yard full of fun
(Special thanks to our friends, Lisa and Rob, for the bounce house and ride on toys)

The cupcake tower
(Special thanks to my dear friend, Becca H. at Custom Confections, for these!)

The party favors
Each child got their own appliqued t-shirt, and before you think I spent too much time on this, I'll go ahead and agree with you.  :)  While, it did take a bit of time, I could not stand the idea of spending money on plastic toys and sweet treats for favors.  I wanted something individualized and special.  I actually only spent $2 - $3 on each shirt and its fabric.  I won't tell you how much time was spent on each! 

Personalized thank-you notes

The train centerpiece
I saw this done and had to come up with a way to do it myself.  I LOVED IT!  While we served hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, and chips, this centerpiece was eye-catching and served as extra treats for everyone who didn't like cupcakes.  By the way, the "steam" from the engine is actually cotton candy.

Pretzel Log freight car

Rock Candy freight car

Rice Krispy Treats "Hay Bales" freight car
(Special thanks to my mom, Mimi, for making these for us!)

Daniel's attire
I made Daniel's shirt.  It was somewhat of a preview for everyone to see what their party favors were going to look like!

Daniel's attire #2
While I didn't get a good picture of it, Daniel's shirt was a little special in the fact that I added the number 2 to the back of it!

More pictures of the party to come...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Follow-Up Miracle

On Monday, April 18th, Samuel had his follow up visit with Dr. Kelly, his plastic surgeon at Vanderbilt, just 5 short days following his surgery.  The doctor's first words were, "He's fine."  What a relief!  The "tag" on Samuel's neck proved to be non-cancerous and as suspected ran deeply.  It was through the muscles of Samuel's neck and connected to tissue, but this did not seem to cause any need for alarm.  The surgery lasted all of 20 minutes. 

What did surprise us, however, was the explanation of what this "skin tag" actually was.  Apparently, when babies' ears are forming in the womb, they do so in 6 parts, and somehow, in God's providence, one of Samuel's parts did not form exactly where it should have.  It formed into the fold of his neck.  I know you are wondering how this is possible (as we did), but we were comforted with the knowledge that Samuel passed his hearing test as an infant.  His ear shows no signs of malformation or discomfort.  It is simply a miracle as God must have intended.

As my husband beautifully wrote after learning this news, our Lord knew that Samuel would one day need to hear the Gospel, and how fitting it is that it was in God's hands as He formed this little one within my womb, despite the "loss" of one of the six parts of his ear, God knew Samuel would be able to hear!   

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Surgery Day!

After his birth, I noticed a small "skin tag" on Samuel's neck. At the time, the doctors believed we needed to wait until he was at least 6 months old to operate and remove it. At his 6 month well visit with the pediatrician, we set up an appointment to see a plastic surgeon at Vanderbilt. Ultrasounds showed very little, and the surgeon said that removing it would be the only way for him to know what exactly the mass was.

We have been waiting since February for our insurance to approve the surgery. After all the waiting, the process has actually happened very quickly! The surgery was approved and scheduled all in the same week! Praise God! Right on time, the spot had some noticeable changes. It had hardened and gotten a little bit larger. It never seemed to bother Samuel, though.  Others noticed, however, and it bothered us at times to hear the comments people would make regarding something our child was born with, but God knew what He has in store for Samuel Levi. 

Yesterday (April 13, 2011) was surgery day. He did amazing! Surgery was scheduled at noon, so he hadn't eaten for 12 hours. He was awaken at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday night to eat a jar of banana/orange medley (in the dark).  He had his last bottle of milk at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The waiting room was hard, as they ran a bit behind schedule, and he was getting very irritated.  Once we were called back, we dressed him in the cutest little pajamas, and answered a million of the same questions.  We continued to wait for the OR to open for him.  We said our goodbyes when the surgeon arrived.  From what we understand, they put a breathing tube in, put him to sleep, ran an i.v. through his left foot, and removed the mass. Recovery was difficult. He was not soothed easily. In fact, upon waking, he needed two doses of pain medicine, but was quickly relieved by a nap in his Daddy's arms. Once he ate (4 oz of Pedialyte), we were allowed to head home. We learned that the spot WAS deeper than originally suspected and was connected to the muscle.

For now,  he is on antibiotics, pain meds, and TLC for the next 5 days. He returns for a follow-up visit with the pediatric plastic surgeon on Monday, April 18th. Samuel is resting very well, and he has even crawled around and played with his "Get Well Soon" balloon from his aunt, Jessica.  Thankfully, Jessica and Mom were able to stay with Daniel while we were at the Children's Hospital.  Jessica even got us supper!  We are so blessed with such wonderful family and friends.  Thank you for your continued prayers. We didn't publicize this because we know that there are children in much more serious need of prayer, but we appreciate so much your concern for our sweet boy!

Here are some pictures from our day:
The night before surgery...
Watching Elmo with his big brother.
Here is the "mass" on his neck,
in case you've never seen it.

In the holding room, prior to surgery.
Aren't those pajamas precious?!

He was so hungry and sleepy.

Look how small he looked in that hospital bed!

Getting some play time in before surgery.

Last night, 6-7 hours after surgery.
His eyes are red as a side effect from anesthesia.
His incision is glued, stitched, and covered.
HOWEVER, he was ready for applesauce!