Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best Gifts of 2012

This gift came early.
In that box was a Vanderbilt hoodie
from Brian to me.
In the box that followed were two tickets
to the Vanderbilt bowl game!

This Noah's Ark was such a huge hit!
It was from Pop to Elias, 
but Daniel and Samuel love it too.

Mimi's gift to Samuel was perfect.
He is such a little musician.
He loves this thing.

That's what Daniel was when
Mimi brought out her gift to him.
A remote controlled Cranky 
to go with his Thomas trains and tracks.
It's awesome.

The actual child's grocery cart 
from Grandpa to Samuel
(which Mommy spray painted
and made it to look brand new)
has been used non-stop.
Not only does it carry grocery boxes,
it also carries tracks, animals, and books.

Two surprises from Daddy to Mommy
are in this picture:
1) the necklace I am wearing has all 5 
of our children's names stamped into it - 
sweetest thing ever
2) the sketch of Elias done by a young man
that is incredibly talented and is in the 
program at the Mission where Brian works.

Mimi's gift to Elias was this
Chase and Race town.
All three boys enjoy it!

Aunt Ca got each of the boys a bathtub paint set.
Be still my heart.
They've had two baths in less than 24 hours.
They love painting in the tub so much.

Grandpa's gift to Elias is a keeper.
Our sickish little one actually smiled
when he started playing with it.

The best gifts are not things...
For me, the best gift of all
is the gift of Christ and His love.
It is because of Him 
that we know how to love
and be loved.
My heart is FULL.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Jesus Tree

Our Christmas tree is a special sight.  God gave me the initial idea before Brian and I were even a couple to make him his own Christmas tree.  I knew he wasn't exactly home living in a church couple's upstairs bedroom, so for my pastor's Christmas gift in 2006, I purchased, decorated, and gave him a very special tree that he could have in his room.  It was SMALL, but the ornaments each represented a name of Christ.  I laminated a sheet that included each ornament, the name of Christ each stood for, and the scripture reference for each one.  It was amazing.  (In fact, it still is.  It meant so much to him that he kept it, and it is a staple decoration in our home every Christmas.)

So, when we married just a mere 4 months after that, we knew what our first Christmas tree was going to be.  We decided to make a large-scale of the small tree I had created for him.  It's really special.  We've collected and added ornaments over the past 6 years, and each one represents a name of Christ OR a scripture in the Bible.  It's decorated with scarlet ribbons, a string of pearls, a vine among the branches, and for each ornament, there is a ball ornament with the scripture reference written on it.  It's topped with a crown of thorns.  As our children grow, we plan to use each ornament and decoration as a nightly devotion leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Tree 2011

I am the vine; you are the branches...
John 15:5

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1 Thessalonians 4:16

As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You.
Psalm 42:1

Lily and Rose
I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys.
Song of Solomon 2:1

Follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.
Mark 1:17

After decorating our tree in 2011

Daniel with the "trump of God"

Samuel holds our "winnowing fan"
Matthew 3:12-17

Christmas 2012 included tracks under the tree.

Christmas Tree 2012

Christmas 2012
3 boys and their toys.

Elias' favorite ornaments are the "bells."
Exodus 28:34

The small tree that started it all.

Sweet, Simple Christmas

I love Christmas.  I love the truth it brings.  I love that it is a time to really reflect on the birth of Jesus.  I don't always think of my Savior as a child, but now that I am a mother, the story of Christ's arrival is much sweeter to me.  The idea that God's Son was willing to come to this earth to bless us with the gift of His life, death, and resurrection completely amazes me.

Christmas for our family is simple.  We eat too much, laugh a bunch, and love on each other.  We read from Luke over and over and over to reiterate the importance of this holiday, and at this point, both Daniel and Samuel can tell you the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus.  Our boys, much like Jesus, receive three gifts from Mom and Dad on Christmas morning.  They wake to find them neatly wrapped and set out underneath our "Jesus" tree.  However, they cannot open them until after we read about the gift of Jesus!  

I know we do things a bit different than most, but there's something sweet about the simplicity of what we do.  Jesus didn't come into the world with fancy things, yet He was and is the King of Kings.  He definitely wasn't the best dressed wearing swaddling cloths and lying among pieces of hay, yet He now wears a robe and a crown.  He didn't need gifts because He was and is the gift to the world.  I want our children to know that Christmas is about CHRIST and nothing more.  The reason we lavish our love on our children at this time of year is because Christ first loved us.  Yes, they got way more than they need, but I hope that in the excitement of what was today, our boys reflected on who and why we celebrate:  Jesus Christ, our Lord.

3 boys
3 stockings
3 gifts for each
(Stockings are my favorite Christmas childhood memory - 
my mom was very good about making these special for us, 
so I really want to continue that tradition with our boys.)

Reading the Christmas Story
in our pajamas

Daniel, despite having gone to the doctor
on Christmas Eve and having ear infections,
was SUPER excited to get 
Crazy Forts from Mom and Dad!
Thankful for medicine today.

Samuel, our little musician,
was happy to get a microphone
that plays music AND
records him singing!

Elias really wasn't feeling well...
He has been running temp since Christmas Eve, 
and today his symptoms increased.
However, he really liked his 
Chase and Go car.

BUT not near as much as he liked 
his Laugh and Learn farm he received
from Grandpa a few days before Christmas.
We decided to pull it out on Christmas Day - 
you know, to add to the chaos.  

We were all ready to go back to bed.
Just Mom and Elias.

We really test the "age recommendation"
on toys to their limits.  For instance,
the barn says ages 6-36 months.
No joke, our 3 sons played with this for an hour.
Elias (7 months)
Samuel (31 months = 2 1/2 years)
Daniel (44 months = 3 1/2 years)
Daniel acted like it was the best thing
he's seen in a year!

What Christmas 
(and double ear infections)
does to Daniel!
Asleep on the couch by 7 o'clock

Oh, The Things Daniel Says!

While opening his Thomas Mega Bloks' set, he tells cousin Zach:
You need the constructions.
(which of course means instructions)

Early one morning, as I sat in the floor with the boys, changing diapers:
Mom, are you wearing a bra?
Um, no, Daniel, I just woke up.
You need to hurry up and get one on or your milk is gonna be spilling.

On our way to Mimi's, we realize that Daniel knows directions:
You need to turn left here.
At the red light, then you need to go right by Cracker Barrel.

Mom, may I have a cookie?
Maybe in a little while.
She said I CAN!  Right now!  My mommy said that.

Laying in bed one night, about to fall asleep:
You know, Mom, it sure is freezing.

Upon seeing his gifts:
Oh. my. goodness.

Seeing a strange commercial:
What in the world?!

When he found Elias chewing on paper:
Are you kidding me?!

On Christmas morning:
Look at my decorations!  They are yewtiful!
(decorations means gifts - yewtiful means beautiful)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

7 Month Milestones

Time, you can start standing still now.  Please.

In His 7th Month, Elias:
Weighed 22 lbs.
Wore 18 month clothes.
Wore size 3-4 in diapers.
Loved his Mommy.
Said, "ma-ma," often.

Had fun for Thanksgiving!
Went to Uncle David's on Thanksgiving Day.
Stayed with Mimi while Mom and Dad shopped.
Met Mommy's dearest friend, Amanda.
Always was on his belly.
Was very curious.
Wanted to know what was going on.
Watched every move Mommy made.
Pulled hair.
Drooled.  A LOT.
Had tried bananas, apples, squash, and rice cereal.
Only seemed to like squash.
Saw his first Christmas tree at Mimi's.
Saw the pediatric pulmonologist again.
Scheduled to have a bronchoscopy.
Wheezed all the time.
Sick with ear infections and bronchialitis again.
Had his bronchoscopy on December 3rd.
Has tracheo, laryngo, and broncho malacia.
Suspected to have silent reflux and/or reactive airway.
Was amazing.
Never cried despite long hours of no milk.
Watched as we put up his/our Christmas tree.
Had the sweetest grin/smile - his whole face looks pinched!
Was able to scoot himself to where he wanted to be.
Started sitting himself up on his own.
Sat straight up.
Loved his jumperoo.
Took naps in his jumperoo and swing.
Went to West TN for Daddy's Union University graduation.
Daddy completed his Master's in Christian Studies!
Stayed at Mema's house and had Christmas.
Got a Mickey Mouse and lift-a-flap book.
Really likes books.
Had a terrible, reoccurring rash on his chin and cheeks.
In just a month, Elias went from rolling to scooting, crawling, and sitting up on his own.

He loves to play with Mom in the floor!

In waiting for the bronchoscopy...
Getting impatient but not crying.

Sweet boy after his procedure.
Just wanted to get that thing
off of his arm.

Samuel near about squishes
and squeezes and hugs Elias 
to death.  
Elias doesn't always like 
Samuel's acts of affection.
You wouldn't know it here!

My favorite grin of Elias'

Sitting up in a restaurant high chair
for the very first time - 
Smiling at Lisa :)

Weird rash.  
Dislike it.
Leave Elias alone.

Playing with Mickey.
Or at least trying to figure him out.

Other than his Mommy,
Elias' favorite person just might be
his big brother, Daniel.

Um, yes, Mom,
I can help you wrap my presents.
WHILE sitting up all by myself.

On his way to being just like his brothers.

Short and Sweet

The Johnson family month of December looks a little like this thus far...

Bronchoscopy.  Croup.  Master's degree.  West Tennessee.  Christmas Dinner.  Christmas Programs.  The Lorax.  Surprises.  Blessings.  Union University Graduation.  Breakfast with Santa.  Our very first and maybe last picture with Santa.  Nativity scenes.  Tree decorating.  Cookies.  Doctor's office.  Flu shot.  Gift wrapping.  Last minute gift making and shopping.  Baby Jesus.  Holly Jolly Christmas singing.  Away in a Manger learning.  Opening mail!  

Simple Christmas Truths

I have strong feelings about Santa.  I do.  I'll be honest when I say that I struggled over whether or not to allow the boys' to attend their Mother's Day Out's "Breakfast with Santa" this year.  I really cannot explain why I dislike him, but I can say without question that I want our children to know truth.  I want them to know who Jesus is and why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  So, after giving it way too much thought, I opted to make sausage balls and head over to see Santa.

The boys really don't know who he is.  They've been told that many people celebrate Santa at Christmas, but we have decided that Jesus is who our family will honor.  They call Santa "old" and "snowman," and they think he is silly.  They've only seen him in pictures and as inflatables in our neighbors' front yards.

Our house is decorated with nativity scenes this season...  I have a total of 6 nativities, and I'm hoping that the Fisher Price one goes on sale following the holiday so the boys can have one of their own for next year.  The boys know who Baby Jesus is.  They know He was born in a barn.  They know He received three gifts for his birthday (and if you ask them, they'll name them - gold, frankincense, and myrrh).  They know our tree is decorated with ornaments that represent Jesus and all He is to us.  So, Santa isn't well-known in our house.  I don't mean to offend anyone who chooses to "believe" in him; we've simply decided he's not for us.

We walk in, and I was in Santa-overload.  It was all very cute, but when Christmas rolls around, I prefer less Santa and more Baby Jesus.  I really was having a hard time deciding if we should even walk up front to see Santa, when Daniel tells me he needs to see him.

This is what I overheard:

Santa:  What's your name?
Daniel:  My name's Daniel Benjamin, and this is Samuel Levi.  Oh, and my baby is Elias Joseph.
Santa:  Daniel...  That's a strong biblical name.
Daniel:  Yeah, it's in the Bible.
Santa:  What does Daniel do in the Bible?
Daniel:  He prays a lot.  He gets away from the lions!
Santa:  You're right.  So, Daniel, is there anything you'd like me to get you for Christmas?
Daniel:  I don't need you to get me nothing.  My mommy went on the roof yesterday and got some new toys for me and my brothers.

I quickly realized two things, that 1) a child's old baby toys are just like new when you get them down after a year's stay in the attic, and 2) a child can choose what he wants to believe.  My sweet, rambunctious 3-year-old has decided that the Bible is the book for him.  He knows where his name came from.  He knows that, with the help of the Lord, his parents will give him what he needs.  He knows who he is.

Children had asked for all sorts of things that morning, but our son said he needed nothing.  My heart was so full.  He may choose to believe in Santa next year, but whatever Daniel (or Samuel or Elias) decides will be up to them.  I can only guide their precious hearts to truth and pray that God leads them to Himself.  I hope that one day Daniel will see that Christ is all he will ever need.  I feel like we're on the right path.

I also want to thank our children's Mother's Day Out program for ALL that they do for us.  While my children may not celebrate Santa, they are loved on and taught each week by women who adore them.  I'm blessed to call these teachers my friends, and I love them for what they do!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Be Still.

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart.  I questioned whether or not the decision we had made concerning Elias was one I was comfortable with.  I had difficulty falling asleep despite knowing that I would be waking early the next morning.  So, I wrestled with laundry, dishes, and packing bags, when I heard the Lord say, "Be still."

We woke this morning around 5:45 to prepare for our day.  Grandpa arrived around 6:30 a.m., talked with  his youngest grand boy, and anticipated his busy day ahead.  He would be watching Daniel and Samuel.  Brian, Elias, and I picked up Mimi (and Hardee's biscuits) then rushed through rush hour traffic to make it to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital five minutes earlier than we expected.

Elias was checked in, and we waited for his name to be called.

From birth, Elias has wheezed.  It's not always constant, but it never goes away.  If he's not wheezing, he's about to begin wheezing.  His wheezing has been treated with more medications than I care to mention, and we were directed to a pulmonologist at Vandy when he was 3 months old.  We were told Elias has tracheomalacia which was typical in infant wheezing.  However, with Elias' wheezing comes coughing, sicknesses like pneumonia, ear infections, bronchialitis, and a 4-day hospital stay that made us realize we no longer wanted our baby to be sick.

A week after his hospital admittance, Elias was back in the pediatrician's office with a 102 fever and wheezing.  The Children's Clinic immediately referred us back to our pediatric pulmonologist.  He was willing to see us the Monday following Thanksgiving, then per his request, we agreed to schedule a bronchoscopy the following Monday, December 3rd.

His name was called fairly quickly, and we headed back to a holding room around 9:00 a.m.  Despite having not eaten since 5:00 a.m., Elias didn't fuss.  He laughed and smiled with every single person that came in to ask us a number of questions.  I placed my hand over his chest, and much to our surprise, Elias wasn't wheezing!  The nurses heard no wheezing and said he sounded clear which would be beneficial to his procedure.  I overheard other parents explaining their children's medical histories to nurses, and I sat there with our happy baby feeling humbled.

It wasn't until 11:30 that Elias was taken back to the operating room.  I watched as the two anesthesiologists walked away with him.  My heart ached, yet I could hear the Lord urging my heart, "Be still."

The procedure itself lasted only 10 minutes.  Elias was put to sleep with a mask then two iv's were placed because babies' bodies don't always take them well - so he had two.  By 12:30, our pulmonologist was in the waiting room explaining what the bronchoscopy showed!

Our precious Elias does have tracheomalacia, an abnormal collapse of the tracheal walls.  To be simple, the cartilage in Elias' trachea is floppy and causes breathing to be noisy and labored.  He also has laryngomalacia, which is the weakening of the cartilage in his larynx.  Both of these, according to the scope, are moderate.  It was determined today that Elias has mild bronchomalacia as well.  His entire airway is weak.  He is wheezing because he was born this way, and thankfully, no treatment is necessary.  "Be still."  He will outgrow these by the age of two.

However, these findings did not explain the constant sickness Elias has.  What our doctor explained next did.  Despite how clear Elias was today, his airway was very swollen and inflamed.  The doctor noticed small spots around Elias' oropharynx (located at the back of his mouth and is the oral part of the pharynx) and that his adenoid was enlarged.  All of these help to explain some of why Elias has labored breathing, snoring, and wheezing.  He had cultures taken from his lungs today to ensure there is no infection, but our pulmonologist believes that these findings indicate one major thing...  acid reflux.

Although Elias doesn't always spit up or gag, he has the internal findings of a child with reflux.  When Elias breathes, the cartilage in his airway is weak, so he often aspirates the fluids (milk, germs, acids, etc.) back into his body causing inflammation, swelling, and sickness.

What this means is that Elias will be put on medication for acid reflux.  He has been diagnosed with reflux once or twice :) before, but small dosages never seemed to work.  Now that doctors know his condition, they can properly give him what he needs.  If we can treat his situation with medication, then nothing further will be necessary.  There are options should they not work.

Culture results will come later this week.  They will give us an indication if some or all of the swelling or inflammation in Elias' airway is caused by infection.  These results will also help determine if what Elias has actually is reflux.

All of this, and we'd still not been called back to see Elias.  I couldn't wait to see him.  "Be still".

Elias was throwing himself backwards in the nurses' arms.  He seemed angry, but he wasn't crying.  He moved as to show his frustration.  I am certain he didn't like the iv's.  They removed the one in his foot, and kept the one in his wrist covered with a small no-no.  It's like a small air cast to keep children from pulling at their cords.  Once in my arms, Elias relaxed.  A lot.  He slept in recovery.  He didn't eat.

When the nurses realized this, they sent us to a holding room so that he could rest and we could focus on getting him to drink.  Almost 2 and half hours after the bronchoscopy, Elias woke up.  He wasn't smiling, but he didn't cry.  He quickly drank 2 oz of Pedialyte while sitting with his Mimi.  We soon saw him smile.  He was still hungry and drank more. At that point, we were discharged.

Here I am, a full day later since being filled with anxiety, in complete peace.  I look over at our sweet baby and realize just how blessed I am.  Despite a few complications which are NO surprise to God, Elias is sleeping peacefully in the middle of our bed.  My heart is at rest.  I know that God is God, and all I have to be is still.  He is in control, and whatever comes next in Elias' story is God's to tell.

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalm 46:10