Thursday, December 25, 2008

We had a fun time watching the boys open their presents at grandma & grandpa's house this morning.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas at Home

We let the boys open their Christmas presents early this year since we're going to Kansas City for the holidays. That way we can personally enjoy the giving experience for the gifts we gave them. Additionally, they're out of school now and will be able to enjoy the gifts for a whole day before a lengthy travel in some bad weather.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jake's Surgery

Thursday night, Jake didn't get much sleep. He was very anxious for the coming day's activities. Michael stayed up with him until he was ready to sleep...around 12:30 am.

Friday morning came quickly. The family was up and around at 5:45, and since Jake wasn't able to eat anything, he was VERY hungry! We left for the hospital around 6:30ish, dropped Chris off at our neighbors house (thanks Fosters!), and started the half hour drive. All the while, Jake was dealing with an empty stomach and nerves. His tummy wasn't very comfortable.

We got to the hospital just in time to see the sunrise and for his procedure to get underway. We were greeted by a less than friendly receptionist, and were escorted to a room with 5 full beds. The curtain around Jake's bed was pulled closed so he could put on his hospital gown. After he got his gown on, we had to meet with the anesthesiologists and sign consent forms.

They then wheeled Jake back to the operation room, and Michael went with him until he fell asleep. Jake took a few minutes to fall asleep, and then he was off to surgery.

The surgery was supposed to last 3-4 hours, so Michael, Mom (Grandma Deeter), and myself went down to the cafeteria to grab some yummy (ick) hospital breakfast. We were given a pager, so they could contact us if needed. We spent a couple hours in the cafeteria, and around the 3 hour mark, I headed back upstairs to the waiting room in hopes that he'd be done soon. An hour went by, and no word, and another half hour went by, and Michael and Mom came up to see if there was any word. Nothing yet. Michael asked the receptionist if she knew anything, and she made a phone call. A few minutes later, a nurse came out to tell us that they were just finishing up, and he'd be done in about 20-30 minutes.

About a half hour went by, and one of Jake's doctors came out to talk to us. He greeted us with a "Good news, bad news" info. He informed us that they were able to get a lot of work done on Jake, and were able to block 75% of the blood flow to his AVM. The bad news of that is they found that instead of just one artery feeding the AVM, he actually has 3 of the 6 arteries in his head feeding the AVM. Since the condition was 3 times worse than they were expecting, the surgery took longer than expected (it lasted a total of 5 hrs). This would also require an additional 1 or 2 surgeries to correct, and there was a chance that his birthmark might actually get bigger in the coming weeks. (very disappointing to find out!) He told us that Jake was going to be taken upstairs to the "Post Anesthesia Recovery" area, and we can meet them up there.

We all got in the elevator, and went up the 2 floors to the recovery area. They called us in, and we were taken into the Pediatric Post Anesthesia Recovery Room. It took Jake about a full hour to be released to his room. During that hour, he intermittently said things and tried to sit up. Unfortunately, because of his procedure, he was required to lay flat for 6 hours. When he first started to wake up (before Michael and I were in the room) he sat straight up. The nurse told us that "he's surprisingly strong!" She said it took 3 nurses to lay him back down, and another nurse to hold his leg straight. The first thing he said when he woke up, was to tell the nurse that his birthmark hurt, and his throat hurt (he had a breathing tube during the surgery). About a half hour later, he was starting to be a little more lucid, and I made a comment about how big his hands are getting, he said "I'm a tough guy". Once Jake was able to answer a few questions about what his name and birthday is, and what month we're in, they moved him down to the 2nd floor to the pediatric unit.

Once in his room, Mom and I went to grab some food at Subway to bring back to eat. (It was 3:00 by that time, and the last we had eaten was 8:00 that morning). Jake slept most of the day, which was actually a blessing for him. Since he had to lay flat, being asleep helped. The few times he woke up, he was pretty groggy and went back to sleep quickly. Mom went home to spend the afternoon/evening with Christopher around 4:00, and Michael and I hung out in Jake's room for a bit, watching him sleep. Around 5:30 or so, Jake's doctors came in to talk to us about the procedure. Thankfully, this second talk with the doctor was filled with a lot more information, and was a lot more encouraging.

He said that they were able to get 75% of the blood flow blocked, which was a lot considering that it was being fed by 3 arteries. He said that the AVM will swell a bit for a week, but after that, we shouldn't be too surprised to see some shrinkage occur (yay!) and there should be a lot less bleeding (double yay!). He said that after the first of the year, he'll have to do another embolization angiogram, but at the same time they'll also attack it from the outside doing the direct puncture procedure. He's very confident that this upcoming surgery will be the final one. Since they've already taken care of 75% of the problem, this next one will be a lot less to deal with. Jake will still have to lay flat for 6 hours following the procedure, but he won't be under anesthesia as long, so hopefully he won't be out of it as long following the procedure. He also said that they would have gone longer and tried to attack the AVM more during this surgery, but 5 hours exposure to x-rays and contrast material was all that Jake would be able to handle without getting sick. Another bit of unfortunate news was that the doctor wouldn't clear Jake for skiing this month, so we're having to postpone our trip to Denver to go skiing.

Jake was still pretty out of it when the doctors came in to talk to us, so he didn't get to hear a lot of what was said. He was in and out of sleep most of the evening. He'd wake up enough to tell us that he wanted some water or ice chips, and wanted to watch a movie. We'd get the laptop out and ready to play a movie, turn around to ask Jake a question, and he'd be asleep. He finally woke up fully around 6:30...a half hour before he was able to sit up and move his leg. The nurse was nice enough to raise the bed a little for him, and help him flex his ankles periodically, so that when he was able to move, it would be a shock to his system. He was able to keep down a few bites of apple slices, and a few spoonfuls of spaghetti-o's. The nurse gave him some medicine to help with his nausea, and by then Jake was able to move about (slowly) and keep more food down. Grandpa & Grandma Thornton and Great-Grandma Jensen came to visit him shortly after, and he still wasn't 100%, so he wasn't feeling up to chatting for too long. After Grandpa & Grandma left, he slept a bit, woke up a bit, and slept a bit more. He finally rolled over to his side to call it a night around 10:00.

Michael and I stayed with him that night, and endured the most uncomfortable night of sleep we've had in a long time. I slept on a chair that folded out into a VERY SMALL bed, and Michael slept in a recliner (not a lay-z-boy by any stretch of the imagination). Jake was being monitored throughout the night, so we were greeted with bright lights periodically through the night. Around 6:30 Saturday morning, Jake said he had to use the bathroom, so Michael helped him with his IV pump into the bathroom. We were up for the day at that point.

Jake was still somewhat groggy, but he was a little hungry, which I saw as a good sign! He had half of a pancake for breakfast, but that was a bit much for his tummy to handle. Michael made him some toast, and he downed that pretty quickly. It was just right! We all waited around the room, waiting for the doctor to come and give us the okay to go home. The doctor came in around 10:00 and talked to us a bit more, telling us what to expect during his recovery. We got our discharge papers around 10:30, and headed home. Jake was still a bit out of it Saturday, spending most of his time in bed. He got up periodically, and walked around the house some, but most of the afternoon was spent in his bedroom. He wanted soup for dinner, and that seemed to be just what he needed. After dinner, he was a lot more himself. He was able to be downstairs in the family room and we all watched a movie together.

Today, Jake is even better. He's gone 48 hrs without his birthmark bleeding (WOW!!!), and he's joking and being silly with his brother. We went out to eat lunch today at his favorite restaurant, and he had a really great time! It's still up in the air whether he'll go to school tomorrow or not, but it's nice to see him getting back to being himself. My parents brought him a sketch pad and pencils while he was at the hospital, and he's just now getting to be himself enough to pull those out and start using them - that's a great sign that he's slowly getting back to normal.

We'll find out in the coming weeks when his next surgery will be. He has mixed feelings about having to go through this again. He's looking forward to being done, but not looking forward to the recovery, and especially the having to lay flat for 6 hours! His birthmark is still quite painful for him, and we're told it will be that way for about a week.

Thanks to everyone for the prayers! We really appreciate them. Please continue to pray, as he's not out of this yet. Once again, I'm amazed at how he's handling the situation. What an awesome gift he is to this family, he's taught us so much! I'm excited to see how God's going to use him further! :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Boys' Concerts

This is a little late... here's the video from Christopher's 3rd grade class music performance (the first song only) from November 13.

Unfortunately, the boys had used up most of the battery on the camcorder without letting us know and we didn't get it recharged before the concert... so all we got was the first song :(

Jacob's 5th grade class performance is below. I've cut out most of the performance and included only the pieces in which he played.

He's doing really well with the trumpet and really enjoys band class... but I believe that's partly because one of his best friends also plays trumpet and they get to sit next to each other during class :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Enjoyed bowling with the family.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Surgery is a go!

We drove down to Iowa City today to meet with the Neurointervential Radiologist about Jake's AVM. Jake ended up having a field trip today in Iowa City today, so we ended up meeting him and his teacher down there. It worked out pretty well!

We met with 2 doctors, one being the head of the department (and will perform Jake's surgery.) The head doctor was very optimistic about everything. He said that placement of Jake's birthmark is very optimal for treatment, and cosmetically will be a fairly simple fix. Working with AVM's is this doctor's speciality, so that was encouraging to hear as well.

Jake is scheduled on December 12th at 7:15am for an angiogram and an embolization. He will have to stay overnight for at least 1 night, with the possibility of having to stay over the whole weekend. They are hoping to take care of the whole AVM with the initial embolization, but may require a second embolization that will be done through "direct puncture." During the angiogram, he will have the catheter run up his artery through his leg, and they will be taking constant x-ray pictures to see how the mass is shaped. Then, for the embolization, they will inject glue (which is chemically very similar to Krazy Glue) into the AVM and it will solidify and block the blood flow to the AVM. The procedure, we are told, will last approximately 3-4 hours. He will be under general anesthesia, so he won't feel anything. They will keep him over night that night to observe and follow up with the procedure, and if necessary do the direct puncture embolization on Sunday. Direct puncture would be less invasive, and as the name indicates, involves the glue to be inserted directly into the birthmark via a needle.

The doctor was optimistic that, given time, the embolization will take care of a lot of the mass of Jake's birthmark. He said that we may need to have some excess skin removed eventually, but he should see a big improvement in the weeks and months following the surgery.

Jake, again, was simply amazing during the appointment. He is so grown up and mature - and the doctors and nurse noticed. At one point, when the doctor was telling us about the direct puncture procedure, I leaned over and joked with Jake that if they do that, he might hear a hissing sound from all the air coming out of his birthmark. Jake took the joke from there and said that if they're not careful, he'll go flying around the room like a balloon. Jake took both doctors by surprise so much, that they both stopped mid sentence to laugh at Jake's joke, and tell him what a funny guy he is. The head doctor even said that he was impressed with Jake's sense of humor, and most patients (even adults) really freak out and get scared when they hear about how the procedure is done. It was pretty neat to see him interact and react to such weighty information.

He had to have his blood taken for some lab work for the procedure. He was quite the trooper in getting another needle prick.
We left the hospital feeling optimistic and thankful that Jake will have some relief. This has been weighing on him for quite some time. He's happy to have an end in sight!
Please keep praying, as the bleeding is still an issue until the embolization is done and is successful. He's getting pretty frustrated with having to deal with it. He'll be glad to not have to carry a roll of gauze in his pocket, "Just in case."
I'm sure Michael and I will have a laptop with us at the hospital, and will keep everyone updated as he goes through surgery and recovery. Thanks to everyone for all their prayers for Jake. They are greatly appreciated!

Blood pressure.


Posted by ShoZu

Jacob is excited.

At the hospital talking to doctor about Jacob's AVM. Looks like we're finally gonna get this taken care of. Jacob's excited.

Posted by ShoZu

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christopher's first wresting practice

Squat and Shoot
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Snow crab legs (continued)

Christopher got a kick out of the claws that were pulled from Jacob's meal.

As he used the claw to pick up and eat his French-fries, we discussed whether the claw is a simple machine or a compound machine. His education learned from at school tells him that it's a simple machine.

Posted by ShoZu

Red Lobster

Jacob gets much pleasure from fresh snow crab legs. He is very meticulous in getting every piece of available meat from each leg. The clean plate shows his appetite.

I don't remember ever being brave enough to try any kind of crab legs - especially at his age.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Information about Jake

I got a phone call today from Jake's doctor. He went over the results of Jake's images that were taken on Friday:

It turns out that Jake doesn't have an hemangioma...he has an Arterial Vascular Malformation - or AVM for short. He explained that an AVM is basically a "miswiring" of Jake's arteries and veins. He compared the arterial/vascular system to a tree: a tree has a trunk (arteries) and branches (veins) and it's anatomy gets smaller and smaller to the leaves (capillaries). Jake's AVM is like having 2 trunks put together - and it's caused a high blood flow situation (which is the "whooshing" he heard when he listened to the birthmark). The blood doesn't have the correct route to take (going to the branches and leaves). One great thing he said is that the AVM is not attached to Jake's skull at all, it's just at the scalp - so that makes treatment a bit easier.

He is going to have us meet with an Intervential Radiologist, and Jake will undergo an angiogram. He said this will enable them to get a more specific picture of which vessels are not formed correctly. He said the MRA showed all of the vessels, but the angiogram will be much more specific in it's imaging. The angiogram will consist of having a catheter inserted (most likely into his thigh) and floated up to his birthmark to take images of the vessels. During that procedure, he'll also undergo an embolization. That will consist of a slightly larger catheter being inserted, but they will be able to steer this catheter and have it go to where they need it to go. He will have a coil inserted into the vessels that are malformed, and this will cause a clot that will shut down the blood flow to the birthmark. The doctor said that Jake should start to have some shrinkage of his birthmark following this procedure, but it won't go away completely. After this is done, then we can start to look at getting the birthmark removed - which will be much safer after the embolization is successful.

On a "not fun to hear" note...the doctor did inform me that if Jake were to have a puncture wound to the birthmark, he'd run the risk of bleeding to death. I almost had to laugh at how the doctor told me this...he prefaced it with "Not to freak you out, but...." freaked me out a little. He said that if Jake were to sustain a wound to that area, to put firm pressure on it - which is what we've always done when it bleeds - good to know that we've been doing the right thing! Michael joked that since we now know the risks - we should tie a pillow around Jake's head... :)

The doctor has already started the process of scheduling Jake's angiogram and embolization, and we should be getting a letter in the mail in the next 2 weeks letting us know when that is. He said that he put us on a "first available" basis, but if we can't make it at the time listed, then we can reschedule. Thankfully, I work for wonderful people, who told me not to worry about scheduling, so we'll go at the first available time they give us.

I did a little research online before posting this - hoping to find a resource that would help explain this process a bit more. (Jake's doctor did a wonderful job explaining things to me - he spent 20 minutes on the phone going through everything with me. However, it's hard to remember EVERYTHING that was said, so I turned to the wonderful internet to beef up my knowledge) I found one site, that really does a good job of laying out the whole thing. However, it explains AVM's found on the brain. Jake's is on the outside of his skull (thankfully) so his isn't going to be quite as drastic as they describe on this site (no seizures or headaches). It also explains the embolization therapy as well. Take a look, if you'd like: Like I said, Jake's isn't as severe as what's described here, but it's a good "general knowledge" resource for his AVM.

Please keep praying!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Today's appointment...

Jake had his consultation today at the University of Iowa Hospital to see about having his birthmark removed. It was a full day - we're a little farther than we were, but still don't have any information yet.

The surgeon that we met with today was very nice, and was great about talking directly to Jake. He explained that having Jake's birthmark removed was not a trivial surgery, and he wanted to get more information about the birthmark before preceding. He examined Jake's birthmark, and found that it has a pulse, which indicates that there is a blood vessel going through the birthmark. He ordered an MRI and and MRA to get a good look at the birthmark from all angles. He wanted to see how that blood vessel sat inside, and make sure that Jake's skull is developed underneath - he said he doesn't want to get in there, remove the birthmark and see the back of Jake's brain underneath it! (that would be bad!)

Thankfully, we were able to get Jake in today for his MRA and MRI (MRA shows his blood vessels, and MRI shows his head in general). The doctor is hoping to go over the results next week, and contact us and let us know what the next steps are that we can take. He mentioned something about having a procedure done before we think about having the major surgery. I can't remember exactly what it was called (gonna have to write down those technical terms next time!), but it's done by the radiology department. He'd have a catheter "floated" up through his blood vessels to the birthmark, and they'd "zap" it with something that would constrict and close up the blood vessel that is running through the birthmark. Once that's done, surgery on his birthmark would be less of a risk. He said that if they try surgery before doing this, Jake would just bleed and bleed, and being a child, he'd run the risk of loosing too much blood, and need transfusions. The doctor thinks, as of today, that this is the route he'll take - but he'll know more after seeing the images from the MRI and MRA today.

On an emotional level, it was up and down today for me personally. It was a bit scary at times, thinking about all the possibilities, and hearing Jake's account of how he feels about having his birthmark. I found out today just how much he hates having it, and that he was picked on quite a bit in 3rd grade over it. He was about in tears today as he told me what happened (which, of course got me on the verge of tears as well). He was quite brave through the whole day, and was very mature. He talked to the doctor without hesitation (the doctor was also very engaging with Jake, which made Jake feel very comfortable). When we went down to get his MRI and MRA, he found out that he was going to have to have an IV put in for the chemical to show his vessels during the MRA. Through the whole needle prick - he didn't flinch. He sat in the MRI machine for a whole 45 minutes while all the images were being taken - and coped quite well with the noise and discomfort. When he finished the MRI & MRA, his birthmark started bleeding quite badly. He was as cool as a cucumber in dealing with it. The technicians administering his imaging were wide eyed and almost panicky. Jake talked with an even tone, and told them how to deal with his birthmark bleeding. It was quite amazing to see him today.

On the way home, I told Jake just how proud I was of him and how he was handling this whole situation. He told me that he will do whatever it takes to get rid of the birthmark - even if it means some discomfort in the process. He's going to rise to the occasion, and "be a man" about it.


Please keep praying for this situation. I'm seeing more and more how important this is to Jake, and I want the best for him. This is a major surgery, I'm finding out. I want everything to be smooth and safe. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and Michael and I as we make decisions and go through processes. Please pray for Jake's emotions and safety through all of this. Of course we want him to endure as little pain as possible - so please pray that whatever course is decided upon, that it is the least invasive.

Thanks for all your prayers so far, and thanks for continuing them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another marble in the jar...if we had a marble jar

My in-laws have a neat thing that they do, to remind them of all the good days they have. They have a jar that they fill with marbles. For every good day they have, they drop a marble in the jar. The end result is a jar full of marbles, representing some great memories. Yesterday would have warranted a marble in the jar. Since we don't have a jar - I'll do my best to preserve the good day by blogging instead. Not as colorful, but it'll do. :)

The boys have been really great lately. They've really shown a lot of maturity and responsibility around the house. They both have chores that need to be done each day, and for a long time now, they've completed the chores with great attitudes and helpful hearts. Michael and I were talking about how we needed to give them a bonus (they get a monthly allowance) to reward them for such great behavior. After chatting about it for a bit, we decided that it'd be fun to take them to the skating rink with their friends. Both boys have been talking for some time that they'd like to go, so we thought it'd be a great reward for such great behavior.

A couple weeks ago, we told the boys of our plans to take them to Super Skate. We figured we could fit about 8 extra kids in both of our cars, so we told them that they could each invite 4 friends to come along. After talking to their friends, it looked like most of them couldn't make it (we didn't have much notice for them to make plans for it), so it looked like it was going to be a small turnout. That Thursday, Jake sprained his ankle, so we had to postpone our skating session for a few weeks.

Postponing the outing actually worked in the boys favor. We were able to make plans a bit earlier, and send out "invites" to their friends. At first, we didn't get much of a response, and to tell you the truth, I was a bit worried that the boys would be disappointed in their reward. What fun is it to go roller skating with just your mom and dad? Finally, on Friday we got several calls from parents letting us know that their child would be joining us. All in all, we had 2 of Jake's friends come, and 4 of Chris' friends come.

We got to Super Skate right at the 10:00 starting time. At first, we were the only group there. It was great! Eventually, another small group joined us, but it was far from crowded. The boys had a blast - and both skated really well! (It was Chris' first time roller skating). The skate session lasted from 10:00 to noon, and in that time there was lots and lots of goofiness going on! We got to hear all kinds of kids music too (I'm not sure if the DJ noticed that all the kids were under the age of 10 or not, but he played a lot of "Disney" songs...Crazy Frog and Chipmunks led the pack.) I didn't skate at all, and manned our video camera, but Michael did end up getting a pair of skates and cruised the rink with the boys. It worked out really well to have him out there, to help some of the kids who didn't know how to skate so well.

At the end of the session, the boys were all sweaty and disappointed that the session was coming to an end. Some of the parents came to pick up their boys, and some of the kids were to ride home with us. We loaded up our Durango to the fullest, and headed over to Wendy's to grab some lunch with the boys riding with us. We took up 3 tables at Wendy's (could have fit into 2 - but who wants their parents sitting with them when they're out with their friends?), and thanked God for the dollar menu! We all ate, and the boys giggled all their way through lunch. After lunch, we again loaded the Durango with boys, and started the bus route to take everyone home. During the ride, we heard lots of jokes about body functions, and lots of silly noises to go along with the jokes. I was personally relieved to hear that other people's boys joke like this too. :) I do have to say, however, that the boys have done an extremely good job picking out friends. All of their friends are very nice boys, and it was enjoyable to spend time with them all.

After dropping off the last boy, we headed over to a cell phone store to change over our cell phone plans. We've been talking about it for some time, and decided that now was a good a time as any. After spending a few hours at the cell phone store - picking out phones, setting up a new plan, and asking tons of questions, we all walked out with new phones. Michael's phone is by far the most fun - he got an iPhone. :)

That evening, Michael and the boys ended up going over to our neighbor's house for a game night. They had lots of fun playing Rock Band for the first time. I enjoyed my quiet evening to myself, setting up my contacts in my new phone, and watching my cheesy VH1 shows. :)

We all went to bed last night extremely tired, but extremely happy. It was a truly wonderful day spending time together as a family, and watching the boys with their friends. If we did have that marble jar, I'd have to pick out the most colorful marble to describe the day. A marble that made you smile to look at it, because that's how I felt at the end of the day. It was a great day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another day at the doctor's office....

As most of you know, Jake has a rather large birthmark on the back of his head, called a strawberry hemangioma. All through his years, the doctor has taken a "wait and see" approach to treating it. Generally, these types of birthmarks disappear by the time the child is 9-11 years old. We've kept our hopes up for some time that this would be the case for Jake, but unfortunately, it hasn't.

Over the last few months, he's developed a sore that just won't heal. We kept hoping that it'd go away, but it's been stubborn. After a second sore developed, Michael and I decided it'd be a good idea to take him into the doctor again, and have it looked at one more time.

I took Jake in to see our family doctor on Thursday. The doctor took a look at the sore, and determined that it's probably a result of his birthmark being nicked each time he brushes his hair, and has gotten slightly infected. He prescribed some antibiotics to clear up the infection. While looking at the birthmark, he asked me if we'd be willing to look into the possibility of having the birthmark surgically removed. He said that we've been watching it for 10 years now, and it hasn't gotten any smaller. Jake is a bit older now, and could handle a surgery a bit better than he would have before. I told him that we'd be willing to talk to a surgeon about it, and we were scheduled for a consultation with a plastic surgeon here in Cedar Rapids this morning.

Jake was extremely happy to hear that he might have the birthmark removed. It's been bothering him for quite some time now - and he's done with it. He's tired of having to work around it with his hair, wear a bigger hat size, and answer questions when people get a glimpse of it. He's really been expressing to me these last few days his true feelings about dealing with his birthmark. The bottom line is - he hates it!

We went in to see the plastic surgeon this morning. The doctor was very friendly, and very engaging with Jake. He took a look at the birthmark, and determined that it was something he hasn't dealt with enough in his career, and would be more comfortable if we had someone from the University of Iowa Hospital take a look at it. He wanted to make sure that we have the best people working on Jake, and the best resources. He predicted that they're going to want to run a CT scan - just to make sure that the birthmark is only affecting the surface of Jake's head. He thought he felt an indentation in Jake's skull - the result of constant pressure from the birthmark as Jake's skull developed. We're not sure what that means, or what - if any - action will be necessary to correct it.

We have an appointment at the University on October 31st for another consultation with a plastic surgeon. We'll know more about what we're looking after that appointment. This will be a journey for us - as we've never dealt with surgery for either boy. Please pray for wisdom for us, for this whole experience. We want to do what's best for Jake, and make the right decisions as to which path to take on this.

On a funny note: We were finishing up with the plastic surgeon this morning, and he was joking with Jake quite a bit. He asked Jake what he was going to be when he grows up. Jake told him, "I don't know what I'd want to do".

"You could be a plastic surgeon when you grow up!" the doctor told him, with a smile.

"Naw," Jake replied. "I don't do too well with knives and people."

Smart man!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home Studio

I spent this afternoon upgrading my home studio.

I bought some linoleum at the local hardware store... I got the cheapest stuff they had... at only 39¢ per square foot, the 12' x 22' roll only cost $100. Per the suggestion from Mom (a professional that deals with all sorts of painting situations), I used Zinzer 1-2-3 primer to paint it white... ended up using 1.5 gallons to get it all covered with more than two coats.... hence, the picture at the right.

Not seen in the picture is the two 12' - 1x4 boards that I used to secure the linoleum at the top. I stapled the linoleum on one board and then stapled the two boards together (with an air-nailer - not a little wimpy stapler) to sandwhich the linoleum between the boards.

The end result it pretty cool.

The picture shown here is only lit with a shop light... once I get everything setup, the studio lights will really sweeten the shot. Plus, my tired and sweaty mug won't be messing up the shot.

It's exciting... now the room actually feels like a real studio. The hooks are still right above the board on the wall so I can hang my muslin backdrops (my favorite: BLACK).

Next project: our family photo
Due: next week

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our trip to the ER

Well, we got the pleasure of visiting our local emergency room today. Around 2:15 I got a phone call from Jake's school, informing me that he had injured his ankle in gym class playing soccer. The nurse went on to tell me that he put ice on his ankle twice already, but had come back complaining that it still hurts. She asked him to describe the pain on a number scale. 1 being he doesn't hurt, to 10 being the worst pain he's ever felt. He rated his pain at a 7.

I wasn't sure at first if I should pick him up from school. It was so close to the end of the day, and I didn't know to what extent his injury really was. I told the nurse that I'd call Michael, and call her back. My thinking is that Michael is more involved in sports than I am - I'm sure he'd know more about sports injury than I do.

I called Michael, and got his voice mail. So I called again, and got his voicemail once more. I called a third time - really certain that I needed his opinion, and he answered the phone informing me that he was in the middle of a meeting. I apologized, and brought him up to speed on the phone call I got from the school nurse. He told me that it'd be best to pick him up and have him checked out. I agreed - if only for my peace of mind - and after calling the nurse back, left work to pick him up. (I'm so thankful for my bosses who are VERY understanding of how a family works - and consistently make sure that family comes before work).

I got to the school around 2:40 or so, chatted with the nurse, and looked at Jake's ankle. It was pretty swollen, and he had a hard time putting any weight on it. We gathered up all of his items, and got in the car. Michael had finished his meeting at this point, and called me. Michael and I both decided that the best thing to do would be to take him into the ER. If we went to our family doctor, he'd send us down to the hospital to get x-rays anyway, so we might as well just go that direction. I stopped at home, long enough to look for some paperwork that I'd need for the hospital, grab Jake's PSP (to keep him busy in the waiting room) and a magazine for myself. After being home for about 10 minutes, I looked at Jake's ankle again, and it had gotten bigger. We decided we shouldn't delay any longer, and get down to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital shortly after. Once finding a parking spot the dilemma was how to get Jake across the parking lot and into the ER. There weren't any wheelchairs close by, and I really didn't feel comfortable letting him sit in the car by himself while I fetched one. After some awkward tries, Jake and I decided it'd be best for me to piggy-back him into the ER. I turned around, leaned back, and he jumped from his good foot onto my back. We got quite a few chuckles as I lugged my 100lb 10 year old across a busy parking lot.

Once we were inside, one of the attendants got Jake a wheelchair, and signed us in. It's been a while since we've been in the ER (thank God!), and I was quite impressed with how they've streamlined the process. The "host" at the door took some vital information: name, age, injury, and gave us a buzzer like you'd get at a restaurant. He said when the buzzer went off, we'd go to a room, and they'd take us from there.

5 minutes after sitting down in the waiting room, our buzzer went off. I wheeled Jake to the designated room, and in there 2 nurses performed triage duties. We sat in there for a total of 5 minutes before heading back to the waiting room. I got Jake settled, and was about to sit down myself, and another nurse came and got us. She pushed Jake and led the way to the exam room on the 5th floor.

We were in the exam room for not more than a minute, and the doctor came in and asked Jake about what happened. He quickly looked over Jake's ankle, and told me that he wants x-rays done. He let us know that someone would be up to take us down to radiology for the x-rays. Thinking that it'd be a while, I got Jake's PSP out for him to play while we waited. He barely got the system turned on and a game loaded when a "transport" came to pick us up and go to get x-rays. Once again, we were in the elevator, this time going to the 3rd floor for x-rays.

The x-ray tech was ready for him right away. I waited in the hallway while his x-rays were being taken. I was a bit worried, I've heard horror stories of the positions that people with broken bones have to be in to get x-rays done, and was afraid that it'd hurt Jake. A few minutes later the door opened, and Jake came out fine. He said that the x-ray tech moved the table he was on instead of moving him. I was quite thankful for that!

Once again, we were told a "transport" would come and take us back to the exam room. While we waited, Jake and I chatted a bit. I could tell he was really worried, and his emotions were starting to come to the surface a bit more. He shared with me that he was a bit scared of what the outcome would be. He said, "I have to admit, I've sometimes wondered about if I broke a bone, what kind of attention I'd get.....I don't think I'm ready to find out!"

I assured him that even if he did break his ankle, things would be okay, and we'd get him taken care of. Soon after, our "transport" came and took us back up to the room. This was the time that we waited the most. Jake didn't feel like playing his PSP, so we chatted quite a bit. He was in good spirits, and really impressed me with his maturity and presence of mind. He's really grown a lot in the last few months, and today's reactions to his situation was evidence of such.

The doctor came in a bit later, and let us know that the x-rays didn't show any fractures, but it was a severe sprain. He informed us that it'd be a week's time in healing, and that Jake would have to wear a splint for that week, and use crutches for the first few days. One of the nurses came in shortly after and fitted him with a splint, adjusted his crutches for him, and gave him a crash course on walking with crutches.

All in all, it was, as much as could be hoped for, a pleasant experience at the hospital. It was a pretty quick process, and the staff was very nice. I was most impressed with the fact that all the staff addressed Jake directly, and didn't talk "about" him to me, but included him in the conversations and questions. I was also extremely impressed with Jake's presence and confidence in communicating with all these adults.

He's a bit sore yet tonight, and I'm sure will be for another day or so. School tomorrow will be interesting with the crutches. I think at this time, Jake is kind of happy he's got crutches - it's something new, and he'll get some sympathy and special treatment at school. I'm sure after the first day of not being able to do what he wants, he'll lean more towards walking without the crutches, and getting things back to normal. I'm thankful that his ankle wasn't broken, and that his recovery is only a week.

Jake is not a big fan of soccer, and doesn't like the fact that he has to play it in gym class. I had to pick on him a bit, and told him "You'll do ANYTHING to get out of soccer, won't you!?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The last day of summer

The boys start school tomorrow - a fact that I'm happy about, and they're not. I'm happy for many reasons: the boys will have their school friends to hang out with, and not having to pay for daycare is a plus. The biggest reason I'm ready for school to start is the routine. I love the routine we have during the school year of having to get them to school at the same time every day. It's a comfort to me to have a routine. A comfort that I need to carry over to other areas of my life, but that's a whole other blog. :)

I took Chris to his open house tonight to meet his 3rd grade teacher for the first time. She seems very nice, and Chris seemed pretty comfortable around her. He had a hard time remembering her name tonight, but I encouraged him that by Friday, he'll have a hard time not calling me Mrs. Miller.

Chris is getting so big, and it's an odd adjustment for me. I realized a week ago that this is the year that he'll be learning to write in cursive, and he'll be mastering his multiplication tables. With him being my youngest, it hit me harder than when Jake was learning the same skills. I shared with Chris my shock in how much he's grown, and he wasn't fazed by it. He just figures that's the way things go, so "what's the big deal?". Tonight, when we walked in his classroom and his name was written on his desk in cursive, he realized what the big deal was. He felt pretty grown up to see his name in cursive.

We stopped by his 2nd grade classroom so he could say "hi" to his teacher from last year. Mrs. Neff was very happy to see him, and greeted him with a big hug. She went on to share with me that she has the same feelings that I have about how fast the boys are growing. You see, she had Jake as a 2nd grader as well. She said that having taught 2 siblings, and having them both out of her classroom has made her feel pretty old. At least I'm not alone in my feelings. :)

The boys are both enjoying their last day of summer to the fullest extent. Michael was able to come home early and work from home today, so the boys have been outside all day playing with the neighborhood gang. As I type this, we have 2 extra kids in our playroom, and one more just got called home for dinner. They're fitting in as much play as they can before the official end of summer.

Something tells me that they're not going to let the start of school get in the way of having fun - I expect to hear these giggles for a long time to come!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I know....It's been a while......

Dana informed me the other day that she was disappointed every time she checks our blog - because she was hoping for an update.....well sis - here ya go. :)

I really, honestly, don't know where to start. It's been a chaotic summer, to say the least. Here it is, August already. I just got done pouring over the boys school supply lists in preparation for shopping for backpack filling tomorrow. The boys start school in 2 weeks! Where has the summer gone?

I've been a bit silent of late, wanting to write on here, and have had every intention to do so. Several things have been keeping me from converting intention to action. One major obstacle I've had is my laptop went through a couple weeks of misbehaving. I got to know the infamous "blue screen" too well. Michael has done some tweaking, deleting, reinstalling, and just touching the laptop (he has a knack of walking by something, and it works), and things have been running smoother. I also have been getting most of my inspiration for things to write late at night. I really need to get a note pad for my nightstand so I can write down my thoughts. I think the biggest reason I've been absent, however, is that I've really been dealing with internal issues these last few months. Pray for me, if you happen to think of it. I've struggled for years with some issues, and I'm finding them creeping up again. I'm praying that it's just God working in me, trying to clean me out - and not the enemy trying to discourage me. Either way - it's been a rough couple of months personally.

On the family front - everything is going wonderfully! The boys are busy being boys (and let me tell you - they STINK after playing outside all day in the summer!) Michael is adjusting to his new work environment (although his work situation is still quite fluid), and the summer is almost over. We are constantly amazed at how much the boys are growing and changing. Chris is really starting to stretch out and get taller. Jake is now having to get his shoes in the Men's Department (and he's so very proud of that fact). Where did the time go???? They were babies just yesterday!

The boys manage to make us laugh every day with their unique outlook on life. Jake told us a couple weeks ago, that he's been thinking about what to name his kids. He thought that one of them should be named Pace. His logic is that when his toddler wants to be picked up, he can teach him/her to say "Daddy....pick up the Pace." Christopher's mind amazes me, his logic and common sense is well developed for a boy so young. I had to laugh the other day when he was telling me about one of the lead Lego guys in the city he was building is "an engineer and construction worker." I'm thinking he may be predestined for such a position in life.

Well, this blog is a little more random that usual, but that's kind of how my mind is working at the moment. We're off tonite to do a family night. Gotta love the cheap theater!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A fun afternoon.

The boys and I took some time this afternoon to have some fun. Despite having mountains of laundry to do, the boys and I went to the pool. We have a family pool pass to the Marion pool, mostly used for the boys and their daycare (they go 3 times a week). With the week that we had, I figured it'd be a fun break to take them today.

We got all sunscreened up here at home, and loaded into the truck and headed to the pool. This afternoon was beautiful - sunny and clear - perfect to splash around. In the past, I've been really nervous about the boys swimming. Today relieved any fears I've had.

The boys passed the deep end test at the pool their first week of daycare. I was a bit relieved that the lifeguards said they can swim well. Today, when we went, I got to see for my own eyes how well they do. They've gotten really good at swimming!

They spent the afternoon doing funny jumps off of the diving board - spending most of their time there. They ran into some friends from school, and got silly with them. They came over to me, just to make sure I saw the dives they were doing. I spent all of my time dry, and relaxed on a towel, watching my boys have a blast.

It was a good afternoon, and quite relaxing. I feel much more at peace seeing how well they handle the water. I probably should have never doubted to begin with - but I joke with them that since I'm their mom, it's my job to worry. to tackle that mountain of laundry......

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flood 2008 - Part 6

Okay.... this morning started off well. And ended.... not as well, but still not too bad.

I got to the EOC at about 10am after getting almost 8 hours of sleep.

Overnight, I became a manager and primary point of contact for a team of (4) web developers. We discussed possibilites and needs for the website and tried to setup a system of progress that would eventually leave us with possitive results. Unfortunately, things didn't go smoothly.... mostly, they didn't go at all.

The new developers were attempting to use and setup their workstations to work with the current tools that I used to create the site. Unfortunately, they are all (more than less) corporate coders and use a system of tools that does not allow quick updates and immediate results. The day ended with not much production from the group and a game plan on how to make things work better tomorrow.

That wasn't really the bad part of the day.

To explain things quickly: Too many cooks in the pot. Or sometimes: too many road construction workers trying to bake the same souffle'.

Many things that we were given today were vamped, revamped, and re-revamped and then trashed because someone decided that it wasn't needed any longers.

To start the end of my day (at about 7:45)... they (some idiot) announced to the public (via a press conference) that the data flood-affected areas were going to be available online at 8:00 p.m. The problem was that no-one had even contacted me about the data.... which happened to be chicken-scratched notes that somewhat resembled a journal entry of a 9 year old.

To get quickly to the end of the day... it ended with me working directly with the chief-of-police (yes, the big-man himself) to sort through the data and cross reference it with spreadsheets that we would use for the website. You can see the quick-and-ugly result here:

The data will eventually (hopefully today -- which is really tomorrow) be put into a database that will allow users to sort and search for the address they want.

Anyhow... that process took until 3:30 a.m. So now, here I am leaving for the day. I have a meeting with some big-wigs in the morning at 8:30... so I hope I can get 3-4 hours of sleep tonight.

Pray for me... it looks like doors are being opened that we have been waiting for for a long time.

Good night.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Flood 2008 Part 5 - Heather's Point of View....

It's been an interesting 6 days, to say the least. So many emotions have surged through our family. I'm kind of at a loss right now on how I'm supposed to feel. Tuesday night, when Michael and his co-workers first started to talk about getting ready for the flood, I honestly didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. I think most people didn't think it'd be that big of a deal.

Then Wednesday, he was at work late into the evening, trying to get as much out of the building as they could with the few vehicles that they had. Then Thursday hit. Flooding like this town has never seen before. 75% of our family's income was under water. Does Michael still have a job? What will happen to us? What about my brother and his family who live in that neighborhood? So many questions.

Thursday was an odd day. We had interrupted power on Wednesday evening, and with the hopes that it was all better when waking up to the ceiling fan running, we were disappointed. I got a phone call around 7:30 or so from my boss, saying they were without power at our office, and it didn't make much sense for me to come down. The boys had their first field trip planned with Kid's Inc, so they really wanted to go to daycare. Since we pay weekly, and not hourly, it made sense to take them in to daycare. We'd be paying the same amount whether they stayed home or not - and they were looking forward to their field trip. I figured it'd be easier too, when my boss called me to tell me that power had been restored.

I got ready to take the boys to the school, and our power went out again. Hoping that it'd be short-lived, I dropped the boys off. They told me when I dropped them off that if the power isn't restored within an hour, they'd start calling parents. I got home, got a few things taken care of, and Michael and I decided to try and find something for breakfast together, and get started on figuring out what was going to become of Pro Video. Since the chance of having to pick up the boys from daycare still existed, we decided to drive separately - just in case he needs to be at the new office, and I need to get the boys.

On the way to finding a restaurant with power, I got a phone call from the daycare. The power had not come back, come pick them up. Okay - so breakfast plans have been changed. I called Michael, told him I was turning around, and we'll meet up eventually. He and Jake went on to pick up a few things at a co worker's house, and Chris and I went to my office to let my boss' know that even if the power does come on, I can't work since they closed down daycare for the day.

I walked into a very dark office, with my bosses sitting in the dental chairs in our showroom. Their 3 Chihuahuas that have come to know me quite well, didn't recognize me in the dark, and started to bark as ferocious as a 3 pound dog can bark. Once I got into the light more, and they saw it was me, they calmed down. My bosses were gracious, saying they understood about me not being able to come in, and had a great time chatting with Chris. (Chris really likes my bosses, and rightly so). We left there to meet up with Michael and Jake for breakfast at our favorite coffee shop, Mr. Beans.

We got there, and since the power was out for an extended amount of time, they didn't have any hot food. So off to McDonald's we went. After getting there, and getting ready to order, I noticed a sign saying that their credit card machines weren't working because of the flooding. I looked in my wallet in hopes of finding cash (which I never carry) and was thankful to find $8. It didn't buy us much, and we were all pretty grumpy.

Michael was already dealing with feeling down about the whole flood anyway, and not being able to order what he wanted for breakfast really didn't help that much. We all sat there, eating our "not enough" food, and when we finished, Michael went to see what he can do for work, and the boys and I went home.

We had power most of the day, but the boys were ornery. They were picking on each other, and bickering more than usual. I think they sensed that we were all under stress, and they were dealing with that as well. Michael ended up going to lunch with his good friend, Tim, and came home in much better spirits (thanks Tim!). I think it was good for him to be with a friend.

The rest of the afternoon was somewhat lazy. We were glued to the tv, watching continuous news coverage of the flooding that was making history. After a while, it started to get to us, so we decided to watch a couple of movies. We watched "Enchanted" with the boys, and it was a great diversion - very light hearted, and just what we needed. After the boys went to bed, we started to watch "Jumper", but about halfway through the movie, our power went out again. By then it was about 10:30, so Michael and I went to bed.

Friday started a bit better as a family. We woke up with power that stayed on (yay!) and the boys were able to stay at Kids Inc all day - and even go swimming at the pool. My office still didn't have power, so I was off work Friday. I ended up going with Michael to help him set up some computers at the new, temporary location for Pro Video. Moving stuff around, and seeing how much was actually saved was a real spirit boost, and it was wonderful to see the light start to come back in Michael's eyes. We spent all day there, and even part of the evening (after I went to get the boys from daycare and brought them to the office). It was a smoother, more productive day that Thursday. We came home, and watched a little of the news, and things started to feel a bit more normal. Michael got a phone call from one of his friends working with the city, asking him to build a website for the city to be a one-stop information center for all those involved in the flood. As you can see from his previous posts, he agreed, and it's been quite eventful since then.

Michael was gone all day Saturday, working at the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) with all the city officials and decision makers for the recovery of the city. We had little communication all day and into the evening, limited to a short phone call here, and a brief IM there. At 2AM Sunday morning, he IM'd me and told me to go to bed. I don't like going to bed without him, and I argued a bit, but he told me again that I needed to go to bed, since he was going to be longer, and he wanted me to have my energy for the boys on Sunday. I reluctantly went to bed, and left the kitchen light on for him so he'd be able to see when he got home.

I slept fitfully - waking up several times to find a half-empty bed. Since our power was off and on so much, my alarm clock wasn't set, so I had no idea of how much time had passed since going to bed. I kept telling myself that he'd be home soon, and go back to sleep. I woke up finally, at 7:30 or so on Sunday, and once again saw that my bed did not include my husband. I went out to the kitchen to start some coffee and noticed that the light I had left on for him was still on.

I got some coffee started, and came down stairs to my laptop and logged on, hoping to IM Michael and see how he was doing. He said that he realized that he wasn't going to be able to break away and come home long after it was too late to let me know. He had posted a blog, early that morning, and between that and my IM's with him, I was up to speed.

Around 10:30, he asked me to come and rub his shoulders. Missing him terribly, I quickly agreed. The boys and I loaded up into the truck, and drove across town to where the EOC was located. This was the first time I (and the boys) had seen the flood waters with my own eyes. At this point, the water had gone down significantly, but the sight was more than I could have prepared myself for. It was simply amazing. We were not allowed into the EOC, as it was a secured area, and were met with a reason why it was secured. There was a citizen there, quite upset at the fact that he couldn't get into his house, and had to be escorted out of the lobby by 5 police officers.

Michael walked out into the parking lot with us, and we got out a lawn chair, and I gave him a shoulder rub. When my hands got tired, Chris took over for me, and when he got tired, Jake took over. We had a nice, short visit, and then he was off, back into the EOC working away again. As Michael was getting ready to go back into the building, Chris got really quiet. Michael asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I'm just not used to not having you around all the time". He understood what his dad was doing, and is quite proud of him (and Jake is too), but he was feeling the sacrifice as well. It blessed me, in an odd sort of way, that he felt the loss. It meant to me that Michael is such an amazing dad, and is so involved in his boys, that they really feel it when he's not there - they notice a difference.

The rest of Sunday was pretty laid back, we enjoyed lunch with Tim (thanks again Tim!), and an afternoon at home. I, thankfully, got a phone call from my brother, who's house is destroyed from the flood. He sounded in good spirits, considering, and still has his sense of humor. He and his wife are already making plans to move on, and have started to look for another house, expecting theirs (which they just bought in October) to be condemned. They have flood insurance, so they're better off that most in that area. It was good to hear his voice, and it was wonderful to hear how he's handling the situation - he's a good man. Please pray for them, as they have a lot of work ahead of them. He was sharing with me some of what his kids are going through with this, it's hard on kids too.

Michael got home late Sunday night, and it felt wonderful to have my husband back in bed with me. Michael has been at the EOC all day today, and as of now, has not been able to break away to come home (it's now 11:50 pm). He's working on a vital part of the website, a part that will inform citizens when they will be allowed back into their houses. So many people right now are very frustrated with not being able to see their houses, but so many of them are just not safe (a couple people have fallen through floors, basements have caved in, not to mention all the hazardous things in the flood waters, and what was left behind in the muck).

I find myself tonight, very torn - my heart is going in so many directions. I'm so incredibly proud of Michael, and all the work, time, and dedication he's put into helping the people of this community. I'm hopeful, that all his hard work will be noticed by all (a bit of a pride thing for me). I'm praying that God will work the job situation out for us - I'm back at work, but Pro Video isn't 100%, and honestly probably won't be for some time. I'm praying for my brother and his family, sad for what they've lost, but excited to see how God will show Himself victorious in their situation.

The biggest thing I'm dealing with at this moment, though, is loneliness. It's selfish, I know, but I miss my husband. I feel like I've been separated from my best friend, and there are so many things I want to talk about with him, but I don't have the chance. I don't think we'll see much of each other tomorrow, as he'll be busy at the EOC and Pro Video, and I have an early dentist appointment, and work all day. Michael and I have spent time away from each other before, but it seemed easier then. Time apart was planned, and expected. This has knocked my emotions out of check. I find myself sobbing, and feeling guilty about it. I know I have it easy, compared to so many in our area. I understand that God has a reason for everything, and He's called Michael into an amazing area of ministry to this area. Even though I understand this season, it's not easy right now. I think part of the difficulty is the stress of the whole situation. Seeing the city at it's knees can take a lot out of a person.

I am truly proud of Michael through this whole thing. He has really risen to the occasion, and shown what he's really made of. He's a man of great talent and God given abilities that are essential at this very moment. It's great to see him walking in this, and to see the satisfaction he's getting from his labors. He deserves it. Who knows what God will do next? I'm praying for great things!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flood 2008 - Part 4

Well... I'm finally home for the first time since Saturday at 10:30am. I'm sending a few e-mails of things I forgot to take care of this evening at the "office". I'll be heading to bed and then hopefully get up early enough to get back to the Emergency Operations Center by 9am (or so)... I'm now the manager of an entire web team for the new website ( and need to communicate with them in the morning and get ready for what needs to be completed tomorrow. I hope to get to the new Pro Video office by 12:30 pm or so to take care of some business needs for the office relocation... then head back down to the EOC for more meetings and web site needs.

Here's a picture of me from about 12:30 pm today. I was getting pretty tired since I had only slept 2 hours last night and that sleep was on a nylon cot with no pillow or blanket. Thankfully, my lovely wife brought me a change of clothes which made my afternoon much more comfortable than it could have been. She also gave me a nice shoulder rub which helped my tension headache to settle down (and also prevented me of taking advantage of the Cedar Rapids mayor's proposal of a shoulder rub).

Here's me now... going to bed.

Good night.

Flood 2008 - Part 3

As of yesterday at 11:00 a.m., I've become move involved in the emergency response for the Cedar Rapids (and eastern Iowa) areas. I'm currently working on a website (due to go live at 3pm today) that will help coordinate multiple organizations here in the eastern Iowa area to allow them to communicate to the public. Such things as Frequently Asked Questions about the flooding and recovery efforts. The website is I've been coding since about 12pm yesterday and hope to have everything set by 3pm when they make the announcement in this afternoon's press release.

Here I am in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center).

I'm now operating on about 1.5 hours of sleep (of the last 24 hours). I'm not a coffee drinker, but it's becoming more tempting each minute.
Back to work.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flood 2008 - Part 2

June 11th Photos:

June 12th Photos:

June 13th Photos:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 Flood

View them all one-by-one at

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flood 2008 - Part 1

We evacuated our office today. It was a loooong day.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Baseball, baseball, and more baseball...

Michael has been really good about blogging, and I've been quite the slacker. I keep trying to think of things to blog about, but really, right now we're in a season of running. Jake's baseball schedule is quite full, which leads to most of our time spent at either games, or Michael and Jake at practice.

We were at a game this past Thursday (as usual) and Jake did great! We lost the game, but I was so proud of Jake and all that he did to help out his team. He played 3rd base for the second time this season, and really stepped up his game. He caught a hit ball to get an out, almost tagged out a runner stealing 3rd, and hit really well all night. The thing that most impressed me about the night happened after the game.

A kid from Jake's school was there, watching his big brother play at an adjacent diamond. Dalton is a nice enough kid, but isn't the most popular. He was on Jake's team last year, and talked a big talk, but rarely played like he said everyone else should. Because of his "do as I say" attitude, he doesn't have a whole lot of friends at school. Jake, however, has made several comments about how people just need to get to know him, and he's a really funny guy. I can tell that Jake sees his heart, more than he sees this kid's need to fit in. Apparently, when Dalton came over to watch Jake's team play ball, most of the kids told him to "get lost".

After the game was done, we were all walking to our car. Dalton was walking with Jake, and chit-chatting along the way. I overheard their conversation, and I about started to cry right then and there.

"How come you didn't tell me to get lost like all the other kids did?" Dalton asked Jake.

"Because you're my friend" Jake replied, in a very serious tone.

"But Jared's my friend, and even he told me to get lost." Dalton told him, sounding very hurt.

"I would never do that to you, you're my friend" Jake reassured him, and then went on to say something silly to make his friend laugh.

Hearing that Jake was kind, and hearing him tell his friend that he respects him was so wonderful. I couldn't help but feel proud of him at that moment. It topped all the accomplishments he made during the game - and was a much more valuable skill.

It's so awesome to see my boys grow into amazing men.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


We had a fun morning at the ballpark where Jacob's team was playing their third game of the weekend in a league tournament. Right behind the diamond lies a nice playground area with swings, the jungle-gym, tire swings and the works.

Tire Swing On the way home from the game (they lost 4 to 3 in the bottom of the 6th at a close play at the plate), Chris was moaning and nearly crying from discomfort and nausia after a marathon spin on the tire swing. He spun and spun and spun... until he got sick. He sounded pretty misserable the entire car ride home.

Once we got home, we ate lunch. Color returned to Chris's face with each bite. He was almost finished when we asked if he felt better: "Yeah," he said.

Chris is cool. "Was it worth it?" we asked.

"Oh yeah," he replied.

We added another question, "Would you do it again?"

"Twice," he said with a smile.

Yup, Chris was back to normal - for now. Who knows what he'll do this afternooon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Frog catches a cricket.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Photos from Jacob's birthday party

Friday, May 2, 2008

Max, the toad.

Chris has a new pet - a toad he found outside last weekend.

We did a bit of reasearch and believe it to be a plain American toad. He'll eat just about any bugs - so far we've fed it crickets... and he loves them. You can see the photos of Max the toad below.

Chris lost another tooth.

Chris shows off his great smile.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Then and Now

Michael and I were laughing last night about how everything is changing for us. We're getting older, the boys are getting older, and things are different than they used to be. I think I realized it in a concrete manner on Monday during softball practice.

I've always gone to all of Michael's softball games, and brought the boys with me. I've gone from going to games as a newlywed, to balancing the blanket while I nurse, to chasing after exploring toddlers. Now, the boys are MUCH older, and they pretty much entertain themselves. When they're not cheering for Dad, they're at the playground playing. Since they're older, and more responsible, I don't have to worry about them as much as I did when they were toddlers.

Going to Michael's softball practice on Monday made me realize that I'm now one of the older, "wiser" wives. A lot of the wives of the guys on the team are younger, with toddlers. While I feel so blessed that I'm out of that stage, it's bittersweet. I really enjoyed that time when my boys were that age - but I'm glad I don't have to keep a constant eye on them. With most of the wives being younger, the conversations aren't as timely for me as well. I have to admit, it did make me feel a tad bit left out.

It also made me realize that I have a lot to offer to other moms. We were blessed with our boys being easy toddlers, but I do feel that I learned a lot during that time. If I can offer any of my experiences to help a new mom, then I welcome the opportunity.

I started writing years ago, to document the everyday events of our family. I was, thankfully, wise enough back then, to know that time goes fast, and it'd be golden to preserve those moments for future reflection. I'm so thankful I did. I hope that, in addition to conjuring up wonderful memories, I can share those stories with young moms. I want young moms to know that they are not alone in their adventures in parenthood.

Reading one of the stories again, made me realize that while things change, some things remain the same. Jake is celebrating a big birthday in a couple weeks, and is pretty excited about it. Christopher told me the other day that he was really happy. Smiling, I asked him what was making him so happy. His answer was "Because my brother is happy, and it makes me happy" The bond between our boys is precious, and thankfully steady. I realize that this is a bit longer of a blog entry than usual, but I just have to "re-share" this moment from years ago. This is what I wrote about the boys on June 4th, 2002. Jake was 4 years old, and Chris was a ripe old age of 2:

Bond of Brothers
I have been extremely blessed lately by the friendship forming between Jacob and Christopher. Christopher is getting to the age, where he's no longer a baby, in constant need of care. He's old enough to wrestle and play with his older brother, Jacob. Their play times have become more and more fun to observe. These times have become times that our boys are getting to know each other as individual people, not just the person they share a room with.
I think Jacob first noticed that Christopher was getting older a couple weeks ago. He and Christopher were playing toys like usual. Somehow, their playing was escalated to wrestling. Jacob was careful, as usual, not to hurt his little brother. Little by little, though, he realized that Christopher can take a lot. After a few minutes, they were in an all out wrestling match, complete with rolling around on the floor, pins, and giggles. When they were done, Jacob told me, "Mama, I'm so glad that Christopher is old enough to wrestle now!"
Their friendship doesn't stop at playing; I've noticed emotional support between them too. I think this is one thing that has touched my heart the most! Christopher asked to play with a certain toy today that he wasn't allowed to bring downstairs. When I told him no, he started to cry. When Christopher gets upset, he doesn't like to be near the person that made him upset. Coming to me for comfort in cases like that are out of the question. Instead, he went to Jacob. Crying all the way down the stairs, he ran to his big brother with open arms and flowing tears. Jacob met him halfway, and the two best buds brothers hugged. Jacob, in a comforting sweet voice asked, "Christopher would you like to sit with me?" Christopher agreed, and the two of them went to the couch to sit together. Christopher climbed up next to his big brother and cuddled with him. Jacob, again in his sweet voice told his little brother how much he loved him, and that he needed to settle down. That's all it took to comfort Christopher and calm him down.When I watch the boys in situations like this, I feel so proud of them. Jacob is becoming a very compassionate big brother, and Christopher is confident in his brother's love. What better friend to have as a little boy than your brother? Your brother is always there to play and be goofy with you, and your brother is always there when you need a little giggle or hug. I am reminded each and every day why God put these guys together as brothers, and I'm so thankful for His perfect plan. I'm also thankful that He allowed me to be witness to it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jacob's first baseball game of the year was yesterday. He did great. The team played a double-header and lost the first game 7 to 9.... they returned with a vengence the second game and won it 20 to 7.

The team did really well considering that this is only the second time they've played (or practiced) outside this year. With all of the rain we've had this spring, baseball practice has been an adventure.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chris' Play

Chris's 2nd grade play occured last week... however, a tornado warning cut it short. Here's the play up to the crash-ending.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eavesdropping Mom....

The boys are on Spring Break right now, so it's no school all week. Thankfully, we have some wonderful friends who have stepped up and helped in the daycare of the boys while I'm at work. Today, they went to our neighbors, Chris & Erin's house. It was a beautiful day, so they were able to be outside most of the day. Even after I got home, they remained outside playing. I called them in at 5:00 tonight, to be greeted by a distinct little boys smell - a combination of cold sweat and mud. Being outside was heaven for them - especially after the long and terrible winter keeping them inside for so long.

On their way down the hall to the showers, both of them were very chatty about the good day they had. Christopher couldn't take the smile off his face! I love listening in to their conversations, just to hear how they interact with each other. Usually, they're making jokes, being silly, or just making random conversation. Tonight, I was extremely blessed by their conversation.

Somehow, the subject of being cool was brought up. Jake asked Chris, "Do you think I'm cool?"

Chris promptly replied, "Yeah, I think you're cool. Even though we fight sometimes, I still think you're a good brother. I'd love you even if you were a nerd, 'cuz it doesn't matter what's on the outside, just the inside."

Jake seemed very satisfied with the answer from his brother, because he replied with an "I love you too".

And then they went on to singing songs about bodily functions - all with sound effects.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Daylight Savings

Michael and I are in constant amazement over our boys. They have the same upbringing, same rules, same parents, and yet they are so different. One area that their differences are really shown is how they get up in the morning. Jake, being the night-owl, is content to sleep in as long as we let him. Chris, on the other hand, is a morning glory. He even jokes that sleeping in for him is waking up at 6:35 instead of his usual 6:30. His natural clock just wakes him up at the same time every morning. He wakes up happy, and ready for his day. (Oh how I wish I was like that!)

Since we had Daylight Savings this past weekend, Chris' natural 6:30 is now 7:30. With his school schedule, waking up at 7:30 still allows him plenty of time to start his day. Monday morning, when my alarm clock went off at 7:00, I immediately went into Jake's room to start my morning ritual of nagging him until he's up and getting ready for school. Chris is in the other room, sound asleep the whole time. 7:30 rolls around, and Chris woke up, got dressed, and went downstairs to eat his breakfast while watching cartoons before school. Jake, at this point, had also gone downstairs to catch half a show before leaving for school. Seeing Jake, Chris was surprised, "What are you doing up at 6:30?"

"It's 7:30." Jake replied.

"Mom!" traveled all the way up the stairs and down the hall to my room. He was genuinely concerned that he had overslept! I explained to Chris that twice a year, we change our clocks. In the fall, we set it back and hour, and in the spring, we set it ahead an hour.

"Why do we have to do that?! When did you make that rule?" he inquired.

"Everybody does it" I answered him, with a chuckle at the thought that I would have come up with a rule that would take an hour of sleep away from the precious little I get already.

"Even at school?" he asked.

"Even at school." I answered. "It's a law that everybody has to change clocks. You'll like that it doesn't get dark as quick in the evenings now."

Those of you who know Christopher well, know that he is a man of few words, and calls it like he sees it. In response to my hopes that the prospect of more daylight after school would somehow make that hour shift easier for him, he simply said:

"Well, that's the dumbest law I ever heard of!" and went back to his cartoon.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


We recently got 13 inches of snow in 24 hours (on Tuesday evening). Sledding was fun.

Music: Stellar Kart [Lose Control], Toby Mac [Boomin'], Hyperstatic Union [Sunny Days]

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Letter To My Husband

Dear Michael,

I know this is a rather public forum to send you a letter, but I felt inclined to do so. I am so blessed to be married to you, and quite frankly, I don't care who knows!

Valentine's Day is approaching, and while we really don't do much to celebrate each year, it does cause me to reflect on our relationship, and how God has put us together. Jennifer made a comment the other night that we were an "odd" couple - that she didn't know anybody else who had been so uniquely put together by God, and so perfect for each other. I don't know if I'd fully agree that we're "odd" - I do agree that God has made us perfect for each other.

I have so many reasons to love you, and to be thankful for you. As a man, you are honorable, funny, loving, and humble. You have risen with great integrity to be the true head of our household. You carry our family into every moment with grace and wisdom. You have shown me so much love over the years, despite my insecurities. I truly feel safe as your wife, and know that I can put my whole being in your hands.

You are an amazing dad. The way you interact with the boys is remarkable. You always make time to be with them, and have never shyed away from an opportunity to be with them. You are honest with them, and share your own struggles with great humility. I know that they respect you, and will learn what a real man is, just by being with you. With so many stories of absent fathers, I'm so thankful that our boys will always be secure in the fact that their dad loves them.

You have always been such a faithful provider for our family. You worked so hard when the boys were small, just so that I could stay home with them. As the years have gone by, you have shown great dedication to providing for our family - even to the extent of working places that are less than desirable. You have so many amazing talents and abilities, and I'm so proud of all that you walk in: music, photography, management, creativeness, and the list goes on. I know that God favors your dedication, and will bless you greatly in every endeavor you walk in.

You are also a great friend. Not only to our friends, but to me. You are so encouraging, nudging me to pursue the gifts that you see in me - most of the time, seeing things in me before I do! I am amazed at how much my heart can trust you. I never imagined it would be possible for me to be so close to someone, and God has amazed me by allowing me to be close to you.

Our 12 years together so far have gone by in the blink of an eye. We've grown so much in that time - and it excites me to see what God has for us in our future. I thank Him every day that I get to spend my life with you. I thank Him every day that He's given our boys the most amazing father. And I thank Him every day for looking past my faults, and rewarding me with such a treasure.

Society all around us tells us we're to complain about our spouses. I whole-heartedly disagree with that mindset. I want to tell the whole world what a gift I have in you. I want everyone to know that not all wives have only things to complain about, but things to be joyful over. I am so proud of you, and all that you are. I love you more than I can express in words, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life trying to show you the depths of my feelings.