Thursday, January 30, 2014

This Blog

I love blogging.  I rarely pay attention to stats and such, but the other day I noticed that the blog is approaching 600,000 hits??!!  I am in awe that a little Mom blog which started on a hot August night back in 2008 has morphed into this.  (Check out how little my boys were in the first blog post here).

I remember that Mike was not exactly thrilled at the idea of a family blog back then.  Now some of my favorite posts on the blog were written by him.  Here is a link to my all-time favorite blog post by Mike-you can read it here).  This blog has documented our lives (often in more detail than my family would like) since Kyle was in first grade.  My entire pregnancy and Hope's little life have been documented on here.

Back in 2008 I could not have imagined that God was going to use this space for His glory during David's cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I will never forget the words I typed after Smyth County Ambulance  transported us late that night to UVA hospital.  You can read those words from a scared Mommy here.

Blogging takes dedication and time, but I love to scroll back through the thousands of blog posts I have documented from the highs of our family life (Disney, vacations, Miami Heat games, concerts, and precious times with loved ones) to the lows.  I am so thankful that I took the time at UVA to document the nightmare of David's cancer.  It is slowly becoming a hazy fog (thankfully) but I am so thankful that I have it all documented.  This blog is a living testament to God's grace, mercy, and blessings. 

I look back over the pictures of David bald, skinny, sick, and hooked up to tubes and such, and I get so emotional and overcome with gratitude that God not only walked with us each moment, but He got us to the other side of treatment.  His handiwork is evident all over our lives and blogging has allowed me to capture His goodness during the "busyness" of our lives. 

This blog will be used for God's glory.  I am not a preacher or a theologian.  I am not one of those gifted people that can quote the bible verse by verse for you.  God blessed other people with that gift and I am often burning up my pastor's phone after reading our assigned scripture readings for the week because I have a million questions.   I am not your girl if you are looking for a biblical scholar.  After studying the bible for most of my twenties and thirties I STILL have to use the table of contents to find certain books of the bible.  Sigh.

But what I can do is use this little space to share my family, chat about parenting a child with Down Syndrome, share David's journey through cancer and how underfunded pediatric cancer research is, and to talk about Jesus.  I cannot use this space to share a coherent sermon on the book of Revelation, but I can share first hand how Jesus has provided moments of "amazingness" when I was in the valley called chemo and radiation with my baby.  You can read aboud God's awesomeness here

This blog will always be real.  I will never try to gloss over hard and scary here.  Life is hard and scary that is why we need Jesus.  I will share pictures of my family because I love them and this blog is a great place to document life as our kids are growing bigger each moment. 

Thank you dear friends for visiting this little space and celebrating the awesome times with us and encouraging us during the hard times.  Your support of our family is precious to us.  Thank you also for ignoring my grammatical mistakes and misspelled words and reading through my run-on sentences:)  I write like I talk which is often dramatic and "wordy!" This blog is my safe and sacred space to process life and to point myself and hopefully others back to the One who loves us all-Jesus.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Today we are on snow day #9 around here in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  The snow is beautiful and the temps have been super cold.  Yesterday we had a fun day with our neighbors.  Kyle and Tanner chose to hit the streets in our neighborhood shoveling driveways.  They were sore, tired, and had sweet little red faces from windburn, but they chose hard work over another round of xbox play which pleased us as parents.  Kyle fell asleep in our bed before 8:00 after all the shoveling:)
Meanwhile, my neighbor came over and we did some cooking together.  I love to cook and cooking with a friend while we got to catch up was precious. 
Before I launch into the next topic on today's blog I must post this disclaimer: I love my husband dearly and he loves me dearly but our marriage is not perfect at all.  He annoys me and I am sure on occassion I may have annoyed him a time or two.
Jonathan texted me this picture of my boys from Resurrection this past weekend after I shamelessly turned to Facebook Saturday night asking someone, anyone to capture a picture of my two.  I am married to a good man.  He happily chose to chaperone a group of middle school boys this weekend after being up before dawn many mornings last week making stressful snow calls. 
It would be so easy for him to use his job to get out of all the things he does in our kid's lives like coaching AAU, coaching Little League, helping with travel teams, refereeing Upward games, and chaperoning these boys to encounter Jesus in Gatlinburg this weekend.  He left Gatlinburg before communion Sunday morning to drive from Gatlinburg to Richmond, VA (8ish hours) to be there bright and early for an important meeting for his Superintendent job.  He returned home late Monday night after the meeting.  He is no spring chicken anymore and I know he was exhausted. 
Our kids are blessed that they have a Dad who juggles a stressful job (especially with these crazy and random snow storms that keep popping up) with being present and hands-on in their lives.  He is a tough Dad on all three of our kids whereI am usually the pushover parent with the kinder touch.  He takes parenting and faith very seriously and he feels very responsible for teaching our children to love God and to do the right thing every. single. time. 
The picture of Mike and Kyle at Resurrection makes me smile because they look so happy together  and I am so thankful that for Kyle's first experience at such a huge and personal encounter with Jesus his Daddy was there.  His Daddy was sleepy and dreading the drive to Richmond he still had to do,  but once again Kyle could count on the fact that his Daddy was there with him like he always is.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Full Heart, Full Weekend

There are times in life, when your heart is full, broken, sad, and blessed all within the span of a few hours. This weekend my heart has felt so many powerful emotions questioning why a few times, and rejoicing other times.

I want to respect Ashley's privacy, but I do ask that you lift her and her husband Matt up in prayer. We love them both and they are like family to us. She had to have unexpected surgery last Friday and finally got to come home today. Her heart is huge and she and Matt both know that God is in control. Sometimes, God's plan is not always on the easy and clear path and you just have to trust that His plan is the right plan. That is where they are today. We stopped by the hospital to visit them and of course David had to give her some love.
This weekend while Mike and Kyle were gone, Hope and David and I headed to Radford to visit with family. My Dad's entire family (minus a few hubbies and kiddos) converged upon Radford as sweet Memaw was transported from the hospital to her new nursing home. Hospice nurses are involved in her care now.

Obviously we all are aware that her heart is quickly weakening, but it was sweet and precious family time together this weekend. There were a dozen or so of us all weekend laughing and reminiscing with her. It breaks my heart to see how swollen she is from the fluid on her heart and lungs. It brings me to tears to see her laboring to cough up fluid. Congestive heart failure is not pretty, but she still is. My Memaw has the sweetest spirit but I heard some funny and unforgettable stories about her this weekend. She is a sweet mild-mannered christian woman, but she had a few suitors after her before she married my Pawpaw and she was a tough bird! She often laments that she is ready to see Jesus because she is tired and tired of being tired, but God blessed us with this family time together. I know we wore her out but sweet memories and funny stories ease the sting of words like "heart failure", "hospice" and "palliative care."

David chose to wear his shirt and tie to the nursing home so he could look "hot" for Memaw while he sang a sweet song to her.

While we were visiting family and dodging crazy snow storms, Mike and Kyle were at Resurrection 2014 in Gatlinburg. I think they had a wonderful experience worshipping God and learning His word with 3500 other youth and chaperones from the Holston conference. Kyle being one of the sixth graders going this was his first year to be able to go. I hear it is an experience that you have to experience to understand, but I kept up with them through the live feed on my phone and I enjoyed lots of facebook pictures from the group. I am so thankful for such a strong and wonderful youth group that Kyle is apart of and I am so thankful that Kyle has the kind of Daddy that would choose to go and chaperone other middle school boys. Mike is a little sleepy, but he too had a great time!

I had a lump in my throat seeing them off on Friday. I am still shocked I have a child old enough for Resurrection and that he is a youth now! GASP! I was also emotional thinking of all the prayers I had personally prayed for this group that they would experience God on a personal level and come home changed by His presence. Jesus is the sweetest thing in my life and I am so thankful that Kyle has this opportunity to build his own relationship with Jesus.

Sometimes life is beautiful and brutiful all within the span of a few minutes. This weekend with family was beautiful and I know it did Memaw's heart good to be with us all together even if it was in a nursing home with a visit from her hospice nurse. I am so thankful that Mike and Kyle encountered Jesus at Resurrection with 3500 of their closest "friends" while I also lift Matt and Ashley in prayer as they keep walking in faith when life throws a big curveball. I do know from my walk with Jesus, that whether you are on the mountaintop praising God, or holding your sweet grandmothers hand while she labors to cough up something to ease her lungs, God is there. He is always there.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Precious Girl

Dear Hope,
At your  last ballet class it was Parent Night which means that I got to actually go into the studio and sit and watch class.  Typically I peek in, but parents stay out in the waiting room.  It was such a special night to come in and sit and watch you.

I could not stop smiling and marveling that the little girl with the lopsided bun and sweet smile was mine.  After years and years of sports, it still blows my mind that I have a little ballerina!

I also could not contain the lump in my throat watching you dance, twirl, smile, and tap.  I wish I could keep you as this sweet little four-year old forever, where I can protect you from the harshness that life may throw at you as you grow and mature. 
First off, I want you to know what Jesus says about you.  In Psalm 45:11 he says so beautifully "The King is enthralled by your beauty, honor him, for He is your God."
Did you hear that baby girl?  Jesus thinks you are beautiful and we do too.  In this age of social media I worry that this truth that you are beautiful to the One who made you, will be easily forgotten.  I know you will be tempted to make poor decisions in an effort to get a few more likes on Facebook or something similar, but please sweet girl, trust us on this.  You are beautiful and you need to be strong in convictions so that you do the right thing when faced with a decision that can have a negative outcome. 

Please know that Jesus cares way more about your heart than he does your jean size.  He wants you to use that sweet heart He gave you to love and serve others.  I know you are also going to be tempted to do some pretty dumb things to get the attention of certain boys down the road.  (I too made some silly mistakes in this department and would love for you to learn from my silliness). If you are going to spend time with a guy down the road,  please make sure he loves Jesus.  If he does, he will be more likely to treat you the way we want you to be treated. 
You are so precious and special sweet girl.  Please never forget that Jesus is truly taken by your beauty, because after all He made you and created you.  He gave you those curls that I pray you always will appreciate.  The confidence you exuded the other night at ballet I pray will be with you always as you carry His truths in your heart down the road.  Mommy, Daddy, and most importantly, Jesus is enthralled with your beauty.  May your life honor Him as you use the gifts and talents He has given you to point others to Him.
p.s. Modesty is really a wonderful thing.  I pray that the style favors more modest trends as you get older because your Dad and I are not going to let you dress like a hoochie Momma.  I see many battles in our future if half-naked selfies are still popular in a decade or so.  Trust us on this.
Love, Momma  (aka dance Mom!) 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Inclusion Works!

  For me, raising David has been like hiking through the mountain range.  He is totally awesome and makes us laugh hourly.  In our parenting of David there have been times when I have been on the tip of the mountain top with my heart full of pride and amazement of this awesome life that God has blessed us with. 

There have been times sitting through tough meetings, or the year David was in treatment, or exhausting discipline phases where I felt like I was walking in the valley.  The moment the doctors first uttered the words Down syndrome to me on his birth day, I felt God's peace and presence so strongly.  I have never ever doubted God's plan to bless us with a child with an extra chromosome. 

This week my heart has been full seeing the blessing that comes when your child is treated like just another child.  David has been blessed with being in inclusion in our public schools since Pre-K.  He has been in regular classes with the support of our awesome special educators within the regular classroom setting. 

This past weekend one of David's best girlfriends had her birthday party at the skating rink.  David was so excited to go and my heart was FULL seeing how much the birthday girl and his other BFF, Kelsey truly included David. 
I watched in amazement to see my child loved by these girls and included.  Truly included.
I came home from the party and told Mike that God has indeed blessed David once again with some true and sweet friends that love him.  Inclusion has been SUCH a blessing for David because the kids obviously know he has a disability and has battled cancer, but he is accepted and loved.  I could barely contain my joy!
Today was another moment of pure joy watching our David compete in Upwards basketball with his peers. Obviously he was not the star out on the court, but he made a basket and had a blast with his friends.  Here he is posing with Daddy, one of the referees!  David made it known several times during the game that he was not pleased with his Daddy's calls as the ref and we all laughed in the stands.  I commented that David will probably not get the white "christ-like" star for good sportsmanship!  Ha! 
Here he is running out of the court when they introduced him!!
Praying with both teams before the start of the game,
I actually got a picture of his basket he made!  He was so proud of himself and I could barely contain my joy!  Considering he has a disability and was out of "the loop" for a year during chemo and radiation, God has continued to bless his life with sweet friends, meaningful and appropriate activities, and JOY!  I was such a proud Momma this weekend! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Random Facts from our Week

1.  This has been our first full week of school for the kids and work for me since mid-December.  I am thankful for returning to a routine, but we have hit the hay early around here this week.  Mike has had to get up super early a few mornings this week to make a few snow calls. 
2.  Dave was super excited for Upward basketball to practices to start this week.  Here he is in the huddle with his team.  Jonathan and another nice Dad are coaches and Mike is actually refereeing the game this weekend!  Ha! 
3.  Sweet Hope Madeline has had a nasty stomach bug this week.  I have watched a lot of Disney Jr. TV shows, done a lot of laundry because she puked in not one bed but two last night, and done lots of heavy cleaning with Clorox in the hopes that David does not get this.   She is pretty pitiful.  I shared with one of my BFF's today that I am getting too old to be up all night cleaning puke!  :)

4.  My sweet grandmother (My Dad's Mom) was moved this week from the rehab facility to the hospital due to fluid build-up around her heart.  Congestive heart failure is not pretty and she is pretty miserable.  I have not gone up to see her due to Hope's tummy bug. 

5.  I had some major dental work done this week which I have whined incessantly about to my friends and coworkers.  I am a dental wimp for sure.

6.  The amazing news of the week is that WE MADE OUR GOAL for Give Kids the World!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for your support, encouragement, and love!  I love that thought that 400 plus star ornaments twinkled on Christmas trees this year with Dave's sweet little signature on the back.  We are amazed and grateful for your support.  Thank you Meg for the idea, your friendship, and love and for meeting us at GKTW back in October!!

When we get healthy around here, we are going to announce the quilt winner in a special way, so tickets for the quilt are still available!! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Mouth and our Weekend

I love when I am downloading pictures off of my camera and find some gems that I did not put there:)  I had forgotten that Ashley had taken my camera when she and David had gone to archery on Thursday. 

I love the concentration:)  I also love his pink shirt. I also love him alot.
Friday night we met up with some friends at the Jonas' house for sweet baby Sage's first birthday party.  It literally seems like yesterday that I was holding her in the hospital.  She is the cute red head in the lady bug shirt.  Hope was SO EXCITED about Sage's birthday that she made us paint our nails in preparation for the big party and she wore her finest princess dress and high heels.  It was a fun night with friends as we celebrated the youngest child in our midst. 
Yesterday we spent the day watching Kyle play basketball.  They played well against some tough competition.  Our 7th grade team is athletic and scrappy and they are fun to watch.  I love the life lessons that sports can teach and I love that Kyle (and our team) learned the lesson to not be intimidated by size.   
This morning in church, I felt like I limped out of there after Jonathan stepped on my toes quite harshly with his sermon.  The scripture that convicted me was Ephesians 4:29 :Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ouch.  That was especially painful when I had already texted Jonathan and Suzanne yesterday asking if Jesus would be okay if I referred to a kid being a "punk" after he was pushing Kyle under the basket yesterday.  It is great to have a dear friends' husband as your pastor so you can text deep theological questions like that.   As I have said over and over being a competitive, christian sports mom is the HARDEST job I have ever had. 
Unwholesome talk sadly is a huge part of our society.  Sadly I often find those kind of words tumbling out of my mouth such as "can you believe" or "did you see on facebook that.."  We are a critical society and I thought this sermon series entitled Critical Condition would be helpful for me to learn how to deal with the critical people in my life.  Sadly, today Esphesians 4:29 pointed out to me that maybe the critical one that needs Jesus is me. If you see me limping this week, you will know that my toes are still a little sore from being stepped on in church today. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life Altering

Today was our first day back to the real world after Christmas and all these snow days.  I was ready to get back into the swing of things, but thanks to this amazing book and my dear friend Tracey who made me read it I am very tired today.  You know a book is amazing when you swallow it whole in under 24 hours. 
This book is written by a Mom blogger named Glennon Doyle Melton, who is a recovering "everything" including bulimia, alcoholism, and drugs.  Jesus took her from the pit of destruction and now He uses her past to share His love with others.  She is blunt, unapologetic at times, and extremely real.  I will admit that she is way more liberal than I am, but I love that she is open to Jesus using her to bring others from the pit that she is very familiar with. 
There was one part of her book that made me gasp with clarity and has altered my thinking about my life has a christian.  She used the analogy of swimming in the swimming pool to describe our walk with Jesus.  She asked if we were "shallow end christians" who showed up but didn't get too messy in their walk with Jesus.  Their hair never got wet, feet remained planted on the bottom, and their makeup remained perfect.  If it becomes too hard of work, they can always jump out and warm up on their blanket. 
Then she described "deep end christians" who are so sold out to Jesus that they are totally immersed and working like crazy for Him.  Their hair is wet and they are totally relying on Him to keep their head above water.  They are relying on Jesus instead of having their feet firmly planted on the bottom of the pool. 
That analogy clicked with me big time.  At different times of my life I could have been found in either the deep end or the shallow end.  After finally finishing the last page of that book last night I had some quiet time with God.  I told Him that I am desperate to be in the deepest water with Him.  I am desperate to tread water and kick like crazy to teach others about Him.  I want to be that christian that works so hard for Jesus.  I want my life to be so sold out to Him that when it is pool check and time to come out of the water, I flop in the lounge chair totally spent with wet hair and swimmers ear. 
If you have read this book, please comment and let me know your thoughts on it! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Days!

Today is snow day #3 for our school system and Mike has already cancelled school for tomorrow!  Kyle stresses about every day missed because he is afraid it is taking his pool time at the summer away:)  Like most of the country we have had crazy, frigid temps with a bonus couple inches of snow. 

Each snow day I have tried to tackle a big project.  Yesterday Hope and I made freezer meals when life gets busy again.  This girl loves to be in the kitchen with me.  Snow days are a good day to have her cook with me because we are not rushing to put dinner on the table before heading out to an evening event. 
Doesn't the snow look so pretty?  The kids really want to go out and romp and play but the frigid temps have made that not an option. 
One of the meals that we made that was a hit was Cheesy Chicken Chalupas.  Here is the recipe for this easy, yet impresive meal. 

Cheesy Chicken Chalupas

2 cans of cream of chicken
16 oz. of sour cream
4 oz of green chiles (I only used half the can roughly 2 ounces because we are not big fans)
3 green onions choppped (I went light on these also)
1/2 onion chopped
3 cups of cheddar cheese
4 to 5 chicken breasts cooked and diced (a rotissere chicken would work well also)
8 10 inch tortillas
2 cups of shredded colby jack cheese

Mix together cream of chicken soup, sour cream, both onions and chiles, and cheddar cheese in a large bowl.  Then scoop out 1 1/2 cups to reserve for topping for later.  In the original bowl add chicken to the mixture.  Spoon chicken mixture into the middle of the tortillas.  Roll them up and lay them side by side in a baking pan.  Spread reserved soup mixture over the top of the rolled up tortillas.  Sprinkle with colby jack shredded cheese.  Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for one hour.  If you want them crispier you can broil for a minute or two at the end of baking. 

I served it with a salal and everyone but David ate it. Leftovers were great today for lunch!

Besides my cleaning and cooking spree we have also been playing board games in the evening.  Hope loves to play her princess Yahtzee game.  We are a very competive bunch!! Ha!
David got so cold at supper tonight we wrapped himself up in a blanket!  Baby it is cold outside!!!! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Belly Hurts

During our New Year's Eve progressive dinner the joke of the night was my belly.  It has caused me lots and lots and lots of pain over the Christmas break.  I am not ignoring it and I have already had a few tests done and have more scheduled soon to try to find out why I am so punky.  I cannot really eat without paying a big price. Prevacid, Mylanta, and grilled chicken are my new BFF's :(

So while the rest of my family slumbers their nights away, I have been up.  I catnap between my stomach pains, while I frantically try to recount what I have eaten that has caused this pain.  I have visited the ER in the last two weeks and really thought I was on my way to see Jesus in real life. 

I am not usually a night owl kind of girl, but I have been lately.  I have spent the time reading a new Wally Lamb book and praying.  I have no real resolutions this year (Mike's did not work out too well for him last year:)  but my plea and prayer is that we as a family will represent Jesus well.  I pray that in our parenting and in our lives we will model doing the right thing and representing Jesus well to those that may not know him very well. 

Representing Jesus is easy when I am writing this blog late at night with my bible open.  Representing Jesus well is easy at church when I am singing my heart out to our Lord or scribbling sermon notes on my bulletin.  Representing Jesus is easy when I am handing out hygiene kits at the food pantry once a month or teaching in our after school program at church.

I pray in 2014 my personal representing Jesus goes beyond a few moments of my weekly life.  I pray that I can model Jesus well for my children when we are running late, behind someone slow, and David forgot his backpack AGAIN.  I pray that when someone hints unkindness towards my hubbie on a public forum that I can truly pray for them and not want to lash back with sass.  I pray that in my marriage I will be a voice of compromise instead of trying to get that last word in. 

Colossions 3:17

And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 

That is the verse that tells me that whatever I am doing-laundry, teaching, parenting, watching my children pay sports, etc... I am representing Christ. 

That is pretty easy in church or some other mission-minded program.  My challenge for this year is to try to live for Christ when I am in the bleachers at a ballgame and some punk other sweet basketball player pushes my Kyle down.  I hope I represent Jesus well when extended family drama flairs up and I want to be alot a wee bit righteous.  I want to represent Jesus well when I hear someone talk unkindly about my husband.  (Lets face it-it is January and facebook will be buzzing very soon about snow decisions my husband and his team will make).  Those are the moments where our character is tested.  I pray that when it is all said and done my life will point more people towards Jesus than away from Him. 

I pray I represent Him well even when my poor belly hurts:)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Eve!

Last night we gathered with a dear group of friends for our fourth anual progressive dinner.  Sadly illness knocked out two families:(  They were missed for sure. 

We started the night out at our house for appetizers and dirty bingo.  I grew up playing this game on Christmas Eve and we decided it would be a fun game to introduce to our new years party.  Basically you have a bunch of gifts in the middle of the group.  Each person lists five numbers on a piece of paper.  Then numbers are called and you can go get a present when your number is called.  If your number is called and there are no presents left in the middle then you can steal some one else's present.  Of course the kids had a ball! 
Kyle and I had gone to the dollar tree earlier in the day to pick out some random and fun gifts.  Kyle thought it would be funny to wrap up a plunger.  We wrapped it fancy in this gift bag and everyone kept stealing it from each other just knowing it must be a big and fancy prize.  When the game was over Brett ended up with it and we let him open it first-everyone belly laughed when they realized that it was a plunger!  David sat with Jonathan and for a while they had the plunger, here is David protecting it because here comes sweet Macy to steal it!  :)
Hope and Macy sporting the sparkly Disney tutu dresses.  These two girls had such fun playing together and Hope bawled when we had to leave. 
We are all so busy throughout the year that we do not get to get together often as a group.  New Years is always the highlight of our year because we have hours to catch up.  I love seeing Mike truly belly laugh like this.  We have some funny folks in our group that keep us laughing.  The kids all go off and play together and we can actually relax and catchup. 
After appetizers and dirty bingo at our house, we headed to another house for lasagna, salad, bread, and dessert.  We usually visit more houses, but last night we had to alter our plans due to sickness.  Here is the annual kid picture.  The girls played babies and Doc McStuffins and the boys played xbox or watched football on tv. 
The plunger was the star of the show!  The kids realized around 10:30 that the plunger would stick to jonathan's bald head!  He was a great sport about the kids all sneaking up behind him and sticking that plunger on his head!  We always share lots of laughs that will carry us through the year until we can do it again next year.
Sadly around 11:00 Kyle swelled and welped up due to an allergic reaction and I got sick due to an ongoing health issue that I am dealing with.  We had to make a quick exit before the ball dropped.  As always, we had such a fun time with such a fun and dear group of friends.