Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Eleven Years Ago

Today is Memorial Day. A day of remembrance. A day to think about all of those who died fighting for our freedoms. And while I do remember our fallen heroes, I also remember a Memorial Day weekend eleven years ago that was especially tough and painful for me. In writing about my personal experience, I do not wish to take anything away from our brave soldiers, for I know I could never make the sacrifices they have made.

Eleven years ago during the last week of May, I had my fourth open heart surgery. I was twenty-five years old. I had been born with a condition called double outlet right ventricle (DORV) in which both the main arteries of my heart were attached to my right ventricle. My left ventricle was unable to function.

Prior to my surgery in 1999, the last surgery I had was in 1984. At 25, I was really quite stunned to be going through another heart surgery. I knew I was sick and getting sicker but I was disillusioned to think that some different meds would do the trick and fix me right up. This was not the case.

I was thankful that I knew the Lord and I believed He had His hand on my life since the day I was born. Even though I knew this, I was not serving Him at the time of my fourth surgery. I had been in rebellion for about eight years, not serving Him, instead serving myself. Despite my rebellion, I still believed He would take care of me which gave me peace.

The surgery went well. In the ICU, the first thing I remember is seeing my friend, Janee and noticed she was wearing earrings, which was a miracle in itself since I was not wearing my glasses. The next day in the ICU, I remembered asking my mom to pray for me. The surgery had been on a Friday. On Sunday I was released from the ICU and was able to feel my pain for the first time. Coughing and laughing hurt like heck. I went through an episode of trying to cough stuff up but it wouldn't come out. I wasn't able to breathe very well so they called in a respiratory specialist. They sucked all the gunk out of my throat. To this day, I panic when I swallow wrong and can't catch my breath.

Monday I was forced to get out of bed. My pain level was more than a ten. How could they expect me to walk down the hallway four days after surgery, I wondered? But I did it, not because I wanted to but because I had to. In the days that followed, the friends that had been there had gone home to go back to work. My dad and my sister left and I cried. My mom stayed. I was able to get up and around more often, albeit very very slowly. It still hurt to laugh and cough. Eating was a non-priority and everything tasted and smelled weird. It felt like I was never going to get better. I hated taking my pain meds because they made me feel spacey.

On Friday, exactly a week from the date of my surgery, I was released from the hospital. It seemed too soon. Insurance reasons, I suppose. At the hotel in Rochester, I dared to look at the scar down the middle of my chest for the first time. I felt depression trying to sneak into my head and my heart. I fought off the tears, knowing I had been through this before, knowing I could do it again.

Eventually, I made it back to Watford City where I recovered at home for about six weeks. Day by day, the walk around our circular driveway became easier. The pain lessened. I could get out of bed without shooting pains going down my back and chest. I felt my stamina slowly coming back. I began eating normally again. I prayed I would never have to go through this again.

This was a life-changing experience for me. I truly believe that not only did I go through a physical heart surgery but a spiritual one as well. Although it didn't happen right away, I eventually rededicated my life to the Lord. I started going to church again and I knew I wanted to live the way God wanted me to live. I have learned that sometimes God allows us to go through painful situations in order to get our attention. I wonder what my life would be like today, had I not had my surgery at the time I did? What would it have taken for me to turn my life back to God?

Before my surgery, I looked back and saw God's hand in my life and now, as I look back I see it ever more strongly and I wonder, what would I do without Him? How DO people live without Him?

Every Memorial Day weekend, it is a time to reflect on our fallen heroes. And for me, it is a time to remember how God has shown his grace and mercy on my life. I am forever grateful.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last Day of School

Even though Faith is still suffering with her cold and was up at 5:00 this morning, we were still bound and determined to get her to her last day of school.  And...


There are so many special and wonderful that were brought into our lives during her kindergarten year. Her teacher, her instructional aide, the therapists who worked with her and her special needs coordinator/teacher. Not to mention the principal of the school, the receptionists, her music teacher and her classmates. They, along with the rest of the staff at her school have played an important role not only in her education but her progression and maturity as well. We are so very thankful for these wonderful people who have helped Faith throughout the year.

It was the perfect ending to a great school year when her classmates yelled after her, "Bye Faith! Love you!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Milestone Reached

I've been wanting to get this post up since Friday night when Faith reached an exciting milestone. Unfortunately, however, Faith ended up getting sick. Besides being busy taking care of her, I have also been sleep deprived as neither of us has slept well all weekend. This morning I kept Faith home from school and we are both exhausted. I decided to try and post this anyway. So if it doesn't make sense, you'll know why!

Friday was a busy day for us. I went with Faith to school so that we could meet her new instructional aide who will be working with her during summer school. We showed her Faith's feeding pump and how she would be connecting and disconnecting Faith's feeding tube to her Mic-Key button. We also showed her how to lift Faith and get her in and out of her chair properly.

After being at the school for a couple of hours, I went home for lunch then went back to get her so that she could go bowling with all of the other kindergartners. Faith's teammates were very good about helping us get the ball and scooting the ramp to the lane for us. It was great and Faith had lots of fun, as did all of the other kids.

After getting home from bowling, Faith had her hour-long feeding and when her tummy was full, she proceeded to try and have a bowel movement. This caused her to gag and almost throw up so I rushed her into the bathroom and attached a tube with a syringe to her button and tried to get some of the food back out of her tummy. In doing so, I was hoping to prevent a throw up. This time, it didn't work. I threw a towel over her and she threw up. She took all of this in stride as it isn't the first time this has ever happened. I was calm until I noticed blood coming from her mouth. But then I noticed it - she had a little space in the bottom of her mouth where a baby tooth had once been. FAITH HAD JUST LOST HER FIRST TOOTH!!

I figured she had swallowed her tooth but I looked for it anyway. After a few minutes of searching, there it was! Right in the middle of her puke on her chest strap! I was so happy I had found it that I forgot my daughter was sitting there miserably covered in throw up. After realizing this, I promptly got her out of her chair and into the tub.

Faith and I were lying on the living room floor when her daddy came home from work. As soon as he walked in the door, she yelled, "Daddy, I lost my tooth!" Rob quickly came over and gave her lots of hugs and told her how cute she looked with her new little gap.

When Faith was a baby and a toddler, she never reached many of the milestones that children those ages reach. No sitting up at six months, no crawling or walking. You learn to grieve those losses and move on. But when a milestone occurs when it should it almost seems like a miracle. And that's why we're doubly excited about Faith losing her first tooth - right on time!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Starbucks vs. McCafe - Calories, Caffeine and Cash

Starbucks Gift Card-50.00
Starbucks vs. McCafe - Whose Coffee Drinks are Better?

We women love our specialty coffee drinks. That's why I thought it would be interesting to get the scoop on those delicious coffee drinks served at our local Starbucks and McDonald's McCafe (which I think are just in the U.S. for now).

I hope this helps you make a more informed decision about where to get your favorite coffee drink and which ones you might want to reconsider making a habit of drinking because of the calorie content.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stinky Face

This morning, I had the privilege of going to school with Faith and reading a few stories to her class. One book I chose to read is called, "I Love You Stinky Face." (written by Lisa McCourt) This book is really a story about a mother's unconditional love for her child. The title of the book comes from the child asking the mother that if he was a smelly skunk and his name was Stinky Face would his mother still love him. She tells him she would put him in the bathtub but if he still smelled she would tell him, "I love you Stinky Face."

It's a cute story, but there is a story behind the story that I wanted to share with Faith's classroom.

After reading the book to them, I explained that a few years ago, one of Faith's friends and caretakers (Kimberly) took her to a place where they could make things out of clay. Faith decided she wanted to make a cup or a mug of some sort. She wanted it to be really big because she knew how much her mom and dad (especially her dad) loved coffee.

After Kimberly helped her mold the big mug, Faith decided she wanted to paint it pink and purple. So they painted it pink and they decided to write a message on the mug in purple. Kimberly asked Faith, "if you could tell your mom and dad anything you wanted to, what would you say?"

Faith responded, "I love you stinky face."

Kimberly wasn't too sure about writing this on the mug because essentially Faith was calling her parents stinky face.

Kimberly asked, "Are you sure you don't just want to write 'I love you?'"

Faith was very adamant and said it had to say, "I love you stinky face."

After I told this stoyr, Faith's teacher said, "That sounds just like Faith!"

Her class really seemed to like this story and laughed and laughed. They all especially enjoyed passing the mug around to look at it more closely. I told the children that this mug is one of the most precious gifts Faith has ever given us.

It was so much fun to share this book and this story with Faith's classroom. Later, I also read "Amelia Bedelia" which is Faith's favorite book. It was cute because Faith even filled in some of the lines. The kids in her class are so sweet and I am going to miss Faith being in kindergarten with these wonderful kids, wonderful teacher and wonderful teacher's aide.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I honestly don't think people believe me when I tell them, yes Faith does get mad and yes, she does throw tantrums. They look at Faith and see a sweet, well-behaved little girl who can do no wrong. HA! Yesterday, though, Faith herself told everyone in the therapy waiting room that she had to have a timeout. Of course they had to believe her, because Faith is too good of a girl to lie about something. (Or so they think!)

It all began when I told Faith we had to get ready to go to therapy. She was really into her DVD she was watching and didn't want to leave. "I'm not going to go, I'm not going to go," she yelled at the top of her lungs. I struggled to get her out of her chair because she needed to be changed before we left. She cried the whole time I was changing her. Then I attempted to get her back into her chair. She recently learned this new little trick that if she kicks her tone in as hard as she can, she becomes stronger than her mom. It is impossible for me to bend her or even move her when she's like this so I had no other alternative than to lie her on her blue foam mats in her bathroom, shut the door and give her a timeout.

When I went in to get her, she still hadn't completely calmed down. It took everything I had to lift all 45 pounds of her, fight her tone and get her in her chair. This time I learned my own little trick. I locked the wheels in, sat her somewhat in her chair and squeezed her lap belt around her. I couldn't get her feet buckled in but at least she was in her chair - her positioning was probably not therapist-approved but at this point I really didn't care. I couldn't get her coat on so we left that off and away we went.

She cried all the way down the hall, down the elevator and even in the car. When we got to therapy she was so excited to see everyone that she forgot she was mad about not wanting coming in the first place. She told one receptionist that she got a timeout, then went on to tell the other two receptionists all about it. I think she was trying to get sympathy, but they were in more disbelief than anything. When her occupational therapist came out to get her, she had to relate her sad tale all over again.

As soon as Faith left the room, I sank down in a chair, had a much-needed drink of water and thanked the Lord we got through that one.

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Afternoon at the Spa

Yesterday, I received one of the greatest Mother's Day gifts in all the six years I have been a mother. I enjoyed an afternoon at the spa! Now, this wasn't just an ordinary spa - it was a very special one in which my daughter was the one who was doing the pampering. You see, the spa was held in Faith's classroom and all the mommies (and a few grandmas) were able to enjoy their spa treatments all at the same time.

When I first received my spa appointment, via Faith's folder, I had no idea what to expect. I just knew I couldn't miss it! But then as spa day approached, I received another appointment card informing me to have all polish removed from my toenails and to wear sandals. Now I was really curious - and a bit afraid as I did not want anyone touching my feet! On the morning of my spa appointment, I was sure to wash them really well and put lotion on them. I also shaved my legs for good measure.

When I went to pick up Faith from school that morning, she was saying things like, "now we need the washcloth", "put on the lotion", "get the polish", etc. (She's not good at keeping secrets.) Still though, even with her little hints, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Faith and I arrived back at school at promptly 1:45. She went into the classroom while I waited in the hallway. Then, I, along with two other moms went in for our spa treatment. The kindergarten classroom was transformed into a modern-day spa. There were five different stations with tissue-paper flowers adding a perfect amount of color to the darkened room with the lights down low.

The first station I and my fellow moms went to was the massage station. Each child held a massage instrument in their had and proceeded to massage our backs, necks, arms and shoulders. It felt really good! One of the moms in our station received three times the special treatment as she had all three of her triplets attending to her! Faith did a great job with some extra help from her instructional aide, Mrs. Volk.

Next, we made our way to get facials. The kids took nice, warm washcloths to wash our faces and then applied our makeup. One little boy had lots of fun with the eyeliner! He thought the darker the lines, the cooler it looked. And one little girl got carried away with the blush so her mom's cheeks were extra, extra rosy.

Then it was time for our group to relax and have some refreshments. Yummy wafer cookies with lemon water and of course a little chocolate (which I shared with Faith.) It was a great time to look around the room and see all of the smiles on the mom's faces and the kids having a spectacular time taking care of their moms.

Hair was next. Faith and Mrs. Volk gently combed my hair and Faith decided she wanted to put two pigtails in my hair. She then put a barrette in my hair to clip back some of my curls. Faith thought I looked pretty cute! As did some other moms sporting ponytails on the tops of their heads. Some of the moms had some pretty short hair but those kids were bound and determined to make a ponytail!

Finally, it was time to get my toenails done. This was the part I had been dreading but Mrs. Volk didn't seem to mind touching my feet. And if she didn't mind I guess I was okay with it. Besides, Faith had so much fun helping her paint my nails Miami-Vice pink. Faith had a napkin on her lap so I put my foot up on her lap so she could help paint them. The afternoon wasn't over yet, though!

There was not a dry eye in the room when the kids sang a beautiful little song called, "You are Heart." "You are heart, you are hands, you are the voice of kindness. And who you are, and all you do is a gift to the world." They concluded their program with a song called, "Do I love you? Yes I do" sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." They then proceeded to gave us all homemade Mother's Day cards and pretty tissue-paper flowers and a real flower seeds in a pot for us to plant.

It was a very special and wonderful afternoon, one that I will always remember. It truly was one of the sweetest and most precious times I have had as a mother. And judging from the looks on the other moms faces, they felt the same!

May Snowfall - Bismarck, ND

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Best Pizza in Town

Over the weekend, we decided to go to one of our favorite pizza places. No, it's not Pizza Hut, A&B Pizza or even the pizza buffet place, Pizza Ranch. It's a place called Bruno's Pizza and it is the best pizza in town. I know, this is sounding like a commercial for Bruno's pizza but those who love it want to see their business pick up because we're afraid they're going to leave town. And that would be a near-tragedy.

So late Saturday afternoon, Rob, Faith and I braved the elements and made our way to Bruno's. Faith can't really eat pizza - she can take little tiny bite-sized pieces but she told us she wanted ice cream instead. And wouldn't you know it, their one and only dessert consisted of two warm chocolate chip cookies topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream complete with whip cream and a cherry on top. Faith loves ice cream and cookies so she was able to have the best of both worlds!

Rob and I tried their Pesto Garlic Chicken pizza, which he said surpassed his most recent favorite, BBQ Chicken. Besides being so tasty and flavorful, the crust is fantastic and you don't have grease dripping onto your hands like at some other pizza franchises in town. They also serve pasta, which we haven't tried but according to one of Rob's co-workers, Bruno's pasta is excellent.

Another added bonus is the size of their handicapped bathroom stall. Normally, people wouldn't care about this but when you're out in public with a little girl in a wheelchair it's nice to have room in the bathroom for the chair, the mom and the little girl. Most handicapped stalls I have found (even in the hospitals) are a joke. How handicapped adults have enough room is beyond me.

If you live in Bismarck or ever visit and are in the mood for some great-tasting pizza, check out Bruno's. It's easy to find - just off of 9th Street and Front Ave right by Flash Printing. Oh yeah, the dessert is great too - just ask Faith!