Monday, December 12, 2011

Something's Missing....

...Megan's tonsils!

After Megan's last visit to the ENT, the doctor just really felt that Megan's tonsils needed to come out. She wasn't sick a lot, but she was breathing and snoring loudly at night and waking up in the night, we suspect because her breathing was obstructed by her gargantuan tonsils.

The day of her surgery, we had to be at the hospital at 6:30....OUCH! We took her straight out of bed and put her in the car....PJ's and all. I am fully aware that 'someone' needs to cut her bangs, too. :-). I thought you might enjoy some pictures.

She got her very own 'ankle bracelet'. :-)

I love this sweet face.

Thank goodness for Leapsters. This kept her totally distracted from what was about to take place.

See how stressed she is?

When the nurse gave her a popsicle, she didn't want to eat it because she "wanted to take it home to show her sisters". Obviously, they weren't going to let her leave without eating it, not to mention, it would have been a grape puddle before we got home. So we launched a plan to take a picture of it for her sisters to see. That did the trick. :-) Sometimes you just have to think like a 4 year-old.

All done! Her throat definitely hurt, but she was a champ!!

She is doing much better now! We are taking fewer and fewer doses of the Tylenol with Codeine, and to look at her (and watch her run around like a wild Indian), you would never know what happened. Thanks for your prayers!

We are going to be our own kind of crazy this week as we pack and finish up Christmas projects. I will try to post again before Christmas, but no promises. If I don't, I hope you have the Merriest Christmas ever!! Keep it Holy by remembering Who it is we celebrate during this time of the year.

As my gift to you, here a a few pictures, just for fun!

A sweet friend from church gave the girls these square dance dresses from the 1930's. Fabulous! They have enjoyed HOURS of fun in these big, swirly dresses! (Please excuse the mess in the background....we were cleaning out and getting ready to decorate for Christmas.)

My man with his cheeks stuffed with marshmallows. :-8

The quality of these next few is not great (they were taken with Alyssa's iPod Touch), but I thought they were so stinkin' cute! (Alyssa doesn't know I am sharing these....hee hee)

On a more serious note, please be in prayer for a precious family that works here in Life Action. Their 23 year-old son died last night in a car crash. Stephani, the mom, is in Arkansas with her Dad right now (He was supposed to have surgery today). Something like this is so terrible by itself, but I cannot fathom getting this news without my husband by my side. Please pray that God would comfort this family. They also have three daughters and another son. They are truly some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.

I am off to give my girls one more squeeze....

Much Love!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Leaf

It occurred to me after reading my last few posts that I was a the negative side. Oh, okay....I was flat out negative. I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart....truly. I want to always be honest, but I also want you to be encouraged by reading this blog....not depressed. As a matter of fact, there may be no one left to read it now! If you are reading, thank you. Please forgive my negativity. I guess the mono, strep, and the rest of life finally got to me.

However, I am feeling more like myself now!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! I wanted to take a few minutes to share our Thanksgiving weekend and a few other cute pictures with you. We had a great time on Thanksgiving Day with some friends who are in the ministry with us. It was a fun and relaxing day! I can honestly say that I am feeling so very thankful and blessed right now. I am so glad we have a day set aside to get some things in perspective.

 The fabulous Ms. Jessie painted the girls' nails.

 Jeff, Clara, and you see a pink theme going on here?


 Our traditional Pilgrim hats. After all, Jeff and the girls really are Pilgrims....or at least descendants of Pilgrims. True story....they have a certificate to prove it!

The next day, we went with our good friend, Angela, to get a Christmas tree. In true Bryant fashion, it was, of course, not a smooth trip. Before we even got out of the driveway, the battery was dead. This is Jeff, Angela, and Alyssa waiting very patiently-ish.

Our little family. :-)

We took a horse and carriage ride to the field where the trees were. Very cool. Here are the girls on the carriage.

I just thought this was funny...a whole rack of saws hanging on the wagon for when you got to your field with the type of tree you wanted to cut.

The girls enjoyed helping Ms. Angela carry her tree! They were also motivated by the free hot cocoa at the end of that journey. :-)

These are the horses that pulled our wagon. Just beautiful.

Our family and Ms. Angela, our adopted family. :-)

Time to decorate!

Saturday night, we went to downtown Niles for the annual lighting of the tree. Just like last year, there were free horse and carriage rides. While riding, we sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. The driver hugged me when we were finished and thanked us for singing. She said she has a hard time getting people to sing. Very sad.

Our traditional (for two years, anyway) trip to Veni's to get a handmade candy cane.

Even though we don't make a big deal of Santa, it was still fun to see him come in with Mrs. Claus on the horse and carriage and get a picture made with him. He is a great looking Santa...don't you think?

Mrs. Claus.

These next ones are just for fun:

Clara McPhee

The next day (today), she had something to add to her Christmas list: Her two front teeth!

This is just funny, and very typical!
 Much Love!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tonsils and Adenoids and Tubes, Oh my!

I think it's ironic that we seem to spend half of our life in doctor's offices. After all, I don't like to take medicine and have always wondered about people who are on so much medication. Now, here I am with two special needs children who have their own types of medication regimens, in addition to the occasional medicine that has to be taken by the rest of us. We eat healthy, take vitamins, go to the chiropractor regularly, and use natural remedies whenever possible. However, even with all of that, sometimes you can only let things so far before you have to take other measures.

For the past year or so, we have noticed that Megan breathes loudly when she sleeps (so loud we can hear her through her door and down the hall), and often snores. For the past six months, she has crawled into bed with us more and more often, which to me, was a sign that something was off. None of our children have ever slept with us on a regular basis.....I could probably count on two hands the times any of our children have slept with us, and never on a regular basis. After thinking about it, I started to wonder if her breathing/snoring was waking her up in her sleep, and once he woke up, she came to bed with us because she wasn't sure what else to do. To make matters worse, my normally "sunshiney" girl has been an absolute grump and seems tired all the time. After discussing the issue with her pediatrician, he agreed and sent her to the ENT.  To make a long story short, we tried lots of different stuff, nothing worked, her snoring is getting worse, so she is having her tonsils and adenoids out on December 6th. Her tonsils are only about 1/2" away from each other on a regular basis. If she is sick, there is no space at all. The bottom line is that it is not good for a "normal" person to suffer sleep disturbances, but when you throw Megan's Aortic Stenosis into the mix, we just can't play around with this anymore. Am I happy about it? No. Do I think it's the right thing at this point in time? Yes.

If you remember, Clara failed her hearing test at her 5 year-old check-up. After the audiologist at the ENT's office did an in-depth hearing test on her, it was confirmed that she has hearing loss in her right ear. Thankfully, the ENT does not believe it is Mito related (thank you, Lord) and is reversible. She believes the problem is just a back-up of fluid in her Eustachian tube because anatomically, her Eustachian tube has not straightened out like it normally would because she is not all. She is the same height she was over a year ago. SO, again, we have tried a number of things, but at this morning's visit, both of Clara's ears looked "unhealthy" and tests confirmed that her ear drums are "flat" due to fluid build up. She prescribed one more antibiotic, and if her ears aren't better by the time we go to Megan's post-surgery visit, Clara will have her 2nd set of tubes, and hopefully, we will get it in by the end of the year. Again, is that the outcome I wanted? No. Have we done all we can? I definitely think so. Hopefully these things will ultimately make them healthier.

On a little lighter note, when Clara was doing her hearing test, they put her in this big booth with big thick doors, and the audiologist sat on the other side of the window in a separate booth. At one point he came out of his booth laughing. In my mind I thought, "Oh, brother....what did she say?" (With Clara, you just never know). He laughed and said she that she was doing great, but at one point, as he lowered the volume (and, obviously, didn't tell her), she looked up at him and said, "It's getting lower, ya know." Maybe you had to be there, but I was so tickled at that. That is SO Clara.

I am doing better, but I am still struggling with exhaustion. Just when I think I am all better, it hits again. I am trying very hard to prioritize and only do what's important so I have my energy when I need it. Thankfully, we are not having Thanksgiving at our house (even though that was the original plan), so tomorrow will just be FUN!!

Our family seems to be in a time of testing right now, and we would appreciate your prayers. I know that testing produces a greater and deeper faith, but in the midst of it, it is no fun, and right now, I feel like I am at the breaking point. There are lots of things going on that I am not at liberty to talk about here, but add to it all the other stuff....sickness, life, and just stuff, ....well, we have all been there at some point. We are still missing Lucy TERRIBLY. I know it sounds petty in light of everything else and there are bigger problems in the world, but I feel like one of my children is living somewhere else. To make it harder, she is not where we can visit her anymore, and through no choice of my own, we were not able to see her before she left her foster home. Again, that's not all of it, but it certainly doesn't help. We love that girl so, so much.

We are hoping to get our ministry letter out in the next week, so if you would like to be on our mailing list, please send your address to my e-mail address. If you are on our list, but your address has changed, please send me that, too.

I pray you all have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! There is so much for which to be thankful, and while we should be thankful all year, I think it is wonderful that we have a day set aside, just for that purpose!!

Many Blessings!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Clara's Recent U of M Visit

Thank you to everyone who has asked about Clara's visit to the U of M last week. I am sorry it has taken me so long to blog about it!

Once again, Jeff and I decided to divide and conquer. We prefer going together, but it is so tricky to coordinate childcare every time, especially since it doesn't usually occur to me until a few days before the visit. (I am kind of living one day at a time, these days). I took the two little girls with me, and Jeff kept the bigger two, the logic being that if he needed to go to the office for some reason, it would be easier with the big girls. The little girls love this trip and call it a "slumber party".

Thankfully, there was no drama this time. There were no tables nearly overturned, our hotel room actually had two beds this time, the x-ray machine didn't blow up, and there was not a waiting room full of people to entertain. :-) However, much was accomplished. The doctor she was seeing was one of her doctors that I just really a person and a doctor. I can never remember her whole title....something about specialist of bone rehabilitation something or other......but she is super smart and is a real person. Not that her other doctors aren't, but sometimes you just click with certain people. She has four girls, very similar to the ages of mine, and she is a competitive equestrian... a jumper... so she and Clara have a lot to talk about. (Not that Clara is ever at a loss for words.)

This visit was really a follow-up visit, but I had lots of questions. After Clara's recent visit with the orthopedist, I had time to actually process all that took place. I was sort of in shock while I was still there, and definitely not prepared for questions, but after having some time to think, I needed some peace of mind. I wanted to ask Dr. Green (the doctor we saw this time), because for one, she is a Mom and totally understands where I am coming from, and secondly, because she is not a surgeon. Not that there is anything wrong with surgeons, but when you ask a surgeon a question, you get a surgical answer, and I believe that surgery is not always the only option.

My two most pressing questions were:

1. Is surgery really the only option? Giving me two surgeries to choose from doesn't really feel like options, especially when one will require her to be in a huge cast for two months and off of her leg for another 6-8 weeks, and the other surgery is still considered experimental. Her doctor is "waiting to see if the legs of the other children who have had it still grow properly". thanks. I really wanted to know if there was any way to brace her leg to force it to grow straight, and Dr. Green works with all kinds of leg braces, so I knew she would know.

2. Every time we have followed up with her endocrinologist since Clara's Hypophosphatemic Ricketts diagnosis, the news is always the same after blood tests and x-rays: Her phosphates are still low, and her bones show no sign of healing. So, does it really make sense to do surgery on bones that are not healthy?

The answers were very straight-forward. She said that there was really no way to brace a leg that was turned in like Clara's. She felt we were definitely looking at a surgery in the near future, and that she definitely recommended the more invasive one over the experimental one. It also needs to happen while she is young and still growing. She also felt that the reason her ortho doctor was waiting was because of the fact that her bones are not, yet, healed. She did say that once the bones are healed, they are healed.  I was concerned that a surgery would weaken the bone further, but she said that our bones actually heal stronger. That is not the case with ligaments and tendons, but thankfully, we aren't dealing with those. :-)

I have had concerns about her increased pain level lately, but she said that was typical of kids with Ricketts. Clara handles it well, and thankfully it is managed well with Tylenol or ibuprofen. Beyond that, she wants Clara to continue wearing her shoes with the orthodics as much as possible, and to continue her horseback riding (Which we have had to take a break from recently, but hope to get her going again very SOON) and other physical activity. Megan continues to be her best physical therapy. :-)

Needless to say, we are still praying for complete healing for Clara. We know that it would only take one touch from the Great Physician for that leg to heal straight and perfect, but we also know He may not choose to heal her that way. We will choose to be content with whatever His perfect will is for Clara.

I know this was not very well written....I had limited time to write, but wanted to go ahead and give everyone who has been wondering about her visit an update. Thank you for your love and your prayers!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Perspective

While being sick for three + weeks has been miserable, having that much time to lay on the couch or in the bed certainly gives one time to think. Sometimes that's all I could do, because there were days I felt so bad I didn't even want to watch television. I am happy to say, however, that much good has come from that time.

It is amazing to me how quickly my thought life can end up in the pits. As I go through my day-to-day life, it has always been my goal to think positive thoughts, but this past year has taken a toll on me in every way. I am not going to go on and on again about how hard this year has been....if you know me at all, that is no secret...but I will say that in the midst of moving and trying to get my house in order, finding doctors and transporting children to and from those doctors, learning new medications and working those into our routine, getting our daily homeschool and chore routine in place, and trying to learn a whole new culture, I have come to feel very tired, in every way. I know, without a doubt, that this is where we are supposed to be and that we are in God's perfect will for our family, but it has, nonetheless, just been hard. God never promised that following Him would be easy. He just promises to be with us through it.

And be with us, He has!

The best thing that has come from the whole sickness ordeal has been my new perspective on Jeff, the wonderful man God has given me to love and spend my life with. I can honestly say that the area that has suffered most in my life recently has been my marriage. I think any marriage suffers under intense stress. However, as I lay on the couch, completely helpless and exhausted, my husband served me and our family gladly until I was able to do it on my own. He made it possible for me just to "be sick" and rest. Not only did he take care of household responsibilities and our children, but he attended to my every need, as well....and he did it patiently and lovingly. I can honestly say that, not only did my appreciation for that man grow, but I have never loved him as much as I do at this very moment. Sometimes when our thought life is in the pits, it is too easy to see all the bad in someone and almost forget the good, and I am ashamed to say, "That is where I was." Now, anytime I get frustrated with him about anything, I will go back to this past month, and the rest of the other 1000's of wonderful things about him, and dwell on those things, and not the bad. Did you know that he leaves the coffee pot on and puts my mug beside it, complete with cream and sugar, so that all I have to do is pour and stir when I wake up? When it is cold, he will also go to bed a few minutes before me and use the blow drier to warm up my sheets so that when I crawl into bed, I am snuggly warm. He does that....and so much more. What a man!

Another area that has suffered has been my parenting. I hate to say it, but it just seems like everything came to feel like a chore. Don't get me wrong. I have not neglected or abused my children, but I just wasn't as attentive and as loving as I once was. They just came to feel like work. Thankfully, as is usually the case, God used one of my children to shake me up and challenge my thought life in that area.

A few mornings ago, as I was brushing Megan's hair, in her angelic, sweet little voice, she said, "Mommy, I know why you brush my hair."

In my mind, I thought "Yeah, so people won't think you're homeless and because everyone around here always wants something from me."

She continued, "...because you love me and you want to take care of me."


Shame. On. Me.

I felt like I had been slapped in the face. I probably needed to be slapped in the face, proverbially, at least. All of a sudden I wondered when I had lost the joy in taking care of my precious girls, and viewed them as my chores that had to be endured. I have repented of that and have been working diligently on improving my thought life in that area. These girls are the greatest blessings in my life (except Jeff, of course), and really, the only thing I ever aspired to....I always wanted to be a wife and a Mom. It is by God's grace that I have them, yet I had come to view them as a nuisance, almost. Now, as I brush someone's hair, I think, "Thank you, Lord, for the honor and privilege of brushing this precious girl's hair." As I cook dinner I think, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me a family for which to cook." Granted, I am still not perfect in this area, and as I continue to battle extreme exhaustion, my thought life is something I have to be very intentional and deliberate about. I thank God for making me aware of how "in the pits" my thought life had sunk.

I am not proud to admit any of this, but it is where I am at the moment, and my prayer is that it may be an encouragement to someone else. Also, once it is out in the open, it is no longer my "dirty little secret" that Satan can hold over my head to remind me how defeated I am every day. If it is in the light, it can be dealt with, and dealing with it, I am....with God's help, of course!

In other news, I took Megan to the pediatric ophthalmologist, and thankfully, it was no big deal. She sleeps with her eyes partially open which, in turn, causes them to dry out, thus, irritating them. Easy fix....saline eyes drops. Thank you, Lord!

Lucy is gone now, and we are still grieving. It seems weird to say that because I know there are worse things in the world....people suffering and dying, etc.,....but it still has been hard, so much harder than I ever thought. While I am so relieved she is with a loving family, and very happy, it hard not having her here. We have been getting fairly regular updates on her, but I almost feel like one of my children is living with someone else! We are planning to visit her soon, but she lives over an hour away, so it will take some planning. Plus, I don't know what timing is right....I don't want to make things worse.

Otherwise, all is well. I am feeling a lot better, though I still am battling exhaustion. Clara has been doing well, and aside from Emilie having an ear infection, everyone is healthy. So much for which to be thankful!

Thank you for your love and prayers!

Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blessings Through Raindrops

If I am being honest, today I would like to just sit in the floor and pitch a "big girl" fit. I have been on the verge of tears for two days, so maybe I should just do it. I still feel terrible. I finally went to the doctor yesterday and discovered, after three weeks of feeling awful, that I have strep throat with the possibility of mono. Just great. Also, today is the day we give Lucy back. I am fully aware that in the grand scheme of things, there are worse things in life....I have experienced some of those things.....but today, this is our world. We are already grieving and she is not yet gone. It was a cold day when we got her, and it is a cold day today when we have to give her back. I know sunnier days will come and this will all seem a little better, but today....well, you know. The most frustrating part of it all is that I feel so out of control of everything, yet physically, I can do nothing about it. I am ready to get my house back together...I was so close before I got sick. I am ready to get our home school day organized and structured again, I have a pile of gifts I need to make, and today is payday....I need to do some shopping. Mother Hubbard's cupboards are nearly bare! Yet, it seems that for every hour of energy I exert, it takes  eight hours of rest to regain that energy.

In the midst of it all, there is much to be thankful for. Clara is feeling pretty good right now. Emilie's emotions seem to be getting under control, and despite their mother being totally out of commission, the girls managed to have some Fall fun. I thought I would share.

Two weekends ago, some precious friends of ours here in Michigan invited us to go to a corn maze. I was feeling too terrible, so they took our four girls. Their daughter, Joanna, took some really great pictures of the fun they had! Thanks, Joanna! Because of these pictures, I feel like I didn't have to totally miss the fun. :-)

 This is a picture of our girls with one of their favorite babysitters, Ms. Susanna.

Genetically, it is impossible for them to not stick their tongue out when they are concentrating. :-)

I think a fun time was had by all!

Last Friday night, we took the girls to a Harvest Festival near our house. They got to dress up, did a Trunk-of-Treats, hayride, ate hot dogs, popcorn, and drank hot chocolate. They also had "jumpy things", but we weren't able to get to it all. Clara was hurting pretty bad this day, so she stayed in her stroller most of the time. She was still as cute as pie. :-)

Our little Georgia Dawgs with a dog (of a different's the best we can do here.) :-)

Our girls. Love them. So glad to have them.

"Go Dawgs!"

Have you ever seen a Pajama Girl with a sparkly handbag? She definitely had the warmest costume. :-)

Alyssa got her "Dawgs" on, too...mostly for the candy.

This is our friend, Ms. Jen, putting a glow stick on Megan. She cuts our hair when we are in Michigan. Isn't she adorable?

Mrs. Carla serves at Life Action in Revive Our Hearts, but she is also one of our girls' teachers at church. Love her!

Emilie went to another Fall Festival with a friend, but I have no pictures of that. So in the midst of all of my not feeling good, the girls have been well cared for. That is a blessing. I am more thankful than ever for a sweet husband who has bent over backwards to take care of me and our house. He has to be exhausted. I am ready to feel better so I can take care of him for a change. I am thankful for a dear family here that brought us a meal that fed us for three days. Blessings.

There is a song I posted months ago that really encourages me through times like this called Blessings, by Laura Story. If you need encouragement, go to that link and listen. It will bless you. Promise.

Have a marvelous day!

Much Love,