Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alyssa and the Mama Bear

I am so thankful for everyone who has asked for an update on Alyssa. The good news is, she is is doing GREAT!

Now she is, anyway.

In case you don't know, Life Action Ministries is just that : ministries....multiple. One of the largest parts of the ministry is the Life Action Retreat and Conference Center, where, for eight weeks every summer (among many, many other activities during the year), the Camp is hopping with 25-30 families every week learning what God has to say about having a godly family, putting your spouse first, loving that spouse completely by first, keeping God the Lord of your life, raising children who love the Lord, and certainly, having a TON OF FUN!!! We went in 2004 and I can honestly say that it was THE BEST week of our lives!

With all this wonderful-ness, they are able to keep their prices VERY reasonable because the camp is staffed by Life Action Staff families, who, like us, live on the support of ministry partners, and dozens of teenagers who volunteer their summer to work in various capacities. So far, Alyssa has been in the kitchen for her first two weeks, and this week, she is working in the Snack Shop, scooping ice cream and selling Cokes, T-Shirts and various other Camp souvenirs.

I am so glad things are good for her now, but her first week at camp was, um....rocky, to say the least. Going to a week-long camp with your church group, ie., friends you've known forever, is totally different than being dropped off in a place, albeit familiar, in a cabin with 19 other girls you have never met. I will refrain from sharing too many details, so as not to embarrass my very-easy-to-embarrass 14 year-old, but let's just say that there were a few moments I thought we were going to have to go and get her. Actually, if I'm being honest, everything inside of this Mama Bear wanted to go get rescue her....but I knew that was my heart speaking, and the heart is, after all, deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). So I switched from "heart-mode" to "brain-mode" and realized a few things:

       1. She made a committment and she needs to follow through.
       2. I knew it would not be hard forever, and once she got through the "hard", she would would reap benefits that would last her a life time.
       3.  She could NOT be in a better place. She is with people I trust COMPLETELY for her physical,     mental, and spiritual well-being. Not to mention, she is sitting throught through two services a day, taught by some of the best Christian speakers on the face of the earth, in addition to break-out sessions for the CREW.
       4. As much as I wanted her home and to end her suffering, I knew it would end up being a bit of a disaster. Alyssa cannot stand to sit around and "do nothing". While there are certainly plenty of things to be done around the house, I am not much a of a "cruise director", and with our current budget, we are not going very many places beyond the "Y", the library and the park (all less than a mile away) right now. The combination of a bored teenager + three other children in the house is not a good mix. It actually equals bored-teeneager-tormenting-three-other-children-and-her-mother.

SO.....with all of that "head knowledge", I was able to hold myself back, and I am so glad I did. She came home the first Saturday for her sisters' birthday party and we had to take her back that Sunday night, and that was almost as traumatic, if not more-so, than the first drop off. However, we went to visit her play at the beach at the Life Action Camp with the other three girls the following Tuesday, and things took a dramatic turn. I had just finished telling one of my other Life Action friends, who is camp staff and has multiplle children working this summer at the Camp, how hard it had been for Alyssa and how I was looking forward to having her home for a week. In the amount of time it took for me to complete that sentence, take a breath, and turn to notice that Alyssa had just plopped down beside me on the sand, Alyssa immediately says,

"So, Mom. I have a question. What would you think about me asking Mr. A.J. if I can work next week, too?"

"Um.....excuse me? What did you say? Did you just say, 'work another week??'"

Keep in mind that her original schedule was to work for two weeks, come home for a week, and then work another two weeks. This would mean FIVE STRAIGHT WEEKS IN A ROW! Not to mention, she will be away for another week during the week immediately following her last week at the Camp to go on a church mission trip.

My mind was racing a mile-a-minute, and the battle between "level-headed Mom with all the right answers", and "I MISS MY GIRL AND WANT HER HOME Mama" was raging furiously in my head. Meantime, my friend that I was just talking to was laughing hysterically, and I was sitting there looking like a complete liar! (You know that is why we have children, right? To keep us humble.)

My first (selfish) response was, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!". I wanted to look right at Alyssa and say, "But WAIT!! You're miserable, remember? And you desperately want your Mama....remember?". However, I referred back to my brain logic (see previous bullet points), and after Jeff and I talked it over and prayed about it that night, we let her do it. I am not so naive to think there was not other motivation, like 'her best friend was coming to Camp to work that week', but either way, she is there.....and she is HAPPY!! As a result, so am I. :-) She is making a lot of new friends and she is serving others, something she loves to do!

The girls and I had to get Alyssa yesterday to take her to the dentist (she had a tooth that kept breaking off in pieces), and since she was in the chair all of six minutes (doesn't take long to pull a baby tooth that has a permanent tooth underneath it that has already grown in half-way....doesn't this seem like the kind of thing a responsible teenager would mention to her mother?), we had plenty of time to go back to the Camp and hang out a while. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have all four of my girls together again. I took a deep breath for the first time in a while.


 Do you think these two were happy to see each other?

 Megan loves to climb this thing....a thousand times!

 Doesn't she look great? 
(Still hates having her picture taken.)

 Sweet Sisters!

 There's something I really love about this one. 
They were sitting on the dock waiting for fish to "give their feet kisses".

These last two were taken as we were about to leave. They had to run in and go potty "one more time", and as they were walking out of the Lodge, they struck these poses for me. :-)

Blessings to you and yours!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birthdays, Shriners, and Other Various Celebrations

There are a lot of exciting things going on here at our house. While it has made for the busiest few months I have had in a long time, many wonderful memories have resulted!

Here are some highlights:

Two weeks ago, we had Emilie's 11th birthday party. Emilie, by nature, is my "love to have a party" girl, and last year, we did not know enough people well enough to have a party for her. We still found a way to make it special for her, but this year, this girl was READY for a PARTY!! She had about ten girls at the house, but I haven't asked permission from any of their mothers to show pictures of them on the blog, so here is a cute one of Emilie before it all started.

This past weekend, we celebrated Megan's 5th and Clara's 6th birthday. Talk about a house full of kids! Again, didn't get a lot of parent's permission, so I will stick mostly with pictures of my girls:


 My sister made the horses and ladybugs for this cake. Aren't they cute!! She also made these adorable little flowers to put on the cake, but unfortunately, they melted together during their shipment. So, we split them apart and made a flower bush on either side of the stream. :-)

 Cowgirl hats and boots from Papa and Grandma Bev!!

 Round 'em up!!

Cowgirl boots. The shoe for all occasions. :-) 

Jeff built a "kid-wash" in the backyard that was enjoyed at both parties. Lots of squealing ensued, and lots of fun was had by all. :-)

For everyone who gave the girls birthday money, either while we were in Georgia or via the mail, I thought you might like to know how it was spent. All three girls got new bikes!! That is something they have needed/wanted, and they were very happy about getting them....and have had a ball riding them! Thank you!!!

I must say that I have been feeling especially homesick lately. I guess with all the birthdays we've had recently, that's usually a time of the year when we see everyone......and I miss it. I must say, however, that my little brother came to visit for the little girls' party, and it was SO GOOD TO SEE HIM and it did wonders for my heart. Just having a little piece of home here for a party was such a blessing, and by far, the best part of my day. Thanks, Drew. :-)

Emilie and Clara joined The American Heritage Girls this past January. We were so excited to find a troop here! They are a Christ-centered scouting group where service to God, family, community, and country are emphasized. Their oath:

I promise to love God,
Cherish my family,
Honor my country,
and Serve in my community.

Gotta love that!

They earn badges and memorize lots of scripture as part of their requirements, in addition to lots of camping, nature hiking, and all the other fun things you would expect from scouts!! They were endorsed by James Dobson on Focus on the Family and are the only girl scouting group that the Boy Scouts of American has ever allowed themselves to be affiliated with because of their mutual strong commitment to godly values, not to mention the partnerships formed with Dannah Gresh's ministry Pure Freedom, and Big Idea Productions/Veggie Tales. All of this makes me feel really good about their participation....not to mention the LOADS of fun they are having!!! 

Just a week ago, they had their Spring Court of Awards where Emilie and Clara received badges and a promotion they've been working hard for, and Megan was officially accepted into the troop, thanks to a recent birthday making her the right age. :-) 

Clara with the beads she earned for her Pathfinder necklace, and her new badges to add to her new Tenderheart uniform. This was one excited girl!

Emilie with one of her leaders, Ms. Kathy. Emilie also received a number of badges that she worked hard for. They were: The 7 C's of Creation, Daughter of the King, Textile Arts, her Joining Award, and a HUG award. (That stands for something, but I need to ask what it's for.)

Here's Megan. She was helping with the play about about Sacajawea by holding up one of the "Act __ " signs. She was very excited.....but she's always excited. :-) Notice Jessie, her race horse, on her left arm....he goes everywhere with her. :-)

This is Clara with Mr. Dan, whom she absolutely ADORES! He was her leader this year. I failed to get a picture with their other leader, Ms. Tami. They really love her, too!!

Definitely significant on our list of achievements is that Jeff did his first half-marathon!! So proud of him! Here he is with a few other Life Action folks he ran into (no pun intended). :-) He finished his race in 2 hours and 18 minutes. Not too shabby for a first time!

And finally, for some really big news.....

Clara was accepted!!!

Clara will be checking in to the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri on a Monday in September and checking out that Friday for a week full of thorough testing and making a plan for her care. In the brochure 30 pages of forms we received, it said:

"The Research Facility currently follows the largest group of children anywhere with XLH (X-Linked Hypophosphatemia). ....Healing of rickets, correction of bone deformity, and improved growth rates and stature have been seen when compliance with medical therapy is maintained."

This gives us some hope. Right now, we're getting nowhere. She has grown about a half of a centimeter in two years, and we are facing a very invasive surgery to correct one of her legs. The care management nurse Jeff spoke with encouraged us to wait on that surgery, because with their treatment plan for these kids they have seen success with the bone fixing itself. The doctor she is seeing sees over 100 kids per year with XLH. She will also get an orthopedic consult while she is there.

We have always been so thankful for those of you who keep us in your prayers. Once again, we covet your prayers. Specifically, for

1) Wisdom as we prepare for this visit and decide how many of our appointments with other doctors we follow up with between now and then, and how many we should just cancel.

2) That we will get the answers we need to help our girl.

3) That God would, once again, provide everything we need to get us there. Her hospital stay is covered by the Shriners, as well as my bed beside hers, but we have to cover transportation and my food once we're there.

4) Please begin to pray now for Jeff as he stays back with the other girls. It is going to be hard for him to be here while we're there. He is a wonderful Daddy, and I never worry about him or the girls when they are here.....I know he'll take great care of them. (That probably won't stop me from leaving some meals in the freezer and feeling guilty while I'm gone.). :-)

5) That I will be able to get all of the paperwork needed to the hospital in the amount of time I have to get it to them. I have a huge notebook full of her medical records, but there are some things I just don't have. SO, we are sending release forms to every doctor she's ever seen, and praying they will get those to the hospital in a timely manner.

6) That Clara will stay healthy between now and then and that nothing will interfere with her visit.

As always, thanks for caring about our little family and for staying up-to-date with us. I pray your day is blessed!!

Much Love,