Wednesday, October 30, 2013

corn pits and pumpkin bits...

This seems like a lifetime away now, and it's hard to keep my mind on anything right now other than what's happening with my dad (he's doing well and making progress each day!), but I have lots of pictures to share with you all from our relaxing afternoon at the farm this month.

AND --here's the best part-- Jameson will blow you a kiss at the end.

Chasing her in the pumpkin patch.

Look at these characters.


My boys.

He was fascinated.

Humongous corn pit.  (which made their clothes incredibly dusty and not to mention, kernels of corn were being found for days in... ahem... unexpected places.)  ha!

Okay, you ready for the finale as promised?

Bye bye, everybody!  See ya next time!


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Monday, October 28, 2013

coming to...

With all of the emotional stress over my dad's transplant surgery, mind if we lighten the mood a little?

It's a good thing we have Jameson around to keep us entertained and laughing.

Today was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  After sleeping for 36 hours, the doctors began lifting my Dad's sedation levels very slowly, which resulted in some minor agitation and breathing that was too quick for their taste.  Though it was unnerving for us, the family, it didn't seem to alarm the doctors.  They sedated him again, this time with a different medication, and then his "coming to" was much smoother.

So by the afternoon, he was responding to commands, opening his eyes and nodding, saying the words "thirsty" and "sick," and eating on ice chips.  Still mostly groggy, but the beginnings of alertness.  Very thankful for today's progress, especially after a bit of a shaky start.

I've got to get myself out there soon.
It's tormenting to be so far away with something this major.

Thank you so much for continuing to lift him up in prayer.
There's a long recovery ahead, but hopefully each day will be a little easier than the last...
I'll keep you posted.
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

THE call, THE day...

What a day.

Only God knew what this day was to hold.  We'd have never guessed.

For us, it began at 4:46am, when Marc heard a series of texts ringing on my phone.  Which of our college students is texting their life story to Amy at THIS hour?? he initially thought.

But then he picked up my phone and saw:

My dad had received THE call from the hospital.

There was a donor.  There would be a lung today.

My parents were en route to the hospital in Dallas.  I was still sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of all that was transpiring.

I felt Marc's warm arms wrap around me as he said, "Sweetheart, your dad got the call and they're headed to Baylor."

"What?!?" I immediately jumped up, confused as anyone who is awoken in the night like that.  Was Marc sharing a dream he was having with me?  Is this true??

He repeated it again, to which my body immediately went into shock.

This was the moment.  This would be the day?

Half in a stupor, I dialed my parents, who were nearing the hospital around that time.  I wanted to hear their voices.  I wanted to know this was really happening.

We all knew things were on standby, but it was honestly off our radar.  Dad had been #7 on the list, and it was looking like it would be another six months.

But it was going to be today.

As my dad was being admitted to the hospital, my mind couldn't help but rush to the donor.  Who had to lose their life in order that my dad might gain his?  Was their death an accident?  An illness?  Was it someone young or old?  What grief must the family be facing.  And yet, even in death, the hope of new life in MY family was just a matter of hours away.  

Though he was immediately scared and shocked by the middle-of-the-night call, my dad sounded at peace with everything.  This, afterall, was his ticket to life.  It was what we had all been waiting for.

Just not sure I was all that "ready."

Over the next several hours, we waited and waited to hear if the donor lung would be approved.

Tests were being run.
Waiting and more waiting.
Would this be a "go"?   Or would it be what they call a "dry run"?

Praying.  Crying.  More praying.  Pacing.  Texting Mom, "Any news yet?"

"Still waiting" came back.


I was able to choke out goodbye and "I love you" to my dad for the last time around noon.  He said that if he called me next, they'd be heading back home.  If it was my mom, it meant he was going in.

Just awhile later, my phone rang.  And my heart stopped.

It was my mom.

The lung was on its way from an undisclosed location by a LEER JET!  (what in the WORLD?!!  This was becoming dramatic!)  It had been removed from the donor, and it was currently being transported by plane, accompanied by the surgeon who had just harvested it.  When the plane would land, my dad would go under.

This is really going to happen today.  This is really going to happen.

It felt like I was walking around my house in a trance.  I was functioning, but not well.   I think I was more of a basket-case than my mom... probably since I was so far away from what was happening.

Sometime in the afternoon they took him in.

At one point, we got word that as expected, he was hooked up to the heart and lung bypass machine.  A machine was now pumping blood through his veins.  A machine was oxygenating that same blood.

About 4-5 hours after he went in, we received word that the lung was in, and it was WORKING.  Praise God, praise God!  Tests were run, everything carefully checked before the process of stitching him back up began.  The surgeon spoke with my mother and reported everything went smoothly.  He said my dad had received a really good lung.

Exhale.  What a day.

So, right now as I type, thousands of miles away, my dad is sleeping sedated in a hospital bed, hooked up to God-knows-how-many tubes and IV's.  (My mom got to see him briefly afterwards and said he looked awful.  I'm sure she's right.)

I believe he'll be fine and recover to have a life where he doesn't struggle for each breath, but honestly, at this moment, I'm scared.

Scared of the what if's.
Scared to rest tonight, for fear of missing something.
Scared for what may lie ahead.

I know all of this is also amazing and exciting, too.  We'll get there.  Right now, I'm scared.  My stomach feels like I want to puke.

The next three days are critical.  He'll stay in the ICU, ready to be wheeled back into surgery at a moment's notice if any rejection symptoms begin occurring.  They'll keep him sedated through the night, and let him awaken a bit sometime in the morning.

Complications are common.  I know He is in the Lord's hands.  He is surrounded by a whole HOST of doctors who do this all the time.

I'm itching to get out there and be with them.  Just waiting on the word and I'll go.

Thank you, dear friends, for holding us up in your prayers at this time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

christmas in october...

It's the little things that can bring so much joy when you're a kid...

Like receiving a box FILLED to the brim with notepads to write on from Great Grandpa Hogue.  We have enough of them to last us a year!

(He wanted to take a turn at it, too.)

We also received a box of assorted hand-me-downs from Mamie, like this pretty little number...

...and my handprint from when my hand was the size of hers now.

Thank you, Grandpa Hogue and Mamie!  It felt like Christmas in October!

She thought so, too.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

smokey keeper...

She'd been hoping for weeks.

"Mom, I really want to be Smokey Keeper!"

"The smoky what??" I'd ask, wondering what in the world she was talking about.

"SMOKEY KEEPER!" she'd raise the intensity and volume of her voice.  Because then I'd surely understand.

Well, turns out this was finally the week.

Caroline was to be the "Smokey Keeper."

Meet Smokey, folks.  He was our weekend guest.

He comes with a small suitcase of items-- clothing, bibs, books, food-- because he travels around to classmates' homes each weekend.  It's up to the student to care for Smokey and take him places with the family, then chronicle the weekend (with photos and words) in Smokey's scrapbook.  (fun, right?)

From reading the other entries in the books, it looked like Smokey is quite the adventurer!  Just this year, he'd already been to the beach, putt putting, to a playground, a pumpkin patch, etc.

Good thing we had some fun for him up our sleeves, too.

We took him to the farm!  Here's Smokey chilling out on the hay ride.

Then Smokey got a little wild on us and decided it'd be a good idea to wander off through the tall corn field!

But he wasn't gone too long before we found him.  Sneaky guy, that Smokey.

This way, Smokey!

Now how many bears get the opportunity to ride on a 76 year old tractor, eh?

Can't you see the excitement just BEAMING from his face?

It was a great afternoon for Smokey.  (and for the rest of us, too!  I'll share our pics soon, but first things first, right?)

Sunday morning, Smokey, of course, came along to church with us. (Caroline carried Smokey's diaper bag complete with snacks, a book, and a sippy cup)

And would you believe he got to be introduced UP FRONT during announcement time to the WHOLE CHURCH?!  We didn't get to snag a picture of that one, but it's a good thing.  Smokey was already too embarrassed as it was.  Not sure he liked all the attention.

Welcome to this family, Smokey.  You get lots of attention....

We gave this bear some culture, too!  I (Amy) had a Halloween symphony concert to play, and all the kids in the audience got to dress up.  Thankfully Smokey stayed quiet for most all of the performance.

Smokey was the BOSS on the bells.  You should'a heard him.

We loved having our guest of honor.  Maybe he'll come back and see us again?

Smokey, you're the best.
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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

star of the show...

I know I need to write.  Ever have those experiences?

Just write, Amy.  Just write.

Okay.  (deep breath)  I'll just put it out there.

So, I've shared with you all in passing before that I have a very unusual birthmark on the back of my leg.   Super duper highly unusual.  I will spare you all a picture, but it is like a pinkish-red, dry, scaly skin that runs from my pinky toe, across the top of my foot, wraps around my ankle, climbs all the way up the back of my leg, knee, and thigh, and ends somewhere on the underside of my bottom.  It might resemble a burn more than a birthmark.  (nice, right?)

It's pretty common for people to think that it itches or is painful.  It doesn't.  And it's not.

Doctors have said that to try to remove it would make an even BIGGER scar and look worse than what's already there.

Just like my daughter, I've lived my entire life with a very visible physical difference.  Though mine is on the back of my leg, it is what you'd consider an "eyesore."  While Caroline's infirmity might evoke feelings of puzzlement or empathy, mine would be more apt to make someone flinch or look away.

Basically, let's just say it-- sometimes I feel like a freak, okay?

Whew.  This is difficult to put out there, people.  Give me an "A" for vulnerability right about now.

Apparently it started appearing when I was six months old in diapers, and doctors first thought it was a very bad case of diaper rash.  It freaked my mom out, and made her feel like she was somehow failing as a mom.  (wow- how similar to my own experience when I couldn't keep hair on my kid's head)  But as it kept growing and spreading the length of my entire leg, I guess it became clear that no Desitin would ever knock this sucker out.  ;)

In childhood, my birthmark played a big role in beginning friendships.  "What's THAT?" kids would ask, contorting their face into a disgusted look when they saw my leg.  Wonderful.  

I remember fearing whether they would still want to play with me after what they saw.

My "problem" was easily solved, however, by wearing pants.  I had (and still have) the option of covering up and hiding.  (Especially with it being cold weather season!  No one has to see.)

But seriously, it's not as much of an issue now as it was growing up.  Oh man, I've come a loooong way on how I handle my "deformity."

But honestly, as I'm typing this, I'm realizing just how shameful I still am of my leg.

I mean, can you blame me?  Take the scenerio of each time I have tried to get a pedicure, for example-- after so many times, it becomes too humiliating to watch the reaction of the little asian woman when she sees MY foot.  They are afraid to touch me.  They put on a glove as if I am going to infect them.

What does it mean for me to be confident in who I am?  In who God made me to be?  I am faced with that reality every time I put on a skirt. (or shorts...)

I feel exposed.  And I am tempted to cave in from shame.

Should I just always cover up?  What am I to do with my shame?

Of course, maturity and a loving husband have been so good in my sanctification process.  Now, when I'm in public with my leg exposed for all to see, (and oh, they're seeing...) I must remind myself of the truth:

It doesn't matter what they think.  Forget them.  You have all the acceptance you need, Amy.  Rest in who He made you to be. 

Those are the subconscious thoughts I wrestle against daily.  Isn't it unbelievable that He would give me a daughter in which to instill the same?

Which leads to the reason I'm writing this post...

Just the other day, I happened to find a spot on my birthmark that had darkened. (happened to be on my rear end, wouldn't ya know...)  This is apparently common for my type of birthmark throughout life-- places may become irritated, raised, and eventually cancerous.  A few years ago I had a spot cut off on my foot for that reason.

So, when I call my doctor (who is the head of a dermatology department at a large university hospital nearby) and tell him I'm the one with the "linear porokerotosis" on my leg, he's quickly willing to squeeze me into the schedule two days later, as opposed to months later like everyone else.

But here's the catch....

I have to come during "group rounds."  Well, you know what that means, right?

He'll see me, but he also wants me to come for all of his resident students to see me as well.  I will be the live "specimen" on display.

Fine.  Give me the appointment.

So today I went.

"Now, who are you again?" he asks good-naturedly as he walks in the room, "I don't recognize your face."  To give him credit, it had been years.

To which I pulled up my pant leg, and after one glance, his voice immediately jumped up two octaves, "Oh yes!  I know YOU!"  

Well, of course you do.  :)  I'm your linear porokeratosis.

He takes a quick look at the irritated spot on my bum, and thankfully, it's not cancerous.   Whew.  No cutting today.

But then it was time.  He began arranging the sheet over my backside to where it would expose all of my birthmark, yet keep me feeling as modest as possible.  (which didn't feel all that modest, let me tell you)


In came the MARCHING PARADE of doctors, med-students, residents, you NAME it, to see me and my backside in all its glory!  It was their job to try and guess what I have.  (fun game, right?)

Yes, thank you.  I'm that much of a medical rarity that people are clamoring to observe something they have only heard about in a textbook.

I'm so glad in this moment that I can provide them with such an amazing learning experience...

They file in the room 2 to 3 at a time, introducing themselves (I felt more like face-planting down into the pillow than talking) and asking questions.

"Have you always had this?"
"Does it itch or hurt?"
"Is this how long it's always been?"
"Do you have problems with it?"

It's all fine and professional until I hear one of them say, "Oh wow" at one point.   Now that's reassuring.

Another one took a freaking FLASHLIGHT to show the others something particular about this type of skin.

Umm, seriously??  This is me, people.  Not an experiment.  ME.

I heard two of the girls collaborating with each other as they examined me, and I got a little excited when I heard the words "linear porokeratosis" slip out.  Good job, I thought! but I was on strict orders by my doctor not to give the "right answer" away. 

"But can people actually get that?" the other girl asked her in disbelief.

Good grief.  Yes, people can GET that.  

Now, of course, they were all very kind and they kept thanking me profusely for coming in.  But I could tell most of them were dumbfounded by my body.  (Marc was watching their reactions to me from the other side of the room.)  They had no idea what it was.

Let me tell you, that can do WONDERS for a woman's body image.  :)  The doctor told me I was the star of the show today.

I'm not so sure I wanted to be the star of that show.

Just think of the things you try to keep hidden, unknown, out of the forefront of your mind, let alone anyone else's mind.  Think of what you don't want to be known for.  Most women (and men) I know carry some sort of shame about their bodies anyway.  Think of that very thing or things that bring you shame.

Today was like taking THAT VERY THING and literally shining a spotlight on it for the world to see.

A shameful part of me exposed.

It's humiliating, guys.

However, my mind can't help but think about Another who was exposed and humiliated FAR beyond my little doctor visit today.  One who had nothing of which to be ashamed, yet took all of my shame upon Himself.

It's His righteousness that covers me.  In my shame, His righteousness covers so much better than that thin, white hospital sheet.  It's His acceptance, His approval that I will rest in this day.

I refuse to let that experience, and all the experiences across a lifetime, formulate my identity.  I am not beautiful because my legs have normal, silky skin.  The truth is they don't.  But I am beautiful because Christ makes me beautiful.  Period.

The same things I hope for my daughter need to ring true for her mama, too.

There is NO shame.  There is no need to hide.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

5 years after gotcha...

Our sweet, sweet Caroline,

Five years ago today, we stood before the judge and vowed to love you for the rest of our lives.

We called it your "Gotcha Day," and every October 13, we remember and celebrate how God gave you to our family through adoption.

Though we were at your birth, and you came home with us from the hospital,
it was this day your name was forever changed
and your adoption was final.
You were declared ours.
Nothing could separate you from our family.

What an amazing five years we have had together.
What a young lady you have become.
"Special" is an understatement.
You didn't need to come out of my tummy
for me to love you this deeply.
Our family is so blessed because of you.
Our lives are fuller, our hearts are happier,
and our wallets are much, much lighter.

I didn't know then what would lie ahead of us in our journey.
And who knows what the next five years will hold.
But God couldn't have been any more good
in leading us to you.

This day was bittersweet for your birthmommy,
who wanted you for her own
yet longed for more for you than she could give.
Your story was forever changed
by the sacrificial love she had (and still has) for you.

We were not worthy of such grace poured out upon us
in the gift of you.

Your story is like how God adopts each of us as His children.
He brings us into His family, and calls us His son or daughter.
Our lives are forever changed.
Our eternities are secure.
We are declared His.
Nothing can separate us from His family.

We praise God that we "gotcha."
And even though you didn't crack a single smile that day,

you've more than made up for it with millions more.

We love you forever, precious girl.
Mommy and Daddy
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