Life is wonderful and difficult... and I am grateful!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dear Elizabeth Claire....

Elizabeth Claire,
I know you are sick of being sick. I know I can't feel the exact pain and sickness you feel, but as your mommy, trust me baby, I feel your suffering in ways only you will understand once you have a child of your own.
Every pain, every needle, every excruciating procedure, every minute of lost modesty or embarrassment, every time you feel scared or angry or lost- I feel it as an ache only a mother's heart knows.
And I also understand your frustration, discouragement and even your thoughts of envy. I have felt those same things on your behalf and in my own mind over the last years.
So my Lulu, this letter is for you to remind you of the things we have gained as a result of pain and suffering; your pain alone, and the pain I have had as your mommy as I have watched you take on your trails.....

If you were healthy, you may take the ways your body is strong for granted.
If you and I didn't spend so much alone time together, we wouldn't talk as much as we do.
If we weren't stuck in the hospital room as much as we are, we wouldn't have as many of our own silly jokes or secrets.
If we never had to wait (and wait and wait) for doctors or recovery, we wouldn't be practicing so much patience.
If you weren't sick, you wouldn't have helped put something back together without even knowing it was broken ( a story I will share with you when you are older).
If you weren't sick, I wouldn't be as strong as I am or as good of a mommy as I am to you and your brother and sister. You have given me that gift.
If you didn't have to fight through pain the way you do, you would not be nearly as compassionate towards others as you are.
If you weren't suffering, many of us may not be reminded of humility, endurance, grace and patience as often as we are because of what we see in you.
If you weren't sometimes too tired or sick to do things, you may take for granted the days you are strong and doing fun things.
If you weren't sick, there would be so many less prayers and less people talking to God.
If you weren't a little hero, we wouldn't have been as touched by the lives of your hero friends, and goodness, can you imagine life without having those friends?
If you didn't have to practice mind-over-matter or have to be brave so often you may not be as strong as you are now.
If I didn't watch you endure so much for so long, I wouldn't appreciate much of what I do, in the ways I do- soaking in the happiness you, Kate and Jack bring. Breathing in the yummy way you smell after a shower, just as I did when you were a newborn. Closing my eyes to take in all of your giggles and the sound of your voices singing. Committing the happiest days to memory knowing they will get us through the next trial and bring us smiles again.
If you didn't have to suffer my sweet girl, we may not recognize that life is hard, but it is also so wonderful in even small ways.

These are a lot of "ifs", I know. There are many other ifs or whys that we could list that have nothing to do with your suffering. Everyone has a list and is fine to question things and even be sad about some of them.
I want you to remember that even though life can feel so unfair and even as if God has forgotten to protect you or answer you at times, many of our "if's" have awesome answers and there is always something to be grateful for.
I love you Elizabeth Claire. If only you could grasp how much and how proud I am to be your mom.

Finally, an Update

It has been a long time since my last post. Though I have much to say, I will keep this blog entry to the point and factual as it is prayer for health that I would like most right now.
I last wrote when Liz was in-patient at CHLA for the colon manometry studies. We were a bit surprised when we learned that the tests revealed that her colon is not contracting much at all without the use of medication and enemas. We knew she had some issue going on, as her chronic impaction and other symptoms indicated, but her physician and Walter and I were surprised by the severity of her dysmotility. Unfortunately, the probes placed in the OR before the start of the day-long testing weren't able to be threaded to the right side of her colon or her cecum; frustrating at the time, but very disappointing now that we know how severe her dysmotility is. We need to know what her cecum and ascending colon is doing. The manometry studies will need to be repeated, perhaps in Cincinnati at the amazong colon/rectal/bowel center there.
After the results Liz was put on a new regimen of meds and enemas, but they are not working in the way we'd all hoped. Unfortunately there are no other medications available to try and at this point we can only adjust meds and enema schedules and try to make sense of her poor colon. Surgery is the only other option. We meet with her motility specialist in Los Angeles in two weeks to talk about whether or not it is time to head to Cincinnati to see the specialists there.
Due to the new findings, her Immunologist has also referred her to the genetics and mitochondrial specialist at CHLA for more studies.
She has had ongoing issues with her stoma (the site/opening where her g-tube is placed) and after much pain, treatment by her GI and home nursing, she finally has started seeing a wound care specialist. Two weeks ago her stoma cultured positive for a Staph infection. Of course this sent everyone into a bit of a frenzy as the topical cream antibiotic she'd already been using wasn't clearing the infection and using an oral antibiotic is not an easy recommendation for Liz due to the recurrent CDifficile. Her infectious disease doctor got involved and after many calls between us all, we elected to give an additional topical treatment a try. Last week, her stoma was swabbed again and is culturing less Staph than a few weeks ago, so we are hopeful the medicated creams are working enough on their own. Thursday she will have the stoma cultured for a third time and we are praying the Staph is continuing to decrease.

Liz has had some great days and has even had two weeks of attending school for the whole week! Admittedly, she is exhausted though and currently we are discussing with her doctors the option of pulling her from school for a couple of months during this flu season and in an effort to get better control of her colon (it is difficult to time enemas and hydration around a seven hour school day).
You may remember that we elected to stop the immunoglobulin infussions (IVIG) in May and watch her body to see what it would do on its own, without the help of donor blood to boost her immune system. We knew that the winter and flu season would be telling in how her body would do without that support. I've been praying that was the right choice.

Today I took her to the pediatrician because her cold-like symptoms are much worse and she has chest discomfort and a fever. Liz and I diagnosed her before we even saw the doctor, as we both know exactly what her sinus infections present like. She indeed does have a sinus infection and her chest pain and tight airways are due to possible bronchitis. Again, an oral antibiotic is not an easy go-to option for Elizabeth because of CDifficle. So, we are increasing her inhaled Azithromycin dosage and Dr L. is contacting Infectious Disease and GI before we begin an oral antibiotic. She is pretty uncomfortable tonight.
Today Dr. L and I talked again about pulling Liz from school and we have decided that we will have her labs drawn on January 4th to evaluate her white count and neutrophil count and then based on those labs decide when/if she can return to school. Infection requiring antibiotics is just such a scary thought for us because of the darn CDiff issue.
Speaking of CDiff, we are nearing a year of her being CDiff free! This is huge and such a praise as that last 9 month-long infection was such a blow to her body. Liz smiled today and told Dr. L and me that she needs a sign that reads "One year CDiff free and I didn't need my sister's poop!" (remember, a fecal transplant was on the table and in the works, with Kate being the donor) : )

Of course the last 2+ months since I've written have brought much more to blog, but tonight these are the facts.... these are the issues our girl needs prayers for.

If you are still thinking of her and praying, thank you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Short update- Elizabeth is scheduled to go to the OR procedure room at 6:15ish this morning. After a cleanout at home Sunday- Monday, the team thought she needed an additional aggressive cleanout begining last night. She's had Golightly running all night and multiple enemas but hasn't had much result. I'm praying they don't reschedule her procedure due to this. Anesthesia should be straight forward as usual. Liz will be very uncomfortable and in pain throught the day as she wakes with the tubes in and endures the cramping during the 12 hour tests. Please pray for her. Thank you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Please Pray

For my Elizabeth Claire-
(click and it will play in a separate window. you will be able to read blog during play)

My girl needs prayers this week. I covet prayer. I ask you mom to mom, friend to friend, please
flood His ears with your prayers. Elizabeth has gone through more than any person should ever have to endure. For years she has tolerated pain and suffering; for years she has kept on even though she has declined in may ways rather than healing. It feels as though she has no physical reward for all of her heroic ways she has endured in the hope that she would get well. How can one go on and continue to go through pain in the hopes that they will be made well?
I struggle with that thought every time I sign each consent form, every time I hand her over to the OR team and each time I allow her to be put through pain. It is a guilt no mother should have to feel and a trust no child should ever know.
Tomorrow Liz will begin another clean out at home in preparation for her hospital admission. Last weeks clean out was terrible with pain and retching. Also tomorrow, she will be seen by GI here in Long Beach because her gtube site has gotten even worse. She is now bleeding enough that she has blood coming out of the actual tube. I am a bit relieved that in the hospital this week we'll be able to have constant care and I am going to ask for the wound team to be in on helping her with the stoma.
On Tuesday she will be admitted to CHLA very early in the morning for more preparation and for IV fluids as she cannot take in anything other than clear liquids for the next few days. Wednesday she will go to the OR procedure room and have probes and catheters placed rectally and down through her nose/mouth. She'll be sedated during placement, but will wake with the tubes in and they will remain for a full day. On Thursday, she will have additional probes placed.This manometry testing is not fun. It will be painful and extremely uncomfortable as they make her colon contract over and over throughout the day for the study. Her GI team has held off on this testing for a year because it is awful and they wanted to spare her if at all possible.
Please pray for Elizabeth's tolerance. She will be in a hospital that is unfamiliar and she will be without the nurses we have come to trust and who care deeply for Liz personally. Also, other than the motility specialist who she has only met three times (and who lacks a great bedside manner), Liz will be without her team of doctors as CHLA is not our home hospital, and while we have met with specialists there before, she will not have her core team there.
Pray for Liz to not have unbearable pain and for nausea to be well managed. Pray that the doctors get the information they need and that the end result of this week of pain will be "worth" it.
Pray that her counts are stable- red and white cells, and platelets.
Pray for Jackson and Kate, too. I will not be able to see them because CHLA is not close to home. They both are already upset that I am leaving. Kate is sick with a horrible cold and I am praying that she is better by Tuesday and that Jackson stays healthy. It is awful to feel torn and want to be with my children when I cannot. Walter will be off of work for five days to help and will go back and forth from the hospital.

Thank you for praying. Ask others to pray. Know that I am grateful.

{Lord, I do not doubt you, but please, please help my Elizabeth and finally bring some healing. Please see how you have used her and touched lives through her, and please bring an end to her suffering}

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be

as long as life endures.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Bushel and a Peck....

 I grew up going to Oak Glen to enjoy a Fall day of apple picking. How fun to continue the tradition with my own family. On Saturday, my birthday, we headed up to the apples. Liz was supposed to begin a bowel clean out, but we held off a day because I had my mind set on a family day in the beautiful weather and nothing was going to stop us. We had the best day!

First stop was to pick pumpkins....

I love them a bushel and a peck.


Fitting because it IS true that Jackson has a big pumpkin head : )

Tractor ride up the hill.....

....and a beautiful view. Thank you God for eyes to see.

I would not let them start picking apples unless I was able to take their picture.

Going up.

Jackson was searching for yellow apples on the Red Delicious tree

I could not have been more happy on my birthday.

One of my most favorites ever of Kate.

Isn't she beautiful?

The tree(s) behind the girls was a set of twins. It was one tree that split in two.
Thanks for duplicating, silly girls!

Yay, a corn maze! Which way to go?

We decided to split up

I see you, mu Lulu

Choosing apples....

....for pressing. Let's make some cider, y'all!

We brought in our muscle girl when it got super tough

It is filling up.

They did it! Teamwork and some sibling arguing makes for great cider.

Kate caught this photo of Jack. After a long day, he was ready for home.

Until next year, Oak Glen.
I will remember this year, this image, especially.


It has been a month since my last post and some have messaged me to ask how things are. It would take many words to fill in on everything that has happened, so I'll post pictures and recap.
We have been busy! Kate's volleyball and the kids' school schedule and homework would keep any family busy. Adding in Liz's appointments and many sleepless nights has made me exhausted and I just haven't had the time or motivation to blog.

Jackson and Kate are doing very well! Jack is making new friends at school and soaking in learning. He was pretty bored in the first weeks of school, but now that his class has been divided into reading groups based on the student's reading level, he is happy to be challenged more.
Kate is happy and my only worry for her is that she is too tired from having a lot on her plate. It is good for her to be busy though and for her to have her own "thing" to keep her distracted and motivated. Volleyball takes up two hours a night after school and middle school homework is intense, so she is falling into bed each night. She loves the sport and has committed to playing Club ball again, so we are hanging on for the ride of another season.

Elizabeth has been struggling. Her Gtube site (called a stoma) has not healed as well as it should. She's been dealing with pain and bleeding along with granulomas. Rather than having to go into the doctor's office each week, I now have been given the supplies to treat her granulomas at home. She's started back on Prilosec to help with the inflammation that is going on around the lining of her stomach and the balloon of the Gtube.
She had a reaction to the internal  stitches used and she has had horrible muscle pain. Normally, a tube is placed more mid-line... picture someone with a six-pack. There is a divot down the center of their torso where there is no muscle. This is where tubes are placed. Because of all of Liz's surgeries, her surgeon had to place her tube to the side, which meant he had to cut through muscle. Painful now, but slowly healing.

Last week she started retching more often, having pain, and she had two days of dizziness and feeling faint. A series of xrays of Wednesday confirmed that she was impacted with stool again, and that was contributing to her symptoms (impaction contributes to dehydration). She went through a clean out at home Sunday and Monday, which has been horrible. Usually she doesn't have as difficult a time as she's had this week and it has been awful to watch and help her through. Our goal is to keep her from having to be hospitalized this week. On top of the impaction and clean out, she is on day 10 of a nasty cold/viral thing and has felt pretty sick with cough, congestion and fatigue. We are praying it does not turn into a sinus infection which would be the worst thing that could happen for her right now.
Next Monday, she will begin another clean out at home and then on Tuesday, we'll head to CHLA for her to be admitted for the week for manometry studies.
She could definitely use prayer.

This is a move Jackson calls the "X-ray" : )

Kate had a visit to the doctor for a physical. She grew nine and three-quarter inches in
just two years! She is strong, healthy and going to be TALL!

Tired eyes but big smiles for us both.

Liz's surgeon. When you pray for her during her surgeries, this is the man you
are holding in prayer as he holds her life in his hands.

Liz has missed the last eight days of school : ( Here she is on a healthy day giving herself
meds through her tube while she does homework.

This touched Liz and she shared it with me.
How amazing is she?

Monday, September 17, 2012


"I don't know how to do this." I must have said that to myself a dozen times today.
I just don't know how to manage everything. I am trying so hard to make things normal in this home, in our routine, and in our family, but this is not normal.
I am in tears tonight as I feel a huge weight in terms of Elizabeth. We are trying to keep her in school, but it isn't working very well. I feel a tug to pull her and do home and hospital teaching like we did last year, but I know how badly she wants to be in school. She thrives on the social aspect of school and she truly likes being in the class room. The fact that she has a twin sister going off to school each day adds a whole level of complexity.
Still, it is hard for Liz to keep up with everything when she misses a day. She was put in all accelerated classes, except for math, and so she has even more work than she would otherwise. She is starting to feel the stress of it all and that is not a good thing. Between the doctor's appointments, hospital stays and days she is home not feeling well it adds up to being just too much. I don't know how to do this.
My gut tells me to pull her and help her recover and get strong, but then I would be taking away the wonderful, positive effect school has on her mentally; and honestly, her mental health is as important to me as her physical health.
Such a difficult decision. I was hoping she would have more time until we would have to make the decision to pull her or not. Once flu season hits, it will be telling for Liz. Either her body will be able to fight all the infections and viruses, or it won't. Now though, she isn't recovering as well from the surgery for the GTube as we'd hoped, and she isn't doing well in other ways.

Her stoma (the opening where her Gtube button is) isn't healing as quickly as it should be and now she has developed pussing, bleeding and granulation. Gross.
Last night and today she had an elevated temp and we are hoping it isn't related to the stoma which would show signs of infection.
She had a bloody nose four times Saturday, and each one lasted at least 20 minutes. This makes us think her platelets are lower than her usual low counts. We are off to the doctor again tomorrow.

Today I have felt like I am not the one who should be caring for Liz; like I am not the right person to help her get well. I know that this is just my fatigue and frustration talking, but it has been such a feeling of weakness.
In perfect timing, I got a boost tonight. Elizabeth showed me part of an essay she wrote for an assignment. It touched me in a way only my child's pure and loving heart could and I took her written words as an answer to prayer.
"My mom is the person I admire the most because she is patient, caring, loving and hardworking. Every single day my mom never stops."
I don't know how to do all of  "this", but I do know that I have to keep going because little eyes are watching, and I have a lot to live up to.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If Only

I LOVE this song. Along with liking the song so much, the message goes along with much of what I have been feeling lately.
I will admit that I have been struggling with "what" I am; what my role is in this life. Before I go on, I will remind you that I consider it a privelege to be able to take care of my three children. I also consider the messy, difficult, taxing role of caring for Elizabeth a huge privilege!
Having said that, candidly I will also share that at times I feel "if only." If only I could be contributing more to the family or if only I could work, then we would be able to take vacations, buy luxury items, not stress so much about medical bills.
If only Liz wasn't sick. If only my husband didn't work so very hard and yet we are in a constant state of drowning in medical debt. If only life had gone according to my plans. If only I knew that things would turn out alright in the ways we want. So many if only's.
We all have them, don't we?

Last night, as Walter and I had some quiet time to talk (if you have a mental picture of us cuddled and talking in whispers or sharing a glass of wine and having deep conversation, throw that out. I was watering when he drove up from being at work and we stole a few minutes alone to talk as I threatened to hose-down any child that got in the way of our conversation : )  ), I told him
"This is what I am supposed to be doing. I am supposed to be taking care of Jackson and Kate. And, I am meant to take care of Elizabeth during this time - nurse her back to health, get her through this horrible time; help her get through school, help her to get strong- so that she can be the best person she can be when she is older. So that she can be the person she is meant to be."

Life can rock us to the core- all of us. It can try and strip away security, comfort, health, plans.....
but if we try hard, if I try hard, and stop focusing on the "if only's", it won't take away who I am meant to be. Which for now may be a struggling, tired mom. That is alright, because I am rich in so many other ways and I know that I am doing exactly what I should be right now; exactly what I am meant to be.

{Some people are so poor all they have is money.
Diamonds, some people waste their life counting their thousands.
They can't afford what we've got, not even the kings.
I found the world in you.
Your arms around me are worth more than a kingdom.
The trust that we feel, the kings never felt that. They can't afford this; this is priceless.
They can't afford what we've got, not even the kings

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't Say First Day

Elizabeth was discharged from the hospital late Monday afternoon. Yay! We are always so happy to come home to our loves and to be away from the hospital. She'll follow up with all of her specialists in the next two weeks and she'll get blood counts again soon to make sure her counts have come up some.
Liz is doing pretty well. She is having some bleeding from her stoma, so we will go to the doctor tomorrow to get it looked at. Last night she woke up in pain, but she never lets her pain get in the way of what she wants to do........
which today means attempting her first day of middle school! She is half crazy, half stubbornly resilient, and she insisted on going to school just like everyone else. I knew I needed to let her attempt the day because we have no idea what this year will bring. If she is not able to fight infections or if she is too sick, she'll be forced to stay home again this year like she did all of last year.
I have been crying for the last two hours since I dropped off the kids at school because I am so worried about Liz. We have been together, literally, all of the time for over a year. My gut says she is not ready for school today as she is still recovering, her counts aren't great, and her stamina isn't there, but for her emotional and mental well being we had to let her try.
Jackson and Kaitlin were happy to walk into school this morning. How in the world can I have children of my own who are old enough for middle school?! It just seems impossible. I pray the girls have a great experience and make lifelong friends in these middle school years, just as I did.
Jackson started Kindergarten! How sad that for the first time in seven years, I will have an empty home during the day now that all three are in school.

Here's to a wonderful, happy year of learning and firsts. As Travis said when he was little, and we continue to say now, "Don't say first day!"

First day of Kindergarten and first day of 6th grade.
Jackson- 6  Liz and Kate-11

Look how they've grown. This was last year.

My beautiful, hard working, pleasing, kind Kate.

Jackson's teacher is amazing (!!!) and happens to be our neighbor,
He is hilarious and told us "I don't think having my neighbor for my teacher is such a good idea".
He is totally prepared for Kinder and is going to have a great year!

My shadow for the last year is attempting to leave me and have the normalcy of
school that she deserves. She is an example to us all of never making excuses, practicing mind-over-matter,
 and believing that strength comes from within.

The girls have always been in class together. This year they will separate for the first time.

Jackson and Taylor are at  the same school and in the same class!
I just kept telling him "Do not hit your cousin at school!!!"