I love it when she wears this shirt. It matches her eyes exactly.
And my second little girl, with her beautiful brown eyes:
It’s pretty awesome having a responsible 11-year-old daughter who’s ready to babysit, and two slightly younger siblings who are eager to help her babysit. I can leave any of the oldest three in charge while I shower. I can drop Josh off down the street at scouts while Brenna looks after the kids at home. I have even left Brenna babysitting a few of the younger kids for short periods of time.
We didn’t get to celebrate our anniversary so last night Brenna volunteered to babysit so that we could go out on a date. Allie was sound asleep so I left her too. It was the first time that I left her with someone other than Rick and it was the first time that Brenna babysat all the kids at once.
We had a short date (one hour) and we stayed close to home (an ice cream place a few minutes away). It was so nice to celebrate 12 years together!
We came home to find a spotless house. I do mean spotless. Everything was completely tidy, the dishes were all done, and the floors had all been vacuumed. Allie was still asleep and the other seven kids were all in pajamas, snuggled up together watching a movie. The little guys were all almost asleep.
I was very impressed! What an awesome babysitter!!
My beautiful girl. She’s eleven now. It’s hard for me to fully comprehend because eleven just seems so old. The baby and preschool years are long gone. She’s not even really a little girl anymore. She’s eleven, growing up, rapidly approaching those teenage years. She’s seems older in so many ways now. I’m grateful for her growing maturity (she’s even starting to babysit- awesome!) and also for the moments when she still seems young. I’m grateful that she still wants to snuggle with me at night before bed. I’m grateful that eleven years ago this beautiful girl made me a mommy!
Brenna’s big birthday gift this year was an iPod touch. She’s been wanting one for so long. Our big spender has turned into a big saver as she worked towards this goal. So, for birthdays this year, Josh finally got the kindle he’d been saving for and Brenna finally got her iPod.
Her party with friends (simple because her present was expensive) will be on Saturday, so her birthday was low-key. Daddy made her overnight strawberry banana French toast as she requested. We looked at new leotards and then stopped at Walmart. The kids pitched in to buy her some nail polish.
She always sees things she wants when we shop and I always tell her no, but because it was her birthday I found myself tossing little things in the cart for her as we passed them- super soft purple socks, glittery nail polish, gum, a few treats, and a container of “flarp” that she asked for (again, a little reminder that she’s not as old as she thinks she is).
She spent the afternoon at gymnastics because it’s her favorite place to be, and her carpool bought her a birthday milkshake on the ride home.
Brenna didn’t want a cake on her birthday. She said she’d be getting one on Saturday and she didn’t want two. I tried to convince her to put candles into something… Donuts? Banana Splits? Brownies? She didn’t want any of that, but eventually decided she wanted a birthday smoothie instead.
We also picked up peach rings and Jones soda pop to share with the kids. (The message on the lid of her pop was “You would be wise to consider a career change soon,” which was funny because she’s considering switching gymnastics gyms. She saved the lid.) I insisted that she blow out a candle even though there wasn’t a cake to put it in. And Joshua made her a balloon animal.
Brenna requested “girl time” before bed so we painted fingernails and watched TV together. Both girls ended up falling asleep in my bed with me, though I was the first one out.
I hope my baby had a happy birthday. I love her so much!!
Happy birthday, Boo!!
Here are Brenna’s highlight videos for Level 6, which she competed fall 2012, and Level 7, which she competed January through March 2013. She worked hard to compete two levels back to back like this. She’s thrilled to be a Level 8 now! I’m very, very proud of her! (And I love the way the videos turned out! Rick and I worked on the Level 6 video together, and I did the Level 7 video completely on my own.)
When Josh got sick, we ended up skipping several big national tournaments. Last weekend we finally were able to get the boys to a big event. It was Joshua’s first national tournament since he got sick and it was Asher’s first national tournament ever. The boys were so excited to go to a big tournament, eat lots of food, stay in a hotel, and swim.
Joshua battled through a large 32-man bracket, the biggest of the entire event. He did get more tired as the day went on, but he wrestled well and took first place.
Braden wrestled hard, but ended up losing some matches, including a very close loss that bumped him to consolation. He took fifth place and was very sad because he wanted a plaque like his brothers.
Little Asher did awesome! As a four-year-old in the 5&6 year old age division, he wrestled all the way through to the finals. He lost his finals match and took second place. Very impressive for such a young guy at such a big tournament!
The boys had a wonderful weekend together!!
While the boys were gone, Brenna also had a gymnastics meet. She did so well! Her routines were beautiful!! She competed in a higher age group than usual. She got 9.1 on vault (1st place), 9.4 on beam (1st place), 9.35 on bars (1st place) and 8.7 with a fall on floor (3rd) place. She ended up with 2nd AA, only 0.05 behind 1st. She looked amazing!
Rick took Brenna to her gymnastics meet today. I caught Allie’s cold so I wasn’t really up for going and someone had to stay with all the sick babies anyway.
I caught up on laundry, and constantly chased little boys away from the sink and the ice dispenser, and hung a sheet over Drew’s window because he pulled down his blinds… It probably would have been more relaxing to go to the meet!
Brenna did awesome! She got 9.0 on floor, 9.1 on vault, 9.35 on beam, and 9.375 on bars. I was especially proud of her beam routine. She has been nervous about her beam routine; it was great to see her so brave and execute her routine so well. She took first in everything except floor (5th) and first for all-around.
She is doing so well this season, especially considering that she has only been training level 7 since Christmas. Brenna and her friend, Sydney, moved up to Level 7 together and they are both really contributing to their team. The top three scores from each event go towards the team points. Brenna and Sydney contribute 2/3 scores on every event now, and their team has gone from not placing before they moved up to taking first at every event. I’m amazed that these two girls are doing so well against girls who have been training L7 for over a year.
I’m proud of my hard-working, talented girl. I’m thankful that she has this opportunity to do something she loves.
I sent Josh off to his second session of physical therapy on Saturday morning. Rick and are both so excited about therapy that we have to take turns going with him. I went to his first session yesterday and Rick went with him this morning. He said that Josh needed his “coach” to be there.
I can’t quite describe the excitement I’m feeling over therapy! Obviously, it will be good for his body, his muscles, and even his stomach, but I also think it will be good mentally and emotionally. It will be good for him to get out of the house, move, and have something new to focus on. It will, I think, help him start to feel more normal again.
Josh was very tired last night after therapy, but in spite of that, he still moved around a lot more than he usually does. He actually got up and played the piano for a while! He’s continued with lessons while he’s been sick, but it’s been several months since he’s sat down unprompted and played for fun! He was playing these funny, mixed-up chords to the tune of Jingle Bells. Not exactly Mozart, but I can’t imagine a sweeter song at this point!
After that, he went to the store with Rick to pick out some juice. He was so excited about the idea of drinking something and he really wanted to pick it out himself. And again, I was thrilled at his energy level.
I just want him to feel good again. I want some quality of life restored. I want to see him happy. His gastroparesis story is far from over, but piano songs and short trips to the store remind me that “normal” is returning.
I read through all some old blog entries about Josh, watching him progress through this illness since last fall. Even now, it seems very surreal. I still can’t fully grasp the idea that he’s been sick for so long. It’s crazy to me. What a long, long journey it’s been. I know it’s not over, but I’ll take the emotional high points as they come!
After Josh and Rick got home from therapy, I spent the rest of Saturday with my girls. Maddie had a cheer competition in the morning and Brenna had a gymnastics meet in the evening, and we also finally took Maddie shopping to spend her gift card from Grandma and Grandpa. I had so much fun spending the day with all three of my cute girls! I feel very, very blessed to have three beautiful daughters, each do unique and cherished, each at a different stage of life.
And when I got home for a brief stop in between events, Joshua gave me a solid hug and grinned at me. It was the first time since Christmas that I saw a real, reach-all-the-way-up-to-his-eyes smile! It made my day!
It’s Sunday now. I’m late getting this entry finished.
Josh is having a good day. He’s tolerating sips of juice really well and he’s getting 750 mls (750 calories) through his tube at night. Even with all that, he hasn’t thrown up and his queasy-level is lower than usual. Hooray for progress! I think the new meds are helping him feel less queasy, I think therapy is helping him feel more optimistic, and I think more calories are helping him have more energy.
At the beginning of the week, I was feeling so angry and frustrated. It was definitely a low point in this experience. I honestly thought Josh would never get better and I think it’s because I was so focused on the negative things.
There definitely are negative things right now, but now I’m focusing on the positive things instead. That makes me feel so much better and it also makes me notice additional positive things to be thankful for.
I’m thankful that Josh is smiling more.
I’m thankful that he is feeling less queasy today.
I’m thankful that he is starting to sip liquids and keep them down.
I’m thankful that he’s tolerating more calories through his tube.
Rick took most of the kids to church. I kept Josh, Allie, and Drew home with me. I’m hoping he will be well enough to return to church soon, but right now we’re still worried about germs.
Rick bore his testimony today. He said that he cried the whole way through. He talked about Josh and about the tender mercies we can receive in the midst of adversity. We both know that Joshua can grow through this experience. I’ve always known that Josh was born to do amazing things. I think this experience will help him be ready to do all those amazing things.
It really does make everything better when we can find things to be thankful for.
Brenna had a big out-of-state gymnastics meet this weekend, while Maddie had a cheer competition at home.
I took Rick’s car (because it has four wheel drive in case of bad weather) and three kids (because it only has three seat belts). Brenna and Allie obviously needed to come and the third seat went to Asher. Maddie had her cheer competition to attend, Braden wanted to watch her, and we felt Josh should stay home because of his tube and his weakened immune system.
I felt terrible leaving Josh. He wanted to come and I hated being separated from him. Even writing about it now makes me sad!
The kids and I had such a wonderful trip though! It’s amazing how easy and simple and quick everything is with just three children! And Asher, being the only little guy, got spoiled every step of the way!
The drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a little difficult. We left late and ran into heavy fog along the way. We made it safely though.
Grandma found a few things for Asher to take to the meet- a coloring book with stickers and crayons, and a super cool T-Rex that growls and moves. Ash absolutely loved the T-Rex! He carried it everywhere for the rest of the weekend!
We were up early Friday morning. We had a two-hour drive and Brenna needed to be there by 10am. We stopped at the store for drinks and to let Brenna change into her leo and warm ups.
The arena was right downtown. It took me a while to navigate the one-way streets and find parking. We walked several blocks in the slushy streets, got a wee bit lost, and eventually made it.
The arena was the biggest Brenna’s ever competed in. It was also the biggest gymnastics event she’s ever attending, with great competition, hundreds of state-champion gymnasts, and teams coming from many nearby states. It was also Brenna’s first official Level 7 meet.
Asher was a breeze during the entire event. He sat in his chair and played quietly with his toys. He’d get one toy out at a time, and put it back in his back pack when he was ready for another. Nammy attending and we watched the meet and chatted.
Brenna was nervous on beam, her first event, and she fell after her back handspring. She was so disappointed, but she decided then to just let go of her nerves. She pulled herself together and went on to execute nearly flawless routines on floor, vault, and bars. I was so impressed by her courage!
Brenna got 1st on bars (9.325), 2nd on vault (9.4), 2nd on floor (9.2), 5th on beam (8.2 with a fall and time deduction), and 3rd all-around. She’s only been working on these routines since December (competing against girls who have been working L7 for over a year). I was very proud of her!
Asher was such a good boy during a very long event! Here he is lounging while waiting for awards:
In the evening, we went to the craft store. Nammy and Papa bought Brenna tons of darling ribbon for a project and they bought Asher a set of miniature knights (with horses, a dragon, and catapult) that he loved. He has carried then everywhere and taken very good care of them.
Brenna spent hours working on her project. She made darling little hair bows by tying ribbons onto elastic hair ties. They turned out so cute! Brenna is thinking of starting a “Bows by Brenna” business as a way to earn money.
We spent the evening with Michelle and the girls. Asher had such a blast with Kylie and Taylor. They played “knights and fairies” together, they colored all over the tub with bathtub crayons, they giggled like crazy, and they ended up very hyper. I’m thankful for fun cousins!
On Saturday morning we went to the Discover Center with Nammy, Papa, Jonny, Michelle, Kylie, Taylor, and Brooklyn. It was so fun! The kids had the greatest time!
Papa bought Asher this little brain, and he completely treasures it!
After a day at the Discovery Center, we went home and ordered pizza. Brenna and Papa took a trip to the pet store just for fun.
Then Papa babysat so that Mom and I (along with Allie) could go shopping with Michelle. We stayed out late and then finished watching Phantom of the Opera with Brenna late that night (we started it on Friday).
Allie was a sweetheart during our trip, other than the fact that she didn’t want to sleep at night. She’s such a cutie pie!
Nammy and Papa have a creek in their backyard. Papa has trained the ducks to come up to the yard to be fed.
Asher also had a great time shooting targets and towers of cups with a little disc blaster. He thought it was so much fun!
The first part of our drive home Sunday morning was easy and uneventful. We stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa gave each of the kids a crisp $2 bill.
Asher, with his beloved knights and T-Rex:
The drive from Grandma’s house to our house usually takes three hours, but we got caught in a blizzard on the way. The conditions were terrible, it took over five hours to get home, and I was very thankful for four wheel drive!
It was so fun to take this trip with just three kids! I had a wonderful time! I’d enjoy taking more trips with just a few of the kids. It is fun to focus on just a few of them at once.
I was happy to see Rick and the rest of my babies when we got home. The kids dove into my arms and it felt great to hug them all.
I was shocked by Joshua’s appearance. I wasn’t sure if he looked worse or if I just hadn’t seen him for several days and wasn’t used to it. Rick said he does look worse, though we both agree that he still looks much better than before he got his feeding tube. It made me sad to see him still looking so sick.
We all gathered around and watched each of Brenna’s events and Maddie’s cheer routine. Her team looked great! They’ve improved so much this season and they took first place!
Jake also showed me that he learned how to air bend and water bend! Super cute!
Rick knew the drive home had been stressful so he made brownies and got a hot bath ready for me after we watched the girls’ videos. What a sweetheart!
What a great weekend!!
The bathroom door in our master bathroom has a funny latch. When it’s completely shut, it’s virtually impossible to open and requires a fork to pry it with and a lot of muscle to turn the knob.
Drew shut himself in the bathroom yesterday. Even Brenna, who has always had the magic touch when it comes to prying that door open, couldn’t budge it.
We worked together. She pried the door with a fork while I gave it a good hardy kick…
We got him out. And we won’t have to worry about him getting stuck in there again.