9 years old

Mr. William John turned 9 last week!

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I’m coming to the realization that I probably have the worst memory in the entire world, but thank goodness I have kept a  journal almost since I could write.  This is a good thing, because when my brain fails me and won’t recall any memories of my kids when they were younger, I can go digging back through my journals.    So I took a peek back and I found something I wrote about Will when he was just over 2 years old…

“And my Willy-baby – I just can’t get enough of him.  With his blond hair and his love of cuddling – and how he gets so excited to see his dad when Jason comes home.  How he loves to snuggle in before a nap and read stories with me, he makes these sounds of satisfaction and I could just eat him up.”

How things have changed and how things have stayed the same!   I’m happy to say that he still loves to cuddle,  is always happy to see us and still loves to read.  But he’s growing up and he loves to write (like his mama?) loves to run and loves God, his friends and his family of course.  (Although once in a while he would probably contemplate trading a sister for a dog).

You know that old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?   Well I think that for Jason and I it rings true in a slightly different way.  Losing a child has made us love and appreciate our remaining children that much more.  God has certainly blessed us with 4 wonderful gifts.

Happy Birthday Will!

 

 

Hardly know….

I hardly know what to say after all this time!   I’ve been a lazy blogger for sure,  but this cold weather seems to have dulled my mind and most of the time it just felt like I had nothing to write about.   After the first craziness of getting Sarah on a pump at the end of January and February, there hasn’t been really anything exciting going on.   Which might not be strictly true,  but when I think about what we were dealing with last year, things now just don’t seem that big in comparison.   But last year was so out of the ordinary, that getting back to ‘normal’ has been an adjustment, but I will say that normal is good!   Although crazy did include our Ava, so I’ll always look back on that time with some longing.

Since January things have been a little weird for me as well, because all the kids have all been in school and I’ve been home.  They were in September too – but the fall went by so quickly and then it was Christmas that I didn’t notice.    But ever since I quit my job to stay home with the kids before Will was born, I’ve always had a little person at home with me to care for.   And until last August, it was looking like a permanent position.  But then things changed and Sophia started kindergarten and it’s kinda left me high and dry.  But I’m taking this time as a gift from God – time to be quiet and allow my soul to heal.  And Jason and I have some hopes for the fall that will change all of this, so we will keep you posted!

I really enjoyed having the kids at home for March Break even though the weather turned on us.   But we went off and spent a few days with my parents which was wonderful as we got to spend some time with family that we hadn’t seen in a while, including this sweet baby…

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We were back home on Friday and I kicked the kids outside to make snow-sculptures for something to do and the results made me laugh…

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Soph and Sarah made this snow man…  love it!

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Sarah and her snow bear…

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Erik and his snowman crunching snowmen (he reads too much Calvin and Hobbes)

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And Erik’s friend with a cute snow pig…

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Will was sporting a migraine that day so couldn’t participate, but came out later to help judge.  I know it was nice for the kids to get out and play with some packing snow and some sunshine that feels like spring even when the air doesn’t!

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So normal is good, and I would really like to keep exciting at bay for now.  Unless it’s exciting in a good way.  But God knows exactly what we need and I am excited to see what this upcoming year will bring for our family!

6 Month Anniversary

Today is the  6 month anniversary  of our sweet baby Ava’s death… we’ve been without her for half of a year and I find it really hard.  I’ve said it before, but the more time that passes just makes me feel like I’m getting further and further away from her… it’s like I’m leaving her behind and putting more and more miles between us, and I don’t like it.  It’s been six months since I held her and kissed her and told her that I loved her.  Six months since we had 5 children and 6 months since we had to say good-bye to someone who we loved so very much.   And it’s tough, it really is.

But in this grieving process there are still so many things we are thankful for.   First off, we are thankful that people are still praying for us – even though its been six months and we don’t update often.   When people tell me they are still praying we feel so blessed that people have not forgotten us and that God is still laying us on people’s hearts.    Another thing I’m thankful for is just how busy our life is with four kids (no matter how much I complain).   In my life there isn’t often time to just sit and think about how much I miss Ava.  Lying in bed before we go to sleep is often when it hits Jay and I, but this long winter has tired me out and it’s not often I can stay awake for more than a minute or so, praise God for that.  :)

And we know that we were fortunate that we were able to do quite a bit of our grieving before we lost Ava.  The actual truth is that we started grieving before she was born.  We always had a strong hope that she would beat the odds and make it –  but because we almost lost her a few times before she died, it forced us to take a look at what our future would look like without her.   It’s like we were able to practice grieving… and those times were incredibly painful, but it did help prepare us.   And because of that, we know that we are grieving in a complete different way than those who suddenly lose someone they love.  It’s just that for both I’m sure the end result is the same…   living with the memories of a person you long for, and missing them like crazy.

I miss my Birdy… I really do.

Oh that God gave us that precious gift, but only for such a short short time.  Having Ava taught us so much about God’s goodness to us and His incredible faithfulness that if I ever doubt God again I hope someone smacks me… hard.    And there is the promise that God used this time in our lives for His glory and to strengthen our faith and bring us closer to Him. We also know that it made us more aware of the suffering of others and I hope God will continue to keep using these lessons learned in our lives as long as we are here on earth.

Here’s another wonderful promise….

1 Peter 5:10&11 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Praise God for His promises…. Amen!

Pumping and Riding

So here we are after a whole week of pumping and I can say without hesitation that Sarah loves her pump!      She seems to have adjusted well to having to wear her insulin pump 24/7 and I can say that we are all enjoying the freedom that it gives her eating wise.   When Sarah was getting her needles every day she had a set amount of carbohydrates that she could eat for each meal and snack, but now with the pump there is none of that.  She can eat what she wants, when she wants.  Oh the freedom!

We were a little worried that once she started pumping, she was going to want to binge and not stop eating, but it hasn’t been that way at all.  She’s actually been eating roughly the same amount of carbs as before, she just eats them at different times.    When she first got started last week and was still getting used to it, at one point she asked me hesitantly at snack-time, “Mom, can I have a yogurt AND a cookie?”  And I could answer for the first time in over a year, “YES!  Yes, you may have a yogurt AND a cookie for  a snack.”   It felt so good.

Here is  a look at her pump and her insertion site where it plugs into her.   The only draw-back is that the site has to be changed every 3 days, but Sarah is a trooper and thanks to new friends of ours, we found an insertion set that is very easy to use and install.

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And the pump came just two days after her 7th birthday,  I wish it had come a little bit sooner, but we saved her birthday cake for a few days after her birthday to enjoy with grandma and grandpa.   Sarah was with me at Costco and picked it out.  It was rather large, but she so badly wanted a nice juicy cake that I capitulated and bought it for her.    And just look at her face….

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And her piece was a whole whooping 100 carbohydrates!    But the pump could handle it.   We just told the pump what she was eating and it gave her the right amount of insulin… wonderful.  (That’s her “checker” right beside her by-the-way.   Her meter and “poker” that we use to check her blood sugar levels,  we never go anywhere without it.)

She did have nice 7th birthday, with an impromptu birthday party with her neighborhood pals where we made these little birdies…

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Perhaps I’m a little obsessed with birds, but these birdies are really sweet and  I like to think of it as bringing a part of Ava into things.   I found the pattern here if anyone is interested.

And then, as part of her present from us and grandma, we gave Sarah got horse-back riding lessons!   She loves horses like many little girls, and after visiting a friends farm with horses a few years ago I knew that she had no fear of them.   So through a friend we hooked her up with some lessons.  And even though it was cold last night and the barn wasn’t heated, she enjoyed riding “Swiper” and can’t wait to do it again next week.

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It’s been a busy couple of weeks here with the transition to pumping, but all in all it’s going well.   It’s been a bit stressful, just because it’s new, but when we see how happy it’s made Sarah we know we made the right choice.

Happy pumping Sarah!

Something to look forward too…

I’m so excited to be able to announce that in 9 days Sarah will ditch her needles and start using an insulin pump… yipee!   We have known this was coming for a while, but last week we actually received her new pump and tomorrow we go to clinic so that Sarah can be hooked up to it and wear it for 24 hours just for practice.   Then we go back January 28th to really start with insulin.   We are so excited and so relieved.

The pump is going to be such a game changer for her.  Yes it means that she has to wear a device 24/7…  but she will finally be able to eat like a normal human being again!  She can snack an hour after breakfast if she wants… she can eat a late lunch or skip lunch all together.. and she can have dessert and eat birthday cake, woohoo!!!!     Right now when she’s getting needles we have to match carbs to the amount of insulin she gets, so we have had to be really regimented with snack-times and the amount of carbs she eats for meals and snacks.    It’s been hard on her and it will be nice to give her back the freedom that she craves.

Here is Sarah waiting at her last clinic visit… insulin pump here we come!!

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The Highs and the Lows..

Now don’t worry, this post is not about the highs and lows of our Christmas break,  haha.  :)  No, this post is about the highs and lows of living with diabetes… literally and figuratively.   Oh Sarah, December was a crazy month for her and her diabetes.

She’s actually had diabetes for over a year now as she was diagnosed December 20th 2012 (a day we did NOT celebrate) and it’s become a part of our life now, but it’s something we can never become complacent about.   Thankfully – and this is totally God’s goodness towards us –  until the beginning of this December, taking care of Sarah was fairly straightforward and this was because she was still in what is called the “honeymoon phase” of diabetes.

The honeymoon phase is when you still have some Beta cells (insulin producers) left in your pancreas that your immune system hasn’t gotten around to destroying yet.   Because your body can still make a little bit of insulin, it helps keep your blood glucose (or ‘blood sugar’ as we call it here) on a more even keel.   In Sarah’s case, we could always count on her body leveling her out at night.  If she went to bed with a high blood sugar, in the morning she would be back to normal, and she never ever woke up with low blood sugar.  So not only was she still producing a big of insulin, her body was still managing her glucagon well.   Glucagon  is a hormone made by the Alpha cells in your pancreas, and it’s function in the opposite of insulin, as it’s job is to bring up the glucose levels in your blood so that they never get too low.  Some of you might have experienced some mild hypoglycemia… where you feel all week and shaky when you’ve gotten really really hungry, well that’s when glucagon is supposed to go into action and tell your liver to release more sugar into your bloodstream.    When you have diabetes, even though the body doesn’t destroy your Alpha cells on its crazy auto-immune rampage, once your Beta cells aren’t functioning, your body doesn’t seem to be able to manage glucagon either.  So then hypoglycemia becomes a huge problem for diabetics because your body doesn’t stop it.   If you have too much insulin in your blood and not enough sugar then you can go low,  and if it gets too low, you can slip into a coma or even have a seizure.  Not good.

So like I said, up until December we were just going along, managing Sarah and keeping her fairly steady,  when all of a sudden at the beginning of the month it seemed very clear that Sarah was leaving the honeymoon period, and fast.    Her blood sugar levels were all over the place, and often really high and weren’t coming down at night like before.   This was frustrating because we thought at first that Sarah was just sneaking food and when she has high blood sugar she is MISERABLE!    And when you have four kids, when one is miserable they all are miserable it affects everyone.

When we went to the diabetes clinic at the beginning of December they saw her numbers and upped all her insulin as well as adding in some night-time insulin to help bring her down at night.  So this meant she had to start a fourth needle in the day (poor kid), but it still wasn’t helping.  So with the help on the nurse, we upped her insulin again, and then a week or so later had to up a third time, until finally we started seeing some better numbers again.    But then Sarah started getting lows,  where she would have too much insulin in her blood and her blood sugar would go down to low…  and since these lows were new for us, they were a bit disconcerting and rather scary.   Thankfully she is pretty good about telling us when she is feeling low, but on Boxing Day, when we went to my parents place, Sarah wouldn’t get out of the car.  We thought she was just playing shy or being a pickle, so we just left her there.  But after a few minute I went out to try to get her to come in and she wouldn’t.  We thought about just leaving her and were getting kind of frustrated that she was acting so weird when Jason thought he better check her blood and that’s when we found out she was low… really really low…. ACK!!!    Both the highs and lows can really affect Sarah’s behaviour and as a parent it’s going to be tough trying to separate her behaviour from the blood sugar side effects, especially as she gets older.

So things aren’t easy, but we still have Sarah with us and that’s enough.  And like we said before, Jason and I just are so grateful to God that for most of the year Sarah’s diabetes wasn’t an issue, that we could worry about Ava without having to worry about Sarah at the same time.  I know that we often like to say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but I don’t really agree with that.  To quote a pastor whose blog I follow –   The Blazing Center -  Steven Altrogge said,  “God burdens us beyond our strength so that we will be forced to utterly and completely depend on him.”  a statement which I completely agree with.

People have so many times told us how strong we are, and I have to say over and over again… nope, it’s not us.  We’re not strong, we’re weak.  But we know the one who is strong and who is holding us in His hands, and we know that we can depend on Him utterly, even in death, even in diabetes.

Amen!

Psalm 55:22

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;

he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2014… I wonder what this year will bring?

Our last two years have been, well, interesting… to put it mildly.    However, God has used these past two years to teach Jason and I decades worth of lessons, all compiled into a short time span.   I also know that we’ll forever look back at these two years as ones we never want to forget… especially as God brought a beautiful person into our lives and took her away. These past two years hold all of our memories with Ava and we will always hold them close to our heart.

But we look forward to this next year with anticipation, wondering what God is going to do and where He is going to lead us.   A part of me feels like I’m waiting for something BIG to happen in our lives, but that could be just me trying to adjust to ‘normal’ living again.   And if I were honest, if this were going to be the most boring year in my history, I would be Ok with that, although I have a feeling that’s not going to happen.

So looking forward, I’ve decided to just simplify… I’ve picked a verse that will guide me through this year and I know that WHATEVER God brings into our lives this year, it will be Ok.  He will be faithful, I can guarantee it.

Here’s my verse and my new year’s resolution all in one…

Micah 6:8

 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God

 

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

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Everyone here is excited that tomorrow is Christmas, and we are looking forward to all that the day will bring.

And I speak for all of us when I say that even though we wish we could celebrate as a family of 7 this year, we are doing good.  In fact, I’m jealous in a way that while we are celebrating Christ’s birth here… Ava gets to be with Jesus in heaven for Christmas this year, and it doesn’t get better than that.

Oh – and I’m excited to show you the birdy in the pic with the kids.  My uncle made it for us so that we can always include it in our family pics to show Ava’s place.  Isn’t that awesome?

It’s a beautiful Christmas eve here… the snow is falling and lots of Christmas lights are shining.  (Thanks Jason and Erik!)

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And I just wanted to make a quick shout out to all the nurses and dr’s who are working Christmas this year at Sick Kids.  We appreciated everyone in the CCU who took care of Ava (and Jason and I too) so well last December, we’ll never forget you.

Now, back to Christmas…

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:16-20 ESV

Amen!

Ava Day

I’m pleased to say we had a really nice Ava Day.  And to put everyone’s mind at rest, we didn’t spend the day in sadness…  I honestly didn’t miss her more on Wednesday than I already do.  We just wanted this day to be about celebrating Ava’s life and to make it a  little special for our kids and that’s what we did.

In the morning I had a visit from my special sweethearts – Aleeda and Britton… along with their mother Tanya as well of course.. haha.    Sarah was supposed to go to school but wanted to stay at home to see them, and when I saw her playing with the girls,  I knew I was never going to tear her away to send her back to school.    She loves them so much and in a way they are her surrogate little sister’s, so I’m glad she was able to spend them with them.  Aleeda and Britton are getting so big!

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Tanya and I had a nice visit too.  It’s still kinda seems weird hanging out with Tanya and the girls in our homes, especially after spending so much time together in Sick Kids waiting for hearts.   We used to sit outside the girls rooms in the hall of ward 4D and pretend it was our front porch.   The nurses would come by to chat and we had so many good times – it made the hard days bearable.    And it would be awesome if the nurses could still just drop by from time to time  to join Tanya and I, but I know they have work to do. :)   The nurses did make our Ava day extra special by sending me a whole envelope of paper birdy’s they cut out… we were so touched and the kids put them up all over the house to decorate for Ava day.

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The eyes are courtesy of Sarah – I think she drew them on each one, and there were lots.

We actually have a house full of Christmas birdies right now… I love it.

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And this birdy ornament…

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Oh so fitting, God does surround us by His grace.

My cousin emailed me and told me that whenever she sees a Christmas bird decoration she thinks of us and Ava…and I liked that.  I see bird’s now wherever I go and I don’t  remembering ever seeing them before.     We also received this special little bird from some friends…

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So sweet.   But it’s not only that these bird’s remind me of my own little Birdy – for us they are a symbol of God’s faithfulness.   A reminder that during such a difficult time,  He never once left us on our own, and gave us the grace and strength we needed every day.   And so now when we see birds, we remember.

OK – so I didn’t think we were going to go to Ava’s grave on Wednesday because by the time Jason would get home from work we would be visiting a cold and dark graveyard… not a chance.   But then Jason thought we could pick the kids up for lunch at school and go during their lunch-break, so that’s what we did.  We grabbed some food and headed out there, and we brought some things to decorate the Birdy rain-meter that I marked her grave with (cuz we haven’t picked a stone yet).

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The combination of decorations isn’t strictly beautiful, but it’s the thought that counts. :)

We corralled the kids for a photo…

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And then headed back.  And on the way home William said to us… “So, I hate to say it, but this was pretty boring.”   Oh dear… and what a riot.   Sorry William, I just couldn’t make visiting your sister’s grave on her birthday more interesting, but I guess next year I will try harder.   :)

We wound up the day with cake and pizza and more friends and all in all it was a really nice Ava day.    I don’t have to say that it would have been 100 times better if we were actually celebrating a birthday with Ava, but I imagine that’s understood.

But I always have to keep coming back to where she is, rather than where she isn’t.    She’s fully alive in heaven…  my baby no longer, but a new creature who is fully aware of the glory of God.   In a place where there is no pain or sadness or death.  Praise God, she is more alive than we are.

Revelation 21:4

4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

So see… we do have something to celebrate on this Ava day, she is in an amazing place and we will see her again!!

Amen!

What a gift…

Well Christmas came a little early for our family today.   It all started when Jason and I were sitting in church this morning.    The sermon had ended and we were about to sing the final song when  Jason reminded me that last year on this Sunday we had gone up to the front after church and had been prayed for by our Pastor and Elder team as well as many friends before we left to go to Toronto the following day.   Oh wow… remembering that prayer time and what we had prayed for made me cry – as even then we were still hoping that God would reach down and heal Ava and spare her life.   So it’s a year later and we know now that healing Ava was not in God’s plan, and it’s sad because we miss her so much… and it’s hard not to think about what might have been.

So I was still a little sad after the service when I remembered that a dear friend had asked us to meet her between the services.  When Jason and I found  her, she led us around the corner to where a group of people were waiting – which was all very surprising – and low and behold they presented our family with the most amazing gift ever…  my entire blog posts of Ava’s life from start to finish put in photo books.   For real… every single blog entry and picture.  What an incredible gift and such a wonderful keepsake.

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Then the tears really came, but we all marvelled at God’s timing.  Just that this book had been in the works for so long, and they had hoped to give it to us before this week, but God knew that today was the day that I needed it most – just to show me once again that He is always faithful and cares about us so much.

And so we wanted to say a HUGE thank-you to Nancy who did all the work – and I’m sure it took weeks and weeks or even months of hard work to put it all together – we are eternally grateful.  And to all of our Harvest Family who made it possible, this gift means more to us that you’ll ever know.

And not only did Jason and I receive a set of photo books – Volume 1& 2 – but there was a set for each of our children – their very own keepsakes forever.   When we got home we were all sitting in our family room looking at our books and my heart was just over-come that we can go and read about Ava and look at her pictures whenever we want and that my kids will have these books to remember their sister by as she gets older.

Wasn’t that a marvelous way to start December?   The month where we start to look forward to Christmas  - the day we celebrate the birth of Christ… who came to give us the best gift we could ever receive… eternal life.

We are so blessed.   God is truly the giver of good gifts.

Amen.