Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Nativity Story

The Birth of Jesus Foretold 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![a]
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[b] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.[c]
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
Zechariah’s Prophecy
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior[d]
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,[e]
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The Shepherds and Angels
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 Thanks to Bible Gateway for allowing me to easily share the beginning of our Savior.

Happy Christmas <3

Christmas Eve

Christmas is almost here!

This year feels richer.  Bella is more aware of her surroundings and what's going on.  She may not know the idea of presents, but she sure has made her way over to the tree a dozen times and has attempted to open or chew open some of the gifts already ;)

We do sincerely miss the snow and seasonal Christmas weather we became accustomed to in South Dakota.  The weather here has pretty much stayed in the high 50's, leaving us very little chance to don our nice jackets, scarves and hats.  I can't help but snicker when I see families walking in parka's when it's in the high 50's, even touching in the 60's during the afternoon with the beating sun, and we are wearing our t-shirts and pants with usually a light zip jacket.  At least our heating bill isn't taking a huge plunge!

Bella is almost walking.  Almost.  She is walking side to side, approximately 5 steps or so, as well as finally taking the risk of walking from our coffee table to the couch which is about 2-3 steps for a little one.  It's exciting!  She can walk; she just needs the confidence to know she won't fall and she can do it.  We're working diligently on that.

This is Miles' first year working during the Christmas weekend and on Christmas day.  As anyone might be, I believe he is tad down about this.  We certainly aren't ecstatic about it, but will make do and will be holding our Christmas festivities on Monday instead when he has off.  We'll open presents then and have our big Christmas dinner then.  If you don't receive a thank you on Sunday, you know why! ;-)

I've been teasing the idea of different new ventures for me in 2012.  Hey, it'll apparently be our last year on Earth before all the hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and natural disasters eat us all alive... I better make the best of it.  Classes for Bella and I to take, classes for just me to take, there's a few books that are sitting in my soul waiting to be brought to life....

Even though this is our Christmas Eve Eve, there are tons of preparations for me to do today.  We hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and remember that it's all about Him.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Operation Procrastination

This upcoming week brings forth lots of festivities, appointments, and holiday chaos.
Monday Bella and I have the pleasure of meeting a new mom to a daughter with Down syndrome in the area.  We'll be meeting at a local Starbucks and swapping stories of learning our child has Down syndrome.  Bella needs her medication refilled, so since we'll be closer to that side of town I arranged on Friday for her medication to be ready by tomorrow afternoon so that once we're done chatting it up with our new friends we can save on gas and roll over to the pharmacy.

We've decided Mondays are better for us budget-wise and quality-wise for grocery shopping,  so we'll be hitting up Safeway and Wegmans as well.  Looks like souvlaki's, a crudité platter for throughout the week healthy snacking, more chili (I'm obsessed as of late), eating our 5,000,000 sugar cookies, a gingerbread house and then I'll be making another apple pie for Miles to take to work.  We're out of bread, but because Monday is so jam packed I'll have to wait until Tuesday to make our 2 loaves of bread.

This week is a double therapy week for Bella.  She'll see both her physical therapist and educator.  We'll be looking into getting her private therapy from therapists we choose as provided by TriCare.  It'll depend on who we can find on whether or not I'll use them to supplement what Early Intervention (EI) provides or if we'll just forego the EI services altogether.  I remember her case manager back in Rapid City mentioning that TriCare provides outside therapy for special needs children as well.  I'll have to give her a call sometime this week as well.

Alongside that I've got my weekly appointment to attend.  I'm so thankful that my husband is willing to stay up "late" to watch Bella while I take care of my own mental needs :)

Since Miles' work schedule is wacky we're trying to fit in festivities and whatnot on his days off.  Our decorations are nearly finished, but we have a few more lights that go outside and we have yet to fully decorate the tree.  We have the tree up, the skirt down and the lights on the tree for night time "show 'n' glow" but we need to place the ornaments on.

Gifts need wrapped, ribboned and sent.  Cards need bought, signed and mailed.  Miles, Bella and I need to buy gifts yet for one another.  I have to desperately finish Secret Christmas Project #1 (which is frustrating me as of this moment, hence a blog update).  Many important medical phone calls to make and keep up with.  People to please.  People to pray for.  So much to do!  I feel like's "Why I'll Never Be An Adult" post.

Alright, enough procrastinating... time to work on Secret Christmas Project #1 until my eyes bleed.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Blessings

This may be sporadic, as Bella and I are in the midst of making Miles' Jell-O Christmas cookies and traditional sugar cookies tonight.  (She is such a great helper!  She peaks in through the oven door and talks to the cookies as they are baking, encouraging them to be delicious.)

We were so blessed to meet with her new cardiologist from Children's of D.C. this week.  It was short notice, but we were somehow able to see him at this location (one he appears at only one week a month!) 

Bella was not cooperative whatsoever with the EKG or the ultrasound.  She is no longer used to having them done, and she is now 2-years-old (thank You, God!) and acting the part quite well.  While at the original hospital she was referred to by our insurance, she was also uncooperative for the same tests.  They were impatient with her and the nurse/technician performing the ultrasound was pressing the ultrasound device onto Bella's chest and throat too hard causing Bella to cry even more.  It wasn't a pleasant experience at all.  We were so pleased that this technician was not only patient but cooperated with her and worked around her small fits.  I laid flat on my back on the hospital bed and laid her on her back on top of my chest.  Miles held her legs gently and I attempted to keep her from sitting up, hitting the technician, trying to steal his device and whatnot.  We were able to finally calm her and though considered uncooperative, he never showed impatience and didn't try to just go by a check list.  Instead, if she was positioned in a certain way that he knew would benefit the image he needed 5 items from his list ahead, he'd jump to that.

The EKG took way longer than necessary because Bella threw a nice old fashioned tantrum.  They don't want to traumatize the children, so after a bit they try to do something else (have the doctor examine her, we hold her and talk/attempt play) and go back to what needs to be done eventually.  Instead, the intern nurse gracefully stepped aside and allowed the EKG technician to seamlessly place all the wires for the EKG and get perfect results for the doctor who was literally on his way out the door to an overnight flight. 

I was highly impressed with his respect, knowledge and demeanor.  He listened intently to what I had to say, any concerns and what has happened with Bella so far.  He was also genuinely friendly.  Many of you know that doctors, especially the intelligent specialty doctors, can tend to lose their personalities after med school.

During the first EKG attempt he had left the examination room momentarily and reappeared with some information for me.  He said that he would like to put together a pulmonary team for Bella which would include himself and their pulmonary hypertension expert as well as a CPNP that can act on our behalf when the meetings go on. 

Her ultrasound came out fine as did her EKG.  In fact the doctor mentioned he felt she is currently being treated too aggressively and doesn't think a heart catheterization is necessary.  Hallelujah!  He has made no changes in her medication (sildenafil) nor her oxygen.  Like the Omaha cardiology team, he prefers to work as a team effort with people from departments that represent that child so that all aspects of the child's health are addressed when any changes are made. 

He promised to be in touch soon after he got back from his overnight trip.  I didn't expect him to make the call himself but this afternoon I picked up the phone to hear his voice on the other end.  He asked for the sleep study notes from November 2010 when she also had her heart cath done and he is also referring her onto the head of pediatric pulmonology downtown.  I'm thrilled for that.  I feel so blessed and am so happy God is providing these doctors for Bella.

I've yet to officially get her transferred to Children's from TriCare's standpoint, but that can be done and will be done.  I now have the help of a good pediatrician who understands my woes and has no qualms with helping us in whatever way he can.

Some of you may or may not be privy to the November 2010 anxiety attack I had which consequentially led to anxiety and more anxiety attacks.  I feel this was brought on due to a medication to help my stomach issues, but that's still up in the air.  Most people feel that Bella's issues have instituted my anxiety, although I disagree.  Regardless I was in therapy in South Dakota to try to help anxiety attacks.  I felt helped, but not much.  Today I was able to meet up with a therapist and feel she is a match :)  For any of you whom ever been to therapy, you may know it can take several attempts to find a therapist before you click with one of them.  She and I definitely clicked and she understood me very well (and no, not in the condescending way a therapist may pretend to haha).  I'm very blessed with having stumbled upon her first!

Looks like I'm on my own for the rest of the Christmas cookies.  Someone little has crashed :)

Thank you to all of our family and friends who've prayed for Bella throughout her struggles.  We can never thank everyone enough for their support and prayers and truly appreciate how you all continue to prayerfully support Bella.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Prayer Request: Bella

Bella is seeing a (hopefully better) cardiologist at Childrens on Wednesday. We are going to get a second opinion. We do not feel her current cardiologist does a well enough job to diagnose and/or monitor Bella. The care is well below what a specialty clinic should provide.  We were highly unimpressed with the female in charge of her ultrasound.  She was not meant to work with children!

We hope to get a more thorough look into Bella's heart pressures. The amount of pressure in her valves is vital and can't be a guessing game. In the instance they cannot get a good enough look through noninvasive tests, a heart catheterization is required. This is the same test she had done in November of last year at Omaha's Children's Hospital when they gave her her new medicine, Sildenafil. While this test can be considered safe, it is still surgical and if it needs to be done we have no faith in the current team to perform this test.  As previously requested by her former cardiologists from Omaha's Children's and ourselves, we want the D.C. Children's to perform this test if need be.

So we are just asking for prayers for now. Moreso that her pressures can be read without a catheterization but in the instance it can't, that we are able to seamlessly transition her to Children's instead of at the current location.  Of course, in a perfect world, I'd love for them to look at her heart and say she is good to go, getting healthier and stronger and won't need a catheterization and run along happily.  Alas, we've learned quickly, that is not how things usually go so we want to be prepared for as many situations as we can.   We'll, of course, keep friends and family update :)
Thank you :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving & Birthday Vacation

We are finally back home from our long road trip to and around Florida.  Miles has taken a few more days off of work so that we can have some private family time together since we rarely ever get exclusive vacation time to ourselves anymore.  I'm so appreciative of this time with him.

Bella got to meet her great-grandparents down in Fort Meade.  They were delighted to see her and watch her bobble along everywhere.  She was herself most of the time initially and baby-gabbed away at them and everyone else who'd listen ;-)  Unfortunately, the 12-hour drive from Virginia to Jacksonville, then the 4 hour drive to Fort Meade, followed by a full day at Busch Gardens in Tampa, then another big visit/birthday party/Thanksgiving afternoon feast in Fort Meade then a drive back to Jacksonville really quite wore her out.   We'd watched her decline little by little, and hoped we could get her some rest eventually but it was very hard.  Dumbly we overbooked ourselves and Bella's presence and cost Bella a good 2nd birthday and robbed her of feeling well.  By the time we hit Jacksonville the second time, to share her birthday and the Thanksgiving day celebration, she ended up throwing up a little at dinner and then the next day she threw up in the morning.  Poor Bella was just plain exhausted :-(  As parents we felt awful!  We now know better, but we hate that it was at the cost of a pleasant 2nd birthday for our little wonder.

Regardless, everyone was so pleased we could make it down to Florida for Thanksgiving.  Seeing as we've been in South Dakota for the past 4 years and haven't spent any holidays with any of our families, I think everyone appreciated our efforts. 

We are now just celebrating the rest of November peacefully here at home.  Today we went out and took care of some pricey car maintenance (yuck!), went to the post office to send off a letter to my friend in South Africa, stopped by Starbucks for an indulgence and stared at pretty Christmasy things in Michaels.  Whilst waiting for our  car to be finished in the parking lot of the dealer we counted our budget for Christmas decorations.  We won't be able to afford a 2nd tree this year as we'd hoped for, but instead we'll be able to slightly concentrate on the outside decorations that we "desperately need". 

It's night fall already, despite being 5:40, and Miles is diligently working on a paper for school.  I'll play with Bella a bit tonight then clean up the kitchen and tidy the living room (she sure can make quite a mess!) and once she is cleaned up and sent to bed then I hope to work on two of my Secret Christmas Projects tonight. 

One thing to mention though.  I haven't personally had a terrific Monday in ages.  Miles, I'm sure, hasn't either.  When we checked our postal mail after our trip, we discovered a letter from our medical insurance.  Bella was given permission to see a pediatric cardiologist at Bethesda (where she already has her primary pediatric cardiologist).  We were livid.  Let me explain...

After our last appointment with her cardiologist we were very disappointed with their care for Bella.  The ultrasound (u/s) technician was rather rough with the device on Bella, making Bella cry and therefore making it very hard to see one part of her heart/aorta that is already slightly difficult to get a good look at anyway.  Despite me having to pin Bella's four limbs down with the weight of my arms and body (and still trying to keep her calm), Bella was NOT having it.  The cardiologist was less than honest with my husband and I the first trip in there.  He'd claimed a heart catheterization was an unncessarily invasive first option for Bella in November/December as suggested by her previous pediatric cardiologists from Omaha Children's.  At the time of hearing this we were relieved because, really, who wants to put their child through that?!  If it needs to be done, okay we will do it... but if the resutls can be accurately determined in a less-invasive fashion then we're voting for that.  He'd led us to believe by saying to us that "...a heart catheterization measures the pressures and we can do that by other testing.  Of course, if by those other tests we can't accurately measure the pressures we need then we need to discuss a heart catheterization, but really it's not necessary to jump to a catheterization first.  So, let's exhaust the other tests before we do that."  We wearily felt relieved by these words.  After another appointment, unaccompanied by my husband, her doctor begins to discuss a possible heart catheterization.  O_O  Why?  All we did was a typical and routine ultrasound of which your technician didn't even perform properly or kindly.  Now she needs a heart catheterization but you're "...not worried" that anything is wrong with Bella.  No.  Not cool.  So, we're seeking a second opinion from the pediatric cardiologists at Children's of D.C. whom we were originally referred to by her Omaha cardiologists who, like us, have no faith in Bethesda's pediatric specialists.  Military doctors are (sorry in advance to whomever this may offend) absolute crap.  They're great for combat, but certainly not for children and not for pregnant women either.  I've yet to hear something good from a woman who's been forced to give birth by the car of a MTF.

The blessing?  I know, I know.  The blessing is that TriCare (medical insurance) called us this morning  right as Miles was dialing them (to yell at them lol) and I explained that we had wanted a second opinion from a specific doctor from a specific location and we were instead given a referral to a doctor from the same institution we were having concerns with.  Without missing a beat, the lady on the other end of the line quickly realized Bella's pediatric office made a mistake and went readily to correct it and put through a request for a second opinion.

Second blessing, thank You dear Lord, was that we received word from USAA that Miles won his debate, so to speak, with the other insurance company from that small fender-bender/wreck he was in the day before we left South Dakota.  That's a good $500+ back in our pockets from the repairs!  Yay!  What a perfect time of year to receive that kind of reimbursement!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday and vacation!  Pictures will soon be posted on Facebook and Picasa!

EDIT: Bella update!  Over the holiday Bella began standing on her own from the middle of the floor (no help from furniture!) as well as drinking solely from a sippy cup!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Being Neighborly

Over the past few months I've run across our neighbors who help sandwich our little townhome in with a few others.  Sometimes they wave, sometimes they smile.  We don't know each other at all and I wouldn't even know it if their mail were in my box by accident unless I looked at the house number.

For the most part they've been quiet.  Once in a while I'd hear some major vocal fighting that led me to feeling awkward so after a quick prayer for their resolution, I'd put on the t.v. to drown out their bickerfest.

Today I noticed a new man walking into the townhome.  He, unlike his friends, waved AND said, "Hello!"  Thinking nothing of it, I continued battling the War of the Groceries into our tri-level home.  After another load of bags were dropped off at the foyer for my husband's retrieving service, said New Man went into the neighboring townhome with a cooler.  Again, I thought nothing of it.

Maybe they got new speakers.  Maybe their friend is a veteran or active duty member.  Maybe they are having some sort of weird sex orgy. I don't know.  All I do know is that start at 7:30 PM my living room wall has been throbbing.  They were in and out of their deck (which is a great stage to my couch, literally two feet from their deck), carrying on loudly and I didn't mind thinking it'd end by 11ish.  Music was playing loudly.  After a while I figured it had to be a movie because it would drone in and out without real rhythym. 

It's 2 AM.  There is still throbbing.  It's not loud enough by far to wake anyone in the house. Bella fell asleep without a hitch, but here I am, sleepy and now additionally witchy because that throbbing is just enough to be annoying.

It's. 2. In. The. Morning. 

My husband has offered me the advice to go over there and knock on their door and politely ask them to turn it down (why not off? It's 2 AM!) but at this point, I am scared that whatever comes out of my mouth will sound more, "What is WRONG with you!? It's 2 AM! You don't even have the decency to wave or smile but you sure as hell don't mind making my walls throb!" rather than, "Oh hello, good evening.  Would you ever so mind turning down your beautiful sound system for the benefit of a few hours sleep for me? Thank you kindly."