Sunday, January 26, 2014

Update on my dad's surgery

I apologize for taking so long to type this.  I just arrived back home last night and have been busy loving on my family since then.

This was my dad with Luke and Traber on the day he returned from the hospital after his surgery in 2009.

My dad's surgery was on Wednesday morning (1/22).  Therefore, I drove into town arriving on Tuesday afternoon and headed to my parents' embroidery business so my dad could show me some things there that I could help out with while he was in the hospital.  

Wednesday, 1/22:  We truly expected the surgery to take a long time.  I mean, there was a lot that the surgeon and his surgical partner had to do once inside.  The concern of the surgeon was going to be trying to remove the tumor and connect the stomach back together.  The tumor appeared from the CT scan to be very close to the esophagus, which is a muscle.  That's where the difficulty connecting everything back came into play.

I am sure you can imagine then that when the surgeon came out to speak to us, only an hour and 15 minutes after the surgery began, we were extremely surprised.  To everyone's surprise, we found out that the tumor wasn't even attached to the stomach.  Instead, it was on his liver, pressing into his stomach.  It was also the size of a baseball yet super easy to snip off away from his liver.  I can just imagine the surgeon hearing a choir of angels singing as he saw the tumor perched so perfectly and so easy to remove.  The surgeon saw the cancer on the other side of his liver also.  However, due to the amount of cancer, he wasn't able to remove it surgically (he indicated it would involve removing 3/4 of his liver).  Also, when he repaired my dad's hernia, he found another tumor in the hernia sac.  This indicated that the cancer was more systemic and removing it via surgery would probably not be beneficial.  The surgeon was very pleased with everything though.  Because he didn't have to repair the stomach (praise the Lord!), he didn't have to even touch the spleen.  He did remove the gall bladder though.  The surgeon indicated that the hope was that the pathology came back that the cancers were all gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTS).  If so, there is a new chemotherapy drug that has been pretty successful.  So, that is what we all began praying for.

Praise the Lord--the pathology came back testing positive for the GIST, indicating that the drug should be helpful.  My dad's biggest concern going into the surgery was related to the stomach repairs.  And the surgeon didn't even have to repair that.  Again, we had some big praises to give the Lord.  He also was out of the hospital by Saturday, so I went ahead and headed back home.  He is now awaiting an appointment with his oncologist to discuss the chemotherapy drug.  There is also a possibility of using radiofrequency ablation to treat the cancer.

Abbey and Papa
I was so thankful for Drew's parents coming up and helping out with the kids.  What a huge relief during this time to know that the kids were well cared for!  By them watching after the kids, I was actually able to travel to be at my parents' side during this time, and serve them where needed.

my silly Abbey

Although I was SO HAPPY to be able to be there in Oklahoma with my parents and siblings, I sure did miss Drew and the kids.  A lot!  When I arrived on Saturday night, the first thing I did was cuddle with Luke for a really long time.  We missed our cuddle time with each other.  Abbey and I read a ton of books together.  And, I embraced Drew with a big, tight hug and kiss.  I love my family.

I missed this sweet little guy!
I missed this guy and gal too!
Although cancer is a pretty awful thing, it does remind us that our time on earth is limited.  It is important to not waste any moment we have.  For we never know when our time to leave this earth may come.  This perspective is a pretty powerful thing.  Thank you Lord for teaching us in moments like these and for reminding us that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update to Prayer Requests

It has been a couple of days since those appointments I wrote about on Monday.  First, on Tuesday, I had my regular oncology appointment.  Everything went well.  I thought my oncologist would be scheduling a PET scan.  But, she said that she is going to wait a few months to schedule that, since many insurance carriers haven't been covering them as much lately.  So, I have my next PET scheduled for April 8, followed by a 3-month check-up with her again on the 22nd of April.  I am so thankful for appointments like that!  Easy peasy!

Now, on to my dad's appointment with his surgeon.  This appointment resulted in a lot more prayer requests.  You may remember that the appointment was originally scheduled back in December as a pre-op appointment for a hernia surgery scheduled for January 22nd.  But, my dad had a CT scan as a follow-up to an endoscopy/colonoscopy when a new stromal tumor (a rare cancer) was discovered.  The CT scan apparently indicated that the tumor on his stomach is actually over 8 cm wide.  It is larger than my dad initially thought after he spoke with the gastroenterologist.  The tumor is also in the same spot that his previous one from 11/2009 was located.  This means that surgery to remove it will be a little more difficult.  Also, as I mentioned in the previous prayer request post, there is also a spot on the liver.  Well, the surgeon thinks it possible there may be some cancer on the other side of the liver as well.  In addition, because the cancer on the liver is so close to the spleen, his spleen may need to be removed.  Lastly, they noticed on the CT that he has gall stones, which means his gall bladder will need to be removed.  All of this is priority over the hernia surgery.  If the surgeon has time, he will also repair the hernia;  apparently, that is a 30-minute, simple procedure.  The surgeon told my dad at the end of the appointment that he hopes he can give him a few more years of life by successfully completing this operation.  We know that God is sovereign.  Only He knows our beginning and our end.  He designed all of this for a reason.  He will be glorified in it.  Please pray with me that his surgeon is able to remove all of the cancer and it is no worse than the CT has shown.  And, it would be nice if he could repair the hernia while he was in there.  My dad's recovery is going to be a lot more difficult than the previous one.  Please pray for peace for both of my parents during this time.  Also, please pray that all of the work at their embroidery business gets completed with very little stress.

I am planning on heading up to Oklahoma on Tuesday morning (sans kiddos, thanks to Drew's parents), so that I can help out in whatever way I am needed.   Again, his surgery is on Wednesday morning.   Please pray for safe travels, especially since I will be driving alone.   Also, please pray that everything back home with Drew's parents and the kids goes well.  I sure will miss my family, but also, can't imagine not being there to help my parents during this time.  I REALLY want to be there.  So, I am very thankful for Drew's parents who have offered to take care of the kids during the day while I am away.   Thank you, once again, prayer warriors, for your fervent prayers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our continuous quest for more "natural" living.

Those of you who regularly read this blog probably know that I now cook almost all of our family's meals from scratch.  We are trying to avoid consuming packaged food products that have ingredients we would never keep in our pantry.   If you are also looking to make smarter choices in regards to the consumption of processed food, to start, look for "foods with ingredients we know, recognize, can situate in some part of the plant or animal kingdom, and can pronounce" writes David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

For example, if you are reading the ingredient label for Reese's Puffs cereal, you will see some of the following ingredients:  Whole grain corn, sugar, Reese's Peanut Butter (peanuts, sugar, monoglycerides, peanut oil, salt, molasses, corn starch), dextrose, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, rice bran and/or canola oil, salt, Hershey's cocoa, tricalcium phosphate, red 40, yellows 5 & 6, blue 1 and other color added, trisodium phosphate, artificial flavor, TBHQ and BHT added to preserve freshness.  There are items in that list that you would NEVER keep in your pantry.  In fact, there are some known carcinogens in that list.  So why in the world would we want those ingredients in our bodies, or in the bodies of our children?

We started asking these questions and educating ourselves with regard to the food we consume.  Now that we have done so, we cannot go back to eating the way we once did.  Once the blinders are off, you can no longer comfortably consume carcinogens.  So naturally, we began looking at other products to which our bodies are exposed:  laundry detergent, deodorant, lotions, soaps, facial cleansers, toothpaste.  Our skin is the largest organ of our body.   So, if I am so concerned with what ingredients are entering my body via the food I consume, why shouldn't I also be concerned about what carcinogens to which I am exposing my skin (and the skin of my family members).

Therefore, our expedition this year continues to remove many of the other ways we are exposed to these carcinogens.  We have begun by purchasing more natural substitutes to our previous toothpastes, cleansers, deodorants, lotions, etc.  We will likely eventually make our own.  We are starting with making our own laundry detergent.   Why not?   It is considerably cheaper, better for the clothes and for our bodies.  And, it takes very little time.   What's not to love?   Here is how we made our first batch.

First, go to your local grocery store and purchase some Borax, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (both in the laundry detergent aisle), and a bar of unscented natural soap (I found a Dr. Bronner's bar in the "natural and organic" section of our grocery story, HEB, but you could also use an unscented, natural Ivory soap.  Dr. Bronner's soaps are great because they are fair trade, made with exceptional ingredients like vegetable castille soap and pure organic essential oils.  I chose lemon, which smells amazing!)  Also, stop by the bakery and ask for one of their 5 gallon buckets.  They throw them away every day (they once contained icing).  Oh, and by the way, they happened to have the ingredients of the icing printed on the bucket and after reading that we will never be consuming that again!  Yuck!

(Side note:  The name, Borax, sort of sounds very "chemically" doesn't it?   But actually, it is a natural mineral made of sodium, boron, oxygen and water.  It is in most of the "natural" soaps out there, but of course the "natural" detergent is much less expensive for you to make yourself.  And here is how you make some natural liquid laundry detergent.

Contrary to the looks of this photo, Luke was actually really excited to help me make our laundry detergent,

1.  Grate the bar of soap, either by using a cheese grater or a food processor.

My little helper.
2.  Next,  put the soap into a pot with two quarts of water and slowly  heat it up, stirring continuously, until the soap is completely dissolved.

It dissolves rather quickly over low heat.
3.  Put 4.5 gallons of really hot tap water into the 5 gallon bucket.  Add a cup of borax and a cup of the arm and hammer washing soda and stir until it is completely dissolved.

4.  Pour the dissolved soap mixture from your pot and into the 5 gallon bucket.  Stir well.

5.  Cover the bucket and leave it overnight.  The bucket that we got for free from the grocery store bakery is actually very nice.  It even came with a lid with a rubber seal!
6.  Shake or stir until smooth and pour into gallon jugs or other containers.  We actually just used up our previous store-bought detergent.  So, we plan on filling that container up and leaving the rest in the bucket until we run out of detergent in that container.
7.  Use 1/2 cup to 1 cup per load, depending on how heavily soiled your laundry is.

You want to know how cheap this stuff is?  I figured it cost us around $4 for the 5 gallons of detergent.   If I use this on 160 loads, that is only 2.5 cents per load.  Easy.  Cheap. Takes very little time.  Gentle on our skin and clothes.  What's not to love?  I have read reviews that have indicated the detergent also gets clothes very clean!  We will be testing it out for the next 80 loads and I will report back if we have any issues.  But, I am expecting that this will be a new routine for us.  :-)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pure Joy!

I don't have many words to type today, except to continue to ask for prayer (see yesterday's post).   But, I would like to share some photos of some moments that make me smile.   My "style" of photography is storytelling.  I don't really enjoy taking "posed" pictures as much, because they can seem a little lifeless to me.  I like to capture personalities, because that is truly what I want to remember about my kids at this age, not just what they looked like.  

little sweetie pie.

Goodness, I love him!  Here, he is laughing at something that Abbey is saying.  Also, he is proudly wearing stamps on his hands that he got form Awana Cubbies.
I hit the jackpot today!   He never lets me take his picture.
So, I am just going to keep on snapping.  He loves dinosaurs right now.
Luke wanted to wear his rain boots, because we were about to head outdoors and the grass was pretty wet.   Abbey was upset that she didn't have any rain boots.  So, I pulled these out of her closet (I bought them used, but they are still a couple sizes too big).   She was happy though.
Little Miss Sassypants.
She's trying to give me a look of disapproval for something (not sure what).
Ok...couldn't resist one more of this handsome guy.
It was time to head outdoors.  Those boots were too large for Abbey.  I asked her to put her "fast shoes" on (running shoes), but instead, like always, she grabbed these.   These are her $5 croc-like shoes I picked up at H.E.B (our local grocery store) last summer.  They are her favorite shoes and she wants to wear them every. single. day.  It doesn't matter if she is wearing a dress, tights, or even if it is 2 degrees outside, those are the shoes she selects.  On most days, I just go ahead and let her wear them. 

Proud of herself for getting into the little wagon all by herself.  Now, she wants to be pulled around.
Excited about something she sees in the sandbox!
I love her dark eyes!  And, she already knows how to work them, unfortunately.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I REALLY dislike Cancer....Calling all prayer warriors.

I really don't like cancer.  Never would I have thought that I would be sitting here typing blog posts about it at my stage in life.  Although it, along with treatment for it, has wreaked havoc on my body, it has also brought change in my life for which I am extremely grateful.   But, it is easy for me to talk about it like that, when I am talking about my own cancer.  It is way more difficult to have that same "blessing" attitude about cancer when it has reared its ugly head in someone you love.

The wonderful man pictured above is my dad.   He is a man that is on fire for Jesus and is one who I believe has many more years of "mission work" ahead of him.  He was diagnosed with a rare malignant ulcerated stromal tumor (also known as G.I.S.T) a little over 4 years ago after he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance vomiting blood.  It was such a scary time for us, as Luke was only about 7 weeks old, and we were about 7 hours away.   But, we drove up as soon as possible, and were able to witness God's amazing healing power in his body.  For those of you who do not know my dad, he really is somewhat of a medical miracle.  Time after time, he is afflicted with disease paired with poor prognoses (congestive heart failure, rare cancer), yet, through that has shown that "statistics" truly don't matter to God.  When He has a mission for you to complete, He is going to allow you to complete it.  And, when you journey to complete that mission, He has given you new testimony to share because of the difficulties He has allowed.  He is the author of our lives and knows and designs the beginning and the end.  Well, I am here to ask for prayers from the same prayer warriors who have prayed for me.  He had a endoscopy, colonoscopy and CT scan last week that revealed recurrence of the rare cancer he was afflicted with 4 years ago.  He has a tumor the size of a ping pong ball on the underside of his stomach, and it has metastasized into his liver (they call this distal recurrence).  Of course, our prayer is that the surgeon can surgically remove all of the cancer and that my dad is completely healed.  My dad has a hernia surgery scheduled with the same surgeon that would remove the cancer for January 22.  At my dad's pre-op appointment with that surgeon on Tuesday, he is going to ask if he can have the surgery to remove the cancer instead.  Please pray for wisdom for all of the physicians involved in treating my dad and this extremely rare cancer!

On another note, I have a regular appointment scheduled with my oncologist on Tuesday.  Since it has been over 4 months since my last PET/CT, I am guessing she will want to schedule another one.  Just as a reminder, my oncologist told me at my last appointment that my chance of recurrence was around 30%.  She said that most patients (80%) who have recurrence, experience it within the first two years post diagnosis.  This "two years prognosis period" for me ends on September 14, 2014.  Another 10% experience it within years 3-5, and the remaining approximate 10% experience it within years 5-10.  She said that if you go 10 years without recurrence, the cancer is very unlikely to return.  I have to keep reminding myself that God has this all under control.  Satan has really been trying to plant negative thoughts about recurrence into my head.   I continue to have weird symptoms pop up, which I tell myself are all related to the many surgeries I have undergone related to reconstruction.  But, every once and a while, a thought such as "I wonder if that could be a new cancer" pops up (followed by me conducting a little internet search on the symptoms).  It is sometimes difficult to know which symptoms to act on and bring up to my oncologist and which was to just let go.  Sometimes I wonder if I am becoming a bit of a hypochondriac due to the feeling the symptoms.  But then again, I was feeling like I was perhaps being a bit of a hypochondriac just prior to my diagnosis, as I continually expressed strange symptoms I was having to Drew.  So, what does one in my situation do?  Pray.  Spend more time in the Word.  That is all I can do.  Everything else is truly outside my control.  I am eating well.  I am feeding my body with nutrients instead of junk.  That is all I can do.  I can create a list of my weird symptoms and notify my oncologist at my regular appointments.   If a more severe symptom occurs in between appointments, I can call her office immediately. Other than that, I firmly believe that God doesn't want me to waste the time I DO have here on earth dwelling on cancer.   He wants to move beyond cancer.  He wants me to serve and love others as I have been served and loved.  He wants me to train these kids up in the best way possible, so that they know Him and their purpose.  Will you please pray with me that the cancer stays away (never to return) and that I can win this mind-battle over Satan by moving beyond cancer?  Thank you so much, prayer warriors!   We are going to win this battle!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Post Chemo Hair Update (almost one year post-chemo).

My hair is really growing and is starting to look normal again.   Hooray!   I am beyond excited about this.  I finished up my last round of chemotherapy (Taxol) on 2/1/2013.  My hair slowly began growing towards the end of my treatment, but wasn't actually "filled in" until May.  I have had one haircut (in June) since it started growing.  The main reason I cut it was to get rid of what I call the "Taxol hair" (weird, sporadic little fuzzy hairs that grew during that treatment).  Also, the hair stylist got rid of the mullet that was quickly forming.

I don't take many selfies with my phone.  First, my phone doesn't take the best quality photos.  But, here are a few I found, just to document the progress.  Actually, these shots are pretty embarrassing.  I am only including these terrible photos in order to give someone else, who is growing her hair out, a little bit of hope (and a few tips) during the process.  

May 13, 2013
May 30, 2013
June 12, 2013

And here it is recently:

Woo hoo!  No daily headband required any longer.

A blurry back shot.  It's actually not too "mullet-y" right now.
Can you believe I even put my hair into a little pony tail last week?  I am so glad I followed that hair dresser's advice and did not get any more hair cuts.  If you want to grow your hair out, you just have to push through the awkward phase.  During the phase, pretty headbands and distracting large earrings are your best friends.

Here is another tip for those growing out your hair and are in the phase I am currently in.  I have found that bobby pins are my friend right now.  I use them on the sides to keep the hair down.  This prevents a "fro" look, which my style would definitely be should I not use any tools such as barrettes and bobby pins.  You can do a lot with bobby pins and barrettes!

My goal hair style is the reverse bob.  Here is an example (this girl seems to have similar hair texture as me):

I am going to guess that I am about 4 inches away from having this style, due to my length in front.  But, it is still exciting that I am getting closer to this fun style.  And, I am having fun with different looks along the way.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's a New Year! Here are My Resolutions.

I figure, what better way to hold me accountable to my resolutions than to post them here. Here they are...
  1. Be a "Missional Mom."  “What is a 'Missional Mom'” you might ask. I, along with a couple of friends from our church community group, am currently reading “Missional Mom” by Helen Lee.  In this book, Lee challenges moms to live with purpose, both at home and in the world. It can be pretty easy for moms, especially suburban middle class moms, to get wrapped up in the ideal of being the “perfect mothers”. Many of us are obsessed with the correct method to raise "successful" children. While trying to educate our children, cook healthful meals, involve our kids in enrichment activities, and complete the never-ending tasks of laundry and cleaning, we are left with very little energy to think outside of our family. In this book, Helen Lee challenges us to be missional-- to use "God-given gifts to bring happiness into the life of another" (p.27).

I found this book is particularly interesting for those moms (like me) who tend to fall into the cultural traps that our American society places on us--seeking a comfortable living for their families and looking to raise successful children. Lee pointed out that instead of seeking comfortable living, we should strive for sacrificial living, because "the more we seek after a life comfortable by the world's standards, we become more and more weighted down by the burden of seeking it" (p.54). In the subject of raising successful children, Lee challenged us to remember that God is the one that is in control of our children's futures and not us. She provides a lot of research about the effects of our “over-achiever” culture. On page 35, I found the following quote convicting: “Over-achiever culture...has become a way of life... When teenagers inevitably look at themselves through the prism of our over-achiever culture, they often come to the conclusion that no matter how much they achieve, it will never be enough. And the pressure steadily mounts.” She later says, “When we push our children to excel and achieve as their primary goal, when we communicate that their value comes from what they accomplish, we set our children up to swallow a dangerous fallacy: that God loves them for what they do and not for who they are. We also run the risk of a prideful pursuit in which we erroneously believe we can shape their future in ways the world considers most fulfilling and rewarding.” As an over-achiever myself, I think it was so important for me to read that now, so I can be prepared not to place that same cultural pressure on Luke and Abbey. As I continue to homeschool Luke and Abbey this next year, I will need to keep reminding myself of how I want them to value themselves. I want them to see me regularly serving others—and show them that it almost always means sacrifice, but that it is always most certainly worth it.
  1. Get back in Shape. Cancer treatment and surgeries have done quite a number on my body. I am SO ready to be back in shape and feel normal again. Drew and I seriously need to figure out how to allot time into each day for exercise!

  2. Eat more veggies. We made a huge overhaul in our diet over the past year and a half. We currently eat a whole, real food diet, that includes veggies and fruits each day. But, I still want to increase our intake of fruits and veggies and look for new and fun ways to eat our veggies each day.

  3. Launch a Photography Business. Those who have been following my blog for a while have really seen my love for photography blossom. While I have always had a love for photography, when we purchased our first dslr camera shortly after Luke was born, my passion grew considerably. Now that I have been at home with the kids each day for the past 2 years, I have the opportunity to practice my passion each day. I have been receiving more and more requests to take photos of friends' children and families. It has been a blast! I don't want to give it up. So, I figured, I may as well make some money on my hobby. Photography is an expensive hobby, and cancer was extremely expensive. So, maybe I can use money I make as a professional photographer to begin trying to pay for some of the cancer treatment and photography equipment. :-)

  4. Keep on kicking cancer in the rear. I never want to forget about how awful cancer treatment can be—this means I need to keep my body in tip-top shape and keep praying as I continue the ongoing battle with cancer.

  5. Get ready to homeschool! I have been easing into homeschooling with Luke this past year. I have been attending meetings with other homeschool moms and collecting tons of information. I have read several books and even taken assessments to determine the best curriculums for both Luke (as student) and me (as his teacher). If Luke were going to public or private school, he would actually not begin kindergarten this next year, but rather the following year. We are going to go ahead and start a “light” kindergarten curriculum next year (one year early). I figure that way, we can just take it easy and go at our own pace. I don't want school to feel rushed or high-pressure. I want him to enjoy it and not feel any of those societal pressures (like mentioned in resolution #1). I am so excited about this. I still plan on writing a post about the decision-making process and how God led us to choose to homeschool our children. I don't think that is the right decision for every family, but just happens to be for us.  Honestly, it has been a very surprising journey to me, but I am grateful and excited and always reminded that His plans are better than mine!

  6. Stay in the Word daily and grow closer to God through regular “quiet times.” Enough said.

I hope that when I am writing my 2015 resolutions, God willing, that I can report success on these important 2014 resolutions. :-) Happy New Year Everyone!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fall Fun In January

This afternoon, while Abbey was napping, Drew and Luke worked together to rake the leaves in our backyard.  This has been the first chance that we have had to rake them since they began falling.  But also, the leaves all finally fell from our Bradford Pear trees.  We figured if we attempted to rake them any earlier, we would be right back out there shortly to do it again.  So, we were blessed with a beautiful, yet windy Saturday.  The temperature was in the upper 60's.  It was time to rake the leaves!

Once Drew created the first huge pile of leaves, of course we had to jump in them!

Luke was first to jump in.  Doesn't this photo just yell pure youthful bliss?
Luke even looked at the camera for a moment so I could capture those dark brown eyes of his that I love.
More bliss!
Even Drew and I took turns jumping in.

My turn to get engulfed by the huge pile of leaves!

By the time Miss Abbey awoke from her long nap, Drew had already bagged this huge pile.   But, he raked up a whole new pile on the other side of the yard.  We introduced Abbey to the new enormous pile.

Abbey is significantly more cautious about things than Mr. Luke (our fearless son).  This was her look when Drew asked her if she wanted to jump in.  It is a look of concern.
So daddy did the true-daddy thing to do--he plopped her into the middle of the pile so that she would face her fear.  She is making sure her hands don't touch the leaves.

And it wasn't long before she began having fun too!

Big Brother is doing his part to quickly initiate her into leaf pile 101.
Ok....all done.  Somebody get me out of here.
Please!!!! Somebody rescue me.
Daddy to the rescue!
Drew raked 9 bags of leaves today.  The usual each season is 12-14 bags, but we still have quite a few leaves that need to come off the trees.  What is crazy is that as he was raking up the leaves from the Bradford Pear trees, he noticed they were already budding!  I think our trees are as confused as we are with what season we are in.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday to our 2 Year Old Little Girl!

I seriously can't believe that I just typed that Blog Post Title!  How can it be?  How in the world can little Abbey Lee be two years old?   Abbey, it seems like just a little while ago you were this big:

 Then, just a few days later, you were this big:

You were such a big baby!
And you continued growing...into a beautiful little girl.

Abbey, thus far for most of your life, I have been fighting cancer.  One thing that I hope you can learn from this is that God allows struggles in our lives, but they teach and refine us.  The Lord is our strength when we are weak, and I have been "weak" for most of your life.  I have found so much strength in my Lord, Jesus Christ.   My hope is that some day you will find that same strength and faith.  Although "surviving" has not been easy for our little family, you bring so much joy to me and the rest of the family members' lives.  You have helped to make these past two years a true joy for all of us!  And this past year, you have grown from a baby, into a sassy, yet sweet, little girl.  Let's take a look at how you have grown this past year.

February 2013
April 2013

May 2013--you have ALWAYS enjoyed reading books over and over.  You will locate them wherever we are and then back right up into my lap to sit down.  I love it.

July 2013.  You thought it was pretty cool that you now had a younger cousin. You LOVED that you could push someone else in a swing.  And, I can tell you two will be great friends!

I love all of your "looks". 

You have always given the best kisses!  You absolutely love your daddy!

I love your precious profile!

And, I love your sweet giggles.  I also love how as soon as you realize you are tired and ready for your nap, you lay down wherever you are at that moment.

I love your conversations.  I think papa loves them too.

You love sweet treats.  We really limit those in our house, so birthday parties are a pretty exciting thing for you.  You truly enjoyed some of Krystal's birthday cake in this photo.

You totally dig "races."  When you decide you want to "race" (usually only you participating), you line up against a wall, a fence or whatever you can find.  Then, you ask someone else to say, "On your mark, get set, go!"   Then, you run as fast as you can and give them a hug.  I love when I am the one who gets that hug and gets to hear your giggles the whole way!

Here is a little bit of that sassy!

You are extremely nurturing.  Right now, your favorite thing to play is "pretend play" with babies (toys)--these can be baby dolls or baby animal toys.  You loved carrying baby Jesus around at Christmas this year. 

You are beautiful always--even when feeling ill!

A little more sassy...

Our sweet little strawberry!

Giving one of your babies a bath.

More nurturing.
One of my favorite times of the day is actually at night, when you say, "Night-night Mommy" and give me a huge kiss.  Of course, daddy loves it too!

Here are some other things to remember about you:

Your favorite toys:  baby dolls (by far), pretending with action figures (which you call "guys"), balls (and playing sports with them), and anything Luke (bubba) is playing with.  Oh yeah---I can't forget--you also absolutely LOVE the Ipad.

I don't ever want to forget your singing.  You have the most precious voice that can already carry a tune.  Recently, my favorites of your repertoire include "Jingle Bells", "The Farmer in the Dell", and "Row, Row, Row your Boat."

Your favorite foods include pretty much ANY fruit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My favorite phrases of yours "Night-night mommy," "I love you, mommy" and "bada-bada, now".  "Bada-bada" is your version of "granola bar".  Lately, you add "now" after anything you would like for mommy to get you with a sense of urgency.  You say it so sweetly, and sometimes even add a "please" without me asking you to do so.    Your language use just recently began growing significantly and compounding.  I am loving your little sentences.

You are absolutely hilarious---and I think you already know it.  You have your daddy, bubba (Luke) and me laughing every day.  You're our little comedian.

You command attention.  And, you know how to get it.  If you are talking to someone and you don't think they are listening, you actually pull their face around by grabbing the bottom of their chin so that they make eye contact.  In fact, you won't ever allow me to type on a computer while you are speaking to me.  When you are speaking, if I am typing, you will grab both of my hands so that I stop what I am doing and make eye contact.  I think you are going to be a great communicator!  :-)

Abbey girl--there is so much I want to remember about you.   I know I need to take WAY more videos, because I don't want to ever forget how awesome, precious, loving, sweet, nurturing, and funny you are.  We love you more than words can describe, Abbey Lee!