Ten

Virginia turned ten almost two weeks ago. It is hard to believe. Ten was a harder birthday for Findley and me than most of the recent ones have been. For some reason, on that night of October 2, we feel like we can go back in time and protect her from harm, but we can't. And then dawn breaks on the third, and we are ok. Ready to press forward because what is done is done. Wow, we've made it ten years!  Or,  wow, we've been doing this for ten years...

Mom, Ginny, Eliza and I spent the day with Virginia at the Botanic Gardens and then we celebrated with family that night. Most of our other family birthday celebrations revolve around food, and it is tough to figure out how to celebrate with someone who can't safely swallow. We all ate banana pudding with her and watched Herbie the Love Bug.

I'm not usually one for a numbered post, but here are ten things I've been thinking about lately. Call it '10 for Virginia's Tenth.' Be advised, I have a feeling this is going to be all over the place.

1. Eliza and I were at the grocery Labor Day weekend and I ran into an old family friend. She has a daughter named Virginia who is only two months younger than our Virginia. I introduced Eliza to the other Virginia and her mother. Eliza smiled, we all chatted a minute, and then moved on with our shopping. A full ten minutes later, she looked up at me from the cart and I instantly knew what was coming.

"Mommy," her little voice quivered, "why can't my Virginia walk? I want my Sissy to walk."

Somehow she knew that the other Virginia was the same age as Sissy, even though I didn't tell her. And for the first time she realized that it was supposed to be different for Sissy.

It is strange to me that Wills and Eliza will grieve something that happened before they were even born, but they will.

All I did was stand there in the midst of the salad dressing aisle and cry with her. I told her that I wished our Virginia could walk too, but we love her no matter what and she's still the perfect Sissy.

It's sad. I can't take it away. So I don't try to explain it away either.

2. My sister got married and my brother passed the BAR exam. Lots of celebrating for our family.

3. Eliza turned 4 in September. I can't believe that my baby is so big!

4. I got to go to Colorado with my best friends from high school, minus one who was home with her sweet baby who has a dislocated hip. We missed you a ton, Anna, but if you had been on the hike, I don't think we would have made it back. It was a deceptively rigorous hike and we kept laughing hysterically and if you had been there cracking jokes, we seriously would have ended up down a gully somewhere.

Bev and I were a little afraid pregnant Clare was going to fall off a cliff,

Tripp, I think A needs one of these cars,

5. On the aforementioned trip, we talked about regrets. My biggest regret is that I didn't do a good job of figuring out who I was a little earlier in life. Here's a confession. As recently as a year ago, I decided I was going to go to medical school. I started taking classes so I could apply. Even seeing those words in writing seems ridiculous. I hired extra help, and decided to go for it. Six weeks into my classes, Virginia got pneumonia. I could have worked it out, but I remember sitting there, holding my coughing, feverish daughter, as the babysitter assured me she could take care of Virginia while I went to three hours of classes. And I realized. This is stupid, Abby. Are you really going to miss these moments in pursuit of your own dreams? Because having a family with Findley was one of your dreams, too. Actually it was your biggest dream.

Over the last year, I can finally say that I am at peace being a stay-at-home mom. I wish I had realized that in college (or shortly thereafter) and saved myself the burden and angst of feeling like something was missing or that I wasn't measuring up. I would love being a doctor. But when I think about my personality, there is no way (even if Virginia were healthy) that I could do both. Lots of my friends are great doctors and lots of Virginia's best doctors are women. There are women who can do both and do both well. But I would not have been one of them. I could never leave a child with a nanny or leave a patient in the hospital to go home to my family. Either would rip my heart out. So it is a good thing that I am right where I am.

Of course there are other things I would like to pursue- like writing a book or helping Memphis get a pediatric neuromuscular rehab center off the ground- and hopefully those things will happen in time. But if they don't, I will be fine.

6. I realize more every year that you only get to live each moment once. You get one chance and then that ship has sailed. I am trying to do a better job of being present for each one. Which leads me to my next point...

7. This is old news, but I think social media is doing terrible things for our society. I got off facebook over two years ago. I have not missed it at all. (Now when we were in Colorado, and friends posted pics on their FB page and people starting saying how young we looked, I definitely missed that...) For the past 3 months, I have hardly used my computer. I do not take my iPhone to bed or look at it first thing in the morning. Guess what? I have read 15 books. And I am happier and more peaceful. I swear these iPhones are going to be the death of us and our children. No one can concentrate. There is no work ethic or drive because everything is instantaneous. I am cutting back on my interaction with the outer circle so I can be completely present for my inner circle.

8. I will never be thankful for what happened to Virginia. I am, however, thankful for her life and for many things that have happened since.

9. In the last ten years, I have become a lot less judgmental and I follow a lot less rules. Findley and I believe much different doctrine than we did ten years ago, and, no pun intended, thank you, Jesus!

10. Like everything else in life, the grieving process is not black and white. You don't ever truly move past a tremendous loss. You learn to manage it, you learn not to think about it all the time, and you learn to focus on the things you do have control over. If you hand your suffering to God, it will not be wasted, but knowing that doesn't necessarily make certain situations easier or less painful. Suffering is a necessary and beautiful part of life, but nobody wants it, especially not for their child.

and a late-breaking number 11: Disney called and we are all set to go for our trip. They listened to our concerns, and then they waved their magic wand and made some special things happen for Miss Virginia and the rest of us who are lucky enough to be her escorts. They are the best!

So....there you go. Anybody hang in there for that whole thing? :)

 

 

Three Months in Pictures

We are still here and doing well. Virginia had one bad month where a cold turned into the dreaded cough, but after two rounds of steroids and three antibiotics, her lungs sound beautiful again. I still love seeing my family all the time, but I miss my Birmingham friends!

I have done a better job lately of acknowledging that our life isn't going to be perfect. You would think I would have realized that years ago.

Unfortunately, no amount of love, energy, time, money, or creativity can cure Virginia or solve my 'problem' of how to care for her while giving my other two kids a 'normal' childhood. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel every time the bottom drops out, I am just acknowledging that our situation is hard and it won't be fixed on this side of heaven.

These little picture updates are mainly for me to remember the highlights of the fall- I am about to upload 50+ pics, so if you aren't family, bet I'll see you in a later post! happy 2013 to all~

Our three were Peter Pan, Tiger Lilly & Tinkerbell for Halloween,

 Fun times in Montgomery over Thanksgiving. Picnic at the farm,

 

 

One of the best parts of being home is spending Sunday afternoons with Dad,

Camped out right here,

Another great part is frequent cooking sessions Aunt Ginny (not to mention the fact that my wardrobe doubled overnight),

Go Grizz!

Christmas night was magical. This was taken the morning of the 26th,

Watching the snow fall,

Too cold for Sissy, but see her laughing in the window?

David's chocolate cheesecake, obviously,

Since Ginny and David have been engaged, I have learned a lot about wine and eaten a lot of cheesecake. Solid choice, Ginny!;)

Christmas day,

This girl cannot have too many Winnie the Pooh shirts,

Nana and Dad,

Wills got his first tool box. The tools are from Findley, my dad, my uncle Harold, and my granddad. Pretty special.

Pre-Christmas festivities, (told this was WAY long and WAY boring,

Starry Nights,

Winter Lights,

Eliza's first 'performance'

Enchanted Forest which, sorry Memphis, needs some major refurbishing,

Pretty girl,

Eliza interviewed at St. Mary's and they gave her these fairy wings. More of a Hutchison move, if you ask me, but she loved them. (I am only joking, SMS admissions office and all my Hutch grad friends). The funny thing is that she insists I wear them quite frequently b/c they came from 'Mommy's school.'

Vandy bowl game. Wills is becoming quite the Vanderbilt fan. 2 bowls games in a row. Hoping for a warm one next year- it sleeted on us during the game, but we made it to 5:00 to go in the 4th quarter.

Wills' best friend and without a doubt what he misses most about Birmingham,

Spent last weekend with friends,

Celebrated our 11th anniversary,

We welcomed my best friend's third baby on 1/1/13. We love you, baby Hunt,

Virginia goes to bed after the little two. It is one of my favorite times a day and hers, too. Love this series,

Still with me? Love you! Hope to do a better job of writing in 2013, but mainly hope to spend lots of time with all our friends and family!

We Made It!

Today marks one month in Memphis and it has been great to be home. It was hard to leave Birmingham- we almost told the movers to leave when they arrived to start packing us- but the support we have here has been wonderful.

Virginia has been doing really well- almost no cough at all. We met our new pulmonologist on Friday and he gave me his cell phone number on the first visit. He also pulled the head of GI and the head of Neurology from their respective clinics to meet us. It made me feel very comfortable and safe- one of my biggest hesitations leaving Birmingham was losing the doctors who have cared for Virginia for 8 years.

There is a lot of wisdom to the statement "you can never go home", but for me thus far it just hasn't held true. I feel like I never left.

Poplar Avenue should still be five lanes and not seven. Stopping at a red light is still optional. And you might just find a note like this on your car,

(Remember I am coming from a place where I hardly locked the door in ten years.)

But I am home and I love it.

I cried tears of joy filling out Eliza's preschool enrollment form because I got to write 'Continued on back of this page' under the question about who can pick up your child from school. I stopped at ten people because I didn't want to appear excessive.

I don't know where much of anything is in my house because my sweet family (especially Aunt Carol and Sam) unpacked a lot of boxes. It was the best feeling ever and I figure if I really need it, I'll find it eventually.

And last week I got my ailing, arthritic shoulder injected at my dining room table in exchange for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I feel like a new person.

Having family around is a blessing I never expected to have and I find myself wondering how we did it for so long by ourselves. I will have more to say on the 'coming home' topic later this week, but for now, here is a photo summary of our summer.

Findley and I tried to tackle Nana's basement. We were not successful,

Virginia had surgery to expose her front two teeth,

She, as usual, behaved better than I did. (It was our final experience at Children's and our only really bad one!) But her cute little teeth are already coming in,

We spent a lot of time in our Birmingham neighbors' pool,

And because of all these extra hands I have now, I think we have been to the pool almost every day since we arrived in Memphis.

We made a quick trip to the beach in June,

 

I was an emotional wreck the week we left Birmingham so we had some good friends over for the 4th of July.

It's never good for Findley to have lots of spare time on his hands. Our guests weren't arriving until 4, so he decided to spend the morning building our entertainment for the evening,

He (correctly) assumed the kids would have fun with world's largest slip-n-slide. Also, he (incorrectly) assured me it wouldn't tear up the yard for the new occupants.

At first, it was just for the kids,

But it became very obvious to all of us that Virginia wanted in on the action. At first I said 'no' because I was honestly worried about breaking her leg. But a few margaritas and many pleading smiles later, I was more than willing.

But I wasn't fast out of control enough for her. She needed her daddy,

You can't tell how fast they were going until you see how much water was displaced,

(yes, Virginia is in the picture above)

And how did she feel about the slip-n-slide?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Both of our arms (and our jaws) were aching by the time the night was over.

At some point, my brother started bowling Wills and Coleman,

Then John moved on to just tackling him,

It was a very memorable 4th! I am just glad no one got hurt!

Wills has been spending a lot of time 'helping' my dad with his train layout,

Dad is doing every little detail by hand. Check out the bridge behind them that they were in the process of installing. And check out the scope of this layout,

Wills will be busy for many Saturdays to come!!

We have done some touristy things, like the River Walk at Mud Island,

It is a scale model of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana and it is just as cool as I remember it. It takes a while to walk (or race boats) through the whole thing, but it is worth it. I have no idea how they made it.

But mainly we have been sticking close to home, exploring our new neighborhood (which we love), and getting ready for school to start next week.

I am going to try to be more intentional (and professional?) about sharing Virginia's story in the months ahead, so hopefully I will post more frequently.

Thanks for checking in on us!

Where We Are

So we survived two weeks of doctor's appointments. I can't say that we learned a whole lot, but we survived. I about fell apart at the beginning of last week (read: went to Target and almost didn't come back), so Findley gave me a hall pass and I went to Nashville for one night to meet my mom and sister. It was very fun and refreshing. Findley handled the two doctor's appointments I missed.

I am starting to be more and more like Nana. She refused to go to the doctor, even though her daughter was one. She felt that if you weren't too sick, you would get well on your own and that if you were really sick, there was nothing a doctor could do for you anyway. Sounds about right.

We did start Virginia on steroids, a strong antibiotic, and extra breathing treatments two and a half weeks ago. The good news is that while she's on the steroid (about 9 days), she sounds great. I am encouraged because that means we can still get her back to ground zero and have healthy lungs. The problem is that she can't stay on an oral steroid, nor does she need to take it regularly. So the trick is to figure out how to keep her lungs dry and clear to begin with. Proactive rather than reactive.

We might try a GJ-tube. It's a feeding tube that goes into her small intestine and not her stomach, therefore essentially eliminating reflux if that is part of the problem. I also have some patches for her to wear that help dry up secretions. Ever since the last day of the steroid (last Thursday), her cough has come back a little more each day. This morning she woke up at five and coughed to the point of vomiting four times. I really don't know how she does it. Pray for her today because she is exhausted.

I can't believe today is the last day of school. I have been an emotional wreck for a month now. I cry at the drop of a hat. I am sad for Wills to be leaving friends and a school that he loves. I keep thinking, "I wonder if this will be the last time we...go to the zoo, walk on the trail, eat at the creamery, eat at Gilchrist, etc" and it feels sad.

I thought that once you were a grown-up, decisions were clear. Moving was not an easy decision for us, and unfortunately there is no way to make a trial run. So, we can only hope and pray that we have made the right choice (we still feel like we have), and know that they aren't locking the door behind us when we leave!

Virginia will have the overnight pH probe done at the hospital in the next few weeks. (I cancelled it two weeks ago because I wasn't emotionally able to deal with an unhappy Virginia for 24 hours. I have gotten good at knowing my limits.) She also has to be put to sleep so that the oral surgeon can cut an opening in her mouth for her front two teeth to come in. The acute lack of oxygen at birth killed the enamel on Virginia's baby teeth. Even though most newborns don't have teeth when they are born, the teeth are still formed and ready to come in; therefore, they were also damaged. She had surgery when she was four to remove all the bad teeth, but they have been gone so long that her gums have hardened to the point the others won't come in naturally. I'm never fired up about putting her to sleep, but it shouldn't be a big deal.

Other than being inundated with doctor's appointments and phone calls, we are slowing making our moving plans and starting to pack. It will be here before we know it!

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Virginia definitely enjoys being an only child again after the little two go to bed at night,

My in-laws neighbors have horses,

Same day, different horses. This time at a birthday party here in town,

Virginia actually loved it, but I didn't get a good picture,

And the point of this picture is to show you that Wills is almost as big as I am,

And he and Eliza are both definitely growing up! I took this at the library,

A little news...

So, our big news is that we are moving to Memphis! If you had asked either one of us a year ago (or even six months ago), we would have said that we were in Moutain Brook to stay. Seriously, who would be crazy enough to leave this place?

Well, this year has been different. As Dr. Mary (our beloved pediatrician and neighbor) told me a few weeks ago, Virginia used to need a little extra pampering and now she needs almost full-time medical care. She has grown more fragile in the last twelve months.

I will save the details of what Virginia has been going through for a later post, but basically one day in January, Findley looked at me and said, "What are we doing here? We need family."

And he's right. We do.

We decided that being in Memphis was the most important thing and whatever else had to change for that to work would have to change. Thankfully, Findley is going to open an office for his company in Memphis. A challenge for sure, but one that he is eagerly anticipating. He is also going to be getting his MBA at Vandy every other weekend. Another big change, but again, an exciting one.

It obviously means all new doctors and therapists, new schools, new house, etc, but we really aren't worried about those things because we will have all of these:

(These two can't contain their joy that we are moving home...ha!)

Ultimately, you cannot put a price tag on raising your children in the midst of huge extended family. And trust me, Findley and I need all the extra hands (and free meals) we can get!

We hope to move mid-June. Lots of details to follow...

Since I last posted...

Wills started playing baseball,

We have laughed a lot,

We visited our favorite place,

Wills dressed up for Dr. Seuss day at school,

We I started a very bad habit,

We celebrated a family wedding,

We celebrated Wills' 6th birthday with a rather ambitious (and somewhat dangerous) party,

We started the Easter season with an egg hunt,

And we played a little cork ball, a Taylor family tradition.

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Jerry Sittser lost his wife and three of his children when they were hit by a drunk driver. He and I have a few theological differences, but this quote from his book A Grace Disguised has really stayed with me.

"Forgiveness is a lifelong process, for victims of catastrophic wrong may spend a lifetime discovering the many dimensions of their loss. I have no vain notions that I have finally and forever forgiven the one who was responsible for the accident. I may have to forgive many more times...for these (future) events will remind me not only of gracious gifts given but also of precious people taken away. Though forgiveness may have no ending, it has a beginning."

There are times when I feel like Findley and I are doing really well. Most of the time we choose to see what we have rather than what was taken. But as Virginia has gotten older and bigger, she suffers more than she used to. Little things like bathing and dressing take two of us. It is much harder to get her in and out of her wheelchair and find ways to include her in what the rest of the family is doing. Most of the time we are ok, but sometimes it is still hard to comprehend what happened and how devastating her injuries are. Findley and I are fine, but Virginia is not. As a parent, it is almost too much to carry.

I can't imagine what she endures on a daily basis, but if I dwell on it, I am useless to her and the rest of my family. The pain can be paralyzing.

So here we are. Living it up on the good days, staying close to home on the hard days. Praying for mercy for Virginia's body and for the wisdom and creativity to make her life the best it can be.

I have a little more to say, but it will have to wait until Thursday.

God bless you all!

Abby

A little humor

I hope no one is offended by this post.

Someone in our house has been sick since the Wednesday after Christmas. Eliza's cold became Virginia's cold, and a few days into it, the death cough returned. (my name for it, not a medical one, obviously) Pediatrician thought she had pneumonia, administered a shot of rocephin, but chest x-ray was clear. Thank goodness. But a few rough days of coughing, breathing treatments, and big dog antibiotics. (again, my word, not theirs)

We were on the mend last weekend and then Eliza and Virginia caught the stomach bug. (I'm guessing from the doctors' office because we literally have not been anywhere else.)

So Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we stuck pretty close to home and consumed lots of pedialyte. It seemed like things were improving Thursday, so I showered and dressed for a meeting at school. (Big mistake)

My mom gave me these awesome boots as an early birthday gift,

I love them. They are my favorite shoes ever. The only problem is that since they are real boots, they are a little hard to get off. (Maybe that's why they have boot straps or I just have fat ankles.) You should have seen mom and Ginny pulling them off me the first time I wore them. It has only gotten slightly easier with time.

So, Thursday I am dressed in my new boots and a new Christmas cashmere sweater as well. I took Virginia out of her wheelchair and laid her on her bed to get her dressed. She coughed once and threw up everywhere.

There is not a shower chair that works for Virginia. So every time Virginia gets a shower, I get a shower.

She was screaming (because she had throw-up all over her), and I was frantically trying to pull off my *%!* boots. It wasn't working. I was pouring sweat, and cussing every vain bone in my body for attempting to get dressed with two sick kids. But there was no way I was picking her up and getting vomit all over my cashmere sweater or cognac leather.

It seemed like forever, but I finally got them off. (Thank you, Mary). Virginia finally calmed down in the shower, but as I was carrying her back to my bed, she started violently coughing and I almost dropped her. I managed to get her top half onto my bed, but as I lifted her legs onto the bed, she coughed one last time and threw up everywhere.

Needless to say, I was late for the meeting.

Fast forward a few hours. Eliza wakes up from her nap, and is obviously in a decent amount of pain and won't walk. At first I think she has viral synovitis, where a cold virus settles in your hip joint. A pain, but not usually such a big deal. Wills has had it twice. (I know, I know, thank goodness for my Dad). Then I notice her hands and feet are swollen, and it seems like all of her joints are bothering her. I am starting to panic a little, but Dad diagnoses her with reactive arthritis (over the phone) and says kids can respond really strangely to some viruses. Give her some motrin and watch her.

Around 8 pm (just after this Muppets dance party)

she develops the worst looking rash I've ever seen. I'm thinking measles, mumps. I don't know, just bad. Getting hot and sweaty on the dance floor wasn't such a good thing for her.

I page the real doctor, who sticks with Dad's theory and says it looks scary, but Eliza will be fine.

On Friday morning, her lips and ears start to swell. I head for the doctor, who proceeds to give her two doses of steroids, but still assures me everything will be fine.

She was correct, and by bedtime Friday, the swelling was down (but not the rash). However, giving an already high-strung two-year-old steroids for five days is a nightmare. She is an emotional wreck and doesn't sleep. (Still describing Eliza, not myself). Whoever said steroids don't keep kids awake hasn't met my girls.

By the way, Eliza is so funny. Her favorite color is 'Ginch Green', as in 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' green, but I don't know who told her that was a color. Is that a color?

My aunt and uncle gave her this Winnie the Pooh t-shirt for Christmas and it is all she will wear.

She stands by the dryer and waits for it.

Last night at bedtime, I asked her what she wanted me to sing. I was thinking something along the lines of 'Jesus Loves Me', but she said, "Built City on Rock."

Looking for clarification, and still thinking spiritually, I said, "On this rock I build my church?"

"No, Mommy. 'Built this City on Rock and Roll.' From Sissy's iPod."

Oh. So I sang my child to sleep with a little Jefferson Starship. "We Built This City on Rock-n-Roll." It's on the new Muppets soundtrack, just in case you were wondering. My parents actually met over a Starship album at a party in medical school, so I was actually more than happy to sing it to her.

Yesterday Wills started running 101 fever. Please let this be his unique reaction to the virus the girls have already had, and not something new. Please.

So, hoping for a few healthy weeks! I really want to wear my new boots!

P.S. Thank you for all your kind comments on my last post. It means a lot to me and makes this blog not feel like such a one-way conversation. For those of you in real pain, please know that it was a long time before any of my baggage got moved to the basement. I don't think you have a choice about how to respond to tragedy in the beginning. Everything just hurts. I also don't think I will ever permanently clean out my basement, so to speak. To do so would not be honest. Suffering is a part of this life, and has a real place. You just can't let it control you. Some days I am better at that than others. 

Not Too Resolute

Happy 2012 to my readers! I am always appreciative of a new start. Maybe this year I need a clean slate more than ever.

I hesitate to make resolutions for the new year for several reasons. I have a tendency to be geared toward perfectionism. If I deviate from the rule just a little bit, I quit trying. {The cheeseburger consumed on January 2 becomes cause to throw out the healthy eating agenda for the entire year.}

The second reason is that I realize what I need most is a new heart. This isn't something that comes from keeping resolutions or spending long hours at the gym. It is more about receiving than acquiring, letting go than digging in. And sometimes, the more I focus on my agenda, the less likely I am to be energetic about His.

Case in point, this morning I got up at 5 to fulfill one of my resolutions for the year- writing 1,000 words in my book every day. Fifteen minutes later, Virginia woke up, coughing and needing lots of love and assistance. That was the end of the writing for the morning, and I was frustrated.

That frustration almost made me miss the gift of uninterrupted time with Virginia.

It isn't about me. I think I have been working on that resolution since kindergarten, but I still haven't mastered it.

So, here are my resolutions for 2012, but know that my main goal is to be open to every moment with my family and to keep my desire for tangible accomplishments on the back burner. Wish me luck!

1. To beat Virginia out of bed in the morning and write 1,000 words a day

2. I am deactivating my facebook account. (Done)

3. After the kids are in bed, I can read, write, or the occasional, purposeful tv show or movie. No internet.

4. Drink more water than diet coke. (Sad to say, but this will be hard!)

5. Eat more vegetables than chocolate bars.

6. Be diligent about Virginia's PODD communication system.

7. I added this one last night, when trying to cram all my Christmas clothes into my closets. Yes, closets is plural. I am not buying myself one article of clothing this year. Not one. I don't need anything, and that statement is not going to change in the next 365 days. I have no idea if I can do this, but I will let you know how it goes.

Our time away from work and school has been great. Findley drove us to Memphis the morning after having all four of his wisdom teeth pulled. Impressive. We had a great visit with my family. We missed you, Emily and John.

Just call her Mary Poppins. V was excited about her parasol,

Practiced his scooter,

The year of the puffy vest.  Still refusing to be pictured: Eliza.

Muppets soundtrack dance party in the kitchen.

Puppet show,

Muppets soundtrack dance party, garage,

That's my child, diving across the table for Aunt Carol's dip,

Wills' first Vandy football game. We lost after having a lead in the fourth quarter. It was a good introduction to being a Commodore fan. But we had a really good time.

Christmas List

I have been scouring catalogs and the internet for months trying to find a Christmas present for Virginia. Wills has asked for a hundred different things, and I could easily think of a hundred additional things he would love. But it is hard to buy for someone with Virginia's physical disabilities. Virginia has UGG boots and an iPod. She has an only-one-of-its-kind motorized, swinging bed to help her sleep at night. (Thanks, Dad and Uncle Moose.) Her clothes are cuter than mine and good luck finding a Disney stuffed animal or movie she doesn't own.

The truth is, what Virginia really needs, I can't give her.

It's a hard lesson for a mother to learn- having to turn over your children to someone who loves them even more.

She is facing things that are physically tougher than anything I have ever had to endure. She has had nothing to eat by mouth since last Tuesday, yet lives in a house where food is prepared and eaten on a regular basis. We are doing our best to be sensitive, but let's be honest. It's a pain I can't take away from her and one whose sting I can't imagine.

Virginia is going to have to rely on spiritual food more than the rest of us do. Even though that is my prayer for my children, I wouldn't have envisioned it this way. Not all this suffering. Not at age 8.

More than any of the rest of our family, Virginia understands why Christmas is so glorious. She really needs a Savior. She really needs to know that God loves her so much, He allowed his son to suffer the ultimate misery. She needs to know that one day, she will live without pain.

We are truly celebrating Christmas at our house this year, maybe more than ever.

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Our good news is that the cough is better! A million 'hallelujahs' to that!

I feel like we are finally getting to the bottom of things. I think (Findley and I have an MD in Virginia Frazer, in case you were wondering) that the cough is primarily from aspirating, but not aspirating food. It's mainly her own secretions over the course of the night. So we are turning on the old humidifier, elevating her bed, and relying on the tube as much as possible without making her miserable. Nana would be so happy Virginia's off "all those damn medicines!" The other main issue is that she keeps getting colds, so we are going to continue to stay home from school for a while.

I think if we can let her lungs rest and heal, we might just get back to where we were six months ago.

Apart from turning the corner with the cough, It's been a trying week. The latest Virginia has slept is 3 am. I guess it's the steroids? On Tuesday she scared us by becoming pretty unresponsive- I have never seen her so sedated. Findley figured out it was the allergy medicine she started last Tuesday, and after 36 hours without it, she is back to herself. She's tired, but not zoned out.

I really don't know how to thank all of you who regularly pray for our family. Many of you have lots of time invested in our family. What a gift! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now, for laughs, here are some of the Christmas card pictures I didn't use...stay tuned for the winner. I have to get them in the mail first. It would be anticlimactic for my friends to see it on the blog first! (as if anyone really cares except for me!)

Too blurry...

Almost, but not looking the same direction...

Mommy was screaming at Eliza. Sissy was laughing at Mommy...

Mommy bribed Eliza with smarties, but it backfired when she wouldn't put them down for the picture.

This is cute, if we were a family of rappers...

Funny...Wills was hot in his sweater, sandwiched between two girls, and past ready to call it a day.

Laid back Sissy!

In other news, I have been wearing my glasses a lot. For two reasons. The first is that they make me look smarter and I need that- my sleep deprivation has taken 'spacey' to a new level. The other is that it's hard to get contacts in on two hours sleep.

Someone decided to copy me. She found my college glasses and wore them for hours yesterday. Sort of has me worried that she has vision problems because I am blind as a bat! I would think she couldn't see a thing with them on, but she is serious as a heart attack when she wears them.

That same someone loves having Virginia home from school. Maybe a little too much. Eliza, get out of Sissy's face...

Who, me?

And you know you live in Alabama when this is how your son spells 'The A-merican Flag.'

Merry Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Virginia's cough hit it's peak on Sunday and has been steadily declining ever since. Today has been our best morning in at least two months. We are going up on the robinol slowly and coming down on the seizure med slowly. (and not going to sleep very well, but I'll take sleep deprivation over the cough any day). I have done a few more absent minded things (I got $100 cash at the grocery store yesterday and tipped the boy who loaded my groceries $98 and kept $2 for myself), but hopefully will get used to not sleeping again soon! I don't know how Thanksgiving is already here, but it looks like it really is. Happy Thanksgiving to all my faithful readers!

I am thankful for my family and friends.

I am thankful that God created life.

I am thankful for all of life's deep complexities that make it so beautiful.

I am thankful that God gives me new hope every day.

I am thankful for love.

I am thankful for this little angel... in this picture, she has climbed to the back of the couch to get away from the Christmas card pictures...

And I am grateful for these two precious faces. Can you believe how grown-up they are?

And I am thankful for Findley who makes life seem just like a day at the beach ;)