Sunday, December 30, 2012

A few of my favorite things

I have been wanting to do a post like this for awhile now, and am hoping some of my fellow blogging mamas will follow suit, so we can swap some great ideas! I have found some FANTASTIC finds lately and wanted to share them here...

1. Family Rules Signs
You may remember our family establishing family rules some time ago. So, I know these awesome signs are all the rage on Etsy and elsewhere and I fell in love with them! When I told Dusk I wanted one of the ultra cool canvas ones that were selling for a hefty $175+ our conversation may have gone something like this - Him: N.O. Me: Please!!!! Him: N.O. Me: Stop being so cheap! Him: Excuse me?!? Did we not just buy an expensive minivan? Me: Silence (because really, is there any response to that??? No!). Anyway, he told me if I could find a way to get it under $50, I could do it. So I set out and TOTALLY accomplished it! 

I found this awesome seller, Christen, on Etsy, who will create a completely custom pdf/jpg for you with YOUR family rules. She was so kind, going back and forth with me to get it just right (even complying with my last minute request to add rules in, change language, etc.). I had her do it as a 16x20 jpg file, took that, printed it at (which just so happened to be having a 50% off sale right before Christmas, which is super helpful when you're talking the big prints, which can get kinda pricey) and picked up the print a couple of hours later at our local Walgreens! I ran over to Aaron Brothers, which had an gorgeous large frame with a mat in it already that fit a 16x20 print (which is huge, since that's the size you start having to do custom print mats which can get really expensive - oh, and I had a 50% coupon)! 

All told, I spent $48.25 ($8.50 for the file + $9.75 to print it out + $30 for the frame) - and I did the whole thing in less than 24 hours! How's that for amazing? And I SO LOVE it! It fits with our household motiff perfectly and I couldn't possibly love it more! I wholeheartedly recommend Christen and her Etsy store, On and Off the Hook (oh, and if you tell her I sent you and use the coupon code "referred," you'll get 10% off!)

2. Nighttime Potty Training Alarms
Nighttime potty training Bodie, right? Nope. Sierra. I know, I know - she's 5 and still wearing pullups to  bed (which are SOAKED in the morning regardless of how many times we woke her up to pee, how much we limited fluids before bed, etc.), but what can I say? Dusk and I were late bedwetters, too, so we kind of expected it. Her pediatrician said not to worry about it or do anything about it, since it'll happen once her bladder matures and not a second sooner. But then we heard about these things called bedwetting alarms and bit the bullet and bought one. BEST.DECISION.EVER. Seriously. All it is an audible and vibratory alarm that attaches to the shoulder of her pajamas with a wetness sensor that clips to the outside of her underwear.  The concept is that it alarms and wakes her up as soon as she starts to pee. Eventually, her bladder learns to wake her up before that happens and she goes on her own - or she just doesn't go during the night anymore (I'll be honest, I have no idea how the latter happens, I only know that it does! Ha!). Anyway, that's how it theory.

In actuality, the first week, she was setting that thing off 3 times a night and she was sleeping like the dead STRAIGHT THROUGH the ear piercing alarm. I was having to shake her, etc. just to get her up and out of bed to change her. It was like having a newborn baby - super awesome. But, I'm thrilled to say that in the past month, she has made HUGE progress. Generally, she now has, at the most, 1 accident a night - and she had 5 dry nights in a row the week before Christmas! For us, this has been a HUGE deal. I suspect in another few weeks, she'll be totally dry all the time - she's super proud of her progress, and we're super excited to be thisclose to having her out of pullups!

I wholeheartedly recommend this alarm to any parent with an older bedwetter!

3. Best Kids Crafts Ever!
If you haven't already discovered DLTK Crafts for Kids, CHECK IT OUT NOW! If you have young kids and like to pretend like you're crafty, but don't want to actually have to think of the crafts yourself, check out this website. Awesome kids crafts for all ages - we routinely find crafts on here that are age appropriate for BOTH Sierra and Bodie - and lots of letter work, which is great for preschoolers!

4. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
Oh.My.Word. I LOVE these things. Hypothetically, if we had a kid who wrote EVERYWHERE (and by everywhere, I mean the walls, the hardwood floors, the granite counters, the inside of a brand new minivan - all hypothetically, of course), I would seriously want to buy stock in these. Because, they get pencil, crayon and marker off of just about ANYTHING. I'm sure they have other uses as well, but I honestly can't see past our current use. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Because only a bad parent would have a kid that thinks the world is his writing surface.

5. World's greatest minivan
This morning, when we got home from church, we were so happy, cozy and comfy inside our new Sienna that the kids and I refused to get out. We reclined the seats, snuggled and giggled. 
 Seriously. They thought of EVERYTHING a family needs. 16 cup holders. Seriously. And that, folks, is just the tip of the iceberg. If you're even considering it, go test drive one - and then get over yourself. It's a Minivan. But if you're uncool enough to have to consider needing one, you're probably past your prime of cool anyway. I'm just saying. Just get the darn thing. You won't regret it, I promise!

6. Print with my Pic
I discovered this website when I was trying to print tickets for our Bennett Family Express on Christmas Eve. I wanted personalized tickets for the kids and I came across the website. AWESOME. You can upload your own picture, information and everything - and they're adorable - and totally FREE. 

There you have it, folks. Just a few tidbits of awesomeness I've discovered lately. You're welcome. :-) Hit me back with yours - let's share the love! Happy almost New Year!!!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Blessings upon Abundant Blessings

My heart is in a good space right now. Just a good, sweet place. As we celebrated the birth of our savior Jesus Christ earlier this week, I looked at my children, drunk in their sweet faces full of excitement, and just was...was grateful...was happy...was just filled with a profound sense of how very, very blessed we are. Even with a knee injury for me, a double ear infection for Bodie and constant pain for Dusk due to his collapsed hip, even so, I was so struck by how blessed we are. What an answer to prayer - a peace which can only be given by our Savior. I am so grateful for this time of reflection, since I know it will strengthen us for the year ahead, which will include both Bodie's and Dusk's surgeries and many other surprises I am sure. So, for today, I am peacefully happy...

Christmas this year was so wonderful. We got a wonderful Christmas present the week before Christmas, in a fantastic cardiology appointment for Bodie! All looked well, we were sent home with one med change and told to come back in 3 months for our next routine appointment, where we will discuss the Fontan. That one med change (to up his Enalapril, for my heart mama followers) has made a huge difference for him - he has been pinker, satting better and seeming to have more endurance. It was a wonderful surprise and will hopefully keep him more comfortable until the summer.
Bodie with our beloved cardiologist, celebrating a great appointment. :-)

After that, our Christmas festivities really kicked off, with Sierra's kindergarten class Christmas party, which we were all able to attend. BEYOND adorable to see these kids get so excited about Santa visiting and their pizza party. :-)
Santa came through our neighborhood and the kids were overjoyed to get to see him (we'll just ignore the fact that Santa clearly does not share their excitement! haha!)
Not sure whether the kids were more excited to see Santa - or sit in the firetruck!

Then, Popo Alan and Gram Jan came to town and boy did we have a ball with them! They got to come with us to the Christmas Eve service at the church associated with Sierra's school, which was super fun.

Gram Jan and Popo Alan with the kiddos.

I'm just trying to figure out WHERE my babies went?!?
You'll notice Daddy isn't in these pics - sadly, this is because our water heater blew up on the 23rd and Daddy had to stay home to wait for the guy to replace it, so he missed the Christmas Eve service :-( Luckily, Daddy did get to join us for dinner afterwards, and our first ever "Bennett Family Express" trip to see Christmas lights. The kids thought it was such a treat to get their own tickets, wear jammies and drink hot cocoa out of sippy cups in the car. Fun, fun, fun times!

Christmas morning, the kiddos were over the moon to wake up to find out Santa had stopped by - and left behind, among other goodies, a Lite Brite for Sierra...
and a Tonka Truck set for Bodie (thank you Gigi and Popo for that one)...
Me with my babies Christmas morning (man I love these kiddos)...
Opening stockings...
Bodie opened up a pair of squeaky shoes...and was so excited that he immediately stripped off his footed jammies so that he could put them on! So funny...this kid never ceases to crack me up!
Sierra with one of her favorite gifts - a princess tea party set from Aunt Missy, Uncle Paul and her cousins! (thank you so much for getting her a PLASTIC set!)
Gram Jan and Popo Alan got both of the kids name plates for their bikes, which they LOVED.

The entire time they were here, the kiddos got SO MUCH fun, snuggle time with their grandparents. We felt so lucky that they clicked so well this trip (in previous trips, it has often taken Bodie some time to warm up)...
(the kids spent a lot of time "supervising" Popo and daddy in keeping the train set running)
(Fellow heart moms, can you believe how rosy those lips are?!? Thank you, Enalapril!!!)

For Christmas, Popo Alan bought the kids a Gingerbread house. He, apparently, had the idea that it would be something I could do with them next week sometime. I, on the other hand, have vivid memories of the experience doing it last year with the kids, so I made darn sure we did it before he left, so that he could be in charge of it! As I suspected, it turned into daddy and Popo working hard...
while the kids were making a mess somewhere else in the house (haha!)...
But, at the end of the day, I have to say that daddy did an incredible job on it and the kids were psyched to decorate it, or, ok, just eat the decorations. :-)
The last thing we did before Popo and Gram Jan left was a trip to the park...
(again, heart moms look at those lips!!! And it was freezing outside - this kid is usually sooooo purple in the cold!)
If you're still reading (sorry - I know it was long, but we had so many great pics I had a hard time choosing!), MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Bennetts! See you in 2013!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our sweet Girl

Today, Bodie is the exact age Sierra was when he was born - 2 months and 8 days shy of 3 years old. Oh my. Looking at Bodie now, this little ball of innocence, it's hard for me to remember Sierra this age, before everything became so different for our family. Our family has been through so much in the past almost 3 years, it is hard to remember when life wasn't this way, when Sierra was just a sweet, precocious baby girl like any other.
But she's not like any other girl. She has slept in ICU rooms while her brother has fought for his life, she has heard her parents talk of surgeries and survival rates, she has watched medications administered, stethoscopes pulled out of seat pockets in the midst of casual discussions, she knows all of Bodie's doctors personally and she has asked where heart friends are, friends who have passed on to Heaven. We've had conversations about things no 5-year old should ever have to think about. At the tender age of 5, she has already learned that nothing in life is certain, except Jesus. 
I don't know that Bodie would have handled things with as much grace as Sierra as. Actually, I do know - he wouldn't have. Sierra is an amazing little girl and I think we often often forget that it wasn't just Bodie, or Dusk or I, whose lives were turned upside down, but so was Sierra's. And she has handled it in such an extraordinary manner, just falling into this new normal we have as though it's always been this way. 

We are so proud of her and how much she has weathered the past 3 years. She has grown into such a compassionate and curious little girl, always wanting to help. She is kind, she is sweet, she is understanding, she is energetic (way too energetic sometimes, but we'll take it!), and she loves her brother so much.
We love you, Sierra. So very, very much. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Still waters for my soul

On Monday, after dropping Sierra off at school, Bodie and I headed out in the rain to the bi-weekly MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) Bible study at our church. I love rain...from inside my nice, warm house, all cozied up in my sweats. So I contemplated not going - almost changed my mind as we were heading there. But I felt a stirring to go. And, besides, Bodie had a cold coming on which meant he was cranky and clingy as all get out. So I figured what the heck, even I got 10 minutes away from him, it'd be worth the drive in the rain! ;-)

After dropping Bodie off in the nursery and sitting down with my fellow mommies, our leader told us we were covering Chapter 5. I turned to it to find it was titled "Eternal Life" and was the story of Lazarus, his resurrection, and Martha and Mary's response to his death. The "discussion starter" was "What are some of your honest feelings and fears about death - especially when a family member or friend dies?" Holy.Crap. Ok, God I get it, loud and clear. You don't want me to avoid this any longer - you want me to open up, and do it in a safe environment, with fellow Christian women who can walk me through it.

So, as these sweet moms went around the circle talking about their grandmothers passing and fears that they would die while their children were still young, I realized how different my life is than theirs, how much more I have seen, how much this CHD walk has changed me, how much it has changed my perspective on things. When they came to me, I took a deep breath and got out "I think I have a different perspective on death because of my son. When I think of death, I don't think of grandparents dying. Not anymore. I think of kids, most of them under the age of 5, of babies, of smiling, happy toddlers taken from their parents far too soon..." and then I just started crying. And man, the floodgates just opened. I talked about my deepest fears, about this scary walk our family is on. These poor women. They thought they were coming to have a fun little Bible Study, and then Debbie Downer showed up for her own personal therapy session. ;-) Most everyone was crying by the time I was done talking. 

You see, I have been struggling with this A LOT lately. I'm scared. I am so scared I cannot even put it into words. I don't WANT to put it into words, for fear that saying it might make it a reality (as if somehow we could jinx God's plans - I know, I know - it seems ludicrous, but let's face it, half of what we humans do is pretty dang stupid to begin with, right?). 

Bodie has MAJOR open-heart surgery coming up and I can't avoid that. Up until now, it's sort of been looming out there, somewhere, in the distance and occasionally the fears would come up, I'd blog about it, get it out of my system and then I'd push them back down knowing we were still a year or more away from it. But, the past few months, as I've watched Bodie get progressively more blue, tired and winded, it's come back up and I find myself unable to push the fears down. Every time he takes a break, or asks me to hold him, it hits me again - his little body is ready for the Fontan. We can't avoid it much longer. We're looking at next June/July if he can hold out that long

Bodie had an EP (Electrophysiology) appointment this week at CHLA and after so many nurses and doctors asking how soon he would be in for the Fontan, what his energy levels were like, what our "Plan B" was if he couldn't hold out until June/July, etc., I seriously just wanted to vomit. And honestly, if I didn't have the kids with me and all up in my business in the bathroom, I probably would have. But, you know, I didn't feel like having to explain it to them! So I just settled for an overwhelming feeling of chest tightness and nausea. So, needless to say, my heart has been really unsettled lately. I feel like we are just closing in on the Fontan and I have a hard time breathing my way through that thought.

Odds are, Bodie will do very well with the Fontan. Most kids do very well with it, are out of the hospital within a week or 2 and home and recovering. Within a few months, most kids are better than ever, have more energy than ever, etc. But, not all - 2 of Bodie's heart buddies went into heart failure and needed transplants within months of their Fontans this past summer alone. And one of them passed right after her transplant just a month before her 4th birthday. The fact that the statistics were on their side are of little comfort to those families who find themselves on the losing end of those statistics. And, at the end of the day, this is STILL major open-heart surgery with all of the attendant risks, not just to his heart and his body, but the neurological risks of being on bypass to his mind, his sweet, silly, feisty little mind. So, this fear, it is ever present with me, creeping into every facet of my mind, of my body, of my spirit. It's a lot for one person to take on.

So, when our Bible Study was about eternal life, and about how EVERYTHING God allows to happen, including whether or not he performs miraculous healings is all about revealing His glory, not about what we as humans want - I knew God called me to MOPS this week for a reason. Because it was a lesson I needed to hear and allow to sink in. Martha, even in her anger at God for not being there to save Lazarus when he was dying, yet still believed in God and trusted Him. What a great example of faith.

One of things we talked about was that God calls our primary focus to be on HIM and on our relationship with Him, not on material things. And material things are pretty much everything else, including our family and friends. I had never thought about people being material things, but I suppose in this context, they might be considered just that. That's not to say that we are to ignore our family and friends or that they aren't more important than other material things, but simply that they are not as important as God and our purpose in HIM. When we focus on HIM and daily ask Him that our lives be used to His glory, to draw ourselves and others around us to Him, it changes our perspective. We are able to trust Him more deeply and to rely on Him more fully. This was such a reassuring thing for me to remember; to remember that when Bodie was born, our greatest prayer was that his life would glorify God. And still today, that needs to be our prayer.

We also talked about how Jesus wept when we saw Lazarus dead, how as a wholly human being, everything we are feeling, he has already felt. Just because we are focused on God and His glory does not mean we are not allowed to mourn, allowed to anguish over the loss of our loved ones. Last week, as I wept to my best friend Valerie about my fears over Bodie's upcoming surgery and the uncertainty, she gently reminded me that "...there is NOTHING going on here that God doesn't know about. And God in heaven walked through 33 years of KNOWING beyond a shadow of a doubt that his Son was going to die. God KNOWS your fear and agony." What a blessed reassurance and a powerful reminder. I can bring my fears of this unknown journey to God, because HE KNOWS. He knows what it is like not just to think you might lose your son, but to know without a doubt you are going to. How much more can he identify with my fears that I might lose my son? I can cry to my King and He can give me comfort. What blessed reassurance this is to me. And what blessed reassurance that he has placed Valerie in my life to give my comfort in my dark hour. How she is able to, in spite of the fact that she has never walked in my shoes, provide comfort to my soul, is an indescribable gift. I am daily thankful for her gift of friendship, love and support.

So, today, although I am still in fear, I walk a little lighter, a little of my burden unloaded. My goal in the upcoming months is to pray daily to turn this over to God more and more, to truly surrender my son to him. I'll be honest, I surrended my son to Him the day he was born and in my deepest of hearts, I had surrendered him completely. But since then, I've started holding pieces of him back, to an incomplete surrender. Now that I know my son as Bodie and all his intracies and amazingness, I've held back - I don't want to let him go, to surrender him to God's plan, to His glory. But I have to. And, in realizing that, my fears make sense. So, I'm in the process of letting go - of loving my son as much as humanly possible, but still, at the end of the day, knowing that I am only his caretaker, here to love him as long as I have him and knowing that he is ultimately God's. 
I love this child so much. And as powerful as a mother's love is, God promises me that his love is deeper. I cannot even fathom that, but His word promises me that it is so. My love is imperfect; His is perfect. What sweet surrender to my soul - to surrender my son to the only one who can love him more than I. What a blessed gift He gives us.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grateful Hearts

At Thanksgiving this year, the kids and I made a "tree of Thankfulness" of things they were grateful for. 
(yes, this was seriously the best pic we could get with Bodie and the tree in it. What can I say? The kid hates clothes.)

 For posterity, here was their list:

Jesus, My Heart, This little light of mine, Cousin Hannah, Cousin Amelia, My Mommy, My New School, Dada, My Family, Candles (because God is in my heart), and Gigi & Popo. 

Gigi, Jesus, Cookie Monster, Mommy & Daddy, Daddy & Mommy (& puppets), Daddy, Mommy, Mommy, Gigi, Mommy, Sissy, Popo, Mommy, Mommy, Green Beans and Ketchup. (I was relieved that I was able to get him to branch out beyond "mommy"!)

And as for mommy and daddy, well, we made our own list of what we're grateful for...
Our family
(maybe not so grateful that our family pictures resulted almost entirely in variations on this theme - but hey, it makes for good memories!)

Slip and sliding on Thanksgiving Day

(you mean everyone didn't have weather this warm?!?)

Family traditions (like new Christmas jammies on Thanksgiving night):
Having friends and family (and a medical team) who fully supports letting our medically fragile child live as normal a life as possible...
(and grandparents who aren't afraid to take chances!)...and be as much like his healthy sister as possible...

Having grandparents in our kids' lives who love our children and want to know them and be involved as they grow up
wait, back the bus up, did I just say "minivan?!?" Yep. That was Amy's early Christmas present. C'mon peeps - don't judge till you've tried one. They are, in a word, AMAZING. (Stylish? Perhaps not. But amazing, nonetheless? Yup.). I'm not gonna lie - I'm a teensy bit in love. I'm almost there to my official "soccer mom" status. And totally digging it. :-)
Oh, and we have lots o' appointments coming up over the next couple of weeks (Electrophysiology, Pulmonology and Cardiology (Mommy's quarterly freak-out has already started for that one) for Bodie as well as starting the 2nd opinion process for both Bodie and Dusk (to discuss/plan surgical options for his hip replacement)). We covet your prayers for all of these appointments, particularly for clarity in the second opinion processes. 

And Bodie is definitely starting to show more signs of being Fontan-ready. He's getting winded much more easily, and, for the first time ever, is starting to just slow down all the way around. There's not many pictures of him slip 'n' sliding, because, honestly, he could only do it 1 or 2 times by himself - after that, he wanted me to hold him (which, to be honest, was a whole 'nother experience for me - I seriously deserve extra kudos for slip 'n' sliding with a kiddo on my hip! haha!). He just didn't have the stamina to keep up. We knew this was coming. We knew when he got to the point that his heart started to slow him down and affect his ability to keep up, that it would be Fontan time. We're finally getting there. He's starting to show us that he's ready. Knowing that makes all of these appointments a little more scary, a little more real. We're going into this next Cardiology appointment fully expecting to have the Fontan discussion. So, please, keep us in your prayers in the weeks and months ahead. 

Thanks and hope your Holidays are off to a great start!