Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Well, well, look who's back. I tought I needed to do a brief update since I've been on a month and half long blogging hiatus. The Carders are still alive and kicking. Seriously, what happened? No, I have not been in one of my funks, surprising I know. You know me and my funks. Again, can we just talk about how great the word funk is? You say it and...BAM! Instant better mood. Things have just been crazy here much like it is for everyone I'm sure and I've just gotten so behind on the ole blogging. So, don't be surprised in January when I do a post about Thanksgiving and our first family road trip EVER to Kansas City. Holla!! Just go ahead and throw me a bone okay?

So much has happened in the past month and a half so there is BIG news to update on. I'll do a more in depth post after Christmas but just a few praises are my parents moved to Fort Worth over Thanksgiving! Yeah, AAAAMMMAAAZZZIINNGG! What a blessing to have them here. The doors kept opening for them as they thought and prayed about moving here and now here they are. Sold their house in less than a week and bought one here the same week. Pretty awesome. The Lord is good.

Also, Ella is doing really, really well. Feedings are going great, there is NO vomiting. Praise the Lord! We went from vomiting every single day, multiple times a day for a year to now none. NONE! She is actually acting hungry for the first time in her life and sleeping great at night just to name a few positive things. Right before Thanksgiving we started her on an antihistamine purely for the side effect that it increases appetite. And lo and behold the girl is eating like you wouldn't believe. She is taking an average now of around 4 ounces in her bottle in like 15 minutes where as before it would take us about 20-30 minutes to get her to take an ounce and half. Yeah, the pace and volume have picked up tremendously. So, note to self, if I ever have to be on an antihistamine, this is not the one to take. You might stop sneezing but you'll gain 25 pounds. Not cool for anyone but Ella who actually needs to gain weight. We've seen a huge difference since starting her on the new medicine. We are still using the feeding tube for every feeding but feedings are not taking as long which is wonderful. She is eating more table food and isn't gagging like she was. She actually points at food and acts like she wants it and says "bite" or "baba" when she sees her bottle. I know, who is this kid?! This is just incredible since before this was the child who could go all day and not eat a thing and be the happiest kid on the planet. I don't know, feeding is unfortunately very complicated for most babies like Ella who were born with an omphalocele, but over time the prognosis is very good that they will eat. Ella has made tremendous progress and we could not be prouder or more thankful. It's not what you would call "normal" but it is big steps in the right direction.

Also, we cut out another feeding a week or so ago so now we are down to 5 feedings a day. WOO HOO! AND, she had her biggest weight gain yet this week even though we cut out a feeding. This is so exciting for us! She is eating more food by mouth as well and is very willing to try new things. She is such a little fighter! Our goal is still weight gain but now we are really trying to make her daily feeding schedule more age appropriate and we're working on getting more volume in table food wise. Things still are very micro-managed and it is definitely a team effort between us, her therapists, dieticians, and doctors but the hard work is paying off. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for us. Thank you Lord! There have been plenty of days that I wondered if there ever would be light or if someone forgot to put an end to this dark tunnel we have been in this past year. The Lord is faithful in the good times and the dark times and we have never doubted His love for us. We have a lot to work on still but things have definitely taken a turn for the better so KEEP PRAYING!! Your prayers are life changing and greatly coveted, thank you for being so committed to praying for Ella. Keep praying for her, she's come a loooong way and still has a ways to go.

Anyway, really I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and let you know how much we love and cherish each of you. We're so thankful for you and how you bless our family with love, support, encouragement and prayer. I hope that all of you have a blessed holiday season celebrating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us. More details on Ella's progress and other news to come, check back soon!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?


Yours truly, little Miss Ella Hope Carder. What a big girl! Today she figured it out and has been pulling up on EVERYTHING. We're so proud of her and this just shows us that she really has gotten so much stronger. We didn't know when she would start pulling up because her left arm is still weak and she has a hard time reaching up with it, which pulling up requires you to do. However, even though her range of motion is limited and her arm is weaker than her right, she is able to use it to help pull herself up. Yea Ella! It's so encouraging to see because we still have a long way to go as far as stretching and strengthening her muscles on that side. Time will tell what her range of motion will be in her left arm. Her shoulder deformity was very rare and her shoulder surgery was the first her surgeons had ever performed of it's kind so really none of us know what she'll be able to do or what kind of range she will have. We just know that she has made good progress so far and we're just continuing to pray that the Lord will heal and strengthen her arm and give her full range of motion.

Another thing that has made it harder for Ella to stand on her own is her weak abdominal muscles. If you remember, her ab muscles are not closed because at her omphalocele repair surgery at birth it was such a tight fit getting the organs put back in that they were not able to pull her muscles together. It was just a skin closure so because of this she has a hernia which she will have surgery for to repair in the next several years. Anyway, because of all of that her ab muscles are weak so things like walking, pulling up and other things are harder and often delayed for babies like Ella.

So, can you see why we are SOOO excited that she has reached this milestone?? She is a hard worker and is so cooperative in all of her therapies that she is in which is such a blessing. Please keep praying for her, the prayers are definitely being felt and answered. Keep praying this week that she tolerates her feedings and gains weight. The dietician came today and Ella gained about 2 ounces which is good but we were hoping for a bigger gain. At least she didn't lose so that is a step in the right direction. So this means that we will continue on with our schedule of six feedings a day and try to increase her volume daily. This whole feeding/weight gain thing is very complicated,micro-managed,overwhelming and hard to understand, I know, unless you have a child with feeding issues.

So, please continue to pray for us as we try to figure all of this out with Ella and make decisions that will work for her and our family. We have a lot of great help medically with it all which is a huge blessing but feeding is a very overwhelming and slllloooowwww process. Slow meaning probably for several more years. I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer or appear as if I'm giving up hope, I'm just being realistic. So that's why sometimes it's hard for me to answer when I'm asked "How are feedings going?" or "How's Ella?" I mean, I don't know...she is doing well and we are definitely blessed, but things are not great or near being "normal." It's BETTER, but it's still hard and we have a long way to go. Please know that I love that people care and genuinely want to know how things are going and how to pray so don't take this at all to mean that I feel awkward or annoyed by the questions because I definitely appreciate and want them. I feel immensely blessed by such an amazing support system with friends and family who have and continue to help us so much and I don't take it for granted. You know me, I just can't sugar-coat things so hopefully without making others feel awkward by my response to their questions I try to be as honest as possible without going into great detail that no one really can understand anyway because they're not in my shoes. Does that make any sense? Hope so and sorry if it doesn't. It's just that with a child like Ella who has some special and specific needs you don't see big changes day to day so sometimes I feel like we've gotten nowhere and I'm banging my head against a wall with all of this but the truth is she has made great improvements, it's just baby steps when I want giant leaps. I'm learning to be thankful for baby steps and I just have to remind myself of where we started from. Last year on this day Ella had her G-button surgery and was still in the hospital so I would say we've come a long way wouldn't you? I mean, this past Saturday night at dinner the girl ate 1 1/2 french fries(a girl after my own heart :)), two slices of carrots and part of a mandarin orange slice. Seriously, let's get this child some fries and let 'er go to town! What a difference a year makes. Thank you Lord!

Ella one year ago

Wow, this post is getting a little longer than I had planned. You get me going on this whole feeding and special needs children topic and I could talk for awhile. Get ready because there will be more where that I came from. I am definitely learning A LOT through our struggles with Ella and it has opened my eyes to this world that we are in along with so many other families of children that need extra special care. I don't feel alone in this thanks to our amazing families, friends and support system. I feel different, but not alone. Thank you Lord for being faithful to us! Keep praying, love to all!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Fun

This past weekend we had a fun time going to a little pumpkin patch by our house and then to a Halloween party. It was so fun because we actually got to do these things as a family. I know that sounds weird but really we rarely go anywhere besides church or maybe to the park as a family. It's just been too difficult with Ella's feeding schedule to be able to do much without sacrificing a feeding or getting off schedule. That sounds a bit rigid and we're not trying to be but when you have several appointments every day and Ella has to be fed so often we have to stay on schedule in order to work in all of her appointments and keep feedings on track. So micro-managed I know, but that's just our life! So anyway, that's why weekends like this past one where we got to do some things outside of our house as a family are so fun and we actually feel semi-normal.

On a side note, this weekend was different because we dropped one of Ella's feedings so she's down to six feedings a day instead of seven. So if you saw us out and about more this past weekend, this is why. It's not that things have miraculously gotten better all of sudden, we just dropped a feeding so we had more time to actually leave the house and not have to rush back to feed Ella. This feeding schedule is huge because it gives us SO much more flexibility with feedings and time during the day to do things such as going to the pumpkin patch. It was so nice to have more time in between feedings and to actually let Ella take a long nap and not wake her up to eat. I think this weekend was the first time in her life she was able to take a long afternoon nap without having to be woken up to be fed. Poor thing. This past weekend was a trial run with the whole six feedings thing and the dietician came today and weighed her and she had lost some weight. :( Boo. But, we decided we're going to give it another week doing six feedings and we're going to bump up the volume a little in each of her feeds in hopes that we can continue with this schedule and she'll still gain weight. We'll see next week when the dietician comes back to weigh her. Seriously, be praying that this will work and that she will gain weight. I'm not kidding, y'all pray!!

Anyway, back to the weekend, we went to a little pumpkin patch to try to get some pictures of the girls which was fun but a little wheels off. It was sooooo muddy and the only place to take pictures you had to stare into the blinding sun so the pictures didn't turn out quite as good as I had hoped. Classic. We all looked like we were in pain because our faces were all scrunched up from trying to do the awkward blinding-sun-smile-but-trying-to-smile-normal thing. You know. I didn't post any of those because they're just rough. Maybe I should though just for kicks. Anyway, needless to say, we didn't stay long and we were just a taaaddd bit muddy. Oh well, a little mud never hurt nobody...shoot. The next day we went to our friend's annual Halloween party and trick or treating. We had a great time and it was Ella's first "official" Halloween since last year at this time she was still in the hospital. We didn't do any partying then either because we were up at the hospital visiting her. Her sweet friends in the NICU made sure she was all festive in her ghost onesie though for us when we came to visit.

Last year at this time, sweet baby girl! Unbelievable how she's changed.
We had great time dressing the girls up this year and visiting with friends. Ella was a nurse and Eva was an M&M. Appropriate don't you think?

Sweet Eva, the girl loves candy so being an M&M is just right up her alley. Don't you love that her hands look a little like Edward Scissorhands? These gloves were the best I could find so we just went with it.

Ella Carder R.N. with her first pair of heels

Aren't these shoes "heelarious?" Seriously, that's what they're called, I'm not that clever people.

The crazy nurse will not sit still for a picture and look at her face...she totally knows she's being difficult and is thoroughly enjoying herself. Wonderful.

Aaannnd this is about the best I could do getting a picture of the two of them together. What is with Ella's crazy legs everywhere? Good night...

Guess what we are? Isn't it obvious? Yes, I am the Octomom and Rick is the paparazzi. Can't you totally tell? :) That's what you were going to guess right?Well, this was a last minute costume (if you can call it that) and bottom line is I am too cheap to pay for a black wig and I lost my sunglasses 30 minutes before the party so the only accessory to my costume was Ella's carseat filled with 8 of Eva's baby dolls. As for Rick, obviously this picture was taken with our camera which was his main costume accessory so this is what you're left with...Rick and Amy dressed as ourselves but really supposed to be the Octomom and the paparazzi. Hey, at least we tried right?

Sweet Nurse Ella taking care of all the babies

All in all we had a fun weekend being a family and getting to spend some time with friends.

Eva trick or treating with her friends Emma and Addie

Eva trying to figure out the pinata

It's okay Eva, yo Mama ain't skeered of a little pinata. Dude, I should've had a permanent pinata up in my backyard this past year. I could've switched back and forth between hitting that thing around and throwing my plates. It's not too late, maybe I'll look into that. Aaahhh, very therapeutic. I think I have a new found love for pinatas.

Going after the candy

Eves checkin' out the loot yo

Isn't this so sweet? I just love this picture! Precious.

Pray for good feedings and weight gain this week for little Ella!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spandex are ALWAYS Cool

Weeeelll, so I have had great intentions of updating my blog more than twice a month but it just hasn't happened. As usual, things are moving at a fast pace around here and I haven't had the time to do much blog stalking which is always a shame. You know how much fun that is. Anyway, thought I'd do a little catch up on what's been happening around the Carder crib lately. Sorry for the long posts folks, I'll do better next time.

1. So Ella has a new accessory that she's been wearing around the house which are her super cool hot red spandex shorts. Aren't they great? Hilarious. Every time she has them on I can't help but think of Six Flags, early 90's. Don't you remember how many people wore spandex/unitards to Six Flags back in the day? Man, they were everywhere. I mean these people And I feel bad saying it but it was always the people that really shouldn't have been wearing spandex. These are the people that would ride the Log Ride like 12 times and be soaking wet and then I was the lucky girl that was next in line behind them at The Runaway Mine Train and had to sit on a warm, wet seat that smelled like a foot. You remember this right? Yeah, anyway, I guess that's why they wore their unitards to Six Flags, great for the Log just wicks that moisture right away from you and on to everyone else.

Anyway, I am digressing. Back to Ella and her spandex, they are so tight and are kind of like a little skirt that is sown a little between the legs so they're not really normal shorts. She is supposed to wear them as much as possible every day. They are called Hip Helpers and they're supposed to help her crawl more up on her knees like this...

Instead of like this where her knees are flat on the floor.

She definitely can get around fine and is getting pretty fast crawling with her legs flat but we would really like her to get up on her knees. I think she crawls with her legs out flat to compensate for her left arm. It takes a lot more upper body strength to crawl on your knees so she hasn't been doing it and has just figured out a way to get around that's easier. She's a smart one. She does this funny little hop/crawl thing but hopefully with her Hip Helpers she will get used to being on her knees and that will help her keep her legs under her more and build more upper body strength, especially in her left arm. The first couple of times she had them on she would just sit in the middle of the floor and not crawl at all or she would only crawl a little bit and then just lay down and cry. But now she doesn't seem to mind them so that's good.

2. Other than that, she is doing well. Feedings are going about the same and feeding therapy is going well. Yesterday in feeding therapy she ate two green beans, a few bites of a banana and a few pieces of freeze-dried fruit. That was the best she's done, volume-wise so that was encouraging. We are just continuing to work hard to make feeding a positive time and include her as much as we can during family meal times. It's not always the usual dinner scene like at other people's houses unless dinner at your house involves lots of cheering and clapping and someone occasionally gagging and vomiting at the table. Anybody want to join the Carder's for dinner? We'll save you a spot right next to Ella. :) Anyway, She is making good progress and we're really proud of how far she's come this past year. It's kind of like two steps forward, one step back with this whole feeding thing and I'm really having to give it to the Lord because it is very overwhelming at times. A week or two ago I was falling apart and just felt so overwhelmed, sad, and angry but this week I'm back on the horse and doing much better. I have weeks like that every now and then and I think it's because I start thinking more than one day at a time and I want things to get better faster and I start thinking I can fix things. If I think ahead more than one day at a time I get COMPLETELY freaked out and fall apart. So, one day at a time is all I can do and I have to remind myself that Ella belongs to the Lord and not to me and He has great plans for her even when things are not going the way I think they should.

3. In other news, we went back to Scottish Rite for another check up on Ella's arm and they were very pleased with how things are looking and progressing. They are just amazed at how she is moving her arm and felt like they don't need to see her for another 6 months! Woohoo! She's working hard in OT and PT and is making good progress, her arm is not as tight and stiff as it was so that is good news. Until our next appointment we'll just continue to work hard with her and her amazing therapists and see what happens.

These are her two main surgeons at Scottish Rite, Dr. Oishi and Dr. Ezaki. They are amazing! The Lord has definitely given them incredible wisdom and skill and we are forever grateful for how they have used it to help Ella. They are life-changers!

4. The Rickster turned 32 this month so we had a family outing to Chili's. It was fun and Ella loved the Molten Chocolate Cake. However, the public was apparently not loving the fact that I was feeding my little baby bites of ice cream and cake because I got several stare-downs as I would happily give her a bite and cheer for her because she actually swallowed and didn't gag. I forget that to others who don't know her, Ella looks like she's probably 5 or 6 months old because she's so small as opposed to 13 months so people thought I was feeding my 5 month old baby cake and ice cream. Oooh, if they only knew the half of it they would be cheering right along with me because as long as she's eating we don't care what it is.

The birthday boy with his girls

5. This last week Rick and I went to a conference in Austin while both our moms came and kept the girls. It was soooo great!! We haven't been able to do anything like this in over a year so it was great to get away for a little bit. No therapy, no feedings, no responsibility for children. Awesome. Our sweet moms are amazing and they took care of Ella's therapies, feedings, getting Eva to school and other appointments. Thank you, Thank you!! They kept things rolling for five days while we were gone and even took Eva to the zoo and all four of them took in a little air show close to our house. They are super-grandmas!! I didn't worry one bit while we were gone, if anything I felt a little bad that I was just living it up while they were working so hard for us. We are so blessed to have such supportive families who are willing and able to help us so much. We don't take it for granted and we are so thankful for each of them. We are so blessed.

Who are these people? Don't we look relaxed? :)

Thank you all for your continued prayers, help and encouragement. Days are still hard but the Lord is continuing to give us strength for the journey in so many ways. He is faithful. Please keep praying for us!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

13 Months Old

13 months people. 13 months old...unbelievable I tell you. I would say time flies when you're having fun but I wouldn't say times are so fun around here or that time is flying. Mrrrr...Mrrrr. I know, Debbie Downer strikes again. Things have been a little rough so I haven't been blogging because a) our daily schedule is crrraaazy and I haven't had time and b) honestly, I've just been a tad bit overwhelmed and in a foul mood. I know that attitude is a choice and I definitely was not choosing to be very joyful, I admit that, but sometimes I just get tired of all of this and trying to stay positive all the time. Things are still very hard and although Ella has come a LONG way, there is still a LONG way to go and it's just overwhelming at times. Trying not to complain here but I'm not good at sugar-coating things so I'm just being honest.

The past couple of weeks we've been transitioning Ella from Enfamil A.R. to a higher calorie formula, Nutren Jr., in hopes she would tolerate it well and we could spread out her feedings as well as not have to give her as much at each feeding. This plan has not gone well. She does not like the Nutren Jr. and refuses to take any of it by mouth and fights you the whole time. So we went from her taking some of her old formula by mouth, which over the past year we have worked really hard to get her to do, to her taking nothing. Zero at every feeding. This was very discouraging for me because this was not the direction we needed to be heading. In addition to not eating she was also vomiting after almost every feeding as well as in the middle of the night. Awesome. So needless to say we needed a new plan. We had an appointment with her GI doc and laid it all out for her and told her we're coming close to being at the end of our rope with this whole feeding every three hours thing. I mean really, she's 13 months old and we're still on a newborn feeding schedule! Killin' me here. I understand why it has to be this way but still, it's killing me. To clarify, the reason Ella has to be fed every three hours is because she has a small stomach and is not able to tolerate large volumes so we have to feed her less volume more often until she can tolerate more. Also, she is very small for her age so she needs all the calories she can get.

Anyway, the doctor said to go back to feeding her Enfamil A.R. by mouth since she did okay with it and to put the higher calorie formula through her g-button. It makes feedings a little more involved but this plan works much better. So we're doing a combination of both formulas and she told us for mental health reasons to just skip one feeding a day to give us all a little bit of a break. It has helped and Ella is not vomiting like she was and she's doing better taking some formula by mouth so that is good. Now we have to calculate how much she's taken by mouth, subtract this and that, multiply something else and voila'...we come up with how much of the higher calorie formula she needs in her feeding tube for the rest of the feed. And this happens every three hours still during the day with feedings taking close to an hour so do you see why I miiiight be going crazy? Where are my plates when I need to throw something???

Enough about that, in other feeding news Ella is continuing to make good progress in feeding therapy. She is doing much better eating meltable solid foods like puffs and has pretty much mastered that without much gagging and vomiting. Yea!! It still happens but her gag reflex is getting much better and she is able to recover more often after a gag these days and not lose everything which is really good. I'll spare you the gagging and vomit talk this post since you got an ear full last time. You're welcome. Anyway, this past week we have been trying soft foods like cooked pasta, diced peaches, etc. The other day she ate three bites of mac and cheese! AND, she really likes ice cream! I mean a little cookies and cream with double chocolate sundae syrup never hurt nobody...shoot. Funny how this works isn't it? I never would've given Eva spoonfuls of this when she was 13 months but with Ella we don't care what it is as long as she'll eat it. Nice, I know.

Dinner of champions my friends. Maybe this is what we should be putting in her feeding tube to pack on the pounds. Brilliant idea if I do say so myself!

She's so funny. She would just smile every time Rick would offer her a bite. Don't know why I'm surprised because who isn't in a better mood when they're eating ice cream?

Last week we also had Ella's follow up appointment at Scottish Rite and it went really well. They were very pleased with how she is progressing and that she is crawling. They released her to go ahead and start therapy so we have started back with occupational and physical therapy. She is using her left arm more and more but it is still pretty stiff and tight but with time and therapy things will get even better which is encouraging. We're not sure what her range of motion will be but we're going to treat her as if she will have full range and just see how she does with everything. We have great therapists with ECI that have been working with Ella for the last year leading up to her surgery and they will continue to see her so we're glad about that. They are awesome and we're so blessed to have them. We'll go back for another check-up in the middle of this month to see how things are going so we'll just keep on keepin' on.

Now that we've started more therapy our weekly schedule is very full and we have something almost every day and there are some days where we have two sometimes three appointments in a day for Ella. It is exhausting but we feel very blessed to have great doctors and help for Ella. I'm getting used to the new schedule with feeding therapy twice a week, OT and PT both once a week, dietician once a week as well as other random appointments. It's hard but I know it's going to help her and it will not always be this crazy. But, this is still a marathon we are in and we realize to keep sane we are going to need some extra help. So, the good news is is that a friend of ours from church is going to help us by coming a couple of days a week to help me take care of Ella during the day. She will start this week and once she feels comfortable and we have everything worked out it will allow me time to be able to leave the house, run errands, etc. which I haven't been able to do unless there was someone to keep Ella. We are very thankful and excited about her helping our family so that is a praise.

Other than that things are okay. Eva's doing well, been a little under the weather this week but doing well. Ella is doing and saying more things everyday. She started clapping this week and tries to mimic different words and sounds. I won't bore you by listing the things she says but she is going to be our talker I think. She is continuing to gain weight which is a miracle after the past week or so of feedings being hard and her vomiting so much which is a praise. She weighs close to 16 pounds now! So exciting AND she is actually on the charts now for her length and head size. Barely on the charts but still it shows we're moving in the right direction. Yea Ella! She's crawling everywhere and is getting faster, we can hardly keep her contained. She doesn't want to sit in her chair during her feedings anymore so we let her crawl around to keep her happy while she's hooked up to her feeding tube which is fine but it makes things a little wild. You can't leave her unattended because if she crawls away from her I.V. pole then the feeding tube gets stretched too far and ends up getting pulled out of her g-button and then you've got milk going everywhere. Lovely. So, we have to follow her around the house with her pole to make sure everything stays in tact. She has a little backpack that was made to hold her feeding pump, bag and tubes but I tried it on her the other day without anything in it and she did a face-plant sooooo obviously that's not going to work. So, if anyone has any spectacular on-the-go feeding tube ideas for crawling little babies besides following one around with an I.V. pole I would gladly welcome them. :)

Silly Eva...she dresses herself everyday. Stellar combo isn't it?

I promise that I really do feed my children. Eva is Miss Constant Snack Attack and I don't know what Ella thinks she's doing in the refrigerator because the girl is fed around the clock whether she's hungry or not. And of course, her little friend the I.V. pole is never far away. I need feeding tube backpack ideas asap people!

Fun with Daddy

By the way, anyone out there still watch Survivor? What is up with this Russell guy?? The dude is nuts. Can't wait for it every week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nuthin' but a C Thang

C thang being...CRAWLING!! Ella started crawling this past week and we are so excited. She was very close to crawling before her surgery so we weren't sure how she would do post-surgery with it all, if she would even crawl at all or what it would look like. She is doing great though! She is using her left arm more and is bearing weight on it which is awesome. She's not using it as much as her right still but hopefully that will come. She is all over the house and it's so cute to watch her. She is just so tiny so it's hilarious to see her scooting around. She's still figuring it all out but she's doing great and her poor little knees are red all the time because she wants to go, go, go. She just kind of creeps along and I can't help singing to myself everyday a little Snoop Dogg "I'm creepin' and I'm creepin' and I'm creepin" as I watch her. Nice right? Thus the title of my blog post ya know, a little shout out to the DoggFather...shoot. Anywho, we're so proud of her! We also started feeding therapy today so we'll be going over twice a week to Our Children's House in Grapevine for therapy. It went well and was a positive experience so I think it will be helpful. My sweet friend Randi goes to the same therapist at OCH and left us a little gift this morning to get us pumped up about feeding. Thanks Randi, we love the bib!

Go Ella! Go! Go! Go!
Feedings are going about the same this week. Ella is still doing fairly well with the puffs and her bottle feedings are about the same which is a positive thing. She has started her usual once or twice a day vomiting episodes which is not so great though. Please keep praying for her feedings. This week we are going to try to start transitioning her to a new higher calorie formula which if it goes well, it would mean that eventually we could feed her less volume, less often. It would change our feeding schedule for the better which would be SO nice so please pray that she tolerates it. She is very sensitive to change so we are really praying this transition goes well. I'll keep you updated. Keep praying!

Anyway, another great gift I got recently was from my very creative friend Jessica. In recognition of surviving this year and for my injury-free performance in caring for Ella, and in honor of my commitment to keep the Carder house safe, she presented me with this custom-made, limited edition safety plate for working injury-free this past year. What's with the safety plate you ask? Well, it all started back when Rick worked for the railroad a few years ago and apparently every year that you work there and don't get injured on the job you receive a safety plate in recognition of your injury-free performance that year. Not kidding. Stick with me here. Rick didn't bother to tell me about this (I wonder why?) so you can imagine my delight when one day we received a package in the mail and he pulls out a plate with a photo of a train on it with a written inscription on the back recognizing him for working injury-free that year. What?! This was so funny to me and it really was a good 10 minutes of me laying on the floor laughing unable to speak before I could compose myself enough to find out more details about this whole safety plate thing.

This is my fun safety plate. Love it.

These are Rick's beauties

I don't want anyone to take offense at me thinking this is funny because I realize that there are many people who work at the railroad and have very dangerous jobs so I am not making light of that at all. But for OUR situation, Rick worked in Accounting and to my knowledge was not in immediate danger everyday. He worked very hard and I'm proud of him for that but I mean what was going to happen in the Accounting Dept. where he might get hurt? I don't know, I guess he could've gotten a little too excited punching numbers on his calculator and jammed a finger or maybe tripped over a stack of file folders leaving his cubicle in External Reporting to walk over to visit someone in Auditing. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Anyway, I just found this whole safety plate thing quite humorous and I began to look forward to each year when the plates would be delivered. And you better believe we put those bad boys up on display each year in the hiz-ouse before carefully putting them away.

So, after the year I've had I think I too deserve a safety plate. As for the phrase on the plate, let me explain. A couple of my friends and I have kind of used it as a joke sometimes this year when describing our day to each other. When we've had a particularly challenging day, which for me happened most days, it was used a lot. For instance, the conversation might go something like this. Q:"Hey Amy, how's your day going?" A:"Well, just great, Ella has thrown-up every feeding, her g-button came open and I didn't know it so her clothes are covered with stomach contents and Eva didn't make it to the bathroom in time so she dropped a deuce in the hall. So, you know, just another day in paradise!" There ya go. It's a great phrase isn't it? Just kind of lightens the mood on a rough day. So, back to the plate. Since Rick hasn't worked at the railroad for some time now we obviously are no longer receiving any safety plates which is a shame. Leave it to my friend Jessica though to think it would be funny to commemorate this past year by making me a safety plate. Much appreciated Jessica, much appreciated. You might not think it's that funny but again, the whole idea of giving someone a plate because they're injury-free? I can't get my mind around how this came about. The whole thing is just funny to me. However, it spurs me on and I am looking forward to another injury-free year and hopefully another plate to add to my collection. Thanks Jess. No worries though, this plate is a collector's item and therefore will not be one of my anger management plates that I throw in the backyard. Just so ya know. Remember first!

In more important news, my sister Ann and her family made it safely to Phayao, Thailand. Thank you Lord! It was very hard to say goodbye this past Thursday but it is an answer to prayer that the trip went well and that they are there. I had a small breakdown the day they left and was sitting in the living room crying for a good 20 know, doing the ugly cry. Eva was "coloring" and Ella was playing on the floor so all was well...or so I thought. I should've known that something was up when I didn't hear much from Eva. Usually when it's a little too quiet around here my hair-trigger something-funny's-going-on radar goes into full effect but I was off my game due to the cryfest I was having. Sooo, this is what I see peeking around the couch at me.

Isn't that special? Indeed yes, she was "coloring," it just wasn't on paper. I had a hard time getting on to her because I immediately started laughing which cheered me up so that was good. Sweet Eva, never a dull moment with her. Anyway, we got to talk with Ann on Skype last night which was fun. They are very tired but doing well. Please be praying for them as they begin their transition to life in Thailand. For the next couple of weeks they will be living in a hotel while they look for a house. So far they haven't seen anything that will work so please be praying that they find a place to live. They could use your prayers as this is an exciting time but also a stressful time as they will begin their life in a new country as well as start a new ministry. Please pray for continued unexpected blessings, peace and guidance for them and their team. You can read updates from them on their blog by clicking on my link Reese's in Thailand. Thanks for your prayers!

More to come. Just chill, til the next episode...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update on Ella, Birthdays and More

Man, I am soooo behind on the ole blogging. It's been so busy and I just haven't had time to sit down and write. A lot has happened since Ella came home from the hospital that I need to document so this post is going to be a catch-up post. So, here we go.

1. Okay, I've been meaning to write about Eva's birthday which was August 2nd but I didn't get a chance to because we were getting ready for Ella's surgery. So here are a few pictures from her 3rd Birthday. I can't believe my little girl is three! She is so funny. She had an M&M party because the girl loooooves M&M's...really all candy but especially M&M's. It was so fun and we got M&M shirts for the girls for the big day and had a fun time celebrating with our sweet friends. My mom made Eva an M&M costume and purse which she loves. So funny! Eva is just a joy and keeps us laughing all the time. We are NEVER bored when she's around because she is always into something. Keeps us on our toes at all times.

2. Ella turned 1 on August 31st! Stats: 14 lbs. 9oz, 26 inches long. I am still in shock that she is one and have nothing but feelings of thankfulness for all that the Lord has brought us through this year. The day Ella was born was a very hard and scary day for all of us but on this day a year later we are so thankful for where we're at now. Things are still very difficult and far from being "normal" but the Lord has brought us so far and we are so, so thankful. We have been in survival mode this year and I really have had moments here and there of processing all that has happened but I don't think I have fully processed it all. One day I'll write more on that but for now her birthday was very sweet and we had a fun family party. She loved her cake and did not hesitate to dig in. I guess she's just been waiting on the whole eating food thing until we actually gave her something good to eat. :) I don't blame her, you put the choice of pureed green beans in front of me or chocolate cake and I'm going for the cake like it's my job. It was a fun party and I took about a million pictures but here are some of my favorites.

Aaaannd party's over

3. Eva started dance class with her sweet friend Kyndall about two weeks ago and this is one of the highlights of my week. If you ever need a good laugh go observe a three year old dance class. Oh man, it's great. I don't know which is better, Eva standing in the middle of the room staring out the window and playing with her skirt oblivious to everyone else dancing around her or the girl who's leotard is a wee bit too tight and her little cheeks are just hanging out the entire hour. Awesome. Head in the game Eva, let's pay attention sister. It really is so sweet and she is doing better than I thought she would. It sometimes takes her a little while to warm up in new situations but she really loves it. We are so thankful for her little friend Kyndall and feel blessed that she invited Eva to take the class with her. They are so cute together!

4. This past Wednesday, September 2nd, we had Ella's first follow-up appt. with her surgeons at Scottish Rite. They took her dressing and sling off to look at her shoulder and were very pleased with how things are looking. They were so pleased that they said she didn't have to wear her sling anymore!! It's only been two weeks...she was supposed to be in it for four. Incredible! We are so excited because the past two weeks have been pretty rough at night. She wasn't sleeping well so we've all been very tired but during the day she did great and the sling didn't slow her down a bit. She was putting a little weight on her left arm and would just roll on the floor to get to where she wanted to go as if she had not just had major shoulder reconstruction. Crazy! We are very happy with how her shoulder looks and are just so thankful that the Lord provided these surgeons to help Ella. Her shoulder is not perfect and does not look exactly like her right shoulder and is not the same size as her right one but despite that it looks amazing. My eyes filled with tears as we sat and talked to the doctors and we were able to see her new shoulder with no bandages for the first time. The wisdom that the Lord gave to these surgeons to help Ella has changed her life and ours and we are forever grateful. There is still much healing that needs to take place and time will tell how well she will be able to use her left arm as far as range of motion but so far things are good. We go back for another follow-up on September 24th and we'll talk more about what therapy will be needed etc. so we'll see what's next on the road to recovery. Thank you for your constant prayers for Ella!

5. Feeding, feeding, feeding. Big news here people, big news on the feeding front. FINALLY something positive to report. Last week Ella went almost a whole week without vomiting one time! This has never happened in her whole life so this was huge. On average she will have one to two large vomiting episodes a day and on a really bad week she'll have anywhere from 3-7 vomiting episodes A DAY. That's right, a day. And I'm not talking just a small spit up here and there, I'm talking large projectile every time. It's really hard to watch. So there is lots of laundry going down at the Carders...good thing I have that beautiful washer/dryer to bring cheer to the chore. So for her not to have any for almost a week is AMAZING! Answer to prayer. Things change a lot from week to week with her feedings and it might not be like this next week so we are just thankful she had a good week this past week. Also, she didn't lose any weight after her surgery which is another answer to prayer. She pretty much maintained her weight and even gained a little. I know...pick your jaws up off the floor. Okay, it gets better. During her feedings this past week she is also taking more by mouth on average than she was pre-surgery. She's not taking enough to not use the g-button but even the little that she is taking by mouth is more than she was doing before so that is a positive thing. The other great thing is that this week she ate puffs for the first.time.ever! This is amazing so hold on to your seats folks because I'm about to freak your freak. Up until now she wouldn't eat any kind of solid food like puffed cereal, fruit, pasta, etc. without tasting it and spitting it out or if she did happen to swallow a little piece of it she would gag and vomit. This happened every time. She would never chew it and swallow. The other night at dinner she ate, and I mean for real ATE a whole handful of those little puffs! She gagged a couple of times but fought through it and kept chewing and swallowed all of what she ate. We are so excited! I realize that we are still a long way from solid food being full meals and we still have a long way to go with feeding but this is a big step. Thank you Lord! Keep praying for her feedings, we are seeing small improvements which has given us a new hope. Sorry for all the gagging and vomit talk...welcome to our world. :)

6. Ella said two words in the past couple of weeks. Her first word, which we think is highly appropriate for her and all that she's been through was "Uh-oh." So cute! And the other word is "ball" which she said for the first time at her follow up appointment. The girl is a genius is she not? Just humor me okay? Another big thing is she is sleeping in her crib for naps. This past year she has been sleeping in her swing because we needed a way for her to get to sleep quickly in between feeds since there's not much time with her being on an every three hour schedule and her feedings take an hour. This is still the case right now with her feeding schedule but she is doing great sleeping in her bed so that is huge. Ella got a cool mobile for her birthday which has really helped so big thanks to the new mobile! I know, I'm pretty sure that she might be the only one year old to get a mobile for her 1st birthday. Hilarious. Also, up until now her bed has been elevated to help with her reflux and we put in flat this week to see how she would do and she's done great. I think she is even sleeping better because before with it elevated she would roll to the bottom of the bed and we would have to go in several times a night and move her back up. This might not be huge for anyone else but for us it is very exciting.

Ella in her ACU spirit skirt...for the purple and white always!

7. My sister bought me a new shirt and it is awesome. Jealous? You should be. Isn't it the best shirt you've ever seen? Ideally I should be about 15 years younger to really pull this off but the way I see it is that love for MJ has no age limit so I will conitinue to stand proud.

8. Speaking of my sister Ann, she and her family are moving to Thailand this week on September 10th to be missionaries in Phayao, Thailand. That's another reason I haven't been blogging, I've been spending as much time as I can with Ann and my sweet neices. We are so excited for them and could not be prouder of the way they have obeyed the call to bring the good news of Jesus to those in Thailand. Selfishly we are very sad that they are leaving but we stand behind them 100% and feel blessed to be a part of their ministry. Please be praying for them this week as they prepare to leave as this is obviously very bittersweet for them and our entire family. Pray for their safety, for a smooth transition once they arrive in Thailand, and for their overall adjustment. I'll keep you posted on their status.

I better sign off since this post is getting lengthy. Thank you for your continued prayers and support for our family. We feel very blessed and could not do this without your love. For the first time in a year we can see a glimmer of light in the dark tunnel we've been in. Better days are ahead, I just know it. Keep praying!