"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them close to his heart, and shall gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just wanted to share a song that both Dave and I listen to alot these days!  Thank-you to Dave's Dad for sharing this artist with us!! The song is called "Timshel" and it's by Mumford & Sons".  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl-VCHzS1So

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Girls Laughing together

The other day Abigail was making Rachel laugh (just by jumping up and down with her bunny) and it was the most out of control, "from the gut" kind of laughter that I have ever heard from Rachel - and then I wanted to take a video and of course, it just wasn't the same - the laughing sounded a little more forced and well, you know how that happens - but here's the tail end of that event....


video

And yes, the drone in the background is Ethan saying "Look out" over and over.  He's trying to tell us that he is about to send his hot wheel cars racing down our hallway into the kitchen... 

"Play with me!!" she says....

I have tried peas before but today she just LOVED them.  She kept grinning just before the spoon got close.  It's been fun feeding her these days.  I just hope it all comes out ok;)

We have so many great videos of her lately that it's hard to choose one.   Maybe I can add the laughing one later....but this one is really good too. (although I noticed later that the color is a bit off - ok, Dave just told me that he was playing with the settings on the camera...that didn't work too well...) 

But I think it will still help illustrate what I mean with her crazy happy hand waving and toe twirling.  This girl just loves attention these days.  She hates being left in a room alone.  The kids are having a blast with her too because it doesn't take much effort on their part to get Rachel all riled up with happiness.  It's so beautiful to watch...        

video

She loves carrots:)

Rachel is doing well again.  And to answer your question: Even though she is "teething" often, none of her teeth have popped out yet.  This is just fine because she doesn't need them anyway.  She's still on a diet of formula, with the very rare experiment of other food here and there.  I am still hesitant about giving her solids because her stools can quickly become hard with the extra bulk.  (even oatmeal with prunes does this) And besides, she doesn't seem very interested in solids to begin with, so it just ends up being extra work for me on top of the bottle feeds.  A few days ago I tried peaches and got a funny face.  Today, I tried giving her some carrots that I cooked up myself.  And she wouldn't stop eating them!! So cute.  My mom tells me that as a baby, I loved carrots so much that I would eat whole jar-fulls of them, cold.

Otherwise, we are laying low this week. I have a head cold that I am trying to shake these days.  Something I picked up from the kids.  These summer colds sure like to stick around, don't they? O well, it is just a cold and it will pass.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

O, how reality can bite sometimes.  Rachel just had a short spell, out of the blue.  I was trying to feed her, thinking that's what she wanted.  She started screaming and pulling hard on my hair.  And then it happened.  I think I hardly believed it at first because she has been doing so well.  oh, my little girl.  I am so sorry that you have to go through these...

Here she is three hours later, still bluish but smiling for us. Nights like tonight remind me to treasure the time I have with this girl.  It is so hard to imagine life without her anymore. 

I bought a new sleeper for her from Costco.  It's a 9 month size!! Still a bit big but it will probably shrink yet.  Glad that the feet are nice and big, my kids seem to all have big feet;) 
She must be teething or something too because her hands have been in her mouth all day.

East Africa

I have some family members on my mind today.  Hurting for them.  No easy answers...

East Africa is on my mind too these days...and I can't get the images of malnourished children out of my mind.  You too? There is so much disparity in this world and it makes me feel sick, with sadness, with anger...and then this causes me to look at my own heart, my own tendency to look away from other's hurt, my tight grip on what I think of as "mine".  And that makes me feel uncomfortable and I don't like it.  But what if that were my child?     

Last year I read a book about 11 (mostly Somali) refugees who came to Canada with student scholarships, from the biggest refugee camp in the world - Dadaab, in Kenya.  (now 400,000 people, including three generations of people) It's called "Citizens of Nowhere". I encourage you to read it! I think I liked the story of the student living in Brandon Manitoba the best, because I have been there.  Maybe I have eaten at the Tim Hortons where he worked.  It was hard to imagine anyone moving from one culture into a more different one and it was interesting to see our city through his eyes. The Dadaab camp has been named one of the worst "refugee protratcted situations" in the world, meaning that people are exiled with no solution in sight.  And now I am hearing about this camp in the news  - and how the numbers are swelling yet again because of this drought...I saw pictures of mothers waiting with their babies, hoping for water, for food - after walking days.  

MSF information video about Dadaab camp

And what is our part in this?  What is our responsibility?  Father God, help us (me!) to honor you with a right attitude in our (my!) hearts about money, to give generously and not withhold good from others when it is within our power to do so.    

Here's one way to do that:
http://www.mcc.org/eastafricadrought

Sweet Sleeping Baby

On a Really Hot Day - no blankets needed that day!
Flying the New Kite at Nose Hill Park...
Dave, Ethan and Abigail

I was thinking this morning about my earlier fears about having another difficult summer. And yet, here we are at the end of July already.  Ethan starts Kindergarten in a few weeks! I have been wonderfully surprised by how different the summer has been from our previous expectations.  Rachel has been doing so well and we have been able to enjoy the summer in a way I thought was not possible.  Thank-you God for your gifts to us!






Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rachel's Blog Book

We printed Rachel's Blog - from the first entry until Rachel's first birthday!  I have been waiting to post this until we gave hard cover copies to both our parents!  Our own copy is a gift from a friend - thank you!! Here are some pictures of the finished product! So now we have two wonderful memory books of our first year with Rachel:) I imagine that they will both give much comfort in the years to come.  It was done through Blog2Print.


Front of the Book

Inside Pages

Back of the Book

Verse reads "Know therefore that the LORD your God is GOD; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deut. 7:9



Fernando Ortega's new CD

Thank-you again for all your notes.  There are many times when I wish I could respond directly to the ones you leave here on the blog!

Rachel is still doing quite well.  She has had a funny sleep schedule lately, probably because of her cold.  One night she was awake for four hours straight, that silly girl.  And there have been brief periods of time when she seemed bluer but we have had no sudden wake up calls at night.  She has had some wonderful long naps during the day too (still within the normal range) and she has been so much easier to take care of.  We have been able to do alot more this week than usual because of this! Also, Ethan went to DVBS (Daily Vacation Bible School) this week at his old preschool. (they did a fabulous job!)

However, this morning Rachel really wanted to be held and I couldn't get anything done! Thankfully the older ones were happily occupied and so I decided that instead of being frustrated - I would take the time to enjoy her! And so we sat and listened to Fernando Ortega's new CD and looked through pictures on the computer together.  His music has ministered to me so deeply in our journey with Rachel and I love the new cd too! Just wanted to share the news with you:) 

We don't have respite tonight because our weekend worker is getting baptized today at a church camp in Medicine Hat!!! A wonderful reason to not have respite.  We are so happy for her!  We are so glad too for the people God has brought into our lives because of Rachel, and the stories we have been priviledged to hear and know. We feel rich in friendship.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to keep your life for youself, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for me, you will find TRUE LIFE.  And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?" - Jesus

Picture Book of Her First Year

Yesterday evening, the kids and I - along with Rachel's respite worker Patricia, went to the annual Hope group BBQ at the Flames house.  (Dave had a meeting) It was great to connect a bit with other families again - although it was a bit difficult to have good conversations because Rachel was so unhappy and tired the whole time.  I had forgotten to bring her soother along and she is so addicted to that thing!  

But, while we were there - our social worker at the House passed on a book that we have been eagerly waiting for.  It's a picture book, created from our favorite pictures of Rachel's first year of life.  A short time ago, a fund was set up in a child's honor, to be used for creating memory books for other families of children with life - limiting illnesses.  The book was made by an employee of the Children's Hospital (Computer Programmer) How amazing is that?! What a great way to honor a child's life - and give comfort to hurting families!  We are so grateful for this beautiful gift!  think we gave her over 200 pictures (chosen from thousands!) and she used most of them.   

Front of Book

Side Flap
We also included another introduction page with a few favorite bible verses.  

 One of the Pages
This one is titled "An Emotional Birth"


Back of the Book
"There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

At the Funks in July


Rachel just LOVED the swing outside.  She couldn't stop grinning and laughing. 
The kids spent HOURS jumping on the trampoline (with a sprinkler underneath)
The Boys went on a Canoe Trip on the Whitemouth River
On our way Home to Alberta...
I did take her out of her carseat quite often too - shhhh....don't tell.
                                                                 

Manitoba Pictures #1

First, the pictures taken of our time with my (Kendra) parents.  Some of them were taken before Dave and I (and Rachel) arrived...

Gimli Beach
With Grandma Plett, Gimli Boat Docks
Happy

Auntie Evonne and Rachel at Gimli Beach


Her New Favorite Toy: She took this marker with her from Grandma Plett's and played with it almost the whole way home to Alberta!

More Gimli Beach Pictures

We spent the last evening with my family in Gimli.  The kids played on the beach and on the play structure.  We watched the sailboats and had a picnic, followed by ice cream.  Grandma Kornelsen joined us too! The weather was perfect..what a great evening.





Sunday, July 17, 2011

Home Again!

Thank-you for your prayers! The trip back to Alberta went well! We are so amazed at how well our two older kids do with travelling now that they are older.  Rachel was great too.  We did notice that she was getting progressively 'bluer' as we neared Medicine Hat.  And while we were at the McDonalds in Medicine Hat, her breathing seemed 'gaspy' to me.  Her veins really stood out more than usual and her feet were purplish. But as we continued to drive, she really perked up again!  She is eating and sleeping well, and she is very happy:)  I just love how happy she is these days.  She is so eager to play with us.  One thing I am marvelling at these days is how incredibly flexible she is.  When I am feeding her, she reaches out her toes to play with the bottle and she can almost touch the part in her mouth.  I am pretty sure she has grown again in length - time for 6 month sleepers!

Glad we escaped Manitoba when we did! I hear the forecast for tomorrow is 37 degrees, without the humidex?  (98% F) Have fun you Manitobans;) Also, sorry we weren't able to visit with anyone besides family on this trip.  We needed to make the trip shorter because we didn't have respite for Rachel out there. Maybe next time!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Manitoba Visit

The trip out went really well.  It took only 14 1/2 hours and Rachel was pretty happy, just needed constant feeding (and I really mean contstant). But I didn't need to reach for fallen markers or hot wheel cars, or give out snacks etc...I even managed to read (and cry) through the book Heaven is for Real.  I read parts outloud to David.  Something that was really great about this trip - Dave and I could talk!  And listen to whatever we wanted....like Bach piano music, the Travelling Wilburies, and story cd's.  Listening to stories is a great way to beat the "driving through the Prairies boredom."  The canola fields and wide expanse of sky was so beautiful though.  What a world!

Our time out here has been fantastic.  The kids are so brown!  They are constantly running in and out of the houses. They are in love with the farms and especially with their cousin Zeyah (Isaiah).  Abigail says she wishes she could live close to the Grandmas' house.  Our time out here seems really short - we have had some good connecting time and it makes us want more!! But at the same time, we will be happy to have respite at night again.    

We are off tomorrow very early!!! Maybe 4am? So, please do pray for us again on our return trip. When I think of it, I do feel a bit anxious about the area around Medicine Hat, because that is where she had that huge spell going back the last time.  I do wonder if the Manitoba oxygen rich air has been good for her! And I wonder if going back up in altitude affects her. 

I've got tons of pictures to post when we get back!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On The Road Again...

We are off to go pick up our kids! It has been a wonderful week.  Our house has never been cleaner.  And the week was a great balance between getting work done and rest.  In fact, we had such a great time that Dave and I have been scheming about how we can postpone our trip out there;)  he he he....Thank-you so much Moms and Dads!!  

I am a bit cautious about posting our trip info on a public place like this.  But I would also like your prayers as we drive.  Rachel had a short spell this morning at 5:30 am.  I'm not nearly as nervous about this trip as I was on the first one.  Still, we know what can happen and we ask God for travelling mercies, health for Rachel, and for peace.  We believe that God knows everything about what will happen on this trip and there is no difference if we are here in Calgary or somewhere between Regina and Brandon.  He is with us.

Other than the spell this morning, Rachel has had a great week.  She's been so happy.  Some new things she is doing:
1. Shaking her head (her sign that she wants to play - we like to growl and shake our heads when we bite her...)
2. She is more agile with her fingers.  I can't leave her bottle sitting in her car seat anymore because she can grab it now and throw it around.
  
One project I was able to work on this week was Ethan and Abigail's scrapbooks.  Now, I am not a real scrapbooker.  I don't do anything complicated - it's all very simple.  I like to cram lots of pictures on one page. I also don't have much patience or an eye for color.  And so, I probably break all the rules of real scrapbooking.  I usually just do about four pages a year.  But I have fun nonetheless when I get to it.  It's been a few years since I have touched the kids books and I wanted to get past Rachel's birth pages.  

So, I'm cruising along, sticking in pictures of Christmas 2009, and pictures of summer fun, (planning to add the written stories in later) and then I get to Rachel's birth....I was just struck by the sudden thought - what will it be like for Abigail to see these pages years from now?  I didn't expect to feel sad.  But turning from this page.....


 to start work on this one...



was a a difficult moment for me.  I haven't felt that kind of emotion for a long time.  This beautifully captured moment - of Abigail's tenderness in loving her new baby sister tugged so hard at my heart... 

I love both my little girls.  I LOVE that they know each other now.  I LOVE that Abigail will grow up knowing that she has a little sister waiting for her - and she can anticipate being with her again.  I love that she can experience, even for a short while, the joy of having a baby sister.  God is so good to us! And at the same time, I know that Abigail will grieve the loss of her sister.  What a mix of feelings....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Our Kids in Manitoba!

I don't think our kids miss us at all!;) What do you think?
There were so many great pictures to choose from.  Thank-you Val!

Hanging out with their cousin Isaiah..
Watching TV after a busy day...
Tinker Town!!


Grandma even went on the Ferris Wheel! (although I hear that she had her eyes closed the whole time - I probably would too!)


Slidin with Auntie Val!

Abigail with Dave's Aunt Carol!
Isaiah was driving....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some of you asked about how you might be able to get your own heartsleeves....here's the link to find out more...
Thank-you so much Nicole!

Klix Creations 

The Comforter

This morning I was praying for a couple Dave and I know.  The husband has recenly been diagnosed with cancer.  Several Sundays ago I was talking with his wife and another friend.  My friend asked the question - Do you feel lonely? And she answered (with tears) by saying 'honestly, no.  I can truly say that I have not been lonely because the Holy Spirit has been my Comforter- a very real source of comfort for me." I wish I could remember her exact words, but what she said was deeply encouraging to me.  She spoke so honestly about her experience.  And today as I think back to that morning, I feel gratitude again to God who is meeting her in her darkest hour.  I know that He has been our Comforter as well.  In those first weeks after Rachel's diagnosis, His comfort was very real to me. Even then, there are times now that I feel overwelmed by the 'what if's' and questions about the future'.  How do I really know that God's comfort is real and not just my own imagination or hopes?  Will His comfort be enough? Hearing others testify to His presence helps me to trust Him to meet us (and you!) there too.  This is the Scripture I read this morning....

"I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there you hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me."
Psalm 139

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Heartsleeves

We received this in the mail a few days ago! They're called Heartsleeves, a joint creation, by a friend and her friend.  We plan to wear these armbands in the early days after Rachel is gone.  They remind me of the white bands that people wear in China, to signify mourning.  I love them! I wanted to share this on the blog, as an idea for others who are or will be mourning someone close to them.  What my friend said, and I agree with, is that no matter how wounded and shattered someone feels on the inside, he/she might still look ok on the outside.  This is a visual reminder of Rachel and a way for us to feel closer to her too.  There's even a little armband for Rachel that has the word "Loved" on it.  And some hair accessories for the girls:)

                                 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Banff with Grandpa and Grandma!

Pictures of the kids in Banff with the Plett Grandparents:
First McDonalds, of course....and then the Gondola ride!

This is my scary look.

This is a rare shot...It's always a battle to get Abigail to let me do her hair.  I love her hair in ponytails though:)

Love those shades girl....




A few more pictures

So tuckered out by all the fun with grandparents....(taken a few days before heading off to MB with D's parents)
And here's our happy little monkey! She has just kicked a toy off the chair with her legs again and is feeling pretty happy with herself:) And look at those legs.....they are chubby again!

Blessings

My mom sent me a email telling me about this song.  I just listened to it and really liked it. Thank-you Mom!  I think that someone else shared this with me awhile ago too. 

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering


All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?


We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe


'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?


When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home


'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?


What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?


And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?


- Blessings, by Laura Story
Rachel is still happy but she is looking pretty grayish to us.  This morning, the thought struck me - 'what if Rachel dies while the kids are out in Manitoba?'  I want them to be able to say their goodbyes to her too. And what would that be like?'  It's not that I worry often about this - it was just a passing thought. But I am always aware of how things could change.  At the same time, Dave and I are having a really great time here!! He is off to go for a walk at Nose Hill and I think I'll go sit in the sun room for awhile before we pack up.  I love that room and so seldom get to make use of it....

I know that I feel more relaxed (than I thought I would) about the kids being gone because we know they are having the time of their lives with their grandparents!! As they drove throught the prairies, we received several updates by text.  Ethan was singing along to Cohen's Halleluiah song and making up his own worship songs.  I loved that one!! We got updates on how much sleep they were getting too.  They were up at 4am and Ethan slept only 20 minutes after that, before they arrived in the evening.  When we talked to Ethan on the phone at the end of the day, he sounded like he was still full of energy.  He told us about his drawings that he made on the trip.  We know that this is so GOOD for the kids and we are so thankful!

Monday, July 4, 2011

End to the Weekend

I didn't want to include this in the last post.  But our weekend did end on a sad note.  Just as we were finishing up some of our goodbyes with people at the conference, Rachel had a spell.  I had thought for a bit that she seemed bluish during the last main session but the spell came on very suddenly.  We gave her three doses and almost gave her the fourth.  So, thankfully it wasn't the worst kind of spell.  This time my parents were able to see the tail end of it.  With all the spells she has had, they have never seen one yet.  And it does help them to have an idea of what we go through with her.  Rachel slept alot last night and hasn't eaten much today yet.  She went a long stretch between 3:15am and 8:30am without eating.  I think that's why her smiles are so precious to us today.  

We are enjoying our last full day at the Flames House.  We have plans for another date tonight and we will move home after lunch tomorrow. 

We Give Thanks!

What a week! So many reasons to give thanks! I think I'll just list some of the life-giving gifts of this last week.

1. My parents taking the kids to Banff for a night - which included a gondola ride and a swim in the hotel pool. This left Dave and I a whole evening to ourselves!  We had so much fun.  And it was so incredible to have a day to do whatever we wanted.  

2. Rachel's smiles, giggles, enthusiastic hand waving, happy clucking, and generally her infectious happiness.

3. Spending time at the park with family and not having to do constant bottle feeds!! (Rachel was a short distance away at the FH.)  

4. Reconnecting with friends at the EMC conference this weekend - and for conversations that were good for the heart!  (our church is part of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference and we also hosted it this year). I can hardly remember the last time I had such a long strech of uninterrupted conversation! What a great weekend. 

5. The reason for the lack of interruptions above - we had both sets of parents staying at our house on the weekend! Thank-you!! AND...we only had the two older kids at the Flames House for one night in the whole week that we have stayed here.  

6. The kids excitement, bordering on hysteria - about travelling to Manitoba with their grandparents.  We got a text this morning from Dave's mom saying that they were already in Medicine Hat...(meaning they left at 4:30am) and the kids still hadn't slept in the car yet - they were too excited.  I miss them so much already but I know it is good for them and for us to have this break.  We are going to pick them up in a week. Thank-you!!!

7. Connections with other families here at the Flames House.  This past week we have met two babies here, and both have not grown much because of their conditions.  One is a foster baby.  I have so much respect for families who choose to care for these kids - and sadly, there are so many more that sleep in hotels etc...because there are not enough homes for them.  We have also met another family here from Afganistan / Iran, also with a young baby.  I think it has been good for both of us to finally find someone who understands our particular struggles...

8. The lessons that God has been teaching me.  And there really are too many to list here. The idea of blessings has been on my mind alot this week.  I often think of blessings as good things that God gives, which is true, but sorrow and pain can also be a form of blessing. And I have been reflecting on how this has been true for us. I can honestly say that I am thankful for the sorrow we have experienced this past year and a half, because it keeps bringing me back to Him.  I read in a devotional that the word 'blessed' in Hebrew means 'to find the right path'.  I liked that definition because I think that's what God has been doing for us this past year.  He has used suffering to help us find the right path.

9. The ways that God speaks through friends.  We have received so many wonderful emails and I only get to share a mere fraction of the ones we get.  But there was one that ministered to me in a deep way this past week. She reminded me of the telling in Scripture of the woman who pours expensive oil on Jesus' feet.  The people around her thought this was an extravagant waste.  Yet Jesus received it as worship and praised her for it.  I think that I too have wondered if people see our choice of carrying and loving a child with medical needs, as crazy.  I wonder at times what good can come of having to focus so much energy on one child.  Is there value to what we and many others do for our hurting children, for the 'least of these'? I think too of friends who foster babies, maybe even with the hope of adopting them, but sometimes they have to let them go after expending so much of their time and love.  And so the image of the woman annointing Jesus was deeply encouraging to me.  For us, loving Rachel is like pouring perfume on Jesus' feet.  And so our suffering is not meaningless.  If I might borrow one line from my friend, "Your suffering is not meaningless, it is heavy with glory that is blessing the very heart of God."  How encouraging that is to us!!  

10.  And I have to add one more...in the middle of writing this - one of the staff watching Rachel came to get me. She wanted to show me what Rachel was doing.  She was sitting in her chair, kicking a ball off again and again - grinning happily each time she pushed the ball away with her feet.   I LOVE seeing her like this, moving her arms and legs and so full of life! God, thank you for this little girl who is teaching us so many things, and who has added so much joy and beauty to our life!