Don't ask me why, but I usually don't like to cook on Saturdays. I admit, it's a mindset thing. My honey is off of work, so I'm off work too, right? :-) It doesn't quite work that way, but oftentimes it's nearly suppertime before I clue in, "Oh yeah, we need to eat tonight." So it happened again this last weekend. 

I had just bought kale and Italian sausage, so Zuppa Toscana Soup (yup, an Olive Garden copycat recipe) came to my mind immediately. It was late afternoon, so I quickly got it simmering, and about half-way through Joel has the idea to invite his parents over for supper. That idea was scrapped when we found out they were busy, but by then I was in the "have-company-over-for-supper" mindset. My mind raced through the ingredients I had in my fridge, and we quickly decided to invite a young couple over that lived just a couple blocks away.

Now mind you, it was 5:15, and this soup was all I had to show for a meal. It hit me all of a sudden how much God has changed my mindset over the past few months. 

First off, this was a very unusual scenario for me. I'm the type that likes to know about company at least a couple days in advance, and plan, plan, plan. It's not beyond me to spend half a day or more cooking for the event. This partially stems from my love of cooking and creating, and halfway, (gulp) from the desire to impress.

Yes, I said the ugly truth. If it's not restaurant quality, there are times I'd just rather not have someone over. If I can't set a 3-layer cake on the table afterwards with my homemade lattes, well...something just doesn't feel right. I think, nope...I know, this all very nicely fits into the pride category... :-(

Lately, God has been really convicting me with a statement a woman of God said recently. She first talked at length about how high the Bible up lifts hospitality, and then spoke these words that have burned themselves into my heart. 

"Hospitality is meant to bless, NOT to impress." 

I think God is slowly changing my heart. A salad was quickly tossed, some butter and garlic salt sprinkled on some store bought bread and popped into the oven, and dessert thrown together, and we had guests in our home 30 minutes after that phone-call. I found myself so relaxed, and able to just sit back and enjoy my visitors. Wow - thank you Lord.

The very next day we received an invite for lunch after church. I was amazed at our hostesses' attitude. She wasn't planning on company, and had nothing prepared, but the simple lunch of delicious home-canned soup and taco salad we prepared together was scrumptious. It's been a long time since I've been so blessed with an afternoon and evening of visiting. 

So, I think God is slowly teaching me what it means to reach out with a heart of love and true Biblical hospitality, looking to minister into other's lives, instead of focussing on my menu or lack of it, and even the condition of my house at that moment. In a very "Martha Stewart" and Pinterest inspired world, especially in the area of domestics, I think it's time that some of us step back and face the reality of what Biblical hospitality really is.

And just to clarify, there's absolutely nothing wrong with going all out with a meal, and I still love to do it when given the opportunity, but it's the motives behind it that God has been dealing with me about. 

Is my focus on blessing, or impressing?

P.S. Oh, and by the way, if any of you are wondering what I threw together for a dessert in 10 minutes, here's a little recipe for you. No fancy ingredients involved, but super easy, fast, and delicious! Maybe it will be an inspiration for you to start off with an impromptu dessert, coffee, and invite the neighbor over evening!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
1/2 cup milk
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 cup packed brown sugar (I used 2/3 cup and it was plenty sweet for us)
1-1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1/4 cup cocoa. Whisk in milk, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Spread batter in a greased 8" square dish. Combine brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Pour the boiling water over the batter. DO NOT STIR! Pop it into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with a nice dollop of ice-cream. Yum!

7 Months (A few days late)

7-Month Milestones

  • Sitting Up
  • First time for all of us to Ikea
  • Wearing shoes for the first time.
  • First time flying
  • First time out of Province
  • You survived open heart surgery and are doing great!
  • First time on a boat - on the ocean even!
  • Happily gobbling solids like mad!

Two Weeks Later...

Heading Home

Minutes before boarding our flight. 
The morning began early with a 9:00 departure from Ellensburg, WA, a town I had heard of LOTS for the past 10 years or so, but never thought I'd visit. With a dear friend recently moving there from WI, we found the four-hour drive quite doable, especially with the vehicle Joel's cousin had lent us. 

We're now sitting in the airport, waiting for our flight home, and finding it hard to believe all that has transpired in the last two weeks. From the emotional roller-coaster of the 6 weeks prior the surgery, to the operation going SO much better than expected, to the near week of Holiday dropped in our laps afterward, we are feeling incredibly blessed. 

Though this journey has been different in many ways than I anticipated, I wouldn't trade what God has taught me through it for anything. Isn't that life, though? It usually isn't until looking back on the other side of a trial that we appreciate it as something from the Lord's hands. It reminds me a bit of a song that I've come to appreciate over the years...

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 us way too much to give us lesser things

'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
-Laura Story

Mercies in disguise... From point A to Z on this journey, that's exactly what it's been. From the shock, the tears, the disbelief, to the paralyzing fear, what-if's, and heartrending surrender of our most precious treasure, all the way to seeing God's merciful hand so wonderfully intervene in our behalf, it's been a noteworthy journey. Beyond anything, God has impressed upon my heart that He Is Good. All the time. 

We're going home to Manitoba's welcoming, yet frigid embrace, with a perfectly healthy, completely normal little girl. Without showing them the little pink scar on her chest, people hardly believe she had open heart surgery 8 days ago. When we tell people our story, they look at Leana, shake their heads, and say they could never tell. Thank you, Lord! 

British Columbia

It's Sunday evening, and we are finding it hard to believe Leana had open heart surgery just six days ago. Other than not being able to put lots of pressure on her chest, we cannot tell a difference from the little girl we had exactly one week ago. We are in awe at how quickly she has recovered!

Her follow-up appointment here in Vancouver is tomorrow, and in the meantime, we have been enjoying ourselves to the fullest in one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited! Seriously, if you have never visited the Canadian Rockies, put it on your bucket list!

We have been staying in the beautiful home of some friends of ours near White Rock, BC. The ocean is just a few minutes drive away, and last week before Leana's surgery, they took us out dolphin watching in their 45 foot yacht. This was my first time seeing the ocean, and even though the rough waters prevented us seeing any dolphins, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The day after discharge, we went to do more ocean touring, and also visited a large aquarium here in Vancouver. There I got to see a dolphin for the first time, a baluga whale, and many other things. Leana did so well, watching the sights from her stroller, and napping there when she wanted. We couldn't have asked for a happier baby!

We spent the entire rest of the that day walking along the ocean. BC has incredibly strict laws in place regarding trees, and though it seems a bit over the top and silly, it's pretty amazing the amount they have been able to preserve even in the city. Right downtown there are miles of tree filled beach walks, lined with coffee shops, french bakeries, and fine dining. All with the backdrop of both the ocean and the mountains. Breathtaking!

In talking to the locals, we found out that the beautiful, clear weather we had both Friday and Saturday is fairly rare this time of year. Temperatures are mild, but usually very rainy. To have our two freest days absolutely gorgeous was a special blessing from the Lord!

Saturday morning was a bit cloudy, so we decided to hit the famed Granville Island. Full of artists, crafters, and every kind of ethnic food imaginable, it's easy to kill several hours there. We found the most fun in going around to the different food stalls and finding small portions of this and that to try, most notably french macaroons, and falafel. Local fish and chips also made it's way into our stomachs! 

The weather cleared beautifully that afternoon, and we hit to the road for the mountains, driving on the 'Sea to Sky Highway,' up to Whister - one of the best ski slopes in North America. Of course skiing wasn't on our agenda this time, but the drive in itself was worth the two hours it took to get there. From islands, and oceans bays, to the crystalline peaks of the Rockies, every turn on the road brought a new breathtaking view!

We arrived at Whistler a few minutes too late to take in their peak-to-peak gondala ride, but it was probably just as well. We are $120 richer for that small mistake. :-) Crazy what they charge for things here! Whistler held many of the winter olympics in 2010, and given the opportunity, I would definitely come back here to ski. It looks amazing... 

Our drive back into the sunset was just as beautiful from a totally different angle. The rugged beauty of these peaks is just a small reminder of what an amazingly awesome and creative God we serve! We are incredibly grateful that this trip has turned out the way it has, with so many neat blessings sent along with an otherwise trying time. 

Thanks for following along in this journey. We're still not sure when we will get home. For right now, BC has gots it's fingers pretty tangled around our hearts. :-)

Release Day!

NO more tubes and wires!
We're sitting in our room, watching our happy, squirmy, giggly girl enjoying herself in her hospital bed. The transformation that has occurred over the last two days boggles our mind. Before going further, I just have to report that we are being discharged in a few hours here. Yup. You read that right. Three days after her surgery!

Outside of a few complications, the rest of Tuesday was a breeze. Leana slept most of the day, and so did we. The emotional aspect of this whole surgery really hit both of us in a physical way, and Tuesday felt like recovery day for all three of us. 

Around noon, Leana took her bottle well, and after that really perked up out of her sedation. After that was when the few challenges began. She was too sore to be held and nursed, and refused the bottle for nearly 24 hours. We were able to force enough down her to prevent her having to go back on significant IV fluids, but just barely. It was exhausting spending hours, forcing a resistant baby to swallow little drops of milk. 

First smile, and I caught it on camera!
Around 7:00pm shift change came, and we ended up getting the nurse that had spent most of the previous Friday with us in pre-op appointments. Her name was Joy, and it fit her well. She only had two patients that evening, and she gave her one-on-one attention to Leana the many hours she needed it during the night and wee hours of the morning. Between trying to feed her, comforting and soothing a VERY gassy baby, and being an emotional support to me, she was all-around amazing. I could have squeezed her to death when her shift change came. 

Right around that shift change I had a screaming baby on my hands for well over thirty minutes. We were all at the end of ourselves as to what to do, and it was finally decided she would go back on a small amount of morphine. It ended up being good timing, as the Doctor came within the hour to pull her chest tube. After that incident, we had a completely different baby. Within an hour, we had our first smile!

Dr. Gandhi - her wonderful surgeon removing the final line. 

Her final chest x-ray!
The rest of the day yesterday we found we had to keep Leana on Tylenol or we had a pretty cranky baby on our hands. Other than that, though, we could truly say she was sweet! At the night progressed, so did she, and by bedtime, we were being told that unless she took a downward turn, we would be released on Thursday. 

Wednesday also held her follow up Echo, ECK, and chest x-ray. They all came back great! We were really concerned her response to the chest x-ray this time, but they ended up being able to do it laying down, and she didn't make a fuss. 

Reading with Daddy l
Leana has a follow-up appointment on Monday, and until then, we have been offered the beautiful, empty house near the ocean of some local friends of ours to stay in, plus a vehicle. There are piles of things to do here in Vancouver, and if Leana continues to do so well, we plan to do some fun touring. (Yeah for a stroller that also turns into a bed that she is VERY comfortable in!)

We are truly praising the Lord for His sustaining hand through this challenging journey, and for His hand of quick healing upon our little girl. We are very much looking forward to this weekend of reconnecting as a family, and enjoying these few days of "vacation" that have been dropped in our lap. The timing could not be more perfect....

Oh, and we're also tickled about the fact that we missed one of the worst blizzards Manitoba has seen in years.... ;-) Two feet of snow in one fall? Um, I'll take some rain instead, thanks! :-D

Surgery Day

I had every good intention to update more thoroughly yesterday, but exhaustion, stress, and lack of good opportunity killed that idea pretty quickly. Now I've tried three times to start this one, but whether it be phone-calls, visitors, nurse check-ins, or Leana needing me, interruptions have abounded! 

Yesterday morning started super early, with us bundling up our baby, and heading out the door of the Easter Seals house around 6:15. Leana's last feed time was 3:45am, but she refused to nurse after her 2:30am feeding, which really concerned me! Her surgery time wasn't until 7:45, and I didn't know how it would be caring for such a hungry baby up until that time. Looking back on it all, I can sense we were carried by prayers, as she only got fussy about 10 minutes before they gave her the first dose of her "sleepy" medicine. To me, that's a miracle in itself!

Right before her sleepy medicine. 
They gave her the sleepy medicine about 20 minutes before they took her from us. That time will always be a special memory for me. She cuddled close into my arms, gazed trustingly into my eyes, and whenever we talked to her, she would give us this droopy, dazed, yet warm smile. When the nurse came to take her, she didn't make a verbal protest, but twisted her body around to stare at me while she was being walked into the OR. I'll admit - we both fell apart at that point. I don't think my eyes recovered all day from that cry... 

Somehow we found our way over to the coffee shop on that floor, and nursed a cup with a giant molasses cookie, and called that our breakfast. We felt shell-shocked for a bit, but finally collected our stuff and decided to walk to the nearby Safeway and buy groceries for the rest of our stay. It actually really helped pass the time - particularly for me as I had to hunt hard for items whose prices didn't send my blood pressure through the roof. Like seriously - $8 for a box of cereal, $6 for a loaf of bread, and $5 for a small jar of mayo? Don't get me started on cheese costs.... 

We went back to our disaster of a room, and I concentrated on organizing our tiny space, putting away groceries, and throwing a bit of real breakfast together. I was rushing by the end, as by then it was only 45 minutes till the projected end of her surgery. The butter was sizzling hot in the pan and I was two second away from cracking eggs when our pager went off. Instead, snacks and homemade soup and bread from the friends we stayed with over the weekend got thrown in, and we raced back to the hospital as fast as we could. We only had a couple minute wait until Leana's surgeon met with us.

Dr. Gandhi basically gave the report that everything went super well, and the pulmonary hypertension they were concerned about didn't seem to be an issue at all. He said the hole was absolutely enormous - we knew it was large, but even he seemed to be surprised at how large. In talking with him, I was finally able to get the reassurance I didn't that there was nothing I did during her pregnancy that caused it... 

Minutes after we saw her for the first time. 
About an hour later we were able to visit her in the pediatric ICU. We were SO happy to see our little angel, and were incredibly impressed with her color, etc. We were completely prepared for the wires and tubes she was hooked to from the picture they showed us beforehand, but not for the signs of discomfort and pain she showed for the next 8 hours. I had the impression that her sedation would keep her totally out, but they explained that it's a fine balance between pain management and keeping her blood pressure and respirations within acceptable ranges. She didn't do well at all on morphine, and by the time they had that figured out, meds switched over, and her more settled it was well into the evening.  

During this time, I struggled immensely with wanting to be with her, but feeling on the verge of an emotional breakdown whenever I was. It was so incredibly hard seeing her in so much discomfort, and wanting nothing more than to cuddle her, nurse her, and make things better. I was so completely helpless, and physically and emotionally worn down. 

We finally talked to her nurse quite frankly, and she encouraged me that the best thing I could do for my daughter at that time was to go back to our room and get some desperately needed rest. I struggled with feeling like a "bad mom" for "deserting" my daughter, but she helped me work through many of those feelings. The next 3-4 hours we napped, showered, and took a long walk. Upon arriving back we found out that those times had been her worst for discomfort, but they had also nailed the reasons why and the solution. In my condition, it was probably best that I wasn't there.... 

Feeding her for the first time.
In spite of us struggling with how sick she appeared, her nurse was ICU nurse was SUPER positive with how well she was doing. Upon arriving to her bed this morning, we were informed that she was within a few hours of being moved out of the PICU and up to children's ward. 75% of her tubes and wires were out, and I was one happy mom when they put her in my arms.  Knowing that it could have been 48 hours she was in the PICU, this news given at less than 24 hours was wonderful. 

Right now as I write, we are in the children's ward, with our own private room, bed, shower, and wonderful, friendly nurses. Leana has been awake on and off, eating wonderfully, and making fast progress. We are looking forward to tomorrow when the line in her neck is taken out, and the chest drainage tubes. These rather irritate her now, and we've been told she will be lots more comfortable once those are removed. For now, though, we're just relaxing, catching up on correspondance, and enjoying spending time with our daughter. 

Finally settled last night. 
We so appreciate all your prayers and encouragement! I wish I could have more promptly update this, but our lives were pretty full yesterday. :-) You can look for something more in a few days. 

Out of Surgery

We just met with the doctor about thirty minutes ago and he said all went well. We are rejoicing!!! The doctor commented on the size of the hole - he used the word enormous. We are so thankful to The Lord for the way and timing this was discovered.

We are now anxiously waiting to see our precious daughter. Truly, all the way our Savior leads us!

I will try and update again later on today.


The beautiful hospital grounds. 
Pre-Op appointments are behind us. Yeah. It was a much, much bigger and more exhausting day than I had anticipated, with lots of information to digest. I had kind of been expecting around four hours at the hospital, not eight. Couple that with a two hour time change, an exhausted mama, and a baby that has a hard time falling asleep in strange places, and certain parts were a little interesting.

We discovered a life-saver, though. Celery sticks. Leana loves them. (Thanks, Amanda!) It keeps her entertained for so long as she practices using those two little teeth of hers. Melba Toast was quite popular in her opinion as well. :-)

We are SO glad we brought her stroller!
The day started with meeting one of the cardiac nurses. We felt comfortable with her right away, and as the day progressed with visiting with the surgeon, anesthesiologist, more nurses, and coordinators, our opinion of the BC Children's hospital grew. They have all been so incredibly kind, caring, compassionate, and supportive. I told Joel that they act like Leana is the most important patient they have. For medical staff that sees thousands of children, I think this takes a special sort of person to make you feel so personal and cared for.

Many, many tests followed. She got another Echo, an EKG, chest x-ray, and bloodwork. She did amazingly well for how little she napped that day, and charmed everyone she met.

Here is the nurse pointing out the hole during her Echo.
What a trooper!
Her chest x-ray. We didn't know  whether
 to laugh or cry. She did so great though!
The doctor did speak with us about one major concern he has with her, and this would be our biggest prayer request right now. She has been almost completely asymptomatic with this heart condition, which as crazy as it sounds, is not desirable. He said that he would rather see a child come in that's not healthy looking, not gaining weight, and not thriving, than this pink, chubby, happy baby that Leana is. The reason being, with the size of hole in her heart, (quite large) the lack of symptoms means something else in her body is compensating. In this case, it's her lungs, and the pressure there is rather high which can lead to complication during and after the surgery.Worst case scenario sounds like extra time on the ventilator, (which carries a lot more risks in itself) and being on medication for the next 3-6 months to bring the pressure back down.

Her surgery is scheduled for Monday morning at 7:40. (Pacific Time) We have to be at the hospital an hour before. It should take around 3-4 hours, and they are expecting we will be with her again by noon. She will be spending 1-2 days in the PICU, and then providing all is looking well, be transferred to the cardiac children's ward for the next 3-4 days. It's then sounding like we will be discharged with her, but asked to stay in the area for an additional few days for a follow-up appointment.

Those are all the nitty gritty details. Quite honestly, everything yesterday was a LOT to handle, in both a physical and emotional sense. We are grateful that some of Joel's extended family has opened their home to us over the weekend, and we are looking forward to, and needing some time to relax and take our mind off things. More on that later one!

Thanks again for all of you who are praying for us and our little girl as we walk through this. It means more than you'll ever realize!

Safely in Vancouver

The actual journey has begun. Even in our modern era, I sometimes find it hard to believe we can travel half-way across our country in a matter of a few hours. From the snow covered, frigid temperatures of pancake-flat Manitoba, to the ocean-side, moss-covered, rainy and mountanous British Columbia, all in under 3 hours. Mind boggling, really.

We are glad the flight is over. I usually greatly enjoy flying. It happens seldom enough in my life that it's always felt like a bit of a fun adventure. This time it's an adventure in a way, but one we'd really rather skip.

Leana loved the airport, and the fact that she was no longer regulated to her car seat. She was quite proud of herself that she could now sit upright in her jogging stroller like a big girl instead of being in her snap-in car seat. Round and round we went while waiting to board, her charming every single person she managed to make eye contact with by her contagious grins. She is such a friendly people person that I'm even constantly amazed, not to mention the strangers she meets.

Boarding time came, and all the stimulation and activity of the day left us with a very tired baby. Leana despises falling asleep while in our arms, and this time was no exception. We struggled with her quite a bit, but finally she cried herself to sleep. It lasted about 40 minutes, and then she woke up with a start, almost immediately turning a scary shade of blue. We stood her up while she continued her panicked screaming, feeling completely helpless. At fast as I could, I started nursing her, and she soon calmed down and pinked back up. I don't think I realized until after the fact how much that scared me. I was glad I was sitting down at that point, because I struggled with nausea and lightheadedness for the next five minutes. This was only the second time we had seen any signs of her heart condition, and I'm glad, because it was certainly not an experience I would like to repeat.

We hired a taxi which took us to our home for the next two weeks. It is an Easter Seals house, and while it's nothing fancy, it is quite serviceable. We have a small kitchenette and table, plus a bigger kitchen and lounge we have access to. A Safeway is right across the street, and the hospital is within easy walking distance. We really have nothing at all to complain about.

Overall, I have to say that the day was a pretty emotional and stressful one for me. Coupled with a lot of small frustrations and lack of sleep, I felt completely at the end of myself in many ways last night. I guess that's just where God wants us to be, though, and I'll accept that as a reminder to lean on Him. I need Him just as much those times I don't feel I need it, as when trying circumstances stretch me to the limit.

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