Monday, November 9, 2015

Anchored Hope Project - We need you to make this work

On May 4th, 2015, our lives were forever changed by the early arrival of our 4th child and only son, Anchor Joel. Born at 26 weeks (3 1/2 months early) at 1 lb 15 oz, we knew our journey home was going to be a long, hard one. But one thing we never lost was HOPE. Every minute, hour and day were overwhelming and isolating. 

While we were there, we knew we needed to connect to other families who had or were in the NICU but didn't know who or how. That's where the idea of Anchored Hope came from... to create a community of families who understand the exhaustion and joy that come from meeting their bundles of joy way too early. We have started a 
 page to connect with these families but we also want to give support in a physical way too. That's where the idea of 'Hope baskets' came... and 
​the nudge from above is 
something we simply cannot ignore. There were so many things I wish I had as soon as Anchor was born but because of his unexpected delivery, we were not prepared or able to even think straight for a couple of weeks.

In the Hope baskets, we would like to include the following....

Calendar/journal - I knew writing down our thoughts and feelings were important but I simply felt overwhelmed by the amount of information we were given every 6 hours when our baby was assessed. By having a journal, I was able to record everything about Anchor but also our prayers and praises that day. This journal and calendar will be a treasure forever that we'll be able to share with our son someday.

Blanket - Although the hospital provides them for you, it made me feel like I was able to have a say in his comfort
​ w
hen we asked to use our own blanket that was new and so soft for his delicate little body. Since these precious ones are so very tiny and unable to wear clothing for weeks or even months, having a soft blanket really makes it feel like you're able to 'dress up' your baby even though it's only 
​covering the mattress your preemie sleeps on

Grow Buddy - If there is ONE thing I regret about our time in the NICU with Anchor Joel, it is that we didn't take his weekly photo with a stuffed animal to record his growth. Scentsy has the sweetest, softest stuffed animals called buddies that would be perfect for a 'grow buddy.' They would be the perfect toy to grow up with and look back to see how big the child is now compared to how tiny they were then. Also, with the buddy, a vanilla scent pak because the smell of vanilla is so calming to the parents and would be a comforting scent memory from the time in the NICU (as opposed to the smell of hand sanitizer!) One of our doctors also told us that the scent of vanilla, helps prevent apnea spells in infants.... so vanilla it is!

Baby Name on Banner - Our sweet friend handmade a precious banner with Anchors name on it 
 we hung it in his room. Spending eighty four days in the NICU, his private room really was his first nursery. Personalizing our space really made the room feel more cozy
​ and special​
. All the nurses and doctors, therapists and even janitors, loved hanging out in Anchors room. One little banner hanging from our babies isolette, lifted the spirits of not only us, his parents, but the spirits of anyone who walked into his room.
​ We want that same comfort for other NICU families too.​

Book - Sometimes you just want to do
​ the 'normal' thing and read your precious little one a book. We were given two books that are now memorized and hold a special place in our hearts. These could also help aid in the comfort of a preemie baby's sibling that is able to come visit.

Extras - Spending hours a day, every day of the week, for weeks on end, at the hospital, it's vital to have quarters in your pocket, gift cards to local restaurants, coffee cards and other cards/money on hand for when you need food, drink or a date with your spouse.

Mini Photo Sessions - Our dear and talented friend is a photographer who has volunteered her services to take babies first photos for these families. What a perfect and sentimental finish to our baskets that we pray breathe hope into families whose world has been forever changed. 

In order to make all of this happen, we need your help; it's bigger than we can do on our own. This project has been weighing on our hearts for some time, and it's our prayer that you will help make this a reality for our extended stay, NICU families here in Missoula Montana. It's our goal to have the first 24 Hope baskets ready to be delivered by November 17th: World Prematurity Day (Wear your purple! We will be!). With your help, we can make this our goal ​delivery day! 

​Thanks so much for continuing to pray for our growing boy, praying for our Anchored Hope baskets and giving if you are able. 

3 ways to give: 

1. Donate money here at our YouCaring. link or simply send your donation to on PayPal. Please ​use the 'send money to family and friends' option so we can avoid processing fees on PayPal. If you can give $5, $10 or even $20 each month, your continuous giving will make this project thrive for months and hopefully years to come. 

​2. If you'd rather donate goodies for the basket, we have made an Amazon Wish List specific for our Hope baskets. Click this link,, and please send the following items to 11294 Stella Blue Dr, Lolo MT 59847. 

​3. Whether you are a Scentsy consultant or are a loyal customer to a consultant, please send a buddy of your choice with a Simply Vanilla scent pak to 11294 Stella Blue Dr, Lolo MT 59847. You can also order online at and choose the BUDDIES FOR BABIES party or click this link, to order your buddy. All benefits and commissions from this party sale will go toward more buddies for the premature babies at the hospital Anchor was born, well cared for and loved. 

​Hope baskets are not a one time giving. It's our dream to send a dozen baskets to our local neonatal intensive care unit ​every month. This will take a village to complete... we need you. 

​Thanks for considering and please let us know if you have any questions at all.​

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Anchored Hope... (when the need to give is more than you can handle)

You know when you get that overwhelming feeling of you HAVE to do it? That's where we are at right now. Actually, that's where we have been since before we came home with our little guy back in July.

There was a sense of isolation that I just couldn't shake. Joel felt it too. It wasn't for lack of calls and messages. Nor the lack of prayer or even food. Our family, church, friends, coworkers were amazing. We felt such love and support in the beginning and though it trickled after the weeks went on, we knew we were well prayed for and thought of often.

The neonatologists, nurses, therapists, actually everyone at Community Medical Center's NICU department were incredible. They made us feel welcomed and at home. They listened to our concerns and shared theirs as well. We felt like family (still do!) and loved completely. That wasn't the kind of isolation we felt either.

It's almost impossible to explain. It wasn't that we felt slighted or forgotten by God either. We knew He was with us and everything that happened in the days leading up to Anchor's birth and even the weeks after were all according to His plans. We were and are living the life He designed for us and honestly, we've never felt closer to Our Savior than we have since then. We truthfully never asked why... but what's next. We felt and still feel the overwhelming grace by God in all circumstances.

I didn't know then what it was we were feeling isolated from until a couple months ago. The strong sense of empty came from not being in community with other families that were currently or have went through a long term NICU stay because of a premature baby. I know there are many... MANY babies born early and need a few days in the care of these special doctors and nurses. Walking out of the hospital without your baby is one of the worst things imaginable and too many of you have had to do that for some reason or another. But walking through the hospital doors 252 times without your baby in your arms is heartbreaking. You just want to talk with someone who feels the same thing. Someone who truly knows what that emptiness feels like. How buckling up in your car and seeing a vacant back seat brings you to tears, sometimes uncontrollable, nearly every time. How waiting for the doctor to come in and give you your babies daily report would make you weak in the knees.

To be very honest, in my previous healthy births of our three daughters, I never gave one thought of the NICU. I never really knew what it meant even when other friends had their babies in the NICU for weeks. I never understood what that looked like... what that felt like. I didn't give it a second thought and for those friends who experienced this; and for that I am absolutely sorrow filled and sorry. I was not a good friend. I didn't understand.

The NICU was our second home for 84 days this summer. From May 4th until July 26th, we spent most of our days there, in Anchor's room, learning his care and holding him every chance we got; waiting for his daily schedule of tests and therapies, getting through one hour at a time and gradually being able to breathe easier as the days went on. Being exhausted but full of hope.... and lonely.

The way our NICU is set up is genius. There are private rooms for each baby and also rooms for sets of twins and triplets, so you have privacy to talk with your doctors and nurses, hold your baby, cry, laugh, pray, read, sing and cry some more. I loved that when I had to pump every 2 hours, I could do that comfortably. I loved that when we had family visit, we could have a quiet conversation. I loved that we could have our little family in there together before Avin would get too rambunctious and not share that space or time with anyone else.

But, the one downside to having private rooms, is that the only rare moments to meet other families with babies in the NICU, was walking through the hallway (we were in the first room so we barely saw other babies or families) or when we were waiting in line to wash our hands and arms upon entering the NICU. We needed a tribe. We needed people to talk with about everything.

Fortunately, we had a precious nurse who sat and cried with us and shared her journey with us as she was once in the same shoes as us. Until that moment, we didn't know anyone who would understand our feelings. Tiffany, you are an angel. Thank you.

We knew we needed to reach out and share our story. We knew we had to let others in our room... in our hearts. We met the sweetest couple who had the tiniest little girl who had lungs of a champ down the hall. We met the sincerest newlywed couple who had a little warrior that was proving God's amazing work. We said goodbye for now and congrats to two little girls who had grown big and strong and headed home with their families after several weeks of living the NICU life. Before we were discharged in July, we met an adorable couple with twin girls who were fighting like crazy and showing God's grace every hour.

The conversations we had with these families helped shape what is about to come. We need each other. We need to know that we are not alone and so does every family that has an extended stay, waiting for their precious child's daily report. We need to show them we care and most of all because we were there.

That's where Anchored Hope came from. Joel and I have spent several nights praying and planning what this looks like. We don't know exactly how it will work but we know it's what we need to do.

But first things first. If you are a NICU family in the Missoula area or spent many days in the the NICU in Missoula, we have created a facebook parent support group today. Please search 'Missoula NICU Parents' and add yourself. If you know of anyone who fits this group, please share this info. We need each other. We need to share our ups and downs, praise and prayer requests, during and beyond the NICU. We need this community. We need each other who understand each other.

But there is still more to come.....

To be continued......

Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 months of Amazing

I can hardly believe it's been more than 5 months now since this little fella made his appearance. 

Official stats:

1 lb 15 oz at birth
10 lb 7 oz now

13 1/2 inches long at birth
21 inches now

On ventilator for breathing at birth
0.2 L/hr oxygen now

A little miracle at birth
Always showing signs of God's goodness now. 

I'm blown away by grace and overflowing with love. 

I mean, darn it, he's CUTE! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fear is Sneaky

Yesterday, fear made it's way into this house.

The big girls both have colds. Super yuck snotty noses. Razor blade slicing throats. Tired and exhausted little bodies.

We've been living like they have the worst disease. I have sanitized every surface in our home, focusing on handles (every doorknob, fridge, microwave, sink, garbage, toilet flusher, handrail, everything). I woke up with a runny nose and stiff eyes and beyond tired.

I was on high alert with the two young Spry babies. I spent most of the day washing Avin's hands and using 'hanitizer' on them almost after every move she made.

NO ONE touched Anchor except for me. I wouldn't allow it. What if he gets sick?

I spent entirely too much of the day watching his chest. Each rise up and then deflate down. I was trying to tell myself that he was labored in his breathing. It was almost as if I was looking for what was wrong rather than what was right.

In the later afternoon, I swore he looked pale as he was sitting in his swing. I quickly ran to the bedroom to grab is oximeter. Remember that thing that had abused me for too long? Yes, that little machine that told me how our days were going to be in the hospital. The one that kept me up for nights on end telling me to worry at every little move.

But this time, I was just going to grab a quick reading; just a spot check to see how he was doing. It was reading a little low.... for a while. I would watch. Anchor was sound asleep and when he should be 93+, he was sitting at 91-92.

So I did the most rational thing anyone would do.... I FREAKED OUT! My baby's sick! What are we going to do? How did this happen? Should I take him in right now?

Y'all, my baby wasn't/isn't sick. I am. I let Satan create a fear in me that I had let go of a while ago. I wasn't trusting in Jesus in that moment. I was trying to control every germ in our house. Have you ever tried to do that? Control every germ? It's exhausting... and impossible for us as humans. Only God has that power. But the devil was using my control as a way to creep in and plant fear in my heart.

After a prayer of release of control & fear,  I changed out our sweet boys oxygen cords, taped on a fresh cannula, grabbed him from his swing and cuddled him. As I was holding this little growing miracle, feeling his breath in sync with my own, I knew The Lord was telling me just to trust Him. Like we have from the beginning, we know we can't carry the burden of our breaths. Jesus has that for us. We just make sure we enjoy every moment we have while we are breathing.

That's what I was reminded yesterday. To trust. Again. Always. And then we took off the oximeter and got this sweet look. Oh my precious boy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our Heroes (NICU Nurses)

The term hero kind of sounds cliche. But truly, I can't think of another word that would even come close to describing how brave, intelligent, comforting and loving the Neonatal Intensive Care nurses are at Community Medical Center.

From the moment Anchor Joel was born on May 4th at a teeny 1 pound 15 ounces, not once did I feel that he could have been in better hands. There were many moments when just the look of kindness or sincerity would help calm my fears. The sure hands that helped my only son to my chest for the first time and even up to the hundredth time, I knew he was in the best care.

These nurses, whom I now call friends, were his moms when I couldn't be there. They cared for him and loved him while I was still heavily drugged for the first 2 days. They were my hands and comforting voice in between my 252 trips back and forth to the NICU.

Some heard me laugh every time my son would pass gas, some saw me mad at the scale the last few days there... but all of you saw me cry. Whether tears of exhaustion or tears of joy and hope, you were there to just listen.

Most of you new our faith and shared your stories of redemption with us too. The words we read together with each new bible verse we would hang on his bed, brought comfort to all of us. Some prayed with us each time we left our son.... and before every procedure or test he had. We thank you for your faith as it helped us keep ours strong.

One of you even walked me all the way to the emergency room the night I discovered I had mastitis; just so I knew exactly where I needed to go.

A few of you even found time to touch this mamas heart through baby feet crafts. I will cherish the foot anchor and Mother's Day craft. One of you helped me climb way back behind the isolette and ventilator machine to hang up his banner just to make it feel a little more like his home there. 

There really are not enough words of gratitude I could express to say how grateful Joel and I are for your care and comfort of our precious boy. My heart belongs to the NICU now. Your love helped carry us through that scary but incredible time we had in room 2.

I will never be the same because of you.

I love you.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Solly Wrap = Love

This thing is a miracle worker! (Not really but it's pretty freakin' amazing!)
I've spent the past 7 weeks sitting and holding this little guy non stop! I love love love it... But also have an incredibly busy 2 year old to chase around, peeling her off the tops of furniture and running back and forth to the potty 389 times a day. (Which by the way is going fabulously!)

Now that we don't have our 5 ft ball and chains (oximeter) hanging off one of his feet Anchor can now snuggle right into this amazing wrap. He loves that he always gets held. I love that I can hold him and be hands free when needed. Avin loves to have a few more minutes of moms time during the day. 

Thanks Solly Wrap! I love you! 

What are some baby goodies that you love and you couldn't live without? I'm also looking for baby toy/entertainment ideas... I think my 4 month old/newborn is getting bored during the day. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bare feet.

From the very first time I laid my eyes on our precious boy, my ears also heard the sounds of his existence. But this afternoon is different.

I recall the sounds that started out as deafening in the beginning. The 'cooooosh puff' of the ventilator letting us know every breath that was pumped into his lungs. The gurgle of the water to keep the ventilator humidified for his comfort. The hum of the heat lamps. So many beeps... from his heart rate monitor and his feeding pump. Add that to the dinging of the amount of the oxygen in his blood and every grunt, fart or cry would send that monitor into a wail. Joel and I used to joke with each other about how Anchor's NICU room sounded like a casino. There was so much noise. In the beginning, every sound would send my heart racing. What does that mean? What made that alarm go off? Why isn't someone coming in to check this alarm? I would get so nervous and my fear would creep in each time I heard another alarm.

As the days went on, we started to get more comfortable with the noise each machine made and the reason why the alarms would go off. Sometimes a little too comfortable. You know when you're in Vegas, how loud the casinos are on the first day; then on day 2 on, you can hardly hear the different bings and dings. This is exactly what the NICU turned into for us. The fatigue we had was real. But still we were alert enough to know when any serious alarm was made.

We brought Anchor home on oxygen and an oximeter. The home oxygen machine is the most comforting hum. I'm not sure if it's just the sound of it or knowing that it is still giving my son 30% of the air he needs to breathe. I love that sound. It's the perfect white noise to our every day. The oximeter, on the other hand, has kept me from peace in so many ways. In the hospital, both Joel and I were a slave to knowing exactly what his blood oxygen level was at every moment. We couldn't relax. Both of us would dart our eyes to the monitor as soon as the shrill of the alarm would sound. Going home with this machine was no different. For the first few weeks we were highly sensitive to each noise that came out of that little box. Every time Anchor burped... DING DING! Every time he farted or poop... DING! Every time he would cry real hard.... DING DING DING!!! All of these reasons for a sudden drop of oxygen in your body is absolutely normal. It happens to all of us... we just don't hear or see it because we don't have monitors hooked up to our feet. Not once did he have a true reason at home for the monitor to scare us half to death.

Over time, we quit hearing the beeps. They became silent to us, though deafening at the same time.

But today... today is different. Our doctor called this afternoon with fabulous news! She talked to Anchor's pulmonary specialist and they decided we could take off the monitor!!!! With his activity levels increasing, aka kicking like a mad man during waking hours, the machine wasn't giving us the correct readings all the time anyway. With no 'spells', aka sudden stop in breathing, since we've been home, there is no need to have 24/7 watch on his blood oxygen levels. This is FANTASTIC NEWS!

Although relieved, I know I won't be sleeping much tonight. Just like any newborn mom, I'll be up, making sure my little man is breathing okay. He still has his oxygen canulla but without the constant reading, I know I'll be a nervous wreck. Thrilled but nervous. That little white box brought so much calm and crazy into our lives. It's almost bittersweet. 

Friends, we are getting closer. One less cord hanging off his little body. (We will continue to spot check his blood oxygen twice per day just to make sure it's in a healthy range.) He can finally wear footed jammies without cutting holes in the ankles or heels. No more stinky wrap to secure the monitor on his little foot.

Just two, tiny bare feet.

I melt.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I can do so much more...

There are days when I don't like the choices I make. Most days actually. 

Whether it's what time I sleep until or having one too many sweets. Or maybe it's the constant procrastination on nearly every deadline or to do. Lack of bible time or lack of physical activity. 

Ever since the whirlwind of baby Anchor, it seems no matter how hard or how much I think about something, I haven't been doing. 

I look around at some of my favorite people and crave specific things or disciplines that they have. Not that I'm discontent with my life, I love what I have going on... I'm just not living it to the fullest. 

I've made my list... that's the planner in me... of what small changes I'm going to make in my every day. Because they say 'small changes make a big difference.' 

And that's what I'm going for... A big difference. 

So now I'd like to know, what is a small something you know you should start doing in order to get that big change over time. How do you make sure you are living and loving life to the fullest?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday with the Sprys

Snuggling with Papa
Sleeping in and snoozing. 
Scripture and sermon over donuts and coffee. 

Spinning and twirling... And lots of falling down. 
A whole lot of sitting. 
Today was chilly so staying inside was our lazy option. 

Our little one slept for almost 5 hours Ina hunk lady night. When you finally get a good night of sleep, it takes all you've got just to get out of bed. So today we rested.  

My dad and step mom just headed to bed on their last night here. It was a quick trip with even less notice they were coming. But oh how it makes our hearts happy when family comes to visit. 

Forever, we've been the 'entertainers.' You come visit us and we will run you ragged taking you everywhere we love to go. But now with our new normal of staying home, every visitor we have had basically just sat in the couch with us. 

A big part of me feels bad. Family and friends driving and flying half way across the country to spend their vacation days with us and we just sit. Shouldn't we be showing them our beautiful city? Taking them for a float? A hike? Something?

But then the small part of me thinks this is just wonderful. Just being. Soaking in each other. Sharing stories, sitting quietly, cooking and cleaning up, sipping on a drink and laughing over dinner. But most of all, just snuggling and being together. 

And that makes me happy. This season is so short lived but my prayer is that we fall in love with the slow and that becomes a true part of our forever norm. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Potty & the Carousel Lesson

Avin has been working so hard the past couple of weeks to get herself out of her diapers for good. (Okay, maybe mom has been hounding her but she responds to a nag apparently.)

Two weeks ago we made her a potty chart (yep, on a dinner menu calendar but hey, you use what you've got when you think of it and have the time to sit down and get it done.) At the end of every week, she get a reward. You'll notice that last week was ice cream and this week was the carousel downtown. She can only earn this if she went all week using the potty during waking hours. Not one single accident, which tells me that she is more than ready. In November, she was almost potty trained completely.... then I got pregnant and was too exhausted to constantly be running her to the bathroom. I know, selfish. But oh how that first trimester always kicks my butt. After I finally started feeling better, we started again. And then we had Anchor. And then we quit again. So now we are finally doing it. 100% committed. Let's be honest, having a reward dangling in front of you helps too!

Today, we finally put a sticker up on the day for the carousel! Oh how she's been waiting and asking for this day for 2 full weeks. After a quick walk through downtown to catch the Saturday morning bustle, we finally found our way, through the pouring rain, to the carousel.
We waited in line for one whole ride and then it was our turn to get on. 

Missoula's carousel is one of the fastest in North America, so I was hesitant on letting Avin ride by herself on her horse. Because it's so fast, they don't allow parents to stand by the kiddo. You either ride with them or ride next to them. Avin was begging to ride alone, so I figured if I was sitting beside her, she could ride alone.... with the belt wrapped twice around her for safety. Because honestly, 2 weeks of waiting for a 2 year old is a long, long time. 
She ran around the whole ring of wooden horses looking for the perfect 'unicorn.' She found the prettiest, 'farkly' (sparkly... but there weren't any sparkles. Ha!) unicorn (except it wasn't a unicorn, just a girly horse) with an adorable little wooden puppy riding on the tail end (another nice word for butt)

I lifted her on and strapped her in before realizing the only open horse next to hers was a BUCKING BRONCO! This mom had to ride a horse that was at a 45 degree angle. Are you kidding me?!? But, she worked so hard and I could sacrifice a little bit of discomfort (or a LOT of bit) for a few spins around the carousel.

Our horses made 2 full circles and we heart the loudest clunk. Um... not good. The carousel BROKE! I was crushed for Avin. But she had absolutely no idea that this wasn't normal. She was just too happy that she got to ride the horse, up and down, all by herself! She was laughing uncontrollably and had the proudest smile for minutes after we got off.

When I looked at it as a big major disappointment and set back, she didn't see that at all. She only experienced joy. Pure joy. Even short lived. And then we got ice cream. 
Her satisfaction reminds me to be happy for the little bits and not always craving the much. For some reason, I seem to be an all or nothing person. If I get behind on my bible reading, I feel crushed and if I can't do the whole lesson in one day, I quit. But if I just took the little bits when I could that would be better than being obsessed with not getting it all done. Instead of not stopping with one piece of carrot cake and being satisfied, I feel like I need a second. 

What I think I'm saying is to enjoy the small things. This is something I'm trying to live in. Joy in the little. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Soaking up a Memory - Grandma's Ark

Growing up, when we were at our grandmas house, my sisters and I would get the privilege to play with Noah's Ark and animals in her sink. Grandma just had a perfect way of making each of us feel special and almost spoiled when she would pull out this old ark for us to play with. (As I'm sure she did with every grandchild... Right cousins?)
We would fill up the sink with warm water, pull up a folding chair and spend so much time (what felt like hours) taking each set of animal, pair by pair, up and down the bridge of the large boat (that didn't float... It was a sinker for sure)  
Two by two, we would make up stories or have grandma tell us the story of Noah's faithfulness and God's promise to His children. Being extra careful not to spill water on to the floor (it was carpeted wasn't it? Family? Aunties? Grandma?) we would lean over that sink until both of our hands were wrinkled beyond recognition and the water freezing cold. 
Last December, I remember lying in bed thinking about which toy we should get for Avin. I didn't want to just get another something that would end up in a pile or in her closet, or worse, stacked in the garage waiting for the next garage sale. I wanted something that would provide countless hours of entertainment and would create a memory for her. 

It hit me link a ton of bricks... Noah's Ark. But it couldn't be just any Noah's Ark. It had to be the one exactly like the one at grandmas house. 

One thing is sure, I can hunt down pretty much anything on the Internet, without really knowing what exactly I was looking for. I stayed up all night searching until finally in found exactly the one I had to get for her. (At this point I had to ask myself honestly; was this for her or for me? Me... Duh!)

After all my research, the coolest thing that I found out was this ark and these animals came from.... Are you ready?!.... A GAS STATION!!! 

At Arco gas stations in the early 1970s, you could purchase the Ark and then each fill up, you would get a pair of animals. How cool is that?! If I were a child then, I know that would have been a highlight to go get gas with my mom or dad. I wonder if my dad was ever the lucky kid to see what the newest addition to the set would be that week. I sure wish we had incentives like that to fill our tanks. 

After my hours of research, and then scrounging eBay for a complete set, I finally laid my eyes on a BRAND NEW, Vintage ARCO Noah's Ark. Still in original packing! 

I wish I could blame being up too late and super tired, but I know that I would have paid the embarrassing price tag any time. If you're a vintage you collector, close your ears...... Because as soon as that package arrived in the mail, I ripped open all the packages of the animals and Noah (who Avin now refers to as Grandpa Kit!) and his wife. 

I didn't purchase this incredible find just to have it sit on a shelf, in its packagin, collecting dust. No, I splurged on this 'toy' to be just that. To be used today like it was today. To give a toddler well over an hour to get lost in her own little world.. Hands wrinkled, chilly water and cupboards and floors drenched. 

There isn't another toy that we own that brings both of us nearly as much joy as this one does. After dozens of times pulling it down from the shelf, Avin still gets excited to play with the ark. 

It give me joy... And clean counters, cupboard fronts and floor after I'm finished soaking up the mess. 

Is there a toy you remember from childhood that you absolutely love and have purchased for your child or wish you could? Please share. December is coming and I need more ideas. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Relationships Built Through Scentsy

I received the sweetest text from a very special friend this morning. She opened her TimeHop app and this is what popped up 6 years ago today.

I had been a Scentsy consultant for just over a year at that time and I had met Amy through Facebook. We had one mutual friend at the time and somehow we connected. Amy makes the most adorable hand appliqu├ęd crafts and baby clothing. I instantly fell in love with her creativity. At that time of my life, I spent most of my time crafting.... scrapbooking, repurposing second hand goodies, coffee cozies, and more. Amy and I grew a friendship through Facebook over warmers & wax and crafts & creativity.

Six years later, countless phone conversations, we have grown to be incredible friends. We have grown together and worked our successful Scentsy Family businesses side by side. Without Scentsy and our incredible products, we probably wouldn't know each other today. I can't imagine not having her on this journey of life and business with me.

Today we have 225 mutual friends on Facebook. This blows me away. This simply means that the business we are in is all about relationships. It's humbling, really, to know so many people all because of our growing businesses. When I joined, one of the main reasons that I invested that $99 was to make friends. Little did I know then, that by sharing a product that I loved, I would be blessed beyond my wildest dreams with honest, authentic, lovely friends.

This community that we have built and the friendship we have will forever keep us on the phone, sharing ideas... laughing, crying, and goal setting together. We have both grown into people we didn't recognize 6 years ago. Even though we live hundreds of miles away and only see each other once or twice a year, we pick up right where we left off. I love friendships like this. I'm grateful that I have many relationships like this. Some from high school, college, church and maybe a work place or two.... but most of my friendships are with women who are building a legacy for their children with Scentsy.

I'll never forget the feeling I felt when in October 2011, Amy reached Super Star Director (our highest title in the Scentsy Family!) She hit this lofty and amazing milestone before I did and I'll always remember that I honestly didn't care about myself or my goals in that moment. There was something so special and made my heart leap for joy at the thought of my friend reaching the top of the mountain! All I could think was how absolutely proud I was of her. And then I worked like heck to follow her footsteps to the top!

This perfectly describes what our Scentsy Family is about: giving more than you take, investing in others to help them be successful, celebrating with arrows out.

I'm humbled and blessed to be able to call Amy friend.... along with so many other women that I've met along this crazy journey. As I reflected on these relationships today, I can't help but feel overjoyed. Grateful. Honored. Happy.

Thank you for sharing today Amy. I can't wait to see what the next 6 years has in store for both of us. Cheers to our friendship.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Weight of Happiness!

When I took off his wet diaper this morning, all I could do was pray and beg God for some weight gain, as I placed him on the baby scale.  Every pump, every bottle, every sleepy eye was worth what we saw today! Joel and I were completely surprised to see that our little Anchor had quadrupled his birth weight! When we saw the scale read 7 lb 15 oz we both may have squealed a little bit. Walking into our appointment, we were hoping for 7 lb 8 oz, so to have almost another half pound above your expectation was beyond thrilling!

During our stay in the NICU, our son had to be put on several different milk fortifiers (formula that they add to the breastmilk) to get him to gain any weight. Every formula we tried would just tear his little guts up. Finally, exhausted with trying and failing, Dr Stevens and I both decided that we could try only breastmilk. Now here's to preface that I have a TON of milk! A little perspective; I have almost 3,000 ounces in our freezer and have fed Anchor from the beginning plus I've provided supplemental milk for a sweet baby girl too.

When we started exclusively feeding breastmilk, he started losing weight. For 3 days he lost weight and to be honest, that was one of the worst feelings as his mom. He had gone through so much just to get to the point of just being a 'feeder and grower' (NICU term for a baby that just needs to get bigger before they can go home) that losing weight from your mama's milk just stinks.

However, on the 4th day he finally gained a few grams. The next day a few more. And ever since then, he has been growing like crazy!

It's been a little bit exhausting doing the double duty of pumping, pouring into bottles, feeding him, washing bottles and pumping supplies and doing it all over again. However, after so many tears and so much frustration over the past few months, today truly felt like a victory!

Today Anchor Joel feels like a newborn. Like a baby thriving in his environment and I couldn't feel any more relief that I do right now. His lungs will grow. They'll get bigger and stronger with time. His heart will prayerfully heal (his ASD -atrial septal defect- sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart — is a type of congenital heart defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the dividing wall between the upper filling chambers of the heart - will prayerfully go away as he gets bigger. 

And now... we can rest easier knowing that he is growing. A lot! Chubby babies makes this mama happy. 
The result from today's appointment makes me feel like we are on the next road of our journey. Almost like we are heading down the back stretch. During today's appointment, Anchor also had to have his 4 month vaccines. He cried. And then ate. 100% breastmilk. Almost 3 ounces. So it would be safe to say he is officially over 8 pounds. 
God is good. I'm so incredibly grateful. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Who I Am Lately.

I've been struggling with writing. I'm not sure why other than feeling like I don't know how to share with you our everyday story exactly the way I want it to be told. Like I'm incapable of telling you how we are. So, tonight I'm going to start by sharing with you me. Who I am lately.

I am a wife. I am a nag. I am a mom. I am distracted. I am excited. I am a listener. I'm a screamer. I am a dog petter. I am the cook, cleaner and laundry stain scrubber. I am a leader. I am an encourager. I am scared. I am humbled. I am lonely but I am at peace. I am a snuggler and puzzle assistant. I'm a helper of homework and budget planner. I am a lemonade and coffee spill cleaner upper. I am a texter. I am a Food Network watcher... in the background of my day. I am a negotiator and questioner of insurance claims. I am forgetful... (Happy Birthday yesterday Mom! I love you!) I'm a procrastinator. I am crazy busy.... but yet crazy lazy. I'm a husband kisser. I'm a communicator. I am a baby milk producer. I am a PTSA member (just signed up tonight.) I am a Bible studier. I'm a story teller and book reader. I am a prayer over my husband, kiddos and home. I'm a hoarder of God's miracles (I promise to share soon.) I'm a collector of stationary. I am a monitor silencer. I am a student planner signer. I am a cheerleader and a play dough artist. I'm a pro diaper changer and also the recipient of an occasional pee pee shower! (EW! ... BOYS!) I am vulnerable. I am weak. I'm a taco pie maker and a chocolate chip cookie baker. I'm a swaddler. I am a pumpkin lover (like everything pumpkin including the pumpkin spice ice cream from Schwann's.... get yourself some!) I am a bath time attendee. I am a dishwasher. I am tired. I am a coffee and wine drinker... and a goldfish cracker eater. And so much more.

And this was just today. As I sit here and put down into words the exact feelings I had today; how I labeled myself today; I hear the Holy Spirit telling me who I really am.

I am a daughter of The King. First and foremost. I am strong because I have Christ and I don't have to go through my days trying to do and be it all. I have been given these gifts and responsibilities of being a wife, mom and business owner because The Lord loves me. And that is exciting and humbling. I have a story that needs to be told. Everyday. Even when I'm tired or feeling insignificant in the scheme of our day to day. Who would I be to not share His goodness? I am called to share our blessings with others. It's time to be brave. The words will come.

If you've been around for a while you'll know that I took a friend's challenge and wrote everyday a couple years ago for a long time (I didn't make it quite a year) but now I know that the only way I'll remember this season in our lives is if I write it down. And let's face it, I'm a way better typer than I am a writer. I want to remember. I want to share. So please join me. I'll be here.... being vulnerable, scattered but brave.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Change is tough

I knew tonight wasn't going to be easy. Change is hard. But anything worth doing is hard. Usually the right things to do are hard. 

I'm not sure if it's just for this season or forever, but tomorrow, we are sending our big girls off for school. 

We've homeschooled for the past 5 years. It's been a challenge and an adventure since day one. I never thought I'd be able to teach them well. There was always doubt, but never more than I'm feeling today. 

Although we had an amazing support system and group of friends who also home educate, all of the studies, prep and application fall on your hands as a mom and teacher. 

What if I didn't teach them well? We haven't had a routine for years and now what if they stink at time managemt like me? What if I overprotected them and they feel uncomfortable with the things life throws at them? What if they took on my personality of being shy and a little introverted? Would they still make good friends? Will they like their teacher? What if someone's mean to them? 

And then I remember and am quickly comforted that Jesus is always with our precious children... And with us. That even when it's hard or uncomfortable, we are okay. And we can get through this. 

I'm nervous but excited for them. I'm nervous but excited for me.... somehow keeping up with the littlest. We're up for the challenge of this next chapter. Because really, it's already a part of our new normal. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Plans Change

Today marks 81 days of life in the NICU. Today was also suppose to be the day that we were finally going to take our son through the hospital doors. But plans changed.

I've been able to take some curve balls with stride during the past 12 weeks here, but today was different. Today I felt devastated. Heartbroken. Sad. Frustrated. Defeated.

Today I also was humbled. Joel and I had taken down nearly all of his decorations. We said good bye to our nurses and friends.... because when they are pretty much the only people you've been around the past 3 months, they become friends who understand and love you through this big life event. He passed the car seat test. We took our CPR class. We finished all of our discharge checklist. He is gaining weight. We got comfortable with the easy coasting. We were used to taking only steps forward. It had been weeks since we've had a set back with Anchor's care; we were past that.

But we weren't. And we aren't.

During his morning check up, on the day of discharge, our little guys blood pressure was up. It had been slowly creeping up the past few days but we were told this is something we would just keep an eye on during our out patient care with our pediatrician. But this morning, we were told that it's high enough to be concerning. Anchor had to do more blood work and began blood pressure medicine per the request of the pediatric nephrologist from Seattle Childrens. They are sending his labs into Mayo Clinic for more comprehensive testing and to check kidney function.

So we are here. This is where we'll be until at least Sunday. And even though it's hard, and it sucks, and I'm sad, I know that this is exactly where we are suppose to be. The Lord's timing is always perfect and we will rest in that today.... and always.

Tonight, I will sit here, constantly being reminded of the blessings and constant favor God has shown us during the past few months... and I will rejoice.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Write.

For some reason, I have not been here. Writing. On this blank, white screen.

Maybe it has been that I've been in the car the past 73 days. Driving back and forth to the hospital. Maybe it's been trying to nurse a teeny tiny baby with big huge boobs. Maybe it's been the lack of sleep. Or the lack of coffee. Or because I can't get these 'bing bings' from the monitors out of my head.

But what about the in between minutes and sometimes precious hours I was spending with our girls. Maybe it was because we were sitting on the back deck 'washing our toes' in the inflatable pool. Maybe I haven't written because I was cheering on our girls during the few games I got to watch this season. Maybe it's because we were hanging humming bird feeders, watering our new garden, or serving pretend 'cheeebugers' from the window on the new playhouse. Maybe.

Maybe it's because I'm drowning in medical bills and doctor appointments. Maybe it's because all I've been able to think about is which education is best for our two precious oldest daughters. Or maybe I haven't even opened my computer in weeks because I've been cleaning closets and spending my spare time journaling, sleeping and reading books that have been sitting on my shelf for too long that need to get finished. Maybe it's because Joel and I have been binge watching Scandal because our girls are away and we are completely bored with a list of to dos a mile long. Maybe.

But I think the main reason I haven't been here, why I haven't been present and openly talking about our journey is because the devil is telling me that no one wants to hear it. That I could never tell this story good enough. The story that I'm living. The journey that I'm on. That it wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. He's been telling me that I don't have time to share.

Sometimes it takes a sweet soul to remind you that Satan is not in control. Jesus is. And our story, this incredible story of ours... our everyday life...  the boring, the miraculous, the hard and sweet, the scary and joyful.... is meant to be shared.

I named this blog Everyday Jari. There is nothing special about me. No super powers that are getting me through this season in life. I deserve nothing. But I want this story, our story, here. I want to be raw and real, authentic and genuine... in the crazy and the lazy (<---- I'm already starting to pray for lazy days!)... but.. BUT I want to glorify Christ and live for Him. I want to share. And it's time I choose to be brave and talk about everything we've been going through. If for anything.... for me. For my family to have as a journal during this incredible, wonderful, stressful and beautiful season of our lives.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Miss 'Normal'

Written on June 19, 2015:

Alyn hit an infield GRAND SLAM today during a game in Great Falls!

And both her dad and I missed it. This makes me sad. It's missing out on 'life' with our girls for the past 47 days that has been the hardest... and saying 'see ya later' to our son 3 times a day stinks too.

I just miss our normal. I miss not being able to braid the girls' hairs before their games. I miss cheering for them like a wild lady on the sidelines. I miss seeing Joel out there coaching the group of girls he loves so much. I miss chasing Avin around the park. I miss resting my hands on my pregnant belly. I miss Joel feeling the baby kick.

I may have had a little sadness in my voice when I asked Joel tonight.... "This is not how I pictured our summer. Did you?"

His instant reply "Nope. But God's plan is far better than we could ever imagine."

And it's so true.

I never thought in a million years that we would have our baby at 26 weeks. I never knew what joy and heartache we would endure. I don't even know how we are getting through these days with so much crazy and so much waiting we have to do.

I just miss our normal.

I would go on to tell you that I'm excited for our new life and what it looks like so I don't sound ungrateful or come off as a drag.... but I'm just being real. I'm just being honest. I miss our old normal. A lot.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Big Sister Love.

 With oooing and ahhing non stop when they enter into their baby brothers NICU room, I just know these two big sisters are completely head over heels with the new little guy in our lives. Our girls had to wait about a week and a half after Anchor Joel was born before they could be in the same room with him. They did get a few sneak peeks in from the window (most adorable photo ever!)

NICU has a very strict policy that only brothers and sisters to the patient who are up to date with their immunizations. This might not seem like a big deal but when you aren't the most organized gal in the world (or even the neighborhood!) it takes some time to get all the records you need all compiled and ready to have your doctor sign off on them. Arly was behind on one shot, but she eagerly marched her way into the doctors office and took one for team Anchor. Finally, after 10 days of waiting, your sisters got to touch their precious little buddy... and I'm absolutely positive they fell in love all over again.
Both Arly & Alyn come in with us a couple of times per week and help with Anchor's 'hands on' time. They've gotten very good at doing his containment therapy (see how they have their hands lightly on his head and back? That makes him feel secure with boundaries... just like it feels for him in the womb). They also get to take his temperature under his arm pit and help with his 'milk pops!' - he loves a q-tip dipped in breast milk and rolled on his tongue. It's his absolutely favorite part of hands on care I'm sure of it!

I can't wait until the day when those precious little hands are holding their baby brother... tickling his toes... playing cars with him on the floor... throwing balls back and forth to each other. Some day.... sooner than we'll ever imagine.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Full Surrender

As I sit here tonight in a dim room with the sporadic sounds of monitors beeping, I'm trying to recall the next little segment of our story. I can't remember much. Other than the guilt of our big girls getting ready to head over to sleepovers with friends and play softball games the next day, knowing I wouldn't be there for them. I'm the button wearing, hair braiding, snack making, loud cheering mama. Avin was with some friends for the day and Joel was going to sleep at our house with her that Saturday night. The plan was for the two of them to go to church Sunday morning and we would all get a restful nights sleep. 

I believe it was sometime around 4am I started to really feel yucky. My upper abdomen hurt so bad that it hurt to breathe. I couldn't tell if I was just anxious (I've never had an anxiety attack and was wondering if maybe that was what was happening), or if it was heartburn (but the tums and antacids weren't working)... I just hurt. 

My blood pressure started raising then and even after three rounds of medicine administered via iv it wouldn't stay down. So back on the magnesium I went... With strict bed rest... catheter and all. Joel came around 630 Sunday morning and didn't leave my side again. 

They tried giving me ambein to help me sleep but that was horrid. It messed with my head big time. They took away all foods and I could only have clear liquids on Sunday. 

Because of the medicines and magnesium I don't remember a whole lot of Sunday day or night. I do remember missing my kids. I do remember seeing Joel sitting at the foot of my bed praying and reading his Bible out loud to me. I do remember telling myself over and over that God is in control. Because I was losing all control I thought I had. 

Monday morning was the morning that we had to give up all control and fully submit to The Lord. It was around 6am that Dr Bakshi and Dr Shepherd came in to tell us the results of some lab work taken earlier that morning. It turns out the pain I felt and couldn't describe or get rid of was in fact my liver being stressed. When you combine that with my extremely high protein count, the blood pressures being elevated, they knew that my body was not a safe environment for our little baby to grow and thrive in. They also knew that the only cure for my disease of Preeclampsia was delivery. 

When they told us that they were bumping the regularly schedule surgery first thing that morning because we were going in for an emergency c-section, I was crushed. I felt a heap of guilt thinking that I wasn't doing my motherly duty of keeping my baby safe. I was flooded with doubt on the outcome. But that is when the Holy Spirit took over and I knew that whatever happens in that OR - whatever happens to me or our tiny baby - we would worship and praise our sovereign God. Always. 

Joel called our dear friend and pastor to pray with and for us before I was wheeled away into surgery. Both doctors prayed with us. I kissed my husband and knew that I was fully surrendered; fully submitted to The Lord's plan. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Anchor Update

Today, Joel and I sit quietly in Anchor boys dark NICU room. He is so content just sleeping like this. 
Yes, you're seeing this correctly. Face down, in his bed, whole face buried in his nest. He had such a hard time working to keep his oxygen levels up with the cpap yesterday but the overnight nurse put him face down and he is doing so much better. It's easier for the micro preemies to get the air into their lungs when they are on their tummies. Their lungs have more support and they don't have to labor as hard to get them to expand all the way. 

Because he is being so picky about which position he is in and his rocky day yesterday, we are giving him a 'day off' from getting in and out of his isolette (his bed.) This means that I don't get to have skin to skin time with him. Do I get bummed? Absolutely. There is nothing more I want in this world than to just smell my baby boy. Every day. And it hurts my heart that I don't get to feel his little heart beat and hiccups on my chest. 

But each day, I prepare my heart for that little break. I just have to absolutely trust that the decisions made by his doctors and nurses each day are for his best development and growth. Even if that means a few tears. I'm ok with it because I don't have any other choice. 

So today, we just sit quietly and watch him. We pray. We celebrate a good day. 

He is back on his bilirubin lights, which is completely common for them to go on and off of the lights. Joel even said this morning, 'I bet he misses his beach time.' I think dad was right. He is having a great day so far just soaking in the rays and chillin' without much commotion. 

Guess what?! He is over 2 pounds!!!! 2 lb 1 oz to be exact. What a tank?! *Wink* His feedings have been bumped up from 1 1/2 cc every 3 hours to 3 cc every 3 hours. Just to get perspective, I took this photo last night to show how much milk I'm producing in one pumping session and how much he eats (through a tube). 
That's almost 6 oz in the mini sterilized bottles and the syringe is 11/2 cc. I guess my body knows that it has one job to do right now.... Make milk for this little handsome boy! (And apparently he likes to shop at Costco! Bulk supply is the name of the game!)

Thank you for your daily prayers. We appreciate them more than you'll ever know. 

Prayer request: 
To continue to keep Anchor comfortable in this new environment and for his little body to keep up with the demands of the outside world.  For his O2 levels to stay up and for him to tolerate more handling and different positions. (Maybe that's a selfish one for this mommy because I want nothing more than to snuggle my new son). For the staff here at Community Medical to know what's best for him and the other babies in their care.

Thanks always. We love you! 

The Mayonnaise Blur

Honestly, the next couple of days were pretty much one big blur for me. 

Our doctor started me on magnesium which is basically the equivalent of swimming in boiling mayonnaise. Sounds disgusting and it really was nasty. They put me on magnesium because with the high blood pressure, it helps prevent seizures in case of a sudden spike. I spend the rest of the day Thursday feeling like dump. I do remember getting the first of two steroid injections in my hip. I don't know if I was being a super wimp or just exhausted but I really thought that it was worse than any epidural I've ever received. But I would do anything for our unborn baby. 

Joel and I had both turned into 'slaves of the monitor.' Every 10-30 minutes they were checking my pressures and it was almost like the next reading determined how I was going to feel. After the whole day Thursday and through the night, we decided enough was enough. No matter what, we couldn't control the situation so we had to really shift our fears of the worse into faith and trust that Jesus had everything under control. We had to submit to Christ and 'Anchor' our faith in Him alone. We had to be steadfast in unwavering hope and trust. Even though it was hard, and sad, and scary; we had to constantly remind each other that this is God's plan. Definitely not ours... But we had to trust that He does all things for our good and for His glory. Always. Even when we don't understand. Even when we can't wrap our head around the whole situation. Even when it seems like you can't take it one more minute. Anchor. So during our 4 days in the hospital, we had decided that if this little one were to be a boy, he would be named Anchor Joel. (And if baby was a girl, her name would have been Arrow Jean... Jean for my Grandma Donna). 

Friday morning, we went up to see the high risk doctor for an ultrasound. They wanted to see how big baby was and to make sure baby had enough fluid. The high risk doctor we saw during our first ultrasounds was out on vacation so his fill in from Texas was here. As he was checking baby via ultrasound, Joel and I were hyper sensitive to everything he was observing. And that's when I saw it. Something I had NEVER seen on an ultrasound before.... I knew in one little look that it was a BOY!  I asked the doctor and he quickly moved the cameras view. Joel didn't believe me (or was too afraid to believe it really was a boy!) but because the doctor neither confirmed nor denied, I knew. We would finally have our son! I still kept that bit of information from the girls though. I still wanted them to be surprised. Even though I was 99% confident in what I saw, I still google searched images of 'boy ultrasounds' - yep, then I knew it was sure. 

Baby looked good. 1 lb 14 oz according to the ultrasound and fluid levels looked great.

Later that day, I got another steroid shot to help develop baby's lungs and brain. I was feeling better on that whole day in Friday so they took me off the magnesium. I was still getting my blood drawn every 6 hours since I was admitted. 

Saturday was great. Joel and I had started planning on me being in bed rest in the hospital for the long haul. The blood pressure meds seemed to be working so I just knew this would be my home for a while.  Once we hit our first goal of staying pregnant for the first 48 hours after the steroid shots, our next goal was 2 weeks, then a month. Rah and every day we kept this precious child safe inside of me was crucial. So we wait...
Even our whole family was willing to wait. Together... With God... We can do anything. 

To be continued....