Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Thanksgiving(s) in pictures and captions

I feel as though I should begin this post with a warning: I take too many pictures and sometimes can be am almost always a little wordy.  Our Thanksgiving break was so jam-packed, that I feel as though this double-whammy might be especially terrible for this post. Feel free not to read on. I wont be offended. Unless only 2 people comment, and then I might feel sad and realize that I'm writing all the words and taking all the pictures for only four people, including my mom and Adam's mom.

We celebrated Thanksgiving twice. With two equally ginormous and complete Thanksgiving dinners. Adam deserves a big shout out for cooking two Thanksgiving meals. I, for one, am totally impressed. And feel so grown-up that we cooked this turkey all by ourselves (do you like how I used "we" there?). Isn't it pretty? (and if you  look closely, you can see a portion of Caden's own Thanksgiving Feast of GERBER GOODSTART. Yum).
The first Thanksgiving meal was the one we hosted at our house for some of our neighbors and neighborhood kiddos. We had 27 people in attendance for this feast. That's a lot of folks crammed into our not-so-large house. Not to mention that we would have had even more, but several children left before they ate (as a result of their inability to stop all the fighting).
Somehow, everyone had a seat. And we ate all the food save a small portion of turkey. Loaves and fish I tell you.

Love these kiddos. Particularly the sunglasses which have been converted to winter glasses by the removal of dark lenses. Genius.
And here is my balding little man with a receeding hairline. Look how well he's holding up his cute little head!
I kid you not, directly after finishing cleaning up after this feast, Adam headed to my parents' house to brine a turkey a la Pioneer Woman. Impressive right?

The next morning, we all went over to my parents house so Adam could finish making the feast, and so Jayci Snow White could play with her "friends" in the yard.
And also so that Caden could hang out with Oma-Oma (my dad's mom). Love her.

Jayci was apparently happy about the second Thanksgiving feast. I'm telling you, I have never seen more amazingly delicious food in one place, so I can't say I blame her for all the happiness.
Oh hi there cute little turkey-butt.
Our Thanksgiving break also included a girls' night (complete with Christmas movie and crafting and popcorn) for some of the neighborhood kiddos (and also these two little trouble-makers angels).

And then Cinderella showed up to help decorate the tree.
And Caden spent much time watching the festivities while laughing, smiling, yelling, blowing spit bubbles, and being generally cute.
I realize that this picture is totally ridiculous, dark, grainy, out of focus and I'm wrinkling my nose unattractively (and also Adam looks like a total creeper) but I love it nonetheless. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'm certain that every single post on every single blog today is going to be about thankfulness and how thankful we all are . . . And I apologize for the redundancy, but I simply cannot allow today to pass by without acknowledging all that I have to be thankful for today. Each year, I write a post on Thanksgiving about how this year, I am the most thankful ever. . . And I mean it every year. I feel like our capacity for thankfulness continues to grow the more you practice it. Once I notice those things and people around me with gratitude, my eyes are opened to even more blessings in my life.

This year, of course, every single day feels a little bit like thanksgiving. My heart fairly bursts with gratitude each time I snuggle my little Caden. Or play in the warm sun with my sweet Jayci. Each time I drive around my block, or hear the knock of the kiddos on my door. When I sit in our new living room and rock Caden while Jayci sings at the top of her lungs, I cannot describe how grateful I feel.

And especially, I am grateful when I realize afresh the goodness of God.

It's a weighty thing, this Goodness. It fills the days and anchors my heart, even when I get caught up in the craziness. When there's 27 people in our house for a thanksgiving meal: neighbors and kiddos and friends . . . It's chaos, and yet I am still anchored in the midst of it all by gratitude for His goodness. And I steal away for a few minutes of quiet while I feed Caden. I breathe in and out His Goodness, lifting prayers of thankfulness that Caden is well. Thankfulness for normal things like colds. Thankfulness for His abundant provision that allows us to share our home and meals with so many. And even thankfulness for three-year-old temper tantrums. I am grateful to have a girl who is healthy enough, independent enough, fearless enough to disagree with me. . . .

And when I forget, when I lose sight of the Goodness, I am reminded by an encouraging note or email from one of you. Reminded by the sound of Caden's cries, his lungs healthy and strong. Reminded by the family that surrounds us loudly and completely. Reminded by the smiles and nods from drug dealers on the corner. Reminded by the phone calls wishing happy thanksgiving from our kiddos. Reminded by the sunshine streaming and warming between my shoulder blades. Reminded each moment that I am thankful, and that He has given us many reasons for giving thanks.

Not the least of which is a feast made by my fantastic husband and pastry-chef sister. Just sayin'

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Update, In List Form

1 - Remember how Caden was waking up to eat every two hours? It hasn't stopped. And it's seriously messing with my brain's ability to function. As evidence, I originally typed the first sentence as "Adam was waking up every two hours to eat." Which would be hilarious if he did. And also convenient, because then he could also feed Caden for me.

2 - Jayci has slept through the night the last two nights. So without jinxing it, I'm going to put it out there and say I'm hoping it's a trend. Luckily, my grandmother is visiting from Canada and brought Jayci some delicious Canadian candy (which I'm obsessed with and is one of the top 5 things I miss about Canada). We told her she could have some in the morning if she didn't wake us up all night. Here's hoping bribery pulls through for us again.

3 - Speaking of Jayci, her mysterious fever has now been gone for a week. We will talk to the doctor tomorrow, and probably have her blood drawn again to make sure her elevated numbers have gone down. That would mean they were elevated as a result of the virus and not some underlying issue. I'll keep you posted on that situation.

4 - Speaking of fevers, Caden has one. It's not nearly as frighteningly-high as Jayci's was, but it's been hovering right around 99-100 the last few days. And pretty-much anything abnormal when it's related to health is frightening for me with Caden. He is having his first Synagis injection (vaccination again rsv) tomorrow, and we will talk to the doctor then. And again, I'll keep you posted. But please be praying it's nothing, and that his fever doesn't go up. Because when I talked to the doctor when Jayci was sick, they said they "think his heart could probably handle a high fever." And it turns out that "think" and "could probably" aren't my favorite words in this situation.

5 - Adam has been in the kitchen all day whipping up some amazing dishes for our Thanksgiving meal for neighborhood kiddos tomorrow. I'm pretty sure we will have large quantities of children showing up to break bread with us and give-thanks. And if not, we will have enough food to last us for a very long time. Which is great news.

6 - If it sounds like Adam does all the work around here, that is absolutely not true. Ok maybe a little true. But I am primarily responsible for feeding Caden, which means that I'm also making lots of food right? I've also been taking lots of pictures. It's Christmas card season, after all. And since posts are boring without pictures, here's a few from my latest shoots.

*An Addendum (aka the one thing I meant to write in this post but completely forgot to include originally):
7-We are SO SO incredibly grateful for the response we've gotten on the CICU baskets we want to make. The ways that y'all have stepped up to help have just blown us away! We have homemade blankets, goodies, burp clothes, head bands, notes . . . Not to mention so many people who have contributed to allow us to purchase things like gas cards, starbucks cards, parking passes etc. We will keep you posted on the process, what we're including etc. And we also wanted ya'll to know that these baskets are an exciting way for us to feel like we're honoring Caden, but they are not just from our family - they are from all of you! Your prayers and love and encouragement helped us through a really hard time, and we want to share that with others. That said, we've had lots of amazing "heart families" who have contributed already, and I think it will be really special for families in the CICU to see that others have walked the path they are on. If you want to help or contribute, dont forget you can email me at Becca1612 at hotmail dot com. And we will probably deliver them right before Christmas, so you still have lots of time!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jayci in Red

The other day, Jayci decided she needed to wear red, for Christmas coming. And also, Caden needed to wear red to match. I was happy to oblige, as long as she agreed to take a few pictures of her and her brother. Her response? "Ok mommy, you can take three pictures. That's all."

Thankfully, I was able to sneak in a few more, because my sweet little ones looked pretty cute in their red outfits.

We also took an impromptu trip to Lenox mall, since it was family day. Also, because we desperately need a new rug for our living room. There may or may not be gum currently stuck in it from one of the kiddos. I would tell you what else, but I might want to have you over for dinner someday, so it's probably better you don't know. For your own good of course.

I'm not sure what made me think I'd find an appropriately priced rug at Lenox mall. I temporarily forgot what we do for a living.

It turns out that Santa was already at Lenox for the season. Jayci was, however, a little too nervous to go visit him. She merely wanted to "peek at him" a few times throughout our trip.

We left Lenox just in time to see them hoisting the giant Christmas tree onto the roof. Adam Jayci was excited to see the large cranes they used to lift such a ginormous tree. We laughed about how if we had planned to try and go to see the Christmas tree being put on the roof, we surely would have missed it because we are perpetually late for everything. So it was a happy accident and a festive day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hearts for the Holidays

It's almost Thanksgiving. I know, I can't believe how fast time is flying either. But this year especially I am so aware of just how much we have to be thankful for. Caden is home with us. That sweet little face is getting chubbier by the day, and the feeding tube is out of his poor little nose. I am beyond thankful for both my little sweethearts. And for our new home, our ministry, and our family and friends. . . But I also recognize that even while Caden was in the hospital, even while his heart was fighting to beat, we still had so much to be thankful for. The amount of support, love, encouragement and prayers we had while we were in the hospital . . . it literally brought us to tears of gratitude on a daily basis.

We've realized, however, that not everyone with little ones in the hospital has people sending them itunes gift cards, money for parking, making them food, cleaning their houses . . . Beyond that, I can scarcely begin to imagine spending the holidays at my baby's bedside in the CICU.

Because we are thankful, and because we want to pass along some of the encouragement and love y'all showered us with during Caden's hospital stay . . . we are planning something fun for families in the CICU this holiday season. We want to put together gift baskets/bags/what-have-you for each child (and their family) in the CICU. We spoke with CHOA and they said they are staffed for 14 beds, can hold up to 27 children, but at their busiest usually have 18-20 kids . . . So we want to put together 20 bags.

Some ideas as to what we want to include in the bags are: gift certificates for surrounding restaurants, parking passes, CDs, hand-written notes, handmade goodies, baby blankets, hats, toys etc . . .

What we want is your help. We would love for y'all to be a part of what we're doing. Whether it's by contributing ideas for what to include (especially from my fellow heart-parents - what would you have wanted when you were in the hospital?), money contributions, or if you have something specific you'd like to donate for us for the bags (maybe you make something like baby hats or dolls etc).

I'm always kind of nervous about doing stuff like this, because I'm afraid that no one will respond. But we feel led to love these families, who are undoubtedly facing some of the hardest moments you can imagine. And if a simple act of love and kindness can point them to Jesus, then I feel like it's something we desperately want to be a part of. So please humor me by at least contributing some ideas for us!

We are also going to do something small for all the nurses and staff in the CICU. We are so excited to give back, to honor Caden's days in the CICU, and to thank you for all you have done for us and our family. And also to show those who loved and cared for Caden how thankful we are for the work they do day in and day out.

CHOA has given us a letter that anyone donating can use, because every contribution made is tax-deductible. I will be happy to email that letter out to anyone who is interested! I really think this will mean a lot to the families who have to spend the holidays in the hospital, I know that we couldn't have been more grateful for every single note, prayer, gift, and encouraging word. Seriously, they completely carried us through each day, and I dont think we would have made it without them.

If you'd rather email me ideas, or want an address for sending donations, or need that letter, you can reach me at Becca1612 at hotmail dot com. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update on Life and Jayci

I'm not sure I could be more exhausted. I'm also not sure I should say that, for fear of how little sleep I will get tonight. About 2 weeks ago we started a "sleep through the night" sticker chart for Jayci. Guess how many stickers she has? Two. That means there are only two nights that she has slept straight through in the past 2 weeks. Not to mention Caden waking up at LEAST every three hours, usually every one or two.

All that to say that when Jayci came down with a high fever and cough AGAIN this weekend, for the third weekend in a row, it about did me in. The first two weekends seemed weird, but THREE in a row with Jayci getting sick? Not normal. So we took her to the doctor this morning. She said that it is possibly that Jay just had three different minor viruses the past three weekends. But also that it could be something more serious, which means she ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray. We agreed with her that after everything with Caden, we always vote for erring on the side of caution. Especially because Jayci's fever went up while we were at the doctor and she was back at 104. Poor thing. It was not fun for me to be back at CHOA, particularly with my grouchy three year old. Who didn't enjoy having her blood drawn or chest x-rayed. It was one of the worst moments ever when I had to hold her down while they drew her blood. She screamed loudly and cried for her mommy the entire time. I hated it.
Anyways, we got her chest x-ray back and it was clear. The blood work we should get back tomorrow, but they did get initial blood counts which came back normal - a very good thing (because the doctor admitted she was worried it was leukemia. Which I'm glad she didn't tell me until AFTER she had ruled it out based on blood count). We're hoping and praying that Jayci has just managed to get 3 different viruses the past few weekends. And if I'm being honest, today made me glad that Caden wasn't old enough to look betrayed or ask us what was going on when he had his surgery.

Jayci totally has moments of happy (after the Tylenol kicks in and her fever goes down), but it's mixed in with lots of not sleeping and being angry and sad and complaining that her legs are hurting. Which is weird.

We also have to try and keep her away from Caden, which is difficult because she loves her baby brother and wants to snuggle him constantly.. Not to mention that, well, he's adorable and hard to stay away from. Plus, she's three and doesn't quite understand the concept of germs.
Again, we'd appreciate your prayers. I feel torn between fear and certainty that nothing serious is wrong. Dr. Jina said there's just no way that the Stanley family could be unlucky enough to have something else major wrong in less than four months. I part-way agree, while also knowing that God doesn't work like that. His ways are not our ways, and we continue to trust Him with both of our beautiful children.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Lives in 140 Characters or Less

I like Twitter (not as much as I like the little munchkin laying on his playmat and making cooing noises right now, but still). If I'm being honest, I'm not an *awesome* twitterer (tweeter?). I don't tweet a whole lot. I'm a little afraid of Hashtags - they intimidate me. And I often forget to respond when people "mention" me. But I do like following people, and getting little snapshots into their lives. Especially people who make me laugh (like my sister).

And I thought that maybe some of y'all who aren't on Twitter might want a little snapshot of our lives as well. Besides, where else am I forced to be so concise and pithy?
So without further ado, I give you a glimpse into our lives via my tweets from the last few days:

*You can tell what our neighborhood's like by the # of z's replacing s's in signs/names. Like the Speak Eazy next to the Salon and Cutz.
*The amount of laundry that currently needs to be done (not to mention folded and put away) is bordering on absurd.
*Just saw a guy walking down the street carrying a flat screen tv on his shoulder like a boombox circa 1985.
*As Jayci says: "he's a happy happy boy"
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*Want a quick way to undo all your hard work cleaning? Have 2 teen boys spend the night. Then let them play with your 3 yr old all morning.
*Jayci's "quiet time" consists of her singing loudly and yelling to see if she can come out yet.
*Cleaning day attire includes a dancing skirt . . . Naturally.
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*Sometimes I like to have pumpkin spice cake with whipped cream for breakfast.
*Whenever Adam locks our car he makes a sound like the alarm is being set . . . I think he has all the would-be thieves fooled.
*When we get pizza delivered in our neighborhood, the delivery man honks and we have to come out and get our pizza. I blame the drug dealers on the corner.
*Adam just made himself a peanut butter, honey and chocolate cookie sandwich.
*Chocolate cookie making time :-)
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*Every day around 4, jayci changes from my sweet baby to girl-who-didnt-nap-but-clearly-should-have. And good heavens, it is not pretty.. . . 
*Caden and I are hanging out in our room, bc there are MANY teenage boys from the neighborhood watching the Falcons game in our living room.
*Jayci just informed me, "you need to clean under your bed. It's all messy-uppy." I know, I know. I just prefer to ignore it.
*LSU scored and Jayci said "yay kitty cats" . . . Close enough right?
*Somewhere in the depths of my car is a toy that plays music every time I turn or go over a bump. Its driving me crazy.
*The messiness of our car has reached a whole new level. It's impressive really.
*Three year olds are a delight.

And here's a few of my all-time favorite tweets, mostly from back in the day. But I still feel as though they offer some insight into us and our lives. So I'm sharing them with y'all.

*It seems my life has come to this: Cleaning up bodily fluids from dogs and children. Joy.
*Adam is singing christmas carols. Loud and high. It's so lovely that the dogs started howling along.
*Adam just said: "I feel like you're mad at me because you don't want cheese dip."
*Got the windows busted out the car. For realz though.
*I may or may not be eating my bagel with my sister's homemade cream cheese icing rather than actual cream cheese. Don't judge.
*Sitting here in a UGA snuggie eating cookie dough, watching Extreme Home Makeover; that sounds a little pathetic now that I think about it.

*Adam and I are playing scrabble against each other online. Could we be any cooler?
*Oh hello there empty laundry basket, I don't believe we've met before.
*I've said it once and I'll say it again: someone needs to start a fountain diet coke delivery service. Preferably a free one.
*Just got a text from a friend asking if I wanted to go to the gym. Unfortunately, I am extremely busy eating a large piece of cake.

So I just read over ALL my past tweets (there are 1137 of them). I cried through the ones during Caden's time in the hospital. That was scary y'all, seriously.

And then I realized that I tend to tweet a lot about food, and also how badly behaved Jayci is. I apologize for that trend. The truth is that she's not really bad very often. I just tweet about it when she is. It's my passive aggressive way of dealing with it. Nice parenting strategy right?

Do y'all have Twitter? Let me know your Twitter name so I can follow you if you do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In the midst

Sometimes I think the kiddos only have two volumes: loud and louder. Even as I retreat to my room and draw the shades down to nurse Caden, I hear the cacophony of their voices on our front porch. I breathe deeply and close my eyes as they fight over the UNO game they're intent on and shout to their friends passing by. My retreat is short-lived, as Jayci inevitably bursts through the door. I have to remind her for the 100th time that I need privacy while I'm nursing, and to close the door behind her. I cuddle with both of my own children for a few minutes before we head back out into the chaos. We join the UNO game, with Caden in the Moby and Jayci sitting next to me so she can be "on my team." I explain, over and over again, that the card you play needs to match the color or number. So you need a blue or a seven, I say, as the little girl across from me throws down a green five triumphantly. . . . The street lights blink on and the children scatter to get home before dark, leaving cards and cups and trash strewn across our porch and home. Sighing, I bend to pick them up while Caden cries because it's time to eat again, and Jayci screams that she wants her friends to come back.

It's not that my heart isn't full and thankful, because it most definitely is. We hang leaves on our "thankful tree" every day, Jayci is thankful for ice cream, and I'm thankful for our home, our family, our children  . .  I hug Caden close and whisper thankful prayers that he is home with us. I smile as I watch the kiddos throw a ball with Jayci, and I can feel love swell as we hold hands around our dinner table to pray for the food and for our new friends who are sharing it with us.

Yet, I am exhausted from the effort. The edges of motherhood and ministry seem messy and blurry. I don't know how to do both, how to keep them, not exactly separate, but both with equal importance. There is no balancing, no sleeping, no maintaining order of any sort. And I can hear it in my voice, the constant edge of exasperation with my stubborn three year old. The grouchy heart towards my husband for not helping enough, despite the fact that he just made us all dinner and played frisbee in the park with kids for hours on end.  My voice carries an undertone of irritation that I swore I'd never use. And no matter how hard I try to be gracious and loving, I simply don't WANT to paint with Jayci for three and a half seconds before she inevitably gives up and leaves me more to clean up. Add in Jayci's stomach bug and fever, lack of sleep, and today Adam wakes up thinking he caught whatever Jayci had. I can feel myself fray around the edges a little more.

When Jayci is finally asleep for the night (well, at least for now), and Caden is babbling happily next to me on the bed, I curl up and shut my eyes and I hear it. A still, small voice. Reminding me that I can't do it all. And I feel heavy with the knowledge that I have been trying to do everything on my own strength. Trying to carry my burdens and my children's burdens and the kiddo's burdens . . . And God calls me: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

In the midst of it all, the Lord, in His infinite kindness, beckons me to drink deeply from the Living Water. He offers me water from a well that doesn't run dry. Water that wont leave me thirsting again. He promises that I will be like a well-watered garden, that He "will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." And I know if I would just draw my strength from Him rather than myself, those around me would see the fruit of His Spirit in my life. They would see kindness and patience rather than frustration and irritation. Love and gentleness rather than harsh words and anger. He whispers in the dark quiet of my room that if I wait upon Him, my strength will be renewed. I wont feel drained and empty, but full and refreshed. Because He has called us, and He will also equip us.

I recognize that our lives are a particular brand of exhausting, but I can't help but think that, especially with the busyness of the holidays looming, many of you might feel weary as well. So today I'm praying for myself, and for each of you, that you would go to Christ first. That He would refresh your heart, and that you would draw strength for motherhood, for work, for all of life, from the well that does not run dry.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." - John 7:38

Monday, November 7, 2011

Around the House: Sneak Peeks

I know, I know, I totally promised y'all more house pictures. I think I may have even mentioned a tour at some point. But I apologize because we just don't have any other rooms finished yet (besides the kitchen, which you've already seen). Not to mention that there are usually approximately 27 children in our house at all times, making picture-taking a near-impossibility. Also making it impossible to keep things clean. We did, however, designate Monday as both "family day" and cleaning day. Which means that the rest of the week, I leave all messes thinking either a) we just cleaned or b) we will just wait until next Monday when we clean again. Good strategy right?

Anyways, despite not having a full room/house tour for you today, I did want to post some sneak peeks of little pieces of our house that ARE presentable. Explanations, DIY instructions etc to follow. Someday.

Our "family rules" poster. Which we make the kids read all the time. Someday we will get a nicer frame, one that doesn't look like we're in a college dorm.

And the cutest accessory in our house . . . Right? That tongue is killing me, and the spit bubbles are constant.
Jayci loves family day, and she even loves helping clean. Particularly when we put music on and she wears her princess skirt (which is every week). Every time one of the kiddos rings the doorbell, she yells out: "it's family day!"


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