31.7.13

HEART REBIRTHDAY

My mom and my sister have their own names for today. My mom calls it Lauren's Rebirthday. My sister calls it Lauren's Heart Birthday. I think that both of these sound like they need presents so we'll see if they show up with gifts in hand.

For me, today is the anniversary of the scariest day in our lives and the beginning of a life change. It is also the day that miracles became real and that God moved obviously and clearly in our lives.

Every night, I pray with Lauren before she falls asleep and I thank the Lord for our day together. And when I pray that, I mean it with all my heart. Lauren fills my life with joy. I can't imagine what my world would be like without her. And thanks to the miracles of God and the amazing work of the nurses, doctors and all the other people at Children's Hospital who were a part of her story, I don't have to have a world without her.

Please pray for our family today. We are headed down to the hospital to finalize the fundraising that we headed this year and to visit the ICU. Lauren was their baby last summer. They took her, and the rest of us, into their hearts as we shared Lauren's victory. This is a day that we need a little bit of extra strength to live in the joy of the present, instead of the fear of the past. One day I will be able to look back at the posts of last summer and not sit here in tears. It still hurts my heart to remember. Praise God for all of his miracles!

29.7.13

YOU SHOULD SEE THE OTHER GUY!

Lauren's sporting her first black eye. She tripped and hit her face on the corner of a wall. It doesn't look too bad in these pictures but I noticed right before she went to bed that a nice deep purple is settling under her eye even more. Of course this is the week that we are bringing her in to visit the ICU. Thanks for taking such great care of her. Oops.



27.7.13

THE WAY TO LIVE

When I was little, death wasn't something that I thought about. I spent a lot of time thinking about unicorns, my dreams of becoming a mermaid and the reality of infinity (that one took up a lot of time when I should have been sleeping). At that age, you don't understand the reality of it. Like my mom's daughter's friend asked, "Will I still get a card from grandpa this year even though he is in heaven?"

When you become a teenager, death seems unfair because it doesn't happen all that often. It is shocking but it still seems like something distant and the importance of your latest crush or what who said to who is so much more present that the reality of death is more easily pushed aside.

Last summer, that reality became all too crystal clear when my Opa died but he had been sick, he had lived a good Christian life and he was ready to go home. When Lauren's heart stopped, death became real.

It is a difficult thing, to think about death, because you tend to think that for some, those for whom it is expected, it is easier. Maybe in a way it is, but it is still the same. Someone who is very loved is taken.

This summer, as we celebrate the miraculous healing of Lauren's heart, our best friends are having their world rocked by an unexpected and very terrible loss. Sometimes I hate getting older, because of the way that you understand death. You begin to see it more often. It never gets easier or less terrible. If anything, the finality of death and fleeting nature of life seem so all encompassing that it is hard to see the hope past the grave. It is even harder when the person who leaves us is a light in the world.

There is one woman who my sister and I talk about often who passed just over a year ago. She was the wife of our old pastor and a good friend of my dad's parents. Our interaction with her was limited but every single instance was memorable. She had a way of looking at you like she was really present with you and cared about you. She would listen without thinking about what she was going to say next. And she was incredibly sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. When my grandma choked and we got the call that she was in the hospital brain dead, I don't remember much of that time except a few moments with the pastor's wife. Something about her let me pour out my guilt that I felt because the day before I had chosen to clean my room instead of visit my grandma on what was her last day. She looked at me and simply said, "You don't need to feel guilty. She knew that you loved her very much." In that simple statement, I was allowed to grieve. Not for what I had done wrong, but for the grandma that I was going to miss.

There are few people that have the same kindness and gentleness about them as the pastor's wife did.

But today, our best friends are losing a mom who was just like that. She is the type of person who makes you feel welcome and loved, even if she has only just met you. She is someone who can honestly be described as kind, a descriptor often thrown around but rarely really applicable. Over the last few weeks, the verse, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:5) has been on my heart as I have felt the Lord calling me to transform my life with that verse. I am not gentle. But our friends' mom is a perfect example of how to live out this verse. Doing things, not to be noticed, but because it is an act of love. Speaking kindly to someone who is out of place. Making a lunch because someone is without. Smiling constantly. When people like this are taken from the Earth, it isn't only the family that grieves.

To our dear friends, we are grieving with you. Your mom is an amazing woman and there aren't many like her. A beautiful woman with a beautiful heart. We are blessed to have known her. Thank you for sharing her with us. We love you.

25.7.13

BABY DEETS

Lauren is very, very opinionated. She either loves something or she hates it and will let us know. Since I am not keeping a baby book for her, I'm pretty much just going to print off this blog and say, "Look, child. Here's your baby book. How many of your friends have an entire blog dedicated to them? That's what I thought." It makes sense to take a snapshot look at Lauren's favourite things at this poignant age of 530 days old.

24.7.13

A VIEW OF THE FUTURE

I've been taking online courses through Nicole's Classes for the past few months to learn Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I've gone from only being able to open the program to being able to create all sorts of images and doodlydads for print and online things.

This is a picture of what Lauren is going to look like in the future. Obviously it is a perfect likeness. I made this picture with Lauren in mind as inspiration for a story that I wrote. I'm hoping that one day I can do something with it, but for now, this is as far as I've gotten. At least it is a step towards making a book. A girl can dream.

23.7.13

AND THE WATER FALLS DOWN

Last week, we went with some friends to the water park. 
Nope, those aren't our friends. Lauren doesn't even know them but that never seems to stop her. Today she waved at anyone who looked at her at the grocery store. That's my little social butterfly!
Lauren continues to be obsessed with water. On her first lap around the water park she wandered so slowly with a huge bag of goldfish crackers oblivious to the fact that they were slowly turning into a soggy bag of mush and all the moms and dads around the park were laughing at (with) her.

Sometimes, the playground would call her name.
 But she always came back. Thanks, Josh!
Lauren cries, but it never lasts for long. She just needs a little cuddle when she gets hurt and then she's off and running again. She's way tougher than I am (though I figured that out last summer already).


It is no wonder that I pick her up and squish her multiple times a day. She's just so darn cute!

22.7.13

NOW THAT'S A GARAGE SALE!


Honestly, it has taken a few days to recover from the most epic garage sale in the history of garage sales. We would like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped us set up and prepare for many days before the event and the many, many volunteers that we had actually run the event. To all the red shirts - we couldn't have had such an organized, successful event without you. Thank you for taking the reigns and running with them! 

There were some tough items to sell. Some of them, like this fur jacket didn't sell, but others, like a White Tiger painting and a ceramic cat on a ceramic pillow, did sell. 

When Matt made a goal of $3000 for the event, I thought we would have to tell Children's Hospital that we tried our best but we didn't get there. Sometimes (not often), I love when I'm wrong. The final total will be announced on July 31, when we go visit the hospital on D.R.E.A.M. B.. But here's a hint to the amount... we blasted through our goal! Thank you so much to everyone who donated and came to the event. Your generosity is what made all of this possible. While we get the privilege of handing the money over to the hospital, the money was raised by Lauren's extended family (blood and blog related). 

Let's look back at the day and the days leading up to it....

Here is our garage in the days leading up to the sale. It got to the point that it was overwhelming to even think about opening the door and looking at the contents of the garage. Accessing the stroller for Lauren? Don't even think about it. When people would drop off items, I would open the garage and they usually started laughing. Not a good sign. 
 It took two long days to arrange all of the items in the yard and garage.

It didn't help that Lauren was obsessed with the price stickers and would go around pulling them off of items and sticking them to herself.
On the day of the event the place looked amazing. There was such a positive feeling established and everyone was there to earn as much money possible for Children's Hospital. These pictures were taken before the day started so it doesn't show the constant crowd of people but there was never a lull. People were there before we officially started and they kept coming until an hour after we were done. 





We started out with so much stuff and by the end of the day most of it was gone! 

Once we had cleaned up, Lauren picked the winners of the raffle and then we all collapsed on the couch. Well, Lauren didn't, but thankfully she likes being around us so she played where we could see her. 
So, again, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are so blessed, in so many ways. 

19.7.13

TOMORROW'S THE DAY!


There haven't been posts for the last two days because we have been working on the garage sale non-stop. There is a ridiculous amount of stuff and we are hoping to raise a bunch of money for the hospital. If you're free, stop by and say hello. If you're not free, tell someone else to come.

(Please note: this photo was taken very early on in the set up process. Take this and multiply it by 37 and you've got a sense of how much stuff we've got.)

There are all sorts of garage sale items, a raffle, candy bags by donation, and the opportunity to make cash or cheque donations and get a tax receipt. If you can't come and you are interested in making a donation and getting a tax receipt, donations can be done here online on a secure site set up by BC Children's Hospital for our event.

See you there!


17.7.13

ONCE UPON A TIME THEY TOLD US SHE WOULD PROBABLY NEED A HEART TRANSPLANT...


...but today we were told that she will live happily ever after with her own heart.

Matt and I expected good news today for Lauren's scheduled appointment at the Heart Clinic, but nothing could have prepared us for the words that were used today. Her cardiologist used words like "normal heart function" and "healthy" to describe how her heart is pumping. The complication in her aorta remains unchanged, which suggests that it may never be an issue for her.

After her first two surgeries last August, her ejection fraction was 10%. That meant that every time her heart pumped, only 10% of her blood was actually pushed out so her heart had to beat really fast to try to get enough blood out and around her body and her heart. Today, her ejection fraction was...


67% only sounds like a C, but really it is an A+ considering that a normal ejection fraction is between 65 and 70%! What, did you say my kid is normal? Average, even? I'll take it!!!

The news today was even better than what I was nervously optimistic for. I believe in the power of prayer and of asking for specific things. I prayed for an ejection fraction of 60% and I love that God gives even better gifts than we ask for!



At the last appointment, we were told not to even think about Lauren coming off of any of her medication any time soon, but today one of them was decreased a little, with talk of starting a medication wean at her next appointment. Oh, and that next appointment, by the way, isn't until 2014!!


One of the blah things from today is that her reliance on her pacemaker has gone up, but, hey, we had no idea so at least it is doing its job! That's what it is there for. The battery should still last until she is 10 or 11 and that is wonderful news.

When we got home and I was putting a still-drunk-off-the-sedation Lauren to bed, I lost it and started crying. It feels so amazing to shed such tears of joy. I felt like I was throwing off the last year as I cried. I am so happy with the news that Lauren's heart is doing better than they had expected and that it shouldn't stop her from doing anything she wants to as she grows. The weight that has been crushing all of us for this past year has just been thrown off. I could barely control myself as I let the tears flow and wash away the fear, stress, and constant worry of the past year. Thankfully I didn't wake Lauren up because she really needed that nap!

 I feel like this photo of Lauren sums up my feelings exactly. The freedom and joy that it portrays is spot on. Just under a year ago, we were looking at the possibility of Lauren needing a heart transplant. Today, as we get ready for the weekend fundraising garage sale for Children's Hospital, we go in knowing that we are giving back to a place that gave us the most precious gift.

Lauren's heart has some scar tissue, but it is beating hard in her little chest. She will dance and run and climb and jump (once she figures out that her feet actually need to leave the ground to jump) and we won't have to worry about if her heart can handle it. We could not have received better news. Praise the Lord!


16.7.13

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

Today, Lauren started doing three new things. She started saying her fourth word. I was hoping it would be "unicorn" or "please". Even "water" would have been great, but, no, her word for the day is, "Noooooo." We're in trouble.

So now she says "Wow", "hi", "mom" and "Noooooo". Wow is so much cuter than no.

Lauren also started wiggling into the space between her nightstand and her air conditioner and thinking that is the best place in the world to be. She quietly played there for quite awhile today. If you know her, or if you've read more than one post on this blog, you probably understand what a big deal that is.

For instance, this morning I really needed to clean the kitchen sink and the bathroom. They were dirty and the accumulation in the garage has sent my OCD into overdrive so I needed to clean. Like I told Matt on our first meeting five years ago when he helped me paint my basement and I shoved insulation under the baseboards to stop bugs from walking along the underside of the baseboards until the insulation poked out, "It just doesn't feel right." I couldn't stop (and he chose to fall in love with me and marry me anyways). I turned Tangled on, opened Lauren's toy ottoman in the living room and she proceeded to pull out everything in the kitchen drawers and her bedroom drawers. It was so worth it though. The cleaning was great!



Lauren also started "jumping" today. She bends down and then throws her arms up into the air. I think she will be shocked the first time that her feet actually leave the floor.





15.7.13

OUR GARAGE RUNETH OVER

People are amazing! We have had so many things donated for the garage sale and there is so much more coming that our garage is starting to look like a hoarder's paradise. Lauren loves when we open the door to the garage because there are so many things to explore and carry around (to other piles to make our lives super easy and less organized). In all honesty, I've been doing a little pre-sale shopping and I will be the first person putting money in the jar going to Children's Hospital. There is some good stuff there!

There are also a few things that are too special to just put out at the garage sale for garage sale prices. One of my brother, Cameron's, co-workers from a past job has incredibly generously given us two tickets to the Seattle Seahawks. As the dad of two little girls, 3 years and 6 months old, he was moved by Lauren's story and felt that this was something that he could do to help us out. He also gave a signed Joe Sakic Right to Play jersey. Wow! Have I mentioned that people are amazing?!

Another one of Cameron's friends and her mom made two quilts and matching pillows to include in the sale. They have been quilting up a storm just for the event. My godson is almost 4 months old and I'm still trying to get his quilt done! Hmmm, maybe I should be buying one of these quilts....

Anyways, these items are way too special to be placed in a garage sale with the other items (but have I mentioned how amazing some of these other items are? A SLR camera, Xbox, ceramic cat on a ceramic pillow, ice skates, golf clubs, furniture, Baby Einstein DVDs, luggage, and the list goes on and on and on and on...), so we have decided that they will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Today, the Seattle Seahawks tickets have gone up for bid. They are for the game on November 3rd, 2013 against the Buccaneers, Section 204, Row J. To place your bid, simply click here, on our new Facebook Arneill Auction page, and add your bid to the comments. Remember, every single cent is going straight to Children's Hospital to help them build a new, and badly needed, heart clinic so that they can continue to care for Lauren and so many others like her.
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