"Of Mice and 'Manns"

"Of Mice and 'Manns"
Our Magic Moment

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Grace's JourneyI

I've been putting off this post for months. I didn't really know what I wanted to share, or even what was appropriate. Most of you that will read this are close to our hearts, and will have already been praying for Gracie for months by the time I post the news. I know that down the road, this tiny little moment will be one that we will look back on with gratitude and praise. It is just an extremely difficult road to travel at the moment.

I'll just start at the beginning. In June we went to the pediatrician to get Gracie's routine middle school check-up. We thought we were going to get a handful of shots, and be on our way. However, things quickly took a very shocking turn for the worse. The nurse practitioner, whom the kids love, noticed that Gracie's spine was terribly asymmetrical. She was very troubled by it, and insisted that we not waste a single second getting x-rays. In fact she wanted us to go RIGHT NOW! I thought she was totally exaggerated. I mean she has always had a cute little crooked wobble, just like her mamma! Why make a big deal of it?

Despite our busy summer plans, we were headed to the pool, we added a trip to Children's to our agenda. I didn't even worry about the x-rays. I knew they would just show a slight little curve. Maybe we'd be headed for physical therapy, at worse, a back brace. Let's get out of here and head for the pool.

Fastforward a month later, and we find ourselves sitting in a specialist office. One that insists that Gracie's spine is so curved, that our only hope is surgery. Excuse me? No way! There is no way I am simply going to parade my baby down the hall and let some surgeon reassemble her spine! No sir! Like any good mom, I insisted on seeking a second opinion. Kevin thought I was crazy. We were at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Spinal Surgeons. Where are you going for your second opinion? This IS everyone's second opinion place! No matter. I needed for at least one more doctor to tell me this was our only hope.

Well, after seeing THREE surgeons, we were told that not only was this Gracie's only hope, but that we were in a race with Mother Nature. That as soon as Gracie meets her "womanhood," her problem would worsen exponentially. We were told that it would effect her quality of life before she was out of her 20's. Since then, we have talked to and SEEN so many people that have and have not opted for the surgery. Those that have say it was the best decision they have ever made. Those that hadn't are regretful, and some even walking with the help of canes. God has truly been verbal in the matter. He has led us to the decision that we made, and I am confident that he will be with us every step of the way as we travel this journey.
Only Gracie would want to pose with the model of her soon to be bionic spine!
The nurse offered to show it to her to answer a lot of her questions. She warned her that it seems to scare
most kids. But, not Gracie. She wanted to take a picture with it. What a goober!
Gracie is scheduled for spinal fusion surgery on December 4th. I am writing this post on Thanksgiving night, which means we are exactly one week away from the big day. We have been told to prepare our daughter for unimaginable pain. For what, we hope, will be the worse medical procedure/experience she will ever have. She will be in the hospital for about a week, and will recover at home for another 6-8. 

We often ask ourselves why God puts us in certain situations. Why he chooses for us to travel hard roads, undergo hard times. I know that it is not our place to understand. It is simply our job to seek his guidance and wisdom as we do. And, that is what we have promised one another that we will do. 

I recently watched a friend go through the worst experience any mother should ever have to endure. I watched in awe as the strongest, most amazing woman I know said good-bye to her precious baby after just 17 days. I couldn't imagine the pain, and yet, she has been a picture of strength and faithfulness through it all. I have learned so much about obedience and faith by watching her. She has been, and will continue to be, a source of courage and strength for me throughout this entire experience. I know that this experience will bring our family closer to one another, and most importantly, closer to Him. 

Gracie has a favorite song that she sings constantly. It is called Greater by Mercy Me. (If you haven't heard it please, look it up.) In fact, the entire family seems to have it stuck in our heads lately. (Although, if you're going to have a song stuck in your head, it's not a bad one to stomach!) Basically, the song takes its theme from 1 John 4:4. "Jesus Christ, the one who lives within us, is greater than the devil or any other power in the world. There is thus no reason to fear or be intimidated by anything we encounter."  The verse has been Gracie's mantra lately, and the song her theme song. It will be one we use daily to remind us, that as long as He is with us, what shall we fear? 

In the meantime, I ask that you will pray for our little girl, and for our family. We appreciate every prayer, and know that with prayer and faithfulness, this too shall pass. Our little girl is one strong cookie, and after all, "Greater is he!"    

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Halloween Happenings

The season almost got away from us before we managed to carve a pumpkin this year. What can I say, muddling through middle school, and taking a Disney vacation seems to make October go by faster than we can catch it! This year, we are pretty proud of the fact that our pumpkins both weighed more than 35 pounds, and that we didn't even use a pumpkin carving kit to finish them. We went old school. Drew the pics ourselves. I have to say, I like them better that way!

And more pics of Halloween night! Again, we had Thor and Medusa. I cannot believe how grown-up Gracie looks. She is truly becoming a young woman. So beautiful! It is totally fitting though that she dressed as Medusa! Get too close, and you're sure to turn to stone!! This year, she insisted that she was too mature to go trick-or-treating. She was going to stay home and pass out candy. But, as I suspected, the first kids in the neighborhood that came knocking on the door were able to convince her to hold onto her childhood a little longer and go out! 

Thor, on the other hand, was not having anything of the sort. He was going to conquer the COLD COLD weather with just his trusty hammer. It didn't help that he was sent home from school that day with a fever and an ear infection. I know, what kind of mom would let him go out anyway. This one. Sorry. You can't nominate me for mother of the year; already on the wall!! (I can hear the judgy gasps from here! He made it, and is fine!!)

Again Mommy was Cat woman! Representing the Wildcats throughout the entire neighborhood. I got LOADS of GO Big Blue salutes everywhere we went! It was a fun night for everyone!

And what is Mommy's FAVORITE thing about Halloween?? CHRISTMAS!! 

That's right! Before we had the costumes out, Daddy had already fulfilled his duties of bringing up all of my Christmas decorations. This year, since Halloween fell on a Friday, I didn't even have to take a personal day off to decorate! SCORE!! Before I went to bed that night I already had two trees up, and the entire downstairs done. The kids woke up to a winter wonderland, downstairs anyway. I spent the entire next day finishing. The best part about it all was that it SNOWED for the occasion! So many people make fun of me for the tradition. But, seeing the snow was just reassurance from the Good Lord himself that he approves of my enthusiasm or all things Christmas! 
(At least that's how I'm taking it!) 

If you concentrate really hard on the background of the above picture, you may see a snowflake or two. I was so excited by the snowy tribute to my special day!

The Disney tree above is always the first to go up! 

The giant pic above and the green canvas below are my two NEW additions this year. 
I try to add new Christmas treasures every year. If you haven't seen the Mann house at Christmas, stop by! The kids would love to give you a holiday tour!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanks Grandma Mann!

After we came home from our trip, Grandma Mann had quite the surprise for Gracie! If you know Grace, you know that she is a Titanic fanatic. She loves to read about, learn about, draw pictures of, teach others about, and do all things regarding the sunken ship. She and Grandma started a model of the ship before we left, and while we were gone, Grandma worked feverishly to surprise her with the finished product. I have NO IDEA how in the world she kept her patience! You have no idea how teeny tiny some of those parts were! I would have totally lost my patience before I even got all of the pieces out of the box. The finished ship is now the latest (of many) Titanic relics in her bedroom.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Florida Farewell

While the other kiddos were playing in the sand, Jax decided to sit in the shad and draw Minecraft creepers with sidewalk chalk. That's my creative little man! 

The day that we boarded a plane to head home to KY, we spent the entire day in the pool. The hotel had an AWESOME pool area, complete with a beach, waterslide, and organized activities throughout the day. While the guys were packing up and loading the car for the airport, the kids, and Charm and I soaked up every single last ray of sunshine we could get before heading to the airport. It's a good thing too, because while we were laying to in 89 degree weather, one moment, we were bundling up for 50 degree weather just hours later. It was a bummer! But, it was certainly another magical trip we will never forget!! 

Hannah was able to totally bury Gracie in the sand! 

Oh look, you'd think they loved each other!! You have no idea how much I had to beg to pull this pic off!
 Hard to believe by looking at these pictures that just a few short hours later, we had our winter coats on and were cranking up the heat in Cincy! What a great trip! We can't wait till next year!

To head to the airport, we dressed our little things in "Thing" shirts.
We still have some say-so, but I'm sure those days are numbered too!

Mickey's Not So Scary Tradition

AFTER disembarking the Dream, we headed over to the park for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party. The party has become a tradition for us over the past several years. This year, we didn't take a lot of pictures. At least, I didn't. I did get a few in front of the castle. 

This year, we had a bit more variety to our costumes. We used to dress as a packaged deal. However, now that the kids are older and have their own opinions (UGH! THE NERVE,) our days of dressing as the complete cast of Alice and Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, and a family of super heroes may be gone for good. From left to right we have, a disrobed Spiderman (he had already disrobed due to the heat,) Medusa (for the record, I loved the costume!) A blend of Sally and Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas, and Thor. I was the only adult who went in costume. (I know you are terribly surprised right?) I went as Cat Woman, but not the traditional gal you know. My Cat woman wears blue and white and wears a K on her cape. Get it?? 

And one very RARE pic of Kev and I. We rarely take a picture without the kids in it!

While in Disney World, we ran into a student of mine. Brooke is in my first grade class, and was taking her very first trip to Disney. She was so excited to get to see Mrs. Mann in her favorite place. She even got to ride a couple of rides with Gracie. How special to be a part of the little one's first Disney trip!

LegoLand Orlando

Okay, so these posts are terribly out of order. I am just going with the order in which I locate my pics! 
Before boarding the dream, we spent a day at LegoLand Orlando. We had been wanting to go to LegoLand for years, and finally made it there. Jax was SO EXCITED!! The boy loves his lego's!

Once there, passed is driver's test (did better than his big sister actually,) and was able to take a drive through the Lego Land city. This was definitely the highlight of his day. (It was much better than his trip to urgent care later that night, where he was diagnosed with a double ear infection.)

And since Gracie and I work / attend Campbell County Schools, home of the fighting camels, we couldn't resist posing on the lego Camel that we found while Jax was building close-by. 

And I have to say, this was pretty impressive to us all! A Ford Escape (Exact replica) made entirely of legos! If you've never been to LegoLand it's definitely a site to see. And, we were so excited to get there while Jax was still in his young Lego stage!