"Of Mice and 'Manns"

"Of Mice and 'Manns"
Our Magic Moment

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christmas Downtown

In a desperate attempt to get Jackson out of the house, Dad and I took Jackson downtown in search of Christmas festivities. It has been a long month for little brother too. Just because sister can't get out of the house doesn't mean he has to be coupled up as well right? 

Our search took us downtown to Macy's. Honestly, I was just looking for a place to get a FREE picture with Santa. I didn't know that we were choosing the night that Santa repelled down the side of a building to visit downtown. UGH! We were stuck in a huge crowd with no escape. Jackson had a great time though, and loved seeing Santa climb down the side of a building. There were even fireworks afterward. What a happy coincidence. We picked a great time to visit! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas Lego War

It was the day after Christmas and we still did not manage to get out of our pajamas. Okay, let's be honest, we spent the better part of a week in our PJ's. Between fighting the flu, and staying home with Gracie, the entire family hasn't worn real clothes in almost a month. Back to the day after Christmas... The kids both got a good supply of lego sets for Christmas, so we decided that we would put the kits to good use and have a family lego war. Jax and Daddy worked on some sort of Star Wars laser contraption, while sissy and I got to work on the Lego version of Cinderella's castle. There were about 1400 pieces of legos thrown all over the table. I went into the battle very confident. Jackson and I spend a lot of time building together, so I knew my experience as a Lego-Mommy-Master would serve in my favor.

I was right. Half way through Daddy and Jax's book, Daddy realized that he had way too many pieces left. He then realized that he was supposed to build TWO of the pieces he had been working on for the past 30 minutes, not one. Jax abandoned ship. He knew all hope was lost. Notice, his empty chair in the above picture. Kevin couldn't believe his son's lack of loyalty! 

And here you have it...the winning creation. It is quite a build if I must say so myself. At this point Kevin was still pouring over his directions, wondering where he went wrong. In the meantime, his teammate made Gracie and I a trophy. We will have to make the Lego War a tradition. I thoroughly enjoyed the victory! 

In just a little over twelve hours we assembled about 1800 lego pieces. We made the Lego castle, the yacht, and a weird Star Wars thingy. It was quite a productive day. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Morning

It's a really good thing Jax insisted that we get to bed by 9:00 on Christmas Eve because his sister woke the entire house up at 4:50! You heard me right 4:50 AM!! She actually tried to wake us up twice before that, but I refused to put my feet on the floor before 5:00. I lost, obviously. 

As I mentioned before, my choice of Christmas pictures is pathetic!! This only got worse on Christmas Day. I guess that could only mean that I was enjoying myself too much to be snapping pictures. This year, Grandma Mann helped the kids make a birthday cake for Jesus. A three-layer red-velvet cake to be exact. The kids topped off the cake, we sang Happy Birthday, and celebrated the birth of our Lord. It made for a delicious dessert too! It definitely tasted much better than it looked. 

This one lone picture of Jax opening up presents was a rare sight. Most of his presents were opened with one hand. He had a killer ear ache, and used the other arm to hold a heating pad up to his face. Jax had the flu the entire week, and the ear infection was an added bonus. By the time we were finished with presents, Gracie went back and tucked herself into bed for two more hours, and Jax fell asleep on Mommy. It was a low-key Christmas. We had never spent a Christmas Day at home before. We are usually running from house to house visiting everyone in the family. Due to Gracie's condition everyone came to visit us this year. It was a nice change. The kids had more time to play with their presents, and we didn't even bother to get out of our pajamas. And any day spent in your PJs is a great day right? Merry Christmas!! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas Eve Poses

I am trying to get all of our Christmas pics uploaded, and am finding that THERE AREN'T MANY! It's like I took NO pictures this Christmas. My Dad would be so disappointed in me! I do have a couple though, staring with this beauty! Every Christmas Eve, the entire family opens one gift on Christmas Eve night. The gifts are ALWAYS pajamas. The kids have even come to ask, "When can we open our new pjs?" It's one of my favorite traditions. Just enough to torture the kids with one taste of ripping paper, and the perfect excuse to get a family picture next to the tree. 

Gracie had a minor set-back on Christmas Eve. She was terribly bummed because she had been stuck in the house since coming home from the hospital, and she was getting a terrible case of cabin fever. She was also not happy that our Christmas was going to be stuck in the house. So, it took a few tries to get an honest smile out of her. But, we finally made it. She did warm up in the morning. Everyone just had to come visit us this Christmas. It was different, but we still had so much to be grateful for, and we reminded her of that constantly. 

There's that pretty smile!

I usually take a hundred pictures of Santa preparations. Everything from the baking of the cookies (we only do that once a year,) to the tossing of reindeer carrots, to the reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas. However, since I seemed to forget that I owned a camera this Christmas, and Jax was my only willing Christmas partner, the pictures are slim. He was so very excited this year. He couldn't wait to go to bed, and kept reminding his sister that Santa was watching and listening to her. He insists that we all go to bed by 9:00! (This is early for us on a non-school night.) I wish I could bottle his enthusiasm. He definitely shares my affinity for all things Christmas, he has been my little Christmas Buddy through the entire holiday. God bless his future bride, he will expect her to put up a tree in every room, and count down the days all year around! Love my little elf! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pasta With Parents

Okay so, these pictures aren't great. In the middle of Gracie's hospital stay, Jackson had his Christmas  performance at school. It was one of two times that I left the hospital in the week that we were there. (Once I was ORDERED by the nursing staff to go home and take a nap. This was the other.) 

Jax sang four songs. One of which required the entire first grade to whistle! That, I'll tell you, was priceless. Not a single kid on stage did so successfully, yet it was still quite musical. Notice how everyone in the picture above is singing, and my little monster is smiling intently at my camera? That's my little star! At the end of the show there was a grand finale that involved the entire school singing a frozen medley. But, somehow we were able to coax him into leaving early to go back to the hospital. It may have involved a happy meal. It was a great performance. I was just relieved that I was able to slip out of the hospital long enough to make him the worthy center of my attention for just a few moments. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Years Update

I realize that I haven't posted an update on Gracie since before the surgery, and there's so much good news to share! Gracie came threw her surgery with flying colors. It is a LONG and SCARY procedure, so needless to say she had a huge group of frazzled loved ones crowded in the waiting room all day on Thursday, December the 4th. 

We were told to arrive at the hospital at 5:00 am, two hours before the surgery. Just when Gracie was all prepped and we thought we were ready to say our good-byes, the nurse came back into the room to deliver some troubling news. The hardware that they were putting into her back didn't arrive on time, thank you FedEx. Rather than arriving the night before, it arrived early that morning. There is a very long sterilization process that the materials have to go through before the surgery, so we were in for a much longer wait. Two movies later, they were finally able to take Gracie back to the OR. 

It was a long day in the waiting room. If you've never spent a day in the Children's Hospital OR waiting room, I am happy for you. Man, that's is one stressful place! Three meals, lots of junk food, two movies, and lots of board games later, (insert pacing and worry in between all of those,) the doc came out to see us. He couldn't be happier with the results and told us we could see our girl. When she woke up and looked at us she asked, "Is it over?" We told her it was and her response was priceless, "WOW! That was FAST!" 

The next three to four days were the hardest. Every move was labored and painful. The worst part about it all was that for the first day and a half after the surgery she was choking a morphine pump button that was having NO effect whatsoever. She kept complaining that the pain button wasn't working. I hated seeing her in so much pain, and excused myself to the hallway to cry frequently. Thankfully, the pain team determined that maybe morphine wasn't her drug, and switched her to another pain medication. That allowed her to manage her pain, and things really started getting difficult because it was time to catch up with our therapy. We had to learn to stand, sit, walk, turn, hold our head and neck straight, basically, do everything with a much straighter and SORE trunk. It wasn't an easy week!! 

I didn't want Gracie to forget that it was Christmas, so I took a small tabletop tree to Gracie's room, put up a few Christmas decorations, and our family elf on the shelf came to stay with us in the hospital. He found a new spot, and often a new costume everyday. Gracie is a huge superhero fan, and so is her surgeon, so they bonded over the hobby, so it sort of became our theme for the stay. Gracie now refers to her as "Iron Girl" (thanks to the large amount of metal in her back,) and she has coined her doc as "Dr. Fusion." Since he is a self-proclaimed superhero geek, he was thrilled to have an official superhero name. Even Rudy the elf was given a cape and got into the spirit.  

On day 5 we were certain that we were going home, but we were down to one obstacle. Gracie couldn't pee! When the took out her catheter, they insisted that she would start going to the bathroom rather quickly, and insisted that she keep drinking to ensure that she do so. However, it just wouldn't happen. They had to drain her bladder three times. Each time they drained 40 OZ of urine from her bladder. I know that isn't a very pleasant topic for conversation, but it was such a huge hurdle for us, it is worth including in the story. The doctors determined that three factors were playing a part in our problems: pain medication, stress (they kept urging Gracie to calm down and not worry. That's a muscle after all,) and SCHOOL!! Gracie has evidently trained herself to NOT go to the bathroom all day. She goes before she leaves school, and once when she gets home in order to avoid a demerit. (I'll bite my tongue on the issue for now. For now.) The situation added another day and a half to our stay.

After almost two days of waiting. Waiting for PEE!!! We were ready to go home. 

We said good-bye to the staff and thanked them for taking such amazing care of our little super hero. If you've never spent any time at Children's you are lucky. However, if you have, count yourself blessed as well. I hold firm to the fact that Cincinnati Children's Hospital is one of the most wonderful and awful places in the world. Being so close to such an amazing place is a blessing, the staff and care that you receive there cannot be rivaled. However, at the same time, it is one that you never want to have to visit. Time spent there is never easy. Seeing your kid in pain is a terrible, terrible thing. Time stands still, and emotions weigh hard. There isn't a single day that goes by that we do not pray for the entire staff at Children's hospital. I urge you to do the same. Pray for everyone from the surgeons, to the nurses, to the nurses assistants, to the cafeteria staff, to the parking attendants. Pray that God will use them to heal, and bring comfort to the children and their families in the care. We never guessed for one second that the staff did not care for Gracie or our family. 

October's Film

Gracie's journey is still not over. She has a long way to go. She stands a lot taller now, but still has to remind her body on a daily basis that she can stand up straight. Since she was leaning over for the better part of three years, she tends to lean to one side out of habit. Her body is still getting used to it's new "super power" of standing tall. We went from a 66 degree curve, to a 27 degree curve, which is a miracle! Yes, she will have to carry a card to get through the airport, she is rather behind in school, and she has a nasty scar, but one thing is for sure. The doctor promised us that he would fix her, and he did! 
December's Film

Never before have we felt God's hands upon our family more firmly than we have this Christmas. In my last post I told you about Gracie's favorite song. It is called Greater. It reminds us that He who is in us is Greater than "he" that is in the world. That we can do all things through He who gives us strength. I have also thought a lot lately about one of my favorite songs. One that reminds me that healing comes through tears, and that blessings come through raindrops. It was a rainy, tearful month, but the blessings were plentiful, and we have grown closer to Him in the end. Thank you all for your prayers, comfort, phone calls, texts of encouragement, and most importantly, your love through this amazing time in our life.