Wednesday, April 26, 2017

She stands

Out of nowhere and without asking permission, Cora started pulling herself up on furniture and was pleased as punch with her newfound independence. I know she's technically old enough for this sort of thing, but she was so content to be my bitty baby for so long that seeing her grow up is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. 

But it didn't stop there, this last week she mastered the one-finger stand and basically wants to be standing up at all times. She will crawl like the wind to any person in sight and before you know it she has crawled up you and is in a standing (and smiling) position. 

But then there was yesterday, when at baseball she decided that she didn't want my hand and could just stand up all the dang by herself. She's playing it all cool and believe me, I was freaking out on the other side of this camera! She's not walking, or really cruising yet, but as I'm well aware it's only a {small} matter of time. 

In the meantime I'm just going to stare at this snap from Stake Conference on Sunday when sweet Coco fell asleep in my arms and rejoice in the fact that even for a moment, she was still my bitty baby. Gosh, I love that girl.

31 on the 13th

James turned 31 on the 13th of April--his reverse golden birthday! Since the kids and I were in Utah on his actual big day, we decided to celebrate with him the week after with a big chocolate strawberry cake and the cutest homemade cards. As I'm sure you remember, last year's 30th birthday celebration was pretty horrific and even though I wanted to hatch a grand plan to make up for that mess with a big to-do, I quickly realized that the best birthday celebration we could give him was a quiet night at home...with some chocolate! Besides, his work is so unpredictable that we never know if and when he'll be around. I had to laugh because on his pretend birthday he told me late in the afternoon that he'd be home before the kids went to bed so we grabbed the opportunity and whipped up a cake, only to get a call when that bad boy was in the oven that he was not, in fact, going to make it home after all. I kind of spoiled the surprise and told him what we planned, and luckily he could run home for a slice of cake and a kiss for each kid before getting back to work. Life is crazy right now, but good crazy. I mean, look at all of the smiling faces in the picture above--we are blessed.

Happy, happy birthday James! We love you and are so, so grateful for the life you give us!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

His heart, Our miracle

Another year, another heart appointment, and this time around, a very relieved Mama.

Last year we received some pretty great news--that wonky mitral valve that we thought would have to be replaced by his fifth birthday had actually grown with him, meaning that surgery would definitely be delayed. I was so relieved that we wouldn't be spending the summer in the hospital for both Cora's birth and Evie's heart because I knew it was more than I could bare.

Somehow a whole year has passed by again and Everett was back in the Heart Center, kicking back on the table asking the echo tech to "use da wahm (warm) swime because I weawy don't wike da cold stuff" and cracking all of us up with stories about his favorite hobbies (playing on the ipad and eating treats) and his favorite sport (t-ball, because there are really good snacks). He talked his way through the whole exam and impressed the resident with his vast Superhero knowledge. It's rare that I get one on one time with five-year-old Evie, and it proved incredibly entertaining.

I didn't think it was possible, but this year's appointment actually topped last years--that wonky mitral valve of his has not only grown once again, but it is also no longer regurgitating (leaking) non-oxygenated blood in with the oxygenated. Our cardiologist said that from the echo his mitral valve looks absolutely perfect. I was stunned. Mouth on the ground, tears in my eyes kind of stunned. This was a valve that the top Stanford surgeon said would need to be fixed as soon as he was big enough to survive the surgery, this was a valve that just two years ago was regurgitating so badly that the left-side of his heart was enlarging sending our Columbia cardiologist into a measured concern, this was a valve that has caused me so many fits of anxiety it's hard to even count.

"So, does this happen? You know, a broken mitral valve just fixing itself like this?" I asked.

"Well, usually no. But it looks like his has!" the doctor told me with an easy smile.

He gave me the most likely medical explanation for everything looking so great, but also didn't hesitate to mention the incredible way that God created our hearts. I know that God loves Everett and I've known it from the very first moment I laid eyes on him. The way that faith and science have worked together to heal him has left me speechless many times, and this one was no different.

After Everett's first surgery when we found out that it was good enough to save his life in the moment, but not good enough to keep him alive in the long run, I was crushed and wanted to shield all of our friends and family from this devastating news that another surgery was in the works. After all, these people were celebrating Everett's miraculous survival and life--and I could bare the crushing pain alone. It was a brother at church that I barely knew who helped me understand that our people not only wanted to cheer with us over victories but mourn with us over tragedies. He loved us and so did others, and they wanted to experience all of our emotions by our side, even when they were ugly and uncomfortable. His words gave and have continually given me the courage to be authentic in the way I tell our family's story.

After Everett's appointment a few days ago, I had a similar albeit slightly different experience. This time it was good news I had received, but I once again felt the desire to hold back, worried that today's happiness would only lead to heartache later were his heart to take a turn for the worse. After all, we're all expecting another surgery someday, why replace that expectation with hope that could potentially be crushed? Now I'm realizing that that good brother's words are as applicable for me now as they were nearly six years ago. Our people have been there to mourn with us in the past and will be there to mourn with us in the future if we need it, but today I'm excited for them (read: YOU!) to cheer with us over this beautiful victory in Everett's heart journey.

His heart looks great! It's beautiful and it's working and it's an absolute miracle. The doctor said if things keep heading in this direction, he doubts that Everett will need surgery before he turns 20. At that point, his chances of a mitral valve replacement will go up about 4% each year, but who knows where the medical world will be at that point and what will be available for our little heart hero.

The unknowns of the future and the potential of pain still bring great anxiety to my soul, but for today I'm choosing gratitude, I'm choosing hope and I'm choosing love--for Ever, for his doctors and for a Heavenly Father who is watching over us all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Break: Part TWO

Five more things. And then five HUNDRED more pictures. And probably five-ish more stories.
You know the drill!

6. My siblings are the best friends I could ever ask for. I kept thinking that it was a great testament to Mom and Dad and the family bonds they helped us create that during Spring Break there was no where any of us would rather be than in Provo hanging out together. It was especially fun when the kids went to bed and we got to have late-night chats, play games and eat large quantities of sugar. 

7. The last one of our siblings is getting married in a month and Carolyn threw a great Bridal Shower for the occasion. The four McKee girls all joined in and it was so much fun reminiscing about weddings and giving way too much advice. We're all so excited for you Kate!

8. Last minute, James was able to fly in on Friday and we had a whirlwind 36 hours before driving back home on Sunday. One of the highlights of my trip was watching him and Ashleigh crush a 5K on Saturday morning in just 23 minutes. I was so impressed! They are so fast! He was a runner in High School but I'm pushing for him to sign up for a race and train again. I'm so proud of them both (and SO happy he could come!) 

9. You know how sometimes all the stars align to make a practically perfect party? Well, that's basically how we can sum up our evening in Provo Canyon. We roasted s'mores in much more tepid weather than expected and had a super fun glow-in-the-dark easter egg hunt. It was pinterest-worthy or instagram-worthy or in my case, worthy of recording in this sweet old blog. What a great way to end a great vaca.

10. After leaving at 4 AM and pushing through for hours, I thought a little stop outside of Vegas was just what we needed. I had heard of Seven Magic Mountains and was so excited to see what all they hype was about. It was right off the freeway and the colors were so vibrant and it made a great rest stop before fighting traffic all the way home.

I know I've mentioned this a few times--but Cora was SO sick. After seeing a doctor and getting her diagnosed, we started on amoxicillin. Unfortunately, she has an allergy or sensitivity to it and broke out in hives and started throwing up. A new prescription later she started to fine some relief, but it was a rough go for a while there. 

Oh yeah, and we basically weren't getting any sleep!

Avers showed me her preschool and it was just as sweet as she is. I love how girly this girl is--always wearing dresses and loving her make-up and jewelry. You should see how still she sits to get her hair done and how patient she is with all things glam. I wish she would give Quinn a tip or two!

This trip marked the first time I met sweet baby Blake. I love his ducky hair, his plump little middle and his shy smile. 

We definitely didn't mean to match, but we weren't mad about it either!

Collecting eggs is their favorite pastime. 

They're not fighting with each other, so we're not fighting about whatever mess they're making!

We spent many a trip like this...poor Linc trying to shield his ears from Quinny's shrieks. 

The Sodalicious vs. Swig taste test was SO MUCH FUN! I had no preconceived opinions, but was still shocked that Sodalicious basically swept every battle. I loved their soda better, and also liked the ease of their menu. Their cookies had a better texture and flavor, and possibly had more salt (which is always a good thing!) This night was one of my favorite Provo experiences. 

James came in on Friday and even thought he thought I was crazy I made him jump out of the car and run over to the sign for a picture. We were all so glad to see him again!

Girl, you need a tan (said to my sad white self). Good thing beach season is upon us!

I made a point to take a picture of every beautiful tulip I could. Utah was so beautiful this week, it was really showing off!

These two blew my socks off. They are SO FAST! I wish I could train with either of them, but they could basically run a 10K in the time I could run a 5!

This is when Quinn first realized there was candy in the eggs. Hahaha! It was so cute to see her enthusiasm.

Team Cousin takes the ward easter egg hunt.

We met up with our friends Gladriel and Jarrid for lunch and a tour of their gorgeous new home at the base of Y Mountain. As always it's fantastic to see them and their cute family. 

Per tradition, Ash and I spent the day before Easter in Walmart goofing off and buying random things. It's always fun for me to go anywhere with that girl, I love her SO much.

If you look in the front row you will find Quinn, who somehow escaped the pack and was found enjoying some live music front and center. 

This baby in that jacket made this Mama's heart flutter. 

A memory I will never forget! I love my people and the adventures we plan.

The glow in the dark easter egg hunt was amazing!!! Candy and money and glow sticks, what else can you want in life?

And then just like that we were waking these bunnies up at 3:30 am on Easter morning and on our way home. They slept for a few hours before finding that the Easter Bunny had left baskets for them in the car--what a clever guy! The trip home was way easier with an extra set of hands and thanks to our tech genius Uncle Gogo, a fixed Ipad!

Seven Magic Mountains. Cool, amiright?

A dinosaur, an astronaut, a grumpy cheetah and a blow-out baby all visited some neon stacked rocks in the middle of the desert. That pretty much sums it up!

What a Spring Break, oh what a Spring Break. It's Wednesday and we're all still in recovery--I've been going to bed at 9ish (what?) and the boys have been sleeping in until 7:30ish (double what?) That's what a week full of fun and adventure will do to you!