Wednesday, April 30, 2008

7 Month Pictures

***There are a few pictures of Elisabeth sitting up on her own. She does not actually sit on her own yet.....they just snapped the picture really quick before she fell over. Maybe by next month :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring Cleaning Tips!

I love a clean, tidy, well organized home. And so of course I love the idea of Spring Cleaning. I said to Donald, "I think I want to start doing some Spring Cleaning". To which he responded, "What do you mean? We always clean". True, true, but this is more.

I found some wonderful tips courtesy of Martha Stewart. Happy cleaning!

Get your house ready for warm weather with these tasks:

Clean Rugs, Carpets, and Floors
  • Vacuum rugs and carpets. Machine-wash or dry-clean area rugs, and shampoo wall-to-wall carpeting. Wash and wax floors.
Clean Windows
  • Remove dust, dirt, and cobwebs with a soft brush. Wash windows inside and out with a mild dilution of either ammonia or white vinegar in water; dry with a squeegee followed by a rag.
Renew Mattresses and Cushions
  • Vacuum mattresses and box springs. Rotate and flip mattresses before replacing them on the springs. Flip sofa and chair cushions.

Clean Refrigerator and Freezer

  • Unplug refrigerator; discard any items past their prime. Store food in a cooler, then wash fridge from top to bottom with warm, sudsy water. Add baking soda to solution to deodorize surfaces.
Clean Shades and Curtains
  • Take down window treatments. Dust slat blinds, and launder curtains and fabric shades: either hand-wash and lightly steam in place, or send to a dry cleaner.

Sort Through Wardrobes

  • Separate clothes into piles: off-season, give away, dry cleaner, tailor. Wash and mend clothing before replacing in closet or storing.
Perform a Safety Check
  • Check smoke detector batteries frequently; replace every six months. Check batteries in carbon-monoxide detectors and flashlights; inspect pressure gauges on fire extinguishers.
Replace Filters
  • Vacuum and clean grates, coils, and condensers on furnaces, refrigerators, stoves, and air conditioners. Remove filters in furnaces and air conditioners, and either clean or replace them.
Replace Storm Windows with Screens
  • Remove storm windows; replace cracked panes, recaulk windows, and repaint the frames before storing. Before installing screens, repair holes with tweezers (or replace entire screen).
Did You Know?
  • Your vacuum needs spring cleaning too: Cut away threads from the rotating beater, replace the motor's belt if stretched, and install a new bag.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tag Time

I got a tag from the fabulous Jan. This was a really fun one to do!

Q. When did you first meet the lst person on your list?
A. Alicia G. - This is one of Donald's many, many, many cousins. I emphasize many because I have none. That's right - zero. Anyways, I am sure that I must have met Alicia years ago when I was first married to Donald, but I never really got a chance to talk to her until a few years ago at a family reunion. She is super sweet and completely gorgeous.

Q. What do you think about the 3rd person on your list?
A. Alisa - She and her husband are so adventurous! For the past 4 or 5 years they have been in our ward.....but only for half a year at a time. They own a store in Alaska and live there during tourist season.

Q. What do you like best about the 5th and 6th person on your list?
A. The Brinkerhoff Family - Talented, funny, good hearted people. It's a blessing to be related to them. The Curtis Family - They used to be our neighbors but moved away several years ago. Randy is an amazing chorister :)

Q. How long have you known the 9th person on your list?
A. Donald - My dear and sweet husband. I met him 9 years ago this summer.

Q. What impresses you most about the 11th and 12th person on your list?
A. Emily - a wonderful mother to a gorgeous and brilliant 7 month old. Michelle - OK, on my link list it actually says, but she is the inspiring woman who keeps it updated. She is completely selfless and wants to help others in any way that she can.

Q. What is your memory with the 16th person on your list?
A. Jill - honestly I have never met Jill in person. She has a baby due in 21 days that is also diagnosed with hydrocephalus. I have been so blessed to meet other parents who are going through the same things as me.

Q. Say something nice about the 18th person on your list?
A. Kristen - It's funny because even though I have never met Kristen in person I consider her one of my dearest friends. We have gone through so many of the same things. It has been a joy to get to know her and her sweet baby Cayman. Thank heavens for the Internet!

I tag Amy, Jamie, Libbie, and Mandy. Have fun!

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Blog Title

So in the fall of last year Donald and I started this blogging thing together. Thus the name : Donald, Lisa, and Co.

At first I wasn't so into it. Donald was in charge of our blog maintenance and updates. I occasionally would take a peek, but didn't have too much to do with it. One day, I decided to post something.....and then I was hooked. I started browsing through other blogs. One would link to another. This was fabulous. I was completely inspired by so many!

Needless to say, I have been blogging ever since. It's a wonderful way to record our family happenings, share updates, and get many random thoughts out of my mind.

Well, once I took over there wasn't much room for Donald. So he decided to abandon this blog and start up his own. Donald has enjoyed journalism ever since high school and so he really needed his own 'space'.

A few days ago, dearest Donald brought to my attention the fact that my blog title still suggested that this was a family effort. But the truth is, I've gone solo on this one. So I have decided to change the name of my column (Donald doesn't need top billing on two blogs!).

After brain storming a few possibilities I kept coming back to the theme of simplicity. I strive to live a simple life. I won't get to into my thoughts about a simple life now, for I have written them before. Patrick Buchanan once said, "There is a simplicity that exists on the far side of complexity". That's the place for me.......on the far side of complexity. A happy life, a good life, a simple life.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

I was 16 weeks pregnant and I was going to have an ultrasound. Even though it was my third pregnancy, it was every bit as exciting as the first. I couldn't wait to see my little baby up on the monitor, and even more I couldn't wait to find out if it was a boy or a girl.

Donald and I went to the ultrasound together, leaving our other two children with their Grandma. The ultrasound went normally at the beginning, we saw cute images of feet, hands, arms and legs on the screen. The lady doing the ultrasound couldn't tell what the gender was at first, but said she would try to get a better look later. Then she excused herself from the room and went to find a doctor to look on with her. That should have been my hint right then that something was not right. But naive little Lisa, I just oohed and aahed to Donald about how cute the baby was and how I really, really hoped that they could tell about the gender.

A few minutes later the lady returned, accompanied by a doctor. She resumed the ultrasound and went straight to trying to find out what the sex was (I see now that she wanted to give me some good news before the bad). "It's a girl", she said. I lit up and looked at Donald. We had really been hoping for a third little girl. They then began pointing to things on the monitor and talking quietly to one another. I heard words like "abnormal" and "lemon shaped". My heart sank. Donald and I looked at one another. Something was terribly wrong. At that point the doctor sighed deeply and said to the technician, "so have you told them anything yet?". I braced myself, afraid to hear whatever bad news they had to tell us. He then said that it looked like the baby had hydrocephalus. It was the first time I had ever heard that word. "The baby has what?", I asked. I had no idea what that was or what that meant for the baby. The ultrasound tech, deeply sorry to be sharing this devastating news with us kindly explained that it meant 'water on the brain'. I still didn't know what that meant for our child.

A few days later I met with a perinatologist who specializes in high risk pregnancies. After looking at the ultrasound images he sat down with Donald and me. "This is not a good news situation", he said. I asked what he thought her outcome would be. He told me that most likely she would die in the womb or shortly after birth. He then asked if we had thought about termination. We immediately said that termination was not a possibility. Still, he brought up the abortion idea multiple times over the next few weeks. He said that many parents aren't prepared to deal with a child like this. My thoughts: if a parent isn't prepared to deal with a child like this, then they aren't prepared to be a parent. He tried another angle to support his termination push. "You have to think of the baby, do you want her to have to live a life of handicaps and surgeries?". Um...let me think.....give her a chance at life or kill her off now? Easy answer. I told him that we would continue on with the pregnancy. I am pretty sure he thought I was crazy. I was choosing to keep a baby that he was confident would die anyways. He told me that if I was going to carry this baby to term I should be prepared with funeral arrangements.

That was the first time in my life that I felt a broken heart. My heart ached and ached. And I cried and cried. I went home and began planning her funeral. I shopped for infant caskets, and I asked my sister to sew her a burial dress. It was the most devastating thing that I have ever done. But I tried to stay positive. No matter what, she would always be my baby. I played hymns for her on the piano every day. I wanted her to feel peace and comfort while in the womb. I enjoyed every little kick, not knowing if it would be her last. Even up until one or two weeks before her delivery, they told me that the chance of fetal demise was high. I didn't want her to die in the womb. That was the one thing that I prayed for. If she could just be born, and live a few minutes so that I could hold her and tell her I love her, I would be the happiest mother in the world.

{flowers my sister sent me that week alongside Elisabeth's ultrasound picture}

Those few weeks after the diagnoses, my head was spinning. I had a million thoughts and questions floating around in my head and I found it hard to concentrate on anything else. Even though I was grieving at the knowledge that my child was probably going to die, I had to carry on. I still had two other children who needed me to be normal. So I decided one night as I lay awake that I was going to snap out of my funk. Everything would be alright, no matter what the outcome. So I did what I always do when I want to perk up; I started organizing. I bought a notebook and dividers. I had a section with all her funeral arrangements. I had one with information on doctors and surgeons. Another divider was for medical bills and insurance forms. The last held all the research that I was doing on hydrocephalus. There still was a chance my baby could live and I needed to be prepared.

We had been in touch with the local hospitals and were told that delivery here was not a possibility. So the next step was to figure out where this baby would be born. There were several choices. We considered going to Orange County, CA. My mother lives there and I knew that the girls and I could go stay with her towards the end of the pregnancy. The only glitch was that Donald would have to stay behind and work and I knew that I was going to need his support throughout all of this. Next hospital on the list, Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. They are famous for their pediatric neurosurgery center. Our daughter would get the best possible care there. But once again, Donald would have to stay behind and I didn't think that I could handle that. Two more choices: Seattle and Spokane. Both relatively close, both near family, both had pediatric neurosurgeons. In the end we chose Spokane. Only 2 hours away and Donald's sister lived near the hospital.

Several weeks later I found a website called It changed everything for me. The website is about a little boy named Owen with hydrocephalus. He was eight months old at the time. This website became my resource for everything. Owen's parents, who had gone through many of the same things we were going through had also been discouraged at the lack of information available. So they decided to start a website of their own. They chronicle every detail of the pregnancy, birth, surgeries, and developmental progress. They share all the research they have done. We have since met Owen and his parents. They are kind and inspirational people. Until I came across their website I was convinced that my baby would die, but suddenly I had hope. I could never thank them enough for that gift of hope.

One of the things that really intrigued us on Owen's website was a stem cell infusion that he had received after he was born. His cord blood was collected at birth and the stem cells from that cord blood were infused to him when he was a few days old. Stem cells are the body's “master” cells because they give rise to all tissues, organs, and systems in the body. They have the ability to differentiate, or change, into other types of cells in the body. The hope was that by giving Owen his stem cells after birth it would help to repair damaged brain tissue. We started doing research on having a stem cell infusion done for our baby. After calls to different cord blood banks and the FDA, we soon realized that the only realistic way to get this done for Elisabeth would be to take her to Duke University, where Owen had his done. Our only hesitation at the time was knowing that insurance would not cover this "experimental" procedure. In the end we decided that this would be potentially life changing for Elisabeth and that we couldn't pass on this golden opportunity. We were sent a cord blood collection kit to take to the hospital with us and we were to send the blood to them immediately after she was born where it would be stored until Elisabeth was able to go to Duke.

My pregnancy continued on with frequent ultrasounds in Spokane. Needless to say, I became quite familiar with the drive. Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane has an entire perinatal center. They were wonderful! They helped coordinate all my appointments with doctors and surgeons and made my stressful situation much easier to deal with. The highlight of the pregnancy were the 4D pictures that I would get of Elisabeth every 1 or 2 weeks. She was a chub!

It was decided that they would deliver the baby by c-section at 38 weeks. A vaginal delivery would have meant extra pressure on her head, and we really wanted to avoid that. So on the morning of September 24, 2007 my husband and I arrived at the hospital, ready to meet our baby. We were blessed to have Donald's entire family there as well as my mother and one of my brother's.

When they wheeled me in to the operating room I was a little surprised. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. "Is this where she is going to be born?" I asked. Yes, was the answer. The room was heavenly. That might sound like a funny way to describe an operating room, but it was. It was on the third level of the hospital and had one entire wall that was solid windows. The blinds were pulled all the way open and the room was flooded with the most glorious morning sunshine. They then asked what I wanted to listen to. I thought they were joking at first, but no, they really wanted to know what music I wanted playing. So they put on a CD of Vivaldi's 4 seasons. When Elisabeth was born she was greeted by warm sunlight and beautiful music. The room was peaceful, I was peaceful. It was the greatest moment of my entire life. Here she was, alive, crying, beautiful. We had made it.

Today is Elisabeth's 7 month birthday. She has been through a lot in her short life. A successful shunt placement surgery at 1 day old and the stem cell infusion at 6 weeks. We have learned more about her; epilepsy, brain malformations, cortical blindness, and craniosynostosis. She has therapy sessions once a week and they are thrilled with her progress. Having her in our family has been truly joyous, and I simply cannot imagine life without her.

Life is so interesting. As much as you plan, you can never control where you end up. All you can do is to find joy in the journey and the experiences. I love where I am. I love the things that I have learned. I love the people I have met. Recently one of my good friends told me about a story that does a perfect job of explaining life as I now know it.

Welcome to Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

"I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt's.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

American Idol

So I haven't been very committed to TV lately. That is a good thing. It's nice to be free from the obligation of watching a show week after week. Anyways, as it turns out, last night was the first night that I tuned in for American Idol. Lucky me, it was Andrew Lloyd Webber night. How much do I love his music....especially The Phantom of the Opera. I could have listened to David Cook sing all night long. It was perfection.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Neighbor

A few months ago I contacted the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to see if there was a local chapter that I could join. Elisabeth's pediatrician thinks that the best time to start getting involved is now. They told me that there is not a chapter in this area but there was very active member who lived in my city. So they forwarded my email to her.

This past weekend we finally got to go meet her and her family. As it turns out, she is LDS too and recently moved here from Utah. And (here is the best part) she lives literally 30 seconds from my house! All this time we were emailing back and forth and we were a few blocks from each other.

Meeting her was inspiring. She has been blind for the past 6 years and in that time has learned to live a completely normal life without sight. She has a 4 year old, a 3 year old, and a 6 month old who was born on the exact same day as Elisabeth! Her husband was so kind, I thought it was especially sweet when he described my girls spring dresses to his wife when we were just arriving.

We had a nice visit and she was able to tell me a little bit about the NFB. There is a division of the organization for parents of blind children, and she highly recommends that Donald and I join. There is also a national convention that is taking place in Texas this summer. She describes it as "life changing". I think I'll look into going.

I came home with an enormous stack of magazines, brochures, flyers, and books that she had requested on my behalf from the NFB. I am so thrilled to have met her, and even more excited that she is my neighbor and has so much in common with me. I am sure that she will be a great support to Elisabeth as she grows and learns about the world around her.

****To clarify: we live on the dividing line of our ward and stake. She lives on the other side of the street and therefore in a different ward and different stake. This is why our paths had not crossed even though we live so close.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Blogger

I am so excited that my dear mother-in-law, Susan, has decided to join in the fun. She started up a blog yesterday. You can visit it by clicking here!

My Baby

Here is Elisabeth sitting in her Bumbo and playing with her touch and feel board that the Developmental Center made for her.

Friday, April 18, 2008

3 1/2 Year Portraits

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Now That's More Like It

I completely enjoyed tonight's episode. After last weeks disappointment, "The Office" was back with great humor and memorable moments.

Oh...and look who's pregnant.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Past 10 Years

Recently I was reading a blog that challenged it's readers to take a look back at the past. What was I doing 1 year ago...5 years ago....10 years ago? It's fun to see how quickly life can change in a matter of a few years. So here I go.....a look at what I was doing each spring during the past decade.
1 year ago: 3 months pregnant with Elisabeth.

2 years ago: In California visiting family. We spent a fun day here.

3 years ago:
Enjoying our new home.

4 years ago:
On vacation in Washington D.C. and Virginia and 3 months pregnant with Lorelai.

5 years ago:
Taking a vacation up and down the pacific coast, visiting light houses.

6 years ago:
3 months pregnant with Alexandra (do you see a pattern?).

7 years ago:
Working full time at Hallmark and enjoying my first year of marriage.

8 years ago:
Busy planning my wedding.

9 years ago: Completing my first and last year at BYU. Just months away from meeting Donald.

10 years ago: Getting ready to graduate from High School. I was here with my high school orchestra.

***Despite how it looks my life consists of more than being pregnant and going on vacation. That's just what I do best in the Spring I guess :)

What have you been doing for the past 10 years??

My 100th Post

Well, I am surprised. After a week long poll to see what the majority would pick as a paint color for our computer room, the winner was clay. Clay??? Don't get me wrong, clay is a nice color. It's simple, and respectable. But to be honest with you I thought people would be a little more bold in their color choice.

But thanks for the input and when I get around to painting the room I'll be sure to post pictures and show you what I finally decide on. Who knows....I might just stick with the majority's choice.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Best Friends Book Club

In January several of the children in our neighborhood formed The Best Friends Book Club. They meet monthly to discuss the book that they had been assigned to read. This past Saturday was Alexandra's first turn hosting the meeting at our home.

When the girls showed up they all ran upstairs to Alexandra's room to start talking about A Little Princess. I asked if they needed my help and they were quick to tell me no. Of course I had to eaves drop. It was priceless. These girls stayed so focused! They talked about how certain characters lives were shaped by different experiences they had been through. And then they related their own lives to the book. These girls are 5-7 years old! I was impressed! My favorite part was when they were choosing the book for the upcoming month. They all came with ideas and voted on which to read. In case you were wondering the winner was Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

After the discussion the girls came downstairs for some lemonade and cookies. And then they all went in the family room to watch the movie version of A Little Princess. I think they were pleasantly surprised at the different ending.

Later that day we couldn't resist the gorgeous weather and took our children to the park. Elisabeth, who has been couped up indoors since birth loved being outside and feeling the warmth of the sun on her chubby little legs. We tried her in the baby swing, not sure how she would do. She loved it! I think we'll buy an infant swing to hang on our front porch. Lorelai enjoyed the park too and read about Alexandra's adventures during our outing to the park click here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

5 1/2 Year Portraits

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