Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday, Savannah!

At 4 years old, Savannah is imaginative, outgoing, funny, silly, smart, and adorable. She laughs easily, plays hard, skips naps altogther now, loves her family, likes to boss everyone around, sometimes picks on her sister, likes to pick out her own clothes, enjoys swimming, and doesn't really like to eat much of anything. She enjoys barbies, dress-up games, making her own bed, going to preschool, and playing outside. She does not like to wait, go to the doctor, sleep, miss out on anything, or eat vegetables. We sure love our babycakes to the moon and back!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Smiles

God gave me you for the ups and downs.

God gave me you for the days of doubt.

For when I think I've lost my way...

And there are no words left here to say, its true...

God gave me you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eighteen Months Old

My baby is officially halfway between one and two! I know I say it every month, but time really flies. Brooklyn has found her little toddler attitude this month. She is a pouter, much more than Savannah ever was. When she doesn't get what she wants, she lays face-down on the floor and wails. It would be quite comical if it wasn't so bad. She wants to do things independently and wants to imitate everything Savannah does. She is quite mischevious.

She started using two new words this month, "go" and "more". I love it when she says "more" because she has quite the southern accent, pronouncing is "moe". She also is using the sign for "eat" on occasion. She is also starting to nod "no" and "yes" appropriately, although sometimes she starts nodding one way and then changes her mind and shakes her head. :) It has been fun to see her do a few new things.

Favorite toys in this house are Barbie and baby dolls in the baby stroller. The girls love playing with them, and Brooklyn loves to imitate Savannah pretending with them. Brooklyn is also quite attached to her blankie, which she refers to as "buh-buh" and likes to drag it all around the house with her.

Brooklyn has just become aware of her ability to entertain people and will do something over and over again for a good laugh. She is forever affectionate, which her Momma thoroughly enjoys. Her joyful spirit is a continual encouragement. She has proven once again this month that she is a hard worker and has a fighting spirit. She is such a trooper.

We sure love this rotten little girl, from her chunky little legs to her curly blonde hair.

Happy 18 months, sweet toddler!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thank You

Thank you all so much for the overwhelming support and love that you've bestowed upon our family for the past week. I just copied and pasted many of the comments and emails into a Word document so that one day I can show Brooklyn just how very loved she is...even by strangers we haven't even met. We are adjusting, loving on our girls, and claiming the promise that God is good, all of the time. He has given such peace, strength, grace, and sustained us during this rollercoaster of a week. Thanks for being patient while we process, absorb, research, and recover. Regular blog posts will return very soon! :)

Isaiah 43:1-2, 7, 11, 18-19
"Fear not: for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers and they will not overflow. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. I have called you by name, created you for my glory. I have formed you. I have made you. I am the Lord, and beside me there is no other. Remember not the past, or dwell on the things of old. I will do something new...I can make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cincinnati Zoo

Cincinnati Children's gave us free tickets to the zoo! (Thank you so much!)

Savannah was seriously pumped about this.

We thoroughly enjoyed it... what a nice place!

The highlight of the day for Savannah was definitely getting to feed the giraffe.

Brooklyn wasn't quite as interested, partially due to her age and partially due to being under anesthesia that morning. But she was quite content relaxing in her stroller.

The most amusing exhibit award definitely goes to the gorillas. So much personality!

We had a great time at the zoo!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cincinnati and Cerebral Palsy

As many of you know, Brooklyn went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital this week to see a team of doctors and therapists for diagnostic purposes. While she has had continuous symptoms since around 4 months old and began therapy and seeing specialists here at 8 months old, they have been unable to reach a diagnosis where we live. Upon recommendation from our pediatrician, we packed it up and made the 7 hour drive to Cincinnati on Sunday.

The trip was long, the tests were no fun, and we returned home exhausted. But we have answers. And we LOVE Cincinnati Children's Hospital!

On Monday, Brooklyn had MRI and MRS scans of her brain done under anesthesia. They also drew blood for lab tests while she was unconscious (thank you!).

On Tuesday morning, she got up at 4 am for a sleep-deprived EEG. The EEG is a painless procedure but is no fun for a girl who does not like things stuck to her head. Fortunately, we had a great team who got the procedure done quickly and without incident (but not without a few tears, sadly enough).

Tuesday afternoon, we met with a team of neurologists. We were at the hospital from 3:00pm until 7:30pm... they were very serious about spending quality time with our girl. They observed her playing, walking, babbling, looked over her medical history, read us results of testing, did a physical exam on her, checked her reflexes, measured her head, etc.

She may have gotten so bored that she invented her own game with the empty laundry hamper... pushing it around the doctor's office.

On Wednesday morning, Brooklyn met with a speech pathologist who assessed her speech and feeding skills and made recommendations for future treatment.

The doctors and nurses at Cincinnati Childrens were AWESOME. We were so pleased with every single professional that we dealt with. They were kind, compassionate, thorough, patient, and explained things extremely well. Even the parking lot attendant stopped to ask how we were all holding up as we exited the hospital on Tuesday. Our experience there could not have been any better.

In three days, we received answers that we have been seeking for almost Brooklyn's entire little life. They diagnosed our sweet girl with cerebral palsy, with the complication of associated epileptic seizures. If you are like me, you probably don't know much about cerebral palsy, and you might picture a child in a wheelchair and wonder how that could fit with Brooklyn.

You can keep reading for a summary of the information we received. Granted, it is a summary, but it is still rather lengthy. You've been warned.

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development. It is not genetic or hereditary.

CP is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the developing brain and can occur during pregnancy or childbirth. Typical causes include problems in intrauterine development, birth trauma during labor and delivery, and lack of oxygen to the brain upon birth. Between 40-50% of children with CP were born prematurely. Because premature babies have underdeveloped organs, they are more susceptible to brain damage.

As they explained to us at Cincinnati, Brooklyn most likely had an intrauterine stroke that led to her premature delivery. Because she was tiny and her lungs were underdeveloped, they could not get enough oxygen to her brain fast enough. Anytime that your brain is deprived of oxygen, damage occurs. We are fortunate that we were surrounded by a fabulous NICU team who was able to keep the damage to a minimum.

All types of CP (and there are several!) are characterized by abnormal muscle tone. In Brooklyn’s case, her tone is abnormally low, giving her a slouchy/floppy appearance, slower reflexes, and coordination issues. Some classic symptoms are unsteady gait, problems with balance, sensory issues, etc. CP symptomatology is quite diverse and can range from clumsiness on the mild end to severe impairments on the other. Fortunately, right now Brooklyn falls closer to the milder end of the spectrum.

Resulting movement difficulties can also be accompanied by disturbances of sensation, depth perception, communication ability, and sometimes cognition. It can also be accompanied by epilepsy in 40% of children with CP. Brooklyn falls into that 40%.

Symptoms of CP are typically first noted when the baby is 6-9 months old and begins to mobilize. Asymmetry of limb usage and/or gross motor developmental delay is typically noted. Other symptoms noted can be epileptic seizures, communication disorders, sensory impairments, and learning disabilities. Brooklyn had all of those symptoms.

Speech and language disorders are common in people with cerebral palsy. Due to abnormal muscle tone, control of the oral-facial muscles becomes quite difficult. Also, feeding, biting, and chewing are sometimes difficult tasks as well. While in Cincinnati, we learned that Brooklyn does not chew or swallow properly.

CP is typically diagnosed through a physical examination and detailed history of the patient. CP has no known cure, but it can be treated. Treatment for CP is a lifelong multi-dimensional process focused on preventing the brain damage from prohibiting healthy development. Because the brain is not concrete in its development up until approximately the age of 8 years old, early intervention has proven quite successful in milder cases, such as Brooklyn’s. The brain has the ability to reorganize and reroute many of the signal paths that have been affected by the damage, and the earlier it has help in doing that, the better the prognosis. Treatment in Brooklyn’s case so far has included physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. In addition to continuing those therapies, Cincinnati would like her to begin anti-seizure medications and feeding therapy (she eats well but chews and swallows incorrectly, choking quite often).

The prognosis for CP varies greatly depending on severity. The intellectual ability of the child is often not known until they enter school, and can vary from genius to impaired, just as in the general population. The ability to live independently also varies with severity, and is more likely in cases where the person can ambulate and self-feed, both of which Brooklyn can do already. In most cases, people with CP have a normal life-expectancy. Many go on to become successful spouses and parents.

All in all, cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause profound impairments. Some children may require therapy and be slightly disabled, while others may be confined to a wheelchair for their entire lives. We are quite fortunate that Brooklyn is on the mild end of the spectrum. We don't know yet what the future holds for her or what she will accomplish. She will be in physical therapy for the rest of her life. She has, however, already exceeded expectations, and we are hopeful that will the proper medical care, she will continue to do so.

Yes, we are sad. Yes, we will struggle with this. But we are truly confident that God has a plan for little Brooklyn. And I have honestly seen God's heart through her more clearly than ever before. He has repeatedly worked out even the smallest details in taking care of her and guiding this journey. This is the end of the seeking chapter, and the beginning of another chapter entirely. But God is good, ALL the time. Even when facing a scary diagnosis. He is still good. And He loves Brookie even more than we do. Our prayer is that she turns the world upside down for Him one day.

Thank you to the awesome doctors and nurses at Cincinnati. Thank you to Cincinnati Children's Hospital for the free tickets to the Zoo. Thank you to our friends, family, and church family for your awesome support and prayer. Thank you to Gram-B for driving, and to Mimi for entertaining. I could not have made that trip without two grandmas! Thank you to Mariott for the discounted rate and for accomodating us. And thank you to our pediatrician and the team of therapists here who got her started on therapy so early and pushed us to keep seeking answers. Thanks to all of the other people who I'm sure I've forgotten in my sleep-deprived state. We were truly overwhelmed by the love and support we received, and are humbled and thankful. We love you all, and appreciate you loving our girl too. This is a new beginning. Please continue to pray for Brooklyn and love on her. Your support is invaluable.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Date Forty-Eight: Cascades

Date forty-eight was the hubby's turn to plan (I don't think he is quite on schedule for planning as many as required, but anyway...) so we headed to his favorite Mexican restaurant up the road in Blacksburg.

Then we kept on driving to the Cascades and began our hike.

The entire hike is about four miles and its not too challenging, which I can appreciate. I did, however, still complain about the exhaustion of my leg muscles. I'm just not a hiker.

Big D, on the other hand, needs to be on man vs. wild.

I like to think our differences compliment each other. I'm so un-coordinated that I make him look awesome. Right?!

There were lots of beautiful sights along the way... and two snakes... that we saw.

And then we rounded the final corner, and the view was breathtaking.

The Cascades is a 66-foot waterfall, and its gorgeous.

The coolness was refreshing.

The power of the rushing water left me in awe.

And I thoroughly enjoyed watching D attempt to walk across the slippery rocks. I was quite content to just view that portion of the day rather than participate.

After hanging out at the waterfall for a bit, we headed back down the mountain to pick up our kiddos.

Hiking the Cascades = highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Strong Enough

As our trip to Cincinnati Children's Hospital is quickly approaching, my emotions have been a roller-coaster ride. We will get answers in the next week, and they will range from bad to potentially devastating. How does one prepare for that? I'm not sure I'm ready.

As I was riding in the car the other day, I heard Matthew West sing "Strong Enough."

You must... you must think I'm strong.
To give me what I'm going through.
Forgive me, forgive me if I'm wrong.
This feels like more than I can do...on my own.

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up.
I'm not strong enough.
Hands of mercy, won't you cover me?
Lord, I'm asking you to be
Strong Enough...for both of us...

Well maybe, maybe thats the point.
To reach the point of giving up.
Cause when I'm finally, finally at rock bottom,
Thats when I start looking up...
And reaching out.

I'm broken, down to nothing.
I'm still holding on to one thing: You are God.
You are strong when I am weak.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
I don't have to be strong enough.

A sleepless night found me giving up and giving the worry over to God, and praying for you, my friend. And my prayer is that you will allow God to be strong enough for you. Its difficult to reach the end of yourself and trust your life to Someone Else. Take this journey with me and allow Christ to be strong enough for you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We celebrated this big girl's birthday early this year due to having to travel a lot in the next few weeks. I seriously cannot believe she is about to turn four.

There were friends, a pinata, a princess cake (thanks, Sara!), and presents.

Thanks to everyone who came, endured the heat, and helped make Savannah's day special!