Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Operation Christmas Child

We've wanted to participate in this amazing ministry to children for the last couple of years, but have never been financially prepared. Last year at Christmastime we got smart. Instead of financing a family date, we decided to use our annual can-collecting money for shoe boxes instead. We had just started re-collecting again after cashing in cans in August, so we had another year to add to that collection. Eli took that on as his own personal project, but we all helped throughout the next 11 months. Finally, just last week, we were ready to cash 'em in and go shopping! Thanks to Groupon, we got to go out for pizza and make it a fun family date night after all! Funny story: our multiple H-U-G-E bags F-U-L-L of cans got us a whopping $4.35. But the money that came out of our own pockets was well worth the entire experience. The kids each had fun picking out items for their boxes. It was cool for Jared & I to see our kids get excited about giving, and also take ownership of "their" kids! Lydia has been calling the girl that will get her box her "little girlfriend". We also decided to have each of the kids send along a personal note and picture. (I'm secretly praying that they will hear back from their new "friends", but we'll see.) I will forever hold on to a copy of each letter:) It was special for me to pack the boxes with the kids; and both Jared and I were excited with them as they each carried their box into church on Sunday. I'm already looking forward to doing this again next year. The lessons in generosity, love, compassion, and grace that are involved in a project like this are priceless; and I'm also praying that they're lessons my kids will learn well and carry with them into adulthood.

Merry Christmas!

Eli's Letter:
Hi! My name is Eli. I am from Nebraska, in the U.S. I'm eight years old. I'm in third grade. I like to draw, eat, and build legos. I got you some Hot Wheel cars, a pad with paper, markers, crayons, and more. I hope you like them. I have two more brothers, Ezra and Judah. And a sister, Lydia. I also have a mom and dad. Please send a note back here.


Ezra's Letter: (The first 4 sentences he wrote by himself while I spelled out the words. Then he decided that was too much work & I could write out the rest for him!)
Hi mY Name is Ezra. I am 5. I like to pLay Basketball aNd Football. I hope You Like Your box. I hope you like this note. I'm very glad that I can send this shoe box gift to you. This picture is of me, my two brothers, and my dad. The one in the orange shirt is Eli. The one on my dad's lap is Judah. I also have a mom and sister, Lydia. I put some really cool things in your shoebox. Please send me a note. Merry Christmas!


Lydia's Letter: (The only thing I helped her with was where she lives.)
My name is Lydia. I love you very much. I sent you a piggy. I hope you like your presents. I picked them out for you. This is my baby brother Judah. [She included a picture of herself holding Judah...of course!] I have 2 big brothers Elijah and Ezra. I live in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. I like to play with my toy ponies. I love my mommy's soup. I got you a new toothbrush and your own toothpaste. I like to drink milk. My favorite color is pink. Merry Christmas!

Lydia Stewart

Grief Re-Revisited

Emotionally I think I've been doing pretty well lately...at least as far as Judah is concerned. I don't normally struggle with his delays, and I don't often think of things that we've lost or missed out on because of his illnesses. Well...

A couple weeks ago we were enjoying a glorious fall day at the zoo. Grandma & Grandpa were with us and we were having a great time. At one point I noticed a mom alone with her son, who looked to be right around a year old. She was holding him, and when she put him down, I chuckled as I watched him take those adorable, tentative toddler steps. Then, a sharp intake of breath as I felt a "punch in the gut". I realized (again) that I won't experience that with Judah. I felt sad all over again, and then frustrated with myself. "You're not over this yet?" "Come on, move on already." "Look at all the wonderful things he's doing; all the progress he's made!" Gr. Someday my little lion will walk. He will take those first, tentative steps. He won't be a little toddler anymore, but he will get there. And that day will hold more celebration and victory than the day a "normal" toddler would take his/her 1st steps. But, on this day at the zoo, I was sad.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From Jared's Computer

I miss my computer. Some good friends have gifted us with their PC - yay! - but it's still in WI. So, out of sheer desperation, this post (and all following) originated on paper. I just have so many thoughts and words and updates floating around in my head, I had to do something. Take action! Well, it's been so long, that this is gonna take awhile. So, without further ado...

In Mid-October Judah got his braces. They're so cute! He doesn't mind them at all, and has had no problem adjusting to the new "things" on his feet.
*Funny story: Judah's feet are 3 1/2 inches long. Size 1. That's the size of a 6 week - 3 month old. His feet are small even for him!
Anyway, along with the new AFOs came the re-introduction to the stander. Wonders never cease, because from the 2nd 1st time in that thing he has loved it! For 30 minutes a day he's
upright, and he loves playing with toys on the tray and watching everything that's going on around him! Thankyou, Jesus! When his trunk is stronger (he's close), he'll move to a smaller stander that supports him from the waist down. No idea when that will be, but it's fun to think about him making that much progress within the near-ish future!

Judah is also eating like a champ! He's at 1 1/2 jars of stage 2 baby food, plus cereal to thicken & add texture, 3 times a day, and is right on track to be at 2 full jars within the next couple of weeks. I've also been able to trade out 2 oz. of formula with whole milk at every feed. That means that he's now getting HALF whole milk and half formula - YES! At Thanksgiving we'll start introducing table foods a tsp. at a time with his baby food. I'm excited about transitioning to normal food, too. These are all steps toward our goal of getting Judah on a normal diet, and we might actually be able to do it by his 2nd birthday after all!
*Good news: Judah has grown 2 1/2 in. & the doctor increased his growth hormone dose!
*"Bad" news: Judah has not gained any weight in over 2 months. He's still around 16 1/2 lbs. So, now we need to start pushing a high calorie diet - heavy whipping cream, butter, sour cream, Carnation... Ya know, a diet that would kill a normal person;)
Overall, Judah is progressing consistently and quickly, and I'm amazed at how far he's come in this area in just 2 months!

While I'm talking about food, I got the results of his allergy blood work. Both egg & peanut allergies came back low - praise the Lord - so we're doing an egg challenge in December. My prayer is that the challenge will show that he can handle egg; and that, over time, he will outgrow the peanut allergy as well.

It's kinda funny the things we celebrate with Judah. Things we never thought of as "good" with the other 3. Perfect example: Judah is finally getting into things!!! You can't leave him on the floor in the vicinity of anything he shouldn't have. That determined, driven, motivated little boy will find a way to get to what he wants: roll, rock-n-scoot, or a combination of both! It's so fun to see him getting into the kids' stuff and see them try to distract him, move him, or actually get a little frustrated with him!
Another "celebrate"- Judah started clapping! Oh, those chubby little hands coming together to clap:)

While we were in KC, [an amazing, wonderful, romantic, life-giving weekend! Thanks again SO MUCH to those dear, wonderful friends who blessed us with spending money; and to our Donna who hooked us up with a sweet suite!] Judah had another first. The closet doors in our room were huge mirrors and we discovered that Judah liked looking at himself, and could actually hold himself up in a sitting position! This picture is of him in his "therapy corner", the place we set up for him in our p
layroom. Yes, he's so vain he has his own mirror. It's good "therapy"!;)

Instead of Halloween, we had a
Stewart Family Fun Night Extravaganza! The kids painted Thanksgiving-themed pumpkins, then got all dressed up and
outside for a scavenger hunt that Jared & I had a blast putting together for them. They had to find & follow clues all over the yard, until they found the jackpot: a basket of candy and silly bands! It was a great night:)

The last thing to add is the new "girl date" that Lydia & I are blessed to be a part of every Thursday morning. A small group of us "youth leaders' wives" get together at a local church (one of the lady's), enjoy free childcare in the HUGE nursery (Lydia absolutely loooves her girlfriends there and talks about them all week), and then sit around a small table talking and drinking coffee for TWO HOURS! No programming, no plan, just community and girl talk. I have never been a part of a group that filled me up the way this one does. I had no idea that I was running on empty until these women started filling me up to overflowing. Laughter, encouragement, advice, support, shared experiences & perspectives, as well as different ones - all adding up to a life-giving experience each week that I hate to leave and can't wait to get back to! These are women, friends, that I can do life with; and my life is and will be so much richer because of them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


We spent the morning with Judah at the Children's Developmental Clinic at the new Children's Hospital Specialty Pediatric Center. That's a lot of words to say we were in clinic all morning. We had to be there at 8, and for some reason, after seeing 8 different specialists over 4 hours, I'm a little tired. Still, I had to get here just to say that every single specialist we saw was impressed with how far Judah has come in the 9 months since we were there, and all had almost nothing but positive things to say about him and his progress! It was wonderful:) There were only 2 doctors that have any kind of follow-up in the near future.

Urology - the good news is that Judah has had some progress in this area. The "bad" news is that because of that progress, Judah will have 2 little inguinal hernias repaired...most likely during his palate revision in February. Thankfully it's a minor repair that can be combined with this other surgery.

Genetics - Since seeing this wonderful lady in July (we love our geneticist), a new Micro Array test has been developed. It will not only look at all of Judah's chromosomes, but will also target certain genes that are known for causing birth defects and learning difficulties in children. Because he's having surgery and will be in-patient, she can order the test after he's admitted, and avoid having to get pre-authorization from insurance. That way the insurance company can't say "NO", and we have another opportunity to look for a cause.

We don't have to go back to the CDC until next year!

That's really all that's noteworthy for right now. The pictures and video of his braces and stander will have to wait for another day. But let's just say Judah's doing awesome!:)