Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bringing Bunny Home ... a novel :)

As I type this blog post – actually voice text it into my phone – I am holding a very content baby in my arms.... and I'm sitting in my husband's office at our beloved Rice Ranch. 

And if you knew how good it feels to be home… if you could crawl inside my heart right now and feel what I feel… well, there's nothing like it. 

Our bunny is home.




After 16 days of tubes and wires and non-stop beeping from machines and nurses and doctors coming in to check vitals etc. at least every 20 minutes and sleeping on a foam mattress in a window seat and riding the roller coaster that is the PICU .... it feels like heaven to be home again. I can't even put into words how wonderful it is to be holding Madison without any wires or IVs or tubes. I can't even describe how beautiful silence sounds right now.



I blogged from the hospital about some of the things that we went through with Madison, but it would take a book to document everything we experienced. 

And I might write that book someday. 

And if I do it will be called The Power of Corporate Prayer. Or maybe something catchier. But it will be along the lines of that theme.

I've been a Christian for over 30 years now, and I can honestly say I have never experienced firsthand the power of corporate prayer like I just did for two weeks in a hospital in Portland. 

I have never experienced such an intense level of fear, I have never cried so much, I have never cried out to God so desperately, I have never been so concerned for my baby's life, I have never functioned on so little sleep, I have never been on such a roller coaster of emotions… And at the same time I have never experienced so tangibly and so overwhelmingly the grace of God. Sam and I truly feel like we just walked through the valley of the shadow of death - and it was the prayers of so many that brought us through.

It's so hard for me to write about it even now because the feelings are so fresh .. if I close my eyes I'm back in that tiny room in the PICU holding my baby's hand and praying for a miracle - and at the same time wondering if I am going to leave that hospital without her.



As I blogged before, Madison's heart surgery was a success. Her PDA was closed by ligation, and her surgeon was extremely pleased with the results. 

In the days that followed however, she developed a complication called chylothorax ... I described this a few posts back, but in a nutshell she was leaking lymphatic fluids through her chest tube at the rate of 800- 1000 mL a day.

To put that in perspective, Madison weighs 10 pounds. She takes roughly 800 mL of breast milk a day. So she was losing more fluid than she was taking in. Her surgeons and medical team were extremely concerned because she was losing SO much fluid, and they had to replace everything she was losing on an hourly basis. And she wasn't just losing "fluid". She was losing her electrolytes, blood platelets, potassium, etc. -and everything that she lost had to be replaced through a central line in her jugular vein. 

After determining that a diet of skimmed breast milk (eliminating fats can sometimes reverse the chylothorax) was not working, her doctors decided to make her NPO ... this means she was not able to have any oral feeds for seven days, and all of her nutrition went into her central IJ line. However, even though she was receiving nutrition, she always felt hungry. For seven days. the nutrition she was receiving bypassed her stomach. It's hard to put into words how difficult it was to try to keep our baby happy for seven days with nothing in her belly.




Obviously our doctors did not want to keep Madison sedated for a full week. She did receive morphine when needed, Toradol (which is an infant form of IV ibuprofen), Tylenol, and at times oxycodone to help her cope. But there was no getting away from her pathetic cries for food. On top of this, her little veins were so damaged because of all the IVs and pokes and attempts at drawing blood, that she was bruised and tender and irritable from head to toe.



At one point, after several days of losing so much fluid, our Bunny began to show signs of dehydration again. She was extremely pale, and looked almost lifeless. I am not posting those pictures here on purpose - if you think the ones I've chosen to share look terrible, keep in mind the ones I deleted were worse. 

One of the most difficult times during our stay was eleven at night in the PICU when one of her doctors came in to discuss with us the need for Madison to receive a blood transfusion. (Did I forget to mention that after being transferred to a normal room for a few days, we ended up back in the PICU?) I know this may be something doctors in the PICU are used to administering, but it's not something we have ever had to make a decision about as parents, for any of our children. 

This decision, coupled with the fact that we were running on only a few hours of very interrupted sleep each night, was not an easy one to make - I have a whole new level of respect for families that have to routinely make such crucial medical decisions for their children. We decided to hold off for six hours until new labs could be drawn in the morning - unfortunately Madison's hemoglobin was so low that it would have taken a week for it to return to normal levels without a transfusion. And that was IF she did not have all the added factors (chylothorax, etc.). 

Within a few hours of receiving her transfusion though, some of the color returned to our beautiful girl, and she was able to grasp our fingers and focus on our faces for a few minutes at a time. Prior to this she was constantly rolling her head back and forth on her blankets, and the only time she rested well was when her pain medicine was at its peak. 



The plan had been to keep her off oral feeds for as long as possible to see if the duct would heal itself. After several days, however, it became evident that was not happening, and her doctors made a tentative plan to schedule surgery to repair the thoracic duct ... in addition to this they decided to administer octreotide. This is an IV medicine that can often help dry the body out, and it has proven successful in many cases involving chylothorax. 

However (I'm using a lot of howevers in this post, have you noticed ???), this medicine can also cause babies' heart rates to drop. Unfortunately this was the case with Madison – at one point in the night her heart rate dropped to the low 60s, an alarmingly slow rate. An EKG was done to make sure her heart was not damaged, and the decision was made to only keep the octreotide going at a very low dose.



The next morning Madison's fluid output had so dramatically decreased that her medical team decided to hold off on surgery. Sam sent out a text to our church explaining that we were cautiously optimistic that a miracle was taking place. I say cautiously, because even the doctors did not know if the octreotide had begun to work before having to be decreased, or if the duct was beginning to heal itself. From early in the morning to almost noon, her fluid output was in the single digits. 


(View from the observation deck at the hospital ... Sam and I went here to breathe and pray while Madison was having her central IJ put in.)

I fell asleep in our window seat/bed, hopeful that our baby was on the mend. The surgeons had warned us that surgery was not a guarantee that the duct could be repaired- which is why they were trying every other method that could be used before taking her back to the OR. 

I woke up and saw the nurse - once again - draining the bulb that was attached to Madison's chest tube. During my nap, the fluids began to increase... I can't tell you how our hearts sank as the descent on the roller coaster began again. 


Two different times during our 16 day stay, I found myself at rock bottom. One of those times was when a veteran PICU nurse shared with me that in nineteen years of nursing she had never seen a baby with chylothorax put out so much fluid. The look on her face, the tone of her voice, and the fear that gripped my heart when she said those words ... I wish I could say my faith rose to the challenge, but in reality ? It was at an all time low. 

The second time was shortly after Madison's fluid increase escalated again. Sam went down to another floor in the hospital to get a coffee, and I was holding Madison's hand, trying to distract her from her hunger by singing to her. Her nurse looked down at Bunny's foot and realized she had kicked her bandage off the foot with an IV in it ...and then noticed the IV was coming out. She called another nurse in to help her and at this point Madison was screaming. I held both of her hands to keep her from moving while the nurses attempted to carefully take the IV out...Madison was crying so hard she was sweating, and it was difficult to hold her still. All of the sudden I looked down and saw that her chest tube had fallen out - I told the nurse, who promptly yelled OH MY GOD HER CHEST TUBE IS OUT.

At this point, so many medical personnel began filling our room, that I thought our baby was about to die. The nurse quickly put a piece of gauze on the hole and applied pressure - the cardiologist and assistant surgeon called for an immediate X-ray to make sure no air had entered her chest when the tube fell out. That five minutes felt like an eternity, and the assistant surgeon was so upset/nervous that he tried to enlarge the X-ray image on the machine with two fingers, like you would an image on an iPhone :) Someone reminded him that it didn't work that way (I can laugh now!) and found a way to zoom in on Madison's tiny chest cavity. Thank GOD there was no air (don't ask me how you see air on an X-ray ??) and thank that nurse for acting quickly and saving Madison's life! The doctors consulted with each other and decided that it would be better to leave the chest tube out at that point, and keep the hole closed with vaseline, tape, and gauze. She would have another chest X-ray the next morning to see if the fluid was now accumulating inside of her chest, now that there was no place for it to drain, and she would be closely monitored throughout the night for signs of fluid on her lungs.

Doesn't that sound comforting ? We will monitor your baby to make sure that all the fluid that was coming out of her is not now inside of her, causing a rapid onset of pneumonia. 

But her cardiologist assured me they were ready to rush her to surgery if at any point the fluid began to cause Madison distress.

So that was my second breakdown ... 

I told Sam I had to go find a place alone to pray, while he took a turn comforting Madison - I left our room and stumbled down the hall to the exit doors. 

And at that precise moment, I witnessed something I'm sure the PICU staff had seen too many times - but for me it was like a nail in a coffin.... 

A frantic mommy, hysterical and shaking from head to toe, ran out of her child's room, and almost collided with me as I opened the door to leave the PICU. She looked at me with tears streaming down her face and then started to stagger down the hallway. I ran up beside her and put my hands on her shoulders - I asked her if she needed me to pray for her, and she turned and fell on me, sobbing in obvious distress. 

Readers, I held this stranger in my arms, and she held on to me like she was drowning. I stood there in the hallway, my heart pounding, while this shaking, broken mama sobbed on my shoulders. If I had let go of her in that moment, she would have collapsed on the floor - I was literally holding her up while she gasped for breath. 

Can I tell you I have never felt fear like that in all my life?

I was leaving the PICU to get away from it all for a few minutes - the noises, the smells, the taste of fear in my mouth like metal - and here was death staring me in the eyes. 

I asked this mama her name, and she sobbed out "Vanessa" - her husband at that moment staggered passed us, leaned against the wall and slumped to the ground. His wife turned and knelt beside him ... I asked them how old their child was (is ? I didn't know what to ask) and the wife mumbled "two" ... I asked the child's name, but they both just started crying so hard that I couldn't ask any more questions. I told them I would be praying for them - I felt completely useless leaving them alone in the hallway, but I didn't know what else to do.

(I later learned that this couple had lost their child just before I saw them... and also heard that the past two weeks had been brutal in the PICU. The nurses and doctors had seen so many deaths during our stay, and one of the children had died during surgery the night before Madison had been scheduled to have hers.)

I started walking towards the elevator in search of the chapel, when I saw one of the residents who had been treating Madison. Her name was Nancy, and she had seen Madison upstairs, the first time she had left the PICU. She took one look at me - crying and shell shocked - and asked me if I needed help. I told her I needed a quiet place to pray, and she said she would walk me to a meditation room not far from where we were. As we walked I told her all my fears - that our baby was going to die, and that I knew nobody could guarantee me that she wouldn't. 

This sweet young resident - probably young enough to be my daughter - walked with her arm around me and told me that our baby was in the best place she could possibly be. She reassured me that our team of doctors was keeping a close eye on Madison, and that she was receiving the best possible care she could. She walked me to the meditation room (she wasn't sure where the chapel was and it really didn't matter to me anyway) and gave me a hug before she left.

Friends, I walked into that room, found a chair, and sank to my knees. I wish I could say that the prayers that followed were ones of faith and confidence, but the opposite is true. I was just like that mother I had left sobbing in the hallway behind me ... I was broken and filled with fear and crying out to God for things to be different. Every terrible thought in the universe seemed to be filling my mind, and at that point I didn't feel like my prayers could move a molehill, let alone a mountain. I remember telling God "if all this takes is a mustard seed of faith, then I'm in big trouble - because right now I don't even have half a mustard seed." I cried and prayed and cried some more. I prayed for Vanessa and her husband, for the doctors and nurses and all the staff in the PICU, I prayed for stength for Sam and for me and for our children back at home, and I prayed for our Bunny.


(Tyler, visiting his baby sister in the PICU)


Our son Josiah called while I was praying to see how we were doing. I told him where I was and how fear was so dominating my brain, that I felt helpless as a praying mommy. I told him how guilty I felt for not even having a mustard seed of faith right then for our baby. And he said something that I will never forget. 

He told me: you don't have to have enough faith right now for Madison to be okay, Mom. You just need to surrender. That's all God asks of you. You need to trust her into God's hands right now. 

Can I tell you that those were the exact words I needed to hear right then? 

Because sometimes really bad things do happen in this life. Sometimes babies do die - despite the desperate prayers of their parents. Sometimes doctors do everything they can, and modern medicine can only go so far. Sometimes life just hurts, in worse ways than we ever thought possible. 

But it wasn't my job to handle it all..  because it wasn't even in my ability at that moment to muster up a mustard seed of faith. I could not get there no matter how hard I tried.

But I could surrender. 

I could mentally, emotionally, and spiritually place Madison in the Father's arms and surrender her to Him. I could trust that no matter what, He loves my baby more than I do. And if that meant He was going to take her home to Heaven, then I would trust in His grace to help me through. I needed to stop the "what ifs" and "how could I possibly live if that happens" and just trust the One who created our baby girl.

I got off the phone with Josiah and opened my Bible app ... and I am really not into "Bible roulette" where you open your Bible and read whatever scripture pops out, and that's what God is telling you at that moment. But this was the verse for the day, and it completely ministered to me right where I was ...









...because GOD was the one who knit my baby together. That tissue paper thin web of thoracic ducts from where all that fluid was pouring out of my Bunny at record breaking volumes ... He designed it all. And I could trust that nothing was escaping His notice. Even when I felt that my daughter's life was at the mercy of the doctors and nurses, even when I knew that human error could mean life or death for my baby - I could SURRENDER to the One who held her in His hands. I didn't have to live in fear every moment, I could choose to trust in Him - no matter what the outcome.

I left that room with renewed faith... and maybe it had only grown from half a mustard seed to a whole one ... maybe it was still so tiny that not even the weakest Christian on the planet could be impressed ... but I felt something in me start to break. I felt that weight of fear and doubt and unbelief start to lift off my brain, and I knew we were going to be okay.

The next day, amazingly, Bunny's chest X-ray showed very little accumulation of fluid. The results looked so good in fact, that her team of doctors and staff (I counted fourteen of them each morning during their rounds) decided to hold off on surgery for another day to see if things improved on their own. 

We had already made plans for Mackenzie to bring the children up to Portland to spend the day with us... Josiah came as well to stay with Madison at the hospital while we visited OMSI, a science museum we have a membership to.

And here is where I have to say the highlight of our two week stay occurred. We had been trying - to no avail - to get our Bunny to smile ever since the day she went into heart surgery. Sam and I tried every trick we could - songs, games, toys that lit up, making crazy noises with our lips (usually her favorite) ...we would have brought in dancing elephants if we thought it would work. But nothing would bring a smile to our baby's face.


Until this moment ...



Kenzie stood at the head of Bunny's crib and told us all to smile for the camera- and look what happened :):):) Madison looked up at all of her siblings (minus those who had to work) standing around her crib and grinned the BIGGEST GRIN EVER just as Mackenzie snapped this photo.


Sam and I have been talking for days about how awesome and amazing it is that a six month old baby feels genuine love and happiness at the sight of her brothers and sisters. She kept smiling the rest of their visit too- and even when we returned to the hospital after a day at OMSI, her smiles kept coming.


Lily was in heaven eating her favorite food (besides Cheerios) at OMSI

Noah and Jackson


Daddy and Kenzie went in on a "space ranger" helmet for Hayden at OMSI because he reallllllly wanted it :)

The next morning, a new chest X-ray showed that the fluid had begun to accumulate in Madison's chest. Her cardiologist and surgeons determined that she was ready for surgery, and they kept an extremely close eye on her up until the afternoon, when surgery began.

Several hours later, our Bunny emerged - she remained intubated for almost 24 hours, and she was extremely agitated - but her thoracic duct was repaired.



A dozen microscopic sutures later (I know because I asked!) and she was as good as new.

Here is the team of medical personnel on the morning rounds, the day after her successful surgery ...


Dr. Chen Irving, the chief surgeon who performed the surgery and saved our baby's life. 

I took a picture of his shoes - I pointed out that there were more holes than shoes, and he shrugged and said "it's Portland" :):) :)



Dr. Ashook - the surgeon who performed Madison's heart repair and assisted in the thoracic ligation. One of the most intelligent people I have ever met - and one of the kindest as well.

Later that weekend, Madison was all smiles ....




...especially when the doctors gave her the all clear to drink Mom's milk again !!!


On Monday we were able to leave the PICU and be transferred to a regular room. ...




.... where Miss Madison started to return to her typically happy self ...









Wednesday morning we received the glorious news that we were being discharged ... we packed our bags and cleared out of there before anyone could change their minds !!!





We drove home to the Rice Ranch crying happy tears and rejoicing in all that God had brought us through. It was not something I hope to ever go through again, but I am so GRATEFUL for the saints of God who prayed us through every minute of our stay. I know that in our darkest moments, the thing that held us up was the prayers of so many across the world, and the grace of God.

I asked everyone on Instagram who was praying for Bunny to leave a comment saying where they were from... over 500 cities and states and countries are listed on this poster I made while we were in the hospital. xoxox







So here I am, wrapping this blogpost up, and I just realized I actually did wrote a novel.

If you've hung in here through the end of this post, you deserve a gold medal. Or a giant hug. Either way - thank you.. Thank you for loving our Bunny and loving us, and for praying us through one of the most difficult seasons of our lives. We are forever grateful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Bunny snuggles to attend to ...



:)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

BUNNY SMILES !!

Look who just had Mommy's milk for the first time in a week !!!


... surgery yesterday was a success and we are one giant step closer to going home !!!  I will blog soon about our craaaaazy two weeks in the hospital... Thank you SO much to all who prayed our Bunny through ! Xoxoxo 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Please pray

Madison is headed to the OR to repair her thoracic duct . No time for details but please pray . 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bunny update

Blogging from my phone at the hospital so this will be brief.
Madison's heart surgery went well, but she had some complications that I'm asking prayer for. 
I'm starting to type through tears here, combined with lack of good sleep and a headache from you know where ... so I hope this makes sense and doesn't appear to be complaining . I know so many families have gone through so much more than we have. 

First - here are a few happy pics of our Bunny from surgery day (Tuesday).


Just out of surgery - the nurses didn't even know we call her Bunny and look what they placed beside her :)




Madison's surgery involved repair of a PDA - her surgeon said it was huge, which makes us so thankful it was repaired sooner rather than later. This was not a hole that would have closed on its own. 

The incision she had was through her back and under her shoulder. While not as complicated as open heart surgery, the doctors have explained that the recovery is more painful because of the muscle that was cut and where it is: any time she breathes or moves, that incision is painful. Combined with this, she has a chest tube coming out from under her arm to drain off excess fluid. 


This fluid is supposed to be clear. Instead it is milky white, which means she has developed a complication called chylothorax. Basically her thoracic duct was damaged during surgery - not because of any error, but simply because this is how that tissue paper thin duct can react when it is exposed. The fats that go through this duct (chyle) are leaking out and that's what we are seeing in this bulb. This is called chylothorax. Sounds like a character in a Dr.Seuss book to me, but unfortunately it's not so innocent. 

Sometimes the thoracic duct can heal itself by placing babies on a low fat diet. Since Madison receives my breast milk in a bottle, the way to do this is by skimming my milk. This is a simple process that requires my milk to sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours while it separates into layers. We use a syringe to pull the low fat milk from the bottom of the bottle and then we mix it with a special low fat liquid formula that has any added nutrients she needs. 

The problem is a) Madison has been in a lot of pain despite four kinds of pain medicines and is having trouble wanting to eat . And b) the formula that is mixed into my milk tastes awful. A dietician got us some Starbucks vanilla (go figure!) to mix in to mask the flavor, and for a few bottles this helped. 

Yesterday, after a long day trying to get her pain under control, and trying unsuccessfully to get her to drink, she became dehydrated. So much to say but in a nutshell, it was an awful day. I can't tell you how much it broke my heart to see my baby pale and hurting and writhing in pain. 


Her little arm is mottled and bruised from the arterial line and blood draws...
lots of nurses and doctors have come in to look at it and make sure she isn't developing any clots. 


After an eternally long day .. lots more to say but I'm keeping it simple for time sake.. Madison had a feeding tube put in and started receiving my skimmed milk and the formula that way. She had iv fluids through the night as well, and this morning she is looking a little bit more like her after-surgery self. She's definitely still in pain and not her "normal" self, but a marked improvement from yesterday. THANK GOD.

I have to say that through all of this heartache we have felt the tangible presence of God and His grace - we feel people praying for us and we know that's what is holding us up. 

So here's where we are at today : the low fat diet does not appear to be reversing the thoracic duct damage at this point. Right now Madison has orders for sedation and a central line to be put in, and her doctors are putting her on NPO for seven days. This means she cannot have any oral feedings and will receive all of her nutrition through that central
line. This is not pleasant for babies we are told - even though she is receiving nutrition she will think she needs   
to eat. The reasoning for the NPO is so we can bypass that thoracic duct with her feeds and give it a chance to heal itself. If at the end of seven days she is still leaking milky fluid, she will need surgery to repair the duct. 

Obviously we hope this doesn't end up in another surgery. All of our children at home (two hours away) are really missing us, and we them. 

Your prayers are so greatly appreciated during this difficult time. Please pray for the thoracic duct to heal on its own so we can avoid surgery. Please pray as well for our Bunny to be out of pain and make it through a week of no oral feeds. Please pray for our children at home... we are all missing each other so much. Sam and I could use prayer as well.. I feel funny asking for it when Madison is the one hurting, but we really do need God's help. 

I will try to update here as I have time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your love and prayers for our girl .

Posting a happy picture of Madison and waving to ourselves in the future ...


Much love, Patti 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heart Surgery Day



Our Bunny is back in surgery right now ... your prayers are greatly appreciated :) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pray for Bunny



Can I ask you all a big favor ? Madison's heart surgery is scheduled for Wednesday of next week. Could you pray for everything to go smoothly and also for a quick recovery for our bunny? I truly believe in the power of prayer, and I know God holds our baby in His hands. We are so grateful for all of your prayers, love and support - I just can't say enough about how much it means to our family. Feel free to repost this pic and hashtag #prayforbunny on your blogs, Facebook, IG, or on any other social media sites if you like. The more prayer the better!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Patti 

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Valley of the Sun

Catching up on the month of June here, with a post about my niece's wedding in Arizona. 

The Rice girls all traveled to Flagstaff two weeks ago, making this our first out-of-state trip with no dudes involved. I took all four of my daughters with me, while Sam stayed back at the Rice Ranch with alllllll the boys. (More on how they fared later in this post, haha.)




I have a little confession to make here : for those of you who don't know me in real life, I have several very real phobias that I have dealt with from the time I was a child. When I say phobia I don't mean "that sort of freaks me out" phobia. I mean "panic sets in and I revert to a crying, non-rational, shaking from head to toe, mess of a woman" phobia. 

One of those phobias is having dental work done. But that is for another post.

The other phobia involves flying. But only in airplanes. I have wonderful dreams about soaring through the air on my own, and I am always as happy as can be while doing so.

So I'm pretty sure my fear of flying in an airplane has something to do with being trapped in a large metal object that makes loud noises, coupled with the fact that I have zero control over that metal object. When it's just me alone in the sky with my arms extended, hair flying behind me and no loud noises other than an occasional bird chirping, I'm good. At least in my dreams I'm good. 

But put me in a plane and all H-E-double -toothpicks breaks loose. It's not a pretty picture. 

always regret this metamorphosis after my meltdowns occur and I am safely on the ground. Meltdowns meaning - begging Sam to signal the flight attendant that she needs to come back here RIGHT THIS MINIUTE and explain to me why the plane is making that noise or so help me God I am going to run to the cockpit myself and alert the captain. 

You think I'm kidding ?

I wish it were so.

Once during an overseas flight Sam actually did capitulate to my begging - I think he felt 17 hours listening to me crying and gnashing my teeth was too much for any man to endure - and he got the pilot to come talk to me. A nice old pilot who looked and talked like a British grandfather came to the back of the plane and actually SAT DOWN next to me and gave me a hug. He then proceeded to give me a lesson on aerodynamics and turbulence and how our plane was, at that moment, basically flying itself. That's how modern these planes are. He patted my knee and told me all would be well, there was NOTHING to fear, and then returned to the cockpit. 

And I kid you not - five minutes later that plane DROPPED several thousand feet (at least it felt like it!) and everyone screamed and all of our dinner trays flipped over and the flight attendants all went running frantically to their seats while the fasten-your-seatbelt signs all lit up. A few minutes later things calmed down and a flight attendant came over to me and informed me "that NEVER happens" and we apparently flew over another plane and hit an air pocket. 

That's when I started screaming hysterically and demanding they let me off at the first available stop. 

Okay not really, that last sentence didn't happen, but I thought about it for sure. 

So yeah, flying is not my thing. 

Fortunately, several years ago I discovered there IS a cure for my flying phobia, and now I never leave home without it ...


... drugs.

I'm sorry if you non-flying-phobia people don't get this, or if you are gasping in disbelief that a pastor's wife who claims to looooove labor and delivery (so much that she feels "high" while giving birth au naturale) has to pop some (prescribed) pills to board an airplane, but there you have it. Praise the Lord for modern medicine, and pass the drugs.  

I'll spare you the drooling, speech slurred, stumbling through the airport pictures of me, but suffice it to say we made it to the valley of the sun without any frantic dashes to the cockpit. 

Oh, and Lily doesn't like loud noises on airplanes either, as you can tell by the photo above. My sister sent us home with headphones and a portable dvd player for her, and we were both as happy and as high as a kite on the flight home. 

Well, Lily was happy, I was just ... high. And snoring contentedly as far as I can remember.
 


Anyhoooooot...

My brother and his wife went to Arizona for our niece's wedding too. He's a very warm fuzzy guy, as demonstrated in the picture below. 


Okay, maybe just fuzzy.

This is a picture of Abigail and my mom at the rehearsal dinner ...


... I have no other pictures that are blog worthy, but let me just say the food was DELICIOUS. With a capital D. Nom nom. 

This is my darling niece, Grace ...


... not the one getting married, though. In case you wondered. My sister has five children, the youngest four whom she adopted, and her oldest daughter Brittany was the one getting married. 
 
Here is my little brother with my beautiful mom...


And this is Charlie, my sister's little boy ...




And this is a baby bunny who found her feet while we were on vacation !!! 


And here is the lovely bride-to-be ....



... that's my sister, Hope, pictured above. We always joke that she got the beauty in the family and I got the brains, but truthfully she got both. I did, however, get the phobias. So there's that. 

This was the wedding ...


Jeff is pictured above, and he married my niece. He is a riot, and he promised me they would come visit us in Oregon some day soon. 

Mackenzie is on the far right, the prettiest bridesmaid I've ever seen !


My niece Grace is the flower girl on the left, and her sister/my niece Jade is on the right ...



And Charlie was the ring bearer.


And this was my absolute FAVORITE moment of the wedding ... 


I think it's karma, because when Brittany was the flower girl in my brother's wedding (my son Jason was the ring bearer) she STOMPED down the aisle glaring at everyone, causing quite the scene. 

I actually don't believe in karma, but if there was such a thing ... it would have been that moment when little Charlie threw himself face down in the grass in protest of marching down the aisle in front of everyone . TOO STINKING FUNNY. 

Anyhoot, here's the kiss ..
 

Congratulations, Jeff and Brittany !

The weather was gorgeous, the setting was lovely, and I was so glad my girls and I could all be there for it. 

Miss Lily was thrilled to dress up and pose here with Kenzie's bouquet.... 



... and later played many rounds of the beanbag toss with my nieces at the reception. She also tore it up on the dance floor - probably 50 wedding guests caught those moments on their cameras, but my phone died before I could capture even one :(  


Here's my brother with his lovely wife Lori, who also happens to be one of my best friends in life ! 


And here are all of us girls ...


Josiah flew to Flagstaff for the wedding and flew home afterwards, but I look too fat in the picture we took with him, so I'm not posting it. So there. 



The day after the wedding we drove back down to Chandler to my sister and mom's house. I grew up in Arizona and do NOT miss the heat - but I do miss Arizona sunsets ...


Miss Lily and Miss Madison enjoyed sleeping in at the hotel ...


... we spent two more days visiting my sister and my mom ...








Sam made sure to send lots of pictures every day, reassuring me that all was well back home at The Rice Ranch...


... whew !

And before long it was time to head back home. 


Saying goodbye to my sister ...


Hope, if you are reading this, thank you for a wonderful vacation ... you may be taller and prettier, but you will always be my "little" sister, and I miss you like crazy. 

p.s. sorry that I'm mom's favorite, but it's true. 


Goodbye, Valley of the Sun !!