Friday, November 30, 2012

Time, A Move, and Abundant Blessings

I just realized, it's been 9 months since I last visited my blog. I hope to pick up from here. The Ashford home has been a busy home in the past 9 months. Since I last posted, we have moved back to Florida. I must say, this move came with a lot of stress, emotion, changes, and unexpected challenges. However, we could not be happier and more blessed with our decision. We are not settling in and my three precious kiddos are thriving. Amber is doing great in school. She settled in quickly and made many new friends within days. She is such a sweet, caring, funny, loving girl. She has also settled into church, joined the youth group, and the choir. In fact, she is performing in the Gainesville Christmas Festival the next two weekends. So she remains busy with church and school, as well as juggling her friends and time shopping, movies, and just hanging out. I could not be more proud of her and cannot believe in less than a month she will be 17! William is thriving at preschool. He wakes up in the mornings and asks "school, mommy, school?". He has begun to talk in sentences, says his ABC's, counts to 10, sings a million songs, and is learning to say complete prayers. He is such an active 2-year old who brings a smile to our faces daily! He makes us laugh and cry all at once. Gracie, well she is our Gracie girl! She is loving preschool as well. She has started walking, talking (Amber, baba, dada, momma, hey) and waves bye bye with a smile. She now has 4 teeth and eats anything in front of her. I am reminded daily of how precious she is and the journey we traveled with her. Her smiles, kisses, giggles, and sweet personality light up our home. And then there is me....after much deliberation, I did decide to return to work. It was a struggle in the beginning, but after seeing how well the kids were doing, and our easy schedule, we could not have made a better decision. I knew whether I returned to work or not, William was going to begin preschool. Little did I know how much he would truly love going. After several weeks, I adjusted, my children adjusted, and we are now one busy, busy family. Between my schedule and Fred's schedule, they are never at school much past 3:15. Which is awesome. Since being home, we have seen the kids become so close with their family. The smiles, laughs, and excitement on their faces is priceless, just as they time they get to spend with their cousins. William has learned everyone's house and every time we drive up he gets so excited and reminds us where we are. With all the blessings, we still have some hiccups ahead of us. Gracie will most likely have to have tubes in her ears. She is on a second round of antibiotics for her ear infection having "failed" her hearing screening. We will monitor her with this medicine, monitor fluid levels, and then reassess a time from for another hearing study. This sweet girl ocntinues to keep us on our toes. William will be having surgery in the weeks ahead to remove his tonsils. Because of his age, he will be admitted so we are waiting on the new specialist to call us to schedule. The last two years has brought our family so many challenges, triumphs, fears, and blessings. As the holiday season approaches, my heart is so full. My reflections are so deep, and my blessings are so abundant. The month of November brought daily reflections of things I am thankful for. The greatest of these is my Lord and Savior. The very one who provides me with my blessings. So today, the last day of November, I am thankful for my salvation, my friends, and above all my precious family. With Love, Jamie

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

She Caught a Break...We Gained a Gift

Just when we thought we were winding down with doctor appointments, we are faced with yet another challenge. Or should I say, another opportunity to allow God to work.

Selfishly....I beg for mercy! My precious family has been through so much. There are times I find myself shouting to God "we've stood the test and we have praised You"! Yet, I'm quickly reminded, he isn't finished with us yet.

Faithfully...I rejoice in the fact I do have a loving God who embraces His children with loving arms when they need it most. I remain faithful in prayer, and trust in Him to help me be strong and patient.

Prayerfully...I come yet again to my knees asking God to hold my sweet girl in his arms. I often feel like I keep "asking" lately, forgetting to give thanks. I am so very thankful and so very blessed!!

Gracie had her 2 month check up and continues to thrive. She gained 1.5 pounds and grew another 2.5 inches. Her pediatrician is happy with her growth and we both laughed as Gracie felt she had some things to tell us while Dr. Roberts examined her. She really is my girl...LOVES TO TALK! It really is funny to watch her because she uses her eyes so much when she talks. She really is beginning to show such a sweet personality.

For weeks now, Gracie has had a difficult time in her swing and the carseat. She can only tolerate both for a very short amount of time before she cries out. It's not a simple cry....and you mother's know, you know your baby's cries! It's a cry as if she's in pain. Many times, I have had to stop 2 or 3 times to take her out of her seat and comfort her while traveling from one side of town to the other. I guess it goes without saying, it was a long trip to Florida and back. I mentioned my concerns with the doctor and asked if she could check her back just to make sure her spine was lined up correctly and there weren't any problems with her back that could cause her pain. She did check her back and everything was fine. She then performed another examination and became concerned that her hips may be displaced. She explained to us this is common with breech babies. Although Gracie was not breeched at birth, she was breeched several times during the pregnancy and as late as 26 weeks. With this fact, as well as her examination, she felt it best to refer her for an ultrasound of her hip. She reassured me it could be nothing, but all indications were that this may be the case.

As we left, Fred and I began to talk about all our trials over the past 19 months. I said to him "can we or our children catch a break...I just want Gracie to catch a break". He quickly reminded me, she did catch a break...she's here, alive, happy, and healthy. Wow...did that humble me. He is right! We have our precious girl, and daily she brings so much joy to our home, our hearts, and our family.

As much as I am ready for God to say "my work is done in you...for child", I'm looking forward! I am once again accepting His plan and His desires for our Gracie and our family. Truth be told, God is NEVER really done with us. So long as we are on this Earth we are a work in progress. He uses us to tell His story and share His Love.

Last April, God saw fit to create a life in me. He saw Fred and I worthy of taking this life and using her for Him. Lately, my Grace seems to have left me, and I have found myself in a rut! I'm frustrated, tired, and discouraged. However, last night was a true night of reflection for me. I found myself asking for forgiveness. I turned, yet again, to Him to seek strength and patience.

So, she did catch a break! Each smile, each coo, and each night I rock her in my arms are my daily reminders He is faithful if we trust Him. So I will continue to trust Him. I will continue to remain faithful in prayer. I will continue to turn to him when I feel hopeless, lost, and frustrated. I will continue to praise Him. Most of all, I will continue to remain humbled and gracious, He chose us to be Gracie's mommy and daddy. What an honor, what a pleasure, and what a Gift!

With Love,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doctors...Check-ups....& Praise!

It's been a long time since my last post. Needless to say, things have been very busy in the Ashford home. Brace yourself.....this is a long one!

I honestly believe I have been at some doctor's appointment every week since the beginning of January. We have caught up with dentist appointments, eye appointments, check-up appointments, and many newborn appointments and specialists for Gracie. I will welcome March with open arms as we only have two appointments that entire month (as of now)!

We are continuing to remain busy with all three kids. Amber is constantly on the go with chorus at school, youth group at church, and either having friends here, or she's visiting friends elsewhere. William, well, he's our precious William...always making us laugh and into something. He is learning so many new words (more, Elmo, love you, apple juice...just to name a few). He adores his sisters, and give Gracie super wet kisses several times a day. Gracie is now sleeping 5 to 6 hours most nights which is a welcomed blessing. For many weeks, she and William were on completely different schedules at bedtime and naptime. Hence the gap in posts...I've been exhausted. She continues to bless our home with her precious smiles, cooing, and giggles. She loves to talk (mmmmm wonder where she gets that)! We could not be more proud of our three kids.

We did meet with the ENT for Gracie. He's a wonderful doctor and we trust his professional knowledge regarding Gracie's hearing. We did get a final determination there is no fluid. So we are continuing to test for hearing loss. We were also able to determine that at certain decibles in both ears she shows a hearing loss. However, these are strictly "sound waves" and we cannot really determine much more until she can communicate with us. Since she failed in the hospital, it was reported to the State of Georgia as a hearing loss, therefore, there are guidelines for her ENT. He is required to administer his own ABR as a follow up to the hospital's administration. (Thank goodness for good insurance....these appointments add up!) We will take Gracie to Scottish Rite on March 22nd to have the ABR done. As of now, they plan on doing it while she's napping to avoid sedation. We are hoping this remains the case. This will determine in a little more depth her degree of loss. We do know she can hear, we are just looking at a loss at certain decibles.

William was diagnosed with Ptosis as a preemie. This is a condition where one of his eye muscles was weaker than the other. This has been monitored since he came home from the hospital. At his 18 month check up with the eye doctor he was released! His eye looks great, and they no longer feel they need to continue to monitor him. However, he does need to see a pediatric orthopedic doctor next week who will check his legs and feet. His feet are slightly turning in and his legs are also turned a little at his knees. The pediatrician thinks it could be positional from the womb and could correct in time. However, she wanted him to see a specialist in case there needed to be some interventions to help them correct. It doessn't slow him down, that's for sure.

Amber is doing GREAT! She had her routine eye appointment and will need a slightly stronger perscription, but other than that, she's in great health and BUSY BUSY BUSY! She continues to be such a light in my eyes and often I lean on her for so much support. She's simply so sweet, and always willing to help with the little ones. She is getting ready for D-Now next weekend with the youth group, then the big New York trip the end of May with youth choir. I have to say...I'm jealous. New York!!!!!! They will be singing at a national monument in D.C., then heading to New York!

As you can see, the kids keep me busy. I'm gearing up this week and next to do some serious Spring cleaning which is long overdue. I'm feeling good these days and have recovered well. I will most likely require a minor surgery in the weeks ahead due to some minor complications from bedrest and the c-section. It's nothing major, and quite common, but still surgery and I'm tired of doctors and hospitals. I finally started teaching the 2's Sunday School class at church and it has truly been blessing my heart. I spent today decorating my room. There are times I do miss the "boring" days where I could get countless hours of sleep. However, chasing my kiddos, teaching Sunday School, and working on the final coursework for my doctorate keeps me busy in the most rewarding ways. As tired as I have been, and continue to be, I could not feel more complete and more blessed.

It would be unfair to say all of this, without saying there have been challenges in the past few weeks. The psychological, emotional, and physical impacts of 4 1/2 months of bedrest have proved to have lingering challenges. I often become very anxious about Fred going to work each day and I don't like to be alone. My doctors have reassured me this is normal and with time my hormones and emotions will return to normal. I have spent these weeks trying to regain my sense of independence which I lost for 4 months and am finally feeling "normal" again.

So, as I wrap up this post, I hope you and yours are well. For months, my post centered around a weak, humble, child of God crying in need for prayer, strength, and courage to face each day. I saw God reveal in me strength I never thought I had, courage to face each day with praise despite the storm, and a new revelation of the power of prayer. Now, I return to an ordinary woman striving to walk an extraordinary life with Christ. Each day brings the reminder of God's Love and a chance to get it right all over again. I'm not perfect, I make mistakes, and some days, I loose all my Grace, however my God forgives me, loves me, and continues to carry me through each day as only He sees fit. Not sure about you, but I find that to be very comforting.

With Love,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Full Heart.......A Busy Life

Wow! I'm a bit behind with my blog. I hope it's not too long.

We are continuing to adjust to having a newborn in the house. I must say, it's a sweet pleasure adding Elizabeth Grace "Gracie" to our home. Each day is a reminder of how precious life is.

Prior to Christmas we took William to meet Santa Claus. Well...let's just say he wasn't so "excited" about this guy in the red suit with all the white hair on his face.

We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with our family. It was different being here and not in Florida, but being here reminded us of the precious life we had just brought into this world. We kept with our normal traditions, opening one gift Christmas Eve, pajama picture by the tree, breakfast pizza and sausage balls Christmas morning, Santa made his debut, and a wonderful Christmas dinner with a homemade cheesecake courtesy of my daddy! I truly missed being at my mom and dad's house and celebrating with my brother and his family, but we counted our many blessings and enjoyed celebrating the very Savior that saved our girl.

Amber spent a week in Arkansas with mom and dad visiting our family there. She had a wonderful time and I'm sure getting away was fun for her. She is such a great big sister (I've said it a time and time again) but she truly is. She just loves on Gracie and William all the time. William runs to her every afternoon when she walks in from school and reaches for kisses. It melts my heart to see her interact with them with such gentleness and love.

William is adjusting as well and much better than I ever imagined. He loves his little sister and constantly kisses her and runs to her cradle every time he hears her whimper or cry. He loves her so much he wants to "share" his toys and does this by throwing them over the cradle. So we are continuing to work on this. He loves to sit and hold her with mommy's help and is learning to pat her and rub her with "gentle hands". He loves to "help" so he holds the diaper while we change Gracie, he loves to wipe her mouth when she spits up (and when she doesn't, ha) and really loves to take her socks on and off. It's a lot of fun watching him interact with her.

Fred learned this week he was given an internship to teach at Gwinnett Online Campus. This has potential to lead to a placement position which is an awesome opportunity for him. I'm so excited for him and this opportunity. He has worked so hard and deserves this so much.

Gracie is growing like crazy. She eats ALL the time and is developing quite a personality. She has started smiling and cooed for the first time tonight. She's still learning to sleep. As tired as I am, and how difficult the nights are with her up and down all night, I am reminded of our journey. Our prayers could have been answered so differently, but God gave us the "yes" we prayed for and for that, I will take the sleepless nights. She's a precious little girl and I find myself at times just kissing all over her sweet cheeks.

We have an appointment tomorrow to meet with an audiologist with Scottish Rite for Gracie. While in the hospital, they conducted a hearing test which is standard. However, Gracie did not pass in her right ear. They did three tests, one which included electrodes. Her left ear appears okay, but she appears to have some degree of hearing loss in her right ear. We remain optimistic that this may have just been fluid build up, but hope to find out more tomorrow. We know who holds our hand, and her hand, so we continue to lean on Him and Him alone. I'll update on her diagnosis once we know more.

I continue to be so thankful to all our friends and family who have and continue to pray for our family. The journey was hard, we fought hard, and in the end, we were rewarded with a precious little girl. I have found myself at times missing her in my tummy but am so very thankful she's here and in our arms. As I reflect on all we have learned, I beleive the greatest of these lessons is to trust Him even in the greatest of trials. When traveling through life's trials, we often feel like God isn't near and sometimes not listening to our cries. There were times in our journey I struggled with these feelings. However, I learned He is there, I just had to be patient and listen. My prayer is that through our journey, my words, and our girl, that you may find this same comfort if you are in the midst of a trial.

I'm going to sign off for now and try to update some pictures to Facebook. It's amazing how busy life has become but I WOULDN'T change it for anything.