"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters
compared to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday - free candy and no cooking!!!

However, I have been inspired by Jen to attempt to actually use my oven for something other than storage. This morning, the girls and I made cinnamon muffins. Of course, they were from a mix, but you gotta start somewhere. They were extra crunchy because little Catherine cracked the eggs herself.

Then, I searched for my crockpot, dusted if off ad took all the art supplies out of it, and we actually made pot roast. I sure hope it turns out to be edible.

We never got to make our "Happy Meals" costumes (big shocker), so Isabella decided to be an elephant. I got her a gray sweatshirt and told her to be creative, but while I was in Texas, she was lured by the store bought costumes at Kroger and became a phantom.

Anastasia said she was too old to dress up an animal (this made me so sad, she is only 8!) and decided to be a witch. She obsessed a bit about a tiny rip in her costume. She actually suggested that I sew it, which made me laugh hysterically. You would think she would know me better than that by now! Duct tape always does the trick!

We're not in Kansas anymore Toto!

Victoria was really mad about the wig. She has finally found her voice and she isn't afraid to use it! I remember how she used to just lay there and not show any emotion.

Catherine was a re-cycled dragon. Her costume was found in the back of the closet.

I love how Isabella is a scary phantom, but she's wearing her blue Crocs.

Francesca got a lot of stares as we were trick-or-treating. I know she looks freaky, but I wish someone had just smiled at her.

This candy will be mine, all mine!!!

My kids are so much more generous than I ever was as a child. My mom remembers how I used to hoard my Halloween candy for a whole year.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crash and Burn

Now that all the adrenaline is out of my system, I am suddenly totally exhausted. Even thinking of doing laundry is overwhelming to me. Francesca swelling is not going down; it's actually increasing. The doctor said this could be a sign of infection. She also had a fever of 101.6 tonight. If this continues, we will be back in the hospital. On the positive side, I think this whole ordeal has really helped Francesca to bond to me. Since we have been home, she has only wanted me to hold her.

I am going to post some surgery pictures, so if you are easily grossed out, you might not want to look, though I really think the surgery is amazing. Also, remember, Francesca looks bad, but she really isn't in too much pain because there aren't a lot of nerves in the head.

Francesca had four procedures done, plus the ear tubes. The first was an anterior cranial vault, which opened up her skull and gave her room to grow. The doctor said that the covering of her brain, the dura, was actually pushing up out of her soft spots, so thank God she had the surgery in time.

She also had a nose graft, and two surgeries on her eyes.

A few minutes before her six hour surgery.

Here she is right after surgery in the ICU. She lost two cups of blood, that's why she is so pale. She didn't need a blood transfusion. They actually did something called a cell savor, which means they recycled her own blood back into her.

The zig-zag incision is made show it won't show up so much once she heals. She has lots of sutures inside her head too. They splice her own skull bones to fix her head.

She never needed anything more than Tylenol. The doctor told me that kids who have had this surgery when they are older say that it doesn't hurt, but it just feels very tight from the swelling.

It was really tough on her not being able to see. The mark on her forehead is not common for the surgery. The doctor said that once he sewed her up, he felt like things were too tight, so he took down the skin again and fixed it.


Victoria had her surgery the day after Francesca for her cleft palate. Here is what it looks like before surgery, like a big valley in the roof of her mouth. It took the doctors a long time to get this picture! Victoria was not a happy camper!

She was really in a lot of pain. She had to have strong pain meds every 15 minutes. They had to give her an IV in her neck, gross!! Blood was shooting out of her mouth and nose. It was tough to see.

They let me ride in her bed with her when they took us to her room.

They wouldn't let the girls be in the same room, which was kind of stressful, since I was running back and forth between both crying kids. Finally, I just brought Francesca into Victoria's room.

Victoria had to eat in order to be released and she would not, so we had to stay an extra day. Luckily, Miracle Flights was able to find us another flight home. Of course, she started eating five minutes after the doctor left! Her favorite food is cheap processed cheese slices. Only the best for my babies!

This was a bad shirt to put on Francesca. Her head was so swollen that I couldn't get it off her!

Victoria loves her books.

Francesca and I are going back to Texas on December 27th to get her fingers and toes separated. She will have four casts! Dr. Fearon, who did these surgeries, can separate her digits in only two surgeries, while the doctors here in Atlanta said it would take seven surgeries!! Dr. Fearon even does the stitches with the grain of their fingerprints so they don't have as much scarring.

Here they are at 2:30 in the morning. Who needs sleep anyway! I love how Francesca is patting Victoria.

I'm so happy to be home!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Twilight Zone meets The Bermuda Triangle

I made it home safely!!!! The trip was nightmarish, but it's over!!! My favorite part was when Victoria flung my only chocolate chip cookie (and you all know how I love my baked goods), frisbee style, far into the next aisle, never to be seen again. More about the terrible workers at Frontier airline later, but first I have to tell you about the best part of the trip.

Let's go back in time, shall we, to where time stood still, back to Friday, after all the pre-op appointments.

Since I couldn't get a rental car (no credit card), I didn't think I was going to be able to visit Jen and her family in Houston. I was sad, sad, sad. But amazing Jen decided that she would make the 5 hour drive, with 7 of her kids, and pick me up on Friday evening. She is the greatest!

So, just imagine, a night time road trip with 11 kids, all under the age of 8, and seven of them in diapers. I still can't believe we survived.

My hotel room was not big enough to hold everyone for very long.

Our plan was to quickly get back on the road, but, not surprisingly, this was not to be.

First, we realized that we didn't have enough car seats for everyone. I started to panic, but Jen was cool as a cucumber, and she just zipped into Babies-R-Us and picked one up. No sweat.

Then, we needed to get gas. When we finally found a teeny tiny gas station. I don't know much about driving a 12 passenger van, but I do know that we needed some space to maneuver. Then, some guy was parked in the middle of the road, blocking Jen's enormous van. We were trapped. She couldn't back up, she couldn't go forward and the natives were getting restless for french fries. I was seriously considering doing a tap dance on the jerk's car.

Finally we made it to a McDonald's. But our cheers quickly turned to cries. The McDonald's was closed!!! What!!!! I think it should be against the law for a Mcdonald's to have their sign lit up when it is actually closed!!!

By now, two hours had pasted and we had driven about 5 miles. We finally got to Jen's house at one in the morning.

Of course the kids let sleep late, NOT!!!

Jen is the most amazing cook. Check out this pumpkin chocolate chip bread!!! I could have eaten the whole pan! She also made home-made french onion soup. I am kind of depressed to be back in the land of frozen meals and Fruit Loops.

Jen's kids are becoming like my kids, clothless!!!

Here's Jen packing to come with me back to Dallas to watch Victoria so I can be with Francesca before her surgery. What a great friend!!!!

Good old Sam Houston on the highway.

Cool Houston car.

The hotel only allowed a maximum of 6 people per room and we had 13 people, so we had to sneak the 11 kids in the back door. I told everyone to pretend they were spies. We were very surreptitious, kind of!

Tomorrow, the surgery pictures!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Still here!

We were supposed to go home today, but thanks to little miss Victoria's refusal to eat, we are still here!

When I left for our trip, I ambitiously thought I would be able to do alot of updates. Little did I know that I would be lucky to find the time to eat (Power bars kept me from starving), let alone use the computer.

Here we are at the Atlanta airport. The girls look so sad!!!

Victoria immediately figured out how to unbuckle her seat belt on the plane and eat it at the same time, over and over and over.

The girls were much better on this trip than on the flight home from the Ukraine.

Victoria even slept for a little while!

In Denver, during our fun 3 hour layover, Francesca had a major poop blow-out and, of course, I forgot to bring any extra pants and I lost her shoes too! Never a dull moment.

My favorite part of the flight.

But the real excitement started when I got to Dallas and discovered that I couldn't rent a car.
We were stranded at the airport!

Luckily, a sweet woman named Christie, who lived somewhat close to Dallas, came to our rescue and took us to the hotel. She has a daughter from Ukraine who also has Arthrogyroposis too!! Thank you Christie and Erika!

I love hotels! There is so much to do!

Victoria was in love with the ice bucket.

The next morning, Francesca had her MRI, so since she couldn't eat, no one ate, except for this delicious pen.

Sharing is caring!

We had appointments from 6:00 am until 5:00 pm. It was a long, long day. Together, with quite a few Snickers bars, we made it through!

Francesca had over 60 measurements of her face, taken by an anthropologist, which helps determine when she needs her next surgery. She had quite a freak-out fest over it, though it didn't hurt at all.

Both girls failed hearing test number 3, so it was tubes for everyone! Yipee!

I decided to walk back to the hotel from the hospital. Though it was a tad bit longer than I had anticipated, it was a very pretty day.

I have lots more to write, but the babies are waking up from their very short nap! More soon!!!Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes!!!