Ashley's Story

She will leave fingerprints all over your heart


Some of our Favorites from 2007

She's come a long way

With the older children out of town Dave and I have had lots of time to catch up. We have spent many hours talking about things from the silly and ridiculous to the serious. Many of our conversations have centered around our Ashley Kate and her journey. I lay awake last night remembering just where we were a year ago this week and then looking into that crib with my jammy clad baby all tucked in safe and sound. It truly is amazing to see her and all that she has survived.

I thought about going back and reading my journal entries from this week last year, but decided not too. Some things are just too haunting and although I know I would walk away with much gratitude to our Father it just doesn't seem like what I need to do right now. As Dave and I were visiting last week we began talking about the day after Christmas last year and the images were all to real. I have no trouble remembering the events of that day and the vision of Ashley Kate as she struggled to hang on. Dave shared his heart with me and opened up the struggle he had with what he saw and it broke my heart to listen to his words. Dave and the kids along with his parents and my mom had traveled to Omaha to spend the holiday with us. Dave and I had gone to our apartment with the children and his mom had stayed with Ashley Kate. I rarely ever allowed this to happen for fear of trouble with Ash but desperately wanted to tuck Blake and Al in that night. Around 4a.m Ashley Kate spiked a fever and by 6a.m. I was called and made aware. I left for the hospital immediately. She was sick. I knew by the sounds of her voice. Dave arrived moments after I did and as the morning ticked away Ashley Kate only became worse. Things began to go wrong quickly. In a matter of moments the hall outside of her room was full of physicians and nurses. Her bedside was occupied by the pediatric intensivist who was on call and although I was pushed out into the hall Dave held his place at the end of her bed. I watched the monitors from the doorway and I watched my husband from behind. His shoulders shook and his grip tightened on the bed frame. The doctors were hollering for this and that to be pushed, "Now, push it in NOW, I mean IMMEDIATELY!". Ashley Kate's blood pressure had gone from high enough to bring on a stroke to bottoming out so low we were in fear of losing blood supply to her fingers and toes. To that point I had never been so frightened of losing her(although this day would be trumped by one yet to take place in early January). She was quickly intubated and the doctor and nurses worked to stabilize her. This was the beginning of a long battle with sepsis that had its ups and downs. Close calls that would bring us to our knees countless times. I recount this event to share with you the statement that Dave shared with me a few days ago. It was this day we were talking about when he opened his heart and said these words, "I had prayed for Ash. I had prayed for her daily, but when I saw how close she was to leaving us I began to plead. I remembering pleading with God for the first time in my life. I was pleading for her life. I stood at the end of her bed and I pleaded with God with everything in me." I was speechless. What could I say? Was it the prayer of this heartbroken father that pricked the heart of our heavenly Father? I wonder? I had big tears falling from eyes as Dave recounted the day from his perspective and as I listened to his words. What a blessing it is for Ashley Kate to have this man for her daddy. He loves that little pickle so much.

Ash has a long way to go, but when I look at how far she has come I don't fear what lies ahead. We have countless hours of therapy and more milestones than I can keep up with to strive for, but what really matters to this mom is what I see when I look into those twinkling eyes. Her spirit is intact. Inside that broken body is our Ashley Kate and she is alive and happy and thriving. Although she doesn't speak, or eat, or move around the house, she lives. She is so very happy and she is so amazing. You can see her mind working as she figures out new things each and every day. She communicates without the use of words. Her little hands clap when she is happy. Her little eyes reach for me when I get close enough to pick her up. Her little forehead leans into mine waiting for me to say, "I love ya, love ya, love ya." Her little head shakes "No, no" with each and every question I ask her even if the answer is yes(you can see the ornery grin spread across her face when when she knows she is supposed to be shaking her head the other way). Her little fingers grab a hold of ours and she begins moving our hands to do what she would like us to do. Her little face lights up when we start to sing her favorite songs or read "Goodnight Moon".

I guess as I reflect on the past year and all that happened in her life all I can say is that she has come a long way. She has amazed many, shocked others, and stunned a few. More than anything she has blessed us. We are grateful she is with us. Humbled she is ours, and astounded at how the Father has used her. It was a good year. It was a year full of His presence in our lives through her presence in our home. As we say good bye to 2007 we whisper a simple prayer that contains two words, "Thank you."


My Favorite

Of all the pictures, of all the memories, of all the moments, this is the one I will never forget. All three of the children together Christmas morning 2007. It was beautiful and it brought me such joy. There was no package, no gift, no thing that could mean more to this mommy's heart. My Christmas wish was granted and my prayers were answered. God has been so very good to me.
Christmas was more magical than ever for me this year. I would find myself sitting back away from the group watching those that I love the most enjoy the company of one another. My eyes filled with tears more than once and I would fight back the urge to break down and cry. My heart was so full!

My sisters and I were up the entire night of Christmas Eve. We had so much fun as we prepared the house and the packages for our families. We laughed until we cried(literally). We talked and talked and talked. I love Christmas with my family. I couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect holiday. The later it got the funnier things became. The early it got the sillier we became. Around 6:00a.m. we found ourselves sitting around the table talking about Mary and Joseph and all they must have experienced that night. It was beautiful.

The festivities were set to begin at 8:30. My nephew Jake was the first up. He was so cheery. He always is. Next awake was my Blake. The smile on his face as he wiped the sleep from his eyes was priceless. For a while it was just the two of those guys and then the girls began to stir. All in their matching jammies they filtered into the living room hair a mess, eyes full of sleep, and smiles on their faces. Ashley Kate had no interest in waking that early. She was allowed to snore until the last person awoke and had found their spot in the living room.

Our morning began with the reading of the Christmas story by Uncle Gene. It wouldn't be Christmas without it. After the reading the stockings were passed out and the magic began. The eyes of the children lit up as they dug into their surprises. Stockings are a BIG part of our Christmas tradition. Ashley settled on one item in hers and allowed her daddy to empty the rest. She was so funny.

As the gifts were opened and the day continued our family enjoyed each others company. We laughed and played until late that night. My sisters and I were actually playing a round of sequence as the clock ticked the last few minutes of Christmas 2007 away. It was magical!

We were so blessed! Dave and I couldn't have been happier. Blake, Allie, and Ashley were together. That's all we had prayed for.

Dave, Ash , and I left for home on the 26th. We made the drive back to Texas so Dave could be in the office by Thursday. Blake and Al stayed in Oklahoma to extend their visit with their cousins. They will be home some time next week.

Ashley Kate looks really good. She is so happy! Her output has slowed and she has not required any type of replacement fluids in almost a week. She continues to have a cold. I imagine she will have it for a long while. Her little system doesn't really have the ability to kick like the rest of us do. We are busy setting up her new appointments, therapy schedule and routines. As I type she sits on her daddy's lap wrestling with him with all shes got. Her cheeks are rosy and her eyes are twinkling. She is a happy, happy girl and we are so happy she is here with us. We just love her so much.

I hope your holiday was blessed. I hope you were with those that you love the most and that you made memories to hold in your hearts for a life time. Life is good and we are more than blessed. Thank you for loving us this holiday season and for being a part of the family that prayed Ashley Kate home for Christmas. You are loved. Trish


Happy Holidays...

...from our home to yours.


Seeing is Believing

What an amazing holiday season it is turning out to be! My eyes and my heart still struggle with believing that we are here. Dave and I loaded up our three beautiful children and headed for Oklahoma to spend Christmas with our family for the first time in 3 years. Our drive together was so fun! My heart could barely hold the smile that was growing as I listened to Blake, Al, and Ash just hang out in the car together. Dave and I held hands as we drove and talked and talked and talked. Together again. It is truly the most amazing Christmas gift I have ever been given. I could ask for nothing more. My heart is so full.

Tonight my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "I have it." Is what I told her. "My baby is alive and we have come home for Christmas with the family. I want nothing else." She just smiled at me and nodded. I think they all understand. Dave and I have dreamed of this day for so long. My most treasured possession is my family. There is nothing in this world that can compare to sitting around the table and laughing with my sisters and my brother until our sides ache. There is nothing in this world that can compare with seeing the girls playing doll house together on the floor in my nieces bedroom or watching the boys jump around the house and wrestle. There is nothing in this world that can compare to bringing our sweet baby home to my family for Christmas this year. Seeing them each tiptoe into the room and talk to that little pickle and just stare at our miracle overwhelms my heart. Tucking Ashley Kate into bed and knowing that her life is a gift brings tears to my ears each and every night.

I sit here at my sister's home and the house is silent for awhile. The candle lights are glowing and the house smells so yummy. The carols are quietly playing and the tree is lit. Ashley Kate is resting on the bed and Hope is attacking her own shadow. The whole family has gone to the church to enjoy the children's Christmas play. Allison was even given a role as an angel. I wish I could have gone too, but were not quite ready to expose Ashley Kate to that many people. She still has a cold and the weather is very, very chilly tonight. Dave and I think it is just too soon to take her out especially since she isn't feeling that well. So, she and I are waiting for everyone to arrive home again.

I am wishing each of you a very Merry Christmas. I am praying that your holiday is a blessed one and I wish to thank you guys for blessing us this season. Your prayers for our family have brought us together and for that I will forever be grateful. Enjoy your evening. Trish



Like I've never felt.

She survived. Again. She is sleeping so peacefully in that crib tucked away in the corner of her big sister's room. I over heard Allison hushing Ash back to sleep tonight. " I love you baby girl. Your home now and your the best baby in the world." Peace. In my heart. Like I've never felt before.

Home. The most wonderful place in the world. I love our home. Its where my family is. My son plays ball here. My daughter paints and creates here. My baby is happy here. My husband, my best friend, walks through the door each night here. I belong here. Peace. All over me. Like I've never known before.

Christmas. Its here. In every corner of our home. In every space in my heart. The music quietly plays. The candle light flickers and puts shadows on the wall. The lights on the tree shine through the night. He came. He was born. He lived. He died. For me. Because He loves me. Jesus loves me. Peace. Like I've never experienced.

Prayer. I prayed. I cried. I pleaded. I begged. I surrendered knowing nothing I could say or do would change His plan. Grace. He showed it to me again. Mercy. He gives so freely. She is alive. She is home. She is happy. I prayed. Dave prayed. Blake and his friends prayed. Allie prayed each morning. Each of you prayed and prayed and prayed. He answered and His answer brought peace to our family's heart. Like we had hoped. Peace. We have it again.

We are home and it feels so good. The children are all sleeping in their beds and Dave and I sit together on the couch. I dreamed of having this again. Night after night not knowing if we would ever be here together again. We are a family of five and we are home.

Peace. I hope you know the peace I am describing. I pray your life, your heart, your family, and your home is full of His peace this holiday season. I love you guys. Goodnight. Trish


The girls are home

The girls made it in around 3 this morning and both are really tired. Trish came in, put Ash in bed next to me, and then went and kissed Blake and Allie on their heads. They each woke up, smiled ear to ear, told their mom they loved her, and then drifted off back to sleep. Trish came to bed with tears in her eyes. It seems so unreal to have them here with us. Today was amazing. Ashley Kate loves being at home and I had a hard time leaving her in order to go to the office. We have so much to share with you all but I will wait and let Trish tell it. She is still really dizzy and feels crummy so she will wait until tomorrow to get back on the blog. Thank You so much for your prayers. Our prayers have been answered and my girls are home for Christmas. We are so grateful.




Nebraska - Iowa - Missouri - Kansas - Oklahoma...Texas!

Today Ashley has been in Nebraska --- Iowa --- Missouri --- Kansas --- Oklahoma....and soon to be in Texas! We are so excited they are on their way home. Last time I checked they had just passed the half way home mark and made into Oklahoma. We are expecting them to arrive sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Allie is so excited she set her alarm clock for 2:00 am so she will be awake when they arrive. In reality I highly doubt that Allie will actually wake up and I just hope her alarm is not so loud it will wake me up. It makes me so happy to have seen the excitement on the kids faces and in their hearts as I tucked them in to bed tonight. We each spent time praying for a safe rest of the trip for Mom, Ash & grandma and then they drifted off to sleep with smiles on their faces.

Ash was able to get her central line removed today and they did it without sedation. I think it was pretty hard on Ash, but she is one tough pickle. She has been left a little battered and bruised but I think she will be OK. Trish said she is sitting up in that car seat looking out the window and kicking everything in reach of her little feet. She is enjoying her new found freedom.

At the end of August when Ash began throwing up one Sunday night we took her into the hospital and fully expected to be back home by noon on Monday. That was 3 1/2 months ago and today is the day she is coming home. I sincerely thank each and every one of you who has prayed for Ashley. Thank you for being diligent in your prayers for my baby girl.



I'll Believe it...

...when I see it. Thats what my sister said to me yesterday. We are all SO excited about the holiday, but we know from experience just how quickly things can change.

After speaking with the coordinator this morning it seems like we may have to spend another day in Omaha. She isn't sure if anyone can get her line pulled today either. The team is in rounds and she is hoping for a decision to be made at that time. The fellow believes that Ash will need to be sedated for this type of line removal and she isn't scheduled anywhere for that. We are hoping they can do it in the treatment room in the ICU, but the surgeon has to agree to that. If Ash were older they wouldn't consider sedating her, but since this line is very large and because of where it is placed they are anticipating her to bleed heavily once it is removed. For this reason they will need to apply heavy pressure and Ash will not tolerate that if she is awake. So... we are waiting and could be waiting for several hours. I wish we could go and have it done at home, but we must use wisdom and the safest thing for Ash is to have it done here with her surgeons near by.

When we get the word I let everyone know, but for now we are just praying for a safe, non complicated removal so we can be on our way. Your prayers are appreciated. Take care. Trish


We waited and waited and...

waited for nothing to happen today. No call came to us so by 3:00 I placed a call and left a message. When they got back to me they said her lab work was stable and that we could go. "What about her central line?"

"Oh, she has a line?" they said. I have to be honest and tell you that this statement made me laugh out loud.

"Um, Yeah, and they want it pulled before I leave if we don't need to use it for replacements any more."

"OK, I'll have to call you back."

Around 5:00 the call came and they said they couldn't find anyone to pull the line, but that it definitely had to come out before we left for home. They will call me in the morning and give me a tentative time to have it pulled out. So we are on hold, but have been given the approval to leave for home. If the wrong line hadn't been put in and if it wasn't too large for her then I would travel home and have our local doctor remove it, but since it has been a little controversial then I really do think it best to have it removed here. Because of all of this we will be spending another night in Omaha.

Although I am disappointed about losing today, I think it has worked out for the best. Ashley is feeling better today, but I am not doing as well. The world has been spinning around me for a couple of days now and my equilibrium and my balance are all off. I'm not sure what is going on in my head. Perhaps the stress has finally worn me down. I know I desperately need to be adjusted so getting home to where Dave can work on me consistently will help tremendously. Dave also decided to fly his mom out here to help me drive since I can't seem to walk a straight line today. She will arrive around 11:30 tonight. I think this is a good idea. I'm not sure I could make the drive home in circles. I would keep ending up right back where I started. So another night in Omaha was probably in His plan all along. It will be ok.

Perhaps sometime in the wee morning hours of Wednesday we will arrive in the driveway of our little yellow house. I can't believe we are actually moving home. When I think about all He brought her through this time and how dangerously close we came to disaster I am amazed. God holds our little pickle's life in His hands and no one can remove her from her Father's hand. I love knowing that. Things have turned out ok for us this time, but I know several other families who will remain in Omaha through the holidays as their battle continues. My heart hurts for all who walk this path because it is anything but easy. Our harder days have made us so aware of the joy to be found in everyday. Our harder days have made us stronger, and our harder days have made us love others deeper. I am grateful to have been given this day with Ashley Kate. Thank you for praying us home for the holidays. We are almost there. Take care guys. Trish


Too Sweet

I sure am hoping to take this little bundle home to her daddy for Christmas. She just looks SO good! Those rosy cheeks are too much. She is feeling better today. Still coughing pretty deep, but happy and rosy. We got all dressed up and went out to grab a camera. Her dad was having withdrawals.

I don't expect to hear from the team until late tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately we are not on the top of their priority list. If I haven't heard from them by 2 or 3 then I will call and get the word. I think they are going to want to remove her central line before we leave town and that may keep us here until they can find the time in their schedules to do it. If that is not the case and we are told all is well with her labs then I am loading the car tomorrow afternoon and taking off. I am going to get our laundry tonight, but I won't allow myself to begin packing just yet. It would be too discouraging to have to unpack those bags if we don't get to leave. So as badly as I would like to have our things waiting by the door I will not.

Allie wants to be the first to know if we are coming home tomorrow. I promised to call her as soon as she gets out of school. If I find out before then I just might place a call to the school and ask to speak with her. She is hoping with everything she has that Ash and I will be on our way tomorrow.

Well, I just wanted to share a picture of our sweet baby with you guys since it has been so long. Thank you so much for your prayers. We sure hope to share good news with you all tomorrow. Take care my friends. Trish



I used to be a little more relaxed, a little more laid back(Dave is surely choking on that sentence), before our sweet Ashley Kate was born. Now, not so much. The littlest changes in her condition make me crazy. Things like feeling her skin each time I check on her just to be sure there is no temp. Listening to her breathe as she sleeps. Counting her respirations. Taking her pulse. Just giving her the once over, checking all vitals each and every time I approach her crib. She's used to it. She usually sleeps right through my check ups. Every once in a while she will swing her arm at me or grunt and shake her head no in protest. Tonight I laid her down around 8:00. By 9:00 I was in checking on her. When I felt her head and neck the paranoia began. I thought she felt too warm. So, take her temperature is what you are thinking, right? Me too, except for the fact that I left her thermometer at the clinic on Thursday and no one has seen it since. So, I try to reason with myself. Its probably nothing. She's probably fine, but we have both had a tough day with our colds that won't go away. Paranoia. Its here. I need a blood culture. What? How many mom's out there automatically come to that conclusion based on the warmth of there baby's skin? Let me defend myself. She has a central line. She has been sick for a week with a nasty cold. We are literally 2 days away from moving back home. I NEED to know if something is brewing. So, I reluctantly call the coordinator. "Whats her temp?" Well, I don't know because I left.....yada, yada, yada. "OK, let me call the treatment center and see if you can borrow a thermometer." She calls back, "No way they said. You have to bring her down there and then if she has a temp they will call the resident and they will decide what to do." Paranoia, here we go. I am almost in tears because I know that if we have a temp and if a resident is called then we are being admitted tonight. So I wake up my sleeping baby who is ready to go "Bye, Bye" immediately because she has been locked up in this room for days. Its a party in our p.j.s she is thinking. Clapping and waving "bye, bye" to each and every door we pass in the hallways. She is cracking me up with her stuffy nose, rosy cheeks and sleepy eyes. Then we enter the treatment center and the smiles fade and the crying begins. The look of betrayal comes across that sweet face and her eyes are accusing me of awful things. You would have thought the thermometer was a giant needle by the reaction she gave to it being placed under her arm. Blood pressure? Off the charts from her screaming. Finally the thermometer beeps. 98.5. She is fine. Can you spell the word paranoid? I feel ridiculous as I listen to her as she struggles to go back to sleep. Hopefully she will forgive me some day for all of this nonsense I put her through. No need for blood cultures. At least not today. I'm still waiting on the coordinator to call me back so I can ask her forgiveness for interrupting her evening. I used to be so laid back, right Dave?

Two more days. I'm really struggling. We feel lousy and knowing we are so close to leaving, but still awaiting a final decisions is making me crazy. Neither one of us seem to be getting better. We can't breathe and our cough is nasty sounding. I hope we are getting over it, and I hope we are on our way home. I would like to think that my paranoia will cease once we get back home, but in reality it will probably only become worse. Hope you are all resting peacefully and breathing easily as you lay you heads down tonight. Goodnight and God bless. Trish


For the Joy

I sit in anticipation of what the next few days may bring. The thought of leaving, living in our home again, spending the holidays with Dave, Blake, and Al has me more excited than I have been in a very long time. Just thinking about restoring our relationships face to face brings me great joy. Knowing that I could be tucking those children into bed by Tuesday evening is almost more than my heart can hold. This may be the best Christmas our little family has ever had. This may be one of the sweetest of gifts God has ever handed to me.

I have thought a lot about Bethlehem. Why the long journey? Why the difficult road? Why no room for them in the inn? Why a stable of all places? For the joy is what I am finding. For the joy in the angels voices as they announced His birth to the shepherds. For the joy in Mary's eyes as she held Him for the first time. For the joy in the hearts of the wise men when they finally arrived to worship the child. For the joy of those who knew Him as He walked this earth. For the joy of those who were healed, and touched and changed by Him in those 33 years. For the joy of seeing us come to know Him. For the joy of knowing us. He created us to know us. He sent Him to redeem us. For the joy in heaven's halls each time one of us comes home. I think thats why.

I've thought a lot about Omaha. Why the long journey? Why the difficult road? Why this room in our "inn"? Why a transplant of all things? For the joy of loving Ashley Kate. For the joy of holding this precious little girl. For the joy of giving that longed for baby sister to Blake and Allie. For the joy of our reunion. For the joy of seeing His hand at work. For the joy of uniting so many hearts in prayer. For the joy of His healing in her life. For the joy of being touched and changed during this time. For the joy of knowing Him more because of her. I think thats why.

My relationship with my children bring me such joy. Spending time with them. Just talking to them. Giving gifts to them. Knowing them. How much more must the Father's heart fill with joy when we spend time with Him, talk with Him, give to Him and get to know Him?


Join with us... we wait and pray. For Monday.

Today's appointment went well. We made some changes in hopes of moving home next week. That's right, I said next week. Its possible, not probable but possible. What needs to happen?

Let me explain. We are switching Ashley Kate's replacement fluids from IV to enteral in hopes of pulling her line. If she can handle the switch without becoming dehydrated then we have a real shot at leaving. Monday mornings labs will play a huge role in deciding if we can leave. Next, we need her bowel to tolerate the extra fluid without increasing her stool output. Her stool output is still higher than it had been running this week, but it did go down a small amount from yesterday. The doctor then said, "You can start making a tentative plan to leave, but I want you to be prepared to be disappointed because as it stands she has a 50-50 chance at leaving. Just be prepared in case her cold takes a turn for the worse or some other little bump comes along causing a delay. I don't want you to be disappointed, but I want you to be prepared for it."

Hummm... how do I feel about that? Yeah, it was a little discouraging, BUT I want to think about the 50% chance that leans toward moving home (Something about living in the land of daisies and rainbows along with Dave just sounds appealing to me.) I think that is a much better attitude to take, and since it is the first glimpse I've gotten of actually leaving here then I am going to concentrate on that. So tonight I am asking you to please pray, to please ask anyone that you know to pray, to please ask anyone that you may not know to pray. I really believe that God is capable of taking us home. It really could happen. In time for Christmas. I was completely shocked by the response I was given today. Usually I am met with discouraging comments, set backs, and heads that shake no when I ask to go home. Today the doctor stepped in the door and said, "So I hear you want to move home. When would you like to do that?"

"As soon as you say "go", was my reply.

"Well lets sit down and see what needs to happen first."

Then we came up with this plan of switching her to enteral replacements and hoping her cold doesn't turn into something viral, or pneumonia, or something along those lines.

I had prayed all day for the Lord to prepare the heart of whichever doctor came in today. I asked Him to please let them be receptive and to soften their heart. He did just that. I was so grateful.

Now we wait and of course we pray. Home in just 4 days. I can't believe it. Please, please pray for Ash. We are so,so close.


Wisdom and Understanding

...better is it to gain wisdom rather than gold and to choose understanding over silver.
Proverbs 16:16

I may never have any of the above, but I can honestly say that I would choose wisdom and understanding over all the riches of the world. Of course the silver and gold would make this time in our lives a little easier, but to have wisdom as we make tough decisions for our sweet Ashley Kate and our family would bring peace to my heart. To have any amount of understanding at this time in her life would surely bring peace. To have the ability to explain His plan for Ash to Blake and Allie on the tough days and to help them understand would be a huge help. To be honest Dave and I are confused about the course of Ashley's life so how do we help our children understand when we don't understand ourselves. It's easy for us to say that we believe God has a plan for her life, but how do I convince a heartbroken nine year old or a protective twelve year old? We are adults and our faith trembles during the hard times. Surely their young hearts question.

Blake and Al approach Ash and her disabilities and struggles very differently. Blake is her protector as he should be. We don't discuss her therapy, her handicaps, her delays in front of him. It causes him to become very defensive. He does not want anyone to focus on what she can't do, but rather he reminds us all that she is loved exactly as she is. She is enough for him and my heart loves him for that. Allison Brooke cries and cries over the things that Ash doesn't do. Especially at night. When she sees other babies crawling or walking it makes her sad. When she hears her friends talk about their little brothers and sisters she gets sad. She doesn't understand why Ashley Kate can't do those things. "Just teach her mommy." I don't blame her for not getting it. Dave and I don't get it either. We work just as hard with Ash as other parents do with their special needs children, and we will keep working with her. Understanding? There is none.

All I know to do is cling to my belief that the Father has a plan. Even without wisdom and understanding, silver and gold, I know that God created Ashley Kate just as she is. He gave her life not once, but twice and that reassures me that He is working. Ash amazes me daily. I see His wonderful works each time I look at her. She reminds me of His goodness.

Allie is missing Ash tonight. She is sad that she can't hold her and that brought on a flood of questions and tears. I want to bring Ashley Kate home to her for Christmas. I want her to have the opportunity to hold her as much and as long as she would like. I think it would do her heart good. I hope tomorrows appointment brings us good news. Dave and I desperately want our family to be back together. We all need that. Tonight my sister reminded me, "He hears our prayers, Trish. Just keep praying. He is listening." I pray we are headed home soon.

One Lump or Two?

Definitely two! Ash and I can't seem to pull ourselves off the couch. We are just a couple of lumps. We haven't gotten dressed since Saturday. It is absolutely pathetic! As are we.

I am guessing her little head hurts as bad as mine because she is hitting it over and over again and pulling her own hair. If I didn't know better I would probably behave the same way, and to be completely honest I began hitting my head over and over again just last night as I tried to distract myself from the ache inside it. I am managing to get up just long enough to do what I have to like give meds, change diapers, and care for her ostomy. Other than that we lay around like lumps on the bed or the floor or the couch and half heartedly push toys around in the hours that we are awake. Its been a very long time since I felt this lousy.

We have no fever and for that I am more than thankful. Fever is an automatic hospital admit for Ash to rule out line infection. I really believe we just have a nasty cold that has caused us to run low on energy, cough, sneeze, and bang on our heads. Her ostomy output had been fabulous all week until the past 14 hours. She began dumping around 10:00 last night and it hasn't stopped. She has already put out more in the last 14 than she did in the previous 24. That is a little discouraging to me because I was so thrilled about carrying my low numbers into her appointment tomorrow. This is only causing me to feel more lousy as I wonder what in the world happened overnight.

Well, my little lump is fussing and I am going to try and pull my lumpy self up long enough to rock her for a minute or two. Neither one of us are resting enough and a mid morning nap sounds really good to me about now. Thanks for your prayers. Its days like today that I really wish we were home so Dave and our mom's could lend a hand. Being sick is just yucky!


I'll Be Home for Christmas...

...if only in my dreams.

Its almost 4:30a.m. and I lie awake with this nasty cold. I can't breathe and my eyes won't stop watering. My head is cloudy and my throat dry and scratchy from coughing. Ashley Kate sleeps next to me in her portable crib and for that I am thankful. She doesn't seem to be struggling as much as I am tonight. I prayed that she might rest through her coughs and fall so deeply asleep that she not be bothered by not feeling well. It seems as though this is what has happened. In my cloudy, sleep deprived head I keep hearing the words of this song.

Home for Christmas. It really does happen each night in my dreams. I see us there. The whole family. I have two older sisters and a younger brother(although you would never guess he was the baby of our family. His wisdom far exceeds that of his older sisters.) I have two amazing brother in laws and beautiful sister in law. Nieces and nephews? More than you could count. Parents? Both still with us although they have been divorced for more than 25 years. Home for Christmas? What does that mean to me? Let me share.

Home for Christmas usually takes place at my oldest sister's house. Aunt Kathy and "Umple" Gene's house is the most welcoming, most inviting place on earth. When you walk through the door you instantly know you are home and you are loved. Sometimes we move Christmas to Aunt " Toad's" and Uncle Deric's home. My sister Aunt "Toad" is the Grandma Mary of our family. My grandmother's name was Mary and she was the grandmother of story book legends. She could bake anything. Dinner at grandma's house was heaven. Her talent for loving her family was displayed across the table in the form Mickey Mouse Pancakes, Chicken fried steaks, Macaroni and Tomatoes, Home made yeast rolls, Coconut Pie and Banana Cake made from scratch. She never failed to have something special fixed for anyone who entered her kitchen and now that she has gone my sister Aunt "Toad" has taken on the role. We affectionately call her grandma Mary because she is the closest thing our children will ever have to knowing her. I remember sleeping underneath beautiful, heavy quilts stitched by my grandma and now my sweet babies sleep under beautiful quilts stitched by their Aunt "Toad". I tell you she is an amazing lady. On rare occasion the crew has traveled to Texas to spend the holiday in our home and on those occasions I have already confessed(scan last December's posts) to my obsession with matching packages under our tree. I have been known to re wrap all gifts that entered just so they would match in the photographs. I know its ridiculous and someday I may go to counseling over it, but I just love the "perfect" holiday photos that it results in.

Each year we prepare something. Something special. A gift for the one whom we have gathered to celebrate. One year my nephew Jerid memorized the entire Christmas story and told it to all the smaller children who had gathered around. Their eyes still full of sleep and their heads nodding as they struggled to stay awake in their matching jammies. Another year when the majority of the children were toddlers they performed a Christmas Concert on our fireplace hearth complete with screeching sounds of Silent Night and falling stockings on top of their heads as our little Allie struggled to stand still. The next year I wrote a Christmas play for them to perform and they practiced and practiced. Those little pajama clad bodies(boys complete with stocking caps that matched their pajama pants lovingly sewn by Aunt Toad) hollering, "BEHOLD, I bwriiing you good TIDLINGS!" was enough to melt the hardest of hearts that Christmas. The last year Christmas was held in our home we all wrote our "gifts" to Jesus on little pieces of paper and secretly stuffed them into His stocking that hung from the center position of our mantle. Listening to the little ones as they proudly announced their "secrets" to each other was hilarious, but I know it must have touched the Father's heart. We then gathered all over our living room and sang Christmas carols late into the night. Home for Christmas, I long for it.

That year I had tied little notes to each and every member of our family onto our tree on Christmas Eve as they all slept. I had forgotten about this little gesture until last weekend when I was climbing around our attic in the Christmas boxes. I stumbled upon on them smiled as I read the words I had written to each precious member of this group of people I get to call my family. It really was a magical Christmas.

Home for Christmas? What does it look like in my dreams? Late night wrapping sessions with the "girls" that will bring you to tears as we laugh like no others. What I wouldn't give to be there for another Christmas eve with my sisters Kathy and Toni and my sister in law Rachael. Some funny, funny things have taken place on those Christmas Eve nights. Sequence games that are played with as much passion as the World Series and end with a prize just as sweet. The right to stand and sing "We are the winners. You are the losers to those who are left to lick their wounds. You have never played sequence until you have REALLY played sequence with the likes of us. The mad scramble of the "boys" as they foolishly try and shop for us wives at the mall on Christmas Eve. You should see some of the things they present to us on Christmas morning! Silly boys! They never learn. Karaoke. Oh, the sounds that fill the room. My husband, my brother and my brother in laws passionately singing "You've lost that loving feeling" "YMCA" and a little number called "My ding a ling?" Something about swimming across turtle creek? Do you know that song? I have been known to laugh until I wet my pants. Watching my Dad dance the "slide" or the "twist" as we serenade him with songs from his past. Seeing his eyes light up as he remembers the dances of his youth. Pallets. Our babies tucked in across every inch of the floors and us mommies as we tiptoe through them stuffing their stockings with things that will make their eyes light up. Home for Christmas. It is a beautiful dream. One that I hope comes true for our family this year.

How I would love to meet the girl who has won the affection of my nephew and has been the answer to my sister's prayers. How I would love to hold and cuddle the little girl who stole my brother's heart this year. How I would love to watch the boys wrestle around the living room floor and the girls pile make up on each others little faces. How I would love to sit on the couch snuggled up next to my dad and remember how safe it felt to be there as a child. How I would love to watch "Nanny Claus" appear once again with her pack of toys for the children. Our kids LOVE the character my mom created for them many years ago. How I would love to feel the welcoming hug of my brother in law Gene as we walked through his front door or see the smile that spreads across the face of my sister who has prayed and prayed and prayed for the Christmas to come where her name sake Ashely Kathrine would be present. How I would love to see my siblings all gathered around with the families God so graciously gave to them and watch the eyes of their children light up. How I would love to listen to the Christmas story being read early Christmas morning and imagine the journey Mary and Joseph had been on. How I would to savor the sights of our family, the sounds of the chaos, and the smells from Aunt Toad's kitchen this year. How I would love to be home for Christmas.

Each time I listen to my Third Day Christmas CD I cry as they sing these lines:

I want to have Christmas. As it used to be. My brothers and sisters all gathered around. Singing Away in the Manger as we sit by the fire. I want to have Christmas like a child.

I'm crying now. Remembering the beauty that lies within the bonds of our family. They truly are a gift to me. Tonight I dream of being home for Christmas. Two weeks from today I pray that I really am. Kathy, Gene, Toni, Deric, Chuck, Rae, Dad, Candi, Mom, Dave, don't stop praying. I really, really, really want to be there this year. It would be the best gift. I agree with Blake, "Presents don't make me happy, mom. Those are only things. My family makes me happy. Please come home for Christmas." I'm trying, Blake. I really am.


Confessions of this ...

...transplant mom.

I carry a little secret with me every where I go. Its a nasty little secret, but pleasantly disguised. In my wildest dreams I never would have guessed that I would someday grow up to carry such a secret. Few people know about it, but those that do have just embraced it and accepted it just as I have. I can't believe I am about to disclose to the world what my secret is, but in order to share with you how blessed I was tonight it has become necessary.

I have a ... brace yourselves please and hang on for the explanation... a POOP BOOK!

Yes, I realize that may sound disgusting, a little puzzling, and perhaps even a little intriguing. Before you begin to make judgements about my sanity or my methods let me try and explain.

Since the day Ashley Kate was born our world has literally revolved around her poop. When you have a "short gut" child(the term used to describe a person who has had some or most of their bowel removed) poop is a big thing. Before transplant our little Ashley would go through 20-25 preemie sized huggies supremes a day. That's right, in a 24 hour period. Thank God for our diaper brigade! That is what Dave and I affectionately called the families in our church who choose to shower us with packages of huggies and wipes on our door step. Nothing Ashley was fed stayed inside her little body. It all ran right through her short gut into her colon and out into her huggies. No absorption. No weight gain. No growth. Ashley Kate weighed a whopping 12 or so lbs at 14 months. Thus explaining our need for a bowel transplant. The liver transplant was just a bi product of the destructive elements of her TPN and lipids and the pancreas was included just for good measure. Anyway, I am wandering off the path of my "POOP BOOK" and my blessing.

My "POOP BOOK" is a lovely little book. It is actually a journal. One given to me to record my thoughts and our every day occurrences while here in Omaha, but the journal took on a different life. I guess it does actually record my thoughts in some ways. Inside the beautiful pink paisley cover(I know you didn't expect it to be any other color did you?) you will find our good days and our bad. It is full of dates and numbers. Smiley faces and tear stains. Praises and blessings. I carry it with me every where we go. It is as essential an item in Ash's diaper bag as the diapers themselves. Without I would be lost. I wouldn't be able to tell you if it had been a good day or a bad, but lets move on to the blessing I was overcome by tonight.

As I sat down to tally our daily number I almost had to dance. Do a little poo poo jig you know. Over the last 24 hour period Ashley Kate only stooled out 470 ccs of poop. I had to add and re add that number to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I still can't believe it! Do you know how far she has come in the last 2 weeks? She has gone from 1500+ to a mere 470! That is poop worth dancing over! I HAD to draw not only a smiley face indicating a good poop day, but an actual thank you to the Father for such a small amount of poop. Can you believe that I thank Him for her little poops? I told you I would have never imagined my life going in this direction. I could be praying over world peace, the presidential elections, or lost souls, but instead He has placed poop on the top of my list. Its a crazy life I tell you.

Anyway, I began to look back through the pages of my "POOP BOOK" and my heart was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord. There were pages stained with tears. Pages with scribble after scribble as I tried to make the figure turn out better than it actually was by convincing myself that I must have miss calculated. Pages with big ugly circles around large numbers indicating the amount of fluids I needed to replace. Then tonight I realized that the last 5 pages had smiley faces on them. As I looked at them I realized that each day the smile on the face got a little bigger than the last. Then tonight's page couldn't contain the smile I wanted to share. The numbers began to trend down last week. 910,795,765,660,630,530, 470. How can I not be grateful? God is good. Her bowel is recovering. It is taking its time, but it is beginning to absorb and function again. She is receiving NO replacement fluids today. NONE! IF only she can keep this up then we can have that line removed and then we can be removed. Please, please, please God let her poop continue on this trend!

I find it funny realizing that He is so involved in such details. I never would have thought the Creator of the universe would care how much poop came out of one of my children. I don't know why? After all He is the one who created our bodies to rid themselves of waste and He did design the bowels that now reside inside of Ashley Kate.

So tonight I admit it. I carry this secret, and if you are ever close by when I am emptying her ostomy bag you just might here me say, "Would you mind handing me the "POOP BOOK" please?" Its been known to happen. Just ask my sisters. They looked at me like I was crazy last Wednesday as we passed through town on our way back to Omaha. Even they, my closet friends in the world, had not been made privy to my little secret until then.

Just another chapter in Ashley's story. One I am sure she will laugh about someday. God has been good to us and we are encouraged. Good night and God bless. Trish

Ash and I have been in our jammies all day as we battle this crazy cold. Where in the world did it come from?


2 sick girls

Tonight we have a sick little pickle and a sick mommy. I have been amazed at how long Trish has gone without getting sick. She is under more stress on a daily basis than anyone I know and yet somehow she has avoided getting sick. I think the stress and the frozen tundra of Nebraska ha finally caught up to her. She and Ash have decided to share this one. The good news for Ash is that this is just a regular cold that regular 2 year olds get and so far it has not seemed to cause any complications. I am certain that Trish is wearing a mask and washing her hands at least 50 times a day. Please be with me in prayer that this cold will not be a set back for Ash and that she will continue to poop less so she can make it home for Christmas. Please also pray for Trish as she is really feeling quite cruddy.




Stepping Lightly but Smiling BRIGHTLY!

After 12 weeks, 3 long months of illness, our sweet Ashley Kate has finally managed to bring her output under the "magic" goal. Now I realize that I must step lightly because things change so quickly with Ash, but I can't help but smile. She looks AMAZING! She is happy and playful, silly and ornery, beautiful and delicious!(I so badly want to show you how good she looks, but my camera is broken and the weather won't allow me to run to Target to get another one yet.) I am beginning to feel encouraged and it makes my heart happy. If Ash can continue on this trend then we might actually make it home.

Blake and Allie are so happy about her poop success this weekend. They know that all decisions for the future of our family center around the amount of poop that comes from Ashley Kate's stoma. I know it sounds funny and perhaps a little disgusting, but that is the reality of our life and each and every phone conversation we have begins with the question, "How much did she poop today." If you have never seen the photos of Ashley Kate's first few weeks back in Omaha then you may be confused about our constant postings and talk of stool output, stomas, and replacement fluids(the "sock" video shows what her stoma looks like). I am going to try and explain what we mean.

After her transplant Ashley Kate came out with a stoma and an ileostomy. There is an actual loop of her small intestine that comes out of the opening(the stoma) that was created on the right side of her abdomen. This is where her GI doctor enters her bowel in order to take biopsys. There are two openings in the loop. You can actually place your fingers inside of them if need be. She stools or poops out of the proximal(the top) opening. The distal opening(or the bottom opening) is the section of bowel that leads to her colon. At this time her colon is not functional because of the openings that allow all of the stool to come out of the proximal end. The colon is the large intestine and it is responsible for absorbing the water or fluid from her stool. Since it does not function yet(it will once her take down operation is performed which will be sometime in the far future because of her episode of rejection), her stool output is liquid and is emptied from the ostomy bag into a cup. Her diapers only contain urine. We measure and calculate the amount of stool that is caught and collected in the ostomy bag that encases the stoma daily. The number we end up with tells us a lot about the grafted organ. A high stool output indicates that something is not right. It could be a lack of absorption, a viral infection, or rejection. It is this figure, the amount of poop that she puts out, that decides when we return home. I never imagined our lives would one day be determined by the amount of poop our youngest child would make. This is why we find ourselves stepping lightly.

I share all of that so you might understand why we talk so much about ostomy output in this journal. Basically it all revolves around poop, and although I know it may not be proper conversation for most families it seems to always be our topic of the day. The kids are so used to it they don't even giggle anymore. They ask the question, "How much did she stool today?" without even breaking a smile. They are so used to ostomy care they could be trusted to change the appliance on their own by this point.

Today we are smiling brightly about the lower output, but still stepping lightly so we don't naively "slip" into believing all is well. Nevertheless we are encouraged and we are thankful. I realize this post was literally "full of it", but still I thought it important to let you know how prayers are being answered in this area for our sweet Ashley Kate. Have a great evening. Trish


I wonder if He missed Him?

Last night I lay awake just wondering. I miss the kids. I miss them more after spending those wonderful, normal, brief days with them last week than I did before I went. Funny, because I didn't think it was possible to miss them more than I already had. They have had a tough couple of nights. I knew they would. When I talk to them on the phone I can tell they miss us too.

After telling them good night I lay in the bed here in our room and prayed to go home. I want to really go home. I asked yesterday if we could go back this week and return for our appointment next Thursday. "No", was the reply I received. "I really want to be home for Christmas," I told our doctor. "Wouldn't we all like for that to happen?" he replied. I'm not sure if that was a positive or negative response? Anyway, I will keep asking. Thats my mission. Ask until they agree again. Ashley was SO funny at yesterdays appointment. She was smiling and clapping in her stroller as nurses, coordinators, and nutritionists filed into the room. All was good. She looked fabulous in her snowman outfit from gymboree(complete with almost the cutest shoes you have ever seen. I think her pink, cupcake shoes are a little cuter) and her big hair bow. Then he walked in. Right out of the OR with his green scrubs and surgical cap on. Our sweet Ashley took one look at him and lost it. She began to cry and hide her eyes. She shook her head, "No, no, no" over and over again. She pulled her hair and reached for me to save her. It was sad to see her reaction, but the rest of the staff got a laugh out of it. I tried to reassure Dr. B. that it wasn't personal and he just said she had every right to react that way. He didn't blame her one bit. As soon as he left she was happy again. He cancelled her biopsy today and said he would like to wait a few days and see if her output continued to trend down. Yesterdays went back up a little. They are still concerned about her level of immunosuppression. It remains too low for protection of her organs so we are adjusting her meds once again. If you are familiar with transplant then you understand how tricky it can be. Too little means rejection, too much means toxicity.

So as I laid in bed last night my heart was broken over the separation of our family. I wondered if the Father missed the Son that Christmas day when he left to be born for our salvation? Surely Heaven must have seemed so empty to have Him gone? I tried to imagine the understanding the Father must have for the pain in my heart. I prayed over and over again that he would intervene and bring us back together. He is the only One that can make it happen. I asked Him to please let Ash come home for good. No more scary, uncertain days. Please give us a long, normal stretch of life. I agree with Blake. Ash doesn't need to walk or talk or be perfect and normal. She just needs to come home. We love her enough to make up for the rest. If it is His will, then I believe He will make it happen. If it is not then I believe He will HAVE to strengthen our hearts because we hurt. He will HAVE to grant us more endurance and more special days together that will make the pain of the separation pale in comparison. My kids are amazing. All 3 of them have a strength that is unable to be explained, this is hard. Its the hardest thing I've ever done. I love these children with a love so strong that it is almost a tangible thing. I feel as though you can touch it. It is that real to me. There is nothing I would not do or endure for any of my children and it is because I feel that strongly for them that I know He is working behind the scenes in our family. He loves us more than I love Blake, Allison, and Ashley Kate. He must have a magnificent plan in mind! I hope that plan includes the most special of Christmas days for our children. I hope we are all together in that little yellow house we call home.

Well, my little one is stirring and it is time for morning meds. I would like to share that her output over the last 12 hours was the lowest it has been since we began her feedings again. That is a praise and I am praying it remains low for the next 12 as well. Wouldn't it be amazing if she turned around this week and they sent us home for good next Thursday? Thank you for praying for us during this busy season. More than anything I wish for you and your families to experience peace during the holiday. It is the most amazing feeling to know that He was born with a love for us already deep inside His heart. The Father loved us enough to miss His own son in order to know us. That brings my heart peace. Have a blessed day. I love you guys. Trish


More Than Wonderful

There are no words to describe how truly wonderful it was to have Ashley Kate back home with our family. From the moment we walked into the door(it was 8a.m. on Saturday morning) she started smiling. Ash knew she was home. It was her home full of the familiarity she knew. Just seeing the recognition on her face warmed my heart. Our time spent there with Dave, Blake and Allie was more than wonderful.

I love our little yellow house. I love the feeling it brings to my heart. I love knowing that inside its walls my children grow. I tiptoed into Blake's room and snuggled in next to him on his bed. His eyes didn't open as I kissed that handsome forehead, but a smile came across his face. I love that child! My heart was so full at that moment I could actually feel it. Next I began to look for my beautiful Allison Brooke. I eventually found her snuggled up under the blankets on my side of the bed sleeping with her head on my pillow. She often sleeps there when she is missing me. She was so beautiful! Instead of waking her I just stood there and stared. Her hair was all messy and she has never looked prettier to me. I kissed her on the forehead and immediately her long lashes began to flutter. A smile broke out across her sleepy face and she said, "Hi, mommy." I snuggled in next to her and smelled her yummy hair.

My time home was too brief, but I held on to every single minute of it. I enjoyed my children and all they had to share with me. I heard story after story about anything and everything. Allie and went I Christmas shopping. We bought package after packaged of lights for the house AND the yard. She tried her best to get an inflatable snow globe for our yard, but I just couldn't go there. Not in Texas. It just doesn't look right when the mums are still in bloom and the geraniums are looking better than when I left. We settled for a family of deer. Blake and I hit baseballs in his cage(I hadn't even had the opportunity to see it. This was his big birthday surprise.) He laughed and laughed at me as I would exclaim with every single hit, "That one WAS a home run!" Dave sat on the rooftop(pausing from his job of hanging the lights) and laughed along with Blake as he would say,"Yeah, right mom." I didn't care what those guys thought about my hitting. I knew I was good and I loved having the opportunity to enjoy my son's favorite past time with him. Later on Blake joined Dave on the roof top to help and they treated all us (along with our neighbors) with a holiday dance show that had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. I would have bought tickets to see it. We did things like decorate Christmas trees, enjoy lunch dates, play board games, cook dinner, attend basketball practice, wrap gifts, watch movies, hang out on the couch, play with Ashley Kate, giggle at our bundle of HOPE who honestly believes she was born to be a lion but somehow got stuck with her little 1lb body. We enjoyed the simplest of things. Warm chocolate chip cookies had never tasted better. Holding Dave's hand had never been more meaningful. Goodnight Moon being read to Ashley Kate by her big brother or her big sister had never sounded more interesting. Family life is a gift. The everyday, mundane is a gift.

I stand by our decision to push for this visit home. Ash needed it as much as the rest of us. It was the BEST thing we could have done. We are a family and we need each other. We need Ashley Kate to come home for good. She is happier there and everything that she knows and loves is inside our home. I will not cease to ask the Father for this. I don't know if He will allow it, but I am asking.

We arrived back in Omaha this morning around 5a.m. Our clinic appointment is scheduled for 1:00. We also have a biopsy scheduled tomorrow. By Saturday we should know if our sweet Ashley Kate has slipped back into rejection. Her stool output has started to improve the last 48 hours and is actually under 800ccs in 24 hours. Its not ideal, but it is better and I am encouraged. Other than her stooling issues she looks amazing! She is happy and beautiful and excited about the white stuff falling outside our windows. You wouldn't believe how cold it is outside for these Texas girls.

Thank You for continuing to check on Ash and for praying for her during my absence. I took advantage of all our time together and actually neglected her journal. Would you please remember the families of the victims here in Omaha from yesterday. I have shopped in that very store many times over the last year and I am so hurt for those who will not celebrate this holiday season but will now mourn. I can't understand the depth of their pain, but I can pray for them.

Have a wonderful day as you prepare for the season. I just love Christmas time and knowing that you are all in you homes with your families preparing for your own celebrations warms my heart. This life is more than wonderful. Wouldn't you agree? Your are loved. Trish


Being Normal

Being normal feels so great. We have had a terrific time together as a family these past few days. We didn't do anything overly exciting. We didn't go on vacation to great places, we didn't have any new exciting events take place, we just enjoyed being a normal family. It was so great to get together for meals. I loved watching Trish disappear into the kids bedroom at night because I know she was cherishing the time spent kissing their heads and praying with them as she tucked them in bed. It was wonderful to come home after work and find Trish and Ashley in the living room. I loved hearing about the game of monopoly Trish and the kids played today. I loved watching Ashley lay in her crib in her house and play with her remote. At one point we found she had settled in and was watching professional arm wrestling. I love watching Blake and Allie playing with their baby sister. I loved having the entire family together as we hung Christmas lights and decorated inside. Trish is so great at making this time of year extra special for the kids. Last night we crammed Trish, Myself, Blake and Allie all into our bed and we laughed together as we fought over the covers and jockeyed for a place in the bed away from the edge. Ash was not in the bed because we didn't want her to get run over, but she was in her portable crib right next just watching her crazy family. It is the normal things that have happened that just seemed to bless me these last few days. Nothing special, just being together, I am finding time much more special than I used to.

The girls are packing to drive back to Omaha tomorrow morning. Grandma has decided to go with them to help drive and that makes me feel much better about the trip. It was a short trip, but I am looking forward to a longer one in the near future. Ashley looked pretty good while they were home, but tonight when I came in from work I think she looked fabulous. She looks better than I have seen her since before she went into rejection. She had a twinkle back in her eyes and she was giving me hugs and giving me five. She was clapping and playing and I was very encouraged by what she was showing me. I hate that they are going back, but I will focus on the blessings of the time we had together and look forward to some more time soon. Please continue to help us pray Ashley home for Christmas. This will be her third and I would really love to see her spend it at home with her family.

Thank you so much to those who have helped us have such a wonderful weekend. Thank you Carmela for your generosity, thank you to a cheerful giver who cheerfulness is a blessing to each of us. Thank you to each of you who continue to come and be a part of Ashley's Story.