My Reflections on Ampuversary #3.

I am a creature of memories. My life has been shaped by my experiences. I am who I am because of what I’ve gone through. The same is true for you I’m sure.

I learned something about memories a while back. We tend to remember events in our lives if they are extremely emotional. That is, we remember things if they make us really, really happy, or really, really sad. Or any other strong emotion for that matter. Events that are just kinda bland and meaningless tend to go unremembered. But if we attach real emotion to events there’s a good chance they will be remembered and marked in our memory clearly.

My wedding day and the birthdays of my children are among my greatest memories so far.The other big dates for me are the day we took Ian to the emergency room and the day he had his legs amputated. {Ian asked me why I don’t have such a strong connection to the date he had his fingers amputated… I’m not sure why. The legs are a bigger deal to me for some reason.}

The anniversary of Ian’s leg amputations is July 11. Tomorrow. On the first ampuversary (anniversary) we were at the beach. It was something unreal and totally unexpected. I’d thought we wouldn’t be able to go to the beach anymore. Who knew Ian could wear them in the sand and water? I’d assumed prosthetic legs couldn’t get wet… Thankfully, I was wrong about that. We spent a few days at our friends’ condo enjoying life’s simple pleasures. We played in the sand building castles and searching for shells. We ate some of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and popsicles on the patio for lunch. At night we took our flashlights and went hunting for crabs. Those are the things I remember. Probably not the most memorable activities to most people, but to me, that year after such a challenging time, there was nothing better. I remember going to sleep at night so full of gratefulness I couldn’t keep it in. Just the thought brings tears to my eyes. That was the first ampuversary.

Last year for the second ampuversary we timed a road trip to California for that exact week. We were at the San Diego Zoo on the 11th. We visited many places and made more of the memories I love. We visited the gorgeous cold beaches of La Jolla, rode the carousel and ate delicious seafood at the windy Seaport Village, and took a city tour which included a ride on a vehicle that traveled on the road and water. The kids got a kick out of that one. Sweet Luke fell asleep while we were driving and woke up when we were on the water looking at seals. He was a bit confused but overjoyed. The trip ended with three days at Disneyland, truly the happiest place on earth.

Tomorrow is the third ampuversary. I really wanted to plan something special and fun for us to do, but I failed. We will be home. We will be together, no less grateful than we were two years ago. It will just be less of a memory for me, and I’m struggling with that. I’d always wanted to be doing something memorable on July 11 every year. Since moving in to our new house two weeks ago, life has been a bit crazy. The kids have been staying up until crazy times at night, which means they are sleeping in until crazy times of the morning. We are still getting comfortable and settling in. Maybe we can do something extra special next year.

As I think about where we were three years ago, I can’t help but get a bit sad. Ian and I were headed to bed at this time, knowing our alarm would be waking us up at four o’clock in the morning. I would drive Ian across town to the surgery center where he would voluntarily have his legs amputated below the knee at six. That would be the last time he would walk on his own feet. I would sit in the waiting room praying for everything to turn out okay, anxiously waiting to see him again. Everything would go smoothly as planned. I would cry only when he slept in his room afterward, not wanting him to see me cry. The reality of his newly shortened legs in too-short black casts was too much to bear. The next two days would be the hardest, most pain filled days he’d have since everything began… and to this day.

Here we are now three years later and this is what I know.

1. We are not where we were. We are in a better place, a much easier place. Life is now normal for us again even though that looks a little different. God has continued to love us and guide us each step of the way.

2. God is still who He is. Father. Creator. Loving. Patient. Kind. Faithful. Peaceful. Powerful. All-knowing. Provider. Teacher. {Insert any other descriptor here.} God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’m so glad. Even when all else in this country or the world is shaky or messed up, I know He will not change. I find great comfort in that.

3. He is not done with us. Yikes! I wish I knew what that means, but I don’t. If we are still here, there must be more for us to do… More for us to pour into each other and the people around us… More for us to learn… More for us to accomplish through him and for him.

Lord, I’m willing.

 

Are there any memories that shape who you are? Are they positive or negative? I’d love you to share them!

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Daddy is Better Than Mommy.

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It’s Father’s Day weekend. (Ian calls it ‘Father’s Month’ actually.) I’ve been thinking about all the things I love about him and how he loves our kids, and I’ve come up with a conclusion. Our kids like him better than me, and I’m okay with that. I’m willing to bet this is case in most other families, too. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on any of these points.

1. Daddy is more fun.

My kids love me, I’m sure of it. But, there is just something about their Daddy I can’t compete with. When Emma was a baby, I used to rub lotion on her skin after a bath, massaging gently as I went. When Ian did it, he didn’t rub gently, no. He held the bottle of lotion a couple of feet above her and squirted it while making silly tooting sounds. Even as a little baby, she knew. She knew Daddy was more fun. She giggled so much more for him. Her smiles when he came home at the end of the day confirmed it, too.

Sports are fun by definition. Ian has always enjoyed sports. Because of Daddy’s love for sports, Jack has always loved to play with balls, too. Soccer, basketball, football, bouncy balls… if it is round, he loves it. When Ian got sick one of his biggest worries was whether he’d be able to play sports with the kids. “How am I going to throw a football around? Will I be able to play with the kids in the backyard?” We didn’t know how it would work, but we knew he’d figure it out.  Like everything else, he’s been able to play sports with the kids. Last year Ian even coached Jack’s soccer team. (Amazing, I know.)

Ian wrestles with them. He tickles them so much I’m afraid they’ll wet their pants sometimes. Still, all three of them beg to be tickled. They love it. They love him. Daddy is more fun than Mommy.

2. Daddy knows everything.

Recently I overheard a conversation between Ian and Jack. It moved me to tears.

“Daddy, I’m so glad you’re my daddy. You know all about everything.” This is true. Ian knows a LOT of useless information (and some useful stuff, too) If he doesn’t know something, he is quick to Google it. When the kids ask me something and I don’t know the answer (i.e. is the sky really blue? what does it mean to be double jointed? what is the biggest animal in the ocean?) I always defer to Ian. “Oh, I don’t know, guys. That’s a good question for Daddy. Let’s ask him when he gets home.”

You see, I want them to look up to their daddy. I want them to love and admire him, to think he is the best thing since sliced bread. And they do. He is the coolest, best dad in their eyes.

His knowing everything leads me to my next point.

 

3. Daddy is a great teacher.

He is patient, kind, and loving when he teaches the kids about anything. Ian wants the kids to know anything and everything, and he loves being the one to teach them things. He is constantly explaining the rules of some sport to Jack (currently it’s basketball.) He is showing Emma how to program code by making it fun… we will probably have several computer geeks in the family soon! Luke loves asking Daddy about different kinds of airplanes and their engines. When he sees an airplane in the sky he asks, “Daddy where is that plane going?” Ian opens an app on his phone and says, “That one is on its way to Mexico City.” Or Dallas. Or Frankfurt. Daddy always knows and wants to teach them what he knows.

4. Daddy is unstoppable.

When I asked Emma what she likes about Daddy, she said, “I like that even though he doesn’t have fingers or feet he still does everything he wants.” Ian is unstoppable. What an example and lesson for our kids to carry with them forever! They are learning that even though things are hard sometimes, they are not impossible. If Daddy can accomplish what he has, they, too, can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

Ian’s been through a tough experience in life, and yet, for every obstacle that’s been set before him, he has attacked it and succeeded. So you are a computer programmer with no fingers? No problem for Ian. You want to run again after you’ve lost your legs? Of course you do, Ian. You want to drive your daughter to school all by yourself? The sky’s the limit.

Ian is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa later this year. He is truly unstoppable!

5. Daddy is their hero.

All the cheesy t-shirts that say ‘Daddy is My Superhero are right.’ Daddy is, without a doubt, my kids’ hero. The boys want to be just like their Daddy. I remember a day back when Ian wore the stiff braces on his wrists before he had his fingers amputated… he had left the braces on the coach and sweet three-year-old Jack walked over and put them on himself. “I’m Daddy,” he said with a big smile across his face. Tears filled my eyes. I realized Jack didn’t care that Daddy was going to be different. He loved him because he was HIS Daddy.

Emma thinks Daddy is her hero because he is the ultimate authority in everything. He knows everything, decides everything, can fix everything, the list could go on and on. She loves her daddy-daughter dates with Ian, and I know she is learning how a man should treat her because she is seeing how her daddy treats her. The bar is set high.

I think Daddy is the superhero in every family, don’t you? Kids gravitate to Daddy when he comes home from work. Kids beg for Daddy to read them just one more book at bedtime. Or five more minutes of wrestling in the living room. Or to fix their beloved broken toy. Anything, really. Anything to spend more time with Daddy.

I don’t think this is just at our house. It is probably the case in every home with a daddy. This Father’s Day tell your Daddy how special he is. Make sure he knows you love him for all he does for your family and your kids. Hopefully we can do a good job in our house, too.

WE LOVE YOU, IAN! YOU ARE THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD! WE ARE BLESSED TO HAVE YOU!

trip of a lifetime.

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May is my month. I get to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday…and school is out for summer. Great month indeed.

Last month Ian and I were fortunate enough to go on a trip, a seven night cruise on Royal Caribbean. I turned thirty-five (ugh!) so we thought it would be a great reason to travel. The best part: three other couples who are some of our best friends were going, too! We just had to make it work. This situation might never work out so perfectly again.

When you have three children you don’t just decide to go on a trip. You can’t. What will you do with your kids? Who will feed/bathe/love said kids while you are away? For seven nights (eight since you leave a day earlier to be close to your port)???

Childcare arrangements had to be made. And with us living in an apartment, we had to figure out where the kids would stay. Although we have no backyard and the space is small we decided the apartment was the best place for them. This is where their “stuff” is so they’d be most comfortable here. Luckily, Ian and I have great parents who came to the rescue. My mom and his dad took turns taking care of them. They both made the four hour road trip up to hang out with their grandkids. We are so fortunate to have them!

Once we figured out our kids were taken care of, we started planning. Well, my dear friend, Amy, started planning actually. She told us all about excursions, we all agreed, and then she booked them for us. She told us how much they cost, who we would pay, and anything else we needed to know. Amy would make an amazing travel agent! I love her!

When the day finally came, I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Everything had worked out for us to go. Ian’s dad came in, the kids were excited to see us leave, and I’d magically packed enough clothing for a month for us both. I’d always kinda doubted we would go. I’d think, it would be nice to go, but I’m not sure it will actually happen.

Well, it did. I sat in our car in disbelief Saturday afternoon, both excited to be getting away with Ian and already missing my kids. It was going to be a looooooooong eight days.

The week was amazing! We crammed so many activities, and yet I also felt like all I did was sleep and eat. Have I mentioned how amazing it was???

We ate a LOT.

We slept a LOT.

We had uninterrupted time with friends.

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We went to the beach.

We went snorkeling!!! (We put flippers on Ian’s prosthetics!!! Post coming about that!)

 

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We went zip lining!! (I loved watching Ian do this in his fake legs! Post coming about that!)

We played blackjack, slot machines, and bingo. Yep, bingo.

I read an entire book. (The Girl on the Train)

We hung out on our balcony and watched the sky and the ocean. My favorite was looking out at night.

 

The part I was anxious about was leaving the kids and not being able to communicate with them. But that wasn’t the case. We were able to buy an internet package on our ship and we were able to text and sometimes Facetime with them. It was great to be away and still know what they were up to. The kids really enjoyed knowing what we were up to each day, too.

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Overall, it was an amazing trip. The trip of a lifetime. I really don’t know if a trip like this can ever happen again. I’m so grateful we were able to go. Thanks, Mom and Mike for taking care of my babies while we were away!

 

 

 

easter.

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Today is Easter. Jesus was crucified on Friday, and three days later, the tomb his body was put in was found empty! He was not dead. He was alive!

I am reminded of so much today. Only three short years ago, Ian still had his black stiff fingers and toes. I remember lying in bed the night before Easter; my earnest prayers, begging God to turn those black fingers and feet pink again. I believed wholeheartedly that I’d wake up Easter morning to see his hands and feet healed completely.

Although God did not answer my prayers the way I wanted him to, He did answer them when he healed Ian through his amputations three months later. His ways are not my ways. Thankfully.

As we sat in church this morning, I was filled with overwhelming thanksgiving. After the communion bread and juice came by, I looked down at Ian’s and my hands. I now grab two of each, and hold them for both of us until its time. Isn’t this a beautiful photo? He is holding our bread, and I am holding our juice. Together. I’m so grateful.

There is so much to be thankful for! We have families, friends, homes, clothes, and good food. We have Jesus! He made the ultimate sacrifice for us, dying for our sins so that we can be made right with God. Happy Easter, friends!

No Regrets.

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It’s amazing how the meaningless things fade away when you’re sitting in a hospital room with your dying husband. The trash he didn’t take out last week? Who cares? The parenting argument you had? Doesn’t matter. The money is in the bank? It can’t help you now.

All that matters is right now.

This. Moment. In. Time.

You are staring death in the face.

***

A few years ago, life threw my husband, Ian, and I a curve ball. Out of the blue, he was critically ill, and within hours of arriving at the hospital, approaching death. It was incredible. I had to pinch myself to be sure it wasn’t a nightmare.

Instead, it was like a sad movie. The kind of movie where you can’t help but cry for the poor wife sobbing over her dying husband’s body as the doctors tell her her there’s nothing more they can do. Say your goodbyes, they tell her. Get your preparations in order. Your heart breaks for her.

That poor wife, you think. How is she going to tell her three kids their father died? They’re all under the age of five! How is she going to make a living when he was the only provider in their family? God help her.

Then the movie’s over and you forget all about her. You’re glad it wasn’t you. Your life goes on.

Well, that wife was me. My husband was the one dying. My kids would be the ones told their father died. I was the one who had never worked worked a day since having our children. I was the poor wife from the sad movie.

Let me take you back to that hospital room for a minute. My husband is asleep with a breathing tube down his throat. The machines plugged into him are beeping constantly signaling his vital signs are not right.

Thoughts flood my mind. I wish I’d been nicer to him. Why didn’t I show him how much I love him? I should have been more interested in him. We should have spent more time together. I should have placed him above my kids. I wish he’d worked less. 

As I sat in that room next to him, I envisioned what my life would look like after his death. All I could think about were the regrets I had. I’d wasted so much of our time together worrying about petty things, and not enjoying the moments. I’d criticized him for his mistakes. It was so hard for him to please me. You didn’t help me with that, I’d say. Why do you have to work tonight? I wish you were more like so-and-so’s husband.  Ouch. Poor Ian. I was heartless.

I knew he strived for my acceptance. He probably felt like he couldn’t do anything right in my eyes.  My expectations of him were high. And yet, when he reached the mark, I raised it over and over again. He felt like he couldn’t ever reach it. I’m so sorry, Ian. You were so good. I should have told you that. Please forgive me. 

***

A wonderful unexpected turn of events happened. God answered the desperate prayers of a wife for her husband and graciously performed a miracle in Ian’s sick body! The doctors that prepared me for the worst were more stunned than I was with Ian’s miraculous recovery. (But, that’s another story for another day, friends.)

I’m so grateful my husband is still with me and our kids. Our scare a few years ago has been the best thing that’s happened to us. We don’t take one another for granted, and we definitely know where our priorities lie. I learned a valuable lesson the hard way. No more regrets for me.

We tend to be hard on our husbands.. Are our expectations realistic? Can they ever make us happy? Give your husband some slack. He’s probably doing the best he can.

And don’t wait until it’s too late to care. Tell him you love him and how much he means to you. Tell him you appreciate what he does for you and your family. Show him with your kindness and gestures as often as you can. Every day is a gift. If something unforeseen happens like it did to us, you’ll never have to worry about the what-ifs or should-haves.

No regrets.

 

(this post first appeared at lifeaswelearnit.com)

23. TBT. Vail.

Ian and I went to Vail in February 2013. We had just celebrated our tenth anniversary the month before. Ian had recently started walking on his prosthetic legs. Although they were only temporary prosthetics, he decided to try skiing on them. We signed him up for an adapted ski class and he rocked it! I’ll never forget Ian telling me how awesome it felt to ski down the bunny hill. He said he almost cried thinking about the fact that he was skiing again, on fake legs. It was an amazing experience.

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The photo on the right was taken in Vail the afternoon we arrived back in 2013. We were excited to finally be somewhere just the two of us after so much had happened in the previous year.

TODAY, I’m meeting Ian in Vail for much needed rest. I’m grateful Ian had to be there for the work week and I get to meet him there for the next two days. And, of course, this would not be possible without my incredible friends that are taking care of my babies back home. THANK YOU!

love,

denisse

 

This is part of a series called 31 Days of Living the Good Life.

8. What happened to Ian anyway? Pt 2

 

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Read part 1 of this post here.

Ian had a long road ahead of him after waking up. He stayed in the hospital an additional two weeks. Then, he went to a rehab inpatient hospital for four weeks. The kids and I tried to visit as much as possible. Ian was a warrior. He never once complained. He worked hard to get strong and come home to us.

We prayed for the black fingers and feet. We prayed for God to make them pink again. We had others praying, too. After the month of rehab, Ian came home, with the black fingers and feet. They were just there. Around our kids at home. In public when we took Emma to her soccer games. When we went to church on Sundays. In my bed when I rolled over in the middle of the night. There was no way to get rid of them. We believed God would heal them. We believed God COULD heal them.

After the four weeks in rehab Ian did six weeks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Five days a week, for two hours each day, he laid in a glass chamber hoping to restore the dead tissue and black skin we saw each day. For months, we lived with the black fingers and feet. Our loving hand surgeon told us one day, “Watch out. Those black fingers can just snap off, you know.” Needless to say, we were careful. Part of my job was to help Ian take care of the blacks. Each day, twice a day, the blacks had to be cleaned. And rewrapped in gauze. AND wrapped in plastic trash bags for his shower. We were so so so careful.

God taught us patience. He taught us we weren’t in control. He taught us to trust Him. He would take care of us.. no matter what.

Six months after he first got sick, Ian had his fingers and feet amputated. Not because God couldn’t heal them, but because it wasn’t God’s will to heal them. It was Ian who said to me one day, “Maybe God will heal me through the amputations.” And God did heal him.

The months that followed were full of pain medication, shrinkers, a wheelchair, transfer boards, potty seats, and lots of healing. For all five of us. Our new normal was finally beginning. After living in limbo not knowing what would happen, God graciously guided us to his new normal for us. Ian learned to do things without fingers. He learned to walk with prosthetic legs. He drove again. He traveled alone again, a test he had set for himself, and succeeded.

Today, two and a half years later, life is TOTALLY BACK TO NORMAL. We don’t even notice Ian’s disability. It is so normal to us. There is NOTHING Ian can’t do. Nothing. Everything he could do before he got sick, he can still do. (Maybe he does it a little differently, but so what?) We’ve been to the beach, skiing, and he’s even been up to the attic to get stuff down for me. He is even running on special legs called blades. The man is truly amazing. I’m in awe of him.

 

 

 

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So, that’s it. In a nutshell, that is how our lives went from Ian having two legs and ten fingers to having two fake legs and no fingers. And life is still good. One night, early on, I said to Ian, “You know, it’s never gonna be like before.”

He replied, “I know. It’s gonna be BETTER than before.” And it is. 🙂

God is good, friends! I believe God wants me to encourage others in light of our experiences. I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to write. AND if you have a question, ask away! We love to answer questions and are not shy at all about what we’ve been through. 🙂 Oh, and subscribe to my blog on the right hand column so I can share more with you!

love, denisse

 

This is part of a series called 31 Days of Living the Good Life.