Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Johnson Strings in Branson || Recap

Tonight I'm dropping in on the blog to tell ya'll about an amazing Christmas show in Branson, Missouri, The Johnson Strings

I  rarely do "review" posts, and when I do, they are collaborations. But this post is different. This is one of those rare times when I love and recommend something so highly that I just want to share about it with everyone I can, and writing up a little blog post seems to be the best way to do that. 

If you want to go see the show of a lifetime, you need to go to Branson and watch The Johnson Strings perform.
These six siblings are ON FIRE!! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time! Watching their show was a musical and theatrical DREAM. 
Their talent is superb. (you’ve heard of the piano guys? These siblings are like the piano guys on steroids) Their creativity knows no limits. Each number moved seamlessly into the next, with incredible lighting, dazzling costumes, special effects, awesome choreography, and did I mention talent? A few of us in my family were classically trained and I can tell genuine talent in that department when I see it. If ever I've seen incredible talent, it is in these siblings! 
You might not be a classical music lover, but I can almost promise you that if you like professional and entertaining music, of any genre, then you will love their show! My husband is NOT a classical fan, in the slightest, but he loved The Johnson Strings! They take their classical training and then perform their own original arrangements of everything from Disney classics to Christmas staples! I love how they incorporate so many genres of music into one show. 
If my boys were giving you a recommendation for their show, they would say that the popcorn is top notch. =) 
In all seriousness, while the popcorn was a big hit for the second half, all three of our babies were enthralled by the performance. The boys were absolutely riveted and loved it so much! Maddy was all intrigued until the second half when she was enjoying everything so much she fell asleep. =) Even the couple sitting behind us remarked how much Maddy was into it!
As for John and I, we loved the performance and talked about it the whole way back! (hence this post!)
Laura (center) is the eldest of the Johnson siblings and pours herself into their show!!  She is a woman of many talents, playing ten instruments in the show! An interesting fact is that she is also a photographer and was actually John and my wedding photographer! My sis in law Sarah (left) met her at John and my wedding and they have stayed in touch since. After John and I planned to attend their show last week, we found out that Sarah was going to be in Branson that weekend attending the same show! What fun. So we three gals (four with Madeline =)) had to get a picture together. 
This incredible show only has six performances left this Christmas season! The Johnson Strings are performing shows Sundays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays until December 9th. Head to this link to reserve a ticket now! 

If you aren't able to get to Branson for their show this year, second best would be bringing the show to you! (I promise that you won't regret seeing it LIVE in the theatre, but sometimes I know that isn't possible...) so if you can't get in to Branson, visit their online store and pick up a copy of their Branson Show Live DVD, filmed last year. This DVD would make an awesome Christmas gift, and getting it for your family would ensure a fun December movie night! I even purchased a DVD for my family (parents & unmarried siblings), and I know they are going to love it!

Lastly, if you'd like to get a tiny taste of the skill and creativity of The Johnson Strings, go give their YouTube channel a follow to watch some of their incredible music videos! 

In closing, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I'd love to hear in the comments about your favorite music show/concert that you've attended!
-Chels

Friday, November 12, 2021

An Update on Madeline and Life at Home

(Miss Madeline Sue, at 4 months old, the other day)

Hey friends! I'm popping in tonight to give a little update.

Being home with Madeline has been wonderful. The days have been stretching and long at times, but working through the challenges, growing together, and establishing a new normal in our own HOME has been truly beyond amazing. Anyone who has lived away from home during a crisis situation/extended hospital stay knows what I mean. There is nothing like that experience for giving one a deep gratitude and love for ones own home.

Madeline is doing well. She was sent home on an apnea monitor (that's the wires you will see in some of the first pictures) but it never alerted during the two weeks she was on it here at home which was such a huge blessing. There have been a lot of doctor and therapy appointments, a lot of medical decisions, and just a lot of a lot! But she is a precious little gem and so worth every moment. Each day she grows a little bigger, a little stronger, and even more endeared to our hearts! Her brothers adore her and literally dote on her---I declare, they don't have a jealous bone in their little bodies when it comes to their sister. The summer wasn't exactly easy on them either, and even though life looks different now with a baby sister who still requires a lot of care, they have adjusted great and just seem to love being home with all of us together ALWAYS. Axton still prays at night,  "thank you Jesus that we can be at old house". (over the summer, we explained the difference between our two houses and the trips back and forth by calling the apartment "new house" and our own home "old house")

I will likely be posting a lot less in the coming days. Being a wife, homemaker, and mama to three babies two and under is my highest calling right now, and definitely a full time gig! But as I've mentioned before, I keep this blog because I like to write a bit and pop in now and then. I am also deeply grateful for the opportunity to use it to update so many people and be so encouraged by everyones prayers and support during Madeline's NICU stay. What I post is by no means an accurate representation of our lives, so please know that just because I may not write for a while doesn't mean that anything is wrong-it simply means that I'm doing other things. 

Also, many of you have asked about Madeline's birth story. I wrote up a chunk of it right after she was born but for some reason that I did not understand at the time, I just could not post it. Part of it was maybe because we had no answers medically for why she came early, and a part of it was maybe that her birth was a very difficult and scary time for us. It is different to write about it than it was with the boys' stories, even though in some ways my labor with Axton was similar in length and transport. Anyways, I hope to be sharing her story and and some of what we learned through this experience, more sometime. But for now, just wanted to pop in and give this little update! Thank you all for your love and prayers, and caring about our little family! 

They say pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are a few taken over the past 2 1/2 months since we've been home with Madeline. I'll start with one taken the day we brought her home, and end with one I took yesterday, so y'all can see a bit of how she has grown along the way. =)
First time I got Madeline dressed in her own clothes and a headband, the day we brought her home. 
It felt so surreal. 
All three babies with their daddy.
I love her many many expressions!
All ready to go for her first chiropractor appointment.
Professional baby pictures! So special to get these done-can't wait to share more! This one makes me laugh every time I see it!
Matching with mama.
Axton helping with Madeline's bottle.
Miss loves her bouncy seat!
First time in the stroller!
Me with all my babies. 
Pink nails
Morning snuggles
Bathtime!
Not so thrilled about this outfit?
But more a fan of this one. =)
Featuring the dimples and the chins...
So many snuggles, cause babies don't keep.
Did I mention the brothers adore her? The feeling is mutual-she loves them too!
Signing off for now. Hope y'all have a lovely weekend!
-Chels and the little miss =)

Friday, September 3, 2021

Madeline || She’s HOME

 

I still can hardly believe it! But after an unexpected turn of events, Madeline is home!! We are finally all together as a family of FIVE and it is amazing. 

More later! Thankyou all for your prayer and support! 

With love, Chels for us all

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Madeline || Update #10

Today is the 50th day of Madeline’s NICU stay, and yesterday she was seven weeks old! It seems fitting that with those milestones, there should be some happy news, and there was. I came in yesterday morning to discover her feeding tube gone! The initial reason for its removal was trouble shooting for some of her reflux/spell issues, to see if the removal might help that. The timing works out well, though, as she has been taking more and more bottles and getting less and less from the feeding tube. This should solidify that transition. 
In weight, Madeline is now up to 6lbs 7oz. Just a few more ounces and she will be twice her birth weight which is wild to me! As mentioned above, she continues to progress with her bottles. I am giving nursing a bit of a back seat for the time being, as she has still been struggling with that. The main goal currently is to just get her home, so we are going with whatever method seems to bring that goal the soonest. She is still having spells, as she sleeps, when her heart rate drops. They aren’t major but she has to have five days of no spells, and complete eating on her own, before she can go home. If she can continue with eating well, she should be permanently  done with the feeding tube, which takes care of the second item. 

Our prayer requests are for the spells to stop, and for her red blood cell count to improve. It hasn’t been climbing like it should and we are really hoping that it will improve. It isn’t dangerous at this point, but we are hoping to avoid a transfusion.

Thankyou once again for your prayers and love!

Have a wonderful weekend!
-Chels

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Madeline || Update #9

Our little pumpkin is growing and flourishing over here! She still has a long ways to go but she is definitely continuing on the upward climb of progress and we are so grateful! 

They removed her nasal cannula Sunday morning so she has been off her oxygen since then and done great overall.We are so hoping and praying that she can continue to have minimal spells and not have to go back on that. So far, so good. 

In the weight department, she is gaining and growing so well. She weighed 5lb 140z last night! Considering that at her lowest point five weeks ago she was 3lb 1oz, this is a pretty significant amount amount of growing! She’s got a little double chin and her cheeks are getting rounder, which is so fun. The preemie outfits have been outgrown and this week she's wearing mostly newborn size sleepers.

Madeline has been making good progress with her bottles. Her first feeding with a bottle she only could take 11ml, and then last week she took her first full feeding in a bottle, 57ml! On Sunday she did two full bottle feedings, back to back, which was incredible! Nursing hasn’t gone well but I didn’t expect it would. Both of our boys had nursing issues (tongue/lip ties) and I am quite confidant Madeline has a tongue tie as well. Plus, she is a preemie, and from what we’ve heard, it always takes a long time for preemies to learn how to nurse anyways, other issues aside. She’ll latch and suck occasionally, and some “sessions” are better than others, but overall it isn’t anything consistent or even close to a feeding. 

The times she is awake and alert are so so sweet. She still mostly sleeps but there are little bitty pockets of awake time. She has started making eye contact and sometimes wakes up in the morning when I walk into her room and start talking to her. Today she gave me her first smile and I about melted into a puddle! It was beyond precious!

The question we commonly get from people is “so how soon can she go home?” From the very beginning we have intentionally prepared ourselves for her to be here at least until her due date, September 14th. So that is what I tell myself. Technically of course it could be later or earlier. We just really don’t know. She has to go five days without any spells and then obviously she has to be taking all of her feedings on her own. Once those two things happen, we can take her home. With still having one or two spells a day and only typically doing one or two of her eight daily feedings on her own, that gives a little perspective of hurdles that are still ahead of her. 

She has made a lot of progress though and we are focusing on that. We know that every day we get closer and closer to taking her home and we are grateful that she is stable and growing!


Did I mention that double chin?? 😍

She always likes to put her hands up above or beside her head when I am doing skin to skin with her, and it is the cutest thing!
Have a blessed Thursday, everyone, and thanks again for your prayers, comments, and support!
-Chels

Madeline’s First Photo Shoot || Update #8

I received this adorable preemie outfit from a friend a few weeks ago, and last week I put it on Madeline, used a pillow and the privacy curtain as background, and did a little photo shoot with her with my phone. 
Thought you all might enjoy these. 😍



Afterwards-snuggles with my girl. 💞
 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Madeline || Update #7

(recent picture of Madeline) 

Wow, not sure how it has been so long since I have posted an update on Madeline. Thankyou to those of you who have checked in to see if we are all doing okay. Madeline is well and everything going well overall. The days just kind of blur together; in some ways they seem long and in others short, so I really didn't realize it had been so long since I posted an update. I've actually been adding pictures and text to this post for quite a while, so I have dates with the paragraphs below, and pictures are in order that they were taken. The first few are from the last few days of July, without the nasal cannula, and the rest are since then, with it.

(This was one of Madeline's first "awake and alert" kind of looks!)
(Lil miss is quite dramatic with her yawns =))
(She's got big beautiful blue eyes, just like her brothers!)

Thursday July 29th
Madeline got moved to a crib! Now we don't have to wait for the nurses to get her out for us. We can come and go as we like and get her out anytime, which we are LOVING!

Friday July 30th
Madeline is 4lb 3oz! I've been working on nursing with her with no progress, but I've still been trying. The goal is to get her used to the position/feel/suck/everything. She finally had the first few little drops of my milk into her mouth yesterday and today; the first time she was super dramatic about it and acted like she was drowning. But she also did a little lip smack so I know she wasn’t too mad about it, haha! We are quite far from nursing as she can’t get the sucking figured out; she hasn't latched yet. But she's definitely moving her mouth more which is a sign that she's getting closer to ready. A blessing in disguise is that with the nursing issues I had with both of the boys, I don't expect the process to go perfectly even with a full term baby, let alone a preemie! 

Saturday July 31st
When I came in to the NICU this morning Madeline had been put back on the nasal cannula. (Supplemental oxygen) She has been having a lot of Brady events (slowing of the heart rate) and even though this isn’t really abnormal for her age, still she really needs to have less of those, and so they made the decision for her to go back on the nasal cannula. It makes me sad to have more tubes going again but I am also thankful that she is responding well to the oxygen. She is also getting doses of caffeine to hopefully help.

Sunday August 1st
Her oxygen was bumped up to 100% this morning since her Brady events were still not slowing. She has now only had four Brady's since that was done. (whereas before that she had had around 20 in 24 hours) Even though it's not fun to have her on the nasal cannula again and getting so much oxygen, this is super encouraging that the events are slowing down. She also had labs done again this morning and everything came back clear which was good. Tonight she had her first real bath (she'd had sponge baths before) and she loved it!

Monday August 2nd
Madeline gave her first itty bitty suck today! She didn't extract anything, and it was just a tiny little few sucks, but for a NICU baby and how long/tedious the nursing learning process is, this was a huge step and I am so happy! John and I have been working with her on her paci to get her used to sucking on that and moving her mouth. She has definitely shown more mouth movement and just overall alertness the past few days so that is great progress. She continues to grow---4lb 9oz today!

Thursday August 5th
After much much trying (me trying!) Madeline truly kind of nursed a little bit twice today! She had multiple swallows and many sucks and I cannot believe how strong she is for such a bitty thing! The lactation consultant was very helpful and I really liked her. I overheard her giving the report to the nurse and she was really impressed with Madeline's progress too. It was so incredible to see things start clicking for Maddy-she was even initiating at one point-sticking out her tongue and giving little lunges trying to suck. It was pretty cute. =) 

Sunday August 8th
Madeline had her first true feeding aside from her tube tonight. John gave her a bottle and she worked so hard on it. She was totally wiped out afterwards but she managed to drink 11ml on her own! Up until this point she has had basically everything through her feeding tube. 
They had taken her off oxygen yesterday, but put her back on after she had a cluster of spells this morning. 

Tuesday August 10th (current)
Today Madeline is 5lb 2oz! So thankful that she is gaining good weight! What a praise. She struggled with the bottle today and wasn't that into it. She is still getting feedings through her tube, but we are working on her learning to suck/drink herself, at the beginning of her feeding times, before the nurse hooks up her feeding tube. 
                                                                     Snuggles with my baby girl.
She is starting to get a tiny double chin and it is the cutest thing!
She loves to have her hands up by her face.
First bottle!
All wrapped up and sleeping soundly.
First bath!
Stretching!
There have been some rough things this past week, in spite of the progress. This NICU life isn't easy, no matter how you slice it. We are making it through but the ups and downs are a real thing.

Recently, I was driving back to the apartment after an appointment in Leavenworth. I was listening to "The Lord is My Salvation" by the Gettys, and I cried as this song just ministered to my heart. 

The grace of God has reached for me
And pulled me from the raging sea
And I am safe on this solid ground
The Lord is my salvation
I will not fear when darkness falls
His strength will help me scale these walls
I'll see the dawn of the rising sun

The Lord is my salvation
My hope is hidden in the Lord
He flow'rs each promise of His Word
When winter fades I know spring will come
The Lord is my salvation
In times of waiting, times of need
When I know loss, when I am weak
I know His grace will renew these days
The Lord is my salvation
And when I reach my final day
He will not leave me in the grave
But I will rise, He will call me home
The Lord is my salvation
Who is like the Lord our God?
Strong to save, faithful in love
My debt is paid and the vict'ry won
The Lord is my salvation
The italicized lines just spoke so directly to me and what we were going through. The promises of God's Word. Spring will come. Times of waiting and times of need. His grace will renew these days. He is strong to save and FAITHFUL in love. Amen and amen!
Please pray for us that we would stay focused on Him, that our faith would stay strong, and that Madeline would continue to improve. We would also appreciate prayers for good health for all of us during this time of less sleep and extra stress. 

Thank-you for your prayers, comments, and encouragement!
-Chels