On November 25, 2010, in Life, Personal, by Chris

The heavy rains of the day have subsided and I’m curled up by the fireplace in a rented house up on Cass Lake for the holiday. Epic sessions of Yatzee and Mexican Dominoes are in progress among the generations. Jocelyn’s entire family has gathered here from as far away as Texas to be together for Thanksgiving – and also to meet Julia. There was no way we could fit them all in our 900 square feet in Birmingham; so instead of holing up in hotels, we decided it made more sense to rent something we could all be together in.

I’m one belt hole bigger after a dinner, masterfully prepared by Deirdre, my sister-in-law. She has an uncommon passion for food, having brought many of the ingredients for the stuffing up from Ft. Worth in her luggage. If you get invited along on a restaurant crawl with her, clear your schedule!

The carbs and tryptophan are starting to take their toll, but I couldn’t let the moment go by without sharing a few of the things I’m thankful for – just in the past week:

It had been a tough week of feeding for our girl. Very often, the routine has been (1) Feed (2) Burp (3) Cough (4) Hurl. And far too often, we saw all of our care and feeding come splashing on the floor, followed closely by a frustrated howl from Julia. The pediatrician has diagnosed her with acid reflux (pretty common with kids this age) and has put her on yet another medicine to make her more comfortable.

Despite the challenges, Julia still gained four ounces and is on a fantastic growth curve. The meds continue to work as intended; and Dr. Weinhouse, the specialist overseeing her heart condition, is very pleased. We gathered in his office after the consult to pray together in thanksgiving for Julia’s progress.

We got a bulletin from a church we have never heard of in the mail. There was a note written on it from a friend of a friend that they had heard about Julia and put her on the church’s prayer list. We often hear about people praying for Julia, but the note brought into focus the kind of love and concern that folks can have for someone they have never met. By my last count, I know of people gathering to pray for Julia in the U.S., Mexico, Greece, the U.K., and India. Humbling.

We have received countless casseroles and pot pies from well wishers that have allowed us to not think that much about preparing meals over the past two months. It has laid waste to my weight loss regimen, but it has taken so much stress off of Jocelyn and I as we focus on preparing Julia for the upcoming surgery.

And as a confirmation of the richness of the community that God has blessed us with, in the time it has taken me to write this post, I’ve received three text messages from friends wishing us a happy Thanksgiving.

A wise friend of mine has suggested that the first step toward a life well lived is to take an intentional step toward gratitude – be thankful for what you have and not angry about what you do not have. Today, we all have the chance to do that (before the carnage of Black Friday) and step more fully into the stream of beauty that awaits. Sometimes in the pursuit of happiness, we just need to stop and be happy.

Thanks everyone from the Cook family!

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A New Milestone

On November 21, 2010, in Julia's Journey, Personal, by Chris

We celebrated Julia’s two month birthday (minus a day) with a visit to her pediatrician on Friday. She got a clean bill of health (AVSD notwithstanding) and began her immunizations. One was the same Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussus vaccine that every other kid in America gets (please, no comments on the merits or risks of immunization – that horse has left the barn). The other was a $1000-per-dose vaccination against a common cold virus that could kill her if she contracted it. It’s amazing how just a touch of crazy is mixed into the routine of this little family’s life. At any rate, Julia let out a howl that felt like it was going to shake the walls; and I think Dad and Mom took the pokes almost as hard as Julia did.

Saturday, we did a quick photo session of our two-month-old. Not sure if the frilly dress is her style – I’ll let you decide – but she’s going to grow out of it soon enough. It was a gift from some friends and a nice change from the sleepers we’re used to dressing her in.

We took the afternoon to stroll through an open-air mall and take in a bit of normalcy (and give Jocelyn a much-needed moment out of the house!). I still marvel at the thought that this little girl wasn’t born and our lives were so different only two months ago. And we still look forward to the day that we won’t have to be so careful about Julia’s health so we can just pack up and go!

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An Early Thanksgiving

On November 17, 2010, in Julia's Journey, Personal, by Chris

We dared not believe it, but a moment of thanksgiving came a week early! I remember the prayer that Jocelyn and I offered up only 24 hours ago as we prepared for bed. We dared to pray for a weight gain of six ounces at today’s appointment with Dr. Weinhouse. After the modest weight gain last week, we decided to let our dreams go a little wild and ask for double. We figured she had been feeding well, but even so, we gave each other a knowing glance as we prayed – we knew it was a crazy ask.

Julia went through the standard measurements of blood pressure and pulse oxygen saturation – both were good. Better than just good. But the real surprise came at the weigh-in.

Bottom line, the numbers on the scale just didn’t stop anywhere close to where we had thought. Julia’s weight gain for the week was almost seven ounces – far exceeding our hopes for the week. What makes this so encouraging is that the average weekly weight gain for children without heart issues is 5-7 ounces.

It’s amazing how our hearts just… flew… as we got the news. Our daughter is holding up her end of the deal! The feeding and love is working – and the celebration continued as we met with Dr. Weinhouse in his office. He prayed a psalm of thanksgiving over Julia – one that Jocelyn had memorized in Sunday School when she was young. But it really sounds cool when you hear it in Hebrew!

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The Cook family thanks you for your continued prayers. That tall order I had asked for on last week’s post is one step closer to reality!

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Celebrating Six!

On November 10, 2010, in Julia's Journey, Personal, by Chris

Hey all – you’ve not heard from me because there hasn’t been much to report. We feed, we love, we push through the hard nights when she’s fussy and revel in the luxury of a few hours of sleep when she’s sleeping.

But it’s my pleasure to announce that as the feedings continue, our girl has continued to gain weight and is now hovering right at six pounds. Dr. Weinhouse has informed us that Julia has responded very well to the cocktail of Digoxin, Lasix and Aldactone and expects that the drug therapy will continue to be successful for the foreseeable future. Her muscle control is improving and she’s regularly lifting her head; and best of all (at least from my perspective) her cheeks are starting to fill out and she’s getting creases in those little chicken legs of hers!

Getting her to the optimal weight for surgery is going to be a tall order, requiring a five to six ounce weight gain each week. Her average is around four ounces, but her feeding is continuing to become more efficient – especially with the new bottle system that Jocelyn’s friends on recommended. Our prayer for her is that the feedings continue to go well and our little girl gains the weight that she needs to go into the surgery strong.

And in the meantime, our Julia is going to be seeing the business end of a bottle pretty darn regularly!

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Julia’s Heart: The Straight Scoop

On November 3, 2010, in Julia's Journey, Personal, by Chris

A short video explaining it all…

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