Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Entry From Stephen's Dad

First...let me start with this picture. It seriously makes me tear up every time I see it! If you look closely, each of them are missing a hand. Stephen calls it his "lucky fin" (like in Finding Nemo!). He has a very special nurse there, who also has a lucky fin. He's right handed, she's left handed and they are a perfect pair. :)

I just read the most touching letter from Brent, Stephen's Dad. So many of you donated to the Hope for Stephen fund with the Nest Necklace fundraiser, and I thought you should read this. They truly are a remarkable family...I am so blessed to be a part of them.


Stephen has had quite a few scares while they've been up there at St. Jude's. He started having seizures and even had to be resuscitated. He's had another surgery to put a shunt in his head to drain his "brain juice" as he calls it. There was almost a severe infection from bacteria collecting in the lining of the shunt, but Brent was very prompted by God to know what to do in the situation, and because he followed God's guidance, a horrible catastrophe was avoided and Stephen's life was spared. We have witnessed MIRACLES in this journey and our testimonies of a loving Father in Heaven are continually strengthened. God is GOOD. :)

Anyhewww, here's Brent's entry. He is talking about some of YOU and your kindness. I hope you understand how touched and appreciative and humbled they are. :)

*****

Today Target hosted it's annual winter carnival out in a big tent for St. Jude patients. Stephen and I got done with his radiation treatment about mid-day and walked out to see what it was all about.

They had promised food, live entertainment, crafts and a toy gift to every patient and sibling that came. We ended up waiting in the wind for an hour just to get in because there was not enough room in the tent for everyone. I was glad that I had heated up a bean burrito in the hospital for Stephen.

Standing in line we saw all kinds of kids coming out with big boxes. There were Lego play sets, games, tricycles, and a variety of really nice expensive toys. By the time we finally got in, it had been an hour and we only had two minutes to find a toy and get to his next appointment. No time to do crafts or eat delicious treats. There were only a few "bottom of the barrel" toy choices left so they gave him a $10 gift card instead. We were thrilled and grateful. Truly touched.

When we were in line earlier I happened to see a mother and her son off in the distance. She was trying to push her son up a hill in a wheelchair while desperately trying to hold onto a large toy. She was really struggling. Instantly, a tall man in a hat came out of the crowd to her aid. He pushed the wheelchair up to the top of the hill.

I couldn't help myself. I just started crying. I'm sure someone took notice while I tried to hide my face. They probably thought I had just received some bad news that morning. I've seen more than one parent walking in tears down the busy hallways at St. Jude. The truth is, I was immensely touched. The helping man had reminded me of all the incredible experiences my family and I have had at the hands of others since Stephen was diagnosed.

Hardly a day goes by that Stephen does not receive a care package. Not a single day has passed without a few cards or letters. We are the recipients of mail coming from family, friends, friends of friends, and even people we don't know at all. There are posts with uplifting and caring words written on this website's guestbook every day. There have been families and individuals who have given us money, hotel stays, airline tickets, gift cards. St. Jude bills our insurance, but is not charging us a dime. They, their private donors and corporate partners provide housing and some money for groceries each week we're here. Stephen's elementary school put on a craft fair, bake sale and choir concert in his behalf. Other children have sent self made cards, books, videos and artwork. We've had people do shopping and run errands for us when we could not. They've brought dinners, performed MAJOR yard work, cleaned, transported our kids and cared for them in our absence. Countless prayers have gone up to God for us in multiple languages, in many countries across the world and through many different faiths and denominations. Our wonderful neighbors named the huge tree in their yard that is decorated with lights after Stephen. There are even families that have given up their entire Christmas budgets to us. One of those amazing families has never even met us before and had only heard about Stephen from a family member they work with. I imagine they will have the sweetest Christmas ever this year!

I want you to know that I could continue writing this list all night...

To be honest, I have struggled with all this giving on our behalf. Do we deserve it? I don't know. Do we deserve it more than others. Absolutely not. We have received so much and are more grateful to YOU than words can express. (Those pesky tears have come back again.)

What has this done? For one, it has opened my cynical eyes to a whole new world - a world I didn't believe existed to the extent it actually does. There are good, honest, caring people in the world. There really, really are. You all are a witness to that. I hope I can say that I'm one of them and that I'm teaching it to my children.

A care package we received yesterday had a bunch of candy canes in it (among other gifts). The family who sent it said we should give them to everyone helping Stephen at St. Jude. So that's exactly what we did today. Stephen carried that bag of candy canes with him everywhere he went. He offered it to every nurse and doctor he saw and told them "Merry Christmas." He was adored, praised, and admired for it. More importantly, he felt WONDERFUL.

This afternoon, the long awaited day for Christmas shopping finally came. Stephen bought very thoughtful gifts for his siblings, mother (and even me). They are wrapped and placed under our small apartment tree. As many of you know, we had "the BEST day ever" last Saturday. But as Stephen went to bed tonight he exclaimed to me that today had been "the GREATEST day ever." I don't know if he really understood the great wisdom and truth in the words he spoke, but they rang out to me very clearly.

I hope many of you have had "the GREATEST year ever" because of your loving service to our family. Each of you have been inspirational and even critical to our survival mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Before I close this post there is one last feeling I need to express. I know some who read this blog are not "religious" and I fully respect those beliefs, but I would not be true to my own if I did not say how grateful I am to God.

In a very short time we have gone from roses to thorns. Life as we knew it has turned upside down and seemingly buried us alive. Strangely enough, I have never felt closer to my Savior in all my life. I know this is not a punishment. A blessing? In some very strange way, yes. Through all of the sleepless nights, the hours and days of worry, the unexpected ups and downs of Stephen's health, even his horrible pain - I have know that the Lord is near.

Just this week when all the doctors were thinking and planning for the worst, I only felt peace and knew exactly what to do as if it were the only option in front of me. It felt different, like knowledge that did not belong to me. It was not instinct that came from "within" me. I have indeed been "touched" by God Himself and I know it. It has happened time and time again through this whole ordeal. In that, each of your prayers are being answered, and I hope that you in turn can feel His touch because of it.

*******

I love you all and hope you are having a WONDERFUL Christmas Season!

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Nat's Top Ten Pins of the Week

I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! We did...other than the fact that I totally ruined one of my pies. French Silk Pie to be exact. I can tell you one thing, it was NOT silk. It was more like sand. Who knew that bakers sugar was actually just powdered sugar??? I went to every store I could find and could NOT find bakers sugar. So, I used regular sugar. NEVER AGAIN. People were literally trying to not throw up after one piece of that pie. I've got 5 words for you. HU.MIL.I.A.TING. But, hey. It's a new day and I learned something new, right? ;)


*cough* On to Nat's Top Ten Pins of the Week!

I don't know about you, but Pintrest is getting extremely dangerous with Christmas coming. Mercy....it's like...a time space continuum thing. You're like, "I'll just check really quick and see if there's anything fun." Three hours later, your kids have aged ten years and your butt is asleep and you're like, "What on earth!?!" Am I right?

SO....without further adieu, here we go.

1. Craft of the Week


This is seriously at the TOP of my to-do list. Why? Because last year the toddler broke a bunch of my Christmas ornaments. So this year I went and bought the shatter proof kind. Which means I have a gazillion Christmas ornaments that need used up! AND, I found a bunch at the thrift store for super cheap. SO EXCITED to do this!

2. Cute Outfit of the Week

OH MY GOSH, look at THIS one!?! Okay...so it's not an outfit. Who cares. Right now all I care about is getting ready for Christmas. Besides, we all know I'm just going to post a picture of some sort of sweater/cardigan, skinny jeans, a scarf and super cute boots. ;)

3. Tip of the Week

Now, what the flip does this have to do with Christmas? Well, I'll tell you. (hold on...let me think for a second.) Ah, yes. Those glass ornaments are sharp when they break! So...the idea is you squirt neosporin into straws, snip them up into sections, melt the ends with a lighter and you're done. Or something like that. How great would these be in your purse for all those skinned knees, slashed fingers from broken glass, etc.?

4. Kid Craft of the Week

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses? HECK YES! I don't even like gingerbread. And it saves a lot of work! I can't wait to do this with the kids!

5. Good Laugh of the Week

Seriously though. Gets me EVERY time. But, what does it have to do with Christmas??? Why, this of course! You need those scary biscuits to make cinnamon sticky buns!


6. Inspiration of the Week


This quote makes me think of Stephen's parents. They are STRONG. But they have to be. If they were anyone from the outside looking in they would be astounded at their strength. Stephen and his mom have been at St. Jude's for 5 weeks now. He just started radiation therapy this week. Bless their hearts. I hope they can get to go home for a little Christmas break.


7. *DROOL* of the week

Seriously, how CUTE are these!?! And how did they get them so perfectly round???

8. Tutorial of the Week
Because I have ALWAYS wanted to know how to do this!!! Merry Christmas. What's that? You want more bows? Well, your wish is my command! Here's another tutorial on making homemade bows!


9. Hairstyle of the Week

Yes. It's the PERFECT holiday hairstyle for your Christmas card pictures!!! It's SOOOO easy to do. Step 1: Cut all of your hair to about 4 inches long all the way around. Step 2. Get a perm. Step 3: Fluff it with a comb and give it a good dousing of hairspray to keep it poofy! THAT'S IT!!! Don't forget to get matching goggles. I mean...glasses. It's a timeless look, I swear. (It's past midnight...give me a little slack here!)

10. Home Inspiration of the Week

Oh, House of Smiths, how I adore thee. Can I please have your house???

Annnnd, that concludes this week's Top Ten Pins of the Week. Okay...so it was more like 12 pins because I'm just that nice. Have a great week! *muah!*

Are you on Pintrest? Let me know, I'd love to follow you, too!


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Friday, November 25, 2011

I Am Thankful for YOU! {Hope For Stephen Results}



First off, just let me say WOW. I have so much to be thankful for this year, and at the top of my list is YOU. Would you like to know the results from the Hope for Stephen nest necklace fundraiser? Get ready....



Yes, that's right! We raised almost $1,000 for Stephen and his family! Can you believe it? I can't! I was completely blown away at how fast the news spread about Stephen and the chance to help him. I made new friends and met some amazing people through it. I was only expecting about $100 in orders...if even! And they kept coming, and coming, and coming...I couldn't believe it!

And, even more amazing than the money is the amount of people who I know are praying for him right now. I know several who have even gotten groups together to make special packages and things for him to send for Christmas....*tearing up* :)

Thank you, THANK YOU for your generosity and your prayers.

And, if you HAVEN'T received your necklace order yet and I haven't contacted you PLEASE let me know! All of the paid orders have been shipped accept for one and I've been in contact with her, so if you ordered and paid with your custom Paypal link on my All Things Natsprat blog they should have reached you by now.

If you want to find your link, click on the image below and look through the blog archives, it will have your name on it.



And, if you are interested in following Stephen's journey battling brain cancer, his parents have set up a Caring Journal blog and they update daily. It is a hard journey they are all facing. The cancer is spreading and is causing him a lot of pain and nausea. Please keep praying for him, his battle has only just begun.

and to end with...here's some GOOD news! :)

(Little Stephen is now famous! :) He was the smiling face that everyone saw on November 18th when they logged into AOL!)


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stephen The Comedian and Pre-Op Artist {so cute}


For those of you following along with Stephen's story, you'll enjoy this! He was drawing this picture right before his dry run of radiation treatment. I love the part where the anesthesia kicked in! Hahah!

Then, Amber went to stay in a special housing place for the families of patients called the Grizzly House. (Yaaaay, she got to sleep in a REAL bed and have a much needed break!)

Brent came to stay with Stephen and said, "Mommy's gone, now the boys can party!"

Stephen replied, "Now we can fart awlllll the time!" Gave his Dad a hug and added, "And burp." :)

He is SUCH a boy! Man, I love that kid! It's amazing how he can keep his sense of humor through all of this! He's a cute little trooper, that's for sure.


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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Update on Stephen {Not Good News *sniff sniff*}

I was really hoping to do a happy post today, but instead I just can't stop crying. We just got an update on Stephen.

(Stephen and Brent at St. Jude's...he adores his Daddy)

(Movie night at St. Jude's...he LOOOOVED that popcorn! The nurses adore him and even brought him bags of popcorn from home!)



Deep breath...grab some Kleenex.

They did a spinal tap on Stephen a few days ago because in his latest MRI parts of the brain are lighting up that aren't supposed to. Which could mean two things, the cancer is spreading OR there is an infection going on. There is some sort of bacteria growing in the culture from Stephen's spinal tap. The bacteria has taken a long time to grow, so it isn't your normal meningitis. AND they have found that numerous tumor cells have spread, so both of their fears have come true. :(

Because the cancer is spreading, Stephen has now been classified as a high risk patient and will receive the higher doses of radiation and chemotherapy. However, they had wanted to wait to start treatments until AFTER he is feeling a little better and stronger....but with this new mystery bacteria they're not sure what to do.

He still is in a lot of pain where they did the spinal tap and they don't know why. Plus, the IV site in his hand went bad and his hand is all swollen. So, they took out the I.V. and he is now in surgery to put in a central line into his chest for all of the long term blood draws, medicines and other things he will have to endure now until the end of his stay at St. Jude's.

I swear, my heart is just breaking. It's so confusing and frustrating! After the first surgery we were all praising God that it was a miracle. That the tumor just delivered itself to the doctors and all was well. THEN, we find out they didn't get nearly as much of the tumor as they thought, AND that it is spreading. I am trying to not take back all of my praises to God for that miracle, which didn't end up being a miracle at all. :( I can't take them back because we still need Him. We need a miracle...a REAL one.

It breaks my heart that he is in so much pain. He has been so strong and brave through it all, so when he shows he is in pain, he is REALLY in pain. It breaks my heart that there are so many unanswered questions. It breaks my heart to think of his parents, what they must be feeling. They are emotionally and physically exhausted, and sick to death of sleeping on vinyl couches. And it feels as if there is no end in sight. And if there IS an end, it's not a happy ending...ugh. I don't even want to think about it.

As I sit here making each of your nest necklaces for the Hope for Stephen fund, I think of you and these precious children that each of these eggs represent. As my fingers hurt from making them I think of the pain that little Stephen must endure. As I add requested special white pearl eggs or angel wing charms to necklaces for each of the children who have died I cry for the parents who lost their children and thank God that I have 3 healthy, beautiful children here on Earth with me. Then I cry even harder hoping that I don't have to eventually add a white pearl egg or pair of angel wings to Amber's necklace. (UGH, need more Kleenex!) And as I put them in the mail I pray that they will all make it to you safely, just as I pray that Stephen will make it through this journey safely.

And now, I just ask that you continue to pray for little Stephen...pray that the doctors will know how to help him. Pray that he will be comfortable, pray that Brent and Amber will have the strength to keep trudging through this hard journey, pray that we won't lose faith in God and His miracles. Please put him in your prayer circles, or Temple prayer rolls, and as you say your personal prayers, say a special one for him. Heck, even if you don't believe in God, focus your positive energies on him or whatever! ;)

I'll keep you updated as I hear more. Thank you all, if I could find you I would give you each a huge hug!


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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Felt Monster Plush {tutorial}

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I am SO excited to be doing a craft tutorial again! Thank you for being so patient with my absence! My little fingers have been busy making over 100 or your nest necklaces for the Hope For Stephen fund! I'll do a special post on all of that soon! I am still just in awe at all of your kindness...WOW. You guys ROCK!!!

Now, onto the next matter of business...

With the holidays fast approaching lots of people are already on the lookout for things to make as Christmas presents. Want to see what I have planned for some of the special little men in my life? Felt monster plushies! *rawr* These are so versatile, you can make it so many different ways! Add horns, a tail, give it eyelashes if it's in girl colors, change the teeth...whatever you want! I've included a basic pattern, but you can change it up however you like!

These take around an hour to make, so they are super fast and easy AND most importantly, super cute. (Yes, that's a lot of super.)

Heeere we go!

Supplies:

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Monster Plush Parts page (save, fit to 8x11 page, print! If you want your plush to be bigger, then just scale the image larger)


1 full sheet of felt (main body)
white felt (teeth and eyes)
pink or red felt (tongue)
black felt (mouth)
coordinating embroidery thread
sewing needle
scissors
glue gun (optional)
2 buttons for eyes
stuffing

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Step 1: Trace all of the pieces and cut them out. Remember, you'll need 2 of the body and 2 of the eyes.

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Now, you'll start stitching on the pieces. Now, if you don't want to sew them on, you can just use your glue gun to glue them on!

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Now, stitch on the eyes. Move them around and see how you like them!

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Now, you're going to start stitching at the top. Start above the middle of the eye and stitch all the way around. Again, if you don't want to stitch, you can just glue it together with your glue gun! See the felt owl plush tutorial for the directions on how to do that. ;)

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Now, stop when you get to the middle of the other eye.

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And get some practice for Thanksgiving and stuff it! Make sure to get it down into the legs and arms. Use a marker or something to get it in.


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Now, finish stitching the top closed. A little tip: to make sure the end of the string doesn't hang out, after you knot the end, bring the needle through lower on the plush, pull it tight and snip it. The end of the thread will pop back into the plush so you can't see it!

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Now, pose him artistically in your kitchen and make him make cute sounds. You're all done! :)



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{personal} Whitney's Baptism


My sweet Whitney was baptized last weekend! I can't believe she is already 8...it makes me feel so old! She has been SOOOOO excited to be baptized, literally...she has counted down the days for MONTHS. I swear, she just about dove into the water.

She has a cousin who is just a few weeks apart from her in age. Whitney came late and Jenna came early! So, they were able to be baptized on the same day, which made it extra special. They are the best of buds . :)

The baptism was wonderful! Everything I dreamed it would be...accept for the part where Aaron got his head stuck in the chair. It fit through the hole just fine, but getting it back out was another story for some reason. That made the baptism memorable in more way than one.


Whitney and Jenna even did a special musical number. They sang a song from the Primary Song Book called "When I Am Baptized". It was so pretty, they did a great job!


***
When I am Baptized
I like to look for rainbows
Whenever there is rain
And ponder at the beauty of an Earth made clean again
I want my life to be as clean as Earth right after rain
I want to be the best I can
And live with God again.

I know when I am baptized
My sins are washed away,
And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain
I want to be the best I can
And live with God again.

***

Such sweet lyrics! :)

I am so proud of her, and so INCREDIBLY blessed to have her as a daughter!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Update on Stephen: {Surgery Round Two}


Just wanted to update that Stephen's second brain surgery went well! The doctors found that they didn't get as much of the tumor out as originally thought, and they needed to get back in quickly as his cancer seems to be aggressive. It was very nerve-wrecking because the part of the brain that would be operated on is the part that controls his sight, speech, and other fine motor functions of his left side. Since he was born without his right hand and he is right handed, one slip there would be a very bad thing.

He was transferred to St. Jude in Memphis where he is in VERY good hands! They had quite the Halloween party in the hospital, I've never seen anything like it! It was just awesome.

They were able to get more tumor out, about the size of a pool ball! (!?!) How did that all fit in there!?! First there was the part the size of a large orange, and now a pool ball!?! No wonder he felt so miserable. :'( The doctors think they were able to get pretty much all of it out this time. *crossing fingers* And so far there are NO signs of paralysis.

He has been such a little trooper! Yesterday his parents put up a cute video clip of him playing in the toy room at the hospital. They asked him what the doctors were going to do and he said something along the lines of "they are going to open my brain up and take all of the owies out." It was so cute and sad at the same time.

So, thank you for your continued prayers and happy thoughts! I know they are being heard! :)

And don't worry, I haven't forgotten all of my craft friends out there! I've got a felt monster plush tutorial coming soon! :) (If you liked the felt owl plush, you'll LOVE this one, too! )

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Surgery for Stephen. :(

Hello from BEAUUUUTIFUL California! I'm here for my little brother's wedding and I've got to tell you, I am just LOOOVING it here! We are in a place called Clements and it is just gorgeous. I'll tell you all about it later and include pictures of our adventures, but right now I've got something else on my mind.

Stephen will be going in for another brain surgery on November 2nd. The surgeon didn't get as much of the brain tumor as originally thought, so they need to go in and try again. They have discovered that the type of cancer he has is very aggressive (ATRT), so there is no time to wait. Unfortunately, when they operate again, they are going to have to operate around the part of the brain that controls speech, sight and motor skills...really important things. He will be flying out to St. Jude in Memphis, where he will be in very good hands. After the surgery, he will have about 10 days to recover, and after that he will start 6 weeks of radiation therapy. *sniff sniff* Please continue to keep him in your prayers!

I have been working like crazy on your necklaces! I will start getting them sent out within the next week or so! :)

Thank you for all of your love, support and prayers! I really do have the best blog BFF's in the WORLD!


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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stephen: post surgery update with pictures! :)

Hi Friends and family! For those of you who are following along with Stephen's journey, I thought you might enjoy these pictures! These are all from the past few days, and they are just so heartwarming! You can really see what a sweet little boy he is!

After they took the tubes out of him, he had one simple request. Ice cream. He is a boy after my own heart. :) He downed the entire thing. I can only imagine how good it must have tasted after being on a clear liquid diet for so long...

Taking a stroll with Mom. You can see how his little face is swollen from the surgery (which is normal).

He is a big Star Wars fan and some VERY special visitors came to see him! CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW AWESOME THIS WOULD BE!?! WOW. Darth Vader couldn't make it...because, as we all know, he was killed in the last movie.


Killing time colorfully...Star Wars style. ;) Oh my gosh, I love this kid! :)


Yup, more ice cream!

His Aunt gave a little background on Stephen for me, I thought it was very fitting to include in this post!

"Sweet Stephen has been through a lot in his 6 years. He was abandoned and left on the doorstep of a Chinese orphanage as a baby. He is missing his right arm, due to an amniotic band in utero. If he'd have stayed in China, he would not have had access to an education, as he has a physical disability. My sister and BIL adopted him and he's been a part of our family for 4.5 wonderful years now. He had to have pretty intensive speech intervention also. He's a special, brave little boy who brings so much happiness to our family. The thought of losing him tore my heart out. Please continue prayers for him and his parents. They've got a long way to go, but we have absolutely witnessed a miracle!"

He is a VERY special little boy. Thank you for all of your continued prayers!


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