Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends and Family,

We’re going to try something we haven’t done for a while, and have a family Christmas letter and card, or at least e-letter and e-card.  2011 has been a good year for our family.  We have been blessed and grown in many ways.

Deborah (20) has taken a break from school and gotten a CNA certificate.  She is currently working the graveyard shift at a local assisted living center and enjoying the sleep schedule she’s been trying to cultivate all her life:  up all night, sleep all day.  In addition, she has been a huge help with Aaron as she has learned how to take care of all his many needs.

Mary (19) finished high school number six in her class.  She is enjoying her first year at BYU and doing very well.  She took voice lessons and is planning to attend a study abroad in England in about a year and a half.  We miss having her around here all the time, especially in the kitchen.  There’s still no one who makes the Sunday rolls like she did. 

David (17) is a senior this year at Lone Peak High School.  He’s applying for college and still working on all those merit badges.  He’s also the Lodge Chief for the Order of the Arrow for Utah National Parks Council .  He is dancing on the ballroom team at high school and they took 2nd place at the National DanceSport competition in their division.

Jonathan (15) is a sophomore at Lone Peak High School and has added wrestling to our family’s sport repertoire.  He is also dancing on the ballroom team and doing very well in school.  He is looking forward to getting his driver’s license, if he could only get Mom and Dad to take him out to practice...

Matthew’s  (13) focus this year is on the performing arts.  He plays the trombone at Timberline Middle School and is involved in drama. Next semester, he is looking forward to Men’s Chorus and Musical Theater to his schedule.  He also sings in the ward choir, adding a strong tenor voice that the director loves.

Joseph (11) is enjoying his last year at Westfield Elementary.  The only one still playing competitive soccer, he loves to get out on the field.  He sings with the Westfield Singers and was able to participate in several holiday concerts.  Earlier this year, he broke his arm and spent almost all the summer in a cast.  He’s really grateful that casts now are waterproof and he could still go swimming!

Andrew (8) is in third grade and was baptized this year.  He also sings with Westfield Singers and really enjoyed the experience.  He’s now a Wolf Cub Scout and loves to play with his friends.  He plays keeper and forward on his soccer team and is a real asset to them.  He’s also getting really good at his times tables. 

Michael (5) is in Kindergarten and loves to ride the bus. He’s learning to read quickly and loves going to school .  This year was Michael’s first year playing baseball (t-ball) and soccer and he really enjoyed the sports.  He is an awesome helper at home, and is probably one of very few kids who knew his upper numbers (90-100) before his lower ones. 

Aaron (18 months) continues to inspire all of us.  He enjoys his life and gives such love.  While he spent much of his time last winter in the hospital, he’s only gone in sick twice since last April.  His nurses who come at night really hope he’s awake to play with them.  He is still growing and developing, just at a much slower pace than most children.  At 18 months, he’s about a four-month developmental age.  That’s okay.  We always said the kids grow up too fast.  We’ve had 1 ½ years of a newborn, and it’s truly a blessing to have him in our home. 

Rebekah has continued attending “Aaron’s Medical School” and now feels confident enough to ask the hard questions and participate in rounds when Aaron is in-patient at the hospital.  She has also picked up a part-time job doing transcription to help make ends meet.

William is still serving as the chapter advisor for the Order of the Arrow.  He’s also been doing some freelance work as an attorney.  Mostly, he loves to hold and snuggle Aaron.  And it’s a two-way street.  When Aaron is struggling, Daddy holds him and he does much better right away. 

Our family has been so blessed this past year, and pray that you know of our love for you.  We have felt the love and concern and prayers that have been offered on our behalf and are grateful for them.  May this Christmas time find you well and happy. 
                                                      Love, The Petersons

Sunday, December 18, 2011

41 Angels

I have an angel wall on my medically fragile facebook page.  This last week, I added several more to it.  Two passed quite suddenly within about 12 hours of each other.  I am at a loss as to what to say.

Little Firecracker is so nicknamed because she was born on the 4th of July, just a few weeks after Aaron was.  She had been doing really great.  She had heart surgery a month ago to close a large hole and had just caught a cold a few days earlier.  After a normal, playful day, Lilly laid down for a nap and never woke up.

This week while in DC, I had hoped to be able to visit with another mom whose daughter, Julia, had just celebrated her 1 year birthday.  Things with my family were really busy and Julia had also come down with a cold.  Friday morning, her heart developed an arrhythmia and she, too, passed away.

I haven't done any angel pictures since Caleb died in September.  Yesterday I made nine more.  And the thing is, I know I've missed some.  There are 41 angels on my wall.  Forty-one, plus the ones that I missed, who will be missing come Christmas morning.  Hold your family tight, and spare a small prayer for comfort and peace for those who can no longer touch their loved ones.  And give thanks to the One whose birthday we celebrate, who makes it possible to see them again.

Friday, December 16, 2011


A crisp, clear December morning.  Cars stop along a narrow roadway and we exit.  Ahead, a caisson drawn by horses, followed by men in military dress.  Across the field, a military band takes up "The Crusader's Song."  The family gathers.  A son and daughters, their spouses and children, and children's children.  A great heritage. 

The urn containing our grandparents is placed in the casket on the caisson.  They lead out and we follow on foot.  A last trip with them in the lead as the band begins to play, "God of our Fathers."  We follow the caisson to the final resting place in the cemetery.  Surrounded by thousands and thousands of others who served our nation, Nana and Papa are laid to rest.  It is so fitting that she is here, too.  The chaplain who conducted the ceremony referred to her contribution as well.  Papa fought in the wars, both Korean and Vietnam, but she kept the home fires burning. 

As the ceremony concludes, the flag is  folded and presented to their son, the guns fires a 21-gun volley, and the mournful notes of taps, played on a bugle, sound over the field.  From the grave in one direction is a perfect view of the Washington Monument.  In the other direction, through the trees, is the Arlington House.  And in this hallowed ground, we leave them, to wait until they are called forth in the resurrection.

Accompanying the family is a gracious woman, one of the Arlington Ladies.  These wonderful women ensure that no matter what, not one of our military members is ever laid to rest without someone there. 

I could spend days in Arlington, wandering among the stones.  At one place we come upon a large tomb.  Inside are the remains of more than 2100 Civil War soldiers who died and were unable to be identified following the battle of Bull Run.  They are gone, I'm sure many without descendants to remember them.  But they were willing to lay down their lives for freedom.  Near the more well-known Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the remains of men from WWI, WWII, and Korea (those from Vietnam were eventually able to be identified), is a bell tower.  It is dedicated as a memorial to the men and women from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  The last line addresses these noble people and says, "While these bells ring, safely rest.  Freedom lives."  These men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms I enjoy. Freedoms I often don't even think about, but take for granted. 

Down in Washington, DC, we visit many other sites.  We see the Holocaust Museum and revisit the atrocities there.  We see the Lincoln Memorial and read his immortal words from the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural speech as he pleads with us to better ourselves.  To remember and reach higher. 

We visit the WWII Memorial at night.  It is so peaceful there and is a beautiful monument to those who preserved world peace and freedom.  At the Vietnam Wall we read the names of men, listed in the order that they fell.  Near the very end, we found flowers with a note on them.  They were dedicated to a vet who served and then died young after the war.  Many, many years later, his cause of death was identified as Agent Orange. 

The Korean War Memorial is opposite the
Vietnam Wall.  Nineteen men, some looking like mere boys, show a military squad on patrol.  It is a haunted, hunted expression on most of their faces.  One in particular, appearing about 16 years old, looks right through you as you gaze on him.  To the side is a black granite wall with images taken from photos of military members.  About half-way down, Tricia and I found one that looked very much like Papa would have at that time.  On the wall behind the men is etched, "Freedom is not free."  It's not free.  Still today, men and women pay that ultimate price for us. 

All over Washington, DC comes the plea:  Remember.

God bless America, 
My home, sweet home. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

18 Months Old!!

Birthday boy!
Aaron is 18 months old!!  We celebrated on Monday evening, because early (I mean, EARLY) Tuesday morning, I'm leaving for the airport.  My grandparents are being interred at Arlington National Cemetery and my siblings and I are all flying out there.  (Or all but Mara, who is driving out with her family.  She's braver than I am.) 

Ooh, fire!

Blowing out the candles.

A taste of chocolate cake...

But he's here, he's still here!  I'm sure I can't explain it.  I know sometimes it hurts some moms because theirs aren't around when other's speak of their living miracles.  I don't know why it is that we get to keep enjoying him.  All I can assume is that he has a mission to perform that isn't done yet, and these other babies' missions were accomplished.  But I do know, that for me, when I was singing on Sunday night "For Unto Us a Child is Born," followed by the "Hallelujah Chorus," it was different.  I don't think I can explain it, but the songs were different.  I felt that my emotions could not be contained and I wanted to shout "Hallelujah," or "Praise ye the Lord." 
Me and the birthday boy.

Oh, and for anyone who might be wondering, here are his latest figures:  8.9 kg, (that's 19 lbs &11 oz) 28.2 inches long, and a head circumference of 45.5 cm.  Yeah, he's got a large head, but he's finally on the chart with all his numbers.  Of course, if you use a T18 chart, he's actually somewhere between 75th and 80th percentile!  Yeah, my kid!  Who'd a thunk it?  (The others all bounced between 5 & 10th percentile at this age.)  So much for failure to thrive!  You go, kid!!
My picture wall, because I pray
for ALL of my children,
not just Aaron.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We're Crafty LIke That, or Maybe Not

Every so often I get these great ideas!  See, I love Christmas, love everything about it.  This year I saw these really cute, easy (?) cookies and thought they'd make great gifts.  We could all decorate them together for Family Home Evening and give them to friends and teachers.  Family togetherness, what fun!  (put aside for the moment the thought that FHE is the fight that begins and ends with prayer)  Here's what they look like (on the web).  Easy right?  Yeah, probably.

 So we got things together.  Michael and I made the sugar cookie dough before school on Monday so it could chill.  Then before dinner, the kids helped make the cookies.  So far so good.

 But then came the decorating.  Yeah, the marshmallows worked well, but that was pretty straight forward.  Then came the fun.  And it was fun.  But the results, not quite what we had planned.  Here's what it all looked like at our house:

 Deborah actually worked on trying to make hers turn out right.  The boys, they mostly wanted to just pile on the frostings.

Jonathan at the frosting bowl.  Yeah, that's how
 to make weight before a wrestling match.
Yeah, teen age boys and sugar.  They love it.    I think we'll be figuring out something else to do for those edible gifts.  But then,  I don't think anyone was upset or angry.  Just lots of laughter and fun.  And I guess that's what Family Home Evening is supposed to be about.

David figured he'd just skip the cookie part
 and go for the straight sugar.

If you want to try this, we found them here:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neurosurgery Visit

Okay, I think I might have caught my breath here, at least for a moment.  Aaron had his MRI last Thursday and then we visited with Dr. W. in neurosurgery on Tuesday.  He was as wonderful and compassionate as I've been told.  Aaron's hematoma has resolved, which is wonderful news.  He does have excess fluid in and around his brain, but not extreme amounts, and basically the same as his MRI in mid-October.  So we're in a watch-and-wait pattern right now.  His head will be measured each month by his pediatrician, and I'll watch for strange signs here at home, and we'll repeat the MRI in three months.

On the way out, we had some enjoyable experiences.  We ran into Dr. C, our geneticist.  He is AWESOME.  He's a key speaker at SOFT conferences world wide.  He mentioned that he'd been told Aaron was in the hospital last month but he'd been out of town.  I said, yeah, Aaron's kinda well known around the hospital.  No, that's not how he heard.  He had been in AUSTRALIA at a SOFT conference and someone there told him we were at PCMC.  Small world.  And wonderful friends who help look out for us even across the world.

Then we also saw Dr. M, his cardiologist in the hallway.  He was also really impressed by how well Aaron was looking.  And my cooperative little guy was happy and awake and smiling and playful.  Like he often is here at home.  At midnight.  But this time it was during the day at the hospital.  Loved being able to show him off.  And, just a side note, because I'm not sure who all reads this and where you are in your own journeys.  Many doctors, OBGYNs and Maternal Fetal Medicine docs will try very hard to discourage a mom with T18 or T13 from getting a fetal echocardiogram.  They reason that it's useless because the baby is going to die anyway.  This was Dr. M's comment, and he trained at the Mayo Clinic.  "It is absolutely necessary."  That way everyone knows what to expect and how best to provide support, whether it is pallative or proactive support.  We met Dr. M at my fetal echo and he has repeatedly shown compassion and the ability to look at the individual instead of the diagnosis.  We are so grateful for him and all of Aaron's other doctors.

One last thing, we keep talking about how Aaron is growing.  He is growing so well that he's about to out-grow his car seat.  We're in the process of getting a special needs adaptive car seat.  This one will fit him up to 105 pounds.  If he's going to get that big, I probably need to start lifting weights!  Anyway, this is the baby that we had to use rolled up blankets and towels to keep sitting straight in his car seat when we brought him home.  Here is the "then and now" pictures of him.  Same car seat, same baby, much bigger.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

I love Christmas.  I love it ALL!  In all my (many) years, I think we can count on one hand, with fingers left over, how many times I've actually slept on Christmas Eve. Not because I'm still working on things, but because I'm too excited.  Even when it was just William & I, I woke up early and woke him up because it was CHIRSTMAS!! 

This year I've had a harder time getting into it.  I've felt the lack but didn't know why.  The house was all decorated, I tried playing the Christmas tunes.  But my heart just wasn't there.  The last two years, I took the kids to a local assisted living center where, I kid you not, they have the very best Santa I've ever seen.  I hadn't seen anything about it this year, so I called them on Friday.  Yes, they're doing it.  On December 13th, Aarons 18 month birthday, and also the day I leave at zero-dark-thirty to fly back East.  No, I don't think anyone else is comfortable trying to haul Aaron around.  William has a joke about that.  He asked the kids how many people it took to load and unload Aaron.  The answer is 5:   Mom to do it and four more to stand around and watch her. 

So obviously that wasn't going to work, and it further dampened any Christmas spark.  Alpine City was having the Jolly Elf today at City Hall.  But the weather is really cold, and kind of iffy.  And I'm worried about having him out there being exposed.  Then a miracle.  Really, just a tiny one, but just what I needed.  This morning was our church Christmas breakfast/party.  I think Santa has been around for a few, but only rarely.  But yesterday, in the reminder e-mail was a hint that a special visitor would be showing up.  I called the person in charge and yes!  He was going to be there.  Would it be possible to arrange a special visit?  Maybe...  And I started to feel the Christmas spirit.

To continue it, at the breakfast, I found myself at a table with the couple who had all the "inside" info on our visitor.  I mentioned that we really hoped that perhaps Santa might have a minute to stop by and see Aaron and was told that he was already planning on it.  After breakfast, Santa came in and the program was "Teach the Children," another favorite of mine.   Then he spoke with each child who wanted to visit with him.  Michael was the only one I could talk into going up to see him.  They spoke very quietly.  I thought I heard him telling him his little brother was at home and could he come over. 

Then, about 15 minutes after we got home, the doorbell rang.  And Aaron was awake and happy!  I loved seeing him in Santa's arms.  And he loved playing with the candy cane Santa brought!  And the Christmas spirit came rushing in.  It's here.  I can feel it.

Teach the Children

This morning we had our church Christmas party.  It was a breakfast, followed up a visit from Santa as he "Taught the Children."  This is one of my favorites.  I think it melds perfectly Santa with the more important aspect of Christmas.


Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room, and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out. "What are you doing?" I started to ask him.

The words choked in my throat, as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement, TEACH THE CHILDREN! I was puzzled: What did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree.

As I stood there bewildered, Santa said, Teach the Children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that a now-a-day Christmas has forgotten!

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it on the mantle. Teach the Children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind. All the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven.

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. Teach the Children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of that promise.

He then reached into the bag and pulled out a CANDLE. Teach the Children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness.

Once again he reached into his bag and then removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree. Teach the Children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection.

He then pulled out from his bag an ornament of HIMSELF. Teach the Children that Santa Claus symbolizes the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December.

He reached in again and pulled out a HOLLY LEAF. Teach the Children the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled out a GIFT from the bag and said, "Teach the Children that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Teach the Children that the wise men bowed before the holy babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men."

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. Teach the Children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the shepherd's staff helps bring back strayed sheep from the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper.

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. Teach the Children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will.'

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a BELL. Teach the Children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of a bell, it should bring people to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.

Santa looked at the tree and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the Children the true meaning of Christmas, and not to put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the ONE WHO IS, and I bow down and worship Him, our Lord, our God."

 Author Unknown