Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pictures are worth 1000 words. . .

. . .so instead of boring you with words, I thought I would give a quick update through pictures! Enjoy!

Maren, Jacob, Lukas, Josh and Evan getting ready to go cheer the Carroll HS Boys Varsity Volleyball team and Coach Nana to victory.

This is what Richard does in his spare time. He is using a radio to communicate with a satellite.

Evan ready to go on his first bike ride

Big Dawg (my step-dad) and Richard taking the kids (minus Josh) for a bike ride. They LOVED it!

Making a house for the garden gnomes at Wegerzyn Children's Garden

Mommy and Evan "planting" some flowers at the sand table

Canoing. . . .in the mulch! Joshua was not a fan!

Lukas and Jacob wading through the stream

What could be more fun than a waterfall on a hot day?

Crazy Maren!

I could snuggle with this boy all day!

Playing in the water

Joshua took on the waterfall. . .

. . .the waterfall won!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

As the Rieben World Turns. . .

It has been a tradition in the Rieben family that, when we go into the hospital for what should be "routine" procedures, we end up staying for at least a few days. Now, I realize that any and all surgical procedures carry with them the risk of complications and admittedly, prior to each surgery we have been prepped for potential hospital stays, but I guess the eternal optimist in me is always trying to stay focused on the best-case scenario. After our latest experience I have learned that you CAN pack a hospital bag and still be optimistic!

When I picked Joshua up from the orphanage in October, one of the first things that I noticed when changing his diaper was the absence of his testicles. Upon further examination once we arrived home, it was concluded that his left testicle was likely absent and that the right testicle had simply not descended. We scheduled surgery with the pediatric urologist and on Wednesday we headed to the hospital for the procedure. The procedure would consist of three things. To start, the doctor hoped to do laparoscopic exploratory surgery to locate one (or both) testicles. Upon finding the testicle(s) he then planned to attempt to descend it. If he was unable to descend the testicle, we agreed that it should be removed (as the risk of testicular cancer is greatly increased if a testicle remains undescended). We also planned to have Joshua circumcised (primarily for medical reasons associated with his condition, but also because the other boys in the family are). The surgery was scheduled to take 1 hour 45 minutes or less.

1 hour and 45 minutes into the surgery the doctor called from the OR to tell me that they had been able to locate both testicles, but that the left testicle would need to be removed because it was not functional. He had located it all the way up by his left kidney. He had also located the right testicle and it appeared to be healthy and was "mobile" so he planned to descend it. Unfortunately, because Joshua's anatomy is not completely normal and the doctor was not able to see well laparoscopically, he had to open Joshua's abdomen (so mommy and Joshua now have matching scars). 3.5 hours after the surgery began, Joshua was taken to recovery. The surgery was a success.

Because they needed to do more invasive surgery, we were informed that he would be staying overnight for observation so we were given a room in the "Almost Home" unit of the hospital and Richard and I went up to wait for him. Before heading upstairs, a nurse came to let us know that Joshua had spiked a fever of 104 and that they had given him tylenol. Usually the words "Joshua" and "fever" used in the same sentence give me a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, but seeing as he had just come out of a difficult surgery, I took a deep breath and hoped it would come down without further incident.

2.5 hours after he had been taken to recovery, one of the recovery nurses came upstairs to ask us some questions about Joshua and his fever history. They said that they were having a little trouble waking him up and that they had not been able to bring his fever down. The nurse wrote down the phone number for our room and told us she would call us as soon as she knew something. 10 minutes later, another nurse walked into the room to tell us that we could come back downstairs and that they were going to let us go back to recovery to see Joshua. She told us to bring our things with us just in case we didn't come back to the same room. As soon as she said that, I knew we would be going to the PICU.

Once we got to recovery I got the full scoop on what was going on. Apparently it had taken over an hour to extubate him and that, once extubated, he needed an oral airway to keep his oxygen saturation up. They had given him two doses of tylenol, but his fever remained at 104 and his heart rate was extremely high. They decided that it would be best if he spent the night in Intensive Care so that he could be closely monitored. So, after 4 hours in recovery, he was taken to the PICU where he spent the night. His fever went down, his heart rate returned to normal and he was oxygenating at 98-100%. We learned the next morning that the urine sample taken prior to surgery showed bacteria and that he had another urinary tract infection which was likely the cause of the fever and so the doctor decided to admit him to the regular floor for at least one more night so that he could do a round or two of IV antibiotics.

He has done wonderfully and was released from the hospital yesterday morning. Once again, the resilience of children amazes me. He has 3 incisions (a small incision right at his belly button, a large incision in his lower abdomen and another small incision in his scrotum) and was circumcised and he is moving around, happy as a lark, as if nothing has happened! He is starting to sit for short periods of time and I can imagine that, in a few days, he will be tired of just lounging around and will likely take off crawling again. So, despite the post-op scare, surgery was a success and Joshua is recovering beautifully. Now if we could just stay out of the hospital for awhile! Have I mentioned how grateful I am for Aflac. . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just Another Day...

In the hospital.

Josh is not coming home today. Good thing I had taken vacation days today and tomorrow for attending Hamvention. Daddy day care continues...


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh Goodness - Are We Really Doing This Again?

Outpatient Surgery? Not so much. Not in the Rieben family.

Josh's surgery today went well and the results are positive, but as a indirect result of the success they had to do a more invasive surgery which has resulted in Josh being in the hospital overnight.

We had really hoped this would be a simple process, especially considering how busy we are this week. We'll post more information tomorrow. Val will probably make a post tomorrow as well but for tonight I've got cleaning, etc. to do.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Dayton Daily News' Miami Valley Mother of the Year! (It's Val!)

(Richard Here)


We’ve already mentioned this to some of you, but I wanted to share the exciting news about Val. Her mom nominated her for the Dayton Daily News’ “Miami Valley Mother of the Year” award, and a few weeks ago we found out that she had been selected to be the winner. They came to our house and interviewed her and spent a day taking pictures and video for the article. Since Val’s never one to brag, I’m going to do it for her – so here’s the URL for the article:

And here’s a link to the video:


Valerie here:

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving my doctor's office after finding out I had strep throat yet again, completely miserable, with all 5 kids in tow, my cell phone rang. It was my mom. She was calling to give me an early Mother's Day gift. She told me that, several weeks prior, she had sent a letter to Dayton Daily News journalist, Dale Huffman, nominating me for the Miami Valley Mother of the Year, a tradition that he began 24 years ago. After weeks of pouring over hundreds of letters of nomination, Mr. Huffman and his committee had chosen me as the Miami Valley Mother of the Year for 2008. I was completely overwhelmed by this honor and immediately burst into tears (my kids probably thought I had lost my mind).

I could not, and still cannot, believe that I had been chosen out of hundreds of amazing and well-deserving mothers to represent the mother's of the Miami Valley as Mother of the Year. I am truly humbled. I was honored to share my story with the Dayton Daily News, not because I felt I deserved to be recognized in this way, but because I wanted to share with all that will read it, how truly blessed I feel to be the mother of 5 truly incredible children who I am blessed and privileged to be raising. This honor also gave me the opportunity to share my passion for adoption and the chance to promote all of the organizations that aided us in our adoptions, who work tirelessly to improve the lives of children across the world, something that I have been longing to do since before we even began our own adoption journey. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for the opportunity that this has given me to be a voice for His children.

I was a bit nervous at how it would all turn out seeing as the past few weeks have been a bit of a bumpy ride and we had to get creative to fit interviews and photo shoots in between illness, hospital stays, doctors appointments and nurse visits, but I am very happy with the final product (although, after watching the video, I wish I would've put on a little more make up to hide the enormous circles under my eyes and my pasty, pale lips. . . but that is the vain side of my speaking!). Not all of the details are 100% accurate, but with so much information to gather and pack into one short article, I have no complaints!

Mr. Huffman, who is battling cancer and has been away from work since late January to receive medical treatment, put his heart and soul into this article and this makes this honor so much greater to me. Again, I am truly humbled. Mr. Huffman is back in the hospital after undergoing another surgery on Thursday, so if you could all keep him in your prayers, I know he would greatly appreciate it.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the amazing mothers out there! Be sure to keep scrolling for some great Mother's Day pictures from my sweet kiddies!

Happy Mother's Day from the Rieben 5

Of course, to get this one decent picture, I had to take about 50, not-so-flattering pictures. Here are some of the better "outtakes":

Please note what Maren is doing in this picture. . . disgusting, no?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Blogging Award


Several weeks ago, my friend Meredith nominated me for this blogging award. This particular award is for creativity, design, interesting material, and contributing to the blogging community.

I am now allowed to pass this award on to other bloggers that I feel deserve the award. Here are the blogs I have nominated:

Lisa at "A Momma Swamped"

Christine at "Smiles and Trials"

Kris at "Levario Family Adoption"

MamaChanga at "Da' Gorgeouses"

Theresa at "Misadventures of a Maniacal Mom"

Now, here's the rules:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and that contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte y Pico blog, the origin of this award.

5. Post these rules.

All About Me!

. . .because I know you are all just dying to know all the senseless little details of my life!

My friend Charissa tagged me for this Mememe! Thanks Charissa! Hope you all enjoy!

What I was doing 10 years ago:
Bwahahahaha! Let's see. . .I was 14 years-old so chances are, I was babysitting while on the phone with one of my girlfriends (after the kids were in bed of course) talking about some cute guy I had a crush on! I don't know that at that age I ever could have imagined this is where I would be in 10 years!

5 things on my to-do list today:
1. Bathe 5 children and get them in their pajamas
2. Have our nightly scriptures, prayer and song and put the kids to bed
3. Prepare my primary lesson for church tomorrow (in the LDS church, Primary is basically Sunday School for children 3-12 years old. . . I teach the 9-10 year olds)
4. Iron and lay out everyone's church clothes and pack the "church bag"
5. Dig out from under the debris that 5 toddlers leave in their wake, finish up a few Mother's Day cards and spend some time with my wonderful husband before calling it a night!

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Hmmm.....Let's see.
1. Donate 10% of the money to our church (whose reach is far greater than mine)
2. Put all of my children through college
3. Establish a non-profit organization that assists in improving orphanages and the quality of life for orphans throughout the world as well as helping to fund the adoptions of older children or children with special needs (I hope to do this even if I never become a billionaire).
4. Buy a 12-15 passenger van
5. Adopt more children to fill that van with!
6. Hire a nanny for Charissa after she buys her 12 passenger van and fills it with more children (and spends all of her money on nannies for the rest of us)!
7. Donate to other adoption ministries and organizations like Reece's Rainbow who help to find families for children with special needs.
8. Go back to school to get my Nursing degree (again, something I plan to do regardless of my billionaire status)
9. Take a nice vacation, entirely kid-free, with my wonderful husband!

Hmmmm. . .I'd better start working on my billionaire status, since it appears that I plan to do about 90% of these things regardless!

Bad habits:
1. Blog reading
2. Browsing adoption photo listings
3. Chocolate

Places I've lived
1. Kentucky (thrice)
2. Tennessee
3. California
4. Texas
5. Maryland (twice)
6. Montana
7. Utah (twice)
8. North Carolina (twice)
9. Virginia
10. Ohio

5 jobs I've had:
1. Babysitting
2. Cyberkids (teaching kids 2-12 how to use laptops)
3. Aid for a child with Autism
4. Director of Conferences and Workshops and Head Cheerleading Coach at Southern Virginia University
5. Mommy to 5 incredible kids're it!
1. Jill
4. Lisa

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No blog update is complete without pictures. . .

Lukas and Jacob "camping" (wearing t-shirts from Ukraine. . if anyone can translate, I would greatly appreciate it. . .I can pronounce the words and know a few, but not enough to make sense of it!)
Jacob and Lukas showing off their cabin

Daddy, Jacob and Lukas after a fun night of camping

Evan watching the kids run around the playground (notice the bright orange cast. . .he wanted to look like Nemo)

This face cracks me up. He is such a goof ball! He definitely keeps me laughing!

For a child who loves to be the center of attention and is constantly asking me to take her picture, I can never seem to get a normal shot of her!

Joshua enjoying the park

My little drool king!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some sunshine after the rain. . .

Sorry to leave everyone hanging! Needless to say, it has been a busy few weeks!

Evan was discharged from the hospital last Thursday and is now being seen by a nurse at home three times per week. He was sent home on wound vac therapy which involves being attached to a machine 24-7 and he is not a huge fan of that, but he is tolerating it fairly well. I never cease to be amazed by the resiliency of children! I think it is fairly safe to say that he has actually held up better than I have through all of this. The first few days at home were a bit stressful. Less than 24 hours after being discharged from the hospital, Evan's wound vac machine stopped working (we later learned that it was because the tubing was clogged which caused the machine to burn out). I am generally a pretty laid back person, but last week's chain of events had me a little stressed out and this did not help! Thankfully we were able to get it replaced quickly and in conjunction with the nurses visit and all was right in the world again! On Sunday night, as I was getting ready to hop into bed (at 1 am) I heard the machine's alarm sounding. The tubing was clogged again and the machine had shut itself off. Although, in the back of my mind, I already knew that I needed to do, I called the on-call nurse just to be sure and she instructed me to remove the dressing and do a wet-to-dry (this involves placing a piece of gauze with a saline solution into the wound and then covering it with a dry piece of gauze, hence wet-to-dry). Normally the thought of getting my hands on a grotesque, gaping wound would excite me (gross, I know. . . my degree is in recreation administration, but, once the kids are in school, I would LOVE to go back to school and get my Nursing degree), but it is different when it is your child and you know that you will be causing them excruciating pain (thank goodness for liquid morphine. . .definitely takes the edge off of those dressing changes. . . for Evan of course!). With Richard's help, I got the dressing changed and put Evan back to bed, unattached for the first time in a week. When I went to get him up the next morning he was laying on his stomach in a state of absolute bliss (he is a tummy sleeper and has not been able to sleep on his stomach for almost a month now). The home care nurse came on Monday morning to reapply his wound vac dressing and get him hooked back up to the machine, but we made sure to take advantage of his "freedom" while we could and he spent a good half hour swinging in the back yard. . .his favorite activity of the moment!

His foot is actually healing quite nicely. We saw the orthopedist again today and he was pleased with the progress of the wound. Evan will likely continue the wound vac therapy for another 2-3 weeks (and his right foot will remain casted) at which point the doctor will close the deepest part of the incision (remove the cast on the right leg) and fit him for AFO's (ankle-foot orthoses) which will support his feet/ankles and hold them in the correct position (they are kind of like "retainers" for your feet!). These will be a part of his life for a very long time! Because he does not have a cast on his left foot, I have obviously been able to see his foot and am very impressed with how straight the doctors we able to get it. I will not be posting pictures until his incision has healed as it is pretty gruesome and is not for the faint of heart, but I am excited for the day when I can share the final "product" with everyone who has been cheering us on!

As always, I am amazed with how well Evan is handling all of this. We certainly have our good and bad days and he is definitely not a fan of doctors and nurses, but when he is not being poked and prodded, he is generally a happy and content little guy! I certainly admire his strength, courage and resiliency through all of this and am so proud of him for being such a trooper! After the events of the past month, there is really no doubt in my mind that he will do anything and everything he puts his mind to!

The other kids are doing great as well! Richard was able to take Jacob and Lukas "camping" on Friday night (it ended up raining, so they rented a small cabin at one of the local campgrounds. . .not exactly "roughing it" but they had a blast) and I took Maren out to dinner. With 5 young kids, we try our best to make sure everyone gets one-on-0ne time as much as possible. The kids look forward to their mommy/daddy "dates" and so do Richard and I! Joshua's mysterious fevers seem to have subsided for the time being. Now that he is seemingly healthy again, we are going to run a few more blood tests to make sure that all is well and that nothing serious has been overlooked, but it seems as though we are out of the woods for now.

For the time being, it looks as though the storms have subsided and the sun is shining through. Although the past few weeks and months have not been easy, I have seen the hand of the Lord in everything and there is such a peace that comes with knowing that He is guiding our lives. Even in the most stressful moments, I can't help but feel incredibly loved, blessed and privileged!