Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fun with the boys...down to business tomorrow

Greetings from Boston! We made it up safely on Sunday and have enjoyed a couple of fun days with the little boys with only a brief interlude of preop testing yesterday.  So here's our trip so far...
We flew up on Sunday morning, leaving Chattanooga at 8am.  Both flights went well, with the little ones sleeping in shifts this time, instead of at the same time.  That meant no rest for me or mom, but the babies were in good spirits, so travelled well.


We arrived in Boston a little after 1pm, so still had plenty of day left.  We got settled in at the Yawkey Inn, and went to eat, and then to the grocery store to stock up for the week.  We had a pretty relaxing evening, and planned the next few days. Monday the boys were up bright and early, so we ate breakfast and headed out to explore the Brookline area, where we are staying, and where the hospital is located.  On our previous trip, we spent a good bit of time downtown, but never did much close to "home" other than going back and forth to the hospital.  So we set out and went to the Emerson Garden here in Brookline.  It was in such a cool neighborhood, (as we've seen that most of Brookline is), with beautiful HUGE Victorian homes.  The playground was so cool, with a pirate ship play structure. 


Jacob thought that was pretty cool, but also was rather enamored with the riding toys scattered around. 

Luke stuck to his standard go-to, the swings.

We hung out there for a while, then walked on and went to the Brookline Avenue playground, as it was on the way back.  It was fun as well, but just a pretty standard playground.  

We essentially made a big circle through Brookline, and made it back to the Yawkey in time for a quick nap.  We headed to the hospital for our 1:00 appointment in Pre-op Testing. 

Jacob was pretty unfazed as we entered the hospital and waited, so I wondered if he remembered it at all. 

But as soon as they called his name to come back he freaked out, so I guess he does remember some unpleasantness after all.  Poor baby.  He did well though in the testing, and it was pretty non-traumatic, a relief for me as well.  We left there and took the subway and headed downtown.  He was excited to be riding the T again, and did remember it.  We headed to Boston Commons, and the Boston Public Garden, hoping to ride the swan boats, but arrived 5 minutes after the last boat.  We wandered around the park for a bit though, and Jacob enjoyed watching the squirrels (and pretending to be one). 

After that we decided to get touristy, and took the Boston Ducks tour.  It was fun and we got to see a lot of different areas of Boston.  After that, we were exhausted, so we headed back for the night.  Today, we got up and headed to the Boston Children's Museum.  Again, the hospital gave us tickets to this, and Jacob loved it so much last time, we were excited to go back. 

We had a great time, and it was fun to watch Luke as he was much more aware this time.  He crawled all around and explored and played too.

 We left there and both boys were asleep after only walking a block.  They were wore out!

We strolled them around while they napped, and then went back to the Boston Public Garden, again hoping to ride the swan boats.  It must not be meant to be, because there was no one there, and no sign as to why, and all the boats were tied up in the middle of the pond.  Oh well, maybe next time. Jacob played in the park a while, this time sharing his snack with the squirrels and one aggressive duck, that intercepted a few goldfish crackers.

I wanted mom to see Trinity Church, so we headed to Copley Square and went inside.  It is so beautiful, so we spent a bit letting the boys absorb some culture. 

After dinner, we called it a day, and came back to the Yawkey Inn to get ready for our early morning tomorrow.  Jacob's surgery is at 8:30am, so we have to be at the hospital at 7am.  I am glad we were able to fit in some fun for him, as I dread the day he realizes what eventually happens to him when we go to Boston.  I want these fun times to stand out in his mind. 

If you don't already have plans to, please consider giving blood this week in honor of Jacob.  I posted details in the previous post, and it would mean so much to us for Blood Assurance to be flooded with donations this week in our son's name.  In light of recent weather events, I'm sure they need it more than ever.  Please pray for Jake tomorrow.  I am anxious as always, but trying to trust.  I miss David, Asa, and Elena.  It's so difficult going through so much and having our family separated. I am so thankful my mom is here with me, though, and have had a great time with her.
 I will update as I can over the next few days, but in the meantime, know that we are so thankful for the support of all of you, and your thoughts and prayers. We have definitely enjoyed "today's miracle."   Love to all, from us in Boston

Friday, April 25, 2014

Give a Pint...for my Half-Pint!

A year and a half ago, some stranger felt led, went to Blood Assurance, and gave a donation, never knowing it would be for my son in his time of need.  We wish we could thank this person.  We will never know who gave this gift to my son.  But we can give this gift to another.

Many of you may have seen or been invited to our Facebook event hosted by my 2 dear childhood friends, Jackie (Money) Smith, and Ruth (Vaupel) Tarwacki.  It is both a virtual (wherever you are across the miles), and on site Blood Drive to raise awareness for the critical need for blood donors and for BRBNS and its children's desperate need for blood transfusions.  Jacob has already been the recipient of one blood transfusion, and is likely to need many more over the course of his life.  This blood drive is our way of thanking blood assurance and its donors, as well as "paying it forward" for the day when Jacob needs it again.

We are hoping that wherever you are, sometime next week, you go to your local Blood Assurance and donate in honor of Jacob and his battle with BRBNS.  You simply need to give his blood assurance # which is BA#657227 and it will show that your donation is in his honor.  If in Chattanooga, you can give at any Blood Assurance all week, or you can come to the on site drive at Silverdale Baptist Church on Wednesday, April 30 from 3-8pm.  If you live in South Bend, IN, you can give there at the local drive on May 1.  We are so excited about this and hope all of you that are able will consider giving.   Also, in 24 hours, we leave for Boston for Jacob's next treatment at Boston Children's Hospital, thanks to our friends at Miracle Flights for Kids.  Jacob will be having surgery again on Wednesday, April 30, and it will encourage our hearts for everyone to rally around him next week by giving blood.  Take a picture of yourself giving, or of your "pint" and post it to the event's Facebook page so we can see!  Hope to see many "pint selfies" next week!  

Jacob's Pint, October 31, 2012

In addition, for those who desire to do more, my friends have graciously set up a t-shirt fundraiser to help us with travel expenses for our upcoming trips to Boston with Jake.  If you feel led, you may buy a shirt as well, as the link is on the FB event page, or from this link:   

Jacob's Blood Drive "Give a Pint, Save a Half-Pint"

But more than anything, we want to be clear that our primary goal is to flood Blood Assurance with donations in honor of our Jake.  We remember all to clearly how our sweet boy looked and felt when severely anemic prior to his transfusion...

Through the gift of blood donation, his recovery was swift, and he was able to have energy to run and play and be our Jacob.  Help us keep our Jake (and so many other kids) safe and healthy, ready to enjoy "Today's Miracle." As always, thank you for your support and keep praying for our boy, especially tomorrow as we travel, and in the coming week.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Elena!

My baby girl turns 7 today.  I'm not sure how that happened as she is still very much my BABY girl. Due to the Casteel men's desire to repopulate the earth proclivity for producing male offspring, I figured I'd be the mom of 4 boys.  I couldn't be happier to have been wrong.  This girl we were given turned our world upside down in the most beautiful way.  


Even as a baby and toddler she seemed to have her own unique way of looking at things.  

She is the most loving child I have ever encountered. She is the 2nd mom to her baby brothers and Asa is her best friend.

Most of the time when she gets to pick something out of the treasure box at school, she chooses something for one of her brothers. She truly loves them more than herself.  She is fiercely protective of all 3, and our family.  She treasures the times we are all together, and makes sure the rest of us do as well.  We don't play a game, we have FAMILY game night.  We don't watch movies, we have FAMILY movie night.  She insists she will never get married because then she couldn't live with us (just fine by her daddy by the way), and has shed tears on many an occasion at the mere thought of it.

She loves koalas, and I mean loves them like my family loves basketball. She wants to work at the San Diego Zoo because they have koalas, but says that's too far from her family so she will need to get the Chattanooga Zoo to get some because she will take care of them.  

She truly sees beauty and love in every day and every situation. Her wonder reminds me to not be in such a hurry, and to stop and see the little joys of each day.  

Her sweetness makes me watch my tone and remember to be gentle with her tender heart.  

Her gentle spirit amazes me and makes me hope she'll be like my mom instead of me.  And it gives me hope that as she grows up, we will have a relationship like I have with my mother.

I couldn't be prouder of you, sweet girl.  You make me so happy, and you make me laugh every day.  You are the glue of our little family.  You hold so tight to each of us, pulling us always to each other.  I love you so much, baby girl.  I look forward to watching your life unfold, and I know it will be a beautiful, joyous one.