Ever wonder what’s on Maebyn’s mind?

One of MaKenzie and I’s most favorite things to do is to talk for Maebyn. We used to laugh at each other for entertainment and now we’ve found that coming up with “what Maebyn is thinking” is much more entertaining. Need examples? Well I’m glad you asked because that is all this post is gonna be.

Maebyn Bathtime

So I says to the guy, hey buddy, lemme make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Maebyn Swaddled

Left hand… check. One more and this jokester’s gonna get it.

Oh hey, me & dad just hit up the gym... he's mixin us a protein shake right now.

Oh hey, me & dad just hit up the gym… he’s mixin us a protein shake right now, we start cardio in 5.

Sure, I'll wear this crazy get-up for a free bag of candy any day.

Sure, I’ll wear this crazy get-up for a free bag of candy any day.

Hey, look, I'm just as shocked as you guys are.

Hey look, I’m just as shocked as you guys are.

See Ellery, I tried to tell ya, the dogs ARE allowed to poop outside.

See Ellery, I tried to tell ya, the dogs ARE allowed to poop outside.

Uhhhh... this doesn't seem safe, guys, she's like 3 days old.

Uhhhh… this doesn’t seem safe, guys, she’s like 3 days old.

Mom, I tried to tell ya... neither one of us are ready for bikini season this year.

Mom, seriously though… neither one of us are ready for bikini season this year.

 

Hope at least one of those made you laugh. Till next time,

Ross

Medically impossible?

Fight TTTSIt has been a good week… a very good week to say the least. Our Monday ultrasound got moved to Tuesday due to the holiday weekend and we were anxious to find out what was going on with the girls. We had received good reports the week prior and MaK and I were curious to find out if the pessimistic doctors’ negativity was actually the reality of the TTTS diagnosis. I guess in order to accurately describe what happened today I’ll have to start at the beginning of our diagnosis and go from there.

On May 6, we spent about ten hours at Cincinnati Children’s hospital having an MRI, high level ultrasound, and echocardiogram performed on MaK and the girls. After the MRI and ultrasound, we got a call from our nurse informing MaK that she should not eat anything until our final consultation. Based on the results from the testing thus far – they expected us to be in the operating room by end of day. At the time, the nurse didn’t explain anything further and just reiterated that we would have a consultation with the specialist(s)/surgeons after our last test. We had no idea what was going on. We had no idea why we might need surgery at the end of the day. And we had no idea what the results of the tests were. Going into this day, MaKenzie and I prayed that we would not hope or despair in anything the doctors told us. We would not worry and we would walk through this hoping in the Lord and resting in the fact that He is in control.

Around 4 in the afternoon we finally got to meet with our team of specialists. All our tests were completed and we had just been sitting around for about an hour or so waiting for our consultation. Our hearts were heavy and we were pretty sure that MaK would have surgery that night. We met with a maternal fetal specialist, another doctor (I don’t remember his fancy title), our nurse and a liaison for the hospital. It was a pretty intimidating meeting. They had all of our tests pulled up on a projection screen and through a series of detailed reports and images, they began to give us the prognosis. In Twin-to-Twin (TTTS), there is a “donor” and “recipient” – the donor baby is the smaller of the two who is essentially sharing too much with the “recipient” baby, who is larger and receiving much more blood and nutrients. They told us that the donor baby had less than 2 cm of amniotic fluid and the recipient had around 17 cm (average is around 5-6 per baby with identicals, but can range some). With that knowledge, it was obvious that one twin was working extra, extra hard to process the extreme excess fluid in her sac and her heart was showing signs of being overworked. In turn, the smaller twin wasn’t getting what she needed in the process. The specialists’ diagnosis was that our girls had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion, a very serious (and extremely rare) condition that happens only with identical twins. Without any treatment, the mortality rate of TTTS is 80-100%. At the end of our consultation I asked the doctors if they ever saw this condition right itself, or if the fluid levels could ever even out “on their own”. His response was, if they diagnose it as true Twin-to-Twin (which they had), the fluid levels never equal out and medical intervention is necessary for the best chance of survival for the babies. He said they found enough evidence that suggested that our girls were currently in Stage 1, with a forecast of progression on the horizon. The TTTS can progress quickly or remain at a plateau at any moments notice. The good news from that day was MaK did not need to have any immediate procedures and we could go home and continue to pray for God to heal.

The following Monday we had another ultrasound to see if the symptoms were still progressing. The tests showed that the twins still had fluid levels of 17 and 2. Our doctor came in after the ultrasound and basically explained to us that we should do an amniotic reduction because it is the first step in battling this disease and that we were on a time crunch for a number of different reasons. We asked for a couple minutes to talk over what we wanted to do. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do medical procedure, it was the fact that if we did a medical procedure it felt like our hope would transfer from God to the procedure and we were desperately trying to hope in the Lords healing. MaK and I said a quick prayer and asked God to not let us step outside of His will for this situation and that He would be clear on what we should do. After a couple minutes the doctor came back in and we told him we would do the amniotic reduction. He looked at us like we were crazy and said “why?” We were flabbergasted he reacted this way. Just 5 minutes ago he was telling us we needed to have the procedure done. His response surprised us, “Even though I’d get paid for this procedure and it’s no sweat off my back, I know you both are uncomfortable with doing this right now, so why don’t we just wait a few days?”. WOW… answered prayer!!! Later that week we found out that even though the fluid levels had not changed it looked like we were progressing into stage three of Twin-to-Twin but still no procedures were necessary.

All of this leads me to yesterday. We had our ultrasound Tuesday morning and the girls fluid levels were at 5.5 and 5.6… an almost identical measurement, something all the specialists had ruled out as impossible to happen naturally. Ever since we received the diagnosis just one week ago that it looked like we were entering into Stage three, our girls’ have been slowly but surely sharing with one another (that’s what MaK and I keep saying). Literally, one is decreasing so that the other might increase – so that both can grow. This trend has been so obvious that every time we go in for our bi-weekly test the medical teams that perform our ultrasound keep asking if we’ve had any procedures and when we tell them no… they can’t believe it. Our medical team can’t explain what is going on, in fact at the last appointment one of the doctors kept shaking his head and saying “I don’t know, I just.. I don’t know… this is not medically possible”.

There’s no “out of the woods” with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. It is a battle that carries a lingering unknown with each new day. Progression can occur at any moment in the pregnancy. Today, though, and this week, we are recognizing that our Healer is on the move and we are thankful for the three, healthy growing Dykstra girls that God has entrusted to MaK and I. Maebyn and her sisters have a story to tell and we pray that we are able to lead them and love them the way our God is so deeply loving us through this journey. It’s His story after all, not ours.

Ross & MaKenzie

Back from Mexico

Ross_and_TueyWe got back from the Back2Back campus in Monterrey, Mexico, early Sunday morning and I’ve been wanting to post about how our trip went but hadn’t been able to pin point exactly what I wanted to say. It was great to be able to go on this trip with MaKenzie but we both sure did miss our little baby Maebyn. Funny how your life changes from checking facebook or email in your free time to watching (and re-watching) the same videos over and over of your kids when you’re away from them. Even though MaKenzie and I were together on this trip, our family still felt separated. Although we greatly missed our daughter the trip was great and we experienced a lot in the 5 days we were in Mexico. I couldn’t help but see her face in the faces of the kids at the orphanages we visited and my heart broke over and over, thinking that they did not have a parent somewhere out there who was missing them like I was her.

While we were in Mexico our days were pretty planned out for us. Some days we worked, some days we played with kids, and some days we did both. Our main work project consisted of laying a concrete floor in a new building that was being constructed as a new MaK_Ross_Mexicoorphan home. We worked tirelessly and managed to lay 50 yards of concrete in 115 degree heat (yes, you read that right… 115 heat index one day). It was tough work to say the least but it felt good to be working and working with a purpose. It was also fun to spend some time with MaKenzie’s co-workers and get to know the people she is around everyday in the office. She’s lucky, they are a great bunch and tons of fun. All in all, it was just fun for us to serve. Isn’t there something about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty with hard work that makes the end of the day that much sweeter? MaK had a big impact on the children and the adults there. She did not do or say anything that made that impact, it was merely the fact that she was pregnant, in a vulnerable state, and still willing to serve and work alongside of us. She did everything we did and did not sit out of anything – despite my asking millions of times for her to slow down. The Lord greatly used this act of servant-hood to speak to the people there. Everyone we came in contact with couldn’t believe that a woman, pregnant, much less pregnant with twins, would come and help serve them. I think her act of merely “going” really showed the people of Monterrey love and that was really humbling to see. She’s got a pretty cool testimony from the whole experience too, God worked in some powerful ways in her own life.

Work_Team_AngleAfter having several days to think about our experience there was one point I felt like God kept impressing on my heart in a different way each day and that was the reality of poverty – in many different facets – that exists in our world today. In the places we personally visited throughout Monterrey, physical poverty was obvious and all around, yet that wasn’t what struck me. Beth Guckenberger, the woman who started Back2Back Ministries with her husband Todd, talked about different kinds of poverty; financial poverty, relational poverty, spiritual poverty, and emotional poverty. All I could see was the physical poverty that was all around me but as the week went on, I started to see that the physical/ financial poverty was not having the biggest impact on the children and the other areas of poverty (relational, spiritual, emotional, etc.) was really making an impact on them individually. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to serve the poor and needy and there is a big need there but I began to see how we all live in a state of literal poverty in so many areas of our life and just because it might not be as obvious to the naked eye as financial poverty, we ignore it.

As we went from one orphanage to the next and met different kids from different areas it became more and more obvious what a significant impact Back2Back was having. Children who were a part of the Hope Program and in the Back2Back sponsored MaKenzieorphanages seemed to be more spiritually, emotionally, and relationally rich. The impact of being in a family setting where there was a father and mother figure teaching these things made a huge difference into the whole development of the children. I was impressed by the development of children who have had to deal with abandonment, abuse, and neglect from the moment they were born. Was there still financial poverty there? Yes, but what stuck out to me the most was that the kids that were in the most danger where the ones stricken with emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty. These areas of poverty were all directly correlated to events that have taken place in these kids lives – events that warrant feeling angry, hurt and confused about relationships, especially their relationship with God. Whether it was abuse, abandonment, no provision, or not feeling loved they all lead to a place of poverty in their lives.

Ross DykstraI couldn’t help but feel like we all live in poverty in one or more of these areas. We live in an affluent culture where we rarely come in contact with physical poverty like in Mexico but the other forms of poverty are alive and well within every society and culture. No parent wants to pass along the burden of financial poverty to their children. This is eminent in almost every culture and especially America. We all want better lives for our kids and for most of us that means trying to pass down more opportunities for provision than what we had – or continuing the trend of tirelessly working at the cost of our family. Whether knowingly or unknowingly we pass down our emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty to our kids without a second thought. These are things that we can not always see, they aren’t valued by our culture, and it’s hard to measure so they get shoved aside in our pursuit for “a better life”. I’ve been wondering how often I excuse my own decisions and motivations to obtain something that is here and now, while making my family and children sacrifice in the process. Makes me think of 1 Corinthians 9: 25 – “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

The lasting impression from Monterrey that I pray stays with me always is that I want my family to be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally rich. I don’t want my family to live in financial poverty but the thing that I most long for our family to be wealthy in is loving one another and others from a holistic, healthy heart. To love as we have been so greatly loved.

Happy to back in America but thankful to have had the opportunity to serve,

Ross

A New Adventure Starts

famThere are a lot of changes going on in our life right now and they just seem to keep on coming, one right after another. MaKenzie and I have spent a lot of time talking about the many things that we have to consider in raising 3 kids under 1. We’ve had many discussions over the past couple weeks like, what should we do for schooling, how the hell do you fit 3 car seats in one car, where should we live, should I go back to work? They’ve been good discussions but we’ve had a difficult time landing on many concrete answers. We have, however, determined one major decision that we hope has a profound impact on our families future. It’s a big one and we’ve received lots of opposition already but bare with me as I explain…

MaKenzie and I have decided to move into a local Amish community just outside of the Cincinnati area. We have not worked out all the details yet but we are thinking about moving after we are able to sell our house. We’ve spoken with the community and visited a few times to get acquainted with this “new” and somewhat daunting lifestyle we will be embracing in the coming months. MaK and I both have decided we desire to live a more simple life and raise our children free from distractions and we know we won’t be able to do this with all of the modern conveniences we now live with. This has not been an easy decision for our family and especially for MaKenzie. We are going to miss our TV (so long, New Girl and Revenge), computers and outside world connections dearly. We are not exactly sure what this season of life will look like but we are excited for a new adventure. We are accustomed to our lifestyle and it is uncomfortable to think about stepping into a new one. Our hope is that it is only something that helps our family continue to grow. I mean, geesh, at the rate going now – we could be having twins again in a year and push our number up to 5. We know there will be people who disagree with this decision and to them we say………….

 

 

 

APRIL FOOLS!

Bahahahaha, sorry, I had to. Was I convincing at all??

Please continue the April Fools tradition and let me know how you got someone today,

Ross

To my baby momma

galsBeing a stay at home dad or parent has its perks. My days are wide open and there is not much you can’t do with just one kid. Maebyn and I go to Lowes, the gym, the grocery store, and install closet doors together. She’s my little helpmate and wherever I go there she is also. I’m never alone anymore if MaKenzie is gone, and although it has its challenges, I’ve really enjoyed spending the days with her. She’s enthralled with me and everything I do now, I can tell she’s watching. Plus, who doesn’t love having their personal little smile-machine along for the ride everyday?

In the past few weeks something has been weighing on my mind. Is Maebyn getting the best of me? I’d say for the most part, she is. I’m not perfect but the majority of my day is spent serving her needs… but is that really the best of me? I first realized how selfish I inherently was when I got married. Putting someone else’s needs before mine… now that’s a struggle. I’m sorry MaK, you know as well as I do, this isn’t something that came naturally to me. My wife MaKenzie is my best friend but I can still so easily chose myself before her. Then I became a parent and I really realized that deep down inside I am very selfish. My desires, my wantings, and some of my needs have been forced to come second to the little one’s. As any parent knows, this is not always easy. You want to sleep more, have a quiet meal, and go on dates at the drop of a hat. However, my days are spent trying to give Maebyn the best that I have. It’s my responsibility not only as her father but as her primary caretaker everyday.

My wife however, is forced to expel most of her energy at work. She is a hard worker and has a great job but as any parent that works 40+ hours a week knows.. it’s exhausting. It’s especially hard to come home and have to parent, be a friend, daughter, entrepreneur, sister and wife on top of it all. She is an amazing selfless wife and without her our family would be lost. She is a rock solid woman and I am so lucky to be her husband. Not a day goes by that I am not so thankful for her. I may not always show it but I feel blessed to be married to her. I am proud of her and the mother that she is. Although many may not realize the sacrifices that she makes for our family, I do. So I say thank you, MaKenzie. You are an amazing wife, mother, daughter and friend. Anyone who knows you is blessed.

Your husband and best pal,

Ross

Help! … I’m Helpless!

sick mom and baby

The two sickies at the Dykstra household.

On Mondays MaKenzie works from home. They are generally pretty good days because I get to see her most of the day, I can run an errand or two, and we usually eat breakfast and lunch together. If she didn’t have to work all day, Mondays would be perfect. Today however, was a different story and it all started when the clock struck midnight.

Maebyn’s been a great sleeper ever since she was born (12 hours a night since 6 weeks Woo Woo!!) but the last couple weeks have been terrible and last night was much of the same. It’s not her fault. She just figured out she can roll to her belly and discoveries this monumental are enough to keep anyone up at night. All that to say, Maebyn has her first cold and she’s just not feeling well today. On top of this, MaKenzie has felt sick the entire day but has needed to work, thus adding to the frustration level in the house. I also may or may not have added to this stress by taking 2 hours to work out, a couple more to look at potential rehab houses, and generally just being out of the house longer than I should have on a day like today.

When I got home, MaKenzie and I calmly and quietly discussed a couple things that she thought I could do differently when she is working from home, particularly when she and Maebyn are sick. I politely agreed and thanked her for her correction and keeping me accountable to my responsibilities. I then led our family in a prayer where I repented for all my wrong doings and finally we all joined hands and began singing in perfect harmony. Pretty much the exact opposite of all these things is what actually happened. Use your imagination. It’s probably not far off.

I so badly wanted to take away MaKenzie and Maebyn’s sickness today but I couldn’t. I think it was my first experience as a helpless parent. There’s been plenty of times over the past 4 years where I’ve felt like a helpless husband but today was the first time I’ve felt it as a parent. Maebyn has a cold, so I know this is a very small scale to feel this on but none the less it sucks. I want to have control and on days like today I was reminded that I, actually, I have very little control over the day to day happenings of our life.

All in all it wasn’t that great of a day but a day spent with my wife and daughter can’t be categorized as a bad day. Till next time…

The only healthy one in the fam,

Ross