Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Does God Have To Do With Basketball?!

As a mom of 5 kids - 3 of them being active boys, I am always looking for ways to apply the gospel to their lives in a 'manly' kind of way.  The scriptures don't mention the word 'basketball,' or 'weight lifting' or 'March Madness.'  They DO use action words like 'fishing,' 'building,' and 'swords'... you know, words a tough guy can understand!  I'm always satisfied when they connect to something within the gospel they can apply to their lives. 

We had our church missionaries over for dinner a few months ago.  They always leave us with some sort of devotional or verse of scripture to think about, so one missionary read a few verses of scripture and the other missionary followed up with applying it to our lives.  The second missionary had connected well with our family, being a hunter and basketball player himself before he came into the mission field.  He applied the scripture by saying that Heavenly Father is like our coach.  He can see the court as a whole.  He can see what connections need to be made, who needs to go where, and what spots need filled.  He sees the big picture. 

My boys' ears perked up with the application to basketball.  And what this missionary shared with our family was inspired and timely

In the time since then, our family has participated in numerous basketball tournaments.  One exciting one was an extremely close game with the only team we hadn't beat all season.  It also happened to be the championship game!  As the clock wound down, the game ended in a tie, forcing it into overtime.  The crowd was obnoxiously loud with signs waving, screaming, and cheering. 

I looked to their coach, who was giving instructions to the players to set up on the court.   He was not in the same position as the player on the court with an opponent in his face, or the one scrambling to get out of a double team.  He saw the big picture.  He knew when and where the passes needed to be, the plays they needed to run, and the defense they would need to have to overcome the opponent.

What's more... From where I sat, I could see the coach's lips moving, but could not hear a single word he was saying while I was sitting in the crowd, most of who were on their feet cheering loudly.  My mom leaned over to me and asked, "Can they even hear what he's saying?!" 

Those boys had gone to practice in a quiet gym every day for the past 2 months, training their ears to hear what their coach had to say.  Spots in their brains had been reserved for the frequency of his voice's sound waves.  They had played in other close games and practiced tuning into his voice amidst the distractions and cheers.  When the time came for them to meet head on in the championship game, they were prepared

We also have times that we can practice listening to our coach - our Heavenly Father.  It may be in church, while we read our scriptures, when we find a quiet time to pray, as we turn the radio off when we drive, or think out loud.  Those are the times we train our ears and hearts to listen to what God has for us - what He needs us to do and where He needs us to be. 

Then we go into the crazy world of carpools and school or work and rushing to and from appointments.  Our ears and hearts can still be in tune for what He needs from us.  If we have practiced tuning in to Him in our quiet places, we can hear and understand our Heavenly Father (our coach) from the sidelines directing us. 

At one point in the championship game, the coach got very upset with a player that was out of position and because of it, they gave up a basket and the lead.  The coach was jumping around and yelling.  My mom leaned over to me again and said, "Is that really necessary?"  Being in positions like this myself in tight scoring games, I told her it was absolutely necessary that he let that boy know where he needed to be exactly when he needed him to be in a particular spot on the floor. 

While I don't picture Heavenly Father frantically jumping around, He does remind us when we are 'out of position.'  He has sent the Holy Ghost to help us decipher those times as a way to get us back on track to where we are supposed to be.  As my mom asked, "Is that really necessary?"  Absolutely!  He needs us!  AND... We are in the last days.  This is when it gets heated.  This is the 'overtime' before the Savior comes.  This is when He saves his best players to be on the floor when the going gets tough.  THIS is what it's all about!  This is what we practice and pray for, to be a part of - not to be sitting the bench for pete's sake! 

In the end (my son pointed out that the ending is the best part and I better not leave it out), our team came out on top... In overtime... By just 2 points... and also earned the Sportsmanship Award for the year.  Ask any of those boys if it was worth all the time, effort, and sacrifice and I know what their answer would be. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

4 Weeks and a Taste of Fancy Free!

If you missed the Thank You video for those that bought shirts...
We made it to the 4 week post-op mark!  So, what has surgery and 4 weeks in foot casts and a body brace brought us?  Let me tell you...
Morning stretches with BOTH arms - something she would rarely do before.  We know the left side of her brain is affected because that's what tells the right side of the body what to do.  I have been reading an amazing book called "The Brain That Changes Itself" and how to rewire the brain.  Let me say that again - REWIRE the brain!  Once thought to have a certain number of cells to learn with, Bryer is proof of brain plasticity - it can change!  This picture has "Wake Up and Be Different" written all over it, RIGHT?! 
Nothing better than giggle therapy of dropping toys on your brother's head!  Practice of opening and closing her hands on target - things we don't think of having to learn. 
God picked these siblings just for Bryer - and picked Bryer just for her siblings!
I caught this very sweet picture of Piper (in the pink hat) explaining to her friend what Cerebral Palsy is, how Bryer's brain works, and what the surgery has done for her.  I'm not gonna lie - to see her handle it with such grace, accurate information, and speak in a way that kids understand - man, it just melts my heart until it leaks out of my eyes! 
Sitting around in a brace and casts is not much fun - unless your brother builds you a pillow fort to play in! 
...Or if you get to do fun therapy like this!  It might be mistaken for fun, but there's actually a lot of vestibular input and proprioception going on here - training the body, brain, and inner ear to know where it's at in space and how to find balance in it. 
There won't be swimming for Bryer all summer, so Piper, Walker, and I made her this water pillow with plastic and packing tape.  We put floaty toys in it to play with so she could feel a little like she was swimming.   
More entertainment on the couch - "Guess That Voice" (or breathing, feeling hair, etc.) without seeing the face.   Again - check out the right hand reaching instead of the left.  Not a full time improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.  A-Mazing!
 More hammock play with concentration - and holding on with both hands, thumbs opposing, to get pulled to swing.  The hair can get a little out of control in the hammock!

4 of our 5 kids enjoyed the hammocks on this day.  They had to use teamwork to get everyone swinging without anyone letting go - no matter the position they were in! 

Finally, the big day arrived!  28 days post op means the casts can come off and we get a peek at those new feet!  Our other kids might have been just as excited as we were - it's like Christmas unwrapping a new present! 
Real quick first, here's a before shot in the hotel the night before surgery.  Pointy ballerina toes that were so tight I could not get them to a 90 degree angle no matter how hard I tried.  I couldn't even bend them with her legs straight - I'd have to bend her knee, and then bend at her ankle, but even that wasn't much. 
And Ta-Da!  Let me introduce you to her new cast-free feet!  At rest, they look like this, but we can get them beyond 90 degrees with her feet flat on the floor!  Toe stretching is in her future to keep those tootsies extended too! 
 It's amazing to me that these little pokes in the back of her leg could have that huge of an effect.  I love the phrase "least evasive."
She has had a few muscle spasms, especially right after they took her casts off.   A Costco run after the doctor is not the most convenient place for painful spasms, but Walker was such a good help to climb in the cart and keep her feet flexed for her while we finished our shopping.  As the doctor has requested, she'll wear her casts (or we can take them off and keep her feet at 90 degrees) until her new braces come in next week.  It will help keep the spasms down and keep her feet flexed in the position we need them. 
While she was fitted for her foot braces (afo's) we also had some adjustments made to her body brace (see the red mark on her leg?!).  She got about 10 minutes without any casts and brace!  Her body feels so loose and wobbly - like a baby learning to sit and learn to train those muscles in a whole new way.  She did put both hands down in front of her and then pushed through both arms to sit up tall - another new skill she couldn't do before since her arms were tight and her legs wanted to stick straight out together and make the rest of her body go into pencil-mode.  If she wanted to sit up before, we'd have to cross her legs into a tight criss-cross applesauce for her to find her balance. 
Now to put the brace and casts back on.  :-)   
This little girl simply amazes me! 
By the request of blog readers, I am going to try to get back on my Sunday posts - whether that's updates on Bryer or other thoughts and stories that move through my brain. 
Check back next Sunday!