*Welcome, Welcome!*

Welcome to our little corner of the world! I’m Heidi, I’m married to Kit, we have six little ones keeping us busy ranging in ages from 12 down through 3. They’re adorable and amazing and wild and wonderful!

In 2005 our third child decided to show up four months early at a whopping 22 ounces and give us a good scare. This blog was created to keep family and friends updated through our 4 months in the hospital. You can read a bit about his NICU story here.

We’ve since archived those years but last fall we started sharing again because of some new adventures. Ben’s eyesight has been slowly declining (this was expected due to complications from his premature arrival) and we learned he had far more visual field loss than we realized. He started a wish list of places he would like to see and things he would like to do before he loses more vision.

Through the last few months we’ve been working on that wish list and being blessed in countless ways by friends, family, our community, and complete strangers as Ben tackles this challenge with his typical passion. So thank you, whoever you may be! We’re glad you came by and we welcome your comments and messages. We recently set up a page on Facebook to share the wish list adventures, and you can follow it here. We can be reached at heidi@thadenpierce.org.

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Ponderings from Heidi (Mom)

I don’t really cry. It’s not that I have any opposition to crying – I believe in being open and honest with our emotions. :) But I just don’t really cry much myself, and Kit and I have joked about how it’s an annual event, it’s so rare that he sees me in tears.

Until this past winter, which has been challenging in many ways. I’ve cried more this winter than I did through the entire 3 months of bedrest and 4 months of NICU and horrendous two weeks in the PICU. (Though I did cry a lot in the PICU.) I remember one day in the NICU when I did cry, and the nurse’s eyes getting wide not because crying isn’t something they see constantly from exhausted and terrified parents, but because they hadn’t seen ME cry. I think I journal my emotions out instead of crying them out… or I blog them out, you should see the epic posts I was writing on this blog back then!

But this winter has brought me to my knees and brought me to tears numerous times. It has been hard for a variety of reasons, not just because of the news about Ben’s eyes we got last fall. I find myself crying often, and I’m not sure how to cope with that!

After a few near misses and heart stopping moments when I tried to get the kids safely across a busy parking lot or street by myself we admitted it would be a smart idea to get the handicap parking tags. When Kit is with me we’re fine, we can divide and conquer and get all the kids somewhere without incident. If it’s just me and the 3 year old I’m holding, 5 year old whose hand I’m clutching, 7 year old I’m trying to keep close, and 9 year old with a visual impairment it gets harder. The 10 and 12 year old try to offer Ben their arm so they can safely get him across the street/lot but Ben’s also tried to venture out on his own a few times and stepped in front of/behind cars simply because he didn’t see them (the lost peripheral vision.) To spare myself and those poor drivers anymore heart attacks we got the handicap tag so I can at least shorten the distance we need to navigate. Continue reading

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Family Trip – Kansas and Minnesota

While it was a sad reason to make a journey, our trip to Kansas (to meet up with my parents) then onto Minnesota (for my grandmother’s funeral) had some really neat adventures and special times for the kids. I’ve not been that north in over twenty years so we were able to visit the farm where my father grew up as well as his sister’s farm (where we stayed) and see relatives I haven’t seen since I was still in high school!

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Beauty & the Beast!

PlayWe had the opportunity to attend Beauty & the Beast on opening night as it tours here in Dallas. They’re performing at the Winspear Opera House (part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center) and it was gorgeous and amazing and perfect! The entire evening just felt magical – we met up with Courtney at the concierge desk and they had booster seats for the kids and a poster signed by the entire cast. The kids were enthralled by everything – the beautiful location, the chandelier (which they said looked like floating candles from Harry Potter) and the stage. Since were were on the eighth row, it really was incredible! Courtney took them up for a peek into the orchestra pit before it began and then we all got settled. The chandelier pulled up into the ceiling, the lights dimmed, the music began, and the kids’ faces! Oh, I wish you could have seen their faces. Eyes grew big, smiles ear-to-ear, I teared up seeing their reactions.

Beauty
We had let them watch the cartoon that afternoon so every song seemed familiar to them. When the streamers shot across the audience the kids caught them (and another woman gave them more!) We were so close that the wolves had Livy in my lap covering her eyes, the dancing dishes had her giggling, and Belle had her entranced. Bennett was just hypnotized, and seriously – fantastic seats, he could see it ALL!

“Be Our Guest” was wonderful, but my favorite number was “Beauty and the Beast.” Mrs. Potts had a gorgeous voice (they all did, of course!) and when Belle suddenly is there in her yellow gown Livy was just stunned. She had this smile on her face and when that number ended, Belle and Beast dancing around the stage, Livy leaned up and kissed my cheek and said, “I love you.” How’s that for a rousing endorsement from the three year old? :) Continue reading

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Water Tower Tour!

untitled (1 of 1)I admit that touring a water tower struck me as possibly the weirdest of Ben’s wishes. A water tower?? Huh?? But apparently to a nine year old that was fascinating, we just had no idea how we could make that happen. Water towers tend to be surrounded by locked fences, and we weren’t sure that they routinely host field trips! So you can imagine our surprise when we were contacted by Jennifer at the Mustang Special Utility District and she was offering Ben a tour!

10247452_667290473317254_929674998488827510_nWe drove out one afternoon to check out the office and the kids saw how the water levels are reported for each tower to the central office. They had lots of questions and were fascinated by the map. I think J, our five year old, wins for most entertaining inquiries! They also gave the kids some really fun goodies – I snitched one of those flashlights for my doula bag, and the cooler bags and cups are being used constantly. (Who knew utility districts had such fun swag, right?? Frisbies??) Then we drove down the road to the water tower itself – and it was huge, and I tried to NOT think about the fact that we were standing inside a water tower under this massive amount of water. The kids had lots more questions and they thought the echoing tower was way too much fun and Ben learned lots about how it all works.

PaperJennifer & the Mustang folks had learned about us through the Denton Record Chronicle article in February and they invited the paper to come back out for a follow up story. Though I admit we were really surprised to see the kids made the front page again! Both stories were really sweet & well done and we’re always happy to share Ben’s amazing story. He’s a pretty fantastic kid, and he’s grateful that so many people have been helping make his wishes come true – however funny and random they may be! Thank you to John and David for the great article and you can read it here, see some more photos, and read J’s funny questions about the towers. Thank you to Jennifer for providing all of these photos in the gallery, and thank you to all the folks at Mustang SUD!

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Hello, Dolly at the Denton Community Theatre

IMG_5232When I think about my past life in the theater, I find myself missing the feeling of family and community in the theater group. Denton Community Theatre was clearly a close family. They took us right in, made us feel very welcome, and turned a great experience into a totally amazing experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ben was invited to our local community theater’s production of Hello, Dolly. We gladly took them up on the offer. Front row seats for our little guy with a promise of a back stage tour? Yes, please! It so happened that Ben’s grandmother was in town from Kansas, so while Heidi bravely stayed home with the three little ones and her father, I took the three oldest with Heidi’s mother to see the production.

Julie had sent us an email with instructions to ask for her when we arrived at the historic Campus Theater. We did so and expected to be started on our backstage tour, but not before Bennett did something first. He asked for his own tickets at the will-call booth. He was a little shy, but managed to get the task done.

Finished, we checked into the green room where the actors were chilling before their warmup. First off, the green room is actually sort of blue, but we forgive. The actors all said Hi and were very kind to Ben. There was even a man in the cast who is completely blind, but was still able to do his thing on stage. Ben though that was particularly cool. We met Irene Malloy and a man we all mistook for Horace Vandergelder, but he quickly informed us that we was just part of the chorus and scooted off to look for Horace. He happened to be in the warmup circle, which they paused just so he could come over and say Hello to Ben, insisting he wasn’t really as mean as Horace in the play. I agree. He was very warm.

We were able to check out the inside of a dressing room, and even snuck onto backstage to see the set while the 14-piece band warmed up. Before we took our seats, the kids were taken up to the old balcony of the Campus Theater to see the prop storage. As it turns out, the building couldn’t accommodate patrons on the balcony due to modern fire code, but it’s a great space for storage. I think this was the kids’ favorite part of backstage. Swords, boats, pictures, a drawer full of kazoos! Pretty much anything you could think of and many things you wouldn’t were stored up there for the next time they might remotely need anything on stage.

Then it was time to take our seats.

The Managing Director of the theater introduced the play (as managing directors often do) and among other things, informed the audience that the director of the evening’s play was in fact our tour guide. He also had Ben stand up and led a huge round of applause for the little guy getting his wish that evening. Ben was clearly self-conscious, but he braved his way through it.

The show itself was really good. Very entertaining, and between the professional performances by the actors and the live musical accompaniment, I enjoyed the play far more than the movie. Everyone was laughing and tapping along with the entire show. Top notch job; I’m sad Heidi didn’t get a chance to enjoy it. I think she would have very much.

After all was said, every song sung, and the actors took their bows, the main actress started to walk off stage, took a few steps, turned around, and came right to Bennett and shook his hand. She asked him how he liked the show, and Ben was completely gobsmacked.

This is the kindness I’m talking about. Those people up there didn’t have to care about a little guy in the front row of the theater, but they did. After their curtain calls, several of the actors made eye contact with Bennett, waved, gave him thumbs up, and he was just gasping in shock that those people who in his mind were famous — they simply had to be because they were up there on that stage — were acknowledging him and his participation in the audience that night. So sweet.

Thanks to Julie and all of the cast and crew of the Denton Community Theatre for making this an unforgettable night for our family. You guys are wonderful.

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Playing Catch Up

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 7.14.21 PMIt’s been a busy couple weeks. We had an insane hail storm one day and after it passed we took the kids to their adaptive PE program at UNT. While there the second wave of the storm hit along with the tornado warning and funnel clouds near campus – complete with loud sirens and us spending half an hour in the tornado shelter with six very anxious kids and about 100 university guys all crowded into the men’s locker room. It was an adventure! Unfortunately our car and roof didn’t enjoy the storm, and later that night a THIRD wave of huge hail hit. Quite the day (still working on getting the car and roof repaired.)

10245562_615547368540176_1793087578_nWhen we woke up in the morning there was a series of emails from my father sharing the news that my grandmother had been taken to the hospital with some concerns (she had surgery last month but was back at her assisted care center.) I saw there were several more emails and my stomach sank as I read through them, including that she had been admitted to the ICU, put on oxygen, and the last message shared that she had passed away just before 3am. She turned 91 at the end of March so she was elderly, but it just seemed to come very quickly! We called my dad that morning to find out plans for her funeral service, talked with my sister and Kit’s work, and within a few hours we were packing and getting ready to leave the next morning to take 10 kids and 3 adults from Texas to Minnesota. All while being swarmed by roofing contractors wanting to pressure us to sign and have them fix our roof.

Early, early the next morning we headed out to drive the 9 hours to Kansas to meet up with my parents and stay a couple days then to do the 6 hour drive the rest of the way to Minnesota. We stayed a couple days there seeing extended family, as I had not been to Minnesota in over 20 years! The kids had a really fun time exploring the farms and behaved (for the most part) really well through the funeral service and burial and the constant changing schedule. I’ll have pictures of that to come, along with a few adventures we’ve already had since!

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Resistance & Sympathy

untitled (72 of 445)E is just younger than Ben, they’re 19 months apart in age (15 months developmentally – which means when we got pregnant with E Ben was only 6 months old based on what should have been his birthday. I know, it can be confusing. With preemies you go by their due date to gauge their development, not the date they arrived. So while Ben was actually 10 months old, he was just barely starting to crawl and had just come off oxygen when we decided to try for Emy.)

Sorry, that was a tangent.

So E & Ben are very close, both in age and development (they took their first steps a year apart, and E was an early talker so she was more coherent than Ben who needed speech.) They’ve also become close friends, sharing books and stories and games. She really looks up to her big brother, but she’s also protective of him.

Lately when we’ve been doing some of our wishes we noticed that E was NOT handling it well. She was getting stressed out it seemed – not listening to us, not engaging, not making eye contact, not cooperating. We could see her tuning out in some ways, and other times she would complain and say the various activities were dumb or stupid. She would say, “Why are we doing this? Just because Ben can’t see? I don’t want to be here!” We were really confused, because these were FUN activities! These were things we knew she would enjoy under normal circumstances so why was she so angry?? Continue reading

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Easter Truffles Available

To help fulfill some of Ben’s wishes the kids decided in February to sell truffles for Valentine’s Day. They sold far more than they imagined, and were thrilled to be able to help out in a very tangible way with making some of his wishes come true.

IMG_5068The kids were going to take off April from truffle making but the cute spring stuff at the store changed their minds. They’ll be making orange and raspberry truffles available Friday/Saturday (April 18th/19th) so they’ll be fresh for easter baskets & holiday giving.

The large white boxes are six truffles for $5, the cute little brightly colored take-out containers are three truffles for $3 and the small white boxes are two truffles for $2. They’ll be decorated in a spring theme unless you request otherwise – the kids picked flower stickers, and you can request a take out box color (first come, first served!) Orders must be placed by Monday, April 14th and we are doing just one batch of each flavor so order soon! Once they’re gone we’ll be done until Mother’s Day truffles. Pick up is at our place in Denton, you can email us for the address – we can be reached at heidi@thadenpierce.org.

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Kid Budget

As Ben has been working on his wish list we’ve realized in some ways the kids have no concept of money. His wishes have ranged from free (watch the planes take off and land at DFW) to crazy expensive (oh, London??) To help them better understand the finances involved we’ve talked a bit about income vs. expenses, what Kit makes during a work week and what Heidi makes at a birth so they have a better perspective. (For example, when I asked what Ben thinks I make for attending a birth he said $17. Mo thinks I make $20. They also said they think I’m usually gone 5 to 7 hours per birth. HAHAHAHA! Gotta work on the math & passing of time concepts.)

We also decided to have them price some of the wishes so they can gauge how realistic some may be versus others – not to rain on their parade, but so they can see that we’re not trying to be mean when we explain visiting the pyramids is not going to happen. :) I’m also leaving off the numerous wishes which are thankfully free!

Wish List Budget: Continue reading

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New Wishes Update

Every once in awhile Ben comes to share another wish and we discuss if it’s realistic or not. Today’s included:

- Alaska (A few years back a friend was married on an Alaskan cruise and sent the kids a book about it – apparently it got Ben interested! Plus, northern lights and moose.)

- Baylor has been on the list, but he added today that he wants to see the NICU where he lived and OR where he was born, and the cafeteria for pie. (The NICU is understandably not open to visitors, so that’s not possible but we’ll show him some pictures again.)

- New Orleans to see Mardi Gras stuff (and I said not a chance.)

- Southern California has been a wish, but today he added that he heard there’s, “This Disneyland place that might be fun.” Eh, it might be fun. ;) He’s wanted to see where we lived when our oldest was born and visit the beach, so that is on our list to try and make happen. (Unlike the Sahara, for example, which is NOT on the realistic list.)

- Some friends visited Great Wolf Lodge, and the kids want to go now after hearing about the adventure. (Unfortunately you can’t get tickets unless you are staying at the hotel – pro, they have suites that sleep 8! Con – they’re $500/night. Ha!) :)

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