Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Awe

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving! We did. We hosted it this year and it really was perfect :o)

I have something to admit...with every single one of your donations, I have found myself in tears. I am so incredibly humbled by your good nature. 

Your thoughtfulness extends way beyond that though, I am not sure I can accurately explain this, but I'll try. Your generosity affects me so deeply because it means that Aviana has affected you at such a level. She can't say a word, or show affection like the majority of us, but what you have shown me is ~ you too, feel her little spirit and her life means a great deal.

In addition to that, with the receipt of each donation, you have provided us with a much needed hug. I am sure you have noticed, I have been feeling pretty down here and there lately. I have wanted to do something like this for a long time, but at the inception of this idea, I needed to do it. I needed something to warm my damaged soul. I needed something that would push me in a forward motion for the good of others, which in turn, would also repair my heart. 

As much as I love this little girl, the truth of the matter remains, this hurts! This whole life with her in this way is unequivocally the most unwavering pain we have ever experienced. The amount of progress we are witness to is as minuscule as can be, and has a way of wearing us down. We are constantly running uphill. There is not much in my caretaker life that is an instant, or even distant, pay off in regard to my spirit. Many accumulate these progressive feelings at work, with their healthy brained children, or in other endeavors. These are very lacking in my life with Aviana. Things do not feel as though they are moving forward, and against our greatest efforts, are often in reverse. Thank you for trusting and believing in me for this idea. I honestly appreciate it greatly!

You could have provided no greater gift for our family than what you have thus far. I am in awe, and so thankful for the family I have found in all of you!

We have been so very busy with the care packages. Thank goodness we have a guest bedroom, we are filling it up quite nicely! My mom and I have been canvassing our local area and collecting as many donations as we can. I have been diligently following the requests of these very companies in written and follow up form. 

So far, my mom and I have collected agreeance from two Starbucks locations, Taco Bell, Target, Noah's Bagel, Icing on the Cupcake, Cookie Connection and a few others. Many more are still in the works and are looking quite positive :o) To me, there is nothing as beautiful as speaking to someone who actually takes the time to see your heart. The very best part is being met with kindness!

This is our first year, and I have to say...we have been pretty successful, more than I envisioned and especially with being so late in the game. In light of this, we have decided to extend our efforts to the UC Davis PICU as well =D Aviana spent her first month in their Trauma 1 PICU and then her third month in the Pediatrics Floor PICU.

Because we are going to be making more care packages than we thought, we have decided to assemble them all at once and complete one drop off to each of the hospitals. We are planning on delivering the packages sometime between December 17th and the 22nd. 

Our local basketball team is the Sacramento Kings and now that Dave has been blessed with his long awaited season, he is going to contact them to see if one of the players can assist us with the deliveries! I can't wait to see how that turns out : )

I am including a card within each care package, which will list the name of each and every one of you who has graciously donated. I want for the families to know just how many people care about them.

If you would still like to donate, all of the information in order to do so is located here :o)

On another note, we finally chose a name for our fundraising efforts and I wanted to share it with you today. We have decided to affectionately call ourselves...

Aviana's Elves

These are the kinds of gifts that keep on giving!

Thank you so much!

Your donations mean the world to us!   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Girl

❤ ❤ ❤

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Baby

We went to Dave's sister's birthday party and Aviana was so attentive. She was lifting her head and looking all over the place. Once again, she is letting me know she is bored with our house :o) She also ate everything we ate at the party. I think she devoured more than Dave and I combined ; )

She looked so cute, I just had to share...

Okay, I had to include this one too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stopping by to say....

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who sent me messages about joining in our care package efforts. We truly appreciate each and every one of your offers of help. 

I think it is going to feel amazing to create each of these special gifts for the families. I am so excited and cannot wait to get started ;o)

I hope you all have a nice peaceful, exciting weekend!

With love,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Kindness

When I am feeling down, the first thing I want to do is give. It always has a way of immediately lifting my spirits. I make donations, but as part of my partially created Bucket List, I have wanted to find more ways to physically give.

Today I was feeling pretty down, so I pushed all of my efforts into an idea I have been thinking of since I was sitting lonely in the PICU over two years ago.

Spending all your time in the confines of a hospital is an experience I do not wish upon anyone. I remember being there day and night. I would sometimes sit at the window and watch the whole world go round below, as mine was completely flipped on its head and spinning faster and faster out of control. Although there were nurses, doctors and people everywhere, I vividly remember feeling so alone.

As each holiday season comes and goes, I think of the revolving door of families who have unexpectedly found themselves in our local PICU watching there child fight for their life.

I have seen others come up with ideas of how to help and have always wanted to as well. Today I decided we would try our hand at something along those same lines.

Here's my plan, tell me what you think. I called the Kaiser Roseville, Ca PICU today and spoke with the manager. I asked if it would be okay if we created and delivered care packages for the various families during the holidays. The manager was really happy about the idea, and shared in my excitement.

From our own experience, I know those days are filled with sadness and uncertainty. My hope is to bring at least a sliver of happiness and love to these families in one of their darkest times. I want nothing more than to let them know that someone cares about them and they are not alone in their time of need.

I wrote a letter and sent it to Oprah in hopes of her possibly donating some subscriptions of her thought provoking magazine. I was looking for something that never ceases to deliver strong insight and messages of hope. I also sent letters to Starbucks and Nordstrom thinking they may be able to donate some gift cards for coffee. As the parents stay up all hours of the night next to their child, at least they can enjoy a nice, warm cup of coffee.

I am also going to visit our local cupcake and cookie shops to see if they would be willing to contribute to our care packages.

I know that times are tough right now, but if you would be willing to donate too, we would really appreciate it :o)

If you would like to join us in our efforts, here are some ways you can help...

you can donate toys, games, children's books, movies, cards, etc. If you choose to help in this way, I hope you don't  mind me asking that all of these items are new.

you can send a gift card of your choosing. If it helps, some of the establishments close to the hospital are: Starbucks, Fats, Chili's, Mikuni, Taco Bell, Rubio's, Noah's Bagel, Dos Coyotes, Chipotle, Macaroni Grill, Mas, Crush 29, Paul Martin's, etc. There is also a Century and United Artist movie theater directly across the street. Going to the movies might be a great escape for these families as well.  

you can also make a cash donation and I will put it towards the purchase of snacks, magazines, nice anti-bacterial, soaps and lotions, or anything else we think might be a comfort.   

If you include a cash donation, you can make the check out to David or Jennifer Hodder. You can send any and all items to:

Christmas Kindness
c/o David Hodder
10308 Placer Lane Ste. 100
Sacramento, Ca 95827

If you have any questions or would like to donate through Paypal, you can contact us directly, our e-mail address is ~

  I really do appreciate you for considering helping us! We have been shown so much kindness over the last few years and it has always amazed me when someone has gone out of there way to think of us. We hope to do this every year as it is such a gratifying way to give back to families who are probably going through one of the worst times of their lives.

We are planning on starting deliveries around the middle of December.

We are trying to think of a name for our effort and are having a hard time. We thought Reese's (Aviana's middle name) Reindeer or Rainey's Reindeer sounded cute, but if you have any ideas for the name or care package items, please send them our way ; )

Thank you!

❤ ❤ ❤

Tug of War

I am stuck in the middle of The Brain Injury Beast and The Grief Monster. They are strong. Often times, I can't decide who is stronger. They are two of the meanest, most relentless, bitches I could ever have found myself lodged between. Lately, they are both happily having their way with me. I try to stay my ground, but sadly I lose my footing and fall on my face. As I struggle to get back up, I can see their is more than obvious, they find great joy in seeing me stumble.

Being between these two is no easy task and takes everything I've got.  At times, they get really aggressive and ferociously yank me from side to side. The harder I strive for balance, the more they work to knock me off kilter.

I am tired of the fight. I find myself getting weaker by the day. I so desperately need to re-build my strength, but each time they push me down, I find it that much harder to get back up.

For over two years, and at varying degrees, they have worn away at my mind, body and spirit. Right now, these two tyrants have me exactly where they want me. They are suffocating. Their grip is so tight, they cause me to focus on just them and render me nearly blind to all the beauty in my everyday life.

They are so close. Too close. They know I am weak. They can feel me crumbling. My demise is almost palpable to them, so they pull harder, work more. To one, or both, a sweet victory is on the horizon....

or is it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

To all veterans, past present and future ~ we honor, appreciate and thank you for every sacrifice you have made for for us!

To Sgt. Merenda ~ We love you so much and are thinking of you constantly as you prepare to go back and again fight for our country!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One Year Ago...

and she doesn't look much different. She has only gained 3.9 pounds!

As I turned to see if she looked any different, I noticed she was playing with a pumpkin toy similar to the one in these pictures. I guess it's that time of year :o)

Although they sting, I love these pictures of she and Zander. I had to include them all because they are looking the exact same way in each of them!

Yep, she's our little loon.

We celebrated all day today. We took her to Ben's Bark Avenue Bistro and let her pick out some treats and then went on a walk ;o)

Happy Day.

Happy Girl.

Happy Us.

One Year

You walked into our lives one year ago today.

We will be forever grateful.

You are everything to us,

And I'm not exaggerating when I say...

You have truly saved our souls.

We love you Rainey Girl.

Now wake's time to PARTY ;o)

Insult to Injury

A broken arm.

A broken pelvis.

A broken back.

A sprained ankle.

A lacerated kidney.

A missing leg.

A punctured lung.

A concussion.

Black and blue from head to toe.

A fractured femur.

Road rash like you've never seen.


Many cracked ribs.

Slipped discs.


All of the above.

Why couldn't it be any or all of the above?

Why the brain?

Why the brain?


Of all things,

Why did it have to be the brain?

The brain!

Why did it have to be the one thing that controls everything?

Everything else is recoverable.



Why her BRAIN?????

And if her brain,

Then why so severe??

Because it is.


Monday, November 7, 2011


Me, meditate? That's the funniest thing I've ever thought. I have always wanted to. I've even tried multiple times in the past, but my mind just wanders. I cannot clear the incessant thoughts and then ~ I lose.

One time Oprah said, just try for one minute, and then increase it by one minute each day. I thought, now that's doable! Even for me. I have tried. It has never worked out.

I need to meditate. I think it would be really good for me.

It was that beautiful time of day ~ dusk, the house was quiet, and the temperature ideal. I thought, now is the perfect time to give this mediation thing a good try. It's just one minute. I can do it. I need to do it.

I sat down on the floor, crossed my legs, closed my eyes (because this is how I assume you do this type of thing) and I was at peace for two full seconds. Some black little dog wandered on in looking for me. I tried to ignore her, hoping she wouldn't find me on the other side of the bed by the window.

She got closer and closer. She sniffed my hair and bit my ear. I couldn't stop laughing. I tried to ignore her though and start over. I then discovered I was counting in my head and thought, "oh no, I think if you're counting, it doesn't count as meditating." I asked Rainey to leave, but she saw that as a challenge and climbed up my back and yanked my ponytail with her teeth.

It was, once again, going poorly. I didn't give up though. I have failed so many times before. I stayed the course. I asked Rainey to sit down next to me. I thought she could use some mediation too. She planted her cute little butt and looked at me as though I were up to no good. I told her to stay. I again closed my eyes. She was quiet. I couldn't help but peek. With her block head tilted slightly, she was staring me straight in the face wondering what the heck I was doing. I was trying my best to keep serious, but was truly unable to control the giggles. I again composed myself to the best of my ability, told her to stay put and closed my eyes.

She quickly lost her patience and attacked me. She pushed me and my namaste pose (I think) to the ground.

It was over.

I think I lasted 2 full seconds.

Maybe tomorrow I can shoot for 3.

Baby steps.

Even babier than I believed I could do.

"It's easy Mommy, just get into your position...

Free your mind...

And the rest will follow."

I should bite her ear.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

Questions Answered

I hope you guys don't mind the way I answer questions. I usually save them all up as you ask, and then once there are a few accumulated...I answer them in one single post :o)

Have you ever shown Aviana an iPad?

I have tried to use our iPad with her on several occasions. Part of her newer program is to read Kindle books, so I do that. She is sometimes very interested in looking at pictures and videos on it, but not much in the way of touching the screen. My dad has looked up various apps he thought would be beneficial for her, and I have taken some of your advice on here, but unfortunately many of them are much more involved then Aviana can be.

Aviana is very interested in my phone though. Last week we were sitting on a couch at the mall waiting for Dave. She was sitting on my lap and I started to play my turn on Scrabble. She began moving her arm. At first I acted like I wasn't paying attention to her because I wanted her to continue. She kept reaching, closer and closer, to the phone. I then asked her to help me play the game. I told her to touch the letters and put them on the board. She reached and reached and finally her hand was touching the home button of the phone. I told her how great that was, but if she could move her hand to the Scrabble board. She backed her hand up, and then pushed it forward and onto the board. I was so proud of her. I have Scrabble on my iPad, so I am going to open it and see what she does ;O)

Why does Aviana need to lay on the floor so much?

I was going to type out the entire reason, but then remembered I had a post about it = )

Have you considered putting Aviana in school?

Before we went to The Institute for the first time in December of 2009, I toured the Special Education class of our local school. I completed the mountain of paperwork and was thinking of putting her in 1-2 days a week. I completely changed my mind in light of the Institute program. I am now reconsidering and thinking of letting her go for a few days. I am going to see if we get any progress from her modified program here at home first though, and then if the results are still few, I will move forward with school.  I am thinking I will still give her program 6-12 months.

I am already fearing the day. It is going to be truly bittersweet. Sweet for her, bitter for me. Aviana will probably speak her first words and have her first real smile that day. I can see it now....I am a wet ball of tears and she is waving goodbye with a big, bright smile on her face. As I am about to turn my tear soaked face away, I hear that old familiar, sweet voice, "Bye, Mommy." I will walk away thinking....sheeesh, all this time, and all I had to do was give her a break from me and put her in school!

Are you going to start hippotherapy?

I called and spoke with them and then printed another mountain of paperwork. I have yet to fill it all out and start. I was unsure of my unintentional hesitation, but then as I was speaking to my uncle it all came out. I feel I have an Institute hangover. We went 1000% for so long, that I am feeling like I need to relax a little with the modified program before diving right into more. It's also starting to rain, and as much as I love the rain, I don't like transporting Aviana back and forth.

I also have so much going on with all the different entities that are involved with having a brain injured child. Keeping them all straight and in a forward motion is a full time job in itself. Sometimes the new and next form of therapy is the very last thing I want to think about.

Lately, I just want to relax and enjoy life a little ~ oh, and make pie.

How is your relationship with your husband?

Thankfully, I have a great relationship with my husband. We have always had the same views of raising children, before and after the accident. We pretty much agree on everything we do with Aviana and which way to go. We go easy on each other and always respect each others opinions and decisions. We are cognizant of the need for one another to go out, and have fun as individuals too. Being married to him is one of the easiest and most enjoyable things in my life. We are a united front in everything we do and try to make the best of our situation. Above all, we laugh always. Although there is a lot of sadness in our lives, and although I dump it all out here, with Dave and I, there are always good times. That fun of course includes Aviana, but mostly Rainey. We have a funny approach to this whole thing and it tends to be a super sick and dry sense of humor. Sometimes I imagine being a fly on our wall and hearing some of the things that come out of our mouths. My friend Jen taught me the saying, "You better laugh or you'll cry" and I live it, for sure ;o)

This is all very interesting to me, because our first year of marriage, (you know when you are supposed to be loving newlyweds) was an all out World War 3.

Have you thought about adopting another child?

No. Just no :o) We do not want to adopt anymore children. I do see many more dogs in our future though :o) Aviana is quite enough for us. We know ourselves well, and are both just not interested in that journey again.

Did you happen to watch Oprah's Lifeclass this week with Gary Zukov and the story of Baby Ryan?

Yes, I did and at first I didn't think it pertained to me, but later realized it did. I internalized every word and have carried it with me ever since. Lifeclass has helped me so much and I am thankful for it!

No Halloween Pie?

Not exactly on Halloween, but we did make this last night...actually we made two! Our pies come in pairs : )

Does Rainey have a best friend?

Okay, guilty as charged. No one asked this question, but I thought you might like to know. Rainey does have a best friend and his name is Oski. Our neighbors got this little pup a few months ago and he is adorable. Rainey and he have been best friends since and play often. Rainey is always peeking over the fence to see if he is there. When he is, she wags her tails so hard her entire butt shakes. They both cry and Oski is a hound dog so he sometimes howls.

Rainey peeks over the fence all day long, but one day this happened....

Our neighbor lifted his puppy up to see Rainey and all was right in the world!

~ Happy Friday All ~

Since You Asked...

My friend Amy comes over every Wednesday night. It is the perfect break in the week for us. We usually have dinner, watch movies, watch videos, laugh, laugh and laugh. 

A few Wednesdays ago, we decided to make a pie. Dave, Amy and I made a Triple Berry Pie. I was trying to think of a name, and then it came to me. When Amy and I were in Junior High School, we used to watch Dirty Dancing over and over again. We watched it all day, and all night. We knew/know every single line from that movie.

And while this is definitely not my favorite line, at just fit our pie perfectly.

"Nobody Puts Berry in the Corner"

So pretty.

So sad.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

We are surely learning as we go and this night, we definitely learned a valuable lesson about the crust. When we took it out of the oven, Dave said, "Pretty Sad..." I knew exactly what he was talking about and was laughing so hard and doing my own crazy imitation.

Please watch this video as it is one of our very favorite SNL skits and when you look at the above pictures, I think you will laugh too!

The pie wasn't all too pretty, but boy was it GOOD ;o)

Thursday, November 3, 2011


We had a couple of parties to go to this year, so we made some cupcakes and were on our way.

Can you tell how happy I was to be getting out to have some FUN!

Yep, you guessed it...prom, Camo style! Don't ask me how that happened ; )

This was actually taken at 2am after we got home from the party. Dave's mom's battery was dead beforehand, so we took one after. To me, we look spent, sweaty from dancing and like we are ready to relax.

Paying homage to our very favorite sergeant!

Look who I found!

We were trying to channel our innermost bad**s.

My cousin and I tried too, but this is what always happens when we get together ; )

It was really hard to get this picture and took about 10 tries, but I just had to get her freaky costume and especially her eyes!

Don't mess = )