Monday, 8 December 2008
We started off at Pier 39 were there was lots of exciting shops and restaurants, not to mention the odd one or two hundred seals. You can hear them long before you see them and they just spend their day lounging round the place, making a racket! Quite a sight to behold!
From the next pier along, we got the ferry for our night tour of Alcatraz Prison. This was amazing and really quite scary once it had got dark! We were supplied with a very informative audio tour which told us all about Al Capone, the Birdman and the only three people ever to escape from the Rock. Slightly disturbing was the fact that we were on the last boat off the Island at about 10pm, but nobody seemed to be counting people on and off! I thought it might be fun to rough it overnight but Clare had other ideas!
We couldn't leave San Francisco without checking out some of the famous hills. We'd heard they were steep but we hadn't realised the half of it! But there was 3 weeks of American food to burn off and we felt we needed the exercise so we gave it everything we had!
When we reached the top of the mountain...sorry! hill... by a complete stroke of luck we managed to bump into the old tram service that took us all the way back down again and into town. When they told us they had two spaces left, we thought we were in luck... We didn't realise that those two spaces were hanging on for dear life on the outside of the train.
I think a fitting end to the holiday is to leave you with two video clips of the experience!
Well, thanks for sticking through this rather protracted account of our holiday! I guess I'll have to think of something else exciting for next time.
Monday, 1 December 2008
L.A. is unlike all of the other places we visited. Everywhere else, we were able to catch a bus or subway and could navigate without being reliant on taxis or cars. In L.A., everything is so much more spread out so we decided to do one of the many Hollywood tours that run. This took in the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills, the Star Walk of Fame and my favourite, the Rock Walk where I almost touched hands with Jimmy Page!
We also had a two day pass for Universal Studios. Here we had a guided tour of many of the movie lots and went on some amazing rides, including the Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park and The Simpsons Ride.
If you want to see more photos of our time in L.A. see here.
Well, we're almost at the end of our holiday. One last stop... San Francisco!
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Friday, 21 November 2008
They've put together a wonderful slide show of pictures set to music and you can find it here.
Please continue to remember Jen and her husband in your prayers as they work through this difficult time.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Jen contacted Clare a few months ago after the doctors picked up a skeletal displaysia at her 21-week scan. Later scans showed that that the condition was most likely lethal (Campomelic Dysplasia) and she experienced increased fluid levels at 28 weeks. A week later, she went into labour and tragically Elisabeth was only with them for 6 minutes. She was small - 2lbs 9 oz - but very precious to them and in Jennifer's words was "adorable".
Jen seems very strong in her emails but both Clare and I know how hard such times can be. They need love, support and prayer so please uphold them in your thoughts during this difficult time.
I don't think she has a blog but I know that she reads ours so please feel free to post any messages here.
Please also remember Tonya and Knoah as he undergoes MRI and CT scans and pray that the doctors would be wise and reassuring.
Friday, 24 October 2008
We both took the day off and we went to stay in Oulton Broad about 50 minutes away from Ipswich. We started the day at Thrigby Hall which is a small wildlife park. It's more open than a normal zoo and lots of the animals are not in cages as such. For example, you are only separated from the tigers by a double layer of wire mesh. It's big enough to stick you fingers through but luckily the gap between the two layers is large enough so that you can't actually poke the tiger! It still lets you get pretty close though!
We also saw Red Pandas (my favourite!) and dropped leaves on a crocodile's head to see if it was still alive. I wanted to drop my bottle of water on its head but Clare said no!
In the evening, we went to Southwold Pier (where we scattered Theo's ashes last year). It was a beautifully clear, moon-lit night. We let some balloons go from the end of the pier and said some prayers.
The next day, we got both families together and went out for a Chinese meal to celebrate Theo's birthday. It was a really great day and it was nice to have both families there. Typically, I forgot the camera so no pics of that I'm afraid!
Overall, it was a lovely weekend! Although there had been some sadness in the run up to Theo's birthday, the actuall day was very happy and it was good for Clare and I to get some time away by ourselves.
Anyway, in my slackness, it seems that there are still two more holiday locations I've yet to blog about. So come back soon to hear what we got up to in L.A.
Friday, 10 October 2008
It seems like a cliche, but it really doesn't feel like a whole year has passed! On this day last year, we welcomed and said goodbye to our son Theodore. Over the last year, we've been through times of happiness and times of great sorrow.
Theo was only with us for a short while. Some people spend their whole life looking for their purpose in life...searching for the one thing that will make an impact and cause their name to be remembered always. Theo managed to achieve this in just 4 and a half hours. That was all the time God required of him here before his work was done. Although Clare and I don't fully understand why his time was so short, we know God's will was done because we see it in the effect Theo's life has had on other people as well as ourselves.
We are certainly changed by all this. In some ways we are older, wearier and more battle-worn. But in others we are stronger, firmer in our faith and more trusting in God. The good surely out-weighs the bad.
As Clare and I look back over the past, we also look to the future. We don't know what's around the next corner for us but we know that we will make it through because we trust in a God who promises to be with us always. He hasn't always made it easy for us over the last year but he has always been there for us. We know we can rely on God because he has a track-record of not letting us down.
Finally, a very big and heart-felt thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last year. In many ways, big and small, you have made our journey easier and for that we are extremely grateful.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Just a moment together,
A tiny glimpse of the life that was yours,
The face I had never seen, but knew so well,
A reflection of the love that brought you into being.
All too soon, the moment was gone,
Your soul was free,
In the arms of your loving Saviour,
Pain and sorrow blown away.
I felt the grip of overwhelming loss,
I felt my soul begin to fall,
My Lord reached out His arms and caught me,
Wrapped me in His ineffable love.
He showed me a picture of a mother,
The warmth of love in her face,
Her heart bursting with pride,
Then He lowered the mirror.
I am blessed because God chose me,
To hold your precious little body,
To love you unconditionally,
To be your mother,
You are my gift.
By Clare Dungey
Mother of Theodore Edward Dungey – 10th October 2007
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Candi took us to the Cheesecake factory in Caesar's Palace. This is an amazing place because not only are the main courses gorgeous but they have about 50 different types of cheesecakes to choose from! Coming to a decision is not easy!
We took it in turns to relate our stories to each other and it was comforting to talk it through with someone who could really understand where we were coming from.
After the meal, we went for a walk along the strip, taking in the sights, sounds and most of all the heat! Even though it was night time, the temperature was still about 100 degrees. We stopped to take in several of the fountain shows outside the Bellagio. They play every 15 minutes and are set to music. The grace and movement of each water jet is incredibly spell-binding...Highly recommended.
The next day, we met up with Katie and Candi again for lunch at the hard-rock cafe. This was a definite favourite of mine because of all the rock memorabilia lining the walls.
One whole day of our Las Vegas leg was spent on a Grand Canyon tour. This was easily the most breath-taking sights in all of our trip. We flew 45 minutes in a 10 seater aeroplane from Las Vegas to a landing strip on the West Rim of the Canyon. This is one of the fantastic views from the air.
From there, we took a 5 minute coach journey to Eagle point and then to Guano point. The scale of the Canyon is beyond belief and in many places there are no safety rails so we felt like quite the adventurers!
On the way back we flew over the Hoover Dam. The trip included a sizable buffet lunch, making it a great day out. If any one is thinking of visiting the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, we would definitely recommend the tour operator.
More of our Las Vegas pictures can be found here.
All too soon, it was time to move on again. But there were still two more cities to take in before heading back back home. Next stop: L.A.
Sunday, 21 September 2008
We were pleasantly surprised! Chicago is an amazing town with loads to do... but the most amazing and surprising thing about it was that everything seemed free! Free trams, free fireworks, free Jazz , free dance lessons, free zoo, free open-air cinema, free fountain display... this list just went on!
Although home to the Sears Tower, a few people had told us that the best view was from the Hancock Observatory. It costs about the same as going up the Sears tower but you get an excellent audio commentary (narrated by Friends, David Schwimmer) which gives you extensive information as you walk round the 360 degree vista. Here's one of the views from the top.
Chicago is on the edge of Lake Michigan (which to us looks more like an ocean!). In the centre of the picture is Navy Pier, which has all sorts of entertainment including a big Ferris Wheel and free firework displays on some nights.
This is a view, looking back at the city, as we went round the Ferris wheel. There were many boat tours operating from the Pier and we opted for the Sea Dog speedboat tour!
The picture above is the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, affectionately known as "the bean" It's quite an impressive piece and provided lots of opportunities for taking warped photos! The park also offered a free, open-air showing of Hitchcock's "Touch of Evil". Here is our view of the Chicago skyline at dusk just before the film started.
And as if all this wasn't enough, we went to visit Lincoln Zoo (also free!) to get close to some fantastic animals including Gorillas, Pygmy Hippos and this Polar Bear. He liked to show off by swimming right at the glass and then darting away at the last minute.
So although we were only in Chicago for a few days, we managed to pack a lot in! You can see the rest of our Chicago photos here.
Next stop: Las Vegas!
Sunday, 14 September 2008
On the second day we were with Tonya, she organised a party for us and invited some of the people we'd been in email contact with. This was great fun and certainly another fantastic highlight of our trip. It was really nice to be able to finally meet in person all the people we had been emailing.
So here are some quick introductions!
First up there is Cat, Dan and their son Owen.
Cat has a blog which we started following very soon after we found out Theo had Achondroplasia. If you haven't check out their story, please do (or at least check out the latest set of pictures they've posted... Owen is so cute!). Just to prove the point, here he is!
Next there is Jennifer, Cat's mum. Jennifer has been tremendously supportive and regularly checks our blog. She always has time to send us a thoughtful email or post an encouraging comment. Unsurprisingly, she bought us a little present of a Willow Tree statue to add to the many in Clare's collection. We were very touched by this gesture. It was also lovely to meet Jennifer's mother who, just like her daughter, kept us entertained with humour and wit!
This is Clare with Sarah and Kaela. Check out her blog here. Kaela is such sweet little girl and it was nice to meet her family (including Dad and brother Will) and talk through their trials and joys.
We also got to meet Aiden's family and so, all in all, it was quite an overwhelming experience!
The party was fantastic! As you would expect, there was a fair amount of eating done. My personal favourite was the giant cookie that Jennifer had made for us (but then it would be!)
It was great to get to know all these people a bit better. We all talked the afternoon and evening away, comparing our stories and discussing the differences between America and the UK... hours of fun!
A big thank you for all those who travelled to see us and to Tonya for organising and hosting the day. We were incredibly touched by your hospitality and friendship.
Next stop: Chicago!
Thursday, 4 September 2008
I can't believe that anyone reading this blog doesn't know who Tonya is because she seems to be the social and information nerve centre for so many people who have kids with dwarfism. But in case you haven't heard of her...
Tonya's family live in Monroe, Michigan which was about a half hour drive from the airport. They live in a lovely house which Clare and I decided was typically American... all that was missing was the swing-chair on the front porch.
The first evening was spent at their favourite restaurant (excellent Italian food!) followed by a Jazz festival which was running over the weekend we were there. Much to my delight, we ended up at a lovely ice-cream place where I enjoyed what I thought was the best ice-cream ever (my opinion would soon change when we went to Maggie Moos the next day!)
The next day, we were lucky enough to have a party to meet lots of other people who we've met via the blog and who have supported us tremendously over the last year. I'm not going to say anything more about that... it's the subject for another post!
After the party, we went to the ultimate ice-cream experience! Maggie Moos serves the most amazing ice-cream ever. They make it on the premises and you can choose not only which flavour you want, but also from a whole array of sweets and goodies to have with it. I eventually decided on Peaniut Butter fudge with pieces of Reese's peanut butter cups and snickers. Definitely a peanutty extravaganza!
During our time in Monroe, we got to know the family really well. It was fantastic to finally get to meet people we had been emailing for so long. The experience was every bit as amazing as we thought it would be. Even though we were only there for a short time, we found a really close bond, especially with Tonya and Knoah.
How could you not love Koaah? Here he is doing "Monster Baby"!
I think this video captures the essence of Monster Baby a bit better!
Overall we had an superb time! Both Clare and I had a little cry once Tonya and Knoah left us at the train station. We missed them already! But I don't want to end on a sad note... tune in next time for details about the fantastic party Tonya organised for us where we got to meet even more people we had made contact with through the blog!
If you want to see more of our time with Tonya, check out the pictures here.
Saturday, 30 August 2008
The picture I think she is referring to is this one:
I'd like to say that this was a picture of me with a famous rap star...Fifty Cent...P Diddy....some one like that... but we all know the story isn't going to pan out like that.
I'd just like to start by saying, in my defence, I had just stepped off a plane so I was tired, jet-lagged, etc.
So we were in times square and the guy in the picture stops me in the street. Clare knew right from the start where it was heading but what you can't see in the picture is the oblivious bubble I'm standing in! The guy tells me he's DJ BlingMan (or something). He's filming for MTV and can I look up at the top of the tall sky-scraper, where there's a camera(!), and repeat a message along the lines of "Yo, whasup, this is DJ BlingMan on MTV!" I do this, and then he puts his cap on my head and gets Clare to take a picture.
I'm having a great time, grinning like an idiot. Clare is rolling her eyes up and giving me a look that says I know what's going on but you are clearly clueless. Passers-by just think I'm a moron.
So then he thrusts two of "his" CDs in my hands and says I can have them. "What a lovely, generous man!", I think. THEN, he says that they would normally cost $10 each but he'll let me have them both for $10. I tell him I only have $5. He takes one CD from me and packs me on my way. "His" CD is a load of other rappers tunes he's downloaded and burnt onto CD. I haven't listened to it yet!
Of course, Clare tells me how she saw it all along and what a muppet I am! But you may be wondering where she got this lovely cap from!
Later in the holiday, we get stopped by another guy. Admittedly, this guy is funnier and working for a charity. After exchanging a few witty comments, he asks Clare if she'd like to donate money for the kids in exchange for a cap (I think this guy was legit....he had a pass round his neck and there were a few of them standing around). So although I payed $5 for a copied CD, Clare paid $10 for a (dirty) cap which she could have got for $3 from a street-seller. At least it was for a good cause!
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
We especially liked the food in New York (and just about everywhere else!). Here we are in Bubba Gump on Times Square.
I was particularly excited about the Alabama Mud Pie on the desert menu!
It turns out that American portion sizes are very large - This cake was meant for two to share but could probably feed a small family for a week!
It was an excellent start to the holiday - because we had a whole week, we had plenty of time to relax and recover from our busy work lives.
Anyway, I've only posted a few photos - if you are interested (and have a lot of time!) the rest of the New York pictures can be found here.
Next stop - Tonya's in Michigan!
Monday, 25 August 2008
Clare and I have finally arrived back from our American adventure! We've had an amazing time and met some even more amazing people. I will blog in great detail over the next few weeks but, as we're both very tired from all the travelling, I'll leave you with a few statistics from our travels to whet your appetite!
Number of miles flown: 11,417
Number of planes taken: 8
Number of hours in the air: 30
Number of states visited: 5
Number of cities visited: 6 (if you include Monroe!)
Number of times Andy has packed the suitcases: 7
Number of near death experiences: 2
Number of burgers eaten: Too many to count!
Number of pounds of weight gained by both of us: Too embarrassing to tell!
Number of pounds of money spent: Will have to let you know when I've put out my burning bank statement!
Number of hours sleep in the last 24 hours: 0
Number of amazing people we finally got to meet in person: Loads!!!!
That's all the energy I have! I'll be back in a few days to update you all a bit more. But finally, thanks to all the amazing people that made this trip one that we'll remember always!
Friday, 18 July 2008
We do have some good news though! We are taking a three-week holiday to America and we are going to meet up with some of our new blogging American friends! Our schedule is pretty hectic but here's a little breakdown:
New York - to see the sights
Monroe via Detroit - to spend some time with Tonya, Knoah and family
Chicago - whirlwind tour
Las Vegas - to meet with Candi who's flying in from Utah
L.A - Hollywood fame at last!
San Francisco - to soak up some American culture
Home - to sleep off the jet lag!
Tonya and Candi have both been incredibly supportive of Clare and I throughout the whole process of the pregnancy, birth and loss of Theodore and we are thrilled to have the chance to meet them in person at last! We may also have the chance to meet Jennifer who is Grandma to a little boy called Owen who has Achondroplasia. She has also kept in constant touch with us. We are very grateful to have so many people caring for us, both near and far.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
We received our genetic results this week and they were not as positive as we had hoped. Our geneticist told us that they had found the genetic "change" in Theo that they were expecting. This confirms the Kniest diagnosis reported by the post mortem. Having tested my blood, they also found the same genetic change in some of my blood cells. This means that I exhibit mosaicism in these cells - some of them are regular and some are dwarf!
It is safe to assume that at least some of my sperm cells are affected in the same way as this is how Theo got the condition. In the worst case scenario, all of them will be affected and this has led the geneticist to give us a 50% chance of recurrence. Although, potentially the risk could be lower than this, it is very difficult to determine what percentage of sperm cells are affected so they have to go with the worst case scenario.
The presence of a genetic marker means that pre-natal testing will be possible at about 11 weeks. At the moment, Clare and I are still coming to terms with the situation and so have no clear idea of what we are going to do next.
Prior to getting the news, we had already decided that it would be wise to seek the counsel of a couple in our church to help us along the way. In addition to this, we had also considered that professional counselling might be a good idea too. Now that we have the results, we are definitely going to proceed with both of these.
We are also planning to see the genetic counsellor again, once the dust has settled, to ask him further questions about our options.
Sorry to have to break this news to everyone via the blog. Both Clare and I really value your continued prayer and support!
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
After many discussions, and much prayer, I was baptised by full immersion (adult baptism) this weekend, in the sea at Sizewell (church weekend at the Christian Conference centre there), to affirm my love for God (photos attached). It was amazing! God is good!
I just thought you would like to know, as your testimony through the blog, and your example of ongoing love for God through Theo's life and death has been one of many influencing factors in my decision.
This was very exciting news for us! Di has been a great support to us over the last few months (I still remember the lovely food parcel she had delivered as a surprise for us when we came home from work one day....mmm!). It is even more touching that Theo had his own small part to play in her decision. Clare and I are both very happy for her!
Monday, 21 April 2008
They both came to our church service and then back to Clare's mum's house afterwards. We all talked for ages, each sharing different experiences both serious and amusing. By the end, it certainly seemed to me and Clare like we were all old friends. We both left feeling full of joy and I'm sure it won't be the last time we meet up.
God brings good things out of bad situations. Although losing Theo is still hard for us, we have met so many wonderful people who have enriched our lives more than we could imagine possible. For that, we feel greatly blessed!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3 20-21
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
I had a phone call from our geneticist yesterday who told me that he had got the results of my x-rays back from Great Ormond Street. The good news is that they have said that they can't find any link between me and Theo! You may remember that when we first went to see the geneticist, he was concerned that I exhibited some of the same issues as Theo (shortness, wonky legs, arthritis, cloth ear, etc). He had thought there might be the possibility that I had mosaicism. If I did, it could potentially increase the risk that we could have another child with the same condition.
It seems that this is not the case and so hopefully the chances of recurrence are greatly reduced. We have yet to see him officially to get the full details and we still have to wait for the results of Theo's genetic tests to come back. Nevertheless, this is a very positive sign and gives us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The geneticist is still chasing Theo's genetic results to see if they're finished so as soon as we know anything, I'll let you all know.
Thanks to you all for your continued prayer and support!
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3 22-26
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Anyway, whilst we were away, Clare got some rather surprising news (I'll preface this by saying it is not baby-related before everyone gets too excited!). The head mistress of her school has left. This means that the current head of the junior school has to take overall headship of the whole school...which means that....
... at least for the next term anyway.
This came as quite a shock to pretty much everyone! Although this is a massive leap up for Clare, the new head mistress is sure she up to the challenge. It is quite daunting for Clare because there are so many new things to learn so please remember her in your prayers. It is an amazing opportunity though so we are both very pleased. She led part of her first staff training day today (with very little notice) and seems to have been very successful.
So as we reach the 6-month anniversary of meeting Theo tomorrow, another door of opportunity has opened. Although, it is not in the same league as having a baby, it shows that God has a plan for us and that life does go on.
We'd just like to thank everyone who has supported us, raised money for Theo, prayed for us, written us emails, cooked for us and generally loved us! We couldn't have coped without you!
Monday, 17 March 2008
Thank you very much to those that sponsored me for the Bath Half Marathon yesterday (and for those that haven't yet done so, you still can via the web-link!!).
We've raised well over £600 in web-donations alone, and with gift aid the total might exceed £1000. I can't thank people enough for their generosity.
In terms of the half marathon result, I can barely walk today, but completed 13.1 miles in a PB of just over 86 minutes. That time puts me a respectable 356 out of around 14,000 entrants.
Hope to catch up with you soon. Thanks again.
It's still not to late to sponsor him here if you want!
Well done to Jim for such a fantastic result (it's been known for it to take me 86 minutes to manage 1 mile!). Also, our deepest and heart-felt thanks to him for everything he's done. We really appreciate it and know that the money raised will go towards supporting other families like ours!
Monday, 10 March 2008
We are still waiting for the results of Theo's genetic tests and my x-rays. The waiting seems to be harder than the grief these days and it's so very hard to be patient when all we want to do is start our family.
We had a church weekend just over a week ago and, whilst looking through the book stall, a book jumped out at Clare because of its title..."Wait". The book contains a poem that's apparently done the email circular rounds in the past. It talks of how God is capable of giving us everything we want but often tells us to wait because it is by doing this that we learn more about him and grow in Christ. The words of the poem are truly inspired!
by Russell Kelfer
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
|My future and all to which I relate |
hangs in the balance and you tell me to Wait?"
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign.
Or even a 'no,' to which I'll resign.
You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
|Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate |
as my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
and grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting...for what?"
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine...
|I could give all you seek and pleased you would be. |
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
|You'd never experience the fullness of love |
when the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
The glow of My comfort late into the night,
|You'd never know should your pain quickly flee,|
what it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
but oh, the loss if you missed what I'm doing in you.
So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
Thursday, 28 February 2008
If anyone wants to sponsor Jim, they can do so here. Clare and I continue to be very moved by this act of kindness. We want to thank Jim for doing this and wish him every luck on the day!
Sunday, 24 February 2008
So on with the album...!
Joy and Sadness
Daddy holds his son for the first time.
Mummy and Daddy note that he has not escaped inheriting their chubby faces!
Our Little Man
Theo has very short forearms and legs as predicted in scans. Mummy thinks that this makes him even more special and beautiful!