Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

What's Zac Up To?

I'll let this article from the associated press answer the question. =)

CHICAGO — Zac Vawter considers himself a test pilot. After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, the 31-year-old software engineer signed up to become a research subject, helping to test a trailblazing prosthetic leg that's controlled by his thoughts.
He will put this groundbreaking bionic leg to the ultimate test Sunday when he attempts to climb 103 flights of stairs to the top of Chicago's Willis Tower, one of the world's tallest skyscrapers.
If all goes well, he'll make history with the bionic leg's public debut. His whirring, robotic leg will respond to electrical impulses from muscles in his hamstring. Vawter will think, "Climb stairs," and the motors, belts and chains in his leg will synchronize the movements of its ankle and knee. Vawter hopes to make it to the top in an hour, longer than it would've taken before his amputation, less time than it would take with his normal prosthetic leg – or, as he calls it, his "dumb" leg.
A team of researchers will be cheering him on and noting the smart leg's performance. When Vawter goes home to Yelm, Wash., where he lives with his wife and two children, the experimental leg will stay behind in Chicago. Researchers will continue to refine its steering. Taking it to the market is still years away.
"Somewhere down the road, it will benefit me and I hope it will benefit a lot of other people as well," Vawter said about the research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Bionic – or thought-controlled – prosthetic arms have been available for a few years, thanks to pioneering work done at the Rehabilitation Institute. With leg amputees outnumbering people who've lost arms and hands, the Chicago researchers are focusing more on lower limbs. Safety is important. If a bionic hand fails, a person drops a glass of water. If a bionic leg fails, a person falls down stairs.
The Willis Tower climb will be the bionic leg's first test in the public eye, said lead researcher Levi Hargrove of the institute's Center for Bionic Medicine. The climb, called "SkyRise Chicago," is a fundraiser for the institute with about 2,700 people climbing. This is the first time the climb has played a role in the facility's research.
To prepare, Vawter and the scientists have spent hours adjusting the leg's movements. On one recent day, 11 electrodes placed on the skin of Vawter's thigh fed data to the bionic leg's microcomputer. The researchers turned over the "steering" to Vawter.
He kicked a soccer ball, walked around the room and climbed stairs. The researchers beamed.
Vawter likes the bionic leg. Compared to his regular prosthetic, it's more responsive and more fluid. As an engineer, he enjoys learning how the leg works.
It started with surgery in 2009. When Vawter's leg was amputated, a surgeon repositioned the residual spaghetti-like nerves that normally would carry signals to the lower leg and sewed them to new spots on his hamstring. That would allow Vawter one day to be able to use a bionic leg, even though the technology was years away.
The surgery is called "targeted muscle reinnervation" and it's like "rewiring the patient," Hargrove said. "And now when he just thinks about moving his ankle, his hamstring moves and we're able to tell the prosthesis how to move appropriately."
To one generation it sounds like "The Six Million Dollar Man," a 1970s TV show featuring a rebuilt hero. A younger generation may think of Luke Skywalker's bionic hand.
But Hargrove's inspiration came not from fiction, but from his fellow Canadian Terry Fox, who attempted a cross-country run on a regular artificial leg to raise money for cancer research in 1980.
"I've run marathons, and when you're in pain, you just think about Terry Fox who did it with a wooden leg and made it halfway across Canada before cancer returned," Hargrove said.
Experts not involved in the project say the Chicago research is on the leading edge. Most artificial legs are passive. "They're basically fancy wooden legs," said Daniel Ferris of the University of Michigan. Others have motorized or mechanical components but don't respond to the electrical impulses caused by thought.
"This is a step beyond the state of the art," Ferris said. "If they can achieve it, it's very noteworthy and suggests in the next 10 years or so there will be good commercial devices out there."
The $8 million project is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and involves Vanderbilt University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Brunswick.
Vawter and the Chicago researchers recently took the elevator to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower to see the view after an afternoon of work in the lab. Hargrove and Vawter bantered in the elevator in anticipation of Sunday's event.
Hargrove: "Am I allowed to trash talk you?"
"It's fine," Vawter shot back. "I'll just defer it all to the leg that you built."
At the top, Vawter stood on a glass balcony overlooking the city. The next time he heads to the top, he and the bionic leg will take the stairs.
AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Savior and King

Today started out like most other Wednesday's in our house: a mad dash to gobble down breakfast and be in the car no later than 8:15am to drive about an hour to make it to BSF in Olympia on time.  However, on this particular morning Zac was not here to help get us going and so as I looked at the clock in the car while pulling out the driveway it read 8:30am.  Shoot.  We are going to be late.  Some days this will cause me stress, but I resolved today to go with the flow - we would get there when we got there.

We had finished out latest audio book, Charlotte's Web, the day before and I didn't have the radio on, so we just talked.  I don't remember how or why, but the conversation turned to heaven.  "When we die we go to heaven," Keanan was explaining to Kyla.  I stepped in, "Well, bud, the bible says that the only way to heaven is to accept Jesus into your heart - remember?"

We had discussed this a number of times.  Zac and I have been careful not to push this issue or ask questions like "do you want to ask Jesus into your heart?".  We want something so important to be in God's time, when they were ready.

This morning Keanan responded "How do I get Jesus in my heart mom?"  Whoa.  Here we go.  I have had the honor of explaining the path of salvation to many thanks to my 10 years of being a Young Life leader - but it is different explaining the process to a 4 year old, MY 4 year old.  Keanan knows what the bible says. He knows about sin, he knows what Jesus did for him (for all of us on the cross), he knows the Jesus defeated sin and rose from the grave and is with God in heaven.  Thanks to our daily bible reading, prayer, talks, BSF, sunday school, VBS... he knows all those things.  But this morning driving down Rainier Road, he put it all together.  I talked to him about receiving the gift that God has given us, about confessing our sins, believing with our whole hearts what Jesus did, and asking Him to live in our hearts and be our Savior and King.  I told Keanan, "whenever you decided to do that, will you tell mommy or daddy so we can rejoice with you?"  He said yes and then was quiet.  I didn't want to push anything, but I looked back at him a few moments later and saw his head bowed, his eyes closed and his little lips moving.  At this point it got difficult to drive because I was crying.

"Mommy, I need to tell you something,"  he finally said.  "What bud?"  I asked.  "I asked Jesus to live in my heart and be my Savior and Lord," he meekly stated.  "Really Keanan?" I asked as he nodded his head.  I silently pulled the car over, got out, went over to his side and opened his door.  He was a bit shocked, but I knelt down and gave him a hug telling him how proud I was of him and that this was the best decision he could ever make.  He smiled and hugged me back.  We drove to Zac's work, which was on the way and Keanan told him the news.  Zac was also happy and reminded Keanan that it is a daily choice to follow Jesus - but he was so glad he had made this first important step.

We called both Grandma's on the way and Keanan told one of his teachers when we finally arrived at BSF.  This dear sweet woman started crying and hugging Keanan and I, which made me cry again.  After BSF we stopped by to tell Ms. Chris, who Keanan loves.  We celebrated with cookies in the afternoon and I marked the day on our calendar.
This is a big deal.  I know that, like Zac told Keanan, it is a daily choice to follow Jesus.  But this first, very important step is HUGE.  Thank you Lord for calling my son to Yourself.  For writing his name in the Lamb's Book of Life!  May he walk with You all the days of his life.  AMEN!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Keanan is 4 years old and has one of the most giving hearts I have ever know.  He would give away everything if we let him!  While we were grocery shopping yesterday he had the idea to sell the copper items he was making on his anvil from Grandpa Vawter.  When I asked him what he would do with the money he replied "give it to kids who don't have food."  So we spent yesterday setting up a store front for him on Etsy!  MadeByKeanan is his shop of handmade metal jewelry!

This morning Keanan decided that his goal was to raise $30 to buy Seeds, Tools, and Training in Africa through World Vision.

Will you help Keanan meet his goal?  Buy some jewelry and spread the word about his shop! MadeByKeanan

Here's some pictures of Keanan working on his craft!

Friday, October 12, 2012


Keanan has been having a blast as part of the orange team in the fall youth soccer league in Yelm!  It is  so fun to watch all the kids running around in semi-organized craziness =)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Alphabet Trip Around the State: V

V is for volcano!  A few weekends ago we traveled with the Vawter extended family to Mt. Saint Helens.  I was  so amazed by the power of God and power of nature - even 32 years later, the devastation of that day remains in the landscape there.  Enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A (picture) Day in Our Life!

It was so fun to capture our day in pictures!  I tried to get the major things that were going on, but what you miss is a lot of what I am doing (cleaning, teaching...).  We started at breakfast and ended with bedtime. Zac and I swapped picture taking jobs as I was gone for bedtime for a doula client meeting (hence going out the door with my birth ball!) Enjoy!