Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lucky


On Monday my right side hurt.
My rib cage, specifically, ached.
 No big deal.
 I lug that 24 pound baby around pretty much every minute we are together. Not only is there lugging going on but I am also emptying the dishwasher, cooking, laundry, making beds, vacuuming, etc. during previously mentioned lugging.
On Tuesday, I felt fine.
 Great. 
 Must have slept wrong.
On Wednesday, my side ached again and now a tiny spot of what appeared to be poison ivy showed up on the right side of my stomach. It itched. Then by the end of the day, a tiny spot on my back showed up. 
Itchy. 
Both spots would be places I might have scratched after touching poison ivy which we have been known to have in our giant backyard.
Odd, but believable.
 I have never been one to experience terrible reactions from poison ivy but my mother glances toward the leafy vine and instantly collapses into a heap of red and itchy - so I figured maybe now is my long-overdue, inherited poison ivy time?
Thursday I was an itchy mess Calamining myself numerous times. Friday I continued treating this mysterious poison ivy. Poison oak?
So strange.
Get ready, it's about to get WebMD all up in here.
I was prepared to deal with this hideousness as it ran its course accept that the pain in my side was not subsiding. It was getting worse. It was like an ache that no matter how I rearranged myself, would not disperse.
Sunday morning I couldn't take it anymore. My side seared with pain. I went to urgent care where a doctor said "Well, it probably isn't something like shingles because that would be really rare for someone your age, but let me take a ... OH DEAR GOD IT'S SHINGLES!"
I was given an antiviral to take five times a day and pain meds. (Just for fun fact: The antiviral is safe for nursing.) I figured the pain meds were unnecessary as I would just try to control this with ibuprofen. That evening I could not reach for the pain meds fast enough. The pain was so intense and there was no relief.
Slowly, I have been feeling better and it appears as though its course is coming to an end but little did I know the shingles were just the kick off to our illness-series, brought to you by Children's Motrin.
One week after my itchy self left the urgent care the boys and I returned. 
Eventually we would learn that Eli's simple cold had turned into RSV/pneumonia/ear infection/stomach bug, etc. Jackson was the best assistant as I was back to lugging a sick baby and all the items with which they arrive: lovey, bottle, Cheerios, burp cloth, diaper, etc.
 Jackson carried my purse as we went from waiting room to exam room to x-ray and so forth. He did explain to me that he was going to carry it with the flower embellishment hidden toward his stomach so that no one would mistake him for a girl. 
Only a day later Jackson would be up next, catching the dreaded stomach bug that has been circulating. But like a champ the five-year-old made it to the bathroom every time. We all high-fived him on that feat. Plus, getting to snack on saltines, a little Coke and a few Christmas movies was a pretty good bargain.
And now as Eric and I are noticing our own scratchy throats, all I can keep in my heart is joy.
In light of recent events, it is more clear than ever.
How lucky am I to be able to care for my children? To clean up this mess? To change sheets and towels before administering more breathing treatments?
How happy am I to be able to cool foreheads and walk the floor with our unhappy boy?
We are sleepless. Sleepless because our children need care.
How happy are we to be sleepless?
Very.
So very, very.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Favorites

During the season when everyone is reminded of their favorite things, I've been thinking of the things my favorite things are up to.
 Did that read right?
Jackson and Eli are my favorite everythings. They make me laugh. They amaze me every day.
 Eli blows enthusiastic, noisy kisses that melt your heart. He will tell you what an elephant says and what a cow has to say, too. Surprisingly, what they have to say is very similar to each other. He now says thank you, hello, night-night, bye-bye, sock and he calls for Jackson (his favorite thing!).
But the most adorable thing he does is something I've never seen another baby do. When holding Eli on my hip, I'm able to walk around the house and get quite a bit done - make dinner, vacuum, put away laundry, etc. Eli enjoys being carted around and observing my tasks. However, every now and then he will suddenly twist himself around and pop his tiny face into my view as if to say "Why hello there! Don't forget there is an adorable baby on your hip!" It cracks me up every time. Right when I am focused on finishing up the moment's chore, Eli's face peeps in with a big grin. Just his way of checking in.
Eli officially loves bath time. Popping Jackson and Eli in the tub makes for some hilarious moments. Jackson is such a sweet big brother and makes sure Eli's hair gets washed. As for rinsing, Eli loves to duck his head under the faucet. He is definitely a child interested in doing things himself. Hand him a sock and he will work so hard at trying to get it on his tiny foot. After pulling out every single diaper from the box, he will work on trying to diaper himself. When that gets to be too difficult, Eli will crawl into the box. Like a cat, he is most comfortable after squeezing himself into a tiny spot, whether it is an empty box or his little foot stool turned upside down and into a make shift seat.
Eric's favorite Eli noise is when he plays (steals?) with one of Jackson's Hot Wheels cars. Once he starts rolling the tiny car back and forth, he makes a very loud, non-stop vroom-vroom.
Fortunately, Jackson is very good about sharing a few of his wheels. Jackson is loving his sandbox and the tree it sits under. He has become quite a skilled tree climber. The swing set is another favorite past time. At the end of the day, before the sun dips out of sight and the chill shows up, I will push Jackson as high as he asks on the swing. With every launch to the sky, he bursts into giggles. It is as if he can barely stand the awesomeness of swinging. Such uplifting music.
After years of "commissioning"other children's art work,  Jackson has finally discovered drawing. He always dabbled but rarely committed to art projects, coloring, etc. But during the last six months, he has started to really enjoy art. He loves to draw. He asks me to draw something so he can learn it and will try to recreate it.  He loves to draw cupcakes, dragons, castles, spaceships, boats, birds and family portraits. His favorite medium is markers. This makes me cringe, but I am so overjoyed that he has finally discovered his artistic side.
Soccer has started up again and he loves everything about it. From the shin guards to the goal, Jackson loves the game.
We are gearing up for Christmas. Eli loves the tree. I have strategically hung tiny bells on the bottom of the tree so as to alert us when Eli is on the hunt for Christmas tree ornaments. And Jackson enjoys trying to find Abraham Lincoln our Elf on the Shelf every morning.  We will be hitting the road soon. This year we will be taking our first lengthy road trip with two kids and the dog. Should be quite an adventure with these characters!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Trash Day


Shoooo-wee Mama! That trash can smells so bad. I mean that trash can smells like ... well, I don't want to say what it smells like.
 
It's ok. You can say it.
 
Well, that trash can smells like ... well ...  I'll just say that trash can smells like something that came out of your bottom.
 
Long pause.
 
I mean not your bottom! But someone's bottom for sure....
 

______________________________________________________________________

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Centipedes


After a long evening of Eric feeling poorly, he decided to take a hot bath. Jackson and I were being good nurses until the kid decided to flip on me.

...........
Oh, mama I'm not feeling so good either.
Really?
Yes, my stomach is hurting, too.
Really.
Yeah, babe, he must be having sympathy pains.
Hmmm.
Yeah, mama. I have centipede pains.
You have what?
I have those centipede pains. Daddy said.
You do?
Yes, I have centipede pains. And I didn't even touch that centipede!
___

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holidays

Honey, the tree is crooked.

No, you're crooked.

.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Relations

Jackson: Mama, why are you sitting in here while we all take a bath? Is it cause we're all being a family?

Amanda: Yes, of course. I mean, I did make this family.

Eric: Well ...  I did ... I mean ... It was shake-n-bake and I helped!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Year

In a few days, Eli will be a year old.
 While there is always the bittersweet moments of realizing your baby is growing up, with Eli it is overshadowed by my joy for his achievements. Each month he gets stronger and healthier. Bit by bit he his shedding those NICU shadows. He is catching up to his adjusted age and slowly weaning off a few meds.
Of course we are still cautious, especially as winter approaches. I'm sure all parents of young children feel the same when the chill in the air signals the return of flu shots and runny noses.
Batten the hatches and break out the hoodies, the cold brings colds. Eli falls fast when it comes to the contagious. So we've primed the inhalers and refilled the scripts. I would love to go full mama-bear mode and hibernate away with the children for the winter, but instead I will dole out the Purell to anyone who will listen.
Getting to watch a stronger, older Eli is something that brings tears to my eyes daily. We are so very lucky. He has started taking his first steps. They are ever so awkward and tentative, but they count.
His current loves include opening and closing a variety of doors, drinking a sip from a cup while the rest lands in his lap and making a dash for Jackson's closet. He loves music and will drop everything to dance a tiny jig. He waves good-bye and finishes the flourish blowing numerous back-of-the-hand kisses. He says mama, dada, ball and uh-oh. However, his uh-oh actually means "look, I threw this toy down on the ground and I am curious as to who is going to pick it up."
One of my favorite ways Eli communicates is how he lets you know the general direction he'd like you to carry his royal highness. He lifts his arm and waves his hand a tiny bit, resembling the Queen of England. He has finally deciphered his stacking toy and loves to stack and unstack the colorful rings. The other night I was letting him make a giant mess in his room. He was strewing diapers everywhere when I noticed that he was actually trying to put one of the diapers on.
Of course, Jackson remains Eli's priority. They play together so well, and Eli finds him absolutely hilarious. Jackson's silly noises, funny faces and general five-year-oldness is right up Eli's alley.
Barely into his kindergarten career, Jackson christened the school playground with a broken arm. Getting that sickening phone call about his fall from the monkey bars was rough, but Jackson has been remarkable - bouncing back like a champ. But that is a blog post all on its own.
 These precious boys continue to amaze me.
Many of my evening prayers are simply of two words: thank you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Historic

Mama, on the back of my drawing I have made a list of who is good and who is bad.

Ok.

On the right are the people that are good. See? Here is you and daddy and I have to add Eli.

Yes.

On this side is the bad list.

There is only one person on this side? Who got put on your bad list?

That's John Wilkes Booth.

I see.

Cause he's a bad guy.

Right.





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Comic

I have called this family meeting to announce that we are going to take official family photos over spring break. So we will be looking for a photographer. We've got to find a great photographer to take our pics.

Oh Mama! Why don't we get Jimmy Olson?

(long pause)

He'd be good, babe. He is an ace photographer with the Daily Planet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Legalities

Jackson: Mama, I am going to live with you until I am 99 years old!

Amanda: Well, I am so glad we got that out of the way.

Eric: Babe, you know that won't hold up in a court of law, right? They'll say he was under duress when he said it.

Jackson: Elvis is under arrest!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who's House?

Hello, God's house.
What? What did you say Jackson?
I'm saying hello to God's house. It's in the sky, so I look up and say hello to it.

Sitter

Jackson, what is something your mama always says to you?
She says, I love you.
What is something your daddy always says to you?
Uh ... he says, Can you watch Eli for a second?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Colorful Vocabulary

Wah, dah, wah! Dah! Bah! Waaaa!

Hey Jackson, instead of just singing sounds to Eli, maybe you could sing actual words to him so he learns new words to say?

Ok. ... Red, red, red, red, red, white, white, white, white, blue, blue, blue, blue, magician, magician, magician, silver, silver, silver....

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Boys of Summer

You know how you have that one (or maybe two) friend who is your very close, bestest friend that you haven't really had a long conversation with in so long but you know that if you just set aside an hour or two and picked up the phone you would pick right up where you left off like you had never left each other's side? And you know how you can't just make a quick call to that particular bestie because there is just way too much to catch up on now so you keep putting it off and putting it off until now there is so much to catch up you feel like you need an entire Sunday afternoon to catch her up on all the details except that your afternoon is filled with recording your barely-five-year-old taking his own training wheels off his bike and zipping around the cul-de-sac while the nine month old is popping up tiny teeth and pulling up in his crib?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/7823353802/in/photostream
 and...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/7823296040/in/photostream
and...

Yeah, all that.

That is how I have felt about updating the blog.
August has been tremendous.
Tremendous milestones, tremendous miracles and tremendous heat. September hasn't slowed us either.
Jackson started kindergarten.
 Five for barely a week and he boldy marched down the hall to his new classroom. Swinging his backpack over his shoulder, he wasn't phased by this milestone.
 His parents were.
 We held it together until alone in the parking lot, where our quick hug goodbye turned into a long, tearful embrace.
 Don't let go until I can catch my breath, ok?
 Why do we tear up? There is a mix of joy and sadness on those first days of school. Why the sadness? Is it because he is getting older? But I love every phase and every age. I love seeing him become his own person - so strong and independent. He has taken to kindergarten like a pro. He has become a champion of the under dog. Last week, he came home claiming to have "saved a boy's life" by telling a teacher about some bullying behavior at recess. We are so proud to see our oldest breeze into school. I'm worried for him as he is such a young five year old. In fact, he informs me at night when I tuck him in that he goes back to being four. I ask him why and he always says it was just so fun being four that he isn't quite ready to be five all the time.
Eli has once again been hard at work.
 His body is catching up with himself. He is crawling everywhere and pulling up on anything that will hold still. Elvis is thrilled.
 Eli's heart has also been at work healing itself. The hole in his heart has closed. Closed. Closed!
 I am still in shock over this wonderful news. Closed!
Could I have heard the doctors, right? Did she say closed? Yes. Closed.
 That baby - he is such a good baby. Not just because he closed that hole up. He is a happy boy full of sweet smiles and giggles.
Eli has been a busy baby.
He attended his first Jackson family reunion, he is munching on all kinds of yummy foods, he has passed several medical tests lately and now says mama, dada and uh-oh. Uh-oh is his very favorite word - a response he uses for most conversations. And now Eli has tipped into September cruising along coffee tables. Just one or two steps for now, but he is on his way.
Don't let go, ok?
I still haven't caught my breath.


Hindsight

Well, you're  the one who majored in philosophy!
I didn't want to be a philosopher.
Then why did you major in philosophy?
Trust me, if I could go back and kick my ass I would!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Text

There are about five or six texts that I keep on my phone's inbox at all times. Some of them include pics. All are kept for highly emotional reasons. Some are recent. Some from within the last six months. I keep a few with pictures of Stella from the hospital. I am afraid to delete those because they were her last photos and are all I have left. One is a text I sent to my dad and my cousin Pammy on the evening of 11/12/11. It is a photo of the machines crowding Eli's NICU room. I keep it to remind me how far he has come. That Eli is a miracle. I keep the early September text conversation between me and our realtor to remind me how lucky we were to find our house. And I still have the one on Halloween, last year when the ultrasounds to keep checking my fluid levels began.
Some I am afraid to delete.
Doesn't that sound crazy?
But I get these silly notions that something bad will happen if I delete well wishes about Eli's health, or my family's health. I can't bear to delete the sweet words our friends texted after Omi died. I can't delete the texts about Stella. Otherwise, it feels like too many traces will be gone. Like God will think I stopped paying attention.
I keep the sentiments safe, hidden in my phone. I re-read these tucked-away texts. All the time, really. I think it is good to look back and see Eli's hospital room - to be reminded about every precious moment.
The oldest one I have is a text that I sent out August 9, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. All it says to a few family members is that Jackson had suddenly learned to swim. 
Isn't it amazing that I have the exact date and time that he reached that milestone? He had been four years old for less than a week. I remember that afternoon. He had been using floaties and a tube all summer. But that day, he had taken them off, dipped his head just below the surface and swam like a fish into my arms. Eric and I were breathless. Jackson was over the moon. It was one of those moments, where you got to witness that click. The very second were your child gets it. 
One second he doesn't know how to swim. 
The next, he is swimming.
One second. 
So fast. So exact.
Sometimes things are so gradual, like a garden growing. One day you go out to water and your flower has bloomed, the tomatoes are ripened. Sometimes you turn around and there they are rolling, crawling, walking, swimming. But I got lucky that day. I got to see the exact transformation. It was amazing. 
So silly, right? It's just swimming.
But it was so joyous and strong.
Joyous!
That's why I keep that text. I re-live the joy.
What texts do you keep? What can't you bear to delete?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Elements

Outside dark clouds, booming thunder, soft rain and flashes of thunder - the stage was set for Eli's big move. He had been practicing for more than a month. Oh there had been lots of rocking, calling and baiting - but nothing had quite convinced him just yet. That is, until Jackson's toy tuck was placed just within reach. And slowly, tentatively, Eli's arms coordinated with his knees. His hands kept him upright, his knees no longer sluggish.
We caught it on my phone.
He crawled.
Crawled.
He crawled right over to the bright yellow, toy truck. We leapt with joy and shrieked and shouted. So much so, that even he joined in the celebration.
Hooray! A baby who once never displayed proper walking reflexes reached a big milestone.
We were so happy.
And then ..... we started digging out the old baby gates.
Damn.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Oma

When Eli was born, Jackson had to suddenly do more things on his own as is common with a new baby in the house. But with Eli’s rough start, Jackson didn’t get to adjust to being a big brother like most kids. He had to transition quickly what with Eli requiring more attention than your average newborn. So when Omi’s red, white and blue afghan arrived he labeled it his very own “lovey” and cuddled into it immediately.
Jackson drags the bright afghan she knitted him around the house. He loves the crisp colors and how they match his room. He cuddles with it on the couch when he is feeling tired and sleeps with it every night. It warms my heart to snuggle our children up in the afghans she made for them.
Her love comforts her great grandchildren in soft, knitted layers.
Each purl stitch is a tiny bud harboring love sent from their great-grandmother. Each knot is a sign of hard work and love. These things: hard work and love are what Omi taught us.
 Omi taught us…
 … to be brave by her example.
…to fight for what you believe in.
…to iron everything.
 … to bite your loved ones.
…to pray.
…that vinegar cures all.
…to be loyal to your family.
 ....to enjoy a good, long, soak in the tub.
…to live through strife, famine and war with dignity, pride, love and always with humor.
 …to change the beds on Monday.
…to always stop for a coffee in the afternoons.
…to get up and go to work every day.
 …to always call your grandmother.
…to never call at 1 p.m. when All My Children was on.
…to love fresh, crisp laundry off the line.
…that life is in the laundry room. Look for it in the colors and the whites. Life. Love. They are there. It’s in the crisp lines of our graduation gowns that she ironed, in the bleached whites of christening gowns that she prepared, in the soft folds of her  pastel, knit tops, and even in the stain stick working to remove the remnants of a family-filled Thanksgiving dinner and the laundry-room sink where all the babies got their bubble-bath soak afterwards.
 Look for it.
Do you see it?
Do you see Omi?
 I do.
 http://falardeaufh.com/obituaries/obit.php?id=2012-162

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Monster

Jackson, what is the name of your monster truck?
Inventory Monster Truck Goblin Green.
I see, and the name of the other one?
Red Yellow Black

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day


VBS

Jackson has been attending vacation bible school this past week. He is always taken with good stories and music. Now that VBS has come to a close, Jackson has been regaling us with his own renditions of the songs.
 I asked him if we should call him Pastor Jackson.
 He declined the title.
 I suggested Reverend Jackson.
He disagreed.
How about Father Jackson?
 No.
 Finally, I asked him, "What should we call you when you are singing from the pulpit?"
"Michael Jackson."

video

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Genetic

Have you ever noticed that sometimes Jackson laughs like Greg?
Oh yeah?
 Yeah,sometimes he sounds just like Greg when he giggles.
Or maybe it's just that Greg laughs like a four year old?
Yeah, that.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Curses

So, Jackson is at VBS tonight?
Yes.
So, essentially we have the house to ourselves?
Yes.
Wow.
Yeah.
*long pause*
We should watch a violent movie!
Yeah, with lots of curse words!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Six Months

This weekend is Eli's christening.
Eric, Jackson and I have been busy getting ready for visiting friends and family. Eli has too. His days are filled with sitting up and solid foods.
On his six month birthday, he could sit for only a few seconds at a time. Jackson and I spent many evenings sitting Eli on Jackson's bed and then predicting which way the baby would tumble. This entertained Jackson immensely. Eli, too. Now Eli sits for long periods of time working at his activity mat, listening to Jackson read a book, cloud gazing from my lap in the backyard, marveling at the existence of Elvis, etc.
He is also his own bouncy seat. He loves to bounce and rock and dance in the safety of your arms. Seeing these healthy signs of coordination and development warms our hearts. Eli has also graduated from rice cereal to solids. His first taste was squash. Jackson was enjoying an afternoon in our baby pool and it occurred to me that it would also make an ideal spot to feed a baby his first solid treat. After enjoying several bites, I could just dunk him a few times and he was good to go. Jackson is pretty good at feeding Eli, too. Although when Jackson is in charge of dinner, Eli can hardly eat through all the grinning. And of course he tries to "help" feed himself by grabbing the spoon.
Medically speaking, Eli continues to be highly susceptible to respiratory infections. Every time he catches a random cold, it quickly turns into wheezing, choking cough, stridor and trips to urgent care for a steroid and breathing treatments. He has been put on a steroid inhaler twice a day and back on reflux meds to help minimize aspirations. His six-month check up is next week so I'm hoping to map out a long-term plan then. His next ECHO will be scheduled for later this summer.
Jackson, who lets everyone know he will be in kindergarten in the fall, continues to become an amazing big brother. I watch the brothers play and chatter and giggle and it is as if they have known each other forever. Maybe they have. Jackson plays peek-a-boo with Eli, endlessly. Seriously. There is nonstop peek-a-booing in our house and car. Eli can't get enough.
I'm so glad both boys are attending the same school during the summer. I get to see both boys at lunch during the week. Every day I walk Eli over to Jackson's class where he and his classmates are finishing lunch. Jackson loves showing off his little brother and Eli is always thrilled to have an opportunity to stare at Jackson.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Swamp

Hey babe, thanks for making breakfast this morning.
No problem.
*kiss*
 So, uh.....
Yeah?
I left the water on in the yard all night.
What?
So, we don't have to water that tree...ever.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Becoming a Man

Jackson pick up that dead bug.
Ewwwwww. No way.
Come on pick it up.
But....
You're a boy aren't you?
Yes.
Well, that's what boys do. Pick up bugs...

Gloomy

Jackson graduated pre-k. It was quite an event with cupcakes and a little musical number. I will have to post the video. He was quite proud of his certificate. Now that it is summer he will be going to Eli's school. This means I am driving both boys to the same location in the mornings. During the 15 minute drive Jackson reads a book to Eli. Eli loves anything Jackson does. Jackson loves reading. So it's a win-win. While reading a book about Eeyore, Jackson asked....
Mama, what does g-l-o-o-m-y spell?
 Gloomy.
What does gloomy mean?
Oh you know, like sad or kinda down. You know how Eeyore is always down?
 Yeah, it's probably because he always has a nail in his bottom.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Brother

It has been a few weeks since I received the call from my sister. I could tell right away it was bad news. You could hear the defeat in her voice. You could feel the grief welling up inside her little body spilling through the phone. That kind of sadness tastes metallic. She had confided a couple weeks earlier of her fears and I had responded with hope. You always respond with hope. In our family, it's hope mixed with a little gallows humor. "Kid's got a little hole in the heart...hey at least it's not brain cancer." I really thought we had this one. We wouldn't lose again. She wouldn't lose again. All the hope and all the humor couldn't stop that call. I think of a lot different things in retrospect. My father spending nights watching Elmo stroking her hand as she sleeps. My brother, ever the river marshall, making everyone comfortable, entertaining visitors before he would start his shift. My sister reveling at her daughter's spunk with her world crashing in around them. Stella being so happy and sharp when she saw the new baby on Skype. These bittersweet memories only provide a little joy before they are enveloped with pain. I cry a lot at the oddest times. Especially around the five month old. I don't like being alone with him for too long. He smiles with his entire face,oblivious to this kind of soul-wrenching loss. I feel as though I am keeping all this hidden, lying to him by smiling back but the truth can only be kept back for a while before it forces itself free. Eli must think I am a crazy man. We deal with this in our ways. Amanda denies herself deep sleep, jerking awake at the slightest cough from Eli. I planted a rose and some Stella day lillies. We hug more, but that in itself is part of the problem. If we weren't so damn close in the first place this wouldnt hurt so bad. If my sister hadn't left all those messages, I wouldn't have that voice in my head or feel so hollow for not keeping them. Tulsa wasn't a buffer,it's solitary where time carries on but you can't tell and the wound gets reopened every time you see or talk to anyone. This of course beats the alternative. Only with the help of close friends and family, will we ever have a chance at normalcy. Not that it ever fit us in the first place. My mother was right in saying life isn't fair. In no way is it even remotely fair, it just is and you deal. Travis and Amanda have lost their child, again, yet neither of them have been defeated. They are truly an inspiration, a modern day miracle, even if doesn't feel like it. I love them with all that I have and I use them as an excuse to hold everyone just a little longer. -Eric

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Breathless

Eli finally sleeps in his bouncy seat to my right.
His cold makes every breath tight and charged with static.
Each breath takes too much effort.
Each breath is work.
---

We have all been holding our breaths for Stella.
We have held them for nearly six months.
We have kept our lungs filled with hope.

Pray, don't breathe. There was no room for air, only miracles.
We curled our fingers into fists of fury, raging at disease.

We had no time to breathe deep.
We held our breaths for miracles.

Maybe a Thanksgiving day parade of cures.
Maybe a Christmas gift of healing.
Maybe a birthday present for everyone.

We held our breaths.
And now we are breathless.
Their star was stolen from the sky.
The breath snatched right from our throats.
Taken.

---
Time for Eli's next dose.
The medicine relaxes the grip on his lungs.
He can sleep. He can now breathe deep.
Harder for us. Grief does not loosen its grip.
Each breath is work.

.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stella Rose

Our hearts are breaking.
Please lift up Stella in your hearts.
May she feel no pain and only our love surrounding her.
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/stellamulhearn/journal

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Angelic

Eli had fallen asleep in my arms. He nestled into the inside of my elbow. Eventually, I cradle my warm little bundle of baby and make my way upstairs to put him down for the night. He is full of milk and sweet dreams. Just before putting Eli to bed, he stirs. He lifts his head from my shoulder and softly sighs in that most precious baby way.

Oh honey, did you hear that sweet little sound?

Yes, dear. It's like angels farting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Four

Right now the boys are four years and four months old. Jackson really enjoys telling peopl about this little numerical happening. But then he is quick to point out that he is really four and a half and Eli is zero. Technically.
Every time he mentions this little extra half of four it gives me a little twinge. Really? Four and a half? My baby is closer to five?
Four has been so much fun so far. Four has really developed a sense of humor and a serious appreciation for musicals. Wizard of Oz, The Music Man and Chittty Chitty Bang Bang are part of the musical repertoire now. However, recently the automotive repair program Wheeler Dealers has become a request when been given a special tv treat option. Four is trying to learn how to tie its shoes, has learned how to read and enjoys playing soccer.
Four also has a lot of questions. A lot. Why does Superman have red boots? Can he get hurt? What do you know about construction? Why do they have port-a-potties out there? How much spinach do I have to eat to get a treat? Why does the dough look like mud? Can we still eat it? Can we eat it right now? What would it tatse like? When will it be ready? Why is the moon still out here? Why does the sun come up every day? Why doesn't Eli have any teeth? Is daddy made of iron? Why is there oil in a car? How does Superman fly? How does he stand when he is about to jump over a building?
Four is always ready for a good discussion.
What four hasn't done yet is located its balance. Four is a major clutz. So far four has fallen face forward in the playground collecting a black and blue nose. And last night four was running through the house in new flip flops and did a dance with the living room window sill. Just as the nose was returning to normal shades of face, the purple line of window-sill injury is streaking its way down.
But things were handled with bravery. It was only a brief crying spell and an ice pack later, before the showing off began.
I'm excited to watch the second half of four.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Check Up

Eli's official four month check up was Thursday afternoon. He now weighs 15 pounds and 4 oz. I thought he was a bit small but the doctor felt he was right on track and was pleased with his growth. He is basically in the 45 percentile in height and weight. His head size is in the 24 percentile. These numbers shock me because for years Jackson would be well into the 90 percentiles and his head size would literally be off the charts. But as long as the doctor is ok with Eli's growth then I am, too.
We have had a few scares regarding Eli catching colds. Basic stuff for a normal baby, but for him it didn't go so well. He catches a cold and his symptoms get pretty drastic pretty quickly. A slight cough and congestion lapse into difficulty breathing within hours. Now when he gets a few symptoms we put the breathing monitor back on his diaper so mentally we can sleep at night. Of course, then I stay awake staring at its little, flashing, green light. I'm so glad RSV season is winding down and just hope Eli can use this summer to toughen up before it begins again in the fall. His lung are just still so weak. But we knew things might be this way for a couple of years.
In the meantime, the rest of his appointment went well. The doctor was impressed with Eli's smiley personality. He does love to grin, especially when his mouth is full of rice cereal. We have started out slowly and even took a week-long break from rice cereal when his stomach seemed a bit ... concerned ... about the new food. But we have started again and I am really looking forward to introducing new foods.
I'm not sure who was the most excited about starting rice cereal - me or Jackson. When I told Jackson we were going to start feeding Eli cereal he jumped up and immediately asked, "Did Eli get his teeth?"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Baby House

Overall, we could not be happier about Jackson's reaction to his little brother. He still loves to help out when it comes to baby stuff and truly enjoys discussing Eli's ...uh... digestive productions.

Mama, is it a poopy diaper?

Yes, it is.

Well then, I better check it out.

Really?

Yep, let me see ... EWWWWWWW! You're right, that's a poopy one.

Thank you, Jackson.

When Eli is on my shoulder, Jackson loves to inform me if Eli is asleep or awake.
Sometimes our conversations are endless:

What's the status, Jack?

Asleep.

Asleep?

He's awake.

Awake?

Nope, asleep. Wait! He's asleep.

He is the most helpful when it comes to tummy time. He sings and dances, putting on such a show that Eli can't help but hold his head high to catch a glimpse of the whirling dervish.
Of course, there are pangs of jealousy. They bubble up in unexpected moments. Like at the end of Eli's PT, when Jackson will suddenly have to show us his own tummy time skills.
Or like the time he didn't get to do as he wished and stomped his foot down in the kitchen shouting "You are a baby! This is a baby house!"
We have tried, particularly in the last few weeks (especially since I have been back at work) to ensure Jackson gets his quality time sans Eli. And after some really good days at school, Eric even designed a light that intertwines around Jackson's bunk bed making it a super cool nightlight for bedtime stories.
He adores it.
We also point out how in love Eli is with Jackson.
Sometimes, Eli stares at Jackson so hard it gets a little creepy.
Even Jackson noted, "He can't take his eyes off of me!"
He drools and stares at Jackson non-stop as if to say, "ILOVEYOUILOVEYOUILOVEYOU!"
His infatuation comes in handy, since Jackson can charm that baby into giggles.
Jackson desperately wants Eli to be able to do everything right now. He explains how to ride a bike to Eli, or goes into detail about how to put on shoes. He wants to take baths together, play together, etc.
He can hardly wait.
He has become a wonderful big brother. He has learned so much about caring for a baby. Maybe even more than his father.......
ALL the boys were in bed when I was in the bathroom getting ready for work. Then a sleepy Eric appeared.

Honey, where is the baby? Who is watching Eli?

Oh, I left him with Jackson.

On the bed with Jackson?

Yeah.

The four year old?

Yeah. If you can't leave a baby with a four year old then who can you leave it with?

Mama! I'm gonna flip 'em over for some tummy time, k?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Jen

The NICU Chronicles - While it is hard to tell, there is still so much to say about Eli's birth. Now that we are farther away from this traumatic event, we can finally revisit these moments. We want never to forget the amazing people that helped us through. This blog is how we will remember...


It was really the second night that our baby was in the NICU that was the worst. The first night was so full of shock and horror that it all just melded into white heat. A blur you can't really see. A thick fog that clouded our eyes and even made it difficult to hear.
What did the doctor say? Our baby will be fine? Our baby can't breathe? His heart? Wait. Stop. What is happening?
Recovering from surgery made it difficult to travel from my hospital room over to the NICU but that first night Eric wheeled me over and we got to sit with Eli, making sure our voices were barely a whisper so as not to stimulate him. We could only touch the big toe on his left foot while a pulse ox monitor made the big toe on his right glow like Rudolph's nose.
We sat, latched on to his tiny toe, and listened to the NICU's music. To Eli's song - a mix of whispers, jarring beeps and humming vents.
Our roller coaster's dips and waves started from the moment of Eli's birth.
But Thursday.
Thursday was the worst. Now, it was real. More information had arrived. More medical. More tests, x-rays and ECHOs. Now, the bars have come down, the ride has left the gate and it was too late to look back.
I've heard people say, "I'm cried out" or "I just don't have any tears left."
Not so.
Thursday night Eric and I sat alone staring at our tiny baby during the tiny hours before dawn. We cried and cried. Cried for our baby and cried at how helpless we felt.
Powerless.
Maybe she handled all NICU parents this way. Maybe she saw how broken we were. But Eli's nurse slowed the roller coaster - if even for one night.
She was small, soft spoken and kept her long red hair pulled in to a pony tail. Her quietness belied her skills. Her small frame worked the room quickly and her deft hands efficiently changed medications, untangled tiny IVs, rearranged tubes and reset monitors. She took me over to Eli and slowly explained what every tube was for, what every wire monitored, what every machine supplied, what every liquid was tasked to do and what every sound meant. From his head down to his foot, her finger tips traced every line. This line monitors his heart, this for his oxygen level, this one provides blood pressure medication, this one sedation, this one is an antibiotic, this too...
She asked if I would like to take his temperature. It would be the first thing I would ever get to do for him. She asked me if I would like to change his diaper. She gave me a tiny, white tee to sleep with.
"Afterward, we will leave it with him, so he will have your scent," she said. She did everything she could to help us bond on a primal level - body heat and scents. By taking it one step further and educating us on a night where we knew nothing, she gave us something to grasp. I still have that tiny tee.
By all appearances, Aaron was her opposite - a massive man with wild, dark curls and a booming voice. While most entered Eli's small, dark room that night with hushed tones and quick glances, Eli's respiratory therapist's voice was jarring and his stare was unfaltering. Aaron's height was intimidating, even in pale green scrubs. His wide face was full of pity when saw us that night.
"Sometimes this whole thing is harder on the parents than it is on the babies," he said. "Your baby will never remember any of this, but you will never forget it."
As if he and Jen had previously discussed that night's tutorial strategy, he too took the time to explain Eli's vent. He showed us on the digital screen, the peaks and valleys of breath. He taught us how to determine which breaths were the vent and which belonged to Eli. He said that at times, Eli's lungs would over power the vent - that our boy would devour a deep breath all for himself. He was pleased with Eli overall and it was one of the first tiny rays of hope that crept in during that 3 a.m. darkness.
The soft-spoken nurse and the giant therapist, these Champions of Eli, didn't just work to save our son. They saved us. They armed us the best they could for this battle. Saved us from being swallowed whole by fear that night.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's In His Genes

Jackson has started soccer.
We asked him what interest he would like to pursue and it was narrowed down to swimming, dancing or soccer.
He mulled.
Soccer was the final decision.
He is so in love with everything about it. Especially the gear.
Men and their gear.
For Christmas, we got him a pair of shin guards. He was so thrilled he put them on immediately.
He even wore them to school, without me knowing, to show his friends. He wore them all day. That is commitment.
Once a week, we head to the soccer field and watch him learn the basics. But it isn't the soccer game basics I love to watch happen on the field.
I love watching him experience so many simple aspects of the game that will become foundational pieces to his overall character.
It may sound overly dramatic, but I really see him growing up during those 40 minutes of astroturf.
I love watching him learn how to be a teammate, how to listen to his coach, how to coordinate his feet with his brain, how to win and how to lose.
He is having the best time and so am I.

Predictions

Eli's ECHO and EKG were this morning, and overall he did much better at this ECHO appointment compared to his last. His overall demeanor was so pleasant the nurses enjoyed "talking" with him and counting his grins. This time around I remembered to bring a bottle which meant that while the blood pressure taking was still not fun there weren't massive fits of hysteria and there was much less overall sweating.
The results of his ECHO are the same.
There has been no change in the hole in his heart and there has been no change to the clot (calcification) in his ventricle. The cardiologist says it may take up to 24 months before his ASD decides to close. And as for the clot, he may have it for the rest of his life. In the meantime, he will have to go back for a follow-up ECHO in six months.
Overall, the cardiologist was pleased with these results, commenting that it is a positive that the clot has not gotten bigger and so far is not causing any extra leakage near his ventricle.
Eli will continue to live life like a regular baby, while they periodically keep an eye on things.
At first, I was very disappointed to learn his body has not dissolved the clot. I really thought it would be gone by now.
But I need to shake this negative attitude and be thrilled our baby is otherwise a healthy boy.
In fact, the doctor remarked at how long Eli's attention span was, how much he chattered along and how alert he was to the volley of our conversation.
"He doesn't miss a thing," he said. "I haven't seen a baby like this in a long time. He is really going to be so fun to raise."
Now that is a medical prognosis I can throughly agree with.

______________________________________________________________________

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Three Months

Eli celebrated his three month birthday with a tiny cupcake and a hushed, late-night round of singing. Hushed because by the time the candle was lit he was fast asleep in his bassinet.


Something so ordinary to most babies - sleeping in a bassinet.
But for Eli, it was a big step. His painful reflux and moody temperament have kept him from sleeping on his back or for long periods of time. He has slept in his bouncy seat or swing for short naps since coming home from the hospital.
But in the last few days we have been successfully working on him sleeping in his bassinet. I say "we" because it has been hard for me to make the transition as well. It's harder for me to keep an eye on him from my own bed when he is asleep in the bassinet, but this process needs to be done. I headed ba ck to work, and I can't keep staring at him all night until he is 18.
Maybe just until he is 5.
Eli continues to gain weight. He is now up to 14 pounds and has become quite smiley. He has the best grin. It warms my heart to see it.
He loves his activity mat and coos and wiggles to the music.
But he is most entertained by his brother. Jackson is sometimes the only one who can get Eli out of a crying spell. He will sing and dance and chatter away while Eli stares at him endlessly.
Therapy continues, and Eli isn't always thrilled about it. Tummy time doesn't always end well but he has to keep it up. His neck muscles and arm strength are still behind but he is getting stronger every day.
Jackson is a big help in this area, too. His performances really make Eli want to lift his head and get a glimpse of the show.
After Jackson, Eli's second most favorite thing is his thumb. I'm hoping this will turn into a relationship with h is pacifier, but in the meantime I'm just happy he has found something to help soothe himself.
This month, Eli is back to the doctor for various appointments. He had his NICU follow up last week. They assessed his overall development, hearing, motor skills and general progress. He is still behind. While they were pleased with his ability to control his head, he still does not display a walking reflex or the ability to keep his head up for long periods of time when on his tummy. This puts him in the 20th percentile when it comes to his motor skills. But we continue to work on it. We put him on his tummy at every diaper change. Sometimes he does so well and lifts his head high to che ck out his surroundings. Other times he gets furious and kicks until he has shoved his tiny nose into the mat. His therapist says it will just take time.
Tomorrow, he will have yet another ECHO to see if the hole in his heart has changed/improved and to monitor the calcification they discovered during his last ECHO. Hopefully his body will have broken down the clot.
We pray that ev erything looks healthy on the inside. On the outside, Eli is the picture of health.


Just one look at his sweet face, and one would never know this baby had such a rough start.
It just makes his smiles even more precious.
<

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hogwarts Prep

What did you do in school today?

Oh, lots of things. Like ... math and stuff.

Oh really? What kind of math?

Well, I learned things you usually learn in college.

Like what?

Like potions, and how to pour things into a cup without spilling.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mystery

Jackson, how did you get this cut on your ankle?

I don't know. I wasn't there when it happened.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mars Venus

Amanda: It is truly amazing what a woman can get done around the house with one arm while holding a baby when compared to a man around the house with two arms.

Eric: You mean like picking up a spider?

Amanda: Touché.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gingerbread

Jackson, you know how Christmas is over?

Yes.

You know how all the decorations are put away?

Yes.

And there aren't anymore Christmas things around anymore?

Yes.

So....

Yes?

Can we finally go ahead and take down your gingerbread house?

No.

Well, how long do we have to keep it?

Forever.

How long do we have to keep it out?

For all days.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Big Tip

Jackson: Can I tell you something?

Waitress: Sure. Of course.

Jackson: My baby brother Eli doesn't have any teeth.

Waitress: Oh really? He doesn't have teeth. Hmmm. Not like you, huh?

Jackson: Right.

....

Jackson: Can I tell you something?

Waitress: Of course.

Jackson: I love my mama.

Waitress: I love that you love your mama.