Friday, August 29, 2014

The Catch-Up Post

Someone asked me the other day why I never blog anymore.  I can't believe that it has been more than six months since I've written anything substantial on here.  Time flies and we've just been so busy living life.  The good stuff.  Play dates.  Summer sunshine.  And lots of moving forward for this little family of ours.

These two kiddos have been doing great!  They pester each other in true sibling fashion, but they love each other and are finally beginning to play together like friends.

Samuel is four and a half now.  I almost typed his stats out of habit, but they mean very little to us these days.  He's growing.  He's eating.  And he's gaining weight SLOWLY but surely.

He will begin a preschool program in just a few days.  I have every intention of delaying his entrance into kindergarten another year, so the plan is for him to repeat this class twice.  He's looking forward to making friends and I'm excited for him to be in a learning environment again.

Therapy seems to be going well overall, even if he would prefer not to go anymore.  Too bad that's not an option.  Ha!  Physical therapy is full of running, skipping, hopping on one foot, and jumping. I feel like everyone is still trying to figure out his little 'quirks' physically.  Is he tight on his left side?  Or maybe his core is a little weak?  Does he gallop instead of run simply because enjoys it?  It's hard to tell.  I consider myself a proactive mom, but when his therapists suggested Botox injections a year ago, I couldn't get a peace about it.  I would feel differently if he walked on his toes, or if he ALWAYS galloped, or if he showed noticeable tightness at all....but he doesn't.  So after consulting with his doctor, we decided it wasn't the right course of action for him.  At least for now.

In occupational therapy, Samuel has been doing a lot of letter-writing.  Despite his frustration with it, I'm really impressed with how clearly he can write!  I'm hoping one day he'll enjoy writing or drawing, but right now, it's really more of a chore for him.

Annalee is nineteen months old.  She is doing so well!  We've seen very few problems resulting from her prematurity.  She has some narrowing of her upper airways (stridor), so she has croupy sounding coughing and breathing when she gets a cold.  Hopefully she'll outgrow that one day soon!  She is still my easy going, laid back child.....with a little drama thrown in there too (she is a girl after all!)

There have been a lot of changes for our family of four over the last few months.  In March, we sold our house, moved to a nearby city, and Michael got a new job.  I'll always miss that old home because of what we went through while we lived there....but it has been a good move.  We're living in a townhouse just opposite of a beautiful park full of big trees.  It's been great for the kids.  We hope to build a home within the next year (although it's been tough to get going on that!)

I could go on and on about all of the changes that I've neglected to update you about, but for now, I'll have to get back to work on the huge pile of laundry that's taking up half of my living room.

You can thank procrastination for this long awaited update!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Toaster-Headed Baby

We brought home a little toaster-headed baby four years ago today. I never would have guessed that he'd turn out so beautiful. I'd also never have guessed that after a hundred-and-twenty-five day NICU stay, three surgeries, one year of oxygen, three years of feeding issues, two winters of RSV isolation, and four years of therapy, there would come a time when those things rarely cross my mind at all. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

As Long as You Love Me So...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Samuel and his daddy had a great time playing in the snow.  Annalee has croup so we only made it out for a quick photo.  Hopefully she will be feeling better soon!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Annalee's Nursery

While Samuel was in the NICU, the nursery was the least of my concerns.  In a sleep-deprived fog, I picked out crib bedding.  We inherited a crib, and we filled the room with whatever 'left-over' furniture we had in our possession.  Some dear friends came over to help Michael paint and decorate.

It looked good.  Really.  It did.

And in the grand scheme of things, the nursery wasn't a big deal.  Having our miracle baby home was far more important.  But I always wished that the nursery HAD been a big deal.  I wished that it was put together like it would have been if it had been a typical pregnancy...because, well, we could have used a little more 'typical' in our lives!

All that to say, I knew decorating Annalee's nursery would be meaningful...but our tumultuous pregnancy kept me away from it.  'Baking' her awhile longer was crucial!  I joked that I would finish the nursery by her first birthday.

It turns out that I beat my estimate by a month!  Ha!

So here it is, Annalee's nursery, and a breakdown of where everything came from (or the projects that we did.)

Don't worry, we lowered the mattress after this photo!
  • Paint color:  Benjamin Moore 'Blue Grass'
  • We already owned the frames, crib, table, birdcage, and changing table...but we painted them white.
  • The crib skirt was actually a shower curtain from Urban Outfitters!  I had planned to make it into a crib skirt myself, but when my talented mother-in-law offered to help, I gladly handed the project off to her.  She made the skirt, a few pillows out of the remaining fabric, and the changing pad cover.
  • 'Big Band' rug:  Land of Nod

  • Bird, flowers, and vase: Hobby Lobby
  • Birdcage: Given to me by a friend (who happens to be my go-to for all things decorating!  She also gave me the frames above the crib.  Thanks Jessi!)

  • Knit Pouf Ottoman by BobbleKnit
  • Quilt by SimplyGreenerThings
  • Swivel Glider by Target
  • Michael converted four wooden boxes (previously used as book cubbies) into that beautiful bench.  We made the the cushion too!  I'm so proud of how it turned out!

  • The big wooden 'A' was a gift.
  • The idea for the wisteria branches came from a Land of Nod catalog.  I think it turned out great, but if I EVER have to fold another tissue paper petal, I. Will. Scream.
  • Yes, those are her beautiful cloth diapers (cloth diapering is my current obsession...)

Seriously.  These were so much work that I had to post another photo...

  • The wreath for her door was a gift (thanks Christie!)
  • The pillows (top right) are from Target and HomeGoods.
  • Sleep Sheep:  A must have by Cloud B
  • Crib Sheet by SimplyGreenerThings

  • Our house is old, but it has a lot of this original (1920s) doorknob.
  • Vintage curtain rod:  Home Depot
  • Curtains:  Ikea (style: Vivian)  These were my biggest 'find.'  Four curtains for $40?  Yes please, thank-you, and amen!

  • The little 'a' was a gift from a friend (thanks Stephanie!)
  • The "canvas prints" are not actually canvas.  They are large prints glued to some boards that Michael had in the garage.  I rolled several layers of ModPodge over the top to give them a textured look.  VOILA!  Instant canvas prints...well, as far as anyone else knows!  Photos by Katie Cole Photography
  • Bird frames:  Target.  When I bought them, the frames and branches were silver.  I painted them white and now they work perfectly with the room!

That's it!  I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  Now the trick will be to keep my adorably wild, dirt-loving little boy out of this room...

I think that white bench is screaming for a dirty little hand print!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Another Duggar Episode

Back in August, I received an email from the Duggar's coordinating producer asking if we were available to come out to 'Duggarland.' She wanted us to drop off some items for their flea market that would benefit Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"We're due for another Pope family cameo!" she wrote.

"How did we get to this point?" I asked Michael while giggling.  "We are not that interesting and we don't know the Duggars all that well."  But we like them!  And we LOVE ACH.  So we set a time for our arrival, and a week later I pulled up to the Duggar's gate to drop off a few things.

A lot of people ask me if the Duggar episodes are staged.  No one has told me what to say, but sometimes things aren't exactly natural.  That day, when I pulled up to the gate, the producer (a super nice guy!) had me reverse out and start over so that they could film us driving up.  We also had to get out of the car twice because they didn't get the right angle the first time.

Awkward.  Let me just say, reality tv takes skill.

When it was time to unload, the Duggars tried, unsuccessfully, to engage Samuel in a conversation with Josie.  He usually has to warm up to he was pretty overwhelmed by the questions, the dangling microphones, and the big camera hovering three feet from his face.

From what I hear, this didn't make the final cut for the episode.  Whew!

With the actual flea market a week away, we tried to prep Samuel for the cameras and for what he would be doing at the flea market.  He was pretty excited about the pony rides.  He talked about it for the rest of the week.

A few days before the flea market, Samuel caught a virus...a cold with a high fever.  Saturday morning he was fever free, but not feeling 100%, so we stopped by the flea market for only a couple of minutes.

When we arrived, the producer led us to where Michelle was greeting fans who were waiting in a LONG line to get to her.  We watched her chat with several people while he tried to get her attention.  I could watch the Duggars converse with their fans all day long.  They are so genuine and friendly with everyone (even the fans that made me cringe from their inappropriate questions and stories!)

We spoke to Michelle for a couple of minutes then made a beeline for the pony ride.

And all was well.  I've been told that the Duggars raised a substantial amount of money for the ACH NICU (YAY!) and our little boy got his pony ride.

No, we haven't seen the episode.  Maybe one of these days I'll get up the nerve to watch all of the episodes we've been on.  For now, I'm pretty content just writing this my pjs...behind a safe computer screen.  Ha!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

More Than Just Us

Some days I want to move past this.  I want to be over it.  I want to pretend it never happened and that it has no hold in our lives anymore.

Our last three and a half years have been consumed with prematurity.  We have lived it in hospitals, we have lived it at home, and we still deal with the consequences of it today.

But just when I want to stop telling our story, I remember the reasons why I keep sharing.  We are not the only family affected by prematurity, nor are we affected by it the most.

1 in 9 babies is born premature.  Each year 13 million babies do not get the start at life that they deserve or need.  Countless families are dealing with, or will deal with, the emotional toll that comes from watching a child struggle for days, weeks, or months in a hospital.

Believe me when I say that the emotional toll can be great.

For a lot of families, it doesn't stop there.  Many former preemies (especially micro preemies) face lifelong health issues - including cerebral palsy, asthma, vision problems, hearing loss, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

I bet you just skimmed over that didn't you?

Those are real babies, real people, and real families.

For Samuel, the consequences of his prematurity are unusually few for his extremely early birth.  He has a paralyzed vocal cord, he has therapy four hours a week because of developmental delays, and he has some slight dynamic tone (tightness in his legs) when he runs.  We count ourselves lucky.

Today is World Prematurity Day.  Today you can read any number of posts with the statistics I've mentioned.  Prematurity has consequences.  Preemies are not just 'little babies' that need to grow.

But what I really want to say has nothing to do with statistics, and has everything to do with these little lives.

They are worth it.  Health issues, developmental delays, learning disabilities included.

My intention for this blog has never been to see how many page views I can get in a day.  I don't want to be a 'hub' for the preemie community.  I just want to share our story.  This crazy, beautiful story of God's grace and healing...a story that sometimes looks pretty and sometimes doesn't.

And that's ok because, maybe, by sharing our story we are giving those who know very little about prematurity, a really good look at it.

These babies, the ones who have been born early, and the ones who will be born early, are important.

They are worth it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Pile of Leaves

 Mmmm.  Days like today make me miss summer just a little bit less.  Beautiful leaves, happy family.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How You Shouldn't Make a Backhoe Costume...

My mom is the Queen of Creativity.  Give her a piece of chalk, a few scraps of fabric, some play jewelry and she is like MacGyver with Halloween costumes.

My creativity doesn't flow as freely as hers.

Regardless, I had every intention of making Samuel a Halloween costume this year.  But when I asked him what he wanted to be, I could see my dream of a homemade costume flying out the window...

He wanted to be a backhoe.

In case you are unsure of what a backhoe is....

There ya go.  A scoop using, giant wheel moving, stabilizer situated backhoe.

Me:  "Don't you want to be a person?  Like a firefighter or a construction worker?"
Samuel:  "An 18-wheeler!"
Me:  "That's not a person.  That's a thing."
Samuel:  "How 'bout an 18-wheeler driver?"
Me:  "Ok, I'll think about that."

While it would have been easy enough to do a truck driver costume, I couldn't imagine a way to make it very interesting.  Give him a 5 o' clock shadow, a flannel shirt, a hat, a steering wheel...and what else?  I couldn't think of a way to make him look very truck driver-ish without the costume going south in a hurry.  I mean, I really wanted to avoid the "I *Heart* Mom" tattoo on his arm...

After days (alright, alright...WEEKS) of thinking it over, I decided to go back to the backhoe idea...only two days before Halloween.  MISTAKE #1.

So we dug out a few diaper boxes, I cut out the arm and the scoop, and my architect/model-building husband assembled it for me.

Diaper boxes.  Mistake #2.  Man.  They were not the best choice.  After three full bottles of yellow paint, that cute little diapered baby was STILL smiling through.

On Halloween morning, I finished up the last bottle of paint and declared it 'acceptable.'

Did I mention that I was scavenging through kid's clothing stores looking for a yellow shirt and pants a few hours before dark?  Yes, my procrastination was complete.

By the time we were ready to tie him into the costume, I was in full-on melt-down mode.  "This is a disaster!"  I complained to Michael.  "There is no way he is going to let us tie him in this!  Will anyone know what he is?  Maybe we should just stay at home."

Nothing like a freaking-out mother to zap the fun out of a holiday.  MISTAKE #3.

But you know what?  Samuel could not have been more excited about the costume.  He patiently waited as we strapped him in.  He didn't complain that his shirt was too big (the only available yellow shirt in fifty miles.)  And most of all, he was beyond excited about getting some candy.

Which is funny, since he won't eat it.

Samuel and his friend Olivia (who is dressed as an octopus...adorable huh?!?) went door to door and were pretty much the cutest duo ever.

That costume looked pretty good in the dark!  I was surprised as he received compliment after compliment (even though some people thought he was dressed as Bob the Builder.)

In the end, my worry was unfounded.  The kids had a great time, Samuel looked great, and the strings holding his costume up held out until just after the last house.  Perfect timing.

Next year I'll start earlier.  Next year I won't freak out.  Next year I REALLY HOPE he won't want to be a backhoe!

And let's not forget about baby sister...who made the sweetest little lion...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pumpkin Patch 2013

We love Right Choices Corn Maze.  Love it.  Although it's nearly an hour away, we happily make the trek because the place is so picturesque.

At the beginning of October, we arrived at the corn maze just as it began to rain.  So much for picturesque!  We didn't even bother purchasing the tickets to get inside, but Samuel did pick out a few pumpkins to buy.  The day was saved!

Obviously, I didn't get out my big girl camera with it being so wet, but the grandparents captured this one of Michael and Samuel picking out a pumpkin in the downpour.

We sat outside the gift shop and ate kettle corn as we watched the workers park the tractors in the barn.

-    -    -

This weekend we wanted to try again, but with a chance of rain in the forecast once more, we settled for a pumpkin patch closer to home.  We went to Farmland Adventures with Michael's parents and my mom.  I'm glad Samuel is beginning to appreciate these outings more and more.  He had a great time.

I thought for certain that the maze would be of no interest to him.  But he took charge and led the way.  Love it.

We all enjoyed the hayride the most.  Watching Samuel feed the cows tortillas was hilarious.  He laughed like a madman every time the cow took a piece from him.

I'm glad we squeezed in a visit to a pumpkin patch this season, and I can't wait to take the kids to our favorite corn maze next year!

(Yes, I totally bribed him with McDonald's french fries for this next photo...ha!)