Thursday, November 9, 2017

Simple Things

We have an incredibly beautiful maple tree on our front lawn that happens to be within view of our large front window. Yesterday after the temperatures dipped down, the leaves started falling off the tree. There was no wind to knock them down, little by little they just fell from the tree. Normally this is not something I would take notice of but there was just something very peaceful about watching the leaves fall. So what did this mama do? I put down a "picnic" blanket, got our breakfast ready, and Luke and I ate breakfast while watching the leaves fall.

Normally my constantly moving mind and body would think this was an absolute waste of time and I could be doing a million other things. And part of me wanted to be aggravated because I literally raked the entire front and back lawn two days earlier (yeah yeah, I know there are more leaves to fall and rake). But something has finally snapped within me - something telling me to stop and smell the roses so to speak. I have been getting lots of sleep - this little baby has been amazing and I am getting almost 7 full hours of sleep a night. I don't think my mind is truly resting though, and it probably hasn't since we stepped back into the hospital five days after Owen was born. But, now, the simple things are what are helping my mind rest. Here are some recent examples:

1) Kids: we want to be super heroes. Me: great - here, let me pin some towels on your backs as capes. Me...gets to enjoy watching kids run around as super heroes with towel capes. Provides tons of smiles and exercise.

2)  Me...forget dishes for now, take extra half hour to hold Owen and watch his cute little sleepy faces.

3) Me before - we only have 30 minutes to go outside, rake leaves and jump in them...forget it.

In other news...Owen has officially been at home longer than his stay in the NICU...woohoo! Things are status quo, we have some more doctors appointments coming up for him but nothing that is going to be any big reveal as to what's going on. He's getting cuter by the minute...and was possibly the cutest sleepy pumpkin for Halloween...

Things I am grateful for this day:
1) The simple things...and those things that give my mind a little rest.
2) Public officials voted into office who will bring about necessary changes and not play into fear mongering.
3) The PT and OT who are taking care of my little sweet one. They really are great and are helping Owen in so many ways!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Two Months!

Big boy is two months old!
Where did Millie go?
Again, I think some will disagree with me for saying this, but if you had the opportunity to walk in my shoes for about ten seconds over the past few months, you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to believe in things/people/messages put smack in your face for a reason. I may not be getting specific answers to my prayers, but I sure am getting messages that they are being heard!

We had some heavy-hitters over the past couple weeks in terms of Saint feast days...Padre Pio, Vincent de Paul, Therese of Lisieux, Archangels, Guardian Angels. I feel like the timing couldn't have been better to carry us through these first couple weeks home.

Things have gone smoothly for the most part. I definitely could've done without the cold that Millie brought home from her first week of pre-school, which took down her, Luke and Matt (who never gets sick) and eventually me this past weekend. Thankfully it went fairly quickly and I was able to keep them away from Owen for the most part. I'm pretty sure I washed every blanket, sheet, pillow case and stuffed animal in my house after that.
I literally want to smooch him all the time!
Owen too  😉😉

This week begins a six-week time period with lots of follow up appointments with the doctors he saw in the hospital and lots of nurse visits to the home for PT/OT. Will we get answers? Maybe. Is my son getting better? I think so. He certainly is as cute as they come. And he's sleeping longer at night which mama definitely appreciates (and needs!).  He also sleeps like a champ through the chaos that ensues with his older siblings. And he loves his bath and reading books before bedtime. His big sister is a huge help and loves to feed and hold him. And his big brother talks about playing tennis with him all the time. (He also talks about getting a car wash, which we have never done with him, just to give you a flavor of what random things he talks about in general. It keeps us smiling). So, amongst the ups and downs, we are doing well. And we are joyful 😄

In the early mornings of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul I had this little quote pop up on my twitter feed from famvin:
Usually when I read these quotes and reflections I take some time to ponder what they mean in my life. This one took no time at all - my little masterpiece, baby Owen - is what I'm being called to work on right now. That and how that little masterpiece fits into the bigger masterpiece of our family of 5. I have thought many times of how disconnected I have been over the past few months, and have felt terrible many of those times. How I've had conversations with people and failed to ask how they or their family is doing. How the normalcy of play dates and running my kids around has ground to a halt. Maybe I'm forgetting what it was like two or four short years ago what life with a newborn was like - and maybe I thought since I already had two kids I'd somehow have these mommy super powers and be able to keep status quo while having a newborn. Either way, it doesn't matter right now. I just want to say to all of you I'm sorry for the times I have spoke with you and didn't ask how things were going with you. Even if I don't ask, I promise I am praying for all of you, your families and whatever is weighing on your heart. Right now, I am busy working on my family masterpiece!

I could go on and on with little things put in my path over the past few weeks but we will keep it short today. I'll leave you with some Kari Jobe and my list of things I'm grateful for!

Things I am grateful for today:
1) The bright sunshine and mild temperatures that have returned this week. Jeans and t-shirt weather is by far my favorite!
2) Owen successfully adjusting to life at home, setting his own schedule and allowing our chaotic household to heal him.
3) Being able to focus on my masterpiece and still being able to eat. Ever thankful to all those bringing us meals, it has helped us so much.
4) I can't not put this one every time - so grateful for your continued prayers and messages of support. I know someday this will be a distant memory. But, in the meantime, know you are lifting me up every day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Here we are, home again, around the flower pot!

The title of this blog is in honor of one of our favorite bedtime books...10 Shiny Snails. It is a tale of 10 snails who "go out to play one night" and how after having their own adventure they eventually wind back home again together, 'round the flower pot. In a way, I feel like this is what happened to our little family. Each of us has had our own adventure with some really fun days and a few scary days but now, we are all HOME!

Our sweetie came home this past Sunday after 42 days in the NICU. He still needs oxygen support to kick those apnea spells, but, we are making progress and it was enough for us to bring our boy home! It was equally as exciting and frightening leaving the hospital.

Frightening because...there is still a lot of questions as to what happened and why which remain unanswered; he is on a monitor at home (that could literally wake the dead when it does go off) but he had a nurse that was awake with him at night; navigating through the house with 50ft of tubing without tripping on either that or a toy that was not put away; even after having two kids you still have that moment of - oh crap I have to raise this tiny bundle into an acceptable human being.

Exciting because... he is healthy enough to come home; I don't have to drive to the hospital each day leaving my 4 year old to cry and tell me not to go; I can eat my own food and stay the heck away from the vending machines and their tasty Twix and Kit Kat bars; I only have to wash my hands (what seems like) 50 times a day versus (what seemed like) 100 times a day; we can finally take him on walks outside and get him on his playmat and all the other baby toys; and let's be real...Dorothy said it best...THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

I actually didn't cry leaving the hospital like I thought I would. I think a combination of the above exciting/frightening overcame me, but also the bonds we have formed with some of the staff there are going to be lifelong. These people really become like part of your family - and how could they not? They have seen and cared for my sweetie more than anyone so far.

Some fun things/tips of the trade I learned while at Women's and Children's Hospital:
1) The aforementioned twix/kitkat habit that I picked up - fyi - it is cheaper to buy them from the vending machines than from the cafeteria.

2) I repeatedly heard Brahms's Lullaby playing, which I thought was either in my head or someone's cell phone ringer, even though I had heard it many times before (thinking I was losing my mind). Two days before we left the hospital I finally asked someone if I was losing my mind, to which they responded no (thank God) and that every time a baby is born, they play it on the loud speaker. It's pretty cute. But my vote is some good dance music to play when a baby is born in the new hospital.

3) The first patient/visitor elevator goes really fast - so fast that I'd feel dizzy every time I'd get off. Thing is you don't want to wait for another elevator because it may be awhile. Luckily, this will probably not be an issue at the new hospital.

4) I now know more NICU medical lingo than I'd ever care to know. If you ever need a rundown on blood gases, NIV, Q4, desaturation, or a myriad of other things, I'm your girl!

Life is good. God is good. Here's to this new adventure!

We always put him down one way and find him completely rotated shortly after.

Our favorite play mat!

Things I am grateful for today:
1) Baby snuggles in the privacy of my home, in a comfortable chair, with nothing to do except love on my little sweetie. And hopefully take a nap. 

2) The absolute generosity of not only my family and friends but of complete strangers that I have met over the past 6 weeks. We are so so grateful for everything you have done for us.

3) My baby boy - for his growth and increased strength, for his ability to remind me of how fragile life really is and how truly blessed I am no matter what challenges we face!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

One Month

This reflection for Living Faith that was exactly what I needed to hear this week...
"Even hope is not just a breezy wishing for the best; it is an act of will - a decision to look for the movement of the Spirit, no matter how dark things seem." Reading this was like a slap in the face for me...with all the unknowns and the few setbacks we have had with our sweet baby boy over the past week, this was such a good reminder that my faith, love and hope need attention too. They require work, labor and endurance. Wow. Thank you to Karla Manternach for writing something I needed to hear!

Oooh my sweetie. We are still in wait-and-see mode, which I am ok with right now. It seems as though the doctors are moving away from suspecting there is anything major going on with him from a metabolic or genetic standpoint which is great news. But, he still has a few spells during the day and night where he stops breathing. They have improved from a few weeks ago but are still occurring, which, they need to stop if we are going to take him home. So, your continued prayers are appreciated! In the meantime, he is busily eating, gaining weight and is as cute as they come.

Things I am grateful for today:
1)  The many emails, texts, phone calls from all of you expressing love, support and prayers. They all help me in ways you cannot imagine.
2) Our family. Enough said.
3) Snow being the worst "natural disaster" we would have to deal with in Buffalo. Prayers for the people of Houston...I can't even imagine what they are going through.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Just Breathe

Just breathe my sweet, just breathe…something I whisper to my son each evening before I leave him for the night. Something simple enough, something we all knew how to do from birth, but my son occasionally just stops breathing while he sleeps. We hope and pray whatever is causing it will heal or maybe he will just grow out of whatever it is, but for now, breathing support, constant testing and evaluation by doctors, and a lengthy stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is my son’s life right now. That, and lots of kisses, cuddles, songs and books being read to him by mama & dada.

I used to pray for patience all the time. Patience in dealing with my two-year-old who has found his feisty nature and early (and likely life-long) love of annoying his older sister. Patience in dealing with my daughter who found her “stomping feet” when she’s angry and who sometimes I feel like is a 13-year-old in a four-year-old’s body. In my previous blog post I talked about waiting as patiently as I could for my latest child to arrive and how he was taking his sweet time entering the world. Boy, did I get what I asked for…and in abundance.

There are things I have learned having a child in the NICU for the past 2+ weeks:
  1.  If you don’t have patience you will go crazy. Like literally, out of your mind bonkers. Things take time, tests take time, and there are so many babies there that need attention that the time you do have to speak with the doctor is a precious moment. My prayers were answered…I received my patience and it is one of the things keeping me sane while we wait wait wait for answers.
  2. Probably the most unnatural, most torturous thing I have experienced in my life thus far is leaving my newborn infant son in the hospital, mostly during the overnight hours. I just carried him for 42 weeks, brought him home for three days and then had to bring him back to the hospital. It is not really possible for me to stay with him overnight, and I need to be present for my other kids so it is something that tears me apart every day – leaving one child to be with the other two and vice versa. It is just such an awful feeling. So now I pray for strength…strength to endure the heartache, strength to be the mama my toddlers need and strength to have a clear enough head to be the voice my sweet baby boy needs.
  3. I am so grateful for having full-term, high-weight babies. While I may not feel that way during delivery, I am quick to forget the pain and am so happy to have my big babies. Within the past week, we have had two preemies come in the same area as our sweetie and wow – having a 1.5 lb. baby – I can’t even wrap my head around it. All I can do is pray for those sweet little babies and their slow but steady growth.
  4. All NICU nurses need to be canonized as Saints. Seriously, day in and day out they are dealing with some of the most fragile lives, and the gentleness and care they have shown those babies and my son has not gone unnoticed. If you know a NICU nurse, give him/her a big hug and say thank you next time you see them!
  5. How hard it is to communicate with everyone about what's going on. Especially when there has really been nothing new to report. Sorry if I missed telling anyone about what's going on, it has just been hard to keep up. 
So, amongst the chaos is my beautiful little boy who really is as sweet as they come. He only cries when you change his diaper and has been more awake/aware lately which helps mama more than he could possibly know. Please keep my baby boy in your prayers – we eagerly anticipate the day we can bring him home to start his journey as a part of our fun-loving, faith-filled family!

Things I am especially grateful for today:
  1. The support of our family and friends…those caring for our kids while we are at the hospital, those cooking us meals and just providing general support while we navigate these tumultuous waters.
  2. My husband. He is a rock – and the reason I can breathe most days. He, in some way shape or form, has showed me on a daily basis why we were brought together and will be together for life.
  3. All the people offering prayers for our sweet baby boy and our family, and those sending positive vibes our way. An extra shout out to our Vincentian family and faith community of St. Gregory’s – I feel your prayers and love surrounding us on a daily basis and am so very grateful for that!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baby isn't ready yet!

Bags packed – check
Arrangements for kids made – check
Baby gear out and ready for #3 – check
House cleaned and in order – close enough
Weeks of false contractions – check
Weeks of daily texts and phone calls to ask if baby is here yet – check
Due date come and gone – check
Looming “I” word (Induction) – check
Surprising calmness – CHECK!

From the moment we found out we were having another baby and everything in between there has been great anticipation for the arrival of our third child. My four-year-old has been asking if it’s July 18 for the past 6 months, and now that July 18 has come and gone, she doesn’t know what to do. Just like me.

I really don’t know what to do…I’m a bit ahead on my .famvin work, the house is as “clean” as it’s going to get, and everything is ready for baby to come. But apparently, baby isn’t ready to come yet! Friends and family are so great, offering lots of help and honestly, I feel better than I have in months.

I recently told a close friend of mine that baby was too comfy in mama’s belly, to which he replied, “given the world situation, I can understand that.” I laughed right out loud but sat and thought about that for a minute. As much as it made me laugh, all I could think of to respond was, “I agree, but I also feel it's my duty to create life to change that situation.” Why? Well, because shouldn’t that be our goal as parents? To do whatever we can within our power to raise good, honest children who will grow up caring about others and the world around them? Who although they are only one person we can encourage them to help make small changes for the greater good? (If you can’t tell, a favorite of mine is St. Mother Teresa and I’ve been reading a lot about her lately). And, even if we aren’t parents, shouldn’t we set good examples for the youth and young adults around us? If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent of a whopping 4 years is that little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. It’s amazing how early that starts. Be the example! Be the change (not Gandhi)! 

So back to my checklist…surprising calmness…this is something I attribute directly to my trust and faith in God. I know some who read this may roll their eyes or even stop reading right now. But for someone who is 8 days overdue, has never been this far overdue before, and is not thrilled about the idea of any medical intervention, especially induction, my calmness comes from trust that Jesus, Mary, St. Therese, St. Mother Teresa, St. Gianna Molla, St. Gerard and numerous other Saints, have my back and things will work out and be fine. Maybe some would call that overconfidence. Or maybe some think I’m nuts. Either way – whether you agree or not – indulge this overdue pregnant lady and, if you’ve never done so before, learn about and pray to a saint sometime. You may find it will help put your anxieties, stress and worries aside, even for a little bit, and give you the peace to focus on what lies ahead. For me…newborn sleep deprivation!

Things I am grateful for today:
  1. Having full term babies – we have been very blessed to have big, healthy babies. Prayers always to mama’s who go into labor early and have preemies.
  2. Having a calm, patient husband who basically ignores my texts now when I tell him I’ve been having regular contractions and to stay near his phone. God love him! (Me too – a lot!)
  3. The myriad of texts and phone calls checking in to see how I’m doing. Thank you all, and thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons from Birds

**Disclaimer** At the time of this story, I was about 1 week post-partum with my second child. This does NOT mean that I am depressed. What it does mean is that my emotional reaction to the events described may seem like an overreaction to many, however in my heightened emotional state of re-adjusting hormones, it definitely felt like the natural response.

Anyone who knows me, knows of my dislike of birds. I'm not sure if it began with a bird pooping on my fourth grade teacher at the Albright Knox Art Gallery and her yelling at our class to stop laughing at her, or it was a friend of mine who decided it was a good idea for me to watch the movie "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock (which of course threw me right over the edge), or my biology classes in college which pointed to birds as one of the most disease-carrying animals in our midst. I also dislike things swooping by my head which obviously is a bird add all of that up and you have a lady who doesn't care for birds much. 

Our recent move to the suburbs, to an area rich with nature, has been an adjustment to city living, but watching our daughter enjoy the animals of nature that are so abundant in this area has been so worth it!

Ok to the story!

A robin family set up a lovely nest in a lilac tree that is immediately outside our front window. Perfect learning experience for my almost 2 year old and a perfect bird viewing for the rest of us. The weekend before delivering my sweet baby, the eggs hatched and out came 4 cutie baby birds. By the time we came home from the hospital, the birds were popping up out of the nest every time mama & dada came by with food, which we all loved to watch and were fascinated with.

About a week into our watching the baby birds grow, I was alone in the living room and saw a crow fly up to the nest. My immediate instinct was to run to the window and make a lot of noise, which just the motion of me coming towards the window made the crow fly away. Why would a crow come to the nest, I asked my husband? He assured me crows do not eat other birds and it was probably going after the food the mama and dada was bringing to the babies. I accepted this but kept an eye on our little baby birds.

Well, later that day, we were in a completely different room in the house and heard what one can only describe as constant bird shrieking. Matt and I looked at each other and basically at the same time knew exactly what was going on. We both ran to the front door to do whatever we could but we were too late. There were landscapers across the street that were saying out loud that the crow got a baby bird. (I will keep on going with the story but you can imagine my reaction at this point - I was absolutely sobbing, with my newborn in hand, and trying to see how many babies that crow got...just one thank God, but one too many for my liking! Not to mention the naivety of my husband for thinking the crows wouldn't eat the babies. Turns out he was just saying that so I wouldn't worry).

What we witnessed after this was incredible. One, there must have been at least 15 robins that flew after that crow in defense of the robin family it attacked. We couldn't believe our eyes watching them band together in defense of their fellow robins and young. Two, was the aftermath of this attack on the robin family.The mama and dada bird were perched about 4 feet away from the nest and were screeching at their remaining babies. We couldn't figure out why until about two minutes later, one of the baby birds jumped out of the nest.  Apparently they had told their babies their nest was no longer safe and to get out! I always thought that the mom/dad birds pushed their babies out of the nest, but that is not the case at all. After a few minutes the second bird jumped out. I sat there for a good hour rooting on the third bird, hoping it would get the point and jump but no dice. It took a few days before the last bird was good and ready to jump, but the whole time, the mama & dada bird remained a watchful eye and kept feeding their baby.

Since the last bird jumped, we have suffered a bit of "empty nest" syndrome, but the nest is still there and our sweet little toddler points it out to as many people who will listen to her as possible! I sat and thought about what happened a lot and took two life lessons from these birds:

1) Patience - if I was that mama bird, I would've given that third bird about 20 seconds to jump before knocking him/her out of that nest to find a safe place to hide until it was ready to fly. But nope - that mama and dada knew what needed to happen, and patiently waited for their third baby to jump. Literally almost two days, through dark nights and everything. So, patience my friends, everything happens in good time and when it needs to happen.

That third birdie - so close to jumping!

2) We need each other! Why don't human beings stick up for each other with such immediacy and vigor? I realize there are many people in the world who do currently do this, but I think this is something that is lacking for most. I am reminded of a story my friend in college told me about how she was waiting to get on a bus to go to another campus, and when she was in line to get on, one of the passengers ahead of her started having a seizure and fell over in front of the door to the bus. She said the people ahead of her just WALKED OVER the girl and got on the bus without even seeing if she needed help, while my friend ran to the girls' aid. What???? Someone goes into medical distress and you just walk over them like nothing happened????  Why don't we look out for each other more? While larger events like this are more significant, I'm sure there are plenty of things in our daily lives that we could improve on, and opportunities for us to look out for our fellow human beings. It doesn't matter if it is in your own home, your local community or around the world...we need to look out for each other. Either in deed or word - think about what you say too!

The lost baby bird reminded me of some hearty life lessons and I hope passing it on will remind others too.

Things I am grateful for this day:
1) My two precious babies whom I love so very much and will NEVER push out of our nest!!! (I'm sure I will read this in 20 years or so and either laugh or cry)

2) Being able to spend these early weeks with my newborn and toddler, seeing them grow together and help them to learn something new every day.

3) All the people in my life that would "fight a crow" for me. You know who you are...I love you and would do the same for you in a heartbeat!