Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two Year Well Visit

Owen had his two year well visit a few weeks ago. It was a bit late for two reasons: 1.) He had several follow-up appointments with specialists. Since these doctors are much harder to schedule appointments with, I had to wait until those appointments were set in stone before I could schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. 2.) We decided to finally bite the bullet and switch pediatricians for the kids. While I liked our old office, I had some trouble with the doctor that they saw most often taking me seriously regarding some issues with Owen's health. It just isn't right to have to push so hard for what your child needs or argue with the doctor. I always got my way in the end, there was just a lot of unnecessary back and forth discussion. We were pushed to finally make the decision when the original doctor left the practice. We are now seeing a friend from church and I am extremely happy with the switch. He and his wife are both doctors in the same practice. He will be the boys' main doctor, but I can always schedule and appointment with his wife if he is booked and one of the kids is sick.

Owen's appointment went very well. Dr. Bill was extremely through and although he knew quite a bit about Owen's history, he made sure to understand the whole story. One thing that was worrisome was that he heard a heart murmur. It is called Still's murmur, a benign murmur that is heard during a few different stages of development due to growth of the heart. One of the ages is 2. He assured me that there was nothing to worry about, especially since Owen had and echo back when he was in the PICU as they were trying to come up with his diagnoses.

Owen was in about the 65th percentile for height and between 40 and 45% for weight. He is doing phenomenally developmentally and Dr. Bill was very impressed. He wants to see him again in 3 months instead of at the normal 3 year well visit just so that he can keep up with him and make sure everything is going well. This is mostly because he is becoming his caregiver late in the game.

We love you Dr. Bill!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Urology News

On Friday, Owen had a six month appointment with Dr. Gazak to make sure all is well from a urology standpoint. In all the times we have been to his office, I think this was only the second time he was there on time and had not gotten stuck in surgery. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem waiting. If it were my child that he was operation on I would want him to be there instead of rushing to the office. Still, it made for a much shorter visit than we are used to. Owen still got a chance to climb around in the play house that is in the waiting room. Then it was time for his renal pelvic ultrasound. I was a little worried about how this was going to go. When he was very young he did great during the ultrasounds. He would pretty much just lie there and let us move him to the appropriate positions. The last time he had one (six months ago) it was a disaster. He cried, he squirmed, he screamed. He basically made it nearly impossible to get a good view of his kidney and bladder as well as look for his ureters. Luckily he was perfect during the ultrasound. When he was supposed to lay on his back he did. He didn't even mind the ultrasound jelly on his belly. He got a little bit on his finger and asked Nurse Judy to wipe it off. He was talkative and response to Judy and she loved it. There was a period of time where Owen was not such a fan of doctors' offices (wonder why?) and wanted nothing to do with anyone wearing scrubs or carrying a stethoscope. The kid is no dummy, he'd had enough! He even let Judy carry him to the other exam room to wait for his appointment with Dr. Gazak.

When Dr. Gazak came in the room he was greeted pleasantly by Owen, instead of the uncertain once-over that had become fairly common. Owen has always loved Dr. Gazak, but he also fell into the category of "I'm going to be a bit on guard with you since I'm not sure what your intentions are". After exchanging pleasantries, Wes and I both noticed Dr. Gazak holding Owen's ultrasound photos and were anxious to hear the news. The news was: Owen's ultrasound looked wonderful and he is doing great. I was able to breathe a tremendous sigh of relief. I had been so scared that we may hear something unexpected, and it was just awesome to hear that my Little Man is really better. His right kidney (as you may remember this was the one that sustained the most stress due to the reflux) has grown substantially in the past six months. It had been a bit on the small side due to its having been battered by Owen's disease. Also, the images showed no substantial hydronephrosis to speak of. This is a first. I asked about any further increased risk of infection for Owen and Dr. Gazak said it isn't really something to be extra concerned about. He said if he did develop an infection, it would be like that of a "typical" child and would most likely remain a UTI or in the worst case a bladder infection. I have actually been given permission to stop worrying about Owen's kidneys! I'm not saying I'll have an easy time doing it, but it sure is an awesome goal to shoot for.

Owen doesn't have to go back for another check-up and ultrasound for another 9 months. We have graduated from bi-annual visits to every 9 months!

As I've said so many times, I feel so blessed and I am so proud of Owen for coming this far. He really is amazing. I also feel truly blessed that so many people have taken interest in his situation and for the outpouring of caring love and prayer. Thank you, again and again and again!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A life saved

Two years ago today Owen had his first of six urology surgeries to save his kidneys and ultimately his life. His first surgery, a vesicostomy, alleviated the pressure that his bladder reflux was inflicting on his kidneys. Unfortunately it was not a permanent fix, and he went on to have surgery about every two months to bring him closer to where he is now. As of his last urology appointment 6 months ago, his reflux was resolved. His kidney function has remained normal, which is wonderful. Tomorrow we go for another 6 month follow-up appointment with Dr. Gazak, Owen's life saver. We hope and pray that things will look good as they did at his last appointment. Of course these appointments are always scary and cause quite a bit of anxiety. The waiting and wondering is so taxing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vacation, Business and a Birthday

That's right, I'm behind again. Things have been crazy busy here as usual. Here's a quick run-down.

At the end of September Wes and I were able to travel North sans kiddos for the wedding of one of Wes' childhood friends. The boys were in good hands as my parents, aunt, sister and brother-in law came together to watch them for the long weekend. They had so much fun I doubt that they even realized we were gone. We made the drive, stopping for 4 hours in Richmond, VA for Wes to meet with a colleague and look at some equipment. This was no fun at all, as it is a long drive and I just wanted to get there. We arrived at Wes' parents' house in Pennsylvania just in time for dinner. This was only the third time that I have been back to our hometown in Pennsylvania in the more than two and a half years since we moved South. It still feels strange for me, especially staying at my in-laws' home, which is where Wes grew up and lived while we were dating. Friday we had a nice day hanging out and running some errands before heading to NYC for Eric and Abby's wedding.

The wedding was beautiful. Wes and Eric met when they were 12 years old and grew up together in the same neighborhood in Pennsylvania. After high school they went their separate ways, but kept in contact. The wedding was at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in Manhattan and the reception was at the W Hotel in Union Square. Both beautiful. Being back in NYC brought back a lot of memories from visits in the past. I guess in general living in such close proximity to Philadelphia and New York City for all of those years is just completely different than living in the suburbs of Charlotte on a gorgeous lake where life just moves at a slower pace. It was just wonderful to be able to make the trip, but made me realize how much I love where I live now.

We got home from our trip (which totally wrecked me) on Sunday, just in time to celebrate my dad's birthday. It was great to see the boys after being away. Wes then had to leave to go on a business trip that next Friday. His week was a crazy one, preparing for the trade show that he was to be attending in Chicago. He was gone until the following Thursday, making for a long week for all of us. Again, I am lucky to have family close. I am especially blessed to have a family in which we all stick together and help each other. My sister and brother-in-law watched one of our dogs and the entire family pitched in to help me with the boys. It made it a whole lot less stressful than having to be a solo parent for an entire week. As I've said before, it really helps that my boys have such a close relationship with their extended family. Regardless, by the time Daddy finally came home I don't know who was more excited- me or the boys!

This past weekend, Saturday to be precise, was Wes' birthday. My darling husband turned 30! He jokes that he is now an old man, but 30 is by no means old. I am proud of all that he has accomplished in his 30 years and the man that he has become. It is hard to believe that I have known him since he was 16. We truly have been through so much together. Wes' parents were able to be here visiting and celebrate the birth of their youngest child. It was very special for our family!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Year Orthopedist Update

Last week Owen had his 2 year-old follow-up with his orthopedic surgeon. The appointments start out with x-rays that require Owen to stand flat footed (with his left leg on a block, making it even with his right leg) with his back against a board containing the x-ray film. The board also has sort of a height chart to make it easier to measure his bones. As with any x-ray, he can't move. Reminder: he is two so he moves a lot, plus he HATES these x-rays so it always takes several attempts. Oh yes, the most fun part is that I can only hold him still in a very specific way. I can hold onto his upper body (sort of pinning him against the back board) and I can put my hand on his knee. I am not allowed to touch any other part of his lower body. Doing so will obstruct the view of his other bones and joints (hips, femur, tibia) which are very important for the doctor to see.

To make a long story short, the appointment was pretty much status quo. Allow me to share the "news" with you utilizing bullet points or this could turn into a novel.

-Hips look good. Both in the socket, growing the way they should be and providing an excellent foundation for Owen's lower extremities, which is vital.

-No need for a heel lift for his left shoe. He is getting around fine, just like any "typical" kid and his compensation for the length discrepancy is not doing any harm to his back, hips, muscles, etc.

-His left tibia is still just a tiny bit short. That discrepancy seems to have stayed about the same and the doctor still does not expect to have to lengthen his tibia.

-Owen's left femur continues to grow and is proportionately shorter than the right femur, which is what makes his left leg shorter. We have known since very early on in this process that the discrepancy in his two legs would increase, but that the discrepancy should remain proportional. His left foot hits at about his right ankle. According to the measurements at last week's appointment, the discrepancy is now just a bit less than 4.5 cm. Last year it was 3.5 cm. I knew this would be the case. I was prepared as much as I could have been to expect a larger difference. That doesn't mean it made me happy. I had hope that maybe it would slow down and his left leg would catch up a bit. The doctor never gave me any reason to hope for that, but look at everything that Owen has done so far and all of the ways that he has proven the doctors wrong. I have been praying for another miracle, and I will continue to do so.

-The unofficial plan was originally that Owen would probably have 2 surgeries to lengthen his leg, one around age 8 and the second around age 14. In the past year, pediatric orthopedic surgeons have begun performing the first lengthening surgery around the age of 4 in some patients. Last year Owen's doctor told us she wasn't convinced that was a great approach. I don't like the idea either, but for more practical "mommy reasons". The possibility was discussed again last week. Owen's doctor seems to have partially embraced the idea, but doesn't use the approach with every LLD patient. After much discussion we decided it was not the best plan for Owen.

-Owen's doctor showed me the x-rays of one of her LLD patients that just went through her first lengthening surgery. It was terrible, awful, heartbreaking, overwhelming and literally almost made me get sick. I can't even get into what is done and how the x-ray looked right now. It is too much. I told the doctor that I hate thinking about this, let alone seeing it on an x-ray. Her words: "I know, that is why I am going to keep showing it to you until it is time to lengthen Owen's leg." I love her. She is wonderful and understanding and knows just how to help me get through this extremely difficult situation.

So that is it in a nutshell. It is hard going to the follow-ups and hearing the measurements. We are lucky that Owen will be able to have his leg fixed, that he is doing so well in spite of his LLD and that it is not life threatening. Still, each orthopedist is like a slap in the face. A reminder that yes this is a reality and even though it can be fixed it will be a difficult process. I am thankful we don't have to do it again until next year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back to School, Back to the Doctor

Carter was scheduled to start pre-kindergarten on August 30. We came home from vacation, only to realize that Carter brought pneumonia home with him. It wasn't a terrible case and was knocked out with a course of antibiotics, but he did miss his first week of school.

When he was feeling better and it was time to head off to pre-K, he was ready.
Carter has a wonderful teacher this year. If I could have chosen qualities I wanted his teacher to have and created a teacher for him, she would be a perfect fit. I just love her and so does Carter. He is learning so much and really thriving. We are so proud of him!

Speaking of illnesses, we have also had our first trip to the doctor since school started. I had to pick Carter up on Friday and take him to the doctor because he was crying that his ear hurt. He ended up having a double ear infection. He had ear tubes and the right one fell out months ago. At this visit we found out that the tube in his left ear is no longer in his ear drum, but in the ear canal and will likely fall out soon. Ugh!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Celebrating Six Years

Yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary. Not surprisingly, I found this hard to believe. I'm like that with milestones. They sort of sneak up on me. I am busy living life and all of the sudden I am hit with a reminder of the passage of time. Most often it is a good feeling because I love all of the blessings in my life and have no regrets. I love the memories and feel quite nostalgic. On the other hand, sometimes looking at the ups and downs of life (mostly the ups) kicks me in the butt, reminding me to cherish every moment. Time really does fly when you're having fun.

I did have a point. Our anniversary. On September 18, 2004 I stood wearing a white (well, more of an ivory/antique white) dress in a gorgeous church next to a gorgeous man and vowed to love him for the rest of my days. I still get a bit choked up thinking about our wedding ceremony. Thinking of the vows we uttered in front of God and an entire church full of family and friends is just overwhelming. In a good way. At the time the day just felt so huge. I remember the excitement and feelings of joy of our wedding day like it was yesterday. And that is what I had hoped for. While my wedding day was hugely important and I felt so wonderful marrying my very best friend, I was also extremely aware that it was bigger than just that day. Six years later, even as I look back on our special day, I am also looking forward to the future we ahead of us. I have a wonderful, loving and caring husband. We have two beautiful children who are blessed to have such a wonderful, loving and caring father. It is a lot of fun to remember our beautiful wedding, but much more important for me to celebrate our marriage.

I love you Wes. I can't wait to continue to grow together and to make more memories. I feel extremely blessed to have you as my partner as we navigate this sometimes crazy, and always exciting, wonderful life that we live.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beach Boys and a Birthday

I have come to end my hiatus from the B-Hive with tales of our family vacation. Oh yeah, my Little Man turned two while I was gone. It was a very special and emotional birthday. I am so proud of Owen and so proud of how he fought to make it to this day.

At the end of August, we took the kids to Myrtle Beach for our first beach vacation. It was a blast. My sister found a great deal on a long-weekend house rental so we decided to really make it a family affair. My parents and my sister and brother-in-law all came along. It was so wonderful that we all got to relax, have fun and spend time together. Wonderful memories were made.This was Carter's third trip to the beach and second trip to Myrtle Beach. He made a day-trip to the Jersey shore when we live "up North" when he was about 4 months old. When Carter was just a bit older than Owen we took a trip to Myrtle Beach. That trip was in March, and due to the weather it wasn't a true beach vacation. This was the real deal, and also Owen's first beach experience. The best part of the trip for me was watching my boys, experiencing it all through their eyes. True to form Carter, usually quite active and full of spunk, was quite hesitant and timid when it came to playing in the ocean. While Carter clung to us and ran for a towel to wipe the saltwater from his eyes, Owen was fearless and would have been in the water over his head had he been allowed. After the first day Carter was a little more brave and Owen settled down and respected the danger of the waves. Here are a few of the many photos of the boys loving the beach.
Owen checking out the sand for the first time.Carter playing in the sand.Owen can't wait to see the ocean.Carter running toward the waves.Owen playing in the ocean with Daddy.Carter and Aunt A playing in the waves.Carter and Aunt A running on the beach.Mama and Owen playing in the surf.Owen loving the ocean.
Carter and Aunt A playing "I declare war".The boys playing cars before starting the day.Owen thought this lion statue in our rental house made a great pet. Here he is feeding the lion a lime.The boys on the beachMama and Owen on the beachSurprise Mama, here comes the water!Playing in the wet sand.
Owen loves the feeling of the wet sand.Carter playing with Pappy in the ocean.Sisters on the beach.Aunt A playing with the boys in the pool.Pappy and Uncle Justin playing catch with CarterMy dad wrestling a gator at the Alligator farm.Aunt A and Carter sitting on a gator.Daddy and Owen at the Alligator farm.Lots of Alligators resting in the shade.Mama and Carter before going out for dinner.Standing on the dock with the boys.
The family at Murrel's Inlet

Here are a few photos of my Little Man's birthday celebration!
Wes and me before leaving for Owen's birthday dinner.Owen opening birthday gifts. Owen admiring his new dinosaur puzzle.Singing Happy Birthday to my baby, err big boy.
Owen pigging out on his cupcake.

If you have made it through this entire post, thank you. I promise not to stay away for so long this time!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

T(wo) Minus Two Months

On Monday Owen was 22 months old. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out what that means... my baby will be 2 in just 2 short months. Little Man is almost two! I really don't know how this has happened. I am always talking about how time flies, especially when it comes to my kids growing up, but seriously? This is crazy.

It should come as no surprise that Owen continues to amaze us each and every day. He continues to grow, thrive and show us more and more of his unique personality. One thing that I find very cool and different about watching Owen grow up compared to watching Carter at this same age is that it is well, different. For Father's Day I made Wes two photo books chronicling Owen's first year of life, just like the two books I made for him chronicling Carter's first year of life. I made the books on There are two ways to compose the books. The first is to choose your photos and let the site "auto-fill" the pages for you. The second option (which is the one I used for all of the books) is to upload the photos and place them manually in the book. This method is much more time consuming, but also allows for much more personalization. In this case, the more personal the better. My point, and I do have one, is that making the books took me FOREVER. The great part about the project was that in order to complete it I had to go through all of the photos that I have taken since Owen's birth, which has literally got to be close to a thousand photos. What better way to remember the journey that our family has been on since the Little Man's birth?

People are constantly telling us how much Owen looks like Carter. He has even been referred to as mini-Carter quite a few times. It is true they do look a lot alike. Almost like they are brothers or something. While compiling photos of Owen and our family during Owen's first year of life, Carter became very interested in looking at photos on my computer. He began to ask, "Mama, is that me or Owen." Besides the fact that Owen was born with a cleft lip and Carter was not, there are many ways that I, as their mother, can tell them apart. Ways that I am not sure would be obvious to the average Joe. The differences don't stop with their physical appearances. As Owen continues to show us his wonderful personality, I just love the unique qualities that he possesses. Both of my boys are so funny, but each has their own sense of humor. I love that Owen loves to make people smile. Both of my boys are caring. Owen shows empathy in a way that I believe is uncanny for an almost-two-year-old. I was reminded of how caring he is once again tonight. Carter is sick with a very bad ear infection and most likely also a virus that has been going around. It came on suddenly (just this afternoon when he spiked a fever of 103 degrees) and Owen picked up on the fact that his big brother wasn't feeling well very quickly. Once he had that figured out he made it his business to check on Carter's well-being for the rest of the night. All evening it was: "You ok Carta?" and "It ok Carta". He is always this way. He is very intuitive when it comes to the feelings of others. He is always inquiring as to peoples' well-being and reassuring that "It ok". I love it. It cracks me up and also makes my heart happy.

As usual, the passage of time and watching my children grow and change is bittersweet. It always feels like time is flying and I often feel the urge to freeze time. On the other hand it is wonderful to watch them grow and change. In order to find a balance between these two feelings I try to remind myself to cherish each moment. After all, before I know it Owen is going to be two! My babies aren't quite babies anymore, but they sure are two of the most wonderful boys that I know.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kidney Biopsy

I am still having issues with my kidney. Same symptoms and chronic pain. After doing another 24 hour urine study, my nephrologist decided that the next logical step would be for me to have a kidney biopsy.

Wes drove me to the hospital last Thursday morning. After much confusion on the part of the hospital staff as to where I was supposed to be going (I knew exactly where I was supposed to go) I ended up in Admitting where they got me registered and then took me to my room. I had to have bloodwork done before the procedure to make sure that my blood was clotting properly. My nurse came in and got me into a gown. I explained my situation to her. I will not get into it here, but all you need to know is that I am terrified of hospitals. Also, these medical professionals thought that they were going to be performing the kidney biopsy without sedating me. Wrong! I seriously would have taken the IV out myself and left before letting that happen. So the waiting began. Wes and I waited and waited. The nurse came back in to put my IV in. I have had a lot of IVs and this was by far the worst one ever attempted. She started out trying to put it in my right hand. It hurt like crazy, I knew she hadn't gotten the vein even though I wasn't looking. (I find things like this easier to cope with if I don't look at the needle, see the blood, etc.) She kept trying to flush it with saline and it was not flushing. It just kept causing more and more pain. Wes was watching her and said that he couldn't understand why, but after trying to insert the IV into my vein, she kept pulling up on it which was lifting the skin on my hand. No wonder it hurt so much. I finally told her that I could tell that she clearly had not gotten the IV into the vein properly and asked her to try somewhere else. She got the IV into my left hand without too much trouble. The only problem was the placement of the IV made it painful to use my left hand.

My procedure was supposed to be at 1 pm. By 12:45 we still hadn't seen anyone from phlebotomy. I knew I couldn't have the procedure without them testing my blood so I was getting more and more anxious. I called the nurse and we asked about it. Just as she was about to call them again someone showed up to take blood. The nurse was also able to give me medicine for anxiety, which helped some.

When they were finally ready to take me downstairs for the procedure Wes followed along behind the stretcher, keeping his promise not to leave my side until someone forced him to. We met a few of the radiology technicians while we were waiting. They were very nice and helped take my mind off of how scared I was. I was taken into the room where the procedure was to be done and we talked to the Interventional Radiologist who was going to be doing the biopsy. He was a very nice man who has been performing kidney biopsies for 18 years. He explained the whole procedure along with the risks associated with it. I was able to ask him questions, one of which was my concern about the fact that they usually biopsy the left kidney. That did not seem like the best option in my case because all of my kidney pain for the past 7+ months has been on the right side. Now that could be due to something as simple as stones only forming in that kidney and have nothing to do with any disease they are trying to rule out, but if they biopsy the right kidney and find nothing we will feel more confident with the results than if the tissue had come from the left kidney. He had one of the technicians use the ultrasound machine to scan my kidneys and said that he could easily access either one, so we decided to biopsy the right kidney. It was funny when she had the wand over one of my kidneys, the doctor pointed at the screen and said "that is what a kidney looks like". Wes and I both laughed and explained to him that we are unfortunately very aware of what a kidney looks like. Wes told him that I can read renal pelvic ultrasounds. We told him a little bit about Owen's history. He told us how much he likes Dr. Gazak (I told you, he is everyone's favorite radiologist) and it also gave him a better understanding about some of the reasons I was so scared to be there.

A nurse came in and got me all hooked up to monitor my heart rate, blood pressure, pulse ox. etc. and then gave me some medication to sedate me a bit. The procedure didn't take long. He put some numbing cream on my back and then injected some of the same numbing medication into my kidney. It burned horribly, felt like acid going in. After waiting for that to take effect he went into my kidney with a special biopsy needle (which sounded exactly like a staple gun) to remove a piece of the kidney. He did this twice. The first time I only felt pressure. The second time he must have hit a spot that hadn't been numbed because it was extremely painful. The sedation helped make it possible for me to tolerate the procedure, but had totally worn off by the time I got back to my room. Wes went to our favorite restaurant in the area, Hawthornes, which is where we used to get dinner when Owen was in the hospital. After eating together and Wes asking me several times if I was going to be ok, he left to get the boys from my parents house and be with them for the night.

I was on bedrest for 8 hours after the procedure. Not only was I not allowed to get out of bed, I had to lie flat on my back. I am very much a side sleeper so that was very hard. I was able to come home Friday afternoon. I am still in a great deal of pain, which is normal. Lots of kidney pain, but also muscle pain from the force of the biopsy needle and how far down it had to go to get a piece of my kidney. Unfortunately I still have the least pain when lying flat on my back; I have to be very careful not to move or bend too quickly. I can't yet move the upper part of my body, but have to kind of plan each move and think about what is going to cause the least amount of pain.

When I left the hospital they said I could have the results as early as tomorrow, so our fingers are crossed. Thank you to everyone who has been supportive through this process!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

13 Years and Counting...

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the day that Wes and I started dating. Yup, for those of you who didn't already know, we are high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was a freshman and Wes was a sophomore. Wow did I love that boy, and wow do I love this man even more. We have been through so much together, both good and bad. There truly isn't much I would change. Everything that we have been through has made our relationship and our love that much stronger and deeper.

One thing that I will never forget is when we went for pre-marital counseling with the priest at our church that we hoped would join us as husband and wife. She said something like "I have never married a couple as young as you two are." (We weren't THAT young. We had finished college and already been together for 7 years) I saw this as irrelevant. Then she asked, "You have never dated anyone other than each other. How do you know that you want to commit yourselves to each other for life?" My answer- "Correct, he is the only man I have ever dated, but I have had plenty of relationships." This elicited quite a strange look. I continued, "Neither of us is the same person that we were when we began dating in high school. We have evolved several times into different people. The only difference is that we did it together. We grew up together and because of all of the different people we have been and all of the different relationships we have had I am perfectly sure that I want to commit myself to this man for life." I may be paraphrasing slightly, but not much. That is what I said in a nutshell. She loved my take on our lives, love and relationship and said that she was happy to marry us.

I digress. Today I feel very blessed that the super cool track-team captain asked me to be his girlfriend. Truly, we are lucky to have found each other and to have chosen to commit to one another.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our New Addition

We are getting a new puppy. What did you think I meant?

We have a 7 year old Golden Retriever, Maggie. She was my first baby. Almost 7 month ago we had to put our 5 year old English Bulldog, Bettis to sleep. It was terrible and still makes me sad everyday. He is greatly missed. I knew that we would most likely get another dog before Maggie passes on (which will hopefully be a long long time from now) because Wes and I both love dogs. We hadn't really talked much about it because we were both missing Bettis so much.
Fast forward... Wes took the interior cushion of on of my dad's boats, which his dad is purchasing, to this place that recovered the seats for one of his other boats. These people happen to also breed Shih Tzu puppies and happened to have a litter of puppies about 2 weeks old. Wes fell in love with them. When we have talked about getting another dog, he has always talked about another Bulldog and I've said we have to wait until the kids are older because frankly they are big and dumb. Never did I think this man would ask me for a Shih Tzu. After much deliberation (Wes is impulsive and I think of every possible scenario/problem that may arise) we decided not to get the puppy. The next day it became clear that Wes really really wanted her so we went to look at the puppies. Of course that meant we were going to adopt her because I would obviously fall in love with her. We put down a deposit and she is ours. She will be getting her shots this Tuesday, May 25 (also mine and Wes' dating anniversary) and we might be able to get her after that. We are really excited and can't wait to bring her home. Wes has already gotten her food and water bowls, puppy food, a harness and leash and toys. He is super excited! Below are some pictures of our little Stella.
Stella sleeping on her brother.

Me holding Stella

Two sisters and their little brown brother

Three cute pups!

Stella and her sister

We are certainly in for an adventure training this puppy and integrating her into our family, but we are very excited and (sort of) ready for the challenge!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hand, Foot and Mouth- Oh My!

This week has been quite eventful (read crazy and exhausting). Monday morning Carter went off to school feeling and acting absolutely fine. We got a call in the early afternoon that he was a little warm (about 100.5) and acting lethargic. Wes went to pick him up and took him to the pediatrician, as we are fairly paranoid (ok I am fairly paranoid) about the fluid behind his ear and him developing an ear infection. After examining him and finally looking into his mouth, the doctor declared that Carter had hand, foot and mouth disease. He only had a fever once and the sores remained only in his throat. The sores tend to spread to other parts of the body, mostly hands and feet, in younger babies and toddlers because they tend to put their hands and feet in their mouth and then touch other parts of their body, which spreads the sores. Since it is a viral illness there is no medication to treat it. Just treat the symptoms. Of course HFMD is highly contagious. Translation: Owen is going to soon have HFMD also. Owen had a routine follow-up ear check at the pediatrician on Thursday to make sure that the ear infection that he had two weeks ago was gone. He had been extremely fussy so I was worried that the ear infection had lingered or he was starting to exhibit symptoms of HFMD. The pediatrician (not the one we normally see, his partner) examined him and said that he was fine. Fussiness was chalked up to teething. Last night at around 10 Owen woke up screaming with at 101.9 degree fever. This morning Wes looked into his throat with a flashlight and discovered... you guessed it, white spots. Owen now also has HFMD. Here's hoping that his sores don't spread either and it is short-lived.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We Should Do This More Often...

Meaning that I should write blog posts so you can read 'em. I can't believe it has been so long since I have posted. A lot has been going on and I've just felt too emotional to write. Usually writing is a great outlet for me, but I have come to realize that sometimes it isn't the appropriate outlet. That being said, I'm back. I'd say a bullet-point style update on all members of the family is in order.


- He is training for a tri-athalon. He is a runner and has completed a marathon, so that part shouldn't be a problem. Next he started biking, but that doesn't come as naturally to him as running. Swimming. That is the part making him nervous. He has improved a lot since starting his practice at the Y, but still finds it the most difficult aspect. I can't do any of it well so I'm impressed already.

- He has had some changes at work. Confusing and difficult to explain. Basically he is now helping to manage 4 companies instead of just 1. Same job, same goals, just a bit of reorganization. Also, he is the owner of one of the companies. I am very proud of him.


- As you may know I have had chronic kidney stones since I was pregnant with Owen. My most recent battle with my kidney has been going on for about 6 months now. I had quite a few tests ordered by my urologist. He found something minor, but nothing that really explained the stones. He referred me to a nephrologist. At my second visit I was told that my citrate level was dangerously low. Normal people should produce 600-750 mg/day and my level was 124 mg/day. He put me on a medication to hopefully increase my citrate level. It is a powder/crystal substance that I have to stir into 6 oz. of water and drink once a day. It is gross and makes me very nauseous. As of right now I am passing another stone and in a great deal of pain. The problem with the citrate deficiency is that it alone causes kidney pain when the level is so low because my kidney is working way too hard to do its job. Citrate is an element in the kidneys that is supposed to bind to waste and help remove it from the body. Since I don't have enough of it, my kidney is essentially trying to use what it does have to remove waste. The result is pain and the formation of kidney stones. I have a follow-up appointment with my nephrologist on Wednesday. I have lots of questions for him.

- I am starting back to work part-time on Monday. I am so not ready. I set the date maybe a month or so ago and now it is almost here. I will be going back to the same job I had before Owen was born. It is nice to have the flexibility to start out part time and very nice that I will be working with family. I went back to work half days after my maternity leave after Owen was born, but quickly realized that it wasn't going to work out. Owen was so sick and his health care was a full time job. I am so lucky that my mom is going to be watching him. He is doing well, but I still have so many issues myself with him having been so ill. We all went through so much and it is just not something that is easy to get over. I trust my mom implicitly. She loves him and he loves being with her. Most importantly, she knows what happened to him and what dangerous signs to look for. I don't expect that anything will happen, but if it did she would be about as likely to know it as me. My boys and I are very lucky to have her. Even still, it is going to be so hard for me to leave him. This is a huge life change and I don't do so well with change.


- A few months ago he had his regular appointment with the ENT. The doctor found that he had 60% fluid behind his right ear, which is the one that the ear tube has fallen out of. The doctor thought it may be as a result of allergies and put him on an allergy/decongestant medicine. He was on that for a month and just recently had his follow-up visit. He had a sinus infection, which we had no idea about because Carter very rarely acts sick. His nose had been runny, but we attributed it to allergies since he had no fever, wasn't acting any differently and hadn't complained of not feeling well. When the doctor examined his ears, he still had at least 60% fluid in the right ear, if not more. Off to the Audiology department he went for a hearing test, which he passed with flying colors. All of the results were above normal. The doctor told us to discontinue the allergy/decongestant medication since it didn't seem to make a difference. Since his hearing is fine all we do now is wait and hope that ear doesn't get infected. If he starts having infections again, or if he gets a really bad infection he will need to have another tube placed. The doctor said if that occurs they will also take his adenoids out at that time. I am praying we don't end up going down that road.

- Carter had an ongoing issue with one of the other boys in his class at school. He has known this boy for a long time, as he went to the last school Carter went to as well. This child, we'll call him Joe, used to be the quietest little thing. I think while Carter was at the last school I heard Joe talk maybe twice. Fast forward to the past month and Carter started coming home telling us that Joe was saying bad words at school. I talked to the teacher, director and owner about it. Sure enough, just about everyday Joe was swearing. Mainly words beginning with F and D. Carter repeated each of the words once, not knowing what they meant and not even knowing they were bad words because he had never heard them before. The F word was repeated early on on the playground. It happened right before I picked Carter up from school. When his teacher told me what he had said I almost fell over. I had no idea where he had heard that word. I was appalled. First of all that my son, my four year old son had said that word and secondly because I was thinking "oh no, this teacher thinks we talk to him like that." Luckily she had heard Joe say the word on the playground and Carter repeated it right afterward. Mystery solved. Carter was disciplined. I explained to him that we never used that word, it is a very bad word, etc. I explained further that he knows a lot of good words and he should use those words to express himself. I also told him that he should never say a word if he doesn't know what it means because it might be a bad word. Problem solved, right? Wrong. For a while he came home telling us that Joe had said bad words that day. Each time I told him that those words were very bad and that when Joe talks like that Carter should tell him he doesn't like it and walk away. One morning at home he had asked Wes for something and Wes said no. Carter started to have a tantrum, which included the use of the D word. Again he was punished and again we explained why we don't talk that way. Also, I marched into school that morning on a mission. I was not going to have Joe bullying my child and I did not want my child going to school (a private preschool that I pay for him to attend) everyday and hearing that kind of language. If I don't talk to him that way at home I certainly don't want him hearing it at school. The situation escalated. When the school had a conference with Joe's parents they seemingly had no idea where he had heard such language. Right. It didn't stop after the conference and as of the beginning of this week Joe was removed from the school, allegedly through mutual agreement between the parents and the school. I don't really care how it happened, I'm just glad that Carter isn't having to deal with it anymore. I also feel bad for Joe. He is also only 4. He is learning that behavior from somewhere and it makes me sad. It really is a shame that some kids grow up in environments where molding them into strong, healthy, happy individuals is not a priority.

- Carter will be moving to the pre-K class at school somewhere around the end of June/beginning of July. We are very excited and think it is going to be really good for him. I can't believe in just over a year he will be off to Kindergarten. My baby is growing up so fast!


- What can I say, Owen is Owen. He will be 21 months old at the end of this month. Health-wise he is doing great. We have no specialist appointments until September. He is very active, running around after his brother, climbing everything in sight. He is funny. He loves to make people smile and laugh. His speech has exploded. He has so many words and is saying new ones every day. He will repeat anything on command. He loves to be read to as well as to look at books on his own.

- He is a bit of a picky eater. Well maybe that is too harsh. I remember Carter going through a stage around this age where he was not as willing to try new foods. Owen usually will eat either a really good lunch and then a mediocre dinner or vice versa. He also doesn't have all of his teeth yet, so if his teeth are bothering him he is more likely to be picky. We are working on it. He is gaining weight, so no problem there. The pediatrician is not at all concerned and sees it as a phase.

- Owen is going to be 2 at the end of the summer! How in the world did that happen?!?

Thank you for reading. I am back in the game and am going to be a better blogger, I promise!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Other Man- A True Lifesaver

I love my husband and two boys more than anything. However, for the past 18 months there has been another man in my life. Not to worry, it is not a secret. I know I have expressed my love for him at least a hundred times. We all love him. I am speaking of Owen's urologist, Dr. Gazak, of course.

Last Wednesday I took Owen to the hospital for bloodwork that was ordered for Dr. Gazak in preparation for Owen's check-up this past Friday. It was the most calm I have ever seen Owen at the lab. Actually, the most comfortable I have seen him in any medical setting in quite a while. He has become understandable worried, even frightened, of medical professionals. If you are wearing scrubs or wielding a stethoscope does not want you anywhere near him. I was shocked and very proud of him.

Friday was Owen's first check-up with Dr. Gazak since the surgery in January that resolved his bladder reflux. He has been doing well, acting fine and perfectly healthy. Still, I could not help but worry about the results of his tests. It goes back to what I mentioned in a previous post about how difficult it is to wrap one's mind around such a huge change, even a wonderful one such as the huge improvement in Owen's health. Like I said, there isn't just a flip to switch to turn off the emotions that come with caring for and worrying about your child with a major illness, one that we thought would be a lifetime disability.

Dr. Gazak was right on schedule on Friday, which is fairly unusually given the amount of time he spends in surgery and the fact that he is a very gifted surgeon with quite a lot of patients. After a very short wait Nurse Judy came to take us back for and ultrasound. Again, Owen did much better during the ultrasound than he ever has. He usually cries and moves around like crazy, making it very difficult for Judy to get good pictures and measurements of his kidneys. This time he lay very still, taking a peel and stick Bob the Builder off of the wall next to him and putting it back over and over. He even talked to Judy, smiled at her and was very pleasant. She was thrilled that she didn't make him cry for once. As she was doing the ultrasound, I could tell his kidneys looked good. We talked about it as she looked and measured. There was a tiny bit of hydronephrosis in his right kidney (the side that took much longer to heal and led Dr. Gazak to believe that the ureter re implant had failed when he went to take the stents out back in November). It was a very small amount. She had to look for it, whereas before there was a ton and it was completely obvious as soon as she scanned his kidney. She was unable to find any hydro on the left side.

After the ultrasound she took us down the hall to an exam room. Dr. Gazak was standing right in the hallway getting ready to review the ultrasound films. He greeted Wes, Owen and me and asked how we were doing. He asked about my kidney issues. I said, "that is another story." At that point I was just beside myself waiting to hear his take on things. I said, "you tell us". We went into the exam room where he thoroughly explained the pictures of Owen's kidneys to us. I love that he is still so thorough in his explanations despite the fact that he knows how much I know about Owen's urinary tract. He knows I want to know it all. He said that the hydro on the right side was basically nothing, not to worry. He went on to tell us about Owen's blood results. His creatinine level was great, his electrolytes were great. The only level that was slightly lower than normal was his CO2 level. This is a level used to measure kidney function, however it is not as crucial as creatinine levels. The CO2 level can also be slightly low because diet. For instance, Owen is teething something awful (and drooling like a St. Bernard I might add) so he hasn't been eating as well. Again, Dr. Gazak said nothing to worry about. The only other thing of note is that his right kidney is about 1.75 mm smaller than the left one. He said this was because it had been the victim of more "insult" than the left. When that happens, especially with severity of reflux that Owen had, it just takes a little while for the kidney to catch up. Also, two kidneys are rarely the same time.

He closed by saying that he looked great, his kidneys look normal. Normal. We kept saying normal back and forth. I don't think any of us really believe it. It still hasn't sunk in. Owen doesn't have to have blood work or another renal pelvic ultrasound for another 6 months. I truly never thought this would happen. It is just so wonderful, there aren't words to describe how blessed I feel. I look at Owen in awe of all that he is been through and as hard as he has fought to get here. We always knew he would be ok whatever his differences were. Even before when it seemed impossible that the reflux would ever be resolved, there was a plan. He would have been normal, Owen's very own normal. But now he is just normal, as in his urinary tract is normal. Amazing. Wonderful. Thrilling. Miraculous.

For the umpteenth time, thank you Dr. Gazak!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hips Don't Lie

Today Owen had a follow-up appointment with his orthopedist. We haven't been there in 6 months. The purpose of the appointment was to check the growth of his hips as well as measure his bones in order to keep tabs on his leg length discrepancy (LLD). We got to the office and Owen was doing laps around the waiting room. He would run past another waiting patient and stop to say hi. Again, he brought smiles to so many people waiting. He kept going over to the door that leads back to the exam rooms, looking at me and laughing. When it was finally his turn to go back I scooped him up and followed the nurse, knowing that his time for exploring and playing happily had ended. The boy is not a fan of doctors' offices, and really who can blame him. The nurse commented on how much he was running around and was happy to see it.

A radiology tech came in to get us to come take Owen for his x-rays. Wes and I both suited up with lead skirts (for lack of a better word) to protect us from the radiation. The way the x-ray is taken, Owen has to stand up on a step-stool looking thing with his back against the x-ray board. He has to stand with his left leg on about a 3 inch block. Today it was 2 boards and a children's Bible. I stifled a laugh at the irony of him standing on a Bible. He actually did well, much better than last time. He moved right when they took the first x-ray so another had to be taken, but last time we could barely get him to stand there.

The doctor came into the exam room and told us that his hips look great. That is one of the most important things with Owen regarding his LLD. First of all, he had hip dysplasia, so making sure his hips are developing and forming well is critical. Also, without the structure of a strong, well developed hip, a leg cannot be lengthened. Since that is what will correct his LLD, we need his hips to be in top notch condition. They look great, and hips don't lie! Great news.

We expected the discrepancy between Owen's legs to have increased. It did not. His left leg is still about 3 cm shorter than his right. It is GREAT that the discrepancy did not increase. The doctor (I don't know if I've mentioned but I love her) insists that it will eventually increase, but I choose to hold out hope that it will not. She watched him walk (and run and climb) and said that no way did he need a shoe lift at this point. I was thrilled to hear that. I feel that we should wait to open that can of worms until it is absolutely necessary medically. He gets around amazingly, and really doesn't even notice the difference. Even MORE good news, we don't have to go back for another follow-up for a year. A year. This is the first specialist that has allowed that long between visits.

We discussed the lengthening procedure. She believes that she will have to perform two lengthening surgeries. A bone can only be lengthened by 20% at a time. I don't like the thought of it, but the good news is that she feels she will only need to lengthen his femur and not his tibia. She thinks the discrepancy in the tibia will be so minor that the length can be made up in the femur. This is promising because only one bone will need to be broken. One thing that was quite shocking was when she shared with us that at the last deformity class that she attended, there was discussion about beginning the lengthening process at the age of 4. Previously we had been told age 8 at the earliest. I just didn't feel great about the idea of a leg lengthening surgery at the age of 4. She agrees, saying that she is not sure how comfortable she is with the idea. I am not sure how she is thinking about it as a surgeon, but as a mom who has a 4 year old I am aghast at the idea of keeping him non-weight bearing, about turning screws in an external fixation device to grow his bone when he can't truly understand what that means. After the lengthening is complete a child can walk, but it is very important not to bear weight during the actually process of growing bone. The screws can only be turned 1mm per day, so it isn't an extremely expedient process. The good news is that we still have 2 1/2 years of medical advancement and time for the medical to community to decide what is best. It is not a decision that needs to be now.

I think one of the most satisfying aspects of today's appointment for me is that according to what the doctor said when she first began seeing Owen, this would have been when he started to walk. Instead he has been walking for 8 months and is now running, climbing and getting around like he has no idea that he has LLD. Again, he amazes me, I am so proud of him. The doctor was too, it was clear.

Monday, March 1, 2010

18 Months

Owen was 18 months old on Saturday. 18 months, a whole year and a half!? I know I have said this numerous times throughout the development of both of my children, but seriously where has the time gone? It is absolutely unbelievable to me that my baby is a toddler. In fact, I won't have it! He is my baby, end of story.

It is funny, because I remember this stage in Carter's development. I remember being frustrated because he was talking, but was still unable to fully communicate his wants and needs. We used sign language a lot with Carter. We tried it a bit earlier on with Owen and he didn't take to it. He talks quite a bit, but has fairly recently started to whine and show discontent when we don't understand what he wants. I'm thinking another shot at a few signs is in order for Little Man.

As always, watching these kiddos grow is amazing. Owen amazes me every day. His smile and laugh continue to be contagious. He and Carter just crack each other up. Once Owen gets a laugh out of you, he keeps on going until you are just in stitches.

I do not believe in comparing the abilities of my children (or children in general for that matter), but I cannot help but notice the difference between Owen and the way Carter was at this age. I believe the differences are in large part because with Carter I was a rookie, whereas now I am a seasoned veteran. :) In all seriousness, one minute I find myself thinking, "Owen seems so much younger than Carter was at this age." and the next minute trying to remember, "Was Carter doing that at this age." The former no doubt has a lot to do with all of the illness that Owen has been through. In a lot of ways I feel like we were robbed of a normal infancy with him. Of course we were not robbed, we are blessed for each moment he has spent as part of our family. Still, it is a fact that Owen's development has been different from Carter's simply because of his health issues. He has been through more than anyone should go through in a lifetime, let alone in 18 months. However, he has thrived, has hit every milestone. He is right on track. For that we are so thankful. As for wondering if Carter had done such and such by this particular age, that is where the differences come in. It intrigues me to no end to look at the personalities of each of these precious boys of mine. They are so similar, yet so different at the same time. Most importantly, they love each other so incredibly much. I hope they have that love always.

I find myself nostalgic for moments passed, sad because Owen is our last baby and he is growing up. But boy is it fun to love these boys and watch them grow!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A New Chapter

In early October 2008 our lives were turned upside-down after Owen became extremely ill. We took him to a regional hospital, found out he was nearing the point of seizure and cardiac arrest, and were critical cared transported to a Children's Hospital downtown. You know the story, we spent 2 weeks there, much of it in the PICU as the doctors attempted to find a diagnosis. Owen was eventually diagnosed with Grade 5 Bladder Reflux and underwent surgery, a vesicostomy. That was the first of 7 surgeries that Owen has undergone. With the exeption of his cleft lip repair, all were urological surgeries meant to relieve the pressure being put on his kidneys. It has been a long road. My Little Man has fought like a tiger through all of it.

Surgery # 7 took place on January 18. We feared that the surgery would be postponed because of a repiratory infection that Owen developed that turned out to be the Roseolla virus. Luckily we were able to go ahead with the surgery. Dr. Gazak performed a cystoscopy, during which he removed the stent from the right side of Owen's urinary tract. He then did a cystogram, an x-ray to discern the level of reflux and the condition of the urinary tract. The cystogram was clear. The only thing he found was that the valve that he had created on the right side of Owen's bladder during the ureter reimplantation/bladder reconstruction surgery on October 19 was a bit weak. He was able to inject a shot of Deflux (a reflux medication) which is a binding agent that would strengthen the valve. The final result of the surgery- Owen's bladder is no longer refluxing.

Thus, the new chapter of our lives begins. We spent the first 16 monts of Owen's life worried and scared. He spent that time hurting, fighting and enduring surgery after surgery. We hurt and fought right along with our sweet Little Man. After an extremely negative x-ray after surgery in November, things didn't look so good for Owen. We were told that he would be ok, but would live with relux and the serious disablitiy of having a hole in his bladder to empty his urine for the rest of his life. It was devistating. That news has no place in this new chapter. After 16 months of awful illness, many hospital stays, countless visits to specialists and more worry and angst than I can express, Owen is out of the woods. Owen is healthy. Owen passes urine just like any other little boy. He made it. We made it.

Today I finally felt able to write this post. As wonderful as this news is, as excited as we are to have begun this new chapter as a family, as blessed as we are to have Owen's condition to have improved the way it has, it is also difficult to adjust. He was sick for so long, and all of the sudden it is as though a switch has been flipped. I love the switch. I am glad it was flipped. It is just going to take me a while to get used to this new lighting.

As always, I want to thank all of our family and friends who have kept us and especially Owen in their thoughts and prayers. It has meant the world to us, and we believe has been a contributing factor in where we are today. We feel very loved, and again we thank you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Carter turned 4! (Oops, that was 2 weeks ago.)

My first baby turned 4 on December 31. He always tells everyone that his birthday is New Year's Eve. We tell him that everyone is celebrating his birthday. Things have been crazy as usual so I haven't had a chance to post about Carter's birthday. I truly cannot believe that my baby is 4. He is such a big boy, there is definitely no baby left. He brings a smile to my face every single day, even on the days when he is a challenge. He is smart, sometimes too smart causing him to think he knows best. This has manifested itself in a lot of back talk. He is very strong willed. This can be both a good thing and a hard thing. The amazing thing is he is just. like. me. He even shoots me the same glare that I was famous for during childhood (ok, sometime now too) and the infamous eye roll that got me into so much trouble when I was younger. He sure does give us a run for our money some days, but he is also such a love.

It seems that he has grown up so much in the past year. It seems like there is such a difference from 3 to 4. Carter is in his first year of Pre-K right now. He will have 2 years of Pre-K because of his birthday and the cut-off for Kindergarten. He loves school. He is very social, so inquisitive and loves to learn. I look forward to hearing the things he comes out with. I enjoy that he so enjoys learning. Sometimes he even teaches us things!

One of the things that has made me so proud of Carter is how caring he is and what a wonderful big brother he is to Owen. He loves that Little Man so much. He is so protective of him and loves playing with him (at least most of the time.)

Carter, I love you big guy, and I can't wait to continue on this wonderful adventure with you!

Now for some photos of Carter's birthday!

Mama and Carter celebrating his birthday at school!
Carter eating a cupcake at school to celebrate his birthday.

Mama and Carter playing with his new PlayDoh set from Nana B and Pater B.

Daddy carrying Carter's cake.

Mama and Carter as we sing Happy Birthday.

Carter and his cake.

Pappy feeding Owen some cake.

Carter's Handy Manny cake.

Carter's new remote control Lightning McQueen.

Yay, PlayDoh!

Carter playing with his Mikey Mouse matchbox set from Aunt A and Uncle J.

Mama and the boys, my mom and Grandma- Four Generations!