Sunday, October 21, 2012

We Want Babies!

Before I begin, I know the title of this post may be misleading. No, I am not pregnant. And by "We", I do not mean Wes and me.

Now, a cute and funny story.

The boys woke me up today with quite an interesting request. It isn't the first time I've received this request, but this was probably the most interesting variation. It literally started before my eyes were even open. They had clearly talked about this and came at me with an adorable ambush.

It went something like this.

O: Mama, for my next birthday I want a regular baby. (I think he might have meant real baby.) And for hist next birthday, Carter wants a girl baby.
C: (sort of whispering to Owen, making it pretty clear that he had talked his little brother into doing the dirty work or making this request for the both of them.) No, a baby sister.
O to C: A baby sister IS a girl baby.
O: So we want different babies.
C: I want a cute baby sister.
O: (a bit indignantly) Hey, I'm cute!
C: Yeah, but you're not a baby and you are a brother not a sister.

I haven't said anything at this point, because it was really stinkin' cute and I was trying not to laugh.
O: So, can you have babies for us?
C: (After me still not answering)  Well, are you going to answer us?

Like I said, this is not the first time I have received this request. Several times from Carter, and I think only once before from Owen. I gave the same answer I have given in the past: We aren't going to be having any more babies. Mama's belly was only meant to hold two babies. This is pretty much the truth. We are not having any more babies. Obviously my belly can technically "hold more babies", but it is not advisable for several reasons.

Carter, of course challenged this answer for the first time.
C: I don't think that is true mom. We know a lot of people who have more than two kids. Those ladies had more than one baby in their bellies. And some people have twins or triplets. Sometimes even more. (He then began naming both family friends and his friends whose families include more than two children. He is clearly now too smart for my lame answer.)

As I scrambled to think or a more plausable answer for my curious boy, Owen saved the day with an inspired answer.

O: Carter, I think God decides how many babies to give each lady.
This boy continues to amaze me. He is wise beyond his years, and just has so much to say about God.

Like I said, it was totally cute and really funny. Also, quite nerve wracking on my part!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Then and Now

I couldn't write this post yesterday. In fact, I am having trouble writing it now. But writing it is better than having it bounce around in my head. Ok, that won't totally stop.

Then:       Four years ago, yesterday Owen was 5 weeks old. It was the first of a string of terrible days, but ultimately the worst day of my life. He was not eating well and doing a heck of a lot of spitting up. We were on our second acid reflux medicine, about to switch to the third. I was letting the doctor make these changes even thought I knew it wasn't acid reflux because, well he was the doctor. (I've obviously learned my lesson too follow my guy and question anything that doesn't seem right). The morning of October 4, 2008, Wes fed Owen some formula. We were supplementing the milk he was getting from me. I couldn't do it. I couldn't feed him the formula for a lot of reasons that I know now were pretty ridiculous. I'm thankful that I have an understanding husband who fed him the formula without saying anything to me, and dealt with a bit of crazy coming from his postpartum wife. Owen spit up, and when I can downstairs Wes told me that he had fallen asleep and was in he pack n play. Something made me go check on him. He wasn't asleep. He lay there with his eyes wide open. I turned on the light and saw that my baby was a very frightening shade of grey and non-responsive. Off to the hospital, then critical care life transported to a hospital downtown where he took up temporary residence in the PICU. If you know us, you know that this was merely the beginning of a very long road. We have not reached the end of the road, but feel blessed that the life threatening stuff is over. We feel especially blessed to have this brave little boy in our lives. He makes us laugh every day and has taught us things that we certainly didn't ask to learn, but we are better people for it.


 
Now:       Owen celebrated his 4th birthday at the end of August. He is healthy and thriving. He is loving his new school and doing so well. When I meet new people and something comes up about Owen's birth defects, the most common reaction is shocked. (This has happened a lot recently when I talk about our Walk for Wishes team. I'll be blogging about that very soon.) Yup, he looks just like any other 4 year old boy, unless of course you notice his leg length discrepancy. Speaking of his leg, he has recently been telling Wes that his leg gets tired (the short one). We have an appointment with his orthopedist on October 29. I hate this, I don't want to do it. Yes, I know I have to do it. Yes, I know that even though the leg surgeries are going to be awful and difficult, we will get through this too. Wes thinks it may be time for a lift in his shoe since he has grown. I am terrified that she will want to do the surgery now or soon. I really can't think about it or I could actually drive myself crazy.
Now for the good news. We had Owen's annual urology appointment on September 13. I dread it every year. Any mother whose child has had a serious or life-threatening illness knows the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe the reflux is back. Maybe his kidneys won't look the way they should on the ultrasound. To add to the normal worry, Dr. Gazak is now retired and this was our first time seeing the new urologist. Frankly, I was very upset. I wanted Dr. Gazak. I have put so much trust into him. He literally became like a member or our family. Well, that wasn't an option so I did what was best for Owen. I sucked it up and took him to see the new doctor. He's good. He's nice. I felt like he talked down to me a bit, but he doesn't know how knowledgeable I became about Owen's bladder defect. And maybe I was looking for a flaw because I felt like I was cheating on Dr. Gazak. Most importantly, the visit couldn't have gone better. His labs looked great, all of the levels in his blood were on the low end of normal. I already knew that going in because I know what all the numbers are supposed to be. This means he STILL has normal kidney function. No way should that be the case, but it is and I am thankful beyond words. Even better, his ultrasound looked great. The other shoe did not drop. A huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders, and he doesn't have to go back until next year. Thank God!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Anniversary in Asheville

On September 18, Wes and I celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary. It is hard to believe it has been that long since I walked down the aisle and vowed to love and cherish my best friend for the rest of my life. I love him even more now than I did then.

Wes found a great deal on 2 nights in a brand new hotel in Asheville, as they were still offering their Grand Opening rates. We decided to take a short trip to celebrate and enjoy some time together. It was wonderful. We enjoyed good food and drink, visited the Biltmore Estate, and before leaving to come home to our boys on Wednesday we had lunch on the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn.

Our favorite restaurant was a relatively small place called Tupelo Honey. The food was great, and it didn't hurt that the place was crawling with bumble bee decor. We had a delicious dinner there on Monday, the night we arrived, and an equally wonderful lunch there on Tuesday before heading to the Biltmore. After arriving at the Biltmore and paying the outrageous amount we knew we would pay for tickets, we hopped on a shuttle which took us to the front of the Estate.


It was simply beautiful inside.

For sure worth the ticket price to see it once. It was amazing to think that a vacation home like the Biltmore was built and so well appointed in the late 19th century. For example, the home has 43 bathrooms when most people during that time period did not have even one. Wes and I are not the audio tour type. We grabbed a pamphlet containing facts about each part of the Estate and were on our way. We did A LOT of walking and were ready for some R&R back at the hotel. That night we ate at The Lobster Trap, which was also delicious. Can you tell that we love to eat on vacation? We really had a wonderful time and enjoyed our time away together. It was our first time visiting Asheville and it was just beautiful. 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Big Boy #2

Owen is growin'! My little man turned 4 on August 27. Here are a few pictures from his birthday with the 4 of us at home.

 Opening presents.
 Loves his sock monkey
 Meatloaf and asparagus by request.
A very large Bumble Bee cupcake
 
The Saturday of Labor Day weekend Owen had his birthday party with our extended family. He was a very happy Birthday Boy.

Owen also started Pre-K. I can't believe he has gotten so big. He is at a different school than he went to last year. He is loving it and so am I. Oddly, although he didn't cry once last year, he cried for about 5 minutes at drop-off Tuesday-Thursday. Friday he was find. It was especially strange because after school he could not tell me enough how much fun he had and how much he liked his teachers. I love them too! Now he has settled in and I know he is going to have a great year. We are so proud of him!

Big Boy #1

Both of my boys have had a lot of very big kid things going on in the past couple of weeks. I am so proud of both of them. Of course they each deserve their own post.

On April 27 Carter started first grade. He has really like it so far, and I sincerely hope that continues. We are all still getting used to the new routine. Especially since his bus comes around 6:25 am. Way too early for the elementary kids as far as I'm concerned. No picnic for Mom and Dad either. Carter has been absolutely exhausted at the end of each week, and he is asleep shortly after his head hits the pillow at 7:30.

Here is a few of the many pictures of him from his first day:

Tomorrow is Skills Day for Fall Baseball. Soon Carter will find out what team he will be on and begin practicing. He will have one practice on a weeknight and one practice on Sunday afternoons. He will play one game on a different weeknight. We are looking forward to watching him play and continue to learn the game. He is very excited also.

Carter will also be joining Cub Scouts also as a Tiger Club. Wes was a Boy Scout, and was only 3 service hours from becoming a Lifetime Scout when he moved to Pennsylvania and decided not to continue. Wes is especially looking forward to spending time with Carter in Scouts. Two of his best friends from his class last year, that he still plays with at recess etc. will be in his den. We hope he has a ton of fun, and also look forward to him learning the values instilled by the Scouts. It is going to be great for him.

Finally, Carter will start receiving nightly homework starting on Monday. As happy as we are to see Carter growing and thriving, we also know that we are about to become insanely busy. Of course this is what parents do and we certainly know that we are not the first to hit this stage, and will surely get used to our new role as chauffeurs in due time. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness has always been extremely important to me. I posted several months ago about my mom being cancer free for ten years, after her fight with breast cancer.

Awareness took on an added importance in my life over the past week. I have always been vigilant about performing monthly breast self exams, and certainly have no missed a month since my mom was diagnosed when I was 18. Not all breast cancer is detected after feeling a lump, in fact my mom's was not detected that way. It doesn't matter. It takes no time at all. It allows you to know what your breast tissue "normally" feels like and your chances of noticing something out of the ordinary sky rocket. I've heard of people choosing to do their exam on the first of the month, the last day of the month, or around a certain time in my cycle. I do my exam at the same time in my cycle every month. That time was late last week and I found a lump. Now, the exam has become so routine to me that half the time I'm mentally planning my day or letting my mind wander. As soon as I felt it I physically and mentally froze. I tried not to freak out, started over and felt the lump again. I double and triple checked until I knew the exact position of the lump. I called my OBGYN. They got me in right away, but not with the doctor I wanted to see. In fact the appointment was with a doctor that was not part of the practice when I was pregnant nearly 4 years ago. Oh well, he went to medical school and received advanced training in the field of Gynecology, so he would have to do. I was not waiting to get this checked out.

Thankfully, Wes was able to come with me to my appointment. By that point I had waited and worried for 4 days. Knowing that he would be waiting for me after my exam meant the world to me. While I waited for Tuesday to arrive I tried my hardest not to think the worst, imagine possible outcomes, or even think about it at all. I have to admit not thinking about it all didn't happen too often. The doctor did a breast exam, just like every gynecologist does at every annual visit. He also felt the lump. I don't know why, but part of me was hoping he'd have to go searching for it and end up saying, "What lump you crazy woman!?" Honestly if he would have said that I may have smacked him. He had me sit up and explained that if he could tell by feeling a lump in a breast whether it was benign or malignant, he would be a millionaire. I told him I wouldn't have accepted his word anyway. We both agreed, time for some diagnostic testing.

As I walked out to check out and talk to the referral specialist, tears began to well in my eyes. Why had I thought I would know something today. Who knows how long I'm going to have to wait for answers. The referral specialist brought me back to her desk and told me I would have to go downtown to the Breast Center for a diagnostic mammogram and a sonogram that day. What? The same day? Like that afternoon? Huh? She told me to go sit in the waiting room and she would come get me when she had the appointment scheduled. This gave me a chance to tell Wes the not so good news. It was hard to even say, hard to watch his face fall as he heard me say the words. What felt wonderful was feeling his hand going straight to my shoulder, hearing him quietly reassure me that he would always be there to support me and that we would get through this, whatever this ended up being, together. He was a little surprised to hear that we'd be going for diagnostic testing, having the same past experiences as I, that these things take a while to get sorted out. The referral woman came to get me, told me to be at the Breast Center at 1:15. What!? It was already 11. How did she do that. She told me that this wasn't something that Dr. X was comfortable waiting with. Great. While a large part of me was happy for such expedience, happy not to have to worry for days or a week, a larger part of me was even more scared. Did this mean he thought it was cancerous but wasn't going to tell me until they could see the lump? (If you don't know by now that I'm a worrier and often over-think things, now you know).

We stopped to eat lunch downtown near the hospital at a place called Hawthorne's. I've written about it before. It is the place that Wes walked to for take out so many times when Owen was in the hospital having surgery. They have what I call "The Good Sandwich". While choosing Hawthorne's for lunch was a no-brainer, it also made me feel like we were back at the place that we end up at when bad things are happening in our life.

After eating we headed over and checked in for my tests. We were there early and I ended up being called back about 10 minutes before my appointment time. My dad was on his way down to offer moral support, while my mom made sure that everything ran smoothly with the kids and they didn't know that anything was out of the ordinary. My dad hadn't even arrived by the time they took me back.

The room that I was taken too was a good size. Probably about the size of my master bedroom and bathroom at home combined. There were two chairs to sit in. I guess some people have a loved one accompany them. I had never done this before and it didn't even occur to me to have Wes come back with me. It turns out there would have been no reason to have him there. I was asked to change into a gown, but they were only shirt-type gown. Not your average hospital gown that is knee-length. Makes sense I guess since they are only dealing with breasts. A very nice woman named Paula proceeded to take about 8 mammography images of both of my breasts. In diagnostic imaging they like to have images of the unaffected breast to compare to. I've been told for years that a mammogram doesn't hurt, it is just mildly uncomfortable. In my experience it was more than mildly uncomfortable and actually did hurt a little. The more I think about it, part of the discomfort was definitely due to the fact that I had so much trouble relaxing the muscles in my shoulders and other parts of the body that I needed to relax so she could get everything positioned properly.

She took the images to the radiologist, and I waited. And waited. And tried very hard not to analyze the waiting. She came back into the room and told me that the doctor wanted her to go ahead with a sonogram. I blurted out, "Did he see something", even knowing she is not allowed to tell me that. She assured me (or tried to) that sometimes they do a sonogram just to be sure. She had me follow her to a different room and did a sonogram of my breast. Then she went to show those images to the radiologist.

Upon returning to the room, Paula was accompanied by a man wear khakis and a dress shirt who I assumed to be the radiologist. I felt like I might vomit. I expected to hear him tell me what he found looking at the images. Instead he told me he would like to do a sonogram himself to look at a specific spot. No. Way! I thought. Not no way, I'm not letting him do it, but no way there's more? I was crying at this point. And he didn't tell me not to cry. I'm just saying.

After about ten minutes of the radiologist looking around at my breast via sonogram, he handed me a towel to wipe the gel off. He helped me sit up, looked me in the eye and said, "You do not have cancer." Among the most wonderful words I have ever heard. Then I really started to sob. I managed to convey to him how relieved I was. I calmed down and asked him some questions I had. It turns out I do indeed have fibrocystic breasts. I did the right thing by going to the doctor to have him check out a lump that I had never felt before. He asked me some more about my mom's cancer, if I'd ever been pregnant, did I breast feed my babies? Apparently there is a lifetime breast cancer risk index that is calculated based on the answers to lots and lots of questions. I am being referred to a geneticist who will ask me these questions and calculate my risk index. If it is more than 20% I will be a candidate for breast MRIs, which haven't been being used for too long, but are an extremely accurate test for breast cancer.

Obviously I will still be diligent in performing my self exams and keeping up with my annual gyn appointments. I will also start yearly mammography next year.

This was one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me. (By the way, why does that list keep getting longer?) I have long been an advocate for Breast Cancer Awareness, but after this experience I plan to further commit to educating as many people as I can and doing anything I can do to find a cure for this disease.

I shared this very personal story today hoping that even one woman reading it will gain awareness. Especially awareness that breast cancer can strike at any age, making self-exams and yearly doctor's appointments so important. My mom is an early onset breast cancer survivor. And I am only 30. What I am trying to say is that if you think you are too young for this to apply to you, you are wrong. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big boy with an infectious smile

You probably know that our youngest son was born with 6 birth defects. Also, that we were not of any of them during my pregnancy. The only on that we knew of right away was a cleft lip. We were lucky, it was very mild. Of course, he was beautiful just the way he was. As his mother I felt sad and worried about how he would be treated. People are not very accepting of physical differences. Kids can be mean and I didn't want my little boy to have to deal with that kind of cruelty. Then it occurred to me that the cleft would have to be repaired. My baby was going to have to have surgery. At the beginning all I knew about clefts came from commercial, pamphlets etc. that were meant to raise awareness. A million images, mostly of children with much more serious conditions than Owen's. Still, I had no idea what would be involved. How many surgeries would he have? How would certain things like eating be after a surgery like that? How would it heal? What kind of scar would he have.

I do have a point, so let me get to it. Today marks the three year anniversary of Owen's surgery to repair his cleft lip. He was 9 months old. Owen has always had an unbelievably amazing and infections smile. People everywhere would comment on his smile. Even before it was "fixed". Before long the cleft was not something I noticed at all. The boy has always had a huge personality. It was the most amazing lesson I've ever learned about unconditional love.