Minivan Mondays

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I fought getting a minivan.  I just didn’t see myself as one of those moms.  I think it was the immediate “middle-aged mom” image, picturing myself behind the wheel of the ultimate exhibit of a practical car that made me cringe a bit.  But the truth is I am approaching middle-aged (although I am often surprised by this when I look in the mirror and realize I am no longer 24.  I think in my head I will forever be stuck at age 24. ) I have FOUR kids (two of whom are twin infant boys!) and TWO dogs, gymnastics, baseball and soccer practices to take my daughter to, countless playgrounds, zoo visits, and other daytime adventures to go on, not to mention all the groceries!  And the reality is, when I really think about it so many of my “mom friends” drive mini vans – and I’d like to think I have cool friends, so what image was I conjuring up?  The women on the commercials driving their kids to soccer always look so put together, I love Claire on Modern Family and she drives a minivan, my own mom drove a minivan – and the only reason I think she bought one was to fit her golf clubs and friends for wine tours!  I have come to the conclusion that my aversion to minivans is not one based in reality.  So, I let it go.  I even went with my husband’s first choice of a minivan – the one with the amazing interior but not so trendy exterior – because as he said, “It’s a minivan Alison, we’ll never be able to achieve trendy!”

And now my minivan, with its automatic doors,  stow ‘n’ go cargo space, seats for girls – way in the back, heated seats, and even the DVD player, has become my haven.  After a long day on the go between doctors appointments and swings and slides I find myself lingering in the driveway when we arrive home reveling in the quiet of three sleeping kids.  I’ve been known to stay there for up to an hour, reclining my seat, putting my feet on the dashboard  – soaking up the warm sun and falling asleep – right there in my driveway.  It is just so peaceful (and comfortable) and I know once I start the process of unloading the crying will start, I will have to make bottles and change diapers, get snacks, let the dogs out…in the minivan I can just sit – and relax!  Naptime in the minivan has become a staple in our house (or should I say our driveway) as we sleep and wait for Kennedy to get off the bus.  The kids are sleeping anyway from the drive home so why not take advantage of the temporary quiet?!

And then there are Mondays – Kennedy’s gymnastic days.  With four kids and being a full-time stay at home mom my moments alone are few and very far between.  So on Mondays I drive Kennedy to gymnastics.  A drive I love in itself as we discuss the day, the clouds, or any other topic that pops in our heads.  Our 10 minutes in the minivan have become quite special for Kennedy and I, since we rarely spend time together just the two of us.  But once Kennedy runs onto the mat for warm ups I am out.  Out to the minivan that is! I always start my hour of solitude with a quick trip to Tim Hortons.  From there I may do a quick errand but most days I just go back to the gymnastics club, turn off the car, the radio, put away my cell phone and soak up the silence of the moment.  One week I ran to Subway to get dinner for the family and I ate mine right there in the minivan – knowing that if I waited to eat it when I got home I would eat it holding a child, or not eat it for hours – until everyone else had gotten their fill, their milk, their much needed napkins…man that sub was one of the best I have ever had.  I didn’t even care that other parents walking into the building might look at me and wonder what I was doing.  I just ate in peace.  Two weeks ago – on a particularly warm Monday I took a nap.  I love how the sun warms up a car and the breeze from open windows flows through providing a nice balance to the temperature.  It was so easy to fall asleep, and exactly what I needed.  It was exactly what two other moms and a dad needed too apparently because when my alarm went off and I pulled my seat up I saw them waking from their naps too! One mom actually had her head resting on the open window frame.  I let out a laugh – what a great picture that would have made.  A parking lot littered with minivans – filled with sleeping parents on a Monday evening.  This past Monday I took thank you cards, stationary and my journal.  I wrote hand written notes and enjoyed the quiet to gather my thoughts.  Tim, knowing I had a long stressful day full of appointments offered to come with me to gymnastics to help me get some errands done to lessen my to do list.  I turned down the offer.  I didn’t care about the errands, or the to do list.  When he called to present the idea on his way home from work I already had my bag packed for my writing – Tim Horton’s gift card and all!

And for all those quiet moments in my minivan there are one hundred loud ones in my house that I adore!  If I didn’t have the moments of crying and dirty diapers I wouldn’t have the moments of laughter and little hands covered in finger paints!  There was a time, a post from months ago, when I celebrated poop – and I still do ( I know its weird!) – I see the diapers as a sign of healthy babies!  I love that my house is a constant state of action with a little bit of chaos mixed in.  But those moments in my “mom-mobile”,  my Mondays of solitude sitting in my practical minivan keep me sane, giving me the space I need to recognize the joy that I find inside my crazy house.  So to all those moms out there fighting the minivan and the stereotype that goes along with driving such an uncool looking vehicle – let go of your inhibitions.  Relish your role as the woman who keeps it all together and embrace what could be yours.  Buy the minivan, celebrate the seats far in the back, the storage space, and the automatic doors!  Trust me – you will come to covet that van as if it were your own little sanctuary of sanity!

My view in my minivan!

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Picture Update

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Let me give you a mental image:  This morning Tim left late for work because he wanted to get the girls’ breakfast and feed the dogs so I could sleep in a little (until 7:35 a.m.).  He knew that my baby (we switch boys each night to be fair) had been up since 4:50 a.m. while his had slept until 7!  Once he left I got Kennedy in the shower, made myself toast and the all important cup of coffee.  My morning “rush hour” as I call it ended with my breastfeeding both boys simultaneously while Kennedy sat in front of me reading her homework so I could comb her hair.  That was until my alarm went off blaring “I like to move it, move it…”  through out our home telling Kennedy it was time to get her shoes and jacket on.  She had one shoe securely fastened when her bus pulled up – seven minutes early!  Still breastfeeding, I threw her incomplete homework in her backpack before she slung it around her shoulders.  I shouted my “I love yous” and told her to zip up her coat and put her hood up over her sopping wet hair as she ran for her bus.  Not my best parenting but at least she was clean and going to school, right?!  Ten minutes later I finished breastfeeding and burping the boys, and settled into the couch to snuggle with the boys and Addie to watch Super Why!  Phew!

Another “rush hour” down, and I didn’t even mention my two barking dogs!  So it is clear why I haven’t had the time I would like to write on my blog.  I really want to – but my hours just slip past me and another day goes by without a post.  That is why I thought I would do a post of pictures.  That I can fit into my day – so here you go!  Here are some pictures of our family from the past couple months.  Some are from my phone, so the quality isn’t great but I don’t always have the hands free to grab my big camera.

Disclaimer

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It is not the four kids, I was made for that – in fact as I type this post Addison is climbing on me while Carter and Griffin are sleeping on my chest.  And I am loving every snuggly minute!  It isn’t that I can’t sit down without a child wiggling their way onto my lap, or wanting me to get back up to get them something.  In my house someone is usually crying, about to cry or just got done crying.  These aren’t the things that wear me down or make me so tired at night that I fall asleep before my head hits the pillow.  I am not denying that all of this can be a bit tiring at times and my husband usually has to kick me out of the house to enjoy some “me” time every week I take all of it in stride and really do feel so blessed to be a part of it.   God made me to be a mom.

Unfortunately, God didn’t make me to be a particularly tidy person, or  very organized for that matter.  I don’t like to pick up (I hear some people do, strange!)  and I detest putting away laundry.  Anyone who knew me as a teenager and saw my bedroom can attest to my weakness when it comes to putting things away!  This is where I find myself utterly exhausted.  Even if I got a full night’s sleep (which I don’t see happening anytime in the near future with two baby boys) I can’t see myself escaping the complete and overwhelming exhaustion that follows the dishes, laundry and general mess of having four kids and two dogs!  Let me clarify, I’m not gross – I do like to clean when it involves dusting, Clorox and the like – it is the picking up to get to that point which holds me back.

I have friends who have four kids, and they always seem so calm about the messy things in life – I have always admired their relaxed approach.  Now I know it is because they are too tired to exude the energy to get worked up about the small stuff.   Sure their personalities lead them to take things in stride but I bet a lot of their approach comes from their drive to survive the mess without going insane!

So this is where I sit today, at the bottom of a pile of clothes to be folded, dishes to be put away and toys to be picked up.  And I am too tired to pull myself out from under the heap!  But I will, not to worry – because if I don’t I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the park with Addie this afternoon, snuggling with the boys without guilt, or enjoy watching Kennedy master her forward roll at gymnastics because all I would be thinking about was my to do list that never gets shorter.

So instead of fretting over the mess that never goes away, I write this disclaimer:

I will be doing my best to keep up with all that goes along with four kids and two dogs.  However, if you come to my house you can expect that there will be dishes in the sink, laundry to be washed, dried, folded and put away, toys on the floor and a toy room that has a magical ability to make its own mess – no matter how much I try to organize and clean it.  So be ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work or look away – because I will be too busy being a mom to four wonderful kids to worry about impressing you with my housekeeping skills! 

Okay, enough sitting for one day…time to go do the dishes!

“On their 90 day of life…”

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This is how the Doctors start their rounds.  With the day of life.  I like it.  It segments things for me and makes me take a quick stock in all of their days, the good, the bad, the great and the awful.  If they were to say, “Three months” I think it would feel longer than 90 days, as if it were a huge chunk of time, not 90 individual days.  Not too sure why, but to me 90 days seems less than three months.  Three months in a hospital seems too long.

Carter’s 89th day of life wasn’t his best.  After watching his eye development very closely the pediatric ophthalmologist decided he required surgery to correct his retinopathy.  Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is pretty common in babies born so early and we weren’t surprised the first time we learned that Carter had stage 3 and Griffin stage 2 ROP.  When the boys were born their blood vessels in their eyes were only 33% developed.  They continued to grow around the eye, however things like Oxygen and general life outside the womb stunts their growth.   The retina continues to grow even though it doesn’t have any blood vessels to make it functional.  This causes the retina to send out a harmful chemical into the eye telling it to grow vessels.  Resulting in abnormal vessel growth that if left untreated would grow into the eye instead of around it and cause blindness.  So, if they think the ROP is getting worse and not better they perform laser eye surgery to get rid of the chemical-shooting, non-functioning retina – freeing up space for normal vessels to grow.  Carter will never have the range of peripheral vision like you and I but he won’t know since he never had it to begin with.  Both boys will require glasses, but we won’t know at what age and what strength until they get older.  So the eye center will be one of our frequent stops upon discharge as we transfer over to raising former preemies.  Carter’s eyes were what was keeping him in the NICU and now that they are taken care of we hope to have him home soon.  My main concern is that he needed to be put on a ventilator for the three-hour surgery.  Two days later he is still recovering from the sedation, and slowly waking up to begin breathing on his own again.  It was hard to see, of course – nobody wants their child to go through a surgery, but I’m glad we extended his stay in the NICU so he could have it there, where people know him and we trust the staff.  But it was a set back, and these wear on us after 90 days in the NICU.

Griffin’s 86th day of life wasn’t his best.  He has always been a baby that drops his heart rate and doesn’t always eat well, caused by severe reflux,  but early last week Tim and Griffin’s nurse noticed a change for the worse.  Thanks to our nurse who knew our boys they quickly diagnosed him with another UTI and started antibiotics.  So it was back in an isolette, and an IV in his head for antibiotics.  He is on the upswing now but they are thinking he may have something called uterine reflux.  He is unable to completely empty his bladder so it will continue to get backed up and grow bacteria.  Again, not too uncommon for preemies.  When he finishes his course of antibiotics they will do another test to check for reflux then form a plan of action from there.  This could be simply watching him closely as he grows, daily antibiotics or worst case scenario corrective surgery.

But on their 90th day of life the boys are continuing to grow and mature!  Carter is nearing 6 pounds and is visibly bigger than his older brother who hasn’t gained much weight during his latest sickness.  After three weeks of solid gains for both boys it is the minor set backs at the end of our NICU stay that are hard to take.  It is that rollercoaster analogy coming back to us.  The cars can’t keep climbing the track for the whole ride.  At some point they have to come down.

Hopefully, Carter’s 93rd day of life will be the day he comes home.  But I will celebrate that on Monday, if it happens.  Griffin will have to wait until his 100 + day until he can consider coming home.  But if I keep thinking of it in terms of days, not weeks, I know we can make it.

You know you’ve been in the NICU too long when…

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  1. Your son’s nurse knows you so well she asks you if you want her to hit your husband when he makes some sarcastic comment.
  2. The nurses know your oldest daughter’s gymnastics schedule.
  3. You receive mail there.
  4. The security guards in the hospital lobby know your name when you go to sign.
  5. You understand what the doctors are saying when talking to each other about a treatment plan.
  6. You no longer hear the constant beeping that is the soundtrack of the NICU!

It has almost been three months since our boys were born, and it is difficult to remember what it was like before I spent my days at their bedsides’.  I feel like it was forever ago when I was just getting the sense of what it was like to have babies in the NICU.  Now I can’t imagine what it will be like to have them at home.  Three months ago I would lay awake at night wondering what I was going to do to get through this time in the NICU.  Now I lay in bed wondering what I am going to do to get through the next few months with two newborns at home!  Three months ago I worried about brain bleeds, ventilator settings, heart problems and if I could touch them.  Today I worry about keeping up with the laundry of four kids, balancing my time between two newborns, a two and a half-year old and a kindergartener, having time to make dinner and if I will ever sleep again once the boys come home.  My head is spinning thinking of all the preparations that need to be made before the boys come home.  Three months ago all I wanted was to fast forward to the day that the Doctors would step up to my boys’ beds during rounds and say “Not much to report.  He is eating and growing.”  And now that time is here!  While the boys each have their hurdles to jump before being discharged we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Carter could be home in the next week and Griffin should only be a couple of weeks behind him.  True to form, Carter still has bad lungs and will come home with oxygen support (a whole new bag of stressors!), while Griffin is still having eating/digestion issues and will stay in the NICU until this is ironed out. 

In the end, the NICU hasn’t been that bad.  I wouldn’t want to do it again and I wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone…but all in all, it wasn’t terrible – the staff there made it bearable  and I believe my boys will come out on top when all said and done.  I can definitely say that I am a better person having been there and having gone through this experience, but I am happy to see our NICU time coming to a close in the next month.  Only time will tell what the lasting results will be given what we have been through since Ocotober 8th.  Just think, three months from now my post will be all about my lack of sleep, the number of diapers I changed and how many times Addie cried because I couldn’t do something for her until I was done feeding one of the boys.  Ahh, won’t that be wonderful to have such simple problems!

Angry/Scared/Joyful/Sad/Happy…

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Lately, when asked how I’m doing I am never quite sure which emotion to pick.  At any given moment I feel about 10 different emotions .  I know I have posted about this before, and I am sure it is becoming redundant – but man this is a lot to handle and it is testing every bit of strength that our family has.   And then perspective rolls in and I am once again in awe of what some families endure with such grace that it makes our struggle seem small. 

For this post I decided not to pick an emotion.  And since I am not standing face to face with someone waiting for a response but instead sitting comfortably on my couch with all the time in the world my answer to the question everyone asks is this…

So how am I feeling?

I am ANGRY because both of my boys have some pretty serious infections that they contracted from simply being in the hospital.  They have gone through a series of antibiotics and yet still, they test positive for staph epidermidis, pseudomonas and stenotrophomonas.  So now they each will have a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. 

That of course brings me to SCARED.  

I am JOYFUL because Griffin has pooped on his own many times since yesterday (he used to only poop when they gave him medicine).  I am also joyful today because Griffin is no longer on a ventilator so I got to change his diaper!!  This is the most interaction I have had with either boy since they were born.  I nearly teared up as I prepared to change him then laughed to myself as I realized that in a few months I will look back on this moment and think I was crazy for being so excited, as I change my 40th diaper for the day! 

I am SAD sometimes as I pack up the maternity clothes I will never wear, the nesting that I will never feel, the pregnancy that I never got to see till the “normal” end.  I have talked with other moms of preemies and it is such a funny thing how you mourn the shortened pregnancy.  I’ve caught myself a few times thinking about events I thought I would be attending as a quite round pregnant woman, and it makes me sad.  Which is ironic because when I was pregnant and thought of that same event and me being whale-like I dreaded it! 

I am HAPPY each time I walk into the boys’ room and see their little faces!  And I am just as HAPPY when I come home from the hospital to my busy house and my even busier two girls at home.  I am not sure I have hugged or kissed Kennedy and Addison as much in their lives as I have in the last three weeks.  They bring me happiness everyday!

I am OVERWHELMED sometimes as I drive home from the hospital alone.  Thinking about the daily report from the doctors, the changes the boys have made, and then all of the things I should be getting done at home.  Finding motivation for “real life” needs like dishes and dusting is quite difficult when you have kids in the hospital.  If I catch myself thinking in the long-term I have to stop myself immediately, the long-term is overwhelming – the short-term I can totally do.

I am RELIEVED each night as I lay down to fall asleep and think about my little fighters making it through another day.  I find myself taking a long slow breath and thanking God for giving us this day with our boys.  Knowing that each and every day is truly a gift that will hopefully bring us to a lifetime of days.

I am TIRED.  I think I could sleep for days and still be tired.  

I am HOPEFUL, in fact I am filled with hope.  I have so much hope that it overflows at times.  I have hope that in a year from now this time will only be a memory.  I have hope that my boys will have a full and happy life and will only be stronger for the way they started off in the world.  I have hope that our family will come out on top after all of this, that our finances, our needs, or emotional state will remain intact as we go through this difficult time.

And perhaps most of all I am GRATEFUL.  I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the friends and family that surround us.  We have been inundated with offers to help, food, support, prayers, kind words and love.  Each sentiment we receive strengthens us and reminds us once again how blessed we are to have all of you in our lives.  And we are so absolutely grateful for the nurses and doctors at Children’s Hospital.  It makes all the difference to be confident that everyone dealing with our boys are chasing the same goal.  What they do on a daily basis with our kids is amazing and we are so grateful for their talents and expertise. 

Ahhh…that feels better.  I am so glad I took the time to get that out!

What day is it?

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Today in a casual conversation with the bank teller I told him it was Friday.  He looked at me for a moment and said, “Is it?  I think its Thursday.”  It took me a moment to agree with him.  He continued to work as I stood there, kind of in a daze.  It seemed so strange to me to be standing at the bank, not sure what day it was.  I remember this feeling from when Addison was in the NICU.  I remember walking through Walmart with my MP3 player on looking around me thinking how foriegn the world around me seemed.  Life with a child in the NICU, or hospital at all I assume, is like living in an alternate universe.  The world that was so normal before suddenly is strange, and the world of the hospital, you knew nothing about before your child needed medical care seems perfectly natural. 

Luckily, the other part of the equation I remember from Addison is how quickly you transition back into the world of bank tellers and checkout lines when your child comes home.  You adjust quickly because now you have a newborn at home who needs to also assimilate into the “normal” world.  The NICU experience has changed you forever but the details fade in a way. 

Other than not knowing the day of the week we are slowly adjusting to life with children in the hospital.  My aunt has been staying with us (since I can’t drive yet and still need lots of rest to recover from the surgery) and we have developed a nice routine of time at home, running errands and visiting the boys.  Our nanny still comes to take care of Addie while I am with the boys and Tim stops at the hospital on the way home from school.  The evenings we try to keep normal for the girls.  It isn’t so hard, juggling our time, and we all seem to adjusting – for the most part. 

The boys continue hold their own.  Carter still has more respiratory issues than Griffin but we are told their issues are nothing outside of the norm for babies their size.  We were approached about enrolling them in a study to give them more  of a lung stimulating drug (surfractant) than a normal preemie would get and we can only hope that   A. both boys are getting the drug and not the placebo and B. that it works in opening their airways and getting them off the ventilators sooner.  Griffin has steadily increased on his feeds and is up to a whopping 3ccs as of this afternoon.  Carter is getting 2ccs of my milk and I am feeling fulfilled that I am able to help their development in some way. 

As always, only time will tell how they do and each day provides new conditions to understand.  We truly believe that our boys are strong and are tiny little fighters.  We also believe that your prayers and support is a great asset to them and our entire famiy as we navigate our way through the next few months.  So keep them coming!