Monday, September 9, 2013

{latest project}

I know I haven't blogged in an eternity, but I wanted to jump on and share one of my latest projects with you all. I was so honored that my good friend Erin Loechner asked me to write and record a song for her newest endeavor, Clementine Daily.

I love the philosophy behind this site because it embraces the reality of the everyday woman. There are so many design and lifestyle blogs out there that seem so unattainable, but Erin & her team have created this welcoming place that celebrates the beauty in daily simplicities. I love it. It was super nerve wracking to try to write a song that would in some way communicate all that, but the process was so refreshing and inspiring for me. It was the first time anyone has asked me to do anything like that, and I loved every minute of it.

Clementine Daily 001 from Erin on Vimeo.

So Erin, congrats on your launch this past week! And thanks again for entrusting me with a tiny part of your big dream. :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

{questions i do not have the answers to}

"You must be so relieved."

This is the most common thing people say when they meet Augie: that we must be so relieved.

Relieved to not be pregnant anymore? Ab-so-lutely. I rather enjoy seeing my toes again.

Relieved that he is here? Heavens yes. Nine months is a long time.

But this is not what they mean.

Relieved that it didn't go like Avram's delivery?

Relieved that Augie doesn't have Avram's medical diagnosis?

If I say "oh yes, of course," what does that mean?

Does that mean I think that Avram's quality of life is lesser, that his arrival was less sweet, his path an undesired one? Does that mean I wish Avram wasn't...Avram?

If I say "no," well, I sound like a crazy person.

We prayed for a healthy baby with Avram, we prayed for a healthy baby with August.

Were our prayers only answered once, or were they answered both times?

If once, then what happened the other time? Did we do something wrong...did Avram? Were our prayers not sincere enough, not frequent enough, not pure enough?

If once, why would God only answer our prayers for one of our boys, but not the other?

Is that how God works?

I don't believe so.

So how does He work?

I believe He hears, and I believe He answers. I believe He loves both of my boys. I believe He is gracious, and compassionate, and close to the broken-hearted, and just.

I believe, but I do not understand.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

{when three became four}

Friday, August 10th was a cold and rainy day: by August's standards, anyway. Avram had spent the night at Jason's parents house, and we were getting ready to meet them for breakfast at Cosmo's.

As we were puddling around the house I said to J, "This would be a good day to have a baby. I could have a baby today."

An hour later I was eating two eggs sunny-side up, trying not to let on that I was having contractions every ten minutes.

Two hours later, I was sitting in my doctor's office, five centimeters dilated and contractions coming every seven minutes. "I'll meet you at the hospital," she said. My dad had driven me to the appointment. When we got back in the car, the man couldn't have stopped smiling and giggling if you'd offered him a million bucks.

Dad dropped me off at home and took Avram with him. Jason and I changed our clothes, ran through all our lists one last time, packed our bags in the car. We put our seat belts on and looked at each other. Jason prayed.

By one pm, Jason and I were nervously, giddily staring at each other in the hospital room. We would meet our second son today.

The hours creeped by: through contractions and phone calls from excited family members and joking with the nurses and snacking on lemon Italian ice. I made Jason take meal breaks. I distracted myself with HGTV and some custom-made playlists.

The contractions grew stronger and faster: the nurse said it was time to push.

Three pushes later, and there he was.

August Rhodes was born at 9:58pm, six pounds 15 ounces, 21 inches long. Kicking and crying and limbs flailing everywhere, like a butterfly.

All brand new and all familiar at the same time: meeting him for the first time but feeling like I have known him my whole life.

Jason beamed like Christmas morning as he handed August to me: this wide-eyed, peaceful, glowing bundle of life. He nursed right away: this novel task he faced like a seasoned professional.

There was no anxiety or fear, no tension or concerned voices. Just...peace. Augie slipped right into our lives that Friday night, just like he had always been, like it was exactly where he belonged:

With us.

Our family of four.

picture by the ever-wonderful Betsy King

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

tuesday nights

My husband is easily the most interesting person I have ever known. He is always trying to better himself: be it through teaching himself Latin, or learning how to bake bread from scratch. I've heard him say several times how frustrating it is to have spent nearly his entire life in school and to have a bachelor's degree from a great liberal arts school, but yet have no idea how to grow his own food or fix anything in his house.

In response, Jason has taken up a serious study of organic farming. There are green beans, sweet corn, radishes, carrots, sugar snap peas, and all kinds of herbs growing in our garden right now, as well as about 30 tomato plants in our kitchen waiting to be transplanted. My freezer is full of all sorts of bread-- rye, wheat, ciabatta--you name it, all baked with love by my husband.

His latest endeavor involves taking an Introduction to Construction class at Ivy Tech this summer. He was crazy cute as he was getting ready to leave for his first class: sporting his "work boots" and grungiest jeans. I am so proud of him for being so eager to learn, to try new things.

And as proud as I am, I was also slightly bothered. His class goes from 5-10:30pm every Tuesday night. His school is out for the summer now, and I have been so excited to have him home for the next three months, especially as I increasingly embrace my walrus-like shape. So, I wasn't looking forward to having Jason gone for nearly six hours once a week (woe is me, I know).

He took off for his class last night, just as Avram was waking up from his nap. As my buddy and I sat down for dinner together, it hit me: these are the last times it will be just the two of us. For two years we've spent the better part of nearly everyday together. Jason is now home for the summer, and by the time school starts back up in the fall we will be a family of four.

The next six Tuesday nights are the last times it will be just me and my buddy.

I worry that Avram will be jealous of all the attention his new little brother gets, that he won't understand why this tiny creature is suddenly living in our house. I worry that all that progress Avram has made will suddenly slow down because he doesn't have 100% of my attention all day. I also worry he won't quite understand how gentle he has to be with a baby, especially when he's already discovered the buttons on the baby swing (I just know I'm going to walk in to the living room one day and find that baby swinging on full blast).

With Avram (heck, life, really), there are always new anxieties, new problems to face, new challenges to overcome. But for now, I am stuffing them back into the recesses of my heart, and turning all the stage lights on to this beautiful boy I have gotten to spend nearly every waking moment with the last two years.

I want this summer to go by slowly, despite how uncomfortable it is to have a big hot beach ball strapped around my middle. I want to soak up these minutes with my boy, to drink in his cheesy smile and sloppy kisses, to bask in his newfound joy of parading around the house. I want to have more memories of this summer than of just feeling hot and huge; I want to remember what it was like as just the two of us.

So for the next few Tuesday nights, I'm not putting in any Thomas the Train videos or dumping out my tupperware to keep Avram entertained. Last night we went for a walk together, just the two of us, just like we used to do every single day in Chicago. We snuggled on the big bed and read his favorite books. I let him stay up a little later, I let him run around naked after his bath for way longer than he needed to (what is it about running around in the nude that makes little boys so absolutely giddy?). Things we do just about every day anyway, but more purposefully, more attentively.

All it took was one tiny realization for me to go from slightly cranky to incredibly grateful for these last few bits of time with my big guy.

I know he is going to be the absolute best big brother, but he is always, always going to be my sweet baby.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

{unbearable joy}

Avram has decided that, since he is now a big two year old guy, it is time for him to start walking. Almost out of nowhere, he is suddenly toddling across the living, unsteadily bounding down the hallway. He holds his hands straight out in front of him, like a zombie, and occasionally slaps his hands together in one loud clap as if the joy of independent movement is just too good, too sweet to be true.

I am still getting used to seeing him come strolling around a corner, or to not instinctively dive for him when I feel him let go of my finger. You can always hear him coming: not because of his footsteps, but because he physically cannot take more than a couple strides without releasing a shrill of joy.

He is so very, very pleased with himself.

Avram has also decided that, since he is now a big two year old guy, that it is time for him to make his own decisions. Seemingly overnight he has started throwing fits when we try to redirect his activities: throwing his body on the ground, hitting, biting, chucking his food across the kitchen if we're not cooperating with his plan. It's almost comical to see the little wheels in his head turning, how he will wait until Jason and I look before he does something he's not supposed to. Or how after being told "no" he moseys over to give me a big hug.

Little schemer.

All three of his therapists are thrilled to see his independence and desire to assert his will. I smile and nod. Oh yes, it's so fantastic!

I know that a child's first steps bring a lot of tears for parents: happy and sad. I thought they would for me. But oddly enough, I haven't cried. Happy or sad tears.

Maybe it's because I've got the whacky pregnancy hormones, maybe it's because he still can't quite stand still by himself (it's easier for your muscles to stay in action that to hold themselves in place) so he still needs a lot of help.

Mostly, I think it's because I'm just so darn proud my whole body feels like it will explode.

This boy they told me would undoubtedly be completely reliant on us for his entire life, this boy has started escaping the house through the screen door. This boy has learned how to carry objects from one room to the next: leaving me to find my nail polish underneath the living room rug. This boy is fighting to get out of my arms whenever we are outside so he can show the world how fantastically his skinny little chicken legs work.

I'll probably cry when he goes to preschool, or the first night he sleeps in his big boy bed. Or the first time I see him after this new peanut arrives, because I know that Avram will suddenly seem like a full grown person.

But for now, I'm just making those happy screeches right along with my buddy: we are so proud to prove the world wrong, so proud of each wobbly, toddling step. So proud of how far we have come, how hard he has worked, how tough his skin is.

The joy is almost too much to bear.

My big two year old guy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I went in to get Avram up from his nap Thursday afternoon, and there he was.

I don't know if there is any way to describe that feeling--what it's like to walk into a room and see your baby like that. I don't think there are words for it. I know I won't ever forget it, but I don't know if I will ever really be able to talk about it, to express it.

He had obviously been seizing for awhile, because for the first time ever it had spread to his whole body. I carried him out to the living room, gave him his emergency medicine and called 911, staring at his tiny blue fingertips. 

Strapped into the side of the ambulance watching my boy's body shake, all I could think of was all the things I did wrong, all the things I should have done.

 I should have called the doctor about his cough yesterday. I should have gone in to check on him earlier. I should have increased his medicine last week. I should have prevented this, I should have protected him. At least from it being this bad. 

I should have.

His seizure lasted a long time, even after the doctors were able to stop his body from moving. They had to put him on a ventilator to make sure he would be able to breathe.

We were just closing in on the One Year Anniversary of being hospital stay free. April 7th. We were so close. He has done so well. And here we were once again.

The doctors determined that he had a pretty serious respiratory infection, and the next morning they told us he had pneumonia. When he is that sick, his seizure medication becomes less effective. It's much easier for him to have a seizure when his body is fighting illness. He may have started a fever during his nap, which started the whole thing.

We stayed in the PICU that night, and when Avram came out of his sedation the next morning he decided he was done with his breathing tube and coughed it out. They tried to keep an oxygen mask on his nose, but he eventually ripped that out, too. The nurses all joked that he had taken charge of making his own medical decisions. If there is one thing I know, it is that my boy is one tough little cookie.

By Sunday morning his team of doctors felt that his breathing had stabilized, he was safe from seizures for the time being, and that his fever was gone. We were sent home. 

I am very impressed with the new hospital, and I am very grateful that I can see it from my driveway. The PICU has literally been open for two weeks; Avram was the first child they had had on a ventilator (Lucky us!). I am grateful for the access to healthcare we have, when so many parents around the world will never be able to get their babies to a hospital, will never be able to see a qualified physician. I am grateful for the health insurance we have, even if it doesn't pay for every last penny it certainly pays more than we ever could alone. I am grateful for a shunt that allows my son to live, for medication that keeps him from having seizures (most of the time). We are blessed.

Avram had a hot meal, a hot bath, and clean pajamas. He is so happy to not have dozens of wires restricting his movements, or to be confined to a tiny crib. 

I rocked him a little longer than usual tonight, letting him run his fingers through my hair and nuzzle his nose into my neck. I stood up to lay him in bed, and I froze. To lay him back down in that same exact place. To put his head on that same pillow, in that same bed. 

Does he know? Does he remember?

I feel like the standard phrase of comfort people give in situations like ours is that God chose me and Jason, that He entrusted us with this boy. God chose us to take care of him. He had a little boy who needed extra care, and He chose us to give it.

This doesn't offer me the comfort that I think it is intended to. My beef with God isn't that He chose me. I will care for this boy until my dying breath, with all the love and patience my heart can muster. Caring for Avram is possibly the greatest gift of my life, no one has to point that out to me.

 My beef with God is that He chose Avram, that He chose this sweet, loving, funny, beautiful boy to go through all this. My beef with God is that He lets Avram bear all this pain, not me. 

I stood there for awhile, just holding him, just staring down at the lump in the mattress. I prayed for grace. I prayed for the strength to be kind to myself. I prayed for Help to continue to be present, to be in the places I cannot always be, to heal the things I cannot: in Avram, in myself.

I prayed for sweet, peaceful sleep for my boy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

{a celebration of chaos}

So far this week Avram has:

1. Climbed out his crib during nap time and silently terrorized his bedroom.
2. Managed to sneak in the kitchen and get out the back patio door.
3. Shattered a glass bowl all over the tile floor.
4. Emptied all the laundry baskets onto our bedroom floor.
5. Snapped my sunglasses in half.
6. Taken eight (yes, EIGHT) steps in a row on his own.

This boy they told me would probably never breathe on his own, or walk on his own, or be able to communicate with the rest of the world.

This boy is giving his mama a run for her money, and he's certainly going to keep his little brother on his toes.

And I am grateful for, and loving, every nerve-wracking, adrenaline-rushing, mess-filled minute of it.