Thursday, December 30, 2010

{still}

Monday morning, Avram and I woke up, ate breakfast,  and drove to my friend Jenn's house.

And then he had a seizure.


The world stopped.


Getting bad news while I was pregnant was scary. Watching Ave sleep in the NICU was scary. Brain surgery was scary.

But this was no longer a baby we were just starting to get to know. This was our baby now. Our guy. The Little Buddy. The Drool Monster. Our son.

And it took "scary" to a whole new level.

We are home now, and Avram genuinely seems like his normal, charming self. Wakes up laughing and smiling, is putting away solids like it's his job, still propped-sitting and rolling over, sleeping well. We still don't know what caused the seizure, so we are a little on edge.


Thank you all for the emails, visits, messages, texts, and calls; thank you even more for your prayers. At first I felt so defeated knowing this beautiful article had just been published, and thousands of people had just heard Avram's testimony. I felt like his miraculous story had been tainted, stolen from him. But I slowly realized that Ave now has a support network numbering in the thousands, he has people praying for him all over the country. What the enemy has meant for destruction, surely the Lord is now working out for Good, for Healing, for Peace.

I could retell the story scene by scene, but to be honest I am exhausted: mentally, physically, emotionally...and all I have to say is that, in the blink of an eye, a lot of things that once seemed like a big deal were no longer important. Gift cards, new clothes, party plans, feeling plump from too many goodies, hurt feelings, blog hits, family feuds...suddenly nothing in the world mattered except one thing:

Our baby.

Heading into the New Year, we have our baby--still healthy, still happy, still here--so we have everything we need. We are still waiting, still watching, still hoping, still believing. And in the mean time, we have everything we need.

Everything.


Ave sleeping in the hospital

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

{read all about it}

A dear family friend, Sandy Thorn Clark, came to Jason & me a couple months ago. She knew all about Avram's little journey so far and wanted to write a story about him for the Chicago Sun Times. Sandy felt that our story was worth sharing, that it might offer other people a little bit of hope this Christmas.

We agreed.

This morning, I woke up to see the Little Buddy's face in the newspaper. He's just so dreamy. Usually it's really exciting to see your name in print, to be featured in the newspaper. It feels like such a big deal, you know?

But to be honest, a big part of me wishes that Avram didn't already have a story worth being told in print, that his 8 months of life weren't extraordinary enough to be featured in a major newspaper. If I could have any say in it, I would rather he live a very normal, very quiet life as a baby.

But Someone had other plans.

And if someone can read this article today and be reminded to see a little bit of good amidst all the junk in the world, if an expecting mother can read this and find peace, if someone who was just handed a bad diagnosis can find some comfort and hope, if Avram can read this years from now and how special he is... then I'm pretty ok with it.

Click here to read the article online, or be a good Chicagoan and pick up a print edition while you're out Christmas shopping today.

Sandy, you did a beautiful job. Thank you for helping us tell our story.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

{one year ago today}

One year ago today, I shot out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning: by the end of the day we would know if our little peanut was a boy or girl.

One year ago today, I watched my husband's eyes fill with tears as he saw that precious baby's heartbeat for the first time.

And then, I saw the ultrasound technician's face crease with concern, and I heard the gravity in my doctor's voice.

One year ago today, I called my parents, who were expecting a phone call of joy and celebration. I had to tell them, while choking on tears, that something was wrong with our baby boy.

One year ago today, I laid on a table in a Level II Ultrasound room, clutching J's hand so hard I felt like I would fall through the floor if I let go.

One year ago today, I let God have it. I prayed the most angry, questioning, fear-filled, doubt-filled, frustrated, pleading prayer I have ever offered up.

One year ago today, they told us this baby wasn't worth keeping.

One year ago today, I didn't think I would ever see today.

But today.

Today.

Today, I woke up to the sound of a babbling baby, giggling in his crib.

Today, I watched my seven-month old bubba roll across the living room floor all by himself.

And I saw the joy in his face, the ever-growing curiosity in his eyes.

Today, I talked to Avram's physical therapist, who said that everything he is doing is age-appropriate, who said that he is her only patient who does something new every time she sees him.

Today, I laid on the floor with the Little Man while he cooed and sang and gnawed on toys with his two brand new teeth.

Today, I rocked that baby to sleep for a nap, and prayed the most grateful, humbled, faith-filled, peace-filled prayer I have ever prayed.

We still have a long journey ahead, but today...

We made it to today.

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. he does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of wordless sighs, our aching groans.

He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."
Romans 8:25-28, The Message



Saturday, December 4, 2010

{drool monster}

Well, believe it or not, Avram is now seven months old. He is officially more than half way through the first year of his life. How did this happen? He was just born like, last week. It's like he's going to wake up from his next nap and start driving, popping zits, and telling me how uncool I am.

He is just such a big guy. He's teething right now, which has just been an absolute joy. My snuggly bubba bear has suddenly morphed into this Raging Drool Monster who gums and bites everything in sight. He refuses to be put down (or to sleep); if I try to put him in his crib or play-mat he clings on to me like a crazed Koala. J and I took turns kicking each other out of bed all night to rock and bounce and walk the Doctor of Drool-Doom.

Tylenol seems to barely make a dent in his suffering, and he turns his nose up at teething toys, like he's too mature for them. He tries his corn-on-the-cob routine up and down my arm, which seems to offer a little relief (well, for him....different story for my arm).

Oh, and I should also mention that Ave had his first cold this week. The poor bubba has been slinging snot bombs left and right. The kid can't get a break these days.

It's been a fun week.

Despite how miserable he is, he's still just so unbelievably charming. I was letting him hang out in his swing this morning, mostly because it keeps him upright (meaning, it keeps his snot running down his face instead of stuck in his nose). He was just sitting there, all full of self-loathing and misery, sort of whimpering under his breath and staring into space.

"Hey you! Why the long face?"

And I swear, he turned, looked at me, relaxed his eyes, and slowly gave me this sly, wide-mouthed, gummy grin, like he was McDreamy or something.

What a flirt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

{at peace with the scraps}

On a whim, I sent out a request a couple weeks ago to see if anyone had a Christmas tree they wanted us to take off their hands. I knew it was a long shot. I didn't really expect anyone to just give us a tree, but I thought it was worth a try.

And, amazingly enough, my Aunt Tammy had a 7-foot pre-lit tree sitting in her attic, still in the box, just begging us to decorate it.

I was so excited that we were going to have our first real Christmas tree I didn't even consider the fact that we would have to, you know...decorate it. I had one week to come up with enough ornaments to decorate a 7 foot tree (or at least the front of it...). I switched in to Craft Warrior mode and raided my supplies. Go time.

Sixty hot glue sticks, four balls of yarn, three bad hot glue burns, two pillowcases, some leftover wedding ribbon, a few yards of leftover upholstery fabric, and one old book of hymns later: magic happened, people.

It looks freakin awesome.

And I spent (brace yourself): $8.

I was so pleased with myself when I finished making all the ornaments that I displayed them all on my dining room table and took a picture. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

But what the picture didn't show was the mess underneath the dining room table.

Holy. Crap.

I'm not talking about a few pieces of paper and some hot glue strings here-and-there. This was a mess of epically disastrous proportions. Bits of yarns, paper shreds, glitter everywhere, half-empty spools of thread, buttons scattered all over the floor, hot glue strings hanging on everything, piles and piles of fabric, scissors in very dangerous places...this was the definition of mess.

Thanksgiving is here once again, and I am feeling a little overwhelmed with the memories of the last two holiday seasons. Two years ago, I was just sitting down with my plate at Jason's family Thanksgiving when I got a call from my brother. My dad had had a grand mal seizure and was being taken to the Emergency Room. J & I drove to Fort Wayne as fast as we could. While we were still on our way, Dad had another seizure at the hospital.

That night we found out that Dad had two brain tumors and would need major surgery. My dad had always been in great shape; I don't think I even remember him getting the flu. It just didn't seem real.

The next couple months we spent a lot of time in hospital rooms and waiting areas . Dad went in for surgery about a week before Christmas, and everything went perfectly. They got the entire tumor out, and it was benign: he was even home for Christmas Eve. Miraculously he's 100% back now, like the whole thing never happened.

That Thanksgiving, I realized that my dad--my dad--was not immortal. He will not live forever. I came so close to losing one of the people I love the most, one of the people that is just always supposed to be around, and I realized that this whole gig is hanging together by such a thin thread. People get sick. People die. Bad things happen. And not just to other families, other people. It can happen to my people, my family.

It messed me up.

I thought we were in the clear for last year's holidays: everyone was healthy, we had a baby on the way, I was well past the morning sickness stage so I could actually enjoy food again. Thanksgiving was wonderful (besides the fact that--true story--my dad invited the Verizon guy to our Thanksgiving, and, much to everyone's surprise, he actually came. Talk about awkward.).

Then, two days before we came home for Christmas break, we went in for the 20 week ultrasound and were handed Avram's diagnosis.

And the whole world stopped.

So here we are again, the day before Thanksgiving, the start of the holidays. Despite my best efforts, I have found myself staring at all the scraps, all the mess, at all the pain from the last two years. A lot of this year really sucked. Big time. The first month of Avram's life was spent in two hospitals. He had to have brain surgery at two weeks old...two weeks old. He's going to have a big plastic helmet on his head for his first Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But at the same time, I'm sitting here staring at this beautiful Christmas tree. It would have just been a big green plastic tree without all those scraps, all those hours at the sewing machine, all those little burns on my fingers, all that glitter everywhere, all that mess.

We have a baby: a beautiful, sweet, strong little baby boy who is proving all the doctors wrong. A healthy baby.

We have great health insurance, some of the best doctors in the country, the most patient physical therapists.

We have a warm & cozy apartment, a kitchen full of food, money in the bank, more clothes than we need, a car that gets us where we need to go.

We have the most loving, selfless family, who have all gone to the ends of the earth to support us this year.

We have friends who have brought us meals, made us laugh, sent us the perfect notes of encouragement at the perfect times. Friends we can be brutally honest and transparent with, and love us all the same.

We have each other, which has made all the difference in the world.

We have a gracious, gracious God whose presence fills our little home, who has answered so many prayers, who keeps giving us strength when we are at our weakest.

If it has taken all the scraps--all the junk, all the hurt, all the bad--in order for us to have the countless beautiful blessings that fill our life, this Thanksgiving I am grateful for all the scraps,

for all the mess,

for all the pain.

"For we are God's masterpiece."
Ephesians 2:10













Monday, November 15, 2010

{a cloud of witnesses}

It's pretty easy for me to feel on my own during the week. Jason leaves for school at 6:30 and usually doesn't return until 5. And since we only have one car, I'm pretty much landlocked with the little man during the day. We manage to get out for walks in the park and to the grocery store, but I'm not sure those really chalk up as "social outings."

Unless you count the fact that I am on a first name basis with the barista at the grocery Starbucks and the express lane checkout guy. Which is probably not something I should announce.

Each and every morning, I wake up, get Avram up, we eat, and then do exercises. For an hour and a half. Take nap, repeat. Then repeat again. Bath time, bed time. Do it all again tomorrow.

I know this is the Dark Side of being a stay-at-home mom. And all of Ave's medical mumbo-jumbo certainly isn't helping. Some days I wish so badly that someone was around to go, "It's not always going to be this hard. You won't do physical therapy forever. He will be able to do things on his own. Just be patient." or "Cassie, pull it together. He's a baby. Of course he hits himself in the face with his rattle. That's what babies do, for crying out loud. Relax." or "He is going to crawl. He won't do the inch-worm routine forever. Take it easy, mama. Don't get your panties in a wad."

But most days, there isn't.

So I go through the day, trying to focus on all of the good. And like I've said before, the good days are totally winning...but that isn't to say there aren't bad days. Frustrating days. Lonely days.

But as I look out over my living room now, on the desk there sits a ballpoint pen that belonged to my Pau-Pau. The rug is a hand-me-down from my mom (which will probably be returned with some carrot spit-up stains on it). The baskets filled with toys are the flower baskets from our wedding, and the play-blanket on the floor was made for my brother when he was a baby. Many of the books on our shelves are gifts from dear friends, siblings, parents, professors. The bottom book shelf is packed with photo albums from trips all over the world, with baby books and old journals.

In our bedroom, there is a hand-crocheted quilt that my Bunika made for my grandparents' wedding over 60 years ago. My wedding bouquet sits on my vanity: dried to perfection, wrapped in the same hanky my grandma wrapped around her wedding bouquet. It sits next to a framed quote, given to me by a dear friend: "Each glimpse of beauty points to eternity." In the drawers of that vanity are so many precious gifts: my mom's pearl bracelet she wore for her wedding, a bracelet from my dad on my 21st birthday, my Yoo-Hoo's earrings that Pau-Pau gave her while they were dating, my grandma's brooch.

The same rocking chair my dad was rocked in sits in Avram's room, covered with a quilt that covered my mother-in-law's bed when she was a baby. A shelf on the wall holds a picture of my mom holding me as a baby. There are frames filled with legacies: a hand-embroidered teddy bear Jason's mom made for his nursery and a shadowbox my mom filled with my first lock of hair, my hospital bracelet, my favorite toys when I was a baby.

My mother's sewing box sits on the dining room table, full of thread and buttons passed down from my grandmother. There is a cookbook on the shelf my mom made me, packed full with family recipes: Bunika's sarmale, Yoo-Hoo's colac, mom's chicken casserole, dad's zucchini pasta. A canvas portrait from our wedding hangs on the wall above a trunk my grandmother gave me when I was little girl, packed full of dress-up clothes.

In the kitchen, a picture hangs on the wall of my great-grandpa Thomas seated at a picnic table. He is surrounded by 5 of his kids, my Pau-Pau included, all barefoot and beaming with sunshine.

If I pause to look past the veil of fear, to lay down the weight of loneliness, I see that we are surrounded by a history of endurance, by a legacy of love, by a fortress of prayer...regardless of the distances measured by miles or time.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
Hebrews 12.1

Thursday, November 4, 2010

{my relationship with parking garages}

Not too many things scare me. Spiders gross me out, but don't scare me. Same with blood and guts stuff. Not scary. Just disgusting. I keep my cool on airplanes. I find large dogs endearing. I don't get creeped out when I'm home alone at night.

But parking garages?

Absolutely terrifying.

I'm not sure if phobias are genetic, but I seem to have inherited claustrophobia from my father and his father.  There are three places I get sick to my stomach just imagining being in:

1. Caves/mines
2. Submarines
3. Parking Garages

As a kid, I went in 2 separate museum exhibits, one that simulated going down into a mine and one a submarine. I cried. The entire time. I all but had a complete mental melt-down at the tender age of 8.

The second I pull my car into a parking garage, I can feel my heart rate double. My hands are sweating right now just thinking about it. The low ceilings make me nervous. As do the narrow passages. And the poor lighting. And all that hideous, hideous concrete.

When I'm forced to park in these death traps I have to make a split-second decision: park on the bottom level so I can get out as quickly as I can, or drive all the way to the top level so if the inevitable earthquake strikes I will have the least amount of rubble smashing me. I am an incredibly logical individual.

My Chicago parking garage experiences have not helped me overcome this irrational fear. The first time I took Avram out on the town by myself, I had to park in a Cave of Death to go to the Children's Hospital Clinic. Between attempting to get Ave and all his gear out of the car without locking the keys inside and trying to stifle my anxieties of being buried alive by cement blocks and car pieces, I somehow managed to get inside and to the doctor on time.

Unfortunately, I walked back out to the garage to find that I had left the back door wide open, and the keys on top of the trunk. You just can't make this stuff up, people.

Today, I circled the doctor's office for twenty minutes trying to find street parking. Unsuccessfully. I had to park in a garage. Even though I was running late, I drove all the way up to 12th level to park. I have a baby's safety to think of, after all, not just my own, so it seemed a completely rational decision. The unfortunate part was that I had to drive all the way up to the top. At a snail's pace. Somehow, we made it alive.

We came back after the doctor's appointment and I was pleased with myself for having shut and locked all doors, with the keys safely stored in my purse. I clenched the steering wheel with white knuckles for the whole 12 story descent and quickly paid my ticket. Phew. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, leading me safely back out to the street.

And then, disaster struck.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one circling the block for parking spots this morning. There was a spot just in front of the parking garage. One woman had passed the spot and was attempting to back in, while another woman had pulled up and tried to dive in head-first. They each had half of their car in the spot, and were in a total sudden death match. It felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode.

Normally I would have laughed and driven on by. But, lucky me, they were blocking the exit.

I was trapped.

I thought they would quickly resolve it themselves. That's what rational people do, right? But they didn't. They just sat there, staring at each other. The ultimate show down. The parking garage security dude was on lunch break. It was just the three of us.

So, I did what any Chicagoan would do.

I honked.

They didn't blink.

I honked again.

They honked at each other.

And then I had a meltdown.

It took every ounce of self-control to not get out of my car and start screaming at these women. Ever since I had Avram it seems I have an extra shot of courage (or as J might argue, stupidity). I yelled at the kids setting off fireworks outside our apartment. I yelled at the teenage punk in the basement for cranking his music at 1am. I am Mama Bear: hear me roar. And then go all Edward Scissorhands on your face.

I think it is effective. J tells me it is stupid and dangerous. It must be hormones.

I put my head on the steering wheel and kept praying that God would just hold off the pending earthquake of doom until I got out of the parking garage. Please God don't let me die in a parking garage. If you love, don't let me die in a parking garage. Oh God. You can't give us a miracle baby and then have us buried alive in a parking garage. Anything but the parking garage. Sharks, tornado, bubonic plague. Anything but the parking garage.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Nothing.

Miraculously, just as I was about to grab Ave out of his car seat, abandon the Avalon, and run to the Panera across the street for safety, a police officer happened to drive by. Oh thank God, I thought. Some sanity. Let's get out of here.

He got out of his squad car to investigate the situation, and quickly decided that the woman backing in was farther in the spot than the woman who had tried to go in head-first. The second woman huffed and puffed and threw a fit, but eventually complied. After being trapped inside the parking garage for nearing 20 minutes, we narrowly escaped complete disaster and imminent death.

 As I drove home on Lake Shore I laughed at how ridiculous I had been. I mean, seriously. What are the odds of being trapped in a parking garage during an earthquake, considering I park in one 4, maybe 5 times a year? Buck up, Cassie girl.

Today the doctor told us that we should start occupational therapy to help Avram's hand coordination. This means that for the next 2-3 months, we will have weekly physical therapy, weekly occupational therapy, and bi-weekly helmet adjustments. As soon as she told me, the fears and doubts and worries started creeping in.

What if he always has to have therapy? What if it doesn't help? What if he can't do all the things little boys are supposed to do? Is it always going to be two steps forward and one step back? Will we ever have just one month doctor free?

I know I should be happy that he is getting even more help. I know I should be assured that we are getting some of the absolute best medical care in the country. I know it's what I prayed for. I know it is a good thing.

I'm just feeling a little trapped in the parking garage, and I want so badly to get him out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

{reasons i love my husband: #792}

Drill Sargent Debbie came for her weekly visit yesterday afternoon. Avram is having a little bit of a challenge doing certain things with the helmet on, so she gave us new exercises and some instruction in how to push him this week.

Just before she left, she mentioned that we might want to have Ave evaluated by an occupational therapist. She said she didn't see any problems or cause for concern, but since we are in the process of checking off a lot of doctors lately it just might be worth an evaluation.

And, of course, I immediately interpreted this as Avram never being able to tie his shoes or hold a pencil.

The rest of the evening all of these little worries and fears were bubbling just under the surface, and I kept wondering aloud to J if we should or should not look in to occupational therapy.

J put down his cider, looked me square in the eyes and said,

"Well, personally, I don't understand why he would need occupational therapy. I mean, he's unemployed. We should probably get him a job first."

I would have been committed long ago if it were not for this man.

Friday, October 29, 2010

{pros and cons}

Operation Hacky Sack Head is officially two weeks underway. The first few days were rough: the little man had some heat rashes on his cheeks and a little trouble adjusting to sleeping with his fancy new hat on. But after a few days of gradually increasing helmet-on time, we are now sporting the helmet 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. The helmet is actually heavier than I expected; it has to weigh at least a pound or two. I mentioned this to Dr. Rob Bell, and he responded by picking the helmet up and then dramatically almost-dropping it on the ground. Good one, doc.

There are definitely some pros and cons to the helmet. The most obvious, most significant pro is that Ave is going to have one sweet looking noggin when this is all over. I'm already planning to make one of those old-fashioned silhouettes to celebrate the end of Operation Hacky Sack Head.

Another pro is that Ave is a little more protected from my chronic clumsiness. For instance, I am usually half-awake when he is ready to get up in the morning, and perhaps once or twice I may or may not have accidentally "tapped" his head on the door frame while exiting his bedroom. It probably isn't a bad idea that my baby wear a helmet considering how often I drop/spill/kick/break/knock over things.

And, as if I even need to say: sweet decals. Our good friends Ryan & Corin sent us an awesome sticker stash we are planning on rotating through. If you missed Ave's Halloween costume debut, do yourself a favor and scroll down to the next post. Your heart may explode from the cuteness. Seriously. It just overwhelms me sometimes.

Cons? Well, they aren't too serious. Inconvenient, yes. But problematic? Not necessarily.

First of all, it gives him a little heat rash on his cheeks. Nothing a little Aquaphor can't fix.

Secondly, the extra weight means it has been even harder for Ave to lift his already-extra-heavy head. When he wears it for Baby Boot Camp, it feels like we have regressed 3 or 4 weeks. He is just now able to again do the things with the helmet on that he was doing before we started. But this con is really a pro in disguise, as Drill Sargent Debbie pointed out: the helmet will act like a dumbbell for his neck and trunk, helping him bulk up even faster. He is going to be one hot body-building babe (with a perfectly rounded head) when this is all said and done. And with scars, too? The ladies won't be able to stay away.

It also smells faintly of a sweaty gym socks, despite me scrubbing it down with alcohol wipes every night. Oh well. I guess that's manly.

And people stare. Unashamedly. It doesn't bother me so much when little kids stare at him because, I mean, hello. They're kids. And most of the time it's a look of jealousy on their faces, like, "Man, my mom is so lame. I wish my mom would let me wear my skateboard helmet to the grocery store."

But when grown adults stare at him like he's a unicorn or a leprechaun, it takes every ounce of my internal fortitude to not lash out. I have to try so hard to not say stuff like,

"Oh, yeah, he was born without a skull, so the helmet holds his brain in place."

"I drive a motorcycle, so he wears it when he rides on the back instead of in the sidecar."

"The dog keeps gnawing on his head like a chew toy, so we got this helmet for him so he won't get any more scars on his head."

"He's on the 6-12 month day care co-ed football team. Flag, of course. We start tackle when he's 18 months."

I have to keep telling myself that Jesus would not, in fact, say these things...as much as I would like to believe He would.

It's also hard to get mad about him wearing the helmet when he looks so unbelievably adorable in it. Several times a day I half expect him to come flying around the corner on a skateboard or look at the window and see him jumping over flaming trash cans with a motorcycle, like he's Evil Kenevil or something.

In other news, we have visited the neurosurgeon, Dr.Taco (the neurologist), and Dr. Rob Bell this month. All of them say Avram is doing just perfectly, and both of the neuro guys said they don't need to see him until he is one. This is a big deal people. No brain guys until April. That's six months of only going to regular doctor's appointments.

All three doctors also said they usually do not support baby helmets, but that in Avram's case they believe the helmet is 100% necessary and said they were glad we were doing it. This was a huge relief to me; another small confirmation that we have all the right people along the banks of the river.

Dr. Rob Bell was very happy with Avram, except that I hadn't fed him any meat yet. To be honest, every time I read the words "pureed beef" in the baby cook book I threw up in my mouth a little bit. It just seemed so wrong to feed a baby meat, so caveman-like. But I relented, and we tried some chicken this week. Let me just say that if you're looking for a dramatic diet plan, just keep a bowl of pureed chicken around. It will do wonders for your appetite. And, of course, Ave loves it.

I am so ready for this guy to have some teeth.

And I am also ready for him to start walking. He is going to have to learn pretty fast, because tiny little 5'2", 110 pound me cannot keep carrying around at 19 pound, 28" baby. I am not kidding when I say this kid is going to be half my height by Christmas.

It's strange how relieved and how anxious I feel at the same time. He really is our miracle baby. With the conditions he has, he should be having seizures. He should have vision problems. He should not be accomplishing milestones as easily as he is: babbling and smiling and eating solids and propped-sitting.

It's a relief. It's a blessing.

But the dark side of me, the carnal side of me, is just waiting and anticipating for everything to suddenly take a downward spiral. It amazes me how every blessing, every bit of good news, is tainted with the fear that creeps in so conspiringly. Just another reminder that I have to choose to walk in faith, choose to live in the moment, choose to trust, choose to lean on the everlasting arms.

I have to keep putting him in the basket and sending him down the river of God's plan, despite how dark the sky may look, or how rough the river waters flow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

{his burden is light}

I opened up the mail this morning, and there was a letter from our insurance company.

Ave's helmet is totally covered. All $3,800.

Every.
Single.
Penny.

I just rocked Ave to sleep for his morning nap, gazing at those beautiful little lips. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, with the Lord's kindness, that I couldn't hold back the tears.

And the load keeps getting lighter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

{the birthday boy}

Today, my baby brother turns 21 years old. It does not feel real.

In my mind, Paul should still be in elementary school, rockin his 49's sweatshirt and jamming to dcTalk. He should not be in college, living on his own, having just ridden his bicycle from South Carolina to California. It does not seem possible.

In our family, it's a bit of a tradition to tell stories about the Birthday Boy (or girl, of course). In honor of that tradition, here are a couple of my favorites.

----

When we were kids, our family went to Florida at least once a year. It was a hard life, I know.

I recently read that for each beach vacation you take as a child, you have 20 more moles than the average person. This explains so much for Paul & me. There are hundreds of moles between us (and...I just ruined your breakfast. You're welcome.).

We went to the same resort every year, so Paul & I had some freedom to roam since we knew the joint. We were even allowed to take the elevators by ourselves (if you can imagine such freedom). When we found ourselves in the elevator with strangers, Paul & I would start talking in foreign accents. We thought we did a pretty convincing job, but in retrospect we definitely mixed about 8 different accents.

"Blimey, it's hot outside."

"Spot on, chap."

"We ought to throw a shrimp on the ba-bie."

"Ya man. Slammin."

When the doors opened and our victims stepped off, we would absolutely roar. Ha! Fooled them. Suckers.

They probably walked down the hall, rolled their eyes at each other and said, "Dumb kids."

-----

Paul was a snuggly little kid. A real mama's boy. My mom could not walk past his room during the day without Paul throwing his arms up and calling to her, "I wanna hold you."

He also really liked to help. One year, when he was pretty little, he assisted my mom in the assembling of the Christmas tree. We had one of those fake trees with the branches that snap in to the trunk, and Paul was having a hard time getting them in place. As my mom worked on the top of the tree, she heard a little voice:

"Get in there, you little bastard."

"WHAT did you just say?"

"...."

"Paul Avram, where did you hear that word?"

Let's just say my dad's judgement in appropriate movies for children was no longer trusted.

----

Contrary to what some may believe, Paul is not always sweet.

He once, as a four or five year old little boy, chased my poor, screaming Yoo-Hoo through the entire Orlando airport. Why was she screaming, you ask?

Two words: Rubber. Snake.

----

A couple of years ago, I got a package in the mail. I don't remember what it was now. Paul was home when I opened it, and we were delighted to read that the hundreds of foam packing peanuts inside would dissolve in water. The directions even encourage simply flushing them down the toilet. How environmentally friendly, we thought. Absolutely wonderful.

Later that afternoon, Dad was playing golf across the street. As was and still is his routine, he makes a very necessary trip back over to the house when the course meets up with our driveway. He hustled inside, ran into the kitchen bathroom, and opened the lid, only to find the toilet packed to the rim with packing peanuts.

Let's just say he was not as impressed with their environmental awareness as we were.

Apparently, you are supposed to soak the packing peanuts in a bucket of water before flushing them down the toilet. Our bad, Dad.

----

I like to think that I am a good sister. Growing up, Paul & I went through some tough crap together. There were a couple years when we didn't trust anyone but each other, when we had to look out for each other. Even though he's the baby, there have been many times he has taken care of me.

It was New Year's Eve, 5 or 6 six years ago. Paul & I were at the New Year's Eve service, and I was sitting next to my Yoo-Hoo (my dad's mom). Worship had just ended; everyone had greeted each other, found their seats, and settled in as Pau-Pau began to teach.

Suddenly, I heard a noise from Yoo-Hoo. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, and her eyes were closed. I thought she was snoring, so I gave her a little nudge. Her eyes stayed close, and she kept making the snoring noise. Suddenly, she collapsed in my lap, and I froze. My grandmother was passed out in my lap.

My uncle was sitting across the aisle from me, and he yelled to Pau-Pau. My dad ran back to us from the stage, and took Yoo-Hoo into his arms. Pau-Pau led a prayer from the pulpit, and an elder called the ambulance.

Later that night we learned it was nothing serious, but in the moment I was so scared I couldn't look away, or stop shaking. I felt my legs give out, and I closed my eyes, but I didn't fall. I realized Paul had wrapped both his arms around me, like a cacoon, holding my head against his chest.

----

Here's a little birthday video the babe & I made for his uncle.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Paul!


Happy Birthday to Uncle Paul from Cassie Beer on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

{toast & honey}

I guess I should probably explain why I have entitled my blog "toast&honey." I'll give it my best shot.

When I was a kid, I had the worst allergies. My seasonal allergies were just terrible: Spring always has been and always will be my least favorite season. Once the frost stopped coming at night, I would cease breathing. The majority of my childhood Autumns and Springs were spent inside with kleenex stuffed up my nose, which was just the absolute pits because I loved to be outside.

When I was in elementary school, I went to an allergist. He did that horrible test where they draw this Battleship grid on your back with a Sharpie and then poke each square with a needle loaded with a different allergen. There were 50 squares on my back and 20 on each arm. The idea is that the needle pricks you are allergic to will swell up, revealing exactly what makes you sneeze and wheeze and break out in hives. I had to lie there, on my stomach, for 20 minutes to let the reaction start, and I couldn't so much as scratch myself. My mom had to hold my arms down. And it itched. Bad. It was torture. I deeply resented that bald little nasally man.

Well, needless to say, my entire back broke out. Grass, pollen, dust, mold, strawberries, weeds, mustard, apples, mildew...the list goes on and on. The worst reaction? Horses. The horse square was on the lower back right side, and it looked like someone had replaced my hip with an elephant's.

The doctor said it was the worst reaction to horses he had ever seen. Of course it was. Who is even allergic to horses, for heaven's sake? What a stupid allergy.

I was given a prescription for Claritin and some nose spray. I took them every day, and they helped a little bit. Ever so slightly. I was still a snotty, swollen mess.

My dad always fixed breakfast for us when we were kids. It was no pop-tarts-and-Cheerios kind of thing, it was a feast. Every morning. He had this fresh fruit juice concoction: strawberries, bananas, oranges, grapes...it was liquid delicious. Some days he made waffles with a side of chorizo, some mornings we had omelets with hash-browns and onions, or chocolate chip pancakes, or french toast with buckets of powdered sugar. My dad would get creative with his creations: some mornings we would have pancakes shaped like our initials, or animals, or faces drawn on them with squirt-butter. My brother refused to eat the pancake "crust," so his pancakes were always trimmed down (which I can't necessarily call him out on, because I did the same thing with hamburgers. We were strange.). I always drank chocolate milk, and Paul always drank strawberry, so some mornings dad would mix the two syrups together and make us drink it (probably my least favorite creation of his).

Even though we never knew exactly what to expect when we came down for breakfast, I had one side item that remained a constant: toast and honey. Somewhere, my dad had learned that if you eat a little bit of honey every day it will help your allergies, much more than medicine.

We're not talking about store-bought honey here. Won't cut it. It has to be the real honey. Bought-on-the side-of-the-road, locally-grown, sold-in-a-bell-jar honey. So every morning, from elementary school through high school, Dad would make me a piece of toast and honey.

Miraculously, my seasonal allergies have almost disappeared. I can actually go outside in the spring, and at the worst I may have watery eyes. I can walk barefoot in the grass and not look like someone decorated my feet with paper cuts: a far cry from breaking out in hives and not being able to breathe. My dad is very proud to have remedied my allergies. To this day, if I so much as sneeze in my Dad's presence, he says, "You're not eating your honey." Seriously. It happened last week.

I am not a patient person. I want things to go how I plan them to go, I want results right away. I always undercook rice. I try to put my jeans on right after painting my nails and always mess the paint up. I read magazines backwards because all those ads in the front make me antsy. I had terrible insomnia as a kid because I was too excited about the next day to fall asleep. Every time Avram accomplishes a new milestone, I catch myself checking it off the list and start practicing for the next one. I do not like to wait.

Mother Teresa once said something about how none of us can do great things, only small things with great love. It took months for that one small action, one piece of toast and honey, to make a difference for my allergies. But once it had taken effect, it made all the difference in the world.

I am learning that I cannot do one big thing to make the difference for Avram, I cannot do one big thing to become the person I want to be, I cannot do one big thing to strengthen my marriage, I cannot do any great thing for God. Being a "big deal" or considered "cool" or Super Mom or being on stage with my name in lights is not what will make the difference.

I can only do small things with great love.

I can speak with kindness, I can choose to show grace and mercy even when it hurts, I can remember to breathe. I can fight to see the good in people, I can choose to be selfless, I can remember to pray. I can do the little things no one will ever thank me for. I can read "One Fish Two Fish" to Avram for the 1000th time, I can fix a pot roast for J, I can drink more water and be kind to myself. Small pieces of toast with honey, small actions of love, small bits of light in the darkness.

I can do small things with love, every day, and that is what will make the difference.

Toast and honey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

{sunshine}

We picked up the babe's helmet today. I could write about how I had to fight tears the whole time he was being fitted, but I'm just not up for it today. I need to write about some good things, some happy things, so this is strictly a celebration of the current parts of life I want to bottle up forever.

Avram is teething, and it is just the absolute worst. He is drooling like a mastiff, and he has this pathetic little cough that I'm convinced is only 50% real and 50% him amusing himself with his new sound effects. He always has to have something in his mouth: a rattle, his thumb, a spoon, a sock. When I hold him facing away from me, he gums my arm from wrist to elbow: slowly, meticulously, as if he is sucking every last kernel from the most delicious corn-on-the-cob.  We have so many hickeys between the two of us that we look like a couple of hormone-crazed adolescents.

Ave and I have a new game. I will smother his cheeks in kisses (sometimes he turns in at the last second so I get him right on the kisser, and his dad yells, "Hey! That's my move, young man."), and then I put my cheek right next to his mouth. He face-plants right on to my cheek, mouth open, leaving my face soaked. He then throws his head back and giggles, as if he just got away with something sneaky.

When he wakes up in the morning, I can hear him talking to himself in his crib. He has mastered his "b"s this week, and he is quite pleased with himself. When I go in to get him up, he just lies there smiling up at me, beaming like morning sunshine.

Friday, October 8, 2010

{power of the pack}

J & I were watching Planet Earth, and in the Fresh Water episode they showed this pack of otters. They form massive packs, like 15 or 20 strong. Otters are really pretty funny looking: like a wet, stretched out mix of a squirrel and wiener dog. They hunt together, eat together, swim together, sleep together: chatting away the entire time. They even cuddle, for heaven's sake. During a swimming party, this massive crocodile tried to pick one off for supper, and this entire clan of skinny little otters chased him away. A pack of squirrely wiener dogs ran off a huge, hungry crocodile. When he was gone, you half expected them to start high-fiving each other.

Before we had Avram, J & I had decided we wanted three kids. I mean, if a fourth came along we wouldn't kick them out on the street or anything, but three just seemed so...right. You just make plans like that. It's what people do.

My brother is my best friend and I wouldn't trade our relationship for all the world, but as a little girl I always wanted a sister to play Barbies and Mall Madness with. True story: when Paul was born, I refused to go to the hospital because he wasn't a girl. I forced my Yoo-Hoo to watch Bambi three times before we could go. Then, I called him Katie. For months.

Once I was finally resigned to the fact he was boy, I called him Pumpkin Head because he had a bad case of jaundice. I was an awesome sister. In a shoebox somewhere, there is a picture of my cousin Maggie and me holding Paul at his dedication. We both have this stone-cold look on our faces, like, "Yeah, we are so excited about another boy in this family. No, really. So happy."

Occasionally Paul would play Barbies-and-GI-Joes with me, but that usually ended up in headless Barbie dolls and a Power Ranger stuck an inch into my knee cap (Also a true story. Scar to prove it.).

J has two brothers and a sister, and it's just so much fun at their house when everyone is there. They are all so different but still so close, and when they are all together their mom positively glows. They are a village. A small, happy village.

After Avram was born, J & I did some reconsidering of that magic number. We just weren't sure--and still really aren't--about how much care he will need, or if what he has is genetic or spontaneous. And I'm still not positive about how I would handle being pregnant again, or if I would have a complete nervous breakdown from the fear that bad news looms at every check-up.

Don't read too much into this (Mom): we have quite awhile to think about adding to the pack here. I need some time to enjoy being able to tie my own shoes again. But when I think about how close Paul and I are, and how I couldn't have possibly made it through the last, oh, ten years without him, or about how much joy Jason gets from being around his siblings...I don't want Avram to be alone when J & I have both gone all senile and loony. I want him to be able to call his siblings and say, "Oh geez, they found mom walking downtown in her underwear again, what are we going to do this time?" Or if he does need extra care and something happens to me and J, I don't want him to only have one sibling with all the responsibility. I don't want him to be alone if we are long gone and he gets sick, or in trouble.

He just can't be alone when the crocodiles come.

He needs a pack.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

{behind door number three}

Well, it seems God has made up His mind.

Monday afternoon, the little man and I headed to the cranio-facial surgeon. He pulled out his Baby Jesus routine and was a total charmer the whole time, even though he didn't take an afternoon nap. I mean, he's just so dreamy.

In the waiting room, there were three other babies all waiting to see the same doctor for the same reason. Ave was sitting in my lap, really showing off his Baby Boot Camp skills, while the other babies sat snug in their car seats. One of the other mom's said, "Wow, he's sitting up really well. How old is he?"

I replied (very humbly, of course), "Oh, he's only 5 months."

Show off.

The panty hose scan turned out to be a breeze: it ended up being more doo-rag than ski-mask. He looked like a little Snoop Dog. I asked the tech if I could take a picture, and she just lowered her eyebrows at me. She must not be a mother.

The doctor came in and said, "Well, he definitely needs a helmet."

Alright. We're ok. I was ready for this. 


" He will probably need to wear it for 23 hours a day, for four to six months, starting next week."


What the $#*%@(^#.


What's really lame about the whole thing is that usually we would get to pick out a sweet pattern for his helmet, like racing stripes or flames or spaceships. Since Ave has a shunt, his helmet has to be clear to make sure there isn't too much pressure on his shunt. The nurse tried to console me by saying, "Well, you could put some stickers on the front." Not helping here, lady.

We are still waiting on our insurance company to process all the paperwork, but so far it looks like the odds are really in our favor for his helmet being covered. For one, insurance usually requires a baby to have 8 weeks of physical therapy to try to correct the plagiocephaly before trying the helmet, and Ave has already completed that. Secondly, the measurements from the scan were all on the higher end of normal or in the extremes; meaning that the helmet is definitely medically necessary. Fingers crossed.

So, for now, it looks like God has chosen Door #3: the babe has a bad enough case of hacky sack head that insurance is probably going to cover most, if not all, of the cost. We pick up his fancy new gear next Wednesday, and then we will be going back every 2 weeks for adjustments.

99.9% of the day I'm doing just fine with it. I know it is temporary, I know it will be such a blessing in the long run, I know this is just another perfectly tailored answer to prayer. The other .1% of the day I can't believe that this beautiful baby is going to have a plastic helmet on for his first Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that he won't be able to wear the hats I knit him for this winter. Meaningless stuff in the long run, but in the moment it just seems like the weight of the world.

 I find myself holding Avram a little more this week; sneaking in during his naps just to pick him up, snuggle him, and cover his head in kisses.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

{our tree house}

Our apartment is surrounded by trees. 

There is a tree across the street that looks exactly like the trees in the backyard of my childhood home, and I catch myself staring at it often, drifting back through time and space to my Narnia, my Shire, my Glenmerle. 

Outside our bedroom window, there is a tree so close that its branches are pinned up against the window panes so tightly they look like the arms of smashed spider. This means we have frequent Peeping Tom squirrels, and have been awakened on many a windy night by knocks and taps and bristles. As fearful as we may be of a violent storm sending an oak branch into bed with us, it is also comforting knowing that one of nature's giants is shielding us from the surrounding cold concrete city.

If you look out any window in our apartment, the scene is outlined in tree branches. It feels very much as if we live in a giant tree house, high above the dangers on the ground, safely hidden in the arms of the leafed gods. It is our secret clubhouse, and we are in charge of who and what is allowed passage inside, we are the King and Queen and Baby Man of the castle.


It is our haven, our bungalow, our corner of the world, our cleft in the rock.

Friday, September 24, 2010

{and god knew}

Well, today was a fun day. You know it's going to be a good day when it starts with a baby formula recall.

Yep, that's right: Similac recalled all their powder-based formula because of BEETLES in it.

Oh, that's right, I almost forgot, and their LARVA, too.

Beetles and their babies.

In my baby's formula.

"SIMILAC IS BEETLES!!!!!!!!"

(Anyone get that obscure movie reference? Anyone? No takers?)

And, of course, Similac formula is the only brand that doesn't make the babe backed up. It's going to be a fun weekend.

Ave went through one serious growth spurt last week. Several times he woke up in the middle of the night to eat (which he hasn't done for over a month now), and he has been putting food away. Now, all of his pajamas are high-waters. He is one. Big. Baby. Like I may seriously need to look in to purchasing a weight lifting belt. My biceps are so hot right now.

He's just this little Hulk Hogan guy: rolling over from his tummy to his back, once rolling over from his back alllllmost all the way on to his tummy, looking all the way to the right, taking all his weight on his legs, and, get this: he is officially a "propped sitter." He sits up all by himself when his arms are on the floor in front of him. I mean, really. Show off.

Drill Sergeant Debbie came today for the first time in almost two weeks (scheduling conflicts, it happens. Whatev.). For the entire session she just sat on the floor, watching Ave and shaking her head, saying, "I wouldn't have believed it if you told me. This is phenomenal. I would not have believed he was doing this stuff already."

Like I said, show off.

Last week we scratched the ophthalmologist off our list. Glorious feeling. And hopefully, it will be even more wonderful to scratch the cranio-facial surgeon off our list after our appointment in a couple weeks. 

I am not looking forward to it. At all. For one, they do a head scan. To get precise images, they put a pantyhose-like cap over Avram's head. He's going to be really excited about that. 

After the cranio-facial surgeon studies the images, he will tell us if we are lucky candidates for--drumroll, please:

A baby helmet.

Yes, you read that correctly. A helmet. For babies.

I should back up for a second and explain the reason we are seeing this doctor in the first place. Since the shunt caused Ave's side preference, he in turn has a pretty serious flat spot on the left side of his head. Normally flat spots round themselves out, but in the babe's case he also has a little cone head thing going on up top, and possibly some 'bulging' in other spots. Not so normal.

Without intervention, this can cause some pretty serious problems with his vision, hearing, balances, etc. Not to mention he'll look like he has a hacky sack for a head.

This is where the helmet comes in.

If the scans show that his head shape isn't going to get better on it's own, we will have to decide if we want to put Avram in a helmet. It would be for anywhere between one and six months. The helmet is designed in a way to help the head, you know...round out. 

But they stink.

As in literally stink. Like a skunk trapped in a trash can in a sewage drain.

And all of his hair will fall out.

And people will think that I must have taken some seriously bad drugs while I was pregnant.

I'm trying to psych myself up for it. I'm trying to remind myself that it would be a temporary inconvenience with long-term benefits. He won't have any memory of it, other than whatever pictures we may take of him and whenever a family member decides to bring it up to humiliate him in front of his first girlfriend. But then I remember the fact that a lot of insurance plans will not cover the helmet unless his case of plagiocephaly (fancy medical term for hacky sack head) is deemed extreme and the helmet medically necessary. And these puppies ain't cheap.

This is because some parents elect to have the helmet purely for cosmetic reasons, which kind of get and kind of don't. It would be different if Ave's head was just a little flat on one side. But it's more than that. You can actually see one side of his forehead is higher than the other. That goes a little beyond cosmetic, I think.

So, we find ourselves praying 3 prayers this week:

Lord, you either are going to

1. Round out his head all by Yourself. And You are perfectly capable of doing that.
2. Drop some cash in our pockets to pay for his fancy new hat

Or, the most awkward prayer I've probably ever prayed,

3. Make sure his head is badly misshapen and lop-sided enough to be covered by insurance.

So, we wait. Just like we have been for months now. We pray, we wait, we eat up every precious moment with our chubby little guy, we hope, and we wait. God has heard. And He knows.


"And God heard the groaning of the people of Israel, and God knew."
exodus 2:24-25


Monday, September 13, 2010

{a little bit lighter load}

This morning we had an appointment with the pediatric ophthalmologist (I HATE spelling that word) at Children's Memorial. I had suspicions that Avram's vision was not-so-great, and had read that both hydrocephalus and schizencephaly can cause vision problems. Dr. Rob Bell also thought it was a good idea to have his eyes checked, just to make sure that the reason he keeps his head to the left isn't because he can't see all the way to the right.

We were up, dressed, fed, and out the door at 8am this morning. Binky for the babe and Starbucks for the mama.

I have mixed emotions about visiting the Children's Hospital. I absolutely love the valet guys. The guy who took my ticket was this smooth-talking, smiley, Rico-Suave Hispanic guy with a thick accent: "Oh, yes, good morning mam. I hope you are doing very well. It is a beautiful day, no? Enjoy the rest of your morning, we will have your vehicle waiting for you." I half expected him to kiss my hand when I handed him the keys. And then the guy who retrieved my car could have been a stand in for Hugo from Lost. I was impressed at speed and agility. I had never seen anyone fold up a stroller and pack it in the trunk that fast.

On the other hand, going to Children's gives me flashbacks of Avram's shunt surgery, and how scared I was. I can't help but expect to be handed bad news when we go there, especially since I had already convinced myself, of course, that Avram was completely blind and would probably require multiple eye surgeries. It's also so sad to see all of these kids in wheelchairs, with walkers, bald from chemotheraphy, missing arms or legs. But you know what? They're always so happy and sweet. That's another blog for another time.

We sat in the waiting room for a solid half an hour, and most of the kids were really well-behaved. Avram was fed and happy, so he was content to sit in my lap and people-watch. There was a TV with Mario 64 set up, and I was so close to kicking kids off so I could play. Paul & I used to come home from school and find my mom playing that game by herself in the living room. We also fought with her over our Gameboy on vacations.

Then, this weasely little kid, maybe 3 years old, JUMPS on to the kids' play table, and breaks it. Snaps a leg clean off. And his mother starts screaming at a nurse, "This is not safe! This table needs to be removed immediately! Don't they screen this equipment before putting it in waiting rooms?"

Seriously? Your kid jumped on a table. In public. While other kids were sitting there, coloring and minding their own dang business.

It was quite a fiasco. They brought up HR people to talk to her and offered her all kinds of free stuff. Whatever, crazy woman.

We finally were called, and Avram had to get 2 sets of eye drops in each eye. The nurse said that they would sting, but he was such a big boy. Didn't even flinch. Another nurse came in and did a preliminary screening, flashing all kinds of lights in his face, and said he looked great, and that the doctor would be in shortly.

Sure enough, the doctor came in. She also shined a bunch of lights in his face, pulled his eyelids up, and made him look in all these crazy directions. And he was glorious. He totally pulled out the charm today.

After no more than three minutes, she said, "Well, his eyes are perfect" and gave me this look like, "So...why did you bring him in again?"

I beamed. Avram burped. And he got some really slick shades to wear home.

So, Avram's eyes are perfect, and he doesn't need any follow-ups with the ophthalmologist. The Lord is good. One specialty-doctor down, 4 to go. I feel like someone took a big ol' rock out of this load I can't seem to get off my back. We're a little bit lighter today.


the little dude

Friday, September 10, 2010

{job descriptions}

When Avram cries--I mean, really cries--he looks exactly like one of those Hawaiian tiki statues. The resemblance is uncanny. This makes it incredibly hard not to laugh when he's balling his eyes out, which I'm sure would automatically disqualify me from winning Mother of the Year any time soon.

During the school year, Team Beer has a pretty solid daily routine. When J comes home from work, I'm on Dinner Duty and he is in charge of Baby Bath & Bed Time. He frequently challenges my firm rule of bathing Ave everyday, basing his case on the fact that he only washes his hair every other day, so a baby couldn't possibly need bathed more frequently than that. I remind him that if he threw up green beans all over his face and pooped his pants multiple times a day, he would also require a nightly hosing off. We debate this frequently.

Feeding the little man solids has been a real treat. He is just completely surrendered to abandon when he's eating. He lets banana juice freely roll down his face and into his neck-fat creases, like how I imagine Grampa Joad planned to when he finally arrived in the land of milk and honey.

I am still learning, day by day, to let go of all these fears I keep hidden in the secret parts of me, holding me back from living in the moment and allowing me to be content. Especially when I watch Avram laugh. He just started to giggle this week: in a low, Woody the Woodpecker kind of way. He smiles when I wake him up from his naps, smiles while eating peas, smiles after filling his diaper, laughs when water splashes his face in the tub. I am reminded a thousand times a day to have not just the faith of a child, but the joy of a child. To let the juices roll freely down my face, to let the water get in my eyes. I am reminded that joy is not dependent on my circumstances. I am reminded that it is not my job to worry; it is my job to love.

So love, I will do.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

{the start of september}

Things are going wonderfully.

Ave has started smiling up a storm. I was getting a little anxious that he wasn't smiling in response to our actions or voices yet, and then, out of nowhere, BOOM: smiling baby. Smiling can indicate that a baby is able to socialize, is aware of their surroundings, can organize their emotions...so it's a big deal, people.

What kills me is that he has been waking up closer to 7am instead of 8:30am (which has been his normal call-time the last two weeks), when I am definitely still in my Morning Mummy Mommy state. Physical therapy has made his core a lot stronger, which in turn has strengthened his diaphragm and turned his little lamb voice into this booming, grunting, growling voice. So come 7am, I hear him start barking, "BAH. BAH. Wuhhh. BAH." I stumble in, dazed and dreamy, slightly annoyed that he's up so early, and the little stinker is just lying there, smiling up at me and waving his Bunny Buddy around. Absolutely kills me. He's so dreamy.

We have also started solid foods the last couple of weeks. Well, I'm not really sure why they call pureed food "solid," but whatevs. Ave, as always, lets us know what he likes and does not like. When he likes a certain food (i.e. BANANAS), he bounces up and down in between bites and gurgles "Ba. Ba. Ba. Ba." When he is not particularly fond of something (i.e. broccoli, potatoes) he either spits it right back out or just sits there with the food on his tongue, mouth open, like he's saying, "Lady, get this crap out of my mouth. On the double."

So, in case we aren't friends on Facebook, here's a little video I put together of some of his first food samplings.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

{baby boot camp}

Since Avram had to spend time in the NICU when he was born, he automatically had a follow-up appointment with the NICU physical therapist. I didn't mind at all, because Dr.Overland is wonderful. She's got this whole new age-hippy thing going on, which I can be a total sucker for. She even took her shoes off and sat down on the floor indian-style when she came in our room for the check-up. So organic, man.

Anyways. Unnecessary details.

She felt that Ave had a strong left-side preference, due to his shunt being placed on the back lower right side of his head . I felt that she was putting it a little lightly, since he would SCREAM whenever his head was turned to the right.

She also felt that Avram would benefit from having a physical therapist come to the house. Being born 2 weeks early, hospitalized for nearly 3 weeks, and having surgery had all set him back a few steps. A physical therapist, she explained, would help him catch up, even get ahead.

I had mixed feelings. Having a long list of doctors and check-ups is one thing, but having them come to the house, too? That just sounded a little too much like running an assisted living home. But I told her, "If you think this is what he needs, then let's do it."

So, we're doing it.

We were referred to this awesome physical therapist named Debby, and she has started coming over once a week for what Jason & I have lovingly entitled "Baby Boot Camp." Debbie has given us an intense exercise regimen for the little man including strict instructions of ZERO back time, with the exception sleepy time. I have now been given the role of drill sergeant, leading the buddy man in long bouts of tummy time, standing exercises, rolling practices, "active" carrying positions, and sitting positions.

This past week has easily been one of the most ex-haust-ing weeks of taking care of Avram, even though he is sleeping 12-13 hours a night. Instead of popping him down in a bouncy seat or letting him stretch out on our bed when he gets all grouchy-pants, I am now spending every waking moment running him through Baby Boot Camp. He's not too happy about it, either, and he definitely lets me know. It has been the freaking Cry Baby Capitol of the World around here. Not that I blame him. If I had somebody making me run sprints & lift weights 24/7, I wouldn't be a happy camper either.

But on the other hand, in just one week he has morphed into a Special-Agent-Green-Beret-Marine-Rambo Baby. During tummy time today, he held his head all the way up for SEVEN MINUTES. This baby, just a week ago, would just sort of pop his head up for a second or two during tummy time. And he has these terrific little gluteus maximus muscles. And he is SO close to rolling over. And if I sit him up with his hands out in front of him, the baby SITS UP all wobbly for a couple seconds. This is huge, people. Huge. Monumental.

So in the midst of Avram's amazing physical transformation this week, we also are adding two more doctors to his ever-expanding list of health providers. I think we're up to seven now. I've lost track. Dr.Rob Bell wants us to go visit the pediatric optometrist, just for peace of mind, and Drill Sergeant Debby wants us to go see a craniofacial specialist to check Ave's head shape. My immediate response (which, of course, is always sunshine and rainbows) has been, "Ter-freaking-rific."

But then the Still Soft Voice gets a chance to speak, and reminds me that I specifically prayed for the right people to be placed along the banks of the river, for the right people to be there for our little miracle boy, and this is just another answer to that prayer.

More hands on the banks of the river.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

{things that make me feel like a good mama}

1. J. He tells me all the time, and it is one of the most sincere compliments he gives me.

2. At any given time, I can be found holding a bottle with one hand and a singing puppy dog in the other, rocking a bouncy seat with one foot, & balancing my phone between my shoulder & ear with a health insurance agent on the line with amazing skill and prowess, all on 5 hours of sleep.

3. Bodily fluids no longer phase me: poop, pee, vomit, snot, goobers, drool...bring it on, sucka. (Well, except blood. Not a fan.)

4. When that sweet baby wraps his arms around my neck and falls asleep.

And, the reason for today's blog,

5. Our pediatrician.

He is fabulous. He really does look like a 50-year-old Rob Bell, complete with hair cut, black rim glasses, creative illustrations ("Imagine you woke up & didn't know if you would have electricity or running water. This is how Avram feels without a schedule."), randomly placed pauses, and choppy hand gestures.

But that is not why he makes me feel like a good mama.

Would you like to know what does? His "do what works best for your baby" philosophy. He doesn't have some set list of solutions or a step-by-step program to trick babies into sleeping through the night. If you get on any baby website, it seems like this huge competition between moms to see whose baby sits up first or smiles first or lifts a car straight over his head after eating a rare 52oz filet first (which reminds me, I would like to take this moment to say that Ave is in the 80th percentile for height & weight and has "excellent" vocal sounds, not that I'm bragging or comparing, of course). But at our pediatrician's office, no one is competing. He has suggestions to offer but in the end he always says things like,

"The only person in this room who knows how much Avram needs to eat is Avram"

"If he needs rocked to sleep, then you rock your baby to sleep. You will not ruin or hinder him by rocking him to sleep."

"Milestones are only guidelines, not mandates. Avram will have his own schedule and pace for accomplishing milestones because he is not every other baby, he is an individual. So we will challenge him to do more, but we will not force him. He will do what he needs to do when he needs to do it."

I love this guy. He does this mama's heart good. With our never-ending list of doctors and therapists and surgeons and clinics and check-ups, he does this mama's heart good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

{moisture is the essence of wetness}

Well, I haven't updated in about a month now. This is mostly due to the fact that we were out of town for 2 weeks, and partially because I have just been having some more personal journal entries as of late. With that being said, I'm back in the saddle.

Ave loves Bath Time. I mean, loves it. Every night I take him in the bathroom and lay him on the floor mat while I put his whale tub in the big tub, and as soon as I turn the faucet on his eyes light up, he gets the biggest wide-mouthed grin, and his legs start kicking. He kicks his little thunder thighs so frantically and with so much force that it's a WWF match just to get his diaper off.

Once I put him in the tub he does several two-legged splashes, which make him look like a little mermaid ("...mer-man!"). He then kicks and splashes and coos for 15 or 20 minutes straight. He's actually started doing this little high-pitched squeal that sounds like a cross between a baby pig oink and a little girl's gasp. It is a squeal of pure Joy. His eyes even light up when he hears the shampoo bottle squirt, and he gets mad when I stop lathering up the shampoo in his hair. He's quite the little diva, channeling his inner-Norma Desmond. He doesn't even get mad when water splashes his face; in fact, he seems to enjoy it. The more water in his eyes, the better. Who knows, maybe he will be a swimmer. One thing is for sure, he certainly lets us know exactly what he likes and does not like.

Speaking of things the babe is not fond of, he does not enjoy The End of Bath Time. When J gives him his bath, this time is affectionately known as "Drips." J picks him up out of the water, holds him over the tub with the water running off, and cheers, "Drips! Drips! Drips!" until Ave announces (in a quiet, considerate manner, of course) that "drips" is over. J then wraps him up in his duck towel and tells him, "Good Drips tonight, buddy, good Drips." Avram beams with pride.

He's also not a huge fan of me swabbing out his ears with baby Q-Tips. Every time I clean his ears I have flashbacks to my own mother restraining me on the bathroom floor, trying to clean out my ears with bobby pins because they were so filled with wax that Q-Tips just weren't cutting it. Don't worry, Doc, I survived with both my ears drums fully intact. Although I do instinctively cover my ears whenever I see a bobby pin.

Avram is a fan Baby Oil Time. He just loves getting greased up and rubbed down like Rocky before a match. He stretches his arms and legs out as far as they will go and gets this look on his face like, "Ahhh, yeah, that's the spot Ma."

Bath Time is happy time. No matter how grouchy or gassy or napless of a day, Bath Time is happy time.
Avram, 2 months old


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

{my moses basket}

I had always wondered how Baby's Breath flowers earned their name. I now know that it is not because they smell like actual baby's breath; at least not my baby's. Avram's breath usually smells like rotten broccoli.

I walked past a bundle of said flowers in the grocery store the other day, and I think I figured it out. Those little white flowers look exactly like the tiny curdled milk pieces Ave outputs whenever he spits up.

Not sure I find the flowers quite as pretty as I used to.

To be completely honest I have good days and bad days. The good days I am at peace. The good days I can laugh and play all day with Avram. The good days I am a normal, functional human being. The good days I know the Lord is good, I know He is working this all out for good, I know the future will be good.

And then...then there are the bad days.

The bad days, I get mad. I get mad that there are teenage girls, wanting anything but a baby, getting pregnant every day and having perfectly healthy babies. I get mad at the women I see on the train feeding their kids Flaming Hots and Pepsi for breakfast and then telling them to "shut the hell up" every time they try to talk. I get mad at Avram for not walking and talking and solving math problems and playing the harpsichord already, because, come on, give your mother a little assurance already. I get mad at God for giving my baby so many challenges before he even stepped out of my belly and into a world that's scary even with all your ducks in a row. I get mad at Him for not giving us any answers or any way to prepare for the future or even a solid diagnosis, because that's the least He could do if He's going to drop such a bomb in our laps like this. I get mad that I had such a scary and scarring pregnancy and labor that I'm practically terrified to go through it all again. Then I get sad because who knows what kinds of things other kids will same to him in elementary school, and don't even get me started on the dark, evil abyss that is middle school. I get sad because this shunt is something he's going to have the rest of his life, and every time he gets a headache or feels nauseous he's going to worry that it's malfunctioning.

But these are the days that I have to put Ave in the basket and float him down the river. I have to swallow my pride and let go of my death-grip on the controls, and resolve myself to the fact that I cannot save him, or heal him, or always protect him. I have to trust that the Lord is the one guiding the currents of the stream, that He will be the one to see Avram through all the way to the end, that He is the one who has placed the right people along the banks, people who will help and encourage and support and pray for Avram. I have to put him in the basket and let go.

And when I do, the bad days become good days again. And day by day, inch by inch, the good days are outnumbering the bad days. The good days are winning.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

{waving the white flag}

Well, I have just about had it with all this baby-schedule crap. This babe has his own schedule, thank you very much (Don't get me wrong, he is a wonderful sleeper. He's already snoozing 6- 7 hours straight at night--"Halle!", as my wonderful friend Missy would say). He definitely has his dad and Uncle Paul's stubbornness.

If you know Jason, this might be hard to believe. If you know my brother, on the other hand, it might not.

When Jason was little and his mom put him in his room for time-out, she had to stand outside & use all her weight to keep the door shut because he would try to get out. When he realized he was barricaded in, he would start chucking toys at the door Rambo-style like they were hand grenades.

When Paul was little and he was spanked, he refused to cry. He would grit his teeth, furrow his brow, and take it like a man. There was no way he was crying on anyone else's terms but his own.

When I was little, if you even looked at me like you were mad, I'd tear up and start to apologize. I am a peace-keeping, people-pleasing, everybody-get-along soul.

Not this tiny dude.

I've been trying to get Ave to be up for an hour and a half, then sleep for an hour and a half. Some days, he's totally game. Then, some days (who am I kidding, it's most days), when I put him down for his nap, he looks up at me and frowns. He doesn't cry: he makes a legitimate, upside-down-U, frown. Bottom lip totally puckered, sad-eyed like a puppy dog.

If I leave him, he enacts his fool-proof master plan of loosening his diaper so he can wet the bed and make me feel like freaking Hitler.

If I pick him up, I swear he won't look me in the face. It's like he's saying, "Well, once you apologize, we can play nice again. But not unless you mean it."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

{why i love my husband}

FYI, this post will probably be really confusing if you didn't read the {small bits of light} post, or if you have never heard of this incredibly awful poem. If you found this poem helpful or encouraging, I don't mean to offend. It might have just been bad timing.

Yesterday I was having the crap-hole of crap-hole days. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my you-know-what finally started again and I am feeling like a hormonal Attila the Hun, or that I need to have parental control settings on our internet so I don't sit around Googling horror stories about brain abnormalities all day. Or that I haven't slept more than 5 hours at a time in over 2 months. Or that I spend 99% of my day entertaining a 2 month old.

Whatever it was, I was a royal disaster yesterday. As my friend Betsy says, it was a total emotional-wedgie day. When J came home from work, I was somewhere in between irrationally angry and thoroughly depressed.

"What's the matter? Are you thinking about that stupid poem?"

"Yeah. Wait, no. I guess. Maybe. I don't know."

"Well, don't. You know why? Italy was out of the Cup in the first round. The first round. And you know who's going to the finals?"

"No. I need ice cream."

"The Dutch! The Dutch are going to the finals. Who the heck cares about Italy? They can't even get their population to increase, I mean, how hard is that to do? The Dutch are DOMINATING."


And that, ladies & gentlemen, is why I love my husband.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

{wednesday morning snippets}

After a much-needed trip back to Fort Wayne to celebrate the Fourth, we are back at home base. While it's nice to have the little mister back in his routine & to not be living out of our suitcase, it is a much more solitary life back in Chicago. 48 hours back and I'm already feeling a little stir crazy. I am seriously considering asking our mail-woman (Is that the PC way to say it? Mail-lady? Mail-mam? Mail-person?) to deliver our mail in small increments throughout the day. It would make life just that much more exciting.

I'm not gonna lie: I'm trying hard to mask my feelings of resentment towards the babe because he doesn't yet have his stuff together enough to go to the movie theater. I am dying to see Toy Story 3. Maybe if we top off his bedtime Bubba with a couple drops of Baby Tylenol he would stay in a euphoric state long enough (Kidding, people. Relax. But really.).

When we first came to check out this apartment for the first time, I immediately realized how much quieter it was than our old apartment. I thought, "YES, no more rap music blasting through cheap speakers at 2am."

Well, I was wrong. Sort of. Mostly only about the rap part.

I suppose I should be grateful that we live in a more culturally diverse neighborhood. Instead of solely TuPac & Beyonce, we now have Toby Keith, Coldplay, ACDC, & mariachi music for our listening pleasure. I guess that's something.

I think my cabin fever led me to terrorize a couple of pre-teen boys last night. It was 10:30pm, and the babe had been down for about an hour after a very sticky, sweaty day. The two of us had just lounged around in our underwear & took soak-breaks in his baby bath tub all day since it was so disgustingly hot. It was so nice to finally have a little break.

Then, right outside our living room window, bottle rockets go off. Mind you, we have no AC & all our windows have to be open. If I had been wearing more clothes, they would have torn into tiny pieces as I morphed into Hulk mode.

"HEY. It's TEN THIRTY and I've got a BABY sleeping.
KNOCK IT OFF."

One of them may or may not have soiled his pants as they took off running down the street.

At first, I let out a faint evil scientist laugh, but then I instantly felt like a cranky old bag. I guess it's payback for when I was 16 and thought it was super cool to drive around with my music blasting at 1am.

This morning, Ave & I took a 7am stroll to the grocery store before the heat wave rolled back in. As we were waiting in line to buy some homemade pizza ingredients, he stirred from his nap and started staring at his feet. For a solid five minutes his big baby-blue eyes just stared down those little butterball feet, as if he was saying to himself, "Holy cats, where did THOSE come from? They are marvelous!"

...maybe I don't mind staying home all day after all.