Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Minnesota Vacation!!

I had already been to Minnesota four times since March.  What's one more trip?!

We decided to drive this time, since four plane tickets can get spendy.  And since we had expected to live there by this time, we weren't able to buy plane tickets in advance, which makes them even more expensive.

So we drove.

Through Yellowstone.
 The boys watched DVDs (this was only our third time using the DVD player since buying our van a year ago).  This was how they looked through the snow monster scene in Frozen.
 Once we got to my hometown, we took pictures with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Classic.
Russell picked Babe's nose while simultaneously picking his own nose.  Also classic.
 My little lumberjack and my little ox.
 Nana's farm is the best.  
Granddad's farm is also the best.  This is my favorite view!
We did some exploring.
Some tree climbing.
And some feet-kicking in the lake.
 We went to the county fair, which was the reason for our visit (all of my siblings came home for the fair this year, so we certainly couldn't miss it!).

 I even brought a jar of homemade apple butter that I canned last fall from the apples on our Utah trees.  I entered it in the fair, and I got second place!  I expect my $2 prize check to arrive any day.  ;)
 Russ was sick the whole time with a fever up to 103 and a horrible cough.  He didn't eat or drink well and lost over a pound.  Other than lamenting "I don't like to be sick" when he would have a coughing fit, and needing lots of snuggles from Mommy, he was still a happy boy and a great sport.
 The highlight of the trip for me was when Caleb rode my horse Hank in the Judy Pittman Memorial Tiny Tots Show.  Judy was a great mentor to me in my 4-H days and I miss her dearly.  It was so special to me to see my son riding the horse that I showed so competitively in my youth at a show devoted to her memory at our old stomping grounds.  Once upon a time, Hank and I owned this place.  I miss those days!

 And Caleb and Hank did so well!  They got 1st place in horsemanship and key race, 2nd place in trail, 3rd in pole weaving, and 6th in barrels.  They were just one or two points away from winning a giant trophy!

 We took family pictures.  These are all of the cousins!  
This was them the last time they were all together!!
 And we took pictures of all of my siblings, their spouses, their children, and my parents.  (This picture has my dad missing, but believe me, we got some with him, too!)  The only one missing is my Grandma, and she lives in Missouri.  Seriously, can you believe we got a shot like this with everyone looking?  It was a miracle.
Photo: It was nice to have all my children and grandchildren home for Christmas- er, I mean the County Fair.
And in Minnesota, you drive tractors.

I can honestly say that every minute of this trip was enjoyable.  You wouldn't think that a 20-hour car ride with a 2- and 4-year-old could go smoothly, but it truly did!  The whole trip was blissful.  We made so many great memories.  I love my family!

House Woes

Well.  We put our house on the market, drove our horses to Minnesota to stay at my mom's farm (and also left our truck and horse trailer there), and got lots of interest on our house here.  We got many offers and went under contract twice.  Both times the sales fell through for reasons personal to the buyers.  We went to Minnesota three times to house hunt, and weren't able to find anything that fit our needs until the last time.  We made an offer on an amazing house, which got accepted, and then we realized that the house doesn't have very good internet access.  Which won't work for a hubby doing software programming from home.  So we had to back out.  A few weeks later is when our second buyer backed out.  By that point, it was more of a relief than a disappointment.

We feel like this is really where we belong (for now).  When you work so hard towards something and it still doesn't work out, it's usually the Lord's hand watching out for you.  We feel good about this.  For now, this is home.

But I do miss my horses.  :(

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Russell Sprout: 2.5 years old!

This little mister is 2.5 years old!  Here's a little about Russ around this age:
 He is 23lbs 6oz, which isn't on the charts.  He wears size 18 month clothes and size 2T/3T pull-ups and underwear (the smallest they come in).  He wears size 6 shoes and can dress himself (sometimes he needs a little help with his shirt).
 His brother is his best friend.
 He does a great job keeping up with the big kids.  He's very socially aware.  (More so than his brother is, even.)
 His favorite thing in the world is babies.  He always asks to pet a baby when he sees one, and he voluntarily brings toys to babies when they're in the room.  He has officially spent more time interacting with random babies than Caleb did interacting with his baby brother his whole first year of life.
He is potty trained, but still requires a pull-up during nap time and bedtime.  He even tells me when he needs to go, and can go all by himself with a little encouragement when it comes to putting his underwear and pants on right.  I can't remember the last time he had an accident.
He has seen the worst of the "why?" phase.  Everything is "why??"  I've started responding to him by saying, "why do you think?"  He almost always knows the answer to the question he's asking, and now the "whys" are getting fewer.  
 He drinks rice milk every morning, afternoon, and night.  His favorite food is hot dogs (he asks for them for lunch almost every day) and olives.  He also enjoys a yummy green smoothie with me every afternoon.  He drinks water from an open cup and rarely spills these days (which is awesome!).  He very willingly eats a great variety of foods, and he even seems to eat a great volume of food, but he's still failure to thrive.  We decided a few months ago, with the GI's approval, to trial gluten again in an attempt to get him to gain more weight.  It totally didn't help with his weight at all, and it's hard to tell if it's causing him tummy trouble.  At least a few times a week (maybe even up to once a day) he complains that his tummy hurts.  I'm not sure if it's bad enough to remove gluten from his diet again or not.  When it comes to quality of life, what's worse?  A little tummy ache a few times a week, or not being able to eat a ton of things?  He already has to avoid corn (but thankfully not corn derivatives, which would literally cut out at least half of the things we feed him).  I'm not sure what we're going to do about gluten, and the GI is just kinda leaving it up to us.
 He's still a little sparse in the hair category, but we don't mind!  What little hair he has is quite blond.
His favorite place to go is Cabella's.  One morning, he woke up and said, "I have a idea!  Today, we can go to CABELLA'S!  I have a good idea.  After Cabella's, we can go to CHICK-FIL-A!"  As you can see, he's also a really good talker.  He always tells us what's on his mind, like, "Mommy, the wind is going to blow us away!"  It's not always easy for strangers to understand what he says, but I understand it all.  If I don't know what he's saying, I say, "I don't understand what you're saying."  Then he often enunciates each little part of the word, or describes what he wants using different words.  
 Everything to him is a baby.  His stuffed bear?  He calls it Baby Bear.  His stuffed bird?  Baby Bird.  I've asked him, "Do you want Mommy to have another baby?"  And he always answers, "TWO babies."  Uh, no thank you!
(singing to Baby Mickey)

Russell is generally a very good-natured kid.  He's extremely happy when he wakes up, unless his tummy hurts.  He loves to greet friends and family with giant hugs.  He loves to snuggle me with his head on my shoulder.  He's pretty chill and does a great job taking turns and sharing (for the most part).  But man, can this kid whine.  Don't you dare give him his milk without it being warm enough.  30 seconds in the microwave won't do it; it has to be at least 41 seconds.  It's one of those battles that I choose not to fight--it's worth it to just warm the milk up right the first time!  When he has to go potty, he says so in the whiniest voice.  I usually tell him to ask nicely, and then he just says, "Pretty please!"  If he wakes up with a tummy ache, you had better not leave him at the top of the stairs without carrying him down in your arms.  You'll regret it for the next 30 minutes.  I suppose you could say he is a very sensitive, tender-hearted, detail-oriented little kid.  Most of the time, I appreciate that.  He's very much like me personality-wise and I love that.  He does a great job balancing out the family (Caleb is exactly like Nate).  We love our little Russell Sprout!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Russell's Potty Training Update

Remember when I wrote this post about day 1 of potty training?  Remember how I was so optimistic?

Well, don't hate me....**

He has been potty trained ever since.

I could probably count on one hand the number of accidents he had in those first few weeks.  We brought him to the store and to the church nursery in underwear on days 3 & 4 of potty training.  It was dreamy.  Seriously, I can't imagine that anyone else has ever had such a good potty training experience.

For the first two weeks he could keep himself dry for hours and I would take him to the potty at transition times (before leaving the house, before naps, before meals, etc).  And he was so willing to go.  No fights involved, unlike with his brother's first attempt at potty training.

After a few weeks (or maybe up to a month?) he started telling me when he needed to go.  It started with him leaking out just a drip onto his underwear and then realizing what happened, so he'd say, "Mommy!  I have pee-pee on my underwear!" and I'd bring him to the bathroom.  After a few days of that, he started recognizing the feeling before anything came out, and he'd tell me right away.

In the past month or two, has also been able to put his own pants and underwear on!  He can also get himself up onto the potty by himself these days.  So he can do every step independently!  Except for putting the lid up...he's scared of it pinching his fingers, so I have to open it for him.

He has also learned how to pull his pants up, now that they all fall down since he doesn't wear a bulky diaper anymore!

And he still requires a diaper during naps and at night.  At the beginning there he was waking up dry pretty often, but he soon realized that he didn't need to because he was wearing a diaper.  I kind of regret that we missed that window of opportunity, but it'll happen soon enough.  Maybe once he starts growing better we won't have to give him milk when he goes to bed (that's when he gets most of his fluids for the day), and it'll make night training easier.  But for now, I'll take it!  My son potty trained himself at 25 months!  I couldn't ask for more!
Doesn't he look so grown up?

**(And seriously, please don't hate me.  I don't mean to brag, really.  Every kid is different, and there is such a wide range of when kids potty train.  We got lucky with this one.  So don't beat yourself up if you can't get your 3/4/5-year-old to use the potty.  I would never judge you, ever.  I wish everyone had it this easy, but I'd be surprised if any of my future children potty trained this early and this easily, because they're all just so different!)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Caleb at 4.5 (and oral eating/reduced tube feedings)

Caleb has been in the middle of a big change for the past few weeks.  He was doing so poorly with oral eating.  He would get a nasty look on his face just by looking at his food.  We knew we needed to intervene if we wanted him to keep the physical ability to eat and not become even more averse to food.  His weight was doing better than ever (in the 3rd percentile!!!!!), so we decided to decrease his tube feedings by over 60 percent.  Instead of giving him a minimum of 30oz of formula a day, we are only giving him 8oz of formula and at least 12oz of water through his tube.  We knew he would lose weight, but at this point we felt confident that we could get him to gain it back by increasing his tube feedings if his weight loss was just too great.  I even researched a few tube-weaning sites for tips and what to expect, even though I don't expect him to fully wean from his tube at this time.  

The first few days were rough.  He dropped a lot of weight pretty quickly (about a pound).  He was super cranky (hangry, anyone?).  I'm pretty sure he just didn't know what to do with that hungry feeling, and with his sensory processing disorder he just couldn't process that new feeling.  Finally on about day 3 he said, "My tummy hurts.  I think it's because I'm hungry!  I should eat some food to make my tummy feel better!"  Around that time, he also started bringing me food from the cupboards when it was snack time.  Amazing!

One day he asked for a piece of toast, so I toasted some Caleb-safe bread in the oven.  He ate about two thirds of the piece of bread!  He had NEVER eaten so much bread before!  So I rewarded him by bringing him to the store that very afternoon and buying him his very own toaster (since our other one was cross contaminated with wheat).  He asked for a piece of toast for his very next meal and HE ATE THE WHOLE THING!  We also went to Red Robin (the only allergy-friendly sit-down restaurant that we've brought our kids to) and he ate AN ENTIRE HAMBURGER PATTY!  This is seriously big news, people.  He now eats an entire piece of toast for breakfast every single day, because Grandma told him that she eats a piece of toast for breakfast every day.  We slather it with coconut oil and sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar.  He also eats lunch, dinner, and two snacks.

He consistently lost weight until just this morning.  He weighed in at 30lbs 11oz, which is just 5oz down from where he started, and up 7oz from six days ago!  So he's making progress and it's entirely possible that he'll keep gaining with his oral eating!  

The last time we tried decreasing his tube feedings, he lost some weight then gained really well on his own for about a month before he burned out.  It's really hard work for him to eat that much, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if he needed his tube feedings increased again eventually.  Which is fine.  We're in no rush to get rid of his tube.  But it's really great to see him being excited about eating more!

Also at 4.5, Caleb:
  • Loves playing outside
  • Loves playing with his brother
  • Knows the sounds of all of the letters and is starting to put sounds together.  Soon he'll be sight reading
  • Is a good little singer
  • Is finally able to write his own name and many other letters of the alphabet
  • Is finally starting to draw pictures (mostly of cars)
  • Is super emotional and has emotional breakdowns many times daily, usually over things like, "You can't go play outside until you pick up your toys."  He doesn't understand cause/effect and consequences very well.  I'm beginning to think it may be how his promised learning disability (as a result of his brain bleeds from prematurity) is being manifest.  It's hard to stay patient with him.  We have variations of this conversation every day:
C: Mom, Can I go play outside?
Me: You can play outside after your put your toys away.
C: (starting to freak out) But I want to play outside!!
Me: Then put your toys away.
C: But I don't want to put my toys away, I want to play outside!!! (screaming and crying and freaking out)
Me: You can play outside, you just have to put your toys away first.

And it eventually ends up with him in such a rage that I send him to his room to calm down.

Yesterday I ended up writing it down for him to see his choices on paper, even though he can't read.  He seemed to understand it a little bit better that way (at least he didn't end up in a rage over it).  I think he'll learn, it'll just take a lot of extra time and repetition, and a lot more patience on my part, before he can really understand.  That's how a lot of things have been for him (such as learning morals, and to respect the dog and cat).  Some things seem to come easy for him, like talking and remembering things, but some things are just really, really hard.  

Also, just a little update on his egg trial:  The pathologist said that the biopsies don't indicate a reaction, but after reading through the report myself it definitely qualifies as a reaction.  I think the pathologist just missed the memo on eosinophilic diseases being patchy--you can have a completely clear biopsy in one spot, and move over half an inch and find 100 eosinophils.  So for now we have removed egg from his diet and we'll be asking for a second opinion from his new GI after we move.

And now for a smattering of pictures!

(We took bites to make our popsicles match.)

 (Caleb made this "airplane" out of Lincoln Log stuff.)
(A lunch I made that looks like Perry the Platypus with curly hair.)
 (Caleb performing "surgery" on Russell.)
(Russell performing "surgery" on Caleb.  Everyone survived.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Russell's First Haircut

Little Mr. Russ got his locks trimmed for the very first time on the 29th at the age of 2 years 3.5 months!  He was not blessed with very luscious locks, and what little he has is pretty blond, making it look even more sparse.  But this is how it was starting to look on a daily basis:
It's got some curl to it, which I love, but it was always just so silly-looking.
 I did love that little curled mullet, though.
 But it had to go!  Some day when he can grow more hair he'll have curls again, just like his brother.
 I couldn't bring myself to pay $20 to have such a tiny amount of hair cut from that little half-bald head, so I cut it myself.  I've been cutting Caleb's hair for a while now (his soft curls are thankfully very forgiving of little imperfections!).  I distinctly remember the main reason why we brought Caleb to a kids' salon for his first two haircuts--it's because there was absolutely no way we could trust him to sit still enough to do a proper cutting!  But Russ is such an angel.  I had no worries about him.  He just sat there patiently.  I love that kid.
 Although, it didn't take long to cut such a small amount of hair.  I didn't even touch the top since there isn't even enough hair to spike.
We're pretty happy with the results.  His hair looks a little bit thicker now that it's lacking those wisps, but you'd never guess that he ever had enough hair to cut.  One thing's for sure, it's very low-maintenance, which is great.
And this sweet little kid is handsome no matter what.