Monday, December 23, 2013

Russell is 2!

I can't believe my little baby is a big 2-year-old!  Where has the time gone?  He has changed so much recently and I just can't get enough of his happy, silly, charming little personality!

At 2 years old, Russell:
  • Weighs about 21lbs 8oz (not super accurate--I usually only weigh him first thing in the morning after a bowel movement, because if I don't then I've found it could skew the results by up to a pound.  On the morning of his birthday he woke up with a completely dry diaper, so I'm guessing his weight is closer to 21lbs and an ounce or two).  That's not on the charts and it's extremely close to Caleb's weight when he turned 2, even though Caleb was born weighing 2lbs 7oz and Russell was 8lbs 5oz.  I'm not super happy with his weight, but there's not much more we can do about it.
  • Measures about 32 inches tall, which I don't think is on the charts, either.  That's the same height as Caleb when he was 2 as well.  And it's just tall enough to graduate from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat (rear-facing, of course).
  • When you tell him to say please, he says "pretty please."
  • Loves hot dogs, olives, green beans, and marshmallows more than any other food.  He also has quite a sweet tooth, but won't eat things like cake.
  • Is super shy of strangers (wouldn't even get close to Santa), although he does love to say "hi" and "bye, love you" to everyone he sees in stores.
  • Loves all animals, especially our cat Captain Hook.
  • In fact, his favorite toys are his plastic animals, which he always sets up either on the end table or in a line, like this:
  • Can count, but it always goes like this: two, free, nine!
  • Always says "no!, play!" when we tell him it's time to go to bed.  He does go to sleep on his own right away, though, and sleeps for at least three hours every afternoon and at least 12 hours every night.
  • Loves to identify what color things are, but always gets the color wrong...unless it's something that's yellow, because he tells me that everything is yellow.  
  • Loves to roughhouse, especially with his brother (and his brother's best friend, as pictured below).
  • Will laugh at anything Caleb does.  They often get into laughing fits over the silliest things.  I LOVE it!
Making "silly faces" for the camera.
  • Loves babies.  Seriously loves them.  He likes to give them toys, kisses, hugs, hold them, and lay down on the floor next to them.
  • Pronounces his name as "Huddo" and Caleb's name as "Taya."
  • Is super dramatic at times.  When he doesn't get the answer he wants (no, Russ, you cannot have fruit snacks right after lunch when you hardly touched your food...fruit snacks are a treat and I will not reward you for not eating lunch), he throws himself on the ground.  These episodes don't usually last long, but he sure can put on a show!  I'm surprised he still does it, since he pretty much never gets what he wants when he acts that way...but what can I say!  At least he's persistent!
  • Snuggles with his head on my shoulder while I sing him songs before tucking him in for a nap or for bed.  It's my favorite part of the day.  :)  He requests what song he wants, and I sing it.  We sing a lot of made up songs, too, like the Auntie Jenna Song, the Sadie Song, etc.
  • Has a best friend--Henry.  Henry's big brother, Nash, is Caleb's best friend, and their mom, Anna, is my best friend.  We're all best friends, and it's the best.  :)  Russell talks about Henry a dozen times a day, always insisting that we mention him in every single prayer, sing "The Henry Song" (which is just Rock-a-Bye Henry on the treetop) when we tuck him in, etc.

  • Wakes up asking about everybody in our family.  A usual morning goes like this:

Russ:  Daddy?
Me:  Daddy is at work.
Russ:  Adobe?
Me:  Yes, Daddy works at Adobe.
Russ:  Taya?
Me:  Caleb is getting dressed in his room.
Russ:  Sadie?
Me:  Sadie [the dog] is outside.
Russ:  Auntie?
Me:  Auntie Jenna is at work.
Russ:  Henry?
Me:  Henry is at his house.
Russ:  Sandy?
Me:  Yes, Henry lives in Sandy.
  • Gets super excited when I tell him he can have a snack/toy/song/whatever he's been asking for, and jumps up and down saying "favorite! favorite!"
  • Excitedly points out when things "match!" or there are "two!" or things are the "same!"  He also uses the word "too" appropriately, such as "Huddo play, too."
  • Can walk down stairs just holding onto the rail, but has yet to try walking up stairs.
  • Is still gluten-free, although we haven't seen any improvement whatsoever.  In fact, he got much, much worse (I'm talkin' blood in his stools...lots of it, and often) in the first month after removing gluten from his diet.  We noticed that his corn intake was increased by a lot when he went gluten-free, so we cut out the major corn products (just corn flour, but not things like corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil, etc) and he hasn't had any blood since then.  I'm hopeful that we'll be able to add gluten back to his diet soon, but hopefully we won't have to cut out all corn products.  After over two years of meticulously reading labels for Caleb, I can confidently tell you that corn and all of its derivatives would be by far the hardest single food to avoid.
  • Can pull his pants up when they're falling down.  If you're one of my Purser boys, that's a necessary skill.  If you're a Purser boy's mom, that is a milestone worth recording!
  • Calls onesies "pockets" and likes to stuff things in them:
  • Loves to help out with things like emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the dinner table, and cleaning all of those dirty hand prints off of the walls (so many dirty hand prints!).
  • When you ask him how old he is, he answers "BIG!"
  • Likes to think that his belly button is the equivalent of Caleb's feeding tube.  Every time he takes Caleb's syringe and puts it in his belly button, he says "ouch!"  I don't know doesn't hurt Caleb when I tube feed him!  He also tries to put his rice milk straight from his sippy cup into his belly button, and he loves to help me feed Caleb by holding the syringe.  Just today, he was getting cranky in the car but didn't really have anything to complain about, so he said in a winy voice, "Button hurt."  Caleb said, "But Russell, you don't have a button!"  We all laughed and laughed!

Happy second birthday, Russell!  We love you to pieces!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Home Improvements: Master Vanity

Our master bedroom doesn't have its own bathroom, but that's ok!  Because what it does have is a door directly into the shared bathroom and, most awesomely, its very own vanity and sink.  But the mirror and light fixture desperately needed some updating.  I don't have a picture of the old light (it was a hideous swirly gold thing from the 70s), but here is what the mirror looked like:

 Straight out of the 70s.  Awful.  Hideous.  Terrible in every way.  Also, huge and expensive to replace with an equally huge mirror.  So what did I do?  I took it apart, discarded the frame and built a new wood frame around the old mirror.  Hooray for being handy!

How did I pull it off?  I found baseboard trim that I liked, measured my pieces to overlap the mirror about halfway, and cut the ends at a 45-degree angle.  Then I stained the wood, front and back (make sure to stain or paint the back, too, since a little bit of it will be reflected by the mirror), and used super strong glue (the kind you use in a calk gun) to adhere the new frame to the mirror.  I had the mirror laying flat on some stools so gravity and I could work together to keep the frame from moving.  Once the glue was mostly dry, I used wood filler to fill in the imperfections on the corners, stained the wood filler, and put on a few coats of protective polyurethane.  To hang it, I screwed two "d" ring hooks on the sides, strung some wire between them and hung it on the wall.  I also put on a bunch of mirror sticker things to the back to help hold it to the wall (the whole thing weighs 20 lbs, so I wanted all the reinforcement I could get).  Here is the result:
 While I was at it, I removed the old towel holders (also from the 70s) and replaced it with the one you see above.
 This lovely light fixture was a pain to install.  Let's just say if you don't close your sink drain before dealing with lots of screws, you may end up replacing all of the plumbing under the sink.  And by all, I mean all.  I'm pretty thankful to have a handy, helpful, and kind father-in-law who is willing to sacrifice his Saturdays to clean up my messes.  ;)
 Aaaahhhh, just lovely.  So worth it.  It makes the whole room feel so much nicer.  And it cost around $30.  Not bad!

While I was at it, the adjacent bathroom had the same vanity mirror.  Ugh.  So I planned on doing the same thing to the mirror, but when I was on my way to the trim department in Home Depot, I spotted this lovely little mirror on an end cap, marked down to $30 from $140!  I snatched that sucker up (it was the perfect size!) and while I was at it I bought a little floating shelf to go under it and give it a little dimension.  
 I also replaced the light fixture and the sink faucet (the old one was ugly and dripped).
 It looks like a new bathroom!  And the beautiful new shower curtain seals the deal.  I love it.
 The curtain covers our giant 2-shower-headed corner tub, which received an amazing cleaning recently.  I'll share my secrets some day.  Believe me, you'll be glad to know.

How do you like it all?  It's so worth it to do these little things on your own.  If you've never changed a sink faucet or a light fixture, go ahead and try it!  Light fixtures especially are one of the easiest, cheapest, and most transforming home improvement projects that you can do!

TDC Before and After

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In preparation for December...

Last year we used our little 3-foot tree as a sort of advent tree.  We wrapped 25 Christmas ornaments in paper (scrap paper that was finger painted on by my Little Misters) and put them under the tree.  Every night we sang a Christmas song and opened an ornament and placed it on the tree.  It was perfectly decorated by Christmas Eve!  Caleb talks about it all of the time and can hardly wait to have the tree in his room again this year!  I love that it's a soothing part of our bedtime routine, and that it doesn't involve food.

I thought I'd share my original idea now, in case you like it and want to do it yourself.  You still have two weeks to prepare!  Who knew I'd be so on top of things?  Ha!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Caleb is 4!

Can you believe it's been four years since my little man came into the world?  That day was one of the scariest, best days of my life.

Every year on this day I think about what we've been through.  His first year was a roller coaster, no doubt, and ages 2-3 were pretty awful with lots of vomiting and more questions than answers.  I'm glad to say that we finally have a few things figured out and things are looking up!  Let's hope it only gets better from here on out!

Some things about Caleb at 4 years old:
  • He weighs 28lbs 4oz.  He has gained four pounds in the past year, which isn't much, but all of that has been gained since his DGE (delayed gastric emptying) diagnosis in January.  After being treated with augmentin (1 teaspoon 2x daily) to speed up his digestion, he immediately gained over two pounds.  That was a big deal after having no weight gain in about 8 months.  A few months ago he started plateauing again, so we started giving him 1.5 teaspoons of melted coconut oil through his tube 2-3x a day, and that helped him pack on the next few pounds.  I'm afraid that he's starting to plateau again now that it's sick season, but we plan to stay as quarantined as possible so we don't lose too much ground.
  • He wears 2T and 3T clothes.  His 2T clothes are getting short on him these days.  Yay!
  • He wears size 8 and 9 shoes.
  • He still doesn't eat much by mouth (maybe 100 it was two baby bites of a hot dog, about 8 green beans, one pea, a minuscule nibble of a piece of pineapple, a little graham cracker square with a melted chocolate chip on it, and a starburst...some days are better, some are worse).  He gets about 17 ounces of medical formula mixed with rice milk through his feeding tube pumped at about 50ml/hour while he sleeps at night, as well as 6 ounces in the mid afternoon and 6 ounces before bed (both fed via gravity feed), and hopefully a few ounces at breakfast or lunch (it's hit and miss), plus a few teaspoons of coconut oil.  He also gets four ounces of water first thing every morning, and gets his tube "flushed" with about half an ounce of water after every feeding.  It sounds like a lot, but it's really not.  That's a minimum of 29 ounces of rice milk and formula combined, plus about 5 ounces of water, and 100 calories of real food.  I wish we could give him more, but it's so hard to increase his volume without making him throw up!
  • His favorite thing to do is play outside in the sand by himself, with the dog, or with his brother.  

  • If you ask him, he'll say his best friend is Russell.

His next best friend is Nash, but judging by these pictures he's actually a bigger fan of Nash.  ;)

  • He is finally forward-facing in his car seat.  When we got our mini van in June/July, we asked him if he wanted to face forward or backward, and he chose backward.  So backward he stayed!  Until he noticed that a few of his friends were facing forward.  When he mentioned it to me, I asked him if he wanted to face forward, too, and he said yes.  Since the switch, it's so much easier getting him in and out of his car seat!  I can even buckle and unbuckle him from the driver's seat.  It's pretty awesome.  Although, we have yet to reveal to him the pleasures of having a DVD player in the mini van.  I'm hoping to keep that one a secret for now.  ;)
  • He sleeps in his own big-boy bed!  He stayed in his crib well past his 3.5-year mark without ever climbing out of it.  It was working really well for him, until a few months ago when he started waking up in the night asking to use the potty.  We wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to have him nighttime potty trained since he gets a lot of fluids through his feeding pump while he slumbers, so we decided it was time to put him in a toddler bed to make the potty easier to access.  We put a little hook on the wall by his bed to hang his backpack with his feeding pump so he could just grab it and go to the potty.  For a while he was asking help to go potty many nights out of the week, but it's been a while now since he's gone.  Oh, well.  Some day.
  • Nap times are a thing of the past.  Whoever said that "a child will sleep when they're tired" has clearly never known a child like Caleb.  He doesn't get drowsy when he's tired, he gets more wild than usual, and he's usually pretty wild.  You don't want to see him when he's tired!
  • He does a great job of staying in his bed at night time.  I'm sure it's mainly because he is tethered to his feeding pump, but he has never once gotten out of bed to join us in our room in the night.  Sometimes he will come down the stairs shortly after being tucked in, but not often.  And in the morning, he almost always stays in bed until I come to get him up.  It's ideal.

Except for a few times, when he has left his bed after being tucked in and waits for us on the stairs, where he eventually falls asleep, pump backpack and all!

  • He is allowed to eat anything but the top 8 allergens, is known to have eosniophilic reactions to dairy, soy, and wheat (debatable, but for now we're considering wheat a "fail") and still has to trial the other top allergens, and goes wild if he consumes red food dye (so it's also not allowed).  We just started an egg trial.  It sounds so complicated, but it is so much easier than where we've been!  We can actually share family dinners!
  • He can hold a conversation with anybody and everybody, is super easy to understand, and uses correct grammar (other than "I don't want no -fill in the blank-"), but still likes to regress back to Russell's style of talking (ugh), probably because Russ gets attention for talking in his little learning way.  It happens a million times a day.  Not my favorite thing.
  • He isn't one bit shy.  Not one bit.  While trick-or-treating, he said to one person, "So, how is your day going?"  He also likes to tell strangers, "My name is Caleb.  My dad is Nate and my mom is Anna.  My brother is Russell, and the girl in our house is Auntie Jenna."  We talk often about how he shouldn't talk to strangers, and what to do if one tries to take him.  He's great at reciting "I bite and kick and scream," but I don't think he could identify a stranger if his life depended on it.  That's why I keep my eye on him every second when we leave the house!
  • He gets himself dressed on his own, so he sometimes ends up with some pretty creative outfits.
  • He tries my patience on an hourly basis.  
  • He has some pretty intense sensory needs--can't stop touching things, talking, moving, or putting things in his mouth (other than food).
  • He is a pretty sweet big brother.  I'm fairly certain that he doesn't see Russ as inferior to him because he's two years younger.  They talk and play so well together (a lot of the time--not always).  
  • He is suddenly very scared of things.  If there's an intense scene of a movie, he runs to the playroom doorway and pokes his head around the corner to watch.  He has seen a few movies in theaters and always does awesome while there, but when he had the chance to see Despicable Me 2 for a second time, he absolutely would not go because he was scared of the purple monsters.  
  • He has an amazing memory.  He not only talks about the Christmas tree that he had in his room last December, but he talks about how we sing one song and open one present every night in December, and how the presents are wrapped in paper that he finger painted.  Sometimes I don't even know what he's talking about because I don't remember as much as he does!
And now, here is an interview with Caleb on the day after he turned 4:

And a few "then and now" pictures (no smiles...I'm just happy to have a few that weren't completely blurry):

Isn't he amazing?  He sure has come a long way and beaten a lot of odds!  We love our little miracle!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Home Improvements: Magnetic Chalkboard Wall

Remember how I said in my kitchen blog post that there wasn't anything that I would change in my kitchen now?  Well, I was wrong.

This wall, to the side of the fridge.  It bugged me.  It was big and plain.

And it had this water damage on the bottom ( don't know what from).  It just always looked dirty.  Yuck.

Soooo...I turned it into this!:

(Yes, that is my husband scrubbing the dishes in the background.  Yes, I hit the jackpot.)

I first painted it with magnetic paint.  The directions on the can say it needs three coats, but I literally put on about 10.  It was a huge pain in the rear and I was afraid that it would be my first official DIY disaster.  But!  It turned out great.  It doesn't hold all magnets, but it holds lightweight ones with a strong pull.  After the many coats of magnetic paint were dry, I put on two light coats of chalkboard paint.

And now the entrance to the kitchen is much more welcoming!  We use it for keeping shopping lists, hanging the boys' artwork, working on ABCs and fine motor skills, and allowing creative expression!  I'm excited to use it to display Christmas cards this winter.

If you've got a spot in your house that's begging for a little bit of creativity, magnetic and chalkboard paint is a great way to go!  Just search "magnetic chalkboard DIY" on pinterest.  So many cute ideas!

TDC Before and After

Monday, November 4, 2013

Best Buds

They don't always act like it, but Caleb and Russell really are best friends.  I love moments like this.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Pics

We had to continue our pumpkin patch tradition for the fourth consecutive year.  This year we had five adorable little boys in the pumpkin patch together.  It was great!

Aren't they so handsome?

Halloween 2013

When Caleb saw that I had picked out an elephant costume for Russell, he insisted on wearing the exact same costume.

They were pretty darn cute elephants, if I may say so.

Monday, October 28, 2013


It's finally time for Russ to go gluten-free.  I've been putting it off for so long, hoping that it wouldn't come to this, but it's clear that it's in his best interest, so here we go!

Why is it in his best interest?

Russ has had two scopes, and both showed that his villi in his duodenum have mild damage.  It's not enough to automatically diagnose him with Celiac Disease (CD), especially since his blood test for CD was negative (false negatives are common), but combined with a family history of Celiac plus Russell's other symptoms, it's always been a distinct possibility lingering in the back of my mind.

His other symptoms of Celiac Disease are:
  • anemia
  • poor weight gain and weight loss, even when he eats well
  • blood in his stool
  • mucous in his stool
  • extreme bloating
  • abdominal pain

This is skinny little Russell in the morning, after a bowel movement and before eating much:
This is bloated little Russell at the end of the day:

The big factor making us decide to go gluten-free for Russ is that he has been putting words to his pain.  In the evenings, he will often say "owie" in the saddest little voice.  When we ask where his owie is, he says either bum or belly.  And it's no wonder, being as bloated as he is.  I've always thought I could ignore symptoms as long as it doesn't affect Russell's quality of life, but now it's clear that he's in pain and I can't ignore that!

Russell's weight gain (or loss, I should say) has been concerning.  In the last two months he has gone from 20lbs 3oz to 21lbs 3oz and back down to 20lbs 6oz.

This is what I have recorded for his weight over the past three months:

  • 7/26: 20lbs 0oz
  • 8/5: 20lbs 1oz
  • 8/8: 20lbs 3oz
  • 8/13: 20lbs 7oz
  • 8/16: 20lbs 3oz
  • 8/21: 19lbs 11oz
  • 8/27: 20lbs 1oz
  • 9/2: 20lbs 7oz
  • 9/8: 20lbs 8oz
  • 9/13: 20lbs 7oz
  • 9/23: 20lbs 13oz
  • 10/8: 21lbs 3oz
  • 10/22: 20lbs 13oz
  • 10/28: 20lbs 6oz
As you can see, he's not doing well with his weight gain at all.  When Caleb was 21 months adjusted, he weighed more than Russell does at 22 months.  And at birth, Russ weighed more than 3x what Caleb did!  It's just not right.

I've come to terms with the fact that I can have healthy kids who aren't on the charts (you don't need to be 50th percentile to be healthy), but when he's eating a good variety and volume of foods and drinking plenty of rice milk and he's still not growing, it's just not ok with me.

So, the next most obvious step would be to remove gluten (found in wheat, barley, and rye and their derivatives) for a time and watch for improvements.

It's going to be weird that Caleb can have things that Russ can't (Caleb can't have wheat, but he can have barley and rye).  I'm not concerned about my ability to give Russell good food that is gluten-free, but I'm worried that Russell won't be happy about not having his favorite breads and crackers.  I suppose he'll just have to get used to the substitutes.

So, wish us luck in this next big step!  It's disappointing, and life-changing, but still so minor compared to what we've been through with Caleb.  But still, I wish my little guy didn't have to go through this.  It baffles me to think that there are kids out there who eat and drink and grow without problems.  That's crazy talk!

Here's to better health for my little Russ!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Changes...Diapers, that is....

This week, Caleb wins the prize for the best big brother and the best son.  My almost-4-year-old changed my almost-2-year-old's diaper with very minimal help.  It. Was. Awesome.

If he makes this a habit, I'd be much more tempted to have a third child.  I could get used to this!

Also, Russ was a great sport.  He just laid there the whole time.

My kids are awesome.