Friday, December 19, 2014

Russell is THREE!

Happy third birthday to my little Russell Sprout!

Russ is a pretty chill kid.  He completely skipped the terrible twos.  (But yeah, the threes were more terrible for Caleb, so I'm not holding my breath.)

Here are a few things about Russell these days:

  • He weighs 25 lbs 7 oz ( 4-pound gain in the past year) and measures 35 inches tall (a 3-inch gain in a year).  He's one pound heavier than Caleb was at age 3 and is a quarter of an inch shorter than Caleb was.  Russ sure is a shorty!  He doesn't have his check-up until next week, so I'm not sure where he lies on the growth charts, but I'm fairly certain he isn't on the charts at all.  I think that's where his "healthy" is, though.  I'm more than ok with his weight, hydration, willingness to eat, etc.  I guess I just have small kids!
  • He wears size 18 month clothes.  Most of them fit him just fine, but a few of the shirts are getting small and a good handful of his pants fall right off.  Some 2T shirts look just fine on him, but he's just not quite ready to take the leap and wear all 2T clothes.
  • Speaking of growth and eating, Russell is a fantastic eater.  He loves every kind of fruit, veggie, and meat.  He is a super adventurous eater and willingly eats things like curry and spicy foods (he loves to have Tabasco sauce to dip his foods in).  He demands to have his own green smoothie at lunch when I make them for myself (with apple juice, carrots, spinach, chia seeds, strawberries, and blueberries).  He always wants to snack on things like nuts, fruit leather, and applesauce.  He's a seriously healthy eater.  But he also has a sweet tooth that's hard to ignore!
  • Sometimes when I'm telling Russ what he can have for a snack, he'll tell me, "I don't want that because it won't make my hungry go away."  He wants something more filling.  What a cute way to say it!  When he's done eating, Russ will declare, "My hungry is gone.  I'm done."  And he always clears his plate from the table without being asked, which is greatly appreciated.  
  • Speaking of food, Russell appears to have outgrown his corn intolerance!  A few months ago, we reintroduced corn into his diet (we added gluten back in earlier this summer) and he had no problems!  His stools have been exactly the same as they were without corn (when he was intolerant to corn he had blood and mucus in his poop and complained of tummy aches all day long).  It's amazing to not have to worry about what I feed him!  Although, he has been complaining of tummy aches for the last few days, such as when I offered him a piece of toast (which he had the morning before) and he said, "Yes!...No, I don't want it.  Yesterday when I ate it it made my tummy hurt."  He has said the same thing about other foods, too.  I don't know what the deal is, but I don't like it!  He's very in tune with his body--always has been--but I'm really hoping it's nothing.  Coupled with the super dry skin on his chin, I worry, naturally.  But I'm hoping the rash is not food-relates and is just from the dry weather and that some moisturizer will take care of it.
  • Speaking of eating anything, before I came down with awful morning sickness Russ and I would go out to eat once a week while Caleb was at preschool.  Let me tell you, this kid was the best behaved 2-year-old I'd ever seen in a restaurant!  He always behaved like a little adult, making polite requests of the waitresses all by himself and everything. 
  • A few weeks ago, Russ learned how to climb out of his crib.  We converted his crib to a toddler bed and the first few weeks were torture.  He would not sleep.  Naps were done with.  Bed time took forever.  We would check on him and find him dilly dallying around his room and when asked why he wasn't asleep he would say, "My eyes aren't tired and they won't shut!"  After two weeks of this we finally decided he needed a "motivator."  So we told him, "If you stay in your bed and don't turn on your light, you can have a skittle in the morning/when nap time is over."  It worked like a charm and he's now napping better than he was when he was in his crib!
  • He's been potty trained for 11 months now.  That's so crazy to me!  He's completely independent in the bathroom these days, able to do everything on his own without prompting.  It's dreamy.  :)
  • Russ is already facing forward in his car seat.  We made the switch this summer.  We switched him much earlier than we did Caleb, but it's working out fine.
  • Last Sunday, on the way home from church, Nate asked Russ how his day was.  Russ answered, "I had a rough day."  When Nate asked why, Russell said, "Because they didn't have bubbles in nursery."  The kid loves bubbles!
  • Russell is super excited to be a big brother.  Without prompting, he has already started caressing my belly and giving the baby kisses through my belly and talking to the baby.  The other day he was rubbing my belly and then snapped his hand back and said, "Ouch!  The baby bit me!"
  • He is in a super obsessive animal stage.  He pretends to be an animal almost all day long.  Lately it's been turtles.  Russell is a turtle and Caleb is his owner (brings him food and water, keeps him in a "cage" with toys as a fence, etc).  The other day, Caleb let his turtle out for a walk and the poor turtle somehow got flipped over on his back.  Russell the Turtle had to lie there with his legs up in the air until his owner flipped him back over.  Poor Turtle would have died there on his back if someone hadn't flipped him over!  It made me laugh so hard and I eventually learned that the boys have an app on the tablet where they're veterinarians and have to help wild animals--and there's a turtle who is stuck on its back and you have to help it by turning it over.  Russell is so clever to have thought of that!
  • Russ is super boyish these days.  He loves to make jokes about poop.  Poop!  Where did he get that from??  Caleb never did that.  Russ will literally pick up a brown crayon and say, "Mommy, this crayon is like poop!  HAHAHAHAHA!"  Anything is made funnier to him by saying "poop" or "poopy."  We have to remind him all of the time that it's "inappropriate to joke about poop."  Mostly when he calls someone poopy (nicely, of course) then laughs his head off. 
  • He has had two haircuts in his life now, and both were exclusively to get rid of wispies over his ears and the wispy mullet.  I'm happy to say that his hair seems to be thickening now that he's gained those most recent two pounds.
  • He's a huge fan of jumping lately.  He'll jump off of the couch and land on both feet, jump over a throw pillow on the floor, clearing it completely and landing on both feet, etc.  He's a very good jumper!
  • Russ also likes to rhyme.  He notices when words rhyme and he makes up words all of the time to tell us that they rhyme (thinks like, "Caleb and Baleb rhyme, Mom!").
  • He's also a super good communicator.  Talking has always been a strong suit for both of my kids, and this kid just blows me away with some of the sophisticated things he comes up with.
  • I'm pretty sure he's tone deaf.  It makes me a little sad, I must admit.  The only two songs that he knows all of the words to are Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I Am a Child of God (because he used to request that we sing them to him every night).  By this age, Caleb knew the words to a ton of songs, and could sing them without missing a note.  Russ enjoys music, but he doesn't seem to enjoy singing.  He maaaaybe gets a few notes right when he sings Twinkle Twinkle.  But not more than a few.  
  • In my mind, Russ has some qualities that make him unique from other kids his age.  The biggest one is his desire to seek harmony and avoid confrontation.  For example, if I'm bringing a blue cup and an orange cup to the table, Caleb will automatically tell me that he wants the color that I'm about to hand to Russell.  If they both declare that they want the orange one, Russ almost always changes his mind to say that he wants the blue one.  He absolutely does not want the one Caleb wants, because that would cause a fight.  How many 2-year-olds are that mature?  And he does that with so many things.  As long as he's not in a super tired/cranky mood, he mostly lets Caleb take toys from him.  Whenever I see it I make it right (I absolutely don't want Caleb to think that's ok), but for the most part Russell couldn't care less.
  • Russell has a "friend" that goes with him everywhere.  It's a little black bear that he calls Baby Bear.  He went through a phase for a few days where he changed his name to Baby Jesus, and today he started telling me that it's just Baby.  He would bring Baby Bear with him everywhere if he could, but he's pretty good about when he needs washed or when I tell him he can't bring his bear with.  He also has a favorite blanket, just a soft brown baby blanket with an elephant on the corner.  He's pretty attached to both his Baby Bear and his Elephant Blanket.

And now for a fun tradition that I started when Caleb turned 3!  Here's an interview to show you what 3-year-old Russ is like!

I've never known another child so young who is so in tune with the feelings of others, so aware of himself, so pleasant, so mature, and still so silly!  You bring balance to our family, Russ, and I'm so glad you joined us when you did!  Happy birthday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pregnancy Update: 15 weeks 3 days

I had an ultrasound today and it appears I have three separate (yet likely related) things going on.

1) I have a placental abruption, where my placenta is separated partially from the uterine wall, which has been actively bleeding for two weeks now;
2) a subchorionic hemorrhage, where there is a hemorrhage (or possibly a blood clot) between the wall of my uterus and the amniotic sack (I could literally see a sizable bubble in there); and
3) partial placenta previa, where my placenta is partially covering the cervical opening.

This could get complicated, but since my bleeding appears to be stable (even though it hasn't stopped), hopefully it'll just clear up eventually and not be an issue.  If the bleeding gets worse by the time the baby is viable (24 weeks) then I'll end up on hospital bed rest.  Worst case scenario, the bleeding gets so bad that they have to deliver the baby super early to save its life.  The placenta is kinda vital to the baby's survival.  ;)  For now, I'm going to "take it easy" as much as possible and only do the most necessary daily tasks in hopes that the bleeding stops, or at least doesn't get worse.

Also, the placenta previa could be a big deal (it could be the reason I'm bleeding), and it could eventually cause me to need a c-section.  But since it's not a "complete" previa, there's a good chance the placenta will migrate upward as my uterus stretches and grows.  They were taking so many measurements of my placenta because it was super long.  So I guess it's just kinda getting in the way.  But once the uterus gets bigger, it'll hopefully move away from the cervical opening and it won't be an issue.

So there it is.  A lot of wait-and-seeing.  And hoping that this bleeding and these cramps go away.  I started my weekly 17p (progesterone) shots today, which are supposed to keep me from going into early labor (I took them with my last pregnancy as a precaution since Caleb was born so early), so we'll have to see if that helps with the cramps.

Alright, I'm off to "take it easy" some more.

Oh yeah, and we found out today that...


I seriously couldn't be more excited about the prospect of having three little boys.  It's gonna be awesome.  Every day is gonna be a party at our house.  :D

Saturday, December 13, 2014

First Trimester Placental Abruption

This blog post will have lots of details that may gross you out.  It goes along with my policy of "if it's medical, it's not personal."  Be warned.

Thursday morning, December 4th, I was exactly 13 weeks 4 days.  It was around 3:30 AM when I awoke feeling like I was wetting my pants (see, personal details already).  I was a little embarrassed, thinking this is waaaay too early in my pregnancy for that to start, right?  I mean, it's not like I have 6+ pounds sitting on my bladder.  So I got out of bed and felt a gush.  I was like, seriously?  Can I not control my bladder?  So I went to use the toilet and was pretty darn alarmed at what I saw.  There was blood.  So much blood.  In my pants, turning the water red.  Blood everywhere.  It seemed kind of watery, too.  But then there was a blood clot, not huge, but certainly big enough to be alarming.  Oh crap, I think I may be having a miscarriage.

So I got cleaned up and woke Nate up.  I told him that if I start having cramps then I'm going in to the ER (after all, bleeding, blood clots, and cramps are symptoms that are pretty hard to ignore).  At that moment I felt a tiny cramp, so I was like, "I'm going."  Of course, it's 3:30 in the morning, so who would we call to watch our kids??  We decided that Nate would stay home and I'd drive myself to the hospital.
They were able to get me back for an ultrasound after not too long of a wait.  The ultrasound tech didn't let me see the ultrasound much at all, but after a minute of taking a look at things he said, "It's squirming around in there."  Whew!  What a relief!  He was also extremely surprised that I was only 13 weeks (and 3 days) because the baby was consistently measuring at 14 weeks.  He also informed me that I have a posterior placenta (it's implanted on the back of my uterus).  Good to know.

So after taking a look at a bunch of things, he brought me back to my ER room and they started an IV.  Or I should say, they tried to start an IV.  They were successful on their third try.  It turns out my forearms have deceptively nice-looking veins, but they blow extremely easily.  I'll be warning anyone else who ever tries to put an IV in my forearm.  
This is how it looked almost 9 days later.  I also recall how it took three tries to get an IV in my forearm when I had my tonsils out.  So after five total attempts in my lifetime, only one of those attempts was successful.  Yes, I think I'll have them stick to my elbow joints from now on.

To make a long story short, the doctor eventually came in and told me that I had a mild placental abruption.  My placenta is partially detached from the uterine wall, which shouldn't happen until after the baby is delivered.  He said it could bleed for a bit, then reattach itself and heal.  Or it could detach more and more until I miscarry.  He said to go home and stay on bed rest until I could follow up with my regular OBGYN within the next week.  He was very kind about it, but basically told me not to come back unless I was losing so much blood that I was dizzy.  There's really nothing the ER could do about a miscarriage, anyway.

So I made it home around 6:30 AM feeling very relieved that my baby was still alive and glad that there was something I could do to protect him/her.  

So I stayed on bed rest, with the bleeding getting better and worse and better and worse.  Literally every other day.  I could periodically feel my uterus contract and stay rock hard for a few minutes, but I never had any cramps.  Judging by my still-existent nausea and the fact that I could literally feel the top of my uterus growing higher and higher each day, I knew my baby was still ok in there.  All the while, Nate did a seriously amazing job taking care of the boys and me.  

I saw my regular OB on the next Tuesday.  Well, I saw the nurse anyway (the OB had just left for a delivery).  We located the heartbeat (always a relief) and she told me that there's a pretty good chance that the baby will be ok.  She gave me a 90 percent chance that the bleeding will stop on its own and the pregnancy will proceed as normal.  She wanted to wait for two weeks after the beginning of the bleeding before doing an ultrasound, to give my placenta a chance to fully heal.  She also said I didn't need to be on strict bed rest, but "modified bed rest," where I can be up and about and doing things, but don't do more than what's necessary and most importantly don't do any lifting (no more than about 6 pounds, she said).  Also pelvic rest.

Since going from strict bed rest to modified bed rest, I have been having loads of cramps.  As of today the bleeding still hasn't stopped, but it hasn't gotten worse, so I'm taking that as a good sign.  But the cramps are quite painful, and since my placenta is posterior, I get awful lower back cramps.  And then there's the overall soreness associated with placental abruption.  My abdomen is just plain sore.  Really sore.  And then there's the 10-minute-long contractions that I get when I do something as simple as bend over.  That was pretty "normal" for me when I was pregnant with Russell, so I was expecting it this time around.  But I sure hope that that doesn't harm my placenta any farther.

Also, oddly enough, the bleeding is always worst first thing in the morning.  I don't know if the baby likes to kick his/her placenta all night long or what, but after a day of milling around the house things always seem slightly better (except for those darn cramps).  

So now we wait.  There's a slight chance that the bleeding won't ever stop and then we'll just have to hope that it doesn't get any worse until I can deliver.  If that's the case, I'll be lucky if I can go full-term.  So let's just hope that it resolves!

I'll keep ya posted.

Friday, December 12, 2014

One Trimester Down, hopefully two to go!

I'm glad to have that first trimester over with.  It wasn't my favorite.  Here's a little run-down of what it was like:

I felt awesome until I was 5 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  That's when the morning sickness came on strong.  I started out throwing up an average of twice a week.  Not so bad, really, except that I wasn't able to eat much.  I went through a few different cravings (not so much cravings, really, but more like things that I thought I could stomach better than other food).  Raisin bread toast with butter, orange soda, and summer sausage are what I lived on for a while.  If I tried eating other things, I usually felt like the food was stuck in my throat for about 10 hours before throwing up.  It was soooo rough.

I ended up losing 5 or 6 pounds, and haven't gained any of it back yet.

I couldn't walk through a grocery store without looking for a place to throw up.  The sight of all of that was just too much.

I realized just how much Nate thinks about and talks about food.  He would try to tell me what free lunch he got at work that day, and I'd have to cut him off for fear of tossing my proverbial cookies right then and there at the thought of food.  It was pretty bad.  And it happened at least once a day.  I had to scroll through my facebook news feed extra fast so as to avoid seeing any pictures my friends shared of food.  I just couldn't handle it!

I required a lot of medications...zofran, phenergan, vitamin B6, unisom, zantac, tylenol, colace, and mirilax (which I could have sworn didn't have a taste until I became pregnant).  Ugh.  I hate taking medication, but I seriously needed it for survival.

As far as pregnancy symptoms go, my list was short this time, compared to my first two pregnancies.  Yes, the nausea and vomiting was pretty miserable, but that, constipation (also miserable) and post nasal drip are pretty much all I've dealt with, with a little heartburn/reflux thrown in there.  I'm so relieved to not have the mood swings that haunted me with my boys.  I still feel like myself!  It's amazing.  I get headaches from time to time, but they're well controlled with a tylenol or two, which is nothing compared to how debilitating they were with my first two pregnancies.  SO glad to not have that to deal with (knock on wood).

Now let's talk more about the post nasal drip.  I remember having a stuffy nose through my whole pregnancy with Russell, and I thought that was no fun.  HA!  This time I have had so much mucus draining from my sinuses down the back of my throat that TWICE I would try to swallow a pill and it would get STUCK!  Talk about gross!  I'm supposed to take my thyroid pill on an empty stomach every morning, but I had to eat something first to try to clear my throat.  And even then it got stuck!  Thankfully thyroid pills aren't bitter, because it ended up back in my mouth.  Gag.  The other pill that got stuck...that one was pretty nasty tasting when partially dissolved.  I can tell that my gag reflex has eased up a bit, because I can talk about it now.  At the time, just thinking about it was enough to make me hurl!  And then there were the many times where I would just try to breathe, and the mucus would be overwhelming and I'd almost throw up.

I also caught a 24-hour stomach virus that our whole family got, but I got it worse than anyone by far.  I ended up throwing up about 15 times (if you include dry heaving) in half a day and couldn't keep down even a sip of gatorade.  So to the ER I went.  The fluids and IV zofran helped immensely and I was all better by the next day.

These days, my favorite thing in the world is pears.  Canned pears are my favorite.  I drink the juice with a straw.  Yummmm!  It's good for hydration and fiber, two things that I really need.  Otherwise, it seems that the cravings and aversions have eased up a ton.  I can kinda just eat whatever, as long as I don't eat a ton of anything (it makes me sick).  I also have to eat constantly.  I'm talkin' if I go more than 30 minutes without eating, I had better pop a cookie in my mouth ASAP to get my blood sugar back up before I get so sick that I can't eat anything.  It's so odd.  I've learned to keep oatmeal squares (the cereal) around, as well as pretzels.  And little chewy candies are also good to pick me up when I'm on the verge of being sick.  Skittles and sour patch kids are what I've been using lately, and they've helped a lot.

Now, right at the end of this rough trimester is when I had my little placental abruption drama goin' on, but seeing as this is getting pretty long already, that deserves a post of its own.  Stay tuned.

One day shy of 10 weeks:

One day shy of 12 weeks:

One day shy of 13 weeks:

I only take pictures on Sundays when I'm actually dressed nicely (usually the only day of the week where I'm dressed nicely).  My due date is on a Monday, so my pictures will always be one day shy of whatever week that is.  Aaaaand, I've been hanging out in pjs since the abruption, so I promise, next time I'm actually wearing real clothes, showered, and wearing maybe a little bit of makeup, I'll snap a picture.  But it might be a while.  Sorry/not sorry.  You should try wearing pajamas for a week straight.  It's kinda awesome.

Monday, November 17, 2014

World Prematurity Day: Remember When

I love how the whole month of November seems like it's dedicated to Caleb.  :)

There are a lot of facets of prematurity awareness, but this year I'd like to focus on something positive.  The March of Dimes has a "Hugs Heal" campaign promoting skin-to-skin holding (kangaroo care) for premature babies.  It has been proven to help babies in a lot of ways.  In underdeveloped countries, where proper medical equipment is hard to come by, Kangaroo Care can literally save lives!

Kangaroo Care is "holding your diapered baby on your bare chest...with a blanket over your baby's back to keep him warm"  (Learn more about Kangaroo Care here.)
This is a picture of the first time I held Caleb.  He was 12 days old and had just come off of the ventilator for the last time the day before.  He was still well under 3 pounds at this point (he reached exactly 3 pounds when he was exactly 3 weeks old).

I was so excited when I got the call that Tuesday morning from our favorite nurse, Catherine.  I had previously been told that I couldn't hold him until he had been off of the ventilator and stable for at least 24 hours.  The day before this, he was supposed to have heart surgery.  His lungs had been filling with fluid and collapsing, but he took such a great turn that by that evening he was able to breathe on his own.  Catherine told me, "I know you thought today was going to be a 'recovering from surgery' day, but how would you like to come hold your baby?"  She was always such a great advocate for him!  She told me many times, "I'll always do what's best for your baby.  I'll fight for him and they can fire me if they want!  I only work this job because I love it.  It's worth it to get fired if it means I'm doing what's best for your baby."  And there were many times that I did see her fight for him!  I expect this was one of those times.  I can imagine her that morning, telling the NP and neonatologist, "Look, he's doing great.  He's never been better.  He's 12 days old and his mom has never held him.  Who cares that it hasn't been 24 whole hours since he was extubated?  It's time for Mom to hold him."  This post could quickly turn into "The Many Reasons Why I Love Catherine," but back to Kangaroo Care....

I picked Nate up from work on my way to the hospital.  He wasn't going to miss this!  It took two nurses and one Respiratory Therapist to move Caleb from his isolette to my chest.  Three people for one tiny baby!  They told me that I would probably only hold him for 30 minutes, because by then most babies need to return to the stability of their isolettes.  But Caleb snuggled in and fell asleep almost instantly (well, after trying to pick up his head and turn it around with that big CPAP elephant nose stuck to his face!--he was amazingly strong; and after rooting around to try to find a source of that yummy smell of milk that was so close--AMAZING to see for a baby who hadn't even attempted to eat yet).  His heart rate and oxygen saturation leveled out wonderfully.  Babies this small will often swing between high heart rates and low heart rates, causing the monitors to alarm every minute or so.  They call them "swingers."  But while I was holding Caleb, his swinging was much less than it was before.  He was so stable on my chest that they let him stay there for TWO HOURS!

The best word to describe how it felt to hold him is right.  It just felt so right to have him so close.  Yes, it would have been more right to have him inside of me for another few months, but this was the next best thing.  Mommys and babies aren't supposed to be separated so early and when they are, there is nothing better than being put back together again.  It was truly one of the most incredible moments of my life.

When it was time to put him back (and change his diaper, and start his next feeding, and for me to pump because I was getting pretty uncomfortable) they took his temperature (as they always did every three hours) and it was perfect.  There was no denying that holding him skin-to-skin was good for his health.
Nate's first time holding Caleb.

As the days went on, we were allowed to hold him once a day for those first few weeks.  Nate and I took turns holding him skin-to-skin.  There was one day where I was holding him and he let out a little cry--very unlike him.  Caleb almost never cried.  Then he spit up a little.  I remember thinking, "Oh, he's just like other babies now!  They all spit up, right?"  But Catherine knew something was wrong.  She told the NP that he NEVER cried when Mom is holding him, and that alone was a big red flag.  So they did an abdominal x-ray and found that he was dangerously close to perforating a bowel.  His bowels were so full of air that they were pushed up to the level of his nipples.  It was caused by a combination of starting giving him Human Milk Fortifier to increase the calories and fat content in my breast milk in an attempt to chunk him up (studies have shown that the faster a baby can gain weight, the faster they get out of the NICU) and swallowing air from his CPAP machine.  They immediately stopped feeds, put him on a tube (the Andersen Tube) that essentially pumps everything out of his stomach, measured his girth every three hours, and waited for him to get better.  This was the closest Caleb ever got to dying while in the NICU.  If he had perforated a bowel, it would have required emergency surgery and would have likely caused infection.  Infection is the number one killer of babies in the NICU.  It was a scary few days there, and we weren't allowed to hold him until he was more stable.  About a week later, the NPs wanted to put him back on the Human Milk fortifier.  Again, Catherine pulled out the, "You'll have to fire me before putting him back on that so soon after what he's just been through."  I was there to see this one.  Catherine is one of the most likable people ever, but when she pulls out the big guns you back down!  So they agreed to try a much more gentle fortifier, which we could all be happy with.  My Mommy instinct (which has proven to be extremely trustworthy) tells me that the reason Caleb has such awful GI motility and can't digest food fast enough to consume enough to survive is because of the trauma caused to his GI system from that fortifier.

As you can see, holding my premature baby was an amazing experience for us both.  One that quite literally could have saved his life.  And the emotional experience was unmatched.  It's a moment that will always bring tears to my eyes when recalled.  Hugs truly can heal.  And now I get to hug that big, miraculous 5-year-old all I want!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Halloween!

We happened to be at Costco when their Halloween costumes had just hit the racks.  When Caleb fell for the fireman costume, I asked Russ if he wanted to be a dalmation, like Duke (our next door neighbor's dog).  He jumped on the idea.  I love that my kids are still young enough to be persuaded to wear coordinating costumes.  I think it's adorable.  But I couldn't find a decent dalmation costume to buy, so I had to sew one.

Good thing I was on a roll and made it two months early!  When that morning sickness stuff hit there was no such thing as productivity.

I used some well-fitting pajamas as a template and whipped it up in no time!  It's far from perfect (only the second zipper I've ever sewn), but it did the trick with no complaints.  :)

I must say, these two were a pretty adorable duo!

Pumpkin Patch 2014

This is our fifth year of going to the pumpkin patch with our BFFs.  (See here and here.)  It's one of my favorite traditions!

Two 4-year-olds and two 2-year-olds.  Perfect buddies!

Do you have any idea how lucky I am to have gotten a picture this good?  My boys are SO hard to photograph!

I love this one.  This kid has my heart on a string.

Scaling the pumpkins!

Caleb is 5!

Happy birthday to my great big boy!

This is what Caleb is like at 5 years old:
  • He weighs 33lbs 10oz.  He recently had a big ol' growth spurt, gaining 3 pounds in less than 3 months!  For Caleb, that's incredible!  This is literally his first growth spurt in his entire life (if you don't include the weight he gained immediately after getting his feeding tube).  We even had to pack up all of his 2T clothes.  He's wearing exclusively 3T now!  And his clothes fit him pretty well, too!  It helps that Walmart now carries toddler pants with an adjustable waist for under $10.  We stocked up.  :)
  • He is starting to stay dry at night, as long as he wakes up to use the potty.  This is pretty impressive to me, since he currently gets 800ml of formula while he sleeps (that's over 26 ounces!).  He has to unpin his tube extension from his waistband to go potty (we pin it to him at night so it doesn't pull his feeding tube out).  For a while there he was waking us up to help him to the potty, but a few times now he has unpinned his tube himself!  I'm pretty proud of those fine motor skills.  ;)
  • He can zip his own jacket.  I remember most of my kindergarten class couldn't even do that!
  • He very recently discovered the joy of art.  Just a few months ago he didn't even know how to color inside of the lines and the only thing he could draw was a car.  Seriously.  But now he colors in the lines and comes up with original pieces of art--rainbows (his favorite), monsters, houses with chimneys, people, butterflies, etc.  
  • Some art of Caleb's:  a butterfly; Meggie (he drew that picture on the day she was put down); him in front of a house with a door, doorknob, and chimney, as well as green grass that he cut with scissors to be the texture of grass; and two boys who bear a striking resemblance to Caleb and Russell, yet Caleb told me they weren't them, they were bunnies and then he drew tails on them...hmmm....
     A super cute monster that he drew on cardboard (we get a lot of boxes around here, and it's always his favorite thing to color on).
  • I made Caleb a rainbow cake, since he's so fond of drawing rainbows.  He always asks me to remind him what order the colors go in.
  • He knows and can write the entire alphabet and is starting to sound out words.  I'd guess he could be reading by now if I took the time to teach him, but pretty much all I have the energy for these days is growing his baby sibling.
  • He gets worked up easily when he's frustrated with his inability to do something.  We both have to take a lot of deep breaths.
  • One of his favorite things to do is make Russell laugh.  It doesn't take much for Caleb to get Russ to laugh, either.  They're truly best friends.  They play so well together.  Of course they have their moments (I swear, they're more likely to fight over something when I'm on the phone), but for the most part they have the best balance I could ever expect from two brothers.
  • His other best friend is Nash, as it has been since they were wee babes.
  • His best preschool friend is a girl named Maci.  She likes zebras and Frozen and they like to play "kitchen" together.
  • He doesn't have a favorite color, but tends to like red.
  • He's kind of a follower.  When other people like something, he's more likely to like it as well.  He's not always an original thinker, but he does have great self confidence, which sort of evens it out.
  • His favorite toys are games--board games and card games and puzzles and such.  Unfortunately he needs supervision to play lots of them, and he can't play them all day long or the pieces will all get lost.  But yesterday when we asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, the first thing that popped into his mind was "PLAY GAMES!"
  • He picks his clothes and dresses himself every morning.  Sometimes I have to send him back to change--like when he wants to wear shorts when it's 40 degrees out (he's a big fan of shorts, just like his daddy).
  • He is super distract-able.  It takes about three reminders to get him to put his shoes on.  Same thing for putting on his seat belt (which he's been doing by himself for a while now, and he's still in a 5-point harness) and his pajamas.
  • He loves being helpful--he will set the table without us asking (this is a new thing for him, and we're loving it).  He also loves doing chores, especially cleaning the toilet (no one tell him it's gross, please!).
  • He hates brushing his teeth.  Sometimes there are tears.  I attribute it to his oral aversion and his highly sensitive gag reflex.  If he's even the littlest bit sick, brushing his teeth makes him throw up.  But he's been to the dentist three times and always gets great reviews on his teeth, so that's great!  (Even though he only brushes at night....)
  • He is a very thoughtful person.  He loves to donate his money to people who have less than him, he always remembers people who are struggling in his prayers, and he just plain likes to please people.
  • He's a super snuggler.
  • The best word I can think to describe him is enthusiastic.  Everything is exciting to him.  Seriously.  It can be exhausting, but it's an amazing quality.  He sees so much good in the world!
Caleb, we couldn't imagine our family without you.  Life without you would be so boring!  You are a great big brother, a wonderful helper, and a fantastic snuggler.  I love your zest for life, and how you love everyone.  You are a great example to me and I couldn't be more proud to be your mom!

And now, an interview with the man of the hour himself:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


We've got another baby on the way!!

The newest Purser is due June 8th!

And now, since I'm sure you're all dying to know but don't want to ask, let me give you details:

How did this come about?  Getting pregnant is a very medical process for me.  This time it took a total of 12 months.  That's a whole year of people awkwardly looking at my belly as if waiting for a pregnancy announcement, since, of course, Russell is nearing his third birthday and by the time Caleb was that age we had a 9-month-old.  Sorry, but my little belly was just leftovers after the number Russ did on my abs.  (BTW, my doctor said I'll need surgery to fix my torn abs, so I'm going to look 3 months pregnant until that happens, so it's ok to stop staring.)

With Caleb it took 15 months and with Russ it took 2 months, both requiring 200 mg of clomid to get me to ovulate.  This time I went on clomid for three months, ovulating each time and still not getting pregnant.  That's the maximum that my doctor felt comfortable keeping me on that level of hormones, so he referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).  They ran some tests and found that I have a blocked fallopian tube.  My "good" tube initially appeared to be blocked as well, but after putting some pressure on it the radiologist was able to get it to clear out.  The RE prescribed a different fertility med and after getting my fallopian tube cleared out, I got pregnant right away!  Which is a very good thing, because the next step would have been hormone injections, which greatly increases your chance of multiples.  I'm scared to death of having multiples, with my high-risk status and with the high likelihood of my kids having growth and feeding problems. many are there?  Just one.  :)  We've already had two ultrasounds at the RE to confirm that it's not ectopic, to see how many babies are there, and to detect a heartbeat.  Just one little baby in there, measuring right on track, with a good, strong heartbeat.

How have you been feeling?  Sick.  I spent the first few weeks feeling awesome, and then right at 6 weeks I got super sick and have been sick ever since.  So far I've broken all my previous records for how many times in a pregnancy I've thrown up--4 times so far.  And I'm sure it's not over.  I have a few good hours here and there, but I've pretty much just held down the couch for the last two weeks.  Thankfully, my boys have been awesome.  Caleb and Russ play together nicely all day, and Nate makes dinner, does the shopping (I tried to go to the store yesterday and had to keep my eyes on the floor...just looking at all of that food made me sick), and cleans the house.  They're all awesome and deserve gold stars.

I'm also exhausted and need at LEAST one nap a day.

That's about it for pregnancy symptoms...just nausea, vomiting, and tiredness.  Oh, and I've lost weight since the nausea is keeping me from being able to eat much, but you'd never know since my belly is popping out already.  But it's not the cute, hard, round belly, uh-uh, it's the flabby chubby belly.  Not my favorite part of pregnancy.  I'm excited to actually start showing.

How did the big brothers take the news?  They literally started jumping up and down, shouting, "YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY!"  Caleb tells me every day how he really wants it to be a girl, because we already have three boys and only one girl in our family.  Russell asks every day if it has teeth yet (tooth buds will be forming this month!).  They absolutely love telling people--they say "Mommy has a baby!"  I suggested that maybe the boys can share a room and the baby can have the other room, and Russell said he wanted to share a room with the baby.  They talk about the baby all of the time!  I can confidently say that they are going to be amazing big brothers.

So, a June birthday, eh?  How do you feel about that? Well, thanks for asking!  ;)  I always wanted to avoid summer birthdays, because I don't want my kids to be the youngest in their class.  But when it takes you 12 months to get pregnant, you take whatever you can get!  And there are some really nice things about having a baby in June, too.  It's not the middle of flu and sick season, which will be awesome after having two babies in the dead of winter and having to quarantine ourselves.  And perhaps the one I'm most excited about: the sun.  Ever since having Russ in December, I've had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) every winter.  It's awful.  And combine that with the baby blues?  It seriously took me over 4 months to bond with Russell.  I'm looking forward to having lots of sun and nice, long days to keep my mood in a good place.  And as far as being pregnant for a whole winter...I'm going to have to get a UV lamp to try to combat the SAD.  Seriously, pregnancy hormones (and post-pregnancy hormones) aren't good to my mood.

Any goals for this pregnancy? Well, now that I know I can go to full-term, my goal is to have a 9-pounder.  ;)  I've come to accept that my children will always have a hard time growing and are likely to have problems with food allergies/intolerances/reactions, so I want to give this baby the best chance possible at being big!  Russ was 8lbs 5oz at birth, was Failure to Thrive by 4 days old, and was completely below the charts by 6 months.  So I want to give this baby the best chance possible by starting out bigger than ever!  9 pounds sounds good to me.

I also want to deliver without more than three pushes.  ;)  After a difficult delivery with short, fat, posterior Russell, my doctor guaranteed me that my next baby's delivery would be a breeze.  I'm holding him to it (even though I switched doctors).  I can have a 9-pounder with three pushes or less, right?  It may be wishful thinking, but it's on my "wants" list.

And there you have it.  Our third baby is on the way and we couldn't be more excited!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Tonight I sat by the bed of my sleeping angel and put my finger in his hand, just like I did when he was a baby.  Only then, I wasn't at liberty to pick him up and hold him because he was too fragile, too unstable, or needed to preserve his energy to grow and learn how to eat.  Today I watched him go down a big slide on a potato sack all by himself.  Once he made it to the bottom, he immediately hopped up and came to me with a quivering lower lip and said, "I didn't like that at all.  I don't want to do that again."  And I held him in my arms, just as I wished I could all day long during those first three months.

As I sat by his bed, I watched him breathe.  It came so easily tonight, unlike his first few weeks.  I remember watching him struggle for breath at a few days old, just wishing the doctors would put him back on the ventilator so he could rest.  I was moved to tears, seeing my tiny baby struggle so much to do life's most basic function.  I wished life could be easy for him.

Tonight, as I sat by his side, I listened to the feeding pump churning away...just as I did almost five years ago.  He's still working on life's second most basic function (eating).  And that's ok.  Medical intervention kept him alive then, and it does so now.  I could never hate it.

As I looked at how much smaller my finger looks in his big preschooler hand, I noticed that it's slightly callused, unlike when he was born with skin as thin as paper.  I remembered my very first interaction with him--I stroked his leg, because I didn't know any other way to let him know I was there.  The nurse told me that it was overwhelming and even painful for tiny preemies to be stroked like that, and to provide firm pressure instead of movement.  Who knew I was touching my newborn baby wrong the very first moment I met him?  In the days that followed, he developed two scars from the monitor leads.  They were attached to machines and run by electricity, and even the imperceptible amount of heat they generated burned his delicate skin.  He still wears the scars today.

Tonight, I soaked him all in.  And I thanked God for the priceless memories of those first three months, and for every day since.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An update on Russell's food intolerances.

Remember how Russell would complain of tummy aches many times daily?  And how he was so very bloated?  And how his poop was...not right?  And remember how his villi in his duodenum were mildly damaged, so we thought taking him off of gluten would be the best next step?  Then when he went off of gluten, everything got worse?  He didn't want to eat and he had blood in his poop?  So with a strike of mommy inspiration we decided to take corn out of his diet and everything got better?  Remember that?

Well, after many months of having him off of gluten and corn, we decided to try giving him gluten again in hopes of getting him to gain weight a little easier.  His weight gain didn't improve, but he didn't have any tummy aches or other problems with gluten, so we called it a success!

Then, a few weeks ago, I slipped up and gave him some cereal that was made out of corn.  Oops.  But he didn't have any problems with it, so we decided to let him trial corn.  He has since had lots of corn--straight corn, corn cereals, corn chips, corn tortillas, popcorn, etc.  And he hasn't had a single bad poop!  No blood, no mucus.  He still complains that his tummy hurts a few times a week, but that's usually because he needs to take a trip to the bathroom (which we discovered before he even started trialing corn).  And his bloating never went away (not even when he had been off of gluten and corn for many months), but as long as he's not in pain then I don't think it's a big deal.

So it's safe to say that Russell has officially outgrown his corn intolerance.  I wish we had discovered it sooner (he was almost 2 before we finally figured out why he had been in pain his whole life), but let me tell you, it's great to have a kid with no food restrictions!!  It's like a whole new world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014



Caleb prefers to eat the crust off of bread, the skin off of potatoes, and the burnt pieces off of meat and grilled veggies.


When Russ goes #2, he kindly tells me, "Mom, can you leave?"  He likes privacy in the bathroom.


Ever since Meggie died, every time I make a noise (chuckle, sniff, sigh, etc.), Caleb asks me if I'm crying.  He's turning into a sensitive, sweet boy.  I also mentioned once how he left his feeding backpack on the floor by the bed, and every time I walked past it I had to take a second look because I thought it was Meggie sleeping there (that was where she would sleep at night).  So he said, "Maybe from now on I should leave it in my room so it doesn't make you sad."  His sweet hugs got me through some rough days.  What would I do without that kid?


Many times now, Russ has said, "Mom, I LOVE YOU!  So can I have a skittle??"  Keep up with developing the art of flattery, Kid.  It will serve you well!


Every single night, Russell lays his head on my shoulder (or Nate's, depending on who's putting him to bed) and requests his two favorite songs:  Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I Am a Child of God.  


We got some new colorful plates, cups, and utensils from Ikea.  The boys like claiming which color they want at each meal (they can only pick out of the ones I take off of the top of the stack).  Caleb has quickly learned that Russell's favorite is orange, so now of course that's Caleb's favorite, too.  When Caleb and Russ claim the same plate, Russ almost always ends up changing his mind so as to avoid a fight.  How is my 2-year-old so mature??


Caleb's favorite movie is Milo and Otis (which he pronounces Milis and Otis).  He would watch it 20x a day if he could.


In Russell's prayers, he always has to thank God for animals.  It usually goes something like this: "Dear Heavny Father, thank dee for Mommy, Daddy, Caleb, animals, Auntie Jessica, Mommy, Caleb, Daddy, giraffes, elephants, Jesus, Amen."  [Auntie Jessica is my sister-in-law and her dad passed away unexpectedly almost two months ago and my boys still remember her in every single prayer.]


Russell is in the habit of putting his shoes in the coat closet as soon as he walks in the door.  That way, he's able to find them easily when he needs them later.  Caleb is the opposite.  He will often kick a shoe off as he's walking to another room, only to kick the second shoe off in the next room.  It takes us forever to find his shoes when we need to go somewhere!  How are two brothers so completely opposite?!


When Caleb is in preschool, once a week Russell and I like to go on a lunch date together, which is something we are rarely able to do with Caleb because of all of his food restrictions.  He is so good in restaurants!  He always says thank you to the server, and asks for whatever he needs ("Can I have some water, please?")  And he's a pro at flirting with waitresses, even telling me as she's walking away and still in earshot, "She's so cute!"


Caleb loves to match Russell.  Caleb usually gets dressed before Russ, but if I dress Russ in something that Caleb has a same-colored shirt or a matching shirt for, Caleb will go back to his room and change so he can match his brother.  He even does it to match me sometimes.


Russell pronounces most things very clearly and properly, but he calls balloons "bum-a-woons."  It's adorable.


When Nate told Caleb that Taysom Hill (BYU's quarterback) broke his leg, Caleb said, "Aww, nuts.  That's not good.  At least we still have Jimmer."


Russell will often ask a person's name (the checker at the store, the doctor, etc).  When they say their name, "My name is Dave,"  Russ replies in his goofy voice, "That's a funny name!"


I was getting out of the shower and Caleb was talking to me from the other side of the door.  He said, "Are you going to wear the towel on your head?  Because I think you're cute with the towel on your head."  Then when I got dressed and came out with the towel on my head, I asked him if I was cute.  He said, "You have to smile...[I smiled]...THERE!  Just like that!  You look cute with a towel on your head and a smile!"


Auntie JB was visiting and Russ said, "I have to tell Auntie something."  I said, "You know she's in the shower, right?"  Meaning, uh, you'll have to wait until she gets out of the shower.  He said, "Yeah." and went upstairs.  I later find out that he walked right in on Auntie JB in the shower, pulled back the shower curtain, and said, "Auntie Jenna, I love you."  It was that important that it couldn't wait.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So Long, Dear Friend

It's amazing what the human heart is capable of.  We invite into our homes a member of another species.  We don't speak their language, and they don't speak ours.  Yet they enrich our daily lives, and when they're gone (and they always go too soon), we realize just how much love we hold for them.

I think love comes through service and sacrifice.  Jesus Christ loves us more than anyone, and he sacrificed all he had for us.  Parents love their children beyond words, because we give up everything for them.  When we sacrifice our time and means to care for pets, we grow to love them.  And together we learn a shared language of love.

And when they die, our hearts are ripped in two.  I've done a lot of hard things in my life, but I think making the choice to end my dear friend's life was the hardest one yet.

I got Meggie for my 14th birthday.  The previous week, my dog (although she was never really my dog, as she bonded closely with my dad) died unexpectedly at a young age.  I was so lonely, so my mom brought me to the shelter to see if there were any dogs there to adopt.  We tried one out, but she wasn't a good fit for our family, so the next day we brought her back to the shelter.  On the way home, I asked my mom if we could stop and see what the pet store had for dogs.  They had just gotten two new litters of puppies in: Meggie, her brother, and three little black puppies (pomeranians crossed with toy poodles).  I immediately fell for Meggie, so I decided that we'd go home and sleep on it and come back the next day to get her.  On the drive home, I thought of a name for her.  I knew she was meant to be my dog.

The next day, we went to see if she was still there.  Of all of the five dogs that were there the day before, only Meggie and one of the black puppies were left.  Someone was holding Meggie, and the moment they set her down, I snatched her up and brought her to the register.  I said, word for word, "This is my dog.  I mean, she's going to be my dog.  We're going to buy her."  So my mom bought her and gave her to me for my 14th birthday.

Meggie was the ugliest puppy you've ever seen.  Everyone said so.  But I just didn't see it.  I thought she was the cutest 4-legged creature to ever walk this earth, and everyone thought I was delusional.  Looking back, I can see she really had the looks that only a mother could love.  My love was so unconditional that I couldn't see it until many years later.

I spent 14 years and 7 months with Meggie.  That's over half of my life!  And the best, most memorable part of my life, too!  I started training her in 4-H when she was 4 months old.  She hated it.  I was a good dog trainer (my previous dog and I were winning awards), but Meggie refused to do what I asked.  She would protest a simple "sit" command.  She wouldn't come.  Sometimes she wouldn't even walk on the leash!  She started avoiding me on Thursday evenings when I would try to put her in the car to go to training practice.  Then I started bringing her to Therapy Dog instead.  She loved going to nursing homes to be pet by the residents.  It brought out her best qualities.  She started enthusiastically jumping in the car when she knew we were going to Therapy Dog.

I gave up on obedience training with her (she was a good house dog, but not a good competitive obedience dog), but I still did 4-H showmanship with her.  That's what I loved, and all she had to do was prance around and look pretty, which she was very good at once she outgrew her awkward stage.  We qualified for the state 4-H dog show many times, but I remember one time in particular.  It was just moments before entering the show ring, and I was full of nerves.  But I must have pulled it together really well, because we ended up winning Grand Champion!  We were the best in our age-group for the entire state!  It was incredible!

She stayed behind with my dad when I went off to college.  Once Nate and I graduated and bought a house of our own, my mom flew out here with Meggie.  Caleb was 4 months old, and had just been home from the NICU for one month.  She was a great kids' dog in her younger years.  She never jumped on people, never licked, never barked, and loved to follow kids around, waiting for them to drop their snacks on the floor so she could clean up after them.  She was the best for taking on walks.  We went for a long walk every morning during Caleb's first two years.

It was a really hard choice for me to have her put down.  I feel like that should be up to God and Meggie, but I just have to hope that she did choose this, and she just needed my help.  I got to hold her in my arms and comfort her while it happened.  It was perfect, yet so horrible.  I just wanted her to feel how much I loved her.  We grew up together.  Really, she was the first dog that I could claim as my own.  She was the first dog that my children ever knew, and I hope they can keep some fond memories of her.

I was once told by someone with great authority regarding strengths that my strength is my ability to love deeply.  I must say, it has been feeling like a weakness lately.  The pain I feel at Meggie's passing is so strong because my love for her was so strong.  This kind of love is what we live each day for, even though it has the potential to cause so much pain.  It was a glorious childhood that we had together, and I look forward to the day when my Meg greets me in Heaven in her wonderful way--running at top speed in giant circles while crying a happy little howl.  It will be a wonderful reunion.

No heaven will heaven be
if my dog's not there
to greet me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minnesota From Caleb's Perspective

We got a new camera in December, so for our trip to Minnesota we let Caleb use the old camera at his discretion.  It was a great way to keep him occupied on a long road trip, and it was fun to see what he found picture-worthy.  Here is a large selection of pictures of the world from Caleb's perspective: