Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finally! An Update on Nate the Great!

I am sorry that this post is so late in coming.  So many people have prayed with us through his illness and rejoiced with us with each bite and milestone. I have wanted to write about his amazing progress, but there is so much to fit in!  It inevitably comes out in a jumble.  Now that I have some separation I can condense a bit better, but it still sounds a bit scatter-brained.  But, hey, I am a bit scatter-brained, so this post is an accurate representation of it's author.

If you have no idea what illness I'm talking about, you can read about Nate's journey here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Or you could just pretend you read all of that.

Cliff notes:  Nate and Jack both went through an illness that has no name but is most likely genetic, wherein they lose their sense of hunger and begin to lose weight dramatically and essentially starve until a feeding tube is used to make them gain weight.  They were both calm, serene, and sweet all the while, which made it difficult to detect that there was anything wrong.  Nate took eight months to learn to eat because he had sensory issues that complicated his recovery.

All caught up?  Good.  Here we go.

Beginning to stand at furniture or this windowsill, which is the perfect height. This was in the Spring.

We realized in the winter-spring time that Nate was not hearing.  He still wasn't walking, but we expected that after all he's been through {Jack didn't walk until 21 months, and he recovered much sooner from his illness}.  More important to us was that he didn't seem to hear when we entered the room and he still wasn't saying anything clearly except "Ella" and "Where's Ella?"

He loves Lellah.  This was when they were playing library.  I am amazed at what he allows her to do.

We discovered he had standing fluid in his ears, so his balance and hearing were really off.  He had tubes put in the day after Mother's Day, and started improving pretty quickly.

Looking at a 3D book with Poppy

He was {and still is to a point} very afraid of loud noises since his surgery, but he's been a real trooper.  He started saying more words and taking more steps along furniture within a couple of weeks.

This kid loves to look at books.  He will look at books over playing with toys.

On his second birthday, June 23, he began to walk.  If you have kept up with this derelict blog, you know that On his first birthday he began to eat.  I am convinced that at this pace he'll potty train himself for his third birthday.  A mom can hope.

Once he began to walk, we noticed yet another problem.  He was walking in an odd way, using his toes way more than he should.

This is only exciting for the first few moments.  After that it is just the typical pathetic parent video of a mom trying to convince an almost toddler to do something he has no plans to do.  I would edit it out if I knew how, but....  So just watch the beginning, mmkay?

We had him evaluated by two therapists and an orthotist, and the consensus was that he needed braces.  The P.T. said that, in very technical terms, Nate's feet are squishy.  They are still baby feet, even though he's been walking on them for a couple of months now.

Can you see his baby feet?  Did I mention he likes books?

He has no muscle tone where he needs it, and these braces should force those muscles to step up {pun totally intended}.  We don't know how long he'll need them, but hopefully we're looking at less than a year.  We also found out that in a physical sense, Nate is about a year behind.  He's a smart cookie {I think.  Let's just assume because of his love of books.} but he is at the physical level of a 13 month old.

He's had his braces for a month now.  They're camouflage with black straps.  Very cute, very manly.  He wears them pretty much all the time.  He loves them and will bring them to me in the morning, wanting them on before he even gets his clothes on.  I'm so thankful for that!

As to whether they are working, I don't know.  He's clearly improving in his walking and balance, but how much of that is his braces and how much is just being more comfortable walking?  I don't know, but I'm happy to see an improvement.

He is speaking a lot more, but I am at a loss to understand almost anything the child says.  I have learned that it is common for a child who speaks later to use full sentences or at least phrases instead of single words.  I know that he is doing that some, because I can recognize "it is" and "this is it" and what is it" and things like that.  It is harder to pick apart words when they're strung together, though, which sometimes leads to frustration on both parts.

He is still a really happy kid.  He always wants to do things himself and yet he will often let Ella dress him up and play doctor with him.  He apparently often has a broken leg, because she makes casts out of scarves that he will keep on for hours.  He mimics everything Jack does, but he doesn't say his name yet.  He is selective, but he will latch on to certain people and make funny faces and tease and tickle.  He is very hard to discipline because he makes me laugh so much, yet he is the strongest willed of the three.  He loves any book, especially ones with flaps, and babies.  Oh, he loves babies.  Babies are toys {dolls, stuffed animals, other toys} that he can hold and cuddle.  If it has a face, it's a baby and he loves it.

So there you have it.  Our baby, who is not really a baby anymore, is doing really well.  Thank you for your prayers, concern, and love for our family and for Nate.  He is a joy to all of us and we are blessed to have him.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

National Pirate Day

So, yesterday was National Pirate Day.  More importantly, Krispy Kreme was giving away A DOZEN DOUGHNUTS for everyone who came in dressed as a pirate.  Handsome Hero was taking the kids for the evening, giving me a much needed break, and decided to brave the crowds, but first the kids needed costumes.  We already had one pirate costume, but all of the kids wanted to be pirates.

So what's an amazing dad to do? Rip up one of his undershirts for a pirate shirt and make eye patches out of felt and an old checkbook cover, of course!  

Nate kept his on the whole evening!  

When they finally got through the line to the cashier, Handsome Hero was about to order when Ella piped up out of nowhere in her best scratchy, mean pirate voice:

Ahoy, Mateys, and shiver me timbers!  Fetch me my cat-o-nine-tails!  I got a couple o' landlubbers to be teachin' a lesson to!*

Jaws dropped everywhere.  Oh, my heavens.  I love that kid.

*Apparently, this was a quote from a book-on-tape that we had taken on our trip to the beach last week.  A quote that no one else remembers, but that she thought was fun and worth memorizing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our Beach Vacation {a.k.a. lots of cute kid pictures}

We just had our second annual beach vacation!  It was wonderful.  Lots of quiet beaches, family time, sand castles, boogie boarding, and laughter with my parents and my sister's family.  We've been looking forward to it all year.

We brought home lots of shells and lots of pink eye.  Seriously.  All three kids.  Then Ella and I caught a cold. Then Handsome Hero caught a cold.  We are a sorry, red-eyed, coughing mess.  Still, I wouldn't trade it.  We had a blast.

Hold on.  I need another cough drop.

And a tissue.

And a Starbucks Chai.  It's medicinal.  Would someone get on that, please?

Meanwhile, back at the beach, long car rides with the kids can be pretty fun when you're prepared.  We've done several eight-sixteen hour trips and have learned a lot.  One of these old days I'll write about our strategy.  One of the biggest helps is having lots of dollar store gifts to dole out at rest stops.  I hope they always get this excited about dollar store presents.

 We're just copying the dinosaur, mom.

I also took the kids to pick out a box/bag of cookies or candy each for the trip that we wouldn't normally get.  They are woefully ignorant of all things candy related, which makes me simultaneously proud of our healthy ways and guilty that they are missing out on something nostalgic.

Get ready for more photos than your eyeballs can handle.  The cuteness may overwhelm you.  You've been warned.

Nate and Jack, who hated the water last year, really liked it this year.  It was such a relief!

It is really rare to get a nice smile from Jack, and even more so to get two kids smiling simultaneously, so this is one of my top pictures from this trip.

By the way, some of my favorite pictures have a haze because of how humid it was some days.  My lens clouded over within seconds of my wiping it off again.   

My Spidey sense tells me that sand tastes good.  Yum, yum, sand.

By the way again, for those of you who don't know because I have been terrible about updating the blog, yes, Nate is walking!  I'll post about his progress coming up sometime before he goes to college.

My nephew, Elijah, who is the cutest two-year-old north of the Mason Dixon, did not like the water one little bit.  It was a surprise to me because he is a dare devil in most ways.  Crazy adorableness.
 I will always hold something in both hands.  I must.  It is my calling.

He looked the devil-may-care part until a wave came up and touched his tootsies.  Poor baby.

This board is only thing, but I have both hands on it.  And does anybody care that I'm drowning?!?

So mostly, he became the ruler of the beach.

 Two. Things.  I am king.

He struggled seeing his parents out in the water, but not enough to be willing to touch it.  There came this moment when my gorgeous sister laid with him in the inner-tube, on the beach but in range of the water, to see if he would acclimate a bit.  He hated every time a wave came in.

 I will hold my mother tightly with my two hands.  She might drown without me.

But then there came this wonderful moment....

 I guess we're okay, but I will not. let. go.  Two hands.

Yeah!  A smile!

My bro-in-law, Steve, is a pretty stellar guy and my boys love him.  Nate, especially, is smitten.  I have many pictures of the two of them.  

I'll follow you anywhere, Uncle Steve.  As long as you let me have a gun.  Does Spiderman use a gun?  And who is Spiderman?  My mom put this thing on me.

What is this marvel Uncle Steve holds in front of me?  I must learn.

He gave Jack pointers on the skim board.

Do I look like I'm doing it even though I'm standing still?  Hurry up and take a picture, Ma!

There is always sand castle building and Uncle Steve is a pro.  This year was a bit abstract.  The kids called it the fantastic drip castle.  I love the angle of this shot.  Uncle Steve shrank!  

 There is a Gulliver reference that I'm missing here, so I'll go with, "By the power of Gray Skull!" Anyone remember that?

The kids played for hours on the beach, which was nearly deserted this late in the season.  It was so wonderful.

 Last year Jack wouldn't touch the water.  He would chase the waves out, flex his muscles and yell, "I am KING!!!"  Then he'd run screaming when the wave came back in.

This is as close as Jack got to boogie boarding.

Mom, wait until a wave comes it so I look like I'm really doing it.  

 Ella!  Don't go!  Stay with me!  I am little and I am cute.

See the building on the left below?  That's where we stayed.  Directly on the beach, baby.  We were totally spoiled.  I don't know that I would do it any other way.

 You think I'm going to throw it, but I'm just going to put it in the water so you have to chase it in the waves.  It's my favorite.

Jack and Nate played with sand in the buckets quite a bit.

"Jack, why do we keep filling this up and dumping it out?"  "I don't know, Nate.  It just seems like the right thing to do."  "Okay.  Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum." 

Elijah had more important things to do with his bucket.

Must. Find. Something. For. My. Two. Hands.

Do you see the boat in the picture below?  It's a fishing boat and it came by twice a day.  It was amazing how many birds followed it, hoping for a little snacky-poo.

It was a very relaxing trip.  I didn't really expect it to be with two two-year-olds, but it was, mainly because of this lady.

 Holding G.G.with my two hands.

And this guy.

My other hand was busy pointing.

My parents jumped in all over the place, taking fussy babies or giving baths or fixing food or not waking us up when the kids got up at six!  It would have been nowhere near as wonderful a trip without them.  I am deeply grateful for selfless parents.

Handsome Hero had a lot of one-on-one time with the kids doing what they wanted to do.  Jack mostly stayed close to shore.

Dad, I'm going to tell you the story of the three little zebras and the big, bad Elephant.  I made it up.

Ella wanted to boogie board the whole time.  She has become a force in the water after learning to swim earlier this summer.  She's still kind of a doggy-paddler, but she's a forceful doggie-paddler.

It was overcast quite a bit, but no one cared.

 We brought our kite, too, which was a lot of fun.

While we were here, we celebrated Elijah's birthday.

I don't understand why you're blowing on my cake, but I can't wait to get my two hands on it!

The weather was mixed, but we brought lots of rain activities and didn't feel like we were missing out on anything.  In fact, look what we saw!

One overcast day, some of us went to a battleship-turned-museum.  It was amazing.  And not for the faint of heart.  Every set of stairs were so steep I was sure I was going to fall.  If you ever have the chance to visit this incredible place, don't wear a maxi skirt and flip flops.  Just sayin'.

This is the U.S.S. North Carolina, and she was one fascinating ship.  Handsome Hero said it was his favorite museum to date, and that is saying something.

Steve was a machine gunner in a past life.

Everything was real.  The actual guns, the actual bunks, the actual urinals, the actual smells.  You got a real feel for what life was like for these sailors.  There were cards posted everywhere with memories of the men who had sailed on the ship.  That was my favorite part.  Handsome Hero loved seeing how the gears and pistons and doohickies worked.  It was cool having him explain some of that stuff, because otherwise I would have just looked at the parts and said, "Huh," and walked on.

"How do you look mean, Ella?"  "I don't know.  Pretend I just took your toy."

These guys were really good at showing me their fierce faces.

I will stomp the enemy out with my pink shoes.

We were able to actually go inside the large guns and see how the sailors manned them and how ammunition was hoisted up from five levels below.  It was so amazing.

Okay, enough with the pictures, please?

This is Jack trying to look ferocious and smile all at the same time.

She's taking a picture, so I know I'm supposed to smile, but I'm firing a gun, so I have to look mean.  How about this?

And back to the beach, where we saw a shark.  A four-and-a-half-year-old shark with a batman swimsuit.  Terrifying, really.

I don't know why, but I love this one.  It's so arty.  She would look so serene if there weren't this silly, busy kid in the foreground.

The best part of this vacation was being together.  You may not be able to see, but everyone is in the water here, minus Elijah, of course.  He was busy on the shore.  And me.  Because I'm taking the picture.  Obviously.

The Lewis's.

The Forster's.

Together with G.G. and Poppy.  Can I tell you how much the sun was hurting our eyes?

It was a great trip and I'm already looking forward to next year.  What new sickness will we bring home with us in 2015?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Old MacDonald

Yesterday was Father's Day and as we were driving home from church, the kids were singing Old MacDonald.  They sing it a lot right now, because I am positive that Nate has begun saying E-I-E-I-O and I'm determined to get him to do it in time to the music.  I'm also trying to get him to bark in the appropriate places during How Much is that Doggy in the Window?  It's all about baby bragging rights.

Anyway, as is usually the case, the kids broke off from the normal verses pretty quickly.  Jack said Old MacDonald had a car that said vroom, vroom and then Ella took the reigns.  This was her first verse:

Old MacDonald had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O!!
And on that farm he had a Dad.  E-I-E-I-O!!
With a WORK, WORK here
And a WORK, WORK there!
Here a WORK! There a WORK!
Everywhere I GOTTA WORK!
Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O!

Now, Handsome Hero is a big boy, and doesn't get bothered by much, but I know that he struggles at times with feeling like he works hard to the detriment of the family and the kids, so this innocent verse hurt a bit.  I immediately began saying things like, "Don't worry, Babe.  You don't really work all the time.  You're a great dad.  And husband.  You're wonderful."

Then she started her next verse.

Old MacDonald had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O!!
And on that farm he had a Mom.  E-I-E-I-O!!
With a BOSSY, BOSSY here
And a BOSSY, BOSSY there!


And Handsome Hero turned to me with a little smirk and said, "Don't worry, Babe.  You're not really bossy.  You're a great mom.  And wife.  You're wonderful."

Simmering in her own bossiness,

aka Mom
aka The Boss

Friday, May 16, 2014

Birthday musings

Saturday is my birthday.  Saturday is a wonderful day on which to have a birthday.  I used to hate it when my birthday fell on a Saturday.  Who wants their birthday on a weekend when they can get recognition at school on a weekday??

Now, though, I stay at home, so I love a weekend birthday when Handsome Hero can be home with me.  See how I'm getting wiser?  Growing up and everything.

I'll be thirty-six this year.  Thirty-six.  I want to be really excited about getting closer to forty.  I mean, it's a landmark in life, right?  It's when people do that "Lordy, Lordy" rhyme!  It's the age of knowing what you're made of! 

Wait, I think I got that from a Viagra commercial. 

Let's move on.

I am looking forward to the wisdom that really does come with getting older, but I have my concerns about this age thing.  I am already having a harder time losing the baby weight, have tons of gray hair, and varicose veins have drawn road maps behind my knees.  I'm thinking of tattooing a you are here sign on my left calf.

Isn't it all downhill from here?

Actually, I don't think so.  Getting older has advantages.  Big ones.  As I get older, I become more comfortable in who I am.  I don't feel like I need to make excuses for being the person God made me.  There are things to grow into and out of as time passes; that's maturity. But the personality with which I have been blessed is my gift from God and I rejoice in it.

There are other things I've come to realize.  I will never be an athlete, but I can exercise consistently.  I will always be so pale that make-up often doesn't come in a light enough shade.  I could not care less.  I talk to myself when no one is around, and sometimes when I just think no one is around.  Why do you think I started a blog?  I am convinced that I will meet that guy from HGTV's Bath Crashers in Home Depot one day and all of my bathroom renovation dreams will come true, so I practice for my interview when I get ready in the morning.  In case you're wondering, I'm clever and pithy, but not too over-the-top.  Just right for TV.

I am also more comfortable in my marriage as time goes on.  Not to be confused with becoming complacent, being comfortable is a lovely place to be, restful and peaceful.  Handsome Hero is still a big stud who makes my heart go pitter patter.  We're going on a date tonight and I've been thinking of my outfit all day.  I still want to make him happy, but as we grow together in the Lord, we begin to make each other happy by default.  It becomes more and more natural.

So while I'm not thrilled about the outward signs of getting older, I'm more excited about the inward signs of growing up.  I look forward to what I will learn this year that I didn't know last year.

It's a journey I'm on, and I have a built in road map, if I could just twist around to see it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother Earth

Today, Ella and I planted our garden.  It is our first time planting from seed, and our first for-reals garden bed.  Last year we only did a little bit in a corner of the flower garden.  We learned somewhat and decided to build raised beds this year.

Handsome Hero did an amazing job putting these together.  Aren't they gorgeous?

Of course, the area needs a lot of work, but the beds themselves are so pretty.  This picture was taken from the deck, so you can see they are very close to the house {it was the best place for ease of use and full sun}.  Because of that we decided they should be as pretty as possible, and Handsome Hero came up with this design.

I think there is still a cap piece coming to finish the whole thing off, but either way I am really excited about them!  I'm not excited that we're so late planting, but we didn't spend much on seeds, so if it's a total bust we'll be ahead of the game next year because of all the prep work this time around.  We had to move the mulch, move the landscape fabric, build the beds, level the ground, replace the fabric, put the beds together, fill them with dirt, and all the other stuff that goes into preparing the space.  By we, let's just say that I have a very willing and loving husband and that I kept the kids out of his way.

Ella and I did the planting together, which was fun and frustrating all rolled into one.  A few more seeds than intended may have been dropped in maybe most of the holes, but she was really excited about it!

As we worked, she had an epiphany.  "Mom, you know, these seeds are like children.  They need to be loved and comforted by the earth.  The earth is like the mother of the seeds.  It hugs them close as they grow.  It's like, it's like, Mother Earth.  That's it.  That's what I'm going to call it."

So now you know.  We have planted seed children in mother earth.  Let us hope they grow with the aid of father time.  And water, whatever relation she may be.

p.s.  To those who knew that Nate was having tubes put in his ears yesterday and were praying, thank you so much. He took it like a champ and is acting today like nothing happened.  We hope to see an improvement in his speech and gross motor skills soon.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Update on Nate the Great

It's been awhile since I updated you on how our little guy is doing.  Nate is 23 months old, and he is one awesome little boy.  He continues to be a source of great joy to us.  He laughs a lot, and makes funny faces, and does things on purpose to get a laugh from us.  It's hilarious to play games with him.

At the children's museum, enjoying the view from the stroller.

He is also a source of bewilderment to me because he has a horrible temper, which doesn't jive with the rest of his personality!  He's really laid back, until he isn't.  He really enjoys people, until he doesn't.  He eats really well now, until he stops.  He loved taking baths, until he hated them, and then loved them again.  

He is usually willing to be dressed up any way Ella pleases, which usually means dress up clothes or her clothes.
Color me confused!  He's been treated as a baby for much longer than our other kids because he isn't walking, isn't talking, and has, physically speaking, been in the infant stage for a long time.  But he's almost two.  TWO!  In a matter of weeks he will be two years old.  He understands things, though to what extent I don't know because as I said, he doesn't talk.  The only consistent things he has been saying are "Ella," "hello," and "Where's Ella?" which sounds like "Whellella?"  He only added "bye-bye" and "baby" in the last couple of weeks.  "Momma" and "Dadda" are rarely spoken.  Who do you think is the favorite, hhmmm?


I know it's blurry but I love this picture.  They love to rock together.  She usually sings or reads to him.  He usually honks her nose.  It's a love thing.
He is still seeing a therapist who works with him on his speech and physical development.  It's really funny to me to watch him crawl, because he was taught to do so by someone instead of figuring it out himself, so he looks like a little robot crawling down the hall.  Left, right, left, right. 

Once he started pulling himself up, the dining room window became a favorite spot.

A couple of months ago he began pulling himself up to the coffee table and stools, anything that was at the right height.  At first he wouldn't shift his feet to gain purchase, so he looked really awkward until he just fell over.  We were concerned that it was the pesky sensory issues again, that he didn't like the feeling of the carpet on his feet and wouldn't move them, but gradually he has begun to adjust himself really well and now he walks along furniture like a champ.  He will walk in the open with both hands held, and has stood up by himself several times, only to fall on his rump, laughing hysterically.

Nate was actually having a really good time here, but Handsome Hero had to stop so I could get a better picture, and he didn't like that.  Notice that Ella is holding reigns.  That man is one amazing dad.

His fine motor skills are pretty much right on for his age.  His gross motor skills and speech are at about a fourteen month level.  We hope to see a great improvement in those things very soon, though, because on Monday morning he is having tubes put in his ears.  We found out that he has had fluid in his ears for a very long time, but it is usually sterile, so he hasn't had an unusual amount of ear infections.  However, he doesn't hear much and his equilibrium is all off because of it, which would, of course, effect speech and walking. 

So there you have it.  A year ago, we were talking about feeding tubes and this was what eating looked like.

We are indeed blessed.