Wednesday, July 31, 2013

sister, sister. birthday, birthday.

Finn was born two days too early. 
I mean, he was born three and a half weeks early, of course. 
But, you see, my girl's birthdays are 5.16 and 6.17, so if Finn had been born two days later, his birthday would be 4.15. 
Which would just be really cool and nerdy. 

I know what you're thinking- with a mom like me he has zero chance at the cool thing and already has a place reserved for him among nerd royalty. I'm good with it. 

Anyway, Avery's birthday came quickly after Finn came home, but we had a plan to make her sixth a special day AND keep me sane! It worked brilliantly.There were balloons and presents and doughnuts and school and then a small party at a ceramic art store nearby. The store took care of more balloons and cupcakes as well as an hour of painting for my little artist and her little friends. They each got to take home their work of art (once it was fired and all shiny and pretty), then we went back to our place to play Sardines and that one game where everyone sits on their balloon and the first to pop it wins! I think it should be called Butt Balloon, but that probably sounds more like a game to see who can smuggle more cocaine across international borders, so... not appropriate for six-year-olds.
 Maybe next year. 
We capped off the night by leaving Cartie with the Kestners and taking Av and her best friend, Drew, to dinner. Avery's choice? Sushi! In Portland just about every sushi restaurant involves a conveyor belt that travels around the restaurant space delivering sushi to each table. You pay per plate, and it is Avery's favorite thing ever. I guess it makes sense- what kid wouldn't love feasting their eyes and their bellies on delicious, fresh (?) sushi all night long? They both tried octopus and shrimp sashimi and calamari - they had an amazing time. Avery isn't a huge cake fan (or maybe I just used my powers of influence for evil - cake is boring) so we hit up a fro yo shop on the way home. All in all, it was as good a six-year-old-double-date-with-your-mom-and-dad as anyone has ever had!
I know it's not as elaborate as birthdays past, but I think she had a really lovely day anyway. And there's always next year!

Avery's Sixth                                            Carter's Third

We celebrated Carter's third birthday a few days early, since it fell during our yearly trip to San Diego. We decided to throw a big nursery bash in the park. AND we decided to do it the day before we left for a week-long vacation, which, in hind-sight was not my most brilliant plan-- boy did we sure need that vacation when we were done, though!
Carter was so excited that she smiled from ear to ear all day. She asked frequently what we were doing next, and every time I would go down the list: "First we'll eat your special doughnut, then we'll open your presents, then playtime, naptime, and then... your birthday party!" She would respond, "Yeah! And it's my party. It's Carter's party. It's just my party! And not Avery's!" She never said this in a mean or taunting way- it was honestly as though she could hardly believe her luck! And it was the most adorable thing I've ever heard each and every time she said it.
The poor middle child.

We set up Carter's party at a local park and had loads of three-year-olds along with their older and younger siblings join us! We played Duck, Duck, Goose; Freeze Dance; Red Rover, Red Rover (again, completely age-inappropriate for the littles!! But we had so much fun trying to organize it- I highly recommend you try to teach all of the toddlers on your block a game that involves running into each other at full speed. It's awesome.); and Ball Pop. K was in charge of the games, and he really rocked it. All of the kids had a great time, especially when we pulled out the Ice Cream Sundae Bar (more my territory). The littles got cones and the biggies dished up ridiculous amounts of cold goodness and sugary toppings. Carter's favorite part was absolutely the present opening hand-in-hand with the constant attention. She really loved knowing that it was her own special day, and that had me smiling from ear to ear.

Happy Birthday my wonderful, hilarious, special, beautiful girls!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

B Y O Horn

Is it just me, or is it pretty hard to make friends?
There's all of that small talk and feeling things out at first. 
Then there's time spent building up things in common to talk about, and then talking about doing together, and then actually doing together.
Parents of young kids often make friends with other parents of young kids in order to trade stories, recipes, child-rearing secrets, and petty gossip about how other parents are royally screwing their kids up.
These friendships are good, but so often it takes lots of work to make something really real stick.

 So meeting someone that makes you instantly comfortable, with whom a first-meeting feels like the middle of a long-time-running conversation, with comfortable silences and blithe banter peppered throughout...
well, I would consider that about as rare as a unicorn sighting. 

I recently moved in next to a unicorn.
(A unicorn who, as she reads this, is surely rolling her eyes and cursing the day she met me. Deal with it, Lady.)

This unicorn first rescued me from a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day involving Avery, a neighbor girl's hair and a pair of scissors. From there she went on to save me from pregnancy illness and exhaustion, boredom, depression, and ever feeling ordinary. 
Who could possibly feel ordinary with such a friend?!

I have been able to make some great friends since our move here nearly a year ago, and I feel like I owe a lot of that to being so at home in my little corner of our little street -- something I am sure I could not have done without moving near my insta-friend.

I mean, not only is she extraordinary and so thoughtful and a good person and all of that dumb crap, but she is hilarious and adorable and witty. 
AND she can reach things on the top shelf!! And I mean the tippy-top! 
I can't believe I didn't mention that last one first.
Living across the street from her has been a dream.

Just over a month ago, when she told me that she and her family were leaving our little corner of Skid Row for a better job and better house with better pay in far-off town (...okay, it's only two and a half hours away, but still!), I cried so hard and so long that it was like the end of Old Yeller, Armageddon, Titanic, Romeo + Juliet, My Girl, Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and season 3 of Downton Abbey all rolled into one.
Of course, I did my best to pretend to be happy for her (don't worry- she didn't buy it), but there was some ugly, ugly crying going on. 

Thankfully for the past few weeks I have been able to pull off an oh-so-casual "Don't Cry Out Loud" act and put on a mostly-brave face through all of the packing and final weeks of being a unicorn's neighbor.
But the truth is that I am heartbroken.

Their house was empty by noon on Saturday.
 I spent the weekend away from our place in the daylight hours, dragging my family anywhere-but-here, just avoid the empty windows from across the street.
I have spent endless hours, too, dreaming up a move that we can't afford to a different street or city or suburb just to avoid missing them so much and so often. 
And it's only been a few days.

So for now I'm stuck here missing our kid's crazy playtime, our daily chats, weekly movie dates, quarterly girl's nights out/double dates, and the constant stream of laugh-our-faces-off texts.
 ...actually, I don't and won't miss that last one since I am determined they continue. I mean, just because that crazy couple-from-every-Nicholas-Sparks-book-turned-movie couldn't figure out the whole letter-writing thing doesn't mean our long distance opposite-of-bromance will fizzle!

I guess all of this is my way of publicly declaring (i.e. convincing myself) that I don't have to go back to a unicornless existence just because of a big, dumb Uhaul truck.

P.S. I know. There's a "horny" joke in here somewhere with the whole unicorn thing that I am a little too sad to make, so I will just reference it here so you don't think I'm losing my touch. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I be on my Suit and Tie: Finn's Blessing Day

There's nothing like a baby blessing to exhaust everyone in sight! ...I mean... count your blessings?
Either way, man did we have a good time! My parents came to stay for a long weekend, K's parents came over for the blessing, and we had lots of amazing friends around to help us celebrate Finn's first ever Big Day! I don't remember much about anything (1. Thank heaven for pictures and 2. Like YOU would remember anything nearly two months later when you were running full-time on four choppy hours of sleep for weeks on end! You don't know me!), but I remember feeling lots of love to be so blessed with such good people in our lives.

Finn looked so handsome in his white-knit-shorts-tuxedo (loads classier than the tuxedo t-shirt that K wore to bless him in), and he loved spending the long weekend being held and 'ooh'ed and 'aww'ed over.There were quite a few firsts for him that weekend, too. First trip to the ocean. First time meeting his namesake (Finn's middle name is Michael for my dad). First time having a luncheon in his honor. ...first time wearing a knit short-xedo?

Grandpa's here!!
Michael, Adam Michael, and Finn Michael.

Proud grandparents!

THE uncle.
No seriously, he pooped.

About a Boy, part 2. Also known as Virtual Insanity

Let me begin by saying that the NICU is a place where miracles happen. 
I have seen too many wonderful people do amazing things in the NICU to ever doubt that the people who work there are angels and saints.

And now that I've said that, I can also tell you that the NICU is @#!*% on earth.
He just found out he's NICU-bound. Not. Happy.
Everyone in the NICU has a very important role to play. 
First, NICU nurses. Most of them are the salt of the earth, as good as it gets, the best and the brightest. And each and every one I have met is like the cliche General in a war movie-- Kind eyes, heart of gold, gruff manner, and endless stories to tell, all with a similar theme: "I have seen and done it all. And you are not the first." This demeanor is surely meant to reassure the NICU parent (more on them below).

The doctors in the NICU are like hospital Deity. Often referred to in reverent tones, all-knowing, but rarely seen in the flesh. Finn's doctor called me every morning at 8am to brief me on Finn's condition, but I only spied him in his physical form twice as he made his rounds. I nicknamed him Dr. Pepper because he would rattle off conditions and diagnoses at me without stopping for breath and condensed a would-be 15 minute conversation into two and a half head-spinning minutes of pure medical jargon and best case scenario timelines that were never met. Naturally I presumed his speed and optimism were products of his doctor diet: just as mere mortals are mostly water, his body mass was 2/3 caffeine.

Then there is the NICU parent. As a NICU mom you are riding a constant wave of highs and lows, not helped in the slightest by the post-pregnancy-hormone-freak-show that besets all new moms. But NICU moms are driven to new heights of crazy. There is no baby to cuddle, no reassurance that sinks in, and no satisfaction. Nurses and doctors greet you with grim faces, soothing tones and detailed descriptions of the best case scenario.
They use phrases like "Any day now..."
As a NICU parent, "Any day now" is not your friend.

When Finn entered the NICU it was with endless "any day now" reassurances
"Everything is fine. His breathing is just a bit more labored than we would like. I'm sure it's nothing. Any moment/hour/day now he'll be back in your arms."

**Side note: I have started and stopped this blog entry about fifteen times now. I think it's safe to say that even now, more than three months later, I still find Finn's ultimately successful stay in the NICU an acutely painful experience. I had hoped to breeze through this one, but I am struggling- sorry if this post is a bit more depressing than delightful...**

Finn's would-be brief NICU trip began about an hour after he was born early Saturday morning. Within an hour he was hooked up to breathing equipment called a CPAP. The CPAP bubbles up from a vacuum basin of water and blows humid air into the nose in a more forceful way than a traditional oxygen nose cannula.
The truth about CPAP: Looking at this still makes me cry.
  But as the day progressed, Finn's breathing did not. On Saturday night, a small hole was discovered in his lung. This hole was not a deformity, but had formed as a consequence of lung immaturity-- My poor little guy's lungs just weren't quite ready to breathe on their own yet. The doctor quickly inserted a tube in the left side of his rib cage to release air that was escaping into his chest cavity from the hole in his left lung. 

Because of the tube, Finn was in a good amount of pain, so he was placed on an IV of nutritive fluids (so his body was spared the burden of digestion) as well as morphine. With the air being let out of his chest, his lung should have been able to expand properly as he breathed.
But breathing became much too tiring after a while.
Avery meets Finn.

On Sunday night I got the call while I was resting in my room:
 Finn had stopped breathing for five minutes.
Nurses had tried to stimulate him into breathing on his own again.
Nothing had worked.
Doctors worked quickly and Finn was intubated.
He was now on a ventilator (a machine that breathes for you).

The pain and trauma of first labor, then surgery, NICU admittance, constant "breastfeeding" dates with plastic bottles and a giant yellow boob vacuum, blood draws, an endless parade of people with charts coming to poke and prod at my incision and lady parts, and watching my new baby stuffed and sewn like a living taxidermy project were too much already. I am not (too) ashamed to say that this call broke me to pieces.

I was wheeled down to the NICU where nurses repeated the information I was given on the phone slowly and more than once. I wasn't listening very well. All I could think was, "It's getting worse. He's not going to make it. He's not getting better. He's not getting better." Over and over.
I sat by his teeny tiny clear plastic bed and cried.
Robot lung.
 Those post-delivery hormones are no joke, friends. 

The final player in the cast is the starring role: Baby. Finn didn't open his eyes for days, then he would open just one, and then both, but only for moments at a time. It took nearly a week for him to open them long enough for an onlooker to get more than the merest peep of his peepers.
Breathing, eating, surviving-- They all went the same way. It took time, he worked up to it, and then, suddenly, he caught on. He was surviving.
Carter, Finn. Finn, your worst nightmare.
 By Tuesday night things had turned completely around. Doctors felt confident that he could be taken off of the ventilator and was put back on CPAP, and then an oxygen cannula, and then room air. His chest tube was removed- his body had healed the tiny hole and his lungs were expanding fully. He was slowly given little bits of milk, and then more, and more, through a tube that traveled into his nose, down his esophagus and into his stomach as IV fluids were weaned. And then he got to try to eat on his own once a day, then twice, as his digestive system was worked up to full feedings. He had turned a corner and he never looked back.

Now, I have dates and details for Finn's progression, but the thing that really sticks with me was the timid uncertainty and blazing hope that accompanied each step forward. God is in the details, and the details that stand out are his weak body growing stronger, healing, learning, and finally taking over the responsibilities it was created to perform.The NICU really is a place for faith and miracles.

My three NICU babies- Av (top left), Carter (top right), and Finn.
I'm sorry if this is a weepy retelling of NICU events, because there were a lot of fairly happy and easy times (and at least one billion blessings) in the NICU, too. After the corner-turning on Tuesday there were hours every day spent holding and rocking and feeding and introducing. My mom (bless that lovely, lovely woman) was there for more than a week after Finn was born, taking care of my family while we did the hospital thing (for five days!) and then the traveling-back-and-forth-between-home-and-hospital thing. Adam (uncle extraordinaire) came and went daily along with neighbors and friends who assisted with blessings and brought gifts and happiness.

 One of the brightest spots of the NICU days were when the girls came to visit. They learned to wash their hands while singing Twinkle Twinkle to be sure to kill all of their mutant little kid germs, would have their temperatures checked, and then were cleared to come in and adore their new brother. Finn's big sisters were (and are) so in love with him that it rendered one incoherent with giggles just to be near him (Avery) and the other so uncharacteristically reverent and shy that I worried  about alien abductions (Carter). They would whisper and coo at him. They would put their finger in his palms and smile from ear to ear to have their hand held by Finn. They would interpret his every movement and sound to mean something very significant and important ("He likes me!" "He wants me to hold him!" "He is so happy!"). They were smitten.

On the night that Finn came home it was late at night about two weeks after he was born. I found the sitter on our couch and the girls like this:
They had tried so hard to wait up for him! They are the sweetest big sisters you will ever meet. 
Adoration at home.
Anyway, the NICU is best told in pictures, I think, because the hours are long and the visits too brief and the terms complicated but it's all love and hope and happiness in the end. Here are just a few of my favorite NICU shots. And here's to never, ever going to that awful, blessed place again!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

What's in a Name?

Once again, folks, it's embarrassing story time. 
First of all, a confession. 
I am a closet Glee fan.
I know. I know.
It's so dumb. 
And completely morally bankrupt.
And I know I shouldn't like it. 
But I do. 
I really do. 
The singing.
The dancing. 
...Fine. I'll say it. 
I'm a whore for musicals. And I don't care who knows it.
Anyway, you needed to know that because I just heard about Cory Monteith's untimely death.
 May he rest in peace.
And being sad for Finn got me to thinking about my own little handsome Finn. 

So I think it's time to share the story of how Finn became Finn!, you perv. Not THAT story.
I meant how we chose his name. 
 (Fun flashback: check out how Carter got her name here, just in case you are still wondering what the he** I was thinking with that one.) 

Ooh! Intrigue!
 So far as I have declared Finn's name to family and friends, thankfully (sorry, but all of the head-tilting, eyebrow-raising, you-are-a-cruel-and-terrible-parent commenting from family and strangers alike really do take their toll after you name a girl Carter) I have only heard "Cool!"s and "Love it!"s. 
And a whole lot of, "Oh! Like the Finn on Glee?" 
Nope, sorry. Not that Finn.
Or, "Oh! There's a Finn on Adventuretime!" 
Umm what time is Adventuretime, exactly? And is that AM or PM?
And then there's always, "Oh! Because you're Irish, right?"
What? Who, me? Or K? 
Either way, no. 
Nor is he named after the brother of Ferb or Phineas Nigellus (although that IS what I plan to call him when I am cross with him because I am what they call a NERD). 

Here is the cold, hard truth about the name Finn. It also comes from a rather embarrassing place.
A book. 
And not even a cool or trendy or particularly meaningful book. 
It comes from a girlie book. 
A teenaged girlie book.
Noooo!!! Please, don't let it be Twilight.
In the winter of 2009 I read a book by Shannon Hale called Enna Burning, the sequel to a book I love and own called The Goose Girl. The plot of this book is not important (nor is it terribly interesting), but while reading I first found and fell in love with the name Finn, who in the book is, "A Forest boy who secretly loves Enna. He is quiet and gentle; although, forced by war, to fight to protect his friends and home, with grim determination." (Wikipedia)

Gripping, right? 
 A little mysterious. 
A little sexy (what IS a forest boy, anyway? I'm sorry, but all I can picture is this...)
If Iiiii were the Kiiiiing of the Forreeeeest!
 All forest boys aside, I wrote down the name and have hung on to it ever since. 
If Carter had been a boy (man this sentence is starting out like a gender-confused teen's girlfriend's distraught diary entry..."maybe he/she would love me! LOL OMG ETC"), she might be named for this quiet, gentle and grim (also known as the life of the party) forest boy. 

So, yeah.
There's the truth.
...But forget that. I can't tell strangers that when they ask.
Strangers would never understand about Forest Boys. 

So this is what I am telling people (also the truth, but not really). 

"Oh! That's a neat name! How did you land on that?"
"Well, kind-but-nosey-stranger, my husband's favorite book growing up was Huckleberry Finn (true)! And so we fell in love with the name! Huzzah for English-Teacher-Approved, non-embarrassing-to-reference Literature!" 

Now, Wikipedia says of our fictitiously fictitious namesake; "Huck [FINN!] is an archetypal innocent, able to discover the "right" thing to do despite the prevailing theology and prejudiced mentality of the South of that era."

Score! I'll take innocence and integrity for 500, Alex! What a role model!!


"The author... names him 'the juvenile pariah of the village' and describes Huck as 'idle, and lawless, and vulgar, and bad,' qualities for which he was admired by all the children in the village, although their mothers 'cordially hated and dreaded' him."
Well, hide your kids and your wife. My Finn is coming to a village near you. 

Still coming soon- Finn's NICU Story.