Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Great Debate

I promise this is not a post on the debt ceiling.

The issue at hand: What was Nic's first word?

I think it was Mama. Jeff, however, has only heard him say Dada.

Three days ago, while Nic was crying about something or other, my guess would be Tommy hit him, or pinched him, or rolled on top of him, or took his toy...ah, brothers...he lifted up his arms and said, "waahhh, Mama, waahhh, Mama." When I picked him up the waahhhs continued but the Mamas stopped. I thought that Nic had perhaps said his first distinguishable word, but I didn't want to get overly excited and have some accuse me of being too much like my father (who claims I told him "I love you" at six months).

Last night, Jeff was putting Nic to bed for the second or third time. The little man is teething again and is up and down every few hours. When Jeff put him down and left the room, Nic started to scream clearly "Dada, Dada" until Jeff picked him up again. He did it again tonight.

Both times I overheard Nic clearly say Dada, but no one but me has ever heard him say Mama!

Nevertheless, I claim that he did say Mama, and that it should be documented as his first word.

While I don't have any footage of him talking, here is a darn cute video of him really enjoying some ice cream.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

And the Wait Goes On...

July 27. Tomorrow. After three months of waiting we were supposed to be getting answers about Nicolas' diagnosis. I'm guessing that you can tell by my use of the term "supposed" that it isn't happening. The lab work still isn't finished, although they did promise it would be done by the end of the week. Our hematologist works in the city and only spends one day a week in the suburbs, so that means waiting until next Wednesday for our office visit and the results.

I am very disappointed. We have great Congoriffic plans this weekend that we are really looking forward to (and Nic's birthday), and I was really hoping to not have to bring the penicillin along, since it requires a cooler and ice packs, etc, and is a pain. I was also hoping to not bring along the constant cloud of wondering if a small fever will result in a hospital trip, or if an episode of crying portends a sickle crisis. Nic sneezed a few times today, and now I'm frantically praying he won't develop a fever and we won't have to cancel. I know that in the grand scheme of life one week is not that long to wait, but after waiting almost patiently for three months I am ready for some answers.

On a happier note, the postponement has played out well for the kids. Today Jeff is in the city for the full day/evening at a conference so I have been "on" and will be on from wake-up to bedtime, and I am exhausted. This is probably more related to staying up until almost midnight finishing the laundry last night, or perhaps going to the splash park this morning, or having to spend an hour of the boy's too-short nap on the phone with the IRS to get no new information on our tax refund, but on top of all that I found this news extra deflating. Thus, I decided I did not have the energy to go back to the splash park after nap as previously promised, and since I like to keep my promises or offer an alternative perceived as better, the boys got to have their dessert before dinner and Tommy got to watch his new obsession: The Adventures of Robin Hood. Oodelally! I am so thankful we have moved on from Cars, at least for the moment.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Nic's "First" Haircut

It's his first haircut with us anyway. He's had one other that we know about, when they took his pictures for his passport. Thankfully, they let it grow back after that and when I got to Congo he had the cutest little baby fro. It was very difficult for me to part with his baby curls, but his hair was a crazy mix of baby hair and grown up hair and it was looking a bit too shaggy for court. Thus, we trimmed the little fellow up.

He was not really a fan of the haircut, but he tolerated it.

Nic and Tommy have different levels of curls. Tommy's curls are much tighter, while Nic's are softer and looser. His hair is easier to comb out than Tommy's, so we can keep it a little longer without extra effort.



Friday, 22 July 2011

Good Hair

Inches From the Finish Line

We are almost, almost, almost done with Tommy's adoption paperwork. Wednesday we traveled into the city (yes, twice in one week, completely horrible) to visit USCIS and pick up Tommy's certificate of citizenship. Now the only thing I have left to do is go to Social Security and have Tommy's SS number updated so that he can get a job. Since I don't anticipate anyone officially hiring him anytime soon...or for the next twelve years or so, I will do this after we get Nic's judgement so I can get his card at the same time.

On a side note, let me just say that I was highly disappointed by the certificate of citizenship. Considering how much we paid for that piece of paper I thought it would be much classier, or at least have some awesome holograms or something. Instead it looks like one of those "good job" certificates you can print from your computer using a create-a-card program, except it has a gold seal and says "citizen" instead of "job well done." Seriously, I am embarrassed that this certificate is the best my country can do for newly minted citizens who shell out hundreds of dollars (I think it's up to 7 now) for proof of their status. I wish I could scan it in to show it to you, but I'm pretty sure that you could just take the jpg and counterfeit the certificate with your home printer, because it is that pathetic and terrible looking, and I don't want anyone hijacking Tommy's ID.

Instead, here are some pictures of our favorite American citizen (yes, I can say this because Nic is not a citizen yet):

Keeping cool at the splash park

Getting ready to go out

July 4th petting zoo look of terror

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Nic's Day At Court

On Monday we drove downtown to attend Nic's US adoption hearing. In our state we have to wait six months to finalize adoptions done overseas when you haven't met the child prior to the completion of the adoption, but you can attend your court hearing early because it takes a few months for everything to be decided after your hearing.

We had an afternoon court date this round, which meant traffic was slightly better driving into the city. We met our attorney, Nic went to the Sheriff to get served, and then we went upstairs to the family court area. The courthouse has a nice play-room for the kids to sit in while you wait, and we waited with two other families who were on the docket that day. The Judge we stood before was very, very nice. She asked us a few questions, admired the boys, and let us go. Tommy was very impressed with the sucker he received on the way out. After she finished hearing cases the Judge took pictures with us, and we went home.

We are one step closer to legally confirming Nic's place in our family. Once the ruling is confirmed it will only be a few more checks and a few more forms (I'm particularly dreading the N-600 and going to SS) and we will be done.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Sinking Feeling

Today we got an enigmatic phone call from Nic's nurse coordinator, Vicki. I may be reading too much into it, but after I hung up I had that horrible sinking feeling in my gut. Vicki called to let me know that the hematologist still hasn't called us about Nic's tests because Mayo clinic hasn't provided the results from the final, most definitive test for Nic's condition. She said that the doctor would be calling us as soon as he got the results for that test. I asked if that meant we could cancel next week's appointment to go over the test results, and she checked with the doctor and said we should plan on coming in still.

That sounds benign, right? But here's the rub: while we were in the hospital last week, when the hematologist said that he thinks Nic has sickle/HPFH instead of sickle cell disease, he said that if Nic had HPFH then we could cancel our appointment for next week because he wouldn't need to see us again so soon, as he only has to see patients with sickle cell trait (and HPFH would be similar to trait) infrequently.

Last week he thought Nic had HPFH and didn't need an appointment. This week we got no indication on what the hematologist is thinking, except that he wants us to come for an appointment. In my experience with specialists delivering really awful news about the health of one's child, they tend to like to do it in person. I'm not exactly thrilled that the hematologist wants to sit in an office with me, because in my book that means bad news. Now, I could be paranoid. I could be reading way more into this than I should. I know that, but I can't help but wonder why he has changed his tune about us showing up for the appointment.

This leads me to the real problem with all this - the sinking feeling. When Nic was first diagnosed I feel like we were able to adjust to his diagnosis about as gracefully as possible considering. The hematologist was clear that there was only an outside chance that Nic had something other than sickle cell disease. In my head, that meant that Nic had sickle cell disease. Obviously, I prayed that the diagnosis would be incorrect, but I found that it was easiest for me to cope with the diagnosis if I really believed it. I have full confidence that God placed Nicolas in the care of our family. It was no mistake or coincidence that we were chosen to parent this sweet boy, and if that meant parenting a boy with sickle cell disease, well, then that was our calling. My thoughts were such that when I envisioned our future, it was one where we made serious concessions to sickle cell disease. With a family like ours we are obviously not moving to the sticks anytime soon, but SCD meant taking the proximity and quality of local medical care into a far higher consideration when we think about where we will live. It meant viewing Nic's future in a different perspective, and acknowledging limits on things that our family can do. Honestly, it was highly unlikely that we would ever do any family mountain climbing, for example, but we certainly won't be if Nic has SCD (let me reiterate that for Jeff and me giving up mountain climbing would not be a sacrifice). But more realistically, when I planned our family vacation this year, I made sure to ask about the refund policy of the place we chose to stay, because we might be heading to the ER instead of going on vacation.

When we were getting ready to go to the emergency room last week, and in those first few hours at the hospital, I found myself making a lot of mental notes for "next time." Next time, I would keep a bag ready just for emergency trips, I would make a master list to check off the things we need before we head out the door, I would make a list phone numbers for Nic's medical folder (instead of just grabbing the church directory), I would pack more pjs for Nic and fewer toys, I would think about getting some type of portable computer for long stays (an iPad would be so helpful in the hospital and make a great Christmas present for me and Nic, Mom and Dad;-)), and I would keep some decent freezer meals for Jeff and me to take to the Peds kitchen. One can only live on muffins and Teddy Grahams for so long. I was in SCD mode. I had my head wrapped around it. Then, the hematologist said he might take back the whole SCD diagnosis, and he wasn't saying it was a tiny little chance, he was saying it was a good chance.

When he did that, he gave us hope. Hope that our son might outlive us. Hope that he might not suffer from pain crisis, develop lung issues, and sustain damage to his major organs. Hope that he might be able to participate in any sport or activity that he enjoys. Hope that he might not have to go to the hospital every single time he gets a fever. Hope that we won't have to cart around a cooler with penicillin every time we are away from the house at medicine time. I set aside this hope after Nic's original diagnosis, but I like having it back. I don't want to have to give it up again.

Needless to say, I have felt significantly less sane in these last few hours since that phone call. I'm a bit frustrated by this, because we have made it so far in this wait, and we hopefully have less than a week to go before we meet with the hematologist and get our results, and this has messed up my waiting rhythm. All that to say, please pray for us. The home stretch of this wait is clearly going to be tougher than I anticipated. Add to that the horrendous weather that has kept us inside more than we like to be all week long, and two boys who seem incapable of napping in tandem, and I might be a crazy person by the end of the week.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I Wonder Why They Didn't Just Test Us?

I found the following paragraph in an article about blood disorders related to Hereditary Persistence of Fetal Hemoglobin, the disorder that we are hoping hoping hoping that Nic has (still no confirmation, the other option from what I can tell is called sickle/b-thalassemia and it is no where near as nice as sickle/HPFH). It explains why we had to wait so long to do his testing...

Sickle/hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin
A child who inherits a sickle gene from one parent and an HPFH gene from the other parent will have sickle/HPFH, an asymptomatic condition. This genotype can be misdiagnosed as sickle/beta-thalassemia, a symptomatic condition.

The best way to distinguish the two is to test the parents.

If the parents are not available for testing, retesting the infant at 1 year of age or older is recommended since by then the Hb F will be reduced to the level the child will exhibit as an adult. A child with sickle/b-thalassemia, like all infants with sickle cell disease, requires penicillin prophylaxis. A child with sickle/HPFH will not experience the symptoms of sickle cell disease and penicillin prophylaxis is not required.

I guess Nic's hematologist doesn't think we look alike...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Our Day at the Hospital

I am quite thankful to admit that I missed all of the very worst parts of the hospital visit. Jeff endured the late night drive to the ER, the barrage of tests, which included blood draws and x-rays, the insertion of an IV (and a urinary catheter!!), and finally admission to the hospital. By the time I arrived both Nic and Jeff were sleeping peacefully and all I had to do for my first two hours was to wake up Jeff and take his spot in the aforementioned uncomfortable sleeping chair, where I distracted myself with my iPod and a book and tried not to notice the cords dangling off Nic's body or the monitors beeping and flashing numbers and displaying wiggly lines.

In the late morning I received a visit from the hematologist that brightened my day and made the rest of our stay much easier. This is when the hematologist told me that the results from last weeks barrage of tests were in and that he was quite hopeful, but not entirely sure, that he would be undiagnosing Nicolas with sickle cell disease, and instead diagnosing him with something closely resembling sickle cell trait (PRAISE GOD). However, until he consults with some more experts and possibly does one more round of tests he does not feel comfortable doing so. Thus, for the time being Nicolas must keep his diagnosis of probable sickle cell disease and maintain all sickle cell disease precautions. Thus, we had to stay in the hospital, but we could do so with a good certainty that whatever Nic was experiencing was not sickle cell related and was probably just a regular childhood virus. After that I was so stinking happy I really didn't mind being in the hospital. Of course the food was bad, and Nic was on so much medication and clearly uncomfortable during his shots, and our room had no windows so it was awful to sit in, but knowing that this visit would probably be our last for a very long time...well, it just wasn't so bad.

It helped that we were at an incredibly nice hospital. The staff that served us was excellent. Our first day nurse was actually transferred down for the day from NICU for one day only and she and I got to talking and it turned out that she had also lost children to a medical condition caused by a recessive gene, so I had a chance to learn about her boys, both of whom she lives each day without. Then I got to talking with the woman who cleaned our rooms, and it turns out that she is from Ghana and that she is hoping to adopt her brother's children and bring them to the US in two or three years. I explained some of the US and IL side of the adoption process to her, and learned about her kids and those that she hopes to bring home. Then we found the kitchen and had some yummy snacks...seriously, they do a very nice job of keeping the kitchen stocked for families. They even had one of those cool pod coffee/tea/hot chocolate machines, so I was super hyped up on caffeine all day. I used my extra energy for good, and Nic and I visited the play room a few times, he rode in a car that I pushed up and down the halls numerous times, and we visited the window often. We also got a visit from a therapy dog and from volunteers with bubbles. Jeff and Tommy brought me dinner and came to play for a while afterward, which gave us something to look forward to when the afternoon got a bit long.

While I would be hard pressed to describe our visit as fun, I could describe it as "fun for a stay in the hospital." Once we got the good news and I stopped feeling particularly concerned about Nic's condition, I was able to spend my time focusing fully on Nicolas - something I haven't been able to do much of lately, since I always have two boys around. I miss having one-on-one time with Nicolas. I still get some with Tommy when Nic naps in the morning, but it is rare that Nic is up for long while Tommy is sleeping. Having an entire day together with just me and Nic was actually quite nice.

Our night in the hospital greatly contrasted with the day. It was a long night with little sleep and no comfort for either of us. But hey, we got to go home first thing in the morning. In fact, the nurse told me it was her earliest/fastest discharge ever. I was highly motivated to leave at that point, because I did not want to have to sleep there again.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Reflections on Code Blue

Really, this story starts last week when we went to get Nic's (hopefully) final round of blood tests done. For whatever reason we had to check into the Peds specialty clinic for the draw, which meant checking Nic in an outpatient at the hospital. We did all of our insurance information upstairs at outpatient check-in, then went downstairs to pediatrics where we were put in a room and asked to wait while they verified the test codes and assembled equipment.

The room we waited in was the standard pediatric room, I assume, and was equipped with hospital bed and all the usual odd and scary looking tubes and poles and devices. Nic thought those looked super interesting and desired to pull on them. I then realized that there is nothing for an active crawler to do in a hospital room that is both safe for him and the room and sanitary. Thus, as I struggled to hold an increasingly wiggly little boy, I was searching the room for something to do, which ended up being watching the introduction to the hospital on the room's tv(and in retrospect this was not the time-waster I thought it was). It was rather boring, so my eyes wandered...and landed on a nice laminated sign hanging under the patient info board. It read "To call a CODE BLUE dial ....." Now, Code Blue is hospital lingo for "your kid's heart just stopped working" and the nice little laminated sign bothered me on two fronts: 1) why remind a probably already panicked parent that their child might die in the hospital with such signage? 2) Why couldn't the nurses or doctors of whoever memorize such an easy number since it only involved two different numberals? And, if they couldn't (scary thought, because if they can't remember five easy digits, can they recall my kid's meds correctly?), why not post it more discreetly on the wall or on the back of a name tag, etc? Clearly the sign wasn't for parents to use or it would not have been written in hospital code.

Anyhow, this little yellow sign, and all the crazy medical equipment reminded me exactly why I am not fond of hospital visits (is anyone?). It also reminded me that I really didn't want to be taking Nic to the hospital. Yes, hospitals cure kids of all kinds of illnesses, but, his (at the time) probable illness currently has no cure, only pain relief and infection fighting. Every time we would go it would be with the knowledge that we would return. I didn't like that idea.

As we wrapped up the blood test, which involved only one stick but a horrifyingly long amount of time for the many vials to fill up during which Nic screamed bloody murder, I had no idea that I would be returning so soon to the hospital. Thank goodness, as it just would have stressed me out. I had an arbitrary goal of making it until Nic's first birthday before he had his first crisis/hospital visit, and I hate giving up my goals, no matter how ridiculously out of my control I know they are.

Anyhow, thanks to last week's visit, guess what little yellow sign was on my mind during the half-hour it took me to get to the hospital this week? As absurd as it sounds, by the time I followed all the PICU signs (which are black on yellow "minus" signs posted on the ceiling and not that easy to follow) and managed to get buzzed into Nic's room I was half-convinced I would find a crash cart there. Of course, nothing of that sort happened, and it was never probable that it would, but thanks to that sign it was on my brain. What a way to start our visit...

Just for fun, a cute picture of Nic - not taken at the hospital


We are home and headed for a nice nap. Nic spiked a fever right before we left (tiny fever at 7am and much bigger fever at 8am measured five minutes before we were supposed to be discharged), but the Dr was merciful and let us go home on the condition that we will go to the pediatrician immediately tomorrow if he still has a fever. I happily agreed. Off to bed...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Greetings from the Hospital

Wow has it been a crazy day. Jeff left for the ER with Nic last night around 12:30, and they were checked into the hospital around 4am after the doctors in the ER decided that they could not find a clear cause for his fever. They were working under the assumption that he had a blood infection, because that was his worst-case scenario after all the rest of the sickle-cell related tests came back negative. Unfortunately, the blood infection tests take 24 hours to culture, so they won't have a negative for us until the middle of the night tonight. Thus, I get to sleep on one of those awesome hospital fold out bed/chairs. It is astounding to me that they can even make a sleeping device as uncomfortable as these chairs. Each and every individual spring has it's own special lump, and you can actually feel the strands in the coils when you sit. It's like sleeping on a bed of slinkies. Horrible, but totally worth it to be near my little guy.

Nic's fever stayed down during the day. It has increased some tonight, but he is on loads of Tylenol and antibiotics, and it has not gotten anywhere near as high as it was last night. He is in a decent mood considering the amount of poking and prodding he has been through in the last 24 hours, and the fact that the cribs in this place are scary, cage-like, and extend all the way from floor to ceiling with various poles and plastic germ shields. The top is basically a big plastic tent. It completely weirded me out when I first saw him sleeping in it.

Anyway, Jeff needs to take the computer (and Tommy) home, and Nic needs to get to bed and hopefully sleep. I'm done for too. I'll probably have some more reflections on our hospital sojourn later, as it has been a lot of action packed into such a short time. We are all in high spirits because we had a very positive visit from the hematologist. We don't have the definitive word yet, because, (surprise) they need to analyze Nic's blood some more and possibly run more tests, but his fetal hemoglobin count remains elevated, praise God. If they rescind his diagnosis of sickle cell disease then we won't have to run to hospital every time he has a fever. As nice as this hospital is (it is seriously very very nice), I would prefer not to come here. Please keep praying with us that Nic's fever would go down and that we can return home asap. We appreciate it so much.

And...we're at the hospital

Nic went in to the ER last night because he had a fever of 104.5. The doctors said his ear infection could not be causing the fever and admitted him to the PICU. All the standard sickle cell problems (spleen, lungs) are not the cause either, so they are searching for an answer today. He will be in the hospital at least one more night. I am heading over there right now. PLEASE PRAY.

Monday, 11 July 2011


I am so so thankful to be home right now. Nicolas does have an infection, but not a sickle-cell related infection, just a regular old ear infection (and a small one at that). His "tells" for ear infections are rather different than Tommy's, and I'm surprised that he got one without having a cold. That said, I am completely thrilled that everything that sickle-cell might effect, like his spleen and lungs, aren't having any trouble. We were able to swing through the pharmacy on the way home, so he has already started his medicine and is resting as I type.
Thank you so much for your prayers!

Please Pray

Nic's running a fever a little over 101. Best case scenario is he's teething with a higher fever than usual, but worst case is an infection of some sort. We have an appointment with the pediatrician in a few minutes. I am really hoping it will be something simple and that we can come back home, but I am packing a bag just in case this is sickle cell related and we need to check in to the hospital. Nic does not have any discernible signs of a sickle crisis (ie pain or swelling), but it could be a spleen or lung problem...which would not be obvious to me.

Please pray for Nic's healing and comfort. Pray for Tommy, who is in good hands right now, but who lately has been suffering from fear that I will leave him. I don't want things like this to reinforce that fear. Pray for me, that I can make it through whatever tests or procedures Nic may have to endure.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Ode on a Man as Old as a Grecian Urn

By Amy Keats

Thou decrepit husband of an e’re patient wife,
Thou aged father of silent and sweet progeny,
Wise historian who canst explain a life
As well and quickly as this short ditty:
What number of chocolate chip cookies haunt thy shape?
And untold hamburgers and cheetos too,
And cutting back could not eliminate
Their cholesterol and fatty residue.
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
The battle of the bulge against your weight?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, keep ye hearing aid turned down,
And much like Grandpa Kay, and as endeared,
We will talk and joke as you observe and frown.
Fair youth, thou hast made haste to leave
The ravaged outer shell so stripped and bare
Of muscle tone and vigor long missed
At sixty though one should not grieve
Your loss of energy or shake your fist
At least you got to keep, though greyed, your hair.

Ah, happy, happy man! That cannot shed
Your wife, nor ever bid your kids adieu,
And happy father, unwearied,
You children’s boxes of junk will always be with you.
Their bills arrive in the mail each day,
Some even retain your Master and Visa cards,
Forever wanting, and forever needy
You should cut the cord and move away.
Alas construction has your house in shards,
Preventing your needed escape to Yosemite.

And now the time to count the Sacrifice
You have made for God and family
To think you would throw it out on dice
Texas Hold’em or the Poker World Series.
What glorious fortress of Gondor built by the Sea
Oh Mountainous house painted blue and gold
With a large backyard and well used ping pong set
To challenge your young to try and upset thee.
A place to chase grandchildren oh so bold,
And teach them that Joe Bruin will triumph yet.

Oh old man, how you age, how you decline,
But you have taught us well, and can depart
The gospel that you lived continues to shine
We have Christ’s love deep within our hearts.
Throughout eternity, men rise and fall
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shall be gone, in midst of all our woe,
But you shall celebrate, due to Christ’s amazing grace
“God is truth, and God is love”- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Happy 60th Dad, I love you!

For those of you who love Keats, my apologies for the above travesty. For those of you who love words, how often do you get to see the word travesty used correctly? For those of you who don't know my Dad, don't worry, he is very youthful and skinny and a practical joker known for bringing a walker as a gag gift to friend's 30th and 40th birthdays, who constantly discusses the old age and physical decline of his wife and children, and would not find any of the above ribbing anything but amusing.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Abrupt Transitions

So, how did you like going from happy happy beach posts to graveyard posts? In the Klug house we love nothing more than a nice dichotomy. We are home from vacation, and have been for a while, it just takes me so darn long to upload pictures to blogger that I always manage to fall a week behind (or longer) in my posts. This post is written in real-time, or at least with only a few hours of delay.

Tomorrow Nic goes in for his big round of blood tests to determine exactly what kind of sickle cell problems he has. We have to go to the hospital and check him in as an outpatient, then they will pull vials and vials of blood and study some there and send others to Mayo clinic. We won't know any results until the end of the month. We've waited a rather long time already, and done so fairly well. I've probably been a little short tempered at times, and I'm sure I've eaten a few too many chocolate chip cookies (thanks for leaving so many in the freezer, mom), but the wait has been manageable and it is only THREE MORE WEEKS.

Nic is still symptom free, which is a great sign either way. Even if he does have sickle cell disease, I've read that severity of symptoms in the first year correlates with severity of illness later in life, so we are hopeful that if he has it his form will be milder. I am willing to sit in the hospital for the sake of Nicolas, but if I can do it once or twice a year instead of three of four times...well, I don't think I need to elaborate on why that would be preferable.

Please pray that the person drawing blood would be able to find a "good" vein quickly. Once they have the butterfly in Nicolas calms down, but if he has to endure multiple sticks he will be rather unhappy. He already had to go and get another round of vaccinations earlier this week, and that's just never fun, so the poor child is traumatized enough as it is. I know I'm "done" watching him get poked, so I can't imagine how he feels.

I Remember This Place

Once a year we go up to Wisconsin and visit Leah's grave. After church last Sunday we packed up the car and made the drive. It's a bit longer since we've moved, and it feels even farther since a certain baby boy has decided he does not enjoy long car rides and has become rather vocal about it.

When we arrived at Prairie Home, Jeff asked Tommy if he knew where we were, as we had been talking about it and showing him pictures to prepare him. As they approached Leah's headstone Tommy replied, "I remember this place," and then ran off to pull flags from veterans' graves (don't worry, we stopped him).

We cleaned off the grave marker, left a few little flowers from our garden, had our birthday cake, or rather, cupcakes, cried, and clung to our boys. Oh how I love my boys, but I sure miss my little girl.

As I was looking at Leah's album in the morning with Tommy one picture caught my eye. The picture of Jeff and me standing alone by Leah's grave:

At the cemetery I kept thinking back to that moment, of us being so alone just three short years ago. At that time I never could have comprehended how much joy and fulfillment these last two years would bring and how gloriously crowded our apartment and lives would become. It is so much easier to sit on the grass that grows up over my baby's casket, and under the tree that shades her from the storms while holding my two boys and experiencing so clearly the bountiful blessings that God has given us in the wake of our pain and our sorrow. I wish that I could spend each day with all of my children, but understanding that that isn't possible, I am so very grateful for the two precious sons that God has brought into our lives.

I remember the place of suffering, of loss, of loneliness. But I don't live there anymore.

Beach Days Two and Three

The following post was written 10 days ago while we were still in California.

The weather finally warmed up a bit more! It still isn't particularly hot, but it was nice enough for us to go to the beach for a few hours in the afternoon.

Nic is a confirmed beach bum. He cannot get enough of the beach. He loved crawling in the sand, munching on big handfuls of it, and playing in buckets of seawater. Tommy has long been a big fan of the beach, and he had a wonderful time dipping his toes (and only his toes) in the waves and collecting buckets of wet sand for "castles."

I enjoy lying in the sand. Is there anything more relaxing than lying on the beach? I got plenty of good sand-time on our beach trips because we had plenty of grown-ups in tow to keep an eye on the kids. Unfortunately I foolishly relied on spray sunscreen on beach day two, and apparently the wind carried off most of the spray...leaving the back of my legs looking particularly lobster-ish. I haven't been this burned since high school. I can barely sit down. I am only hoping that my skin still has its magic burn-turns-into-tan powers, because I do not want to peel. The upshot for beach day three was that I had to keep the back of my legs out of the sun, which was annoying. Also on my annoying list - I either forgot my bathing suit or someone at TSA stole it out of my suitcase (yes, I know, I probably forgot it). Thus I have had to borrow bathing suits from my sister and my mom. My sister's suit was an old one of hers from high school and the fit on me was rather unfortunate, because it was baggy in places that left me more than a little exposed. Thus I resorted to borrowing a bikini from my mother. Is there anything that will make you feel old more than wearing your mom's bikini to the beach? I think not. I was both shocked and thankful that it was actually cute (love you mom!).

Monday, 4 July 2011


On one of our last days in CA we had the opportunity to visit some old friends. Now, I'm not saying anything about their age specifically, I mean that Rosie and Jerry are friends from as far back as I can remember. My parents knew them from church, and Rosie was a huge favorite of mine when I was a tot, so much so that my dad would sing songs about her to me (at my insistence) at bed time. Every once in a while Tommy gets treated to a verse of "Jesus love the little Rosie," so it was nice for him to get some context too. Rosie and Jerry moved far away at some point during my childhood, but they still come back every summer to spend some time at a family home by the beach in Laguna. We had visited them there before, but it had been a while since I had gone- probably at least twenty years- but it was so fun to take the boys, and to see Tommy fascinated by the same magnetic toy that fascinated me (and probably all kids).

We drove up straight after church, were stuffed full of delicious food, and then took our overfull bellies down to the beach. I'm sure it was a pretty picture. The weather was perfect, but the waves were rough and very dangerous. The lifeguards spent a great deal of time running up and down the surf warning people to stay in the shallowest part of the water. The boys dipped their toes but were content to play in front of us on the sand, which made things much easier and more relaxing. Roise and Jerry had three of their grandchildren staying with them, and Tommy fell in love with them. He is still talking them and asking to go back to "Jeremy's Beach." After the water encroached a bit too far into our space we rode the trolly back to the house for a dinner on the porch at sunset. It was the perfect California way to wind down our trip!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Skirball

As you may have guessed, I am a bit of a museum junkie. I love taking the boys to museums, because I love going to museums. Thus, it is shocking to me that I had often driven past but never been to the Skirball. It is just up the block from the Getty, which we visit often. This summer the Skirball has a special exhibition on Houdini, and my mom clipped the ad out of the paper to remind us to go. Happily, we inadvertently planned our trip for Thursday, which is also the free day for both the regular museum and the kids area.

The kids area has a Noah's Ark theme, and it was so amazing. There were five separate areas with different ark-themed activities including a craft room and a climbing area. There weren't many things specifically designed for infants, but Nic still had a good time. I think Tommy will have an even better time next time we go back, and the Ark is probably ideal for kids who are 4 to 6.

The Houdini exhibit was fascinating, and the boys managed to sleep towards the end, thus giving us a chance to really enjoy it.

I can't wait to go back and see some of the permanent exhibits, but that will have to wait for another trip.