Saturday, February 21, 2015

Heart to heart

I'm sitting at the table, alternating between typing a few words while sneaking peeks at the snow, taking a sip of hot coffee, and hugging myself to keep warm. Oh, hello, winter! You've certainly made your presence known this week!



This is a hard season for mamas. A season where routine gets to be a little too ... well, routine. And the blooming hyacinth by my kitchen sink both blesses and teases me with it's spring-like perfume.




Thanks to these single digit temperatures, the snow from earlier this week has stuck around for longer than usual. And word on the street is we can expect some more tonight. My kids have already declared they're going to wear their jammies "all day LONG," and I'm certainly not going to argue with that!

Her baby was SO GOOD at the grocery store!

Jon and I heard her yelling and found her stuck like this, so naturally, I took a picture!
We just finished up another two weeks of night-shifts (thus why it's taken me four days just to write those first three paragraphs.) And now we're entering into a 4 12-hour-days week, which is slightly better since the stray hours we actually get to see daddy are during normal wake-time hours. I thought we were getting into the groove (finally) with this new work schedule but dog-ownership has set me back a bit.



Don't tell Daddy I let him on the couch ...
 I'm just trying to think positive thoughts. Like, when it's 6:30am and I'm standing in 6 inches of snow, just waiting to bag up a steaming pile of fresh dog crap--I say to myself, "Hey, girl! When was the last time you watched the sun rise from your backyard in February? High-five!"


Our backyard may not be pretty, but all those tracks in the snow are beautiful in their own way.
I will say, one of the benefits of dog-ownership is that forced time outdoors. It may have only been 19 degrees, but Jäger and I and the four kids were all out in the snow the other day having a grand time! Well, it was grand, until some random neighborhood dog decided to just waltz into my yard. In his excitement, Jäger knocked Joci over into the snow. In her cold-weather garb, she wasn't able to stand. And in defense of our family pet, I wasn't able to release my arms from his neck. Just picture a barking dog, a screaming baby, and then throw in a 3 year old (also wearing several layers of winter clothing) that SUDDENLY has to go potty. The boys were able to chase the stray out of our yard, I was able to relax my hold on Jäger long enough to pick up Joci, but poor Lia was not able to take off her 50 layers in enough time. Oopsie.

We pretty much take baths every day right now. Just for something to do.

And since that would be a lot of bubble bath, I've started making my own with scent/dye free soap + coconut oil + honey + vanilla + an egg white. It's magical!
But anyway, back to the big event of the season--Valentine's Day! Jon had off that day, although he was sleeping the better part of it. The kids were high-on-life (or candy, more likely) from their school parties the day before. I completely forgot to take a picture of the boys' Valentines this year, but we just used the tiny containers of Play-Doh that were left over from our trick-or-treat stock and handed out these.) All the kids enjoyed rummaging through the boys' stash and I'm reminded, again, just how far a little love note can go--especially if it includes a picture of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

My V-Day swag. Julia claimed my balloon for herself but said she "would share it" with  me.

I'm not a huge "heart" person but it is an appropriate time of year to wear my Grandma's "floating heart" that she had made out of her wedding ring.

I was getting dolled up for my social dinner ... she was getting into my mascara.
Last year, Jon made me a special Valentines meal. It was such a big hit, I recommended we make it a yearly tradition. He suggested we alternate making the meal each year. Um ... no comment. 

The kids had mac 'n cheese for V-day dinner.



So he planned out the meal and went shopping that afternoon. It was an all day event, beginning with making cupcakes and frosting from scratch! Meanwhile, I was kicked out of the kitchen for the rest of the day!




We put the kids to bed early and had a quiet dinner by candlelight all to ourselves while the snow fell outside. Perfection! Not to mention, the food was AMAZING! Seriously, one of the best meals I've ever had. My guy definitely spoiled me this year, not sure how he'll be able to improve on that next year!

Jäger helped with dinner too. He also helped himself to the stuffed potatoes that were sitting on the counter.


And just in case you want to share this post with your own husband, I'll include the menu and links to the recipes below:



Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce


Chorizo Potato Bites


Sweetheart Fruit Salad


Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

We decide to spoil his teacher with some flowers. Little did I know she took the day of. No idea what happened to the flowers!

Chocolate heart-shaped pancakes with strawberry greek yogurt and strawberries for V-Day breakfast!

She loved her heart pigtails so much she wanted to keep them in for days and days. Let's just say they don't look anything like hearts after you've slept on them.
Valentines Day wasn't the only event on the calendar this month. This year, February 7 -14 was Congential Heart Defect Awareness Week. You may remember that last year, at this time, we found out our little Joci had a hole in her heart (atrial septal defect.) Since she hasn't been showing any symptoms, we've just been waiting for her to grow bigger and stronger before taking the next step.

In the meantime, we've been visiting the cardiologist every 6 months for EKGs and sonograms just to keep an eye on things. We had one of those appointments recently and although the hole in her heart appeared unchanged, the cardiologist was concerned that Joci's growth has steadily declined. At her 15 month appointment, she had actually dropped down to the 1st percentile for weight (this was also after battling an ear infection). I was super-pleased to see she had climbed to the 10th percentile this month, but she still hasn't grown like the doctors had wished.

When it comes to toddlers, it's hard to know if slow growth is related to eating habits (Jocelyn is, by far, my worst eating child) or if it could be attributed to something else. In this case, they would be concerned that he heart is working so hard to pump extra blood throughout her body, that she's burning more calories than she can keep up with. With that said, the cardiologist was going to discuss Joci's case with her team at Johns Hopkins later that week and get back to us with a decision.


When she called back on Friday, we found out that their vote was unanimous--it was time to move forward with repairing Joci's ASD. We also found out that our hopes for a catheter procedure (in which they insert a clamp through a vein in her thigh) would not be possible. The catheter surgeon felt that her hole was just too large (compared to her tiny heart) for that kind of clamp. This means that Joci will be getting regular open heart surgery.

We'll have her pre-op appointment and meet with the surgeon later in March, which is when we'll get a better idea of what is going to happen. But I found this Instagram record of one boy's ASD repair online. If you're interested in all those details (and don't mind images of surgery), this is absolutely fascinating! This patient, Aiden, is 16 months during his surgery. Joci will be 19 months when her's takes place.

It's also all very scary when you really think about all that is involved in the surgery. I've been told that, while Joci will be away from us for around 8 hours, the time she is on the bypass machine and they are actually repairing the hole could be less than an hour. Although I haven't met him yet, I like what I've heard about her surgeon so far and we're just so grateful that we can get this done at one of the best hospitals in the nation. In fact, one of my fellow MOPS mamas works in the pediatric ICU where Joci will be staying. So I already feel that God is going ahead to prepare the way for us!

Oddly enough, the part that concerns me the most is having her "go under." I'm not sure how it will all play out, but I do know that Joci's screams when I leave her with her daddy just to run to the grocery store. I can't imagine how she will react in this situation. I also hate to leave her, especially if she's upset. It's just very scary for me to think about being away from my baby girl when her life is dependent upon a machine.

Sleeping baby pictures. I just can't even.
But overall, I'm completely at peace with her future. We have been praying that the hole would heal on it's own, and it hasn't (as of yet.) And we've been praying that if it didn't, she could get the catheter procedure. And know we know that will not happen. So we are just totally surrendered to God's will right now. Jon and I are both grateful that we have a decision and can finally get this taken care of. But I'm also grateful for this past year of waiting. A year ago, I would often just cry into my baby girl's hair at the thought of her broken little heart. Now that she's grown, and showing off her feisty, fighter spirit, I know she's going to be okay. Healed, actually. And we'll never have to worry about her heart again (well, at least the physical part of it!)

Just a few prayer requests: the surgery date is set for March 23, so obviously we're praying for her surgeons and that all goes smoothly on that day. After that she'll move to the PICU until her tubes can be removed and then to the regular cardio unit for recovery. So we're praying for a quick and easy recovery, because honestly, I cannot even begin to picture what entertaining a toddler stuck to a hospital bed will look like. (And on that note, I am looking for suggestions for things to bring to the hospital, both practical and fun!)

And while we're talking about the hospital stay, I'm praying to have this child weaned very soon. I know I said, since she's my last one, that I'd be happy to nurse her for as long as she wanted. But we were sitting in the cardiologist's office the other week, trying to have a very important discussion about her test results, when Joci decided she wanted to nurse. I said no, so she slapped me across the face. It was then that I decided that our post-surgery hospital stay will be probably go much smoother if my daughter had some new ways of comforting herself. The good news is it's been approximately 75 hours since she last nursed. Also, I have not yet cried over weaning my last baby. (I'm too busy crying over already jumping up a size in jeans.)

She is such a little lover-girl, so generous with her kisses!
We're also praying for her recovery time at home. My parents will be coming in to watch our other kids so Jon and I can stay at the hospital with Joci, so we know they will be well taken care of, er, spoiled. Jon's work is also giving him some emergency time off (which is HUGE) and some of our friends are planning to bring us meals. So we're already feeling so loved and blessed. We're just praying for a complication-free recovery at home so that we can get started on enjoying SPRING. Because it SHOULD be here by then, right??

Oh, I hope so. I'm so looking forward to new life (and new leases on life). Just one more storm to get through. Stay warm, friends! And thank you to everyone who has been praying for our little girl this past year! We're so grateful for you, and for God's sweet gift in the form of Jocelyn, and for this great hope we have for her future!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

There's a first time for everything

Some people think that, since I'm a mom of four, I'm an old pro at this whole mothering thing. The truth is, you are always, always a first-time-mom. Whether it's my Kindergartener, who is constantly taking me to new levels in parenting. Or my baby, who, it would seem, is out to prove that she is nothing like any of her other three siblings. Or my middle kids, who develop new ways to vie for mommy's attention. And let's not forget the dog--completely new territory there! But yes, aside from the fact that I forget so much about each age that everything they do seems new, there are still many firsts for this old mama!


I think she's trying to tell me something.
For instance, last week I woke up to my 18 month old standing outside my door. Yes, apparently she can now scale her crib and work her way to my bedroom. I had hoped it was just a random occurrence but this week our new morning routine has been Jocelyn shouting from her bed at 5:55am, followed by her throwing everything out of her crib, followed by her throwing everything she can reach off her bedstand--the lamp, baby monitor, whatever princess paraphernalia her older sister has left behind ... followed by Joci herself climbing over the side. Nope, there is no more hope for this mama who's previous modus operandi was to let the baby cry until she fell back to sleep. Once the stuffed animals start to hit the floor, I know Joci is coming for me!

We've reached the princess stage!

My constant view--the two velcro beings.
Or let's talk about the first time I had to drive Jack to school, which also happened to be the first time Jack missed the bus and, while we're at it, the first time the dog ran away.

So it was Jon's first day back to work and my first day alone with four kids and a new dog--a new dog that we're all adjusting to and who is adjusting to us. Jäger is an interesting fella. We kinda get the feeling he didn't spend a lot of time outdoors in his new home. We have a corkscrew and tether set up in the backyard so he can get some outdoor time, but he doesn't like it one bit. If we're out there with him, he won't leave our side (shaking the whole time.) And if we leave him out there alone, he stands frozen to one spot, barking until we come rescue him.


Now, Jäger on a leash is a different story. He apparently draws an insane amount of confidence when he's "tethered" to a human. Sidenote: Jack had a two-hour delay the other day because, apparently, the roads were icy. I thought it was a bit extreme until I tried to take the dog out for a potty break. He darted out the door, and I slid across our frozen deck behind him. Joci, who cannot bear to be too long separated from her mama, tried to come out after us and promptly ended up flat on her back. After that experience, I totally stand by the school's choice to delay school!

Another first, trying to play soccer with Jäger.


Anyway, back to the dog and his leash. He's okay in the backyard. He has a few places that he immediately heads to, does his business, and then he's happy to come back inside. But a walk is a different story. Walks are actually Jon's territory right now. I tried to take 3 kids and the dog for a walk once and it was a complete disaster. As it turns out, Jäger is a car chaser. Since he can't chase cars while on a leash, he'll stand up on two legs, lunge at whatever is passing by, and bark his head off. Meanwhile, my kids are left on their own while I use my entire body to keep him from taking off. Needless to say, that was my first and last walk with the dog.


So we're not really sure what this canine would do if we let him loose in the yard. We know he loves us and prefers to static cling to our legs, but should he happen to notice a car driving by? Yikes. All that to say, we have yet to let him off a leash.


Well, intentionally, I should say. So it was the first day Jon was at work. I was giving myself a pat on the back for not only taking care of the dog and getting Jack all ready for school, but also for having the other kids all fed and dressed early too. (A sheer act of God's grace now that I can look back.) Jack's bus is scheduled to arrive at 8:47am. At 8:45am, Jack decided he wanted to take one of his toys outside to see if it would be frozen by the time he got home from school. You know, boy stuff. So he did what any kid would do. Opened the back door and headed to the back deck.

This winter has been scant on snow but there has been plenty of ice!
Except, any kid with experience with a dog just wouldn't do that. Because, as I'm sure you've all guessed by now, that animal was out the back door faster than Jack could blink. I admit, I lost my temper a bit. It really wasn't Jack's fault. We're still entirely new to this dog thing. But one look at me coming out the door and Jäger was off like a flash. First he darted across two neighbors yards and then, when I just about had him cornered, he dodged to my right and streaked along the fence line. I must confess, for a second I was happy for him. Poor thing hadn't had a chance to run free in who knows how long, and he looked so happy to be running at full speed.


But then fear set in as a realized I had no idea how long this chase would go on, or how I'd get him back ... and then I heard the bus round the corner.

Thankfully, Jäger didn't hear the bus and just kept going on his merry way with me hopping over branches and bushes behind him. And while we're on the subject of "firsts," this was the first time I had ever wandered this far into our neighbor's yard. Little did I know there was a break in the fence line that takes you right over to a different neighborhood. Quite a pretty little jaunt, under different circumstances. (And this new knowledge will prove very useful the next time those kids behind us throw yet another ball in our backyard.)


Anyway, no thrilling ending to this story. Apparently Jäger grew tired of his ramblings and just stopped and waited for me to reach him. I grabbed his collar and the two of us ambled home together-me hunched over with one hand on his neck and him dragging me through the woods. We reached the backyard just as the bus pulled away.

I was hoping Jack was on said bus, but alas, when I entered the house, he was standing by the door still waiting for it to show up. So we moved on to the third first of the morning, driving him to school. Jäger, who is still very new at this point, was feeling guilty and easily headed to his room for isolation (this is typically not the case anymore!) Now, as I said before, we were all fed and dressed and clearly ready for an early adventure that morning. Funny thing is, I had no idea how to take a kid to school. This probably says a lot about my personality, but thankfully, I was talking to another mom of a Kindergartener this week who feels the same way.


It would seem that our school doesn't cater too well to new parents. We get the vaguest notices about upcoming events or classroom activities. Meanwhile, I'm over here craving some DETAILS, please! What I'm trying to say is, no one ever explained to us how to drop a kid off at school. Nor was there any information on the school's website or handbooks. Trust me, I have looked. And so, without this extremely important knowledge, I did exactly what someone with my personality (apparently) would do--I made darn sure my kid never missed the bus. We've been close on one or two occasions, but rather than try and figure out something new with four kids, I pull all the stops to make sure Jack is good and ready on time (or earlier!) Clearly, I was due for a get-out-of-your-box-Janine moment.


And, as I'm sure anyone out there with a personality NOT like mine knows, dropping a kid off at school is super easy. Like, really easy. I mean, there's a line of cars for heaven's sake. Just follow the line and do whatever the person in front of you does. And while I'm trying to rack my brain to remember if there's any sort of penalty for missing the bus, I realize that Jack reached the doors of his school at the exact same time as his fellow bus mates that morning. All that to say, dropping him off was kinda fun. I think we'll do it again sometime. And also, I could use a few more kick-in-the-pants type moments in my life.

You can't see it in this picture, but he's especially proud of the guy "changing his pants" behind that window.
Let's see--a few more firsts. I got to read a story to Jack's class yesterday. Not only do I adore seeing my Kindergartener in his classroom but I think I earned him enough cool points to get through to first grade. I brought a Valentines book to share but, if there was enough time left over, I also brought along The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak (yes, "The Office" BJ Novak.) This was a Christmas gift from Uncle Micah and Miss Carrie and the kids love it. So much so, that we've had to stop reading it at bedtime because their excitement gets them a little too riled up. Jack's class enjoyed it as well. I heard from Jack later that several of them kept repeating their favorite line: Boo Boo Butt, all throughout the day. Yes, parents, you can thank me later. In the meantime, I think Jack is officially son-of-the-coolest-mom-ever.

I pulled this out recently for a refresher ... if only it had pictures for this girl!
Or perhaps another first--when a neighbor knocked on my door and asked if the child she had found wandering down the street, and was now holding, was mine. She was. Thank goodness for kind neighbors and angels that guard our toddlers when they sneak out doors that older siblings leave open!

On your mark, get set, go!

Sadly, the Hello Kitty convertible can't hold a candle to the four-wheeler.
And yes, thank goodness for humbling moments that remind me that I'm so not in control. And that, despite raising babies four times over, I'm still a new mom. There will be many new firsts in the coming years, and I hope I'm able to welcome them with arms open a bit more wider. And to remember that I'm not the only mom afraid of what will happen when my kids misses the bus, and that there is usually a line of mamas in front of me that I can follow when I'm feeling a little lost. First time (and fourth time) mamas, you're not alone!
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