Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter in Louisiana

Today was really the first day that I would classify as "winter" weather this year, and it was BEAUTIFUL! The high was in the mid-50's and sunny. Another Sunday alone, as daddy went to the Saint's game (Who Dat?!!), again. So, Ava, Eli, and I loaded up the car and headed to the zoo. It was one of our best excursions yet! We pulled into the parking lot at the zoo a little before noon and there was only one other car. As I was unloading the kids, the people in the other car left. We had our very own zoo! Where else could you live in the US and have that happen? The last few visits, the zoo left a lot to be desired, as there were hardly any animals out, even made you wonder if they existed. Not today! The animals love this weather, too. Two giraffes even were close enough that their heads were over the fence and you could (if you so desired, which I did not) touch them. Ava gave it serious thought but was then distracted by a leaf.

We broke a zoo rule when no one was around, and I let Ava feed a donkey (wait, do most zoos have donkeys?) some hay that had fallen outside of his pen. She walked right up and stuck it in the donkey's mouth, who had his face presses up against the fence. He ate it up, and Ava declared "delicious". Then, she said (to the donkey), "hey, where baby Jesus?". Maybe we have been playing with her nativity sets from her Grammy G too much. Ava is so brave. Our next stop was the petting zoo (is that correct term for a cage you can enter with some goats, sheep, and pig?). Ava grabbed a brush from a bucket went right up to a goat and started brushing him and declared-"ahhhh, so cute". It was such a sweet moment. Unfortunately, another goat started bucking and bleeping us. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, it came charging at us. Ava ran to me with her arms up (through a pile of poo, who's I don't know), I picked her up, and ran out the gate. Scary animal encounter.

We may have overdressed a bit for the occasion. As you can see, we shed layers during our trip. Afterwards, I went though the McDonalds's drive-thru. Ava will eat the apple slices and likes the toy. I ordered her the Happy Meal and when the cashier asked whether it was a toy for a girl or boy- I said boy. She has played with the toy robot that they gave her for about 15 minutes. The girl toy from last time, a doll named Angel Cake (her scent is stinky, not cakey), has been in her toy kitchen sink for weeks. Eli was trying to eat her the other day, but Ava really has shown no interest. Eli was wiped out from the trip. No Happy Meals for him yet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear.....)
- e.e. cummings

Dear Eli, my love, my birthday boy-
It has been exactly one year since this photo was taken- 365 days (148 spent without you home), nearly 20 pounds (you have come so far from 2 lb 14 oz), countless tears and worries, and endless joy and blessings for having you in our lives. I am so proud to call you mine. Anyone looking at you who does not know the story of your beginning would ever guess how far you have come. That is your biggest triumph. You still breathe a little louder than other babies and may be a bit smaller (however, not much fat boy), but I am sure that you smile more and laugh louder than the rest because I think you know. You know just how wonderful life is. You must- you fought so hard to live yours- and I am more grateful than I could possibly express that you have chosen us to be your parents, to be Ava's brother.

I am sorry and regret that you had to come out fighting. That my body couldn't hold you in longer like it should have. You have always been in a hurry to make your entrance in the world. You were a pleasant surprise (a surprise nonetheless) when we received the news that we were having you when Ava was only 10 months old and a surprise in the doctors office at 19 weeks when we were told that you may be arriving too soon. For eight weeks you worked your way into the world, always in a hurry. Finally, when you could no longer wait to meet us you arrived. You arrived to be quickly whisked away. With you went my heart and behind was left a grief that only someone with the world to lose could understand.

I regret that I only held you twice your first three months. Always afraid that by holding you I would hurt you. So many wires and tubes that it took three people, multiple feet of tape, and the coordination of performing a life-saving procedure, to get you in my arms. You spent so many days on the ventilator- coming off only to grow tired after fighting and fighting to breathe on your own and having to have that dreaded tube put back in place. Your daddy and I knew how important it was for you, us, our family, for you to make it off the vent that we were terrified of moving your tube even a milimeter and causing you yet another setback. I regret not knowing if this made a difference, or we just denied ourselves one of our greatest pleasures- holding you in our arms.

I regret that you were not able to sepnd your first Christmas, New Year's, Valentines Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, or Easter at home. I regret that you had to spend so many days in a plastic box only to graduate to a bigger bed, then crib that was not your own. No matter how many blankets, stuffed animals, or mobiles we brought in, that bed/crib- your entire world, was not your own.

I regret the IVs in your arms, legs, feet, and especially in your scalp. I regret the sticks into your fingers, toes, and heels (as many as eight in one day). I regret the scars left as reminders all over your little body. I regret the tube that was keeping you alive hurt you so much. I regret the numerous medicines, procedures, tests, CAT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and surgeries that you had to undergo.

Despite all of these regrets on my part, you still allow me to be your mom. Despite all of the things you have undergone, despite that I was unable to protect you and keep you safe, you are still my son.

Has the passage of time eased any of the hearthache I felt for you? I don't think so. I will always tear up at the thought of what you have endured to be here. However, with each day, each pound, each inch, each milestone that you achieve, your days spent in the NICU become more distant in my thoughts. You came into the world fighting, fought bravely for 148 days to come home, and continue to fight. One only needs to look at you, see your smile, or hear your laugh to see that not only are you making it- you are thriving. You are remarkable. You are my son.

What a difference a year makes. You are home now, and our family is complete.

Happy birthday, Eli, my heart.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
- JEREMIAH 29:11

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The most original costumes in BR

Okay, tigers are not very original for BR, but what their costumes lack in originality, my babies more than make up for in cuteness. Trick or Treating was so much fun this year. Partly because I wasn't on bedrest but also because Ava really got it. She loved it- candy is an incredible motivator for a two year old. Vic (in mullet) and I traded off staying at the house with Eli giving out candy and taking Ava around. In case you can't tell, they are both dressed as tigers. I was told (repeatedly) that Ava looked like a kitty- but I promise, she was really a tiger.

Who knew that Halloween was such a long ordeal- I feel like we have been going to Halloween events and parties for weeks. Here are some photos of the various festivities- BR Boo at the Zoo, NO Boo at the Zoo, campus trick or treating, and student athletes trick or treating. S0 much candy!

The very best news of all is that Eli is sitting up on his own and CRAWLING! He has had a very busy two weeks with milestones. We can't believe he is crawling- mainly with just one leg, but crawling nonetheless!

Finally, I will end this post on a somewhat sad note (for Vic, anyway). It appears that Ava is not an LSU fan afterall.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A shot, another shot, some antibiotics, and a bronch

Well, cold and RSV season are officially here. Along with that comes a slew of things to worry about and precautions to take. Eli has started taking RSV shots. He gets one shot in each leg, once a month. He just received his second injections yesterday, which he will continue through April. The RSV shots are horrible. The dosage is huge (much larger than other vaccinations or the flu shot) and thick- a thick medicine requires a longer, thicker needle. And the fact that because of Eli's weight (who would have ever thought Eli's weight would be a negative) he has to have an injection in each leg, makes it all the worse. I have never, through all of the blood taking, through all of the therapy, through all the IVs, through all of the surgeries and procedures, heard Eli REALLY cry until he had these injections. It breaks my heart for my baby boy. The things these babies go through is mind-boggling. I wouldn't wish these things on a grown man, let alone my sweet baby. His sweet smile disappeared for quite a while.

Last Wednesday, Eli had his latest bronchoscopy. Daddy and Eli had to be at the hospital for 6:30am, and the procedure was at 8:30am. Eli was put under general anesthesia, so he slept through the procedure. Vic said he did great. The results were pretty good- no additional surgery is recommended at this time. His airway looks good. His vocal chord had not improved a whole lot- still banded down with scar tissue. The pulmonologist believes that as Eli starts to talk more, the scar tissue should loosen, hopefully, freeing the vocal chord. The vocal chord is what causes Eli's noisy breathing- air passing through runs into the vocal chord, as it cannot move out of the way because of being held down by the scar tissue. The dr feels that laser surgery at this time is too risky (significant risk of further damaging the vocal chord- permanently), as Eli seems to adjusted have his breathing to work around the vocal chord issue. So, good news, but now we just have to give him more time. A bacterial infection was discovered in his lower airway during the procedure, so he is now on antibiotics (again) but not showing any outward symptoms, which is very good.

Then, this morning, he had his final flu shot (you have to have two your first year). He did the lip when the nurse gave him the injection, but amazingly enough, never removed the bottle from his mouth and kept sucking. Nothing comes between Eli and food. Which is what he wants now......more updates later.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Eli's First Playdate

Today was the first time I have ever taken Eli to a playdate (yes, I do realize that it is the beginning of cold season). He smiled more today than just about ever. He amazes me with his happiness.......things like this make me so sentimental about all he has been through. Things as silly as his first playdate, brings me to tears. The first time we took Eli to tailgate and other people (besides family) held him, I had to hold back tears. It is so silly, but I am still amazed after everything he has been through, when he gets to just be Eli, not Eli the preemie.
Here are a couple of bonus pictures- Ava enjoying a little snack, and Eli after a jog with daddy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Vacation (finally) and tidbits

So, we enjoyed our first big family vacation a few weeks back. Seven wonderful days in San Destin. We went with some great friends and were even fortunate enough to have my mother come down for a few days to help out. We actually even went to dinner and out- TWICE! For the most part, the weather was great and there was hardly anyone else around, as the peak season is over. Ava was a fish, constantly in and out of the water. Also, she wanted to play/talk to anyone around other than us. This was a cause of irritation to a few grumpy vacationers. We pretty much let her do her own thing, to the dismay of others, but hey- we've had a rough year, and we will never see those people again. Wow, I used to hate people like me. Eli loved the water. Once again, he was such a good boy, hardly heard a complaint out of him. He had the best time floating around the pool in his tube. All in all, a very successful and enjoyable vacation.

As we began our trip home, we were quickly reminded that the vacation was over. My sweet, easy going, little boy screamed the entire way home. And I do mean the entire time. So, the trip home, not so good. Soon enough we were back to laundry, school, and a slew of doctor and therapy appointments. Did we go on a vacation?

Eli had his nine month (6 month adjusted) doctor appointment. HE IS ON THE CHARTS! My big boy is finally in the charts for his actual (that's right, actual, not adjusted) age. Eli is in the 5% for weight and 10% for height. I knew he would get there but am happy it is so soon! Also, Eli started his Synagis shots for RSV yesterday. He will receive a shot in each leg each month from now through May. It is horrible, he screams and I cringe. The only way I can tolerate it is knowing that this may keep him from any trips to the hospital as we hit cold and flu season. Luckily, he doesn't cry long, but it's still awful. My poor baby.

In other news, Ava has moved to a big girl bed. It was much easier than I anticipated, though you do have to stay in the bed with her until she falls asleep. for naps and at night. The best part is that Eli is now in his own room and bed. He has been sleeping though the night and seems to really like having a real bed.

Unclue Benny came to visit. Ava wore her Playboy shirt he and Aunt Camille got her.

Both have colds now.........I am off to suction a nose.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mommy Instinct and hope

I was watching Oprah the other day, and she had Jenny McCarthy on as a guest discussing her new book documenting her life with her son, who has been diagnosed with Autism. During the show, McCarthy kept referring to her "mommy instinct" when discussing her life with her son. Her "mommy instinct" kicked in when her son was diagnosed with Autism (her instinct told her the diagnosis was correct), and as she learned to define a new "normal" with her son (her "mommy instinct" told her that things would be okay). I think every mother has that "mommy instinct", whether you have actually ever experienced it or not.
I think I first became aware of my "mommy instinct" when I was pregnant in the hospital with Eli and went into full labor after receiving steroid shots at 24 weeks gestation. The doctors and nurses thought a delivery was inevitable. Truthfully, that thought never crossed my mind. I spent three days in Labor & Delivery, but knew I would be leaving there pregnant (maybe the drugs clouded my thoughts a bit). Again, at 24 weeks, when I was advised to remove my cerclage because of the high risk of infection due to my membranes rupturing, which would have led to an immediate delivery, my "mommy instinct" told me to wait. I understood that there was a risk of infection leading to the death of Eli, and possibly myself, but mommy instinct told me to wait. "Mommy instinct" was still there at 27 weeks when Eli made his arrival. Not once did I ever think that I wouldn't be bringing my boy home. Though Eli had a much more difficult NICU stay than anyone could have anticipated, I knew he would be coming home. That doesn't mean that those 148 days that Eli spent in the NICU I didn't worry. I worried every minute of every day, crying more than I ever thought possible. As difficult as it was to leave him there every day, I knew he would eventually be coming home to us.
The worrying did not end with his homecoming, just a new set of worries replaced the old. As each day passes though, my "mommy instinct" tells me that things will be okay. We are slowly progressing toward Eli being "normal" but definitely getting there. Every time I look at him and he gives me that beautiful smile, my "mommy instinct" tells me that things will be just fine.
Which leads me to what I hope for. When you have a child that faces more than your average challenges, I think you spend some amount of time starting thoughts and sentences with "I hope". Some of my "I hope" list for Eli includes, in no particular order: 1. I hope that Eli's breathing quiets down, so that I don't have to hear comments like "oh, poor baby", 2. I hope Eli's breathing quiets down before he understands comments like "oh, poor baby", 3. I hope we make it though Eli's first winter home without any major illnesses or hospital stays (my "mommy instinct" says that all will be fine), 4. I hope I love, hold, and kiss Eli enough to make up for the four and a half months he spent in the NICU and not being held, 5. I hope Eli doesn't remember his time in the NICU, 6. I hope the scars covering Eli's body fade enough with time that they are not a source of future questions, 7. I hope that Vic and I some day forget the NICU, 8. I hope that some day soon that sentences spoken with Eli's therapists and doctors don't include "compared to a normal baby", and 9. More than anything else, I hope that soon, we and everyone look at Eli for the sweet, silly, beautiful baby that he is and forget that he was born three months premature.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Birthday Fiesta

Ava's birthday party was this weekend.
The theme was a Dora the Explorer fiesta.

We had Mexican appetizers and burritos (hotdogs for most of the kids). Vic and I bought Ava a giant inflatable for her birthday, so the kids were able to entertain themselves in that despite the fact that it was nearly 100 degrees outside. Every so often, the sun went behind the clouds and there was a reprieve from the sweltering heat that actually allowed you to be outside. Vic held the pinata on a stick while the kids whacked at it- he is very brave considering the kids' heights.

Ava had a great time. At the after-party, we stripped her down and let her and a buddy swim and bounce. Daddy made a HUGE mistake and allowed Ava to play during this time in her actual birthday suit. She proceeded to poop in the pool and yard. Probably spending too much time with the dog.
Eli, of course, was an angel. He never really fusses, just a sweet boy. In addition to teething though, he was wondering who all these people were in his house.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Sponge

Ava is the Sponge. Lately, her vocabulary has increased significantly. Unfortunately, there are a few words that should never be spoken by anyone so young (okay, probably not anyone). For example, we stopped by a restaurant last night to pick up dinner. I went to a door marked "to go orders". I pulled on the door, but it was locked to which Ava commented "sh#t" to voice her disappointment. This morning, she was eating yogurt and dropped her spoon, getting yogurt on her chair. Again, there was another "sh#t". Luckily, so far, she has only done it around me, at least that I am aware of. I am dreading the impending moment that she mutters the word in public. Hopefully, Vic will not be around, and I can say something like- "I told her dad he needs to watch what he says around her". The lesson here being that you must always choose your words carefully, you never know who is listening (and filing away to repeat later). However, if sh#t, is the worst of what she repeats, I will consider us lucky and remember that the Sponge is always listening.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Well, the Goodins continued their streak of bad luck all the way to Pensacola. First, a four hour car ride took us 6 hours. Then, it continued to rain for the next three days, only to stop on the fourth and our final day in Pensacola. So, we had about two hours of sunshine the entire trip. And, Ava got eaten alive by bugs not to mention scrapes and bruises covering just about every inch of her.
The good news is that I love my family even more after being trapped in our car and then our condo for hours. We are fun. We laughed, played, watched TV (e.g. Dora, Cars, Cinderella, and Mickey Mouse), cooked, and drank (us, beer,Ava, juice). We are beginning to officially feel like a normal (but, fun) family. Eli is off oxygen and almost all of his meds, so things are good. We still look at him and can't believe he is the same baby that weighed in at 2lb 14 oz and spent three and a half months on the ventilator. Now, we see a 14 pound baby that laughs and is developing a real personality. Also, other good news is that no one got sunburned.

Ava was such a blast this trip. She wore her floaties at all times and got in and out of the pool completely on her own. Her being able to get in and out of the pool, however, was tiresome. She runs really fast. She ran around and around the pool, really fast. She chased people that weren't even running from her, yelling-"I get you" and cracking herself up. She even liked the beach- loved getting knocked down by waves with her daddy. Eli was not so crazy about the pool, which is understandable why a 4 month old would not be comfortable in a big cold bath tub with other people when he is just getting used to his blue baby tub. However, not once did he cry- just kept a look of fear on his face. Such a good boy.

Well, we're home now. The vacation is over. Ava and a pen were a quick return to reality. And she is back to her favorite pastime- TV, though not quite ready to leave the beach behind.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sh#% Fingers

This is not an adjective and a noun (not in this particular case, anyway) but a verb, an action. An action performed by Miss Ava Claire. Lately, Ava can't seem to keep it in her pants- poop that is. Her new favorite pastime is to poo, stick her fingers in her diaper, then run at you yelling "oh, no!!". As a result of this act being performed numerous times over the past few weeks, Ava has learned lots of new words (most she probably shouldn't)- like, nasty, stinky, and shewwwww (okay, this isn't a word, but we're not playing scrabble here). Sorry I don't have a picture to post for you of this. I know you are disappointed but not as disappointed as I will be when I am recounting this story to Ava's future boyfriends.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ava, be sweet please

These are the words muttered over and over in our house these days. Ava REALLY loves Eli, but she also likes to test the boundaries with him. She likes to hug him (not so gently), kiss him (again, not so gently), feed him her snacks- he likes goldfish, all,very sweet things. However, she also likes to cover his nose and mouth with her hands (not good for a baby who already has airway issues), drag him by his legs/arms/head, and ride him like he is a horse, among other things that are not so sweet. So, we find ourselves saying over and over"Ava, be sweet please". And Ava is, a very sweet girl. Probably, the sweetest girl ever.

We spent most of the weekend in our backyard pool. Actually, we have two pools. Daddy likes to mix it up and throw in the slide sometimes, too. Ava loves her pools. She has no fear, sliding down at warp speeds and smashing into whatever happens to be in her way. She has the battle wounds today from a weekend spent in the water. Luckily (or maybe not for me), Ava is off school this week, so I can avoid explaining all of the scrapes/bruises/marks covering her. So, Ava, Mommy, Daddy, and dog spent the weekend in the pools. Eli enjoyed watching from afar in his swing- out of danger's (Ava's) way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We have officially lost control.......

.....or maybe I have just given up. I am such a pushover these days for Ava- all she has to do is say "pease, mommy", and I melt. Which leads me to this morning.........Ava wanted "chocate" in her morning "baba" (sippy cup). And if you are wondering already, yes, I am going to make you a little nauseous by spelling out grammatically each word of Ava's that I can make out (and those that I guess/interpret on my own). So, Ava had chocolate milk this morning. Does this make me a bad parent? Gosh,I hope not because I have given into so much WORSE than chocolate milk. Now Ava is content, watching Blues Clues and Dora on her 42" flat screen TV and sipping (really chugging) her chocolate milk. She really has it good.

Then, there is my sweet boy. He slept eight hours straight last night, then woke for his breakfast and right back to sleep in his swing. He is such a sweet, sweet boy. He has now been home from the hospital for two months. Still, not as long as he lived at the hospital but we're getting there. He has made such progress in the past two months. It is like he is a different baby. Though, he is still on all of the same meds and oxygen at night, he is eating like a champ. He is now 3 months adjusted (six months old, but adjusted for his prematurity) but eating like a six month old. He definitely has his sister's appetite. And yes, we have spotted some fat rolls! He is approaching 12 pounds, a long way from his 2lb 14oz at birth.

So, this is our first official blog post. Maybe boring to some but never a dull moment for us. As every parent knows, anything that your child does is the cutest, smartest, and most interesting thing there is. Prepare to be amazed.