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