Thursday, October 13, 2016

mini fall photos + mosquitoes

As you all know, I am the worst at lining up family pictures. We've done it once. Three years ago.

And here it is the middle of October and yet again, I didn't get around to or even think of scheduling family pictures. 
(Maybe every 4th year is the ticket?)

Recently I helped a friend take some impromptu newborn photos. She literally texted me one day and said, "You have an expensive camera, can you take some pictures?"  I said yes, and then quickly tried to learn all there was to learn about our camera in the course of two hours. 
Long story short, I took the photos, Jared did some hefty editing to make up for my lack of eye/knowledge-of-anything-camera-related and they turned out much better than I ever expected.

So I've been suggesting we take a few of our kids. And by "we" I mean Jared.
There was beautiful weather out one evening, so we fancied up the kids and took them to a local walk park with lots of trees and fields in the background.

They were pretty decent sports for about 30 seconds.
Because while we had accounted for the sunset and their clothes and all that, we didn't really think of bugs, specifically mosquitoes. And they were out in full force.

In almost every photo, one child or another is swatting one or scratching somewhere.  We were able to get one or two acceptable ones, but we will definitely need to retry another time.

And the biggest mistake on our part was that school photos were the next day. And the poor things already had bites on their cheeks and foreheads showing up that night. So I had the pleasure of shelling out an extra $6 a piece for "touch-ups" so their school pictures wouldn't showcase the massive welts on their faces.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back To School {3 hours of Quiet!}

As of today, the girls have been back to school for a full week. Thankfully we have all slipped back into the familiar routines fairly quickly and painlessly. 

Bailey is now in 1st grade. She was the most excited and ready for school. And if her pose doesn't already spell it out, she had zero hesitation about jumping into a new school year.

Avery was okay with the idea, but not overly excited about it. 
{Hence that over-done forced smile.}

Avery has the same teacher that Bailey had last year, so Bailey had been giving her all kinds of "tips" about what to expect in kindergarten. 
Sometimes it really pays to have a big sister.

I tried to get Avery to contain her enthusiasm, but she just couldn't manage it...
*insert laughing with tears emoji here*

And man, I just can't believe it, but our BABY(!) started school this year too.
Graham already loves school, and proudly shows off his Paw Patrol bookbag to everyone he sees while walking through the halls.

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were taking this exact same photos on Bailey's first day of preschool?

That first morning, after preschool was over, I stood waiting for him in the school entryway at pick-up time, and he ran up to me for a big hug, telling me immediately, "I had the BEST day!"
Music to every parent's ears.

So with Graham off to school four mornings a week, I'm left with almost three hours of silence. And while I've actually only really had one morning so far, it was amazing. Just amazing.

My goal with my newly found "free time" is to accomplish things and get them out of the way so that I don't need to worry about doing them when I can be spending time with the kids or Jared. So like doing laundry without a kid helping me put in each and every single piece of clothing in separately (and slowly). Or scrubbing the floor and enjoying the two hours it stays clean. Ya know, truly exciting mom things like that. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cleft Update

We're now 2+ weeks out from Bailey's most recent surgery - an adenoidectomy and a lip/nasal revision. 

It's gone basically exactly as we expected.

Our only real instructions upon discharge were for the lip and nasal revision: 
antibiotics for 7 days,
triple antibiotic cream twice a day to her lip incision area,
moistening nasal spray 6-8 times per day,
no swimming,
no blowing of her nose.

She had very minimal pain. She actually never once complained of pain, even the day of the surgery itself. However the second night she had a massive meltdown around bedtime, which is totally out of character for Bailey, and we realized we should have been at least giving her some Tylenol even if she denied pain. For the next few days we did Tylenol about every 5 hours or so, and that prevented it from catching up to her. The main struggle was the nasal spray. You would have thought we were attempting an amputation every time we did it. And we did it 8 times a day. After a few days she finally just resigned herself to it, but it was rough there for awhile.

She had a follow-up appointment last week at 8 days post-op. Her throat looks great; the ENT was pleased. The plastic surgery follow-up was a bit harder on Bailey. Last time around she had a really hard time having the nasal stent removed, and this visit was no exception. It took five of us to hold her down so that he could cut ONE stitch. The other side actually slid right out with ease. Bailey can credit that to her younger sister since Avery accidentally smacked Bailey hard in the nose and not only popped the suture but caused a massive nose bleed which gave her parents quite a fright.

Our plastic surgeon Dr. Miller thought everything was looking really good and wants to see her back in about three months.

Since then, things are back to normal. Bailey is only restricted in one area - nose blowing. He asked her to not blow her nose for another month or so. Don't ask me the reason for that because I have no idea. 

We went swimming for the first time today, and to say Bailey was ecstatic is an understatement. 

Also, the biggest perk of everything, is that Bailey's sleep apnea and overall sleep appears to be dramatically improved. Since those stents are removed, she can breathe through her nose alone. She isn't mouth breathing at night, and her bed remains completely made come morning time. Before surgery she was so restless that she was turning in her sleep sometimes every 10 or so seconds, and her bed was absolutely destroyed every single morning. So the fact that she is getting a restful sleep is HUGE for her.

We're very happy with how well surgery went and that we were able to get everything done this summer well before school starts. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Weiss family back yard extravaganza

For the better part of a decade, my mom's side of the family had been renting a large cabin at a nearby lake for a week. We had a lot of good times there over the years, spending the night together, boating, and eating way too much junk food.

(I'm struck by how ridiculously young - and different - we all look in these pictures. And how slightly 3-sheets-to-the-wind we look in the ones I didn't include. ha!)

But in recent years, since the cabin is only a 10 mile drive for about 90% of the family, people were coming and going, arriving just to eat, and doing other things most days. So it was a lot less family togetherness.

Last year we tried a hotel with an indoor waterpark. But it ended up being half the people in the rooms, half the people poolside. So we are experimenting again. And this year I think it worked out really well.

This past weekend we hosted a family get-together in our back yard. I sent out invites about 5 months ago so that everyone could block off one day for some quality family time.

It was potluck style with lots of food {and beverage}. Jared built some cornhole boards, we put up the badminton net, and Jodie brought ladder ball. Throw in a large quantity of bubble solution and a baby pool, and the masses are entertained. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cleft Surgery #4

I know I don't write much about Bailey concerning her cleft (or really about anything at all lately - yeah, sorry 'bout that) but I wanted to make a point to write about it tonight. 

You see, when I was a scared, pregnant mom-to-be carrying a baby already diagnosed with a cleft, I googled. 
Yes, yes. 
I know that is what you're specifically told NOT to do, but really, does anyone actually heed that advice?
Anyway, here I was. At home. Sitting in my basement alone. Staring at the computer screen. I tried every search term; I visited all kinds of different sites. Some sites were good (the BabyCenter cleft support group comes to mind), others were not. I immersed and overwhelmed myself in all things cleft, reading about far too many things I shouldn't have been worried about yet. Looking up statistics. Looking at hundreds of pictures. Worrying myself silly.

Eventually I stopped that. Long before she was born I got myself in order, we met our future plastic surgeon, and I focused on the fact that we were having a baby. I got the worry and freaking-out out of the way so I could move on.

But, I still clearly remember how extremely comforting it was when a coworker linked me up with a friend of hers who had just given birth to a little boy with a cleft lip and palate - exactly what Bailey ended up having.  Yay, finally! Someone to give me real information! - not something more akin to a medical pamphlet.

So while this blog rarely focuses on Bailey's cleft, I also notice that I get traffic from people using keywords like "cleft blog" or "cleft palate information." 
And very likely that is a future or current cleft-parent looking for some validation or reassurance or maybe just some real talk. So that's why I'm writing tonight. Hopefully this gives some insight into what comes after the special bottles and first two surgeries.

So Bailey has had 3 other cleft surgeries up to this point (lip repair, palate repair, nose/lip revision) as well as 5 sets of ear tubes. (For more details, click here.)

This surgery was planned after she had a sleep study completed in May. Bailey has always snored, but her restlessness and complete destruction of her bed at night finally caused us to dig deeper. The study revealed she had sleep apnea, which we were already pretty sure of to begin with.

It was recommended by the ENT to remove her tonsils to hopefully open up her airway. And since our plastic surgeon had mentioned doing a touch-up to her nose and lip either this year or next, we opted to schedule them together. The ordering ENT was not able to coordinate schedules with our plastic surgeon, so we went with another ENT associate.

Bailey was the first surgery scheduled. They took her back on time, and we settled in to wait. About 30 minutes later, our ENT came to our room. Since he wasn't the one who ordered the procedure, he wanted to know exactly why her tonsils were being removed even though they were not enlarged. We talked about the sleep study and her trouble breathing through her nose. 
Then the plastic surgeon walks in.
(Very unusual to have both operating doctors leave and come chat with the parents half-way through. I'm pretty sure our nurse had a mild panic attack!)
We talked over more of what they were seeing in the OR, and we agreed to leave the tonsils and check to see if the adenoids were enlarged and needed removed. Turns out they did. Our doctor told us they were some of the biggest he's seen. They were 100% blocking her from breathing through her nose. 

Not having her tonsils removed was definitely a change in plans, but a positive one. In cleft kids, leaving the tonsils in place for as long as possible is advantageous because it assists the palate in some ways, especially when it comes to speech and swallowing food without leaking. So while many times tonsils and adenoids are removed together, we're glad they didn't have to be in Bailey's case.

For his part our plastic surgeon shaved off scar tissue on the underside of Bailey's lip, shaved down the scar between her nose and lip, and lifted up the cartilage of her right nostril after removing more scar tissue. She has nasal stents in both nostrils to help them hold their shape. 

All I can say is that our girl did awesome!
I don't know if I can adequately describe this child's pain tolerance. 
It's high.
The highest she rated her pain the entire day of surgery was a 2. 
One time.
She denied any pain the rest of the day.

We've been keeping her on Tylenol, and she has to use nasal spray 6-8 times a day. But she can eat normal foods and is back to all normal activities (except swimming). 

It will probably be a week or more until we can tell if the adenoidectomy helped her breathing and sleeping. It would normally be about 4 days, but I'm guessing the facial/nasal swelling might prolong things a bit. We're very hopeful that she will see dramatic improvement in her breathing and be able to get much higher quality sleep.

And to all our friends and family members, we appreciate all the prayers you have said for our girl this week. She felt every one of them! ♥

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Colorado vacation: Well, we did that.

The Ellis family took a week-long trip to Colorado last week. We rented a house in Breckenridge (lukewarm review pending) and spent a lot of hours in the great outdoors.

We caravaned out in three cars and most of us spent our first night at Jared's mom's house in Loveland, while a few beer-loving souls travelled on to Golden, Colorado for a tour of the Coors factory the next morning. Instead of beer, the rest of us loaded up on breakfast food and coffee, Graham included. 

Our started off our first full day with a sisters (and boys) workout early that morning. We ran along a creek through town and stopped later for a gondola ride and other random photo ops.

We spent the afternoon exploring the town and buying souveniers. 

It was a busy and active week. We took a few different hikes. The first was much longer and tougher than we had planned. It was up to a waterfall and it took us a good 3 hours. Bailey came along and was leading the group the entire time. 

The second hike was much easier and only about 30 minutes uphill. We came to a small lake and ate our picnic lunch and checked out the trout swimming around.

The last hike was basically a tiny walk to a scenic overlook of Lake Dillon. And home of countless hungry chipmunks.Adults and kids alike got a huge kick out of feeding them.

We spent one morning white water rafting - which was so much fun! It was through Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas River and rated an "intermediate" level. It was a great trip to start with, but it would be fun to do an advanced rafting trip next time. The guys were in the front of the raft, so they took the brunt of all the cold water (around 40ยบ) but we all got our share of freezing cold water at one point or another. 

We relaxed as well, hitting up a local brewery or two and hanging out in the hot tub at night. One night we played The Game of Things and were laughing till we were crying. (If you haven't played it, you really need to.) We also celebrated Fe's 30th birthday with a small surprise for her one night. 

The trip was memorable for all of us. The mountains were new to all of my sisters, and they all left wanting to come back soon. And I think a few of us were bit by the hiking bug - including Bailey! We all had fun, and who knows, maybe there is another Colorado trip in the future for us sisters some day.  :)