Monday, August 26, 2013

1st Day of Preschool

Our little 3 year-old is off to school!

And from this picture you might assume that she was super excited to pose for the mandatory first day of school photo.
You would be dead wrong.
There were tears and pouting, and I basically had to threaten her to even get her to look at the camera. Thankfully she shaped up and showed her true enthusiasm at being able to escape the house (and me) and go play with her friends at school.

this seriously cracked me up.
We headed to school and Avery was more than willing to help Bailey pose for pictures.
We walked into the building, and Bailey rushed toward her classroom. She threw off her backpack, sat down at the table, picked out a puzzle, and she was set. She gave me a kiss goodbye and didn't even so much as glance in my direction as I left.
No hesitation to get involved.
No anxiety over me leaving.
No worry at all.
Avery was another story.
She smiled, sat down at the table beside Bailey, and told me, "I play school, Mom."
No, sorry Avery.
Crying ensued and shoes went flying when I picked her up to go.
"I need my sister!" she screamed pitifully as I forced her to leave.
She cried and cried all the way to the car.
Geez, a whole three hours apart. How will they ever survive?!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

up and down

This past weekend our friend Kate came to town. It was fun and carefree and hilarious as expected. We hosted a tiny little get-together on Saturday night in our backyard. BLT dip and flippy cup and some Dancing Queen were all on the menu.

We spent another day recovering from the night before and the next was spent taking the kids to the park and the lake. (We really show people a good time around here. Obviously.) Then we shared quite a few laughs over margs with my sister Justy on Kate's last night in Iowa.

That brings me to some of the less exciting events of the week.. the "down" portion if you will.

On Monday night Jared developed pretty nasty hives. He had some the week before and they went away with a dose or two of Benadryl, so he didn't think too much of it. Cut to Tuesday afternoon: I am preparing to leave for a doctor's appointment. I wake Jared because Graham woke up early from his nap. He is still covered - and I mean covered - in hives. His face was swollen like I have never seen before. He had lips even Lisa Rinna herself could not compete with. He was drowsy and delirious. I don't even want to think how bad off he might have been had I let him keep sleeping. No neighbors are home, so I call my mom up to come stay with the kids so Jared can come to the doctor with me. By the time we reach the doctor's office, his hives are even worse. He gets a steroid injection and a Medrol pack to go home with, and we head out the door.

We aren't even home an hour when he starts feeling short of breath. It gets worse. We call my mom (again) and she comes back in so we can go to the ER. He gets admitted, IV steroids with Benadryl every 4 hours. His hives go away and come back again about an hour before the next dose. He continues to be short of breath. His chest feels tight. This continues off and on for a full 24 hours. By that point the steroids have gotten Jared so amped up he is verging on a full-on panic attack. Not cool.

Meanwhile, I am at home feeling like the world's worst wife for leaving him at the hospital for the day by himself. I'm torn between my needy, bottle-hating baby and my 'roid-induced anxious husband. I end up putting the kids down early and calling my mom (again!) to come hang out while they sleep. Jared is beyond anxious so they discontinue the steroids and ask him to try to survive on Ativan alone. (Spoiler alert - it didn't work.) His hives keep coming back with a vengeance, and he had only slept for a total of about one hour in two days. Some of his labs came back elevated, which led to more labs and a CT scan to rule out a PE. {FYI: none of this was helping the anxiety.)

I hung out and tried my best to entertain him. He made it quite a while without any meds, but the Ativan did zilch and he was practically begging for relief from the itching by 3am. One dose of Benadryl and Jared was snoring within 30 seconds of it hitting the IV fluid.
Meanwhile, I slept awesome on my pull-out chair - and I am not even lying. It was much better to sleep on a horrible mattress with a pillow as comfortable as cement and know what was going on than to be at home in my comfortable bed feeling clueless and worried.

Today seemed to be a better day. The hives were flat and less angry-looking, although still very itchy. I brought the kids down to visit. It was slightly bad timing since Jared was exhausted and just wanting a nap, but it worked out well for Graham.
As of right now Jared has gotten by with just two doses of Benadryl today. We are hoping he might be able to come home some time tomorrow if he does okay overnight. As much as I am looking forward to having him home again, if he doesn't feel good enough yet, he might as well stay where he is at. At least it is (somewhat) quiet there.
And because the drama of having my spouse in the hospital is not enough, we had some other excitement of sorts today.
After spending the night in the hospital with Jared, I arrived home this morning to this sight:
That is our backyard.
With a giant tree in it.
This tree belongs to our neighbors and was right along the fence line. At some point in the night, about half of the tree fell into our yard. Miraculously it missed the fence. And most importantly it missed our house.
View from our patio door to the backyard.
(The first thing out of the girls' mouths: "Cool! Look at all those nuts!")
Yeah, real cool....
The tree has been in bad shape since that May snowstorm. It's basically been a ticking time-bomb. I am just very thankful that this happened over the night and not during the day when our children could have been out there playing.
It fell on our main power line, which ripped our outside electrical box from the side of the house. It was still hanging on and we had power, but it scorched the siding and melted all the wires inside of it. Another near-miss there. The electrical company immediately cut the power once they saw it around 9am and let my mom and I know that we would need to have our electrician come before we could have power hooked back up. Seriously? I don't have an electrician! Thankfully my mom played general contractor: she made some calls, called in some favors, lined everything up, and then stayed to supervise. An electrician was there by 11 and we had power back by 2pm. It wasn't a moment too soon since the house had already reached 80+ degrees. The morning was a mess of calls back and forth with our neighbors, calls to insurance companies, and generalized dread of the mess that was our backyard.
The bright spot of the day: team spirit.
My mom and I came back with the kids at 1:30 to find half of the tree already chopped up and gone. With the help of many of our kind neighbors, the entire mess - including every single buckeye (sorry kids!) - was gone by 4pm!
How awesome is that?!
So yeah, today sucked. But regardless, I am feeling very thankful for quick repairmen, helpful neighbors, and a mom that did whatever was needed without me even asking.

Today was a mess.
This week has been super stressful with lots of don't-do-the-tired-cry-in-front-of-the-children deep-breathing.
Our kids have been misbehaving demons (God love 'em).
I have had enough! It can only go up from here, right?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

college roomies reunite!

Back in 2005, I transferred colleges from my current one in Iowa to Fort Hays State University in Kansas. (Best decision EVER, but I digress...)
I was a junior and didn't know a soul but Jared. Jared had his own apartment off campus. I wanted to meet people, plus I wasn't able to travel the seven hours to apartment search, so I got a dorm room on campus. This could have been a big disaster, but it was a blessing instead.

I had been paired with a roommate. The smallest room in an entire dorm filled with single-only rooms and I had a roommate. Her name was Kate Clifton. I don't know if it was luck or fate or whatever, but thank God for Kate. We meshed instantly. Life was good in our cramped little room.

Our first weekend on campus
We both were looking for the "college experience" - a.k.a. wanting to make new friends and find as many house parties as possible. We regularly trolled around the dorms looking for open doors and opportunities to meet people. We were largely unsuccessful except for the open door we found at a dead end in the basement of our dorm. Those two guys playing guitar and video games ended up being Kate's housemates once I moved in with Jared.

We attended many a house party together.
We were both nerdy and listened to songs from our favorite Disney movies, having sing-alongs in the showers. I introduced Kate to country music and how to successfully squat to pee when no bathroom was available (a very useful life skill!) and she introduced me to Team America and was pretty amazing at getting us invites to parties.
We attended Ladies' Fair for the free drinks every year.
We watched every episode of every season of Sex & the City together. And we made cosmos in our dorm room while watching said episodes. We stayed up late talking most nights. We also took the classiest of pictures at our classiest moments. (obviously.)

We had our share of fun moments even when we didn't live together anymore. Jared and I would go to their house to play drinking games or watch our weekly episodes of Nip/Tuck. We drank way too much tequila together and spent a night sleeping together in her bathroom. We took random trips to Pizza Hut for their lunch buffet (known as PHB in our lingo) where Kate would take home a couple pieces of pepperoni pizza in her Ziploc-lined purse. There were shopping trips to the mall in Hays where we would load up on $2 shirts and cheap necklaces, most of which were usually broken on the dance floor later that night.
Kate and Jared were good friends too. He knows just as much about her as I do - probably more since he has the better memory! She got to know my friends from Iowa and fit into the group seamlessly. We had a blast together at our joint bachelor/bachelorette party in Kansas City, even if we did forget her at a bar and she had to beg a ride back to the hotel. (Sorry Kate!)
Our last weekend in Hays together was pretty epic too. She was my wingman when I punched a guy in the face on a bus for talking smack to us. There is no one else I would want to run from the cops with. :) 
Kate always listened after Jared and I had a fight. I held her hair more times than I can count. And even though there were times we didn't see each other much, we were there for each other when the other needed a friend. We made a lot of great memories together during my time in Hays, Kansas.
Sadly, we have only seen each other once in the last 5 years - at the Herndon Ox Roast in 2010.

And while this is far from a good picture of us, it is probably my best memory:
dancing in the street, beers in hand, in the pouring rain until 4 o'clock in the morning. 
Best. Night. Ever.

And now my dear friend Kate is coming from Colorado to visit this weekend.
I am so excited I could pee!
I can't wait for her to get here. We have so much catching up to do!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Surgery #3 and After

First of all, I want to say thank you to all the people who said prayers and kept us in their thoughts these past few days. Surgery - especially on your child - is unnerving and it helped to know there were so many people thinking of us.

We spent Thursday afternoon hanging out at our hotel in Council Bluffs. Jared gets a very nice state rate, which makes it more affordable for us to get a nice place with a pool. My parents got a room too, and we hung out together, along with my sisters Fe and Beaner. We swam for a while and then ordered some pizzas. It was easy and carefree, and it was fun for the kids - which was our main goal. Graham actually fell asleep in his pack-n-play at 8 PM and slept all night long. The girls weren't as quiet; they tossed and turned all night. And man, do they talk in their sleep! It was far from a restful night for Jared and me, but it was better than the three hours or so we got the last time all five of us bunked in a hotel together.

Her surgery was at Boy's Town National Research Hospital in Omaha. This was our first time using this hospital. We used The Nebraska Medical Center before since we both worked there and it was closer to home for us. I am definitely glad to have used the Boy's Town facility this time.
It is just so perfect for kids.
The list of available Disney movies is a mile long and there is a well-equipped playroom in the unit with toys so cool even I wanted to play with them. The nurses and other staff were great and very accommodating, especially since we had an 8 month-old along with us.

Bailey's surgery was scheduled for 10:30 so we had to be at the hospital by 9 AM. Bailey asked for something to eat and drink a few times after waking up, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. We told her the doctor wanted her to wait until after he saw her, and she accepted that and didn't ask much more. She freaked when it came to putting on the surgery jammies, but quickly chilled out when we pulled out the Ipad.

Dr. Miller, our plastic surgeon, came to see Bailey and discuss the plan one last time. Then a short while later the nurse came in to administer the oral Versed. Bailey got really funny after that. She asked odd questions and gave funny little grins. She also tipped over while sitting upright on her bed (but immediately got back into position to play with the Ipad.) Then at 11:15 the OR nurses came to take her back. The Versed worked wonders and she just sat and lazily let them take her away - as long as she had Bun-Bun of course.

The surgery itself took about an hour, and she was in recovery for about another 30 minutes.
It went great.
She came back to the room very groggy, as was to be expected. Daddy got in some cuddle time while she slowly woke up.

She was swollen and bruised. But even with all that, I could tell that her nose looked much better and the right side of her lip had that "peak" it didn't have before.
She slowly came around and when she did... it wasn't pretty. She was hysterical and inconsolable for a good 10 to 15 minutes until we got her calmed down enough to vocalize what Disney movie she would like us to turn on. Apparently Mulan did the trick. {Thanks girl.}
A dose of pain medication plus another 15 minutes and she was golden. It's like a switch flipped: all of the sudden she sat up in bed and asked two quick - but very important - questions:
Where is Papa? I need to see him.
When can I go home?
Girl loves her Papa. And her own bed.

We were released from the hospital a little before 5PM that same day. We should have been home at a decent hour... Unfortunately we spent over 2 hours going between Walgreens pharmacies trying to obtain just one pain medication. And this was after we had the nurse call it in hours before we left! It was frustrating to say the least. It's never good when your kids start AND finish a movie in the car while waiting in a parking lot. 
Not cool, Walgreens. Not cool.
Many extra miles and lots of muttered expletives later, we finally had what we needed.

Bailey slept through the night that first night, not waking even once for pain medication. In fact, she doesn't even seem to complain much of pain at all. Kids really are amazing. She lets us know when her nose is starting to hurt, but it just doesn't seem to bother her much. She has to sleep with the arm splints on at night to ensure she doesn't accidentally scratch or rub her face. We don't use them during the day because Bailey knows that if she touches her face, the splints go back on, and she is not volunteering for that.

The swelling has gone down a little bit, and the bruising didn't actually stick around like I thought it might. I think she looks really great for going through so much just two days ago! We head back to Omaha on Wednesday to have the stitches removed with Dr. Miller. We had some issues with scheduling, so he is coming in on his afternoon off to see her. {Have I said he is amazing??} The nasal stent in her right nostril (in place to help hold the correct shape) will come out sometime in the next three weeks or so.
She hates me taking her picture lately, especially since she knows her nose looks different. After I took this picture she said to me, "There. I am done. You are bossering to me."  ("Bossering" = being bossy in Bailey speak.)

I actually got a smile today when she was playing with her new Play-Doh ice cream set - a gift from Jared's thoughtful coworker, Janelle.
{Thanks Janelle! Love is not a strong enough word to describe how Bailey feels about this present.}

She is a little self-conscious about her nose and lip right now. She was shy in church today when someone asked if she fell and hit her face. (Really??!) But with my prompting, she piped up and said with pride, "I just had surgery!"

Tonight in bed, I gave her a kiss and said, "I love you, beautiful girl."
She replied back, "I am not beautiful right now, Mommy. My nose is not beautiful."
That about broke this mama's heart.
I told her that yes, she is beautiful.
She was beautiful before her surgery and she is beautiful now.
And she is such a brave girl, and being brave is so very beautiful too.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Surgery Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning Bailey is scheduled to have her third cleft surgery.
It will be at Boy's Town in Omaha.
This surgery is more cosmetic in nature. She is having a nasal revision and lip revision - which in layman's terms basically means she is having a nose job and the right side of her lip worked on to resemble her "good" side.

I love her sweet little face just the way it is,

but I know that in the years to come, she is going to appreciate all these surgeries and all this pain and all this hassle. She is going to want to feel and look as "normal" as possible. I hope that this surgery brings positive results and makes her differences even more difficult to notice.

And while surgery has been scheduled for a good month or two, it is just now starting to hit me that our little lady is going to be operated on. Again. And although we have been through this a few times before, it is always a little scary. I do know that Bailey will do great. She is used to doctor's appointments, and she was awesome for her last ear tube surgery. She is my big, brave girl, and she will be just fine.

That being said, any and all prayers would be appreciated.
Both for Bailey herself and for the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals caring for Bailey.

I would also appreciate any prayers for our sanity as we attempt another night in a hotel with three small children. With any luck we might get more than 3 hours of sleep this time!
Baby Benadryl is kosher, right?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Things I love...

*  Finally having living room furniture after 3 weeks of using only a recliner and a midget-sized loveseat. Hallelujah for a reupholstered couch!

* Avery waking me up in the middle of the night to use the potty. Progress!

* Tomatoes that are finally turning red.

* Sleeping in until almost 9 AM. Thanks honey!

* Delicious margaritas (in excess) and chatting with a friend last night.

Not lovin' so much....

* Moving aforementioned couch. No matter what Jared and I are moving, we are at each other's throats within 30 seconds, critiquing how the other is lifting or turning it. It's hell.

* Avery using the backyard like the puppy. Not sure how to convince her that she can also use the toilet for #2. It's never a good sign when flies start circling your child.

Monday, August 5, 2013

good for the soul

Yesterday I was driving down the highway, and I had one of those moments. The sun was shining, a great song came on the radio, and I got that feeling of complete unencumbered happiness. That feeling that makes you feel devoid of obligations and take a second to notice just how great your life really is. And just for a few moments, you feel free - even if there are three small children in the backseat. But this time, rather than fighting or whining for a dropped sippy cup, they were actually singing along. Happy. And believe me, with toddlers and a baby, you have to cling to these sweet moments.

We had a good weekend filled with lots of small little moments that added together to make it special.

Friday was a lazy day. We had nowhere to be, and Jared and I actually got to spend time together - just us. We put the kids to bed and had a conversation. An uninterrupted adult conversation. That lasted longer than two minutes. Sadly, it seemed like a real treat.

Saturday was Sweet Corn Daze in our town. Usually by this point in the summer, I am so tired of eating it that I turn down every offer from my dad. However, this year it has been significantly delayed. I hadn't had any until this weekend. And the girls LOVE it, especially Avery. (This should be no surprise.)

Bailey rode with her Aunt Justy in the parade. She was so stinkin' excited about it. You could just tell she was so happy to be riding in the car's rumble seat and throwing candy to all the people. I don't think she ever stopped waving.

Avery was dressed in a jumper. How is it that I have a three year old now and neither of my girls have ever worn a cute summer jumper like this? It wasn't so convenient for diaper changes, but that cuteness outweighed the annoyance this time.

There were events throughout the day. The main highlight for my children was the "jumpies" - aka the inflatables. For five bucks, you have unlimited jumping and some tired out kids come nap time. Money well spent.

My sisters Catrina and Justy came over later that night and we did each others' hair and picked out clothes. Later we headed up to a street dance held outside a local bar.

Saturday evening our babysitter showed up, and we were free of children for a few hours.
Seriously, just a few hours of childless fun
shows an immediate positive change in my life outlook some days.
It feels amazing to act like a crazy college student again. No thoughts of scattered toys or diapers or fighting over which bedtime song gets sung first. Just a night of fun ahead.

The street dance also served as my 10-year class reunion. It was very informal, which worked out great. A band was playing and the drinks were flowing. Out of a class of 40-something, about half showed up. There were very few awkward moments and it was good to share laughs with some of the people that were my friends from way back. Like fighting over toys at preschool as 4 year-olds far back.

I love these people.
We never see each other enough.
And we can all be flaky bitches, but they are my flaky bitches.

My Saturday was fun and I paid for it Sunday morning as Graham woke me up after three hours of sleep. I groggily warmed up a bottle and he ate a whole 2 ounces before realizing he wasn't drinking straight from the tap. Crying ensued, but seeing as I didn't want a drunk 8 month-old, he had to tough it out with the bottle.

The rest of the day was spent out at my parent's farm. After a nice lunch with my grandma Connie and grandpa Lyle, we spent the afternoon out in the sunshine watching Bailey learn hopscotch while Avery threw and kicked every ball she could find.
It made me happy to see my dad and his little sidekick Bailey go about feeding cattle and "fixing" things. I liked seeing my grandparents enjoy little moments of my kids singing songs and giving hugs. It felt good to just not care that all three kids were filthy and naps were missed.
It all just felt good.
Summer will be coming to a close oh-so-very soon, and I want to squeeze in some final carefree moments before it is gone for good.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pinned it, Did it

For a little while now I have been telling myself I need to get motivated and start making little preschooler activities for my kids. True, Bailey will be going to preschool in about a month, but both girls could benefit from some learning activities - and all the better if they feel like a fun game.

Honestly I hadn't even started collecting ideas, let alone made anything. Yesterday I happened to see a friend's Pinterest pin to her preschool board and earlier I had read a friend's blog post about all the things she is doing to start homeschooling her preschool age daughter. Both these things combined were enough to finally motivate me.

I hardly ever use Pinterest. To me it seems like almost all the people just pin a bunch of crap that looks awesome but they will never follow through on. So my thought is Why waste all the time pinning it then?
But it turns out I have a ton of friends that are either teachers or have kids my age, and all these people are pinning sweet project ideas. So basically everybody already did the hard work for me. I am not going for labor intense stuff. I just want a few things that are cheap to make but effective in helping my kids learn.

So here is my first attempt.

Alphabet Car Game

It was pretty freakin' simple.
I am not crafty, and it didn't even take me 45 minutes to complete this from start to finish.

The main thing is to use a circle cutter. You can get one for under 10 bucks.
{Martha Stewart circle cutter}

Life Saver.
I would still be sitting at my table cutting out circles if I had traced them out and used a pair of scissors.
I used the 2 inch setting and it worked like a charm.
On the circles you write each letter of the alphabet, in both capital and lowercase - 52 in all.
(Seriously, who in their right mind would trace and cut out all those things?!)
I used card stock for everything because I wanted it to be stronger than regular construction paper.

You can decorate the car however you wish. Mine doesn't look all that car-like, but it works for 2 and 3 year-olds! Trace around where the tires go so that the kids know where to place the circles. And while you're at it, you can also throw in a sun and a sweet cloud like mine.

Here is my end result:
Original Pinterest product:
It turned out pretty close. And since I essentially copied this person because I don't have a creative bone in my body, that makes sense.

From the above website, there are also other games that can be made using the same alphabet circles, many of which are good for older kids to practice building 3 and 4-letter words.

Today was the big test: 
would the girls like it
did I waste a perfectly good 45 minutes of sleep making this crap?
Well, turns out they LOVED it.
Both girls (ages 2 and 3) played with it for over 30 minutes.

I set out 5 letter sets (lowercase and capital) at once on the table. I asked Bailey to find a letter, and she would pick out both the capital and lowercase. It was helpful for me to see which letters she still has trouble recognizing. She got all the capital letters, but was off on about 1/3 of the lowercase. After both letters were on the car, we talked about the sound that letter made and what words started with that letter.

Then I repeated the process with Avery. I used the same letters that I used with Bailey. Since she is younger, it was helpful for her to watch Bailey first. She did really well and surprised me with how many of the lowercase letters she knew. She seems to be close to Bailey's level actually. I got through the entire alphabet with Bailey, and then Avery quit with 2 letters left.
Overall I was extremely pleased with their attention span.
I am pretty sure it was a record.
Both girls thanked me for "playing a game" with them and asked if we could play the game tomorrow too. I call that a success.

I think if this activity were going to be used a lot, it might be a good idea to laminate the pieces. My little thumb sucker kept trying to grab the circles, so it was basically a game of keep away and don't-suck-your-thumb lecturing. (And we learned the alphabet, too!)