Monday, December 22, 2014

Relishing the Quiet (and the cookies)

Sugar cookies for breakfast? Sure, why not?

I've been keenly aware this past month that our lives are about to catapult and get drastically different after the New Year. I will be a full-time mom, a full-time student, and a full-time legislative widow. I took this fall off from coursework mainly because there were no classes offered that I needed. I continued with my own research, but had no hard deadlines. Oh what a glorious time it has been.

I've consciously and unconsciously slowed way down. As far as writing in this precious-to-me space, there was a time when I wanted to say everything. It was how I processed Jack's birth and all the highs and lows that came along with it. Lately, I have been struck with the desire to listen. To process. To hear from others who are much further in this preemie parenting journey.

I am also aware, more than ever, of how blogs and social media become a negative blow horn, where non-experts spout their ideas and then people lob this article and that article out there. No one is listening anymore. Silence is a lost art. My desire is that this space not become part of the chorus of that angry voice.

All this to say, we made sugar cookies yesterday.

I feel it my duty to share the recipe for the best cut-out sugar cookies, mainly because they are amazing (thanks Emily!). I have slight anxiety on the moment of rolling out dough. I envision the dough sticking to the surface and breaking apart and exploding into flames. This recipe purported to be kinda fool-proof, so I took a deep breath and proceeded. It really was easy. And fool-proof. And, most importantly, they taste so good. The perfect hints of almond and lemon. Sooo yummy, I tell ya.

My advice is to cut them thick and don't let them brown too much. They are soft and buttery. And now I am eating another.

This time last year I was reeling after an incredibly hard first semester of school. I didn't get to enjoy the build-up quiet of Advent. This year I am relishing the quiet and relishing my boy who makes each day super fun, interesting, and full of joy.

OK, go now, and make those cookies.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Best Gift

Have you ever taken the love language quiz or read the book? Albeit being a bit cheesy (ok, A LOT cheesy), I am always interested to know what your love language is. Are you a "quality time" person or maybe an "acts of service" person? I fit squarely in the "gifts" category, followed by a distant second of "words of affirmation." Gifts are where it's at for me. Nothing tells me that you love me more than giving me a gift. Equally, I adore giving. It is my favorite. Nothing makes me happier than to find a gift, wrap it up, and drop it off on your doorstep.

As you can imagine, this is my most favorite time of year. I can spend unlimited amounts of time thinking about each person in my life, then search high and low for a present and completely enjoy each second of the experience. It doesn't matter if it's a practical gift, if it's more of a splurge item, or even a plate of brownies, I am thinking about the person and my hope is they can tell I care.

All this to say, my kid doesn't care about gifts.

He doesn't care about new toys. He doesn't get giddy with excitement to tear into a package. He doesn't expect birthday gifts. He doesn't even notice the sparkly packages under the tree.

He likes his old and reliable things. He likes his routine. While I'm busy singing "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," he's watching Sesame Street for the 5000th time and enjoying every second of it.

Jack is most certainly not a "gifts" person. If I take the lesson of the whole love language thing, it's that you have to find out how to speak someone else's language. You have to show them your love in their way. That is why I know my boy would really just like a hug, some sweet words and lots of playtime. I can definitely handle that. How could I not when he's been the best gift of my life?

 (But, shh... I'm still wrapping up gifts for him and placing them under the tree).

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Friday, November 21, 2014

A Dream About Jack

"I had a dream about Jack last night."

I hear these words quite frequently - from family, from friends, and even from those who have read the blog or maybe heard our story, but don't know us very well.

Today it was one of Jack's teachers. As I was dropping him off at his classroom, putting his coat in his cubby, she excitedly came over and said:

"I had a dream about Jack last night. In it, he fell down and hit his head and then said through tears, "I want my mommy!" And get this! Another teacher had a dream about Jack last night too. Isn't that crazy? He was talking in her dream, too. You know, he is making so many new sounds lately. Maybe he is on the cusp of a breakthrough!"

Over the years, people have had all sorts of dreams about Jack. Dreams where he began walking. Some where he was running. Countless where he was speaking in full sentences. Dreams about him eating a big meal. About him drinking through a straw. And even dreams where he is an adult. 

Some may wonder how I feel about this. Is it hard to hear about dreams that may never come true? Logically, I know Jack will never do some things this side of heaven. But ultimately, I also know he has overcome quite a few obstacles that we originally thought would be barriers in his life. Most of the time when I hear about a dream I get a small glimmer of hope. Of what could be.

So my verdict? I absolutely love hearing about dreams where my boy is rockin' it. I love that someone got to hear his, what I can only imagine is, sweet little voice in a dream. That he was saying "mommy" is just the icing on the cake.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From Head to Toe: How I Prayed For My NICU Baby

Having Jack at 23 weeks meant we spent week upon week in the dark quiet, starring at him in a NICU incubator. I am one of those mind-wanderer type of people and in those painfully quiet moments, I had unlimited time to think as I watched his little body hooked up to wire and tubing and machines. Not surprisingly, I had a very hard time not going to worst case scenario when I desperately just wanted and needed to stay hopeful. On top of this, the one tangible thing I could do - provide nutrition for my boy - was getting nowhere. I was having trouble producing breastmilk after my body was ravaged from preeclampsia and the cocktail of meds that was used to keep me alive.

Like any other NICU mom, I got online to find help. I was willing to try anything. One of the pointers I read was that prayer or meditation while pumping, especially while looking at a photograph of your baby, had been shown to help in production. Well, like I said, I was willing to try anything. I went to the store and printed off a photo of the first time I held Jack. Of the first time I felt his heart beat against my chest. The moment when the quick rise and the fall of his ribs as he took a breath almost took my breath away. The absolute beauty of him.

And while I stared at this photograph of my boy, my heart came up with this prayer, one that I still pray today. It is the sort of prayer you visualize, starting from the top of your child's head down to their toes. It became the thing my mind went to each time I held Jack, each time I woke in the night to pump, and through each grueling hour he spent in surgery. The prayer is quite simple, really, and yes, the focus and details change depending on the medical concern or new diagnosis, but this is what I asked of God, for hours on end. For health and healing from head to toe. It is what I still pray when I have those sleepless nights.

I start with his head. I simply ask "God, please protect his brain as it forms and grows." And from there, I ask for health and healing for his eyes, then I go to his nose, then his mouth, throat, lungs, stomach, digestion, legs, movement, all of it... to his toes. I visualize each body part and intricate system doing what it needs to do to keep my boy alive.

Nothing makes you more aware of wonders of the human body than watching your little one develop right in front of your very eyes. I got to experience Jack from 23 weeks on. From fused-shut eyes, to being able to open those beautiful lids. I watched as his skin went from totally transparent when he was born - I could literally see the blood flowing through his veins - to turn it's gorgeous milky color with a fine layer of hair growing on it. I watched and prayed as his body went through each week of gestation, day by day, often hour by hour.

And along the way, with all of those amazing changes from head to toe, I was praying.

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