Thursday, December 31, 2015

At Papa's Feet

Today the world lost a great man. Often times that statement is said whenever someone loses a loved one. Today is my turn to say it as today is the day I lost my grandpa or the man I named Papa. What makes someone a great man? I could talk about his experience in the military, the hardworking man he was on his farm, the husband of sixty-four years to my grandma, long time deacon of the church, or father to my mother and uncle. I won’t speak to those things. I know of them, some more than others, but my experience my relationship comes from that of a granddaughter speaking of her grandfather.

You have all heard the expression of “your happy place.” “Go to your happy place, visualize your happy place.” This is used in order to calm you, to bring you back from stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, or various other emotions. My “happy place” has always consisted on one place; my Nanny and Papa’s house. I believe there are many reasons for this. Perhaps it might be Nanny’s meals, especially considering that she would spoil us and make us funnel cakes when my sister and I would stay the night. But mostly it was the feeling I had when I would stay at their house. The sense of peace, safety, and love I would experience in their home. The feeling that came from the two of them.

My first memory I can recall involved my Papa. My very first memory involves Papa taking me down the stairs to their basement to where they for a time had baby chicks. As I grew older trips included fishing in one of the three ponds he would take me fishing on his farm. As I continued to grow it became countless hours sitting at the table playing games of Rummy, Payday, or some other game. One of my favorite memories from their old house is of a basketball goal. No, Papa wasn’t really one for sports so he didn’t spend much time shooting hoops. The memory stems from the love that goal symbolizes. This wasn’t just any basketball goal. It was a homemade basketball goal made by my Papa. He knew that me and my cousin Chad loved basketball. He made sure we had a place to play. Many hours were spent at that goal. Not to be outdone Nanny knew I liked Michael Jordan, I had a handmade Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey sewed by Nanny. Whenever I think of my Papa I will forever think of back scratches, fishing, good meals, his shop, and the as the stuff lovingly referred to it as “Papa’s junk.” Not every grandkid can say they had random trophies to play with simply because Papa found them at a sale. Of course with me and my active imagination they became sports trophies, beauty pageant trophies, Grammy’s, and whatever other idea I could come up with that day.

I once saw a quote that said grandkids only stay young for so long because grandfathers only have so many horsey back rides in them. For me it was sitting at the feet of Papa while he rubbed and scratched my back. I observed the world at the feet of my Papa. I would sit there listening to the adult conversations around me, observing his collection of books and videos on the bookshelf by his chair, and eating too much candy from the candy dish that sat in between his and my Nanny’s recliners. I was content, I was happy at the feet of my Papa.


Papa hasn’t been able to be himself for some time. Gone were the days on the farm or messing around in his shop. Gone were the days of fishing trips, games of rummy, and back scratches at his chair. While the last few years found him having health issues that kept him from doing the things he enjoyed it's still hard letting go. Papa while our hearts are happy knowing you are in a much better place, know that our hearts are still heavy for the great soul that is forever gone from this earth. You are now able to see, eat, and hear as you stroll the streets of gold and sit happy and content at your father’s feet. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Man Beside Me

As I reflect on this past year I think about the whirlwind that has been our lives, from the miscarriages to Kaleb's dramatic entrance into the world/NICU staff, and all the moments in between. There are many different trails of thought I could venture down but the one I am focusing on is my husband. Most of my posts center around our boys (K1 and K2) and my thoughts since I'm the one penning our experiences. Unfortunately TJ often doesn't get the recognition he deserves. This year has not only taught me more about myself than any other year but it has taught me so much about the man I married. This year has tested our marriage. There have definitely been rough times, then again what do you expect. We are human, not to mention two of the most stubborn people on the planet. I won't speak for him but I believe it has ultimately made us more united than ever. We are a team. 

I could talk about various ways he has been there for me this year, especially when I was put on bed rest and then my week in the hospital. He stepped up like never before. I could talk about how we bonded and pulled strength from each other as we worked through our emotions of learning Kaleb's Down syndrome diagnosis. How once he accepted it, he accepted it and was the strong one when I felt I couldn't be. How he selflessly stayed in Bartlesville to take care of Kaden which meant giving up trips going to the NICU to see K2. Often going several days without seeing him because he knew how important it was for me to be there. 

Now with Kaleb home he is my partner as we travel to and from the various doctors appointments. He is my partner as we work to care for and parent two little boys. He gets up with me in the middle of the night to prepare Kaleb's feed while I pump and then wash my pump parts while I feed Kaleb. He is there every step of the way, or every step of the parade that is our nightly walk from the living room to K2's room. The parade that consist of me carrying Kaleb while TJ directs the cart holding Kaleb's medical equipment that Kaden thinks he has to push. He oversees turning the monitors and oxygen back on while I let Kaden hold Kaleb as I read them a bedtime story. It is a big understatement to say I don't know how I would do this without him. 

Just this past week on Christmas Eve I had my first experience with the two of them by myself. On Christmas Eve we took the boys to the duck pond so Kaden could feed the ducks and Kaleb could nap covered in the car seat and stroller. I then survived getting both boys back home while TJ went grocery shopping at Walmart. After getting the three of us and all of Kaleb's equipment inside it was time to feed Kaleb. Of course while feeding Kaleb through his mic-key button Kaden decided he had to poop. So there I am in the floor holding Kaleb's feeding tube with a three year old doing his poop dance saying "help Momma." I quickly looked for a method of holding Kaleb's feed in place and sprinted to the bathroom to place Kaden's Thomas potty seat on and help him up. As I'm coming back in the living room my phone charging in the kitchen rings with a grocery question from TJ. No sooner had I sit down to resume Kaleb's feed than the door bell rang. Again I placed the feeding syringe in my makeshift holder (not going to tell you what is was so I don't give fuel for my NICU friends to laugh) and go answer the door. All the while talking to my neighbor at the door I pray that she cannot hear my three year old clapping and saying, "I pooped, I pooped a big poop." Or even worse, "Momma come see," (yes we are in that stage). Needless to say I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw him walk in the door. 

I have been with this man for ten years, married eight of those years, and I have loved him all of those years. Now though seeing how he is with our boys whether it's reading them a story, playing with them, giving cuddles, or doing one of the many unglamorous jobs that need done it has added another depth of love. 

TJ, you said the other day that you were looking forward to 2016 to see the growth and changes in our boys. I, too can't wait, especially with you at my side ready to take on each adventure that comes our way. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kaleb's NICU Journey

It is amazing to see the growth of Kaleb. He has gone from being born at 2lb 2oz to now a whopping 9lb 2oz. I wanted to put together a video highlighting the growth and NICU journey of Kaleb Craig. Thank you to our family and friends for all of the support, love, and prayers.


Kaleb's NICU Journey

Monday, December 21, 2015

My heart is full

As I sit here holding my breath as I wait and see if we're going to get lucky and get both boys to fall asleep my heart is full. It's crazy how quickly this has become our new normal and I love it. With Kaleb being a preemie we are basically home bound other than getting out for his doctor's appointments, but I don't mind. After three months of being an hour away from him I'll take all the time I can get.  I do find myself smiling as we travel with Kaleb to appointments. I think back to when I was a new mom traveling with Kaden and I thought it was hard, how much stuff there seemed to be to bring and remember. Now with Kaleb, thanks to TJ, we have a method that we both agree isn't as bad as we feared as we travel with all Kaleb's extra accessories.

Kaleb has forced us to slow down and spend more time at home instead of always on the run. You could say we are hibernating for the winter. This has allowed us the time to learn how to be a family of four. I may not be making gourmet meals but I am enjoying trying to make a few more meals again and getting to eat together again as a family. I am loving how my husband continues to amaze me as I watch him with both of our boys as we work together as equal partners to care for our boys and the house. I'm loving bath time when I hear Kaden playing with his toys in the bath while I bathe Kaleb. I love watching Kaden love on Kaleb. He thinks he has to help put him to bed at night and help get him up in the morning. My heart is full. 

Today we had one of Kaleb's appointments. While at his appointment we learned Kaleb is now 9lb 2oz. He has officially gained seven pounds since birth. After his appointment we went back to visit some of our extended family, our NICU family. While we are so unbelievably happy to be home it was great to see our NICU family again. I can't begin to explain the impact that this special group of people have had on our hearts. While Kaleb may never remember these superheroes that cared for him during his first three months, when they were the ones better equipped to care for him than we were, we will remember and be forever grateful for them. It is no exaggeration to call them family. When your child is in their care, when you know it is their hands caring for and loving him when you cannot, they become family. Thank you to all who helped care for our Kaleb. The saying it takes a village definitely holds true for Kaleb. I am so excited to hang his NICU family print displaying all of the signatures in his room to be a visual reminder of his first home and special members of our family. As I said my heart is full. 




Monday, December 14, 2015

Home

Sitting here in Kaleb's nursery rocking him I look around his room and think about how many people have contributed to his room. How incredibly loved he is. I look at the decals I searched for and then put up with the help of his daddy. The chair I am sitting in given to us by Heather who sometime soon I will trust to oversee his care during the day. The little bear on the nightstand that Haley helped me pick out for him before we left the NICU. On the bookshelf sits the Curious George from Nana. I also see the Panda bear from Rance, Jessica, and Heath.  Baskets purchased while shopping with Courtney. Even the cart that his Grammy and Gramps found so that we could put all of his medical equipment on so that we could wheel it around the house. Everything in his room all the way down to the baseboards and doors finished by Daddy and Dalton were a work of love as we prepared the room for our little K2. The NICU family print that will soon be on the wall above his dresser, signed by the many wonderful people that looked after our precious boy. I love that his room holds all of these symbols of love. Thank you for loving this boy with us. He is a pretty special boy who makes it impossible not to fall in love with him. 

We are all in love with him. For fourteen weeks I looked around trying to picture having a new baby here at the house. It was frustrating to look around the house and not see the evidence that there was a new member of the family, besides the mess due to all the time spent at the NICU. Now everywhere I look I see the signs of Kaleb. It is very evident there is a baby in the house. It is also evident by the lack of sleep and the pee and spit up I have sported thanks to my youngest son. Who also got a talking to from my oldest who stated that it was a no no to pee on Momma and he needs to learn to use the potty. 

While I am exhausted as we work to establish a new routine I can't help but feel content. This feels right. No longer is our family split. No longer do I feel torn between my boys knowing which ever one I am with that I am an hour away from the other. Last night was the first night that after getting up to pump during the night that I didn't find myself  about to call the NICU which had been the nightly routine. We have made it. We have reached that time that we have dreamed of since getting that positive pregnancy test, since this all started at the end of August, and since we began the NICU journey. We are a family of four and we are home. 




Saturday, December 12, 2015

New Christmas Perspective

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Isaiah 41:13


We are on our third day with Kaleb home. I'll admit it's tough. I knew it would be an adjustment getting into a new routine with two little boys but I'll admit it's the extra accessories that came home with Kaleb that gets to me. Equipment that we are both thankful for and frustrated with. The oxygen and two monitors allow us to sleep better knowing that he is doing okay. Its frustrating being limited to a certain radius and not being able to freely move around the house. It is a two person job to move him to the living room in the morning and then back to his room at night. All the cords and machines are constant reminders that while we may be home from the NICU that we are still on a journey different than we had anticipated. It is hard. I never imagined setting up the nursery would consist of thoughts on where to plug in monitors and store all of the extra tubing and feeding supplies. I am being reminded of my own words from something I wrote a few weeks ago...


New Christmas Perspective 
In a moment of frustration as I drive once again to the NICU, the current residence of my second child, I think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” I didn’t sign up for my life to be flipped upside down. For my life to take a new shape, a form I had never anticipated, and to be honest had never wanted. My thoughts then drift to the Christmas season that is upon us and I think Mary didn’t sign up for this either. What must it have been like for an angel to show up and break such news to her? The angel appearing and explaining that she was going to have a baby. I think that one might have come as a shock considering that she hadn’t been with a man. I doubt she was sitting there contemplating going out to buy a first response pregnancy test thinking, “could I be pregnant?” The angel then explained she not only was going to become a mother but she was going to give birth to the son of God. Okay hold on, how does a person even respond to that news? I don’t think anyone could be ready or prepared to receive that news. It is hard enough to process and wrap your head around finding out you’re going to become a mom. That you are going to be in charge of this little human being, that is a lot to take in in any typical pregnancy. I can just imagine the “you’re joking, right?” moment that had to be going through Mary’s mind. The “how is this possible” and possibly the “why me” moments that had to follow in the time following the news. What was it about her that made God select her for this role?

As usual though God had a plan. A plan so far from what Mary could have guessed or possibly wanted for her life. Her life, her world was changed that day. She more than likely had more questions than she had answers. Sure she knew the basics, she would have a son, he would be the son of God, and he would be called Jesus. What she didn’t know were the details. We don’t know what type of personality characteristics she possessed, maybe she wasn’t a planner like I am. Then again maybe she was. Maybe she thought she always had to have a plan in place, a map that her life would follow. It might have felt at times too big a responsibility to be placed on her shoulders. How does one prepare to raise the son of God? She might have felt that she was inadequate and not up to the task. She might have yearned for her nice clearly labeled map that she had worked hard to create. One that featured these typical children she had pictured and dreamed of, children that fit in perfectly in the landscape of her map.
I remember thinking the first Christmas I became a mother that it brought along a new perspective for me. I felt that I could better relate to Mary, thinking of the love and feelings that come with becoming a mom. Just imagining the love she must have felt holding her newborn son in her arms as I cradled my infant son. Now as I become a mom for the second time it has given me yet another perspective. Mary didn’t give birth at 28 weeks and have to worry about health issues or have a birth diagnosis of Down syndrome. I didn’t give birth to the son of God, but I see the Christmas story from a new perspective. I didn’t have a typical labor story or a typical baby as I have watched my youngest son fight to grow and fight for his chance to live. Mary didn’t have a typical labor and definitely did not give birth to a typical baby. What to Expect When You Are Expecting doesn’t have a section that related to Mary’s pregnancy and birth story. Instead she had to trust God to help guide her as she prepared to raise his son. Having a path that is different and atypical can be scary, it can be overwhelming.

It’s easy for us years later to look back and say, “wow, how blessed was Mary to be given the honor of being the mother to Jesus!” We know the story, we know how it unfolds. Isn’t that the way it always is? After the fact we are able to better see behind us and where we have come. We repeat verses such as, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5). We remember his promises, “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). But these verses seem so much better and easy on the heart when things are going our way. When life is following that map we have for our lives. They are not as easy to accept when life suddenly takes a detour into unknown or unanticipated territory. I love the quote by Joseph Campbell, which again is easier to heed when we hit speed bumps and not full out road closings and detours. The quotes says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” If not we can be left fighting a losing battle of the how and whys while trying to drive while looking at the scenery in the rearview mirror. That is when we have to buckle up, let our GPS update, and say “okay God we’ve got this, show me the way.” 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time Marches On

For three months or to put it another way for 99 days Kaleb has been in the NICU. For those 99 days we have worked to create a new routine, a new sense of normalcy. It was not a normal we were fond of, who wants to drive an hour to be able to get to their child everyday. Somehow though it did become the routine. In that routine which was hard and very physically and emotionally draining there were good things I will take from it. It gave the chance for TJ to have special time with Kaden as he really stepped up and focused on Kaden getting him fed, dressed, bathed, and dropped off/picked up from daycare. TJ was a rock and Kaden was such a trooper knowing that Momma was with Kaleb taking care of him and his "boo boos." The hour drive each way gave me time. Time to grieve and vent my frustrations to God. Time to praise him for this trying time because it meant that there was a baby that was alive and getting the chance to grow. Time to blare music and for a brief time forget about it all. 

This routine brought many new faces into my life. People I will never forget and will forever hold a special place in my heart. Far too many to mention by name. Some were other parents who knew the struggle of the NICU. Some were random people who happened upon our path. Kaleb's nurses were technically that, his nurses, but they quickly became friends. They witnessed me at my weakest when I really wasn't sure how much longer we could keep it up. They were there to laugh with me, talk, and celebrate Kaleb's progress. Each and every one I will miss dearly. 

Tomorrow I won't know what to do with myself when I don't leave early before Kaden is even awake to make my trek to Saint Francis. I won't drive my same drive and pull in the same parking garage, go up the same elevators to that fifth floor. I won't wash and up in the wash room and walk into room 533 to say good morning to Kaleb. Time goes on. Sometime soon there will be a new baby in room 533. It will no longer be known as Kaleb's room. Another family will sit there rocking their precious little one. New tears will be shed and prayers said as another set of parents occupy room 533. A part of me will always remember those first cuddles as we were introduced to each other and learned about each other in that room. As I held him close and tried not to cry as I watched another wagon ride go by. It's amazing how such a trying time can also bring about so much good. Thank you to our NICU family you mean more to us then you will ever know. Fourteen weeks ago I had a baby. Fourteen weeks later I am taking a baby home. 

Then they became a family of four under the same roof. On to the next chapter...

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Royal Prince


Going through the NICU journey I have been consistently asked how we have managed, what it’s been like for us, and how we are doing. Well one thing that has been very therapeutic for me is writing. I have always loved writing whether it is in my journal or writing stories. As I found myself traveling to and from Tulsa not always having my journal, I began to type my thoughts. Finally after going back and forth on beginning a blog I decided to share some of my thoughts. Some have told me I seem to be pretty positive about all of it and I am, but I can assure you I have plenty of rough days too. It is also very intimidating to put my thoughts out there for others to read. It is one thing to share updates on Kaleb’s progress through this journey, and quite another to share how I have and am processing this journey. I have decided that so many people have traveled and followed this journey with us that I wanted to be able to give an inside look at this crazy adventure that has been Kaleb Craig. Someday soon I do hope to go back when I can catch a breath and share more of the first three months of Kaleb’s life. To share how it played out, the emotions of frustration and anxiety, and the roller coaster ride which is the NICU.

I've wondered what I would even call the blog if I were to write one. Tina, our NICU lactation consultant suggested the name “A Royal Prince.” Given how we are huge Kansas City Royal's fans and he was born the year the Royals won their second World Series. While I ended up going with a different name because I wanted something that didn't leave out Kaden who of course plays a huge role in the life lessons I constantly learn, I did think the name was fitting for another reason. A Royal prince. As a child of God we are royalty. But with my youngest son there were some questions and conversations with God. The questions of why? Why us? Our life was going great and smooth before these hurdles. Even more, the bigger question became why him? The terms associated with Down syndrome would constantly race through my head. Hypertonia (low muscle tone), delayed fine and gross motor skills, delayed cognitive skills, mild to moderate cognitive disabilities, etc. The one that blared in my head was the more outdated term used of mental retardation. As a parent you want the world for your child. You want them to reach their full potential to live a full and successful life. I wondered and worried what that would look like for Kaleb. Kaleb who has had to show his fight and will to live from day 1 arriving at 28 weeks due to reverse blood flow. I would then always go back to the verse fearfully and wonderfully made (Proverbs 139:14). He is a child of the King. A king who doesn't make mistakes. I reminded myself he is still Kaleb, he is still the child who I prayed for while pregnant, whose heartbeat I listened to on my home sonogram, whose picture I closely studied on every ultrasound picture, and tenderly rubbed my belly where he kicked. He is still the child I knew had a purpose in this life. Sure he did not come when we wanted or how we wanted. He came with an extra chromosome we didn't expect, but he is ours. He was still created by my heavenly father and does have a purpose. He was still fearfully and wonderfully made.

A nurse told me the other day, "Yours is one of the happy stories." It caught me by surprise and struck me as funny. In these three months, that is I believe the only time happy as been used to describe this journey. That got me to thinking, in children's stories do not all of the books have obstacles and hardships?  In the end the happy ending results from personal growth of the characters, individuals banning together to achieve a goal, and/or coming together with love. Does our story not have that? This journey has already taught me more and spurred more personal growth than anything I have been through in my life. I have been humbled and carried through in the rough times by the support and prayers of family and friends and together we will soon achieve the goal of graduating from the NICU. Then that leaves love. This kid has definitely provided that. The love that I feel for my youngest as I watch him fight for his chance to grow and thrive. Love that I like to think that he can feel from me and for me as he curls up against my chest for cuddles. Love from family, friends, churches, and communities as they have followed his updates and have fallen in love with this little boy who began his life at a whopping 2lb 2oz. So yes ours is a happy story. So I decided I will start a blog sharing our stories. Sharing our adventures, reflections, and life lessons. So...


"Once upon a time two parents gave birth to a Royal prince..."