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This Christmas totally rocked.

Last year, we didn’t put up our Christmas tree, with Tucker just born and Ollie just turning two, my Christmas spirit was exhausted and any Christmas decorations consisted of static clings on the windows.

This year, though, we did it up right.

We waited until the boys were in bed and set up and decorated the tree, knowing it would be a cool surprise for the boys when they woke the next day.

Ollie got up first and went directly to the Thomas ornament placed strategically at his height.

Note the Thomas jammies, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then Tucker got up and went directly to the Thomas ornament placed strategically at his height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then Tucker just laughed at it. He pointed and laughed and laughed and pointed. Long after Ollie was over the novelty of having a shiny bright tree in the living room, Tucker continued to be fascinated. At Grandma and Grandpa Miller’s house, that fascination continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then Santa Claus came.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first time we’ve had a visit from Santa Claus, and I can say, I loved it. Like, seriously. I was up later than normal, wrapping presents and watching Christmas movies and I can see that in five years this novelty might wear off. But now, the first time, it was silly how excited I was to be a pretty integral part in the awesomeness that is a kid’s Christmas. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal to be responsible for creating some of a kid’s most anticipated event and making those memories. It made me teary, honestly. And honestly, I’m a bit of nerd, so….there you go.

Anyway, Santa knows Thomas, and uses Thomas wrapping paper, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And these boys had an alright time unwrapping these presents, I’d say. And it was pretty awesome, paper everywhere, toys everywhere, a little bit of a meltdown from an under-the-weather Ollie, but for my first time inviting Santa into our house, it was a bit of delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then! AND THEN! CHRISTMAS KEPT ON GOING at my parents’ house, where Ollie got some AWESOME new boots from Great-Grandma Rose. He wore these boots for the rest of the night (they have lights, too!) and the next day until we maybe sort of hid them for the day we might get snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Santa Tucker…

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Ollie and his Buddy, Thomas,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And his very cool backpack that, in true Ollie style, he wore proudly the whole next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Christmas totally rocked.

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Professional photographers, especially those who work with kids, are crazy people. Moms and Grandmas who take kids to get professional photos taken, are a little crazy as well.

It didn’t start out so well, to be honest, Ollie went a little nutzo at the idea that he had to sit in a particular place (in a chair, gasp!) and look a particular way (happy, gasp!!) when all he wanted to do was check out the scenery. And because I can look at all the pictures I want of a crying Ollie without paying for them, we aborted Mission: Start With Ollie and brought Tucker out for his closeup.

Not a bad idea, considering Tucker likes being looked at.

And then Ollie noticed the prop “presents” strewn about and settled in to disassemble them.

 

And we got a few of the boys together in an idyllic fake Christmas setting, with Tucker, nosy as usual regarding anything Ollie has, and Ollie, nosy as usual, wondering what’s in there, and working hard to figure it out.

 

With the idyllic fake Christmas setting down and done, we took them to the White Room for a shot or two together. Which, by the way, was a little like corralling bunny rabbits with both of them on the move. Sit Tucker down, get Ollie over and sitting down…and…uh….Tucker! Stay There!

But, with some crazy inventive antics from the photographers, it worked out okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the headshots! Oh the headshots!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photographers talked me into spending more than I expected, but as a consolation prize, I got this coffee mug. Something I never would have ordered, but may just love forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**photographs from Portrait Innovations**

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Suspicious…

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

TucksGiving, 2011

So we’re going back in time to the end of November. Jump in your DeLorean and fondly remember the fashions, they music, the technology of a few months ago…

Tucker. Dear sweet, lovely Tucker, turned one on November 28th, which really kind of blows my mind. I mean, really, where does the time really go? So, to celebrate the year that he went from this

 

 

 

 

 

to this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we had a couple of parties.

 

Our family decided a few years ago on some Thanksgiving rules. #1: Olson Thanksgiving is always on the Saturday following actual Thanksgiving. This way, we kids can hang out with our respective In-Laws on the actual day and with our “home” family on Saturday and #2: There is now a set rotation. As my brothers and I have grown into responsible adults, we should be able to cook a turkey and all the trimmings for the rest of the family every four years.

First up, Matty’s family’s Thanksgiving. Since both the boys’ birthdays are within a month of each other, it was decided to have a quick little Birthday party for the two of them as well. So, after the turkey was cleared away, Tucker wore his Birthday Boy crown and t-shirt and poked at some wrapped presents.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then a couple days later, I spent a lot of time cleaning and cooking to create the world’s best Thanksgiving dinner. At least my best Thanksgiving dinner. We have a tiny house. And our tiny house has no dining room. To accommodate the family, we moved around some furniture and brought in some tables and created a dining room in the living room. Not a bad set-up, really, it makes us look all fancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Tucker wanted to chew on the tables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Ollie wanted to chew on some mashed potatoes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And everyone likes pie…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Tucker likes cake…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and opening presents with no pants on…

Nudity, pie, cake and presents…what more could you ask for in a birthday party?

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

the statistics are nuts for things to be aware of that could affect him forever

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, I seem to be doing a “series” of prematurity based posts here.

My child now looks like a typical kid. I might even say that, in a lineup of children, you’d be hard pressed to find the boy who was 1 pound, 9 ounces when he was born. At three years old, he’s on the smaller side, not quite 30 pounds, but for the most part, he looks like the Average Joe of Toddlerhood.

But if you look a little closer, spend a little time with him, you’ll notice some differences. The up-until-very-recently lack of any words at all. His physical limitations. He’s a bit of a pinball, bouncing from toy to toy about the room, not always able to sit still.

And these are all things that worry me. I suppose these are all things that would worry the random parent as well, but it’s somehow more pressing given his birth.

Because premature babies are at higher risks for a lot of physical and mental challenges.

When he was still struggling to sit unassisted at 17 months, his Occupational Therapist helped me realize that because he was born so early, there were a lot of connections within his brain that needed to be made before they were ready. And in the truest comparison I can think of, his brain has some wires crossed that we’re working through. When he was exposed too early to the world, his brain and muscles made spastic, on-the-fly connections that we have to essentially “re-wire,” especially when it comes to gross motor skills and speech abilities, and perhaps attention span issues and learning disabilities.

The statistics of premature birth and learning disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, cognitive delays, lung fragility, eyesight issues, even lower IQs…they’re all unsettling to a mother of a premature babe, even moreso when the statistics of Extremely Low Birthweight (babies born at less than 1000 grams) micropreemies.

Ollie was 711 grams at birth. At 28 weeks, the average baby is over 1100 grams; he was experiencing IntraUterine Growth Restriction and fetal distress and hadn’t grown in about 3 or 4 weeks. When your baby weighs about the weight of a bunch of bananas at birth, and his nurses now feel like part of your family, it’s hard not be overjoyed when you bring him home.

And then, his six month adjusted birthday rolls around and you think: “hey, shouldn’t he be sitting by now?” And then by 9,  “where’s his clapping, and, really no sitting yet?” And then at 11 months, “no, clapping, still no sitting…and why doesn’t he crawl?” and even with a therapy or two a week to help him work through these things, you’re still never in a place where you can trust that your child will be “fine.”

Which all seems kind of unfair when you actually watch your child develop when he should be tucked away safely in a womb.

While we were in NICU, we were warned of all the effects he could experience. The ventilator he was on for 10 days, that *could* result in blindness. The Grade I brain bleed we discovered, that *could* mean he will have cerebral palsy. The weak lungs he has, he’s going to have fragile lungs for a long time and will have Chronic Lung Disease and *possibly* severe asthma. When talking to doctors and nurses (and consulting Dr. Google – not recommended), the statistics are nuts for things to be aware of that could affect him forever. But, we just have to wait and see. By two years old, they say most preemies are caught up if they’re going to be caught up, but his catching up seems to be a little delayed. While hearing of all the things that he could be living with forever, Gross Motor Delay and Speech Delays seemed the lesser of a few evils, quite honestly, and I’m thankful that that’s all we’ve so far seen. And while his baby book remained fairly empty of Gross Motor milestones until at least 18 months, his Fine Motors were always ahead of where he should be, which flawed thinking or not, reassured me that his brain works just fine.

But when we’re asked to “take a break” during the library story time because Ollie is pinballing around the room and unwilling to settle down, and when outsiders comment that he’s a “busy” boy, I wonder how much of this is typical “hey-I-didn’t-walk-until-I-was-two-and-have-been-in-quarantine-most-of-my-life” delight in exploring a room and natural toddler curiosity, or if it’s the seeds of ADD, ADHD, or something else lurking he’s experiencing.

In the last few months, I’ve seen his maturity level grow, though, and I feel encouraged that the novelty of “just walking” is wearing off and he’s able to work his brain on more task-oriented levels. He will play with Legos, building and taking them apart, or his Thomas trains for half an hour. He’s sat with me, head on my lap, watching tv and laughing at the funny parts. He helps me with Tucker, putting diapers in the kitchen, bringing me his bottle, or even trying to feed him. We’re able to work on letters and numbers and shapes and colors because he’s finally able and interested in focusing long enough to get past C before running off to do….anything else.

So….no. Premature babies aren’t just small. They’re not just cute. Not only can they struggle to live from the get-go, but the worry never, ever seems to let up.

And 1 in 8 babies worldwide will be born too early and the parents of 543,000 babies will have these worries and concerns. Babies are designed to gestate for 40 weeks. Not 28, not 35, not even 37…but 40, for even late-term preemies can suffer the effects of a premature birth. So a mom of a preemie might give a pregnant woman the stinkeye for complaining about *still* being pregnant at 36 weeks, we might be too concerned about your pregnancy if things aren’t going as well as hoped, we might reach out to a fellow preemie mom in ways that may be considered overbearing. But it’s only because we have seen the effects too close to our own hearts.

For more information, visit the March of Dimes.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Purple is the color of Prematurity Awareness

You might have noticed I changed the appearance here, to purple. The purple is in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, a month of spreading the word of a cause that has hit too close to home.

I, technically, have two preemies, which means we have two babies born before 37 to 40 weeks. Tucker, our new baby, was born at 36 weeks. He made it that far with the help of some daily blood thinning injections that we learned I needed with Ollie, our older boy, who was born at 28 weeks. Nearly three years ago, we had a December baby, instead of a March baby. And those 12 weeks are crazy important to the development of a baby. It’s so much more than growing that needs to be done in those last three-ish months. That’s when a baby develops the ability to breathe, when suck, swallow and breathe while eating becomes instinct, gets important anti-bodies to help build his immune system.

When Ollie was born, his eyes were still fused closed, his body was as frail as an eggshell, his skin too sensitive to stroke. At 711 grams, he weighed about the weight of a Wi-Fi equipped iPad, and his lungs were too underdeveloped to work; he was on a ventilator for 10 days. His early expectations were primal: open your eyes, learn to breathe, grow. As we became NICU regulars, we learned the good and the bad, the positives and negatives, the things premature parents don’t want to hear and the things we waited for months to hear: his belly has residual feeds. He had to be “brought back” from an apnea spell. He needs to pee. We celebrated those “heavy” diapers, even if they were helped by diuretics. We were proud of his pooping, we rooted for an empty belly when it was time for another feeding through a tube in his nose. The big apnea spells (where he’d forget to breathe and drop his heartrate to scary levels) brought tears along with the dings of his monitors. Finally we heard the good news: you can bring your car seat in for his Car Seat Challenge, I hope your crib is set up, and finally the “BYE OLLIE! We’ll miss you!” written on his whiteboard, where nurses wrote notes and updates.

A week after he was born, I finally held my Ollie, a mere 12 inches long, with his ventilator tubes taped to my shoulder, snuggled in my shirt to keep him warm and give him skin-to-skin contact in Kangaroo Care, often the only tangible help a mother can provide in this situation.

Kangaroo care, shortly after graduating off ventilator

He calmed, listening to my heartbeat, listening to my breathing, hearing my voice, the sounds he *should* have still been hearing at all times, instead of the whirrr of a ventilator, the beep of monitors, the sounds of life on the outside. His isolette had too much equipment nearby; a pole of medications on pumps that were delivered through his belly button IV, tubes, wires, and the oscillating ventilator that sounds a lot like the air compressor Matty has in the garage. It was overwhelming; I put myself in survival mode, trying my best to set aside worries that he might not make it, arranging my life around his care times, so I could be present while his team did its hands-on checks, its status updates, changed his diaper and maybe hold him, if he was stable enough.

As he reached the milestones that aren’t found in a typical baby book, we gained more confidence that we would be taking him home. He breathed without a ventilator 10 days after his birth, but needed supplemental oxygen for eight months altogether. He took his first dose of pumped breastmilk and opened his eyes all within the two days surrounding his breathing. He gained weight, his skin grew less sensitive to touch and I could stroke his head to comfort him. We gave him baths, his arm wrapped in a sterile glove to protect his IV lines, his head the size of a tennis ball. In his nose was an oxygen tube, down his throat was a feeding tube, but underneath all the wires, the tubes, the ruddy skin of jaundice, he was Our Ollie. And Our Ollie was making it. He was fighting through the bad news and pulling out his feeding tubes; he was fighting with all the flair and stubbornness that’s still part of his personality.

We took him home just three days after his due date, after 84 days, with an oxygen tank and apnea monitor crowding the back seat. He weighed five pounds. All of our Ollie souvenirs came with us, the tiny yellow hat that he wore the first time I held him, finally laughably too small, some doll-sized diapers and blood pressure cuff, his special cowboy blanket that covered his isolette to block out the light and let him rest. But the final morale of the story is: we came home.

This is OUR story. For the most part, it’s generally uneventful compared to a lot of other babies born at his gestational age at his gestational size. No emergency surgeries, no middle of the night phone calls, no infections. But the problem is: 1 in 8 babies are born preterm, so worldwide, according to the March of Dimes, over 13 million babies are born too early every year.  And the United States has earned a C in worldwide comparisons of premature baby care and success rates. The good news here is that preterm birth rates improved in almost every state between 2006 and 2009, and in several states the change was more than 10 percent, according to research done by the March of Dimes. It’s hard to predict who’s baby will be full-term, what the repercussions might be for a preemie, micro or late term. And women who do everything right while pregnant can – and do – still experience pre-term labor, fetal distress, infections and a host of other reasons (ahem: clotting disorders) that would require a baby to be induced or c-sectioned out before his 40 weeks are up.

Tucker’s birth at 36 weeks was uneventful, delightfully uneventful and for that I am forever thankful. Our take-home baby, he spent 0 minutes in the NICU. He breathed beautifully, cried right out of the gate, ate like a champ; he essentially restored my faith in pregnancy, childbirth and has showed me with clarity that babies have 40 weeks to gestate for a reason. Even though he didn’t quite make it to that magical 37 to 40 weeks, his lungs were fully developed, his muscles have cooperated with each other, he’s right on track with babies his age. Probably not strangely, Tucker’s ease has given me new insight into Ollie’s delays. Not being around kids very much growing up, I wasn’t all that knowledgeable about how children develop. Comparing the two experiences is like apples v oranges. To see Tucker do things with ease at 11 months that Ollie struggled with for much, much longer, has helped me realize just how far Ollie has come. And how differently I would have handled the delays if I knew any better.

Ollie’s birth at 28 weeks was directly related to a clotting issue I have; Tucker’s water broke on its own, because of the meds I was on to keep him cooking longer. I didn’t drink when pregnant, or stand on my feet all day, or take illicit drugs or fall into any other special categories. I was just a regular old run-of-the-mill Plain Jane whose clotting disorder went undiagnosed until something went awry.

It really can happen to anyone, and it really does knock you off your block if it does.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up

When I worked, I worked a lot. I was, essentially, the worker bee of a very small marketing and public relations department of a manufacturer of some really cool products. A little bit of everything, I designed some ads, bought ad space in publications, figured out the inner workings of tradeshow booths, wrote some press releases…I was busy.

But I loved it. Like superloved it. My workmates were cool, my product was something I was interested in and I was busy, which prevented me from ever feeling bored. In my last year at my company, I was often in the office at least 30 minutes before I was supposed to be, but didn’t often leave when the whistle blew at five. More than a handful of times, I worked from home in the evenings, and when pregnancy insomnia kicked in around five months, I admit to sending work emails at 3am. Yes, I was that girl.

And then Ollie was born, and I quit. Without much notice or thought, I quit my career to stay home for the Ollie-gator to prevent him from being exposed to possibly deadly (to him) daycare germs and other issues. (PS: while we didn’t do much research, it’s kind of hard to find a daycare around here that wouldn’t balk by a child needing a heart/apnea monitor and extra oxygen without costing us waaaaaaay too much money.)

And now that Ollie is getting to the point where daycare wouldn’t be deadly and he’s probably suffering from boredom and the kind of kid-isolation he’s always lived, I start thinking about working again. I mean, Tucker’s immune system is pretty top-notch, I’d say, and his lungs aren’t at all compromised by an early birth, so why not start thinking about maaaaaaaybe going back to work? Especially since I’ve been out of my career coming up on three years now, and I have the feeling that’s not going to make it easy to find a position. And, if I were to stay home until Tucker goes to school, we’re looking at seven or more years out of the industry. That, I would say, would equal career suicide.

But I’m not sure I want to.::whine::

At least not in my chosen career field. Now that I have a couple of children, and not exactly sure we’re done having kids, the idea of staying late to make a deadline is pretty low on my Things I Want To Do list. The idea of not getting home until 6:30 or 7 and seeing the boys for an hour just doesn’t seem awesome. Toss a little bit of travel in that salad and it’s like, Dude, I totally have new respect the other parents I worked with that have to leave on a regular basis and miss milestones like rolling over or walking.

I’ve done some research on going back to school, but the truth is, I  have no idea where my next steps will take me. I’ve thought of some kind of education that might help Ollie…maybe some kind of Early Childhood therapist, perhaps speech. I’ve considered nursing, thinking I can help other tiny babies (and maybe their parents) in a NICU, but I’m not sure I have the emotional fortitude for the situations that don’t turn out as well as Ollie’s. (If you read most of my posts here, you’ll notice my emotions generally manifest themselves in tears…maybe not the best nurse you’d have at your bedside, I’m not necessarily cool under pressure.)

So, I guess the moral of the story here is that I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I guess I am still 18.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized