Carter and his week at children’s hospital

The words, the feelings, the images, the memories are all at the tips of my fingers.  They’ve been there with me since this whole ordeal started, just itching to get out and be told.  But still, I am finding it so hard to take myself there.  I don’t know how to tell the story.  It’s too close to home, I suppose.  And I’m sure will hit home pretty hard for any of you who have a little baby at home.  It’s hard to imagine your baby in pain or suffering.  It’s hard for me to imagine it, even though we lived it.  And our story isn’t even that bad in comparison to some of the children we met at Children’s Hospital.  Grief and despair run deep through the halls of Oakland’s Children Hospital.  In many ways being at the hospital was exactly what got me through being at the hospital.  It was a constant reminder of how lucky I am to know that at some point I would go back home with my baby.  So many others there, have very different stories.

Sadie turned four on Oct 19th.  We had a great party for her at our local tumbling gym.  Carter had been uncharacteristically grouchy and clingy the entire party.  I didn’t take special note of his behavior because well babies are babies.  I only mention it now because in hindsight you scrutinize your every decision, and I wonder now how did I miss it?  That evening the kids were sitting down eating dinner.  I sat down behind Carter and BLAM I see it for the first time.  His neck.  It’s huge.  He has a huge golf ball sized mass under his left jawline right on his neck.  I touch it, it’s rock hard.  It feels like he swallowed a river rock and it got lodged in his neck.  I start panicking and pick up the phone to dial the emergency pediatrician line, Devin and I barely exchange any words, we are both feeling panic.  The pediatrician considers sending us into ER but decides that office hours are only 12 hours away, so we wait.

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It’s determined that he has a bacterial infection in his lymph node.  We are sent home with antibiotic.  He soon develops a fever.  Three days go by, the mass is still huge and fever persists.  I call the doctor again in a panic.  She assures me everything is fine, that fever will break soon and these things take a while to go away.  Two days later the fever finally breaks, but the mass is still as large as ever.  Perhaps even larger.  I’m starting to lose my mind so I can’t really trust my judgement anyways.  I call the doc again.  I feel like a crazy person.  She tells me to trust her, and that everything will be ok.  I feel like I’m going to cry and I say how do you know.  How DO you know?  How does she know its a bacterial infection?  I tell her to just walk me through it.  I just want to make sure I’m doing everything I should be doing, and not sitting around while something in there is getting stronger and harder to conquer.  She tells me point blank.  It’s not cancer.

That’s it.  That’s exactly why I kept calling.  It was something I feared so deeply but couldn’t even muster up the courage to even mention it in conjunction with my baby.  I couldn’t even say it.  But she knew what was going through my strong mommy heart, and she said it.  She knew it wasn’t cancer because cancer doesn’t pop up over night like that.  Also, the fact that it was accompanied by a fever (which was finally gone) indicates infection.  I felt some relief and finished out the 10 day dose of antibiotic.

Two days after medication ended, the mass began changing color.  It had a slight pink tone to it.  I was playing cool, no more crazy mom.  The next day, it was most definitely pink.  I spoke to myself and said, be cool.  It’s just irritated from rubbing on his shoulder.  I decided that I’d keep playing cool, unless it was still pink on Monday which was 3 days from then.  The next morning I wake up and the mass has grown considerably.  And it was now beat red.  It was as if a large tomato were hanging off the side of his neck.

I called the pediatrician.  It was a Saturday.  They were closing in 15 mins.  Devin was at the dentist with the car.  The kids were still in jammies.  I threw on shoes and buckled them into the double stroller and ran the entire way to the pediatricians.  I had no idea that would be my last time being home for a week.

She sent us directly to Children’s Hospital.  She said at this point the mass was beyond oral antibiotic and we’d probably have to get Infectious Disease involved.  I called Devin to come pick us up and off we all went to Children’s.  We got into triage and I wasn’t even upset.  In fact, I felt great.  There was so much relief that something more was going to be done to end this ordeal.  Carter is so stoic, but I know he’d been in pain for weeks.  We were in triage for a few hours.  The ER resident came and informed us that we would be admitted and we’d probably be here for a couple of days.  That’s basically exactly when things started looking glum.  Up until then we thought that maybe we’d have to spend one night.  A couple of nights seemed unfathomable.  We had no idea what was in store.

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After a few hours we were moved to our “bed”.  This is the exact moment reality set in.  We walked through the large 3rd floor surgical ward doors and into a large room filled with beds.  Beds that were only separated by drapes.  Beds that were all filled with children in very severe pain.  We walked past bed after bed of kids crying and moaning until we got to the very end of the room where there was an white metal crib cage, a reclining chair and an iv drip.  I looked at Devin and tried not to cry.  I thought triage was bad.  I had no idea that we were being put in a group ward with zero privacy, no bed and the sounds of constant crying and moaning.  I thought it couldn’t get worse when we were rapidly informed that Sadie had to leave.  Carter was classified as contact isolation.  He was not allowed to be put on the floor or come in any contact with children, even my own.  I didn’t want to cry in front of Sadie, or Carter for that matter so I held it together and said my goodbyes to Devin so he could take Sadie.  Thank god my mom flew up that night otherwise I wouldn’t have known when the next time I’d get to see Devin would be.  The nurse there tried to comfort me, she said that she knows all of this seems so overwhelming and impossible, but I’d manage it and somehow get through it.  Nighttime fell on day one.  Although, in a hospital there is little difference between day and night.  In the group ward, all of the lights remain on because it is still a working nurses station.  Nurses and doctors coming and going, walking in and out of our curtains, talking at a normal day time voice to us, other patients and each other.  I was told Carter had to sleep in the crib/cage.  He would not.  I took him out and somehow squeezed him into my chair that reclined partially down and slept with him in my arms, for as much time as we could get in here and there.  He was hooked up to an iv and a heart monitor.  Plus his vitals were taken every couple of hours and he had to get antibiotics every 4 hours, even during the night.  When all of that wasn’t happening – there was most definitely cries, moans, and sometimes screams from the other children in our ward.  I cried too.  Silently.  But I cried for Carter and I cried for all of these other children and all of their mamas lying right next to them.

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The next day is such a blur.  Somehow we spent the entire day in that ward without ever touching the floor or the walls.  Looking back I really have no clue on how it happened.  I just know there were a lot of doctors, a lot of new people coming in to poke and prod at Carter – but not a whole lot of answers.  By nightfall I was just about to attempt to get carter squished into my chair with me to attempt sleep, when we were told we were getting moved.  Apparently, someone who is on isolation shouldn’t be in a ward full of children recovering from surgeries.

We got brought to a new floor with all new nurses and luckily a room, with a door.  Carter still had his crib/cage but I had graduated from a slightly reclined chair to a window seat, which in comparison was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.  That night we slept together on the window seat, in a room, with a door, and it felt great.  We had a roommate.  Another baby, but she was a sweet little thing who hardly made a peep and was only there to have her brain activity monitored over night for possible seizures.  Her mom was very nice.  In the morning when they got discharged I could tell she felt bad for me knowing that we still had no idea of what was wrong with Carter or when we’d be able to leave.

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That day I heard news of Sadie becoming pretty affected by all of this.  She was crying a lot.  Asking for me.  And had made an accident in her sleep, which is very unusual for her.  It broke my heart.  I begged and pleaded with every single doctor, nurse, specialist that I came in contact with.  Trying desperately to have them let Sadie come up to see us.  As it was now.  She’d come to the hospital and wait in the cafeteria for hours and hours with my mom just waiting for me to be able to escape to come visit her for 15 minutes before I had to rush back up because Carter was hysterical or a doctor needed to speak to me.  It was agony not seeing her.  I had such guilt.  I imagined what I would do if Sadie had been the one hospitalized.  I didn’t want to seem like I was favoring the baby.  And I really do think that if it had been Sadie, I would have stayed by her side day and night as well.  Even though Carter is still nursing, I think I would have weaned him to be with her.  The sick kid in the hospital gets mom, right?  I don’t know.  It’s all too hard.  I don’t know if I did the right thing, I just know that Carter was too sick and too scared to be alone.

Late that evening something finally started to happen.  After days and days of just sitting around while dozens of doctors would parade in through our door just looking at Carter and agreeing, “Oh yeah, that looks real bad.” And then doing absolutely nothing.  We were finally sent down to imaging to have an ultrasound.  Devin and I had to hold him down while they pressed that cold jelly-covered nozzle on his throat.  He cried out in obvious pain.  And it took every muscle I had in my brain to overcome my heart from grabbing him into my arms and taking him out of this situation.

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The ultrasound turned up inconclusive.  They couldn’t really make heads or tails of what was in his neck, whether it be liquid or solid, was still a huge mystery.  That night his fever spiked to 102.9.  He hadn’t eaten in days.  And was becoming increasingly less like himself.  He barely smiled, didn’t want to play.  All he did was say “no” and wanted to nurse.  So that’s what I would do.  I held him in my lap and nursed him almost all day every day.

Things were starting to go too far, and we’d been there for many days.  Infectious Disease was called in.  Like everyone else that came into the room, they came in wearing yellow body covers, gloves and masks.  Carter would start screaming No, and I would feel the deep gut pain of knowing I was going to have to hold him down yet again so someone else could poke at his huge tomato colored mass hanging from the side of his throat.  But this time something new happened.  Infectious Disease came in like a knight in shining armor.  They came in with a plan.  And they came in with some good news.  The plan was surgery.  We didn’t know when, we’d have to track down a surgeon and discuss details and schedule – but that was the plan.  And the good news was that they gave the ok for me to take Carter downstairs to see Sadie.  He had to stay in his little push car, because he wasn’t allowed to touch anything – and we had to meet in the grassy patch outdoors where no other children were, but we could do it.

The elevator doors opened and Sadie ran to us all smiles and so so so happy.  Carter was squealing.  When Sadie approached us she just sort of stood by Carter and smiled awkwardly and put her hands behind her back in a very “not-so-sure” kind of body language.  She was a little shocked to see him with a large cast on his arm to keep him from pulling out his iv.  He had tubes hanging from his hands and bandages all over his arms from various blood draws.  His mass was also now circled with black marker.  I could imagine it was quite scary for her to see him this way.

After a few minutes she got used to it and we got to spend a few quality moments together, all four of us.  Carter didn’t last long.  He was feverish and upset and in pain.  Sadly we had to head back upstairs pretty abruptly.  When we got back up there we were greeted with some news.

Carter was on the schedule for surgery.  And it was happening tonight.  It was about 1pm, surgery would probably be around 8pm so I’d have to quit feeding Carter immediately.  I should have known better, but I wasn’t expecting that.  I didn’t really realize what that fully meant.  I wasn’t going to be able to even nurse him.  I really had zero idea of how I was going to get him through the rest of the day without nursing him.  He hadn’t even had his nap yet and nursing him is how I get him to fall asleep.  It was a nightmare.  For the next eight hours i rocked him, walked the halls with him in my arms, put on show after show… all trying to keep him happy and distracted from wanting to eat.  As you would imagine, he was beside himself.  The one thing that was giving him any comfort during this ordeal, I just took away.  At one point he noticed his sippy cup peaking out of a drawer that I had tucked it into thinking it was out of sight.  How I wish I could have gone back in time and hid it better.  He wanted water so badly and I had to refuse it.  For hours and hours.  Finally, 8pm had arrived and the nurse walked in.  We jumped up, so happy to be ending this horrid day and moving onto something that although would be very difficult, was a step toward recovery.  The nurse looked embarrassed.  It wasn’t her fault.  But she had to deliver the message that surgery had been cancelled, but someone from the surgical team would be up to talk to us about it.  Turns out, the anesthesiologist was uncomfortable giving Carter anesthesia knowing that he had nursed at 1pm.  Why they waited until 8pm, after we had starved our sick and feverish baby out all day, I’ll never know.  But good news is that surgery will be tomorrow.  Bad news is, it means you’ll have to starve Carter out all night.  Yup, that’s right.  We know you’ve been starving a one year old baby all day.  Feed him once right now, and that’s it, no more after that.  Oh, and also, we have no clue what time the surgery will be tomorrow.  Just that it will be tomorrow.  So starve him all night just in case it’s in the morning.  But it might not be until late afternoon tomorrow.  We’ll keep you posted.

I could have died right then and there.  I nursed Carter immediately, and he fell asleep immediately because of his insane exhaustion from the day.  Which was terrible.  I wanted him to eat and eat and eat, knowing he would not eat again for an entire day.  But, his body was done.  He went limp and collapsed into my arms and was deep deep asleep.  Until about 10pm.

He woke up and felt like a coffee mug full of fresh brewed coffee.  He was boiling hot.  I’ve never felt a human being at that temperature.  He was simultaneously crying and collapsing like a limp doll.  I called the nurse in a panic.  She took his temperature.  It read 103.5.  He was was listless and moaning.  I asked for tylenol for him.  The nurses couldn’t do that because he was supposed to be starving out and couldn’t ingest anything.  His fever was so high the staff was worried that he may have contracted a new virus on top of his infection.  They informed me they needed to draw blood.

I had to hold my baby down while his body was on fire.  They had to stick needles into his hands and draw several vials of blood.  He screamed like I’ve never heard.  It was determined that he was able to get tylenol, just not orally.  After I finished holding him down so they could take blood, I had to flip him over and remove his diaper and hold him down while he kicked and screamed and cried and burned up, so they could stick a suppository in his bottom.  I was crying when I picked him back up to my chest.  He clawed at me and tugged at my shirt, not understanding why I wouldn’t comfort him with the milk from my body.  He went from being simultaneously irate to completely limp.  I cried and rocked him in my arms and wondered why he still loved me.  How and why does he trust me?  He doesn’t understand what we are doing here, he just knows that I’m letting it all happen.  I’m not protecting him.  I’m not even feeding him.  I held him in my arms while he screamed and kicked and thrashed.  I rocked back and forth and hummed the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” over and over and over until 3:30am when he finally drifted off to sleep.  But anytime I attempted to sit down he would start to kick, so I did what I had to do and I stood and rocked and hummed until the sun came up and the surgeon came in to say hello.

The surgeon hadn’t yet seen Carter and wanted to take a look at this mass that he had heard so much about.  He apologized for the night before and said he understands that starving Carter out is cruel and unusual.  He was uncertain of when he would get us in that day.  He said he was going to try very hard for 10am, but that was sort of a hail mary.  I thanked him for keeping us in mind while tears streamed down my cheeks.  I was so defeated.  My emotions had been run through such a battle I was finding it hard to keep it together.  He left and I continued to rock.  An hour later a nurse came in and said to get ready, we were being prepped for surgery.  This wonderful saint of a surgeon knew what we were going through, and somehow pulled a rabbit out of a hat and was ready to fix my little man.  I was so caught up in the excitement/terror of going into surgery that it took me a moment to remember that I needed to call Devin at home and tell him to book it to the hospital.  Luckily he made in without a minute to spare.  And we walked into the elevator and headed into the operation room.

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Carter really must be the strongest, bravest person I know.  And he’s only one.  He was all smiles and giggles and claps when we were in the pre-op sitting area.  He was so happy and energetic, you would never in a million years guess he had been going through what he had.  The fact that all of these grown ups wearing blue surgical outfits and masks scurrying about didn’t bother him in the slightest.  He was so upbeat that even I was feeling completely at ease considering our current status and location.  But then itt all started getting pretty real when the anesthesiologist came out to introduce herself, walk us through the process and give us a lengthy disclaimer about possible complications and dangers of anesthesia in babies.  I was well aware of how scary this all was, but she just way way way drove it home for me.

We were asked to pick Carter up and lay him down on the surgical table while they strapped him in and put him under.  I leaned over his body and kissed his face and told him I loved him as they ran anesthesia into his iv.  His cries faded, his eyes closed, his breath got deep and low.  He was under.

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I lost it.  I felt broken.  I cried a deep horrible cry.  I felt these horrible feelings of thinking what if this was the last time I’d ever see him, I would tell myself no, to shake it off, to not put any energy into such terrible thoughts.  But as much as I did fight it, the fear was always alive in my heart, just buried deep behind the real and overpowering sadness and hope that he would come out of this healed.  The surgeon put his hands on my shoulder as I sobbed.  He said, “Little man will be fine.  I have one just like him at home, I won’t let anything happen to him, I promise.”  I tried to reply thank you because that sentiment really truly helped me.  It made me feel like he understood that he had my heart strapped down to that table, and I couldn’t live without it. His statement made me feel safe.  As we walked out of the surgery room to head into waiting Devin and I collapsed into each other and cried.  I cried and cried and blubbered that I’d never felt this feeling in my entire life, I was so sad, sadder than I knew was possible.  Devin was in shock, he couldn’t understand how we got to where we were.  A few weeks ago we had a crazy, I mean THE craziest little boy known to this earth.  So happy and so full of spirit, and now he is unconscious in an operation room.  It was true… how did we get there?

For anyone who’s ever sat in an operating waiting room, you too can understand how deadly quiet it is.  Everyone sitting there, in this case all parents; watching the clock, checking their phones, staring at the door, wiping tears, just sitting – all while time is standing still.  Every time the door opened everyone would jump and hope to see their child’s surgeon walking in.  And eventually ours did.  Everything went well.  Carter is being taken into recovery, the nurses will call you soon so you can go in and be by his side when he wakes up.

What seemed to be a million years later, we were taken into surgical recovery where children are lined up bed after bed while their parents sit by their side waiting to see them open their eyes.  We saw him instantly.  He was the littlest body in a row of beds.  He was hooked up to a million tubes and was cocooned by even more blankets.

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It was overwhelming to see him that way.  There was also an odd sense of relief to see him resting.  He had been through so much in this week, I felt happy for him that he was finally resting so peacefully.  I understood it was not a voluntary rest, but even so… I felt relief for him.  Devin and I sat.  We were right up against his bed and we waited waited waited.  Sometimes we spoke to each other, but mostly we waited.  We studied his body waiting for him to give us a signal that he was waking.  He slept for a very long time, children all around us were waking.  They were disoriented and nauseous.  Some were crying.  Carter just kept asleep.

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Finally he twitched.  We jumped out of our seats.  I hovered over his face so that the first thing he would see would be me.  He was puffy and looked disoriented.  He started to cry.  I picked him up to hold him against my body.  That was the first time we saw his bandages.  He had a huge pillow of gauze on the side of his neck with surgical tape wrapping around him.  He was unable to really move or rotate his neck.  Underneath the bandaging was a plastic tube sewn into the side of his neck to act as a drain for any remaining blood or puss to escape.  He cried for a moment in my arms, and instantly wanted to nurse.  For a moment I had forgotten it had been 2 days since he had eaten.  Finally, I was able to give him exactly what he wanted.  I fed him.  And he fell back asleep in my arms.

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Later on we were brought back into our room where he slept in my lap almost the entire day.  He was past exhausted, and he was recovering.  His fever spiked once again, which we were told to expect.  And he had severe diarrhea, probably from the anesthesia.  Night fell upon us and I was looking forward to getting to sleep – which at this point I was delirious from standing and rocking all night the previous night.  But before that happened we were notified that we were being moved again.  A teenager was getting put in our room and there is a law against a baby and a teen sharing a hospital room out of safety precautions for the baby.

We were moved into the nursery.  Which sounds sweet.  But in reality it is a group ward, much like the surgical ward but replace all the beds with cribs and crying newborns.  The very day my son had surgery we got moved into a room full of newborns.  And that is how he had to recover.  The noise that night was so intense it was almost comical.  I couldn’t believe it – it felt like a dream.  The shrill sound of newborn cry would come and go every 15 minutes or so, accompanied by sounds of nurses coming and going, new mothers frantically trying to soothe their new sick babies, and all of the lights being on at full insane brightness.

Carter had terrible diarrhea and began vomiting.  This persisted throughout the night.  It seemed almost every time we actually fell asleep we were back up again within minutes to get new clothes and new sheets and blankets from him getting so sick.  Now this is going to sound crazy, but at one point during the night I woke up completely unaware of where I was.  It was beyond waking up disoriented.  Not only did I not recognize where I was, I couldn’t remember who I was, or who Carter was, and if that was our house.  I sat there awake for at least 20 mins pondering the questions of what my name was and if I had a life outside of where I currently was.  I couldn’t remember if I had family, or what my house looked like, or what Carter’s name was or why he was laying with me.  My mind came together eventually and I became very aware of my truth.  But it was the absolute strangest feeling.  Since then, I’ve been told about stress induced amnesia and I’m wondering if that was what I experienced.  Whatever it was, it only lasted about 20 mins and nothing like it has happened since.

The next day Carter was fever free and hadn’t vomited since the night time.  He was getting bursts of energy and I was beginning to see glimpses of his infectious personality that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  I wanted so badly to go home.  I wanted Carter to see Sadie and I wanted to let him run on the ground and touch things.  I wanted to move without having to pull a drip iv with me every step we took.  Every doctor we saw that day told us it would be a few more days.  Then, once again, our surgeon rode in like a knight on his noble steed and told us he would be happy to put in the request to have us discharged TODAY and that there was no reason I couldn’t administer Carter’s antibiotic myself at home.  He drew up some paperwork.  I was trembling I was so excited.  I sent a text to Devin telling him that maybe, just maybe, we might get sent home today.  He was so happy, I had to really work hard to convince him to not drive to the hospital right that minute, just in case it didn’t happen.

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Within a few hours it did happen.  Our nurse came in and told me infectious disease was on their way up to do one last assessment but it looked like we would be going home.  She told me she’d start putting together a care package for us to take home for dressing his surgical wound at home.  I sent another text to Devin, this time I couldn’t stop him.  He and Sadie were in the car and on their way.

That evening, after seven days of hospital isolation, Devin, Sadie, Carter and I walked out the front doors of Children’s Hospital together, got in the car and drove home.  Carter continues to have some follow up appointments, and is left with a scar on his neck.  I came home and finally tried to process everything that had happened and really let my emotions out.  Sadie is now back to her normal self, but went through a brief moment of acting out emotionally.  She of course was affected by this very much, and I can imagine it was hard for her 4 year old brain to process what was actually happening to her family.  Devin and I have been left feeling incredibly grateful for our family and for our kids courage and strength during this ordeal.  I didn’t know it was possible, but I feel more bonded to my children and my partner than ever before.  We went through something that for me personally, has been completely life changing.  This is my tribe.  Those are my loves.  I am so grateful.

 

Four Years of Sadie

Has anyone else noticed that world has been a little more magical in these past 4 years?  Seen more rainbows?  Found more ladybugs?  Noticed more clouds that look like elephants?  Well, I have.  And I think I know exactly why.  It’s because that’s how long my Sadie has been in this world.  Sadie has been some sort of whimsical fairy since she was old enough to have a personality.  And now at four years her magical-ness is stronger than ever.  On a daily basis she reminds me to stop and smell the flowers.  Literally, every day.  Like several times a day. Even on those days that I’m running late and still have to stop by the market because we’re out of milk and I’m rushing out in pajamas and only got three hours of sleep, and there she is, sitting on the sidewalk behind me with a ray of light beaming off her blonde head, studying a family of roly poly she found deep in the grass.  Moments like this I want to scream Ahhhh!!! Come on!!! But then I remember that she is just Sadie and it would be much more pleasant to adjust my current state of mind to hers, rather than adjust hers to mine.  And that’s how we flow.  And that’s how she makes my life so magic.

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Sadie is a budding artist and at four years old I feel confident stating that this girl has got skills.  She dresses herself at all times and really puts together some fantastical outfit selections.  She has offered to dress me, I’m sad to say but I’m not brave enough to pull off the amazingness that she puts together.  Sadie is simultaneously an outdoors creature and a couch potato.  She flourishes outside, but some days just wants to stay on the couch and read and paint all day.  She is sensitive, very sensitive, but I can see her thickening her skin as she gets older – and I am proud of her for that.

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Sadie is the queen of the selfie.  My phone is filled with about 60% Sadie self portraits.  That and she loves to text.  Many of you reading this have probably had some emoji conversations with her.  She is the master of grabbing my phone and opening messages and starting up a conversation.  Mostly emoji based convos, but she has learned how to use the “voice to text dictate” button on the iPhone, so she can also communicate by the written word.  It is hysterical to see how Siri interprets what Sadie is saying.

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She loves her brother and has proven to have some very natural maternal instincts.  She’s now old enough to get herself in and out of her car seat by herself.  She can open and unlock doors (which has proven to be quite scary – that’s a whole other story).  She mostly sleeps through the night. She is most definitely more advanced artistically and verbally than she is physically.  She is still super cautious and does not know how to pedal a bike or a scooter.  She won’t jump off of anything, it’s always one foot at a time for her.  She doesn’t know how to pump her feet on the swings and seems to have zero desire on learning.  Swim lessons this past summer were a disaster of epic proportion.  And sports in general are not really interesting to her in the slightest.

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At this point in her life she is sure that when she grows up she wants to be a mama just like me, and also a blue unicorn.  Drawing and decorating the house for Halloween make her feel proud.  Carrots, apples, tofu and cubes of cheese are her favorite food.  Pink and purple are still the reigning color of choice.  She loves vacations and when Daddy throws her in the big bed.

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I’m so happy to have spent every one of my days for the past four years with this child.  I look forward to many more magical years ahead of us.

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baby vacay

About a month ago, Carter and I hopped on a flight to LA.  Well, he ran, and I chased him.  It’s obviously taken me an embarrassingly long time to posting the photos.  But better late than never.  This trip, like most of our trips to LA, was super quick.  But we packed in a lot of baby time.  We spent the bulk of our time in LA with my brother Jared and also Jamie, my sister with her amazing family.  Baby Chayton is a completely different baby than he was just a few months ago.  He crawls and laughs and pulls and gets into just about as much trouble as Carter does.  Which is A LOT.  I have a feeling these two cousins are going to cause Jamie and I very, very many trips to the ER and many late calls crying and laughing about how insane it is to raise boys.

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The icing on top of the trip was getting to see my lifelong friend Stephi as a mom with her new little boo, Saxon.  He is such a sweet little grown up man baby.  He seems like he may possibly already be wiser than me.  For some extremely goofy and slightly crazy parents they sure did make one power house of a child.  An old soul, as they say.  He is calm and collected and seems so mature, and he’s only an infant.  And it was wonderful to see my dear friend being mommy.  I see many group family camping trips and vacations in our future.

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All three of us ladies, all growns up, with our dudes.

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And all three of our boys…

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Which is not an easy task.  It took a ton of attempts to get one decent shot.  Here’s just a glimpse of the outtakes…

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Boys.  It looks like Chayton just got in a cheap sucker punch on Saxon in that last photo.  He actually probably did.  Who knows.  I just hope that these three boys can share even half as much life as their three mamas shared together.  It’s hard not getting to see this faces everyday.  I just have to say how thankful I am for instagram, facebook, facetime and the ease of communication these days in general.  It makes me feel like I get to watch these dudes grow up even when I’m only flying down every couple of months.

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From the Russian River with love

I have been living in the Bay for just over three years now.  And I dont know how it took me until now to make the very short and convenient trek up to the Russian River, but I’m very glad that I did finally do it.  Our family teamed up with some of our friends and their families and stayed at a really great cabin tucked into the redwoods.  The cabin was rustic and cozy and just around the corner from the river, perfect for a last weekend of summer hoorah.  I don’t really know how it all worked out, but somehow three couples, three little girls and three babies managed to co-exist in a house fairly easily.  I’ll chalk it up to sweet sweet vacation vibes.  We spent time in the hot tub late at night after the kiddies went to bed, we cooked big family meals, carried each others babies, shared snacks and stories and had an amazing experience relaxing and playing in the river itself.

This was our first experience with a weekend away with other families and I really feel that everything just flowed.  The kids kept themselves so busy and happy and bedtimes were easy peasy after a hard day of playing.  There was always another adult there to lend a helping hand cleaning up a mess or prepping a sippy cup.  And it was such a rare treat to get to stay up and hang out with friends after kid bedtime.  I hope to continue going on multi-family trips.  It really is such a win win.  And if it happens to be at the Russian River again, even better.  This place is incredible.

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Lake Tahoe, I’m Yours

So little baby dude turned a year old.  And to celebrate his big day (week) we took a little trip to Lake Tahoe for a 5 day vacation in emerald blue waters.  I gotta just tell you, I had no idea.  I had absolutely no idea that I lived a three hour drive from paradise.  Lake Tahoe is absolutely breath-taking.  The water is EMERALD.  It looks like someone poured a bunch of paint into it, I honestly have no idea how it is and remains to be such a fantastic color.  It’s not just the water too, it’s the rocks, the mountains, the gorgeous pines (minus the pesky pine cones – our rear windshield got busted out due to a falling one.  Total bummer.) But the meadows, the shallow water, gold sand, the cold crisp drinkable clean swimming water, oh my.  Perfection.

Carter had a great time and spent his birthday swimming, digging, eating sand, eating cake, swimming more, eating bbq, and just generally being naked and exploring.  I can’t imagine a better scenario for a one year old, or any age really.

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I really feel like, screw Hawaii.  Ok, no, don’t screw Hawaii.  I love Hawaii too.  But to find such an oasis in the mountains so close to home has really rocked my world.  I can only imagine how John Muir felt when he came over those mountains and found this glowing turquoise body of water amongst all those big smooth round boulders.  What a treasure.

Our great friends were also up there with their three kiddos and we were lucky enough to get to spend an entire day at the beach with them.  And I mean ENTIRE.  We shut that beach down baby!  It was sunset by the time we left and packed up our sandy kids and took them out for a bbq nightcap before bed.

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Check out Jolie schooling her kids in master yogi positions.

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Til next time Tahoe, stay blue.

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birthday boy

How do I even start?  I’ve been sitting here staring at my blank screen through two cups of coffee and one entire episode of Sesame Street.  I really don’t know how to start writing about this journey on my son’s very first birthday.  So I guess I will just write exactly what is going on in my rambling mind.  My baby boy is one year old today, so first off – a very very happy birthday to you my sweet sweet lover boy.  Ugh, I’m stuck again. I don’t even have words.  I love you so deeply and feel so incredibly grateful for you, for every minute with you.  My baby boy Carter.  How in the world are you already a year old?  I remember the day my water broke, the drive to the hospital, the elevator ride up to the the labor and delivery room, the nurse, my anxiety, your first cry, the feel of your little body on my chest, introducing you to Sadie, coming home as a family of four, all of it, as if it just happened a few weeks ago.  But somehow, in some twisted time warp, it was actually one year ago.

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This first year with you has been an absolute dream.  You make me SO happy.  I love everything about you and can’t think of a single thing about that I would change, not even a little bit.  You are so many things; kind, sweet, funny, playful, strong, stubborn, brave, curious, creative, smart, loving, tough, determined, independent and magical.  I feel so proud of you all the time.  It’s hard for me to not be talking about you at all times.  When you go to bed at night, sometimes your dad and I sit up and just talk about how awesome you are and how happy we are that you have joined our family.  We sit and grin as we recall the amazing list of things that you did that day and how wonderful your relationship with your sister is.

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On this day one year ago, you were born at 6:30am and weighed a mere 6 lbs 10 oz.  Now at one year old, I have no clue how much you weigh but I’d take a guess it’s somewhere around 25 lbs.  You sit, you crawl, you walk!  You can say Mama, Dada, dog, Sadie (say-cee), and you say voom-voom when you play with your toy cars.  You mimic anything anyone says, so really you say a lot more than that.  But those are the words you consistently say without someone saying them first.  You never took a bottle or a pacifier but you can drink out of a straw or a sippy cup.  You are a good eater.  You never did purees and went straight to mushy solids.  You love bagels and cream cheese, pizza, mac n’ cheese, spaghetti, peas, carrots, watermelon, raspberries, apples.  But the thing you want most in this world is beer.  I have no idea what intrigues you so much about it, but anytime anyone has a beer – whether it be in can, glass or bottle, you go straight for it and are completely relentless about getting it.  This usually ends with you throwing yourself on the floor crying.

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You are built like a linebacker.  And have no fear.  You climb slides and attempt to climb shelves and ladders like any other 5 year old on the playground.  You already know how to use Sadie’s scooter.  Anytime you see another baby you tower over them grabbing at their face and body saying “ooh ooh ooh”.  We say that your spirit animal is a silver back gorilla.  Your body build and your attitude is so gorilla.  All you need to do is learn to beat on your chest and it would be off to the zoo with you.  It cracks us up.

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I can’t wait to see what you will become as you get older.  And I’m looking forward to this next upcoming year, watching you learn to speak.  I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.  I wish there was a way I could write and convey how spectacular your personality is.  You are very truly one of a kind, so very special.  And you and your big sister are two peas in a pod.  You love each other deeply.  My god, you guys are so rough with each other.  You pull each other’s hair, shove your hands in each other’s mouths, sit and roll on top of each other.  It’s just crazy mayhem over here.  But you two just laugh and giggle and can’t get enough of it and each other.  In the mornings when you wake, the first thing you look for is your sister, “say-cee”.  And same goes for her.

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You are growing and maturing so fast, I hope you still let me hold you and snuggle you for a while longer.  I am definitely not ready for you to no longer be a baby.  Honestly if you decided to stay my little sweet one year old forever, I wouldn’t protest.  One year old.  So crazy.  A year ago I didn’t even know you yet.  I didn’t know how you would rock my world.  I had no idea how much my heart would grow and stretch and make so much room for you.  I didn’t know how you would fit perfectly into the nook of my arm.  I didn’t know the sweet sweet joy of when you close your eyes and open your mouth and come in for a kiss (which is just a lot of baby slobber on my lips) but it melts me.  A year ago I had no clue what was in store for me.  So thank you.  Thank you for being the most incredible human gorilla boy there ever has been.  I feel so lucky.  So so lucky.  Happy birthday baby boy.  I hope you squeeze every ounce of joy out of this world.  I know I will try and make you as happy as I can.  But I don’t think there will ever be a way to repay you for how happy you make us.  We love you baby Carter. xo.

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Summer Out

Summer for us is just about done.  We have just under two weeks before Sadie starts back up at school and life ruled by routine starts back up again.  We’ve done so much this summer and seen so many people that I never got around to documenting.  You know, this whole keeping up a blog while having two young kids is a lot harder than it looks.  So here are a few various outtakes from some fun summer outings or stayings we had this summer. IMG_0094 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_0122 IMG_9099 IMG_9093 IMG_8956 IMG_8936 IMG_8928 IMG_8921 IMG_0642 IMG_0591 IMG_0565 IMG_0437 IMG_0418 IMG_0374

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Some highlights are the county fair, beach days, fixing up our backyard and reaping the benefits of planting a vegetable garden.  As Sadie says, “I WUB YOU SUMMER!”  I’m not ready to give you up, but I know it’s time I must.  Until next time.

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Just Beachy

One huge goal I have always had in life is to be a mother.  A few goals after that is to be a mother of total beach bums.  I’ve dreamt of having sun-kissed, barefoot, blonde-tipped babies for much of my adult life.  I want to spend my days watching them play at the beach and swim in the waves along side.  I want to have sandy bubble baths at the end of every night.  And my kids to pass out as soon as the sun goes down because they are drained from exploring the beach.  My babies are getting older and I think I’m finally getting closer to making that dream a reality.

We just got back from a quick “glamping” trip to Santa Cruz.  We stayed at the KOA campsite that we stayed at once before during our RV trip two years back.  This time we opted to stay in one of their airstream rentals.  Such a good decision.  This thing was so amazing.  Very clean, very fuctional, and even kind of spacious for being a trailer.  Our spot was pretty quiet and private and was covered in wonderful shade.  This particular camp is wonderful for traveling with kids.  They have a huge built in bouncer, mini golf, a train ride, 3-wheel bike rentals, playground and a pool.  We went to the playground at dusk one night and it was pure anarchy – in a good way.  We were literally the only parents there.  The place was swarmed with kids of all ages in swim suits, pajamas, or just shorts and no shirts.  They were all going totally nuts running around playing rough and free.  Totally wild and mostly unsupervised but coming from this kind of over-protective mom, I found it completely heartwarming.  It reminded me of my childhood.  Seeing kids run around outdoors getting dirty and sometimes even hurt, but living life and making friends and sharing s’mores.  That is totally what childhood is for.

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Our trip started off with a bang, or rather a blerch.  As soon as we pulled up to the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk I jumped out of the car to run to grab Carter who had been in hysterics in his carseat for a good 30 mins, when all of a sudden I hear a burp and a gurgle.  I look over to see Sadie puking her guts out while still strapped into her carseat.  I tossed Carter off to Devin and ran to Sadie’s side to pull her out of the car mid-puke.  Her and I both ended up with quite a lot of her breakfast on us, but I think her carseat really took the bulk of the fallout. I guess a bowl of strawberries and a tall glass of OJ coupled with a long curvy mountain road don’t really sit well with the stomach.  Not really a great scenario when you are about to go camping and won’t have access to a laundry machine for a few days, but with a change of clothes, shoes and an entire pack of wet wipes we made do.  And off to go ride roller coasters and eat cotton candy we flew.

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The bulk of our trip was spent soaking up the waves and sun at Manresa State Beach.  What a lovely, lovely place that is.  Beautiful beach.  Warm water, gentle waves, not too crowded.  Devin and I would take turns watching the kids so we could each go out into the ocean and swim and dive and play in the waves.  And it felt SO. GOOD.  I haven’t actually submerged myself in the ocean since our honeymoon and now that I’ve felt that feeling again I’m craving it so hard.  So much so, that we booked ourselves a night to go back down in a few weeks to get some more swimming in.  Sadie loved the waves.  I’d wrap her up in my arms and we’d plow through waves laughing and splashing.  There was a whole mess of seals swimming in the waves with us, just a short distance away.  And as majestic as that experience was I immediately got my Shark Week brain on and figured that seals = sharks so I scooted me and my little lovely back a few yards to more shallow and easily escapable levels of ocean.

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Carter is a little ninja in the sand.  He’ll be three beach blankets down and into someone else’s picnic basket in the time it takes you to shake out a towel.  He kept us busy.  But he had such a great time and even spent some time in the water himself.

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We had a terrific short trip and plan on spending many, many more afternoons just like that.  And the whole airstream thing… 2 thumbs up.

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the 4th of July

We had a super fun 4th of July party Holiday in our pocket of the world.  We started it off at our town’s annual 4th parade and ended it late into the night with a bbq at our home with good friends and lots of kids and babies.  Plus my parents were in town for an added bonus of special-ness.

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I feel so lucky to spend another holiday with the great friends I’ve met since we moved here.  And so much has happened since last year, just take a look…

Last Year’s 4th:

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This year’s 4th:

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As you can see, we’ve expanded quite a bit.  You will probably also notice that Sadie and I are wearing the same thing we wore the year before.  We like to keep it consistent.

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The hammock was obviously the hit of the day.  And was still in strong usage well into the night, even after the glowsticks came out.

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Three cheers to the red, white and blue.  And four cheers to beer, bbq, sunshine, whiskey nightcaps and glowsticks.

 

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10 months

Oh dear.  aggghhh.  I don’t even know how to start this.  Great, I’m already crying.  I guess it’s just hitting me how fast all of this will be gone.  My baby love is already 10 months old.  Holy crap!  How did that happen?!  Don’t you guys just remember me announcing his birth? I feel like that just happened.  I look at him and melt.  What in the world has he done to me?!  It’s crazy that I used to worry if I’d be able to love a second child as much.  Oh lordy lord, I had no clue of how much my heart could grow.  This boy is my world.  Right now as I write this, I’m watching him pull every book out of our bookshelves  and drool inside all of our fancy coffee table art books.  And all the while, I’m just thinking over and over again in my head… i love you, i love you, i love you.  My love for him is so deep.  So all-consuming.  So so so strong and wide.

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Creeping right around the corner from his first birthday, he is growing up so fast.  I want to freeze time.  I know people say that ll the time.  But I feel kind of mini-crazy-obsessed with the idea.  I don’t want a thing to change.  Not his voice or the sounds he makes.  Not the weight of his body in my arms.  It’s all so perfect.

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Carter is way on the move.  He crawls at lightening speed.  By the time you even notice he’s not by your side he’s already down the hall with his head in the toilet.  He loves toilet water.  He loves to climb as well.  He climbs bookshelves and step stools and stairs if he can find em.  He enjoys chewing on electrical cords, trying to jam his fingers in electrical sockets, eating anything on the floor, grabbing our dogs butthole, pulling every last book off the bookshelf (8 times a day), breaking past the safety locks to get into the chemical cabinet, doing the riverdance during every single diaper change and raiding the fridge for anything and everything edible.   He also loves me.  No matter how upset or tired he is, if I pick him up and hold him tight he slumps into by body and gives into the cuddle.  He loves his sister and wants to do all the things she does.  He mimics the way she plays with her toys and the sounds she makes.  If she’s in the bath he wants in, if she climbs out he’s heading out too.  He wiggles his arms and legs and squeals when he sees her every morning.  He loves his Daddy.  When he hears Devin coming home from work, he crawls as fast as he can toward the door to greet him.  He tugs on his beard and immediately tried to eat his nose.

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He still loves to be carried in the ergo carrier.  And often falls asleep walking around in it.  He’s a big eater, and skipped the purees and went straight to table food.  He unlike his sister, likes to eat meat.  He also likes bread, pasta, veggies, fruit, yogurt, crackers, muffins, bagels, cheese, tofu, anything, anything and anything.  He sleeps well.  We are still co-sleeping, but i”m starting to try and transfer him into his crib.  I’m taking it slowly but hoping to have him in his own room somewhere around his 1st birthday.  He has two bottom teeth and 3 top teeth.

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He is really just the happiest dude around.  He’s all smiles, always putting on a show for everyone he sees.  He hardly ever complains, and is super tough about pain.  He’s been so adaptable which is such a relief having two kids.  So far, he’s been great going with the flow of the day and having his naps or bedtime thrown off.

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There are so many things I hope to remember and keep from this age.  I hope I can remember his beautiful smile and his sweet happy demeanor.  I hope to remember how he seems to make everyone around him so happy.  Since I know my days of nursing and co-sleeping are numbered – I hope to always remember the weight and warmth of his body next to mine as a lay in our bed and nurse him to sleep.  The way he kicks and squirms and tries to fight drifting off to sleep.  Then how his body slows and his weight sinks and just his warm deep breath remain.  And before I tip toe out of the room to put Sadie to bed I sit there and watch his face continuing to do the suckle motion and his eyelids flutter from his little baby dreams.  He is illuminated by the lights of the tennis court of the park in our backyard.  He is peaceful and happy and warm in his dinosaur footie jammies.  And I haven’t even left the room yet and I’m already missing holding him and look forward into climbing into bed at my bedtime so I can snug up against him until the sun comes up.

Happy 10th month Carter.  Let’s slow it down a bit shall we?  We have our whole lives to grow up, let’s be mommy and baby for a while more.

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