July 31, 2012

Held Another Year

It's my birthday. I'm not quite wearing my party hat; I was up 'til 2am, a knot in my stomach and a pile of nonsense in my mind.

Last weekend I had a preemptive meltdown about my golden birthday. Thirty-one on the 31st.

I'm not eaten up about turning 31 because it sounds old; I've accepted I'll never squeeze into bright orange skinny jeans and I now have to turn down caffeine after supper.

What breaks my heart is feeling I've lost so much time.

I want my life back. I want the missing months and memories and brain cells and tears back, desperately and with all my heart. If this were 5th grade recess, I'd stomp my foot and demand a do-over. But it isn't.

Thirty had its highlights: I found out we were expecting a girl, we celebrated Mac's second birthday, we welcomed his baby sister and had a golden few weeks before time stopped. Maybe now it's time to start it again.

I feel a hundred years older than I did in February. I want to shake it off, to start over. I can't get 30 back, but I'm adopting a blog friend's attitude and owning every inch and hour of 31.

Yes, I'm older. Hallelujah for that! It means more time with the people I love. (And perhaps a search for eye cream, but we'll discuss that later.)

A friend reminded me of this song today, and I wanted to share. Yes, it made me ugly cry, but it is just what I'm feeling. And while there's hurt behind it, most of all there is gratitude.

The back half of thirty was a rollercoaster I'd prefer never to ride again. But I was held. By you and by far bigger hands, too.
This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. 

This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we'd be held.

So now there are mascara stains on a beautifully monogrammed burp cloth; I couldn't find more perfect words if I wrote for years.

The painful truth: my hope is and has been born of suffering. My Savior's and, to a far lesser degree, my family's and my own. It makes His hope and security so much more real.

I prayed over and over last night, "Remind me I'm not alone right now." And I wasn't. At no point in this journey have I been on my own.

Thank you for holding me this last year. I'd love to squeeze each of you and toast a Diet Coke (I could use an IV of it lately) to a healthy, happy, beautiful thirty-first year.

If you're reading this, you're part of the reason I lived to see 31. I've achieved full-on old lady status; may I be "old" for many, many years.

I don't know what the future holds, but looking back at the darkest moments in my recent past, I know I've been held. He has gone ahead of me; there is nothing to fear. And, just as sweet, He's given me each of you.


He's given me these tiny people, too. No need for candles or even a sunny, celebratory day. This birthday girl is going to wipe her tears, walk out into the monsoon and show 31 how it's done. Hallelujah and amen.

July 25, 2012

What You Need to Know

If you read nothing else I've ever written, please read this.

You could save a child's life by knowing one simple fact: green is NOT normal. 

 If an infant has any amount of green or green-tinged vomit, call a doctor immediately.

Do not ignore a nagging, panicked feeling that something isn't right. Do not feel sheepish to contact an on-call physician after hours.

Do not be persuaded, as we were, that anything from "orange to green" is normal, particularly in a newborn. It isn't normal; it's bile.

A doctor told me last week she wishes parents would presume any bile at all in a newborn indicates intestinal malrotation until proven otherwise.

One in 500 infants is born with this congenital birth defect, more than those who have Down syndrome or a cleft lip or palate. Even so, most of us have never heard of it, and even medical professionals can be unfamiliar with its signs and symptoms.

Up to half of those affected present symptoms at birth; others can live a month, a year or most of their lives without the life-threatening volvulus (twist) that makes the defect apparent.

See malrotated and properly positioned intestines here
It is the volvulus, not necessarily the malrotation itself, that is so deadly. It cuts off blood flow to the bowels, killing the tissue while making it impossible for nutrition to pass.
The initial presentation of a newborn with volvulus of the midgut may be bilious vomiting ...  Malrotation with midgut volvulus is a true surgical emergency in the newborn. Delay in operation may result in catastrophic loss of a large portion of the small bowel. In patients with severe midgut volvulus, the entire midgut is necrotic and the child cannot survive. 
Mary Brooks had only one purely green incident in four days of symptoms; it was minimal but unquestionably bilious.

The remainder of her sickness, even as it dwindled due to lack of milk consumption, was the color of watered-down orange juice, sometimes with an acidic, greenish tint. Just one fully green spot, however, sent surgeons into a tizzy days later; I wish we'd known its significance.

That our daughter survived long enough to be diagnosed, the surgeon told us, is miraculous. That she needed no portion of her bowels resected was downright inexplicable to him. Even so, a positive outcome was uncertain due to her age, weight loss, dehydration and the length of time it took her bowels to 'wake up.'

While we don't know if or how she'll be affected long-term, we're thankful she has been spared a colostomy bag, short gut syndrome, a GI port and a variety of other ongoing issues babies with malrotation can grapple with after a volvulus.

We praise God for her healing. Sometimes I wish the events leading up to her diagnosis had gone differently, but what matters is she's here. We want every other baby born with intestinal malrotation to survive, too, to grow up healthy and unscathed.

I pray that our story can motivate one doubting parent to seek medical help, unafraid of seeming overly cautious or "crazy." I hope you never have to recall these facts, that no one in your life is touched by it. All the same, please tuck them into the back of your mind.

The bottom line: Green vomit is not normal. A newborn drawing up his legs, having a tense or guarded belly, vomiting for days on end - all this signals trouble.

For malrotation, as with any illness, your best defense is to become informed, trust your instincts and know your baby - then act on that knowledge as needed. When in doubt, call a doctor. Better yet, just show up.

Please share this with your friends and loved ones, and contact your child's physician if you have any concerns at all.

If you're a parent whose child has experienced malrotation and volvulus, don't hesitate to reach out to me.

For more on MB's experience, read about her arrival, emergency, diagnosis, surgery, hospital stay, recovery and discharge.

The Road Home

If you are new to our story, you can catch up here:
MB's Arrival
Her Sickness & Diagnosis

Her Surgery
The Longest Week
Hitting a Wall, Rounding a Corner

By Sunday morning Mary Brooks had been in the hospital seven days.

I left to visit a despondent Mac, who'd woken up hourly in the night screaming. I couldn't drive fast enough between the places that held pieces of my heart. The comforts of home were lost on me but the hospital was torturous, too; there was nowhere I felt fully at ease.

Each of our children legitimately needed me, and I finally understood I needed them just as much. In the same place. Suddenly what had been stressful to me - a pile of unfolded laundry, a loud toddler, a needy newborn, a messy house - seemed absolutely picturesque. I wanted our life back.

In the hospital I could pretend that nothing else existed outside our 10x10 piece of the universe, but leaving the sterile, scrubbed and fluorescent peds floor made it clear: life is carrying on. People are going about their daily routines, blissfully unaware. Life-or-death situations playing out for hundreds of families within the hospital's walls, but someone on Facebook is still complaining about lukewarm Starbucks or standstill traffic. How many times had I been that person before?

I tried to blend into those 'normal' people as best I could and took Mac out for pancakes that morning. Carbs cure everything. Since he wasn't old enough to determine his love language, we just used mine: breakfast foods.

(True story: If I'm ever a bit blue, a nap, sweet tea or a fresh stack of pancakes are the best gifts you could give me. All three and I'm ready to face about anything.)
I'm puffy-eyed and smiling like a loon; he is not won over by my mania.
Mac looked like a forty-pound giant compared to his teeny-tiny sister, but he wasn't yet two and a half years old. He still needed the security and schedule of his old life, as did we all. Each day we were gone he seemed more and more baby-like, and we just didn't have much of ourselves to give him.

Unsurprisingly, Mac wasn't cheered by my steely perma-grin or coos over his every forlorn expression. I was forcing myself to project Pollyanna-level happiness to our lovesick boy, but he didn't want kisses. Like me, he just wanted his family back together. It was enough to put me off pancakes.

Added to that was my knowing Mary Brooks was taking her first ounces of milk just miles away. Any signs of GI tract trouble and we'd be in for a longer stay and significantly larger problems. The surgeons wouldn't spell out much besides that, and trying maniacally to engage Mac in everyday conversation kept my mind off those crucial ounces.

MB kept every bit down, so I left Mac wailing at our house post-pancakes and floored it to the hospital. The relief in her room was palpable, but the echo of her brother falling to pieces in his too-quiet bedroom rang in my ears.

A friend came to visit bearing sweet tea while Bradley ran home briefly, and I marveled at the simple mom things (swaddles, schedules, sleeping) we discussed. It was a welcome distraction from the thoughts I'd been wading through all week.

Then, after nine full days without a full meal, Mary Brooks was able to nurse again. No measuring, no bottles. I rejoiced at the ease and simplicity of that moment - the answer to more than a few fervent prayers. She took back to breastfeeding seamlessly, and thus I sidestepped every contingency plan I'd prepared. She snuggled into my arms and I felt equally calm and exultant. Finally feeding her was heaven for the both of us, for different reasons.

I promised never to groan about such a privilege, no matter how constant feedings felt or how 'busy' I was with other things when she needed to eat. Unlike many other commitments in my lifetime, I've held to that one.

After Bradley returned, we decided to attend an elder-led prayer service our church holds once or twice a year.  We'd always wanted to make it, but had never been able to do so; it's the one service without childcare offered. It seems ironic now, finally having the ability to leave our children, but for such an unexpected, unhappy reason. Nevertheless, we had more than enough to pray about, and we desired the company and comfort of other believers.

My mom stayed at our house with Mac and my dad came to sit with Mary Brooks. In all the days since her surgery, MB had never been without her parents; we took turns leaving. We felt it was worth the hour apart and tore ourselves away.

Mary Brooks' wires had gotten fewer by the day, so her Grandpa was overjoyed to hold her for the first time since she became sick. We left him, after a jumble of bottle-related instructions, staring googly-eyed at our little bean, calm and quiet for the first time in days. (Food has that effect on MB, a girl after my own heart.)

Pulling into the church parking lot, B and I both fought the urge to run, to hightail it back and pretend we'd never left. Surely everyone expecting us would have understood.

Just being near the church brought a lot to the surface, things there's no time to feel in the hubbub and heartache of a hospital room. (And heaven knows I'm far better prepared for an onslaught of emotion than my even-keeled husband.)

Opening the doors to the lobby, I took one deep breath, effectively gasping for air, and we followed a small group friend to the row saved for us. I pulled a box of tissues out of my purse and waved it about, attempting gallows humor. Turns out"laughter through tears" isn't just my favorite emotion - it's a beloved crutch.

What Bradley and I experienced in that time reflected exactly where we were. Torn down, shattered and still crumbling. Raw. Real. It was unlike any other hour of worship in my life.

I'd heard the phrase "come alongside" before, but I'd never lived it. We shuffled into that service of our own strength, but were both physically and emotionally supported by friends experiencing this week with us. We weren't the only ones broken, and that sense of being bound together overtook us.

I looked around, making eye contact and smiling weakly. I felt utterly empty inside. It amazed me, as our pastors talked about the many struggles and hurts in our congregation, to think that mine wasn't the only pain in the room. If I could just get through this, I thought, nothing could ever hurt again. It was delusional, but life seemed problem-less, even idyllic, outside of hospital halls. As we all know, that isn't true.

Our small group stayed for a bit of worship, then walked hand-in-hand outside the sanctuary. I'm crying, four months later, as I write this. I have never been so carried. So absolutely held up. We were gathered around, arms around one another - a kind of intimacy that typically makes me uncomfortable.

I'm a hug-and-runner. Let's get "close" and then retreat back to our quiet, private lives. Let's pretend like we let it all hang out but really hold the ugly bits back, the worst parts, the stuff best kept behind closed doors.

There were no doors that night. There were no reservations and no boundaries. I wept, truly wept, in public for the first time in my life. I didn't cover my face or turn my back. I only stopped to hear the prayers of our beloved friends crying as they spoke our daughter's name to her Creator.

I have known since their births that others were praying for our children; I've comprehended that intellectually without question. Hearing our child's name wept aloud as I stood, propped up against friend upon friend, brought home meaning of 'community' like no impassioned sermon ever could, though. I wasn't just in community; I was surviving because of it.

And then a minor miracle: I prayed in public. Aloud. Sobbing and hiccuping and shaking tidal waves of tears off of my face as I spoke. Not worrying about syntax or the "right"' things to say or if people thought I was "Christian" enough or if they saw right through me. The fears of two decades were drowned out by my need for community with other believers. Please don't make me walk through this alone. We can't do this, not for one single second, by ourselves.

I asked God to hold me together. I praised Him for keeping our girl alive and for the people who were taking care of her that very minute. I told Him I had prayed so passionately for a baby, that I knew she was the baby I had prayed for. That I hadn't wanted a miracle baby, just a normal, nothing-more-to-it story. I didn't want to be in this situation. I wanted OUT of it. There's nothing pretty about that sentiment, but I felt far more connected to Him then than when I have prayed with pretty platitudes.

I listened to people pray for needs I hadn't even anticipated myself. For our families, for Mac's tender heart, for our marriage, for Mary Brooks as she grew, that she'd learn her story and come to know the Lord at a young age because of it. That we would be drawn closer together and closer to God through this, and that we would ALL be healed.

Bradley and I have never experienced a sweeter time with other believers than when we were at our worst. As our group wrapped up its prayers, our internal alarm clocks were screeching. We said our goodbyes and left service both emptied out and filled up; it was equally cathartic and replenishing, exactly what we needed.

We called my mom and heard Mac crying in the background, begging for his dad and asking not to go to sleep. I dropped B off at home and rushed back to Mary Brooks before the new shift of nurses arrived.

I found Dad singing to Mary Brooks, rocking back and forth with his face just by her ear. I was told later he'd asked the nurses if they wanted to "look" at MB when he unwrapped her for a diaper change. Thinking he was worried about her incision or her wires, they assured him they didn't need to check a thing - she wouldn't be harmed by him. My dad said, "Oh, I know that. I meant - isn't she beautiful? Don't you want to look at her?"

Nurses relayed that story several times, as they'd never seen a grandfather left in charge of a patient's care. I love that my dad was the exception to that rule; it sums up his approach to (grand)parenting perfectly.

After Dad left, the three of us were spent. B caught a catnap snuggling with Mary Brooks and we took turns lying next to her in the crib, something we'd just found out we could do. It was the closest thing to cozy I could imagine in that room.

We had a relatively easy night; B even left for a bit Monday morning to check in at the office. Word had come in around dawn that, maybe just maybe, today would be the day. I couldn't bring myself to speak the words aloud, but I could have run the Boston Marathon on adrenaline alone.

Nurses and doctors filtered in and out; our surgeon went off call and an unfamiliar face checked in. Phone calls were made, messages exchanged and charts reviewed. A friend brought Chick-fil-A and I could barely swallow it for the butterflies in my stomach.

Mary Brooks was eating and calm, so no matter what the call was I knew I could survive another day. That had been our game plan all along - survive another day and don't look beyond it. Finally that tactic felt doable.

Our nurse pushed a few slow-to-respond residents for answers while I started packing, folding, sorting and pacing.

When the official word came in, our bags were already at the door. A nurse boxed up the "traveling dairy" she claimed I'd produced while MB was there. The only way to transport our things was a little red wagon, so B stacked it high and we got out of there so quickly I'm sure it was illegal.

All those days, all that waiting and praying and breath-holding. Then the elusive call comes down and we're just...gone?

I stopped to snap a picture of our room and hurried out before they thought better of things and readmitted us. It felt like pulling off a bank heist.

Homeward bound
Every time I'd played this moment out in my head, I fought back tears. I anticipated tears. A theatrical, heart-rending scene and some joyful hot-stepping out to our car. It wasn't that way at all.

We rode down the elevator in ecstatic silence, Mary Brooks sleeping in my arms. Bradley pulled the car around and before I knew it we were walking into our house, Mac's exclamations wafting over us like a chorus of angels.

My mom stayed to let us get a delicious nap, and then we were awake and alone, diving headlong into long-awaited "normal" life.

First up was a visit to the after-hours pediatrician to address an eye infection that seemed more pitiful-looking by the minute. What was a slightly puffy eye in her hospital crib became so swollen it couldn't open by suppertime. 

After that, and the ensuing pharmacy trip, we were home for days, doing only the bare minimum and surviving the home hurdles (yes, Anne, problems do exist outside of hospital walls) that kept coming our way.
Back to the doctor we go.
(A nurse told us before we were discharged that it could have been a side effect of having her eyes taped shut during surgery. The parents in us winced instinctively. We were blindsided by the thought of our girl on the table, anesthetized and strapped down, being cut open with her sweet, sad eyes taped closed. It was an image I fought for days. The surgery saved her life, but I'd have slept better without that last detail.)

For a while it was pure survival mode, just the meeting of basic physical needs and setting aside anything more challenging.

None of it mattered, though. We slipped under our own covers and slept (in little snippets) as though we were on a cloud. Our family, all four of us, lived under one messy, loud, disorganized roof. Praise God. Nothing had ever felt better.

March 12 began the rest of our recovery, the piecing back together of things. It was tougher than I'd anticipated, but I can handle just about anything in my own home. Mac and Mary Brooks both went through a great deal in the coming weeks, which I hope to record here for posterity's sake.

The miracle in the story is in more than Mary Brooks' healing. It's in me and Bradley, in our hearts and in the absolute change we have seen in our lives. In the way we saw the body of Christ come together and live out the Gospel before us. In the understanding of our real purpose here. In the power of being Jesus' hands and feet (or ears and shoulders) for troubled friends. In the lives of others who were affected by our experience and, Lord willing, in the spreading of awareness about intestinal malrotation.

I plan to talk soon about the practical ways we were helped and the best advice I can give to friends and families seeking to support loved ones during a crisis. That's one of the most tangible, immediate rewards of walking through this fire - learning what we can do when a family is in a similarly difficult time.

Later today I'll publish a brief (yes, I can do brief!) post touching on the signs and symptoms of MB's dangerous condition - what to know about it. The more medical professionals I speak with, the clearer it becomes that intestinal malrotation is unfamiliar to many even within their field.

That's devastating, because malrotation is deadly without surgical treatment, and it affects one in 500 newborns. It's a silent killer, and I am overcome by the desire to help other families avoid such heartbreak.

I am thankful every moment that our daughter survived, and am so grateful that you have graciously allowed me to record her story here. It's not over yet. Praise God - it's just beginning.

July 20, 2012

The Friday before Five Years

Last July 21st I was newly pregnant and Bradley was, as usual, working up a summer storm on our actual anniversary.

Days later we toasted four years of marriage at the spot where we'd dined before he proposed; I clinked with a glass of sweet tea (caffeine!) because I'm wild like that.

This weekend will be even calmer than that, as there will be no kids to hurry back to at home; we're child-free. The house is empty, still and silent - it feels a bit like the Twilight Zone.

This morning I kissed my precious little people goodbye for two days. It was especially tough to see Mary Brooks leave for her first weekend away.

Mac hurls himself at my parents' car the moment they pull in our driveway, but I'm not used to MB joining him for the ride out of town. Thankfully they're in good hands; I just hope they're as angelic as can be for Mimi and Grandpa.

Being baby-less means we have all the free time two and a half days can give - now what?!

So far I've lunched with a friend, returned some library books, found out a beloved alterations lady closed up shop (the hard way) and stopped by the post office. My craziness knows no bounds.

Who knows what comes next - a child-free run at the Y? Bringing Blue, our 'first' baby, to the dog park? Strolling downtown? Taking a twenty-minute shower and actually drying my hair?

The lame, tame and totally grown-up possibilities are endless. I can tell you one thing: there will be some glorious sleeping going on up in here this weekend.

That's right. To those of you who find my plans a little too homebound, I say:

Don't hate; I'll have some sweet dreams for you - and perhaps my favorite celebratory combo - gelato and white wine. I'm nothing if not classy, folks.

So happy, happy anniversary to my favorite Bradley on Earth. The last five years have been the best of my life, and even the terrible moments were better because you were in them. I couldn't make it without you, and I sure wouldn't want to try.

There have been enough emotions this year to last you for a lifetime, and I know feelings aren't your favorite thing. (Ha!) The best gift I could give you is foregoing a flowery ramble, so consider this my present wrapped up with a bow.

Happy 5th anniversary, silver Jacks

Also, happy anniversary to my silver Jack Rogers, the best dancin' shoes a bride could ask for. I may have a wardrobe of other colors, but you'll always be a sentimental favorite.

I told B the day before our wedding that you were a worthwhile last-minute investment, and five years later you have proved my point. (I'm going to baby you by not wearing your tender soles out in the rain tonight. A lifetime together requires sacrifice.)

Here's to many more years of dancing, marriage, cute shoes and (once in a blue moon) sleeping in. No better way to celebrate than right beside my B, wondering how on Earth five years have gone by in a blink. If I still feel 25, can we start the clock over?

Happy Friday, friends! xoxo

July 19, 2012

Mac These Days

Caution: Mom post ahead. May not interest anyone not biologically related to Mac Smith.

MB's well-being is always a topic of conversation in real life and on this blog, but our firstborn is by no means neglected. Who could ignore this boy?

What's wrong with this picture?
Mac prefers to be center stage, putting on an ever-changing improv act worthy of the Great White Way.

Last summer I wrote a "Mac-tionary" to keep up with the many phrases he was using at the time. I couldn't write you a list of what he says now if I typed 'til the keys fell off. He's a hoot!

Mac is a skilled orator already, part-politican and part-salesman. He knows how to ask and what to say to get just what he wants, depending on the audience. Yes, grandparents, I'm talking about you.

He picks up and repeats phrases we never even knew he'd heard. (No more front seat conversations we don't want shouted from the church rooftop!) He relays, word for word, discussions we had days ago - and it's eerily accurate. Talk about accountability!

Mac catches on to our reactions and makes running gags of anything that makes us giggle or fight back a smile in serious moments.

Here are a few of his favorite expressions:

Why?: About everything. All the time. There can be a dozen "Why?" questions in a row. Why is chicken on my plate? But why is it what's for dinner? Why is this orange juice? Why aren't you turning left at the green light? Why did you turn right at the red light? Why is Daddy home? Why is Daddy not home? Why? Whyyyy? I could go on, but I'll spare your eyeballs the trauma Mac's "Why?" phase has wreaked on my eardrums.

What can I do now?: He's bored. My efforts at creativity or fun have amused him for as long as a two-year-old attention span will allow. I like to reply, "Anything you want, baby. You can do anything you want." My words have not motivated him to climb Mt. Everest yet.

Ummm,  wellll: Each buys him time at the start of a sentence. Bradley does the same thing, and he claims it's to hold his spot in a conversation, otherwise I'll talk right through his pause. The nerve.

Sometimes: "Sometimes I want to pick up my toys, Mama, but sometimes I don't. Right now, um...I don't." (Sorry, buddy. That won't change the course of your afternoon.)

Bewieve: 'Mac, we hold hands every time we walk across the parking lot. Do you understand?' 'Um, I bewieve I do.'

Ta-da, hooray, whoop it up, yay-yer, I'm so gwad, "clap and say yay!": His favorite joyful expressions. It's impossible not to smile hearing these, even when he orders me to clap and say yay simultanously. He'll ask me to do it over if I do one first and then the other. A real perfectionist, this kid.

Dewishus, dewish-ee-oh-so: Mac's English and Spanish exclamations of culinary delight. Mostly reserved for unhealthy things; if God made it, it's not quite good enough for his taste buds. Most inexplicably, this includes watermelon.

I don't sink so: "Mac, could you pick up that last puzzle piece, please?" "Umm, I don't sink so." I'm learning to say 'please do' rather than 'would you,' for obvious reasons.

Weft, wight: "Mama, you need to turn weft here to get to da gauche-wee dore (grocery store). But our house is down that woad to the wight." He is always correct; thank B's geography genes for that. I still hold out my fingers in an L shape to determine my left from right.

Wing, wide, witch: Swing, slide, switch. We are working on our "s" and "l' sounds and enjoying the toddler speak in the meantime. "Wet's go to da park so we can wing and wide!"

Guy, my-ull, sweep: Sky, smile, sleep. (Those S sounds are tricky!)

Nack: Snack. He is the world's hungriest boy, so this is tossed about a lot.

Sure was: "Mama, I sure was missin' you when I was takin' my nap." Cue melting.

Was (verb)in': Mac's preferred tense. "Mary Brooks was gigguhwin' when I tickled her." "Daddy was mowin' da gwass yesterday."

Probwee: Probably. "Mac, do you know where your sippy cup is?" "Ummmm, probwee we need to get a new one out of da cabinet." Read: I'd rather keep playing than look for it, thanks.

Compliments: Mac balances out his whiny moments with unexpected, thoughtful exclamations. "Mama, you sure wook pretty in dat." "Daddy, you are a great helper." "Mary Brooks picked up her paci! I wike it when you do dat, baby." "Mimi, dat was a nice try. You did a good job."

Sue-err: Sure. "Mac, could you hand Mary Brooks her paci, please?" "Sue-err I can. Here you go, baby."

Dolphin: Darlin'. He heard me call MB "baby darlin'" and has been referring to her as his baby dolphin ever since. 

In a minute I wee-ull: A bit of a blow-off. "Mac, we need to (fill in unsavory toddler task here)." "Well, in a minute I wee-ull. Wight now I'm just bein' a fireman." He is always shocked this answer doesn't fly.

Mo: He has said this just once, when I told him he was not allowed to say 'No' in a situation; we say, "Yes, ma'am" and do as Mama asked. He began to obey, but not before saying "Mo," and pointing out he hadn't said "No." Reminded me of an Almost Famous scene.

Guh-wull: Girl. "Mary Brooks is my baby guh-wull."

Cah-wurr: Car. "I weft my cup in da cah-wurr." The way he pronounces his Rs in these words cracks me up!

Just a widdle bit, not a wot dough: Just a little bit. Not a lot, though. "Oh, Macky, I'm sorry you fell down. Does your leg hurt?" "Well, a widdle bit it does. Just a widdle bit, not a wot dough." (He answered this way when asked if he liked our new rug.)

Whiz mornin': His combination of "this" and "one" morning. Used to indicate anytime before now, whether it was actually this morning or ages ago. "Whiz mornin' Mary Brooks was at da hospital and dat nice nurse gave me a colorin' book."

I don't know what I'm talkin' 'bout.: He said this once (after a long rambling story) and had B in stitches, so it pops up occasionally for giggles.

Bwess his heart: Mac's first 'bless your heart' moment came in May, when he heard his cousin, baby Connor, was sick overseas. "Awww, bwess his heart." Love.

Y'all: This was added to his vocabulary in June; I felt it was a momentous occasion. His first "y'all" was to me and B: "Can I come sit wiff y'all on the sofa?" I'm so honored! Remind me to write that in his baby book alongside "bless his heart."

Durries: Stories. "Mama, do you know any durries? Can you tell me a durry about a widdle boy named Mac?"

Can you say dat?: When he learns a new word, he expects it's new to you, too. "Dis bug is a wadybug. Can you say dat, Mama?" We are praised heartily when we comply. "Good job, Mama! Dat was a hard fing to say."

Who's dat man? Who's dat wady?: He expects to know everyone in Greenville, as do I. When he doesn't, he requires an introduction STAT. Where could he get this social butterfly/nosy neighbor tendency?

Green-vuhll: Mac pronounces the name of his hometown like a local. He even said to a relative, when asked if he was going back to "Green-ville" that night, "Well, I'm going to Green-vuhl."

What are da wetters for....: Mac knows the letters to so many words - his name, our names, Blue's name. He recognizes letters in public and is very curious about how to spell his favorite words. "Mama, what are da wetters for Dora?" "Daddy, what is Home Depot in wetters?"

Can I tell you someping?: A classic stalling tactic before bed or nap-time. "Well, can I tell you someping, Mama?" "Yes, Mac. Go ahead." "Well, um...well. Dis is my room. Did you know dat?"

I love you deep deep deep and high high high.: From a favorite book, based on the Scripture read in our wedding. This phrase was first said to his baby sister; more melting ensued.

Pribacy: What a person needs (but rarely gets) while in the bathroom.

Oh, me!: An exclamation of weariness, shock or disappointment.

Just puhtending. Just pwaying.: Excuses for certain behaviors. Followed by a hard-to-resist grin.

White church.: Our church's downtown campus is in an historic, renovated, off-white-ish church building; we have recently begun attending services there, as it's much closer to our house and therefore increases the likelihood we'll be on time.

(Kidding. We are excited to meet and engage with more of our neighbors. But, seriously, every Sunday morning minute saved does help.)

When Mac visits our parents' churches, he tells people, "I don't go to your church. I go to a white church." Cringe.

We went to our 'old' church campus to volunteer last week, and Mac informed everyone we saw that this was not 'our' church anymore; we now go to white church. Fantastic.

Disclaimer: Grace Church welcomes everyone, and we're so glad for the mix of friends we have there. Just to split hairs, the structure itself is more an ecru than white, Mac.

Mac is a potty-training, boundary-pushing, story-inventing, kiss-giving, giggling, whining, thoughtful, sweet, curious hurricane of a boy. His appetite has me worried about how much milk, bread, peanut butter, yogurt and ground beef will cost when he's 15. We keep Jif in business.

He sings constantly, at least in the moments he's not asking, "Why?" His repertoire of songs expands hourly, and he adds his own invented tunes as well, to our neverending amusement. Mary Brooks likes his serenades best of all, and rewards our troubadour with sweet baby giggles and squeals. It's a delight.

Last night he asked me to close my eyes, and then he sang me 'You Are My Sunshine.' I nearly died, it was so sweet. How I wish I could record every.last.second. of such little memories. When he was done, he asked me to tell him it was a great song. I said, "Macky, that was a beautiful job. Thank you so much." He said, "Okay, but can you tell me it was a great song now?" Crazy little thing.

Mac's knack for impressions (every Sesame Street character ever) keeps me in stitches. His sensitive spirit keeps me intentional in the way I parent him.

His wild imagination ("My feet are named Dick and Sally, wike Cat in da Hat. Can you say dat, Mama? Can you call dem Dick and Sally?") and unique view of the world teach me so much about life from a child's perspective.

Last night he prayed for his grandparents and Mary Brooks, asked God to bless his tricycle, his frog potty and his dog bank, and then he thanked the Lord "for all dat I need." He may be silly, but sometimes he 'gets' it more than we grown-ups do.

He told me yesterday that he's two and a half, but he'll be three in October. He's so right, and he's a new boy every other week or so; I can't keep up.

Forgive the total mom post, but I already know how fast these memories seep out of my addled, rattled little brain. Thanks for letting me save a piece of him at this age.

How I'd love to freeze this sweet boy in time. Thank you, God, for my Mac. I pray every day to be the mom he deserves; I hope I can at least come close.

July 17, 2012

In Repair

I've taken an unintentional month-long break - not for lack of things to say, but because I keep thinking of what our mamas told us in the first grade: If you don't have anything nice to say...
What I have to say isn't unkind or even untoward, but it isn't the motivational reading or guilt-free cupcake recipes we coo over on Pinterest. (Though I have found a Greek yogurt cupcake worth chatting about - stay tuned!)

Instead my thoughts and words, like the rest of me, are wrapped up in the slow work of recovery.

This afternoon I got my third steroid shot in six weeks; at this rate I'll be the Incredible Hulk by Labor Day!

Steroid shots are to 'open' me up. Not quite sure what that means specifically, but so far, so good. Nursing means I can't take some of the 'good drugs' for sinus and ear infections, which I'm rocking for the second time in a month, so I'll take what I can get. Add in some breastfeeding-related symptoms (and another steroid shot for a $exy batch of stress-induced hives earlier this month) and I'm a ball of good times.

Or should I say a balding good time. The baby bald spots are back with a vengeance; ponytails make it uber-obvious, so this is my only cute off-day option.

Thankfully the balding came for a purpose: this gal. Totally worth the carpet of dark hairs on my hardwoods.
Wearing her sleep sack but SO not ready for naptme.
Mary Brooks turned five months old on July 14. She is an angelic, rolling, giggling ball of sweetness from the moment she's awake until we grudgingly put her to bed. She is an exceedingly happy baby, lovely in every way. I honestly could spread her on a biscuit and just eat her up, this bean of mine.

She's also tiny. Itsy-bitsy-tee-tiny and gaining weight very slowly. For the most part, praise God, there are no health concerns. There are, however, lingering questions about her growth, size and occasional digestive tract-related symptoms that could be side effects of her surgery.

The last six weeks have included many a call to the surgeon, pediatrician and lactation consultants' offices. And about a million lost minutes of sleep. Gone is Anne-the-champion-sleeper of old. Gone is Anne-the-girl-she-used-to-be anyhow, so I suppose it makes sense.

(If you'd told me this time last year that my daughter would sleep through the night at five or six weeks but I'd still be sporting dark circles of my own doing, I'd have questioned your sanity. I've come to realize why people say, "When you lie awake at night..."  It never quite clicked because I never did lie awake. My head hit the pillow and I slid off into dreamland. Blissful.

There's a lot of time in the midnight hours for contemplation and prayer. If you'd like me to include you in those prayers, please send me an email. The Lord has put several friends on my heart during that time, and always for good reason. I'm happy to lift you up in those moments, and I'm finding God is using these times, undereye bags and all, to draw me closer to Him.)

As far as Mary Brooks goes, I remind myself that a happy baby is a healthy baby. If only there were percentages and growth curves for happiness! I tell myself that, as before, I'll know if something is wrong. 

Her cries, rare as they are, still stop in my tracks, though. On some level I picture her in a white metal hospital crib every time she makes a noise of a certain pitch - yesterday it was a squeal and some practice 'talking.'

Those one-off cries send my pulse skyrocketing, put my guard up and have me hanging around MB like a hair band groupie, which amuses her to no end. She thinks the stare-down is part of a really fun game involving the two of us and Sophie the Giraffe, so clearly I'm the only one here with a panic problem.

Macky and Mary Brooks remain utterly besotted with one another, beginning what I hope will be a lifelong friendship. It's a joy to see. Mac has taken to calling her "my Mary Brooksie," which the rest of us have picked up.

My dynamic duo accompanies me everywhere this summer, so the baby Bjorn has earned its keep for a second go-round.

On July 4th I (yes, I!) whipped up four dozen muffins, wrote the world's longest thank you note and brought the whole Yankee Doodle family down to the hospital.

Stepping back onto the peds floor was a big moment for B; he hadn't been back since she was discharged, while I had visited friends whose daughter stayed doors away from our old stomping grounds.
Heading back to the peds floor.
I've also paid several visits to the lactation consultants in the same building, so the smells and sights of the hospital don't knock me off my feet as much as they once did. No more flashbacks, just an odd sense of comfort in being back.

I brought before and after pictures so our nurses would recognize the beaming, tubeless girl in our arms.

Before and after: March and July
We were happy to see a few familiar faces and I hope the gesture expressed one iota of our indebtedness to their tremendous care. Plus, anyone working on America's birthday deserves a few delicious carbs, don't you think?

If I sound like a broken record (treading water, recovering, worrying, waiting, praying, grateful, tired...) or it seems as though our life revolves around 'what happened' (our euphemism of choice) in March, you're probably right. I'm working on it, I promise.

There are a few heavy external stresses on us as a family, things I will be able to share shortly, that have monopolized whatever brain cells aren't kid-focused lately. It's been a battle to stay or try to stay joyful in some of the tougher days, to be candid. Some days I don't win.

Thankfully I feel the tide turning, but I've decided my best path is to be gentle with myself, as easy as I am with everyone else.

Time, rest and grace are the only prescription I know for picking up the pieces and resuming the new life ahead of us. If it's not mandatory or life-giving, I'm trying to take a break from it and tone down the 'do everything' desire so many of us have.

In short, we're all recovering - Mary Brooks from the surgery that saved her life, me from the trauma that came with being a helpless bystander, and  Mac from the slightly lesser indignity of wearing too-small tighty whities (read: potty training perma-wedgie) earlier this summer.

Adventures in Potty Training, size 4T
In my defense, the train-themed briefs had been in a drawer since last fall. How was I to know he'd need a 4T before he'd want to wear them? We're still a little stuck on the, er, more difficult half of the process, but hooray for being mostly done with diapers!

I hope to finish MB's story (the miraculous part has yet to be told) and carry on with chatting about normal, non-medical things.

I plan to reveal a big change, an upcoming challenge, a leap of faith and the many ways God has shown His hand in every facet of this wild year.

I hope to share what I've learned about helping others, how my heart has been broken for hurting families and what we can all do to be of immediate, effective use to those in our community. It's a concrete lesson I'm thrilled to be figuring out as a result of our own unexpected, unavoidable crisis.

Thank you for checking in on us, friends, and for always being here. xoxo


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