To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gurgle Gurgle

Since having been sick since last week, I've become exhausted and somewhat lethargic in the evenings. I muster enough energy to play with Haley, but beyond that, I can't seem to function at a high enough level to do much else. Last night I made popcorn for my dinner and had a bowl of cereal for dessert. Only because Brent would'nt agree to stop watching the football game and make me some toast and oatmeal. Not because he's a bad husband, mind you, but because he's tired of giving in to my lazy whims. I can't blame him.

I sauntered upstairs to grab myself a second helping of "dessert" and made my way back down to our basement to watch the football game (Oh Brett Favre...honey..hang it up.) and snuggle with my daughter.

Toby, our black cat, had literally placed himself into a pointer position at the foot of the stairs, and was creeping forward in somewhat of an overly-cautious predatory stalk. I stopped and stared in the direction he was "pointing" - in to our basement bathroom.

This bathroom is probably the nicest room in our house. Cobalt blue mosaic tile floors and a decorative sink/cabinet system are all the rave whenever someone gets a tour of our home. They only rave about it because they don't have to clean it. That tile is the dangdest material in the world to keep clean. And the shower leaks, so it has been converted to the hiding place of the litter box. So maybe at one time it seemed to be the nicest room in our home, but no more.

I saw a slow flow of water.

Wait - water? WATER?! Not again. No, no, no, no.... After paying nearly $10,000 to replace and repair our basement from taking in water two springs ago, I cannot survive another episode. Please, God, not again....

I stepped over the stream and looked into the center of our bathroom where the sewer drain is. Or should I say, where the sewer drain runneth over. Brown, silty filth covered our bathroom floor and oozed to every crack and cranny within the bathroom.

"BREEEEEEEEEENT!"
"What?"
"Water! Is it the sewer? In the bathroom!"

The next two minutes involved us chaotically and frantically doing absolutely nothing. What do you do when your sewer line is infiltrating your home, and there's football on tv?! Apparently, you yell at your spouse. So that's what we did.

I grabbed Haley and hauled upstairs, as if the basement were on fire instead of slowly filling with muck. I looked for the card that was once on our fridge for the fantastic plumber who fixed our water heater. No card. Brent moved the card. It was on the fridge for instances just as this. Gone. No card. No recollection of who it was. I yelled down to ask him where the card was. Bad idea.

"VAL! DO NOT TALK TO ME!"

Note to self: When spouse is in survival mode to save your home from being swallowed by sewage overflow, spouse could give two shakes about the location of a plumber's business card, even if they were the one responsible for moving said card.

After Brent sucked up five shop-vac loads of sewage, he remembered we had a cap valve in the floor of our basement on the other side across from the bathroom. With superhuman strength he tipped over the loveseat, removed the cap, and turned the valve. No more flow. Just slow seepage. Thank goodness!

In the meantime I called the first 24-hour-emergency plumber number in the book. No answer. I left a message. I'm still waiting for a return phone call. By this point Brent is done dealing with it. There's nothing more he can do and he is beyond frustrated. He suits up and tells me he's going to shovel the driveway. Not just because it was filled again after he had already snowblowed it, but because he needed to get out of the house.

I called the next plumber. Answer. HELP! "We'll have a plumber call you, ma'am." Within minutes my phone rings - it's the second plumber. He asks me questions and I assure him we have not used water for a couple of hours. "Are you sure? No faucets? Toilets? Washing machines?" I am 100% positive. "Well that sounds like a city main problem. I can try to call the city but we have a hard time getting a hold of them after hours. Sometimes we have to call 911 just to get a hold of them. I'll give you a call back in a few minutes."

"BREEEEEEEEEEEEENT!" I tell him to go to the neighbors and see if they're having sewer problems. He disappears for almost 10 minutes. I thought he may have drowned in their basement.

While he was next door, I had called the number on my City bill. I reached a recording that gave me a number to call in case of emergencies. I dialed that number and was told to call the sewer plant. I called the sewer plant and was told he would get a hold of someone from the streets department.

Brent came back and I asked, "Is their sewer backing up?"

Something was wrong. Brent looked...extremely disheartened.

"Long story short, no." He had learned, however, a few weeks prior our neighbors had to have their sewer line rebuilt. They did a load of laundry and their sewer backed up. The city told them it was their (our neighbors') line, they had to have it rebuilt, and now the cost of that procedure is tacked in to their "specials" which means their house payment just went up to cover a $10,000 expense. Both Brent and I felt like we had just been stabbed in the gut. With a poop-covered knife.

My family is coming in three days to spend the holidays here. Our sewer is backed up, we're going to have to pay a buttload of money to fix it, and Christmas is cancelled.

Brent called his friend to ask if he could shower at their house, since he had to get up early in the morning to donate plasma. I texted my boss to tell him I wasn't sure if or when I would be able to come to work the next day, and texted the babysitter about our new fantastic adventure. I got a call back from the plumber who said he was unable to get a hold of anyone in the City and he really didn't want to have to call 911...I interrupted him to tell him I was way ahead of him and we had someone from the Streets Department on the way.

As Brent was getting ready to leave, we saw a City truck pull up outside and talk to our other neighbor. We gathered they knew each other. We walked outside as the employee began to beat the street with a metal pole, trying to find the manhole cover. Mind you, everything was covered with snow, so it wasn't an easy find. The neighbor dug right where he stood with his snow shovel and said, "Here it is." They pulled the cover off and the employee said, "Oh, that doesn't sound good. Yeah....we have an issue." I looked at him and waited... "This one's on us." he finished.

I started jumping up and down right there in the middle of the street saying, "Praise Jesus!" Our neighbor (who knows me not at all) was a little surprised by my reaction. Brent started laughing. I told the city employee, "I know this isn't how you wanted to spend your night, but thank you so much, and Merry Christmas!"

He told us he had to round up some reinforcements and it would be an hour or so before they could come back out to work on it. He finished by saying, "Don't use any water for a while." He drove off and I skipped back in to the house. Literally, I skipped.

WE DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR A NEW SEWER! Are you understanding this, people?! This was a simple city fix, and not an expense we have to worry about. Can I get an AMEN!

About 45 minutes later the city trucks arrived and did their magic in our sewer line. Brent got a text from the first neighbor asking us if our toilets were going crazy. Thankfully, since Brent had closed the sewer valve, they weren't.

I later remarked to Brent, if it had to happen, think of the blessed way in which it took place. It happened right as I was coming downstairs and noticed it, it was the city's problem, not ours, and it was contained to the bathroom. I asked, "How long do you think we would have sat and blamed each other for the smell before we realized what was going on?" He laughed.

I love it when my husband laughs.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Breakfast. Dear Gracious.

This morning, Haley woke up with her usual morning chatter, Brent grabbed her and brought her in to bed with us. He asked, "Do you want pancakes?" to which I replied, "That sounds lovely!" and he disappeared. I fed Haley, pumped, and started to rouse and get ready for our day. I went in to the kitchen, found the eggs on the counter, and Brent nowhere to be found. I thought maybe he had forgotten. He eventually returned and started to make pancakes while I entertained Haley. He was looking for sugar, vanilla, and all sorts of things. I asked him, "Why are you looking for sugar and vanilla if you're making pancakes (from Bisquick)?"
"I'm making melt-in-your-mouth pancakes."
"Did you go research a recipe?"
"No, it's on the side of the box."
"Oh."
"We had just enough milk."
"Good."

I was trying to decide if I should store milk in the fridge, or freeze it. I wanted some readily available for Haley, but I knew there was some in the fridge already. When I looked in the fridge, I couldn't find any breast milk at all.

"There's no breast milk in here?"
"Nope."
"What'd you do, dump it?"
"Nope." (grinning)
"What's so funny?"
"I think it's funny you can't find the breast milk."

I opened the fridge again thinking he had moved it, hidden it, or something else.

"Well, I don't see it."

Brent looked at the pancakes. And smiled. I cocked my head to the side, trying to figure out what was going on.

He smiled bigger.

"YOU USED BREAST MILK FOR THE PANCAKES?!"
"Well, we were out of milk!"
"THEN YOU GO TO THE STORE!"

Now I haven't checked the side of the Bisquick box, but I can guaran-dang-tee you it does not call for breast milk for "melt in your mouth" pancakes. For the love of Pete! Being funny is one thing, but presenting me with the possibility of having to pump all day to have some readily available milk to feed Haley with at a moment's notice is not easily forgiven. Not when you despise pumping as much as I do.

So here arrived the day I never thought would come. The day my husband, not only consumed breast milk, but used it to cook.

I don't........I can't.........I just........I don't even know.

While Haley was still in the NICU and Brent and I were trying to keep our sense of humor and our sanity through the long days, I presented Brent with a dare. There were two ounces of breast milk left in a bottle and I told him I would give him $5 if he took it as a shot. He bartered, and told me he'd do it for $5 per ounce, so I'd have to cough up $10. That wasn't worth it to me. Brent finished by saying he would never do it anyway. He wasn't even interested in what it might taste like. The thought grossed him out. My conclusion: Good! I don't have to worry about my husband being one of "those" guys that does something stupid with breast milk.

Several years ago when my best friend's children were much younger, she told me her husband had made brownies with breast milk. Only because it was her husband - and if you knew him, it wouldn't surprise you either - did I think that a handful of men in our nation would do something so ridiculous. I have been grateful ever since, that my husband didn't reside among that handful. Until today....

The second or third time we gave Haley rice cereal, just a couple of weeks ago, Brent made the comment, "It tastes like rice cakes."

I said, "Brent, you realize you just tasted breast milk."
"Yeah."
"Um.....okay."

Apparently he's been hooked ever since. Or something.....?!?!?!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life Lesson in Humility

Last Sunday, Brent and I attended a child dedication of a little man who is a few months younger than Haley. His mom and I were 10 days apart in our original due date, but when Haley came two months premature, we kind of won that race.

I was having an "off" day. I wasn't content with anything, I didn't like doing something outside of my usual Sunday routine, and I just wasn't "feeling it." You know the days. We all have them now and again. Instead of laying my inhibitions or anxieties at the foot of the throne, I decided to just be a grumpy butt all morning. (Insert your total shock and surprise that I could be anything other than happy-all-the-time here.)

After the church service, we were invited over to their house for lunch (and cake). By this point I was already what Brent and I have dubbed "angry-hungry." You know, the kind of hungry where if you don't get something to eat NOW you're going to seriously harm someone. Or worse.

On the way to their house, Brent committed the sin of all sins. He crossed a double white line even though there was a clearly marked sign that read, "DO NOT CROSS DOUBLE WHITE LINE." I decided to point out his wrongdoing. Oh yes I did, I totally went there. Out loud.

He argued the sign was there to prevent an accident, and he knew he wasn't supposed to cross the line, but since there were no other cars around, he knew he was safe to make that move. I told him he was not allowed to teach Haley how to drive. He explained the "intent" of the law. I argued the sign was in black and white. You don't pick and choose what to obey or when to obey it. He again pointed out there were no other vehicles. I again pointed out black and white is LAW and he just broke the LAW. He said I was overreacting. I looked away because I almost started crying.

What you may be missing from that paragraph is this: Brent was calmly and coolly pleading his case. I was freaking ballistic. He was shocked (and probably a little afraid) at my reaction. I was ready to roundhouse kick him in the teeth. Twice.

We pulled up to the house and we were the first ones there. Even before the homeowners. They lived next door to a gas station and I told Brent I was going to go buy a snack. He replied, "I think you can wait." Through my laser-beam-of-death-glare, I explained to him that we would have to wait for them to show up, wait for them to get lunch ready, wait for them to finish visiting, and by that time I would be dead from starvation and I was not going to wait for that. "Val. You can wait." "BRENT! You are PISSING ME OFF." I lovingly slammed the car door before stomping over to the gas station and buying myself a small bag of Chex Mix.

By the way, that Chex Mix saved a lot of lives that day.

Upon my walk back to the car, I realized that my responses over the last 20 minutes were a bit....uncouth. Sure I can be dramatic now and again, but this was severe behavior. I knew it, and I knew I had to apologize.

I got back in to the car, as no one else had arrived yet. I turned to Brent after shoving a handful of Chex Mix into my mouth. "I've done the math.......and I'm pretty sure I'm PMSing."

Brent laughed. Heartily.

Later I told him I appreciated his reaction. What I was anticipating, and what would have made things worse, was him responding along the lines of "YA THINK?!" or "Uh-Duh!" He didn't respond that way, though. Instead, he laughed. And I appreciated it. He said, "Well, the humility of your comment really struck me." And it was apology accepted.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day: a lesson in humility. When you start to realize you just might be having an off day, or moment, or whatever - and you notice the reaction of others is completely contrary to your own.....check yourself. "Before you wreck yourself." Thinking before speaking goes a long way. And so does a little admission of having some PMS issues.

Later Brent commented, "I wonder how many other of our disagreements have had to do with your PMS."
"I did the math," I replied, "and that's the first time it's ever been an issue."
He laughed again.

He still is not allowed to teach Haley how to drive. God bless him.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Freaky Friday

This has been a day. I mean, a true blue DAY. I have kind of ignored blogging for a while, because I feel like 1) I have a pretty boring life that not many people are interested in reading about and 2) I have a pretty boring life that I'm not interested in writing about.

But today - dear gracious - today was a different story altogether.

Because of the sensitive nature and confidentiality requirement of my job, I have to be very careful with how I share this story. I do feel, though, that I've just GOT to share this story. The names and places have been changed to protect the confidentiality of those involved, but the story remains the same.

Today started a little differently. We had an employee meeting at 8:05 that didn't get underway until 8:25 and lasted until 9:25. You know how those go. I heard a lot about "key component" and "success" and "driving force". Those words were key components and the driving force of the success of the meeting. Just saying.

After the meeting, my work day started pretty typically. I went up to my office and ran some reports, sorted through the mail, did some account maintenance, and sorted through some filing. Then the reminder popped up on my Outlook calendar. "Ship ashes to Bob." This was not a task I was looking forward to.

Earlier this summer, one of our clients passed away. In her possession were the ashes of her sister and her husband. Unbeknownst to me or the current account administrator. The news kind of flopped out at the funeral that at some point, the previous administrator decided to store these remains in the office.

That's right. In the office.

After the funeral, and because the son of this woman had mentioned he wanted these ashes, we raced back to the office and looked EVERYWHERE. Every nook and cranny was combed over meticulously - because Bob wanted these ashes so he could have a family ceremony and spread the remains of his family members so they could all rest in peace together. And they were nowhere to be found. Insert panic here.

Lo and behold, the ashes - two boxes - were in the storage facility we had previously rented for the client's estate items. Once we found them there, the administrator brought them in from the storage unit and they were, in fact, kept in our office. The cremated remains of two individuals. In cardboard boxes. On the other side of the wall.

Today was the day I was supposed to ship them to Bob's residence where he lives part time. He divides his time between two eastern states, and I had to time the shipping of the packages accordingly, so they would get to the appropriate location during a time he would be there.

I grabbed a plastic bag from the custodian's closet, placed the boxes inside, and tied off the bag. I verbally affirmed, "This task makes me slightly uncomfortable." I borrowed my boss's credit card, loaded Auntie and Pops into the car, and drove across town to the post office. There was one other customer in the post office and one employee behind the counter. When the person in front of me was done, it was my turn to approach the counter. "I need to ship these cremated remains, and someone said something about insuring them?" "No, they need to be registered." "Okay....how do I do this? Ship these, I mean. How do I get them where they need to be quickly and safely?" As the employee was helping me get situated and giving me labels and forms to fill out, other people were milling in and out of the post office needing to be helped. She was taking breaks to assist them and leaving me to fill the paperwork on my own, which I was totally okay with.

Then he walked in needing to pick up some certified mail. He was dressed nicely, clean cut, and appeared to be normal. I can assure you, however, he was anything but.

The postal worker excused herself to go to the back to search for his mail. He took this opportunity to make a new friend.

"Hi. How are you doing?"
Fine, thanks.
"What are you doing here?"
Uh....shipping packages.
"Do you have a company?"
A company?
"Yes, do you have a company?"
Um, no.
"I see. Well where do you work?" (as he leans forward to peer at the insignia on my shirt, which is located ON MY CHEST.)
A bank. (said while turning and moving backwards out of his reach.)
"Oh one of the banks in town? I can't get a business loan. I told one banker, 'I bet if I wrote ECCENTRIC BANK on the application you'd give me the money!' HAHAHAHAHA! What do you think about that, huh?!"
Well.....I'm not sure.
"I have a credit score of over 800."
Good for you.
"And it's an amazing product. I don't know why they won't give me the loan. Electric bicycles."
But aren't bicycles supposed to be pedaled?
"Think about it!! A family with two vehicles - gets rid of one. These bikes can go 20 miles per hour. I mean just FLY! I've lost 12 pounds." (as he moves his hand to accentuate his profile.)

I live in North Dakota. There's no way I'm giving up a vehicle to take my daughter to the babysitter in the middle of winter on the back of a bicycle at the top speed of 20 miles per hour. Even if I would lose 12 pounds.

It was at that moment the postal employee came back with the gentleman's mail. Thank you, Jesus. I kept looking around just waiting for some hidden camera crew to come out and say, "GOTCHA!" but no, this guy was totally serious. And weird.

The postal worker had to have him sign on the electric pad three times - you would have thought she asked him to perform neurosurgery for how confused he was about how to operate the "pen". She got his signature, and he was gone. Not a moment too soon, either.

I was in the post office for 45 minutes trying to get those ashes shipped to Bob. When I went to pay with my boss's credit card, they wouldn't let me use it. I had to pay for this entire experience out of my own pocket.

I couldn't wait to get home and tell Brent, "I had two dead people in my car today that I mailed to another state, then I talked to a guy who wants to use electric bicycles as a weight loss regimen. And how was YOUR day?"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You missed a spot...

I am a type A personality. I like things "just so" and prefer that everyone do things my way, because obviously my way is the right way. I love to keep my house clean, my desk, I have my yarn organized by color, I have my books organized by size and category, the tag of the towel has to be on the inside-back if it's over a towel rack, etc. Just so.

When Brent and I were first married he was working for Fed Ex, and I was waiting tables and working as a teller, part-time. He was gone from 6:30 in the morning until 6 at night, and I was gone for four hours during the day, and 4 or 5 hours at night. We hardly saw each other. However, our apartment was pristine. When Brent wasn't at home, I was able to clean, cook, and organize like nobody's business. I would get so frustrated with him when he wouldn't put the remote back in the basket designated for all-things-remote. Or when he would leave a pot holder out on the counter. God forbid he ever leave his wet towel on the bed! I'm pretty sure God forbids it, because otherwise, why would it bother me so much?

For the first two or three years of our marriage, Brent and I were always on opposite schedules, and I was able to be home for at least some part of the day. I was working part-time, going to school part-time, and Brent was gone all day all the time. We saw each other on weekends, sometimes, and whenever I had a night off from the restaurant. You've read about it (the restaurant) here.

We moved to Fargo in 2006 and again were on different schedules. For the first time in seven years of my working life, I was working only one job, and it was during the day. Brent was working a job from 3:00 to 12:00 midnight. We saw each other when I came home for lunch, and on the weekends. Still, I was able to get so much done in the evenings while he was at work. Our apartment was spic and span. Type A personality wouldn't let it be any other way.

We bought our house in 2007, and Brent was on the island of Mauritius for the first two weeks we lived here. I painted the main floor by myself, and got everything set up once the movers (and good friends) brought all the furniture and boxes in. I believe Brent was sitting on a beach and shopping in the downtown marketplace. He missed me a lot.....when he remembered he had a life back in the states.

Evenutally things settled down to the point where Brent and I, for the most part, are at work during the same time and are home during the same time. Finally, right? Eh. I don't know what it is, but Type A takes a vacay when Brent is in the house. I can't get anything done with him here. I used to think it was because I felt obligated to spend time with him, but I know that's not the case because half the time he's here, we're in separate rooms, or I'm knitting and he's watching television, etc. My productivity completely shuts down when he's home. I literally can't even move when he's home. I ask him to rub my feet or my neck or my back because something is always sore. I'm always half-asleep. I'm so wiped, I can't even stand up to cook dinner.

Unless he's not here.

Tonight, Brent went to a football game, dressed in his referee attire and I didn't see him at all after I got home from work. I strapped the baby on in the front-pack, cooked dinner, fed the baby, did laundry, did the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, changed baby (twice), read baby a book, cleaned the bedroom, put baby to bed, and even had time to catch up on facebook. Brent came home and ate some of the marvelous dinner I prepared, (thanks to e-mealz) and now I'm relaxing a bit before bed. I'm pretty sure there is some scientific explanation as to why I cannot function at normal capacity when Brent is home.

I refuse to believe it's because I'm spoiled and subconsciously know that if I act pitifully enough, I will get a foot massage out of the deal. It can't be.

There are times when I can't stand the state of our house anymore (by the way, it is much harder to maintain the cleanliness of a house than an apartment. Can I get an "Amen!"?) and I will ask Brent to leave. He has to go somewhere so I can find that motivation within to get the house cleaned. What in the world?

It's not just true for me, though. Brent tends to get a lot more done if I'm not home, or if I'm in an entirely separate area of the house. I can still be in the house for him to function, though. He needs to be off the property for me to make any real progress. The only thing I can really do with him home is laundry, or shine my sink.

Maybe I'm not a Type A Personality after all. Maybe I'm a Type A-. Or a B+.

Seriously - put the remotes in the basket.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Speak Into My Good Ear.

Recently, there was an article online stating more teenagers are having hearing problems, brought on by listening to music too loudly through headphones, etc. To those of you who can keep your hearing by making smarter choices, I say this, "PRESERVE YOUR HEARING!"

I wish I could hear. Seriously, I do. I've had a hearing loss my entire life, in both ears. It wasn't brought on by listening to music too loudly or being around heavy equipment or loud gunfire - it's just one of the things "wrong" with me that I've had to deal with my entire life.

When I was about nine or 10 years old, Mom and I were coming out of an appointment with the audiologist during which the doctor had told my mother I did in fact have a significant hearing loss, but the cause was indeterminable and they wouldn't ever know until an autopsy. As we walked to the car, I asked my mom, "Did we make the appointment for my autopsy?" I didn't know what one was - CSI (or any of its 85 varieties) wasn't on television back then.

I've been told many things about my hearing loss over the years. I would be deaf by the time I was 18. I would need hearing aids by the time I entered high school. I would need hearing aids by the age of 21. My hearing will get worse and eventually I'll be deaf - before I'm 40. So far, none of the medical predictions have come true. Thank you, Jesus. How I'm able to sing - on key, no less - is a mystery. I shouldn't be able to carry a tune with my hearing loss. Yet, I do.

My hearing loss has been a hindrance over time. I always had to sit towards the front in classrooms, auditoriums, church, else I couldn't hear. Someone can be talking to me, but if I'm not looking at them or if they don't already have my attention, I won't hear them. Part of my hearing loss is a disconnect from my ears to my brain...I hear a noise (talking) but my synapses aren't firing that someone is talking to me. It's more like a mosquito buzz. Countless times people have said, "Val? Val. Val! VAL!" after they've already asked a question, or in some cases told me all but their life story, and I haven't heard a word of it. It's not that I'm not interested or that I'm distracted, I simply didn't hear it. And song lyrics - Lord have mercy, let's not even go there.

Higher-pitched sounds are out of range for me. I can't hear watch alarms (does anyone even wear a watch anymore?), certain cell phone beeps or ring tones, crickets - all out of range. Sometimes Brent will hear something and ask me what that noise is. I don't hear a noise. "You don't hear that?!" Baby. You've been with me for almost 10 years. No, I don't hear that. Or most other noises. (But utter a swear word under your breath, and I hear it from the next room!) After Brent and I moved into our house, we were sleeping in the basement as our original idea was to have it set up as a suite. There was a cricket in the basement for a week, but Brent never said anything. He knew I couldn't hear it, and he new if I were aware of it's presence, I wouldn't rest (or let him rest) until he found and killed it.

I have this weird habit of rubbing my feet together before I fall asleep at night. When we were first married, I didn't even realize Brent knew it was my habit. One night, I was rubbing my feet together, and Brent moved his leg to smother my movements. "Am I shaking the bed?" I asked.
"No. The noise is keeping me awake."
"What? It makes noise when I do that?" I have been rubbing my feet together for years....and I thought all the while it was my silent pre-sleep ritual.

My hearing loss also causes me to misinterpret words or phrases that are spoken. For instance, if someone says the word "place", I might hear "base", etc. Or, I could hear something completely and totally random. It happens. As a teenager, one Sunday in church, I was talking with my friend, Lizza. "There's urine on the pew!" she said.
"WHAT??!! EW!! Urine?!"
She looked at me, quizzically. "Val? What did you hear me say?"
"There's urine on the pew."
"No-" she pointed, "There's a string on the pew."

Several times I have to ask people to repeat themselves. It's really embarrassing when I have to ask a third, or even fourth time, for someone to say the same thing again in the hopes I might finally hear them. Soft-spoken doctors are the worst. "Mumblemumblemumblemumblemumble for years." Um - ether you just diagnosed something serious, or you told me a fishing story.....I didn't hear any of it.

This morning, Brent was talking to me from another room and the radio was on. Yes, a recipe for hearing-disasters. Background noise of any kind makes it near impossible for me to hear anything other than the background noise. Brent said something to me, but what I heard was "Thee skip boo diah fear hip." I stood, I pondered, I tried to relate to to context....yet my reply was, "I really wish I could hear." All the time I'm asking people, "What did you just say?" because I know they couldn't have possibly said what I just heard.

Then there are people, who even after I reveal my hearing issues to them and ask for their cooperation in trying to accommodate it, continue to mumble, turn away from me when they speak, never enunciate, speak too quietly - and I get really annoyed. I liken it to if my arms were broken, and they insisted on trying to play catch with me. They would just stand there and keep throwing the ball. Numskull! My arms are broken! But in real life - Numskull! I can't hear you!

I'm sure over the next several years, my hearing will significantly worsen, and I very well may lose it altogether. Well before my time, I will be that woman who shouts, "WHA? HUH?" and squints and leans to the side to try to hear what someone may or may not have spoken.

So do me a few favors. If I "ignore" you, remember my ailment and realize I probably didn't hear you at all. And by all means - do not listen to music blaring loud, always wear ear protection when you use firearms, and don't expose yourself to awful elephants. Oh, sorry, I could've sworn you said awful elephants. What was that? Oh right - harmful elements.

Did you say something?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Poem For Haley



Tiny fingers
Tiny toes
Little lips
Little nose

Big bright eyes
That always shine
Delicate lashes
Long and fine

A giant smile
A toothless grin
Those slobbery gums
Drool covered chin

Your wispy hair
With reddish tint
Your high-pitched squeal
A temper hint

I love you, Haley,
From head to toe
Your tummy rolls
Your cries of woe

I love our mornings
I love our nights
I love you, Haley,
With all my might

My prayer for you
My dear sweet babe
God will give you
All He's made

You'll live in peace
You'll walk in love
You'll serve Him well
Who dwells above

I love you, Haley,
Know that its true
Mommy's heart
is full for you!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Special

Today has been such a blessing. This morning I woke up around 6:00, did my first pump-o-the-day and fed my baby girl. She was being a bit stubborn eating this morning, but Brent got her to all but finish her bottle. I went back to bed for a morning nap. Those are so glorious.

My sister called and woke me up - but it was okay. I had been asleep for a couple of hours and it was time for me to get up anyway. We had a fun conversation, as usual, and I got myself out of bed and moving around. I started some coffee, which I love to do in the mornings. Something about the smell of a fresh pot brewing just makes every morning that much more enjoyable. I of course didn't even finish the cup I poured myself, but oh well.

I made myself some coco wheats and toast and started to wake up some. Our groceries were delivered (I love, love, love online grocery shopping, but sometimes the substitutions they make when they're out of what I actually ordered are pretty ridiculous.) At some point Brent made a smart-remark about me actually doing something today, and that brought on a spontaneous wrestling match. A wrestling match I won, mind you. It's always hard for Brent to fight back when he can hardly stand from laughing so hard.

I asked Brent if I looked okay enough to go out in public and walk to the drugstore. He said, "You look like someone from our neighborhood who would be walking to the drugstore." That was good enough for me. I loaded Haley up in the stroller and we walked to the nearby CVS. The thermometer said it was 73, but I swear it was at least thirty degrees warmer than that. Maybe it was the sweatpants I was wearing. In the drugstore, I tried to maneuver the stroller through the narrow aisles. We got our items and the cashier overcharged me, so I had to wait around to have my expense refunded. We walked back in the sweltering heat (the temperature now read 74, but I'm telling you it was so hot!) and made it home before the rain started.

I made myself some lunch and fed Haley again. Haley laughed today! I was changing her diaper and making silly noises and she laughed! Of course she wouldn't do it again for Brent, but I promise you it was definitely a baby laugh I heard. She also watched herself in the mirror today. She is just growing more and more and it's hard to believe the person she's becoming, instead of just being a baby who doesn't do much.

Brent went for an afternoon nap, and Haley soon followed suit. I was able to fold all the laundry and get some new loads washed. (That reminds me, I have a load to put in the dryer yet.....) It was such a sweet part of my day - Brent softly snoring in the bedroom, Haley asleep on her floor gym with her pacifier hanging out of her mouth, the cats snuggled together in the window, and the rain softly falling outside. I enjoyed every little bit of it.

Eventually I woke Brent up so we could try to make it to a farewell barbecue. Haley started to get really fussy, and we figured out she was hungry. Apparently really hungry. It hadn't been but two hours since her previous feeding, and you would've thought it had been two days! It took a while to get her fed, and by then we were about an hour late for the farewell party and not sure what we were going to do with the evening.

We ended up using some of our host family vouchers and attending the Redhawks baseball game - but we left after the 4th inning when the visiting team was up 10 to zip. I wanted to come home and play Guitar Hero instead, because that seemed like it would be more fun.

Here it is way past my bedtime, but I just really enjoyed this day. It's too bad I have five workdays and only two days at home. As much as I enjoy my job, I sure do enjoy days like this a lot more.

Here's hoping your Saturday was great and you were able to relax and enjoy a summer afternoon. May your days be filled with blessings as awesome as baby laughter and husband snores! <3

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bills, Blessings, and Bargains

Our little Haley is nearly four months old. She's doing so awesome, and getting so big - she's about 10 pounds now (we think..we'll find out for sure on Tuesday!) and just as cute as can be. She smiles quite often, she shrieks with delight (or despair, depending on her mood), and she's rolling over! Yes, she is rolling over from her tummy to her back. Last Saturday I set her on her floor gym, walked in to the kitchen to top off my water glass, came back in to the living room and saw her in a different position than when I left! It took me a second to realize what she had done. I turned her over on her stomach again, grabbed the video camera, and in about 20 seconds, she flipped over again. Of course that video isn't posted because for about 20 minutes after she rolled over, I was verbally flipping out. And still recording. No one wants to hear me go berserk over Haley rolling over. Not even me.

In the last several weeks, we've been receiving the medical bills from Haley's birth and follow up appointments. They trickle in one at a time. At first we thought the medical expenses would be manageable....and thank goodness for insurance! However, as the weeks went on and the mail kept coming, we realized things were a bit more involved than we had originally anticipated. We are now into the thousands of dollars for what we owe between my hospital stay and Haley's care. There were a few bills we opened that had me crying, some had me sighing, and others had me holding my head in my hands.

Early on, some dear friends from church had offered to do something along the lines of a benefit sale to help Brent and I pay for the medical costs. I agreed and felt a huge sense of relief. At times we wondered if we really even needed a benefit of any sort. But the bills kept coming. And I kept fretting about our finances.

Anyone who knows me, knows that there's one thing I fret about constantly - one thing that can send me over the edge in an instant. Finances. I am a saver. I never had a checking account until I rented my first apartment and they wouldn't accept cash. I never had a debit card until I was married and Brent more or less forced me to get one. I still have never had a credit card. (Credit cards are the devil!) Granted, our financial situation has been hairy lately - since we bought the house, have hosted athletes and let others live with us, since I became addicted to knitting, etc.... God has always provided for us, though. I could tell you countless stories of when He's provided groceries, gift certificates, refunds, coupons - and all at the exact time I was super close to losing all hope that we'd recover from our issue.

Why was this any different? I don't know why I thought it would be. Mostly because I'm a paranoid idiot when it comes to money. I am about to burst to tell you all the ways He has blessed us in this, though.

First, he brought us to Salem E. Free church where we met and befriended C & K. They're the ones who offered to organize this benefit sale. We don't know why, but they like us. And they have always been the first to offer to help us with anything we need, whenever we need it. They have spoiled us and loved us, and we don't feel we deserve it, but we very much appreciate it. Second, He had called E & M to have a benefit sale to raise money for their mission trip to the Philippines. We got the items left over from that sale, and a ton more donations on top of that. (Someone even boxed up an entire box of yarn and wrote a note on there that it wasn't for the sale, but it was for ME! I have no idea who it was, but I love that person!) I have never seen so many garage sale items in all my life. It was INSANE! Third, he moved the hearts of several people - to donate, to volunteer their time, and to do everything in their power to help spread the word for our benefit sale.

Friday morning I was pumping (sorry, but I was....) when I got a text message from my former boss, Dana. It read, "There is an email circulating around Microsoft this morning about the benefit garage sale for Haley! :)" MICROSOFT! I replied, thanking her, and her response was, "I can't take credit for it - I was surprised when it landed in my inbox. I belong to a parents distribution list and it went out to the whole list. :)" Then she told me who the email originated from (Greggo, Brent's best buddy) and said that she forwarded it on to a friend of hers at MeritCare (the other major hospital in town.)

I quickly headed to the sale and there was a ton of traffic. People were buying things I didn't even know existed in this world. I had a woman come up to me as I was unbuckling Haley from her car seat. "Is this the girl Charlie got to hold for nine innings?" I said, "Yes it is! You know Charlie and Dana?" She did - she was the woman Dana had forwarded the email to. She bought some items and told me that she had posted it to the intranet site for MeritCare and some 5,000 people would hopefully see it. Insert mouth drop here. So Microsoft and MeritCare were in the loop. Sweet!!

And just this morning a woman told me she got the "MOPS email" like I should have known it was sent out. I looked at her quizzically and she said, "the MOPS email group? Do you know (name I don't remember)?" I said no...."Oh. Do you go to Bethel church?" No.... Someone from a church we don't attend (but is a sister church to the one we do attend) sent out an email about our benefit sale! And I don't even know the woman, or how she got the info! We had people posting about our sale on facebook, sending out emails to their friends, I mean really - people know how to get the word out!!

At the sale we had people giving extra money, telling us to keep the change for the items they bought. That happened more times than I can count. People were so giving and so generous. Far beyond what we ever expected. We had one girl in particular who was a savvy shopper, and left her car running so the air conditioning would continue to run. (It was super duper hot.) As she browsed, I sat with Haley in my lap and heard the radio in this gal's car. It was a Christian radio station. When she came up to pay I asked, "Are you listening to KLOVE?" She said, "Yes! I am!" I told her I recognized the song that was playing and as she handed over the money she said, "Can I pray for you and little Haley? Is there anything specific you want me to pray for?" How awesome is that?! And yes I cried about it later, but I held myself together while she was there in front of me. You would be so proud.

Today, Greggo and his family showed up at the garage sale. I was handed an envelope and told, "This is our donation for you." I told them I wasn't going to open the envelope because I would cry. It was too late, though, and I started crying anyway. I had another friend put the envelope in the cash box, and I ended up having to go inside to feed Haley. When I was done feeding Haley I went back outside. Brent told me he had opened the envelope and what was inside. Yep. I cried all over again. I hugged Haley and said, "This is all for you, love! I'm sorry Mommy is such an emotional basket case. But this is all for YOU! God is so awesome!"

We still have a long way to go to cover all of Haley's medical expenses, but we have made a fantastic dent in it from the proceeds of this garage sale. It's a huge weight and relief off our shoulders. I'll tell you what - having people band together to help us out in a time of financial uncertainty has been totally overwhelming. I am in awe of how God works all things for the greater good. We have been able to share Haley's story with complete strangers. We have been able to foster faith in others. We have been encouraged so immensely, and we are so blessed! Since the day I was admitted to the hospital - four months ago tomorrow - I have experienced love and fellowship like never before. I seriously never realized how blessed Brent and I were to live in Fargo, but these last four months have been a powerful reminder. Also, God has shown Himself in such powerful and present ways, I just kick myself every time I remember I doubted Him or didn't spend time with Him or His word. God. Is. Awesome.

He has provided for us in so many ways - financially, emotionally, physically - and with a circle of friends I wouldn't trade for anything.

I want you to know - and believe - how very special each of you are to Brent and me. (And Haley, she just can't verbalize it yet.) We have been so humbled and so moved and so touched by your hearts, your actions, and your encouragement. Thank you. Thank you for letting the Lord lead you and for following His nudges. Thank you, Lord! Thank you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Changes in Perspective

Last year at this time when I would sit to blog, my two cats would cozy up against me and try to lay across the keyboard so I would pet them instead of type. It was sweet. Annoying, but sweet. I can't tell you how much sweeter it is to have Haley asleep on my chest as I sit here and type. Being a mom to this miraculous little girl is far more rewarding than I ever thought it could be, and fills my heart more than even my two adorable, though annoying, cats ever could.

Haley is smiling a lot. She hears Brent's voice and immediately breaks into a giant grin. She loves when I talk to her while changing her diaper and smiles so big! She's right on the cusp of giggling, but we haven't hit that mark yet. I imagine once I hear her giggle, it will be the sweetest sound to ever fall upon my ears. A lot sweeter than this ultrasonic high-pitched scream she's pegged for when she's really upset.

I'm in my fourth week back to work. It's funny to me how easy it is to fall back into the same rush-rush-hurry-get-it-all-done mindset. I have to remind myself, quite frequently, to slow down and remember there are more important things waiting for me and requiring my energy when the work day is over. I love when people ask how Haley is doing so I can share her story with them. I love when people are so moved by our little miracle, they share in the awe and joy that she is. I love when I can say, "We had hundreds and hundreds of people praying for us, and God graciously answered those prayers." I love when people agree that Haley's life is a miracle and the fact that I'm still alive leaves no room to doubt God's healing hand.

I also love it when others share with me how God has transformed their lives. It happened today.

I was sitting at my desk, leaned back in my chair and sorting data in Excel. You want to be me - I can sense it. It's pretty exciting being me on a weekday afternoon, let me tell you. He came in, wearing a red, white, and blue cap, complete with stars and stripes. His matching leather jacket had ATLANTA on the back. He carried his tattered briefcase in one hand, and reached back to his ponytail with the other.

"Hi there - can I help you?" I couldn't see his eyes through his tinted aviator style sunglasses he was wearing, but he turned his head toward me.
"Is Jess gone?"
"Yes, he actually just left for the day. Is there something I can help you with, though?"

He came and stood in my doorway as I casually slipped my shoes back on underneath my desk and he went on to explain something about mineral rights, 1200 barrels of oil a day, and needing to talk about his portfolio. I couldn't help him, but I told him when Jess would be back and that he was welcome to stop by again at that time. He hesitated before he spoke again.

"That's a nice scripture verse you've got on your wall there."
"Oh...I need to put it in a place I can see it more often as my gentle daily reminder....."

I have 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 printed on a piece of paper that I taped up to the wall behind my desk. I taped it up there when I was pregnant and always mad at everyone for everything.

He stared at the paper for a bit before telling me, "I have a beautiful relationship with the Lord..." and he began his story. He talked really fast, and at times it was hard for me to know exactly what he was saying. I heard enough of his story to know it was an incredible journey he'd been on, though. I won't tell you his whole story but I will tell you the part that gave me goosebumps. As he stood there in my doorway sharing his testimony with me, he had tears that fell from behind those tinted shades and disappeared into his grizzly beard. His voice never cracked, but every word was saturated with genuine purpose and emotion. This guy was the real deal.

We talked for a bit before he went on his way and I sat there at my desk in awe of God and how He reels me back in with profound reminders of His awesome power. Like I said, it's funny to me how easy it is to fall back into the rush-rush-hurry-get-it-done mindset. It's awesome, though, when God gives me a break from the hustle and bustle to witness his amazing grace and power.

I don't know why things happen the way they do, or when they do, or how they do. In my experience, though, just knowing that they happen and that they have a purpose, is enough. He is enough.

May you always have enough.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shhhhhhh

I'm too tired and it's too late to type an actual entry, but you have GOT to check out these pictures of my little girl. She's getting so big! And she's so cute!









Monday, June 7, 2010

It's June Already?!

First of all - Brent found the checkbook! It was in my knitting bag! Yeah, I don't know why he found it before I did, so don't ask. The important thing is - it's found! Now to balance it with the last three statements.....

I haven't blogged in forever and a day. I think I put too much pressure on myself to be a "good" (creative, funny, witty) author, and my mind goes totally blank. So I don't write anything at all. Which stinks, because there's so much I'd love to keep track of and this blog is a great way to do that. Like the morning I pumped 18.5 ounces before turning off the pump. That was quite the morning.

Haley had her second Preemie Clinic appointment today and weighed in at 7 pounds 12.4 ounces. She is a little growing machine and it's bittersweet. People keep commenting how little she is - but she's so huge to me. She's an entire five pounds heavier than the first time I held her. She holds her head up, she smiles, she coos, she snores, she screams, she poops like a real champion - yet I remember and think about that day 11 weeks ago when I cradled her tiny body in my arms, and had to be careful not to get her tubes entangled with my IV. We were a mess, and now here we are - tube and wire free.

Yes, I said wire free! Haley was released from the confines of her apnea monitor!! We don't have to plug her in anymore or leave her wires dangling out of her clothes for people to ask, "What are these for?" We don't have to worry about being awoken in the wee hours of the morning by that incredibly loud alarm, or accidentally detaching the wires from the monitor and having it squeal at us until we could reconnect the lines. She was episode-free, and the only alarms that went off were due to faulty wire connections. Go, Haley, go!

This is my last week of maternity leave. Yesterday at church, one of my favorite people I've met since attending there asked me when I returned to work. My answer - tears. I just started crying. I know, it's hard to imagine me being emotional over anything. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked if she could pray for me. On one hand I'm thankful for the opportunity to return to work and feel productive and have that sense of routine back. On the other (bigger) hand, however, the last thing I want to do is leave my daughter to sit at a desk for eight hours a day. It's heart breaking. Keep me in your prayers next week - I'll need some special strength and comfort. And thank you, Deb, for your prayers and encouragement!

Two very dear friends of mine came from Wyoming for a visit the day after our first roadtrip with Haley. We went to Watford City to see the inlaws and introduce her to a few family members that hadn't met her yet. Then after our return, we had a houseful for four days. It was quite the week!! What a blast, though! Haley went to the zoo, had her first alien encounter (thanks to Space Aliens restaurant), had her first all-day shopping spree.....whew! I miss my friends so much and it was so great to have them here and share in time with my daughter.

During said shopping spree, I tried on 14 million items of clothing. Give or take. Nothing fits. Even the larger sized items don't fit. This was more than discouraging. I've lost 33 pounds since Haley came into this world, and I'm still too big for clothes. So today, I rifled through my Betty Crocker cookbook ("Healthy New Choices") and put together a menu for the next couple of weeks. The grocery store will be delivering my choice ingredients in the next three hours and I will commit myself to cooking healthier meals, and try to commit myself to some serious exercise. Brent and I have been taking frequent walks around the neighborhood, but I'm going to have to do more than that to get myself into clothes that fit. Otherwise it's cut-out appliance boxes for my wardrobe.

Haley got her first book from the Imagination Library in today's mail!! What an awesome program - you should see if it's available in your area. Haley will receive a book every month until she's five years old! Her first book is "The Little Engine That Could". I can't wait to see what each month brings for her, and to add these books to her bookshelf after reading them to her. What an awesome, awesome program. Thanks Dolly Parton!

I've been really inspired to knit these last couple of days - which I haven't been since Haley's coming home from the hospital (which is part of why I never found my checkbook......). I hope after I return to work next week, I have the time and the energy to be a great wife, a great mother, cook healthy meals, exercise, and knit. Lord, let it be so!

Since I'm all out of things to say, I'll leave you with some pictures from the previously mentioned events.







Monday, May 10, 2010

I can't find my checkbook.

My parents came and went. They were here for a week and spent some lovey-dovey time with Haley. They also spoiled Brent and me a little...so it was another good visit. :o) They both did so great with Haley and she seemed to enjoy their cuddles and kisses as well. They didn't even mind when I broke down and cried and said the word "frick". Good times. (thank you, lack of sleep) Frick - how did that word even come to be?





Last Thursday I took Haley to her follow-up pediatrician appointment, and she received four vaccines. One was administered orally and followed by the three remaining shots. After the oral vaccine, I asked the nurse if I could follow it with a "chaser" from Haley's bottle. I fed Haley some from her bottle as she lay there on the exam table, looking all around and exploring the unfamiliar surroundings with her sweet, innocent eyes. She was so cute, and cooing, as the nurse prepped the needles.

Then the nurse stabbed my baby. Right in the leg.

Haley's eyes got HUGE and she let out a wail I have never heard from her before, nor did I know she was capable of making.

Then the nurse stabbed my baby twice more.

Haley stopped breathing, she was crying so hard. I was failing at consoling her, and I started crying right along with her. There is nothing I have experienced that compares to the horror I felt watching the pain come across Haley's face, and hearing her wail so intensely. My heart just sank. Yes I know vaccines are beneficial and yes I know that kids get them all the time. But I think, especially after what I've experienced, it's horrible. Awful. The nurse left. Thankfully, because had she not, I would have banished her from the room for the pain she caused my little girl.

I got myself together, and after a few minutes, Haley was calmed down. I loaded her up in the carseat and began the trek home. I held her and cuddled her and did as much kissing and hugging as I could muster. At some point, I had to cook dinner. I put her in her bouncy chair and began to cook. Donnie, our live-in baseball player, came upstairs. Haley had started to get fussy so I asked Donnie if he would mind feeding her for me. He kindly obliged. After I ate, and after Haley finished her bottle, she started to get extremely fussy. A kind of fussy I have not heard from her. Brent came in and concurred that we had never heard this kind of cry from her. The only thing that consoled her was holding her to our chest and patting her back just so. The moment we stopped doing either of those things, the painful cries came back. My poor baby. My poor, poor baby!

The good news is we don't have to go back for more vaccines for two months. The bad news is we have to go back for more vaccines in two months.

Since that day, she has been her normal, adorable self. She coos, she cuddles, and she only gets mildly fussy when she's hungry. She has been much better about sleeping at night, and we have been much better about adjusting to her nighttime schedule. Win-win.

I also experienced my first Mother's Day! There was a time we weren't sure if I would have Haley by Mother's Day. Then there was a time seven weeks ago when we had her by emergency cesarean. Weird!

Brent let me sleep all through Saturday night, and he got up to change her and feed her. It was heavenly. He also brought me breakfast in bed with a card. The card had a picture of President Obama on the front and said something about wishing me a Happy Mother's Day from the White House and on the inside it said "I thought this would look impressive on your table" or some such nonsense. Signed, "Love, Brent". I smiled and said thank you and asked him to bring me more chocolate milk. He came back with a real card, and a gift - a bassinet made out of diapers and a receiving blanket! No he didn't make it, but it is super cute! I told him I was thankful he redeemed himself, because I wasn't real impressed with the Obama card. It was more for the lack of sentiment rather than the political aspect. So he (Brent) made good and then I thought the whole thing was funny. Brent also barbecued me steaks for dinner - and they were SO SO yummy!! I ate dinner after he let me nap with my baby girl. Yeah, I know! Best day ever!

Today we went to the Preemie Clinic appointment. It was early - as in before 9 a.m. I hit the snooze button and opted for ten more minutes of sleep. The problem is, I opted for ten more minutes of sleep five times. Whoops. So no shower for me, and we were five minutes late to the appointment. Yeah well.... Haley looks great (duh) and is doing really well (Praise God!) and we will go back in a month. Problem is, we still have to keep her on the blasted portable apnea/heart monitor. Apparently she had two episodes of apnea the monitor recorded, and a few drops in heart rate. The apnea never alarmed because it was 18 and 19 seconds - the alarm goes off at 20 seconds. Go figure. So another month of having her wired up and plugged in and carrying it around wherever we go. Bummer. Hopefully there are no more apnea episodes and at next month's appointment - monitor be gone! (fingers crossed)

Also, today I felt motivated enough to balance our checkbook. I haven't balanced it since I was admitted to the hospital back in March. Problem is, I cannot find the checkbook. I have looked a lot of places - obviously not everywhere, because I would have found it if I had looked in every possible place. I have no idea where it could be!! So I couldn't balance the checkbook. But I did find an $8 check from our insurance company while I was looking. Bonus! So I know we have at least $8. Whew!

It has been a whirlwind these last couple of weeks. I have enjoyed so much spending time with Haley and watching her grow. I cannot believe how big she is (six pounds!) and that she'll only keep getting bigger. Realizing she won't forever be able to snuggle under my neck on my chest is bittersweet. I love, love, love being a mommy and I love, love, love my little girl.



So I'm signing off for now. But if you see my checkbook - could you let me know? And maybe balance it for me? Thanks....

Monday, April 26, 2010

The First Week

Sunday, Haley was 5 weeks old. One week ago today, we brought her home from the hospital. It has been a roller coaster journey - one you all have prayed through with us. This last week has been challenging, but blessed, and we are so, so, SO happy to have our little girl home.

Brent and I are tired, but not any more tired than we were having to traffic across town to spend time with our baby. The bonus is we get to nap with her now! We are staying on her schedule of feeding her every three hours. Brent and I won't be able to keep up the shift work on the midnight, 3 a.m., and 6 a.m. feedings much longer. Thankfully, the pediatrician has given us the go-ahead to wait five hours at night, or until Haley wakes us up, to feed her. Whichever comes first. We'll probably start with waiting four hours - and graduate ourselves from there. We'll get this feeding schedule down and it will work for all of us. And we will be happy and never fuss. I just know it. (How many of you are ready to smack me upside the head with a reality check now?)

We've been snippy with each other, Brent and I. I don't know what his problem is. (just typing that sentence made me laugh so hard....) I kid. We've both been a little on-edge lately, and sometimes our sensitivity-meters are off-kilter. We've had little spats, but nothing that can't be overlooked with the help of a few swear words and fine wine. Again - I kid. (about the swearing and the wine...so far they haven't helped.)

I don't know where this sense-of-humor has been hiding, but I'm cracking myself up here. How many of my relatives are embarrassed by that last paragraph? Show of hands! It's okay - you'll get used to my kind of crazy. And you'll still be embarrassed that we share pieces of the same DNA. Ok, ok, back to the week we've had.....

It has been a stressful week for me because at times I felt like when I wasn't taking care of Haley, feeding her, changing her diaper, soothing her, etc., I was pumping. If I wasn't doing either of those things, I was napping. Nothing else. Baby, pumping, napping. Our house wasn't getting cleaned, our laundry wasn't getting washed, our groceries weren't getting cooked - nothing productive was taking place, with the exception of me pumping between 8 and 12 ounces AT A TIME. I am a breast milk factory. And it's exhausting. A while ago, Brent and I bought a deep-freeze to store the bottles of milk I was pumping. The deep freeze is chock-full of bottled milk. And it does. not. stop. I can't go anywhere, or if I do it can't be for too long, because I need to come home and pump. At this rate, Haley will be having breast milk on her cereal when she's 15. I don't know how to keep up with myself! It's ridiculous how much and how often I'm pumping. But, it's also pretty awesome that I can take care of Haley in that way, and that she hasn't required any supplementation at all.

Brent and I have also had some laugh-out-loud moments...like when he was trying to entertain Haley with his "Baby Go" app on his Blackberry. Every button you push, the phone makes a noise, or says a letter or number, etc. Brent was pushing and pushing buttons and his phone was making all sorts of noises for quite some time. Finally Brent says to Haley, "Daddy can't figure out how to unlock this application." I laughed pretty hard at that one. Or the statement I made after Haley had a little bit of spittle that rolled right off her bib, "This bib isn't very observant." Yes, I said observant. I meant absorbent, but I was apparently running on intellectual fumes. Yesterday Brent and I had a couple of exchanges that left us both laughing. And of course there was the confession of my husband, who tried to weigh our daughter on our kitchen scale by putting her in a 13 x 9 baking dish!! I'm afraid to take him grocery shopping now, for fear he'll try to weigh her in the produce scale. He's all about getting her weight - right down to the ounce! We're losing our minds, and its hilarious.

We're still required to try to focus and keep up with outside-world responsibilities. We had Haley's first doctor appointment (as you've seen me reference) and it went really well. Our little girl is growing, growing, growing. At the pediatrician's office, she weighed in at 5 lbs 2 oz. She's already over 5 pounds!! I can't hardly believe it. She looks like a different baby than when she first made her appearance five weeks ago. She is healthy, happy, and so adorable. Even if she does want to stay up and party after her midnight feeding....

So as we wind down one week and begin another in the rest of our lives, I'll summarize by saying it's been great. Yes I'm tired, yes I'm cranky when my husband can't read my mind and do what I want him to do without me having to verbalize anything, but this is awesome. Earlier today while I was in my recliner eating the last of the Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream and listening to my Enya Pandora Radio station, Haley was asleep on my chest. As the sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing loudly outside, I snuggled on my little girl and thought, "It can't get any better than this. Thank you, Lord."

So there you have it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sleep to catch up on....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're Home!!

Brent and I went to the NICU Monday at lunchtime, fully expecting to sign some papers and take our baby home with us. We received word, however, that Haley failed her scan. According to the report that was faxed to the doctor, Haley's oxygen levels dropped while she slept and it was cause enough to put her on a monitor, which required us to stay the night at the hospital with her and go through some training.

I have to admit, it was a pretty deflating moment. No one anticipated any hang ups and everyone thought we'd be out by Monday night. I'm not convinced the scan was done right - but that's just me being a tish bitter. It was a different feeling in the room as we went through training on the monitor and talking about what we needed to get from home before heading back to the hospital for the night. I tried not to get upset about it - but trying only got me so far. I was still upset. For days I had been preparing for Monday being the big day. And then it wasn't. It sucked.

Brent and I settled in to our hospital room which happened to be the same room I stayed in when I was admitted nearly five weeks ago. That was weird, but comforting at the same time. This time, our baby was in there with us. (Yay for that!)



I didn't go to sleep when I first got tired - which was a mistake. I stayed up for Haley's midnight feeding and didn't get to bed until about 1:00. 3:00 I slept through my phone alarm, but Brent got up and got Haley's bottle from the nurse. I woke up at 6 and Brent fed Haley again while I pumped. Then we gathered all our things, and got ourselves ready to go.

We had been told the night before that we could leave whenever we wanted in the morning. Come to find out, however, that was not the case. We left 3 1/2 hours after I wanted to leave, and I was getting frustrated. But - whatever - I still got to go home with my baby! Looking at her, listening to her, cuddling with her - all of that melted away my frustrations.

On the car-ride home, I sat in the back seat with Haley. I was nervous...and overly-aware of every pothole, crack, or disturbance of the street. I think Brent was a little nervous too, but I doubt he'll say so. We were a little snippy to each other in the car. Just a little, though. We came home and it was kind of like, "Ok! Now what?" We all took turns sleeping, and I had to go to my 2nd post-op appointment. It was strange turning right at the elevator to go to the clinic instead of left to go to the NICU. (I'm just about golden, by the way - everything checks out health-wise for me!)

The first night with Haley here at home was exciting. Every grunt, groan, or squeak she made, I was up and peering over the side of the bassinet to make sure she was ok. I think four, out of the 2308570437250 times I got up, she needed her pacifier. Every other time, it was simply a noise and nothing more. Brent fed her at midnight, and I fed her at 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Haley decided to be wide awake and super cute between 3:00 and 4:30. Brent woke at one point and said, "Is she fussy?" "No....she just has a lot to tell us." And I hung on every squeak. She definitely has a captive audience. I would be more captive if it were not between 3 and 5 a.m., however.

I had told Brent the night before that I wanted to be up and showered before he headed to work. About forty minutes before he was supposed to leave for work he woke me up and said, "Do you want to get up and shower?" "mmmpfh!" I replied, which translated to, "No, please just let me sleep for the next ten years." I put Haley next to me in bed (don't tell on me, because I know we're not supposed to do that) and Brent caught a picture. We slept that way until she woke me up to let me know it was time to feed her again. Right on schedule - she is a particular one, this little Haley!



I changed her diaper and fed her and she was wide awake again, so I listened to her tell me all about the mysteries of life while The Bonnie Hunt show was on the t.v. When she fell back asleep I put her in the bassinet, grabbed a baby monitor, and headed downstairs to do some laundry. Those baby monitors are wonderful investments. Thank you to the people who gave us ours!! (By the way, thank you cards will be on their way for every gift we've received....it's just been tricky sitting down to write them out and get them in the mail. Your gift has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated - I promise!)

Hubs came home shortly after noon. He napped with his daughter and I ate lunch, took a shower (finally) and got ready for a different follow up appointment. So many of those this week! Once again Brent and I barely, only slightly, got snippy with each other. I think if I had gotten a nap, it wouldn't have happened. We headed off and I noticed - when I have a baby to worry about in my backseat, my road rage totally disappears. I was so focused and so determined on our drive, I didn't say one harsh thing about another person's lack of driving abilities. Wow!

We had some company tonight for a little bit - one couple came by to bring Haley a gift and another friend stopped by to pick up an item she had left here. Last night we had two people stop by to bring us dinner. So Haley has had a few visitors already! And she has been a gracious hostess. Last night she peed all over herself in front of one guest, soaked her mama with breastmilk in front of another, and tonight she did her cute little cry for our friend L. The entertainment is just invaluable.



So here we are - home, and loving it. This little girl may have turned our lives upside-down....twice....but I don't think Brent or I would have it any other way. Now if we could just get past the snippyness - nothing a bazillion more naps won't cure.

Please continue to pray that Haley can continue to grow and gain weight (she was 4lbs 8.2 oz today!!), and that Brent and I would have the wisdom and resources to be the parents God has called us to be. Please also continue to pray for our dear friends who went in to preterm labor with twins - so far the labor has been postponed and the twins are healthy - praise God on both those counts! Those babies need to stay in their mom for quite some time yet, so your prayers for all involved in that situation are well worth the moments you spend saying them!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Final Countdown

Thursday night, Haley hit the magic weight of 1800 grams (1832 to be exact), which translates to 4 lbs! The nurse told us they would begin weaning her from her isolette and if she could maintain her temperature, they would move her to a crib. This is a process that takes about 18-24 hours, and they wouldn't start on it most likely until after 11 p.m. Brent and I were so excited that our little girl has been growing and gaining weight, and that she had finally reached the 4 pound mark!!

Friday I went in for her 9 a.m. feeding. Haley was in a crib. I'm no good at quick math, (any math, really, no matter the speed) but I knew it had been less than 12 hours, let alone 18 to 24!! My baby was movin' on up!! In a onsie, a sleeper, two blankets, and a hat, she was laying in her cocoon of warmth that symbolizes she is one step closer to coming home.

I have been exhausted these past couple of days and after I fed Haley in the afternoon, I nearly fell asleep holding her. I came home to snuggle up on my bed and take a much needed motherly snooze. In the meantime we had another meal brought to us. This meal thing has been a tremendous blessing. To everyone who has participated in that, not only are you fabulous in your choice and preparation of our cuisines, but your sheer desire to help us in this service is amazing. Thank you!!

Last night we went in for Haley's bath time. She had gained even more weight and was far cuter than when I was there a few hours before. She just tips the charts on this cuteness thing. She has been doing great with her temperatures, which is a move in the right direction!!

Dr. M came in - he was on shift last night instead of Dr. J. Dr. M is quite a character. I assure you Haley will never have another doctor like him, because I find it hard to believe there is another doctor like him! He's brilliant, but odd. So very odd. And random! But generally hysterical. Just his own character for sure.

In a most serious, straight-to-business fashion, he wheeled over to us in the office chair and grabbed Haley's charts. He put his reading glasses on and says to Brent and me, "I hate to tell you this.....but it looks like we're making your baby better."

HA!! Chalk one up to Dr. M, because that made me laugh.

As we were talking I asked him what it would entail from our end to bring her home. He started laughing and said he has six kids, and it will entail 18 years of worrying, wondering where your car is, and not getting any sleep. That wasn't what I meant, but he knew that. He then told us to just bring Haley some clothes, a car seat, and cash to pay the hospital bill. A big suitcase of cash. It just so happens I left my bank-robbing days behind when I gave my life to Jesus......I hope he likes pennies. That's about all I can fill a suitcase with. A small suitcase.

Last night Haley's nurse was going to try to get her picture taken, her hearing test done, and her car seat tolerance test done. The only thing left after those is her scan, which will be Sunday night. This scan is a far more sensitive piece of equipment than what she's on now, and will detect her heart rate and breathing, checking for abnormalities or bouts of apnea, etc. Once the results of the scan come back on Monday, Brent and I will either have to room-in in the hospital that night to learn how to use and live with the equipment they'll send her home on, or they'll just send her home free of equipment! Our baby is coming home!!

I chose to forego Haley's 9 a.m. feeding this morning so I could take advantage of sleeping in on a Saturday one last time. Of course I have been awake since 7:30. But since I didn't get to sleep until after midnight last night, I will be taking a mid-morning nap. As soon as this blog gets posted.

While I am filled with excitement over the progress and health of my baby girl, I need to ask you for more prayer. Dear friends of ours went into preterm labor (24 weeks gestation) with twins. Mom will be in the hospital for a very long time, as the doctors work to stave off infection and keep her from delivering, as long as possible. As in any preterm situation - every day Mom stays pregnant is a good day!! Please pray there will be no infection, please pray Mom gets to stay pregnant for several more weeks, and please pray for her health and sanity as she sits in a hospital room waiting from day-to-day to discover the ever-changing fate of her babies. We want these twins to develop in utero, and have strong hearts, lungs, and brains when they birth. I pray their story can be as miraculous as Haley's, if not more so!!

Thank you, everyone, for keeping tabs on Haley's progress, and for joining with us in prayer over these last 4+ weeks. We've been on an amazing journey, and God has been so gracious and ever-present!! Now I need to get my morning nap in, and wake Brent up so he can get the nursery painted. We have two days left!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My arms are killing me.

I am having a major case of writer's block. I am so drained and so....whatever else (see what I mean?!)....that I just can't compose anything beyond a third-grade reading level. So bear with me.

This weekend, Haley did amazing. She is up to breastfeeding twice a day, and taking her bottle for every feeding. Sometimes she gets worn out - but she is a little pro at this suckling thing. She still can't swallow and breathe at the same time, but she is very, very close. She's got this eating thing down. Also - she gained weight! Hallelujah! As of last night, she is 3 pounds 12 ounces - one pound more than she was at birth three weeks ago!

The nurses and doctors are very optimistic that she'll be home sooner rather than later. I would imagine within the next two weeks for sure. Provided she can get her weight above four pounds, can wean herself from her isolette (regulate her temperature and stay warm enough without having a constant heated environment), and can finish her feedings - she'll be golden. Since she has been such a rockstar, we anticipate that she'll of course do all of those things!! And soon!!

My arms are so raw from having to scrub in every time we go see her. Raw. The soap is just eating away at my skin. I put lotion on so many times during the day, and still, my skin is about to flake away to expose my bone and muscle. That's right - pure, solid muscle. (flexes) But the lotion burns my skin now because my arms are so chapped. Ouch.

We can't wait to get Haley home. Not only because I won't have to scrub with harsh soap for three minutes at a time every time I go to touch her, but because we'll be able to establish a routine (that doesn't involve driving across town) and just get to be parents. Parents to our adorable, cuddly, tiny baby girl.

I would love to post more pictures - but we have temporarily misplaced the camera, and therefore have not taken photos since Easter. Whoops.

Some specific prayer requests!! That Haley would gain the appropriate amount of weight, and be able to meet the doctor's requirements in order to be discharged from the NICU. That Brent and I would have things ready for Haley's arrival at home (the nursery, the baby laundry, that we would have all the required equipment and accessories, etc.). That Haley would remain healthy once we bring her home, and that we will be conscientious parents in keeping her that way. That we haven't bitten off more than we can chew with hosting a Redhawk player this season. (Donnie Smith is coming back! He was our boy the first season we were a host family, and he went away, but now he's back, and we love him - he's like family. In fact, he has already volunteered for diaper duty. We weren't going to host this year, but then he called....blah blah blah.) That God is glorified through this entire situation - He has worked a marvelous miracle in little Haley!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sometimes You're The Windshield

Sometimes you're the bug.

I feel like the bug these last couple of days. Yesterday was a bad day. Today was a good day but I'm so exhausted, I cried just as much as if it were a bad day. When does the hormonal mood swing thing go away, by the way? That's so pregnant of me, and I'm not pregnant anymore.

I'm not pregnant anymore. But I'm supposed to be. For 4 1/2 more weeks even. Today I was scheduled to have a pregnancy check-up appointment. I had them booked out to today. Then after today I would have been going once a week, instead of every other week. Would have.

Now, I make trips to the NICU two, three, sometimes four times a day. I don't sleep when, or how, I should. Sometimes I can't sleep, other times I just choose to go to the NICU instead of nap. I forget to eat. I know, I can't hardly believe that either. I pump every time I turn around. And washing those daggum cones..... I hate those cones.

I'm so tired. I'm so pissed (today) that I have to leave her at the hospital. Other times I'm so glad she's there, receiving such great care from the NICU staff. I go back and forth being scared about having her home and wondering what it will be like to not have her heart or oxygen monitored. I think I don't get sleep now....I will spend all my time staring at her, making sure she's breathing!

I was so tired after attempting to breastfeed her tonight, and giving her some kangaroo care, that I couldn't stay awake long enough to stay there and give her her bath. The first night in two weeks I haven't been there for her bath time. I had to leave so I could come home and eat something and get my butt in bed. I didn't want to leave her. I never want to leave her.

These are the days I have when I break down and Brent just grabs me and holds me and lets me cry. I was so busy being strong and adjusting to everything being new, that I didn't have time to wonder about the what-ifs or be frustrated with the situation, or let myself think for more than two minutes about everything that's gone on these last three weeks.

I probably shouldn't be working. I'm still in some pain (but it's manageable and it's not severe ever, I promise), and I get so daggum tired. But every hour I'm not at work is an hour they count against my FMLA leave, which is one more hour I DON'T get to spend with Haley at home once she's finally discharged. I just can't stand giving up any more time than I absolutely have to. So I go to work.

This isn't the blog you were expecting, I'm sure. It just sucks. And it's hard. I'm not complaining, I'm just being real here. My daughter is getting excellent care, making excellent progress and meeting fantastic milestones. At the end of the day when it's all said and done, however, this is the most taxing, exhausting life-experience I have ever been through.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be more of a "windshield" sort of day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

4.5.10

Haley has been doing amazing. And have I mentioned how adorable she is? Because if I haven't - well, you don't have to take my word for it. See for yourself:



I could just stare at this picture all day! She's so adorable! And Brent and I made her! I didn't think our kids would be THAT cute. I mean, I knew we'd have cute kids, but seriously! THAT cute!

Where was I? Oh yeah - drooling over adorableness....

Occupational Therapy began working with Haley late last week to get her to suckle on a bottle - trying to get her to learn her skills of suckling, swallowing, and breathing all at the same time. She took a little here, a little there, but this weekend, she did amazing. She took 18 mils (of her 32 mil feeding) on Saturday morning. Saturday evening she took about 11 mils. Sunday morning she took 18 mils again, and Sunday night she took 23 mils! This morning I headed in to meet with OT and go over some bottle-feeding tips, and she took 28 mils! Our little girl is a rock-star! She is doing so fantastic with the suckling, that they've bumped her up to 4 bottle feeding attempts per day, and want me to start putting her "to breast" - which is different from actually breastfeeding, but it is a definite step in that direction. She also burped like a big girl this morning! Made her mommy proud! I can assure you, they were the cutest little burps you've ever heard.



Haley now weighs 3 1/2 lbs, and continues to gain weight and process all her feedings. The other milestones the nurses mentioned were regulating her body temperature and her breathing. Her breathing had a tendency to get pretty fast (tachycardic, I believe is the term they used), but has regulated itself and is no longer of real concern. She has started to maintain a warmer temperature while in her isolette with it on "air temp", which is fantastic news. They removed her from TPN (the fats/lipids feeding) late Friday night, and yesterday afternoon, removed her PICC line from her arm!! The only tube she has now is her gavage feeding tube, and of course is hooked up to heart and oxygen monitors. She has moved from "intensive care" to "intermediate care" which is definitely encouraging news for us.

They did discover a slight heart murmur in Haley, but said it is very common for preemies (as their cardiovascular system undergoes tremendous change after they're born), and they're confident she'll outgrow it, possibly even before she's discharged. Apparently my husband had a heart murmur as a babe child as well. I learn something new about my man all the time!

As I understand it, once she reaches about 4 pounds (a little less than 8 ounces to go!) and it is confirmed her body temperature has regulated, she'll be weaned from her isolette to a crib. Then it's only a matter of time before she's deemed healthy and strong enough to come home!

I haven't blogged since last week, because it was just a hard few days for me. Once I finally had a chance to breathe, we had some "scares" and they got the best of me. I finally broke down and cried (and God bless my dear, sweet husband for being intuitive enough to grab me and hold me when he figured I needed it, and just letting me sob on his shoulder until I got it all out...) and we had our "why me/us" moments. It was pretty overwhelming at times, but truthfully, Haley has done so well and the NICU staff has done an excellent job taking care of our little sweetpea. And we are one happy family because of their hard work, and Haley's amazing progress.



We had a great time on Easter Sunday, dressing her in her very first Easter outfit (dress from Baby Depot, hat made by yours truly), showing her the goodies of her Easter basket, bottle feeding her, burping her, getting lost in her complete cuteness... it really put a different spin on celebrating the miracle of a risen Savior. God's miracles are shining in an entirely brighter light for me these days - glory be!

Also! I have returned to work part-time, in the hopes I can still bank up enough maternity leave to take for when Haley comes home from the NICU. The doctor's orders are for me to have a substantial break between hours at work, so I take a trip to visit Haley and hold my little girl. Today was my first day back - and I'm exhausted, but I hope to get the hang of the new routine by the end of the week. It was good to have a sense of "normalcy", but my "normal" has completely shifted - so what once was normal is no longer normal! Keep that in your prayers, though, and that the time will fall into place once Haley is discharged.

Okay. I think that's it so far! Exciting stuff going on!