Brothers Three

Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.
Terri Guillemets

Growing up, when I pictured the family I would go on to have, I never, ever pictured myself surrounded by men.

When I really stop to think about this, I am not sure why. Girls have always been scarce in my life. But, for whatever reason, I just always knew I would have a daughter.

Until I was 8, our closest family friends had a set of 3 boys. I specifically remember wondering how their mama could stand not having a girl around the house.  I loved those boys with all my heart (and was pretty convinced I had to pick one to marry) but they also made me cry a lot.  I have this really specific memory of the middle son hop-skipping down the hallway after his older brother.  His leg was in a cast, having been broken in some trampoline accident or other high-energy antic, but it was only slowing him down a tad as he was intent on killing his older brother over some quarrel they were having.  I ran away as they landed in a dog-pile on the floor, yelling and shoving,  absolutely sure blood was about to be spilled.  It was too much for my sensitive heart to handle. Their mama must be scared all the time, I thought… and also lonely.

Me and those boys(Those boys and Me– 1991)

When Ryan and I got married, I teased that he was contractually obligated to provide me with a daughter. I was only half-joking.  When we discovered our first-born would be a boy, I reminded him of his obligation and when we discovered another boy would be joining our family 3 years later (even though I had genuinely hoped Dexter would be a boy) … I simply gave him a knowing look. He knew what it meant.

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Now, we are unexpectedly expecting yet again and we have been informed that more snips and snails will be entering our lives.

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The truth is, it is exciting! At the same time, however, it  is suddenly dawning on me, as I find myself waddling through life once more, that it may take more pregnancies than I am willing to endure to add a daughter to our family. For the first time, I am entertaining the idea that I may, in fact, be a mother of sons.  Even stranger for me is that I am also entertaining the fact that this may end up being our last baby entirely. I want a large family and so that never seemed an option before, but I also want to be the best mama I can be to the children I have and, for practical reasons, that may mean stopping before I am ready.

I have been asked how I feel about another boy and I always give a pretty generic answer. “Oh, it would have been fun to have a girl to dress up, but boys are so awesome!” However, as I really attempt to process my feelings, only one word genuinely seems to describe my true feelings on the matter: bittersweet.

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There is a part of me that is always very aware that every day my children are moving away from me. My job as a mother is to hold them close- nurture and love them- while simultaneously easing them toward the day they will be pushed from the nest and told to fly on their own. While I think this is a universal truth for mothers of both boys and girls… there is just something so final to me about that inevitable separation when raising my sons. I am teaching them not to need me.

A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.
Or so they say.

Being the mother of a son means preparing my child to belong to another. Being the mother of a son means perfectly the art of letting go.This has never been a strong quality of mine and so I have a lot to learn.

Please know that I am not making any assumptions about what it is or is not like to raise a daughter; I am, in fact, simply acknowledging that I may never know what it means. I only know what I know about these boys of mine.

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It is sometimes hard for me to watch my boys’ eyes light up as they watch their Papa. They soak up everything he does like a sponge. They want to be just like him.

Liam will often run into the room to show me the outfit he has chosen to look “just like Papa.” He asks me when he will be big enough to go work at the office where his Papa is. “That is what my Papa says,”  he declares a million times a day, to anyone who will listen.

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When Ryan walks in the door at the end of the day, Dexter face explodes in happiness and devotion. He crawls as fast as he can to his Papa’s feet, sits up on his knees and reaches his hands in the air to be picked up by his big, strong Papa.

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And, I know enough by now to know, this third little one will be just the same.

It is beautiful and I love it, of course…but it can also sting. There is no little one to want to be just like me, no one trailing me all day or begging me to play the games I remember from my own childhood.

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It is disappointing to accept that I may never buy a dress for my little girl or help to plan a wedding. I might never get into a screaming match with my daughter or listen to her gush about a new boyfriend. I might never share make-up tips…and have them ignored, or create fairy-princess tea parties, or have mama/daughter dates. I can admit this.

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I think that to be completely honest with myself, I have to admit this.  If I do not have a daughter, there is a lot I may miss out on… and that if I do, I will feel that loss.

But… of course, there is a but…

There is also something so incredibly beautiful about being the mother of a little boy. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade these boys of mine for the entire world.

As a woman, men are really quite a mystery to me. Yet, here I am, privileged to witness the tender beginnings of three of them. I rock Dexter to sleep and his little body melts into a puddle against my chest. I hold Liam as he cries over a skinned knee.  They throw themselves into my arms with reckless abandon. They open-mouth kiss me right on the lips. They lose themselves in laughter. They scream in fright. They dissolve in tears. There are not many other women in these boys’ lives that will witness these moments of vulnerability as I have. And I will always be the first.

I am the first girl that will ever love these boys.

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And, oh, how I love them! (Shut up… you knew it was coming.)

They are so sweet and curious and full of adventure.  We are always fighting bad guys, digging for insects, and going to the moon. Liam knows endless interesting facts about almost any living creature. Dexter has taught me that anything is edible if you only put your mind to it. They never, ever stop exploring. They smell like sweat and earth and somehow the two mix into what has to be the most amazing smell on the planet. They test my patience and challenge me daily…but they are endlessly forgiving of all my short-comings. My life is so full of laughter and joy and fun and it all bubbles directly from their little hearts. They love me completely. I am the luckiest.

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I feel so much responsibility to protect their hearts, these tiny men of mine.  I want to shield them from a world. I want to preserve their tender spirits. I don’t want them to be “toughened up” or have anyone tell them not to cry or squeal in delight. It breaks my heart… but I also know that in some ways, in spite of my best efforts, it is inevitable. One day, my soft-hearted boys will probably bite their lips and hold back the tears, so even as I do my best to protect them, to teach them to be true to themselves… I also wipe those tears that stream down their faces so easily now with purpose, knowing that one day, I may never do it again. I listen intently to every giggle, savor every freely given, slobbery kiss on the mouth. I hold them in my laps while I can, folding their legs and arms up in mine, trying my best to remember what their little hearts feel like beating against me.

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They change so completely, don’t they? Their voices crack and deepen, their arms and legs grow long and their jaw gets wide. They will tower over me one day.  When I look at baby pictures of the men in my life, I can barely see the resemblance and so I am careful to soak in all of who my little boys are at every moment; everything from their button noses and chipmunk voices to their tender, exposed emotions and open expressions of affections.

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We don’t get to keep them.
And it is all very precious because it is all very fleeting.

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As I feel this new little life inside of me flutter around, I am happy… and also a little bit sad.  He is going to be the perfect addition to our family, but perhaps the final one.

My children really are my greatest teachers. I am learning that even when things do not turn out the way that they expect, they might still be pretty great. I am learning to expand my vision for my life and even the definition of “daughter.” Perhaps I will never give birth to a little girl…but that relationship may be filled in other ways. And in the meantime… I have a lot to be thankful for.

I have also learned over the last few years that a  mother to boys honestly does not have any time to feel sad or lonely. She is way too busy making mud pies, fighting dragons and flying to save the day. Yes, perhaps she is a little bit frightened from time to time…but honestly, aren’t we all?

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Previously on Weird Bird…..

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
Cary Grant

I only have about 23 posts sitting in my drafts folder, waiting to be published. Our lives have been busy and in spite of how quiet it has been around here since…well, pretty much since the birth of Hurricane Dexter, I do have a lot to say!

Before I go there though, I feel it is only fair to play catch up on what our family has been up to lately.

I suppose I might as well start with the biggest news first:   Freaking OutYes, my friends…that is actually a positive pregnancy test. 

Big Brother CollageDexter Keats will be a big brother at the ripe old age of 15 months. Baby Boy Haddock the Third will be gracing us with his presence sometime in November. 

It was a surprise and I will admit that it is taking me a little while to warm up to the idea. I am bracing myself for a tough couple of years as we navigate the uncharted territory of 2 under 2, in addition to the equally uncharted territory of 3 BOYS.  I am just a little bit outnumbered around here.  As Liam says, “I guess you are just going to have to get a poofy dog.”

Speaking of Liam, our little guy is going through some pretty big changes this year:

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August 041cheeeeeseAugust 042Alright, so technically it is a 3 hour homeschooling tutorial once a week… and I go with him. But it still FEELS like school, ya’ll. And it still feels like growing up.

The Friday before his very first day, we went shopping.

Back to SchoolWe went out to breakfast, got his brand new Spider-man backpack and all his supplies, hit up the Goodwill for some awesome school clothes (as well as our dependable Old Navy for some skinny jeans that will actually fit) and got a rad new haircut! It was exhausting and also awesome. We had so much fun and Liam Eliot was beyond excited for his first day.

First Day of School CollageLiam’s first day went very well. I was proud of him. This tutorial is based on the classical model of education. We chose it because, after attending an open house, Liam could not stop talking about it.  He seems to really thrive on the challenge of the memory work and we have been amazed at how quickly he is learning.

Our homeschooling is very eclectic though and we are also enjoying a weekly co-op at our house based loosely on the Waldorf method of education. Both groups are adding so much to our lives and I am very grateful for them.  In addition to these groups, Liam is learning to play the piano with Papa and also how to read. We are working through a kindergarten math curriculum and are slowly realizing that our kid is a math and science whiz! It is pretty incredible. Mostly though, we are just hanging out with friends a lot, going cool places, reading lots of books, enjoying life together, and sometimes saying “the heck” with all of it, and spending the day with a big bowl of popcorn and Netflix.

Basically, homeschooling rocks.

Silly FacesI have to admit, as we get ready to say good-bye to 4 year old Liam… I am really looking forward to 5.  This is the first year that I can honestly say I will not really miss; four was hard.  Over the last few months, I have started to see glimpses of maturity in Liam that I am so, so, SO ready to embrace. He is getting easier to talk to and he knows so much! His sense of humor is evolving and he can genuinely crack me up, which I love. Not often, but occasionally, he will even do something that we ask him to do without arguing. And sometimes, when he asks you, “Why?” he will genuinely listen to what you say. And there are moments when he ACTUALLY LISTENS TO REASON. For real.

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Dexter, on the other hand, is pretty much the same chubby bundle of joy. 

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He has 8 teeth now and he isn’t afraid to use them.  He is taking hesitant steps but nothing worthy of the baby book, which, of course, he does not have because he is The Second Child. He is loud. He is cheeky. He isn’t afraid of anything. He keeps us on our toes. He is also absolutely the most delicious baby you have ever nibbled…and he is nibbled frequently.

Lastly, Ryan and I are making it.

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A few weeks ago, we were able to swing a simple babymoon/delayed anniversary weekend. It was wonderful.

August 036We really did not do much at all.  The Bed and Breakfast, which was less than an hour away from Chattanooga, was lovely.  The food was delicious and the room was adorable.

PicMonkey CollageAugust 024editAugust 001We mostly just hung out, ate, took naps, talked, enjoyed the view and went to the drive in movie theater! It was very relaxing. I missed my little boys a lot but it was nice to spend some time alone with The Big One too.

Of course, this isn’t even remotely all our news… but it is a start. Life has been challenging recently, but I am feeling pretty optimistic about the future. I hope to have- or perhaps MAKE- the time to share it all here.

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One day, I’ll be a year…

On Saturday, my baby turned one.

Day One

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He is funny and opinionated and he loves to eat.
He is an expert cuddler.
His lips purse up when he is concentrating and it is the cutest thing you have ever seen.
He is sitting, crawling, rolling, cruising and standing independently for a second or two.
He babbles non-stop and already talks with his hands.
He waves hello and bye-bye and says, “dye-dye” if anyone looks like they might be possibly thinking about leaving the room…but doesn’t say it if you ask him to.
He is cheeky and he is a dare-devil.
He says, “Mama” and “Papa” and he knows exactly who we are.
He is the world’s happiest baby… most of the time.
When he isn’t happy, you are going to know it.
He is pudgy and round… everything about him is perfectly round: his head and his eyes and his perfect fat toes, his ears, his button nose, his chubby knees. He is like a perfect circle of baby sweetness that you just want to nom all day.
He thinks his big brother is probably the coolest thing to ever happen to the planet.
He likes to bang on things.
He loves to laugh.

If I had to pick one word to describe this boy of mine… it would be expressive. He is the most expressive baby I have ever met. I could watch him explore the world all day as his eyebrows wiggle or his eyes grow wide, as he sticks his tongue out of the side of his mouth or flashes his dipples in pure joy or scrunches up his entire face and shrieks in frustration.

I just love his face.

So happy to have had this kid in my life this year.
So, so, so happy.

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You Are My Sunshine

You make me happy, when skies are grey.
“You Are My Sunshine” — Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

We still have one more week before our littlest little turns one… but we had his party this Saturday.

We kept Dexter’s first birthday very simple.  I remember wanting Liam’s first birthday to be perfect. I planned every last detail, stayed up way too late hand-making invitations and favors,  spent loads of money… and it turned out to be pretty much like every other first birthday party that has ever been thrown: fun and adorable and not even remotely perfect.

So this time around, being the seasoned mother that I am, I just didn’t. I did not plan every detail. I did not even send invitations. And we spent very little money. And guess what?  Dexter’s first birthday party was fun and adorable and not even remotely perfect as well. And it was a lot less stressful!

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This year, I used a Facebook event to announce Dexter’s birthday celebration. I do not think I will do it again though as it was much easier to miss people that we wanted to invite, but it was simple and got the job (mostly) done.

We had the party at a park in Mt. Juliet.  It is a great park. There are several playgrounds and a splash pad. We rented a pavilion for the entire day for a very reasonable fee. It gave us plenty of time to decorate, have a leisurely lunch and clean up without having to worry about anyone else needing the space.

Auntie Kayleigh brought her cousins up for the party. They arrived a little early and were total lifesavers! Liam had come with me to set up the pavilion and was feeling less than cooperative. This coupled with a mishap or two had kept me from getting much done. When they arrived, they did the majority of the decorating and had they not been there, nothing would have gotten done!

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I kept the decorations pretty simple: a few handmade signs, some free printables I found online, balloons, fresh flowers and paper fans.  We covered the tables with yellow plastic and include a white butcher paper runner with buckets of crayons so everyone would have a chance to be creative.

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…or, you know, eat them.

I have always found outdoor parties nerve-racking because of the threat of bad weather and it looked like it was going to be pretty nasty. In the end though, we enjoyed a cool, overcast day and it turned out to be perfect for spending so much time outdoors.

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You know I tend to be pretty dedicated to the theme, so for lunch we served pizza (because it is round like the sun… or maybe because it is easy), a veggie tray that included mini sweet peppers, carrots and tomatoes, with homemade ranch dip, as well as clementines, bananas, and peaches. (Full disclosure: the fruit was supposed to be made into adorable sunshine “ray” kabobs…but it just never happened.) We also had homemade lemonade, Sunkist, Sundrop and water.

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We had some friends coming to the party that live with severe food allergies. We wanted them to be safe and included so I was careful to avoid any food they were allergic to on the menu (or for the mild allergies, such as dairy, simply provide an alternative they could enjoy).   This wasn’t terribly difficult.  I ordered a couple of vegan pizzas, and stuck to fresh fruit and veggies and that was really all it took.  I was, however, slightly intimidated when it came time to make Dexter’s birthday cupcakes without any dairy or egg products.

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I ended up making vegan chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with coconut oil and they were AMAZING. They did not hold up terribly well and I probably should have had some forks on hand.. but the taste more than made up for any texture issues. They were by far the best cupcakes I have ever made.  In the end, I was glad I chose to make the effort to make our menu allergy-friendly.  I learned a lot and have a wonderful new cupcake recipe as well.

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All the kids seemed to have fun.  We had bubbles and chalk on hand at the pavilion and there was, of course, the playground and splash pad to enjoy as well.

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Everyone ate and played and then we all came back to sing Happy Birthday to Dexy-K and enjoy some cake with him. He responded adorably.

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Liam turned up his nose at the smash cake I made him so this year a friend made Dexter’s. She did a phenomenal job.  As you can see, I have gotten a little less “virtuous” about what enters Second Baby’s body and his cake included food coloring and plenty of sugar.  He thoroughly enjoyed it!

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As everyone gathered up to head home, we let Dex open his presents.  His favorite part was the birthday cards.

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A few of my very favorite parts:

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My friend Jodi with Tutu Kute made Dex this adorable birthday shirt.  I love it so much. It is a little big on him, which I am thrilled about, because this means I can dress him in it for a few more months and continue to enjoy it!  She is incredibly talented and if you are even in the market for a shirt for a special event, please consider checking out her etsy shop!

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Chelsea made Dexter’s smash cake and I have to say it is probably my favorite thing in the whole world. It hurt a little bit to watch Dex destroy it.  It will live on in my memory. If you live in the Nashville area and are looking for someone to make a tasty and beautiful cake for your special event, let me know and I will give you her contact information!

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Riley, Kayleigh’s cousin, decorated Dexter’s high chair. I had not really had a plan for the high chair but when she was finished it was one of my very favorite things at the whole party. The sun balloon makes me smile and it was the perfect finishing touch. Unfortunately, Riley lives in Chattanooga and is not for hire. ;)

My Other Half

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So many people made the long drive up to Nashville to celebrate Dexter’s day with us. It would have been so easy of them to say the drive was too long or their weekend was too busy and we would have completely understood… but they didn’t. They woke up early and packed up their cars and took the time to come celebrate with us. Also, our new friends in Nashville braved the gloomy weather to join us as well … and that was definitely my most favorite part of all.

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It was a very nice day spent enjoying our friends and family and, of course, Mr. Dexter Keats.  Thank you to everyone who joined us!

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July Fourth Shenanigans

Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own. 
Seneca

It was Dexter’s first Independence Day! (And my 28th, of course.) We had a great time.

Parade CollageWe started off the morning with a trip to Pegram to watch the parade. It was a fun, small town parade, and we enjoyed it a lot.

After that, we had some visitors! Our friends came to celebrate with us and it was so much fun.

July 018editWe had a yummy cookout at home- Ryan made some awesome hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill-  and then we headed to Franklin to enjoy some festivities.

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July 053We had so many July 4th events to choose from but we decided on Franklin because it seemed like they would have plenty to do without being too crowded and we were right. It was perfect.  We listened to some good music, browsed some booths and the kids had lots of fun on the inflatables.

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July 047When we started to get hungry, we headed over to the farm where the fireworks were going to be and set up our picnic. It was beautiful! Everyone had plenty of space to spread out, the kids played soccer and Frisbee, and we took a walk around the lake and caught fireflies while we waited for the show.

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July 061My camera died just as the sun set, but we did snap a few pictures of the fireworks with our phone.  It was a great show. It lasted a long time and was set up far enough away that they were not too loud. Dexter loved them! He was pointing and yelling and giggling like crazy.

Fireworks CollageAll the kids were asleep before we made it out of the parking lot. It was such a fun day. I loved having our friends here to celebrate with us.

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Days and Days

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“We just want to rule a few things out…”
This is what Liam’s GI said as he ushered us out after another follow-up and no weight gained, explaining we would be getting a call about some more testing they wanted to do. No big deal, he said. It won’t hurt a bit, he said.

Liam’s prematurity has come back to say hello in a big way this year. I feel that I have spent more time filling out paperwork, explaining his symptoms and sitting in medical waiting rooms this year than every other year of his life combined.

“We are so lucky,” I often tell people, “He is SO healthy.” And it is true. He is so very healthy for a little boy who has been through so much… but, in spite of how healthy he is, we find ourselves awaiting surgery for teeth that did not form properly, attending monthly follow-ups over poor weight gain and digestive issues, asking for another referral to another therapist that can help him with his sensitivities that have once again spiraled out of control.  And having to hold him down over and over and over again while he screams in terror as they stick needles in his arm and test him yet again… for yet another possible cause of the skin-stretched-over-bone look about him.

His kidneys are perfect. His liver and thyroid are perfect. He does not have food allergies. He does not have thyroid problems. He does not have metabolic disorders. Each check off the list represented by vials of blood strewn across a table and crocodile tears on the face of my sweet boy. “Do they have to take blood?” he asks me, shrinking, any time we enter a medical building.

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But this time, there would be no blood. An easy test, the doctor said, they are just collecting sweat.  No big deal.

We got there on time. A miracle.  The children’s hospital is so colorful. There are playrooms on every floor, a huge train set at the bottom of the stairs. It was all so exciting that Liam ran ahead of me, thrilled, completely oblivious to the babies being rolled by in wagons, hooked to IVs, the little boys with their mouths covered by masks, dark circles under their eyes and not a hair on their heads.  He noticed the wheelchairs though. “MAMA!” he yelled, “That guy is in a wheelchair! I wish I had one too. And look at his cool shoes. He is SO COOL. I want to be just like him! Can I have a wheelchair?” he yelled, standing two feet from the child in question. I smiled at him, said I thought the boy was pretty cool too.

All Liam could see was the bright colors and nifty gadgets. He wanted to be a part of this world. And I kept thinking to myself as we made our way to the 10th floor, “God, thank you that I am not a part of this world. Please let me never have to be a part of this world.” 

We made it to the clinic and checked in, settled down in the waiting room with our toys and snacks. (I am getting quite talented at this particular waiting game.) Our name was finally called and I congratulated myself on making it through the hard part in one piece. We walked past a sign declaring what the clinic treated: asthma, cystic fibrosis and lung disorders.

I was not alarmed. Liam was diagnosed with asthma last week. I was not sure what that had to do with his failure to grow but I have grown accustomed to the obscure connections different systems have with each other and it made sense that his GI would want to do some additional testing following his new diagnosis.

The nurse was sweet. She put a movie on for Liam, explained the procedure thoroughly. He was anxious and asked to sit in my lap. He doesn’t trust doctors anymore. I held him and she connected the machine. He laughed when she turned it on, later said he felt so silly for being scared. Five minutes later, the first part of the test was done. We would just have to wait 30 minutes now, while some gauze collected sweat from his arms. We could walk around the hospital while we waited and Liam was thrilled. This was going to be an easy one.

As we walked out, I asked as an afterthought, “What all does this test for anyway?”

Cystic Fibrosis, she said.
My heart dropped.

For all the tests Liam had had done, all the times I have explained that the doctors are trying to help him and held him when he cried and promised ice cream and stickers… this is the very first time they were testing him for something that could not be cured with the right diet or a new medication. This is the first time he was being tested for something he would have to live with for the rest of his life, a life that could very well be much shorter than I ever imagined. This was the first time we were not simply brushing elbows with the world of special needs… but auditioning to be a part of it.

“God, please never let me be a part of this world.” I had just prayed an hour earlier- an abstract sort of prayer thrown at the ceiling.

All I knew of Cystic Fibrosis was gleaned from a documentary I watched when Liam was a tiny bean, sleeping all day in my arms and leaving hours of unoccupied time I filled with morbid documentaries and Law and Order: SVU. The subject of the documentary  died when he was 11 years old.

Most of me knew that this was absurd. Liam barely fits the criteria to even be tested. He isn’t growing well and he has had a couple of asthma attacks. Nothing else fits.

But there is always that sneaky voice in the back of your head:

You have been complaining about how often he is getting sick lately…

All those unexplained fevers….

He takes forever to kick colds, coughs for weeks…

They have not figured out why he can’t gain weight….

I hate that stupid voice.

I talked to a friend, my husband, my mama. I wanted them to tell me this was ridiculous and they did. They told me to put it out of my mind and I did my best to listen.  Liam and Ryan went out for a papa/son date that night and Dexter and I spent the evening cuddling and reading and splashing in the tub. It is ridiculous… I told myself any time the doubts crept in.

The next morning, the doctor called. The test came back normal.

It wasn’t even a full day.
And it was terrifying.

I was relieved and happy. But almost instantly… I wondered, as I think many of us do: what if the answer had been different? What would I have done? Could I handle that?

I think, of course, the answer is yes.  Yes, I could handle it. What exactly is the alternative? …to fall apart? …to walk away and never look back?

No. When your child’s life takes a detour you never expected, as a parent, there is really only one choice. You walk through it with them. In the ways that you can, you walk through it for them.

You hold their tiny hands. You smile when you want to cry.
You read books and join support groups and ask lots and lots of questions.
You set up computers next to tiny ICU beds, learn the quickest route to the hospital. You wear masks and scrub underneath your fingernails.  You fumble while changing tiny diapers through the holes of an isolette. You tuck appointment cards into your wallet. You spend hours on the phone with insurance companies.

And so very much more that I do not know and cannot understand because I have only brushed elbows with this world and thankfully failed this audition.

So, yes, I could have handled it…but would I have been my best self? And would a terminal diagnosis change the way I parent my child? Or perhaps a more realistic question is exactly HOW would a terminal diagnosis change the way I parent my child?And if I would most definitely change… why? What am I doing now that I would do differently if I knew that my child’s time on this earth was limited- that his life was no longer guaranteed?

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Because really…is that not the truth anyway?

I was not even promised a day with this child; not even one single day. I have had a brand-new heart beating inside of me suddenly stop. I was only given a few weeks with that tiny one; a handful of moments, painful and joy-filled.  And I have looked at the face of this child, this very child that I held in my lap as they tested for this disease, while he was being kept alive by machines and medication…not knowing if I would ever see the face again.  The young are the most vulnerable of any species, and as mothers, we are faced with this vulnerability, always. These are my experiences with it.

But then I did see this face again… and again and again and again. And somewhere along the way, you forget. You forget that you are not promised a single day with your child because there seem to be so very many days… and some  of them are so ugly.

You forget to be your best self. Or you just don’t want to anymore.  You are tired of being grateful. Tired of looking on the bright side. You just want things to be easy. You just want things to be normal… and you are sick to death of feeling bullied into be grateful for these ugly days simply because they could have been so much uglier.

“We are so lucky…” I say, “he is SO healthy.” But sometimes what I want to say is that IT IS NOT FAIR. It is not fair that I will never, ever know who my child could have been if he had not been born early… and living with him is hard. No, it is not as hard as it could have been, but it is as hard as anything I have EVER done. And there are days that I do not even like him! And this life, created by an unexpected pregnancy and a premature baby, brings out a side of myself and of Ryan that I do not like either! And there are days when I just don’t know how to do it anymore and I want to run away. And all of those ugly feelings,  of course, add a nice, healthy dose of pure guilt on top of everything else.

 

So, you know what? I think the answer is no.
I do not think I would be my best self. I am not sure that anyone is… at first.

But I think I would have learned.  Because I am- I am learning. I was not even promised a day with this boy- not even a single day… and I have been given so very many. Ugly days and beautiful days. Hard days and days full of joy. Sick days on the couch with buckets and towels. Lazy days on the couch with popcorn and movies.  Days at the beach and exploring new cities. Sunny Days. Rainy days. Four perfect birth days. Days that we screamed at each other, days that we laughed so hard we cried, days that we just cried.

May 002

May 019

May 053

May 097

June 098

June 017

Nutella 015

May 010

April 053

April 006
Days that we waited for test results to come back.
Days when they came back negative.

I am not promised even one more day with this boy. So, today? This last day? We are going swimming and then to get pizza. It is going to be fun and it is going to be hard. And I am going to be grateful for this beautiful, ugly day…

June 073Because… I am learning.

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Filed under Liam, motherhood, prematurity, something to think about

Eleven

It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money.
Elinor Goulding Smith

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This kid, ya’ll.

The thing is, if you have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dexter Keats… you, my friend, are missing out.  I have literally no idea how such an absolutely HUGE personality could possibly be packed into such a tiny body. But it is. Oh, how it is.

To give you a little glimpse of life with Dexy-K, I will share with you some of the most commonly used phrases around our house these days:

- You are a stinker
- Dexter Keats, NO SIR
- What a cheeky little monkey you are!
– No biting

- No pulling hair
- No playing with light sockets
- What are you eating?
- Where did you get that?
- How did you get up there?
- I can’t hear you, Dexter is screaming…again.
- Has anyone seen Dexter?

Almost all of these phrases are immediately followed up by the sassiest little laugh from our tiny trouble-maker.

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This kid will crawl up to you and bite your big toe when you are not looking. His favorite past-time is blowing raspberries on Mama’s belly…which she hates. He is a human garbage disposal and will steal the food right off your plate. He finds the look of total fear on a person’s face as he climbs on top of various things precariously wildly amusing and he loves to be tossed in the air and flipped upside down. Basically, anything that makes other people nervous… is his bliss. He will stare at you with his baby blues so intently you get lost in them and then he will swipe his nails across your face like a feral cat and giggle like a maniac. His favorite contest is the “I can scream louder than you” contest… and he always wins. He gives absolutely the dirtiest dirty looks. He eats dirt regularly, also bugs. He bangs his head into things repeatedly and laughs. He bangs his fists on the table and laughs. Toys are meant for two things: tasting or banging into other toys, perhaps walls. If he doesn’t like something, he will curl up his tiny fists and scream at the top of his lungs, pausing intermittently to make sure you heard him.  He thinks the word, “no” is very best part of any game. He also thinks his brother has let us get soft and he is bound and determined to keep us on our toes.

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He also gives the best hugs.  I never even knew a baby could actually hug…but Dexter does. He wraps his little arms around your neck and squeezes.  When he waves, his entire little body will shake as he pumps his hand up and down with all the energy he can muster. If he wants you, he will lunge at you full-force and trust that you will catch him….even if you never do because he is usually doing this while sitting on his knees on the floor. Even with a face full of carpet, he still trusts you. He claps a hundred times a day because there is always something to clap about. He is almost always happy. He flirts nonstop. He finds everything in life to be spectacularly funny and as he laughs he locks eyes with you to make sure you are enjoying it as much as he is.  His curiosity is endless. His giggles are contagious. He lives to entertain.

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Over the last 11 months, Ryan and I have found ourselves saying repeatedly, “I am so glad we decided to have him.” And it is true. This year has been a challenging one for our little family but Dexter has kept us laughing through it all.

I find myself staring at him a lot lately. I cannot believe his first year is almost over. It has gone so ridiculously fast and I think I am hoping to savor these last few drops. Everything about him makes me smile. I love the way his hair sticks up in little half curls on the back of his head and the way his ears still fold over on top. I love his big, round eyes and his curly lips and those dimples that melt me every stinkin’ day. I love his meat club hands and his pudgy butt and his callused knees and the adorable little fat pads on top of each of his little round toes.

I have no idea what sort of person Dexter will become but, right now, he is pure joy. Because I am a freak, I started planning Dexter’s first birthday party when I was pregnant and I chose a sunshine theme because I was so excited to have a summer baby. I had no idea how accurately it would describe this boy of mine.

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He is my Sunshine Boy.

This next year is going to bring a lot of changes for Mr. Dexter. Walking and talking… among other things. But I still have one month left of this precious first year with my littlest little.

I plan to enjoy it.

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Filed under Dexter