Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday season has been filled with as much love and fun as ours has.
 We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day at home but prior to that we made a flying trip to see my husband's family. It was good to spend some time with them and watch all the cousins playing. It's amazing how large the family is (we definitely contribute to that) and how much each child changes as they grow a bit more between the previous visit. Riley stayed hyped up on sugar most of the time and Payton was obsessed with using her cousin's camera to take pictures. Jayden was extra attached to his mommy and shy with his extended family. Mom and dad came home exhausted.
Payton really wanted to make gifts this year as she has in the past. She loves the Little House on the Prairie books and I think that plays a huge role in her wanting to create things for others. I just love her giving heart so much.
 So, Payton and Riley went out to the shop with their daddy and crafted away. This was the better part of a weekend. When they aren't crafting, we are playing hard.
We made one more trip to see Santa and do some fun activities making puzzles, snowman bags, and gingerbread houses. The kids also took another opportunity to send a letter to Santa. 
We try really hard to make time for each child 1 on 1. I snuck away with Riley earlier this week to grab groceries. He then convinced me to go to the park. We had a blast and ended up surprising him with his daddy, brother and sister meeting us there!
We had a great time as a family playing the afternoon away. We came home to what we thought would be a burned pork roast. It was all edible so we called it a success!

That night we also crashed hard and Monte took a picture of Riley and I asleep together. This is rare any more as Riley is generally pretty insistent that Daddy lay with him. Some days though he still asks for me.
It is sad how quickly time goes and kids start to decide when they want you. It breaks my heart when I'm not chosen but my heart definitely sings when I am picked.

We have been busy making and handing out salt dough ornaments with our family Christmas cards and baking, baking, baking. We love to bake and (more importantly) to eat.
Here is a picture of the big kids making cookies for Santa.

On Christmas Eve we drove around looking at lights as a family and opened our gifts to each other. I was so surprised and honored to receive the gifts the kids made for me with their daddy:
They are some of the most creative people I know!

The kids went to bed early and fell right to sleep, despite thinking they could stay up all night. Santa arrived but put their presents in our basement play room. Sneaky Santa.
The kids spent the day playing with their gifts. We had some friends stop by in the afternoon to bring us a dessert and they ended up staying for dinner. It was a great Christmas for us and we feel so blessed.

Today, we splashed in the puddles after getting a cold rain. I wanted to get outside before the snow. Now, we are snug in our home, cuddling and waiting to be snowed in.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Reminiscing on the NICU last year

1 year ago we were walking our hardest journey in our life. I was reminded of this journey with a Facebook memory shown to me.
Our NICU stay was challenging and we were so blessed to bring our baby home with us. But that isn’t everyone’s story. I feel like I stayed fairly silent on my NICU story and may always choose this route. It isn't really my story to tell anyways but really only a small handful of us will ever be able to remember the walk that was taken. It was a journey of 1,000 steps. Full of setbacks, milestones, hard moments, and happy tears. We prayed and prayed and prayed. And when we felt the weakest, we prayed some more.

It was so incredibly hard to see Jayden with so many cords and monitors. Yet alone that he had to have surgery within the first few days of life. So much of my basic knowledge to care for a baby was completely removed from me. I had to rely on medical teams to help me understand how to best care for my own baby.

I will always be humbled by the outpouring of love and support we received during this time from all walks of life. Family, friends, strangers, and medical staff reached out to us. On the day Jayden failed his esophagram, our surgeon came personally to talk to us. Our doctor on staff for that week embraced me and let me break down. Nurses that we had bonded with filtered in to offer their support. It’s amazing the bonds you can create with people in the shortest period of time. Friends sat with us for cafeteria meals, played with my children at the rainbow house, and offered their houses for the holidays. My in-laws cared for my children and provided a Christmas so my children wouldn’t miss out. My parents took our dogs during this time. FYI- my 2 oldest children look back on this time fondly and think of it as the greatest Christmas.

I watched my 2 big kids become even bigger over night. They learned to see me less and even to fall asleep without me. They played away their days with their dad or grandma or their cousins. That was hard. Really hard. Mostly for me. They handled it all like a champ. 
Looking back, I was so strong during this time. But, I know that going through it, I feel so weak and unprepared. I was just going through the motions and surviving. I took everything one day at a time. Each morning, we prayed together as a family. I also frequently asked God to hold my hand and give me strength. 

I'm so thankful to have brought our baby home and survived our first year. I'm thankful for the path God gave me and I know my hardship brought so much more to who I am and what I have to offer this place. For that, sweet baby boy Jayden, I am eternally grateful you chose me. God knew I was prepared and strong enough for you. I just had to show the fight I had in me. For you, I would do it 100 times over again. Love, Mom

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Comparing Smash Cakes Between the Kids

I wanted to do a quick little something just to compare each of our kids on their 1st birthday. I wholeheartedly accept that each child is different and each child has had a bit of a different first birthday. BUT, but, I do like to take pictures of them eating their first cake. Okay, I like to consistently do some things the same. Like put both boys in the same shirt and khaki bottoms for their first birthday.

Our first was ever so cautious and ended up needing someone (ahem, daddy) to help you actually eat cake. She likes to stay clean you know. Our second was especially hesitant but after a few minutes dipped a few fingers in. he stayed semi clean until the end. Our third one, well there is just no stopping him. He dove right on in and never looked back. And loved every second of his day.

Had I looked at the siblings past birthdays originally, I definitely would have made sure to get a picture of Jayden looking down at his cake. But, what can I say, he just may have a different personality. Yes, they may all look like siblings but they are each so unique.

Flash forward to the party that happened a few days ago, and you can definitely see how unique these children are.
My life shows repeated "trends" in our house frequently. For instance, I have a picture of each of my children in a hooded towel after bath at around the same age in my bathroom.

I also have a newborn picture of each child in my room.

I love to compare first birthday pictures. I love to compare the boys in my favorite outfits from each size. You see the trend.

Each baby has so much to offer the world and each child has been similar and different in many ways to their siblings. I am so excited to see what the next 5 years holds for us and how these picture comparisons change in time.

To my babies, thank you. Thank you for just being you and calling me mama.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Our Baby is 1!

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet baby! He has taught us so much this year but the most important lesson has been to be kinder to others and their life stories. Also, to embrace life and the path God is carving out for you.

It's been a year full of so many emotions and stories and love and laughter. So much of everything all balled up into one little child. We are so thankful for you, Jayden. We are so blessed to have you.

We were unprepared to spend a few weeks in the NICU at your birth. More unprepared for immediate surgery. Your story is ever inspiring for us. This experience taught me so much about my love for you, my strength, and my faith. Our family pulled together to be with you every step of the way, but so much of your journey is just going to be your journey. There was a lesson in there all on it's own. I would have given anything to take your place but I could not do that. The brain may easily understand that but the heart can have a hard time accepting that.

We survived the NICU and came home certain that you are possibly the strongest of us all. You continue to show us that every day. In your first year, you battled RSV and Croup and you took it all on like a champ. You are the 3rd baby but seem determined to exert yourself as one of the bosses in our household.

Today, you are busy and always on the move. You will pull yourself on anything. You want to walk but your balance isn't quite there yet. You have 5 teeth with another about to cut. You are a great napper but night time has been really rough for you, courtesy of teething and growth spurts.
Your siblings and parents are your world. You show joy in seeing each of us by hollering, kicking, and clapping your hands. You strongly dislike parting ways with us. We only love you more for your attachment to each of us.
Your smile is contagious and one of your favorite things to do. You laugh often and cheer us on in life.
Our constant observer. You are smart and pick up on things quickly, like taking the lid off of a container, and how to turn on toy, and where the shiniest ornament is on the Christmas tree. You are fast as well. We can't turn our backs on you for a second before you are out of the room, exploring something new.

Your birthday actually started about a week early as we had followup appointments for you in the same town you were in the NICU at. We made a vacation out of this. We stayed in a nice hotel, took our kids swimming, caught up with Santa, surprised them with the zoo.
We also took activity bags to donate to the hospital we stayed at. These will hopefully help children pass the time as they wait at appointments, travel, and/or while hanging out in their rooms. We packed the bags with plenty of paper, construction paper, coloring books, and crayons.
I am always amazed at how well our children do with donating items to others. May their hearts always be so giving.

While on our mini-vacation we also threw Jayden a party! Several of our college friends and one of my husband's sisters lives in this area so it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with everyone. We had the best night!
Today, for Jayden's actual birthday, we made the celebration last all day long. Happy Birthday was sung at random throughout the entire day. We had some cake, opened some gifts, and enjoyed our baby immensely. Jayden seemed to know how special this day was as he was extra loving and gave everyone kisses as he cheered on everyone singing to him on repeat.
After returning from our trip, we spent the weekend with my mom. She always makes the time with us extra special and we were so sad to send her back home at the weekends end. 

Payton says it best when she says, "I can't even remember what it was like before Jayders," and Riley added, "playing with Jayden is the best." Both statements are true. We love you so much little one!

Happy Birthday my love! Thank you for choosing us!

May you always laugh and never lose the shine you have on life!

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