30 May 2013

Abigail and House Updates

Sometimes when I read other people's blogs and they discuss a particular topic that is really difficult for them or a habit they are working on, I often wonder weeks later how that event turned out. So today I'm going to run through a few updates on ongoing topics of my own. If you're curious about a topic I didn't cover, leave a comment and I'll add an "update" section to the end of this blog post.

Abigail's Vomiting
I think it was some combination of stomach bug plus the return of the reflux, but after about 2.5 weeks of nearly non-stop projectile vomiting, she's back to normal. Still some small bouts, but reflux never really goes away. Her therapists have noticed an increase in activity level, attitude, and attention span, so I think we're probably out of the woods. The excessive laundry it required to make it through put us overbudget in the May quarters department, though.

Abigail Walking
After taking a few random steps in late April, Abigail finally took her second set of steps last week. We can get her to take 3-4 steps (4-5 if the last 1-2 half-falling-into-the-table steps count). She can stand up without pulling on anything and squat down and return to standing without falling. I tried unsuccessfully to take a few videos of her walking, but will try again this weekend. She finally got approved for some orthotics and a SPIO vest, which should dramatically improve her ability to stand and walk.

The House
We still don't know anything about the house. We keep getting bits of good news, but the problem is that we weren't expecting to need to worry about whatever thing we just found out we got through. I told our parents that it's like we're running a race, but we don't know how long it is. At various points along the track, someone shouts, "Congratulations, you make it to mile 13!" But we don't know how long we're going to be running, so we don't know how excited to be about mile 13. At the beginning of April, they told us they'd have a decision in 30 days. About 50 days later, we found out the negotiator approved our offer! Except, his job was just to approve it for the next higher up negotiator to review. How many levels of negotiators are there? Exactly.

We have to be outta this apartment by July 31st. Matt's new job starts August 12th. We've decided that we need an address by July 1st. We've done a lot of moving without knowing where we're going and it's way too stressful to do again. I want an address secured so that by July 1st, I can just stay in Chicago and worry about packing.

We're fast approaching the point that even if we do get the house, we won't be able to accept it. We'll need to do an appraisal, inspection, and finalize mortgage paperwork with our bank, all from out-of-state. Tick tock. Matt and I will be making another trip to Michigan in late June to do some apartment hunting, just in case.

Except we're wondering if we should pull our offer and just plan to live in an apartment. To put it vaguely, Abigail really racks up the medical bills and the day I lost the baby, we found out I was denied for medical coverage for that pregnancy, so we regularly make other large financial commitments. Matt and I are wondering if we would reach our financial goals faster if we take the predictable route of an apartment (no maintenance or repair costs), even if rent would be more than a mortgage payment. We haven't made any final decisions yet, but the more I pray about it, the more I lean toward renting for a few more years.

Speaking of the Miscarriage
I'd say I'm healed emotionally now. The most difficult part is seeing other pregnant women when I'm out and about and knowing that should have been me, but even that pain is lessening. We did decide to name the baby in the end, but we're not ready to share the name yet. I did buy this necklace (with the white pearl for April) from Etsy, which helps significantly. I have nothing except the necklace and the hospital bracelets here on earth to prove that my child existed. Having something tangible is really nice. Maybe I will get that tattoo after all to have another permanent reminder. Anyway, the necklace is very cheap and you can tell when you hold it that it isn't anything fancy, but it doesn't turn my neck green and that's what fits in the budget right now.

Photos I've been meaning to post, but haven't been able to fit into other blog posts.

Loud thunder freaks hearing kitty out. Deaf kitty? Not so much.

Abigail snatched the camera away and took this shot of her feet:

She's a really big fan of the dress up jewelry she got for her birthday.

I guess I got one of those girly types : )

28 May 2013

Girl Love

This past long weekend was one of those super-fun-jam-packed, feels-like-it-was-way-longer types. The kind of weekend where you keep saying "yes" because you know the precious time you get with these wonderful people is too short to go to bed on time or wash the dishes. When two of my sister-in-laws came to visit, we did things Breakfast at Tiffany's style and each tried new things we'd never done.  I rode the ferris wheel on Navy Pier, drank a cosmo, and got my cartilage pierced. We decided to postpone getting tattoos until our next girls' trip.

But my favorite part of the trip were the heart-to-hearts. Maybe because my love language is quality time or maybe because I haven't really hung out with these girls in forever, but as we breezed along the busy sidewalks and crowded into one fitting room with arms full of clothes, we caught up. We talked about the miscarriage, kid issues, husband issues, money issues, work issues, spiritual issues. We talked about our dreams and our goals and our fears. And in between "OMG, your butt looks amazing in those jeans" and "if you don't buy that dress, I'm going to buy it for you," we promised to raise one another's children like our own.

It wasn't the type of vacation that ended with everyone going home feeling rested, but the type that left everyone feeling loved, connected, and with a sense of security.

Sitting around a mirror doing make-up together, storing one another's purchases in our purses, and cracking that one inside joke from way back when is very unfamiliar to me. I had a pretty isolated childhood and things like girls' shopping trips and sleepovers were few and far between. Like I've said before, I've owned cars longer than I've had any friend other than Matt or lived at any one address. So when someone wants to hang out with me or borrow my scarf, I feel pretty flattered. When they push past my shyness and social awkwardness and want to hear about my personal struggles and they listen with compassion, well, I melt.

Abigail, despite her shyness, was thrilled to have so many girls to hang out with. And her aunts were thrilled to connect with their long-lost niece. While we did reserve a day for just us adult girls, we spent lots of time with all five of us as well.

To Chicago, to girls' trips, to best friends. To holding each other's hands when we get our ears pierced, being honest about the color of that t-shirt, and going for runs on 5 hours of sleep.

I love this city, but "See you in two months" is a lot easier to say than "Goodbye."

24 May 2013

Five Minute Friday

Two of my sister-in-laws are currently on the road, headed to my apartment at this very moment. I'm very thankful to have married into an awesome family, so that previous sentence pretty much reads "two of my best friends are currently on the road." They are scheduled to arrive in a few hours and I just got back from a quick run, so I've got a bit of freshening up to do (both me and the apartment), so it's gonna be a quickie today, folks. It should be a fun long weekend and I'm definitely looking forward to a girls' day tomorrow.

I'm actually going to test out a link-up, something I don't normally do. It's called 5 Minute Friday. I get 5 minutes to write about one topic steam-of-consciousness style. IE, no editing, over-thinking, or backtracking.

Five Minute Friday

Today's topic? View.


As my long-time readers know, I move a lot. This means I've had a lot of different views outside my apartment window. When my husband and I were first married, we moved into a wonderful little apartment with a lake view in a rundown suburb of Ann Arbor called Ypsilanti. We had a screened-in porch (highly unusual in Michigan) and we practically lived on it. The view was mostly parking lot, but if you craned your neck, you could see a hint of man-made Ford Lake. The view was taken in by exited newlyweds with their first "real place."

Our next stop was Naples, Florida where our apartment overlooked an unnaturally turquoise pond that occasionally housed an otter. It also had a screen porch, so common in Florida that nearly everyone had one. It was with that view that I found out I was pregnant with Abigail, and it was that porch that I sat on to make the weekly bad-news phone calls.

We spent the summer in Michigan (Matt had an internship), but we returned in the fall to Naples, where we had another screen porch, this one overlooking a forested area. It was gorgeous and it was on the porch and Abigail and I spent a lot of time growing, healing, and learning to love Naples.

We spent the summer in Michigan again (with Matt studying for the bar), but we moved to Chicago in the fall. Now I have a city view. Vintage buildings and historic trees. Crowded streets and street sweepers. Congestion and firetrucks. Excitement.

Next fall we'll be moving back to Michigan and possibly buying a house. As much as I complain about moving, the truth is, I'm scared that once we stop moving and my view stops changing, I'm going to be bored.


Okay, technically that was 6.5 minutes (not counting the time it took to insert photos). I didn't edit (not that hard), backtrack (pretty hard), or over-think (super hard).

Now back to that whole "I should probably dust since I have people coming over" thing. Have a wonderful holiday weekend, my friends. Celebrate it by getting out, at least once this weekend, either to barbecue with friends, take a hike, or hell, just sit in the sun in your front yard and read a good book.

22 May 2013

The Human Body

If you were listing to a speech while having a scan done of your brain, a certain part would "light up." A different part would light up if you saw a picture of a sunset or were eating a slice of chocolate cake or making a to-do list. I was sitting a psychology class in college when my professor broached a case that has always stuck with me: when children who communicated primarily with sign language saw people signing, the part of the brain that processes "speech" lit up on a scan.

Even though they were seeing the signs with their eyes and responding with their hands, the part of your and my brain that would light up if we were having a verbal conversation was lighting up in these signing kids.

The brain is amazing - so smart and so versatile that when one avenue is shut off, it detours and re-routes and figures out how to get its body driving again. Whether it's abuse or an accident or a birth defect, the human brain is designed to get you up and running again after trauma. Sometimes it's in an unhealthy way, like a defense mechanism, but sometimes it's awe-inspiring, like the brain of a deaf individual transferring visual signing to the language part of the brain.

I love science. Whenever I study anything ending in "-ology," I'm always so in awe of how key every little piece of the puzzle is and how flawlessly they work together. It's like when you're reading a really good book - a book in which the language is so beautiful, the plot so insightful, the characters so well formed that you know you're going to have to read it a few more times to get everything out of it. This world and everything in it is so incredible that no matter how much I study it, I feel like I'm never going to fully comprehend the details of that tiny little seed becoming that incredible redwood forest.

The more I study science and the human body, the more I believe in God. With each issue of National Geographic I read, each psychology documentary I watch, and each respected professor I hear lecture, I feel like I am getting a small peak at the brilliance of God. The flawless way He made everything and makes them come together.

Down syndrome means that Abigail isn't going to progress on her own and I need to help at every little step. Each milestone is broken down into a dozen little baby steps that we have to tackle one-at-a-time. Just like when you learned math. First, you learn about numbers. You learn what order they go in, what they represent, and how to write them. Once you've got that step down, you learn to combine them. You add or subtract them, using counting bears or hearing stories about Cindy giving Ken one of her apples and figuring out who has how many apples now. At this point, you probably think you know all there is to know about math, then along comes Mrs. 3rd-Grade-Math-Teacher who throws multiplication and division at you. It's a rare kid who hasn't had a good cry over long division homework.

Each step takes so much work, so much practice. But it is so beautiful. The curve of Abigail's little calves when she's squatting down, her tiny toes holding a death grip on the rug, trying desperately not to lose her balance. Her teeny little biceps when she pulls herself up, the angle of her little diapered tush when she's trying to stand up without holding on to anything.

It's amazing. I get to see how the human body learns to walk in extreme detail. Sometimes I really have to work to hold myself back from complimenting random strangers on their child's ability to lean outside their center of gravity while standing on an uneven surface or how powerful their child's quads are when they squat down to pick up a small object. It's so beautiful to me to see such a tiny little body trying and succeeding at such a difficult task.

It is not always easy. Sometimes it is so painful that the tears blur out my sight of the beauty.

But I pray almost every day that I will never need a tragedy to make me realize what I have and how amazing it is.

We all have struggles that make us more aware of how simple some things are for other people. I am very aware of how easy it is for me to use my core to keep from falling or how easy it is for me to make a pencil do what I want. I am very aware of how beautiful the human body is when it's working perfectly. But in many ways it's more beautiful to watch it achieve its goals when the deck is stacked against it.

20 May 2013

The Flashback Birthday

"Two years ago today," I kept saying throughout the day, then I'd recount what I was doing at that moment. 9:15am: "We were sitting on the hospital bed excitedly trying to finalize a boy name, just in case." 11:32am: "I was sipping chicken broth, wishing for a burger." 2:45pm: "Contractions were really getting painful, I was contemplating an epidural." 4:45pm: "I was begging for an epidural." 5:33pm: "I was being rushed into the OR." 5:43pm: "She was born."

I know for a lot of women, going back to that day can be really difficult. It was the day my life was shattered, but also the day it started and the joy and excitement of a celebration makes me forget the bad. (If it doesn't for you, if the pain of that day comes back to haunt you every birthday, it is okay. It doesn't mean you don't love your child.)

Preparations for Abigail's birthday began late Friday night, after she'd gone to bed. I broke out the decorations ($7 at Party City gets you a lot of basics) and decked the place out. I even browsed Pintrest for ideas. Turns out perfect streamer twists are more challenging than they seem.

There was no theme for the party, no guests. It was a simple celebration with a strict budget.

When Abigail woke up the next morning, she was pretty excited - scooting around the apartment pointing at the decorations and chattering.

Grandparents and some friends sent along gifts, which we saved until her birthday and created a "present Mecca" for Abigail's perusal. We did our slow-opening present thing (opening one before breakfast, one after breakfast, one before the aquarium, one after, etc, until we do a present-blitz and open the rest around dinner time), giving Abigail lots of time to enjoy each gift and making the small pile feel extra large. We got Abigail a few things, trying to keep the total under $50 (including the decorations). A kid's resale shop and price-checking multiple stores provided us with some good deals. Perhaps the best gift of all was a day of no upsets. After nearly two weeks of non-stop reflux/vomiting, Abigail's digestive system finally started working properly again, just in time for her birthday. (We're going on day three of minimal spit-ups!)

Because experiences make better memories than do presents, we reserved some of the present money for tickets to the Shedd Aquarium. They have an unadvertised price of $8/ticket to see the permanent exhibits, i.e. no shows, stingrays, or jellyfish. But while we were meandering around checking out beluga whales, penguins, seahorses, and the world's oldest living aquatic animal in a public aquarium, a couple came up to us and offered us free tickets to one of the aquarium's shows. They'd purchased the tickets, but had to leave. The show was in less than an hour and we looked like a good family.

We said yes. Sitting in the stands enjoying the gorgeous view, Matt reminded me that we hadn't been there since our honeymoon, almost exactly 5 years ago, when we visited Chicago and the Shedd in the days following our wedding. It felt good to be back, familiar, in our city. The city I've so quickly fallen in love with.

Poor Abigail was falling asleep as the hurried couple handed us the tickets. She slept through most of the show, but awoke to a bunch of applause as four dolphins did synchronized jumps in the air. She woke up smiling as she was pretty sure the applause was for her.

Holding her exhausted, sleeping body in my arms took me back to those first tumultuous months when we were in Ann Arbor having lunch after one of our many trips to the hospital to have tests done.

We headed home for homemade banana cupcakes with strawberry frosting, more presents, and a way-fun trip to the park where we planned to let her scoot around in the grass to her heart's content, but shortly after dinner, Abigail, exhausted from the exciting day, fell asleep at 6:00 and never looked back.

With the house at rest, Matt and I decided to give ourselves the rest of the night. After all, I'm the one who did most of the work on May 18, 2011. I headed out to the store to pick up some nacho-making supplies and rent a movie, walking in the warm night air, just reflecting on the day that changed everything.

14 May 2013

A Pre-Birthday Abigail Post

Sorry I haven't updated my blog in a while. It isn't that I forget, it's that I just haven't really been feeling like myself lately. Down in the dumps a lot and there is no reason to whine online about my moods. I feel kind of stupid saying this, but I how I feel reminds me a lot of the postpartum depression I had after Abigail was born. It scares me a lot to know if that is the answer because I had really hoped a majority of the difficulty I had after Abigail was born was due to the insanely stressful circumstances surrounding her birth and the first three months of her life. I don't know how/if I can handle this every time I have a baby.

Abigail's vomiting got so bad, I started to wonder if she had a stomach bug. It's difficult to say because she had no other symptoms. On Wednesday, she'll be doing so well that I think we're out of the woods only to wake up on Thursday to the return of the projectile. She doesn't have much of an appetite (would you if the last time you ate a granola bar, it came out your nose?) but she's downing fluids, so we have no worries about dehydration.

Yesterday was good. Today is off to a very vomit-y start.

Abigail's second birthday is TOMORROW, so I thought it might be fun to give you some random Chica updates.

For the typically developing child, the "magic" year falls between 1 and 2. The child is finally walking, and you really start to see the personality flourish. New words come too fast to count, they finally have the physical skills to get around and explore the world in a whole new way. That year for a child with Down syndrome falls between 2 and 3, and we're really seeing Abigail take off. She is gaining new words through sign language incredibly quickly, she is showing interest in learning new signs, and she is able to understand far more of what I say that she can express.

Abigail's serious kitty-watching look

She absolutely loves helping. She'll happily fetch toys from across the room to put away, she'll "help" me tie my shoes, and she'll pick things up that have been dropped. If she's playing with my phone when a text message comes through, she'll bring the phone to me, and (I think because Matt plays the banker in board games), if you give her money, she'll give it to Matt. She flips every light switch we pass when I'm carrying her, tries to unlock the door to let people in (again, when I'm carrying her), she brings the cats their toys and (sometimes) will even close a baby gate if we accidentally leave it open. She loves music and if our windows are open and someone drives by blasting the radio, she'll stop and dance. It's pretty adorable.

She's almost walking. She can stand without holding on to anything and she can go from a sitting to a standing position without pulling up on anything. In addition, she can squat down from a standing position, pick something up off the floor, and return to a standing position without falling or holding onto anything for balance. Those transitions are hugely monumental. She can also walk around while pushing a push toy, wheeled chair, or light box. Her right leg and ankle are pretty weak and often give out. She does much better when wearing sturdy shoes. We're in the process of getting orthotics for her, and I fully believe that she'll start walking independently the very week she gets them.

Abigail on Mother's Day.

We went to the dentist for the first time yesterday and I am very happy to report that everything was amazing. Usually I have a very hard time getting quality care in this non-employer-provided-insurance world, but the hygienists were great with Abigail and, to my surprise, the dentist specializes in kids with Down syndrome! I knew teeth and Ds were a crazy combination, but the dentists outlined it further for us: it can mean teeth that are too big, too small, too close together, too spaced out, too many, or missing. It also means that teeth come in super late and in the wrong order (Abigail got her first tooth, a molar, at 16 months). Well, Abigail's top row of teeth look perfect, like something you'd see in the mouth of a typically developing child. But her bottom row appears to be missing a tooth. He said that it's possible that it'll just be very late-breaking, but the tooth that is not yet in is statistically the most commonly missing tooth in a kid with Ds, so it isn't likely to appear. Since adult teeth spring from the baby teeth, any teeth missing now won't grow in later. She's too little to have x-rays, so we don't know for sure what's underneath those gums.


Other randomness:

That cinnamon bread I was talking about:

Doing some research/brainstorming for my Etsy shoppe:

And lastly, we still haven't heard anything about the house yet. The bank reported that we should hear something in 30 days, but that was 45 days ago. Another update has been requested. Matt and I decided that we'd glance at houses, but probably rent if this house falls through. We only have 2.5 more months before we need to move, so we don't want to sift through another long house-buying process. We started researching apartments and found a few that look great online. While I'm dying for some stability, I do recognize the risks involved in buying a house with so many other major life changes going on (an out-of-state move and brand new job). I'll be okay with whatever happens with the house.

Okay, my friends, I've had a crazy-busy week and I've got a to-do list of housework a mile long and preparations for tomorrow. I promise a post on Monday regarding the party : )