Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: ...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: ...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...: There are lots of gentle jokes about how the second child invariably gets short-changed on photographs and baby books and new clothes and t...

...sheepishly dusts off the keyboard...

There are lots of gentle jokes about how the second child invariably gets short-changed on photographs and baby books and new clothes and toys because it just isn't as exciting as the first time around and the newness is not new enough with the second born.  Here's a little secret I'd like to share with parents of one child who are considering a second- this is crap.  It is not because it isn't exciting and beautiful and amazing and delightful the second time around.  It's because there is not enough time and there is not enough energy to record and mark and publicize all the wonderful firsts with the second.  With two, you will count down the seconds until bedtime, and that countdown will start approximately 7 minutes after your early rising baby gives his wake up call at 5:28 a.m.  It is hard enough to keep up with the laundry for two children, much less attempt to put together a photo montage or work on a newborn memento shadow box.  The firsts with your second will be magical, but the sleep deprivation and time constraints will be extreme.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it anyway.  That's why I haven't blogged in roughly half a year.  That's why poor Cooper got pushed to last page news instead of first page headlines.  For all you naysayers who still want to blame me for not keeping up with the blog, I remind you, as I often must remind myself, that 2014 was a pretty tumultuous year for the Arrington-Sirois clan.  Cooper's early arrival and subsequent hospitalizations coincided with a new job and move halfway across the country.  The last half of 2014 was spent adjusting, adapting, modifying, transitioning, and then adjusting some more.  Durham has been good to us- we've met lots of good people and have a great city to explore and Tom and I are both enjoying our jobs.  The kids are happy- Charlotte loves 'kool, as she calls pre-school and Cooper is thriving in in-home care with the incomparable Ms. Julie and her little guy who is now Coop's best friend.    But it also comes at the cost of being far from family and from loved ones back in Arkansas and that has been a really tough part of the year. We've been lucky to have visitors though, and we are so grateful that Pepere, Grammy, Uncle Isaiah, Papa Rick,  Grandma Donna, Memere, Grandpa Gus, Alicia, and Julia graced us with visits.

Cooper turned one on January 2.  It was a long year, a fast year, a great year, a difficult year, a year certainly marked with exciting highs and disappointing lows.  His birthday gave me impetus to reflect on his life, my life, and our family's life and helped spur some New Year's resolutions to try to make his second year of life happier and healthier for us all.  I hope when we celebrate his second birthday, I can look back on 2015 with joy and a sense of accomplishment and with the satisfaction of knowing that his second year was even better than his first.  Tom describes him as a happy, content boy.  I don't know how I describe him.  He is not overly fiery like his big sister, but don't doubt his spirit for a second and don't underestimate his tenacity and resolve.  I hope in 2015 to better get a sense of what his personality is- he is playing coy with me, making me guess at my assessment of his personality.  I suspect that is part of his approach to life- a quieter presence with a lot of depth under the surface.  He's a mystery man, and he is delicious in that regard.

Charlotte's fourth birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.  Holy crap, four years with our Hurricane Charlotte.  How does it feel like she is still so brand new to us, even as memories of life B.C. (Before Charlotte) become hazier than ever before?  Can I ever calculate what four years with her really means?  How many smiles and giggles and tears (from her and me) and quiet moments and shared belly laughs and hugs and kisses and tantrums (from her and me) and snuggles and teasing and surprises happen over four years?  I couldn't even tally those in a day, much less a year.  She is an amazing big sister who has never- not even once- shown jealousy or hostility to her baby brother.  She is all love and excitement when it comes to him.  In fact Cooper seems to be the only person on the earth who does not spark her fast temper.  This from the girl I was sure was meant to be an only child.  How wrong I was.

And so life goes on, with a new rhythm and new challenges and new victories and always with a sense of how far our kids have come since their beginnings and how far we have to go in our parenting and how extraordinarily beautiful our family is, with all its imperfections.  I've missed the blog because it is my way of remembering and reflecting and appreciating, and of course, my way of showing off these amazing kids of ours.  I hope to return to my blogging and I hope there are some of you out there that are still interested in the progress of our two beautiful, tough, spirited children.

Charlotte was delighted when Cooper started being able to sit with her in shopping carts.  Tom was delighted when our kids showed an affinity for home improvement stores.

We achieved Christmas perfection- an amazing picture with Santa.  We probably shouldn't bother trying next year.  No way we will get two smiling kids with Santa ever again.  Way to set impossible standards, 2014.

Bath time is everyone's favorite time of day because for them, it means playing together in bubbles.  For Tom and I, it means we are *this* close to making it to bedtime.

Nothing has changed about this girl.  She is still sassy and animated and adventurous and bold.  She is unstoppable.  Trust us, we've tried.

And what to say about this guy?  This sweet guy who will push when he needs to, in a steadfast and strong way.  He might seem understated and quiet, but watch out- this kid is strong and will work for what he wants.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: A Year Ago Today

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: A Year Ago Today: The title of this entry is not, in fact, reference to how long it has been since I last wrote on the blog (though it seems like it has bee...

A Year Ago Today

The title of this entry is not, in fact, reference to how long it has been since I last wrote on the blog (though it seems like it has been that long).  There has been so much going on and writing, usually an outlet for me, placed me in too vulnerable a state and I found myself shirking away from the keyboard.  But then it became July 1, and I remembered a year ago today.  

July 1st is and always has been an important day in my life- it's my dad's birthday!  But last year, it became an even more momentous day because it was the day I found out about Cooper.  Sweet, surprising Cooper, unplanned but perfectly created.  When I found out I was pregnant with Charlotte, I wanted to hold in the news to myself just to enjoy the delicious secret that I had a child growing inside me- it was news almost too big to want to share.  When I found out I was pregnant with Cooper, I wanted to hold in the news because I didn't want to speak the pregnancy into reality until I was over the shock and the fear and the guilt and the concerns.  Such different responses to the appearance of a second pink line on a white stick.  

A lot can happen in a year.  A year ago today, I found out about my unexpected bundle of joy.  A year ago today, I was starting to relax more into my parenting, feeling like I was finally only half a step behind Charlotte rather than running to catch up to her from a block away.  A year ago today I was taking a much needed breather from a frantic writing pace- in the spring of 2013 I finished my 292 page manuscript and I finished a shorter, co-authored manuscript.  A year ago today, before I saw a second pink line, I felt pretty secure and like I was getting back into my groove.

And then, in a flash, things changed.  A positive pregnancy test shakes things up, no matter the circumstances.  I was in shock, I was so very scared, and the part of me that likes to plan things to the nth degree was extremely upset.  We had just survived one difficult pregnancy, premature birth, and challenging infancy; the last thing I felt I could face was doing it all over again.  But a year ago today, I started doing it all over again.

In our day to day lives, it is so easy to get into our routines and not see much variation in it.  We get settled, we get comfortable, and in some ways, we get complacent. But the truth is, we don't know what will change in a day, a week, a month, or a year.  Sure, there are things we can predict, but there are always shake ups just around the corner, lurking.  And that can be a good thing, even while being a scary thing.

We got a huge shake up a year ago today.  Cooper became a known entity out of the blue.  That second pink line was only one big change we would experience between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014.  Coop went from being a blob on an ultrasound to a little guy snuggled up in his in-utero profile picture to a surprisingly big baby born 10 weeks before he should have arrived.  His seemingly smooth ride in the NICU turned into a different type of challenging infancy than what we experienced with Charlotte.  His pleasant disposition and quiet presence is in stark contrast to that of his sister when she was an infant, but his health issues outside of the NICU earned him the unenviable description of "medically complex," leaving many specialists scratching their heads and offering varied, and sometimes contradictory, opinions.  He shook things up by reconfiguring our family, not just in number, but in personality and function.  Charlotte adores her baby brother, and gauging by the way he smiles at her, it is clear the feeling is mutual.  We've seen a new side of Charlotte I don't think we knew existed, and that comes from the shake up of adding a sibling to her world.  

A lot can happen in a year, even in a year when things are already in transition by the addition of a baby.  Without knowing it a year ago today, this was my last year at the U of A.  I type this entry amid stacks of boxes and with a to-do list a mile long creeping into my brain, distracting me from my writing.  It was not part of the plan I had laid out a year ago today, but it is in motion now and in about a week, my family will be rolling into Durham, North Carolina where we will start a new chapter in our life.  To say this is bittersweet is an understatement.  I enjoyed and appreciate my time at teh U of A and I am proud of what I accomplished but also disappointed in what I left unfinished.  There's much I wish I could do again and much I wish I could do better.  There are things I will miss about Fayetteville- the stately outline of Old Main in the city skyline, the just-the-right-sized Farmers Market, the school Charlotte landed in, and the comforts afforded by living in a small university town.  We have some wonderful friends here and I know without doubt I will not find a better group of moms and daughters for Charlotte and I to call our friends than what we have found with Cristina and Clara, Bianca and Carys, Hazel and Yen, Heather and Pearle, and Eve and Clara Millie.  These women and their daughters have added such richness to my life and to Charlotte's, and they helped make Fayetteville home for us.  But I am also excited to explore a new city that, from all accounts, is a great place to live.  Durham will have more specialists with fresh eyes to help unlock the mysteries of our medically complex son.  Durham is a place where Tom can get back to his preferred industry and where we will be much closer to his family.  Durham will put us closer to the beaches that I long to include in my children's childhood.  I'm excited about my new job there and hope that it ends up being a good match for me and my interests and skills. 

Without a doubt, the most bitter part of the bittersweet cocktail of this move is leaving the close proximity to my family that I have enjoyed since moving here.  I never dreamed I would be able to find a job within 2 hours of my family in Tulsa, so to leave that behind is devastating.  They are so much a part of our lives, even with the 100 miles between them and us.  My parents are always here when we need or want them, we get to attend family birthday parties and game nights, and I know there will always be family members up for something if I want to make plans.  It has made my life so full, after living so many years away from home, to be able to be close to home again.  I know this will be the hardest part of the transition and it breaks my heart when I think about it.  

A year ago today, I wasn't thinking about all these things.  I don't remember what I was thinking about, but it sure wasn't all this.  But that's the way life goes.  We go through twists and turns that were inconceivable at one point. We face the unknown and we face our fears and we do the best we can and hope that after the bumpy patches in the road, we arrive to the next stop as unscathed as possible and ideally even stronger than what we were.  As I struggle to sort through my sadness and anxiety and hopes and expectations of what is coming up next, I can't help but realize that a year from now, I will likely be able to reflect on what ended up being a lot of unexpected highs and lows.  Moving is never easy for me, but this is my first time to move with a partner and with children and there is something incredibly comforting to know that wherever we land, we will have each other. I will get to continue to love and be loved by Tom, Charlotte, and Cooper.  What a gift.  A year ago today I'm not sure I was as clued in to how amazing it is to have your own little family and the security that comes with that family.  I hope that a year from today, Charlotte, Cooper, Tom, and I are happy, healthy, and making the most of the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly twists and turns that we face.  

Fayetteville, you've been good to me.  You gave me a fulfilling job with many wonderful opportunities, inspiring colleagues, charming surroundings, incredible friends, and you are where my little family was established and where I was able to intertwine my life with my family in Oklahoma again.  Durham, you've got a lot to prove to us.  Let's see where we stand a year from today...

 My babies.  

Toughest kids I know.  Charlotte had her tonsils and adenoids out at a local hospital while Cooper was admitted to Children's Hospital in Little Rock for a virus and dehydration.  Both kids fought through their challenges and are back to health.  

Hopped off her bike for a quick jumping session.

Coop getting some physical therapy. 

If you work and play as hard as our kids, you deserve to rest as hard as they do too.  Not sure why Tom got to sneak in a nap though...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: #tbt

Charlotte's Web and Cooper's Town: #tbt:   I like to think I can hang with the ever-changing social media trends, but I will admit it took me months before I figured out why every...


  I like to think I can hang with the ever-changing social media trends, but I will admit it took me months before I figured out why every week my Facebook news feed was flooded with "#tbt."  Perhaps the origins of this mysterious blitz of old photos every Thursday started on one of the social networks I don't use, like Instagram or Twitter.  I like to think that's the case, though it doesn't excuse me for having to finally use Urbandictionary.com to learn that the acronym "tbt"stood for Throwback Thursday.  As pleased as I was to finally be in the loop, I had to face the reality that sites like Urbandictionary.com are made for clueless, decidedly uncool people like me.  That cruel realization turned me off of the whole #tbt and I stubbornly decided I would never join the masses in posting old pictures with catchy descriptions because it felt so inauthentic of dorky me.

 #tbt is an interesting concept though.  This morning a college friend of mine sent me a few old pictures from our freshmen year of college.  It started my day off with a nod to the past and I found myself grinning as I reminisced for a few minutes about my college days.  It put me in a nostalgic and contemplative mood.  As my day progressed, I was pushed into more "throwback" memories, and all of a sudden, #tbt became more than a light hearted social media activity.

  It is easy to become somewhat cavalier when you have a second preemie, especially if your second preemie comes out later and bigger than your first.  It's a "been there, done that" kind of experience.  You know what to expect, you aren't scared by the medical jargon, you are fluent in the acronyms, the procedures don't freak you out as much, and when the nurses and therapists and doctors and social workers remember you from the first time around, you feel bolstered by your street cred as you walk into the NICU every day.  But it is dangerous too.  If your first experience with a preemie was as blessed and lucky as ours was with Charlotte, you can become complacent and aloof, never really believing (or, at least never wanting to believe) that the outcome would be any different.  I don't mean this to sound ignorant or arrogant- through our first experience with a preemie, Tom and I learned how touch and go the health of premature babies can be and we learned firsthand with Charlotte and with babies around the NICU to never take things for granted when it came to the health and wellbeing of a preemie.  It was just really easy to relax a bit when our big boy came out, 2 weeks later in gestation and 2 pounds heavier than Charlotte.

  Lately though, even after being discharged from the NICU 6 weeks ago, I am starting to feel like a first-timer again.  The fears and stresses that come after life in the NICU are so profound and all-encompassing.  Yesterday I was on the phone with one of Cooper's doctors discussing a change in medicinal protocol when the home-health company called to set up an oxygen tank delivery and a text message popped up from a speech therapist trying to schedule a feeding evaluation.  I remember when Charlotte was fresh out of the NICU I had to eventually concede defeat and admit that I could not rely on my memory alone to keep track of all her appointments.  I started actually using the calendar on my phone to keep up with her schedule.  This time around, I'm 3 years older and 3 years more tired, so in addition to using my phone calendar, Tom put up a dry erase monthly calendar board for me write in appointments.  So far, the double calendar system seems to be working, but I wake up in the morning reaching for my phone to make sure I know what we have scheduled that day.

  Cooper is having some problems.  Pulmonary problems, to be exact.  When he was sent home from the NICU on oxygen and a monitor, it felt like it was just a safety precaution and would not be long term. We figured after a month or so, we would be weaning him down from his already low flow setting and be off the oxygen soon after.  Instead, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction.  We've been instructed to increase the flow of his oxygen not once but twice now.  We've had one trip to the ER related to breathing issues.  We were prescribed 2 steroid inhalers, then another was added for good measure.  He's also on oral steroids now and we have to suspend feeds with breastmilk and instead are giving him a special formula with a thickening agent to make sure he doesn't aspirate.  Long story short, Cooper isn't breathing all that easy, and that means neither are Tom and I.

  This week all these pulmonary problems have taken center stage at our house, and today it occurred to me that I am not just experiencing a #throwback Thursday, but a whole throwback post-NICU life.  Although I don't think #tbpnl is ever going to catch on in mainstream media, I have a feeling for awhile longer at our house, we will be facing the challenges and fears that families of babies born too soon often face. When Charlotte was a recent NICU graduate, I remember spending so much time and energy wondering and worrying about her future.  Would she meet her milestones?  Would her stomach issues resolve?  Would her heart defects need repair?  Would she ever stop crying and start sleeping?  It's embarrassing to admit that bringing Cooper home, even with all his oxygen supplies, I didn't really concern myself with such thoughts.  Charlotte wrote the first volume of our life with preemie saga, and it was hard for me to admit that the second volume of that saga might have different twists and turns and outcomes.  Today, as I attended another appointment with Cooper and had several more scheduled, I realized I was having a #tbt moment.  I felt as scared and frustrated and puzzled and sad as I often did with Charlotte during her first year of life.

Over dinner, Tom and I mulled over the issues and it just felt so familiar, like we were back to voicing our concerns about Charlotte, trying (and failing) to make sense of conditions not yet known.  But it was different this time too.  Charlotte was sitting at the head of the table, happily oblivious to the torment Tom and I were feeling.  Cooper lounged lazily in his bouncy chair, not realizing he was the center of our attention.  We are weary, not just from the short time we've been developing concern about Cooper's health, but from the previous years of worrying about Charlotte.  But we are also stronger, bolstered by the knowledge and faith we gained as we watched our daughter conquer her challenges.  Cooper's struggles will be different and the outcome may not be entirely the same.  He must go through his own post-NICU obstacles and Tom and I must brace ourselves for the bumps ahead.  We have experience under our belts this time around, but there are still many unknowns.  What we do truly believe though is that in another 3 years, we will find ourselves sitting down to dinner with our exuberant daughter and chilled-out son and one or both of us will remember that it wasn't always so easy or settled.  Our son is strong and he will get stronger.  He's got to- how else will he keep up with his big sister?

#tbt indeed.

 Fist bump, anyone? 

Catching some zzzzz's

 NuNu likes to keep close tabs on the boy. 

It would appear that Cooper is photo-bombing Ziva.  It would also appear that Ziva had no interest in being photographed. 

Never one to walk away from a challenge, Charlotte attempted to eat an ice cream cone as big as her head. 

It was a challenge Charlotte was excited to conquer.  And conquer she did- she ate every last bite.  

Getting her crayons organized.

Our crew.  On our bed.  I guess we were allocated either the space between the children and the kids or the floor.  Thanks, guys. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014