let there be glory (Happy Easter!)

Easter felt different this year. Maybe it was that we just experienced a death in the family & were worn slap out (physically & emotionally) from all of the travel. Maybe it was that I had just returned from a business trip to the west coast. Who knows.

It was our 1st year at home for Easter with Nicholas. No travel. No planes, trains, or automobiles (other than those toys sized ones that seem to multiply every hour on our floor). We dyed Easter eggs (Nicholas was surprisingly into it). We decorated a tree in the front yard. We read stories. There were parades & parties at school.

On Easter night Nicholas woke up at 3 AM, walked out of his room, and asked if we could go see what the Easter Bunny brought. I asked how he knew the Easter Bunny had already come to which he confidently replied “Because the Easter Bunny got it done before bedtime” (Yes he did buddy). After a little coaxing he went back to bed – only to wake promptly at 6 AM.

The Easter Bunny did in fact come. He brought a motorized John Deere tractor with books & toys (any guesses on who ran the Easter Bunny show this year? – Hint: he’s from up north). The Easter Bunny left a bit of a mess when he came to the house – footprints everywhere.

After doing “Easter Bunny” & eating hot cross buns for breakfast we headed off to church. We greeted folks as they came in (for the record my husband is never more handsome than when I watch him welcome strangers into our church). During service we talked about Abraham & Sarah & their faith (may we all have faith like them). We talked about sacrifice & how we don’t need to make a sacrifice now that one has been made for us. There were more souls than there were seats & that is a problem I’m happy we have.

After church, we headed to Graylyn Estate for brunch. We ended up dining in a private room & Andy ordered champagne & I didn’t want to leave. Old homes, good food, & champagne (with a child who is quiet) is a little bit of heaven for me. After brunch Nicholas participated in an Easter Egg hunt on the estate grounds. We explained that we needed to share the eggs we found with our friends. After Nicholas found 7 eggs he said “all done.”, helped a new friend find an egg, & then quickly ran down the hill to play with the quack-quacks. I’d like to think his “sharing” was a product of our conversation but the better explanation is that he saw quack quacks ducks. However, I’ll take a win anyway I can get it.

We spent the afternoon at home, napping, reading books, & letting Nicholas play on his new playset in the backyard. It was a peaceful day.

We’re remain steadfast, hopeful when promised, & humble when delivered.

Happy Easter, y’all.

Your aunt Doris died 

There is no “better” title. Death happens. Jesus teaches us it is not the end- darkness is not where we will spend eternity. “Yea, though I walk through the valley”- not into; just through. Rest assured she walked through- straight into glory. 

Who was your Aunt Doris? Formally, she is Mami’s half-sister. (“Mami” is your daddy’s mama). She is also Uncle Nicks wife of 50+ years. And let none of us forget- you are named for your dear Uncle Nick. 

Aunt Doris was more than an aunt to all of us. 

 She was the ONLY aunt present at mama & dada’s wedding. (Yes, you also have “aunts” like Mary Alice who was there but I digress). She was the only blood aunt on both sides there. Yes 90% of this was your mama & dadas doing- we didn’t want everyone there. But we wanted Uncle Nick & Aunt Doris. 

She was my favorite mathematician. (& that says a lot because I HATE math). My favorite day with Aunt Doris was when we were in a family favorite restaurant & she said to the waitress “I see you still have this price typo on your menu. You can’t have something & sell it for $0.099. Tell (owner) to fix it it before I come back. I taught him. He’ll know I’m serious.” The grammarian in me fell in love with the mathematician in her at that moment. 

She was strong willed (does this sound like anyone you know?). She held high standards for those she loved – because she knew we were good enough. She was patient. She was tough- but a gentle kind of tough that pushed you without beating you. She didn’t play in family dynamics often- one time she got involved in a harried situation & in no less than 5 words she put everyone in their place. Everyone. I always loved it when she would do this; even when it was me she was putting in place. 

She loved you. She loved you because you are your daddy’s child. And your daddy & Uncle Nick have a bond that is indescribable and one that even bring tears to my eyes when I see them together. So I can’t imagine what watching this bond for 40 years as she did meant to her. 

Your daddy was a paulbearer. The minister that married your mama & dada buried her. Your Uncle Nick stood proud. The service was beautiful. 

(There were not typos or math errors that day – she would have been so proud.) 

words. so many words. 

“Mimi” Kay & “Aunt” Annie will tell you I was worried for a while about N’s language development. Both are the right ladies for me to ‘worry’ to – they both have solid backgrounds in child development, speech, & education (plus they’re also mamas!).

Well……I am officially not worried anymore. This kid went to bed one night knowing 10 words & woke up the next day with what seems like 1,000 words. He still signs while he speaks but his speech is so much clearer than it was just a few days ago. A few of our favorite things to say:

“Mama what’s that?”. (He already knows what “that” is but he feels the repetitive need to to ask you anyway).

“I hold it.” Doesn’t matter what “it” is – he wants to hold it. Everything from his milk cup to his trains to your coffee cup to the windex to the fire extinguisher. (Some things we say “no” to of course).

“Where’s Ichibod?”. Ichibod is our adopted family crane that resides with my parents in SW Florida. Ichibod has a sordid past (don’t we all?). He started showing up for food every time my dad would come in from fishing & while were in the hospital with Nicholas Andy would go out every day and catch fish off the dock just to feed Ichibod. It was therapeutic for them both I think. Now that Nicholas is old enough to fish himself he enjoys it & likes feeding Ichibod. Even thought we’ve been home from Florida for a few months he wonders where Ichibod is most days.

“Wine”  He’s my child. Let’s leave it at that.

“Hush Gage. Hi Fru-Fru. No Joe.” Yes, this is all one sentence. These may (or may not) be things I say to the dogs at least 15 times a day.

“Hi Bus!”. Andy’s parents have an RV that they motor around in. When it’s here Nicholas loves to wave to it every morning. When it’s not here he waves to the school bus that goes by our house.

“AAAAAAAAAmen.” This one speaks for itself (at least it does for me). Nicholas loves to complete all prayer time at the house. He waits for the “….In Jesus Name…” to say confidently “AAAAAAAmen”.

on big boy beds… 

Have you ever seen a child who is asleep in their crib and wakes up, sits for a minute & thinks to himself ‘I am breaking outta this joint.’? You know they’re thinking those thoughts because soon afterwards they look up at the monitor’s camera (yes, they know what that is) & then they make a break for it. Pulling themselves up. Doing a push up on the railing & (not so gracefully) swinging a leg over the side. In a few seconds they’re now riding the crib rail like a horse and they realize ‘this is the moment that makes a person. I either jump. Or I don’t.’. 

No? Never experienced that? You mean, it’s just me? Only my child would ever do such a thing?

 Oh, ok then. Nevermind. 

This weekend we stopped riding the [crib] rails & moved into a “big boy” bed. It’s been an interesting few days. 

Friday night we put N to bed for his last sleep in his crib. And then, we opened a bottle of wine (because that’s just how we handle transition & furniture building around here)  & started putting together the new bed. 

Now, if you haven’t ever seen a toddler try & break out of a crib certainly you’ve seen a grown man refuse to read the directions, try & insist on using power tools when power tools are NOT needed, begin to claim “an idiot must have drilled these holes” & occasionally throw pieces of the bed (& 4 letter words) around the room until he gets so mad that he stomps off which prompts you (the only sane one left) to use the directions and assemble the bed in under 30 minutes. 

Yes?. Great.

No?. Well, that is the story of how the Szapacs family puts together a toddler bed. Let is be a cautionary tale for you.

Once the bed was together & my husband’s ego was on the mend, we went to bed. For our last night of sleep with a “caged” toddler. 

The next day we took apart the crib (N helped because we had talked about a new bed and he was soooo excited). I told Andy we needed to take out the changing table &other furniture items because I didn’t want N to try and play/ climb on them when he should be sleeping. What I should have said is “please take down the curtains. Chainsaw? Sure put in the room. A ladder? Yeah, that’s fine to leave in the corner. Just…whatever you do, take down the curtains.” The curtains are our new favorite toy. And sleep procrastination tool. Heaven help me.

In all seriousness N handled the transition fine. Yes, he does like to hide behind the curtains. Yes, he does know what the monitor is & he stares at it before doing anything he shouldn’t. Yes, we removed all dangerous furniture. We did not leave a ladder or chainsaw in his room. And yes, only sometimes does he willingly without distraction go to sleep. 

Where’s Aunt Sally when you need her?

Hi. I’m writing to you from the throes of hell. Also known as the cold tile floor of a bathroom. That’s right folks – its potty training time. 

My child is smart. He is hilarious. He is fearless. At 2 he knows how to negotiate (you’re welcome world- he is my child). He’s also “curious” his teachers say. I remind them that’s a nice way to say “nosy”. I would know since I am usually in a variable state of “curious” myself. (Ask my husband- he’ll vouch for me). Right now his loudest attribute is that he is stubborn. Just like his daddy. (See what I did there?)

I won’t go into the smelly details of our ‘adventure’. I want you to know 3 things though:

1) Potty training my child is hilariously hard. He gets the concept (has for a while). He now knows he will most likely get M&Ms – if he waits long enough. And if he waits too long he will also get a bubble bath. It’s a fine line. Can’t blame him though- the apple doesn’t fall far from the chocolate & bubble bath loving tree). 

2) I question my parenting ability at least 1.5 million times a day during this process. Nothing has brought to me my knees more in recent days than potty training- both when begging N & cleaning up his “adventures”.

3) When pregnant, you should be allowed to register for a hazmat suit. Seriously. It should be required. Like a car seat. Then, your aunt Sally (who I imagine lives in Indiana) could buy it for you. You’d get the gift & think to yourself “why am I getting a hazmat suit?” But you won’t want to offend your aunt Sally from Indiana so you say “thank you”, send a card, and tuck it away.

 Until that fateful day when your toddler decides to have an “adventure” around the corner from the potty; not IN the potty. And you’ll be reminded of the gift aunt Sally bought you that you’ve hidden far away in a closet. You’ll pull it down and you’ll put it on and you’ll think ‘I should really call aunt Sally from Indiana more often and tell her thank you for this gift’. 

And, you’ll love her so much that you will bequeath all of your earthly possessions to her.  Except of course for the adventurous, stubborn, hilarious toddler because,well, you don’t want to regift a hazmat suit. 

christmas comes but once a year

(I wish Christmas came more often but I know that the gift of Christmas is so special once a year is blessing enough). 

Merry Christmas! We spent Christmas in SW Florida with GiGi & Grandaddy. It was warm. It was sunny. There were boat rides. Beaches. Dolphins swimming by the boat every single time we ventured out. There was also lots of fishing (which now makes 3 generations in my family extremely happy).

And of course, Santa came. He was good to Nicholas. He brought Nicholas a “choo choo” train set (I’m sure Poppy Charlie would be proud!), and Thomas & Percy trains to ride the rails. He also brought a teepee for Nicholas’ room. “Santa” Grandaddy also brought Nicholas a fishing rod.

If you ask Nicholas how his Christmas was he will most likely respond, “Happy Birthday Jesus. Wow.”. Enjoy these photos & a video of Nicholas using his fishing rod with Dada & Grandaddy.



visiting the NICU

Over the Christmas holiday we visited the NICU at Golisano Children’s hospital – where Nicholas was born & spent his 1st days.

When we left the hospital in 2014 they had begun construction on a new NICU. The new NICU wing of the hospital will be ready next Spring. There will be private rooms for families where mamas & dadas can sleep with their babies. There will be privacy. Andy (somewhat) joked that he was glad the wing wasn’t ready when we were there because he knows he wouldn’t have been able to pull me away. He’s (probably) right. Still, I am thrilled that this wing will be ready for families. Tickled. What a beautiful thing to have privacy with your early arrival. The next time we visit it will be ready. And, they are building a library in part to the donations received through our LoveNotes program. I couldn’t be happier that more families will have access to books during their stay.

We spent the majority of our visit with our dear nurses at the NICU. I couldn’t imagine life without them now. They are like long lost sisters & aunts.

As promised we delivered care package goodies for NICU families – over 150 blankets, 30 preemie hats, and over 60 books.

Thank y’all for your love, support, & donations. We couldn’t do this without so many of you – it really does take a village.



Cheer In The NICU

Recently my dear friend & owner of MothersRest asked me if I would be willing to guest write for her site & of course my answer was “Who? Me?” which was quickly followed by “Yes! Of course!”.

If you’ve become a recent follower of our story, here is a glimpse into our lives. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, here is  a bit more about our mission to love on other NICU families – would you help us share our gifts with others who need it?

5 things you never say to a NICU mama 

While in the NICU I had some awkward conversations. I had to entertain a lot of people telling me how they felt & what they would’ve done & that they “could never imagine”.  Through those times I learned about what NOT to say to a NICU mama. Here’s the Top 5. 
(I beg you to never say these things).

 I don’t know how you do it. Neither do I, darling. But it’s fueled by adrenaline. And because- and here’s the most important part- we have no choice. That’s our child & we somehow find the strength to just kick the world to the side until our child is through this ordeal. 

I can’t wait to get this kid out of me. Dear full-term pregnant friends: Stop. Just stop. Don’t say this. Because when you do there’s a small part inside a NICU mama that wants to hit you. Sorry (but not sorry). 

I’m sure you’re uncomfortable in those final weeks. You probably can’t sleep. And have to pee (a lot). We wouldn’t know though – because we never got to experience that. Some of us, me included, have husbands who never got to feel our baby kick inside our belly because they came so soon. We missed out on that. So it’s okay to be ready to have that baby but please for our hearts’ sake, cherish the uncomfortable. It’s a beautiful blessing that many of us won’t get to experience. 

Your kid is so small. Good eyes, friend. Yep, the baby is small. He is a preemie. They tend to come early & didn’t have enough time to cook in our oven. We know our kid is small. Thank you for pointing out the obvious. A better option might be to say something like “that is one beautiful baby.” We often need others to help us find & recognize the beauty in the mess. 

You should be breastfeeding. Question- did you lactate at 28 weeks? 30 weeks? No? Well, neither did we – easily. It’s hard to breastfeed let alone when you have a preemie and you cannot hold your baby (because we all know bonding helps lactation, right?). 

Believe me many of us try. My husband watched at 1st in horror (& then he got as comfy with it as I was) as I pumped under a nursing cover in the open lobby of the hospital as people walked by & in the front seat of the car as we drove back and forth to the NICU. I did what I had to.  

But at the end of the day what’s most important is making sure our kiddo is fed. So while we work on pumping & find our own breast-milk way in this world, we might have to supplement our baby’s nutrition with formula. Let us live. My kiddo was fed through feedings tube for the 1st 3 months of his life. Most of it was breast milk – but due to some health complications and his tiny size it was recommended we supplement feedings. I’m not going to argue with world-renowned doctors so you shouldn’t argue with me. 

I’m praying for you. Thank you. We need this. As a mama who believes in Jesus & at many points during our NICU stay had many conversations with Him (some weren’t so nice- I screamed some & I begged a lot). I am humbled by the power of prayer. So please pray. But don’t say this & then dust your hands off and leave us sitting in the NICU. 

We are still adults who would like some distractions. Otherwise we live & breathe oxygen saturation statistics & OT appointments. 

 I was blessed to have some dear dear friends who would call or email just to talk. One would send me emails about how crazy her world was then. I needed that. I needed the distraction. I needed the humor. 
Come visit us at the hospital. Have lunch with us (yes, even if it means eating hospital food). Help us find normalcy in the chaos. We won’t forget you for it.