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on turning 16 months…..

Nicholas is now 16 months (13 months corrected). 16 months ago I wouldn’t have imagined to be here this quickly (I’m sure I’ll repeat those words when he turns 16 YEARS old – as well as many times between now & then). But, here we are. 16 months old.

Nicholas is growing better than the doctors thought he would. He’s 29.5″ tall, has a head that 18.5″ around and weighs 18.5 pounds. We are finally off the preemie weight charts & sit comfortably in the 56th percentile for head size & length. (I try not to get wrapped up in the percentile conversations because I don’t really think it will affect his ability to do anything noteworthy in the future but coming off those preemie charts finally was such a good feeling!).

When we were in Florida we saw several who were on our primary care nursing team – even having lunch with our primary nurse Jovita. She even commented that he “doesn’t even look like a preemie” – a compliment I am taking to my grave. Everyone who’s been involved in his care is pleased with his progress. (I remind myself, as does Andy, that we got lucky. We still aren’t sure how – but we won’t question it too much. Instead, we’ll continue to give glory to HIM.).

In the past few months Nicholas has accomplished a lot. He’s also coming into his own in ways that make us oh.so.proud:

He is walking running & climbing all over everything. All the time. Just the other day he quietly climbed up 2 shelves on a bookcase before I knew it (& yes, I was in the room).

He is quiet at times. Sometimes its when he’s figuring out how something works (which is a nice way of saying that he’s taking it apart). He’s often quiet when he’s exploring something (or somewhere) he shouldn’t be. He gets this from his daddy.

He is loud at other times. He’s loud when he’s figured something out & he wants you to know about it; to share the joy in his discovery. He’s loud when he doesn’t think he’s being heard. (Aren’t we all?)

He laughs. A lot. & there is no sweeter sound. He laughs when you tickle him. He laughs when you try to put socks on his feet (he thinks its a game of keep away the foot from the sock). He laughs while he tries to brush his teeth. He laughs when he high-fives himself in the mirror. He laughs when he feeds the dog (a trick thats funny to everyone but me).

He is curious. About everything. Curious how things work. How they come apart (surprisingly, he’s less curious about how to put anything back together).  He’s curious about books & puzzles & the noises things make. And if it is has a handle trust that he will pull on it to see where it may lead him/what treasures it might give way to. (His teachers in school even tell us he’s curious which I think is another way of saying “he is nosy” which I’m fairly certain is a trait he gets from me, his ever nosy mama.)

He is strong (willed). Once he sets sight on something he will go after it. Even if you get in his way. He may try to charm his way around you & if that doesn’t work he may use more direct (& loud tactics) to try & get his way. Or he may pull the “when mama says no go ask dada” trick. Yes, he’s already trying this on us in various small ways & its hilarious to watch & take part in. He tests boundaries & is learning what no means. It’s a hard lesson for him as it is with all us adults still to this day.

He is fearless. Of anything. Heights. Boundaries. You name it. His antics take my breath away at least 6 times a day.

He is a sharer. Of toys. Books. Food. Sippy cups. He likes to share what he has; you can see the joy on his face when he does it.

He is my social icon. He hasn’t met a mean person yet; at least not in his eyes. He’s quick to wave & smile. He gives high fives & fist bumps out just because & even likes to cling glasses (sippy cups) when at the dinner table. (“cheers!”).

He is our favorite. Of all time. In the history of ever. 

here’s our curious-strong-fearless-social icon on a walk in the park this weekend.

  

on snow suits…

I went to 12 stores. Andy will tell you (or complain, rather) that I called him 9 times during his busy workday to tell him to call over to this store or to that store to see if they had a snow suit. 

I offered more money than stores were asking for if they’d just go in the back & see if they had one in our size. I bribed. I pleaded. I ended up driving 25 miles (one way) to a store that had the snow suit we needed. I may have offered our next born (or someone else’s newborn- I’m not sure) if they would just hold it until I got there. Thank goodness the lady running the store laughed at my offer & said “you aren’t the only one to offer that today” as she sold me the snow suit. 

But alas, after hours & a tank of gas, by golly we had a snow suit. Now all we needed was snow. Which came in big white puffy flakes overnight & into the next day. 

Enjoy these few photos of our preemie-turned toddler- turned snow explorer. The 1st photo was featured on WFMY News 2’s morning news this weekend. 

   
    
   

on going & giving back 

Today we visited Golisano Children’s Hospital where Nicholas was born. We brought donations & left with more than we could’ve imagined. 

The drive from Pine Island to the hospital was quiet. Andy & I in the front & Nicholas in the back. When I said to Andy “you remember how to get there?” He smiled and said “probably.”. And that was really all that was said the entire car ride. 

The silence wasn’t all happy silence- some of it you could sense was a “You sure you want to go back there? What if it drudges up memories & you can’t handle them? What if they don’t remember you? Don’t remember your child?” fears in us both.

We arrived at the hospital a few minutes late (what with a 1 year old & a husband who admits he can’t keep track of the time we are never anywhere on time). We were greeted by the director of the child advocacy program who helped us unpack our goodies for the NICU & led us through the hospital to the NICU doors (it’s not as if we didn’t know how to get there but her company on the walk was nice). 

  

Once inside that door it was like we had never ever left. The smells, the lockers, the scrub stations, the dinging of CPAP machines & ventilators & heart monitors filled my ears. And I’d be lying if my heart didn’t break a bit. 

I passed 2 mamas in the entryway who you could tell had just given birth & were a catastrophic mix of hormonal happy/sad/angry/scared/lost & all I wanted to say to them was “I feel ya. I’ve been there. Well, here. And I won’t tell you it’s going to be OK (it will be) because you don’t want to hear that now.”

I would tell them what I wanted someone to tell me in those first few days: 

“This situation is shitty. It’s crap that families are made this way but unfortunately that’s life & we adjust, darlin. We adjust. And in the meantime while you’re trying to gracefully adjust know that I get that it’s shitty you’re here & your baby is. & it’s ok to feel that way. Get mad. I did. Scream. I did. Throw something if you must. (I may or may not have done that at some point.) Let it out. ”

We spent some time in the entryway of the NICU talking to with our therapy teams, primary nurses, & others who cared for Nicholas. They were tickled to receive the goodies from Nicholas’ birthday party (thank you again to every single person who helped us donate over 150 blankets & 50 books for NICU families. We are committed to continuing this donation program – more to come on that.) 

  

  

After our visit in the NICU we headed downstairs so Andy could grab ice cream (there is a little ice cream parlor in the hospital that grew to know Andy by name while we wre there so of course he had to go back & get some more!). 

I noticed that the hospital Christmas tree was still up – it was the same tree that was up last year at this time when we left the hospital. So, while we waited for Andy to make his ice cream run around the corner we played by the Cristmas tree.

sidenote: There was a baby in the NICU while we were named Kaden. He was born to a young mother who gave birth at just 24 weeks. While we were in the NICU Kaden’s isolette was just a few queues down from ours. I met Kaden’s  grandmother first. Honestly, I thought she was the mom. (She got that a lot while we were in the NICU). She told me about Kaden’s birth & his prognosis. 

At first, it was good. Then, it wasn’t. I watched as his every function was monitored so that the doctors could figure out what was going on. There were days where he was so fragile a loud noise could cause him to Brady or De-Sat. 

On one particularly rough day I watched in horror as Kaden flat-lined 3 times in just as many hours. Each time it took half a dozen nurses to revive him. As the nurses left his bedside after the 3rd episode one of them said under their breath to another nurse, “let’s just hope he doesn’t die today.” 

Kaden remained in that same spot as we left ICU & we were eventually discharged from the hospital. 

Over the past year Andy & I have often thought of Kaden. How was he doing? None of our nurses would give us any update (regardless of how creative we were in asking our questions- they are good at honoring all those important yet annoying when you have good intentions HIPPA rules). Andy went as far as checking the obituaries a few times throughout the year because it looked that grim for Kaden while we were his NICU neighbor. And, we cared & we wanted to know. 

While we were playing by the Christmas tree Andy returned with his ice cream. I asked if we could take a few photos of Nicholas before we left. 

 As we were trying to get Nicholas’ attention for a photo, I caught a woman walking up to me from the side with a baby on her hips. As she got closer she said “I thought that was you, North Carolina”.

I turned & locked eyes with her. & immediately I cried. Kaden was perched on his grandmother’s hip as she walked up to us. 

And let me tell you, Kaden is beautiful. Andy would tell me you don’t call little boys “beautiful” but folks, this boy is beautiful. He was healthy. Plump. Full head of dark hair & onyx eyes. Sucking on his pacifier. Happy. Content. 

His grandmother went on to tell me that Kaden was in the hospital from October 2014- July 2015. He was transferred to Tampa for 2 brain operations, & came back to Golisano before he got to go home. His mother and father are married now, his father is away at basic training, and they are expecting a 2nd child- mom was in the OB wing as we spoke having some tests run which is why they just happened to be sitting in the lobby. Visiting with them on the other side of the NICU walls was perhaps one of the greatest gifts we could’ve received that day. 

  

  

PS- while visiting with our nursing team we learned that this week another couple from NC were vacationing when they surprisingly gave birth to their child prematurely. The baby is being treated by the same team in the same NICU as Nicholas. I’m trying to learn more about them to see how we might help but please keep them on your hearts as their road will be similar to ours. 

on being baptized. 

Today Nicholas was baptized. If Nicholas would have been born full term, today would’ve been his 1st birthday.

Since Nicholas’ love story (& ours) began in SW Florida, Andy & I wanted to have him baptized in the same special place. So, after much searching (& a fair amount of prayer) we found a quaint little chapel by the sea appropriately named Captiva Chapel (by the Sea) . If you’d like you can read about the chapel here – its a cute little chapel with a long & solid history of servantship.

So, On Saturday December 26th, around 1 o’clock in the afternoon our little family along with grandparents and Uncle Parker & Aunt Jen watched as Pastor George Morris baptized Nicholas Christopher Szapacs as a child of God.

The day was warm. & sunny. with a breeze. The chapel was old & small & painted a seafoam blue (& without A/C – it was over 85 degrees outside). The Christmas wreaths hung on the doors, the manger stood strong behind the altar, and the entire church grounds were covered in lights. The water was ready & our baptismal fountain, a giant seashell, was ready & waiting for Nicholas.

It was simple & chaotic & happy & tears were shed (both by Nicholas & me). It was quick. It was even a bit of a blur for me. But this much I know, love was there.

From those that sat in the pews watching to those that had out of this world seats to the ceremony, love was there. My grandmother’s words in her final, not-so-lucid, days “You people need Jesus. All y’all need Jesus.” ran through my head during the baptism & I smiled & thought ‘if this isn’t showing how much we KNOW we need Jesus then I don’t know what is.’. I hope she would be proud.

We do need Jesus. We crave Him & all that He stands for. We know this much. And we know that His love has washed Nicholas, & all of us clean. & for this we are oh.so.thankful.

After the ceremony was over we all walked to the beach & were with Nicholas as he dipped his toes in the sand & water for the very first time.

Enjoy these few photos from our day.  (& a quick video of Nicholas’ 1st beach experience!).

  

  

  

merriest christmas, y’all

Merry Christmas!

Nicholas fell asleep in balmy NC on Christmas Eve & woke up on Christmas morning in warm & sunny SW Florida. In true family style, we spent the morning opening our gifts, eating country ham biscuits & coffee cake, & of course, wearing matching pajamas. (OK, so my family did new Christmas pajamas every year but they never matched – our little family has taken the tradition up a notch & we don matching pajamas – my husband is such a sport about it!).

Merriest of Christmases from our little clan to yours!

 

bedtime routine on an airplane on christmas eve. i thought we’d be the only babe not in our manager on that plane but i was wrong.

santa claus was oh.so.good this year.



 

This post could be described as superficial (& it is so at least I get “points” for admitting it, right?). 

Yes it’s superficial. But, I live in a world where I rise early, spend a few moments with Jesus (& coffee) before my boys (BIG & small) rise. I get folks dressed & fed & loved before we head out the doors. & then I spend more hours than I’d like to admit @ my office thinking to myself “Dear Jesus, help me” & “Someone be sure to pray for me on Sunday for what I’m about to say”, & then I head home where I feed & dress (in jammies) & love on my boys some more before its bedtime for them & time for dishes & laundry (& probably wine) time for me. &Then I spend a few more minutes with Jesus laughing (& asking forgiveness) for the day that we both just witnessed & hoping we both find humor in it. So in a world of all of this a tad bit of superficial will do us all good……..
Yesterday Nicholas got his 1st haircut. In a real barber shop. Complete with swirly sign out front. In fact he got his hair cut in the same place (& by the same barber) that cuts grandaddy’s hair. And he loved it. 

The morning was simple. & Quick. & Pretty painless (for him).  But, yes I cried. Because no longer would we have “baby” hair. We now have little boy hair. 
Enjoy these few photos. We are now wearing little boy clothes & shoes & standing & talking & having opinions all on our own. 
   
 

on having breakfast with Santa 

one fun fact for us (& hopefully you, too!) : Nicholas has been home from the NICU for exactly 1 year today. It only seems fitting that we met a man who symbolizes love & giving & downright jolliness this morning: Santa. 

We spent the morning at Graylyn Estate in Winston-Salem where we ate breakfast in the manor’s smoking room & where we could see just enough of the big guy without giving away all the surprises & keep Nicholas’ attention while we ate (the grits also held his attention as he ate over 3 helpings in one sitting).  

After breakfast we ventured into the library where Santa & his elves were waiting to meet everyone. 

He watched as an elf showed him a few magic tricks. Then, when Santa’s lap was free we met Santa. 

Nicholas was curious. His eyes grew larger as we walked closer and you could see the joy on his face when he heard his 1st belly-filled “ho ho ho”. He held Santa’s hand for a minute, then touched his beard, and then I just handed him to Santa (I thought well, like ripping off a band aid, lets just do this & see what happens). 

There were no tears. No fussiness. Just stillness between the both of them. And then, just like that, Nicholas warmed up to him & sat for some terribly cute (if I do say so myself) photos. Enjoy. 

   
    
 

blankets & books, oh my!

A while back (on October 3rd to be exact) we celebrated Nicholas’ 1st birthday. It was a dreary day with lots of rain – so much so that we moved our county fair theme shindig inside. (& Andy begrudgingly took apart the sofa, dining room table, and chairs so we would have room for everyone who was headed our way – he’s such a good man).

Instead of gifts for Nicholas (because, really – how many 1 year olds NEED loads of birthday presents on their 1st birthday? None. Not one single kid. That’s how many.) we asked people who wanted to celebrate with a gift do so by bringing baby books or blankets for donation to Golisano Children’s Hospital – the hospital that delivered Nicholas and saw us through the scariest time of our lives.

The NICU at Golisano houses up to 64 NICU babies on any given day. Our goal was to recieve 64 blankets & 64 books for us to donate so each baby would get a book or blanket during their stay.

We didn’t get 64……we received 162 baby blankets and 70 books. I am still blown away.

I’ve been packing them up this week as we prepare to fly south for Christmas and to deliver the donations and I am overwhelmed by the generosity.

As the proud mama of a NICU graduate  I can’t begin to tell you how much books & blankets saved me some days in the NICU. Each night I would pull out a new set of baby blankets and Andy & I would sleep with them. They would (hopefully) smell like us in the morning & we’d carry them to the NICU for Nicholas’ incubator as bedding. When I couldn’t hold him & bond with him knowing he was at least able to smell who we were was comforting.

So were books. When Nicholas was 1st born he was too small & weak to be held for long periods of time. So when he was having a bad day or I wanted to hold him but I couldn’t, I read to him. Books like Pat The Bunny & Goodnight Moon are good reads for baby but they go by way too fast when you’ve been sitting by your child’s incubator for 4 hours and if you read Goodnight Moon one more time you (or he) might scream.

So, we read Curious George. And Winnie The Pooh. And The Velveteen Rabbit. I read for hours & hours & hours. It made the time (which stands still when you’re standing by an incubator) inch by a bit quicker.

Knowing that these items helped me so much it’s our hope that they’ll help other families going through what we went through.

Next week the books & blankets will make their way down to FL – & we won’t be far behind them. After Christmas we’ll take a day & go visit the NICU and drop off the donations. I’ll be sure to share that day once it occurs.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos snapped by our gorgeous, talented, patient, hilarious friend & photographer Jen Chaconas. We are thankful for her friendship & that she chooses to share her talent with us & let us be a small part of her life.

 

on husbands & 3 year olds being thankful

Thanksgiving came & went. It was restful. Yet, I’m tired. It was peaceful. It was chaotic. It was perfect.

I didn’t cook – we ordered Thanksgiving to-go from a hotel here in town that served up a beautiful meal. It was the kind of meal I would’ve dreamed of making for our family had we not 1 baby who’s up and all but walking/running all around the house, 3 dogs, no extended family in town who was looking for a place to eat turkey, and also (lest I forget) jobs.

It was the 1st time in our relationship (& in our personal lives) we weren’t part of a large Thanksgiving. I grew up with a mama who made 2 full Thanksgiving meals – lunch & dinner- for both sides of our family. Seriously. 2 turkeys, ham, all the trimmings, dessert. Twice. Fresh for both meals. She never thought folks should have to eat leftovers on Thanksgiving. I don’t know how she did it. I didn’t when I was growing up & I still don’t because I only have 1 baby who’s well behaved & generally happy  and she had 2 kids who were….well…we turned out just fine so let’s leave it at that, thank you. If she reads this she should know she was a miracle worker on this holiday (& all others). I don’t know how she did it but I am so stinking grateful she did. 

This year though was our 1st Thanksgiving as a little family of 3 outside the walls of the NICU. (Last year, we hastily ate turkey while watching the clock & rushing to the hospital to sit with Nicholas because no one should be alone on Thanksgiving – especially not babies in the NICU). Andy & I wanted it to be special – even with take out. And it was.

That morning, instead of waking at 4 AM to put a turkey in the oven or mash potatoes we slept. We got up when N decided it was time for everyone to get up & we drank coffee, and caught up on the news, and watched our child play. We practiced the mantra “just be”.

While sitting together drinking coffee, Andy was watching the news. His eyes never left the screen but he said “Today, I’m thankful for you & Nicholas. That you’re here. With me. And today, I prayed for the families who are where we were last year. That they find peace & comfort in the moment with their child.” So matter of fact. So intent.

At dinner as we sat down at the table to share Thanksgiving with our dear, dear friends Steve & Rachel (& their 3-year & 10 month old babies).  Andy stopped before he ate and pronounced “Now, we’ll say grace.” He looked at me with that And, you pray because you’re the out-loud prayer person around here look. And so, I said grace.

Our friend’s 3 year old bowed his head and sat silently while we prayed. After we were done he looked up and asked “Can I say MY prayer now?” Why yes, my darling, you can. And so he did. Except he sang it. The whole thing. And it was wonderful (I might have cried a happy “thank you for patiently loving Jesus; please don’t let the world take that from you.” cry).

Andy has never been a man to stand on a street corner & pronounce Jesus out loud for all the world to hear. It just ain’t his style. And I’m OK with that. He loves Jesus & asks me to church every Sunday & abides when I feel the need to talk or pray or cry to God.

But, there’s something about a baby that breaks down any walls a man has. There’s something about Nicholas thats brought out a sweet, I will kiss this baby, and hold him, and learn all about night time prayers & the words to Jesus Loves Me so I can be active in raising him to be a godly man in Andy. And I am oh.so.thankful for it.

 

 

 

& we took a few steps 

Tonight Nicholas took his 1st steps. They were in our kitchen after dinner (a dinner where he fed himself roasted chicken, green beans, & pumpkin pie- seriously).

They weren’t graceful. They were out of frustration of being denied the opportunity to open and explore inside all of the cabinets. They were “you are wrong & I am right & I will show you” steps (I am told he gets this attitude from me.) . They were clumsy- yet oh.so.determined (this he gets from his daddy). 

They were small and few but, by golly, they were steps. Unsupported steps straight into my arms.