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. 

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?

http://www.mothersrest.com/cheer-in-nicu/

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. 

today we elected a president. 

Today we elected a new president. It wasn’t easy. It was polarizing. I had to keep my mouth shut publicly for well over 18 months (this was hard for your mama). But I am happy to tell you we were part of a movement. Our family’s candidate won. We are happy. We are also sad for the labels others will automatically assign us because of our vote. We know they aren’t true for our family. And, we know often people label things they cannot process. 

Before I know it you’ll be voting in elections. Here’s what I want you to know- 

Yes, love wins. Yes, love trumps hate. Yes, Jesus is love. But (& here is the most important part) Jesus set standards for the way we should live. He didn’t say you could pick & choose the rules like a subway sandwich lineup. He didn’t offer up his grace for all the times you know you’re breaking the rules because it’s what you feel like doing. It is not about justifying your way of living; it’s about living for what He eternally justified for you. 

He does ask us to love sinners. Why? Because we are sinners ourselves. Regardless of the perceived “degree” of sin. So, love your people. All of them. End of story. Show them kindness for it might be all they need. Remember though that love doesn’t mean complacency. Pray for those who need it (hint: we all need it).  

He also demands we serve. Everyone. So serve. But remember “serving” isn’t a synonym for catering to. You can help without giving a handout. Serve to satisfy needs. And do it with a grateful heart. 

Jesus set standards. He also set an example. Please be both. 

pum-pin patches. 

For me, Fall is a time of renewing. Of slowing down. Of opening the windows & pulling out comfortable blankets & lighting candles & being thankful my husband knows how to build a fire. And, of course, pumpkins. Everywhere you look there should be pumpkins.

Last year about this time I wrote about Nicholas’ 1st trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s a tradition my grandmother started for us when I was little & I looked forward to it for years. Even when I had to drive her to the pumpkin patch we still went. I loved it. And, I want Nicholas to love Fall traditions, too.

This year we took a bit of our own spin on the tradition. We headed south of town to  an orchard farm that had a glorious pumpkin patch – and a hayride on a tractor that go you there.

In short, Nicholas loved it. Enjoy these photos of Nicholas picking out his “pum-pin”.

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….and today you turned 2.

Today you turn 2. I’m not sure how we got here so quickly. Your story continues to be an amazing one that humbles me every single day. (Also, I would like to know who to complain to about time speeding up so fast it makes my head spin.)

You’ve come a long way in the past year. We said goodbye to physical therapists, occupational therapists, and frequent checkups at the doctors. You no longer need special immunizations that support preemie hearts & lungs & bodies. This year we heard some of the best words from your medical team : “If you didn’t know he was premature, you wouldn’t be able to tell.” Yep, you’ve come a long way. (Hallelujah.)

You did meet a new doctor this year. He fixed your ear drum & placed tubes to (hopefully) eliminate all future ear troubles. Your hearing was damaged when your ear drum ruptured but has come back full force (as has your selective hearing – which I’d never admit outside of here that you get it from me- your mama).

You have found your voice &, with it, your well-timed dry humor. Your witty retorts leave me laughing:

“How old are you, Nicholas?”

(“How old are you, mama?”).

This led to a chat about how we don’t ask mommies how old they are because it’s not nice & because you can’t count that high to which you replied “Oh. Old.”

This year we saw new faces come into our family & some souls leave this world for better places. Both of these experiences are important. It helps us learn to accept change (whether we want it or not).

During these times of change you’ve also witnessed  true “family” forming around you – some by blood (& love) and some simply by choice (these are my favorites). You have inherited aunts & uncles (& even a special Mimi & Poppy)  who you’ll never find proof of on your family tree but they are here. In your life. Because they choose to be. Embrace them.  It’s important to also remember to never bother yourself with those who choose to ignore you- it’s their choice. And, there are times now & in the future where the best thing you will be able to do is say “OK, that is your choice. I still love you.” If you can do this you will be content.

The world around you has crumbled & been broken & is defeated & tired. It’s not the world we want for you. But, even so there is still beauty & love & grace abundant. Some days you just have to search for it a bit harder.

Your daddy & I consciously surround you with people who love Jesus & work to serve Him. It’s our prayer you always keep a close knit circle of folks who love you, love Jesus, & hold you accountable to the standards He set for us.

You, Nicholas, are brave. Nothing scares you – at least not for long. You are fearless. You take my breath away at least 40 times a day with your daredevil stunts.

You are determined. Determined to figure out how that thing comes apart, how this thing works, and how to put this other thing back together. You are our little gear head – a trait you get from your daddy & granddaddies for sure.

You live for connections. For friendships. For “mama” & “dada” & “min-min” (Minions) & “choo-choo” (Thomas The Train). You love to call people on the phone. Sometimes you’re successful & get someone to answer & sometimes you spend your time talking to someone we cannot see on the other end of the phone.

You are our most favorite. In the history of the world. You give us hope. And show us what true grace looks like. You are our reason for everything we do. And we are oh so terribly thankful every minute of our days for you.

Happy Birthday, Nicholas.

Now bring on the terrible 2s. (I think) we are ready for you. Wine, anyone?

Love you forever…….Mama & Dada

be like bob.

Nicholas loves minions. It’s an “its Christmas morning & Santa came & he brought me a hippopotamus!” kind of love.

We don’t watch much TV in our house. Not because I have some soapbox about how bad TV is for kiddos that I stand on.  We don’t watch much because well,  Nicholas isn’t all that interested in it. He knows how to turn it on & off & can even pull up Netflix but usually he  will watch it for 5-10 minutes & then get up & wander off to some new adventure. But, not with the minions. The sound of the minions singing the Universal theme song sends him into full blown dancing mode.

And minions (or any cameo a minion might make in a movie) cause Nicholas to freeze where he is & just watch in amazement.

If you know anything about the minions franchise (I know more than I ever thought I would need to know), there are lots of them. Each of them has a name & a backstory & their own little personality. They all have 1 goal at the end of the day though: to serve their master in whatever way He needs. Sometimes the minions clean the house, sometimes they babysit, sometimes they make “super cool spy weapons”. In any way they can, they serve. And they do so with happy hearts.

Nicholas has a favorite minion: Bob. When he sees Bob on screen & he squeals “bob! bob mama!”. (Bob is also the minion plush toy he is watching the movie with in the video above).

A bit on Bob – Bob is short for Robert. He is the only minion with 2 colored eyes – known medically as hetereochromia. (Its a tribute to rocker David Bowie – the creators of the minions who were obviously big fans.) He is the shortest minion of the whole tribe. Bob is a kind-hearted minion.  He has a child’s point of view of the world – never counting anyone out & always doing something out of love for someone else.

In one of the Despicable Me movies he is one of the minions who, when a little girl’s stuffed unicorn is disintegrated, fashions one out of a baby bottle brush & some googly eyes. He delivers it with the price tag still on it (how very Minnie Pearl of him). And in another movie, when the villain is punished for her ways, he stops to give her a special gift he had just received since he knows it will bring her a bit of joy in a time when she has just lost the battle.

He never gives up on people. He puts their happiness ahead of his own. He lives to serve. He needs guidance from his fellow minions sometimes as his innocence can get in his own way. But he always has good reasons for stumbling while trying to help. If only we could all say we always had good intentions as adults – sometimes its not the case.

I guess I’m writing this here so, one day, when Nicholas is either a passive aggressive teen who knows everything & I know nothing (I hear these teens exist – I was NEVER EVER one of them – just take my word on this – definitely don’t ask my mother) or when he is struggling with life in general he can think back & remember the mantra “be like bob.”. Be kind-hearted, seek to spread happiness, & serve others. Especially when they don’t deserve it. So, in short – be like bob. Even when others fail you, be like bob.

 

a boy & his flag. 

Nicholas has a new favorite “thing”. I can’t call it a toy because…well, it’s not. But he loves it and my heart swells every time I see him with it. 

His new favorite thing is the American flag. I kid you not. In the past week he has been on the lookout for flags. Everywhere. 

 (He can’t quite say “flag” appropriately yet so as much as we try- the “l” sound is still hard for him. Embarrassing at times? Perhaps. But we try & correct and move on. And thankfully those who have heard it are so enamored with why in the sam hill a 21 month old is so excited about the flag that they ignore him mispronouncing the word.)

On Saturday morning we decided to go with daddy on one of his “it’s Saturday & so we must go to Home Depot today” weekly runs that he is all too famous for. We hopped on one of the shopping carts with a race car attachment on it. 

By the way I don’t know who thought about adding that contraption onto a cart but I think I speak for a lot of mamas when I say Thank you. You bring me sanity. Between that and the free cookies at Harris Teeter I might as well be at the spa. 

As we were waiting for daddy to find the hose bibs, connectors, pipes, and other “dad” things N & I perused the store. As we turned the corner into the patio section N started to shout & point “Mama. Flag! Flag mama!”. I quickly spotted the display & said “Yes, buddy you can have a fLag.” I pulled a 78cent flag out of the display and handed it to him.

He was so happy. I mean kid on Christmas happy. He waved that flag through the store while we looked for Andy. When folks would stop he would wave his flag and say “FLAG!!!”. Folks laughed. I laughed.

After we had shown practically everyone in the store our flag we found Andy. And we went to checkout. I took the flag to have it scanned so we could pay for it & Nicholas screamed “Not my flag mama!”. After we paid for it I gave it right back to him. 

He held it all the way home. (Try putting a 21 month old who comes from 2 stubborn parents in a car seat when he wont let got of his flag.) He ate lunch with his flag. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t nap with this flag. He was only satisfied when it too laid down for a nap. He asked for it as soon as he woke up. He ate snack with it. He & I had a “falling out” (read total meltdown) when I explained the flag doesn’t take baths so it shouldn’t get wet while you take yours. It went with us (in our car seat) to our godparents house for dinner. And yes when we came home it had to go to bed just like we do. 

You would think he would’ve woken up this morning and have forgotten about his 78 cent flag. Well, friends you like me would’ve been wrong. After church he wanted to know where his flag was. We ate after church hot dogs with our flag. We put our flag down for a nap before taking our own. We got up, shared our snack, and watched a movie with our flag. 

We could learn a lot from Nicholas & his flag. Love. Gratitude. Comfort. Respect. He might not know exactly what he is cherishing right now in that 78 cent replica but I’d like to think in a few years he’ll be just as in love with the red, white, & blue as he is today.

Enjoy these few photos of a boy & his American flag.