Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

What am I thankful for? Very simple . . .
THIS boy

And THIS girl.

And every single day that I get to see their smiling faces.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


These are my two very favorite people. It's taken a while for me to get pictures of them together because big brother was previously unwilling to hang out with little sister long enough for photo-opps, but we're getting there. And, oh, they are an adorable pair!Kaden's getting more comfortable with the concept of sharing. It's a good thing because Sydney's no shrinking violet and she's certainly not about to let anybody play anything without her.

They're even strolling together now. It kind of looks like he's giving her the cold shoulder in the picture below, but I think it was really just the rigidity of his cast making him sit that way.

Speaking of casts, Kaden got his second serial cast of his torso on Halloween. I'm so happy and relieved to report that everything went smoothly this time around. We were in and out of the hospital within a matter of hours and Kaden didn't have any throat or breathing problems coming out of anesthesia. And best of all, he got right back to his old self as soon as we brought him home. Hallelujah!

Since Kaden was in the hospital for much of Halloween, we skipped a lot of the festivities. But we couldn't let Sydney's first Halloween pass without some sort of observance. She helped us give out candy to neighborhood kids in her special Halloween PJs and tutu. My sweet precious girl.

And just before we put these angels to bed earlier tonight Kaden and Sydney discovered the Wizard of Oz. We only watched a small part of it tonight but I would bet we're in for lots more because Kaden loved the songs and Sydney was riveted. Her eyes were positively glued to the screen.

That's all we've got for now. Until next time, WE'RE OFF to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Back on Top!

I'm so happy to report that Kaden's almost completely back to full pre-cast mobility. After weeks of struggling and playing flat on the floor, he woke up one morning with a determined look in his eyes. I took the photo above later that night, about three weeks ago, when he picked himself up to play with a favorite old toy. The smile speaks for itself -- he was so happy and proud to be vertical again. He's been getting stronger ever since. (Well, except for a scary little bout of croup that sent us to the hospital a few days ago, but that's passing now too, thank goodness!)

He's been working very hard in speech therapy and has begun attempting to sign things like "more" and "all done." Check out how straight his back is in the cast and how straight he's sitting in that chair! Yes, casting does have a bright side.
The iPad is still his favorite possession and I hate to admit it but he got more than his fair share of iPad time when he wasn't moving around so well. Here he is playing with it in his new bean bag chair.

You can't tell from the pictures but he gets a death grip on that thing and it's almost impossible to pry it out of his hands. My skinny boy becomes the Incredible Hulk when someone tries to take away his iPad. It's really cute and funny in a we-seriously-need-to-curtail-this-iPad-use kind of way.

And how's our little girl doing?

At her recent 6 month well-baby visit to the pediatrician, she measured well above the 50th percentile for both length and weight. She's a non-stop babbler who can (and often does) say "da-da-da" all day long.
Without a doubt, my favorite Sydney quality so far is her easy smile. She's just so happy and eager to show it that just about anything anybody does can bring out a smile or, if she's really loving it, a hearty laugh. No matter how hard or gloomy the day has been, she finds the happy and makes it better.

So, that's the update. We're back on top and planning to stay.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Into the Woods . . .

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach . . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, to reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." -Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

This is a hard post to write. Until now, I've consciously decided to devote this space to documenting the sublime: the smiles and triumphs and joys of our lives. I've trained my mind to focus on the beauty that comes with raising our children and watching the story of our family unfold. I've glossed over the hard because, well, that's stuff I don't care to remember once these precious years have passed. The meanness of life has always lurked in the shadows, as it does for everyone in one way or another, but it's never defined us. It's not our story.

But life is complicated and sometimes the hard stuff is so game-changing that glossing over it would be dishonest. Sometimes the only thing you can do is surrender, survey what's been damaged or lost and figure a new path forward. That's where we are today -- past surrender, surveying the damage and taking our first uncertain steps down a new road.

Okay, so what am I talking about? Our precious 3 year-old little Kaden was casted for progressive infantile scoliosis on Friday, August 12th and it's been really hard. Heartbreakingly hard. For everyone. Especially him. But this little boy is amazing and his spirit is mighty and simply will not be crushed, which makes me happy and hopeful at the same time that it makes me sad to know that quality was born of pain and necessity. He is my hero, an absolute giant soul, and I'm so proud to be his mother.

To backtrack a little, I've mentioned here before that Kaden has progressive infantile scoliosis, hypotonia and global developmental delays. I've not mentioned here before that Kaden remains completely non-verbal and is believed by many of his doctors and therapists to have a sensory processing disorder that may or may not be related to an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD). The long and the short of it is that he's had to work extremely hard for every inch of everything when it's come to his development. We've had daily therapy since he was less than a year old: PT, OT, ST, special instruction, craniosacral, you name it and he's done it.

Unfortunately, we found out in April that his scoliosis had once again progressed. Left untreated, progressive infantile scoliosis can compromise heart and lung function and even lead to death. Obviously, doing nothing was not an option. After taking him to another city for a second opinion from an orthopedist on the cutting edge of infantile scoliosis, we decided to begin serial casting of his spine in an effort to regress the curve and, hopefully, avoid or delay dozens of invasive surgeries throughout his childhood and adolescence. Though serial casting, which requires a non-invasive surgical procedure every 2-3 months to adjust his spine and apply a new cast, is not an easy process, it's definitely the lesser evil of all the options available at this point.

We tried everything we could to prepare Kaden for his first casting but I'd be lying if I said that any of us were totally prepared. It's just one of those things -- you can't really know how it's going to go until you do it. We'd seen YouTube videos of other kids in casts who were up and walking within 24 hours, smiling and laughing as if nothing had changed and I guess it was sort of appealing to think things might play out that way for us even though deep down we feared it wouldn't be that simple. And nope, of course, it wasn't.

The first few hours after his casting were awful but not really because of the cast. Kaden had swelling in his throat from being intubated under anesthesia and the restriction from the swelling caused him to panic and hyperventilate. After a few scary moments with doctors and nurses hovering to administer a nebulizer and steroids, Kaden's breathing stabilized and he went into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Despite my relief that he was stable and asleep, my own anxiety began to shift into overdrive. See, I'd lifted Kaden out of his bed when they first brought him out and had felt the weight and stiffness of the cast. How on earth was my baby going to move in that albatross? And how was he going to react once he was coherent enough to understand his new, very different situation? We waited and worried at his bedside for hours. As expected, Kaden was absolutely miserable when he awoke. He refused to eat and laid motionless in bed while his eyes dripped with the biggest, saltiest tears I have ever seen.

Kaden's cast begins immediately under his arms and goes down to about an inch above his groin so he is no longer able to bend at the waist. It's very tight and anchored to his hips, sort of like a corset, which makes diaper changes messy and unpleasant for everyone. In those first hours after surgery it felt SO heavy (we've since learned that it takes 24-48 hours for the plaster to dry completely, and that it feels much lighter once fully dry) and our skinny, exhausted and petrified little boy seemed convinced that he would never move again.

The hospital would only allow one parent to stay at his bedside overnight so I sat alone with him in the dark as he drifted in and out of sleep. Late in the evening, Kaden held my hand and looked at me with big soulful eyes that said "Mommy, I can't move. I'm so scared and I don't understand."

I tried to reassure him. I told him I knew he was scared and I knew it was hard but that he was going to be okay. I told him that he needed to eat and sleep and build up his strength to get moving again and that daddy and I would be there every step of the way. I stroked his hair and kissed his cheeks and read him books until he fell asleep. And once I was sure he was in a deep deep sleep I went to the bathroom and sobbed the kind of gut wrenching sobs that only come a few times in a lifetime.

It's been a week since we left the hospital and Kaden has already made dramatic improvement. We saw his physical therapist everyday last week and he's slowly re-learning how to crawl and sit up on his own. It's going to be a long and difficult road but, as I mentioned earlier, this boy has a mighty mighty spirit and refuses to let this obstacle defeat him. My heart swells with pride whenever I see him get up on his elbows or pick up his tush to move across the floor. He smiles every time he does something new. My baby is awesome.

So, here we go, into the woods and back up a mountain we've already climbed to slay a dragon we thought was long dead.

Wish us luck . . .

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer 2011 Update


It's been a busy summer full of sun and smiles. As usual, I'm exhausted from trying to keep up with my two exuberant little angels.

For Kaden, this will go down as the summer of the iPad. It's an amazing tool for special needs kids and man, oh, man does he love it! We were passing an Apple store recently and decided not to take Kaden inside -- his eyes would have probably popped clean out of his head had he seen a whole store full of iPhones and iPads. Alas, my sweet boy, you'll get the joy of discovering that little treasure some other day in the future.
Kaden's other great passion this summer is books. He's growing a nice collection, probably about 25 titles. So far they're mostly Sandra Boynton books but he's beginning to step a few toes into the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss. It's so adorable the way he hands me the books to read and gives me the same coy "just this one" smile even when it's the millionth time he's handed me a book that day. And I think he's got half of them memorized! His latest trick is to bring books to me when I have my hands full feeding Sydney and when I tell him I can't read it because I'm feeding the baby he spreads the book out in front of me and turns the pages (appropriately) as I recite the words from memory. He's so totally awesome and he fills my heart with joy every single day.
Here he is perusing some books . . .
Posing with his fave new toy: a basketball hoop . . .

Working hard in speech therapy . . . (I snapped this pic through an observation window so the quality isn't the best)
And playing at the park with Daddy.

For Sydney, this will go down as a summer of many firsts, like rolling over. I didn't manage to get a picture of her first rolls but I did catch her trying to escape her crib. I think it's time I put on the bumper.

Her latest new friend is Sophie, a rubber giraffe that goes everywhere with her. Really, Sydney cries for Sophie if she's not around. It's very cute. Soon I'm gonna have to teach her that it's not okay to bite your friends' ears or legs but, for now, well, Sophie doesn't mind . . .

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sydney at 4 months old

The days have all gone by so quickly that it's hard to believe our little girl is already 4 months old. But on another level, it seems she's been a part of our family forever . . .

This little girl's got A LOT of personality. She loves the camera. And trying to roll all over the floor. And smiling and blowing bubbles and lounging around in her pajamas.

And, oh yes, she LOVES her brother! She watches everything he does and just cannot wait to play with him.

As you can see, there's been an explosion of cuteness around here and I'm totally loving it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Angel!

It's hard to believe our little boy is already 3-years old. Yesterday was Kaden's big day! It really chokes me up to reflect on how much Kaden's grown and how far he's come in the past year. Here he is smiling for the camera as mommy and daddy sing Happy Birthday.

This year he liked balloons but pretty much refused to wear his birthday hat -- oh well, at least we managed to get him to wear this cute "It's my Birthday" ribbon.
Birthday cake still isn't his favorite. And, apparently, he really doesn't like to be photographed eating.

No matter how many new toys he gets, it's simple pleasures like riding around in a plastic container and reading a book with daddy that really make this big boy happy.

We had a great day celebrating our precious little man. I'm so glad I get to be his mama!

Monday, June 20, 2011

HAPPY HAPPY! Here Comes Kaden's 3rd Birthday!

The big day is here - Kaden's 3 years old! We're all set and ready to greet him with balloons as soon as he wakes up . . .

Pictures of the birthday boy coming soon!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Almost-Birthday Fun at the Beach

Kaden is almost 3 years old. Although his actual birthday is still a few days away, we kicked off his birthday month with a family trip to the beach.Kaden is a huge fan of the ocean. He was super excited to kick around in the surf with daddy even though the water is still freezing cold this time of year.

He tries to grab for the water as it rolls away from his feet. So adorable.

He played in the sand with daddy . . .

And then sang songs and shared giggles with mommy.

And how did Sydney enjoy her first trip to the beach?

I think its safe to say the sand and surf really tire her out.

We had a great time and can't wait to do it again next year!