The Beetle Parable, or Why the World Needs Love

me and kids fort
Kayden, me, & Paxton,  June 2016

My kids “saved” a beetle today. Why? Because they are kids.

We went for a walk semi-early in an attempt to get ahead of the heatwave.  We were only one door down when my middle son, Paxton–who blog readers know feels deeply, his compassion and heartbreak eternal–squealed with dismay. Oh no!, he kept saying, until Kayden and I and the stroller made our way back to him. He was crouched down, sullen, staring a belly-up beetle in the…well, in the something. Fix him, Mommy!, Kayden yelled. She had joined Paxton’s sense of urgency as soon as she realized the beetle’s legs were moving and he was, in fact, alive but stranded mid-sidewalk. Together, we found a leaf and carefully turned him back onto his legs. Paxton then decided to shade him with the leaf and insisted we check on him when we finished our walk.

Twenty minutes later as we rounded the corner back to our house, the kids ran ahead to check on their friend, now named Jason (of all things!). And there was Jason, back on his back, still on the sidewalk. Mommy! MOMMY! Both kids were distraught now at the thought of this beetle unable to get to shelter and unable to cool down. I picked up the leaf and gentle lifted him to my neighbor’s yard.  We placed him in a shady spot both under a tree and near my neighbor’s irrigation system.  We agreed the damp, cool place would help him thrive.

Fast forward to after lunch.  I needed a few kitchen staples–and an iced coffee–so I shuttled the three littles to Whole Foods.  Somehow, Jason came up in conversation while we were gone, so the second we returned home, the kids ran to our neighbor’s yard and found him, on his back again.  Before I could finish putting the groceries away, Kayden and Paxton made a little eco-system out of an old Tupperware container: they stuffed it with small twigs and leaves and grass and dirt, they poured a little water in the bottom, and they gently placed Jason inside using a sand shovel. He’s our pet! We will protect him and take care of him!, they proclaimed.  I did not, still do not, have the heart to tell them that Jason, their beloved pet beetle, is already gone, that his legs haven’t wiggled since we placed him under that tree.  They saw this creature, no bigger than a peanut and something that would have startled them if they found it in the house, and they cared for it.  They nurtured it.  They loved it, instinctively.

Kids default to love; we model hate.  This is nothing new.  Countless bloggers and authors have explored this very subject.  But today, the day after learning of the terrible tragedy in Nice, I was overcome with this notion as I watched my kids react, feel, and love.

I have no intention of getting soap-boxey or political.  I have no intention of changing your belief system or of persuading you to seek a way to save the world.  The world, unfortunately, cannot be saved.  Our kids, though, we can save.  We cannot save them from harm or from tragedy or from reality. So much is out of our control.  We can save them from their own hate. Model love for your kids.  Model positivity. Model coming to the rescue. Model forgiveness.  If these become our default reactions, our instincts, they just may remain the traits our kids bring into adulthood, too.

And, when you really don’t know what else to do, when the world and people’s actions stop making sense, let your kids house and feed a pet beetle named Jason that never really had a chance in the first place.

A Letter to my Middle Child

My Dearest Paxton:

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I grew up in a “rich man’s family,” as it’s called: one daughter and one son. I am older than my brother, Uncle Patchy, by four years and enjoyed the privileges of being the first born and of being female. I set the tone for teachers’ expectations of Wrede family kids. I could play Mommy to my brother and get away with–if only in my mind–telling him what to do or telling on him to Nanny and Poppop. I set the play date schedule and extracurricular/athletic activity interests of the family. I felt great power. Uncle Patchy also felt his own sense of power. He could play the “little brother card” and tell Nanny and Poppop I was picking on him. He could often experience freedoms–later curfews or less questioning of his whereabouts–because I had already negotiated our parents through it all. In my opinion, he could get away with a lot more because he was the “baby.” Plus, he had his four years of high school with his sister away at college and was able to take all the attention he wanted. We each felt the benefits of our genealogy.

You, my blonde and silly and wise and emotional middle man, don’t get those automatic rights of passage. Kayden is the oldest, the boss, and the only girl. She will leave the first impression on teachers and micromanage your play and get the first choice for many things. Kellen is the baby, the coddled one, the one who will probably experience few rules and restraints. You are supposed to be the proverbial Middle Child: the neglected one, the mischievous one, the bad egg.

I am here to tell you that you are not. You are our light, our core.

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When you grow up, you may or may not remember the summer Mommy was pregnant with Kellen. You may or may not recall the stress of his CCAM diagnosis and the weight of his surgery. I know I’ll remember it all. What I will truly reflect on, though, even years from now, is how you guided me through the emotions and baggage and worry without even realizing it. At 2 1/2 years old, your intuition took over. You frequently walked over and took my hand as I stood at the sink, mulling over the doctor’s latest information. You cuddled up to me on the couch, silently and still fixated on an episode of Odd Squad, when you heard my breathing get heavy or noticed a tissue in my hand. You made me laugh with a silly facial expression or a knock knock joke of your own creation (Knock knock. Who’s there? Joseph. Joseph who? I love cereal!) when I would get lost in my own thoughts again. You made me present, brought me back to reality.

You smiled. Always. Every day. Without reservation. That smile mended the broken heart I was fighting against. You saved me. Throughout that entire process, I could count on you to keep me afloat. That is a hefty burden to put on a toddler, so know it was not something I expected of you nor demanded of you. But you gave selflessly–whether consciously or subconsciously.

Your sister is remarkable. She is brilliant and capable and athletic and beautiful and I love her more than words. But she spent this summer out of her normal school routine. Take Sissy out of her routine and you create a powder keg. Kayden needs time and space to be creative, but she needs to know that time and space exists in a predictable, scheduled way. A summer of countless doctor’s appointments and play dates and shore trips and a Disney vacation and pool visits and you name it left her feeling overwhelmed and unsure of when her next opportunity to play school would come. This overwhelmed her and drained me. We–maybe it is the cliche emotional makeup of females–felt stress in the summer’s randomness and the unknown. You embraced it.

You live optimistically. You love life’s variety. Yes, you have tantrums and breakdowns. You are a preschooler; those are unavoidable. Your sadness arises from some physiological need not being met: you are hungry, you are tired, you are hurt, either physically or emotionally. You feel and take offense, but you care and give. You are the most genuine soul I’ve ever known. Daddy and I may joke to you that you wear your heart on your sleeve, but be assured that is a trait you possess that we will never truly take lightly nor will we take it for granted. We understand that this capacity to feel will make life heavy at times, and we will be here to guide you or hold your hand or smile in your direction.

We also know this means, conversely, that you will celebrate every small win and every tiny joy. I made you a frozen English muffin for breakfast the other morning when we were rushing out the door and you told me I was the best mommy ever. Whenever Daddy makes your favorite shrimp for dinner, you remind him after every bite that it is “mmm, MMM! Delicious!”. You often ask your babysitter for an extra snack to bring home to Kayden when she is at school and you thank her with real, grateful hugs when she relents. You cheerfully yell the name of anyone who comes to visit and praise the dogs when they come in from doing their business. If you feel it, we know it–the good and the bad. And when we feel it, and you sense it and act in a way that makes our feelings valid and supported. Kayden is intuitive, too, in that she thinks situations through and has this endless desire to know all aspects of a situation, even aspects beyond her years. You have an endless capacity to feel alongside a person, to climb into another’s heart. I cannot wait to see how this ability of yours evolves as you mature and grow and engage with more and more of life’s “stuff,” and though I know this will be difficult to navigate at times, I pray you remain genuine through it all. Never be too proud of your emotions, happy or sad. Feel them. Live by example. Don’t worry about the world’s definition of being tough or being a man or being soft. You are all of the above at once. How special is that?

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This past Sunday night, the only beings who slept for more than a handful of hours uninterrupted were our two dogs. Your baby brother had a bad cold and a fever from teething and was up nearly every hour. Your sister had a cough and a tummy ache and the nerves of her first standardized test (in kindergarten! More of my feelings on this at another time!) keeping her awake from 12-2 am. Daddy and I were up and about for hours changing sheets from baby spit up and Kayden’s night sweats and calming nerves and cries when, at some point in the melee, we heard you walking around your room. When I peeked in and found you reaching for a shirt in your closet, I asked what you were up to. “I’m getting dressed,” you stated with the matter-of-factness of a man 20 times your age. “You know, for school. Sissy’s not in here so it must be morning.” Bless your heart. Bless your “let me be of little nuisance” mentality. Bless your intuition that taking care of yourself in that moment–even though it was hours before you needed to and something we would never ask of a now 3 year old–would just help. Daddy got you back to bed and I snuck in an kissed you after Kellen finally settled and you know what we both said as we closed your door, 45 minutes apart? Thank you.

That very same morning, but when we actually needed to be awake and getting ready for school, I skipped my morning workout, hit snooze nearly a dozen times, and took a groggy, rushed shower at the latest possible time. When I turned off the water, I was startled into a smile, surprised to hear you singing in your room. You had been awake during the night shift with the rest of us and sleep is so very essential to you. Yet here you were, sitting on your bed singing, “it’s morning! Good morning! It’s morning!” in a tune I didn’t recognize and in a voice so full of vigor and sweetness.image You did it again: turned my mood in a way only you can.

When the dust of the morning settled and everyone had shoveled down some sort of breakfast and was dressed and combed and jacketed to get the heck out to school, Daddy scruffed your fluffy blonde hair and said, “Bud, you get us through.” You really do.

You are not the middle child. You are the center, the heartbeat. You are the rock that grounds us all. Don’t ever forget that. I know I won’t.

Friday Faves: Me Time

I’ve blogged before about the many hats I wear. I do not say this to seem remarkable; I say this to prove that we are all that way. At any given moment of any given day we may be mom, employee, wife, sister, car pooler, team mom, friend, neighbor, coach, daughter, boss, chef, maid, etc. We switch from being needed to needing, from being in charge to following orders, from being free to being structured. This causes chaos in our minds, our bodies, and, often, for our families. I must remember that of all the identities I juggle on any given day, I am always me. Scheduling or “indulging” in “me time,” as most call it, is beyond necessary for our own well-being.

I haven’t been as consistent with Friday Favorites since I started back at work, but I decided this week I am not compromising on it. I am writing this week. Which gave me the idea to write about why I love to write: it is my perfect me time. I am an awe of words and sentences (just ask my students) and often marvel at how they link together and create imagery and worlds and beliefs and arguments and beauty.  I teach my students that they should write like readers and read like writers. I strive to do that, too. When I sit down to write a blog–whether it is planned out ahead of time or rather in-the-moment–I feel a true release of energy and a surge or calm all at the same time. I adore toying with word placement and sentencing, with exploring how I write something rather than what I write. This is when I am most centered, most grounded. This is my favorite me time of all. I encourage you to try it. Get a journal or start a blog or post of Facebook once a day. Even one sentence well-considered is therapeutic for me.

What else do I love to do when it’s just me? Keep reading to find out. You won’t find any earth-shattering on this list, but perhaps you’ll remember what it is you love that helps you find your center. Strive to spend even just 10 minutes each day on “you time” so that your other hats can fit a bit better.

2. Reading: I don’t read enough. I know I’ve previously shared my favorite novels, but that list is deceiving. It takes me quite a while to finish a novel. For one, I am always rereading a text or two for school–not to mention the student writing I read. I really need to make an effort to fit in reading for pleasure. I cannot do so right before bed, though, or I’ll be asleep within 5 minutes. When I do make the time, however–when Mike is watching college hoops or when I have just 15 minutes of hall duty left after grading quizzes–I love it. I escape into another place and embrace the journey.  I marvel at the author’s craft and daydream my own endings.  I let myself be in a moment that belongs to just me.
3. Running/working out: I’ve written before about starting each most mornings with a sun salutation.  It is amazing what those few minutes of yoga and meditation can do for my psyche. But I need to really sweat, to really workout, to feel true to myself.

I’ve grown to love running.  It is freeing to run outdoors, in the fresh air, and to push my pace.  I am not fast but I love challenging myself.  Reach the stop sign before the song ends.  Sprint for 30 seconds every time the song changes.  These mind games fuel my competitive side while quenching my need for health and fitness.  I get grumpy when I don’t get a run in over a long period of time.  Even if I am in the midst of an at-home program or challenge group, I get especially antsy if I haven’t been able to run.  I am still regaining my miles from my pregnancy.  I know it takes time.  The runs I’v been able to tackle, though, inspired me to get back into distance running.  My husband, sister-in-laws, and I plan to run a half marathon in November.  Now it is time for serious mind games.

I also adore working out in my living room, sometimes bright and early and alone, and sometimes with a kid or two or three at my feet.  TurboFire is my go-to.  Chalene Johnson is my best friend in my head.  The mix of HIIT and Fire workouts allow me to do the perfect program in the amount of time I have available.  I’ve had this program for 5 years and is still my favorite. I am in the midst of 21 Day Fix Extreme right now

4. Shopping. At Target. Alone.: Moms, need I say more? Especially if there is a Starbucks. It is like a mini vacation. I would worry the employees all in red look at me strangely for meandering around their aisles for a full hour, but I know I am not the only one. I’ve got my leggings on, I’ve got a list I’ll exceed by at least 7 items, and I’ve got the perfect Pandora station playing from my iPhone. I am home. Until I’m really home with three bags full of dollar-bin items for holidays weeks away that I’ll either A. give to the kids in a matter of days, or B. forget I have entirely until the holiday has passed.

I can also get pretty zen traipsing up and down the narrow aisles of Whole Foods or the wide halls of the mall. Again, my earbuds are in and I’m focused.  I’m trying to send the message that my time is for me only.  No, I do not want to smell your perfume.  No, I am not interested in your miracle hand cream. No, if I wanted a new tub I’d go to Home Depot, not the food court foyer. No, I’d rather not have my eyebrows threaded in front of all these people. If I wanted to be having a conversation with someone, I would have brought my kids along. This is all about me.

5. Cooking: This is a new one for me.  I’ve always been fascinated by recipes, but found most yummy ones intimidated.  I’ve had my standbys, though.  If I was cooking for a crowd or for a holiday, I’d make stuffed shells.  If I was a guest at a party, I’d make my fruit salsa.  If I was cooking on a weekend morning, I’d make pancakes.  Mike and I have differing tastes, so I tended to stick with tried-and-true recipes on weeknights, like my pork chops or chicken ala yummy.  Plus, he often works late, so I lived by the mantra “the easier the better,” which left to countless nights of take-out or boil-out-of-the-box pasta with sauce out-of-the-jar.  My husband never complained, but he rarely praised my cooking.

Now, he does. He often expresses how much he enjoys our new recipes, and I am truly in love with cooking them. We’ve both become increasingly adventurous as we’ve began to understand the importance of clean eating and balancing our macronutrients.  As a result, I’ve curated an extensive library of clean recipes from the vast corners of the internet and am venturing more and more into creating my own.  The most beautiful side of clean cooking and eating is that our meals rely on the natural flavors of in-season foods; you almost can’t go wrong.

I also love getting the kids involved–even though this is listed under “me time”.  This adds many minutes to the suggested “prep time” of any recipe,  but the memories and healthy habits this creates are priceless.  My son especially loves to bake with me; he is always on hand when I make muffins or cookies. Kayden, though she loves to watch baking shows on YouTube, prefers to cook or meal prep.  She loves to sort our fresh snacks or to portion out the ingredients for a meal.  I hope to get them more and more involved as they get older.

6. Watching my shows: I feel like one of my grandmothers when I type that, “my shows.” Each of my grandmas had their shows (or her “stories,” as Nanny Agnes called them), and by shows they meant soap operas.  I am not a day-time TV kinda gal, but I do fall hard for one or two shows at a time that I need in my life.  Big time. I will curl up on the couch alone with a cup of tea or a handful (ok, a bag) of Craisins or a huge spponful of peanut butter and just watch.  I don’t binge.  I absorb.  I immerse myself in these characters.  I memorize their lines.  I cry with them and laugh with them and love with them.

I’ve had many shows over the years–Big Love, Swingtown (gone far too soon!), Smash–and am currently hooked on Younger, The Americans, and Nashville. My husband and I watch The Americans together, which makes me feel less guilty that I am currently in long-term relationships with 3 shows, but I couldn’t pick just one.  I am obsessed with them.

Something to realize is that “me time” doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Many times, when I pencil in time to recharge and get back to me, it involves my favorite people.
7. Talking to my mom on the phone: I do this daily. We usually chat blue tooth-style on my short drive to work in the morning and at least once again in the afternoon.  These phone conversations are part routine, part catharsis, completely “me time” qualified because it is like having a conversation with myself.
8. Girls nights: Every person needs a time to recharge his or her batteries.  I refuel once every month or two with a girls night. This usually means a dinner out with some wine and good conversation, it sometimes means a Pampered Chef or 31 party, and it can even mean a meet-up for lunch (a girls day!) at one of our houses.  These social gatherings with one or more girlfriends renews my sense of self and rekindles my ability to be Mom. These get-togethers are good for my soul and good for my family.
9. One-on-one time with each child: I don’t get to do this enough, but that is the lot we chose by having three kids 5 and under.  Someone is always demanding my attention.  When I can devote time for an activity each child loves, though, we reconnect and I feel less mommy-guilt.  Anything that reduces mommy-guilt has to be “me time.”

With Kayden, I play school.  If she had her way, we would play every waking minute of the day. What she doesn’t understand is that I play school every day as a high school English teacher.  Continuing that momentum and those activities when I just want to be Mom feels daunting and draining and droll. I can often swindle my way into being “Miss Pam,” who is conveniently a like-named women who works in the school’s office.  This way I can continue to make dinner or work on paperwork or fold laundry and it is as if I’m completing my secretarial duties. Other times, I can take the role of “Miss Julie,” the college-aged helper who assists all classes in the afternoon.  When I am Miss Julie, I can spend 10 minutes with Kayden in full kindergarten aide mode–cutting circles and folding paper and sorting books–and then assist the other classes for a stretch of time, aka spend time with my other two children.  But some days, she wants me to just be her teacher or just be her student and when I do, when it is just us, I can’t help but be in awe of her imagination and attention to detail and eerie reincarnation of my entire childhood.  This is “me time” for both of us.  I must allow myself to enjoy it fully more often.

Paxton likes waking up early and cuddles and Odd Squad and doing puzzles.  We often spend our one-on-one time while everyone else is still sleeping.  He is naturally an early riser and an immediate eater, so we will head down for breakfast and put on a favorite show and relax on the couch for a few minutes before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day and family take over.  These few minutes of contact are usually all he needs.  If he wakes up and I am already getting ready for school or doing my workout, he accompanies me throughout the entire process.  He just needs to know I’m there and needs me to know he’s there.  Lately, he’ll do a puzzle on the floor while I get my things together for the day, or he’ll sit beside me as I check in with my challenge groups early in the morning.  He’s my shadow most of the morning and though it can stress me out when we are in a time crunch or when I’m tripping over him at every turn, I have to embrace these moments when Mommy is his number one girl.

Kellen’s an easy sell: give him a few minutes to nurse and he is golden.  I am especially in love with nursing this time, most likely since we plan on Kellen being the final Bus Baby.  I can tell he is beginning to teeth and is a bit antsy, but I am going to ride out this wave with him as long as he’ll have it.  Stay tuned for his big boy mommy-and-me time. 😉
10. TV with my husband: I’ve already told you about my shows.  Well, Mike and I have our shows as well. We love the entire Chicago series: Fire, PD, and Med. We’ll watch Shark Tank and The Big Bang Theory.  We’ve seen every season of Homeland and 24.  And last year we finally got on the Breaking Bad bandwagon and never looked back.  We’ll sit together with cups of coffee or tea or a glass of wine and just watch.  This is the time when we mentally unwind, often fall asleep, and do very little talking, but we love it. We compare notes on predictions or quiz each other on a new character’s identity from a different show or film (well, maybe I just quiz him and then immediately look up said actor/actress on IMDB), but it is this routine that I find most comforting.  This isn’t boring marriage stuff.  This is practiced marriage stuff.  This is “life is so chaotic and our world is often so loud that this televised escape is needed” stuff. Plus, Mike knows I’ll make up all the not-talking with plenty of chattiness the second his head hits his pillow.

How do you sustain you? Tell me in the comments!  And leave your info below!  I’d love to know who’s reading, and I promise–no spam. Just Pam. 🙂





My Kayden

I am looking forward to watching TV later tonight. A co-worker of mine and her husband are competing on this season of The Biggest Loser. They’ve made it all the way to the finale (we hope anyway–cliff hanger!) and, collectively, have lost almost 200 pounds so far. I have not only enjoyed watching Jacky and her husband find health and wellness through tireless hard work, but I have also been moved by the fact that they left their children behind to embark on this mission. They knew the long term benefits far outweighed the few months of separation. They can now live healthier, happier, more active lives, and their kids will do the same.

I’ve watched each episode via DVR with my two sons the morning after it airs. I’ll nurse Kellen and get cozy on the couch besides Paxton and we will cheer for the contestants during the challenges and talk about their struggles. Pax will often ask me why I’m crying, too, as the emotion of the show hits me. He doesn’t get it, though, nor should he at only 3 years old.11935004_10100723596079699_261252315343460429_n

Kayden is in kindergarten full-day and missed my maternity leave Tuesday mornings catching up on the show. On President’s Day, weirdly enough, she asked about it. “Is your friend still on TV?”, she questioned. “Yes,” I said. “Want to see?” So I put on the previous week’s episode: makeover week. I’d watched already and wanted to take advantage of the boys’ overlapping nap, so I started doing laundry and prepping dinner. Before long, I heard sniffles coming from the family room. There was Kayden, sitting tall against a fluffy sunshine-colored pillow, staring at the screen with tears streaming down her face. When I asked if she was OK, she simply told me to go so she could watch alone. My presence was definitely embarrassing her. I stood for a moment, caught in a conundrum, or a momundrum, as I call it: the motherly dilemma we face that seems to only be between equally bad options. Do I stay and talk her through her emotions? No. She’ll get angry. Do I turn off the TV so she isn’t so impacted? No. Life is full of emotions, but does she really need these emotions right now? Do I leave the room, as she requested, and let her fend for herself emotionally? And that’s what I did, option 3.  I knew she would talk to me about this when she was ready.

I headed up stairs with a basket of laundry and as I overturned it on my bed and began to fold, I, too, began to cry. I also began to pray. I began to thank God for Kayden, something I don’t do enough. She is free spirited, mature yet still a kindergartner, strong willed, emotional. I often allow those traits and the chaos of my day to color our interactions. Just get dressed, Kayden. We’ll have time for that later. Yes, you must eat at least five bites for dinner to even count as dinner. Come on, girlfriend. We don’t have time to play school. We have to go to real school.

But Kayden is exceptional. I must remind myself that. She, at 5 years old, gets things. She watched the makeover episode of The Biggest Loser and cried because families were being reunited, because lives were being changed. She’s exceptional because as we sat to eat breakfast on Christmas morning, she asked to offer a new prayer for Daddy’s grandmom Pat–who passed away over the summer–to enjoy her first Christmas in heaven. She is exceptional because when she learned one polar bear at the Philadelphia Zoo passed away, she wailed for a half hour, asking why the other polar bear had to be alone or why so many kids won’t get a chance to see her now.  And then she remembered GiGi Poppop in heaven may see the polar bear and she perked back up.

When Kayden asks a question, especially one that leads to a momundrum, I often take the approach less desirable: I tell her the truth. Last year, Kayden asked me how babies come out. “I know God puts them in all the mommies,” she stated to my joyous surprise, “but how do they come out?” Well, I told her. I told her about the different types of births and gave examples of women in our lives who had delivered each way. I told her how she and Pax were born and that I hoped to do the same with this baby. When Kellen was born, Kayden asked me two questions immediately upon visiting us at the hospital: 1. Did he come out of your belly or like you wanted him to? 2. Did the doctors fix his lung yet? We never hid any of our Kellen worries from her; she would have intuited them if we had.  She may become emotional watching The Biggest Loser, and when a polar bear passes, but when she deals with death or hardships or health issues within our true family, issues she can see and touch in real life, she just handles them.
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Kayden is exceptional, but she is also 5. She still throws tantrums, but I am really starting to understand from where they brew. She truly thinks and feels like an adult, but she doesn’t always have the words to express that or the authority to deal zoowith what that means on her own. This plagues her. She spends every waking minute pretending to be an adult: being a teacher or being a mom. These are the moments when she is most exceptional. When she has to be a kid, though, when she has to rely on others or take direction, her mind can’t wrap itself around that.

That’s why I also prayed to be patient with her, to better understand how simultaneously easy and complex the world is for her. She is her own toughest antagonist. She is her own conflict. Kayden is exceptionally tough and intuitive and spiritual and smarter than me.  And I must thank God she is mine.

 

Friday Favorites: Kidisms

While we were on our way to pick up my kindergartner yesterday, my three-year old son started singing along to the song playing on the radio.  He soon asked, “Is this called ‘Chew on my mind?'” “Excuse me,” I remarked, perplexed.  “This song,” he insisted, “I think it has a silly name, ‘Why I go chew on my mind’!”

I laughed for 5 minutes.

He was referring to Ellie Goulding’s “On my Mind” and while Miss Goulding may have a quaint British accent to me, my son interprets the central thesis of her current pop hit as self-inflicted cannibalism.  I spent the rest of the drive half laughing, half reminiscing over the adorable mispronunciations, misunderstandings, and repeat phrases of toddlerhood that we parents secretly wish our little humans will never outgrow.  And since I’ve been in the throws of back-to-school (for me!) prep and running my first challenge group, today’s content calendar was still blank.  Until my car ride with Paxton, that is.  I am dedicating this week’s Friday Favorites post to the beloved utterings of my kids.  Kellen’s only emissions consist of giggles and potty sounds, so this list will focus solely on the cute and confused kidisms of my two biggest minis.

  1. Kayden’s “Bah”

Kayden and Paxton were both pacifier obsessed. The attachment to a paci for Kayden was entirely my doing, though. She seemed to only sleep when nursing and, as a first-time mom, I catered to any behavior that meant sleep.  Unless I planned on spending all of her sleeping moments tethered to her crib, I needed a solution. Enter binky. I could discretely trade Mommy for a pacifier and her slumber would continue.  I know I am not the only mom who fought the Sleepy Monster this way and, as I’ve said before, a win is a win.  A sleeping baby is win in deed.

Kayden loved her paci.  She napped and slept with it and, before we knew it, we caved and allowed her to have it in the car and when playing and when waiting for dinner and…okay, she had it all the time. Again, we are not the only ones. Before we knew it, Kayden was turning one and starting to really talk and was still sucking on her pacifier whenever she could.  That is when “bah” developed.  We are not sure from where this word emerged, but one day Kayden kept saying “bah” whenever she requested her beloved pacifier.  This word caught on quickly.  Grandparents, her aunts and uncle, and close family friends all knew what “bah” meant.

A few months after Paxton was born, when Kayden was just over 2 years old and still using her “bah”, we heard “bah” for the last time.  I was putting Kayden to sleep when I noticed a tear in the nipple of her beloved “bah.” I was horrified.  I thought she’d choke! I quickly threw it away and searched for a replacement.  Mike and I had stopped buying them in hopes of weaning her from the habit, but I was pretty sure I’d find at least one more in her room before she melted down and realized it was missing.  I uncovered one under her crib (we’ve all found them there, am I right?) but soon discovered this one, too, had a tiny hole.  I stood there, speechless, afraid of what to say to my two-year old. “Bah broken?” Kayden asked.  Instead of looking sad, though, she looked quite serious. “Yes,” I said, sheepishly. “Bah broken. Bah go in garbage.” And before I knew it, she had grabbed her last pacifier out of my hand, marched downstairs, and threw it away in the kitchen trash can. No tears. No yelling. No longing for “bah” from that moment on.  Kayden got it.

Kayden is like this. When she is ready, stuff happens. I remind myself of “bah” often–like when we struggled with potty training or when she has gone through phases of climbing into our bed at night.  Before long, she’ll be ready, just like with her “bah”.  And just like that, whatever is supposed to happen just happens because one day she decides it’s so.  “Bah” helps me to not worry about her so much.  She can handle big decisions and life’s many stages.  When she decided one night this summer that gymnastics wasn’t for her, I knew that even at 4, she meant it, so we stopped.  She just gets life somehow.  She understands when a decision has to be made or a move has to be made, you just do it.  I so admire her for that.

2. “Nong nong”

If I gave you one hundred guesses, I don’t think you would figure out that “nong nong” is what we called yogurt for the longest time.  This was another Kaydenism.  No part of the word yogurt even closely resembles nong nong, but that’s what Kayden called all varieties of the dairy product–be it Gogurt or Greek yogurt or frozen yogurt or whatever.

Just before Kayden turned one, Mike and I were in our good friends’ wedding. As chance would have it, the ceremony and reception were going to be at a country club very close to my in-laws’ house, so all of the groomsmen got ready and had their photos taken there.  Aside from one groomsmen forgetting to bring his rental shoes and some delay in their food delivery, the main highlight (well, that the guys were willing to share with us ladies!) was of Kayden walking around her grandparents’ house requesting “nong nong”.  No, this wasn’t some new-fangled Asian fusion food I found at Whole Foods.  No, this wasn’t some Bachelor party-esque nonsense innocently escaping “from the mouths of babes”.  “Nong nong” was Kayden’s favorite snack: yogurt.

3. “Blankey fall down me!”

If you ask Mike what Kayden is good at, he’ll give you a wonderful, Dad-doting list.  She’s quite smart.  She loves her brothers. She’s responsible about wearing and caring for her glasses.  She is a pro at stall ball. Stall ball?  Fellow parents know exactly what this is.  It is the 10-minute routine turned 45-minute marathon more colloquially known as bedtime. Somehow, there is no thirst like the thirst that strikes a child when a parent says “good night” and no story that is satisfying when read only once.  According to my husband, and I can’t really disagree, Kayden has mastered the act of stall ball. She always has to tell us just one more thing–which is usually eight things–or she has suddenly remembered a dream she had three weeks ago that we MUST hear now or she can’t decide if she wants to stay in her top bunk or join Paxton in the bottom bunk and only seventeen rounds of rock-paper-scissors while solve said dilemma.

This stall ball skill developed rather early.  Mike and I may have to take some of the responsibility for her professional status of late because it was so damn cute when she started. One night after we said prayers, read a story, and I sang The Killers’ “Dustland Fairytale” to her, Mike and I were waving to her at the door when she sat upright and said, “Ooh my blankey fall down me!”.  It was the most hysterical and unexpected thing.  We both laughed so hard that soon Kayden was laughing.  We tried getting her back down and adjusting her tiny little blankey over her tiny little body, but she continued to sit up and yell “my blankey fall down me!”.  This went on for months.  Months.  But, like “bah” and “nong nong”, one day Kayden decided she was old enough to do to bed without blanket dramatics.  Don’t get me wrong; she is still stall ball MVP.  We have plenty of bedtime dramatics.  The cute and well-meaning “my blankey fall down me” just isn’t part of it anymore.  Sometimes, though, Mike or I say it out of the blue.  Just because.

4. “Morn!”

Paxton made me cry a few weeks ago.  No, he did nothing wrong.  Instead, he asked if he could have more water at bedtime (he’s learning from his sister for sure!).  I wasn’t sad that he, too, was in on the stall ball game.  I wasn’t annoyed that I had to go downstairs to refill a water cup I swear I filled five minutes before.  I cried because he said “more” and not “morn.”  Paxton is three and since he could talk, he has always said “morn.”  This, like Kayden’s “bah,” became used among our entire family. I would ask Pax if he wanted “morn” grapes or “morn” Legos or “morn” cuddles.  This was the word I hoped he would say forever.  We never corrected him ; we used it right along side of him.  He believed in this word and in its meaning and this belief was so pure and honest.  I wanted that naivity to last forever.  Or, at least until he started kindergarten.

Just last week, Kayden also noticed Paxton suddenly pronounced “more” correctly. “Aww, Bud, you’re getting so big!”, said the 5-year old to the 3-year old.  Yes, he is.  Yes, both of you are.  And sometimes my heart just can’t take it.

5. “Day.”

I have to thank Mike for reminding me about this one.  Paxton was a late talker.  He’s a boy.  He’s the second.  His sister does all his talking for him.  That’s what real grown ups–you know, our parents or doctors or people who’s kids don’t still eat their boogers–would say. We were worried, though.  Kayden seemed to come out talk in full, thoughtful albeit mispronounced sentences; Paxton hardly said Dada or Mama.  But he said “dey” whenever he meant yes.  And, if I do say so myself, it was adorable.  When I was little, I can recall my mom and I joking that my younger brother had a French accent.  He called his blanket his “ooh-vwanky” and napkins were “napcuums,” like vacuums.  Paxton’s “dey” was similar.  It seemed other, almost foreign.  He doesn’t use it anymore, but his dialect remains his own.  He just annunciates in a particular, measured, and occasionally sing-song, ultra-sweet way that only he can deliver.  I swear he is one-part 70-year old retired investment banker sitting on a rocking chair in Georgia drinking sweet tea and one part cartoon character of a full-hearted little boy.  His voice and his observations are somewhere in between.

At the start of the new year, Paxton began attending preschool three days a week. His teachers regularly tell me they forget he’s three. He talks so well!  We have real conversations. We can understand him better than many of the other three-year olds.  I wonder why I worried so much.  He really has come a long way.  But do I miss his little Paxisms?  Dey.

6. “My Bubbos”

Like my brother, Paxton has a special name for his blankets.  Yes, his blankets.  Paxton legitimately sleeps with 12 blankets–mostly receiving blankets–that he’s had since he was a baby.  This collection of cuddlies is better known as “his bubbos.” When he first started really talking, we swore he called them his bubbles or something like that, but “bubbos” it is.  Heaven help us if even one is downstairs at bedtime or, even worse!, in the washing machine.  He will tell you exactly which one is missing.  He has named them after their design.  He has monkey bubbo and elephant bubbo and puppy bubbo and…you get the idea.

He has three Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blankets that are without a doubt his favorite “bubbos”.  These all traveled with us this summer when we took our first real family vacation to Disney World. I kept one bubbo in my bookbag at all times in case Pax needed the security, but for the most part, the excitement of park-hopping and character dining allowed for his bubbo to remain safely tucked away.  On the fifth day of our seven-day vacation, though, giraffe bubbo emerged while we awaited a transfer from Animal Kingdom to Blizzard Beach.  Ten minutes into our water park adventure, a giant Florida sized storm erupted and we were forced to take cover.  For two hours.

This turned out to be awesome: we waited out the storm when hardly anyone else did and had the park to ourselves when it reopened.  This turned out to be terrible: 5 minutes into that 2-hour wait we realized we left giraffe bubbo at the bus stop back at Animal Kingdom. Paxton was devastated.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  When he is pleased with something, he is beyond overjoyed.  When he is displeased, he is heartbroken.  Every. Time. A lost bubbo and a gigantic thunderstorm created pretty massive heartache in our blonde little guy.  We eventually convinced him that I got a call from our hotel and giraffe bubbo would be there waiting for our return and we refocused his attention on the many water attractions he’d eventually be playing on. Yes, his heartache would–and did–return when we would get to the hotel, but as parents you do what you can to survive.

Our story grew when we returned to NJ from our Florida vacation just in time for September.  We convinced Paxton that another little boy who didn’t have 12 bubbos actually asked our hotel if he could have it and they gave it to him.  He only bought that story until October.  By then, we had to tell him that the characters actually had his bubbo now and when they were finished with it, they would mail it to him.  Christmas morning brought unexpected sadness when, unbeknownst to us, Pax expected to find giraffe bubbo under the tree.

It wasn’t until a week or so later when a package arrived at our front door with a letter from Mickey and the Gang and a brand new (you bet he noticed!) but identical giraffe bubbo.  All is right with Paxton’s world again.  And all will remain right in mine as long as he still calls these his bubbos.

Our kids are only kids for so long.  It is the lapsing of these kidisms that hits me most.  These are memories unique to our very own, most precious little beings.  Our Kayden had her bah and her nong nong and stalled every night with blankey nonsense.  And now she’s in kindergarten and wearing glasses and spends every waking moment playing school and just being sassy.  Our Paxton could only say “morn” and “dey” and and still cuddles his 12 bubbos every night. But now he’s in school, too, and has a new best friend every day and is the proudest big brother there ever can be and just feels all the feels all the time. I’ll hold onto these memories and embrace all that is ours–every sweet habit or gesture or word particular only to our child–among the chaos of everyday life.  As a mom, that’s all I really can do.

My Why

I have been a mom for over five years, but nothing has motivated me to take control of my family’s health and wellness as much as Kellen’s CCAM. While I was pregnant this third time, countless people–from friends to family to complete strangers at the grocery store–felt the need to impart their feelings on “being outnumbered” with three kids: You’ll be lucky to get out of the house! Try to remember to eat! How will you keep their names straight? The laundry! But you already have your boy and your girl! These such positive and supportive comments truly helped ease a mind already panicked at the baby’s health and worried about the impact a newborn would have on a 3-year old and 5-year old.

I am a bit of a control freak. I am the type of person who rearranges the dishwasher after my husband loads it. I adjust the way my mom has placed one of my child’s shirts on a hanger when helping me around the house. I am by no means a neat freak or a clean freak, but I need to be in control of so much of the minutia in life to feel any sense of inner balance. Kellen’s diagnosis really shook me at my core. Not only was his health in question, but my ability to be in control–and, this time, about something so vital, so real–was virtually non-existent.

As I neared and then passed my due date, I realized just how little control I had over many of life’s biggest moments. I couldn’t predict or plan this baby’s arrival.  I couldn’t will him a perfect lung.  I couldn’t even control how he would change the lives of my other two children.

I’ve mentioned my maternal grandfather, Vince, on this blog a few times.  “Let it go” was his signature phrase, one that ties us to him still.  After we learned the CCAM CVR was only a .21, I became open to letting go of so much stress and worry and emotion.  I continued to carry so much weight and so much internal pressure to get everything right, however, in the other aspects of my life. The moment Kellen was born and I heard him cry the most robust, gorgeous cry, though, I finally let it go.  All of it.

What is it? Everything I can’t and shouldn’t attempt to control, to micromanage, to perfect. The irony in this is that just as quickly as I let go of what I couldn’t control, I became more aware of what I could control: my health, my happiness, my confidence, my ability to provide these for my family.

This is my why, my reason for making healthier choices and for making myself a priority. First, I joined a boot camp, this first thing I have done solely for me in a very long time.  This inspired me to rekindle my love of writing and to launch this blog.  The catharsis it allows me is priceless.  Both of these new endeavors have equated to more accountability in my choices.  I am sticking to my workouts and to clean, balanced eating not simply to lose the baby weight or to write about it.  I want my confidence and my control in the most healthy way.  I want to be almost as strong as Kellen.  I want to be a role model for my daughter.  I want my middle child to love cooking healthy meals with me, not just baking cookies. I want all of my children to grow up in a house where we follow our dreams and support one another and don’t stress about the rest. That is why I’ve taken the step to become a Beachbody coach–to inspire my children and other people as well.

I’ve let go of much of my panic and embrace my life’s chaos and unpredictability.  I’ve let go of bad eating habits and perpetual snacking and have made room for healthful choices and real meals.  I’ve let go of the me who held herself to an impossible standard and welcomed the work-in-progress me.

In doing this, I realize I have real time on my hands.  Yesterday, I spent two hours at a hair salon highlighting my hair.  It is something I have wanted to do for years, but chickened out with worry of how I’d look.  At least that was the excuse I said out loud. The truth?  The idea of doing something alone and just for me and at such a cost made me almost sick.  I am a working mom and my husband would never tell me I couldn’t pay for something like that, but I still felt such guilt. The expense! The time away from the kids! I let these excuses weigh me down.  I let go of such excuses on November 11th.  And I still had time for life.  I spent the morning at CHOP for Kellen’s follow-up (all is perfect!), took my daughter to get her new glasses, did some laundry (with the help of my mom and I didn’t fix any hangers!), and made two meals, one for dinner and one for lunch for the week. I am not listing this to brag. I then ended the night working on my Beachbody coaching business plan and doing some training while watching the Iowa caucuses and college hoops with my husband.  I didn’t get a long workout in, which I would have liked to do, but I had me-time, family-time, husband-time, and healthful-time regardless.  I will celebrate victories, especially Kellen’s, and not pay attention to what didn’t work or didn’t happen.  I’m thrilled with what I can control and the rest, well, I’ve let that go.

A Name that Means Powerful

I am an English teacher.  This may explain my love for names and their meanings, or might just be an excuse for when I search for a connection between a character’s name and his or her role in a story. Read any Jodi Picoult novel or even my blog’s name-inspiration, To Kill a Mockingbird, and you may do the same.  This name-personality connection transcends literature, at least in my experience.

My husband and I believe that a name ties intrinsically to an individual’s personality, thanks to our two oldest children. Our daughter, Kayden, is stubborn and strong-willed and physically tough.  She stands up for herself and asserts her role in most situations.  She is smart, creative, and spiritual.  Her name, or its origin, Kaden, means “fighter.” Our second child, our son named Paxton, wears his heart on his sleeve.  He loves hard and fast and finds the most harmony through cuddles, sleep, and quiet. Pax, which means “peace,” fits him perfectly.  Of course our daughter has many tender moments while our son can flare a temper, but, at their cores, our children embody their names.

This weighed heavily on my mind as we searched for the perfect name for Baby Bus #3. I am the type

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Christmas Morning 2015

of pregnant woman who needs to know two things in order to mentally survive the last few months of pregnancy: I need to know the gender of the baby and I need to know his or her name.  I am not one willing to wait for that delivery room “It’s a [fill in the blank]!” surprise, nor am I content to simply tell “Baby” to stop kicking my ribs. I need to know this child, to imagine him or her fully–name and all–for my belly-bonding to really take shape. Skylar, meaning “scholar”, was a possible girl name. She would fit in to her big sister’s love of school. Or maybe Asher for a boy, which means “blessed and happy,” would make a fitting addition.

These thoughts left us completely after our anatomy scan.

About half way through this pregnancy, my husband and I ventured to the OB for an ultrasound and consultation with one of the doctors.  These scans had gone routinely with my first two pregnancies, so I wasn’t worried. I made two different envelopes–one for a girl and one for a boy–so we could have an immediate gender reveal with our two kids upon returning home, and off we went.  I wasn’t thinking about how different this pregnancy had been already, from on-going queasiness to slower weight gain to a consistently achy sciatic nerve. I wasn’t thinking that this appointment would be any different than the two anatomy scans we’d had before.  I wasn’t thinking we had anything to fear.

Our ultrasound tech was super social throughout most of the appointment.  She pointed out everything she could, hid the screen when confirming gender, and asked us sweet questions about our two other children.  With about 5 minutes of the scan remaining, though, that changed.  She became quiet and hyper-focused.  I assured myself she was merely concentrating on keeping the baby’s gender a surprise for our family reveal.  I smiled at my husband and enjoyed the little printout she gave us before she ushered us down to the exam room where we would meet with one of the OBs. Mike and I were so full of joy from seeing the baby and hearing the heartbeat that my husband and I didn’t expect the mood to so suddenly shift upon the doctor’s arrival.

When the doctor entered the exam room, the same doctor we had for our middle child’s anatomy scan, my husband and I could sense the tension.  She sat down on a stool beside the exam table and began listing all that was good: the baby’s skull is forming well, there is no cleft palate, the baby has ten fingers and ten toes, the fluid levels are strong, etc. She was being so specific to tick off every single success of our baby’s development, so careful to hit every positive base that we just knew we were bracing for a “but.”  And it finally came. “But the ultrasound tech noticed a shadowy area in the baby’s right lung,” she said. “We would like you to see maternal fetal specialists so they can use their big boy ultrasound machines and check it out. Maybe it is just a shadow. Do you have any questions?”

My husband and I looked at one another and I immediately said “no.”

She continued anyway. “What it could be is something called a CCAM, a lesion in the baby’s lung.  But MFM will check it out and let you know for sure.  These usually shrink and eventually disappear–if that’s what it is.” And then she sent Mike and me to reception to make our next appointment.

We drove home almost silently. We psyched ourselves up for the fun we were about to have: boy or girl? We pushed those 4 maybe-letters from our minds.

Kayden and Paxton greeted us at the door as soon as we pulled in the driveway.  When they opened the envelope revealing this baby, Baby Bus #3, was a boy, Kayden began a triumphant “yay!” and Pax repeatedly asked us what this meant. We smiled, then hugged one another and the kids and my mom and immediately retreated upstairs to do the dreaded Googling.  Google CCAM and, most likely, the first site you’ll come to is from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  You’ll learn that CCAM–or congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation–is the most common lung lesion found in fetuses and children and that the outcomes vary greatly. Depending on the size, positioning, and effect on the four chambers of the heart, each baby afflicted with CCAM takes his or her own path to recovery, if recovery is possible. One word came up again and again: cancer. This knowledge, this information is why I said “no” when the OB asked if I had questions. I didn’t want the worry of what might be wrong until we met with the specialists and had a true diagnosis.

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Baby Bus #3 says, “Don’t worry, Mom. I got this!”

The diagnosis was true, though. I could see it the second the ultrasound tech placed the wand to my belly. What normally looks like blank, black space in the baby’s chest cavity looked like cotton, like white smoke.  Like it didn’t belong.

We were at our first MFM appointment two weeks after the initial scan.  That doctor, who was caring and honest and paternal, told me not to get too emotional. “You worry about the baby, and I worry about you.  So don’t worry!”, he insisted. “We will see you in 4 weeks and check the size of the CCAM then. If it shrinks, which most do, you will have nothing to follow up with.  If it remains this size or, more unlikely, grows, we will refer you to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.” My husband and our families encouraged me to think positively.

Four weeks.  I hardly ate.  I tried my best to internalize my nerves and to enjoy my summer home with my 2-year old son and 4-year old daughter, but in the quiet moments–when one or both was napping or they were engaged in their own play–my mind went crazy.  When my mind went crazy, my fingers searched for answers. I read blogs and message board and the websites of countless hospitals. I began to learn more about fetal surgery and EXIT surgery and hydrops and lobechtomies than any woman creating life should learn about.

Four weeks–and the most upsetting doctor’s appointment yet.  “There,” I said to my husband, as I pointed out the snowy mass in the baby’s chest. “Can’t you see it?” He could.  It was still there, plain enough that we didn’t need the ultrasound tech or MFM specialist to confirm it.  I began to cry, silently, staring at the dropped ceiling so as to avoid eye contact with my husband or the tech. One sweaty hand clutched one of Mike’s while I kept the other tucked behind my head, fingers crossed. I focused on breathing deeply, keeping my tears away, being strong for this precious little baby who looked so much like his brother via ultrasound that it made my heart ache even more. When the scan was complete, the tech led my husband and me to a consultation room and immediately brought in a monitor to check my blood pressure. “They didn’t do that last time,” Mike said. “They are worried about my blood pressure,” I explained, “checking for hydrops.” I didn’t have hydrops, which was the only good news of the appointment.

“We have a problem” were the first four words that came out of the MFM specialist’s mouth as he entered the consultation room soon after.  Not “Hello, I’m Doctor So-and-so.” Not “How are you feeling, Mom?” Nope. We have a problem.  From there, I half-listened, half retreated into my own thoughts as he detailed that the CCAM grew quite a bit and that the baby was also measuring small, particularly in his femurs. More to Google. More bad stuff to read.  More worry.

Our next step was a visit to CHOP–after another 10 day wait.  At this point, I became so concerned with his size, I stopped exercising. I tried to eat more, but my stomach was so upset from my worries that I didn’t get much down.  My mindset and nerves cannot be providing the right environment for a healthy baby, I kept telling myself, and that guilt only made both worse.

We finally had a full day of appointments at CHOP: ultrasounds, fetal echo-cardiograms, an MRI, consultations with genetic counselors and nurse liaisons, and so on.  You name it, Baby Bus and I did it. It was a long, tiring, emotional day which ended with what I can only describe as a slice of comfort.  Mike and I met with a wonderful MFM specialist who confirmed the CCAM, ironically known as well as a CPAM, and explained to us that the baby’s lung is like a tree planted in a garage.  I am paraphrasing here, but he described to us that the roots don’t have room to spread out, so they’ll simply remove the garage–or, the bad tissue–and the roots will spread themselves out. He explained that this is done in one of three ways, depending on the severity of the lesion: through fetal surgery, EXIT surgery, or surgery at approximately 6 weeks old. The magic number was 1.0.  If the CVR (CCAM volume ratio) was greater than 1.0, fetal surgery was immediate.  If the CVR was close to 1, EXIT surgery was likely. If it was significantly smaller, infant surgery was necessary. Inside, I tried to mentally prepare for Baby Bus #3’s CVR.  I could see the lesions clearly and I was not medically trained. I knew it was going to be a number I did not like.

.21.

I was so wrong. With a CVR of .21 and the four chambers of the heart remaining in place and full, we could wait until we delivered our son at our own hospital, take him home, love him, and then bring him in for surgery weeks later. My heart swelled. Yes, his femurs were still measuring small, and his weight was a little below average, but his CVR was such a small fraction that those other issues failed to seem significant.

Mike and I drove over the bridge back to New Jersey with lighter minds and real smiles on our faces.  I could feel a sense of peace.  I also felt something break–a wall I had slowly built around me.  It seemed like almost from the start of this pregnancy, even before I knew of the CCAM, I was protecting myself and the baby from something.  I was more distant and more irritable, less patient and less open. For months, I hadn’t felt like me.  Now I did.  I knew we had a long road ahead, one that included weekly scans to check the baby’s growth and that eventually led to a lobechtomy on part of Baby Bus #3’s right lung, but I also knew that I was open to taking that road with my husband and my family and my friends.  I realized that I didn’t need my tears to stay silent and that I didn’t need to worry in my head. I could talk about it.  I could feel openly and honestly.

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Getting prepped for surgery

A few weeks later, Mike and I took our two oldest children to Disney World.  Aside from the 100 degree heat and my 7-month waddle, I enjoyed myself more than I could have a month before. Baby Bus #3 was strong.  He kept that CCAM from getting too big, I was sure of it. I continued to break down my wall.  I reconnected even more with my husband.  I laughed more genuinely with Kayden and Paxton. We had a brilliant, albeit exhausting, vacation as a family of 4.

School started, and our growth scans continued, but the CCAM had stabilized.  Before long, we didn’t even need the growth scans. Baby Bus #3 was suddenly in the 40th percentile for fetal size and I could enjoy the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy without visiting MFM. I must have made a pretty good home in there for him after all, because he overstayed his welcome and arrive on Veteran’s Day–4 days after his due date. A neonatalogist was on-call for the delivery, but this baby came out chubby and crying and ready to face the world, bum lung and all.

Within a week of that initial scan months earlier and the discovery that Baby Bus #3 was in fact a boy, I approached my husband as he paid bills online and told him we needed a name.  This baby needed a name.  I needed a name so my prayers were more real and my connection to him was more eternal. We started from scratch, throwing out all we had liked or loved or disagreed on before. We soon settled on it. A name that means powerful seemed most fitting, and Kellen sure lives up to it.

On January 8th, at 8 weeks old, Kellen had a lobechtomy.  The chief-of-surgery at CHOP removed the lower lobe of his right lung. He spent 24 hours in quite a bit of pain, unable to nurse, and connected to a chest tube.  By hour 25, however, he was nursing, smiling, powerful. Mike and I brought Kellen home for the second time on January 10th, one day shy of 2 months old. Many people said this type of journey is harder on the parents, especially on the moms, than it is for the babies. I believe them. I truly believe, though, that Kellen’s name embodies his essence–just like those of his sister and brother.

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