The Loves of my Life!

The Loves of my Life!
Brett, Caleb, & Isabella

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Change is coming...

Last month I wrote a bit about what makes life stressful. I mentioned that we feel a change is coming. Well, the change is on top of us now. We have spent a lot of timing tossing this decision back and forth. We came to the conclusion that God is leading us back to central Illinois for a time! What a huge change indeed!

So we have one more week in Kansas City and then we are off to IL. Brett is ecstatic about the move! He daily asks if he can go to Illinois or if he can go to Nana's house or if he can go see Karen today. We started the countdown 2 weeks ago. First it was three weeks, then two, and today we are down to one week. Today I told Brett and Caleb that we have one week left and that Grandpa and Uncle Steven are going to come help us put all the boxes and their beds and their toys in a trailer. Then Grandpa will drive the trailer and they will ride in the van all the way to IL. They were super excited! Brett is especially excited that Uncle Steven is coming. He is also excited that we will be living close to Brock and Chase and Aunt Karen!

We officially made the decision to move 3 weeks ago. At that time we were planning to move in with my dad in order to save money on rent and start paying off our debts. My dad is trying to sell his house and it seemed that it would be better for us if we could find our own place to rent. We were a bit stressed out about finding a house for a day or so. : ) God came through pretty quickly. As did Corina Yoder. She told us about a house that was empty and for rent. She didn't know how big and how much they wanted. Turns out that it is the perfect fit for us. It's 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms and has a separate office and play/sewing room. It is only 3 miles from Greg and Karen's house and super cheap for us! We are so excited!

We are still looking for a job for Steven in the Sullivan/Mattoon area. If anyone knows of any jobs available, please let us know. He is looking for almost anything full-time or part-time. He is also planning to build up his carpet cleaning business in that area. If you need your carpets cleaned, Steven would love to do it for you. He is a great carpet cleaner! He will be available as early as the 18th of this month.

We are breaking a lease here at our current residence. The landlords are amazing and super understanding. We put a For Rent sign out a couple of weeks ago and have had several bites. A man named John from CA will be moving in with his 3 kids as soon as the 16th. He loves the place and is super excited about it.

God has blessed us in many ways during the last few weeks and continues to make it clear that we are taking the right steps. He has closed many doors for us here in Kansas City, but as we have been knocking on doors in IL He has opened them up. The last door unopened is a job. We are not too concerned because He has made everything else so clear. We are waiting expectantly to see what He has planned.

Speaking of expectant... we are overcoming the shock of finding out that we are expecting our 4th child!  The timing is not ideal, but we are excited that God has chosen to bless us with another little one. A friend recently mentioned a Bible Study that she is doing called the interrupted life. She had to think of me. She said it's not an interruption, but that it is a Divine Intervention. I'm clinging to hope that God knows what He is doing! : ) His timing is good even if it seems off to me. His leadership over my life is perfect! I love what He is doing, but I have to be honest. Sometimes it's difficult and super stressful.

We could definitely use some prayers regarding the kids and our time management. The boys seems to be going through the "terrible twos" at the same time even though they are two years apart in age. We are mostly at a loss as to what to do with Caleb specifically. He tends to cry and cry and cry for no apparent reason. Please pray that God will speak to us about what is going on and how to handle the situation(s) when they come up.

First trimester nausea and moodiness, packing for a move, mothering 3 kids, and maintaining an intimate relationship with God and my spouse have me stretched to my max! : ) I am soooo looking forward to being in IL closer to my family and helping hands. My kiddos are desperate for their nana. The boys had a break from home this morning. They had a great time and loved hanging out with some fresh faces. Friday we are taking (at least the morning) off to go to the zoo. It's free this month for KC, MO residents! Sounds like a much needed break!

Well, I think that's it for now. More to come in a few weeks!

Friday, September 17, 2010

5 Years Ago

May all the precious moments
That set this day apart,
Stay with you long after
As keepsakes of the heart
And often through the future
May you relive in thought,
The very many pleasures
This happy day has brought

5 years ago today I married a young man that I hardly knew. I knew that I loved him and that we were, as God put it to Steven, "A Match Made in Heaven!"

So Happy!

Seeing me for the first time that day
When we first saw each other

The moment we've all been waiting for

Praying A Blessing

I know I'm sometimes thoughtless 
And forget to say and do
The many little things I should
To show my love for you
But since our anniversary's here,
I made this post just to say,
That always, deep within my heart
I love you more and more each day!

I love you, Babe!
Happy Anniversary

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Break...

Well, it's been a while since my last post. I decided to take a break from writing Part III of Brett's Story. I had a rough week after writing Part II. It's difficult to remember and process everything that happened. There are still so many emotions involved and it's just A LOT! So, I will be getting back to it soon, but life is stressful enough right now. I don't have it in me to add more.

So what makes life stressful...?

Well, Brett started school on August 24th. That shouldn't be that big of a deal, right? It is! I hate everything about dropping Brett off at school. So why do I do it? Because Brett has significant delays in several different areas and needs special help from therapists. Delays that are a result/symptom of Williams Syndrome. Help that I am not able to give him. So Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I drop him off at a school 10 minutes away for 3 hours with people that I don't know and who don't know my son. I get a one page sheet from Brett's teacher describing who she is and what she does with her time. It's not much. Because it's a state school, she isn't really allowed to express any religious preferences. Even if she could, I have no idea what she would say. Don't get me wrong she is a nice lady and Brett likes her. I just don't know who she is or what she stands for. I'm grateful that I have people to help me with Brett and they all seem to know him and care about him. It's just not what I want.
Steven and I had plans for me to homeschool our children. We still want to do that. But here we are in the ghetto of Kansas City, Missouri sending our son to one of the worst school districts around! The high school is not even accredited because of their poor education system! Granted, Hickman Mills is supposed to have a good Early Childhood Special Education program.
Most would think, "Chriss, it's school. All kids have to go to school at some point. Your kids are going to grow up. You gotta let them go some time." To some extent yes, that's true, but it's not okay with me. I don't want my kids to spend the majority of their childhood away from home being taught and influenced by people I don't know. Call me a control freak or a religious fanatic. I don't care. It's important to me that my kids are discipled in the ways of God. If I'm not the one who is teaching my kids, I want to know who they are and how they live their lives and what they are teaching them. All that to say, I don't like to have to send Brett to school and it causes my soul to be in turmoil! And, yes, I'm a bit dramatic! : )

Another thing that adds stress to my life is our future and finances. We have taken leaps and bounds in the area of stabilizing our finances in the past few months. The issue is that our income fluctuates from month to month based on the type of jobs that Steven has. The fluctuation causes a bit of instability in our future. Our current income is barely enough to sustain our frugal way of living. We need more. We need a change. We both feel that a change is coming. We just don't have any answers as to what that change is. Is it a change in location? A change in career? A change in ministry? What are our goals? Are they the same as God's goals for us? One of our goals is to become debt free. What does that look like? And how do we go about accomplishing that when currently we are only avoiding going deeper into debt? AHHHHHHHH!!!!! It's so much to process!
Recently, Steven said that he heard Dave Ramsey say that money can't buy happiness, but it's proven to relieve stress. We could sure use some stress relief right now!

Although those things add a lot of stress to life, I'm really grateful for all that we have. God has blessed me with so much! I have an amazing husband who lives a life of humility and honesty before God. Although, we are opposite in many ways, he is my perfect compliment! I have three incredible children who mean the world to me. No one can bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart like my kids! It's not perfect, but I love my life!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brett's Arrival - Part II

Part II of Brett's story...

(To read Part I click here.)

Around noon or so, the nurse practitioner on call came in to take a look at Brett. She noted that Brett's heart sounded a little odd. She said she was sure everything was fine, but she wanted the pediatrician to come take a look at him. The doctor came in a little while later. He too noticed the sound of Brett's heart. He said there was a valve that often closes off within a day or two after birth. That often causes the sound of a heart murmur which is very common in newborns. Both the nurse practitioner and the pediatrician thought that his sounded a bit louder than that. So they ordered an ECHO to be done. An Echo is an ultrasound of the heart. They took Brett for several hours while they did the Echo. They recorded their findings and sent them to The Children's Hospital (TCH) in downtown Denver.
   After what seemed like forever they finally brought Brett back into the room. We didn't hear anything from them for awhile. A nurse came in to do my vitals. She assumed that we had already heard the news and when she realized that we hadn't told us briefly that they would have to take him to TCH. I was trying to nurse Brett, but the nurse noticed that his coloring was a bit off. He also had his first stinky diaper. So she changed his diaper and checked his vitals. Brett was very unhappy and crying. The nurse noticed that his feet looked purple. She ended up taking him to the nursery right away. I think it was around 5 PM. Brett was just barely 12 hours old. 
   The pediatrician came in and explained a few things. He said Brett had what was called a Coarctation of the Aorta. The aorta connects to the heart and provides blood to the body. The doctor said the doctors at TCH would take a closer look at it and decide if and when Brett would need surgery. These are a few things that you never want to hear the doctor say about your newborn baby! Steven was scared and I was convinced that everything was going to be fine. Brett's heart was fine and he wouldn't need surgery! It was wishful thinking, but not reality.
   Around 7 PM they wheeled Brett into my room on a massive stretcher with a little incubator strapped to it. He was tiny! He was accompanied by two guys from Flight For Life dressed in all their gear. It was terrifying! I had to say goodbye to my little boy. And just like that, he was gone.
   How could this be happening to us? Stuff like this doesn't happen to normal people on a normal day, does it? Shouldn't there be some sort of warning? What was going on? Steven and I had a million questions, most of which remained unanswered for months. Only time would tell what the future would hold.
Holding Brett at TCH
  Steven called a few friends to come hang out with me at the hospital so I wouldn't have to be by myself for the evening. Steven left to go down to TCH so that he could be with Brett and talk to the doctors to find out the details of what was going on. At some point we called our families and told them what was going on. I remember being all choked up when I called my mom. My heart was very sad and I could barely get out the words. I just cried and cried. My mom, my sister, and my little nephew, Brock, were planning to fly to Denver that Saturday. It was Tuesday evening. We both agreed that my mom needed to get there ASAP so she changed her plane ticket so that she would arrive first thing Wednesday morning. We also told friends at YWAM Denver and asked everyone to pray for us. So many people were praying! If you were one of those people who prayed, thank you very much!
   My new goal was to get out of bed, start walking, and using the bathroom on my own, and also to pump as much breast milk as I could so that once Brett could eat, he would have the best. Usually, after a c-section you are required to stay 4 nights before they release you from the hospital. There is no way that I was going to wait 4 days to see my son! The nurses were aware of my goal and did their best to help me accomplish my goals.
   That first night was probably the most difficult night of my life. I watched TV for a while to try and distract myself. It didn't work very well. I knew I needed to get sleep and tried to sleep, but I couldn't stop crying. I cried and cried and cried. Steven finally made it back to my hospital late that night. He sat in bed with me. We talked about the what the doctors at TCH had to say and the possible outcomes.
   Brett was officially diagnosed with a Coarc. We were told he would have surgery on Thursday, in two days. They were also doing a FISH test on him to check for DiGeorge Syndrome, Williams Syndrome and a couple other things. The doctors told Steven a bit about what it could mean. I, again, didn't think that Brett had any of these things, whether optimistic or in denial. I thought the doctors were unnecessarily concerned. However, the possibilities were very concerning. Steven was very worried that something more was going on than just the needed heart surgery. It would take several weeks for the results to come back from the FISH test, so we would have to wait to hear the outcome.
   We lay in my hospital bed discussing the possibilities and crying together. We prayed and gave our son back to God realizing that he was never really ours to begin with. We pleaded with God to touch his little body and to bring healing. Steven then started reading scripture to me so that I could fall asleep. He started with Psalm 91, which is still my favorite. I don't know how much he read, but I know that the peace of God began to wash over me and sleep finally came to my exhausted body.
   I never dreamt that I would have to go through something like this. Every dream that I have ever had about having a baby, raising a child, dreams of who he might be when he grows up and the life that he might live, all of it seemed to be hanging in the balance. What would our future hold?
My mom's first meeting with Brett at TCH
   My mom arrived early Wednesday morning. Her and Steven spent that day going back and forth between my hospital and TCH. It was a huge relief to have my mom there. This was one of those times when "you just need your mom" and mine was there. Thanks, Mom, You're the best!
   I focused on getting out of bed, sleeping, eating, pumping, and going to the bathroom. I was weak and in a lot of pain and on lots of drugs, but I was very determined. I had to be well enough to be released the next day so I could make it to TCH in time for Brett's surgery.
   Thursday morning arrived. I was excited, anxious, nervous with anticipation. It took longer than I wanted, but Dr Hill made it around to see me and signed my release papers. I still remember sitting in the wheel chair and being wheeled outside with my mom and Steven and the nurse and a whole cart of belongings and gifts. It was sad to be without a baby, but it was exciting to know that he was only minutes away.
   We finally made it to TCH. It was a bit scary to walk through the hospital and finally to the NICU. There were so many machines and wires and sick babies and nurses. All of it was a bit intimidating at first. I was thrilled and heartbroken all at the same time to see Brett. I got to hold him for an hour or so. What a precious little life! Cardiologists, surgeons, the anesthesiologist, and the geneticist all stopped by to check in with us before Brett's surgery and to explain the procedures and risks. They would make an incision on his back under his left shoulder that would only be about 2 inches long and he would also have a little hole in his left side for a chest tube. They would have to put tubes down his throat and we were told that his throat would be soar and it could affect his voice for quite some time. So much information! The time flew by and soon they were wheeling him down the hallways. We followed closely, me in my handy dandy wheelchair. They stopped just outside the doors of the hallway leading to the operating room. It was time to say goodbye, again.
   We prayed for Brett and gave him kisses and love and then he was gone.
Fresh out of surgery!
   One of the nurses, Esther, would be coming to give us updates on how things were going and when he would be out of surgery. The corrective surgery for a Coarc, according to the doctors, is the least complicated of heart surgeries, only a 1% risk. Still, it's heart surgery! At the time, yes, we knew it was huge, but there was also an overwhelming peace that was definitely "peace that passes understanding". We headed down to the cafeteria to eat. It all seems like a dream now. I think the surgery lasted for a couple of hours. Esther found us and told us he was out of surgery. Another few hours went by before we could see him because they had to observe him for some time and make sure he was doing okay. 
   Finally, it was time for Brett to go back to his original spot in the NICU. We got to go see him shortly after that. He made it! 
   Brett had all sorts of tubes and wires attached to his little body. The hours came and went and with it oxygen and tubes were taken off as he continued to improve and improve. Brett was a little champion! Our little fighter! We were so proud of him and so excited to see him doing so well. It was a day full of emotion! It was difficult to see him with so many wires and at times uncomfortable and in pain. 
No one like Mommy!
   The most difficult part was having to leave Brett to go home at the end of the night! I still had to wake up during the night so that I could pump to bring in my milk, but I didn't have a baby to wake up to. And Brett was alone. The nurses did a great job taking care of him, but they couldn't give him what I could and wanted to give. It was rough! Thank you to all the nurses and doctors who did such an amazing job taking care of Brett!
   The surgery was over and he was recovering well. The next question was "when do we get to take our little boy home?" Brett had to pee and poop. I remember they had to weigh his diaper to make sure he was peeing enough. I also remember telling everyone at YWAM to pray for poop! Wow, how quickly life changes! The most important thing in our life at the time was that Brett have a poopy diaper. A poopy diaper meant that he was doing well and his heart was successfully pumping blood to his entire body. It meant that he could go home soon! 
Sweet Kisses
   My sister, Karen, and my 4 month old nephew joined us on Saturday. It was a blessing to have more family with us and a delight to have Brock's smiling face around! YWAM Denver was an amazing support to us during that time. They brought us meals every day that we were at the hospital. Families came with food and stayed to chat and pray. These were definite bright spots during the rough days. I remember Brock got his first kiss from a little girl whose parents came to visit us. : ) Thank you to all who were there for us during that time! You were a huge blessing!
Going Home!
   The last hang up was his bilirubin. It took several days for his levels to go down enough so that we could take him home. 5 nights of waking up and going to the hospital and coming home without a baby. Finally, on the 6th day, we found out that yes, indeed, it was time to take little Brett home! 
 The story doesn't end here...
Included in Part III: low blood sugar and the results of the FISH test. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brett's Arrival - Part I

   This is Part I of the account of my pregnancy with Brett, his birth and all the things that happened in the weeks that followed. I have told the story many times, but I want to write it all down before too many years pass and the details are forgotten.

   Wow! It's been a long time since I have sat and remembered the days and months after Brett's birth. My stomach is queasy just remembering all the emotions that we went through. It was a tough time in our lives as some of you will remember. We have come a long way since then. Brett is doing amazingly well. It's easy to forget how hard everything was. I'm so grateful that we made it and that we are where we are today.

   Brett, I'm sure there will come a day when you read this. I want you to know that you are such an amazing person. You are worth everything that we went through! I would go through it all again and I know your dad would too! You are such a special boy, a priceless treasure! I wouldn't trade you for the world. I love you and I'm so thankful for everyday that I have had to spend with you. I love you, Brett!

  I found out that I was pregnant in May of 2006. Steven and I were ecstatic! We were on staff with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Denver at the time. We were committed to drive around the country promoting YWAM Denver at various christian music festivals over the summer. We were leading a team of 5 and saw no need to step down from that position.
   Since I was a little girl, I have had the tendency to get car sick on occasion. The nausea has gotten better over the years, but always threatens to make an appearance if I'm not careful. Add that to the normal nausea of a pregnant woman in her first trimester and you have a very sick woman and lots of vomit! : ( We would start off on our next leg of the journey and drive for maybe 30 minutes before having to pull over so I could throw up. It was rough going to say the least, but I made it through the summer!
   We had an ultrasound at 18 weeks and found out what the sex of our baby was. Obviously, it was a boy! We were super excited! I have always wished that I had an older brother, so I really wanted to have a boy first. Along the way, we attended two 4 hour birthing classes where we came up with a birth plan. I wanted to have an all-natural birth, without any drugs for pain, etc. As you will soon see, I had anything but my birth plan. Sometimes God knows best, actually, He always knows best! Even if it doesn't seem like he does.
So excited to welcome our little boy to the world!
   Around 32 weeks, I had one of my regular checkups with the doctor. He seemed a bit concerned and decided to do an ultrasound. His concerns were confirmed and we found out that the baby was breech. I was a bit concerned and scared of having a c-section - major surgery. So we prayed and told everyone else to pray that the baby would turn. The weeks went by and the baby didn't turn. My doctor, Dr McArthur Hill, informed us that we could do an inversion. It's a process that involves some medication to help relax the uterus and then the doctor uses his hands to try and turn the baby. The success rate is not very high as the baby often flips back around anyway. We decided against that because we felt there may have been a reason that our little boy was breech.
(A brief side note - I just found out recently that Dr Hill is a former abortionist. I think it adds to the story of Brett's birth and know that each child that Dr Hill delivered was a redemption of sorts. How cool that Brett was one of those kids!)
   On January 22nd around evening time, I started having contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart for an hour. We called Dr Hill and he said to go ahead to the hospital. The nurse checked my cervix. I was not really progressing and by that time my contractions had stopped. Dr Hill came in and did another ultrasound to check the position of the baby. He was still breech so we decided to do a c-section in the morning. Dr Hill said to get some sleep and he would be back by 5 AM. So we went to sleep. Dr Hill came back around 4:30 AM and said it was time to go. I started freaking out. I couldn't believe I was about to have major surgery! AHHH!
What a sweetie!
The nurse put me in a wheel chair and covered me with a blanket. I was freezing and terrified. I couldn't stop shaking. They wheeled me into the operating room and set me up on the table so the anesthesiologist could give me a Spinal. The nurse told me I would be fine and then the medication started to kick in. Mmm... things started looking better after that. I was numb from about chest down. They laid me down on the table and brought Steven into the operating room. They put up a sheet between my head and my belly cause I was still awake. Steven was close to me, not interested in watching the surgery. I felt lots of pulling and tugging and then at 5:24 AM on January 23rd, Brett Robert Menna was born! He weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces and was 18 inches long. He didn't cry immediately and once he did, Steven thought he sounded a little funny. I think Dr Hill even made a comment about it. Steven cut the umbilical cord. The nurse wiped Brett off, wrapped him up and brought him over so I could see him. He was adorable and making smacking sounds with his lips and licking with his tongue. : ) SO CUTE! I was delighted and thrilled to see him and couldn't wait to be able to hold him! How amazing to have our little boy with us!
   Steven and Brett left the room soon after so the doctors and nurses could finish the surgery. I remember they were counting to make sure they had all of their equipment. What an odd feeling! After they were done with the surgery I was taken to the recovery room where I had to stay for at least an hour. Steven came to see me while I was there, but he was with Brett most of the time.
   Soon the time came for me to be taken to my room. The nurses pushed me on my bed into the nursery so that I could see Brett. I got to hold him and nurse him for the first time! Finally! 9 long months and now I finally get to hold my baby boy! He was just perfect! He had been on oxygen for a little bit, but by that time was doing fine. We continued on into my room and the nurses brought Brett in a little while later. We weren't ready for visitors yet, so it was just Steven and I and little baby Brett. Spending our first few hours together as a family! And trying to catch up on some sleep. Life was progressing just as it should, for a few hours at least...

Click to read Part II.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Children's Personalities

Bella is 2 months old. She is gorgeous! 
I absolutely love having a girl. I'm learning a lot about the love that my parents and, more importantly, God must have for me. I never realized how special it was to be a girl until I gave birth to my daughter. What a blessing! 
Bella has been smiling for a few weeks, but her smile has really blossomed into something spectacular the last few days. She smiles with her mouth wide open. Adorable! I haven't noticed any dimples, but the dimple in her chin makes up for it. She loves her daddy. When he talks to her, when he plays the piano, whatever he is doing, she loves him!
She likes when I touch her nose and coo at her. She tries to giggle when I do it. Melts my heart! 
She likes to lay on her play gym and look at her toys. She kicks with her feet and swings her little arms around while starring at the ceiling. It is a joy to hear her toys rattle when I'm in a different room. It always makes me smile. Bella likes to be in the middle of the action. She is not very happy if everyone else is in a different room. She loves when her big brother entertains her and he loves to do it just as much.
She also likes to sleep on her side or her tummy. She has been sleeping through the night for a bit over a week! Thanks to On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep (On Becoming. . .)! She is the easiest baby of my 3. Her schedule is very predictable. She eats every 3 to 4 hours. In the morning and at night she drinks 6 ounces of milk. During the day she drinks 4 to 5 ounces. It takes her anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to finish her bottle. After her bottle she plays for a while and when she gets fussy, I know it's nap time. She takes lots of naps during the day, some a lot longer than others. 
I LOVE to dress her up in all her cute little outfits! Another thing that is noticeably different about having a baby girl. I love all the frills and bows and all the pink stuff! 
Bella is getting so good at holding up her head all by herself. A couple people have commented that she looks like me, but the majority think she looks like her daddy and her little brother, Caleb. I think she is a good combination of Brett and Caleb when they were babies. She definitely has her daddy's chin, which Caleb also has. She seems to have a narrow face like Brett had/has. She also has the same eye shape that Brett had when he was a baby, which come from Steven's family. She also has ears like her daddy and Brett. She has her auntie Laura's nose and her auntie Carrie's hands and feet - long and slender. Her eyes are different than the boys when they were babies. Their eyes were a dark grey and then turned brown. Bella's eyes are much lighter. I think they will be a hazel or green color. Only time will tell...

Caleb is 19 months old. He is the son that every parent dreams of.
I don't know that I have ever seen a kid so full of life. He goes nonstop all day long. His emotions are pretty extreme. He is either laughing or crying, not a whole lot in between. He is currently sitting, bouncing rather, on my back as I lay on the floor typing. : ) Never a dull moment. 
Caleb has been a daddy's boy since Bella's birth. I was not able to carry him for 6 weeks. During that time Steven would get up with him when he woke during the night. He cries and throws a fit when he wants Daddy and Daddy is busy or gone. 
He has the sweetest little voice! "Mommy, I want..." fill in the blank. He never asks just one time. He repeats his request persistently until what he wants is in his hands, without a pause between sentences. A few days ago he said, "Hi, Honey" to me when I walked in to his room to get him out of his crib after nap time. : ) Such a sweet kid!
His pediatrician said he is developmentally at the 2 1/2 year age level. This was a month ago when I had him in for his 18 month checkup. What does that mean exactly? Well, his vocabulary is endless. He repeats anything you ask him to say. At 2 years of age, kids start to put together a sentence. Something like "I want..." He has no problem doing that. Usually kids don't start jumping until 2 1/2. He hit that milestone yesterday. He goes up and down stairs on his own while holding someone's hand. Smaller steps he does without any help. Of course, he is feeding himself. His imaginative play is up to par as well. He knows his body parts and is able to point to "Daddy's nose."
Brett and Caleb are the best of friends. They love to play together. One of Caleb's favorite things to do is hide in their closet. The doors slide so they are able to open and close them very easily. Sometimes both boys hide in their. Caleb likes to play peek-a-boo with Daddy. I have a video of them, but Caleb is naked so I won't be posting it anywhere. : )
Caleb is extremely brave and adventurous. He has no problem trying new things. His legs, and often his face, are scattered with bumps and bruises. He likes to jump around on Daddy (or anybody) when he is laying on the floor. He will stand on one side of him by his back and throw himself forward on top of him. Sometimes he overshoots and ends up falling on his head on the opposite side of Steven. His body usually contorts as it falls over him. He thinks it's funny. Of course it scares me! Caleb conquers our living room chairs by climbing up the side rather than up the front like most kids would. He says, "Sit down" and proceeds to stand on top of their large dump truck or their little table (either the top or the bench). Our front yard is on a pretty steep slope. He has no problem running down it. It's safe to say that he gives us many scares!
Caleb is very sensitive. He runs away and hides in shame if he is found doing a "no no" unintentionally. If he is caught doing something intentionally, he is very stubborn and a bit defiant. His feelings get hurt very easily over minor things.
He is a snuggle bug on occasion. He loves to be rough-housed. He loves being chased around the house. It makes him giggle like crazy. He loves being tickled and always begs for more.
If you ask him a yes or no question, his responses are either, "Yeah, K" or "No, K." Very funny. 
Caleb is a big eater. He latest favorites are noodles, grapes, and cheese. He drinks enough juice/water to keep an elephant hydrated.
His favorite toys are little cars and trucks. He generally has at least one if not two in his hands at all times. His auntie Carrianne calls him a mad scientist and our dining room is his laboratory. He is always tinkering around with something. The mad scientist was a very accurate description before I gave him his first haircut! : ) Caleb also loves books. 
One of the funniest things that I think he does is giggle during a poopy diaper change. He thinks it's funny when you wipe his man parts. Makes me laugh too! : )
Caleb loves a lot! I could go on and on about what he loves and doesn't love. He just loves life and is full of it. I hope that never changes! He is a huge gift to our family.

Brett is 3 1/2 years old. He is the sweetest little charmer you will ever meet!
One of my favorite things is watching Brett steal another heart. "Another one bites the dust" is exactly what happens when Brett's warms his way into someone's heart. If you have spent even 5 minutes with him, he probably has a special spot in your heart. Am I wrong? : ) The last heart he stole was the heart of a woman who came to do a physical consult for our life insurance. I don't even know her name. She was in and out in 20 minutes, but Brett found a special way into her heart. He even asked her for a hug! : )
There are so many things I could say about Brett...
He is cautious and careful. He is fascinated by details. He has a love-hate relationship with loud engines. The trimmer, the mower, the blender, the mixer, the coffee grinder, the vacuum, etc. When he was younger he was terrified of them. Now he is obsessed with them. He talks about them all the time, though less and less, now that I think about it.
Brett loves "Toy Story". He loves Woody and Buzz Lightyear and Mr Potato Head, especially his mustache. He randomly quotes the movie, like "The coast is clear!" and of course, "To infinity and beyond!" So funny!
Brett loves Bella. He loves to watch her and play with her. When she is laying on the floor, he will lay beside her. It's so cute.
Another one of Brett's favorite things are his "grandmas".
There is his Grandma Graziano who lives in California, Steven's mom. She was here in Kansas City a few weeks ago. He was with her almost every minute of her week long visit! He wants to fly flew to California to go to Grandma's house. : ) He got a little confused with the tense of the verb, so we just went with "fly flew". Still makes me smile when he says it.
Then there is his Nana, my mom. She is in Illinois and we talk to her often on Skype. Brett loves to talk to her on Skype. He loves to snuggle in her cozy blanket with her.
Also there is his Nana Menna, Steven's other mom who lives in California also. She took Brett to Disneyland over Christmastime. She makes DVD's of pictures and videos of our times together. Brett loves to watch her videos! He loves to hang out with his Nana.
Last, but not least, is his honorary Grandma Janie. She is not his real grandma, but he fell in love with her during our last trip to Illinois. Janie is my mom's neighbor and friend. She is a grandma and loves to love on Brett. He charmed his way into her heart and hasn't forgotten about her. He asks for his Grandma Janie on a regular basis. He likes to tell her he is cold so that she will snuggle him close. : )
Brett is a bit of a picky eater. He doesn't eat meat except for the occasional hot dog or bologna sandwich. He loves noodles, peanut butter and jelly, yogurt, and of course, jello.
Brett is excited to start his next year of preschool. He remembers his teacher, Miss Kelli. He has the memory of an elephant. It's part of his charm because he rarely forgets a name or face. Brett has always excelled verbally. His pronunciation is so clear. He says many big words correctly and surprises people when he pronounces their names correctly.
Brett has turned into a little explorer. He is very curious and has been testing his boundaries as all kids do. He is able to open doors so we have to be careful to keep them locked. He discovered how to get into the cabinet under the kitchen sink which has a child safety lock on it. I'm still not sure how he did it, but he did. It makes me a bit more cautious now when I leave the room. We use vinegar water as a punishment for screaming and talking back. He hates it and so is obsessed with it. It is in a spray bottle under the kitchen sink along with other cleaners. That's what he wanted when he opened the cabinet.
Brett is my little fighter. He and I and Steven have fought hard to get him to where he is. Life does not always come easy for Brett, but every step is worth all of the effort.
It will soon be time to tell him about his birth and heart surgery.... He had a heart checkup recently and liked having pictures taken of his heart. He wanted Caleb to have a turn when he was done. How cute! : )
Brett loves to make people laugh, including his little brother. He loves to be the center of attention. He loves when people call him silly. He does many things over and over in an effort to keep his brother laughing. They are a great pair in many many ways. Where their humor is concerned, Caleb loves to laugh and Brett loves to make him laugh. Brett and Caleb are opposites in many ways and therefore compliment each other. Brett's strengths are Caleb's weaknesses and Caleb's strengths are Brett's weaknesses.

All in all, I think my kids are amazing! They are all very different, unique in their own way. They are all my favorites. They make my life what it is. I love being a mom to them! I wouldn't trade it for the world. Each day is a new adventure and I'm setting my heart to enjoy it all! I want to treat them as the treasures that they are. In a moment they will be grown and gone. I don't want to waste a moment.

Lord, teach me how to train up my kids in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Friday, July 30, 2010

Flat Tires & Road Trips

We took our first road trip with 3 kids a month ago. We set out on June 30th at 8:15 PM. Our plan was to drive through the night so that we wouldn't have to stop as often to feed Bella who was only 3 weeks old. I fed her at 7 and then we strapped all 3 kids in their car seats and headed out. My mom's house is 5 hours and 15 minutes drive from Kansas City, so we planned on arriving there around 2 AM.
Steven's 13 year old nephew, Anthony, was visiting us from southern California and along for the ride. He doesn't like road trips. Little did he know, he was in for quite a ride!

Our trip went something like this:
8:15 PM Leave our house on Indiana Avenue.
8:20 PM Arrive at nearest gas station to fill up the gas tank of our 2002 Astro which would allow us to make it all the way to my mom's without stopping to refuel.
8:25 PM Steven climbs in the van to start the engine. We find out the battery is lifeless. In an effort to keep everyone comfortable, Steven had left the battery on so the air would continue to circulate through the van. He forgot and took his time filling up.
8:27 PM Steven calls a friend who was working on his truck at our house to come with jumper cables. So we wait. I take Caleb out of his car seat because he was already starting to fuss. We walk around the gas station parking lot waiting on our friend to arrive.
8:35 PM Our friend arrives. The men jump the battery. The van starts. We all hop in to drive off. The van is dead again. Steven jumps out to catch our friend before he drives off.
8:45 PM They jump the van a second time. This time the charge holds.
8:55 PM We leave the gas station heading for the nearest bank. On the freeway 1 mile from our exit, (for the bank) traffic is moving slowly. Police cars are blocking off the freeway.
9:00 PM As we inch down the freeway to our exit, we realize that we have a flat tire. We plunk down the exit and 1/2 mile down the road and pull over in a Lowe's parking lot. Steven calls our free roadside assistance only to find out that they can't help us unless we have a spare or emergency tire. We don't.
9:05 PM We plunk our way across the Lowe's parking lot to the Target parking lot.

9:10 PM Steven runs inside to purchase "Fix-A-Flat" tire kits.
9:20 PM Steven begins fixing the flat.
9:30 PM Steven runs inside to wash his hands while the tire is being filled with air using a car charged air pump.
9:33 PM I decide to begin documenting our road trip with pictures.

Anthony & Brett

Bella fast asleep



Hard at work!

9:45 PM The tire is aired up and we are on the road again. We make it to the bank. We decide to go back to our house on Indiana Avenue to grab an extra tire and to feed Bella before we set out a second time.
10:00 PM Arrive at our house. Steven grabs a tire. I start feeding Bella. The boys are asleep.
10:45 PM Bella is done eating. We experience Deja Vu as we leave our house on Indiana Avenue and drive to the same gas station where our battery died 2 1/2 hours earlier.
11:15 PM I'm sleepy and decide to take a nap while Steven is driving.
11:40 PM Steven wakes me up. He announces that our tire has just blown.
11:42 PM I listen carefully as we plunk down the freeway trying to reach our nearest exit (1/2 mile away) before we pull off the side of the road.
11:45 PM Our tire is completely shredded. We are thumping down the exit. Steven accidently hits a reflector sign with our already broken passenger side mirror. (We won't discover the broken mirror until hours later). We continue thumping along through a stop sign, heading for a fireworks store parking lot.
11:49 PM We realize the road taking us to the parking lot is too long, so we take a short cut through the grass. We take a hard plunk off the curb, praying that it doesn't destroy the rim of the blown out tire.
12:00 AM Steven calls roadside assistance. They tell us that someone will be there within an hour to help us.
12:10 AM Caleb wakes up crying.
12:35 AM Brett wakes up crying.
12:41 AM I decide to again document our trip with pictures.
Hanging out



Blown Out

12:50 AM The man arrives to help us fix our tire. I'm glad I wasn't alone. He was scarry looking
12:55 AM He jacks the van and removes the tire. We take a walk down the road in the briskly cold night.
1:00 AM He leaves for his shop to mount a new tire on the rim which isn't busted. : ) PTL! We climb back in the van.
1:20 AM I wake up Bella to feed her before we take off again.
1:35 AM The man comes back to put the tire back on the van.
2:00 AM We are once again ready for take off.
2:05 AM We arrive at a gas station to top off the fuel tank and use the bathroom.
2:15 AM We hit the road running!
5:35 AM Bella wakes up hungry. I hop in the back with a bottle and feed her.
5:45 AM We pull over to burp Bella. The boys wake up crying. : (
7:35 AM We finally arrive at my mom's who feeds us a filling breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Recent Conversations with Brett

Last night on the way home from getting Ice Cream...

Brett - "Mommy, it's the moon!"
Mommy - "You're right, Brett. It is the moon. You're so smart."
Brett - "I wanna fly to the star."!

Yesterday after Steven took Brett to the IHOP prayer room...

Steven - "Brett, what song did you listen to?"
Brett - "I see God."!!
Me - "Brett, did you see God in the prayer room?"
Brett - "Yeah!"
Me - "What does He look like?"
Brett - "Lord"
Me - "He looks like the Lord?"
Brett nods his head.
Me - "Did He say anything to you?"
Brett - "Jesus"
Steven and I were both stunned and teary-eyed. :)

A few days ago when we had guests over for dinner...

After eating a huge bowl of enchiladas...
Brett - "Can I have some noodles?" (His favorite food right now)
Me - "No."
Brett - "Can I have some noodles?"
Me - "No."
Brett - "Can I have some noodles?"
Me - "No"
Brett - "Can I take my pants off?"
Everyone busted out laughing. Of course I told him no! :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Caleb is a genius!

Yesterday I was planning to sweep the kitchen floor. I started the process by moving my kitchen trash can into the hallway. Caleb came walking through the kitchen into the hallway. He noticed the trash can, looked at me, and said, "Gonna mop?" Of course I had to mop after that! How in the world at 18 months of age did he know that I was going to mop simply because I moved the trash can? He must be a genius!

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