Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Party Emma!

Emma, my niece and goddaughter turns 1 on Sunday, however her grandparents were in this past week and her mommy was on spring break, so the party was this past Sunday. I had the horrific honor of making her smash cake, which didn't turn out as my mind had pictured, but Emma still seemed to enjoy it. I think she really liked the fact that I had so many mistakes in the process that there was almost an inch of icing on her cake! Her party theme was music and dancing, so I made a music not (yes I have to tell you in case you don't get it from the pictures because I am not very artistic). I put the music note on sheet music of "Happy Birthday." Happy Birthday party Emma, more pics of her real birthday to come after Sunday!

Here is her big, happy first birthday party...

And a few random pics of Joey and Jillian, mostly of Joey being a goof. He demanded the other night that it was too bright at 8:15 pm so he needed his sunglasses on to watch "a little Mickey before bed."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joey's First Day of School!

(this is a longer post than it probably should be so feel free to just scroll to the pictures!)

Yes, you read that correctly. Joey had his first day of school today! I know, next week is spring break, the school year is almost over, what the heck are you talking about, right? Well, I have been in the process for about 3 weeks now of looking at preschools for Joey. I had narrowed my search from 6 to 3 and then 2 and was in debate over our church's school and another school. We had gone to the open house for our church school and Joey met the teachers, Joey played at the train table for a bit, of course was really shy and had me carry him down the halls, but also wanted to go back in when we got to the car. We thought for sure we would be going there this fall. Before going in to the open house I had called the other school that I was in a toss up with and left a message to receive more information. I had heard nothing but good things about this school but wanted to talk to someone and visit as well. I spoke with the director week and a half ago, and this past Monday went in to visit the school (sans Joey). Upon entering I felt it was going to be a good fit for Joey. I really like the rooms, the teacher that I met and the director. Another major benefit was that they have a 2 year old program. Jillian's birthday is Dec. 30 so her and Joey will most likely be 2 years apart in school even though they are 17 months apart because Jill would have to be 3 by Sept. 1 for that school year. Anyways, with this school she can enter as a 2 year old and can do so in January.

So, I was somewhat still in debate, but love this school for many reasons. Joey being so incredibly shy, I feel needs a bit more socialization than the Wed. and Thurs. with "Ms. Rhonda" over at the park district. So after touring this school and seeing that there was a spot available on Thursdays for him to join now we decided we would give it a try. So yesterday after teaching and picking him up from "Ms. Rhonda's" I drove over to the school to show him the playground that he will be able to play at when he's in school. I explained that the building was the school, some of the activities he'd be doing, some of the friends he'd meet, etc. Joey does know a boy who is a month apart from him that we met at the library...James. James and Joey have become friends at the library, and James is at the school, so I kept telling Joey he would see James there. His eyes would light up when I told him that, but I was hoping he didn't think I meant James the red train from Thomas and Friends!

We got him a new backpack last night that he picked out and he has been sporting around. He was so excited to see his school yesterday and was talking about it all morning, barely eating breakfast (surprise, surprise!). So we headed over to school and when we got to the parking lot Joey said "I don't want to meet my teachers." Luckily the new backpack distracted him enough to allow me to get Jillian and walk him in. We were first to arrive since we were the newbies. He met his 2 teachers and started to play, hanging close to me and making me sit next to him. After a while (and with the help of the trains they had) I was able to stand up and walk over to Jill who had seated herself at the table and was working on a magnetic Noah's Arc puzzle. The teachers laughed and said they thought she was ready for school already. Yes, the social butterfly will not have a problem with me leaving her when that time comes! She also made herself at home with the play kitchen and some of the farm animals. I was there about 10 minutes to get Joey comfortable. James had arrived and Joey and him were playing a little. I told Joey I was leaving and he grabbed my leg and said no! I looked at the teacher and asked if I could sneak out and she said I could hanlde it any way I wanted. So I told Joey I was helping Jill. I picked her up, said goodbye to Joey and told him I'd be back in a little bit. Of course he cried...

Jillian and I came home and made some cupcakes. I used to bake a lot with Joey when he was Jillian's age and he loved it, but hadn't allowed Jillian to be on the step stool by herself in fear that Joey would knock her out of the way or someone would end up hurt. So we had some downtime to cook and play.

We arrived back at the school 10 minutes early and saw Joey playing outside with some friends. I snapped a few pictures from the car before getting Jillian out and picking Joey up inside. Joey was so happy to be at school. He told me he was crying and saying "mommy, mommy." I told him I'd always come back and he should just have fun. The teacher said he cried for about 10-15 minutes, but when she grabbed a book and sat on the mat he went over with her and stopped crying and was fine the rest of the time. He has not stopped talking about all the fun he has had at school and told us he wants to go back tomorrow! Unfortunately it is spring break next week, but the following week he will be back again!

Oh, and of course Java always needs her little drama too...Java has a case of hives. She always seems to get them when spring first hits. She has always had sensitive skin, it just surprises us every year still. Not pretty picture so I'll save you on that one, but thought I'd keep you updated on all of us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Joshua's Journeys #55 Checking back in...

It has been a rough week, as expected in many ways. Many people have asked how Joey has held up this year, since he has classically shown signs of missing Josh. He still did this year and is able to verbalize things a bit more which as I have mentioned in the past is heart warming and heartbreaking all at the same time. Joey has displayed some major clingy and needy behavior towards Phil and I especially when we are going to leave. I take Joey to a park district on Wed. and Thurs. while I teach for 2 hours and he has not had any issues since the first few weeks over a year ago, but this past week he has cried when I was gone and told me that he was when I returned. Upon discussing Josh with the day care ladies their eyes bugged out and said "That is it! I remember you saying that before, and it is so true! He hasn't been like this before and he just started it last week." Joey has had issues (throwing up) when not allowed to sit on one of our laps during a meal, a behavior we don't encourage. In addition Joey has cried like an infant, even screaming at times throughout the night. The night of the 12th and 13th he was up almost every hour needing consoling. And his naps were much of the same (when he's been taking them...another story). Joey is able to talk about him more, and one day coming home from work he pointed out our house as we were driving down the block and said "I live there, and you and Daddy, and Jill too." I said "What about Java, and Josh?" He said "Java live there, but not Josh. Josh is in heaven with Jesus." There are many, many more examples I could give you over the past week that Joey has shown of missing and knowing Josh is gone, but don't want to type forever. One final sweet thing on the night of the 13th after baths, Joey went in his room with Daddy and got his pj's on. When Jillian and I walked in he was donning the Corduroy the Bear pajamas that Josh had received from his Grandma but were too big for him to fit into. They are 2T's and fit Joey perfectly. I walked in and he said "I'm wearing these for Josh!" Joey definitely has a bond with his brother that is special and one that I will never even know completely.

We went downstairs and popped in the video that we posted on the blog. The video of Josh's life that Phil and I worked feverishly on up until the minute we left for Josh's wake. Joey and Jillian would point to the tv and say "that's Josh!" or Joey would say "Look its me and my brother Josh!" We let the kids play and had the video on for a short while until Mickey became their priority. After they went to bed Phil and I watched the video and reminisced. Earlier that day we brought food to the NICU staff like we did last year, to honor their work and love for our family and all the other families that pass through the NICU. We keep in touch with a few and are blessed that they still remember and talk about Josh quite a bit as well.

Monday we decided to celebrate the family that we have. We brought some flowers to Assumption and Joey and Jillian enjoyed being outdoors and going into the chapel to light candles. We then headed to the Children's Museum to let them play and have fun. We had never been there before and there was a lot for both of them to do and keep their interest. After lunch at Stir Crazy, one of our favorite places, we headed back home for Joey and Jillian to nap. I received a phone call from Tina, one of the NICU nurses who was one of Josh's primaries. We had already seen Bethany, his night primary nurse from the NICU the previous Sunday, so it was nice to talk to both of them. Tues. night we had a Family Advisory Council Meeting at the hospital and I went out for a drink with Tina and we talked for a good long time. It was very nice to catch up, reminisce, and comfort each other. Tina had lost her sister at the same time Josh passed away and was unable to make it to his funeral because she was in Florida where her sister lived. So we both feel a connection to each other at this time and know we feel Josh's love pulling us together. Of course I was on my way home when I realized I got a text from Bethany who was up in the NICU wondering why I didn't go and visit her since I was at the hospital for the meeting. She is helping us plan our Disney trip since she is Ms. Disney and got Josh and Joey their first Mickey dolls, and Jillian her first Minnie (which as we all know she loves!). I am glad to see her on Friday again as well.

Anyways, sorry to ramble off subject, but thank you all for the comforting wishes and thoughts. We hope that Josh is remembered every day as we remember him each and every day, but know that at this time we feel his absence even more and relive what the night of March 13 and early hours of March 14 have left us.

To keep catching up here, this past weekend we went to Arlington Race Track with Grandma, Auntie Christy, Andrew, and Emma and saw all the rescue dogs. Grandma seems to be getting the itch to look at and soon get a new dog...probably puppy! So it was a lot of fun to watch the kids pet all the dogs. The warmer weather allowed us to take Joey's bike outside and see how he does on the pavement. He does really well! He biked all the way to the park and already seems to know the way on his own. He had one spill on the downhill home the first time, but now knows that he needs to apply the breaks a little bit to keep in control. His bike is now officially an outside bike and he is loving it. Now if we could keep the weather warm! Jillian has also been enjoying the outside time, playing with Joey's older bikes, chalk, the little slide in our yard, and even taking a turn at t-ball.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Here are some pics from this past week: Joey resting on Java before he went up for his nap, the kids playing in the basement, Jillian falling asleep in the basement when we had a house full of guests. She just got her new Minnie cup and was so excited, but apparently tired too! Jillian's new happening is to pull books into her bed after naps and when she wakes up in the morning, so this is our usual site when we walk into her room these days. And finally, Java just had her hematoma surgery on her other ear, so hopefully she won't have any more now!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Joshua's Journeys #53 Behold, the face of God

It does not get easier. Who ever said that? Must've been someone who just wishes all is well. I think last year I was so anxious anticipating March 14 that when the day actually came I had already had my catharsis and did "okay." Not to say I am not anxious this year, I feel I am just as much, but I think I thought the pain, the longing, the healing would have happened by now. I am reminded daily that this is a life long process, that I will never "get over it" nor should I. I was placed in this role for a reason. I have learned so much about who my family and friends really are, how I want to surround myself with love and not worry about petty things that ultimately do not matter, but to live each moment.

I am not going to lie. I ache and I hurt, but I also love and want to seek more. I am constantly reminded of all the lives Joshua has touched: the NICU staff still talks about him, other hospital staff through the parent advisory council, Easter Seals, my "real job" when I work with trached and g-tube fed kids, all the people involved in the CHARGE runs, the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, our friends, family, our immediate family, and so many others. Still, I sometimes feel Josh's memory is slipping away. Jillian is getting bigger and the comparisons of Josh are escaping...there isn't a baby around doing the things that Josh did. Looking at Joey, I can only wonder what Joshua would be doing now.

Still with each teary moment, sleepless night, unending desire to see, dream, smell, suction, hug, feed, bathe, do anything with Joshua again I find great comfort in knowing Josh is with the Lord. At our church when a child is baptized our previous pastor would hold up the baby after being baptized in the holy water and say "Behold the face of God." Josh was baptized in the NICU in a much more intimate spot with only his Godparents, parents, and Father Tony present. Josh did not have the opportunity to be held up in front of a big congregation with those words rejoicing out loud. I remember Phil and I loving that phrase, and each of us crying our own renewing tears when Joey was baptized by Father Tri in our church with Josh a few mile away resting in the NICU. I am comforted by the fact that Josh moved into heaven during the Lenten season. It is a reminder to me while I am waiting to be called home, that Josh has seen the face of God, he is one with his maker, and there will be a day when I will be reunited with Joshua and see the face of God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Big Kids

Jillian continues to amaze us. A quick review: she went right to walking, and didn't learn how to crawl until after she learned how to walk, and did so at 9 months, she has been a superstar with her eating accepting most all foods we offer her. She is picky at times, but will try anything and for the most part has a pretty good appetite. She transitioned away from the bottle what seemed like overnight. She loves talking to her brother, giving him hugs and kisses, and pretty much trying to do whatever he is doing.

So while Joey is pretty much potty trained, we are still going in to help him out from time to time and Jillian's interest in the potty grows as she sees her big bro sitting there and getting praises for his accomplishments. So, I had noticed that Jillian has been grabbing her diaper in the evenings and early mornings when she first wakes up. At first I thought the diapers were being put on too tightly, but there were no marks and if I put them on looser same result. Each time I would check she would have gone even if it is within a half hour of putting a new diaper on. So I started to think maybe she is putting things together already. I brought her to the potty and sat her on Joey's little potty. Wow, did she give me a big grin and out came some peeps! She held my hands ever so daintily and hopped off the potty and put the lid down. Okay, so it was a fluke, right? Well, she has repeated this action several times over the past couple of weeks, not only on the little potty, but also using the potty seat in the upstairs bathroom before her bath. She has such a proud look on her face, she knows she is a big girl. One day after her nap Daddy was holding her and I asked her if she had to go potty...she jumped out of his lap, grabbed my hand and walked me to the potty to go. I was and still am in shock! I am not doing this regularly or expecting her to be completely potty trained this early, but she sure is amazing me these days! She is also growing up too quickly though too! Jillian has been a trooper and has broken 4 top teeth through while being fairly well tempered. For the sass that she usually has, she sure has taken these teeth really well.

Some exciting news for the big boy is that he is pretty well potty trained. Sure there is an accident from time to time, but has done a great job. As a reward for his big boy behavior we decided to upgrade his room to big boy status. Joey is totally into Disney's Cars and with the new movie out in July we figured he will probably stay into it for a while. I had been looking everywhere to find borders or something to change his room. He had the Cars themed bedsheets and spread from when he got his toddler bed, but that didn't match the Noah's Arc baby theme decor very well. So he is growing up, which means growing out of his baby room, even if it puts another dagger in to know that the theme of Josh's room is now gone too. The only thing to remain is the blue paint from Josh's room which is the bottom color of Jillian's room (confused yet?). At any rate, Joey loves his new room!

And don't forget...
Java was due for a couple of shots and a quick check up so I had that on my list of phone calls to make. Well, I put it off through the weekend and Sunday night we noticed her right ear a little inflated. Yup...remember this past fall the pictures we posted with her cone of shame because she had a hematoma on her left ear? Well, she wants some more attention, so we are looking at another hematoma surgery next Thursday, this time on the right (side) ear. Hopefully once this is done she will not have anymore ear issues! Additionally, when I took her in today I mentioned to the vet before he could spit it out that she needs to lose some weight. She weighed in at a whopping 79.5 pounds! I asked to see what her weight was last year at this time, and he gave me a few stats: in the fall with her left ear hematoma she was at 77 pounds, so not terribly far off, but last year at this time she was 66 pounds! He gave her the excuse of a long winter which adds some extra weight, but I know I have two toddlers at home that love to keep her belly full! We'll have to work on that one, and hopefully with the warmer weather in sight (please!) she will be out a bit more and exercising a bit more.