>Birthday Pics

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Long after the party with family, the four of us settled in to celebrate Zach’s big day together. Just like it was a year ago when he came into the world. Without the stress of party planning and associated to-do lists, we were able to just focus on soending time together. And we had a ball, though when we sang “Happy Birthday” to my precious baby boy, I was crying too much to get all the way through the song. Zach enjoyed cake and ice cream for the third time (the first for the cake smash photos with the photographer and the second being the party with my in-laws). This time, I made chocolate-butterscotch cupcakes with vanilla frosting. An it seems with each occasion, Zach has gotten even more into it. This time, he even had sprinkles in his eyelashes before it was all said and done. The chocolate ice cream made an even bigger, hilarious mess, and we all dissolved into laughter when he tried to even lick the plate.

Overall it was a great day.
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>One

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“I was six months old and full of fun.

With the blink of an eye, I was suddenly one…”

http://www.youtube.com/get_playerI started out with what seemed like endless photos of Zach and the intention was to make a video so poignant and moving that you would cry as you watched. And then I really thought about it. A) I’m no Spielberg, and B) why would you cry anyway? Instead you get this: poor transition timing, perhaps too long, and even one photo that repeats (Gold star for whoever can tell me which one it is!). What I did manage to do was make myself cry. A lot. From the photos. From the music. Because I was there.
I was there the day we discovered there was even going to be a baby. The day I took five separate home pregnancy tests, unable to believe that I was really pregnant. That after all of that time of me wanting another baby and never having one, and suddenly, at the point where I had given up and moved on with my life, there he was. His name was selected because I read online that Zachary means God has remembered.

I was there, in my bedroom, day after day, watching YouTube videos of preemies each and every day. A 26-weeker, a 28-weeker. And as the contractions got worse and my resolve got weaker and weaker, the searches got more specific: 30 weeks, 1 day; 31 weeks; 5 days. This is what my baby will look like. Will he be intubated? Have an IV in his head? Be swollen, yet tiny? have transparent skin that looks almost alien? And people generally don’t put the horror stories on YouTube So I watched and cried and drew every single shred of hope from the success stories I could find at ever stage of gestation. And the first song in my video was in just about all of them.

I was there on the day he came into this world. And I felt that fear. And guilt. Fear that I had somehow caused this, that although his lungs were deemed mature, there was more to it than that. The 35-week brain is vastly smaller than the 40-week brain. And though we thought I was 35 weeks, there actually was a miscalculation of my due date that wasn’t discovered until 5 weeks postpartum. Should I have lied about the contractions? And what if something happened to me in the process? Could John raise them both alone, armed with only my life insurance?

I was there when the doctors held him over the drape and I saw the scrunched up face. And the hair! I will never forget that hair. Enough hair that it had shown up on an ultrasound. Only this was no ultrasound. This was him. In front of my face. And he was half-whimpering, half-crying. No hearty, robust cry. And I cried. A day shift anesthesiologist I do not know, and never have met at work since, was the one to wipe my tears. Because as a respiratory therapist, I knew what that meant.

I was there in my room and I couldn’t see him. And I didn’t know if he was warm or cold. Breathing or not. Was he confused that he wasn’t hearing my voice anymore? My heartbeat? was he rooting for me and I was nowhere to be found? My heart and my arms ached for him, this child for whom I went through so much.

I was there when they put him into my hands. Yes, hands. He was that small in stature that, with my hands under his head and back, his little butt aligned with my wrist. Which is so bizarre considering his birth weight. But he was swollen. From fluids. From drugs. I look back at his newborn photos and see that now. This is why he lost over a full pound in a little over a day. Which they mistook as a nutrition issue, and is thus why we were made to give him formula from day one. I’m so sorry for that because that isn’t how it is supposed to be. But not really sorry because he is here. The drugs, the fluids, the hormones, and yes, the formula…they all worked.

I was there in those first nights. When I would just cuddle with him and breathe in the smells of newborn breath. With the downy top of his tiny head tucked under my chin, I realized I could’ve lived my entire life just like that. And suddenly, I didn’t give a damn about medical school or whether they would hold my job open long enough for me to come back to work. I would find another job, do something else for school.

I was there when that smile first flashed at me. That bright, amazing smile. All gums and innocence and joy. As if a million stars were harnessed and placed right here for me. And those first baby giggles. My heart melted. And soared.

I was there. For each day in the life of this baby boy. For an entire year. Me. I was that lucky, that blessed to wake up (or return from work) each day and witness a new miracle unfold in this boy’s life. To feel the sheer joy this baby has brought to the world. The love. The patience. And the best part is that I get to continue to be there, that this is not the end but the beginning.

I was there when God (or Allah or Yahweh or Jehovah or whomever you place your faith with) decided that this world was good enough for Zachary. That my life was good enough for Zachary. That I am good enough for Zachary. I’ll never understand how that is possible.

I was there for the first minute, day, week, month….The first year in the life of a living miracle.

Happy First Birthday, Zachy.

(Photo Credits: The Eleven-month photos from the video, the cake-smash photos from the video, and the photo in this post were all taken by Katie Woodring (http://www.katiewoodring.com/). Though I purchased the copyrights to these photos and am in no way infringing legally on her rights as an artist, I am giving credit where credit is due. Thank you, Katie.)

>Teaching the Art of Mess-Making: A Pictorial

>If there is one thing our Evan is good at, one area in which he is truly gifted, it is in the art of making the biggest mess you have ever seen. This afternoon, he and Zachy were playing in the baby’s room, and I, completely oblivious, was doing other things while periodically peeking in on the boys. Of course a large tote of Zach’s outgrown clothes (which I had been organizing and packing away) was obscuring my view. Lo and behold, when I was able, I went into the room to play with the boys. What follows is a glimpse of what I saw: Evan has taught Zach to make a mess, unbeknownst to me. And we couldn’t be happy unless all of the toys were on the floor…

It starts with a few….

And just when Zach has found something he would like to play with, Evan shows him something else, to which Zach immediately crawls over to get a look…

Hmmm, there are even more toys to scatter on the floor….

I love this one. The boys playing together. And you can really get a shot of Zach’s big-boy haircut. Turns out he has the same hairline in the back as Evan and I do.


This one kind of freaks me out a little bit. The flash was off on the camera. The light wasn’t on in the room. It’s cloudy outside. Where did this light come from? And it isn’t the first time light has surrounded Zach in pictures in his room. And it doesn’t happen when we photograph any other subjects.

He is really interested in this little drum. And that little elephant: that’s been his favorite since he was old enough to bat at toys.

And with this one, I suddenly don’t mind the mess. Zachy, looking less like a baby and more like a toddler with his new haircut, reels me in everytime with those baby blues. Suddenly it was less about the mess and more about brothers playing. Despite the huge age difference. Together.

>Houston, We Have a Problem (Maybe…Probably)

>I’m sorry if this is you. So, so sorry. But this is my little piece of the Blogosphere and therefore I must be honest here: There is very little on this earth that irritates me quite as much as a walkie-talkie kid…with a pacifier in his mouth or a bottle in his hand. In my mind, if you are big enough to walk and talk, it is time to surrender the binky. Again, I’m really sorry if this applies to you. I’m now having flashbacks to the distant relatives who arrived at a family function with twin 4-year-old boys with both pacifiers and diapers. If your kid can not only tell you, “Hey mom, I shit my pants,” and then follow that up by going and getting the wipes and a clean diaper and bringing them to you, then I think it may be close to time to start some sort of toilet learning with them. Call me crazy.
I remember going through this with Evan. Just like with Zach, he had a brand of pacifier he preferred. We discovered this and bought in bulk. Well, because anyone knows that pacifiers are disposable: you could buy 1 or 1,000 and no matter what, when you need one you will not be able to find it to save your life. But Evan preferred Mam pacifiers. And we loved them. He had one to match every outfit. And then one day, somewhere around 6 or 7 months, he just stopped needing one or wanting one. No problem, no worries. The same happened with his bottle. I offered him cups around 8 months or so, once he started drinking small amounts of juice. We had the nothing-but-formula-in-a-bottle rule. And he took to the cup right away with no problems. And when he was about 10 or eleven months, I just decided one day to stop the bottles. We never looked back. Diapers were another story. The kid was in Pull-Ups forever, and one day I will tell you all of my gut-splitting attempts to con Ev to use a toilet.

Zach’s first birthday is less than a week away, and the kid not only will not let go of the pacifiers, but he refuses (and I mean refuses) to use anything to drink other than a Tommee Tippee bottle. We have tried every cup out there, I think. Soft spouts, hard spouts, no spouts. Spill-proof or not. Bright colors. Handles to help him hold them. It really doesn’t matter. The Tommee Tippee line even gives us the ability to change the nipples in the bottles with soft, nipple-like silicone spouts. I thought this would work, since the spout would be the only thing different. The bottle will look the same and feel the same in his hand. But no. The milk/water/ juice comes out too quickly for him and he spits it out.
They tell you not to worry about it, that nobody ever goes off to college still on a bottle. But in my mind, we should be maing this transition.
Any ideas?

>Nuh-Unh, No Way, Not on Your Life

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Kids are so funny. And it amazes me to see their little personalities come out in a big way. And Zach’s has come out.

What happened to my cuddly chubster? I don’t know where he went. Instead, he has been replaced by this short little person with quite the temper. And he throws these little fits when something isn’t going the way he would like. I could say it is aggravating. I could say it is annoying.
Mostly, it’s just really cute. Zach, the infinitely happy, easy-going baby, can cry, can be unhappy. And just like the goofy amusement I had that he could pee and poop and all of his stuff worked upon his birth, I am eqully amused at this.

So when you are about 2 inches tall and someone feeds and clothes you, wipes your butt for you, and basically spends their days and nights trying to amuse you, what is it that makes you mad?

Holding him. Oh my God, don’t do that. He must be free. To roam. and explore. To investigate the workings of anything from the remote control, to my laptop, to a table leg. It really doesn’t matter. He wants to be down. And going. Even though he can’t walk. (Wait, scratch that! He can walk. He took two steps the other day and I thought I could’ve fainted, but I remember my squeals of delight shocked Evan into falling, so I was sure to be really quiet this time around. And Zach stopped and must’ve realized he was on his own, because he lowered himself to the floor and crawled to wherever he was going.) And he is fast. Very fast. And when he knows you are coming to get him, he giggles and goes even faster. But picking him up??? He’ll cry and thrash and squirm until you give in and put him down again.
Do not try to change the diaper. He will get pissed. I even took the mobile out of his crib (because he was getting tall enough to pull on it) and mounted it on the changing table to give him something to play with and look at during the process. Nope. He had none of it. He screams and cries and carries on like you would not believe. And turns over. And tries to escape your grasp. And let me tell you that I am no novice. I can put a diaper on upside down, sideways, blindfolded and more. But our Houdini is a challenge even for me.

Put clothes on him. Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t hillbillies. Zach always has clothes on. Cute clothes. Coordinated little outfits. Designer labels. He even has cute “loungewear” as I call it–not really pajamas and not really clothes I would take him out in now that he is older. But he absolutely hates the process of getting dressed. I think it is the same issue as with diaper changes. And being down on the floor. He wants to go go go go.

Feed him. Don’t even think about spoon-feeding him. He will clench his little mouth shut and shake his head. He’s all about the finger foods these days. And other than peanut butter and shellfish (because, face it, food allergies are crazy on my side of the fam), he eats what we eat. Anything. Anywhere. I even picked up this product at BRU called the Tiny Tot Diner made by Summer Infant: a soft silicone placemat with suction cups all around it that attaches to a table at a restaurant, and even has a tray to catch dropped food. And after, it folds into itself to be brought home and tossed into the dishwasher. And he does great. I’ve been giving him chunky-handled utensils to practice, but things like yogurt and applesauce still come from us and the spoon are still our territory. And he hates it. His favorites are Gerber Graduates Lil’ Crunchers in just about any variety of flavor they come in. And puffs. He loves the organic puffs. And arrowroot cookies. And those fruit and yogurt snacks. And any kind of fruit you want to give him. Just don’t try to to spoon-feed him, no matter what you do.

Don’t confine him at all. In a carseat, a pack & play, a high chair (unless the food is there and ready for him to get down to business). He must be free. As mentioned above, the same rules apply.

He’s becoming more independent. He’s growing up just a little bit. He’s moving away from being my cuddle bug and into being his own little person a little more every single day. And I have 12 days left of his first year. It almost feels like a deadline, like his baby days are wrapping up and I have to hurry and get all of the baby things done now while I still can. It has gone so fast.

>The Early Birthday

> Today, we celebrated Zach’s first birthday with John’s side of the family. John’s stepfather, a man of faith, said the blessing before the meal, and I started to cry when he thanked God for our ability to celebrate his birth. It all could’ve gone so differently. He racked up on toys and loved it when we sang “Happy Birthday”. The flicker of the flame on the one little candle caught his attention and he kept trying to grab at it, prompting us to pull it further away, over and over. Then he had a ball digging into Grandma’s homemade red velvet cake while everyone else was entertained with the sight of him with the bright red cake in his hair, his eyelashes, up his nose… I keep trying to console myself with the idea that he isn’t one just yet. But it is right around the corner…

>11 Months

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Here we are. The last month of Zach’s first year. It’s hard to imagine that in just a year, we went from the wrinkly preemie who would occasionally forget to breathe to the chubby, robust baby who cruises and babbles. Mama. Dada. Bababa. I love hearing him “talk” in his lilting little voice. It truly is music to my ears. And the teeth have finally come, as well. He has 2 now, both on the bottom. They aren’t even all the way in, but two tiny little buds of teeth that show only when he gives us the biggest of Zachy smiles. This week, we are going to be making the trip to see John’s parents, and Zach is going to celebrate his first birthday with family. We’ll come home and celebrate his actual birthday here, with just the four of us. The way it all started a year ago. It seems appropriate. Fitting. After all, when we were going through the hell of his pregnancy, it was just John, Evan, and I, clinging to each other, just trying to get through. And after all of it, it will be Zachary with the 3 of us, celebrating his presence here in our lives.

I still swear he is an angel.

As far as Zach this month goes, he loves being outside. He loves the sun and the trees. It really is his first spring, and he is starting to absorb all that is around him. The chirp of a bird. The breeze on his cheek. 2 days ago, he went outside and we actually let him go in the yard, with close supervision of course. It was so fun to see him explore and learn. I didn’t even care about the dirty knees. I even sat down in the grass with him, watching him go.

He’s really starting to enjoy toys as well, and it is hilarious to hear him giggle at a noise one makes. His favorite is the baby laptop we bought him when he insisted on trying to get at mine everytime I would attempt homework.

On the food front: we went ahead and, after the last drop of my milk was gone, made the switch to cow’s milk this past week. He is doing great with it. No problems whatsoever. He feeds himself more and more. I only spoon-feed him the really messy stuff: yogurt, applesauce. He handles the rest. Most of the time, he eats in the buff because he has decided he hates all bibs except for the Bebe auLait reversible bib. If they have a velcro closure, they are coming off, and that is that as far as he is concerned.

He laughs and coos at Evan to no end.

He steals our hearts again every day.

He’s everything.