Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy 1 Month!

Dear Merit,

What a pleasant surprise you've been. Our family had so much going on that I worried that I wouldn't be able to handle all three of my boys with any measure of grace, but you make it easier to do. You have been a joy since you came into our lives. It has already been a month. Time flies when you're having fun! I feel incredibly blessed to call you my son.
You are so cute! Most people tell me you look like Kinley did when he was a baby and I agree. Sometimes I hear you look like big brother Abel, though and I see that, too! You are their perfect combinations right now. I love it. You've already changed so much since birth. I'm sure you'll continue to do so. I wonder, will you have brown eyes like me or blue like the rest of the family? Curly or straight hair? Outgoing or shy? Time will tell, but right now I'm just trying to soak you up as you are right now. I love holding you for hours if the others will let me. I just stare...and snap eleventy billion photos of the sweetest sleeping baby I know. You snuggle right up on me and are content for hours. Your sleeping patterns at night could improve, though. I'm just sayin'.

Even when you're super fussy, you're still a million times easier to handle than your brothers were at this age. Perhaps that comes with experience, but I have a feeling that you'll always be my baby- the one who does no wrong in my eyes! We'll try not to spoil you too much. You are very loved, kid. I know soon your brothers will have you running around with them, joining in on their fun. Until then, it feels like you're all mine and I will savor this time.

I love you!


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Bionic Boy- post surgery notes from Mama

I keep thinking this will all get easier to deal with. I look at how far we've come as a family in the past year and think it must. Less than a year ago, we started accepting the fact that our dear Abel wasn't progressing like a typical babe. Later, we found out he was deaf. Meanwhile, we were struggling with the financial issues that come with buying a house, paying for graduate school, and planning for a new baby to join the family. Pile on top of that, the stress of carrying another human, birthing him, and nurturing him while running the other two kids to doctor appointments, therapies, and "school" and I was feeling so stretched. Did I mention I tried my hand at starting a business, too? It was all too much. I just felt like eventually this season of our lives would slow down and get easier. I wasn't consciously creating a timetable for this, but I must've because somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought life won't be as scary once Abel has his surgery. I knew it would be a long road with many hours of speech therapy and driving to audiology appointments. But I also thought that the scary part would be over. He is out of surgery. He did well. Finally.

But you know what? The terrifying part has just begun. I didn't prepare myself for what life would be like post surgery partly because the people I spoke with and read about their experiences with the surgery said recovery was normal. I guess Abel's recovery has been fairly normal, too but he has had some other symptoms that are concerning. So what has it been like?
The ride home from the hospital that evening was rough. We were all so tired from a long day and had a three hour drive ahead of us. Abel was super groggy and nauseous (yes, he threw up on me) and so so pitiful. Even under anesthesia, he had quite a 'tude. He threw his paci and juice cup no less than 50 times on the way home. He was not happy and had a hard time sleeping in the car.
Post Surgery Day 1

We roused him around nine that morning and started trying to get him to eat and drink since he hadn't in so long. He tolerated a drink but was in no condition to eat. We could hardly get him to move honestly. He laid on the couch all day and it seemed as if his spirit was just completely broken. We changed his diaper, gave him meds, and moved him when he needed it (all things he would usually protest but was too tired to care). He fell in and out of sleep all day. We turned on cartoons and he camped out on the couch. His eyes floated toward the t.v. but he wouldn't lift his head to look at it. It started to alarm me. I wanted to get him moving and create some normalcy (b/c he has never spent more than 20 minutes straight in front of a t.v.) so we loaded our two youngest boys in the stroller so we could go for a walk. Still, I noticed his head was flopping around like a newborn. It was as if he couldn't control it. I thought maybe it was due to his large dressing so we decided to take it off an hour or two early. When we took it off, it didn't improve his head issue but we were pleased at how the incisions looked.
Day 2
He was up crying through the night so I think he had some pain. We brought some medicine in his room that morning and began the process of cleaning his head and ears. Applying creams. That sort of thing. He was not happy, but we were feeling hopeful because when we scooped him from his crib, he was standing up! That was a complete turn around from the day before. When we finally got him cleaned and ready for the day, we took him to the kitchen where he ate his first good meal in days. Afterward, we put him on the couch again because we noticed that his balance was still very much off. It broke my heart to see him want to move and play, but then get defeated when he couldn't because he was stumbling and falling so much. I even texted my mom and sister expressing my fears that we had done the wrong thing. I started to question everything. I took to facebook and asked for prayer because I truly believe in the power of prayer. By the end of the day, he was getting around so much better. I could tell he was still in pain, but there were smiles that day and he played and toddled like one and a half year olds should. That night, his temp spiked and we were worried again.

Day 3
J had to go back to work but I was thankful that he woke Abel up and helped me get him ready by taking care of his wounds, administering medicine, etc. I'll be honest- he has done most of the work. I get so upset trying to hold an angry, sad and in-pain toddler down to get these things accomplished and J has been so thorough in taking care of our boy. I'm lucky to have him. I expected the day to be so hard, but it wasn't. Kinley went off to Mother's Day Out and Merit slept much of the day so I could focus my attention on Abel. He did well. I noticed early on that he was leaning in on his right side and that worried me, but it slowly went away as the day wore on. His ears sticking out/swelling seemed to look better as well. He started walking more normally throughout the day and we have hope that he will continue to improve.

This has been emotionally taxing on me. I wish I could take his place. I wish I could take his pain. If only I could be deaf instead. But I also know that he is now a part of the bionic community...and what a great one it is. We are so grateful for this miracle procedure and we're hoping it proves to be one for us. More than anything, though we want Abel to be his happy, feisty self again. God is The Great Healer and I know He has him in His hands. Thank you all so much for caring about this journey and for joining us in praying for this sweet child. THANKS SO MUCH!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Big Day

If you're reading this on Friday, there's a good chance that Abel is in surgery at this very moment. Surgery that will open up his head and eventually, hopefully give him the ability to hear. Please pray. It's Wednesday night as I write this and I'm a nervous wreck. In an effort to focus my head, I thought I'd answer some questions I've gotten recently about the procedure.

How long is it going to take?
We are told it should take between 4-6 hours to implant both sides. That does not count time spent in pre-op appointments and recovery.

After the surgery, will he just be able to hear?
No. Actually, he will still be deaf. After surgery, he will need time to heal. Two to three weeks after the procedure is activation day.

Is it all inside the head or ear? Can you see it?
The inside portion will obviously not be visible, but in order to make the cochlear implants work, processors will attach via magnet on the sides of his head and rest behind his ears. When the processors are taken off, he will not have access to sound. He'll still be deaf. Processors typically aren't worn around water or at bed time.

What do you think his first word will be?
You know, I don't even let myself think of this. You might think that once he is turned on that he can start talking within weeks, but it's not that easy. His brain has to be taught what these noises mean. I can't even explain it, but I do know that I'm going to have to be realistic about this process or I'll go crazy. I'm trying to take it one day at a time.

Are you going to record it?
As I mentioned, he'll be activated weeks later. That means, they'll begin the process of turning on his sound. These are all the cute videos you see on youtube and facebook of the kiddos hearing for the first time. While these are all adorable (and often make me cry happy tears), they also aren't typical. It's much more common to have a crying reaction or no reaction at all. Think about's probably alarming to suddenly have a new sense. To hear for the first time when you're less than two years old? It must be frightening. Still, we will totally record this awesome moment in our lives. It will be magical, no matter how he reacts.

I'm keeping the faith.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you (Abel!) says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Postpartum Fitness Goals

It's the beginning of a new month and I'm finally starting to feel myself again. My blood pressure is seemingly controlled by medicine for the time being and I have even decreased my dosage since delivery three (almost four) weeks ago. Eventually I hope to come off of it completely and there's no reason for me to believe I can't do that. Anyway...
3 Weeks Postpartum

I feel pretty good! I've started jogging again, but won't resume any other workouts until I'm cleared by my doctor. I hope she will tell me I can at my six week appointment that will be here before I know it. Getting back outside and sweating has been slow going. I've already improved a lot, though. I started off barely able to run a mile, but I'm building up to feeling strong again.

Here are my Postpartum Goals for the next couple of months:

1. Run 50 miles in September
2.Train & complete a half marathon in November (I haven't signed up yet, but I'm planning to do a race I've been wanting to do for awhile now. I hope I see a lot of improvement in my run pace over the next month.)
3. Confidence
4. Lose the remaining baby weight. I'm currently at 126 lbs. and I feel most comfortable at 120. I was almost at my goal but my milk was decreasing too much so I had to start eating more calories to keep that up for baby. It's not that I was dieting-not at all. I just find it difficult to find time to eat when I'm taking care of all three babes.
5. That brings me to my next point. I want to start eating better. I need to fuel this body and nourish Merit's. In the past, I was healthiest when I ate clean for at least two meals a day. I'd like to get back to that.
6. More water. Always.

What are your health goals this month?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Surgery Up In the Air

Can I just talk honestly for a moment? Abe's surgery is coming up- at least I think it is. For months and months we've had this plan set in place, we've made hotel arrangements, babysitters, and scheduled off work. The plan was to implant Abel sequentially- meaning that he needs both sides implanted (bilateral), but we were planning on breaking up the procedure into two different surgeries spaced three months apart. We chose to do this because of a scary statistic we'd heard regarding balance issues when the surgery was done with both ears. We felt confident in our decision. Now, just days before his first surgery, we are having second thoughts. We've since done much research and asked around for professional and parental opinions and we've almost changed our minds. We want it done at the same time now. There are a whole host of pros and cons that I won't get into. Anyway, because I need that plan set in place- because I was counting on it- I feel unnerved now. More so than I already was. Yesterday, J called the surgeon to tell him we had changed our minds and talk to him about rescheduling or keeping the same date and implanting both that day. Just typing that out feels like fifty pounds of weight on my shoulders as it will likely change all the appointments we have set in place over the next few months. The Army taught me that I can't plan. I mean, I can, but I should have loose expectations of those plans coming to fruition. I don't know why I thought that when we parted ways with the Army that I would have more control. Anyway, I'm so nervous. Nervous that his surgery will be pushed back even further. Nervous what the surgeon, case worker, and audiologist all think about our decision (or indecision). Nervous that something will go wrong. Nervous that I'll never be able to speak to my second born and have him hear and understand me. Parents of kids with cochlear implants keep telling me- "Just wait! You will be amazed." I hope so. Right now, all I know is that Abel cries and screams at everything. He can't tell us what he wants so he just cries out of frustration. His signing is decreasing as we are trying to focus on listening and I feel as if I'm a huge disservice to him all around. I have so much guilt. The other parents I know who have a child with hearing loss do not have two other babes that need a lot of attention. They are working at home with their child in addition to the years of therapy that this sort of procedure will require. I don't know how to balance trying to help Abel "listen" and eventually speak when there are two other very loud little people thrown into the mix. It has been my thought since day one- I wish I could help him. I feel like I can't.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Party

Two days after my newest squishy cutie pie came into the world, my oldest turned three years old. Kinley and Merit had the same due date (Aug. 17) so I've known for awhile that I wanted to make his 3rd birthday special for him since it was going to be so close to such a big change in our lives. I tried to plan ahead, but the last few weeks of my pregnancy were so dreadful that I didn't get everything done that I had hoped to do. Still, fresh outta the hospital, we partied! I couldn't have done it without all the help from family. We just had a few people over because I was afraid of inviting a bunch of folks in case I went into labor on the day of the party, but it was nice to see everyone and eat some delicious cake. Kinley is very into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse right now so that's the theme I rolled with. 

For the invites, I used this printable and put my enormous scrapbooking paper collection to good use.
I actually hit up Pinterest for A LOT of printables. The ones I used for the "Mouseketools"(forks), "Hot Diggity Dogs" (hot dogs), "Daisy's Garden Veggies" and "Clubhouse Sandwiches" (subs) can be found here.
I used this, too.
See the Mickey Mouse head near the bowl of chips? I just used Styrofoam balls, hot glue, spray paint, and a little glitter. Voila!

I had all these plans for a cute homemade cake and other Mickey themed sweets, but I ended up calling up Bi-Lo for a cake. I'm glad I did--I was stressed enough as it was. They did a great job anyway and it was delicious.

The celebration was short and sweet because I was so tired, but I think he had a good time!

Happy Birthday, Kinley! I love you lots.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gumbo for the Tiger Soul

Hey Friends! Thanks for all the congrats. I'm in the process of writing each of you back, but I wanted to share this book for all the LSU fans out there. If you know me at all, you know I'm all Vol but I can appreciate some SEC football (so long as it's not the FL Gators). More so than that, I wanted to share this in support of my online friend, the author! Ces and I go back to 2011 when we became Twitter pals. Since then we've corresponded via email and social media. He has been an encourager for me to continue to write fiction and nonfiction in my spare time. This isn't his first book! When he's not writing, it appears that he is traveling! I've enjoyed following his adventures lately on Instagram. I secretly live vicariously through him and his wife as Jordan and I haven't been able to do much traveling over the past few years. Anyway, if you're an SEC fan, too--check this out!

About the Book: Gumbo for the Tiger Soul is a collection of personal stories from LSU fans spanning nearly 50 years of great (and not so great) LSU football moments. Inspired by ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’, Gumbo for the Tiger Soul is meant as a celebration of LSU football, Cajun culture and the unique flavors they call to memory. Each chapter of GFTS includes nostalgia from fan stories and lip-smacking Cajun recipes with each chapter titled after a different gumbo ingredient.
GFTS features contributions from LSU alums, staff, fans, former football players, band members, dancers and color guard members. These first-hand accounts reminisce the Blue Grass Miracle, The Earthquake Game, the USC game, Florida games from ’97 and 2007 and the two most recent Championship seasons.
Gumbo for the Tiger Soul is scheduled for release August 2014 and will be available within major online retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon as well as a growing list of local and regional book stores
About the Author: Ces Guerra was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. He graduated from O. Perry Walker High School, served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and then graduated from LSU in 1984. He is an avid supporter of LSU, Past President of the LSU Houston Alumni Association and a member of the Tiger Athletic Foundation. He is a retired pharmaceutical industry professional and currently working in the Houston real estate industry. The success of Pill Pushers, his first novel published in 2007, inspired and encouraged him to write and publish Gumbo for the Tiger Soul. Guerra currently resides in Houston, TX with his wife Laura and three stepchildren. In his spare time he enjoys reading, cycling, yoga, hiking and, of course, traveling to LSU football games.
Contact Information:
Ces Guerra Cell: 713-298-6070, Email: LinkedIn: Ces Guerra

Here's a note from the author!

An LSU Fan Celebration

Gumbo for the Tiger Soul (GFTS) is a celebration of all the good things we remember about going to LSU football games.   GFTS is a 50 year retrospective journey into some of the great and not so great moments for the Tigers.   And, each chapter ends with a terrific Cajun recipe!!  Yum!!    The vision of this book goes back almost three years now.   My dream was to capture the essence of some of those big games we all remember from different perspectives.
When one of my dear LSU friends, Kathy Tangney, passed away in July of 2012 it occurred to me that we were brought together by our love for LSU and some of our best memories were made watching the Tigers.   I realized that this entire fan experience was more than just about the football game and that’s what I set out to capture.   I interviewed and collected stories from many LSU friends, former football players, band members and LSU staff.    What I was able to capture was clearly a Gumbo of memories that was about more than the football game.
One of my friends, Jack Burleigh, recalled attending the Notre Dame game with his father in 1970.  He recalled that it was so cold,  “I thought my blood was going to freeze.”   LSU staffer, Cliff Vanoy, attending the LSU v Auburn game in 1988 aka The Earthquake game recalled, “I thought my wife would deliver our baby in the stadium that night.”   There are so many more interesting stories like that along with “Hold That Tiger, Red Beans and Rice”, “Louisiana Road Kill Stew”, Touchdown LSU!! Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya and more, more, more!!
To order your copy of Gumbo for the Tiger Soul visit or ask your local bookstore to order it for you!  Geaux Tigers Always!


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