#Sigh, getting caught up.

Blah, blah, blah, life is crazy. But in all honesty, we are rapidly approaching the due date for #4. For the last several weeks we have been rolling through the checklist of things before we become a family of six.

Such a daunting number.

Six.

Four kids teeming with life and wonder. Two adults living on coffee and love.

It is crazy to think that in what seems like yesterday we were excited to have one. Now, in a few short weeks, our fourth will be here. Our little home will be bursting at the seems, as will our hearts. This journey has been far quicker than the previous three. Continually fighting the hands on the clock to slow down, trying to capture the milestones. Meanwhile watching the other three grow and develop. It is both exhausting and invigorating.

But I am finally in a place to post some of the backlogged book reviews (yes, I am still reading a book a week for my 2018 Reading Challenge).  So, sorry in advance for the flurry of posts that you are about to see. Afterall, posting reviews for books 12-19 will be awesome. Perhaps I should stagger them a bit. We will see.

 

We hope to resume some level of reasonable posting in the days to come. Perhaps after our, MUCH NEEDED, short family vacation this weekend.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The tale of the CT scan

Many of us know, all too well, that Cranio makes our lives forever different. This week we had a reminder of this.

On Monday Zoey was playing with David on the couch. In a typical sibling outcome, she ended up getting pushed off the couch. Her arms failed to catch her, and with a sickening crack, she landed face first on the carpet. While in the middle of a meeting I received a text message from my beloved letting everyone know about this, and that she believed Zoey broke her nose.

A flurry of fear filled me, and my heart was pounding. I tried to focus on what must happen, as I was methodically tracing my next steps. I was shocked with the thoughts flying through my mind. As an adventurous boy, and adult, my nose has ended broken 20+ times. I know the game. Ice, time, black eyes for a bit, and move on. But not for Zoey. For her, ‘normal’ has a new definition. Anything involving the face or head is not a small deal. So much time, so many surgeries, and more to come, all mean that things are different.

We debated on rising her to the ER. Spending the countless hours waiting to be seen, all for an x-ray. Instead, we reached out to her Craniofacial team. We sent pictures, a narrative, and our fears. Then we waited. We waited for an email or a call. Something to tell us we were crazy, or what our next step was.

 

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It came, a CT scan was needed. I knew what this meant. Surgery, either to fix or the next one we have been discussing was rushing back to the table. My fears were only lit aflame by the bruising that Zoey had the next day. It was telltale and bad. But every time I looked at Zoey, I could see the braveness forcing itself through. I saw my sweet little girl smiling, but I saw the pain.

So, today we loaded up the family and made our trek to the hospital. Zoey was in high spirits. We told her what was going to happen. As our silver van sailed the laughter wafted from the back while Zoey and David joked. My heart was still.

Check in was fast, and our wait was short. When it came to be our time, Zoey took my hand, and we walked. The long hallway caused our footsteps to echo, click, click, click. We almost made it past a beautiful mural filled with butterflies. As I feigned exuberant excitement to point them out to her, I looked at her. And my heart fell a little out of my chest. For the first time, in a very long time, I could see a little fear poking through her eyes.

We walked into a room that, to be fair, I wanted in my home. Freshwater fish scenery adorned the walls and hid the machines. Bass, trout, otters, even a carp with moss covered rocks and flowing plants. There was a light show on the ceiling giving the appearance of rippling water on a lavender and rose summer evening. I bent down to look at Zoey. Her eyes missed all of this, and we’re locked in the machine in terror. Her little hand quickly tightened around my finger.

For the next few minutes, we had to fight her. Her strength and agility were providing a great deal of surprise to the experienced technician. Every breath from Zoey was a scream of “No!”, “Mommy!”,”Stop”, and “Daddy.” That last one ripped shreds off my heart. It was full of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I fought tears as I kept reminding her that I was not going to leave her, that I was there, that I would never let anything bad happen to her. But I know they were falling on deaf ears. Undaunted by this, I kept talking to her. Holding her, and taking my place right next to her.

The fretted bindings that were holding my heart together wholly unraveled as she fought through those that were holding her down. The technician looked at me and asked if I wanted to call it off. My heart was screaming “Yes, please stop this!”, but my mind knew better.

It’s a tough row to hoe being a dad. Our entire job is, or at least it should be, vying for the welfare of our children. Protecting them from any harm that comes our way. And as my daughter lace screaming for this to stop, writing on the table, fighting against the straps, and the hands, I knew that this needed to happen. So, we fought on.

Finally, I found a way to hold her. Though it was not soothing her in any way, I was able to contain her. In a matter of moments, the X-ray and ct-scan were over. As they pulled her bed out of the machine, I can see the streams of Tears along her cheeks. Like Jewel filled streams of water against the blackened eyes from a broken nose. I Let Go. I stepped back just take a photo of this moment, preserving it and posterity and something else that she has yet again had to fight through. Something that her adult self may look back upon as she wonders about the journey her life has been. The time that she can look back and see her little 6-year-old body strapped to a table and remember that she overcame it.

The moment that the straps were freed she bolted upright. She left into my arms and held me tight as I could quickly feel her tears soaking my shirt. I held her so damn close. Whispering to her that this was over, that she did it, and telling her how proud of her I was. It was at that moment that she finally saw the fish, the Otters, the plants, the light show on the ceiling. “Like daddy’s fish tank” for nearly hoarse voice proclaimed in my ear. With a shuttering thump, I felt my heart begin to beat. My smile matched hers as I looked deep into her eyes. That brilliant sparkle of wonder was finally returning.

A few hours later, after copious amounts of cookies and regaling of her day, who received the long-awaited email. Her nose is fractured but not displaced. No worries about surgery at this time. Reading these words brought great elation to me after a long day.

It’s my job as her dad to protect her. I do not, and will not ever, take this aspect of my life lightly. But it is also my job to remember these moments period to capture them for her and her brothers. So that some dark day, when I’m no longer here to do my job, she will remember these hard days when I did my best.

Leading up to these events I was amazed private care an outpouring of affection that we received from so many others. Before the moment when we walked in that room, crossing the threshold, I was confident that this would have been easy for Zoey. “It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself over and over again. I had failed to remember the fact that nothing is as it should be. That many of the things that many other parents take for granted are entirely different for us. I’d also done the disservice I forgetting that my daughter can be scared. By failing to remember that countless things can disrupt the brave face that she puts on every single day. But for now, and I listen to her sleep in the room next to mine, I find peace. This was only helped by finishing some fine scotch and getting these words out.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Early mornings

Here I sit, listening to the sounds of my sleepy home. Being woken up at 3 am to the sounds of my daughter crying. Sometimes the medicine she has to take to help her use the bathroom works too well in the middle of the night. Having stripped bedding, started laundry, cleaned her up and put her back to sleep, my mind is in overdrive. These morning are spent validating my role as a dad.

As I ruminate over the last five crazy years, I look at the changes that I have gone through. Culminating in the birthday celebrations of the previous four days, I now have a six year old.

A six year old.

Where has the time gone? Better yet, what have I done with this time that I have been given? As I listen to the sleeping sounds of my children, my pregnant beloved, and even our dog, I am left to wonder about it all. I see the struggles that no one else sees. The hard times we have been through. The mountains we have had to climb either dragging the kids with us, or chasing them upwards. I know, parenting, done right, is never easy.

But what about rest? What about finding time to be still? “You need to stop and smell the roses” is something I hear far too often. However, even when I try in earnest, days like today happen. Over and over again. I took a vacation to spend time with family. To get away from stress. To rest and be still. Instead, every single day I have been sleeping less and less.

But, there is time with the kids. There have been moments. Unintentionally amazing moments and memories. Laughter, tickle fights, nature walks, even lazy cuddle on the couch and watch Peg + Cat moments. So, why am I exhausted?

It has been a full five years. From the moment Zoey came on the scene things needed to be different. There were new words to learn, procedures to discuss, pain and fear to work through. All while maintaining a brave face. Not for anyone other than Zoey. She never demanded, but has always deserved my best. Such a strong and brave soul is contained in that little body.

This translated to being the dad that David has needed. He is the embodiment of the thing so many parents say under their breath. “Someday you will have a kid just like you…”. Yeah, I do. Smart, adventurous, aggressive, defiant, little version of me. Still, my little buddy. Showing me countless times that long after I am gone he will be there to take care of his siblings. I know he will do well, just have to keep him alive.

Following the twin tornadoes (seriously what David and Zoey can do to a house in five minuets is mind blowing) comes my respite. Sweet little Jacob. The most mild mannered of the three. Happy to run and play, or cuddle just the same. Quick with a smile, a hug, a laugh. But, he is nearing two, and the signs are there. This is going to be a fun round of the terrible twos.

I know not what #4 will bring. What special kind of chaos he will add to this mixing pot of a family. But, I am as ready as I can be for him to arrive.
All of this is a good kind of exhausting. But does it need to be exhausting? This is the question I ask myself over and over. I am sure that, someday, I will be able to find a pattern that will allow sleep. Though it really is not about the amount of sleep. It is about finding time to be still.

Time to go change the laundry, and empty the dishwasher.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

*edit notes: So, I tried to use speech to text, during the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning, while exhausted, to write this post. All that I have done today was fix some grammar and word use issues that were driving me nuts.

MY WARRIOR KID

Zoey wasn’t given a choice to be a warrior. The moment that she was born our room was filled with doctors, nurses and specialists buzzing around. As a first time dad, the build up to the moment of our daughter’s birth had been epic. However, hearing the hushed tones of the support staff saying things like “what is this?” or “what are we going to tell the parents” as they surrounded her first crib, an incubator, shattered my soul. Or so I thought.

My Warrior Kid

The very first time that I walked into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, my daughter and I shared a moment. A moment that would define the relationship between myself and the warrior kid that I am blessed to have call me dad. Barely a few hours old, as I stood crying over her incubator, hand resting next to her head, she reached up. She took my finger in her little hands and squeezed. She was only a few hours old, but with that simple gesture my warrior kid was telling me “we’ve got this, dad”.

For nearly eleven days we lived in the NICU. I became familiar with words that I had never known and could barely say. Chief among these terms was Craniosynostosis. I would later come to learn, and acutely understand how this premature fusion of the joints in my daughter’s skull would make her different and change our lives forever.

Warrior Kid Staring Down Fear

Over the last five years, I have felt my heart stop and shatter 12 times as nurses have taken my daughter from my arms and lead her back to the operating room for a surgery. Many of these procedures have involved an amazing doctor skillfully removing my daughter’s skull, making 100’s of micro-cuts into it, and putting her back together again. I’ve sat next to her for days on end as she recovers in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), hyper-aware of each breath, listening to her cry, with the ceaseless beeping of all the monitors in the background. Zoey didn’t have a choice in being strong. She had to be.

It amazes me each day as I watch her climb trees, run, jump and play. She’s not letting anything or anyone, stop her from enjoying her childhood. For her, normal is different. But with love, joy, and true, deep strength, she shows the world that she’s not afraid. It is her embodiment of a warrior spirit that makes me less afraid. It’s a humbling experience to have your warrior kid give you the strength that you need to be their dad.

I, for one, cannot wait to show my daughter Thor: Ragnarok on blu-ray. I hope that she gets as caught up in the amazing story and vivid imagery, as I get caught up in her every move.  There’s a saying that I hear often and it always makes me smile. “Not all heroes wear capes”. Well, as you can tell from the picture, mine does. And I am thankful that she calls me dad.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I am beyond excited to have been given the opportunity to team up with @ThorOfficial on this amazing campaign. Though this is a #sponsored post, those who have been following our journey are well aware of the love I have for my daughter, Zoey, and her unyielding strength – her Warrior Kid spirit as you might say. For more information on the release of the Thor:Ragnarok blu-ray and digital download release, check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Finding strength in the moment

I stood there and watched, my heart barely beating in my chest. Her little legs stepping up onto the box. Amazed with her graceful, surefootedness, not showing a sign of the weight she was bearing. The once vibrant, now muted from use, frock covered most of her little body. Heavy with the lead inside, but undeterred by the little body under it. She silently listened to the instructions.

“Place your hands here”

“Move you head here”

“Bite down like it is a cookie”

She complied with them all. From my vantage, standing in the doorway, I could see the wild inside of her being quelled. Self-restraint. Such a strange thing to see in a five year old. But then again, she has been full of surprises since the moment she was born.

In a flurry the staff exited the room. Stoically she stood there. Her hands exactly where she was told to leave them. Frozen in that moment. The small room looked so much bigger then it was just a second ago. Just outside the threshold my body remained still and imposing. But my heart, it was in that room with her.

“I am right here, you are doing so good, I am so proud of you my little one.”

I spoke to her in my calm, metered tone. She smiled, just a little as to not hold her position. But that smile, it was for me. She knew that I could see it. Then, a moment later there was a whirring sound. The device began to move slowly around her head. Then there was… the cry.

“Daddy! No!”

I could hear the fear, and it tore through me. My heart lurched as it began to beat again. Adrenaline flushing through my veins with a fiery burn. The attendants shut off the panoramic x-ray machine and I rushed to her. She jumped into my arms, the added weight of the lead vest being only an afterthought. The smile gone from her face she held me tightly, I could feel the tears soaking though my shirt, into my soul.

She tried to be brave.

For her entire life my daughter, Zoey, has been showing the world how strong and brave she is. She has not had a choice in the matter. But being so little, and having a machine move around her head was too much. Heck, even I hate those things. But, it is also in this moment that she showed be what she does best.

Finding strength in the moment

While the x-rays did not happen the way that the doctors had hoped, something amazing happened in that room. My daughter fought all that was in her, casting aside every reasonable fear. She stood on that box, and she listened. In that moment, she dug deep and found her own strength. Perhaps she knew that it was in her, perhaps she did not.

In addition to this, she has, yet again, helped me find strength as well. It is a daunting task, this role as a parent. Further complicated by things such as Craniosynostosis, it is a real struggle some days. The worry and fears that I have about what the future will be like for her is, well, there have been many sleepless nights.

It is an odd thing to be in a position that my daughter is showing me that I can be stronger than I think. But it is reassuring that she is going to do so well in life, digging deep, and finding strength in each moment.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Cranio Family Announcement!

We are super excited to announce the gender of Baby #4!

Click the links below the picture to download a little comic that Cranio Dad made!

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

For those not able to view the links to download the four pages above, PLEASE visit out blog (www.craniofamilyblog.com)  and download from there. Make sure that you look at them in order. If you would like all four pages together, just let us know and we will get it out there.

 

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part One

No, this is not some post about how I have gobs of money to spend on my kids. Quite the opposite in fact. This is the story about how trying to be frugal cost us quite a bit more. This is also the first part of this story. It all stemmed from this previous post. To be fair, these bunk beds were only $200. But those bunk beds were only the beginning. Or at least close to the beginning.

To bunk bed, or not to bunk bed, that is the question.

Not that long ago we decided that we needed to create more space. With three kids ages five and under, an amazing border collie, and two adults our home was feeling like a belt at thanksgiving. This is to say suddenly and unexpectedly too small and confining.  For some time my beloved and I have been debating about bunk beds for our older two. We both grew up with them, and we know our kids far too well. Based on the, um, exuberance that Zoey and David both have we knew what this would mean. That their bedroom would devolve into some Orwellian nightmare, with a little Lord of the Flies thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, we decided that it was time to make the move. My beloved bride was in need of a craft space, and I needed some separation in my office. The Dungeons and Dragons party that I have been running was growing, and we were outpacing the space that I had set aside. So, we begun making the many changes that were needed. Boxing up things, moving them around, making space. The plan was to purchase the bunk beds, and then move Jacob into the room with the older two. This would free up the smallest room in the house, the nursery, for my wife to have as a craft room.

We also knew that in order to not have a dire situation on our hands that the ceiling fan in the kid’s room would need to be removed. There is not a single room in the house that is suitable for bunk beds where a ceiling fan would not be at hand, or head, height. Little did I know that the moment that I clicked “purchase” on those bunk beds our bank account would be forever changed.

Come back tomorrow for another installment of the $2,000 Bunk Beds. Also, there are more updates to come. It has been a crazy last month and a half. This story, is only part of it all.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

A quick update on all things

Things, as always, have been nothing short of chaos for the first half of this month. There are times that my beloved and I just want to kick back, relax, and breathe a little.  But, no, that is not how things are.

  1. I think that we were a little taken aback by how much the daily vlogs for Cranio Acceptance Month were going to wipe us out. It took us over a week to just recover from the grind.
  2. We were able to take a small vacation to the beach with the family. It was a much needed break. Kati and I were on the tail end of exhaustion. But it was so good to be able to see the family.
  3. I am preparing to run a rather large group for Dungeons & Dragons. This is extremely exciting, but there is so much work that goes into running a game. I have worked hard to update and reconfigure my home office to accommodate for game night. Now, I have a little over a week, to test all of the systems and prepare for awesomeness.
  4. Kati has been doing an awesome job for her role as an Usborne consultant. She has learned a ton, in very short time. Every party that she hosts is exiting. It does often mean that our conversations late at night are dominated by ideas, but I think it is cute and I love it.
  5. Zoey has lost her hearing aids twice in the last three weeks. Want to know what can stop everything in a household. Have a $2500 medical device go missing. These are critical because Zoey has been doing such an amazing job with her speech therapy. From the moment that she has put her ‘super ears’ in she has rocked it.
  6. Jacob is nearly walking. By that, I mean he is at 6-7 steps in a row. It is amazing to see the look on his face when he is walking around. His smile is amazing.
  7. Both Zoey and David are killing it with homeschool this semester. David is doing an amazing job with addition and subtraction. Both are starting to read. Considering that neither would be in school yet (Virginia law states that if a child is going to start, the must start by the year that they are six), I am ecstatic at what they can do.
  8. Last but not least, we were surprised to find out that our daughter will have her yearly craniofacial clinic in early November, rather than December. For those that read my beloveds post about cranio, this is when things get real for us. We know that there are more surgeries coming, we are exactly where they said we would be when forecasting when we would be discussing the next one. My heart… well, my heart resides in my children, but I do not know if my body can take the stress that I am feeling right now. I am sure that we will talk about that more once we know more.
  9. Seven years ago (last week) my beloved and I went on our first date. Time flies, make sure you live in the little moments.

That is all I have for you guys right now. Thanks for hanging in there on our crazy, chaotic, life. We are doing the best we can to…

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.