Updated pics

I got the boys 1 year and 2 year pictures taken. I was hoping to have my high school friend Heather Wolff (Boles) take them this go-round (check out her work here) but she is about ready to have her second little boy, Nolan, so she's on hiatus for a while (welcome to the "all boys" club Heather! Keep me posted about Monday!)

We opted to stick with Portrait Innovations once again - and although I think almost ANY picture of my kiddos is absolutely adorable - I wasn't super happy with them this time. I posted just a few of the way-too-many that I purchased (I'm such a sucker...)

I also put up some new ones in their monthly albums. Check them out when you get a chance! (Click the link on the right of the page.)

Old man winter

After getting no snow in November and December, I began to worry that the boys wouldn't get to play in the snow this winter and secretly wished for the white powder to cover our yard. Well...I got my wish...and then some.

Snow. And lots of it. Oh yeah - and more ice than I ever thought possible. I'm not a fan.

Tuesday evening it started falling so sweetly from the sky, blanketing the ground in that oh-so-beautiful wintery way. Overnight, we started to hear ice pelting the roof. Then we awoke to the sounds of branches - big ones - snapping off of the trees near our house. We barely slept. Then around 4am, the buzz of the baby monitor next to my bed went silent. The power had gone out. The temperature in the house seemed to drop instantly (although Ricky assured me it was just in my head). I pictured the boys shivering in their feety pajamas in their bed and by 5am knew that I wanted out of there - fast!

Periodically, Ricky would get out of bed and go outside to attack the ice on our burch trees surrounding our house. We'd had an ice storm before and it left us with several broken burch trunks. This time, some had already cracked, but more scary was that the branches were falling onto our roof and the ones in the landscaping in the front yard drooped so much from the weight of the ice that they had created a blockade over our driveway. We couldn't get out of the driveway!

I quickly packed some bags as Ricky tried to scrape ice and snow away from the garage door. After hearing on our weather radio that we were supposed to get another 1-3 inches of snow, making the roads even more of a mess, I was bound and determined to get out of the increasingly cold house while we had a chance. We got the boys out of bed and bundled them up. By 6am we were on our way. Into a nightmare...

We live on what my mom calls "a mountain". Now everyone knows there are no mountain chains in Southern Indiana, but I guess the settlers got creative and decided to instead just call them "knobs". It may not be a mountain, but Floyds Knobs is definitely not flatlands. We're up there.

There are exactly 4 ways to get down "the hill" to flat ground from our house. Two of them are to the right and two are to the left. We started out going left.

As we crushed through the thick, hard snow in our 4-wheel drive SUV I was already panicking. Then we see a fallen tree across the road. Ricky runs down to see if he can move it out of the way and as he's doing so, a truck approaches from behind. The tree branch was small enough to pull out of the way, but would have to be held as a car passed. So the guy in the truck agreed to stop after Ricky held it to let him pass so that we could get through. When Ricky got back in the car, the truck guy was gone. We were stuck. Apparantly he went down to check things out further down the road, and after finding it unpassable still, he came back to tell us (but we aren't sure if he would have kept going had he been able to)...

Another SUV approached and we all agreed we had to try the other direction. We turned around as more sleet/snow kept falling. The next option wasn't a pretty one. A long, steep, curvy, narrow road heading down the side of the hill. I had to pull my hat down over my eyes. We got about half way down when there was a truck stopped and a guy out cutting trees across the road with a chainsaw. We were lucky to be behind this guy, otherwise we wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as we did, but about 3/4 of the way down a large tree had fallen onto some power lines. Cutting through was not an option.

Luckily we had made it down far enough to be able to turn around in a driveway. I was very close to asking the people in the house if we could crash there (but then felt almost as uncomfortable doing that as I did knowing that we had to head back UP the long, steep, curvy, narrow road). Meanwhile, the kids were being super good hanging out in the backseat.

Back at the top of the hill, we had only one more option for exiting. And lo and behold, a tree on power lines blocked us once again. Defeated, and ready to bundle the kids in umpteen layers, we headed back to bunk up at home. I called a neighbor to see if they had any wood we could borrow for our fireplace and she mentioned her husband had made it to the bottom of the hill. He had cut the tree blocking the road from the first option we tried (we didn't run into Mr. Chainsaw in the truck until the second option). She said the hill he went down was fine but if we wanted down, we needed to go immediately as it was starting to snow and would get very dangerous very quickly.

Back into the car we went. We made it down the hill (but I couldn't tell you what the road looked like as my eyes were shut tight the entire way)! And we headed to a friend's house who still had power. We unloaded and were looking forward to charging our cell-phones, taking a hot shower and being able to eat some warm food. Five minutes later, they lost power too. So it was off to another friend's house nearby. Luckily, they never lost power and they graciously allowed us to stay the night. Thanks Kristin and Chris!

We're back home now. According to our neighbor (who stayed home with a generator), the power came back on in the middle of the night that night.

The ice is still weighing down the trees and although we have about 8 inches of snow, the boys have only been able to see it from inside the warm house. I'm not ready to brave the elements again just yet. I'm mad at old man winter.

Three stitches

I can't say that I'm surprised - I mean Ethan isn't the most graceful child in the world. I knew it would eventually happen. I just didn't know when.

I was at my parent's house this past weekend in NKY with the boys. We got their 1yr/2yr pictures taken on Sunday which was a good thing because on Monday, Ethan slipped down the single step between their kitchen and family room. I was 5 feet from him, and I heard the sound of head hitting wood. The corner of a piece of furniture to be exact.

At first I thought maybe I was just seeing a dented forehead as he started crying. But when I got close and he turned around, I saw the blood.

Lots of blood.

It filled up a kitchen towel and I screamed for the phone. I called 911.

I knew it was a good sign that he was still screaming and crying. I knew it was a good sign that he wasn't vomiting. But all of that aside, I was still freaking out. I mean I've seen kids hit their head. I saw my niece running full speed, trip and hit the same spot that Ethan did on the edge of a wrought iron chair. I didn't see blood.

The EMTs and a police officer got there within 2 minutes. They didn't seem to think it looked all that bad. But I was still convinced it was. We rode in the ambulance to the local hospital to have it evaluated.

The doctors said he would need stitches, but that he wasn't showing any signs of a concussion. At the advice of my mom and a family friend, we were told to ask for a plastic surgeon since the wound was on his face. However they didn't have one on staff or on call at St. E so they suggested we go to Cincinnati Children's Hospital about 30 minutes away. We had to wait 3 1/2 hours in the waiting room before we were seen, only to find out that they had no plastic surgeon to do the stitches either. They said their suture doctors had a lot of experience and because it wasn't so bad, it would be no problem.

Three stitches, four suckers and two Snoopy bandaids later, he was fine. And he's back to his normal rambunctious self.

It might have been my first ride in an ambulance, but with two boys, I have a feeling it won't be my last!

Aiden's 1st Birthday

I can hardly believe it's already been almost a year since Aiden Joseph came into our lives. He's been such a blessing and continues to amaze us all every day. I'll never know why Ricky and I were chosen to be Aiden's parents, but I do know that whatever the reason, we accepted this challenge head-on. With our faith in God as guidance, and the support of our friends and family, we're happy to have reached this milestone. Aiden is happy, healthy, and more resilliant than any child his age should have to be.

We decided that his birthday party needed to be special. Of course, everyone loves to celebrate a baby's 1st birthday, but we wanted to do something that would honor all that Aiden's been through, and give back in some way. We've been very fortunate to have financial help, donations of food and transportation, and other help at home or for babysitting throughout this first year. We know how lucky we are. We also know that other families sometimes don't have these things. When a child is sick or needs hospital care, it can be very difficult for the family to endure. Besides the emotions of it all, often times families have to stay out of town or near their child in the hospital, so as you can imagine there is usually a great financial burden as well.

That is why we've chosen to have a "Ronald McDonald" theme for Aiden's birthday party. We're asking each person invited to bring an item or items from the attached "wish list" for our local
Ronald McDonald House - as a family, we will then deliver the donated items to the house downtown. Keeping with the theme, the kids at the party will have Happy Meals, the cake will be decorated with Ronald McDonald, etc. We're really excited to celebrate Aiden's birthday this way while also being able to support one of the most important charities for families with kids needing medical care.

We are keeping his birthday celebration on the smaller side with just immediate family and very close friends. However I know that many of you might want to contribute in some way. We welcome and appreciate any donations, large or small, from the provided list. If you need to know where to send them, email me at taryn_skees23@hotmail.com.

The party will be held on February 7th and we hope to deliver the donations on his actual birthday, February 11th.

Thanks for your support!

Update on Aiden

Just a quick update on how he is doing for the many people that ask about him on a daily basis:

He's doing really well. We couldn't be more pleased with the result of his first surgery on his hands and feet with Dr. Fearon. The recovery and healing period went much smoother than I was anticipating which makes the approaching second surgery less stressful.

The inner spaces between his fingers healed nicely with minimal scarring. Most of the scarring appears to be on the top of his hand. The inside, where his palm is, looks very smooth. I absolutely love being able to finally stick my fingers into his hand for him to grasp. That's one of the things that most people love about new born babies, something that we had to wait 9 months to experience.

We continue to have 3 therapies a week - Physical, Occupational and Developmental. Since his surgery he is progressing nicely, however he is understandably a bit behind in some areas of gross and fine motor skills. He will be 11 months on Sunday and has yet to crawl and is still pretty wobbly on his feet, but we know it will all come in time.

Cognitively, I am happy to report that he is right on track. His therapist is amazed that he is doing so well - probably because none of us truly knew what to expect from a child with Apert Syndrome. He will wave, imitate sounds, raise his arms for "So Big", turn pages in books, look for certain objects when asked (the cat, daddy, etc.) and understands cause and effect. All typical milestones of his age group.

He loves his brother and watches everything he does. We're hoping this will help him progress. Ethan is still very sweet with him - only occasionally pushing him over while he is sitting then shouting "Uh, oh...fell over" as if I didn't see him do it. He's starting to become more aware of Aiden's hands being different. He said to me the other day "Mommy, Aiden go to doctor." When I asked him why, he replied, "For his hands". I prodded further, asking him what the doctor did for his hands and he said "Aiden's hands open now!"

I almost cried. I'm proud of Ethan for being so observant, but I'm also more aware of the great responsibility I have to teach Ethan about his little brother as he begins to understand more and more.

Overall - we've been very blessed to have two boys that have wonderful dispositions and vibrant personalities. Aiden is one of the happiest babies - always smiling, very rarely fussing. It definitely makes it easier on us as parents.

I will keep everyone updated as we approach his next surgery date - February 19. And I will of course be bringing my laptop to Dallas so that I can provide info to everyone while we're there as well.

What part of 250 balls sounded like a good idea?

Santa brought Ethan a Fisher Price inflatable school bus ball pit for Christmas. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and Ethan sure enjoys himself, but my poor back is NOT thanking Santa Claus for it.

I should have stuck with the bag of 25 balls that the bus came with. But when my eyes caught a glimpse of the large bag of brightly colored balls on the shelves at Toys R Us, I was like a kid in a...well...toy store. I immediately threw it in my cart.

I mean, come on, 25 balls in a ball pit? Not much fun. 250? Now that's fun.

So as you can imagine, cleaning up at the end of the night is a tiresome bend-down-pick-up routine. We try to get Ethan to help, but it just makes him more interested in continuing to play so we end up doing most of it once he goes to bed.

I have a feeling that one of these days the school bus is going to get lost on it's way to Ethan's house and will never be seen again ;)

My biggest goal of the New Year: Start writing my book

For me, writing this blog is more than just a way to keep family and friends updated about the boys. I have always enjoyed writing - so when I find a few minutes to steal some time for myself, I usually flip open my pink laptop and type away. As a mother, my kids provide the material to write about.

After Aiden was born, and the craziness died down, I scoured the internet and visited our local library to find something, anything, that was written about Apert Syndrome. The one and only book out there is a wonderful piece called Babyface: A Story of Heart and Bones by Jeanne McDermott. I read it in about a day.

This book inspired me - I know Apert Syndrome is rare, but there are over 2000 people in the US born with this condition. Which means hundreds of thousands of others - parents, family members, friends - are dealing with it as well. One book just didn't seem like enough.

I've always wanted to publish a book and now, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. Problem was, I didn't know where to begin. So, I signed up for an online writing course for mothers. The topic was writing a "Momoir" and we met once every other week by conference call. The instructor provided weekly writing assignments which we turned in a few days before the call and discussed during class. The main purpose of the class was to work on writing an essay meant to be published by the end of the course.

I never got around to finishing my essay. I could give several excuses (Aiden's surgeries, the holidays, etc.), but now that the course is over, and a new year has begun, the old "New Years Resolution" has pushed me to renew my goal.

I haven't lost sight of the fact that I have an important story to tell - so my goal for 2009 is to get crackin' on this book. It will definitely take some time, so don't expect to see a finished product any time soon, but when all is said and done, I hope to have a piece that will help other families dealing with Apert Syndrome or other special needs. More importantly, I hope that this piece will give my boys a peek into what the early years were like, letting them know that although it was hard at times, our lives were blessed when Aiden came into our world.

Sharing written pieces about ones thoughts and feelings puts you in a vulnerable place - but if I'm serious about writing the book, I've got to learn to get over that. So in the meantime, I would like to share with you the pieces I have written for the Momoir class. The titles below are the writing "sparks" given to us before each class. Our assignment was to take the phrase, interpret it as we wanted, and write a short piece on the subject. Some are more serious, some are just silly. I hope you enjoy!

*When you click on the below links, you will be taken to Google Documents where I have them stored. To return to the blog, click your BACK button on the browser when you are finished reading the piece.