Swimmy Classes

Although I hesitate to post this because I haven't written anything about Ethan lately with all that is going on with Aiden, and this isn't the most glowing review of Ethan's "almost two" behavior, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try to get some pity from my fellow mothers-of-young-ones...

Tonight was the first "swimmy class" at the YMCA for Ethan. We signed up for the Super-Tots class which included 6 boys Ethan's age and one little 8-month old girl who was apparently in the wrong class (and was unfortunately stuck next to "Mr. I Like to Splash-A-Lot" Ethan).

I had participated in the swimming classes thing with Ethan a year or so ago and he had such a blast that I knew I wanted to do them again with him in the future. So, ever the "trying to be the model parent", I signed us up once again now that things with Aiden are relatively under control from a surgery standpoint. Ricky and I want to make an effort to do things with Ethan individually so that we balance our time spent with both kids by themselves. He was super excited for our first class, as we've been building it up for a couple days now.

At first, things went pretty smooth. I packed my bag in advance so as not to rush out the door forgetting the essentials like a towel for both of us, which I'd done in the past (and let me tell you it was a heart-wrenching decision on whether I should use the only towel I brought to wrap my infant son to keep him warm or drape it around my "not-quite-what-they-used-to-be" thighs as we scurried back to the locker room). Ultimately, I think I made the "best" choice by choosing warmth for my son. "Best" being a loose term for "most responsible" in this scenario.

However within a few short minutes I was reminded of just how ornery Ethan could be. After jumping in (and splashing the poor 8-month old next to us), Ethan immediately announced that he was going poo-poo. I panicked, not sure whether his "Lil-swimmer" diaper was capable of handling number two. I put my hand on his bottom trying to see if I could indeed feel any poo in his shorts. In my head I kept envisioning that scene from Caddy Shack ("Don't worry, it's just a Snicker's bar"), only in this case it wouldn't be a Snicker's bar and we really would have to evacuate for poo's sake.

Luckily it was just a false alarm - which I figured out by the lack of any bulk in his swimming trunks and his next announcement that he had "just tooted". I swear he is ALL BOY!

The next few minutes of the 30-minute class went well. He enjoyed being in the pool and I can already tell that he's going to be some combination of a show-off and/or teachers pet. As silly as he is most of the time, every time the teacher asked him to do something, he got really serious and did exactly as she asked. (As in: You want me to lay on my back...completely still...as you sing each and every verse of Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star? No problem. But if it were my mom asking me to do it...not a chance!)

But I was soon brought back down to earth when my well-behaving son caught a glimpse of the basket of toys the teacher brought for the class. In it were 10-15 balls, 6 cups and numerous other trinkets that were apparently calling Ethan's name. Once he saw them it was over. "I want to play with that!" he proclaimed quietly enough that I thought I could still control the situation. Unfortunately, the next thing the teacher wanted us to do was to set our "Super-Tots" up on the wall to have them jump off into our outstretched arms. Of course, compliant, I put Ethan up on the wall knowing full well that he wasn't going to last 3 seconds standing there.

He darted over to the basket of toys and proceeded to pick it up and flip it over, spilling the entire contents across the wet pool room floor. Before I could lug my "not-quite-what-they-used-to-be" thighs out of the pool, he sensed my disappointment and took off. I hurried across the slick floor and nabbed him just before he could jump in the therapy pool with the "over 60" aqua-aerobics class. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

We stuck it out through the rest of the class. But I will tell you that Ethan got a stern talking-to in the locker room afterwards. I then reported the whole event to Ricky via cell phone and made an executive decision that going forward, we would take turns bringing the little goober every week. :)

After it was all said and done, I'm still glad that I decided to sign us up for what Ethan calls "Swimmy Classes". I know he enjoys it and that makes me happy. I just have to keep reminding myself that although he sometimes acts like he is much older than he is, he really is not even two years old yet and he will continue to test my patience time and time again. The struggle for me will be learning how to deal while also learning how to discipline.

Before and After

Dr. Fearon sent us the pictures he took of Aiden's new hands and feet in the operating room while in Dallas. We got to see them shortly after they were taken, but only for a few seconds, so we of course were anxious to receive them so we could take a longer, closer look.

I have posted pictures of this amazing before and after transformation in the photo gallery. I decided against putting the photos right in the post because some may prefer not to see them. Remember, these were taken minutes after the surgery was complete, while Aiden was still in the operating room and before the casts were applied. The wounds, although stitched, are very fresh and his fingers are pretty swollen.

With that said, we are still thrilled with how they turned out! Just looking at the before pictures, then the after ones and seeing each and every digit, it still blows my mind. And although the reality is that his little hands will never look "normal", I have no doubt that Aiden will overcome any obstacle put in his way. He is a determined little guy and I know he will accomplish so much with the hands and feet he has been given.

If you have any specific questions about the surgery or his new hands/feet, please feel free to email me or give me a call. We would be happy to talk about it! We certainly had many questions for the doctor so I know others must have them too!

Home Sweet Home

We arrived home Friday from Dallas - and Ricky and I both agree that this trip was one of the smoothest we've ever had. From the travel and hotel stay to the surgery and hospital care, everything went according to plan! We couldn't be more happy with everything from start to finish.

It is nice to be home and to try to get the boys back into a "normal" routine. Although Aiden does seem quite a bit more frustrated with having casts on than he was just 3 months ago. I think it's probably because he's progressed quite a bit developmentally in between the surgeries and now he isn't able to do those things at the moment (roll over with ease, hold his own sippy cup, stand, and walk with help). But the thing that makes it all easier is that he's back to his old full-of-personality self. It made us so sad to see him so sleepy and grumpy in the hospital. He completely lit up and has been all smiles since the moment he saw his big brother the morning after we got home. What an amazing bond they have even at this young age. It's a beautiful thing to see.

We wanted to spend some quality time with Ethan since we had been away from him during the Dallas trip, so my dad and my sister and her family met us in Louisville for dinner. Afterwards, we headed to our alma mater, Bellarmine University, for the alumni family night at the basketball games. My dad took Aiden back to the house for the night since we didn't want to have him out and about the day after coming home. He was already so exhausted. Ethan (almost 2) and my sister's two girls Lilly (3) and Avery (1) had SUCH a blast jumping in the inflatables, sliding down the huge slides and riding around on a toilet scooter (don't ask - I have no idea...)! After a few hours we walked over to the game. We made it about half way through the first half of the game before an executive decision was made to take the thoroughly pooped kiddos home. [PS - thank you Mary for leaving the tickets for us!]

We still haven't received the photos from Dr. Fearon. I will be sure to post them once (and if) I do! Otherwise, everyone will have to wait two weeks to see his feet and three to see his hands. That's the plan as far as removal of the casts go. We hope we don't have to remove any of them early like we did last time!

Ten little fingers, ten little toes!

We are so happy to report that Aiden's surgery went great!

We arrived at 6 and he was taken back to the OR around 7:45am. Dr. Fearon came out around 12:15 to tell us that everything went well. He snapped some pictures of Aiden's new hands and feet after the operation was over and before they put the casts on and let me tell you - it is AMAZING!

Ten fingers and ten toes...what most parents pronounce when their children are first born...we finally get to say after 12 months. It's unbelievable what modern medicine can make possible these days.

He's warm and snuggled in his bed and recovering just fine. He's been sleeping since we got up to the room, but he sucked down 6 oz. of juice/Pedialyte while in recovery. So we're just waiting for him to wake up so we can feed him some food and milk - he's got to be hungry!

The plan is to keep him here overnight to monitor everything. Ricky is going to stay with him at the hospital and I'm going to try to get some rest back at the hotel. Then we'll be headed home tomorrow! Dr. Fearon is really big on getting kids back to their home environment as quickly as possible as long as they are good and ready to go. He believes that avoiding long hospital stays helps them developmentally in the long run and we wholeheartedly agree.

We couldn't be happier with the way this trip has turned out. We're so proud of our tough little guy. God has made him one strong little boy and has helped to keep us strong through it all as well. Thanks for everyone's well-wishes, thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to us knowing that so many people care about Aiden and our family.

PS - We have asked Dr. Fearon to send us the pictures he took in the OR of his hands and feet and we can't wait to share them with everyone once he does. He is heading out of town this evening, however, so we may not get them for a few days. But believe me, I'm just as anxious to show them as I'm sure some of you are to see them, so I promise to post pics as soon as I get them!

Dallas: Day 2

It was actually a very pleasant day - we breezed through our pre-op appointments and Aiden was once again such a little trooper. Got some GREAT news from Dr. Fearon regarding Aiden's sleep study...results came back very positive - no sleep apnea issues! His saturation levels dropped just one time throughout the night (compared to 20+ during the previous study) and Dr. Fearon (pictured with Aiden at right) said there is nothing that concerns him at all. So no more sleep studies for at least one year, no breathing issues requiring oxygen or a BiPap machine at night, and one less thing to worry about for the Skees family! YAY!

After we were finished with with the appointments, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and upon April's recommendation, headed to a gorgeous lake which seemed to be smack dab in the middle of suburbia. When she told us about it, we were thinking it was going to be a small little lake that we could circle a few times and head home. Well, it turned out to be a lot bigger than we imagined! Aiden had a nice nap as I pushed him in the stroller and Ricky squeezed in a little exercise with a short run. We then took some pictures and let Aiden soak in the awesome weather before he undergoes his surgery, is casted, and returned to the unpleasant coldness that is Southern Indiana. Sorry, little guy.

April's son John is still fighting off an ear infection so we weren't able to meet up with the Gorman's for dinner this go-round, but we're making plans for a rain check during our next trip in May. Instead, on our way back in the hotel I noticed a flyer for a "Family Game Night" inviting those staying at the hotel to participate in various board games for great prizes.

Scattergories was one of the choices. Thanks to our friends Kristin and Chris and our love of a little friendly competition with a "game night" every now and then, we were all about trying our luck. We joked that we would probably be the only ones to show up...and...we were! So after a few rounds, they declared us the winners and our prize was a free 2-night stay at the hotel. This works out great considering we will be coming back in May for Aiden's next surgery!

And now, we are back in the room. We put Aiden to bed and are going to relax ourselves. We have to be at the hospital bright and early tomorrow. So goodnight! I'll update as soon as I can!

Dallas: Day 1

We made it to Dallas with no problems at all. Aiden was SUCH a good lil' guy on the planes. He slept the entire 2.5 hours from Louisville to Houston (my arm and hand were completely numb but if you think I would move and risk waking him up, you're crazy!) Had just enough time in Houston to grab some lunch, feed Aiden and change his diaper before boarding for the 40 minute flight to Dallas.

Once we arrived, we were met by our friend April with her two sweet little kiddos John and Rory Cate. They are so graciously allowing us to borrow their Toyota Prius while we are in town. She says it is no big deal and they are happy to help - but IT IS A BIG DEAL TO US! We are so fortunate to have met such nice people here in town. Not to mention that she stocked it with all kinds of goodies to munch on (chips and salsa, bananas, trail mix, strawberries...can you say yum?!?), stuff to help pass the time (a magazine, soda, a 6-pack of beer ;), and things for Aiden to borrow (pack-n-play, toys, books)! What an amazing thing to be greeted with away from home. Makes it all a little easier to have friends like these. I just hope that we can keep our dinner plans for Wednesday as John's been a little under the weather. Hope you feel better soon John!

After the airport, we headed to check-in to the hotel. We decided to stay a little closer to the hospital this time, which meant foregoing the Ronald McDonald House for a room at a nearby hotel. We unloaded our stuff into the room and met up with a family that although we had never met in person, I feel like I already knew from keeping up with their blog about their son Jack, who also has Apert Syndrome. They were in town early this week for some appointments with Dr. Fearon, the same doctor that treats Aiden, and happened to be staying at the same hotel. It was so nice to finally meet them! Jack is so full of energy and despite many of the issues he faces, seems as happy as can be. Not to mention that his hands looked amazing - giving us hope that Aiden's will look just as good when this surgery is said and done. Thanks for taking the time to meet up with us Smith family!

Finally, day 1 in Dallas wrapped up with a quick bite to eat and registration for Aiden's sleep study at Medical City. Ricky stayed with him during the last one in November, so we took turns and I stayed with him this time. He was SOOO good as all of the sticky electrodes and wires were connected to his chest and head. Probably due to the fact that the day of traveling wore him out. He fell right to sleep, but ended up fighting the nasal tubes the entire night which required many visits from the sleep technician to replace them (and no visit from the sleep fairy for me...) They got the required data though and we should be getting the results sometime this afternoon. Keeping our fingers crossed that the removal of his tonsils and adenoids in November has helped or, better yet, eliminated his sleep apnea.

I'll be updating as often as I can throughout the trip. Today (Wednesday) we have some pre-op appointments to be finished up around 3pm (Central time). Tomorrow we have to be at the hospital at 6am for surgery. Thanks for thinking of us!

"Staycation" here we come!

Ricky and I are preparing to leave for Aiden's next surgery in Dallas next week. What better way to "prepare" than to get away for a little while without the kids...and to do so without spending a whole lot of moolah.

A "staycation" is like a vacation, but you don't really go anywhere, it's close to where you live. We're checking in to a hotel on Friday evening and staying the weekend downtown Louisville. It works out nicely that it is Valentine's Day weekend - kind of kills two birds with one stone. Friday we'll be meeting up with friends for a night out on the town - dinner at The Pub and then on to one of our favorite places, Howl at the Moon at 4th Street Live. Then Saturday will be more of a laid back, no plans, just relax type day.

We're really looking forward to having some "down time" prior to our week in Dallas. Even though we aren't stressing quite as much this time since we know more of what to expect, it is still a long week with appointments and worrying, etc. It'll be nice to have a relaxing weekend before we leave.

I'm so excited! Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

PS - My awesome hubby had 2 dozen roses delivered to the house today. They are a beautiful mixture of pinks, reds, peaches, and yellows. Plus, it came with a small box of chocolates (and a note that mentioned something about how lucky he was...sigh...how romantic) I think I'm the lucky one!

One. Full. Year.

If there is one thing I've learned this past year, it is that there are many things that those "What to Expect When You're Expecting"-type books fail to mention. For instance:

1. Head wounds bleed...a lot. This would have probably saved the nice EMT guys from making a trip to my parent's house, and the 911 operator from wasting her time on my call. I thought Ethan was dying I tell you. The amount of blood that came out of the tiny little gash on his forehead was atrocious. If someone would have told me that three stitches would solve it, I would never have believed it at the time.

2. You'll become a hypocrite. I swore up and down that I wouldn't a) buy my kids Disney character shoes that have the little flashing lights in them, b) want and/or drive a mini-van, c) let them eat candy before dinner or d) become my mother. All of which I am or do.

3. Pre-children, you might laugh when people tell you that "You'll change your mind" about having 6, 7, or even (ha) 8 kids once you have one. I, for one, was one of them. I wanted a large family with a bunch of kids running crazy through the house. At one time, I wanted 8. And although I cringe when well-meaning people remind me how foolish I was to choose a number like that without having experienced pregnancy and it's aftermath, I now know that I was. Sorry Octomom - I think you're certifiably N-U-T-S!

I was thumbing through the bookshelves in our office that held books such as these - my "Pregnancy Journal" (only half filled out of course) and every edition of said "What to Expect When You're Expecting", and I started getting all sentimental thinking about thumbing through them while pregnant for the first time. Then I began thinking about where I was at this time last year. It hit me that having one child no more prepared me for having two than any of these books prepared me for having one at all.

Although I can't remember specifically what I was doing on February 10th of last year, it is probably safe to say that I was laying in bed complaining of how big my belly was, how gassy and uncomfortable my stomach felt, and how annoying these darn contractions were. I knew I was going to go into labor early. I was ready for it. But what I wasn't ready for was how drastically our lives would change.

If you have never given birth, or have never had a baby that wasn't the perfectly healthy child that you were expecting, you may not truly grasp what I am about to say.

The day Aiden was born was the scariest, most terrifying event I have ever experienced. My husband and I still wonder if we would have wanted to know the complications of our baby boy before that moment. Some parents find out ahead of time that something isn't right. We didn't. It wasn't until they placed Aiden in my arms that the silence of the labor and delivery team made sense to me. And even then, it still didn't.

I remember dissolving into tears for the millionth time a few days after Aiden was born as I asked Ricky if he thought we would always think of Aiden's birthday "as the worst day of our lives". Well, I may not have been able to be convinced otherwise at the time, but I will tell you that one year later I am able to answer that question for myself. Scary? Yes. Worst day of our lives? Absolutely not.

How do I know this? Here's how:

1. Aiden's smile completely melts my heart. He is 12 months old and toothless. He reminds me of a little old man without his dentures in. I think I'll cry when he gets his first tooth - both because I'll be happy to start introducing more than mushed baby foods, and also because I will no longer be able to run my finger across his smooth, silky gums without an obstacle. At that moment, he won't be a baby any longer.

2. You know that feeling that you get when a baby wraps their fingers around yours as if holding on for dear life without even seeming to notice? Multiply that by 100 and that is the amount of joy I felt when Aiden's surgical team made that possible for me when he was 9 months old. It puts things into perspective. The little things that some of us take for granted.

3. I've learned more in this past year about life, love and happiness than in my 27 years of existence. (Sorry mom and dad). My children are my world. My family is my everything. With all of the "unknowns" in life, I do know this...Aiden is going to prove me wrong every step of the way. I may worry about how he will handle teasing or if he'll be able to do normal everyday things like button up a shirt or tie his shoes. But I've seen some of these kids and what they've accomplished and I know that Aiden will do all that - and then some.

It's been one year since Aiden made his debut. One year since things were turned upside down. And one year since one of the VERY BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE. Now, it goes without saying that this hasn't been an easy year for us. We've had way too many "down" days, way too many doctors appointments and have become way too familiar with hospitals. But this past year has made me strong. It has tested my character and in some strange way brought out the best in me. Because of Aiden, I'm a better mom to Ethan, a better wife to my husband, and a much stronger person than I would have ever given myself credit for. As the saying goes - some things you just have to learn the hard way.

Happy 1st Birthday baby boy.

Fast food order...in an elevator

One of the million reasons I love having kids is that they absolutely crack me up. Whether its the silly things they say, the cute little looks with perfect timing or the funny moments like this one -- the memories we create will keep me laughing for a long, long time.

We made the trip to the Louisville Ronald McDonald House this evening to deliver all of the collected donation items from Aiden's birthday. The whole way, Ethan thought we were going to Ronald McDonald's house, as in where the friendly clown takes residence. How cute is that? It was raining which was kind of a bummer because we had to park on the busy street out front and make several trips in and out with all of the boxes from the cars. But we had some help from some of the House staff and Ethan actually SAT STILL while this was going on - they had a life-size Ronald McDonald figurine sitting on a bench in the lobby with a little nook for kids to sit in his lap. Ethan kept his lap warm for a good 10 minutes.

When we finally got all the goods inside the door, most of it could be carried up the few steps to the entrance, but the kids and I took a wagon-full of stuff in the elevator. I had my back turned to Ethan and suddenly heard an alarm ringing from inside. Apparently he pushed the emergency button and I couldn't figure out how to cancel it. A voice came over the intercom stating the elevator number, the Ronald McDonald House's address, etc. She then says "This is Simplex-Grinnell. Is everything okay?" Without skipping a beat, Ethan starts ordering chicken nuggets, fries, etc. I was almost crying I was laughing so hard - but then realized they might mistake my crying for cries of distress, so I pulled myself together to say "Sorry - everything is okay."

I don't care what you say...that is funny!

Aiden's "McDonald" birthday party

Aiden will be the big 01 on Wednesday and this past Saturday we had our nearest and dearest over to our house for a Ronald McDonald-themed party. It was so wonderful to have our family and friends here to not only celebrate with us, but to also help us give back to an organization that is near to our hearts.
Each guest was given a copy of the "wish-list" from the Ronald McDonald House here in Louisville and were asked to bring an item (or items) off of the list to the party. All of the items collected will then be delivered to the Ronald McDonald House in Aiden's name. Just look at all of the stuff we received!!! It was MUCH more than we were expecting and we are very excited to drop it all off as a family this week.
For those of you who may not know, the Ronald McDonald House Charities provide a "home away from home" for families with children being treated in hospitals around the United States. Most houses are equipped with fully stocked kitchens (food, snacks, juices, milk, etc.), television rooms, reading rooms, indoor and/or outdoor play areas, private bedrooms/bathrooms, laundry facilities, and much much more. All of which are provided to these families at a very low nightly fee (usually around $10) for as long as they need to stay nearby a hospital that their child may be receiving inpatient or outpatient care.
Our family has utilized this resource on several occasions both locally (after Aiden's birth, during his 2 week stay in the NICU) and in Dallas where he receives treatment from the reknown team at The Craniofacial Center and Medical City Dallas Children's Hospital. We were so impressed with all that the Ronald McDonald Houses had to offer that we wanted to do something in Aiden's honor to give back to them. We hope that we can continue to raise money, collect donations, and save pop-tabs to benefit this wonderful resource!
As for the party itself, it too was quite a success. Aiden's cake (and cupcake) turned out absolutely perfect - thanks to Adrienne's Bakery and Cafe in Jeffersonville, IN - LOVE LOVE LOVE that place! Our local McDonald's was gracious enough to provide all of the kiddos with Happy Meals when they heard more about what we were doing. And Aiden seemed to enjoy the full house and all the attention. Although his best moment was his first taste of his sugary sweet cupcake, which apparently didn't agree with his tummy - the evidence of which will forever be saved on video (much to his dismay...I'm sure) :)
 A million thank-yous to all who helped make this a special day for our family and to all who have made this last year a happy one! For all the pictures from the party, click here.

Good news!

The boys finally went to the eye doctor after several re-sechedules due to the weather. Ethan had been complaining for months that his "eye hurt" and would always point to his left eye. And Aiden goes for regular eye checkups every 3 months to monitor his vision and check for signs of increased pressure on his brain, which can be seen if the optic nerve changes in size or if his eye movement decreases.

Ethan's vision was perfect - no issues at all. Dr. Fishman asked if he got frequent ear infections and, yes, he does. She said that sometimes the pain from ear infections can migrate to behind the eyes - makes sense. So now I will try to pay attention to when he's complaining about his eye - I've never put the two together before, but now it might be another way I can gauge if he's developing an ear infection. Good to know.

Aiden just blew her away. She is one of the only and one of the best pediatric eye specialists in the area, so chances are if a child has a syndrome they are referred to her. That means she has seen a couple of kiddos with Apert Syndrome before. Now Aiden is on the more mild side when it comes to his head and facial characteristics that are a part of Apert, so I would bet that the other kids she has to compare him to were probably more severe, but she was amazed at how straight his eyes were, how very little they protruded and how well he moved them and focused. She found no problems at all aside from mild strabismus (his left eye turns in when focusing up close), which she just wants to watch to make sure it straightens itself out in the coming months.

Most importantly - no indications of pressure from looking at his optic nerve! When we first started researching doctors, one local doctor said that they routinely do the first head surgery on these kids at 6 months old. I was a little worried about doing something so major so early, and once we met Dr. Fearon, he had an entirely different opinion. Dr. F only operates on the head before 15 months of age IF and ONLY IF there appears to be a problem or any pressure that would inhibit the proper growth of the brain. Even though we felt more comfortable with Dr. F's assessment, we were still nervous about the variance in the two doctors plans. Ultimately we chose to have Aiden treated by Dr. Fearon - but a small part of me was worried that if the other doctor was right, and we put off the first head surgery but then missed something that would cause damage later, I would never forgive myself. Luckily, in our case, Dr. F watched Aiden closely and with the recurring eye appointments as back-up, our decision to wait on the head surgery has been spot on. This is a huge relief!

Anywho - Aiden's 1st birthday party is tomorrow and I really need to get moving to get some things done around the house. So I'm off!

Sledding with daddy

Okay, so now that the snow and ice are finally melting away, I'm starting to feel a little less claustrophobic inside the house. I did gear up in snow boots over the weekend, but only to step outside on the deck and take some pictures and video of Ethan and Ricky playing in the snow. I stayed in with Aiden. I wanted to have him experience his first time playing in the snow, but we're a little reluctant as we're trying to keep him healthy before his next surgery (just 2 weeks away).

Ethan, however, had a blast! Lord knows that with 2.5 acres, there was PLENTY of snow to be played in and he wanted to cover every inch. The best part for him was sledding down the hill in the backyard. They ended up in the trees every time - which had Ethan laughing like crazy (and me anticipating another trip to the ER...didn't happen thank goodness!)

When it was finally time to come in, he cried and cried. He's definitely an outdoor kid! I enticed him inside with some hot chocolate and all was good again.